Transcriber's note: The original text contained typographical errors and spelling inconsistencies. Where possible these have been corrected; many could not be resolved and remain as they appeared in the source text.
FOUR GIRLS AT CHAUTAUQUA
Author of "Chautauqua Girls at Home," "Ruth Erskine's Crosses," "Judge Burnham's Daughters," "The Hall in The Grove," "Eighty-Seven," etc.
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCED. CHAPTER II. THE QUESTION DISCUSSED. CHAPTER III. ENTERING THE CURRENT. CHAPTER IV. FAIRPOINT. CHAPTER V. UNREST. CHAPTER VI. FEASTS. CHAPTER VII. TABLE TALK. CHAPTER VIII. "AT EVENING TIME IT SHALL BE BRIGHT." CHAPTER IX. FLEEING. CHAPTER X. HOW THE "FLITTING" ENDED. CHAPTER XI. HEART TOUCHES. CHAPTER XII. FLOSSY AT SCHOOL. CHAPTER XIII. "CROSS PURPOSES." CHAPTER XIV. THE NEW LESSON. CHAPTER XV. GREAT MEN. CHAPTER XVI. WAR OF WORDS. CHAPTER XVII. GETTING READY TO LIVE. CHAPTER XVIII. THE SILENT WITNESS. CHAPTER XIX. AN OLD STORY. CHAPTER XX. PEOPLE WHO, "HAVING EYES, SEE NOT." CHAPTER XXI. A "SENSE OF DUTY." CHAPTER XXII. ONE MINUTE'S WORK. CHAPTER XXIII. "I'VE BEEN REDEEMED." CHAPTER XXIV. SWORD THRUSTS. CHAPTER XXV. SERMONS IN CHALK. CHAPTER XXVI. "THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM." CHAPTER XXVII. UNFINISHED MUSIC. CHAPTER XXVIII. MENTAL PROBLEMS. CHAPTER XXIX. WAITING. CHAPTER XXX. SETTLED QUESTIONS. CHAPTER XXXI. THE BEGINNING OF THE END. CHAPTER XXXII. THE END OF THE BEGINNING.
Eurie Mitchell shut the door with a bang and ran up the stairs two steps at a time. She nearly always banged doors, and was always in a hurry. She tapped firmly at the door just at the head of the stairs; then she pushed it open and entered.
"Are you going?" she said, and her face was all in a glow of excitement and pleasure.
The young lady to whom she spoke measured the velvet to see if it was long enough for the hat she was binding, raised her eyes for just an instant to the eager face before her, and said "Good-morning."
"Ruth Erskine! what are you trimming your hat for? Didn't it suit? Say, are you going? Why in the world don't you tell me? I have been half wild all the morning."
Ruth Erskine smiled. "Which question shall I answer first? What a perfect interrogation point you are, Eurie. My hats never suit, you know; this one was worse than usual. This velvet is a pretty shade, isn't it? Am I going to Chautauqua, do you mean? I am sure I don't know. I haven't thought much about it. Do you really suppose it will be worth while?"
Eurie stamped her foot impatiently. "How provoking you are! Haven't thought of it, and here I have been talking and coaxing all the morning. Father thinks it is a wild scheme, of course, and sees no sense in spending so much money; but I'm going for all that. I don't have a frolic once in an age, and I have set my heart on this. Just think of living in the woods for two whole weeks! camping out, and doing all sorts of wild things. I'm just delighted."
Miss Erskine sewed thoughtfully for some seconds, then she said:
"Why, there is nothing in the world to hinder my going if I want to. As to the money, I suppose one could hardly spend as much there as at Long Branch or Saratoga, and of course I should go somewhere. But the point is, what do I want to go for?"
"Why, just to be together, and be in the woods, and live in a tent, and do nothing civilized for a fortnight. It is the nicest idea that ever was."
"And should we go to the meetings?" Miss Erskine asked, still speaking thoughtfully, and as if she were undecided.
"Why, yes, of course, now and then. Though for that matter I suppose father is right enough when he says that precious few people go for the sake of the meetings. He says it is a grand jollification, with a bit of religion for the background. But for that matter the less religion they have the better, and so I told him."
At this point there was a faint little knock at the door, and Eurie sprang to open it, saying as she went: "That is Flossy, I know; she always gives just such little pussy knocks as that." The little lady who entered fitted her name perfectly. She was small and fair, blue-eyed, flossy yellow curls lying on her shoulders, her voice was small and sweet, almost too sweet or too soft, that sort of voice that could change when slight occasion offered into a whine or positive tearfulness. She was greeted with great glee by Eurie, and in her more quiet way by Miss Erskine.
"I'm going," she said, with a soft little laugh, and she sank down among the cushions of the sofa, while her white morning dress floated around her like a cloud. "Charlie thinks it is silly, and Kit thinks it is sillier, and mamma thinks it is the very silliest thing I ever did yet; but for all that I am going—that is, if the rest of you are." Which, by the way, was always this little Flossy's manner of speech. She was going to do or not to do, speak or keep silent, approve or condemn, exactly as the mind which was for the time being nearest to her chose to sway her.
"Good!" said Eurie, softly clapping her hands. "I didn't think it of you, Flossy; I thought you were too much of a mouse. Now, Ruth, you will go, won't you? As for Marion, there is no knowing whether she will go or not. I don't see now she can afford it myself any more than I can; but, of course, that is her own concern. We can go anyway, whether she does or not—only I don't want to, I want her along. Suppose we all go down and see her; it is Saturday, she will be at home, and then we can begin to make our preparations. It is really quite time we were sure of what we are going to do."
