A Little Girl in Old Salem
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THE "LITTLE GIRL" SERIES
A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW YORK. HANNAH ANN; A SEQUEL. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BOSTON. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD PHILADELPHIA. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD WASHINGTON. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW ORLEANS. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD DETROIT. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD ST. LOUIS. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD CHICAGO. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD QUEBEC. A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BALTIMORE.
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A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SALEM
AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1908
Copyright, 1908 by Dodd, Mead and Company
Published, September, 1908
I TWO LETTERS 1
II THE LITTLE GIRL 19
III A STRANGER, YET AT HOME 36
IV UNWELCOME 52
V MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE LITTLE GIRL 68
VI GOING TO SCHOOL 91
VII CHANGEFUL LIGHTS OF CHILDHOOD 108
VIII SORROW'S CROWN OF SORROW 128
IX LESSONS OF LIFE 143
X A NEW DEPARTURE 161
XI THE VOICE OF A ROSE 180
XII CHANGES IN THE OLD HOUSE 194
XIII A TASTE OF PLEASURE 213
XIV IN GAY OLD SALEM 231
XV LOVERS AND LOVERS 248
XVI PERILOUS PATHS 270
XVII THE FLOWERING OF THE SOUL 288
XVIII THE PASSING OF OLD SALEM 296
The Leveretts were at their breakfast in the large sunny room in Derby Street. It had an outlook on the garden, and beyond the garden was a lane, well used and to be a street itself in the future. Then, at quite a distance, a strip of woods on a rise of ground, that still further enhanced the prospect. The sun slanted in at the windows on one side, there was nothing to shut it out. It would go all round the house now, and seem to end where it began, in the garden.
Chilian was very fond of it. He always brought his book to the table; he liked to eat slowly, to gaze out and digest one or two thoughts at his leisure, as well as the delightful breakfast set before him. He was a man of delicate tastes and much refinement, for with all the New England sturdiness, hardness one might say, there was in many families a strain of what we might term high breeding. His face, with its clear-cut features, indicated this. His hair was rather light, fine, with a few waves in it that gave it a slightly tumbled look—far from any touch of disorder. His eyes were a deep, clear blue, his complexion fair enough for a woman.
His father and grandfather had lived and died in this house. He had bought out his sister's share when she married, and she had gone to Providence. He had asked the two relatives of his father—termed cousins by courtesy—to continue housekeeping. They were the last of their family and in rather straitened circumstances. Miss Elizabeth was nearing sixty, tall, straight, fair, and rather austere-looking. Eunice was two years younger, shorter, a trifle stouter, with a rounder face, and a mouth that wore a certain sweetness when it did not actually smile.
Chilian was past thirty. He was a Harvard graduate, and now went in two days each week for teaching classes. His father had left some business interests in Salem, rather distasteful to him, but he was a strictly conscientious person and attended to them, if with a sort of mental protest. For the rest, he was a bookworm and revelled in intellectual pursuits.
The day previous had been desperately stormy, this late March morning was simply glorious. The mail, which came late in the afternoon, had not been delivered, causing no uneasiness, as letters were not daily visitors. But now the serving-man, with a gentle rap, opened the door and said briefly:
Eunice rose and took them.
"An East Indian one for you, Chilian, and why—one from Boston—for you, Elizabeth. It is Cousin Giles' hand."
Elizabeth reached for it. They were both so interested that they took no note of Chilian's missive. She cut carefully around the big wafer he had used. It was a large letter sheet, quite blue and not of over-fine quality. Envelopes had not come in and there was quite an art in folding a letter—unfolding it as well.
"Really what has started Cousin Giles? I hope no one is dead——"
"There would have been a black seal."
"Oh, yes, m'm;" making a curious sound with closed lips. "They are well. Oh, the Thatchers have been visiting them and are coming out here for a week—why, on Saturday, and to-day is Thursday. Chilian, do you hear that?"
"What?" he asked, closing his book over his own letter.
"Why, the Thatchers are coming—on Saturday, not a long notice, and I don't know how many. They have had a nice time in Boston—and Cousin Giles has been beauing them round and seems to like it. He might have sent you word on Tuesday, when you were in;" and Elizabeth's tone expressed a grievance.
"And the house not cleaned! It's been so cold."
"The house is always clean. Don't, I beg of you, Cousin Bessy, turn it upside down and scrub and scour, and wear yourself out and take a bad cold. There are two guest chambers, and I suppose half a dozen more might be made ready."
"That's the man of it. I don't believe a man would ever see dirt until some day when he had to dig himself out, or call upon the women folks to do it."
Elizabeth always softened, in spite of her austerity, when he called her Bessy. The newer generation indulged in household diminutives occasionally.
"Well, there is to be no regular house-cleaning. We shall want fires a good six weeks yet."
"I don't see why Cousin Giles couldn't have said how many there were. Let me see, Rachel Leverett, who married the Thatcher, was your father's cousin. They went up in Vermont. Then they came to Concord. He"—which meant the head of the house—"went to the State Legislature after the war. He had some sons married. Why, I haven't seen them in years."
"It will be just like meeting strangers," declared Eunice. "It's almost as if we kept an inn."
Chilian turned. "When I am in Boston to-morrow I will hunt up Cousin Giles."
"Oh, that will be good of you."
He slipped his letter into the Latin book he had been going over, and with a slight inclination of the head left the room. The hall was wide, though it ended just beyond this door, where it led to the kitchen. The woodwork was of oak, darkened much by the years that had passed over it. The broad staircase showed signs of the many feet that had trodden up and down.
Chilian's study was directly over the living-room, and next to the sleeping-chamber. This part had been added to the main house, but that was years ago. Bookshelves were ranged on two sides, but the windows interfered with their course around, two on each of the other sides. There was a wide fireplace between those at the west, and under them low closets, with cushions—ancestors of useful window-seats. A large easy-chair, covered with Cordovan leather, another curiously carved with a straight narrow strip up the back, set off by the side carving. The seat was broad and cushioned. Then one from France, as you could tell by the air and style, that had been in a palace. A low splint rocker, and one with a high back and comfortable cushions, inviting one to take a nap.
The bookcases went about two-thirds of the way up and were ornamented by articles beautiful and grotesque from almost every land, for there had been seafaring men in the Leverett family, and more than one home in Salem could boast of treasures of this sort.
Chilian stirred the fire, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney, and put on a fresh log. Then he settled himself in his chair and fingered his letter in an absent way. The last time Anthony wrote he vaguely suggested changes and chances and the uncertainty of life, rather despondent for a brisk business man who was always seeing opportunities at money-making. Had he been unfortunate in some of his ventures? And it was odd in him to write so soon again. Not that they were ever frequent correspondents.
He opened the letter slowly. It was tied about with a thread of waxed silk and sealed, so he cut about the seal deliberately; he had a delicate carefulness in all his ways that was rather womanly. Then unfolding it, he began to read.
Was this what the previous letter had meant? Was Anthony Leverett nearing the end, counting his days, finishing up his earthly work, and delegating it to other hands? There was something pathetic in it, and the trust in the uprightness and honor that Anthony Leverett reposed in him touched him keenly. But this part surprised and, at first, annoyed him. He drew his fine brows in a repellent sort of frown.
"Do you remember, Chilian, when you were a lad of eighteen, in your second year at Harvard, you came to Salem to recruit after a period of rather severe study? And you met Alletta Orne, who was four-and-twenty and engaged to me. In some sort of fashion we were all related. Your father had been like a father to me in my later boyhood. And, with a young man's fervor, you fell in love with her. I was sorry then for any pain you suffered, I am glad now; for there is no one else in the wide world I would as soon trust her child and mine to.
"We had been away nearly three years, when we came back, and the baby was born in the house endeared to me by many tender recollections. You were away then, but on our second visit we were the most congenial friends again. I did not think then it would be our last meeting. I had meant, after making my fortune, to return and end my days in my birthplace. My greatest interest was in the commercial house I had established. My first mate, John Corwin, took my place and sailed the vessel. Then my dear wife died, and I had only my little girl left.
"I could hardly believe six months ago that I must die. Should I return, or remain here and sleep beside the one who had filled my soul with her serene and lovely life and her blessed memory? I could not endure the thought of leaving her precious body here alone. So I chose to remain. And now I send my little girl to your care and guardianship without even consulting you. She is amply provided for, though the business this side of the world cannot be settled in some time. I send her with a trusty maid and Captain Corwin, because I do not want her to remember the end. Some day you can tell her I am sleeping beside her dear mother and that we are together in the Better Land. She has been separated considerably from me of late,—I have had to be journeying about on business,—therefore it will not come so hard to her, and though children do not forget, the sorrow softens and has a tender vagueness from the hand of time.
"So I give my little girl to you. If so be you should marry and have children of your own, she will not be crowded out, I know. In the course of years,—for girls grow rapidly up to womanhood,—she may love and marry. Direct her a little here and see that no one takes her for the mere money. I want her to know the sweetness and richness of a true satisfying love."
All important papers, and a sort of diary Anthony Leverett had kept, were to come in the vessel that would bring the little girl in the charge of Captain Corwin.
Chilian Leverett sat for a long while with the letter in his hand, until the log broke in the middle and one end fell over the andiron. Then he started suddenly.
Had he been dreaming of the sweetness of the woman who had so captivated his youthful fancy, almost a dozen years agone? He never thought she had led him astray, and had no blame for her. Perhaps the love for her betrothed had so permeated her whole being that she shed an exquisitely fascinating sweetness all about. He was to her as if he had been her betrothed's younger brother. And when the engagement was confessed he allowed himself no reprehensible longing for the woman so soon to be another's. All his instincts were pure and high, perhaps rather too idealized, though there was much strength and heroism in the old Puritan blood. Right was right in those days. Lines were sharply drawn among those of the old stock.
