A SUMMER IN LESLIE GOLDTHWAITE'S LIFE
Mrs. A. D. T. WHITNEY
THE MEMORY OF MY DEAR FRIEND
MARIA S. CUMMINS
AND OF DAYS AMONG THE MOUNTAINS MADE BEAUTIFUL BY HER COMPANIONSHIP
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE STORY
PREFACE TO REAL FOLKS SERIES.
"Leslie Goldthwaite" was the first of a series of four, which grew from this beginning, and was written in 1866 and the years nearly following; the first two stories—this and "We Girls"—having been furnished, by request, for the magazine "Our Young Folks," published at that time with such success by Messrs. Fields, Osgood & Co., and edited by Mr. Howard M. Ticknor and Miss Lucy Larcom. The last two volumes—"Real Folks" and "The Other Girls"—were asked for to complete the set, and were not delayed by serial publication, but issued at once, in their order of completion, in book form.
There is a sequence of purpose, character, and incident in the four stories, of which it is well to remind new readers, upon their reappearance in fresh editions. They all deal especially with girl-life and home-life; endeavoring, even in the narration of experiences outside the home and seeming to preclude its life, to keep for girlhood and womanhood the true motive and tendency, through whatever temporary interruption and necessity, of and toward the best spirit and shaping of womanly work and surrounding; making the home-life the ideal one, and home itself the centre and goal of effort and hope.
The writing of "The Other Girls" was interrupted by the Great Fire of 1872, and the work upon the Women's Relief Committee, which brought close contact and personal knowledge to reinforce mere sympathy and theory,—and so, I hope, into this last of the series, a touch of something that may deepen the influence of them all to stronger help.
* * * * *
I wish, without withdrawing or superseding the special dedication of "Leslie Goldthwaite" to the memory of the dear friend with whom the weeks were spent in which I gathered material for Leslie's "Summer," to remember, in this new presentation of the whole series, that other friend, with whom all the after work in it was associated and made the first links of a long regard and fellowship, now lifted up and reaching onward into the hopes and certainties of the "Land o' the Leal."
I wish to join to my own name in this, the name of Lucy Larcom, which stands representative of most brave and earnest work, in most gentle, womanly living.
ADELINE D. T. WHITNEY. Milton, 1893.
CHAPTER I. THE GREEN OF THE LEAF II. WAYSIDE GLIMPSES III. EYESTONES IV. MARMADUKE WHARNE V. HUMMOCKS VI. DAKIE THAYNE VII. DOWN AT OUTLEDGE VIII. SIXTEEN AND SIXTY IX. "I DON'T SEE WHY" X. GEODES XI. IN THE PINES XII. CROWDED OUT XIII. A HOWL XIV. "FRIENDS OF MAMMON" XV. QUICKSILVER AND GOLD XVI. "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US?" XVII. LEAF-GLORY
A SUMMER IN LESLIE GOLDTHWAITE'S LIFE.
THE GREEN OF THE LEAF.
"Nothing but leaves—leaves—leaves! The green things don't know enough to do anything better!"
Leslie Goldthwaite said this, standing in the bay-window among her plants, which had been green and flourishing, but persistently blossomless, all winter, and now the spring days were come.
Cousin Delight looked up; and her white ruffling, that she was daintily hemstitching, fell to her lap, as she looked, still with a certain wide intentness in her eyes, upon the pleasant window, and the bright, fresh things it framed. Not the least bright and fresh among them was the human creature in her early girlhood, tender and pleasant in its beautiful leafage, but waiting, like any other young and growing life, to prove what sort of flower should come of it.
"Now you've got one of your 'thoughts,' Cousin Delight! I see it 'biggening,' as Elspie says." Leslie turned round, with her little green watering-pot suspended in her hand, waiting for the thought.
To have a thought, and to give it, were nearly simultaneous things with Cousin Delight; so true, so pure, so unselfish, so made to give,—like perfume or music, which cannot be, and be withheld,—were thoughts with her.
I must say a word, before I go further, of Delight Goldthwaite. I think of her as of quite a young person; you, youthful readers, would doubtless have declared that she was old,—very old, at least for a young lady. She was twenty-eight, at this time of which I write; Leslie, her young cousin, was just "past the half, and catching up," as she said herself,—being fifteen. Leslie's mother called Miss Goldthwaite, playfully, "Ladies' Delight;" and, taking up the idea, half her women friends knew her by this significant and epigrammatic title. There was something doubly pertinent in it. She made you think at once of nothing so much as heart's-ease,—a garden heart's-ease, that flower of many names; not of the frail, scentless, wild wood-violet,—she had been cultured to something larger. The violet nature was there, colored and shaped more richly, and gifted with rare fragrance—for those whose delicate sense could perceive it. The very face was a pansy face; with its deep, large, purple-blue eyes, and golden brows and lashes, the color of her hair,—pale gold, so pale that careless people who had perception only for such beauty as can flash upon you from a crowd, or across a drawing-room, said hastily that she had no brows or lashes, and that this spoiled her. She was not a beauty, therefore; nor was she, in any sort, a belle. She never drew around her the common attention that is paid eagerly to very pretty, outwardly bewitching girls; and she never seemed to care for this. At a party, she was as apt as not to sit in a corner; but the quiet people,—the mothers, looking on, or the girls, waiting for partners,—getting into that same corner also, found the best pleasure of their evening there. There was something about her dress, too, that women appreciated most fully; the delicate textures, the finishings—and only those—of rare, exquisite lace, the perfect harmony of the whole unobtrusive toilet,—women looked at these in wonder at the unerring instinct of her taste; in wonder, also, that they only with each other raved about her. Nobody had ever been supposed to be devoted to her; she had never been reported as "engaged;" there had never been any of this sort of gossip about her; gentlemen found her, they said, hard to get acquainted with; she had not much of the small talk which must usually begin an acquaintance; a few—her relatives, or her elders, or the husbands of her intimate married friends—understood and valued her; but it was her girl friends and women friends who knew her best, and declared that there was nobody like her; and so came her sobriquet, and the double pertinence of it.
Especially she was Leslie Goldthwaite's delight. Leslie had no sisters, and her aunts were old,—far older than her mother; on her father's side, a broken and scattered family had left few ties for her; next to her mother, and even closer, in some young sympathies, she clung to Cousin Delight.
With this diversion, we will go back now to her, and to her thought.
"I was thinking," she said, with that intent look in her eyes, "I often think, of how something else was found, once, having nothing but leaves; and of what came to it."
"I know," answered Leslie, with an evasive quickness, and turned round with her watering-pot to her plants again.
There was sometimes a bit of waywardness about Leslie Goldthwaite; there was a fitfulness of frankness and reserve. She was eager for truth; yet now and then she would thrust it aside. She said that "nobody liked a nicely pointed moral better than she did; only she would just as lief it shouldn't be pointed at her." The fact was, she was in that sensitive state in which many a young girl finds herself, when she begins to ask and to weigh with herself the great questions of life, and shrinks shyly from the open mention of the very thing she longs more fully to apprehend.
Cousin Delight took no notice; it is perhaps likely that she understood sufficiently well for that. She turned toward the table by which she sat, and pulled toward her a heavy Atlas that lay open at the map of Connecticut. Beside it was Lippincott's Gazetteer,—open, also.
"Yes. I've been a charming journey this morning, before you came. I wonder if I ever shall travel, in reality. I've done a monstrous deal of it with maps and gazetteers."
"This hasn't been one of the stereotyped tours, it seems."
"Oh, no! What's the use of doing Niagara or the White Mountains, or even New York and Philadelphia and Washington, on the map? I've been one of my little by-way trips, round among the villages; stopping wherever I found one cuddled in between a river and a hill, or in a little seashore nook. Those are the places, after all, that I would hunt out, if I had plenty of money to go where I liked with. It's so pleasant to imagine how the people live there, and what sort of folks they would be likely to be. It isn't so much traveling as living round,—awhile in one home, and then in another. How many different little biding-places there are in the world! And how queer it is only really to know about one or two of them!"
"What's this place you're at just now? Winsted?"
"Yes; there's where I've brought up, at the end of that bit of railroad. It's a bigger place than I fancied, though. I always steer clear of the names that end in 'ville.' They're sure to be stupid, money-making towns, all grown up in a minute, with some common man's name tacked on to them, that happened to build a saw-mill, or something, first. But Winsted has such a sweet, little, quiet, English sound. I know it never began with a mill. They make pins and clocks and tools and machines there now; and it's 'the largest and most prosperous post-village of Litchfield County.' But I don't care for the pins and machinery. It's got a lake alongside of it; and Still River—don't that sound nice?—runs through; and there are the great hills, big enough to put on the map, out beyond. I can fancy where the girls take their sunset walks; and the moonlight parties, boating on the pond, and the way the woods look, round Still River. Oh, yes! that's one of the places I mean to go to."
Leslie Goldthwaite lived in one of the inland cities of Massachusetts. She had grown up and gone to school there, and had never yet been thirty miles away. Her father was a busy lawyer, making a handsome living for his family, and laying aside abundantly for their future provision, but giving himself no lengthened recreations, and scarcely thinking of them as needful for the rest.
It was a pleasant, large, brown, wooden house they lived in, on the corner of two streets; with a great green door-yard about it on two sides, where chestnut and cherry trees shaded it from the public way, and flower-beds brightened under the parlor windows and about the porch. Just greenness and bloom enough to suggest, always, more; just sweetness and sunshine and bird-song enough, in the early summer days, to whisper of broad fields and deep woods where they rioted without stint; and these days always put Leslie into a certain happy impatience, and set her dreaming and imagining; and she learned a great deal of her geography in the fashion that we have hinted at.
