A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW YORK
By AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
New York Dodd, Mead and Company
COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
To DOROTHY MOORE, A LITTLE GIRL OF TO-DAY, FROM HER MAMMA'S FRIEND, AMANDA M. DOUGLAS. NEWARK, 1896.
I. THE LITTLE GIRL
II. GOOD-BY TO AN OLD HOME
III. FINE FEATHERS FOR THE LITTLE WREN
IV. A LOOK AT OLD NEW YORK
V. GIRLS AND GIRLS
VI. MISS DOLLY BEEKMAN
VII. MISS LOIS AND SIXTY YEARS AGO
VIII. THE END OF THE WORLD
IX. A WONDERFUL SCHEME
X. A MERRY CHRISTMAS
XI. THE LITTLE GIRL IN POLITICS
XII. A REAL PARTY
XIII. NEW RELATIONS
XIV. JOHN ROBERT CHARLES
XV. A PLAY IN THE BACKYARD
XVI. DAISY JASPER
XVII. SOME OF THE OLD LANDMARKS
XVIII. SUNDRY DISSIPATIONS
XIX. WHEN CHRISTMAS BELLS WERE RINGING
A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW YORK
THE LITTLE GIRL
"How would you like to go to New York to live, little girl?"
The little girl looked up into her father's face to see if he was "making fun." He did sometimes. He was beginning to go down the hill of middle life, a rather stout personage with a fair, florid complexion, brown hair, rough and curly, and a border of beard shaved well away from his mouth. Both beard and hair were getting threads of white in them. His jolly blue eyes were mostly in a twinkle, and his good-natured mouth looked as if he might be laughing at you.
She studied him intently. Three months before she had been taken to the city on a visit, and it was a great event. I suspect that her mother did not like being separated from her a whole fortnight. She was such a nice, quiet, well-behaved little girl. Children were trained in those days. Some of them actually took pride in being as nice as possible and obeying the first time they were spoken to, without even asking "Why?"
The little girl sat on a stool sewing patchwork. This particular pattern was called a lemon star and had eight diamond-shaped pieces of two colors, filled in with white around the edge, making a square. Her grandmother was coming to "join" it for her, and have it quilted before she was eight years old. She was doing her part with a good will.
"To New York?" she repeated very deliberately. Then she went on with her sewing for she had no time to waste.
"Yes, Pussy." Her father pinched her cheek softly. The little girl was the most precious thing in the world, he sometimes thought.
"What, all of us?" You see she had a mind to understand the case before she committed herself.
"Oh, certainly! I don't know as we could leave any one behind."
Then he lifted her up in his lap and hugged her, scrubbing her face with his beard which gave her pink cheeks. They both laughed. She held her sewing out with one hand so that the needle should not scratch either of them.
"I can't—hardly—tell;" and her face was serious.
I want to explain to you that the little girl had not begun with grammar. You may find her making mistakes occasionally. Perhaps the children of to-day do the same thing.
"Would we move everything?" raising her wondering eyes.
"Well, no—not quite;" and the humorous light crossed his face. "We couldn't take the orchard nor the meadows nor the woods nor the creek." (I think he said "medders" and "crick," and his "nor" sounded as if he put an e in it.) "There are a good many things we should have to leave behind."
He sighed and the little girl sighed too. She drew up her patchwork and began to sew.
"It is a great deal of trouble to move;" she began gravely. "I must consider."
She had caught that from Great-Aunt Van Kortlandt, who never committed herself to anything without considering.
Her father kissed her cheek. If it had been a little fatter she would have had a dimple. Or perhaps he put so many kisses in the little dent it was always filled up with love.
I don't know whether you would have thought this little girl of past seven pretty or not. She was small and fair with a rather prim face and thick light hair, parted in the middle, combed back of her ears, and cut square across the neck, but the ends had some curly twists.
Certainly children are dressed prettier nowadays. The little girl's frock was green with tiny rivulets of yellow meandering over it. They made islands and peninsulas and isthmuses of green that were odd and freaky. Mrs. Underhill had bought it to join her sashwork quilt, and there was enough left to make the little girl a frock. It had the merit of washing well, but it gave her a rather ghostly look. It had a short, full waist with shoulder straps, making a square neck, a wide belt, and a skirt that came down to the tops of her shoes, which were like Oxford ties. Though she was not rosy she had never been really ill, and only stayed at home two weeks the previous winter at the worst of the whooping-cough, which nobody seemed to mind then. But it must have made a sort of Wagner chorus if many children coughed at once.
"I had a very nice time in New York," she began, with grave approbation, when she had considered for some seconds. "The museum was splendid! And the houses seem sociable-like. Don't you suppose they nod to each other when the folks are asleep? And the stores are so—so—" she tried to think of the longest word she knew—"so magnificent? Aunt Patience and Aunt Nancy were so nice. And the cat was perfectly white and sat in Aunt Nancy's lap. There was a little girl next door who had a big doll and a cradle and a set of dishes, and we had tea together. I'd like to have some dishes. Do you think Uncle Faid is coming back?" she asked suddenly.
"I believe he is, this time. And if we get very homesick we shall have to come back and live with him."
"I shouldn't be homesick with you and mother and the boys, and Steve and Joe. It would be nice to have Dobbin and Prince, but the stores are on the corners instead of going to the village, and its nice and queer to ride in the omnibuses and hand your money up through the roof. The drivers must have an awful sight when night comes."
They even said "awful" in those far-back days, they truly did.
Father Underhill laughed and squeezed the little girl with a fondness she understood very well.
Just then a voice called rather sharply: "'Milyer! 'Milyer!" and he sat the little girl down on the stool as carefully as if she had been china. He put another kiss in the little dent, and she gave him a tender smile.
His whole name was Vermilye Fowler Underhill. Everybody called him Familiar, but Mrs. Underhill shortened it to 'Milyer.
The little girl's name was Hannah Ann. The school children called her Han and Hanny. One grandmother always said Hanneran. But being the youngest, the most natural name seemed "little girl."
There were three sons to lead off, Stephen Decatur, Joseph Bennett, and John Fowler. Then a daughter was most welcome, and she was called Margaret Hunter after her mother, and shortened to Peggy. They used nicknames and diminutives, if they were not as fanciful as ours.
After Margaret came George Horton, Benny Franklin, and James Odell. The poor mother gave a sigh of disappointment, she had so longed for another girl. When Jim had outgrown babyhood altogether and was nearly five, the desired blessing came.
There was a great discussion about her name. Grandmother Hunter had married a second time and was a Van Kortlandt now. She had named her only daughter after her mother and was a bit offended that Margaret was not named for her. Now she came with a fairy god-mother's insistence, and declared she would put a hundred dollars in the bank at once, and remember the child in her will, besides giving her the old Hunter tablespoons made in London more than a hundred years ago, with the crown mark on them.
Grandmother Underhill's name was Ann. She lived with her eldest son at White Plains, who had fallen heir to his grandfather's farm. When a widow she had gone back to her girlhood's home and taken care of her old father. David, her eldest son, had come to work the farm. She had a "wing" in the house, but she never lived by herself, for her son and the grandchildren adored her.
Now she said to the baby's mother: "You put in Ann for a middle name and I'll give her a hundred dollars as well, and my string of gold beads that came from Paris. And I'll make her a nice down bed and pillows."
So Hannah Ann it was, and the little girl began life with a bank account. She was a grave, sweet, dainty sort of baby, with wondering eyes of bluish violet, bordering on gray. I think myself that she should have had a prettier name, but people were not throwing away even two-hundred-dollar chances in those days. Neither had they come to Ediths and Ethels and Mays and Gladys. And they barbarously shortened some of their most beautiful names to Peggy and Betsey and Polly and Sukey.
Left to herself the little girl went on with her patchwork, and recalled her visit to the city. There were so many aunts and cousins and so many wonderful things to see. She must find out whether there would be any snow and sleighrides in the winter. As for fruit and vegetables and eggs and poultry the farmers were always sending them in to the city, she knew that.
The prospect of a removal from Yonkers, where they had always lived, was not so new to the elders. Stephen was in New York nearly all the week now. Joseph was studying for a doctor. John was not in love with farming and had a great taste for mechanical pursuits. Margaret, a tall, fair girl of seventeen, was begging to be sent away to school another year, and learn some of the higher branches people were talking about. Joe thought she should. Her father was quite sure she knew enough, for she could do all the puzzling sums in "Perkins' Higher Arithmetic," and you couldn't trip her up on the hardest words. She went to a very good school in the village. And the village was quite primitive in those days. The steamboat-landing was the great focus of interest. It was all rock and hills and a few factories were plodding along. The farm was two good miles away.
The young people thought it a most auspicious turn in affairs that Uncle Faid was coming back. His real name was Frederic. Since David had his grandfather's farm, this had been divided between the two remaining sons, but Frederic had been seized with the Western fever and gone out to what was called the new countries. His sons had married and settled in different places, one daughter had married and come East to live, and Uncle Faid was homesick for the land of his youth.