By dint of much coaxing and argument Ruth was prevailed upon to leave her fascinating brown hat with its brown velvet trimmings, and in the course of the next half hour the trio were on their way down Park Street, intent on a call on Miss Marion Wilbur. Park Street was a simple, quiet, unpretending street, narrow and short; the houses were two-storied and severely plain. In one of the plainest of these, wearing an unmistakable boarding-house look, in a back room on the second floor, the object of their search, in a dark calico dress, with her sleeves rolled above her elbows, had her hands immersed in a wash-bowl of suds, and was doing up linen collars. She was one of those miserable creatures in this weary world, a teacher in a graded school, and her one day of rest was filled with all sorts of washing, ironing and mending work, until she had fairly come to groan over the prospect of Saturday because of the burden of work which it brought. She welcomed her callers without taking her hands from the suds; she was as quiet in her way as Ruth Erskine was in hers.
This time it was Flossy who asked the important question: "Are you going?"
Marion answered as promptly as though the question had been decided for a week.
"Yes, certainly I am going. I thought I told you that when we talked it over before. I am washing out my collars to have them ready. Ruth, are you going to take a trunk?"
Ruth roused herself from the contemplation of her brown gloves to say with a little start:
"How you girls do rush things. Why, I haven't decided yet that I am going."
"Oh, you'll go," Marion Wilbur said. "The question is, are we to take trunks—or, rather, are you to? because I know I shall not. I'm going to wear my black suit. Put it on on Tuesday morning, or Monday is it that we start? and wear it until we return. I may take it off, to be sure, while I sleep, but even that is uncertain, as we may not get a place to sleep in; but for once in my life I am not going to be bored with baggage."
"I shall take mine," Ruth Erskine said with determination. "I don't intend to be bored by being without baggage. It is horrid, I think, to go away with only one dress, and feel obliged to wear it whether it is suited to the weather or not, or whatever happens to it. Eurie, what are you laughing at?"
"I am interested in the phenomena of Marion Wilbur being the first to introduce the dress question. I venture to say not one of us has thought of that phase of the matter up to this present moment."
While the talk went on the collars and cuffs were carefully washed and rinsed, and presently Marion, with her hands only a trifle pinker for the operation, was ready to lean against a chair and discuss ways and means. Her long apprenticeship in school-rooms had given her the habit of standing instead of sitting, even when there was no occasion for the former.
If these four young ladies had been creatures of the brain, gotten up expressly for the purpose of illustrating extremes of character, instead of being flesh and blood creations, I doubt whether they could have better illustrated the different types of young ladyhood. There was Ruth Erskine, dwelling in solitary grandeur in her royal home, as American royalty goes, the sole daughter, the sole child indeed of the house, a girl who had no idea of life except as a place in which to have a serenely good time, and teach everybody to do as she desired them to. Money was a commonplace matter-of-course article, neither to be particularly prized nor despised; it was convenient, of course, and must be an annoyance when one had to do without it; but of that, by practical experience, she knew nothing. Yet Ruth was by no means a "pink-and-white" girl without character; on the contrary, she had plenty of character, but hitherto it had been frittered away on nothings, until it looked as much like nothing as it could. She was the sort of person whom education and circumstances of the right sort would have developed into splendor, but the development had not taken place. Now you are not to suppose that she was uneducated; that would be a libel on Madame La Fonte and her fashionable seminary. She had graduated with honor; taken the first prizes in everything. She knew all about seminaries; so do I; and if you do, you are ready to admit that the development had not come. There is constantly occurring something to take back. While I write I have in mind an institution where the earnest desire sought after and prayed for is the higher development, not alone of the intellect, but of the heart: where the wonderful woman who is at its head said to me a few years ago:
"If a lady has spent three years under my care, and graduated, and gone out from me not a Christian, I feel like going down on my knees in bitterness of soul, and crying, 'Lord, I have failed in the trust thou didst give me." But the very fact that the word "wonderful" fits that woman's name is proof enough that such institutions as hers are rare, and it was not at that seminary that Ruth Erskine graduated. She was spending her life in elegant pursuits that meant nothing, those of them which did not mean worse than nothing, and the only difference between her and a hundred others around her was that she knew perfectly well that they all amounted to nothing, and didn't hesitate to say so, therefore she earned the title of "queer." At the same time she did not hesitate to lead the whirl around this continuous nothing, therefore she occupied that perilous position of being liked and admired and envied, all in one. Very few people loved her, and queerly enough she knew that too, and instead of resenting it realized that she could not see why they should. She was, moreover, remarkably careful as to her leading after all, and those who followed were sure of being led in an eminently respectable and fashionable way. Her most intimate friend was Eurie Mitchell, which was not strange when one considered what remarkable opposites in character they were. Eureka J. Mitchell was the respectable sounding name that the young lady bore, but the full name would have sounded utterly strange to her ears, the wild little word "Eurie" seeming to have been made on purpose for her. She was the eldest daughter of a large, good-natured, hard-working, much-bewildered family. They never knew just where they belonged. They went to the First Church, which for itself should have settled their position, since it was the opinion of most of its members that it was organized especially that the "first families" might have a church-home. But they occupied a very front seat, by reason of their inability to pay for a middle one, which was bad for "position," as First Church gentility went. What was surprising to them was how they ever happened to have the money to pay for that seat; but, let me record it to their honor, they always happened to have it. They were honest. They ought to have been called "the happen family," by reason of their inability to tell how much or how little they might happen to have to live on, whether they could afford three new dresses apiece or none at all. The fact being that it depended on the amount of sickness there was in Dr. Mitchell's beat whether there were to be luxuries or simple bare necessities, with some wonderment as to how even those were to be paid.