Miss Goldthwaite was singularly discursive and fragmentary in her conversation this morning, somehow. She dropped the map-traveling suddenly, and asked a new question. "And how comes on the linen-drawer?"
"O Cousin Del! I'm humiliated,—disgusted! I feel as small as butterflies' pinfeathers! I've been to see the Haddens. Mrs. Linceford has just got home from Paris, and brought them wardrobes to last to remotest posterity! And such things! Such rufflings, and stitchings, and embroiderings! Why, mine look—as if they'd been made by the blacksmith!"
The "linen-drawer" was an institution of Mrs. Goldthwaite's; resultant, partly, from her old-fashioned New England ideas of womanly industry and thrift,—born and brought up, as she had been, in a family whose traditions were of house-linen sufficient for a lifetime spun and woven by girls before their twenty-first year, and whose inheritance, from mother to daughter, was invariably of heedfully stored personal and household plenishings, made of pure material that was worth the laying by, and carefully bleached and looked to year by year; partly, also, from a certain theory of wisdom which she had adopted, that when girls were once old enough to care for and pride themselves on a plentiful outfit, it was best they should have it as a natural prerogative of young-ladyhood, rather than that the "trousseau" should come to be, as she believed it so apt to be, one of the inciting temptations to heedless matrimony. I have heard of a mother whose passion was for elegant old lace; and who boasted to her female friends that, when her little daughter was ten years old, she had her "lace-box," with the beginning of her hoard in costly contributions from the stores of herself and of the child's maiden aunts. Mrs. Goldthwaite did a better and more sensible thing than this; when Leslie was fifteen, she presented her with pieces of beautiful linen and cotton and cambric, and bade her begin to make garments which should be in dozens, to be laid by, in reserve, as she completed them, until she had a well-filled bureau that should defend her from the necessity of what she called a "wretched living from hand to mouth,—always having underclothing to make up, in the midst of all else that she would find to do and to learn."
Leslie need not have been ashamed, and I don't think in her heart she was, of the fresh, white, light-lying piles that had already begun to make promise of filling a drawer, which she drew out as she answered Cousin Delight's question.
The fine-lined gathers; the tiny dots of stitches that held them to their delicate bindings; the hems and tucks, true to a thread, and dotted with the same fairy needle dimples (no machine-work, but all real, dainty finger-craft); the bits of ruffling peeping out from the folds, with their edges in almost invisible whip-hems; and here and there a finishing of lovely, lace-like crochet, done at odd minutes, and for "visiting work,"—there was something prettier and more precious, really, in all this than in the imported fineries which had come, without labor and without thought, to her friends the Haddens. Besides, there were the pleasant talks and readings of the winter evenings, all threaded in and out, and associated indelibly with every seam. There was the whole of "David Copperfield," and the beginning of "Our Mutual Friend," ruffled up into the night-dresses; and some of the crochet was beautiful with the rhymed pathos of "Enoch Arden," and some with the poetry of the "Wayside Inn;" and there were places where stitches had had to be picked out and done over, when the eye grew dim and the hand trembled while the great war news was being read.
Leslie loved it, and had a pride in it all; it was not, truly and only, humiliation and disgust at self-comparison with the Haddens, but some other and unexplained doubt which moved her now, and which was stirred often by this, or any other of the objects and circumstances of her life, and which kept her standing there with her hand upon the bureau-knob, in a sort of absence, while Cousin Delight looked in, approved, and presently dropped quietly among the rest, like a bit of money into a contribution-box, the delicate breadths of linen cambric she had just finished hemstitching and rolled together.
"Oh, thank you! But, Cousin Delight," said Leslie, shutting the drawer, and turning short round, suddenly, "I wish you'd just tell me—what you think—is the sense of that—about the fig-tree! I suppose it's awfully wicked, but I never could see. Is everything fig-leaves that isn't out and out fruit, and is it all to be cursed, and why should there be anything but leaves when 'the time of figs was not yet'?" After her first hesitation, she spoke quickly, impetuously, and without pause, as something that would come out.
"I suppose that has troubled you, as I dare say it has troubled a great many other people," said Cousin Delight. "It used to be a puzzle and a trouble to me. But now it seems to me one of the most beautiful things of all." She paused.
"I cannot see how," said Leslie emphatically. "It always seems to me so—somehow—unreasonable; and—angry."
She said this in a lower tone, as afraid of the uttered audacity of her own thought; and she walked off, as she spoke, towards the window once more, and stood with her back to Miss Goldthwaite, almost as if she wished to have done, again, with the topic. It was not easy for Leslie to speak out upon such things; it almost made her feel cross when she had done it.
"People mistake the true cause and effect, I think," said Delight Goldthwaite, "and so lose all the wonderful enforcement of that acted parable. It was not, 'Cursed be the fig-tree because I have found nothing thereon;' but, 'Let no fruit grow on thee, henceforward, forever.' It seems to me I can hear the tone of tender solemnity in which Jesus would say such words; knowing, as only he knew, all that they meant, and what should come, inevitably, of such a sentence. 'And presently the fig-tree withered away.' The life was nothing, any longer, from the moment when it might not be, what all life is, a reaching forward to the perfecting of some fruit. There was nothing to come, ever again, of all its greenness and beauty, and the greenness and beauty, which were only a form and a promise, ceased to be. It was the way he took to show his disciples, in a manner they should never forget, the inexorable condition upon which all life is given, and that the barren life, so soon as its barrenness is absolutely hopeless, becomes a literal death."
Leslie stood still, with her back to Miss Goldthwaite, and her face to the window. Her perplexity was changed, but hardly cleared. There were many things that crowded into her thoughts, and might have been spoken; but it was quite impossible for her to speak. Impossible on this topic, and she certainly could not speak, at once, on any other.
Many seconds of silence counted themselves between the two. Then Cousin Delight, feeling an intuition of much that held and hindered the young girl, spoke again. "Does this make life seem hard?"
"Yes," said Leslie then, with an effort that hoarsened her very voice, "frightful." And as she spoke, she turned again quickly, as if to be motionless longer were to invite more talk, and went over to the other window, where her bird-cage hung, and began to take down the glasses.
"Like all parables, it is manifold," said Delight gently. "There is a great hope in it, too."
Leslie was at her basin, now, turning the water faucet, to rinse and refill the little drinking-vessel. She handled the things quietly, but she made no pause.
"It shows that, while we see the leaf, we may have hope of the fruit, in ourselves or in others."
She could not see Leslie's face. If she had, she would have perceived a quick lifting and lightening upon it; then a questioning that would not very long be repressed to silence.
The glasses were put in the cage again, and presently Leslie came back to a little low seat by Miss Goldthwaite's side, which she had been occupying before all this talk began. "Other people puzzle me as much as myself," she said. "I think the whole world is running to leaves, sometimes."
"Some things flower almost invisibly, and hide away their fruit under thick foliage. It is often only when the winds shake their leaves down, and strip the branches bare, that we find the best that has been growing."
"They make a great fuss and flourish with the leaves, though, as long as they can. And it's who shall grow the broadest and tallest, and flaunt out, with the most of them. After all, it's natural; and they are beautiful in themselves. And there's a 'time' for leaves, too, before the figs."
"Exactly. We have a right to look for the leaves, and to be glad of them. That is a part of the parable."
"Cousin Delight! Let's talk of real things, and let the parable alone a minute."
Leslie sprang impulsively to her bureau again, and flung forth the linen drawer.
"There are my fig-leaves,—some of them; and here are more." She turned, with a quick movement, to her wardrobe; pulled out and uncovered a bonnet-box which held a dainty headgear of the new spring fashion, and then took down from a hook and tossed upon it a silken garment that fluttered with fresh ribbons. "How much of this outside business is right, and how much wrong, I should be glad to know? It all takes time and thoughts; and those are life. How much life must go into the leaves? That's what puzzles me. I can't do without the things; and I can't be let to take 'clear comfort' in them, as grandma says, either." She was on the floor, now, beside her little fineries; her hands clasped together about one knee, and her face turned up to Cousin Delight's. She looked as if she half believed herself to be ill-used.
"And clothes are but the first want,—the primitive fig-leaves; the world is full of other outside business,—as much outside as these," pursued Miss Goldthwaite, thoughtfully.
"Everything is outside," said Leslie. "Learning, and behaving, and going, and doing, and seeing, and hearing, and having. 'It's all a muddle,' as the poor man says in 'Hard Times.'"
"I don't think I can do without the parable," said Cousin Delight. "The real inward principle of the tree—that which corresponds to thought and purpose in the soul—urges always to the finishing of its life in the fruit. The leaves are only by the way,—an outgrowth of the same vitality, and a process toward the end; but never, in any living thing, the end itself."
"Um," said Leslie, in her nonchalant fashion again; her chin between her two hands now, and her head making little appreciative nods. "That's like condensed milk; a great deal in a little of it. I'll put the fig-leaves away now, and think it over."
But, as she sprang up, and came round behind Miss Goldthwaite's chair, she stopped and gave her a little kiss on the top of her head. If Cousin Delight had seen, there was a bright softness in the eyes, which told of feeling, and of gladness that welcomed the quick touch of truth.
Miss Goldthwaite knew one good thing,—when she had driven her nail. "She never hammered in the head with a punch, like a carpenter," Leslie said of her. She believed that, in moral tool-craft, that finishing implement belonged properly to the hand of an after-workman.