Mrs. Underhill had declared at first, "She wouldn't stir a step. 'Milyer could buy out his brother's part in the house"—the two hundred acres had been already divided. But people had begun to complain even then that farming did not pay, and John wanted to learn a trade. And if three or four went out of the old home nest! Steve wanted his father in New York. If they were not satisfied they could come back and build a new house. And presently she began to think it best even if she didn't like it.
The little girl finished her block of patchwork, pinched and patted down the seams, and laid it on the pile. Her "stent" for that day was done. There were nine more blocks to make.
There was a wide half closet beside the chimney and she had the top shelf for her own. It was so neat that it looked like a doll's house. Her only doll had been a "rag baby," and Gip, the dog, had demolished that.
"Never mind," said her mother, "you are too big to play with dolls." But the little girl in New York was almost a year older, and she had a large wax doll with "truly" clothes that could be taken off and washed. If she went to the city she might have one.
She piled up her patchwork with a sense of exultation. She was extremely neat. There was a tiny, hair-covered trunk grandmother Van Kortland had given her full of pretty chintz and calico pieces. She kept her baby shoes of blue kid that were outgrown before they were half worn out, so choice had her mother been of them. There were some gift-books and mementos and a beautiful Shaker basket Stephen had given her at Christmas. It was round, so she imagined you put something in it and shook it, for she had no idea the Shakers were a community and made dainty articles for sale, even if they discarded all personal vanities.
She went through to the next room, which was the kitchen in winter and dining-room in summer. She took down her blue-and-white gingham sun-bonnet, and skipped along a narrow path through the grass to the summer kitchen. This was a short distance from the house, a big, square room with a door at each side, and smoky rafters overhead. The brick and stone chimney was built inside, very wide at the bottom and tapering up to the peak in the roof. There was a great black crane across it, with two sets of trammels suspended from it, on which you could hang two kettles at the same time. If you have never seen one, get Longfellow's beautiful illustrated poem, "The Hanging of the Crane." A great many old country houses had them, and they were considered extremely handy.
The presiding genius of the kitchen was a fat old black woman, so old that her hair was all grizzled. When she braided it up in little tails on Saturday afternoon Hannah Ann watched with a kind of fascination. She always wore a plaid Madras turban with a bow tied in front. She had been grandmother Underhill's slave woman. I suppose very few of you know there were slaves in New York State in the early part of the century. Aunt Mary had sons married, and grandchildren doing well. They begged her now and then to give up work, but she clung to her old home.
"Aunt Mary," inquired the little girl, "is the chicken feed mixed?"
"Laws, yaas, honey, lem me scoop it in de pail. You's got such little claws o' han's. Don't seem 's if dey ever grow big ernough fer nothin'."
She ladled out the scalded meal, mixed with bits of broken bread. The little girl laughed and nodded and crossed the small bridge that spanned the creek. The spring, or rather the series of them, ran around the house and down past the kitchen, then widened out into quite a pond where the ducks and geese disported themselves, and the cows always paused to drink on their way to the barn.
She went down to the barn. On the carriage-house side in the sun were some chicken-coops. Pretty little chicks whose mothers had "stolen their nests;" thirty-two of various sizes, and they belonged to the little girl. She rarely forgot them.
There were plenty of chores for Ben and Jim. They drove the cows to pasture, chopped wood, picked apples, and dug potatoes. You wondered how they found any time for play or study.
Jim "tagged" the little girl as she came back with her pail. She could run like a deer.
"Here you, Jim!" called Aunt Mary, "you jes' take dis pail an' git some of dem big blackbre'es fer supper steder gallopin' roun' like a wild palakin ob de desert!" and she held out the shining pail.
A "palakin of the desert" was Aunt Mary's favorite simile. In vain had Margaret explained that the pelican was a bird and couldn't gallop.
"Laws, honey," the old woman would reply, "I aint hankerin' arter any ob dis new book larnin'. I's a heap too old fer 'rithmertic an' 'stology. I jes' keeps to de plain Bible dat served de chillen of Isrul in de wilderness. Some day, Miss Peggy, when you's waded tru seas o' trubble an' come out on de good Lord's side an' made your callin' an' 'lection sure, you'll know more 'bout it I done reckon."
"Come with me, do, Hanny," pleaded Jim. "You can walk along the stone fence and pick the high ones and we'll fill the kittle in no time."
Jim thought if he had made a spelling-book, he would have spelled the word that way. Jim would have been a master hand at phonetics.
The little girl crossed two of her fingers. That was a sign of truce in the game.
"No play till we come back," said Jim.
The little girl nodded and ran for her mitts of strong muslin with the thumb and finger ends out. The briars were so apt to tear your hands.
They ran a race down to the blackberry patch. Then they sat on the fence and ate berries. It was really a broad, handsome wall. There were so many stones on the ground that they built the walls as they "cleared up." The blackberry lot was a wild tangle. There were some hickory-nut trees in it and a splendid branching black walnut. Sometimes they found a cluster of hazel-nuts.
The great blackberry canes grew six or seven feet high. They generally cut one path through in the early summer. The long branches made arches overhead.
The little girl pinned a big dock-leaf with a thorn and made a cup. When it was full she emptied it into Jim's pail. They were such great, luscious berries that they soon had it filled. Then they sat down and rested. Everybody knows that it is harder work to pick berries than to play "tag."
Jim had a piece to speak on Friday afternoon at school. They had these exercises once a month, but this was to be a rather grand affair, as then school closed for a fortnight. That was all the vacation they had.
Jim was rather proud of his elocutionary gift. He stood up on a big flat stone and declaimed so that the little girl might see if he knew every word. It was extremely patriotic, beginning:
"Columbia! Columbia! to glory arise, The queen of the world and the child of the skies!"
"Oh, you say it just splendid!" declared the little girl enthusiastically. She never laughed and teased him as Peggy did.
She was learning some verses herself, but she wondered if she would have courage enough to face the whole school. They were in her "Child's Reader" with the "Little Busy Bee," and "Let Dogs Delight to Bark and Bite." She thought them beautiful:
"The rose had been washed, lately washed in a shower, Which Mary to Anna conveyed."
It puzzled her small brain a good deal as to why the rose needed washing. But Peggy showed her one day how dusty the leaves and flowers grew in a dry time, and she learned that the whole world was the better for an occasional washing. She asked Mary afterward why the clothes were not put out in a hard rain to get them clean.
"Laws, honey, dey need elbow-grease," and the old woman laughed heartily.
"I do wish my name was Anna," she said, with a sigh.
"Well, you just need to put another a to the Ann," said her brother confidently.
"And I don't like being called Han and Hanny."
"I'd a heap rather be called Jim than James. When pop calls me James I think it's time to pick myself up mighty spry, I tell you!" and he laughed.
"It's different with boys," she said, with a soft sigh. "Girls ought to have pretty names, and Hanneran is dreadful."
"I'd stand a good deal for two hundred dollars. And it doubles in fourteen years. And seven again! Why you'll have more than five hundred dollars when you're grown up!"
She did not know the value of money and thought she would rather have the pretty name. Yet she wasn't quite sure she would choose Anna.
"You stay here while I run after the cows," said Jim. "It will save another journey."
Boys are often economical of their steps, I have noticed. Perhaps this is how they gain time for play. The little girl jumped down presently and looked over at the wild flowers. There were clusters of yarrow in bloom, spikes of yellow snap-dragons, and a great clump of thistles in their purple glory. She must tell her father about them, and have them rooted out. Would it hurt them to be killed? She felt suddenly sorry for them.
A squirrel ran along and winked at her as he gave his tail an extra perk. Nothing was ever afraid of the little girl. But she ran from the old gobbler, and the big gander who believed he had pre-empted the farm from the Indians. She generally climbed over the fence when she saw old Red, who had an ominous fashion of brandishing her long horns. But she didn't mind with Jim nor Benny.
Jim came now and took up the pail. The cows meandered along. She was rather glad Jim did not see the thistle. She would not tell him about it to-night.
GOOD-BY TO AN OLD HOME
When they reached the barn they saw Aunt Mary carrying a great platter of corn up to the house. The little girl washed her hands and her face, that was quite rosy now, and followed. How delicious it all looked! White bread, corncake, cold chicken, pot-cheese in great creamy balls, and a hot molasses cake to come on with the berries.
The little girl always sat beside her mother, and Margaret on the boys' side, to help them. There were four boys and two hired men.
Mrs. Underhill was a notable housekeeper. She was a little sharp in the temper, but Mr. Underhill was so easy that some one had to uphold the family dignity. She complained that 'Milyer spoiled the children, but they were good-natured and jolly, and quite up to the average.
After supper the cows were milked, the horses fed and bedded, Margaret and her mother packed up the dishes in a big basket, and the boys took them down to Mary. Mrs. Underhill looked after the milk.