But there had been years of what one might call living for self, indulgence in studious habits and tastes and the higher intellectual life, much solitary dreaming, although he was by no means a recluse. And to have a little girl come into his life! He would have liked a boy better, he thought. The boy would be out of doors, playing with mates. And now he bethought himself how few small children there were in his branch of the Leverett line. Some of the men and women had not married. His brother and one sister had died in childhood. The first cousins were nearly all older than he, many of them had dropped out of life. A little girl! No chance to decline the trust—well, he would hardly have done that. He knew Anthony Leverett had counted on a serene old age in his native town. And he was not much past middle life. What had befallen him?
Well, there was nothing to be done. He read the letter over again. Then he turned to some papers to compose his mind. There was a stir in the next room, his sleeping-chamber. He always opened the windows and closed the door between. After the dishes were washed and the dining-room and hall brushed up, Elizabeth came upstairs and made the two beds. When he had gone to Cambridge she opened the door between. So she did not disturb him now, but crossed the hall and inspected the two guest-chambers. She had swept them a week or so ago and had settled in her mind that they would do until house-cleaning time. To be sure, if she cleaned them now they would need it when the guests were gone. And Chilian had a man's objection to house-cleaning. It was hardly time to put away blankets. She wished she knew how many guests there would be.
The rooms were full of old Colonial furniture that had been in the family for generations. Every spring Elizabeth polished the mahogany until it shone. She dusted now, though there was hardly a speck visible. The snow through the winter had laid it, and the spring rains had not allowed it to rear its head.
Chilian put on his coat presently and sallied out for his morning exercise. The family had been connected with shipbuilding to a certain extent, and there was the old warehouse where vessels came in with their precious cargoes from civilized and barbaric lands. For at the close of the Revolutionary War the men of note, many of whom had not disdained privateering, found themselves in possession of idle fleets, that with their able seamen could outsail almost anything afloat. So they struck out for new ventures in unknown seas and new channels of trade. Calcutta, Bombay, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Batavia, and other ports came to know the American flag and the busy enterprising traders.
But the old Salem that was once the capital of the state, the Salem of John Endicott and Roger Williams, of stern Puritanism, of terrible witchcraft horrors, and then of the sturdy and vigorous stand in her differences with the mother country, her patriotism through the darkest days, was fast fading away, just as this grand commercial epoch was destined to merge into science and educational fame later on, and give to the world some master spirits. But as he wended his way hither and thither in a desultory fashion, one thought almost like spoken words kept running through his mind—"A little girl—a little girl in Old Salem"—for the almost two hundred years gave her the right to that eminence, and a little girl from a foreign land seemed incongruous. Not but that there were little girls in Salem, but their life-lines did not touch his. And this one came so near, for the sake of both parents he had loved.
When he came in to dinner, he had made up his mind to say nothing of his letter until the guests had come and gone. He did not wish to be deluged with questions.
He hunted up Cousin Giles the next day, who was quite a real-estate dealer, investing his own and other people's money in sound mortgages, who had been a widower so long that he had quite gone back to bachelorhood.
And he found three Thatcher cousins—a widow, a married one, and a single one, the youngest of the family, but past girlhood. He was asked to take luncheon with them and they proved quite agreeable and intelligent, and much pleased at the prospect of seeing Elizabeth and Eunice Leverett.
"We have been hunting up several of the Boston relatives," said Miss Thatcher, with a kind of winsome smile. "Cousin Giles has been a good directory. We've kept in with so few of them. Father hunted up some of them while he was in the Legislature, but they are so scattered about and many of them dead. Mother was your father's cousin, I believe."
Chilian gave a graceful inclination of the head.
"Elizabeth and Eunice visited us years ago, along after the war when I was first left a widow," explained Mrs. Brent. "Henry went all through it, but was worn out, and died in '88. But I've two nice sons, who are a great comfort. Father was very good to them and me. And they're both promising farmers."
"I tell her that's a good deal to be thankful for," remarked Cousin Giles.
"It is indeed," commented Chilian.
"And I have a lad who is all for study and wants to come in to Harvard. He has been teaching school this winter. His father's quite set against it, and I don't know how it will end. He will be only nineteen in August, and his father thinks he has a hold on him two years longer."
Mrs. Drayton looked up rather appealingly.
"If his mind is made up to that, he will work his way through," said Chilian, and he thought he should like to know the boy.
"You see the next two are girls and they can't help much about a farm. Father really needs him. And I seem to stand between two fires. His teaching term will end in May, but he has planned to take the school next winter. He has made quite a bit of money."
Chilian thought he would be a lad fully worth helping, and made a mental note of it. He liked the mother.
It was settled that they would reach Salem about noon in the stage, the only mode of conveyance, and they parted with a pleased friendliness.
Chilian rehearsed the interview at home to the great delight of the household. Indeed, he had been very well pleased with the prospective visitors and he felt rather thankful for the respite from the shadow the coming event was casting. A little girl! It did annoy him.
He did not allow it to interfere with his duties as host, however. The three ladies had a most delightful visit at Salem, looking up points of interest and hearing old history concerning the Leveretts. Chilian's father had jotted down many facts. There were seafaring uncles, who had brought home trophies; there were men in the family, who had died for their country if they had not filled eminent positions; others who had. How this branch of the family seemed to have dwindled away!
Serena Thatcher was more than pleased with her cousin, though she felt somewhat awed by his attainments and his rather punctilious ways. Mrs. Brent set him down as a good deal of a Miss Nancy. But the ladies had a delightful time going over family histories and getting relationships disentangled.
When the eventful day of parting came it brought a very real sorrow. They made promises that they would renew their meetings and keep each other in mind.
It was Saturday evening when the Leverett household sat around the cheerful fire in the cozy room where the small family gathered on this evening of the week with their work all done, after the fashion of the past, still strictly observed by many of the older Puritan families. The industrious ladies sat with folded hands. Sometimes Chilian read aloud from a volume of the divines who had finished their good fight.
This night he was gazing idly in the fire, the lines in his face deepening now and then.
"I suppose he is tired with all the talk, and rambles, and confusion of the week," Elizabeth thought, stealing furtive glances at him.
He straightened himself presently and made a pretence of clearing his throat, as an embarrassed person often does.
"I have something to tell you," he began. "I thought I would not disturb you while our relatives were here. We found enough to talk about;" with a short half-laugh.
"And it tired you out, I know. We live so quietly that such an event quite upsets us," Eunice said in a gentle, deprecating tone.
"It was very pleasant," he added. "I was a good deal interested in Anthony Drayton. But this is something quite different. Can you recall that I had a letter from the East Indies the morning the word came from Cousin Giles?"
"Why, yes!" Elizabeth started in surprise. "I had really forgotten about it. Business, I suppose, with Anthony Leverett. Why, I think it is high time he came home."
Chilian sighed. "I am afraid—though I cannot see why we should fear so much to enter the other portal, since it is the destiny of all, and we believe in a better world. He was hopelessly ill when he wrote and was winding up some business matters. He is a brave man to meet death so composedly. The only pang is parting from his child."
"Oh, his little girl! Let me see—she must be eight or nine years old. What will become of her?"
"He makes me executor and guardian of the child. She was to start three weeks after his letter with Captain Corwin in the Flying Star. That will be due, if it meets with no mishap, from the middle to the last of April."
"But she doesn't come alone!" ejaculated Elizabeth in surprise.
"Yes. He wishes to be buried there beside his wife. And he does not want her to have the remembrance of his death. So he sends her with the woman who has been her nurse and maid the last three years, an Englishwoman."
"Of all things! I wonder what will come next! We seem in the line of surprises. And it's queer they should happen together. A little girl! Chilian, do you like it? Why, it will fairly turn the house upside down!"
There was an accent of protest in Elizabeth's tone, showing plainly her unwillingness to accept the situation.
"One little girl can't move much furniture about;" with a sound of humor in his voice.
"Oh, you know what I mean—not actually dragging sofas and tables about, but she will chairs, as you'll see. And lots of other things. Look at the Rendall children. The house always looks as if it had been stirred up with the pudding-stick, and Sally Rendall spends good half her time looking for things they have carted off. Tom and Anstice were digging up the path the day we called, and what do you suppose they had! The tablespoons. And I'll venture to say they were left out of doors."
"There are so many of them," Chilian said, as if in apology.
"And I don't see how we can keep this child away from them. It isn't as if they were low-down people. Sally's father having been a major in the war, and the Rendalls are good stock. Let me see—what's her name? Her mother was called Letty."
"Cynthia. She was named for my mother." Chilian's voice had a reverent softness in it.
"I always thought it a pretty name," said Eunice.
"And I've heard people call it 'Cyn.' I do abominate nicknames."
Elizabeth uttered this with a good deal of vigor. Then she remembered she quite liked Bessy.
No one spoke for some moments. Chilian thought of the sister, whose brief married life had ended in her pretty home at Providence, and how she looked in her coffin with her baby sheltered by one arm. The picture came before him vividly.
Elizabeth liked cleanliness and order. It was natural after a long practice in it. Chilian's particular ways suited her. Year after year had settled them—perhaps she had settled him more definitely, as he liked the way. Eunice was thinking of the little girl who had neither father or mother. She had some unfulfilled dreams. In her youth there had been a lover, and a wedding planned when he came home from his voyage. She had begun to "lay by" for housekeeping. And there were some pretty garments in the trunk upstairs, packed away with other articles. The lover was lost at sea, as befell many another New England coast woman.