I have mentioned one little theory, relating solely to domestic thrift, which guided Mrs. Goldthwaite in her arrangements for her daughter. I believe that, with this exception, she brought up her family very nearly without any theory whatever. She did it very much on the taking-for-granted system. She took for granted that her children were born with the same natural perceptions as herself; that they could recognize, little by little, as they grew into it, the principles of the moral world,—reason, right, propriety,—as they recognized, growing into them, the conditions of their outward living. She made her own life a consistent recognition of these, and she lived openly before them. There was never any course pursued with sole calculation as to its effect on the children. Family discussion and deliberation was seldom with closed doors. Questions that came up were considered as they came; and the young members of the household perceived as soon as their elders the "reasons why" of most decisions. They were part and parcel of the whole regime. They learned politeness by being as politely attended to as company. They learned to be reasonable by seeing how the reason compelled father and mother, and not by having their vision stopped short at the arbitrary fact that father and mother compelled them. I think, on the whole, the Goldthwaite no-method turned out as good a method as any. Men have found out lately that even horses may be guided without reins.
It was characteristic, therefore, that Mrs. Goldthwaite—receiving one day a confidential note proposing to her a pleasant plan in behalf of Leslie, and intended to guard against a premature delight and eagerness, and so perhaps an ultimate disappointment for that young lady—should instantly, on reading it, lay it open upon the table before her daughter. "From Mrs. Linceford," she said, "and concerning you."
Leslie took it up, expecting, possibly, an invitation to tea. When she saw what it really was, her dark eyes almost blazed with sudden, joyous excitement.
"Of course, I should be delighted to say yes for you," said Mrs. Goldthwaite, "but there are things to be considered. I can't tell how it will strike your father."
"School," suggested Leslie, the light in her eyes quieting a little.
"Yes, and expense; though I don't think he would refuse on that score. I should have liked"—Mrs. Goldthwaite's tone was only half, and very gently, objecting; there was an inflection of ready self-relinquishment in it, also—"to have had your first journey with me. But you might have waited a long time for that."
If Leslie were disappointed in the end, she would have known that her mother's heart had been with her from the beginning, and grown people seldom realize how this helps even the merest child to bear a denial.
"There is only a month now to vacation," said the young girl.
"What do you think Mr. Waylie would say?"
"I really think," answered Leslie, after a pause, "that he would say it was better than books."
They sat at their sewing together, after this, without speaking very much more, at the present time, about it. Mrs. Goldthwaite was thinking it over in her motherly mind, and in the mind of Leslie thought and hope and anticipation were dancing a reel with each other. It is time to tell the reader of the what and why.
Mrs. Linceford, the elder married daughter of the Hadden family,—many years the elder of her sisters, Jeannie and Elinor,—was about to take them, under her care, to the mountains for the summer, and she kindly proposed joining Leslie Goldthwaite to her charge. "The mountains" in New England means usually, in common speech, the one royal range of the White Hills.
You can think what this opportunity was to a young girl full of fancy, loving to hunt out, even by map and gazetteer, the by-nooks of travel, and wondering already if she should ever really journey otherwise. You can think how she waited, trying to believe she could bear any decision, for the final determination concerning her.
"If it had been to Newport or Saratoga, I should have said no at once," said Mr. Goldthwaite. "Mrs. Linceford is a gay, extravagant woman, and the Haddens' ideas don't precisely suit mine. But the mountains,—she can't get into much harm there."
"I shouldn't have cared for Newport or the Springs, father, truly," said Leslie, with a little hopeful flutter of eagerness in her voice; "but the real mountains,—O father!"
The "O father!" was not without its weight. Also Mr. Waylie, whom Mr. Goldthwaite called on and consulted, threw his opinion into the favoring scale, precisely as Leslie had foreseen. He was a teacher who did not imagine all possible educational advantage to be shut up within the four walls of his or any other schoolroom. "She is just the girl to whom it will do great good," he said. Leslie's last week's lessons were not accomplished the less satisfactorily for this word of his, and the pleasure it opened to her.
There came a few busy days of stitching and starching, and crimping and packing, and then, in the last of June, they would be off. They were to go on Monday. The Haddens came over on Saturday afternoon, just as Leslie had nearly put the last things into her trunk,—a new trunk, quite her own, with her initials in black paint upon the russet leather at each end. On the bed lay her pretty balmoral suit, made purposely for mountain wears and just finished. The young girls got together here, in Leslie's chamber, of course.
"Oh, how pretty! It's perfectly charming,—the loveliest balmoral I ever saw in my life!" cried Jeannie Hadden, seizing upon it instantly as she entered the room. "Why, you'll look like a hamadryad, all in these wood browns!"
It was an uncommonly pretty striped petticoat, in two alternating shades of dark and golden brown, with just a hair-line of black defining their edges; and the border was one broad, soft, velvety band of black, and a narrower one following it above and below, easing the contrast and blending the colors. The jacket, or rather shirt, finished at the waist with a bit of a polka frill, was a soft flannel, of the bright brown shade, braided with the darker hue and with black; and two pairs of bright brown raw-silk stockings, marked transversely with mere thread-lines of black, completed the mountain outfit.
"Yes; all I want is"—said Leslie, stopping short as she took up the hat that lay there also,—last summer's hat, a plain black straw, with a slight brim, and ornamented only with a round lace veil and two bits of ostrich feather. "But never mind! It'll do well enough!"
As she laid it down again and ceased speaking, Cousin Delight came in, straight from Boston, where she had been doing two days' shopping; and in her hand she carried a parcel in white paper. I was going to say a round parcel, which it would have been but for something which ran out in a sharp tangent from one side, and pushed the wrappings into an odd angle. This she put into Leslie's hands.
"A fresh—fig-leaf—for you, my dear."
"What does she mean?" cried the Haddens, coming close to see.
"Only a little Paradise fashion of speech between Cousin Del and me," said Leslie, coloring a little and laughing, while she began, somewhat hurriedly, to remove the wrappings.
"What have you done? And how did you come to think?" she exclaimed, as the thing inclosed appeared: a round brown straw turban,—not a staring turban, but one of those that slope with a little graceful downward droop upon the brow,—bound with a pheasant's breast, the wing shooting out jauntily, in the tangent I mentioned, over the right ear; all in bright browns, in lovely harmony with the rest of the hamadryad costume.
"It's no use to begin to thank you, Cousin Del. It's just one of the things you re always doing, and rejoice in doing." The happy face was full of loving thanks, plainer than many words. "Only you're a kind of a sarpent yourself after all, I'm afraid, with your beguilements. I wonder if you thought of that," whispered Leslie merrily, while the others oh-oh'd over the gift. "What else do you think I shall be good for when I get all those on?"
"I'll venture you," said Cousin Delight; and the trifling words conveyed a real, earnest confidence, the best possible antidote to the "beguilement."
"One thing is funny," said Jeannie Hadden suddenly, with an accent of demur. "We're all pheasants. Our new hats are pheasants, too. I don't know what Augusta will think of such a covey of us."
"Oh, it's no matter," said Elinor. "This is a golden pheasant, on brown straw, and ours are purple, on black. Besides, we all look different enough."
"I suppose it doesn't signify," returned Jeannie; "and if Augusta thinks it does, she may just give me that black and white plover of hers I wanted so. I think our complexions are all pretty well suited."
This was true. The fair hair and deep blue eyes of Elinor were as pretty under the purple plumage as Jeannie's darker locks and brilliant bloom; and there was a wonderful bright mingling of color between the golden pheasant's breast and the gleaming chestnut waves it crowned, as Leslie took her hat and tried it on.
This was one of the little touches of perfect taste and adaptation which could sometimes make Leslie Goldthwaite almost beautiful, and was there ever a girl of fifteen who would not like to be beautiful if she could? This wish, and the thought and effort it would induce, were likely to be her great temptation. Passably pretty girls, who may, with care, make themselves often more than passable, have far the hardest of it with their consciences about these things; and Leslie had a conscience, and was reflective for her age,—and we have seen how questions had begun to trouble her.
A Sunday between a packing and a journey is a trying day always. There are the trunks, and it is impossible not to think of the getting up and getting off to-morrow; and one hates so to take out fresh sleeves and collars and pocket-handkerchiefs, and to wear one's nice white skirts. It is a Sunday put off, too probably, with but odds and ends of thought as well as apparel.
Leslie went to church, of course,—the Goldthwaites were always regular in this; and she wore her quiet straw bonnet. Mrs. Goldthwaite had a feeling that hats were rather pert and coquettish for the sanctuary. Nevertheless they met the Haddens in the porch, in the glory of their purple pheasant plumes, whereof the long tail-feathers made great circles in the air as the young heads turned this way and that, in the excitement of a few snatched words before they entered.
The organ was playing; and the low, deep, tremulous rumble that an organ gives sometimes, when it seems to creep under and vibrate all things with a strange, vital thrill, overswept their trivial chat and made Leslie almost shiver. "Oh, I wish they wouldn't do that," she said, turning to go in.
"What?" said Jeannie Hadden, unaware.
"Touch the nerve. The great nerve—of creation."
"What queer things Les' Goldthwaite says sometimes," whispered Elinor; and they passed the inner door.
The Goldthwaites sat two pews behind the Haddens. Leslie could not help thinking how elegant Mrs. Linceford was, as she swept in, in her rich black silk, and real lace shawl, and delicate, costly bonnet; and the perfectly gloved hand that upheld a bit of extravagance in Valenciennes lace and cambric made devotion seem—what? The more graceful and touching in one who had all this world's luxuries, or—almost a mockery?
The pheasant-plumed hats went decorously down in prayer-time, but the tail-feathers ran up perker than ever, from the posture; Leslie saw this, because she had lifted her own head and unclosed her eyes in a self-indignant honesty, when she found on what her secret thoughts were running. Were other people so much better than she? And could they do both things? How much was right in all this that was outwardly so beguiling, and where did the "serving Mammon" begin?