The little girl went out on the wide porch and studied her lessons. There were two long lines in Webster's elementary spelling-book to get by heart, for the teacher "skipped about." The children went up and down, and it was rare fun sometimes. The little girl had been out of the Baker class a long while. They call it that because the first column began with that easy word. She was very proud of having gone in the larger class. Her father gave her a silver dollar with a hole punched through it, and Steve brought her a blue ribbon for it. She wore it on state occasions. She studied Peter Parley's geography and knew the verses beginning:
"The world is round and like a ball, Seems swinging in the air."
How it could be puzzled her. She asked her father, for she thought he knew everything. He said he believed it was, but he could never make it seem so.
Aunt Mary strenuously denied it. "Sta'ns to reason de folks would fall off w'en it went swirlin' round. De good Lord He knows His business better'n dat. Jes don't mind any sech foolin', honey! Its clear agin de Bible dat speaks ob de sun's risin' an' settin', an' de Lord nebber makes any mistake 'bout dat ar Bible."
The little girl studied her lesson over four times. Then Jim came up and they had a game of tag. Dave Andrews and Milton Scott sat out under the old apple-tree smoking their pipes and talking politics. One was a Whig and the other a Democrat who believed that we had never had a President worth mentioning since Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory as he was often called.
When her father came round the corner of the house she stopped running after Jim and held out both hands to him. Her cheeks were like wild roses and her eyes shone with pleasure. They sat down on the step, and he put his arm about her and "cuddled" her up to his side. She told him she had gone up three in saying seven times in the multiplication table, and four in spelling "tetrarch." Then when Charley Banks was reading he said "condig-en" and the class laughed. She also told him she had been studying about Rhode Island and Roger Williams, and all the bays and inlets and islands. She made believe comb his hair with her slim little fingers and once in a while he opened his lips like a trap and caught them, and they both laughed.
Presently Mrs. Underhill, who sat by the window knitting in the twilight, said: "'Milyer, that child must go to bed."
She felt she had to issue this mandate two of three times, so she began early.
They hugged each other and laughed a little. Then he said: "All the chickens right?"
"Yes, I counted them. They're so cunning and lovely."
"I hope they'll get their feather cloaks on before cold weather," said her father.
"'Milyer, that child must go to bed! I don't see why you want to keep her up all hours of the night."
They hugged each other a little closer this time and did not laugh, but just kissed softly. It was beginning to grow dusky. The peeps and crickets and katydids were out in force. The katydids told you there would be frost in six weeks.
When her mother added in a dignified tone, "Come, Hannah Ann," the little girl took one last hug and came into the room. Margaret had lighted the candles in their polished brass candlesticks. One stood on the hall table, one on the stand in the middle of the room. Mrs. Underhill had knit past the seam in her stocking and pulled out a few stitches. Then she laid it down and unfastened the little girl's frock and said, "Now run to bed this minute." Margaret was reading, but she glanced up and smiled.
The candle made a vague yellowish light on the stairs. There were people who burned lamp-oil, as the oil from whales was called. The little girl held it in curious awe, associating it with the story of Jonah. Mrs. Underhill despised the "ill-smelling stuff" and would not have it in the house. She made beautiful candles. Oil-wells had hardly been thought of, except that some one occasionally brought a bottle from Pennsylvania for rheumatism.
The little girl had slept in her mother's room, which answered to the back parlor, until this spring when she had gone up to Margaret's room. There were four large chambers on the second floor and a spacious clothes-room with a closet for bedding. Up above was an immense garret with four gables. The three younger boys and the two hired men slept there.
The little girl didn't mind going to bed alone, but her mother generally found some good reason for going up-stairs. On cool nights she was afraid the little girl wasn't well covered; and to-night she looked in and said:
"I hope you're not bundled up in a blanket this hot night, Hannah Ann! Children seem to have such little sense."
"Oh no, I have only the sheet over me." But the little girl raised up and held out her arms, and her mother gave her a soft squeeze and patted the pillow and said:
"Now you must go to sleep like a good little girl;" quite as if she was in the habit of being bad and not going to sleep, but they both understood.
You may think the little girl's life was dull with lessons and sewing and going to bed at dusk. But she found no end of fun. Now and then a host of cousins came, and they climbed trees, ran races, waded in the brooks, went off to the woods and swung in the wild grape-vines. Sometimes they walked out on the end of a wide-spreading branch, holding to the one above, and when they began to "teeter" too much they gave a spring and came down on the soft ground. The little girl could go out a long way because she was so light and fearless. They never broke their necks or their limbs. They laughed and shouted and turned summersaults and ran races. No day was ever long enough.
The school was a good mile away, but on very stormy days they were taken in the covered wagon. They studied with a will, just as they played, and you heard nothing about nerves in those days.
Some of the parents came that last day at school. Jim acquitted himself creditably in his "Ode to Columbia," and the little girl recited with a rose in her hand, though Margaret had quite a trouble to find one for her. Roses didn't bloom all the year round as they do now. When the children were dismissed they went out and gave some deafening hurrahs for the two weeks' vacation. Oh, what throats and lungs they had!
When the little girl reached home she found a houseful of company. When families have lived from one to two hundred years in one section of the country, they get related to almost everybody. And though Aunt Becky Odell was a second cousin of her mother's, she was aunt to the little girl all the same. She had come up from West Farms to spend a few days and brought her two little girls. Some other relatives had come from Tarrytown.
The little girl greeted everybody, took off her Sunday white frock that had a needleworked edge that her mother had worn twenty years and more ago. Then she took the little girls out to see the chickens and hunt some eggs and have a good play on the hay in the barn.
"Oh, ain't you just crazy to go to New York to live?" cried Polly Odell. "The stores are so beautiful! When I go down I just don't want to come back!"
"You was homesick at Aunt Ph[oe]be's, you know you was," said her sister, with small regard for her tense.
"Well, I didn't like Aunt Ph[oe]be one bit. She's old and cross, and she isn't our own aunt either. She won't let you stand by the window les' you breathe on the glass, and she won't let you rock on the carpet nor run up and down stairs, nor touch a book, and makes you get up at five in the morning when you're so sleepy. She wanted me to stay 'cause she said 'I was handy to wait on her.' And it wasn't truly New York but way up by the East River. I wouldn't have stayed for a dollar. I just jumped up and down when poppy came, and she said, 'For goodness' sake! don't thrash out all my carpet with your jouncin' up an' down.' You can just go yourself, Janey Odell, and see how you like it!"
"I'm sure I don't want to go. But you just jumped at it!"
"Well, I thought it would be nice. But oh, Hanneran, it's just splendid here! And to-morrow Uncle 'Milyer's going to take us out riding. He said so. Oh, Hanneran, wasn't you awful 'fear'd to speak a piece before all the folks at school?"
Polly Odell looked at her in amazement.
"Well—just at first——"
"I wouldn't dast to for a dollar!" cried Janey.
They went on with their play, now and then stumbling against a discussion that never really reached the height of a dispute. Margaret came to hunt them up presently that they might have their tousled heads smoothed and their hands and faces washed.
The little girl was always interested when they had a high tea in the sitting-room. The best old blue china was out, the loaf sugar, and the sugar-tongs that the little girl watched breathlessly lest her mother should lose the lump of sugar before it reached the cup.
The men and boys were having supper in the other room, but the little girls waited on the porch. They were so quiet and kept so tidy that Mrs. Underhill gave them a lump of sugar in each glass of milk, and took it up with the sugar-tongs, to the little girl's great delight.
She couldn't help hearing the talk as they all sat out on the porch. Uncle Faid had really sold his farm, stock, and crops, and was to give possession in September. Then they would visit their two sons and some of Aunt Betsey's people in Michigan, and get on about Christmas.
"It's a shame to have to give up the house," declared Cousin Odell. "Can't you keep it, 'Milyer?"
"A bargain's a bargain. Faid did a fair thing when he went away, and I can't do less than a fair thing now. If he'd died, his share in the house would have been offered to me first. I dare say we could put on an addition and live together without quarrellin', but the boys want to go to New York, and they couldn't all stay here and make a living. The young folks must strike out, and I tell mother if she don't get to feeling at home I'll come back and build her a house."
"It'll never be like this one," said Mrs. Underhill sharply.
"The world is full of changes," declared the Tarrytown cousin.
The little girl sat in her father's lap and listened until she went soundly asleep. Janey Odell leaned against the porch column and almost tumbled over. Mrs. Underhill sprang up.
"Mercy on us! These children ought to be in bed. Wake up, Hannah Ann!"
"I'll carry her up-stairs," said her father, and he kissed her tenderly as he laid her on the bed. Her mother undressed her and patted down her pillow. She flung her arms about her mother's neck.
"Oh, mother!" she cried softly, wonderingly, "do you want to go to New York?"
"Child dear, I don't know what I want," and there was a muffled sound in her voice. "There, go to sleep, dear. Don't worry."
They inspected the pretty knoll the next day where Mrs. Underhill was to have her new house built if they didn't take root in New York. Were not her children dearer to her than any spot of ground? And if they were all going away——
The children had a very jolly time. On Monday the Odells went home, and the little girl hated to say good-by. Cousin Famie Morgan, her real name was Euphemia, wanted to go to White Plains to visit a while with Aunt Ann and David, and Cousin Joanna would stay a few days longer and go to New York to do some shopping. Margaret would go with Cousin Famie. The little girl wanted to go too, and take her patchwork. She had only six blocks to do now.