She had hoped against hope for several years—men were sometimes restored as by a miracle—but he never came. So she sometimes dreamed of what might have been, of home and children, and it kept her heart tender. Anthony's little girl would make a sight of trouble, she could see that, but a little girl about would be a great pleasure—to her at least. She glanced furtively at Elizabeth, then at Chilian. She could not comfort either of them with this sudden glow and warmth that thrilled through her veins.
"Well, we will be through with house-cleaning before she comes," said the practical and particular housewife. Chilian simply sighed. It was the usual spring ordeal, and did end. But who could predict the ending of the other?
THE LITTLE GIRL
Down at the wharf there was much bustle and stir. Vessels were lading for various home ports, fishing craft were going out on their ventures, even a whaler had just fitted up for a long cruise, and the young as well as middle-aged sailors were shouting out farewells. White and black men were running to and fro, laughing, chaffing, and swearing at each other.
There lay the East Indiaman, with her foreign flag as well as that of her country. She had come in about midnight and at early dawn preliminaries had begun. Captain Corwin had been ashore a time or two, looking up and down amid the motley throng, and now he touched his hat and nodded to Chilian Leverett, who picked his way over to him.
"We are somewhat late," he began apologetically. "A little due to rough weather, but one can never fix an exact date."
"All is well, I hope;" in an anxious tone.
"Yes; the child proved a good sailor and was much interested in everything. I was afraid she would take it hard. But she is counting on her father's coming. I don't know how you will ever console her when she learns the truth."
"And he——" Chilian looked intently into the captain's eyes.
"I suppose the end has come before this. They thought he might last a month when we left. It's sad enough. He should have lived to be ninety. But matters went well with him, and he has been an honest, kindly, upright man with a large heart. I've lost my best friend and adviser."
The captain drew his rough coat-sleeve across his face and looked past Chilian, winking hard.
"There's a sight of business when we come to that, Mr. Leverett, but now—will you go on board? The maid is a most excellent and sensible person. They are in the cabin."
"Yes," he answered and followed with a curious throb at his heart—pity for the orphaned child and a sense of responsibility he was conscious that he accepted unwillingly, yet he would do his duty to the uttermost.
Already some officials were on hand, for at this period Salem was really a notable port. Chilian passed them with a bow, followed the captain down the gangplank, stared a little at the foreign deck-hands in their odd habiliments, stepped over boxes and bales in canvas and matting full of Oriental fragrance that from the closeness was almost stifling, coming from the clear air. Then he was ushered into the cabin, that was replete with Orientalism as well.
A rather tall woman rose to meet him.
"This is Mistress Rachel Winn, who has mothered the little girl for several years, Mr. Leverett, her relative and guardian, and—Cynthia——"
The child threw herself down on the couch.
"I want to go back home. I want to see my father, and Aymeer, and Babo, and Nalla. I can't stay here."
"But perhaps your father will bring them when he comes. Don't you remember he told you he lived here when he was a little boy, and what nice times he had with the cousin he loved? And the cousin is here to bid you welcome. Come and speak to him. We cannot go back at once, the ship has to unload her cargo and take in ever so many other things. See, here is Cousin Leverett."
She sat up, made a forward movement as if she would rise, but simply stared.
"Yes, I am Cousin Leverett." He began advancing and held out his hand.
"And very glad to see such an excellent traveller as you have been," said the captain. "And such a nice little girl. You are an American girl; you know your father told you that. And this is your native town. Cousin Leverett remembers you when you were very little."
"But I don't remember you;" taking no notice of the proffered hand.
"Then you must get acquainted with me. And you must tell me about your life and your father, whom I have not seen in a long, long time. Let us shake hands."
She held out hers then and raised herself to her feet.
"Oh, how soft your hands are," she cried, "just like Nalla's. But they are very white. Nalla's were brown."
"And who was Nalla?"
"She used to come and play with me and make chains out of shells, and make bracelets and anklets, and dance. And she used to go to the Sahibs' house and dance with snakes. I'm afraid of them. Are you?"
"Indeed I am, of the large ones," he said at a venture.
He fancied that he felt a gentle pressure of sympathetic approval. She glanced up for an instant and her eyes transfixed him. They were a deep wonderful blue, almost black at the pupil, then raying off a little lighter. It made him think of a star in the winter midnight sky with a halo around it. The lashes were long and nearly black. Otherwise she had little claim to beauty just then. Her complexion had a tawny hue made by sun and wind, her hair was light, but it had a peculiar sunburned tint, though it was fine and abundant and hung in loose curls about her shoulders. Her nose was the only Leverett feature—it was straight, rather small, and had the flexibility that betrayed passing emotions. The Leverett lips were thin, hers were full in the middle, giving a certain roundness to the mouth.
"Are there any where you live?" hesitatingly.
"Any?" Then he recalled the subject they had touched upon. "Oh, no; you seldom see them, and they are mostly harmless."
"Have you any little girls in your house?"
"No, I am sorry to say."
"There were two little English girls on shipboard at first. They went on board another vessel after a while. I liked them very much. They knew a great many things about countries. I can read, but I don't a great deal. Sometimes father would tell me about America. There are a great many countries in it, and once they had a big war. They had wars, too, in India. Why must people kill each other?"
"There seem to be reasons. A little girl could not understand them all, I think;" and how could he explain them?
"Oh, there is Captain Corwin!" She flew across the cabin with outstretched arms, which she clasped about him.
"Well, have you been getting acquainted with—he will be your uncle, I suppose. What title are you going to take with the child, Mr. Leverett?"
Chilian Leverett colored, without a cause he thought, and it annoyed him.
"Are you going back to India to-day?" She was not interested in Chilian Leverett's answer.
Captain Corwin laughed heartily and patted her shoulder.
"Not to-day, nor even next week. The cargo will have to be taken off, little missy, and a new one stowed away. And I fancy there must be some repairs. I shall stay in town and run down to Marblehead. So you will see me quite often."
"And you are coming back again from India?"
"Oh, I hope so. More than once."
"You will bring father then. It is such a long while to wait;" and she sighed.
The men exchanged glances.
"I want to see him so much. Couldn't I go back with you?"
"Don't you remember I told you the other evening he might start before I reached India again? Don't you want to go ashore and see Salem? Ask Miss Rachel to get you ready."
Rachel was beckoning to her. "Let us go up on deck," she said. "It's a strange country to me as well as to you. And I fancy the men want to talk."
She crossed the cabin slowly, not quite certain what she did desire most, except to see her father.
"You will have a rather sorry task. But Captain Ant'ny would have it so. He wanted to feel that she would be among friends. He had the fullest confidence that you could manage wisely. There is a great box of papers, instructions, etc. You are appointed her guardian and trustee. I've brought boxes of stuff that the officers will have to go through. But the legal matters you may take with you. He tried to make it as easy as he could. She will have considerable of a fortune, and more to come when matters get settled on the other side. A cousin of the Bannings came out,—English are great hands to keep things in the family. But it is one of the biggest importing houses out there and it owes its success to the long and wise head of Captain Anthony. They want young Banning in it and the matter was about settled when we came away, but the payments will run over several years. All these papers will be sent to you. The Bannings are upright business men, and I think you need have no fear. But the child's fortune is to be invested on this side of the water. Oh, you cannot realize what a trial it was to give up all thoughts of ending his days here."
Captain Corwin brushed some tears from his honest, weather-beaten face.
"But if he had started earlier——"
"He would not believe the trouble would prove fatal. And when it was declared there was so much to put in order. Then he could not bear to think of leaving his wife alone there, though it's only the shell after all, and, if we believe the Good Book, we shall see the real part over there that was so much to us. But he could not explain the parting to the child, though death is such a common thing out there. Yet it is hard to believe our own can die. We are never ready for that. How you will manage——"
The customs officers had come. Captain Corwin went out to meet them. Chilian Leverett dropped into the well-worn leather-covered chair that had been fine in its day. A heavy burthen had been laid upon him. He was not fond of business. Cousin Giles might be of some assistance; he grasped at the thought as if he had been a drowning man and this the straw. And the child, somehow, was different from the average child, he felt; though he was not certain what the average child would unfold day after day. What would Elizabeth think? Eunice he could count on. Though she yielded on many points in that tacit sort of way, she was by no means an echo of her sister.
The three men entered the cabin. Chilian was no stranger to the officials, who greeted him cordially and who sympathized with Captain Anthony Leverett's untimely ending, as he was hardly past middle life.
"Why, it will be quite a change to have a child in your household," said Josiah Ward. "But if she is like mine, I advise you not to give her the run of your study. But there are two ladies to look after her;" and he smiled.
It was surmised that Mr. Ward, a widower of two years' standing, had glanced more than once in the direction of Miss Eunice Leverett.
Rachel came back at this juncture. The little girl had an accession of shyness and would only nod to the strangers. Then they made ready to leave the vessel. Chilian took his japanned case of important papers; the rest of the luggage would be sent after inspection.
A primitive street it was in those days, and the fine wharves of the present were rather rude if busy places. Over beyond they could see the river,—South River,—and that was alive with various small craft.
"It seems almost like home," said Rachel Winn, pausing to take a survey. "You do not find this rural aspect in India."
"How long were you there?" asked Chilian.
"Seven years. I went out with my brother, who had just married my dearest friend. He died the third year, and she soon after married a military man. Then I took charge of a little lame boy and was mostly up in the mountains until he was sent to England, when Captain Leverett's hospitable doors opened to me. Believe me, I was sorry to leave him at this crisis. Yet it was his wish;" and she glanced at Cynthia.