Eurie was the most light-hearted and indifferent of this free-and-easy family, who always had roast turkey when it was to be had, and who could laugh and chat merrily over warmed-up meat and johnny-cake, or even no meat at all, when such days came. How she ever came to think that she could go to Chautauqua was a matter of surprise to herself; but it happened to have been a sickly summer among the wealthy people, and large bills had come in—the next thing was to spend them. Chautauqua was a silly place to do it in, to be sure; that was Dr. Mitchell's idea, and the family laughed together over Eurie's last wild notion; but for all that they good-naturedly prepared to let her carry it out. Just how full of fun and mischief and actual wildness Eurie was, a two-weeks sojourn at Chautauqua will be likely to develop; for before that conversation at Marion's was concluded they decided that they were really going. Why Marion went, puzzled the girls very much, puzzled herself somewhat. She was her own mistress, had neither father to direct nor sister to consult. She had an uncle and aunt who lived where she called "home," and with whom she spent her vacations, but they were the poorest of hard-working country people, who stood in awe of Marion and her education, and by no means ventured to interfere with her plans. Marion was as independent in her way as Ruth was in hers, but they were very different ways. Ruth, for instance, indulged her independence in the matter of dress, by spending a small fortune in looking elegantly unlike everybody else, and straightway created a frantic desire in her set to look as nearly like her as possible. But no one cared to look like Marion, in her severely plain black or brown suits, with almost and sometimes quite no trimmings at all on them. It was agreed that she looked remarkably well, but so unlike any one else they didn't see how she could bring herself to dressing so. She laughed when this was hinted to her, and got what comfort she could out of the fact that she was considered "odd." In a certain way she ruled them all, Ruth Erskine included, though that young lady never suspected it. The queerest one of this company was little Flossy Shipley—queer to be found in just such company, I mean. She was the petted darling of a wealthy home, a younger daughter, a baby in their eyes, to be loved and cherished, and allowed to have her own sweet and precious way even when it included such a strange proceeding as a two weeks in the woods, all because that strange girl in the ward school that Flossy had taken such an unaccountable fancy for was going. This family were First Church people, too, and capable of buying a seat very near the centre, in fact but a few removes from the Erskine pew, which was, of course, the wealthy one of the church. The Shipley pew was rarely honored by all the members of the family, and indeed the pastor had no special cause for alarm if several Sundays went by without an appearance from one of them. A variety of trifles might happen to cause such a state of things, from which you will infer that they were not a church-going family. Another strange representative for Chautauqua!
Now how did those four girls come to be friends? Oh, dreadful! You don't expect me to be able to account for human friendships I hope, especially for school-girl friendships? There is no known rule that will apply to such idiosyncracies. They had been in school together, oven Marion Wilbur, with the indomitable energy which characterized her, had managed one term of Madame La Fonte's enormous bills, and with the close of the term found herself strangely enough drawn into this strange medley of character that moved in such different circles, and yet called themselves friends. You are to understand that though the same church received these girls on Sunday, yet the actual circle in which their lives whirled was as unlike as possible. The Erskines were the cream, cultured, traveled, wealthy, aristocratic as to blood and as to manners, literary in the sense that they bought rare books, and knew why they were rare. The Mitchells had a calling acquaintance with their family because Dr. Mitchell was their chosen physician, but that came to pass through an accident, and not many of the doctor's patrons were of just the same stamp. This family never went to the Erskine entertainments, never were invited to go to the other entertainments starting from the same circle, yet they had their friends and many of them. The Shipleys were free-and-easy, cordial, social, friendly people, who bought many books and pictures, and were prominent in fairs and festivals, and were popular everywhere, but were not, after all, of the Erskine stamp. Finally came Marion, alone, no position any where, save as she ruled in the most difficult room in the most difficult ward in the city. A worker, known to be such; a manager, recognized as one who could make incongruous elements meet and marshal into working order. In that capacity she found her place even in the First Church, for they had fairs and festivals, and oyster suppers, and other trials even in the First Church; and there was much work to be done, and Marion Wilbur could work.
And these four girls were going to Chautauqua—were to start on Monday morning, August 2, 1875.
THE QUESTION DISCUSSED.
Rev. Dr. Dennis and Rev. Mr. Harrison met just at the corner of Howard and Clinton Streets, and stopped for a chat. Dr. Dennis was pastor of the First Church, and Mr. Harrison was pastor of the Fourth, and some of the sheep belonging to these respective flocks supposed the two churches to be rivals, but the pastors thereof never thought of such a thing. On the contrary, they were always getting up excuses for coming in contact with each other; and woe to the work that was waiting for each when they chanced to meet of a morning on some shady corner.
"You are to be represented, I hear, at the coming assembly," said Mr. Harrison, as they shook hands in that hearty way which says, as plainly as words, "How very glad I am to see you!"
Dr. Dennis shrugged his shoulders.
"Such a representation!" he said. "If the entire congregation had been canvassed, it would have been impossible to have made more curious selections. I do wish we could have some real workers from the different churches."
"Miss Erskine isn't a member of the church, is she?"
"None of them are members, nor Christians; nor have they an atom of interest in any such matters. They are going for pure fun, and nothing else."
"Now perhaps they will happily disappoint you by coming back with a wholesome interest aroused in Sunday-school work, and will really go into the work for themselves."
"I don't want them," Dr. Dennis said, stoutly. "I wouldn't give a dime for a hundred such workers; they are an injury to the cause. I want Sunday-school workers who have a personal, vital sense of the worth of souls, and a consuming desire to see them converted. All other Sunday-school teaching is aimless."
Mr. Harrison looked thoughtful.
"We haven't many such, I am afraid," he said, gravely; but I agree with you in thinking that they should at least be Christians. Still, I suppose that it is not impossible that some one of these ladies may be converted."