Grandmother was very glad to see her, and praised her without stint. Uncle David and Aunt Eunice had some grandchildren. Two sons and one daughter were married, and one son and daughter were still at home. Aunt Eunice was a very placid, sweet body, and still clung to her Quaker dress and speech, though she went to the old Episcopal church with her husband. Her folks lived up in Putnam County.
Grandmother would have spoiled the little girl if such a thing had been possible. She would help her with the patchwork, and then she brought out some lovely red French calico that was soft and rich, and began to join it. They had some nice drives, and one day they took Cousin Morgan home and stayed to dinner. There were three single women living together in a queer rambling house that had been added to, and raised in places. Mr. Erastus Morgan and his wife lived in Paris, and once a year or so there would come a package of pretty things—china and ornaments of various kinds, odd pieces of silk and brocade for cushions, gloves, and fans and laces and silk for gowns, as if they were still quite young women.
Uncle David had the "Knickerbocker History of New York," which everybody now knew was written by Mr. Washington Irving, and various members of the family were settled about Tarrytown, and many others in the Sleepy Hollow graveyard. The very next day the little girl began to read the history, for she wanted to know about New York. They had a delightful visit with grandmother and Aunt Eunice. Uncle David was seven years older than her father. The little girl concluded she liked him very much.
When she and Margaret went home everything was going on just the same. The little girl was somewhat amazed. No one said a word about moving. She had expected to see everything packed. The children started for school as usual. Then Mrs. Underhill went down to the city and stayed a fortnight and came home looking worn and worried. The impending change weighed upon her. But the little girl was so interested in Mr. Dederich Knickerbocker which she was reading aloud to her father that changes hardly mattered.
Early in December Mr. Frederic Underhill with his wife and daughter came to hand. He was thin and stooped a good deal, and looked older than Uncle David. Aunt Crete's name was Lucretia, and the little girl was amazed to learn that. She was tall and thin and wore a black lace sort of cap to cover the bald spot on her head. Then she had a false front of dark hair. Her own was very thin and white. She had been a great sufferer from 'ager,' as she called it, and the doctors said only an entire change of climate would break it up. And goodness only knew how glad she was to get back East.
Lauretta—Retty as she was called—was about twenty-two, a good, stout, common-place girl who made herself at home at once. She had a lover who was coming on in the spring when they would be married, and he expected "to help Pop farm. Pop was pretty well broken down with hard work, and he'd about seen his best days. He'd been awful anxious to get back among his own folks, and she, Retty, hoped now he'd take things kinder easy."
Grandmother and Uncle David's family came down to welcome them. All the country round seemed to turn out. And just before Christmas, with all the rest of the work, the little girl's quilt was put in. Some of the older people came the first day and had a fine supper. Next afternoon it was the young people's turn.
The little girl had a blue-and-white figured silk frock made from a skirt of her mother's. The tops of the sleeves were trimmed with four or five ruffles and there were two ruffles around the neck. She wore her gold beads, and Margaret curled her hair. Everybody praised her and she felt very happy. Some of the young men came in while they were taking the quilt out of the frame, and oh, what a tussle there was! The girl who could wrap herself first in it was to be married first. Such pulling and laughing, such a din of voices and struggle of hands—you would have thought all the girls wild to get married. The little girl looked with dismay, for it seemed as if her quilt would be torn to pieces.
Retty wound one corner around herself, and two of the young men rolled Margaret and several of the other girls in the other end amid the shouts of the lookers-on.
Then grandmother shook it out and folded it.
"There!" she exclaimed, "to-morrow I'll put on the binding. And, Hannah Ann, you have a good beginning. Not every little girl can show such a quilt as that, pieced all by herself before she was eight years old!"
"But you helped, grandmother——"
"Nonsense, child! Just a piece now and then! And I've a nice pair of wool blankets I'm saving up for you that I spun myself. You'll have a good many things saved up in a dozen years."
What fun they had afterward! There were two black fiddlers in the hall; one was Cato, Aunt Mary's grandson, a stylish young fellow much in demand for parties. They danced and danced.
Steve took his little sister out several times, and John danced with her. Her father thought her the very prettiest one in the crowd. Her mother let her stay up until eleven.
"I'm so sorry you are going away," said Retty, the next morning. "I never did have such a good time in my life. I don't see why we can't all live together in this big house!"
In the new year the real business of changing began. It was hard to select a house. Joe said all New York was going up-town, and that before many years the lower part of the city would be given over to business. Bond and Amity Street, around St. John's Park and East Broadway were still centres of fashion. The society people had come up from the Bowling Green and the Battery, though there were still some beautiful old houses that business people clung to because they wanted to be near to everything. Harlem and Yorkville were considered country. Up on the east side as far as Eightieth or Ninetieth Street there were some spacious summer residences with beautiful grounds. A few fine mansions clustered about University Square. City Hall Park was still covered with fine growing shade-trees. There was such a magnificent fountain that Lydia Maria Child, describing it, said there was nothing to equal it in the Old World.
Still, the unmistakable trend was up-town. Grace Church was agitating a new building at Tenth Street. Rows of houses were being put up on the new streets, though down-town people rather scoffed and wondered why people were not going up to Harlem and taking their business places along.
After much discussion the Underhills settled upon First Street. Stephen made the decision, though he had great faith in "up-town." This was convenient. Then they could buy through to Houston Street, and there was a stable and sort of storehouse on the end of the lot. And though you wouldn't think it now, it was quite pretty and refined then, from Avenue A out to the Bowery. They were in a row of nice brick houses, quite near First Avenue, on the lower side of the street. Opposite it was well built for quite a space, and then came the crowning glory of the block. About a dozen houses stood thirty or so feet back from the street and had lovely flower-gardens in front. Stephen would have liked one of these, but the houses were not roomy enough. And in their own place they had a nice grass-plot, some flower-beds, and several fruit-trees, beside a grape-trellis. He thought his mother would be less homesick if she could see some bloom and greenery.
It was the last of March, 1843, that the little girl came to New York. Mrs. Underhill believed it only an experiment. When the boys were grown up and married, settled in their own homes, she and 'Milyer would go back to Yonkers on their part of the farm and have a nice big house for their old age and for the grandchildren. In her motherly heart she hoped there would be a good many of them. She couldn't have spared any of her eight children.
The house in First Street seemed very queer. It had a front area and two basements, two parlors on the next floor with folding-doors and a long ell-room, rather narrow, so that it would not darken the back room too much. Up-stairs there were three large chambers and one small one, and on the fourth floor, that did not have full-size windows, three more. That there was no "garret" caused endless lamentation.
They could not bring old Mary, indeed she would not come, but they had a rather youngish countrywoman whose husband had deserted her, and who was looking for a good home. Mary thought she would stay a while with the "new folks" and get them "broke in," as she phrased it, and then go and live with her son.
The little girl stood on her own front stoop looking up and down the street. It was queer the houses should be just alike—six brown-stone steps, and iron side railings, and an iron railing to the area, that was paved with brick. You would always have to be thinking of the number or you might get into the neighbor's house. Oh, no. Here was a sure sign, the bright silver door-plate with black lettering—"Vermilye F. Underhill." She looked at it in amazement. It made her father suddenly grand in her estimation. Could she sit in his lap just the same and twist his whiskers about her fingers and comb his hair and read out of her story-books to him? And where would she go to school? Were there any little girls around to play with? How could she get acquainted with them?
While she was considering this point, two girls went by. Both had straw gypsy hats with flowers and ruffled capes of black silk. They looked up at her. She was going to smile down to them in the innocent belief that all little girls must be glad to see each other. One of them giggled—yes, she absolutely did, and said:
"Oh, what a queer-looking thing! Her frock comes down to her shoe-tops like an old woman's and that sun-bonnet! Why she must have just come in from the backwoods!"
FINE FEATHERS FOR THE LITTLE WREN
The little girl stood still a moment as if transfixed. There came the passionate desire to run and hide. She gave the door-bell a sharp pull.
Martha Stimis answered it.
"Goodness sakes, is it you, ringin' as if the world wouldn't stand another minnit? Next time you want to get in, Haneran, you jest come down the aree! And me a-mouldin' up the biscuit!"
The little girl walked through the hall with a swelling heart. She couldn't be allowed to ring the door-bell when her own father's name was on the door!
The ell part was her mother's sleeping chamber and sitting-room. No one was in it. Hannah Ann walked down to the end. There was a beautiful old dressing-case that had been brought over with the French great, great grandmother. It had a tall glass coming down to the floor. At the sides were several small drawers that went up about four feet, and the top had some handsome carved work. It was one of Mrs. Underhill's choicest possessions. In the mirror you could see yourself from "top to toe."