"Why did we come away?" demanded the child passionately. "Oh, Rachel, are you sure father will come? It takes so long, so long;" and there were tears in her voice.
"Here we are!" exclaimed Chilian.
There was a white picket fence across the sort of courtyard that had a broad paved path leading up to the front door, bordered by shrubs that would presently be in bloom, and spaces between for smaller plants. This was the delight of Eunice's heart. A square but rather ornate porch, with fluted columns, supporting the outer edge of the roof, and an elaborately carved hall-door with a fanlight overhead. The stoop stood up some five steps, and at the sides there were benches for out-of-doors comfort on summer nights. A brass knocker, with a lion's head, announced visitors. Chilian, however, let himself in with his latchkey. But both sisters met the party in the hall.
"And this is Anthony's little girl!" said Elizabeth. "Child, let me look at you——"
But the child had a perverse fit at that moment and turned away her head, to the elder's surprise and almost displeasure.
"This is Miss Winn," interrupted Chilian. "My household guardians and cousins, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Eunice Leverett. I dare say our guests feel strange to be on land, after such a long journey."
"It seems almost incredible that one can stand it, but we see them starting every few days for distant ports. My farthest journey has been to Providence; but, land alive! you don't know where that is, and it's no great distance. Will you not come and have a cup of tea or coffee?"
"Thank you. We had breakfast not long ago, it seems."
"Let me take you to your room," said Eunice. "And I hope you will soon feel at home with us. We are quiet people, but we shall endeavor to make you comfortable. Cynthia, will you not shake hands with me?"
The soft, rather pleading voice attracted the child. She glanced up shyly and then held out a tiny hand hesitatingly.
"She is rather backward at first," explained Rachel, who followed the hostess up the broad stairway.
One of the guest-chambers had been set aside for their use after much discussion as to whether one or two would be needed. A smaller one opened into this, and a large closet was at the side.
"You can take off your things—I suppose your boxes, or whatever you have, will be here presently. The bureau is empty and this chest of drawers. We are rather old-fashioned people, and the house is the same as it was in the time of Chilian's father. The captain made one visit here, when the little girl was about four. It must have been hard for him to lose his wife in a strange country like that. I suppose there are not many Americans?"
"No; there are numbers of Englishwomen, wives of soldiers and traders, though I think most of them long to get home. They do not seem to take root easily."
"I shouldn't think they would, in that idolatrous country. The accounts of heathendom are appalling. And that car of Juggernaut, and drowning their poor little babies! They do not seem to make much of girl children."
"Indeed, they do not, only as in some families they are wanted for wives. But the devotion of mothers to their sons is wonderful."
Rachel had laid aside a silk coat that filled Eunice with a sort of wonder, being brocaded with beautiful leaves and roses that seemed as if they must have been worked by hand, they stood out so clearly. The child appeared fantastically attired to her plainer eyes, and her slim arms were weighted with bracelets. In her dainty ears were some splendid sapphires.
"I do hope you will soon feel at home," Eunice said from a full heart, if there was a rather awkward feeling about it. Yet she liked Miss Winn's face. It had a kindly and intelligent aspect and was medium in all respects. The social lines in the town, indeed in all the Eastern towns, were not sharply defined as to mistress and maid. True, many households preferred black servants; in not a few some elderly relative looked after the household, or a bound-out girl was trained in industrious ways.
There had been some discussion as to what sphere this Miss Winn would occupy. If she was simply the attendant on an over-indulged child, an uneducated person, as many of the English maids were who came over to better their conditions or get husbands, it might be rather awkward. But the woman was certainly well-bred and used her English in a correct manner.
"Perhaps you will get to feeling more at home if you come down to the sitting-room, since there is nothing to unpack;" with a faint smile.
Cynthia had been looking out of the window. "How queer it all is!" she said. "I think I do not quite like it. And how funny one feels. I want to go this way;" and she swayed from side to side.
"The motion of the vessel," interposed Rachel. "I have heard it took days to get over it."
Meanwhile, downstairs Elizabeth had studied her Cousin Chilian.
"The child is not at all pretty," she began rather sharply. "And her mother was considered a beautiful young woman, I believe."
"Yes; but a long voyage and shipboard living may not be conducive to the development of beauty. And children seldom are at that age."
"The Goodell children are pretty, I am sure, with their fine complexions. And the Bates girls. She has a furtive sort of look. Oh, I hope she isn't deceitful and untrue. Those heathen nations, I believe, are given largely to falsehood, and she has lived among them so long without any mother's care. It seems as if a pretty girl like Alletta Orne might have found some one at home to marry and reared her child in a Christian land."
"Do not let us begin by borrowing trouble. It always comes fast enough."
"And I can foresee that we shall have plenty of it. Well, I suppose it must be endured. There! my bread is light enough to go in the oven—running over, likely as not."
So, when they came downstairs, Miss Elizabeth was in the kitchen, immersed in her baking interest.
A large gray cat lay curled up on a cushion. Cynthia went straight over to it, but it glanced at her with wild eyes, jumped down, and disappeared through the doorway.
"Oh!" she exclaimed in accents of disappointment, glancing up at Chilian.
"Pussy is not used to children. He always runs away from them. But I think he will like you when he gets acquainted."
She turned to the window with a swelling heart. It seemed so cold and strange. It was better on shipboard, she thought. She had come to know the sailors quite well and Missy had grown to be a great favorite with them. There was always something cheerful going on. They sang songs in their loud clear voices, or whistled merry tunes. They danced as well. She was quite used to the dancing-girls at Calcutta, and when they were at Hong Kong or other ports. But the Indian girls pleased her best.
The sailors seemed always full of fun, even in the worst of times. During some fearful storms she was safely housed in the cabin, and it amused her to see the things pitch and roll as far as their chains would allow them. Sometimes, too, they had to hold the food in their hands, but she never knew the danger of the worst storms. Rachel would not admit that she was afraid, and the captain said, "Yes, we're having a stiff blow, but the Flying Star has weathered many a gale before." And here it was so very quiet. It looked dreary outside, with the leafless trees. She liked the toss and tumult of the waves with their snowy, jewelled crests, and the clouds scudding along the sky, which she imagined was another sea full of ships. Often they went in port and there was nothing left but the blue sky above—a great hollow vault. And when the sun shone the real sea and ocean was in flames of such splendid colors. There was no end of curious people at ports where they stopped for supplies, there was always something strange, even when they were days alone on the water. For the sunset and sunrise were never twice alike. Then the moon from its tiny crescent to the great round globe that illumined the world with her fairy richness and scattered jewels on every crested wave. She had watched it turn the other way and grow smaller and smaller until you saw it vaguely in the morning.
She was so interested in the stories they told about it, the signs and wonders they ascribed to it.
"And was it ever a real world like that we have left behind?" she asked of the captain. "Were there people in it? And land, and rivers, and growing things, and flowers?" and her wondering eyes grew larger.
"No one can tell now. Some astronomers believe it a burned-out world and the things we take for a man," laughing, "and the cow ready to jump off, are remnants of roads, and forests, and mountains."
"You can see the man in the moon," she returned decisively. "Sometimes he laughs. And the cow has great horns. I should be afraid of them if I met such a cow. Ours are so small and tame."
"You will see large ones in Salem. But I think, for the most part, they are gentle."
She never wearied talking over the strange things. And so she came to have her head filled with wonderful lore that indeed cropped out now and then all her life long until she felt as if she had really been in fairyland.
It seemed stranger here than on shipboard. The others were going through the ceremony of getting acquainted. Rachel Winn's voice had a soft sound, with an almost foreign accent. Eunice's, though low-pitched, had a clear resonance. Now and then Chilian Leverett made a comment, or asked a question, but she was not heeding them. Her heart and mind had wandered back to her father and that wonderful land where nothing ever seemed bleak, though in long hot droughts it was arid. But there were always temples, and palaces, and picturesque huts, and women and children in gay attire, old men kneeling somewhere, praying but keeping a sharp lookout for alms.
Chilian Leverett had been watching the small face and wondering at the changes passing over it. Now he saw some tears slowly coursing down the pale cheeks, and his heart was moved with infinite pity.
Suddenly a robin alighted on the limb of a tree and began picking at the buds. Then he held his head up straight, swelled out his brownish red breast, and poured forth such a volume of melody that the effort fairly made him dance with joy. Spring had surely come! It was the time of love and joy, and all things made over new.
She turned a trifle. Her face was transfigured with delight. Her eyes shone, though the tears were still wet on her cheek.
A STRANGER, YET AT HOME
Rachel Winn settled herself to the new order of things more readily than the Leveretts. Or rather she seemed to take the lead in arrangements for herself and her charge. She was after all a sort of nurse and waiting-maid, though she had a fine dignity about it that even Elizabeth could not gainsay. She was to be one of the family, there could be no objection to that in the simple New England living. Though it was true, times were changing greatly since the days of war and privation, and perhaps the mingling of people from other states, the growing responsibility of being part of a great commonwealth. Servants were being relegated to a different position. Boston in a certain fashion set the pace, though Salem held up her head proudly. Were not her seaports the busy mart of the Eastern shore? Stores of finery, silks and laces, and marvellous Indian embroidery went down to Boston and the houses were enriched with choice china that in the next hundred years was to be handed down as heirlooms. Fine houses were being built, choice woods came from southern ports by vessels that believed they could find fortunes nearer home than China or India. But they could grow no spices, or coffees, or teas, and they must come from the Orient. No looms could turn out such exquisite fabrics as yet, though housewives were to be proud of their home-made drapery for a generation or two.