"Not at Chautauqua," Dr. Dennis said, as one who had looked into the matter and knew all about it. "I am not entirely in sympathy with that meeting, anyway; or, that is, I am and I am not, all at once. I think it would be a grand place for you and me. I haven't the least doubt but that we would be refreshed, bodily and mentally, and, for that matter, spiritually. If the whole world were converted I should vote for Chautauqua with a loud voice; but I am more than fearful as to the influence of such meetings on the masses—the unconverted world. They will go there for recreation. Their whole aim will be to have a glorious frolic away from the restraints of ordinary home-life. They will have no interest in the meetings, no sympathy with the central thought that has drawn the workers together, and the tendency will be to frolic through it all.
"The truth is, there will be such a mixing of things that I actually fear the effect will be wholesale demoralization. At the same time I am interested in the idea, and am watching it with anxiety. Since I have heard of the delegation from my own church I have been more convinced still of the evil influences. It makes me gloomy to think of the fruitful field such a place will be for the fertile brain of that little Eurie Mitchell. She is too wild now for civilized life The four walls of the church and the sacred associations connected with the building serve to keep her only half controlled when she is actually attending Sabbath service. There will be nothing to control her in the woods, and she will lose what little reverence she possesses. I tell you, the more I think of it, the more certain I am that for such people these great religious jubilees, holding over the Sabbath, do harm."
"You put it more gently than our friend Mr. Archer," Mr. Harrison said, smiling. "He is in a condition of absolute scorn. He gives none of them credit for honesty or genuine interest. He says it is a running away from work, a regular shirking of what they ought to be doing, and going off into the woods to have a good time, and, by way of gulling the public, they pretend to season it with religion."
Dr. Dennis laughed.
"That sounds precisely like him, and is quite as logical as one could expect, coming from that source," he said, indifferently. "Why doesn't it occur to his dull brain, that thinks itself such a sharp one, that the leaders thereof are men responsible to no one save God and their own consciences for the way in which they spend their time? There is nothing earthly to hinder their going to the woods, and staying three months if they please to do so."
"Oh, but I have left out one of the important reasons for the meeting. It is to make money; a grand speculation, whereby the fortunes of these same leaders are to be made at the expense of the poor victims whom they gather about them."
Again Dr. Dennis' shoulders went upward in that peculiar but expressive shrug.
"Of all the precarious and dangerous ways of making a fortune, I should think that went ahead," he said, still laughing. "What an idea now! Shouldn't you suppose people with common sense would have some faint idea of the immense expenses to be involved in such an undertaking, and the tremendous risks to be run? If they succeed in meeting their expenses this year I think they will have cause for rejoicing."
"The point that puzzles me," Mr. Harrison said, "is what particular commandment would they be breaking if they should actually happen to have twenty-five cents to put in their pockets when the meeting closed; though, as you say, I doubt the probability. But they force no one to come; it is a matter for individual decision, and they render a fair equivalent for every cent of money spent; at least, if the spender thinks it is not a fair equivalent he is foolish to go; so why should they not make enough to justify them in giving their time to this work?"
"Of course, of course," assented Dr. Dennis, heartily; "they ought to; none but an idiot would think otherwise."
It is to be presumed that both these gentlemen had gotten so far away from the name that was quoted as holding these views as to forget all about him, else they certainly would not have been guilty of calling a brother minister an idiot, however much his arguments might suggest the thought.
"But," continued Dr. Dennis, "my trouble lies, as I said, in the results. I have no sort of doubt that great good will be done, and I have the same feeling of certainty that harm will be done. Take it in my own church. We are so situated, or we think ourselves so situated, that not a single one of the earnest, hearty workers who would come back to us with a blessing for themselves and us, is able to go; instead, we have four representatives who will turn the whole thing into ridicule, and dish it up for the entertainment of their friends during the coming winter.
"That Miss Erskine seems to have a special talent for getting up Thursday evening entertainments, to invite our people who are supposed to be interested in the prayer-meeting, but who rarely fail to make it convenient to go to the party. I imagine a bevy of them being entertained by Eurie Mitchell. She can do it, and she is looking forward to just that sort of thing, for I heard her rejoicing over it. That girl will be injured by Chautauqua; I know it as well as though I already saw it; and the question with me is, whether the amount of evil done will not overbalance the good. At the same time I am inconsistent enough to wish with all my heart that I could be there."
"What about Miss Shipley? Perhaps relief will come to you from that quarter."
Those shoulders again.
"She is nothing in the world but a little pink feather, and she blows precisely in the direction of the strongest current; and Satan looks out for her with untiring patience that the wind shall blow in the exact direction where it can do her the most harm. Going to Chautauqua with the influences that will surround her, with Miss Erskine and Miss Wilbur on the one side, and Eurie Mitchell on the other, will be the very best thing that Satan can do next for her, and he doubtless knows it."
"I do not know Miss Wilbur at all. Is she also one of your flock?"
Dr. Dennis' face was dark and sad.
"She is an infidel," he said, decidedly. "She does not call herself such; she wouldn't like to be known as such, because it would be likely to affect her position in the school. But the name is rightly hers, and she would do less harm in the world if she owned it."
"It is an extraordinary representation, I declare," Mr. Harrison said, a little startled. "I have been half inclined to be envious of you because you were to hear so directly from the meeting, but I believe on the whole I shall be quite as well off without any delegates as you will with them."
"Better, decidedly. I am distressed at the whole thing. It will result disastrously for them all, you mark my words."
And having settled the affairs at Chautauqua, apparently beyond all repeal, the brethren shook hands again and went to their studies.