Was everything so much intenser and more absorbing with her than with the Haddens? Why could she not take things as they came, as these girls did, or seemed to do?—be glad of her pretty things, her pretty looks even, her coming pleasures, with no misgivings or self-searchings, and then turn round and say her prayers properly?
Wasn't beauty put into the world for the sake of beauty? And wasn't it right to love it, and make much of it, and multiply it? What were arts and human ingenuities for, and the things given to work with? All this grave weighing of a great moral question was in the mind of the young girl of fifteen again this Sunday morning. Such doubts and balancings begin far earlier, often, than we are apt to think.
The minister shook hands cordially and respectfully with Mrs. Linceford after church. He had no hesitation at her stylishness and fineries. Everybody took everybody else for granted; and it was all right, Leslie Goldthwaite supposed, except in her own foolish, unregulated thoughts. Everybody else had done their Sunday duty, and it was enough; only she had been all wrong and astray, and in confusion. There was a time for everything, only her times and thoughts would mix themselves up and interfere. Perhaps she was very weak-minded, and the only way for her would be to give it all up, and wear drab, or whatever else might be most unbecoming, and be fiercely severe, mortifying the flesh. She got over that—her young nature reacting—as they all walked up the street together, while the sun shone down smilingly upon the world in Sunday best, and the flowers were gay in the door-yards, and Miss Milliken's shop was reverential with the green shutters before the windows that had been gorgeous yesterday with bright ribbons and fresh fashions; and there was something thankful in her feeling of the pleasantness that was about her, and a certainty that she should only grow morose if she took to resisting it all. She would be as good as she could, and let the pleasantness and the prettiness come "by the way." Yes, that was just what Cousin Delight had said. "All these things shall be added,"—was not that the Gospel word? So her troubling thought was laid for the hour; but it should come up again. It was in the "seeking first" that the question lay. By and by she would go back of the other to this, and see clearer,—in the light, perhaps, of something that had been already given her, and which, as she lived on toward a fuller readiness for it, should be "brought to her remembrance."
Monday brought the perfection of a traveler's morning. There had been a shower during the night, and the highways lay cool, moist, and dark brown between the green of the fields and the clean-washed, red-brick pavements of the town. There would be no dust even on the railroad, and the air was an impalpable draught of delight. To the three young girls, standing there under the station portico,—for they chose the smell of the morning rather than the odors of apples and cakes and indescribables which go to make up the distinctive atmosphere of a railway waiting-room,—there was but one thing to be done to-day in the world; one thing for which the sun rose, and wheeled himself toward that point in the heavens which would make eight o'clock down below. Of all the ships that might sail this day out of harbors, or the trains that might steam out of cities across States, they recked nothing but of this that was to take them toward the hills. There were unfortunates, doubtless, bound elsewhere, by peremptory necessity; there were people who were going nowhere but about their daily work and errands; all these were simply to be pitied, or wondered at, as to how they could feel not to be going upon a mountain journey. It is queer to think, on a last Thursday in November, or on a Fourth of July, of States where there may not be a Thanksgiving, or of far-off lands that have no Independence day. It was just as strange, somehow, to imagine how this day, that was to them the culminating point of so much happy anticipation, the beginning of so much certain joy, could be otherwise, and yet be anything to the supernumerary people who filled up around them the life that centred in just this to them. Yet in truth it was, to most folks, simply a fair Monday morning, and an excellent "drying day."
They bounded off along the iron track,—the great steam pulse throbbed no faster than in time to their bright young eagerness. It had been a momentous matter to decide upon their seats, of which there had been opportunity for choice when they entered the car; at last they had been happily settled, face to face, by the good-natured removal of a couple of young farmers, who saw that the four ladies wished to be seated together. Their hand-bags were hung up, their rolls of shawls disposed beneath their feet, and Mrs. Linceford had taken out her novel. The Haddens had each a book also in her bag, to be perfectly according to rule in their equipment; but they were not old travelers enough to care to begin upon them yet. As to Leslie Goldthwaite, her book lay ready open before her, for long, contented reading, in two chapters, both visible at once—the broad, open country, with its shifting pictures and suggestions of life and pleasantness; and the carriage interior, with its dissimilar human freight, and its yet more varied hints of history and character and purpose.
She made a story in her own mind, half unconsciously, of every one about her. Of the pretty girl alone, with no elaborate traveling arrangements, going only, it was evident, from one way-station to another, perhaps to spend a summer day with a friend. Of the stout old country grandmamma, with a basket full of doughnuts and early apples, that made a spiciness and orchard fragrance all about her, and that she surely never meant to eat herself, seeing, first, that she had not a tooth in her head, and also that she made repeated anxious requests of the conductor, catching him by the coat-skirts as he passed, to "let her know in season when they began to get into Bartley;" who asked, confidentially, of her next neighbor, a well-dressed elderly gentleman, if "he didn't think it was about as cheap comin' by the cars as it would ha' ben to hire a passage any other way?" and innocently endured the smile that her query called forth on half a dozen faces about her. The gentleman, without a smile, courteously lowered his newspaper to reply that "he always thought it better to avail one's self of established conveniences rather than to waste time in independent contrivances;" and the old lady sat back,—as far back as she dared, considering her momentary apprehension of Bartley,—quite happily complacent in the confirmation of her own wisdom.
There was a trig, not to say prim, spinster, without a vestige of comeliness in her face, save the comeliness of a clear, clean, energetic expression,—such as a new broom or a bright tea-kettle might have, suggesting capacity for house thrift and hearth comfort,—who wore a gray straw bonnet, clean and neat as if it had not lasted for six years at least, which its fashion evidenced, and which, having a bright green tuft of artificial grass stuck arbitrarily upon its brim by way of modern adornment, put Leslie mischievously in mind of a roof so old that blades had sprouted in the eaves. She was glad afterwards that she had not spoken her mischief.
What made life beautiful to all these people? These farmers, who put on at daybreak their coarse homespun, for long hours of rough labor? These homely, home-bred women, who knew nothing of graceful fashions; who had always too much to do to think of elegance in doing? Perhaps that was just it; they had always something to do, something outside of themselves,—in their honest, earnest lives there was little to tempt them to a frivolous self-engrossment. Leslie touched close upon the very help and solution she wanted, as she thought these thoughts.
Opposite to her there sat a poor man, to whom there had happened a great misfortune. One eye was lost, and the cheek was drawn and marked by some great scar of wound or burn. One half his face was a fearful blot. How did people bear such things as these,—to go through the world knowing that it could never be pleasant to any human being to look upon them? that an instinct of pity and courtesy would even turn every casual glance away? There was a strange, sorrowful pleading in the one expressive side of the man's countenance, and a singularly untoward incident presently called it forth, and made it almost ludicrously pitiful. A bustling fellow entered at a way-station, his arms full of a great frame that he carried. As he blundered along the passage, looking for a seat, a jolt of the car, in starting, pitched him suddenly into the vacant place beside this man; and the open expanse of the large looking-glass—for it was that which the frame held—was fairly smitten, like an insult of fate, into the very face of the unfortunate.
"Beg pardon," the new comer said, in an off-hand way, as he settled himself, holding the glass full before the other while he righted it; and then, for the first time, giving a quick glance toward him. The astonishment, the intuitive repulsion, the consciousness of what he had done, betokened by the instant look of the one man, and the helpless, mute "How could you?" that seemed spoken in the strange, uprolled, one-sided expression of the other,—these involuntarily-met regards made a brief concurrence at once sad and irresistibly funny, as so many things in this strange life are.
The man of the mirror inclined his burden quietly the other way; and now it reflected the bright faces opposite, under the pheasant plumes. Was it any delight to Leslie to see her own face so? What was the use of being—what right had she to wish to be—pretty and pleasant to look at, when there were such utter lifelong loss and disfigurement in the world for others? Why should it not as well happen to her? And how did the world seem to such a person, and where was the worth while of it? This was the question which lingered last in her mind, and to which all else reverted. To be able to bear—perhaps this was it; and this was greater, indeed, than any outer grace.
Such as these were the wayside meanings that came to Leslie Goldthwaite that morning in the first few hours of her journey. Meanwhile, Jeannie and Elinor Hadden had begun to be tired; and Mrs. Linceford, not much entertained with her novel, held it half closed over her finger, drew her brown veil closely, and sat with her eyes shut, compensating herself with a doze for her early rising. Had the same things come to these? Not precisely; something else, perhaps. In all things, one is still taken and another left. I can only follow, minutely, one.
The road left the flat farming country now, and turned northward, up the beautiful river valley. There was plenty to enjoy outside; and it was growing more and more lovely with almost every mile. They left the great towns gradually behind; each succeeding one seemed more simply rural. Young girls were gathered on the platforms at the little stations where they stopped sometimes; it was the grand excitement of the place,—the coming of the train,—and to these village lasses was what the piazzas or the springs are to gay dwellers at Saratoga.
By dinner-time they steamed up to the stately back staircase of the "Pemigewasset." In the little parlor where they smoothed their hair and rested a moment before going to the dining-hall, they met again the lady of the grass-grown bonnet. She took this off, making herself comfortable, in her primitive fashion, for dinner; and then Leslie noticed how little it was from any poverty of nature that the fair and abundant hair, at least, had not been made use of to take down the severe primness of her outward style. It did take it down in spite of all, the moment the gray straw was removed. The great round coil behind was all real and solid, though it was wound about with no thought save of security, and fastened with a buffalo-horn comb. Hair was a matter of course; the thing was, to keep it out of the way; that was what the fashion of this head expressed, and nothing more. Where it was tucked over the small ears,—and native refinement or the other thing shows very plainly in the ears,—it lay full, and shaped into a soft curve. She was only plain, not ugly, after all; and they are very different things,—there being a beauty of plainness in men and women, as there is in a rich fabric, sometimes.