Chilian spent a large part of that first night inspecting his box of papers. There was a journal-like letter in which Anthony Leverett had jotted down many things he hardly dared say in his letter; indeed, there was not sufficient space. As soon as he had learned the serious nature of his disease, he had begun to put his house in order and consider the future welfare of his child. Some lines touched Chilian deeply, the trust and dependence he was not at all sure he could fulfil, but he felt he must rouse himself to the earnest endeavor. The father had a passionate love for his child, he was making a fortune for her, counting the years when he should return and have a home of his own, when Cynthia would grow up and marry and there would be grandchildren to climb his knees. India was no place for a woman child to grow up in, there were no chances for education or accomplishment, and next to no society. After all there was not, and never would be, such a country as the new world that had struggled so long and bravely for her independence, and now had only to go on developing her grand theories. Crowned heads might look on doubtingly, but the foundation had been laid in justice and truth and equality of right. It quite thrilled him that this man, amassing money in a far-away land, could see so clearly and have no doubts about its future greatness.
To Captain Corwin, his good, trusty friend, he had willed half the value of the Flying Star. The money from his part was to be invested, as the payments came in, in real estate in Salem, which was to be the shipping mart of the New England coast, at least, and run a race with New York, he thought. So with the stations at Calcutta and Hong Kong in the hands of the Bannings. And there were treasures that would answer for a wedding dowry when the time came. If possible, he would like Rachel Winn retained; he had the highest confidence in her, and she had no relatives to call her back to England. He had given her much of the family history, and described the town and the people, so that it would not seem so new and strange to her.
He was not asking all this as a favor. Chilian was touched by the provision made for himself, which it would be quite impossible to decline, he saw. True it would break in upon his leisurely, student life, yet he felt he could not in honor refuse to accept the trust.
Rachel Winn studied the arrangements of the rooms at their disposal. Her young mistress was not a child taken out of benevolence or relationship. She must have her standing from the very beginning, and she fancied Elizabeth was inclined to consider her a sort of interloper.
"If it makes no difference, I will take the small room," she announced to her. "There are some pieces of furniture on the vessel that Captain Leverett particularly wished her to keep, and as she grows older she will cherish them——"
"That great room for such a child!" In her amazement, Elizabeth spoke without thought. She was not used to seeing children set in the very forefront. In her day, indeed, yet in some families the large open garret was considered the place for children.
"You see, she was used to it at home—over there, I mean;" with a nod of the head. "Her father's room was one side, mine on the other. Of course, in a way I shall share it with her. I will keep it in order and look after her clothes, and sew for her. But I prefer the smaller one."
Elizabeth was aghast. One of the best spare chambers, with the furnishings that had come from England a hundred years before. On the other side she and Eunice shared a plainly appointed room with some of their very own belongings. There was still another, but the closet was small. She had asked Chilian where they should be placed and he had chosen this. It was his house, of course——
Whether it would have ended in a discussion could not to be told, for at that moment a dray drove up with some boxes and a piece of furniture so wrapped and protected that it was quite impossible to guess at its name.
Chilian came out and ran lightly down the stairs; and then called Elizabeth.
"Where had the boxes better go? They will have to be unpacked, I suppose;" helplessly.
"There are more to come," announced the man. "Enough to set up housekeeping, if the right sort of things are in them;" and he gave a short laugh.
Miss Winn came downstairs. "Isn't there a garret to the house?" she asked, looking from one to the other. "I packed them up, but I can hardly tell——"
"Yes; we could store half the vessel's contents in it. Well, not exactly that. A ship's hold is a capacious place. Yes, the boxes might go there. Have you any idea what this is?"
"A sort of desk and bookcase. A very handsome thing the captain set great store by."
The men shouldered the boxes and Elizabeth convoyed them. Silas was spading up the garden and came at the call.
It was a work of some labor to get the article out of its secure casings. It disclosed a very handsome piece of furniture in the escritoire style, carved and inlaid not only with beautiful woods, but much silver. Chilian surveyed it with admiration.
"That must stand in the parlor," he decided. "But some one must come and help. I'm afraid I am not sufficiently robust. Silas, see if you can't find the Uphams' man. He was working there a short time ago."
"If there's more to come, it is hardly worth while to clear up," began Elizabeth. "I hope it will soon follow."
Chilian directed the two men, who found it still quite a burthen. Elizabeth opened the parlor shutter unwillingly, and the men set it in the middle of the floor.
There were two large rooms held almost sacred by both sisters. They were separated by an archway, apparently upheld on each end by a fluted column. Both rooms had a wide chimney-piece, the mantel and its supports elaborately carved and painted white. Two windows were in each end, draped with soft crimson curtains. The floor was polished, with a rug laid down in the centre. It was furnished in a manner that would have delighted a connoisseur, but Elizabeth did not admire the conglomeration. They were family relics and seemed to have little relation with one another, yet they were harmonious. There was a thin-legged spinet, with a Latin legend running across the front of the cover, which was always down. The chairs were not made for lounging, that was plain; and the sofa, with its rolling ends and claw feet, had been polished until the haircloth looked like satin. A dead and gone Leverett bride had imported that from London.
When the East Indian article had been consigned to an appropriate space, it looked as much at home as if it had lived there half a century. Then the parlor was shut up again, the mat in the hall shaken out, the front door bolted. Miss Winn had asked for a hammer and chisel that she might open one of the boxes.
"Take Silas. That is a man's work," said Chilian.
Cynthia was in the sitting-room, where it was still chilly enough to have a fire. Eunice was knotting fringe for a bedspread, and it interested the child wonderfully. She was not a little shocked to find a child of nine knew nothing about sewing, had never hemmed ruffles, nor done overseam, or knit, or it seemed anything useful.
"Why, when I was a little girl of your age I could spin in the little wheel."
"What did you spin?"
"Why, thread, of course, linen thread made from flax."
"Were you a truly little girl?" in surprise.
"Why, child, don't you know anything?" Then Miss Eunice laughed softly and patted the small shoulder, looking kindly into the wondering eyes. There was no hurt in her tone and the words rather amused.
"I know a great many things. I can read some Latin, and I know about Greece and its splendid heroes who conquered a good deal of the world. There was Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon. And Tamerlane, who conquered nearly all Asia. And—and Confucius, the great man of China, who was a wise philosopher, and wrote a bible——"
"Oh, no; not a bible!" interrupted Miss Eunice, horrified. "There is only one Bible, my dear, and that is the Word of God."
"But the other is the bible of the Chinese, and some of them believe Confucius was a god."
"That is quite impossible, my dear;" in a rather decisive, but still gentle tone.
"And there is Brahma, and Vishnu, and there are ever so many gods in India. The people pray to them. And temples. When they want anything very much, they go and pray for it. There was a woman whose little son was very ill, and if he lived he was going to be a great prince, or something, and she gathered up her precious stones and her necklace and took them to the temple for the god. Father sent an English doctor, but they wouldn't let him see the little boy. He was so pretty, too. I used to see him in the court."
"And did he live?" Miss Eunice asked, much interested.
"No; he didn't. And the father beat her for losing the jewels."
"You see, those gods have no power."
"Did you ever pray for anything you wanted very much?"
Cynthia's bright eyes studied the placid face before her.
"Yes," the lips murmured faintly.
"And did you get it?"
A flush stole over the puzzled countenance.
"My dear, God doesn't see as we do. And He knows what is best for us, and gives us that. Maybe our prayer wasn't right."
"How can you tell when a prayer is right or wrong?" inquired the young theologian.
"Why, you have to leave that to God;" in a low, resigned tone.
"I didn't want to come here. I wanted to stay with father. I didn't know there was any one beside, and I do not believe any one will ever love me so well. But he promised to come when the business was all done. So I prayed to the God of father's Bible, and I went to the temple with Nalla and put down a half-crown—it was all the money I had. But"—her eyes filled with tears and her voice had a break in it—"father begged so, and I came. But if Captain Corwin does not bring him next time I shall go back. I can't live without him."
The mild blue eyes of Miss Eunice filled with tears as well. She was not sure this had been the wisest course. The absolute truth was always best. But she temporized also in a vague fashion.
"Yes; you can tell then. And you may come to like us so well you may stay content."
"Oh, if he comes! Then it will be all right. And you think I ought to pray for that?"
It was a cruel strait for Miss Eunice and staggered her faith. She was not to lead astray or harm "one of the least of these." But the child was a heathen with no real knowledge of the true God. Like a vision almost, Miss Eunice looked back at her own childhood, and the awful, overshadowing power she believed was God, who wrote down every wicked thought and wrong deed, and would confront her with them at the Judgment Day. She prayed nightly, often in the night, when she woke up, and she was no surer of God's love than this little heathen child.
"It is right to pray for the things we want, but to be resigned if God doesn't see fit to give them to us."
"Then the prayers are thrown away. And do you know just what God is?"
"My dear!" in a shocked tone, "no one can tell. It is one of the mysteries to be revealed when we see Him as He truly is at the last day. A little girl cannot understand it. I do not, and I have sought the truth many years. Now I am trusting, because I feel assured He will do what is right. Tell me something about your life with your father."