Meantime the express train was giving occasional premonitory snorts, and the four young ladies who had been so thoroughly discussed were in various stages of unrest, waiting for the moment of departure. A looker-on would have been able to come to marked conclusions concerning the different characters of these young ladies, simply from their manner of dress. Flossy Shipley was the one to look at first. That was a very good description of her usual style—something to look at. She had chosen for her traveling dress a pale, lavender cashmere, of that delightful shade that resents a drop of water as promptly as a drop of oil. It was trimmed with a contrasting shade of silk, and trimmed profusely; yards of gathered trimming, headed by yards of flat pleating, and that in turn headed by yards of folds. The dainty sack and hat, and the four-buttoned gloves, were as faultless as to fit and as delicate in color as the dress. In short, Miss Flossy looked as though she might be ready for an evening concert. Moreover, she felt as if she were, or at least she had an uncomfortable consciousness as to clothes. She kept a nervous lookout for the lower flounce whenever the crowd of people surged her way, and brushed vigorously at the arm of the seat she had chosen ere she dared to rest her arm on it. Evidently she had given herself over to the martyrdom of thinking of and caring for clothes during this journey, and I don't know whether there is a greater martyrdom made out of a trifle than that. It was one of Flossy's besetting sins, this arraying herself in glory, and making wrinkles in her face in the vain attempt to keep so. Not that she was particularly anxious to save the wear and tear, only she hated to look spotted and wrinkled, and she could never seem to learn the simple lesson of wearing the things best suited to the occasion.
Standing near her, toying carelessly with her traveling fan, and looking as though the thought of dress was something that had passed utterly by her, was Miss Erskine. She looked like one of those ladies whom gentlemen in their wisdom are always selecting, pointing them out as models. "So tasteful and appropriate, and withal so simple in their dress."
Let me tell you about her dress. It was plain dark brown, precisely the shade of brown that the fashion of the season required. It was of soft, lusterless silk. It was very simply made, almost severely plain, as Miss Erskine knew became a traveler. In fact, elegant simplicity marked her entire toilet, everything matched, everything was fresh and spotless, and arranged with an eye to remaining so. I am willing to concede that she was faultlessly dressed, and it was a real pleasure to see her thus. But I am also anxious to have the gentlemen understand that that same simple attire represented more money than two wardrobes like Flossy Shipley's. It is often so with those delightfully plain and simple dresses that attract so many people. In fact, it might as well be admitted, since we are on that subject, that elegant simplicity is sometimes a very expensive article.
Eurie Mitchell was neither particularly elegant nor noted for simplicity, yet her dress was not without character. We see enough of that sort to become familiar with what it means. Its language is simply a straightened purse, necessitating the putting together of shades that do not quite harmonize, and trimming in a way that will cover the most spots and take the least material. That was Eurie's dress. Skirt of one kind and overdress of another. A very economical fashion, and one not destined to last long, because of its economy, and the fact that very elegant ladies rather curl their lips at it, and call it the "patchwork style." Eurie from necessity rather than choice adopted it, and it was also her misfortune rather than her taste that the colors were too light to be really according to the mode. Her gloves were of an entirely different shade from the rest of the attire, and were mended with a shade of silk that did not quite match Altogether, Eurie's dress did not suit Miss Erskine. But, for that matter, neither did it suit herself, with this difference, that it was, after all, a matter of minor importance to her.
Miss Wilbur's dress can be disposed of in a single sentence: It was a black alpaca skirt, not too long, and severely plain, covered to within three inches with a plain brown linen polonaise; her black hat with a band of velvet about it, fastened by a single heavy knot, and her somewhat worn black gloves completed her toilet, and she looked every inch a lady. The very people who would have curled their aristocratic lips at Eurie's attempt at style, turned and gave Miss Wilbur a second thoughtful respectful look.
There was a Mr. Wayne who deserves attention. He possessed himself of Miss Erskine's fan, and played with it carelessly, while he said:
"You are a queer set. What are you all going off there for, to bury yourselves in the woods? I don't believe one of you has an idea what you are about. And it is the very height of the season, too."
"That is the trouble," Miss Erskine said, with a little toss of her handsome head. "We are sick of the season, and want to get away from it. I want something new. That is precisely what I am going for."
"I have no doubt you will find it," and the gentleman gave a disdainful shrug to his shoulders. "Out in the backwoods attending a hallelujah meeting! I am sure I envy you."
"You don't know what we will find," Eurie Mitchell said, with a defiant air. "Nor what may happen to us before we return. We may meet our destinies. I have no doubt they are lurking for us behind some of the trees. Just you meet the evening train of Wednesday, two weeks hence, and see if you can not discover the finger of fate having been busy with us. Wonderful things can happen in two weeks."
Just then the train gave its last warning howl, and Mr. Wayne made rapid good-bys, a trifle more lingering in the case of Miss Erskine than the others, and with that prophetic sentence still ringing in his ears he departed. And the four girls were actually en route for Chautauqua.
ENTERING THE CURRENT.
It is a queer thought, not to say a startling one, what very trifles about us are constantly giving object lessons on our characters. Those four girls, as they arranged themselves in the cars for their all-day journey conveyed four different impressions to the critical looker-on. In the first place they each selected and took possession of an entire seat, though the cars were filling rapidly, and many an anxious woman and heavily laden man looked reproachfully at them. They took these whole seats from entirely different stand-points—Miss Erskine because she was a finished and selfish traveler; and although she did not belong to that absolutely unendurable class, who occupy room that is not theirs until a conductor interferes, she yet regularly appropriated and kept the extra seat engaged with her flounces until she was asked outright to vacate it by one more determined than the rest. She hated company and avoided it when possible. Flossy Shipley was willing, nay, ready, to give up her extra seat the moment a person of the right sort appeared; not simply a cleanly, respectable individual—they might pass by the dozens—but one who attracted her, who was elegantly dressed and stylish looking. Flossy would endure being crowded if only the person who did it was stylish. Miss Wilbur was indifferent to the whole race of human beings; she cared as little as possible whether a well-dressed lady stood or sat; so far as she was concerned they were apt to do the former. She neither frowned nor smiled when the time came that she was obliged to move; she simply moved, with as unconcerned and indifferent a face as she had worn all the due. As for Eurie Mitchell, she took an entire seat, as she did most other things, from pure heedlessness; any one was welcome who wanted to sit with her, and whether it was a servant girl or a princess was a matter of no moment. These various shades of feeling were nearly as fully expressed in their faces as though they had spoken; and yet they did not in the least comprehend their own actions. This is only an illustration; it was so in a hundred little nothings during the day. Not a window was raised or closed for their benefit, not a turn of a blind made, that a close student of human nature could not have seen the distinct and ruling differences in their temperaments, no matter from what point of the compass they started. In the course of time they reached East Buffalo.