While Leslie was noticing these things, Elinor Hadden stood by a window with her back to the others. She did not complain at first; one doesn't like to allow, at once, that the toothache, or a mischance like this that had happened to her, is an established fact,—one is in for it the moment one does that. But she had got a cinder in her eye; and though she had winked, and stared, and rolled her eyelid under, and tried all the approved and instinctive means, it seemed persistent; and she was forced at last, just as her party was going in to dinner, to acknowledge that this traveler's misery had befallen her, and to make up her mind to the pain and wretchedness and ugliness of it for hours, if not even for days. Her face was quite disfigured already; the afflicted eye was bloodshot, and the whole cheek was red with tears and rubbing; she could only follow blindly along, her handkerchief up, and, half groping into the seat offered her, begin comfortlessly to help herself to some soup with her left hand. There was leaning across to inquire and pity; there were half a dozen things suggested, to which she could only reply, forlornly and impatiently, "I've tried it." None of them could eat much, or with any satisfaction; this atom in the wrong place set everything wrong all at once with four people who, till now, had been so cheery.
The spinster lady was seated at some little distance down, on the opposite side. She began to send quick, interested glances over at them; to make little half-starts toward them, as if she would speak; and at last, leaving her own dinner unfinished, she suddenly pushed back her chair, got up, and came round. She touched Elinor Hadden on the shoulder, without the least ado of ceremony. "Come out here with me," she said. "I can set you right in half a minute;" and, confident of being followed, moved off briskly out of the long hall.
Elinor gave a one-sided, questioning glance at her sisters before she complied, reminding Leslie comically of the poor, one-eyed man in the cars; and presently, with a little hesitation, Mrs. Linceford and Jeannie compromised the matter by rising themselves and accompanying Elinor from the room. Leslie, of course, went also.
The lady had her gray bonnet on when they got back to the little parlor; there is no time to lose in mere waiting for anything at a railway dining-place; and she had her bag—a veritable, old-fashioned, home-made carpet thing—open on a chair before her, and in her hand a long, knit purse with steel beads and rings. Out of this she took a twisted bit of paper, and from the paper a minute something which she popped between her lips as she replaced the other things. Then she just beckoned, hastily, to Elinor.
"It's only an eyestone; did you ever have one in? Well, you needn't be afraid of it; I've had 'em in hundreds of times. You wouldn't know 't was there, and it'll just ease all the worry; and by and by it'll drop out of itself, cinder and all. They're terribly teasing things, cinders; and somebody's always sure to get one. I always keep three eyestones in my purse. You needn't mind my not having it back; I've got a little glass bottle full at home, and it's wonderful the sight of comfort they've been to folks."
Elinor shrunk; Mrs. Linceford showed a little high-bred demur about accepting the offered aid of their unknown traveling companion; but the good woman comprehended nothing of this, and went on insisting.
"You'd better let me put it in right off; it's only just to drop it under the eyelid, and it'll work round till it finds the speck. But you can take it and put it in yourself, when you've made up your mind, if you'd rather." With which she darted her head quickly from side to side, looking about the room, and, spying a scrap of paper on a table, had the eyestone twisted in it in an instant, and pressed it into Elinor's hand. "You'll be glad enough of it, yet," said she, and then took up her bag, and moved quickly off among the other passengers descending to the train.
"What a funny woman, to be always carrying eyestones about, and putting them in people's eyes!" said Jeannie.
"It was quite kind of her, I'm sure," said Mrs. Linceford, with a mingling in her tone of acknowledgment and of polite tolerance for a great liberty. When elegant people break their necks or their limbs, common ones may approach and assist; as, when a house takes fire, persons get in who never did before; and perhaps a suffering eye may come into the catalogue of misfortunes sufficient to equalize differences for the time being. But it is queer for a woman to make free to go without her own dinner to offer help to a stranger in pain. Not many people, in any sense of the word, go about provided with eyestones against the chance cinders that may worry others. Something in this touched Leslie Goldthwaite with a curious sense of a beauty in living that was not external.
If it had not been for Elinor's mishap and inability to enjoy, it would have been pure delight from the very beginning, this afternoon's ride. They had their seats upon the "mountain side," where the view of the thronging hills was like an ever-moving panorama; as, winding their way farther and farther up into the heart of the wild and beautiful region, the horizon seemed continually to fill with always vaster shapes, that lifted themselves, or emerged, over and from behind each other, like mustering clans of giants, bestirred and curious, because of the invasion among their fastnesses of this sprite of steam.
"Where you can come down, I can go up," it seemed to fizz, in its strong, exulting whisper, to the river; passing it always, yet never getting by; tracking, step by step, the great stream backward toward its small beginnings.
"See, there are real blue peaks!" cried Leslie joyously, pointing away to the north and east where the outlines lay faint and lovely in the far distance.
"Oh, I wish I could see! I'm losing it all!" said Elinor, plaintively and blindfold.
"Why don't you try the eyestone?" said Jeannie.
But Elinor shrunk, even yet, from deliberately putting that great thing in her eye, agonized already by the presence of a mote.
There came a touch on her shoulder, as before. The good woman of the gray bonnet had come forward from her seat farther down the car.
"I'm going to stop presently," she said, "at East Haverhill; and I should feel more satisfied in my mind if you'd just let me see you easy before I go. Besides, if you don't do something quick, the cinder will get so bedded in, and make such an inflammation, that a dozen eyestones wouldn't draw it out."
At this terror, poor Elinor yielded, in a negative sort of way. She ceased to make resistance when her unknown friend, taking the little twist of paper from the hand still fast closed over it with the half-conscious grasp of pain, dexterously unrolled it, and produced the wonderful chalky morsel.
"Now, 'let's see, says the blind man;'" and she drew down hand and handkerchief with determined yet gentle touch. "Wet it in your own mouth,"—and the eyestone was between Elinor's lips before she could refuse or be aware. Then one thumb and finger was held to take it again, while the other made a sudden pinch at the lower eyelid, and, drawing it at the outer corner before it could so much as quiver away again, the little white stone was slid safely under.
"Now 'wink as much as you please,' as the man said that took an awful-looking daguerreotype of me once. Good-by. Here's where I get out. And there they all are to meet me." And then, the cars stopping, she made her way, with her carpet-bag and parasol and a great newspaper bundle, gathered up hurriedly from goodness knows where, along the passage, and out upon the platform.
"Why, it's the strangest thing! I don't feel it in the least! Do you suppose it ever will come out again, Augusta?" cried Elinor, in a tone greatly altered from any in which she had spoken for two hours.
"Of course it will," cried "Gray-bonnet" from beneath the window. "Don't be under the least mite of concern about anything but looking out for it when it does, to keep it against next time."
Leslie saw the plain, kindly woman surrounded in a minute by half a dozen eager young welcomers and claimants, and a whole history came out in the unreserved exclamations of the few instants for which the train delayed.
"Oh, it's such a blessing you've come! I don't know as Emma Jane would have been married at all if you hadn't!"
"We warn't sure you'd get the letter."
"Or as Aunt Nisby would spare you."
"'Life wanted to come over on his crutches. He's just got his new ones, and he gets about first-rate. But we wouldn't let him beat himself out for to-morrow."
"How is 'Life?"
"Hearty as would anyway be consistent—with one-leggedness. He'd never 'a' got back, we all know, if you hadn't gone after him." It was a young man's voice that spoke these last sentences, and it grew tender at the end.
"You're to trim the cake," began one of the young girls again, crowding up. "She says nobody else can. Nobody else ever can. And"—with a little more mystery—"there's the veil to fix. She says you're used to wedd'n's and know about veils; and you was down to Lawrence at Lorany's. And she wants things in real style. She's dreadful pudjicky, Emma Jane is; she won't have anything without it's exactly right."
The plain face was full of beaming sympathy and readiness. The stiff-looking spinster woman, with the "grass in the eaves of her bonnet,"—grass grown, also, over many an old hope in her own life, may be,—was here in the midst of young joy and busy interest, making them all her own; had come on purpose, looked for and hailed as the one without whom nothing could ever be done,—more tenderly yet, as one but for whom some brave life and brother love would have gone down. In the midst of it all she had had ear and answer, to the very last, for the stranger she had comforted on her way. What difference did it make whether she wore an old bonnet with green grass in it, or a round hat with a gay feather? whether she were fifteen or forty-five, but for the good she had had time to do? whether Lorany's wedding down at Lawrence had been really a stylish festival or no? There was a beauty here which verily shone out through all; and such a life should have no time to be tempted.
The engine panted, and the train sped on. She never met her fellow-traveler again, but these things Leslie Goldthwaite had learned from her,—these things she laid by silently in her heart. And the woman in the gray bonnet never knew the half that she had done.
After taking one through wildernesses of beauty, after whirling one past nooks where one could gladly linger whole summers, it is strange at what commonplace and graceless termini these railroads contrive to land one. Lovely Wells River, where the road makes its sharp angle, and runs back again until it strikes out eastward through the valley of the Ammonoosuc; where the waters leap to each other, and the hills bend round in majestic greeting; where our young party cried out, in an ignorance at once blessed and pathetic, "Oh, if Littleton should only be like this, or if we could stop here!"—yet where one cannot stop, because here there is no regular stage connection, and nothing else to be found, very probably, that travelers might want, save the outdoor glory,—Wells River and Woodsville were left behind, lying in the evening stillness of June,—in the grand and beautiful disregard of things greater than the world is rushing by to seek,—and for an hour more they threaded through fair valley sweeps and reaches, past solitary hillside clearings and detached farms and the most primitive of mountain hamlets, where the limit and sparseness of neighborhood drew forth from a gentleman sitting behind them—come, doubtless, from some suburban home, where numberless household wants kept horse and wagon perpetually on the way for city or village—the suggestive query, "I wonder what they do here when they're out of saleratus?"