The little girl stood before it. She had on a brown woollen frock and a gingham high apron. Her skirt was straight and long. Her laced shoes only came to her ankles. Her stockings were black, and she remembered how she had watched these little girls coming down the street, their stockings were snowy white. Of course she wore white yarn ones on Sundays. A great piece of their pantalets was visible, ruffled, too. Yes, she did look queer! And the starch was mostly out of her sun-bonnet. It wasn't her best one, either.
She sat down on a little bench and cried as if her heart would break.
"Oh, Hanny dear, what is the matter?"
Margaret had entered the room unheard. She knelt by her little sister, took off her sun-bonnet and pressed the child in her arms. "What is it, dear?" in a soft, persuasive voice. "Have you hurt yourself?"
"No. I—I——" Then she put her little arms around Margaret's neck. "Oh, Peggy, am I very, very queer?"
"You're a little darling. Did Martha scold you?"
"No. It wasn't—some girls came along——" She tried very hard to stop her sobbing.
"There, dear, let me wash your face. Don't cry any more." She laid aside the bonnet and bathed the small face, then she began to brush the soft hair. It had not been cut all winter and was quite a curly mop. Stephen had bought her a round comb of which she was very proud.
"It was two girls. They went by and they laughed——"
Her voice was all of a quaver again, but she did not mean to cry if she could help it.
"Did they call you 'country'?"
Margaret smiled and kissed the little girl, who tried to smile also. Then she repeated the ill-bred comment.
"We are not quite citified," said Margaret cheerfully. "And it isn't pleasant to be laughed at for something you cannot well help. But all the little girls are wearing short dresses, and you are to have some new ones. Mother has gone out shopping, and next week cousin Cynthia Blackfan is coming to fix us all up. But I do hope, Hanny, you will have better manners and a kinder heart than to laugh at strangers, no matter if they are rather old-fashioned."
"I don't believe I ever will," said the little girl soberly.
"Now come up in my room. Mother said I might rip up her pretty blue plaid silk and have it made over. I came down to hunt up the waist."
She found it in one of the drawers, pinned up in a linen pillow-case.
"And you can have on a white apron," the elder said when they reached the room.
This had long sleeves and a ruffle round the neck. The little girl was ever so much improved.
And I think she would have felt comforted if she could have heard the rest of the talk between the two girls.
"I do wonder if she belongs to the new people," said the girl who laughed. "They can't be much. They came from the country somewhere."
"But they've bought all the way through to the other street. And ma said she meant to call on them. Some one told her they owned a big farm in Yonkers, and one of the young men is to be a doctor. Maybe the little girl doesn't really belong to them. I wish you hadn't spoken quite so loud. I'm sure she heard."
"Oh, I don't care!" with an airy toss of the head. "Mother said the other day she shouldn't bother about new neighbors. Calling on them is out of style."
Hanny looked out of the window a long while. Then she said gravely: "Margaret, are all those old Dutch people dead that were in the history? And where was their Bowery?"
"It is the Bowery out here, but it has changed. That was a long, long time ago."
"If I'd lived then no one would have laughed about my long frock. I almost wish I'd been a little girl then."
"Perhaps there were other things to laugh about."
"I don't mind the laughing now. But they must have had lovely gardens full of tulips and roses. There doesn't seem any room about for such things. And lanes, you know. Did the new people drive the Dutch away?"
"The English came afterward. You will read all about it in history. And then came the war——"
"That grandmother knows about? Margaret, I think New York is a great, strange, queer place. There are a good many queernesses, aren't there?"
Margaret assented with a smile.
"Oh, there's father in the wagon!" The little girl was all a tremor of gladness. He caught her eyes and beckoned, and she ran down. But she couldn't manage the night-latch, and so Margaret had to follow her.
"Bundle up my little girl," he said. "I've got to drive up to Harlem and I'll take her along."
Hanny almost danced for joy. Margaret found her red merino coat. The collar was trimmed with swan's down, and her red silk hood had an edge of the same. True, some ultra-fashionables had come out in spring attire, but it was rather cool so early in the season. Hanny looked very pretty in her winter hood. And as they drove down the street the same girls were standing on a stoop; one was evidently going away from her friend. The one who laughed lived there then. But neither of them would have guessed it was the "queer" girl, and they almost envied her.
"I've never been down to this corner," said Hanny. "And the streets run together."
"Yes, First Street ends and Houston goes on over to the East River."
The little girl looked about. There was a great sign on the house at the junction—"Monticello Hotel,"—and on the edge of the sidewalk a pump, which the little girl thought funny. They dipped the water out of the spring at home—they had not given up saying that about the old place. There was no need of a pump, and at grandmother's they had a well-sweep and bucket.
Then they turned up Avenue A, where he had an errand, and soon they were going over rough country ways where "squatters" had begun to come in with pigs and geese. They seemed so familiar that the little girl laughed. And if some one had told her that she would one day be driving in a beautiful park over yonder it would have sounded like a fairy tale. It was rough and wild now. Dobbin spun along, for the sun was hurrying over westward.
"We have some old cousins living beyond there on Harlem Heights," he said, "but it's too late to hunt them up. And it'll be dark by the time we get home. There was a big battle fought here. Their brother was killed in it. Why, they must be most eighty years old."
The little girl drew a long breath at the thought.
"We'll look them up some day." Then he stopped before a hotel where there was a long row of horse sheds, and sprang out to tie Dobbin.
"I had better take you out. Something might happen." He carried her in his arms clear up the steps. A lady came around the corner of the wide porch.
"I'll leave my little girl in the waiting-room a few moments. I have some business with Mr. Brockner," he said.
"I will take her through to my sitting-room," the lady replied, and holding out her hand she led Hanny thither. She insisted on taking off her hood and loosening her coat, and in a few moments she seemed well acquainted. The lady asked her father's name and she told it.
"There are some old ladies of that name living half a mile or so from here," she said. Then remembering they were very poor, and that poor relations were not always cordially accepted, she hesitated.
"Father spoke of some cousins," cried the little girl eagerly. "He said sometime we would hunt them up. We only came to New York to live two weeks ago."
"Then you have hardly had time to look up any one. They would be glad to see your father, I know. He looks so wholesome and good-natured."
The little girl was not an effusive child, but she and the lady fell into a delightful talk. Then her hostess brought in a plate of seed cookies, and she was eating them very delicately when her father entered.
"We have had such a nice time," she said, "that I'd like you to bring your little girl up again. Indeed, I have half a mind to keep her."
"We couldn't spare her," said her father, with a fond smile, which Hanny returned.
"I suppose not. But it will soon be beautiful around here, and when she longs for a breath of the country you must bring her up."
"Thank you, madam."
"And oh, father, the cousins really are here. Two old, old ladies——"
Mr. Underhill inquired about them, and learned their circumstances were quite straitened. He promised to come up soon and see them.
Mrs. Brockner kissed Hanny, quite charmed with her simplicity and pretty manner. And she had never once thought about the length of her old brown skirt.
It was supper time when they reached home. Steve and Joe and John were there. The three younger boys had been left at Yonkers. Indeed, George had declared his intention of being a farmer. Mrs. Underhill said she didn't want any more boys until she had a place to put them.
Afterward Joe coaxed the little girl to come and sit on his knee. They were talking about schools.
"Seems to me, Margaret better be studying housekeeping and learning how to make her clothes instead of going to school," said Mrs. Underhill shortly. "She can write a nice letter and she's good at figures, and, really, I don't see——"
"She wants to be finished," returned Steve, with a laugh. "She's a city girl now. I've been looking schools over. There are several establishments where they burnish up young ladies. There's Madame Chegary's——"
"I won't have her going to any French school and reading wretched French novels!"
Steve threw back his head and laughed. He had such splendid, strong, white teeth.
"My choice would be Rutgers Institute. It's going to be the school of the day," declared Joe.
"Exactly. I was coming to that. There would be one term before vacation."
"I call it all foolishness. And she'll be eighteen on her next birthday," said her mother. "If she wasn't a good scholar already—and what more do you expect her to learn?"
They all laughed at their mother's little ebullition of temper.
"The world grows wiser every day," said Joe sententiously.
"And what are you going to do, Pussy?"
Steve reached over and gave the little girl's ear a soft pinch.
"I am going to look up a nice school for her myself. Don't begin to worry about a child not yet eight years old," said their mother sharply.
"Eight years. She'll soon be that," remarked her father with a soft sigh. And he wished he could keep her a little girl always.
They went on discussing Rutgers Institute, that was one of the most highly esteemed schools of the day for young ladies. Steve looked over at his fair sister—she was almost as pretty as Dolly Beekman. Dolly had some dainty, attractive ways, played on the piano and sang, and Peggy had a voice blithe as a bird. Steve was beginning to be quite a judge of young ladies and social life, and there was no reason why they should not all aim at something. They had good family names to back them. Family counted, but so did education and accomplishments.
Mrs. Underhill gave in. Steve would have his way. But then he was such a good, upright, affectionate son. So when he announced that he had registered his sister, Margaret's pulses gave a great thrill of delight.