"Now for our dinners!" Eurie said, as the whistle shrieked a warning that the station was being neared. "What are we going to do?"
"We are going to eat them, I presume, as usual," Miss Erskine said in her most indifferent tone. I should explain that long before this the girls had grown weary of the separate seats, and by dint of much planning and the good-natured removal of two fellow passengers to other seats had accomplished an arrangement that should naturally have been enjoyed from the beginning: that of a turned seat, and being their own seat-mates.
"But I mean," Eurie said, in no wise quenched by what was a common enough manner in Miss Erskine, "are we to get a lunch, or are we to go in to a regular dinner?"
"If you mean what I am going to do, I shall most assuredly have a 'regular' dinner, as you call it. I have no fancy for eating things thrown together in a bag."
"The bag will be the most economical process for all that," Eurie said, laughing at Miss Erskine's disdainful face.
"I presume very likely; but as I did not start on this trip for the purpose of studying social economy, I shall vote for the dinner."
"And I shall take to the bag method," Eurie said, decidedly. Opposition always decided her. So it did Flossy, though in a different way; she was sure to side with the stronger party.
"It would be pleasanter for us all to keep together," she began in a doubtful tone, looking first at Miss Erskine and then at Eurie.
"But since, according to Eurie's and my decided differences, it is impossible for us to do the 'better' thing, which of the two worse things are you going to do?" This Miss Erskine said with utmost good nature, but with utmost determination—as much as it would have taken to carry out a good idea in the face of opposition.
"Oh, I think I'll go with you." Flossy said it hastily, as if she feared that she might appear foolish in the eyes of this young lady by having fancied anything else.
"Very well—then it remains for Marion to choose her company," Eurie said, composedly.
Marion held up a paper bundle.
"It is already chosen," she said, promptly. "It is a slice of bread and butter, with a very thin slice of fat ham, which I never eat, and a greasy doughnut, the whole done up in a brown paper. This is decidedly an improvement on the bag dinner (which you think of going after) in an economical point of view; and as I am a student of social and all other sorts of economy, not only on this trip but on every other trip of mine in this mortal life, I recommend it to you; at least I would have done so if you had asked me this morning before you left home."
Eurie made a grimace.
"I might have brought a splendid lunch from home if I had only thought of such a thing," she said, regretfully. "My thoughts always come afterward."
"And it is quite the mode to take lunches with you when they are elegantly put up," Flossy said, regretfully, as she prepared to follow Ruth. "I wonder we never thought of it."
This last remark of Flossy's set the two girls left behind into a hearty laugh.
"Do you suppose that when Flossy has to die she will be troubled lest it may not be the fashion for young ladies to die that season?" Eurie said, looking after the pretty little doll as she gathered her skirts about her anxiously; for, whatever other qualifications East Buffalo may have, cleanliness is not one of them.
"No," Marion answered, gravely, "not the least danger of it, because it happens to be the fashion for ladies to die at all seasons; it is the one thing that never seems to go out. I am heartily glad that we have one thing that remains absolute in this fashionable world."
Eurie looked at her thoughtfully.
"Marion, one would think you were religious—sometimes," she said, gravely. "You make such strange remarks."
Marion laughed immoderately.
"You ridiculous little infidel!" she said, as soon as she could speak. "You do not even know enough about religion to detect the difference between goodness and wickedness. Why, that was one of my wickedest remarks, and here you are mistaking it for goodness. My dear child, run and get your paper bag before it is time to go; or will you have my slice of ham and half this doughnut? The bread and butter I want myself."
The freshness and novelty of this journey wore away before the long summer afternoon began to wane; the cars were crowded and uncomfortable, and the cinders flew about in as trying a way as cinders can.
None of the girls had the least idea where they were going. They knew, in a general way, that there must be such a place as Chautauqua Lake, as the papers that they chanced to come in contact with had been full of the delights of that region for many months; and, indeed, a young man, earnest, enthusiastic and sensible, who stopped over night at Dr. Mitchell's, and had been a delighted guest at the Chautauqua Assembly a year before, had sown the first seeds that resulted in this trip.
He of course could tell the exact route and the necessary steps to be taken; but it had been no part of Eurie's wisdom to ask about the journey thither; she knew how many boats were on the lake, and what kind of fish could be caught in it, but the most direct way to reach it was a minor matter. So there they were, simply blundering along, in the belief that the railroad officials knew their business, and would get them somewhere sometime.
As the day waned, and the road became more unknown to them, and their weariness grew upon them, they fell to indulging in those stale jokes that young ladies will perpetrate when they don't know what else to do. As they declared, with much laughter, and many smart ways of saying it, that Chautauqua was a myth of Eurie's brain, or that she had been the dupe of the fine young theological student who had chanced her way and that the search for paradise would come to naught, perhaps it was not all joking; for, as the hours passed and they journeyed on, hearing nothing about the place of which for the last few weeks they had thought so much, a queer feeling began to steal over them that there really was no such spot, and that they were all a set of idiots.