"Oh, things were so different there. Houses, and there were always servants, so you didn't ever need to fan yourself. Babo and Nalla were always about. Babo used to take me out in a chair that had curtains around and a big umbrella overhead. Sometimes Chandra went with him. And the streets were funny and crooked, and houses set anywhere in them. I liked going up in the mountains best, it wasn't so hot. And the trees were splendid, and beautiful vines and flowers of all sorts. Mrs. Dallas went the last time. She had two girls and a big boy. I did not like him. He would pinch my arms and then say he didn't. I liked the girls, one was larger than I. And we swung in the hammocks the vines made. Only I was afraid of the snakes, and there are so many everywhere. Alfred liked to kill them."
She shuddered a little and glanced about the room with dilated eyes.
"They come into your houses sometimes. Nalla used to catch them and sling them hard on the ground, and that stunned them. And we used to make wreaths of the beautiful flowers. Agnes Dallas knew so many stories about fairies, little people who come out at night, when the moon shines, and dance round in rings. They slip in houses, and the nice ones do some work, but the wicked ones sour the milk, and spoil the bread, and hide things. And, sometimes, they change children into a cat, or a rabbit, or something, and it is seven years before you can get your own shape again. Do you have them here?"
"There is no such thing. That is all falsehood," was the decisive comment.
"But—Agnes knew of their coming. And she had seen them dancing on the grass. But if you speak or go near them, they disappear."
Miss Winn came out to the sitting-room.
"Oh, you are here," she said. "I thought you were out of doors. You ought to take a run. What a wonderful garret you have upstairs, Miss Eunice. But I am afraid we shall fill it up sadly. There were so many things to bring. I do not believe we shall find use for half of them. I want a few mouthfuls of fresh air. I suppose I can walk up the street without danger of getting lost if I turn square around when I return? Don't you want to come, Cynthia?"
Cynthia was ready.
"You had better wrap up warm. It gets chilly towards night."
"It was a long stretch on shipboard. We stopped at several ports, however. But I am glad to be on solid ground. Come, child."
She had brought down a wrap and hood. Cynthia was glad of something new, though she liked Miss Eunice.
They turned a rather rounding corner and went on to a sort of market-place, where sweepers were gathering up the debris after the day's sales. They glanced about the city. Salem had made rapid strides since the grand declaration of peace, but at the end of the century it was far from the grandeur the next twenty years would give it.
"There are no palaces and no temples," said Cynthia, rather complainingly. "And how white all the people are. Do you suppose they have been ill?"
"Oh, no; they have been housed up during the winter, and the climate is cold. And, you know, they are of a different race. This part, New England, was settled mostly from old England."
"Are you going to like it, Rachel?"
"Why—I don't quite know. You can't tell at once about a strange place."
"Miss Eunice is nice. But she has some queer ideas."
"Or is it a little girl, named Cynthia Leverett, who has queer ideas that she has brought largely from a far-off country?"
The child laughed. Then she saw some girls and boys playing tag in the street, laughing and squealing when they were caught, or when they narrowly missed. And some empty carts went rattling by, with now and then a stately coach, or a man on horseback, attired in the fashion of the times. The sun suddenly dropped down.
"We had better turn about," declared Miss Winn. "It will not do to be late for supper."
The walk had not been straight, but her gift of locality was good. They passed the market-place again, made the winding turn, and found the lighted lamps gave the house a cheerful aspect.
Miss Eunice had put away her knotting and begun to lay the cloth when Elizabeth entered, her face clouded over.
"I'm sure I don't see why Providence should send this avalanche upon us to destroy our peace and comfort," she began almost angrily. "The Thatchers' visit was pleasant, though that made a sight of clearing up afterward. And we had hardly gotten over that when this must happen. I was going to put that white quilt in the frame, but the garret will be turned upside down for no one knows how long! Such a mess of stuff, and more coming. There's enough in this house without any more being added to it."
"But it was natural Captain Anthony should want his child to have something belonging to him, maybe her mother, too. And goodness knows there's room enough in the garret. It isn't half full with his traps, and there's some of ours. And there's the loft over the kitchen."
"Well, we want some place to dry clothes in rainy weather. And when I sweep I want to move things about, not sweep just in front of them, and have the dust settle in rows behind. Chilian didn't know what a lot there would be, though he might have looked it over on the ship. When it is all through, the house will need a thorough cleaning again. And what do you think, Eunice! She's going to put the child in that big bed and she sleep in the little one! The best room in the house! I'm sorry they have it."
Eunice was roused a little.
"That doesn't seem the proper thing. But maybe she thought—I do suppose the child has had the best of everything."
"I don't believe in pampering children. And I don't altogether like the woman. I do wonder if we will have to keep her. A girl of nine is old enough to look after herself, and begin to keep her own clothes and her room in order."
"It's been very different out in India. And I do suppose Anthony was over-indulgent, she having no mother to train her."
"We'll have our hands full, Eunice, when the tussle really begins."
"Oh, I do not think she will be hard to manage. She seems rather shy——"
"Those eyes of hers ain't so deep for nothing. She hasn't the Leverett mouth, and those full lips are wilful and saucy, generally speaking. Letty Orne was a pretty girl, as I remember. Strange, now, when you come to think of it, that the child should have been born in this house. But she'll never have any beauty to spare, that's certain. For the land sakes, Eunice, look at the time and you dawdling over the table. I'm tired as a dog after a long race."
Elizabeth dropped into a chair. In her secret heart Eunice knew that when her sister was tired out she was fractious; she loved her too well to say cross words.
"Shall we have fish or cold meat?" she asked mildly.
"Oh, I don't care! Well, fish. There will be meat enough for to-morrow's dinner if it isn't meddled with."
The fish was salted down in the season, soaked a little, laid in spiced vinegar for a few hours, cut in thin slices, and was very appetizing. Eunice went about with no useless flutter, she stepped lightly and never made any clatter with dishes. The tea china, thin and lovely, the piles of white bread and brown, molasses gingerbread and frosted sugar cake, stewed dried fruit and rich preserves, made an inviting-looking table. Chilian came in and made himself neat, as usual, then the guests.
Cynthia was very quiet. Twice Miss Winn answered a question for her. She scarcely ate anything. Then she said wearily:
"I am so tired and sleepy. Can't I go to bed?"
Miss Winn and her charge went down to the ship the next morning with Chilian Leverett. Elizabeth inspected the rooms. She was not meddlesome, nor over-curious generally, but with a feeling of possessorship and responsibility in the house, she wanted to know how far she could trust the newcomers. The beds were well made, but closets and drawers were rather awry. She did begrudge the best chamber, and wondered whether it would not be possible to change them about presently. True, they seldom had guests.
Then a new load of boxes came, with two trunks, and several more pieces of furniture. The latter were left standing in the hall. The garret had been a sort of fetich with Elizabeth. There were dried herbs hanging to the rafters in their muslin bags, so as not to make a litter and mostly for the fragrance. There was not a cobweb anywhere. On one side of the sloping roof were ranged their own trunks and chests, two of cedar, in which woollen clothes and blankets passed the summer, securely hidden from moths. In one gable were miscellaneous household articles, a few chairs good enough to be repaired, a more than century-old cherry table, spinning-wheels, a bedstead piled high with a feather bed, and numberless pillows, for Elizabeth thought it her duty to make a new pair every year, as they kept a flock of geese that spent their days in a small cove on South River.
The interloper boxes could make a row down the cleared side. That left the centre, the highest part, clear for drying clothes, which probably would not be needed until winter. But careful Elizabeth planned ahead for every emergency. True, the emergency did not always fit the plans, but it gave her tense spirit a rest.
The Salem air was fragrant, with all manner of sweet springtime odors—the ship was not. Things that had been stored in the hold came up with a certain old smell and a little mustiness. First, Cynthia held her nose and made a wry face. But it was delightful to run about and exchange greetings with the sailors, who seemed merry enough over their work.
"Well, missy," said the captain, catching her in his arms as she ran, "how do you like living on dry land? You haven't lost your sea legs yet, that's plain."
"It's very queer. There are just tiny leaves coming out on the trees, and a few curious white flowers, little bells, coming up in the garden, and crocus in pretty colors. But I don't like it very much. Miss Eunice is nice and has such a soft voice. And the houses are so funny and shut up, and there are no servants about, nor any one praying on the corners and holding out a basin for rice; and no piles of fruit for sale."
"No; this isn't the time of year for fruit;" and there was a funny twinkle in the captain's eye. "Just wait until August and September."
Cynthia considered. "That is three and four months away. Father will be here then;" with a child's confidence.
"And there are berries earlier, and cherries, and then some sugar pears. Oh, you will be feasted. And you'll like Cousin Leverett, when you come to get acquainted with him. You will go to school, too, and know lots of little girls. You won't want to go back to India."
"Unless father shouldn't come. Oh, he surely will, because, you see, I'm praying ever so many times a day."
"That's right;" with a cheerful nod.
"When are you going back?"
"In about a month, I calculate."
She sighed and looked out over the great stretch of waters. "What is that long point down there?" she asked suddenly.
"That's Salem Neck, and there is Winter Island. They are always building ships down there and turn out some mighty fine ones. And fishing; there's a sight of cod, and haddock, and mackerel, and all the other fish in season. They salt them and take them half over the world. And there's a rope-walk you'd enjoy seeing, leastways you would if you were a boy. And there are some stores. We have lots of goods consigned to the Merrits. Salem's a big place, now I tell you!"
"Bigger than Calcutta?"
"Sho' now! Calcutta can't hold a candle to it."
The captain's cabin was being dismantled for repairs and cleaning. She glanced in it. How many days she had spent here! Everything was in disorder, yet there was a certain home remembrance that touched the child's heart, and brought tears to her eyes.
"Oh, are you here?" It was Chilian Leverett's voice, and he held out his hand. She looked so bright now and there was a little color in her cheeks, an eager interest about her. He was afraid she was going to be a rather dull child.