There was so much to do. True, Martha was a good cook and capable, and there was no milk to look after, no churning, no poultry, and the countless things of country life. Miss Cynthia Blackfan came the next week and remodeled the feminine part of the household. She was a tall, slim, airy-looking person, with large dark eyes and dark hair that she wore in long ringlets on either side of her face. She always looped them up when she was sewing. She had all the latest quips of fashion at her tongue's end—what Margaret must have for school dresses, what for Sunday best, what lawns and ginghams and prints for summer.
But when she went at the little girl she quite metamorphosed her.
"You must begin to plait the child's hair and tie it with ribbons [people generally used the word instead of 'braid']. And her frocks must be made ever so much shorter. And, Cousin Underhill, do put white stockings on the child. Nobody wears colored ones. Unbleached do wear stronger and answer for real every day."
"They'll be forever in the wash-tub," said the mother grimly.
"Well, when you're in Rome you must do as the Romans do," with emphasis. "It looks queer to be so out of date. Everybody dresses so much more in the city. It's natural. There's so much going and coming."
Even then people had begun to discuss and condemn the extravagance of the day. The old residents of the Bowling Green were sure Bond Street and the lower part of Fifth Avenue were stupendous follies and would ruin the city. Foreign artistic upholsterers came over, carpets and furniture of the most elegant sort were imported, and even then some people ordered their gowns and cloaks in Paris. Miss Blackfan's best customer had gone over for the whole summer, otherwise she would not have the fortnight for Cousin Underhill. She uttered her dictum with a certain authority from which there was no appeal. And she charged a dollar and a half a day, while most dressmakers were satisfied with a dollar.
So the little girl had her hair braided in two tails—they were quite short, though, and her father liked the curly mop better. Little girls' dresses were cut off the shoulder, and made with a yoke or band and a belt. In warm weather they wore short sleeves, though a pair of long sleeves were made for cool days. There were some tucks in the skirt to be let down as the child grew.
The little girl was most proud, I think, of her pantalets. There were some nankin ones made for every day. And she had a real nankin frock that Margaret embroidered just above the hem. It was used a great deal for aprons, too. Aprons, let me tell you, were no longer "high-ups" with a plain armhole. They were sometimes gathered on a belt and had Bertha capes over the shoulders trimmed with edging or ruffles. And every well-conditioned little girl had one of black silk.
"She'll have to hem her own ruffles," declared Mother Underhill almost sharply. "And how they're ever to get ironed——"
"There's hemstitching and fagoting, but I don't know as it's any less work than ruffling. And all the little girls are knitting lace. I'm doing some myself, oak-leaf pattern out of seventy cotton, and it's as handsome as anything you ever see."
"I don't know how any one is going to find time for so much folderol!"
"Oh, pshaw, Cousin Underhill, we did lots of it in our day. I worked the bottom of a party dress a good quarter up, and Vandyke capes, and those great big collars. And we tucked up to the waist. There's always something. And those old Jewish women had broidery and finery of every sort, and 'pillows' in their sleeves as we wore years ago. See what a little it takes to make a pair of sleeves now! We must have looked funny, all sleeves and waists up under our arms."
When you consider that sewing-machines had not been invented, it was a wonder how the women accomplished so much. But they always had some "catch-work" handy. The little girl was provided with a pretty work-basket, six spools of cotton, a pincushion, a needle-book, a bit of white wax, and an emery, which was a strawberry-shaped cushion topped off with some soft green stuff she knew afterward was chenille. This was to keep her needles bright and smooth. Then she had three rolls of ruffling, yards and yards in each piece. One was cambric, one was fine lawn or nainsook, and one of dimity. She had done some over-seam in sheets, she had hemmed towels and some handkerchiefs, and sewed a little on the half-dozen shirts Margaret had made for father last winter. But the stitches had to be so small, and oh, so close together! Then they looked badly if they were not straight. She liked the dimity the best because the stitches seemed to sink in, and it ruffled so of itself.
But the little girl didn't sew all the time. She wiped dishes for Martha. And one day, when she saw a little girl up the street sweeping the sidewalk, she begged to do that. She could dust a room very nicely. There was much running up and down, and she was always glad to wait upon Steve. Indeed, she ran errands cheerfully for anybody. But she did miss Benny Frank and Jim.
Margaret had felt quite diffident about her new school, and at first rather shrank from the young ladies, much as she desired to be among them. But she found herself quite advanced in some of the studies, and in a week's time began to feel at home. Two girls were very friendly, Mary Barclay and Annette Beekman.
Perhaps Steve hadn't been quite as disinterested as it seemed. He had met Dolly Beekman at Miss Jane Barclay's party early in the winter. They had taken a mutual fancy. Old Peter Beekman lived at the lower end of Broadway, and had a farm "up the East River," about Ninety-sixth Street. He had five girls, and the two last had been sore disappointments. But Harriet, the eldest, had married her cousin and had four Beekman boys. Two others were married. Dolly had graduated from Rutgers the year before and was now nineteen. Annette, as the old Dutch name was spelled, was not quite seventeen. Margaret had been put in her class in most branches.
Steve did want the Beekmans to think well of his people. He and Dolly were not declared lovers, but they understood each other. Old Peter made inquiries about the young man, and if they had not been satisfactory Stephen would soon have known it. So he felt quite assured. And though his mother talked of her sons marrying, he knew that just at first it would come a little hard to find she had a rival.
"Well, Peggy," he said, Friday evening of the first week, "how does school go? Seen any girls you like?"
"I've seen two that know you," and Margaret laughed. "Mary Barclay said you had been at their house. And so did Annie Beekman."
"Yes, I was at Miss Beekman's party; quite a fine affair. And I've been there to play whist. They're a jolly crowd. Next winter we must have a few parties. And I'm going to get a piano."
"Oh, you lovely Steve!" She squeezed his arm rapturously.
"You have a very pretty voice, Peggy. Annie Beekman's sister sings beautifully. How do you like Annie?"
"Why, you never can tell whether she is in earnest or quizzing you. But she's ever so much prettier than Mary. Yes, on the whole I like her."
"You ought to see her sister Dolly. She has real flaxen hair and such a complexion!"
"Annie has a lovely complexion, too. There are a great many pretty girls in the world. I have a curious sort of pity for those who are not a bit pretty," Margaret said sympathetically.
Steve laughed and nodded, as if the idea amused him.
If Margaret and Annie became friends, and if Dolly and Annie came to call—well, he was sure they would all fall in love with Dolly. And then the matter would go on smoothly. People thought more of being friendly with their relations by marriage in those days.
A LOOK AT OLD NEW YORK
On a Sunday toward the end of April, Stephen took his two sisters down to the Battery for a walk. It was very warm and springlike. The cherry-tree in their yard had come out in bloom. Buds were swelling everywhere, and the gray spots were all green and shining in the soft golden atmosphere. There was the wide, magnificent expanse of the bay, the edge of Brooklyn, the hazy outline of Staten Island, the vague Narrows that seemed to lead to some unknown world. And there was the great round Castle Garden, the Castle Clinton of earlier times, where a few years later the little girl was to hear some of the world's most famous singers. And when she looked out of that weird, narrow waterway and wondered just where Europe was, and how foreign countries must look, she could not by the most vivid stretch of imagination fancy herself sailing out to that unknown country.
The short grass was so lovely and green, and the waves came lapping up with a silvery melody. There were people lounging on the seats, ladies with sunshades in their hands, mothers with some little children, fathers with a son or two, or a little girl like herself in pantalets and white stockings and low shoes. The clothes she thought were beautiful. The hats were full of flowers. She had a new straw gypsy with a wreath of buttercups, and soft yellow strings tied under her chin. Her challi de laine had small blue flowers on a white ground, with yellow-brown centres, and there was a blue ribbon tied about her waist, with a bow at the back. She had a white cape of some soft cotton goods with a satiny finish, warranted to wash as good as new. She would have liked a sunshade, but she had so many new things.
She thought quite a good deal about her pretty clothes, and how glad she should be to learn more geography. Stephen was talking about Hudson's expedition up the river to which he gave his name, and a few months later when some hovels were built to shelter the sailors, the beginning of a settlement. And how in 1614 the Dutch erected a rude fort and gave the place the name of New Amsterdam. Then the Dutch West India Company bought Manhattoes Island from the natives for goods of various kinds, amounting to sixty guilders.
"You see the Dutch were thrifty traders even then, more than two hundred years ago," says Stephen with a pleasant laugh.
"How much are sixty guilders?" asks the little girl. It sounds an immense sum to her. And to buy a whole city!
"It was about twenty-four dollars at that time," replies Stephen.
The little girl's face is amusing in its surprise.
"Only twenty-four dollars! And father had three hundred a few days ago. Why, he could have bought"—well, the limitless area takes away her breath.
"I don't believe we should have wanted to live in such a wilderness as it was then."
"But when Walter the Testy came—he was really here?" It is rather chaotic in her mind.