"I thought we should have been there by this time, and regularly established at housekeeping," Marion said, as they picked up baskets and bundles and prepared to change cars; "and here we are making another change. This is the third this afternoon, or is it the thirteenth? and who knows where Brocton is or what it is? Is anybody sure that it is in this hemisphere? Eurie, you are certain that your theological student did not cross the Atlantic in order to reach his elysium?"
"Brocton is here," Eurie said, as they climbed the steps of the car. "I see the name on that building yonder; though whether 'here' is America or Asia I am unable to say. I think we have come overland, but it is so long since we started I may have forgotten."
But at this point they checked their nonsense and began to get up a new interest in existence. They were among a different class of people—earnest, eager people, who seemed to have no thought of yawns or weariness. Camp-stools abounded, with here and there a bundle looking like quilts and pillows. Every lady had a waterproof and every man an umbrella, and the talk was of "tents," and "division meetings," and "the morning boats," with stray words like "Fairpoint" and "Mayville" coming in every now and then. These two words, the girls knew had to do with their hopes; so they began to feel revived.
"I actually begin to think there is some foundation for Eurie's wild fancies after all," Marion whispered, "or else this is another party of lunatics as wild as ourselves; but they are a large and respectable party; I'm rather hopeful."
In two minutes more the railroad official who speaks in the unknown tongue yelped something at either door, and thereupon everybody got up and began to prepare for an exit.
"Do you think he said Mayville?" questioned Eurie with a shade of anxiety in her voice. She had been the leader of this scheme, and she felt just a trifle of responsibility.
"Haven't the least idea," Marion said, composedly gathering her wrappings; "it sounded as much like any other word you happen to think of as it did like that, but everybody is going, and Flossy and I are determined to be in the fashion so we go too."
At the door dismay seized upon Flossy. A light drizzly rain was falling. Oh, the lavender suit! and her waterproof tucked away in her trunk, and everybody pushing and trying to pass her.
"Never mind," Marion said, with utmost good nature, "here is mine; I haven't any trunk, so it is handy; and it has rained on my old alpaca for ages; can't hurt that, so wrap yourself up and come along, for I believe in my heart that this is Mayville."
"This way to the Mayville House," said the gentlemanly official, touching his hat as politely as though they had been princesses. Why can't hotel subordinates more often show a little common politeness? This act decided the location of these four girls in a twinkling; they knew nothing about any of the hotels, and, other things being equal, anybody would rather go to a place to which they had been decently invited than to be elbowed and yelled at and forced. Water and rest and tea did much to restore them to comfort, and as they discussed matters in their rooms afterward they assured each other that the Mayville House was just the place to stop at. A discussion was in progress as to the evening meeting. Miss Erskine had taken down her hair and donned a becoming wrapper, and reposed serenely in the rocking-chair, offering no remark beyond the composed and decided, "I am not going over in the woods to-night by any manner of means; that would be enough if I were actually one of the lunatics instead of a mild looker-on."
"I haven't the least idea of going, either," Eurie said, sitting on a stool, balancing her stockinged feet against Ruth's rocker. "Not that I mind the rain, or that it wouldn't be fun enough if I were not so dead tired. But I tell you, girls, I have had to work like a soldier to get ready, and having the care of such a set as you have been all day has been too much for me. A religious meeting would just finish me. I'm going to save myself up for morning. You are a goosie to go, Marion. It is as dark as ink, and is raining. What can you see to-night?"
"I tell you I've got to go," Marion said, as she quietly unstrapped her shawl. "I earn my bread, as you are very well aware, by teaching school; but my butter, and a few such delicacies, I get by writing up folks and things. I've promised to give a melting account of this first meeting, and I have no idea of losing the chance. Flossy Shipley, you may wear my waterproof every minute if you will go with me. It is long enough to drag a quarter of a yard, and a rain drop can not get near enough to think of you.
"But it is so damp," shivered Flossy, looking drearily out into the night, "and so dark, Marion, I am afraid to go."
"Plenty of people going. What is there to be afraid of? We go down from here in a carriage."
"I wouldn't go, Flossy," chimed in a voice from the rocker and one from the ottoman.
"It will be very damp there," pleaded Flossy, who did like to be accommodating.
"You may have ten thicknesses of my shawl to sit on," urged Marion. "Come, now, Flossy Shipley. I didn't have the least idea of coaxing those other girls to go, for every one knows they are selfish and will do as they please; but I did think you would keep me company. It really isn't pleasant to think of going alone."
The end of it was that Flossy, done up in a cloak twice too large for her, went off looking like the martyr that she was, and Eurie and Ruth staid in their room and laughed over the ridiculousness of Flossy Shipley going out in the night and the rain, in a lavender cashmere, to attend a religious meeting!
It was not so very dark after all, nor so disagreeable as she had imagined. She sat curled up in a heap on the deck of the Col. Phillips, looking with interested eyes on the groups of people, who, despite the rain and darkness, were evidently on their way to Chautauqua. Marion had gone to the other side of the boat and was looking over into the water, rested and interested in spite of herself by the novelty of the scene around her. The fellow-passengers seemed not to be novices like themselves, for as their talk floated to the girls it had sentences like these:
"Last year we stopped in the village, but this time we are going to be right on the ground."
"Last year it rained, too; but rain makes no difference at Chautauqua."
"They are all last year's people," said Marion, coming over to Flossy's side. "That speaks well for the interest, or the fun, doesn't it? Now what do you suppose takes all these people to this place?"
"I don't know," Flossy said thoughtfully, "I never thought much about it. Perhaps some of them came just as I did, because the girls were coming and asked me to. I'm sure I haven't the least idea what else I came for."
Marion looked down on the little creature done up in water-proof, with a half-pitying laugh.
"You are a good little mouse," she said patronizingly. "I never remember doing anything without a motive somewhere. It must be refreshing to forget that important individual now and then."