"Yes; it's almost like home, you know; only when we lived here it wasn't so topsy-turvy."
"Did you feel queer when you woke up this morning?" thinking it his duty to smile.
"Oh, I didn't know where I was. It seemed as if I was being smothered in something. And it didn't toss and rock. Oh, there were some birds singing." She laughed gleefully. "Then I saw Rachel, and it came to me in little bits, but it seems such a long, long while since yesterday morning."
"Where is Miss Winn? I want to see her a moment."
"She has been looking over some things as they came up from the hold," said the captain. "Oh, here she is!"
Chilian took her aside for a moment. It was necessary for him to go in to Boston and he wanted to make a few suggestions, so that any of Elizabeth's strictures might not offend. He began to perceive the child and her attendant were not exactly welcome guests.
"How long do you suppose she will stay?" Elizabeth had asked of him rather sharply. "For, when we are once settled, I do not think there will be any real necessity for keeping Miss Winn."
She had been considering it at intervals through the night, and was impatient for what she called an understanding.
Chilian had often given in to her on points that did not really affect him. He hated to bicker with any one, especially women.
"My dear Elizabeth," he began, "the child has been consigned to my charge until she comes of age. I should not have chosen the guardianship, but it seems there is no other relative who can attend to all matters as well. She is to be no dependent, only for whatever love we choose to give her. Anthony has made an ample allowance for her, indeed such a generous one that it irks me to accept it. If it makes too much work for you and Eunice, we will have some help. Miss Winn is to look after her, that was her father's wish; so there will be no change. Of course, it alters our quiet mode of living, but perhaps we were getting in too much of a rut and needed some shaking up;" smiling gravely. "Try and make it as comfortable for them as you can. There is plenty of room in the house for us all."
Then there was nothing before them but acceptance. In a way she had known it, but there was a vague idea seething in her mind that if the maid could be dismissed, she and her sister could train the child in a better manner, and instil some Salem virtues in her that yet held a little of the old Puritanic leaven; like industry, economy, forethought. She still believed in the strait and narrow pathway.
That Chilian should take the matter so philosophically did surprise her. To him there seemed something so pitiful in the hope held out to the little girl, yet after all could it have been managed any more wisely? She would not know what the acute pang of death was. And her longing would become less, there would be a vagueness in her sorrow that would help to heal it. This would be her home. He had been living all these years for himself, was it not time that he espoused some other motive? That he began to be of real service?
He finished his talk with Miss Winn. Cynthia was hopping over some coils of cable, and he watched her agile, graceful movements, half smiling.
"Come and tell me good-bye," he said, holding out his hand. "I am going in to Boston."
"In a vessel?"
"No; though I suppose that would be possible. I am late for the stage, and must go on horseback."
"Where is Boston?"
"Oh, some eighteen miles—rather southerly. It is a big city, and the capital."
"When are you coming back?" with a daintily anxious air.
"Oh, by supper-time."
"What shall I bring you?"
"Nothing at all. We have twice too much now, Rachel says. Only—be sure to come back."
"If I did not, what then?"
"If you did not come back, I should go to India with Captain Corwin. I like Miss Eunice a little, but your other lady doesn't want me," she replied with a frankness that was amusing, it was so free from malice.
"Good-bye until to-night, then."
She put her hand in his. Then she reached up tiptoe. "Kiss me," she said. "Father always did and he said, 'Be a good girl.'"
"Be a good girl." Chilian kissed the soft red lips and then went his way. There was not much caressing in the restrained New England nature of that day, especially among those who had grown up with few family ties. His mother had died while he was yet quite a boy.
"Let us go back now," said Rachel presently. "I believe I have found all our goods. Miss Leverett will be appalled."
The child repeated the word. "What does it mean?" she asked.
"Why, they have a houseful of things;" in protest.
"Then there is the less room for ours."
"But there is ever so much room in the garret."
"I almost wish we were going to live by ourselves in a little house, like some we saw yesterday."
"Who would cook the dinner and wash the dishes?"
"Oh, I could;" laughing.
"Only us two? It would be lonesome."
"We are not likely to."
"Don't go straight home. Let us find the market again. I didn't half see it last night."
"It wasn't night exactly. Yes—we must learn to find our way about, for we cannot stay in all the time. This is Essex Street. Let us turn here."
The market was in its glory this morning. The stalls were ornamented with branches of evergreens, the floors sifted over with sawdust. There were vegetables and meats, but no great variety. There was no sunny south, no swift train to send in delicious luxuries. The cold storage of that day was being buried in pits and being brought out to light as occasion required.
There were other stalls, with various household stores. Iron-holders, tin kettles, whiskbrooms, pins (which were quite a luxury), crockery ware even. Wagons had come in from country places and customers were thronging about them.
The people interested Miss Winn, and the chaffering, the beating down in prices, was quite amusing. Here a woman was measuring some cotton goods from her chin to the ends of her fingers; here sat a cobbler doing odd jobs while some one waited. Altogether it was very entertaining, and it was dinner-time when they reached home.
"Mr. Leverett has gone to Boston," announced Miss Leverett. "We must have our dinner without him."
"Yes, he was down on the ship," said Miss Winn. "Do you often go to Boston?"
"I am much too busy to be gadding about," returned Elizabeth sharply; "though we have connections there, and I once spent several years in the city."
"I don't suppose it is at all like London. Eastern cities are so different—and dirty," she added.
"Boston is very nice, quite a superior place, but we do not consider it much above Salem," Miss Elizabeth said, with an air. "We have nearly all of the East India trade. To be sure, there is Harvard at Cambridge, and that calls students and professors. Cousin Chilian is a graduate. He could have been an accepted professor if he had chosen."
Then the conversation languished. They were hardly through dinner when the next relay of goods arrived.
"Cynthia's desk must go upstairs, I suppose. Her father had it made for her birthday. Will Silas unpack again? There is a small cabinet of teakwood that is beautifully carved. If you could find room in the parlor for that. There were many other fine pieces that will no doubt be sold, and it seems a great pity."
Elizabeth acquiesced rather frigidly, adding, "It is fortunate the house is large, but one seems to accumulate a good deal through generations."
Cynthia went up in the garret with Miss Winn and was full of interest over the old Leverett treasures. Here was the cradle in which Leverett babies had been rocked, an old bit of mahogany nearly black with age.
"How funny!" cried Cynthia, springing into it, and making a clatter on the floor.
"Don't, dear! Miss Elizabeth may not like it," said Miss Winn.
"As if I should hurt it!" indignantly.
"It is not ours."
"But we sit on their chairs, and sleep in their beds, and eat at their table," returned the child. "Do you suppose they do not want us?"
"Our coming is Mr. Leverett's affair, and he is your guardian, so whatever home he provides is right."
"Well, we can have a home of our own when father comes?"
"Oh, yes; when he comes."
"Well, then I shall not mind;" decisively.
Still she peered about among the old things. There were some iron fire-dogs, a much-tarnished frame, with a cracked glass that cut her face in a grotesque fashion, old dishes and kitchen furniture past using, or that had been supplanted by a newer and better kind.
"Oh, dear! this is an undertaking!" declared Miss Winn, with a sigh. "I do not believe you will ever use half these things; there are stuffs enough to dress a queen."
It was beginning to grow dusky before she was through, though the sky was overcast, and there would be no fine sunset. Indeed, the wind blew up stormily. Cynthia had been viewing the place from the windows in the four gables, though she had to stand on a box. There were South River and the Neck and the shipping—the men, hurrying to and fro, looking so much smaller that it puzzled Cynthia. And there was North River winding about, and over beyond the great ocean she had crossed. There was old St. Peter's Church, the new one was not built until long afterward, and smaller places of worship. There was the small beginning of things to be famous later on.
The wind began to whistle about and it grew cool, so they were glad to go down to the cheerful sitting-room, where a fire was blazing on the hearth.
"We shall have a storm to-night," said Miss Eunice, "our three days' storm that usually makes its appearance about this time. Didn't you 'most perish upstairs? And what did you find to interest you?"
Cynthia had brought a stool and sat close to Miss Eunice, leaning one arm on her knee.
"Oh, so many queer things. You don't mind if I call them queer, do you?"
"Oh, no; they are queer. And when we are dead and gone some one will call ours queer, no doubt. But we haven't many. When father died we were on a farm just out of Marblehead. Things were mostly sold at a vendue, for the two boys were going in the army. That was back in '78. Mother and we two girls went to her mother's at Danvers. Elizabeth took up sewing, but there were hard times, for the war stretched out so long, and it did seem as if the Colonies would never gain their cause. But they did. Brother Linus was killed, and later on I had a dear friend lost at sea. Mother died, and we were sort of scattered about till we came here. Cousin Chilian was very good to us. So you see we haven't much to leave, but then we haven't any descendant;" and she gave a soft little laugh. "Elizabeth has mother's gold comb, set with amethysts, and a brooch, and I have the string of gold beads and some rings. A cousin in London sent them to grandmother."
"Eunice, you might set the table," said Elizabeth, rather sharply. "I'm making some fritters. They will taste good this cold night."
"Couldn't I help?" asked Rachel.
"Oh, you must be tired enough without doing any more. It's a good thing you have all your belongings housed. The garret doesn't leak."
"Yes, I am thankful. I really did not think there was so much."
There was a savory fragrance in the sitting-room. Chilian came in, looking weary with his long ride.
"It is almost wintry cold," he said, holding his hands to the fire. "Have you had a nice day, little girl?"
"Yes;" glancing up with a smile.