They brought them up, as against a dead wall of dreariness and disappointment, at the Littleton station. It had been managed as it always is: the train had turned most ingeniously into a corner whence there was scarcely an outlook upon anything of all the magnificence that must yet be lying close about them; and here was only a tolerably well-populated country town, filled up to just the point that excludes the picturesque and does not attain to the highly civilized. And into the heart of this they were to be borne, and to be shut up there this summer night, with the full moon flooding mountain and river, and the woods whispering up their peace to heaven.
It was bad enough, but worse came. The hotel coach was waiting, and they hastened to secure their seats, giving their checks to the driver, who disappeared with a handful of these and others, leaving his horses with the reins tied to the dash-board, and a boy ten years old upon the box.
There were heads out anxiously at either side, between concern for safety of body and of property. Mrs. Linceford looked uneasily toward the confused group upon the platform, from among whom luggage began to be drawn out in a fashion regardless of covers and corners. The large russet trunk with the black "H,"—the two linen-cased ones with "Hadden" in full;—the two square bonnet-boxes,—these, one by one, were dragged and whirled toward the vehicle and jerked upon the rack; but the "ark," as they called Mrs. Linceford's huge light French box, and the one precious receptacle that held all Leslie's pretty outfit, where were these?
"Those are not all, driver! There is a high black French trunk, and a russet leather one."
"Got all you give me checks for,—seb'm pieces;" and he pointed to two strange articles of luggage waiting their turn to be lifted up,—a long, old-fashioned gray hair trunk, with letters in brass nails upon the lid, and as antiquated a carpet-bag, strapped and padlocked across the mouth, suggestive in size and fashion of the United States mail.
"Never saw them before in my life! There's some dreadful mistake! What can have become of ours?"
"Can't say, ma'am, I'm sure. Don't often happen. But them was your checks."
Mrs. Linceford leaned back for an instant in a breathless despair. "I must get out and see."
"If you please, ma'am. But 't ain't no use. The things is all cleared off." Then, stooping to examine the trunk, and turning over the bag, "Queer, too. These things is chalked all right for Littleton. Must ha' been a mistake with the checks, and somebody changed their minds on the way,—Plymouth, most likely,—and stopped with the wrong baggage. Wouldn't worry, ma'am; it's as bad for one as for t' other, anyhow, and they'll be along to-morrow, no kind o' doubt. Strays allers turns up on this here road. No danger about that. I'll see to havin' these 'ere stowed away in the baggage-room." And shouldering the bag, he seized the trunk by the handle and hauled it along over the rough embankment and up the steps, flaying one side as he went.
"But, dear me! what am I to do?" said Mrs. Linceford piteously. "Everything in it that I want to-night,—my dressing-box and my wrappers and my air-cushion; they'll be sure not to have any bolsters on the beds, and only one feather in each corner of the pillows!"
But this was only the first surprise of annoyance. She recollected herself on the instant, and leaned back again, saying nothing more. She had no idea of amusing her unknown stage companions at any length with her fine-lady miseries. Only, just before they reached the hotel, she added low to Jeannie, out of the unbroken train of her own private lamentation, "And my rose-glycerine! After all this dust and heat! I feel parched to a mummy, and I shall be an object to behold!"
Leslie sat upon her right hand. She leaned closer, and said quickly, glad of the little power to comfort, "I have some rose-glycerine here in my bag."
Mrs. Linceford looked round at her; her face was really bright. As if she had not lost her one trunk also! "You are a phoenix of a traveling companion, you young thing!" the lady thought, and felt suddenly ashamed of her own unwonted discomfiture.
Half an hour afterward Leslie Goldthwaite flitted across the passage between the two rooms they had secured for their party, with a bottle in her hand and a pair of pillows over her arm. "Ours is a double-bedded room, too, Mrs. Linceford, and neither Elinor nor I care for more than one pillow. And here is the rose-glycerine."
These essential comforts, and the instinct of good-breeding, brought the grace and the smile back fully to Mrs. Linceford's face. More than that, she felt a gratefulness, and the contagion and emulation of cheerful patience under a common misfortune. She bent over and kissed Leslie as she took the bottle from her hand. "You're a dear little sunbeam," she said. "We'll send an imperative message down the line, and have all our own traps again to-morrow."
The collar that Elinor Hadden had lent Leslie was not very becoming, the sleeves had enormous wristbands, and were made for double sleeve-buttons, while her own were single; moreover, the brown silk net, which she had supposed thoroughly trustworthy, had given way all at once into a great hole under the waterfall, and the soft hair would fret itself through and threaten to stray untidily.
She had two such pretty nets in reserve in her missing trunk, and she did hate so to be in any way coming to pieces! Yet there was somehow a feeling that repaid it all, and even quieted the real anxiety as to the final "turning up" of their fugitive property,—not a mere self-complacence, hardly a self-complacence at all, but a half-surprised gladness, that had something thankful in it. If she might not be all leaves, perhaps, after all! If she really could, even in some slight thing, care most for the life and spirit underneath, to keep this sweet and pleasant, and the fruit of it a daily good, and not a bitterness; if she could begin by holding herself undisturbed, though obliged to wear a collar that stood up behind and turned over in front with those lappet corners she had always thought so ugly,—yes, even though the waterfall should leak out and ripple over stubbornly,—though these things must go on for twenty-four hours at least, and these twenty-four hours be spent unwillingly in a dull country tavern, where the windows looked out from one side into a village street, and from the other into stable and clothes yards! There would be something for her to do: to keep bright and help to keep the others bright. There was a hope in it; the life was more than raiment; it was better worth while than to have only got on the nice round collar and dainty cuffs that fitted and suited her, or even the little bead net that came over in a Marie Stuart point so prettily between the small crimped puffs of her hair.
A little matter, nothing to be self-applauding about,—only a straw; but—if it showed the possible way of the wind, the motive power that might be courted to set through her life, taking her out of the trade-currents of vanity? Might she have it in her, after all? Might she even be able to come, if need be, to the strength of mind for wearing an old gray straw bonnet, and bearing to be forty years old, and helping to adorn the young and beautiful for looks that never—just so—should be bent again on her?
Leslie Goldthwaite had read of martyr and hero sufferance all her life, as she had looked upon her poor one-eyed fellow-traveler to-day; the pang of sympathy had always been: "These things have been borne, are being borne, in the world; how much of the least of them could I endure,—I, looking for even the little things of life to be made smooth?" It depended, she began faintly and afar off to see, upon where the true life lay; how far behind the mere outer covering vitality withdrew itself.
Up—up—up,—from glory to glory!
This was what it seemed to Leslie Goldthwaite, riding, that golden June morning, over the road that threaded along, always climbing, the chain of hills that could be climbed, into the nearer and nearer presence of those mountain majesties, penetrating farther and father into the grand solitudes sentineled forever by their inaccessible pride.
Mrs. Linceford had grown impatient; she had declared it impossible, when the splendid sunshine of that next day challenged them forth out of their dull sojourn, to remain there twenty-four hours longer, waiting for anything. Trunks or none, she would go on, and wait at Jefferson, at least, where there was something to console one. All possible precaution was taken; all possible promises were made; the luggage should be sent on next day,—perhaps that very night; wagons were going and returning often now; there would be no further trouble, they might rest assured. The hotel-keeper had a "capital team,"—his very best,—at their instant service, if they chose to go on this morning; it could be at the door in twenty minutes. So it was chartered, and ordered round,—an open mountain wagon, with four horses; their remaining luggage was secured upon it, and they themselves took their seats gayly.
"Who cares for trunks or boxes now?" Leslie cried out in joyousness, catching the first, preparatory glimpse of grandeur, when their road, that wound for a time through the low, wet valley-lands, began to ascend a rugged hillside, whence opened vistas that hinted something of the glory that was to come. All the morning long, there wheeled about them, and smiled out in the sunshine, or changed to grave, grand reticence under the cloud-shadows, those shapes of might and beauty that filled up earth and heaven.
Leslie grew silent, with the hours of over-full delight. Thoughts thronged in upon her. All that had been deepest and strongest in the little of life that she had lived wakened and lifted again in such transcendent presence. Only the high places of spirit can answer to these high places of God in his creation.
Now and then, Jeannie and Elinor fell into their chatter, about their summer plans, and pleasures, and dress; about New York, and the new house Mrs. Linceford had taken in West Twenty-ninth Street, where they were to visit her next winter, and participate for the first time, under her matronizing, in city gayeties. Leslie wondered how they could; she only answered when appealed to; she felt as if people were jogging her elbow, and whispering distractions, in the midst of some noble eloquence.
The woods had a word for her; a question, and their own sweet answer of help. The fair June leafage was out in its young glory of vivid green; it reminded her of her talk with Cousin Delight.
"We do love leaves for their own sake; trees, and vines, and the very green grass, even." So she said to herself, asking still for the perfect parable that should solve and teach all.
It came, with the breath of wild grape vines, hidden somewhere in the wayside thickets. "Under the leaf lies our tiny green blossom," it said; "and its perfume is out on the air. Folded in the grass-blade is a feathery bloom, of seed or grain; and by and by the fields will be all waving with it. Be sure that the blossom is under the leaf."
Elinor Hadden's sweet child-face, always gentle and good-humored, though visited little yet with the deep touch of earnest thought,—smiling upon life as life smiled upon her,—looked lovelier to Leslie as this whisper made itself heard in her heart; and it was with a sweeter patience and a more believing kindliness that she answered, and tried to enter into, her next merry words.