"He was here. Wouter van Twiller was his real name. Then a line of Dutch governers, after which the island was ceded to the British. It became quite a Royalist town until the Revolutionary War. We had a 'scrap' about tea, too," and Stephen laughs. "Old Castle Clinton was a famous spot. And when General Lafayette, who had helped us fight our battles, came over in 1824, he had a magnificent ovation as he sailed up the bay. It's a splendid old place."
Everybody seemed to think so then. The birds were singing in the sunshine, and the rural aspect was dear to the hearts of the older people. They rose and walked about in the fragrant air. Now and then some one bowed gravely to Stephen. There was a Sunday decorum over all.
They rambled up to the Bowling Green. Some quaintly attired elderly people who had the entree of the place were sitting about enjoying the loveliness. One old Frenchman had a ruffled shirt-front and a very high coat-collar that made him look like a picture, and knee-breeches.
Some one sprang up, and coming to the gate said: "Oh, Mr. Underhill, and Miss Margaret! Is this your little sister? Do walk in and chat with us. My sister Jane and I have come down to dine with the Morrises, and it was so lovely out here. Isn't it a charming day?"
There was Miss Jane Barclay very fashionably attired, Miss Morris, and her brother, who was very attentive to Miss Barclay, and a little farther on Mrs. Morris, fat, fair, and matronly. She was reading "The Lady of the Manor," and when the little girl found it afterward in a Sunday-school library, Mrs. Morris seemed curiously mixed up with it. Sunday papers at that period would have horrified most people.
"What a dear little girl!" said Mrs. Morris. "Come here and tell me your name. Why, you look like a lily astray in a bed of buttercups. Is it possible Mr. Stephen Underhill is your brother?"
"The eldest and the youngest," explained Stephen. "And this is my sister, Miss Underhill."
Mrs. Morris bowed and shook hands. Then she made room on the settee for the child.
"You haven't told me your name, my dear."
Mrs. Morris' voice was so soft, almost pleading. The little girl glanced up and colored, and if the bank could have broken and let her money down in the ocean, or some one could have stolen it and bought a new Manhattan Island in the South Seas,—so that she could have had a new name, she wouldn't have minded a bit. But she said with brave sweetness:
"Hannah Ann. I was named after both grandmothers."
"That's a long name for such a little girl. I believe I should call you Nannie or Nansie. And Mr. Morris would call you Nan at once. I never knew such a man for short names. We've always called our Elizabeth Bess, and half the time her father calls her Bet, to save one letter."
The little girl laughed. The economy of the thing seemed funny.
"What does your father call you?"
"'Little girl,' most always. Margaret was grown into quite a big girl when I was born, so I was the little girl."
"Well—that's pretty, too. And where are you living?"
"In First Street."
"Why, that's way up-town! And—let me see—you did live at Yonkers? I've never been there. Is it a town?"
"We lived on a great big farm. And oh, the Croton water pipe came right across one corner of it."
"Ah, you should have seen the celebration! Such a wonderful, indescribable thing!"
"Margaret came down and most of the boys. Mother said I would be crushed to death."
"And she couldn't spare her little girl! Well, I don't blame her. Do you go to school?"
"No, ma'am, not yet." All the children but the very rough ones said "no, ma'am," and "yes, ma'am," in those days. "But I did go at Yonkers."
"And what did you learn."
She was quite astonished at the little girl's attainments, and her simplicity she thought charming. When Stephen came for her, Mrs. Morris said:
"I have really fallen in love with your little sister. You must bring her down again. We think there's nothing to compare with our Bowling Green and the Battery."
They bade each other a pleasant adieu. It was time to go home, indeed. The little girl felt very happy and joyous, and she thought her pretty clothes had helped. Perhaps they had.
She sat on her father's knee that night telling him about Mrs. Morris. And she suddenly said:
"Father, what was the Reign of Terror?"
"The Reign of Terror? Oh, it was a horrible time of war in France. Where did you pick up that?"
"There was an old man in the Green who had on a queer sort of dress—knee-breeches and buckles on his shoes like those of grandfather's. And ruffles all down his shirt-bosom and long, curly, white hair. And Mrs. Morris said he was in prison in the Reign of Terror, and then came to America with his daughter, and that his mind had something the matter with it. Do you suppose he got awfully frightened?"
"I dare say he did, my dear. When you are a big girl you will learn all about it in history. But you needn't hurry. There are a great many pleasanter things to learn."
She leaned her head down on her father's shoulder and thought how sad it must be to lose one's mind. Was that the part of you always thinking? How curious it was to always think of something! Your feet didn't always walk, your hands didn't always work, but that strange thing inside of you never stopped. Oh, yes, it had to when you were asleep. But then you sometimes dreamed. And the little girl fell fast asleep over psychology that she didn't know a word about.
Early in the next week Mrs. Underhill took the little girl and went up to Yonkers. She said she was homesick to see the boys. And oh, how glad they were to see her! Aunt Crete was laid up with the tic douloureux. Retty was full of work and house-cleaning, and her lover had come on. He was a Vermonter by birth, and an uncle in the Mohawk valley had brought him up. Then he had gone West, but not taken especial root anywhere. He was tall and thin, with reddish hair and beard, but the kindliest blue eyes and a pleasant voice. He and George had struck up a friendship already. And Retty confided to Aunt Margaret "that she was going to be married without any fuss, and Bart was goin' to turn in and help run the farm."
Everything wore a different aspect even in this brief while. Mrs. Underhill had some things to pack up, that she was going to leave, a while at least, in the garret. Her sister-in-law was very glad to take anything she wanted to dispose of, since they had sold their furniture at the West.
Oh, how wonderful the world was to the little girl! The trees were coming out in bloom, there were great bunches of yellow daffodils, and the May pinks were full of buds. And then the chickens, the ducks' nests full of eggs, the pretty little dark-eyed calf that the boys had tamed already! And the children at school! Everybody was wild over Hanny and glad to get her back.
But it was queer she should miss her father so much when it came night. She went out on the old stoop and felt strangely lonesome. Then the boys came round, having done up their share of the chores.
"Do you reely like it, Hanny?" asked Jim.
She knew he meant the city.
"Well—father and Steve and Joe and John are there"—yet her tone was a little uncertain.
"Are there any boys about?"
"I don't know any. I haven't had time to find any girls. But there is a big public school round in Houston Street, and I guess there's a thousand children. You should see them coming out of the gate."
"Hm'n! I don't believe there's a thousand children in all New York. That's ten hundred, Miss Hanny!"
Hanny was sobered by the immensity of her statement, for she was a very truthful little girl.
"What have you been doing all this time?" Jim asked impatiently.
"Well—there was the house to get to rights. And we had to have some new clothes made. A girl laughed at me one day and said I looked queer."
"If I'd been there I'd punched her head. Yes—I see you're mighty fine. Would I look queer?"
"Oh, boys always look alike," returned Hanny reflectively. "We had a beautiful walk one Sunday on the Battery, and I think," hesitatingly, "that all the boys had on roundabouts."
"Are you sure they didn't have on overcoats?"
"Don't plague her, Jim. Tell us about the Battery, Hanny."
Hanny could describe that quite vividly. Jim soon became interested. When she paused he said, "What else?" She told them of her ride up to Harlem, and a walk down the Bowery to Chatham Square.
"But there ain't any real bowers in it any more, only stores and such things."
"What a pity," commented Benny Frank.
"Well, I think I'd like to go as soon as mammy can get ready. It isn't as much fun here without you all."
"Oh, Jim, don't say mammy. They don't do it in the city," said the little girl beseechingly.
"If you think I'm going to put on French airs, you're much mistaken, Miss Hanny! I'll say pop and mammy when I like. I'm not going to dress up in Sunday best manners because you wear ruffled pantalets. It makes you look like a feather-legged chicken!"
"Don't mind him, Hanny," said Ben tenderly. "I wish I had seen that old man at the Bowling Green——"
"Do they make bowls there?" interrupted teasing Jim.
"Because I've been reading about France and the Reign of Terror," Benny Frank went on, not heeding his brother. "It was in about 1794. Robespierre was at the head of it. And there was a dreadful prison into which they threw everybody they suspected, and only brought them out for execution. It must have been terrible! And the poor old man must have been quite young then. I should think he would have lost his mind."
"Bother about such stuff! You'd rather be in New York, wouldn't you, Hanny? And mother said we might come as soon as she was settled. I'm not going to stay here and be ordered about by this Finch fellow. Retty's soft as mush over him. Say, Ben, you would like to go, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, I think I would," answered Ben slowly. "There would be such a splendid chance to learn about everything."
Their mother had been walking around the familiar paths with George, who had developed some ideas of his own in this brief space. And his mother had not realized before how tall and stout he was getting.
"I'd like to see father and Steve and make some plans. I'd like to work part of father's ground on shares or some way. I'm glad Dave Andrews is staying on. I don't altogether like Uncle Faid's ideas, and oh, mother, 'tisn't any such jolly home as you had. Poor Aunt Crete is so miserable. But you see if I really had some interest of my own I'd be learning all the time."