They did justice to Bessy's nice supper. Chilian had seen Cousin Giles, who sent remembrances to them all, and was coming up some day to see Letty Orne's little girl. Chilian found there was a good deal of business to do. For a while his days of leisure and ease would be over.
Then he brought out a Boston paper and read them some of the news. Miss Eunice went on with her fringe. Elizabeth was knitting a sock for Chilian out of fine linen yarn, spun by herself, and she put pretty open-work stitches all up the instep. For imported articles were still dear, and there was a pride in the women to do all for themselves that they could. Cynthia leaned her head on Rachel's lap and went asleep.
"Do hear that rain! The storm has begun in good earnest."
It was rushing like a tramp of soldiers, flinging great sheets against the closed shutters, and the wind roared in the chimney like some prisoned spirit.
"Wake up, Cynthia, and say good-night."
Elizabeth watched the child. Her theory was that children should be put to bed early and not allowed to lie around on any one's lap. There was always a tussle of wills when you roused them. She drew herself up with a kind of severe mental bracing and awaited the result, glad Chilian was there.
Rachel toyed with the hair, patted the soft flushed cheek, and took the hands in hers.
"Cynthia," she said gently, "Cynthia, dear, wake up."
The child roused, opened her eyes. "I'm so tired," she murmured. "Will we never be done crossing the wide, wide ocean? And where is Salem?"
"We are there, dear, safe and housed from the storm. You have been asleep on my knee. Come to bed now. Say good-night."
She stood the little girl up on her feet and put one arm around her.
It was against Elizabeth Leverett's theories that any child should go off peaceably, with no snarling protest. Chilian raised his book a little, hoping in the depths of his soul there would be no scene.
No child of Puritan training, with the fear of the rod before her eyes, could have done better. She said good-night in a very sleepy tone, and slipped her arm about Rachel's waist as they left the room together.
No one made any comment at first. Then Eunice said, in what she made a casual tone:
"She seems a very tractable child."
"You can't tell by one instance. Children of that age are always self-willed. And allowing a child to lie around one's lap, when she should have said her prayers and gone to bed at the proper hour, is a most reprehensible habit. And I don't suppose she ever says a prayer."
Eunice thought of the daily prayers for her father's safe journey. Would that be set down as a sort of idolatry?
Chilian picked up his papers; he had grown fastidious, and rarely left his belongings about to annoy Elizabeth. Eunice rolled up her work and dropped it in the bag that hung on the post of her chair, straightened up a few things, stood the logs in the corner and put up the wire fender, so there should be no danger of fire; while Elizabeth set all things straight in the kitchen.
Cynthia meanwhile was undressed and mounted the steps to the high bed. Then she flung her arms about Rachel's neck.
"Oh, come and sleep in my bed to-night!" she cried pleadingly. "It's so big and lonesome, that I am afraid. I wish it was like your little bed. They were so cunning on the ship. I don't like this one, where you have to go upstairs to get in it. Oh, do come!"
And Elizabeth Leverett would have been shocked if she could have seen the child cuddled up in her attendant's arms. Theoretically, she believed Holy Writ—"He hath made of one blood all nations." Practically she made many exceptions.
MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE LITTLE GIRL
The northeast storm was terrific. The wind lashed the ocean until it writhed and groaned and sent great billows up on the land. The trees bent to the fierce blasts; many storms had toughened them and perhaps taught them the wisdom of yielding, since it must be break or bend. Silas sat in the barn mending tools and harness and clearing up generally; Elizabeth spent most of the first day clearing up the garret again, and looking with a grudging eye on the new accession of boxes, and sniffing up the queer smell disdainfully.
"One can't have the windows open," she ruminated, "and the smell must go through the house. I don't believe it will ever get out."
More than one family in Salem had stores from the Orient. Many of them liked the fragrance of sandalwood and strange perfumes. "God's fresh air was good enough for her," said Elizabeth.
Eunice had finished her fringe and brought out some patchwork in the afternoon—a curious pattern, called basket-work. The basket was made of green chintz, with a small yellow figure here and there. It had a handle from side to side, neatly hemmed on a white half square. The upper edge of the basket was cut in points and between each one was a bit of color to represent or suggest a possible bud of some kind. One had pink, different shades of red, and a bright yellow. She had seven blocks finished and they were in the bottom of the box. Eunice took them out for the little girl, who spread them on the floor.
No one was thinking at that day of the mills that would dot New England, where cotton cloths, calicoes, and cambrics would be turned out by the bale. These things had to be imported and were costly. One could dye plain colors that were used for frocks and gowns, and some of the hand looms wove ginghams that were dyed in the thread beforehand.
"It will take forty-two blocks," said Miss Eunice. "Six one way, seven the other."
"Then what are you going to do with it?" asked the child eagerly.
"Why, quilt it. Put some cotton between this and the lining, and sew them together with fine stitches."
"Why"—Eunice wondered herself. There were chests of them piled away in the garret—Chilian's mother's, and those they had made to fill in the moments when housework was finished. She had a quiet sense of humor, and she smiled. What were they laying up these treasures for? Neither of them would be married, most of their relatives were well provided for.
"Well, some one may like to have them;" after a pause. "You must learn to sew."
It was absurd to pile up any more.
"You see," said the child, "no one needed them over there;" inclining her head to the East. "You have a little bed and a pallet, and it is warm, so you do not need quilts. And the poor people and the servants have a mat they spread down anywhere and a blanket, but you see, they sleep with their clothes on."
Eunice looked rather horrified.
"But they change them! They would—why, there would be soil and vermin."
"They go to the river and bathe and wash them out. They sling them on the stones in a queer way. But some of them are very dirty and ragged. They are not like the English and us, and don't wear many clothes. Sometimes they are wrapped up in a white sheet."
"It is a very queer country. They are not civilized, or Christianized. I don't know what will become of them in the end."
"It's their country and no one knows how old it is. China is the oldest country in the world."
"But, my dear, there was the garden of Eden when God first created the world. Nothing could be older than that, you know. Two thousand years to the flood, and two thousand years to the coming of Christ, and some people think the world will end in another two thousand years."
"I don't see any sense in burning it up, when there are so many lovely things in it;" and Cynthia's eyes took on a deep, inquiring expression. "That was what the chaplain used to say. Father thought it would go on and on, getting wiser and greater, and the people learning to be better and making wonderful things."
"My dear, what the Bible says must be true. And it will be burned up. You have a Bible?"
"The chaplain gave me a pretty prayer-book. It is upstairs."
"We do not believe in prayer-books, dear." The tone was soft, yet decided. "We came over here, at least our forefathers did, that we might worship God according to the dictates of our conscience. We tried to leave the prayer-books and the bishops behind, but we couldn't quite. You must have a Bible and read a chapter every day. Why, I had read it through once before I was as old as you."
Cynthia simply stared. Then, after a pause, she said:
"Did you sew patchwork, too?"
"When I was eight I had finished a quilt. And I learned to knit. I knit my own stockings; I always have. And I braided rags for a mat. Mother sewed it together."
"And your clothes—who made those?"
"Well—mother made some. But a woman used to come round fall and spring and make for the girls and boys, though father bought his best suit. He had one when he was married; it was his freedom suit as well——"
"Why, was he a prisoner?" the child interrupted.
"Oh, no;" smiling a little. "Boys had to be subject to their fathers until they were twenty-one. Then they had a suit of clothes all the way through and their time, which meant they were at liberty to work for any one and ask wages. He had been courting mother and they were married soon after, so it was his wedding suit. He had outgrown it before he died, so he had to get a new one. Mother sold that to a neighbor that it just fitted."
"Tell me some more about them." Cynthia was fond of stories. And this was about real folks, not the fantastic legends she had heard so often.
"Well—he and mother worked, she had been living with a family. Girls did in those days, and were like daughters of the house. Father went to work there. They were married in the spring and in the fall he took a place on shares; that is, he had half of everything, and they divided up the house. A year or so afterward it was for sale, and he bought it, and we were all born there, and there was no change until he died. That was a sad thing for us. He'd been buying some more land, and the place wasn't clear. Another man stood ready to buy it, and mother thought it best to sell. You see there was a good deal of trouble between us and England, who wanted to get all the money she could out of the Colonies, and wasn't willing to send troops to protect us from the Indians, and we had to sell our produce and things to her, and presently the Colonies wouldn't stand it any longer, and there was war. Some people were bitterly opposed to it, some favored it. Then we wouldn't take the tea she insisted on our buying, and there was the Stamp Act. And Salem really made the first armed resistance. You must go out some nice day to North Bridge. The British troops marched up from Marblehead to seize some arms they heard were stored here. General Gage sent them. But the people had word, for a Major Pedrick rode up to give the alarm, and they hid them in a secure place. Colonel Leslie headed the British troops to make the search. But the people of Salem turned out strong and met the colonel and declared that he was marching on private property, not on the King's highway, that the lane and the bridge were private property, where he had no right. You see, war had not been declared and the people had a right to defend their own. So they would not allow them to cross the river and make a search. But, finally, they agreed, if the draw over the river could be lowered and they allowed to march a few rods, they would withdraw. Of course, they saw nothing suspicious and came back, keeping their word. Otherwise, I suppose, that would have been the first battle of the war. We were not living here then, but Cousin Chilian's father lived in this very house."
"And the arms were really there!" Cynthia drew a long breath.
"Oh, yes! They were ships' cannon going to be mounted for protection. Some day Cousin Chilian may take you over to the bridge and tell you all about it. There was a romance about a girl said to be in love with a British officer, but you are too young for such stories."