There was something different about Jeannie. She was older; there was a kind of hard determination sometimes with her, in turning from suggestions of graver things; the child-unconsciousness was no longer there; something restless, now and then defiant, had taken its place; she had caught a sound of the deeper voices, but her soul would not yet turn to listen. She felt the blossom of life yearning under the leaf; but she bent the green beauty heedfully above it, and made believe it was not there.
Looking into herself and about her with asking eyes, Leslie had learned something already by which she apprehended these things of others. Heretofore, her two friends had seemed to her alike,—able, both of them, to take life innocently and carelessly as it came; she began now to feel a difference.
Her eyes were bent away off toward the Franconia hills, when Mrs. Linceford leaned round to look in them, and spoke, in the tone her voice had begun to take toward her. She felt one of her strong likings—her immense fancies, as she called them, which were really warm sympathies of the best of her with the best she found in the world—for Leslie Goldthwaite.
"It seems to me you are a stray sunbeam this morning," she said, in her winning way. "What kind of thoughts are going out so far? What is it all about?"
A verse of the Psalms was ringing itself in Leslie's mind; had been there, under all the other vague musings and chance suggestions for many minutes of her silence. But she would not have spoken it—she could not—for all the world. She gave the lady one of the chance suggestions instead. "I have been looking down into that lovely hollow; it seems like a children's party, with all the grave, grown folks looking on."
"Childhood and grown-up-hood; not a bad simile."
It was not, indeed. It was a wild basin, within a group of the lesser hills close by; full of little feathery birches, that twinkled and played in the light breeze and gorgeous sunshine slanting in upon them between the slopes that lay in shadow above,—slopes clothed with ranks of dark pines and cedars and hemlocks, looking down seriously, yet with a sort of protecting tenderness, upon the shimmer and frolic they seemed to have climbed up out of. Those which stood in the half way shadow were gravest. Hoar old stems upon the very tops were touched with the self-same glory that lavished itself below. This also was no less a true similitude.
"Know ye not this parable?" the Master said. "How then shall ye know all parables?" Verily, they lie about us by the wayside, and the whole earth is vocal with the wisdom of the Lord.
I cannot go with our party step by step; I have a summer to spend with them. They came to Jefferson at noon, and sat themselves down in the solemn high court and council of the mountain kings. First, they must have rooms. In the very face of majesty they must settle their traps.
"You are lucky in coming in for one vacancy, made to-day," the proprietor said, throwing open a door that showed them a commodious second-floor corner-room, looking each way with broad windows upon the circle of glory, from Adams to Lafayette. A wide balcony ran along the southern side against the window which gave that aspect. There were two beds here, and two at least of the party must be content to occupy. Mrs. Linceford, of course; and it was settled that Jeannie should share it with her.
Upstairs, again, was choice of two rooms,—one flight, or two. But the first looked out westward, where was comparatively little of what they had come for. Higher up, they could have the same outlook that the others had; a slanting ceiling opened with dormer window full upon the grandeur of Washington, and a second faced southward to where beautiful blue, dreamy Lafayette lay soft against the tender heaven.
"Oh, let us have this!" said Leslie eagerly. "We don't mind stairs." And so it was settled.
"Only two days here?" they began to say, when they gathered in Mrs. Linceford's room at nearly tea-time, after a rest and freshening of their toilets.
"We might stay longer," Mrs. Linceford answered. "But the rooms are taken for us at Outledge, and one can't settle and unpack, when it's only a lingering from day to day. All there is here one sees from the windows. A great deal, to be sure; but it's all there at the first glance. We'll see how we feel on Friday."
"The Thoresbys are here, Augusta. I saw Ginevra on the balcony just now. They seem to have a large party with them. And I'm sure I heard them talk of a hop to-night. If your trunks would only come!"
"They could not in time. They can only come in the train that reaches Littleton at six."
"But you'll go in, won't you? 'T isn't likely they dress much here,—though Ginevra Thoresby always dresses. Elinor and I could just put on our blue grenadines, and you've got plenty of things in your other boxes. One of your shawls is all you want, and we can lend Leslie something."
"I've only my thick traveling boots," said Leslie; "and I shouldn't feel fit without a thorough dressing. It won't matter the first night, will it?"
"Leslie Goldthwaite, you're getting slow! Augusta!"
"As true as I live, there is old Marmaduke Wharne!"
"Let Augusta alone for not noticing a question till she chooses to answer it," said Jeannie Hadden, laughing. "And who, pray, is Marmaduke Wharne? With a name like that, if you didn't say 'old,' I should make up my mind to a real hero, right out of a book."
"He's an original. And—yes—he is a hero,—out of a book, too, in his way. I met him at Catskill last summer. He stayed there the whole season, till they shut the house up and drove him down the mountain. Other people came and went, took a look, and ran away; but he was a fixture. He says he always does so,—goes off somewhere and 'finds an Ararat,' and there drifts up and sticks fast. In the winter he's in New York; but that's a needle in a haystack. I never heard of him till I found him at Catskill. He's an English-man, and they say had more to his name once. It was Wharnecliffe, or Wharneleigh, or something, and there's a baronetcy in the family. I don't doubt, myself, that it's his, and that a part of his oddity has been to drop it. He was a poor preacher, years ago; and then, of a sudden, he went out to England, and came back with plenty of money, and since then he's been an apostle and missionary among the poor. That's his winter work; the summers, as I said, he spends in the hills. Most people are half afraid of him; for he's one you'll get the blunt truth from, if you never got it before. But come, there's the gong,—ugh! how they batter it! and we must get through tea and out upon the balcony, to see the sunset and the 'purple light.' There's no time now, girls, for blue grenadines; and it's always vulgar to come out in a hurry with dress in a strange place." And Mrs. Linceford gave a last touch to her hair, straightened the things on her dressing-table, shut down the lid of a box, and led the way from the room.
Out upon the balcony they watched the long, golden going down of the sun, and the creeping shadows, and the purple half-light, and the after-smile upon the crests. And then the heaven gathered itself in its night stillness, and the mountains were grand in the soft gloom, until the full moon came up over Washington.
There had been a few words of recognition with the Thoresby party, and then our little group had betaken itself to the eastern end of the piazza. After a while, one by one, the others strayed away, and they were left almost alone. There was a gathering and a sound of voices about the drawing-room, and presently came the tones of the piano, struck merrily. They jarred, somehow, too; for the ringing, thrilling notes of a horn, blown below, had just gone down the diminishing echoes from cliff to cliff, and died into a listening silence, away over, one could not tell where, beyond the mysterious ramparts.
"It's getting cold," said Jeannie impatiently. "I think we've stayed here long enough. Augusta, don't you mean to get a proper shawl, and put some sort of lace thing on your head, and come in with us for a look, at least, at the hop? Come, Nell; come, Leslie; you might as well be at home as in a place like this, if you're only going to mope."
"It seems to me," said Leslie, more to herself than to Jeannie, looking over upon the curves and ridges and ravines of Mount Washington, showing vast and solemn under the climbing moon, "as if we had got into a cathedral!"
"And the 'great nerve' was being touched! Well,—that don't make me shiver. Besides, I didn't come here to shiver. I've come to have a right good time; and to look at the mountains—as much as is reasonable."
It was a pretty good definition of what Jeannie Hadden thought she had come into the world for. There was subtle indication in it, also, that the shadow of some doubt had not failed to touch her either, and that this with her was less a careless instinct than a resolved conclusion.
Elinor, in her happy good-humor, was ready for either thing: to stay in the night splendor longer, or to go in. It ended in their going in. Outside, the moon wheeled on in her long southerly circuit, the stars trembled in their infinite depths, and the mountains abided in awful might. Within was a piano tinkle of gay music, and demi-toilette, and demi-festival,—the poor, abridged reproduction of city revelry in the inadequate parlor of an unpretending mountain-house, on a three-ply carpet.
Marmaduke Wharne came and looked in at the doorway. Mrs. Linceford rose from her seat upon the sofa close by, and gave him courteous greeting. "The season has begun early, and you seem likely to have a pleasant summer here," she said, with the half-considered meaning of a common fashion of speech.
"No, madam!" answered Marmaduke Wharne, out of his real thought, with a blunt emphasis.
"You think not?" said Mrs. Linceford suavely, in a quiet amusement. "It looks rather like it to-night."
"This?—It's no use for people to bring their bodies to the mountains, if they can't bring souls in them!" And Marmaduke Wharne turned on his heel, and, without further courtesy, strode away.
"What an old Grimgriffinhoof!" cried Jeannie under her breath; and Elinor laughed her little musical laugh of fun.
Mrs. Linceford drew up her shawl, and sat down again, the remnant of a well-bred smile upon her face. Leslie Goldthwaite rather wished old Marmaduke Wharne would come back again and say more. But this first glimpse of him was all they got to-night.
"Blown crystal clear by Freedom's northern wind."
Leslie said the last line of Whittier's glorious mountain sonnet, low, to herself, standing on the balcony again that next morning, in the cold, clear breeze; the magnificent lines of the great earth-masses rearing themselves before her sharply against a cloudless morning sky, defining and revealing themselves anew.
"Freedom's northern wind will take all the wave out of your hair, and give you a red nose!" said Jeannie, coming round from her room, and upon Leslie unaware.
Well, Jeannie was a pretty thing to look at, in her delicate blue cambric morning dress, gracefully braided with white, with the fresh rose of recent sleep in her young cheeks, and the gladness of young life in her dark eyes. One might look away from the mountains to look at her; for, after all, the human beauty is the highest. Only, it must express high things, or at last one turns aside.