"I'm sure your father will consent." His mother felt so proud, leaning on his arm. And some time they would come back. So they talked the matter over with eager interest, and she quite forgot about the little girl's bedtime. Retty had joined them and was rehearsing some of her Western experiences, and the little girl sat with wide-open eyes, looking at Retty in the moon-light, thinking what a great wonderful world it was to have so many places and all so different. Did you have two organs of thought? She was so puzzled about thought, anyhow. For with one side of her that didn't see Retty, she could see her father so plainly in this very corner, and she was in his arms, and with the faculty that wasn't listening to her cousin she could hear her father's voice. You see, she wasn't old enough to know about dual consciousness.
When Hanny went up-stairs with her mother the boys went also.
"Say, Ben," and his brother gave him a dig in the ribs with his elbow; "say, Ben, don't you want to go back to New York with mother? If we just push with all our might and main, together we can."
"Well, don't push me through the side of the house."
"You want to be pushed all the while. You're as slow as 'lasses in winter time. Ben, you take after Uncle Faid. It takes him 'most all day to make up his mind. Now I can look at a thing and tell in a minute."
"You seem ready enough to tell." Ben laughed a little provokingly.
"Well, you can go or not as you like. 'Taint half the fun here that it used to be. I didn't think I cared so much for Hanny."
"Is it Hanny?" in a tone that irritated.
"It's Hanny and mother and John and father and New York, and just a million things rolled into a bundle. And if you don't care I'll fight my way through. There, Benjamin Franklin! You'd sit on a stone in the middle of a field and fly your kite forever!"
Jim was losing his temper.
"Yes, I think I'd like to go. There would be so much to see and learn."
"Oh, hang it all! Simply go!"
Ben was thinking of the old man—he must have been quite young then—who was in prison through that awful Reign of Terror. He undressed slowly. He was not such a fly-away as Jim. But Jim was asleep before he was ready for bed.
Mrs. Underhill had not really meant to take the boys home with her. She was quite sure the city was a bad place for boys. And the country was so much healthier in the summer. But they coaxed. And somehow, the old home had changed already. The air of brisk cheerfulness was gone. Aunt Crete had her face tied up most of the time, or a little shawl over her head. Retty was undeniably careless. Barton Finch played cards with the hired man. Uncle Faid had some queer ideas about farming.
"I'd like wonderful well to have the boys stay," he said. "They're worth their keep. A boy 'round's mighty handy. I'd have to hire one."
Somehow she wasn't quite willing to have her boys put in the place of a hired one, or one bound out from the county house. And Jim had been her baby for so long. The little girl pleaded also. She told them finally they might come down and try. But if they were the least bit bad or disobedient they would be sent back at once.
Mrs. Underhill was half-cured of her homesickness. She had thought she could never be content in New York; why, she was almost content already.
She and Hanny took a walk the last day of their stay up on the knoll where the new house was to be built.
"When all the children are married and father and I get to be old people, we will come back here. I shall want you, Hanny," and she held the little girl's hand in a tight clasp.
Hanny wondered if she would be stout and have full red cheeks and look like Retty? And oh, she did hope her mother wouldn't have tic douloureux and wear shawls over her head. When all the children were married—oh, how lonesome it would be!
But she had been quite a little heroine and gone to school one day to see the girls and boys. And one girl said: "I s'pose it's city fashion to wear pantalets that way, but my! doesn't it look queer!"
She was very glad to get back to her father. The country was beautiful with all its bloom and fragrance, but First Street had such a clean, tidy look with its flagged sidewalks and the dirt all swept up to the middle of the street, leaving the round faces of the cobble-stones fairly shining. It was quite delightful to show the boys all over the house and then go through the yard to the stables and greet Dobbin and Prince. And Battle, the dog, called so because he had been such a fighter, but commonly known as Bat, wagged his whole body with delight at sight of the boys.
GIRLS AND GIRLS
A week or so after Mrs. Underhill's return, one of the neighbors called one afternoon and brought her two little girls, Josie and Tudie Dean. Tudie stood for Susan. The little girl was summoned, and the three, after the fashion of little girls, sat very stiff on their chairs and looked at each other, then cast their eyes down on the carpet, fidgeted a little with the corners of their white aprons, and then gave another furtive glance.
"Hanny, you might take the little girls out in the yard and gather a nosegay for them." Flower roots and shrubs had been brought down from the "old place," and there was quite a showing of bloom.
The mothers talked meanwhile of the street, and Mrs. Dean spoke of the wonderful strides the city was making up-town. A few objectionable people had come in the old frame houses at the lower end of the street. When Mr. Dean built, some seven years ago, it was all that could be desired, but already immigrants were forcing their way up Houston Street. If something wasn't done to control immigration, we should soon be overrun. The Croton water had been such a great and wonderful blessing. And did her little girl go to school anywhere? Josie and Tudie went up First Avenue by Third Street to a Mrs. Craven, a rather youngish widow lady, who had two daughters of her own to educate, and who was very genteel and accomplished. Little girls needed some one who had gentle and pretty manners. There was a sewing-class, and all through the winter a dancing-class, and Mrs. Craven gave lessons on the piano. Public schools were well enough for boys, but they were too rude and rough for little girls.
Mrs. Underhill assented. "She wouldn't think of sending Hannah Ann to a public school."
"She looks like a very delicate child," commented Mrs. Dean.
"She's always been very well," said the mother, "but she is small for her age. And all of my children have grown up so rapidly."
"I couldn't believe those young men belonged to you. And that tall, pretty young girl."
Mrs. Underhill smiled and flushed and betrayed her pride in her eight nice healthy children.
"I envy you some of your sons," Mrs. Dean went on. "I never had but the two little girls."
They came in now, each with the promised nosegay, and full of delight. They were round and rosy, and looked more like one's idea of a country girl than little lilybud Hannah. But they were all eager now, and even her cheeks were pink. They had talked themselves into friendship. And Josie wanted to know if Hanny couldn't come and see them, and if they couldn't have their dishes out and have tea all by themselves?
Mrs. Dean looked up at Mrs. Underhill, and replied: "Why, yes, if her mother is willing. Saturday would be best, as you are not in school."
That was only two days off. Hanny's eyes entreated so wistfully. And the Deans lived only three doors away.
"Why, yes," answered her mother with a touch of becoming hesitation.
Hanny was telling this eventful interview over to Jim as they sat on the stoop that evening. Ben was reading a book, Jim was trying the toes of his shoes against the iron railing and secretly wishing he could go barefoot.
"And they have a real play-house up-stairs in one room. There's two beds in it and two bureaus, and oh, lots of things! Josie has seven dolls and Tudie four. Tudie gave two of hers away, and Josie has a lovely big wax doll that her aunt sent from Paris. And a table, and their mother lets them play tea with bread and cake and real things. And I'm to go on Saturday."
Hanny uttered this in a rapid breath.
"Sho!" ejaculated Jim rather disdainfully. "They're not much if they play with dolls. Now I know some girls——"
The boys had been at Houston Street public school not quite a week. Jim knew half the boys at least, already, and all the boys that lived on the block. He wasn't a bit afraid of girls, either, though he generally called them "gals."
"There's some living down the street, and Jiminy! if they haven't got names! You'd just die of envy! Rosabelle May, think of it! And Lilian Alice Ludlow. Lily's an awful pretty girl, too. And they wanted to know all about you and Peggy."
"Did you tell her my name?" asked the little girl timidly.
"Well—don't you know you said you wished it was Anna?" Jim answered slowly. "I just said it so it sounded like Anna. And Lily said she'd seen you riding with father. I wish you'd walk down there," coaxingly.
"I'll see if mother will let me." Hanny sprang up.
"And put on a nice white apron," said Jim.
"They're too old for Hanny," began Ben, looking up from his book.
"Why, Lily's only eleven. And anyhow——"
Jim didn't know just how to explain it. Lily had begged him that afternoon to bring his little sister down. To tell the truth she was very ambitious to know the Underhills. They must be somebody, for they kept horses and a carriage, and owned their house.
"Do you know," said Belle May as they watched Jim going up the street, "I half believe the little girl who stood on the stoop that day is Jim's sister."
"That little country thing! I never thought of it. But I don't suppose she really heard."
"If she did—what will you do?"
"Do?" Lily tossed her head. "Why, I shall act just as if I never said it or had seen her before or anything. You don't suppose I'm a goose in pin-feathers, do you? I want to get acquainted with them. Of course I shall ask both boys to my birthday party. I should only ask the nice people in the street."
Margaret threw her pretty pink fascinator round Hanny's shoulders. She didn't need any hat this warm summer night. Hanny was very proud to walk down the street with her brother, who knew so many girls already. Jim wasn't a bit afraid of being called a "girl boy." Quite a number of people were sitting out on their stoops. It was the fashion then. Some of the ladies were knitting lace on two little needles that had sealing wax on one end, so the stitches could not drop off. There was much pleasant chatting. The country ways of sociability had not all gone out of date.
They walked down to the lower end, where the houses were rather irregular and getting old. Two or three had a small grass door-yard in front. Two girls were walking up and down with their arms around each. Jim knew in a moment who they were, but he loitered behind them until they turned.