"And there comes Marmaduke; he's worse than the north wind. I can't stay to be 'blown clear' by him." And Jeannie, in high, merry good-humor, flitted off. It is easy to be merry and good-humored when one's new dress fits exquisitely, and one's hair hasn't been fractious in the doing up.
Leslie had never, apparently to herself, cared less, somehow, for self and little vanities; it seemed as if it were going to be quite easy for her, now and henceforth, to care most for the nobler things of life. The great mountain enthusiasm had seized her for the first time and swept away before it all meaner thought; and, besides, her trunk had been left behind, and she had nothing to put herself into but her plain brown traveling dress.
She let the wind play with the puffs of her hair, and send some little light locks astray about her forehead. She wrapped her shawl around her, and went and sat where she had sat the night before, at the eastern end of the balcony, her face toward the morning hills, as it had been toward the evening radiance and purple shade. Marmaduke Wharne was moving up and down, stopping a little short of her when he turned, keeping his own solitude as she kept hers. Faces and figures glanced out at the hall-door for an instant each, and the keen salute of the north wind sent them invariably in again. Nobody wanted to go with a red nose or tossed hair to the breakfast-table; and breakfast was almost ready. But presently Mrs. Linceford came, and, seeing Mr. Wharne, who always interested and amused her, she ventured forth, bidding him good-morning.
"Good-morning, madam. It is a good morning."
"A little sharp, isn't it?" she said, shrugging her shoulders together, irresolute about further lingering. "Ah, Leslie? Let me introduce you to the Reverend Mr. Wharne. My young friend and traveling companion, Miss Leslie Goldthwaite, Mr. Wharne. Have you two driven everybody else off, or is it the nipping air?"
"I think it is either that they have not said their prayers this morning, or that they don't know their daily bread when they see it. They think it is only saleratus cakes and maple molasses."
"As cross this morning as last night?" the lady questioned playfully.
"Not cross at all, Mrs. Linceford. Only jarred upon continually by these people we have here just now. It was different two years ago. But Jefferson is getting to be too well known. The mountain places are being spoiled, one after another."
"People will come. You can't help that."
"Yes, they will come, and frivel about the gates, without ever once entering in. 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity.'"
Leslie Goldthwaite's face quickened and glowed; they were the psalm lines that had haunted her thought yesterday, among the opening visions of the hill-country. Marmaduke Wharne bent his keen eyes upon her, from under their gray brows, noting her narrowly. She wist not that she was noted, or that her face shone.
"One soul here, at least!" was what the stern old man said to himself in that moment.
He was cynical and intolerant here among the mountains, where he felt the holy places desecrated, and the gift of God unheeded. In the haunts of city misery and vice,—misery and vice shut in upon itself, with no broad outlook to the heavens,—he was tender, with the love of Christ himself.
"'My house shall be called the house of prayer, but these have made it a den of thieves.' It is true not alone of the temples built with hands."
"Is that fair? How do you know, Mr. Wharne?" The sudden, impetuous questions come from Leslie Goldthwaite.
"I see—what I see."
"The whole?" said Leslie, more restrainedly. She remembered her respect for age and office. Yet she felt sorely tempted, shy, proud girl as she was, to take up cudgels for her friends, at least. Mr. Wharne liked her the better for that.
"They turn away from this, with five words,—the toll of custom,—or half a look, when the wind is north; and they go in to what you saw last night."
"After all, isn't it just enjoyment, either way? Mayn't one be as selfish as the other? People were kind, and bright, and pleasant with each other last night. Is that a bad thing?"
"No, little girl, it is not." And Marmaduke Wharne came nearer to Leslie, and looked at her with a gentle look that was wonderfully beautiful upon his stern gray face. "Only, I would have a kindness that should go deep,—coming from a depth. There are two things for live men and women to do: to receive, from God; and to give out, to their fellows. One cannot be done without the other. No fruit, without the drinking of the sunshine. No true tasting of the sunshine that is not gathering itself toward the ripening of fruit."
Here it was again; more teaching to the self-same point,—as we always do get it, with a seeming strangeness, whether it be for mind only, or for soul. You never heard of a new name, or fact in history, that did not come out again presently in some fresh or further mention or allusion. It is the tender training of Him before whom our life is of so great value.
At this moment, the gong sounded again; saleratus cakes and maple molasses were ready, and they all went in.
Leslie saw Imogen Thoresby change seats with her mother, because the draught from the door was less in her place; and take the pale top cake from the plate, leaving a brown one for the mother. Everybody likes brown cakes best; and it was very unbecoming to sit opposite a great, unshaded window, to say nothing of the draught. Surely a little blossom peeped out here from under the leaf. Leslie thought Imogen Thoresby might be forgiven for having done her curls so elaborately, and put on such an elegant wrapper; even for having ventured only a half-look out at the balcony door, when she found the wind was north. The parable was already teaching her both ways.
I do not mean to preach upon every page. I have begun by trying to tell you how a great influencing thought was given into Leslie Goldthwaite's life, and began to unravel for her perplexing questions that had troubled her,—questions that come, I think, to many a young girl just entering upon the world, as they came to her; how, in the simple history of her summer among the mountains, a great deal solved itself and grew clear. I would like to succeed in making you divine this, as you follow out the simple history itself.
"Just in time!" cried Jeannie Hadden, running up into Leslie's room at mid-afternoon that day. "There's a stage over from Littleton, and your trunk is being brought up this minute."
"And the hair-trunk and the mail-bag came on, too, after all, and the queerest people with them!" added Elinor, entering behind her.
They both stood back and were silent, as a man came heavily along the passage with the trunk upon his shoulder. He set it down and unfastened the straps, and in a minute more was gone, and Leslie had the lid open. All there, just as it had been in her own room at home three days ago. Her face brightened, seeing her little treasures again. She had borne it well; she had been able to enjoy without them; but she was very glad that they were come.
"It's nice that dinner is at lunch-time here, and that nobody dresses until now. Make haste, and get on something pretty. Augusta won't let us get out organdies, but we're determined on the blue grenadines. It's awfully hot,—hot enough for anything. Do your hair over the high rats, just for once."
"I always get into such a fuss with them, and I can't bear to waste the time. How will this do?" Leslie unpinned from its cambric cover a gray iron barege, with a narrow puffing round the hem of the full skirt and the little pointed bertha cape. With it lay bright cherry ribbons for the neck and hair.
"Lovely! Make haste and come down to our room." And having to dress herself, Jeannie ran off again, and Elinor shut the door.
It was nice to have on everything fresh; to have got her feet into rosetted slippers instead of heavy balmoral boots; to feel the lightness and grace of her own movement as she went downstairs and along the halls in floating folds of delicate barege, after wearing the close, uncomfortable traveling-dress, with the sense of dust and fatigue that clung about it; to have a little flutter of bright ribbon in her hair, that she knew was, as Elinor said, "the prettiest part of her." It was pleasant to see Mrs. Linceford looked pleased, as she opened her door to her, and to have her say, "You always do get on exactly the right thing!" There was a fresh feeling of pleasure even in looking over at Washington, sun-lighted and shadowed in his miles of heights and depths, as she sat by the cool east window, feeling quite her dainty self again. Dress is but the outside thing, as beauty is but "skin deep;" but there is a deal of inevitable skin-sensation, pleasurable or uncomfortable, and Leslie had a good right to be thoroughly comfortable now.
The blinds to the balcony window were closed; that led to a funny little episode presently,—an odd commentary on the soul-and-body question, as it had come up to them in graver fashion.
Outside, to two chairs just under the window, came a couple newly arrived,—the identical proprietors of the exchanged luggage. It was an elderly countryman, and his home-bred, matter-of-fact wife. They, too, had had their privations and anxieties, and the outset of their evidently unusual travels had been marred in its pleasure. In plain truth, the good woman was manifestly soured by her experience.
Right square before the blinds she turned her back, unconscious of the audience within, lifted her elbows, like clothes-poles, to raise her draperies, and settled herself with a dissatisfied flounce, that expressed beforehand what she was about to put in words. "For my part," she announced deliberately, "I think the White Mountains is a clear—hummux!"
"Good large hummocks, anyway," returned her companion.
"You know what I mean. 'T ain't worth comin' for. Losin' baggage, an' everything. We'd enough sight better ha' stayed at Plymouth. An' if it hadn't 'a' ben for your dunderheadedness, givin' up the checks an' never stoppin' to see what was comin' of 'em, trunks or hencoops, we might. There's somethin' to see, there. That little bridge leadin' over to the swings and seats across the river was real pretty and pleasant. And the cars comin' in an' startin' off, right at the back door, made it lively. I alwers did like to see passin.'"
The attitudes inside the blinds were something, at this moment. Mrs. Linceford, in a spasm of suppressed laughter herself, held her handkerchief to her lips with one hand, and motioned peremptory silence to the girls with the other. Jeannie was noiselessly clapping her hands, and dancing from one toe to the other with delight. Leslie and Elinor squeezed each other's fingers lightly, and leaned forward together, their faces brimming over with fun; and the former whispered with emphatic pantomime to Mrs. Linceford, "If Mr. Wharne were only here!"
"You've ben worried," said the man. "And you've ben comin' up to 'em gradooal. You don't take 'em in. If one of these 'ere hills was set out in our fields to home, you'd think it was something more than a hummock, I guess."
"Well, why ain't they, then? It's the best way to put things where you can see 'em to an advantage. They're all in the way of each other here, and don't show for nothing to speak of. Worried! I guess I hev ben! I shan't git over it till I've got home an' ben settled down a week. It's a mercy I've ever laid eyes agin on that bran'-new black alpacky!"