"Oh, I don't," Flossy said, simply. "Of course I came for the good time I would have. But then, you know, I would never have thought of coming if the rest of you hadn't."
Another laugh from Marion.
"You let others do your thinking for you," she said, with just a touch of contempt, covered by the gayety of the tone. "Well, it is much the easier way. If I could find anyone to undertake the task, I should like to try it for myself."
Flossy's answer was a little scream of delight, for they were coming upon fairy-land; the lights of Fairpoint were gleaming in the soft distance, and very fairy-like they looked shining among the trees. The sound of music on the steamer mingled charmingly with the peal of the bells from the shore. Marion looked on the scene with quiet interest. Flossy's face took a pink glow; she liked pretty things. As for those who had been at Chautauqua the year before, they gathered at the vessel's side as those gather who, after a long and tiresome journey, realize that they are nearing home. They were eager and excited.
"The dock is better," said one.
"Yes, and the passage way is larger," chimed in his nearest neighbor.
"Oh, everything is on an improved scale this year," said still a third, speaking confidently.
"The meeting can't be any better," spoke a quiet-faced woman, with a decided voice, "that is simply impossible."
Marion laughed softly.
"Hear the lunatics!" she said, bending to give Flossy the benefit of her words. "They are just infatuated; they think this is the original Garden of Eden, with that wretched Eve left out. If she were here I would choke her with a relish." This last in a muttered undertone, too low for even Flossy, and with a darkening face.
Meantime the boat rounded the point, the plank was laid, and the feet of the eager passengers touched the shores of Chautauqua. Some detention about tickets, arising from a misunderstanding of terms, made our girls lose sight and sound of the rest of the boat-load, and when they passed within the railing they found themselves suddenly and strangely alone. A few lights glimmered in the trees, enough to point the way, and from the cottages near at hand streams of light shot out into the darkness; but no sound of footsteps, no sight of human being appeared
"Over the river, on the hill, Another village lieth still,"
quoted Marion, gravely. Then:
"I say, Flossy, what does it all mean? Are we among a party of witches, do you suppose? Where could those congenial spirits so suddenly have conveyed themselves away, I wonder? The road isn't broad, but it most decidedly isn't straight. Only behold that long, long, long array of damp and empty seats! Where are the faithful now, do you suppose?"
"There isn't any meeting here to-night, and we might have known there wouldn't be," Flossy said, peevishly, beginning to grow not only disenchanted but half frightened. "I was never in such a queer place in my life! Those white seats all look like ghosts. What could have possessed you to come to-night? Of course they wouldn't have meeting in the rain! Marion, do let us go back; I am frightened out of my wits!"
"You blessed little simpleton!" said Marion, gaily. "What on earth is there to be frightened over? Not pine seats and lamplight, surely, and there is nothing more formidable than that so far."
"I wish with all my heart that I were safely back in the hotel, where I would have been if you had not coaxed me away," sighed, or rather whined, poor Flossy, shivering with chilliness or nervousness, and added: "Come, Marion, do let us go back with that boat. It can't have started yet."
Marion grasped her hand firmly, and spoke like a commander:
"Flossy Shipley, don't you go to getting nervous and acting like a simpleton, for I won't have it. As for that boat, it is half way to Mayville by this time, and I am glad of it. Do you suppose I am going to make an ignominious retreat now, when we have got so far advanced? Not a bit of it. If there is no meeting, we will go where there ought to be one, since it was advertised, and not a word said about rain. It isn't likely they stay out-doors when it actually pours. Very likely they go in somewhere and have a prayer-meeting. So now compose your nerves and walk fast, for if the spot is within walking distance I am going to find it. I tell you I am to get ten dollars at least for writing up this meeting, and I am going to write it if there is one to write about. If there isn't I shall have to make up one. I dare say I could make it interesting. I'll put you in if I do, and you shall be Mrs. Fearful—in Pilgrim's Progress, you know—if you don't stop shivering and walk faster."
During this time they had really been making as rapid progress as the up-hill way and their doubt of the road would allow. Flossy made no reply to this harangue, for the reason that a sudden turn in the path brought them into bright light and the sound of a ringing voice.
"There!" whispered Marion as the mammoth tent came in view. "What did I tell you? What do you think of that for a prayer-meeting?" And then she, too, relapsed into silence, for the ringing tones of the speaker's voice were distinct and clear. They made their way rapidly and silently under the tent, down the aisle—half way down—then a gentleman beckoned them, and by dint of some pushing and moving secured them seats. Then both girls looked about them in astonishment. Who would have supposed that it rained! Why, there were rows and rows and rows of heads, men and women, and even children. A tent larger than they had imagined could be built and packed with people.
Marion's tongue was uncontrollable. She was barely seated before she began her whispered comments:
"That man who is speaking is Dr. Vincent. Hasn't he a ringing voice? It reminds me of a trumpet. He likes to use it, I know he does; he has learned to manage it so nicely, and with an eye to the effect. You will hear his voice often enough, and you just watch and see if you don't learn to know the first echo of it from any other."
"Perhaps he won't be here all the time to use his voice," whispered back Flossy, without much idea what she was saying. The novelty of the scene had stolen her senses.
Marion laughed softly.
"You blessed little idiot!" she said, "don't you know that he manufactured Chautauqua, root and branch? Or if he didn't quite manufacture the trees he looked after their growth, I dare say. Why, this meeting is his darling, his idol, his best beloved. 'Hear him speak?' I guess you will. I should like to see a meeting of this kind that didn't hear from him. It will have to be when he is out of the body."
"How do you know about him?" whispered Flossy, struck with sudden curiosity.
"I've written him up," Marion said, briefly. "I've had to do it several times. Oh, I'm a veteran at Sunday-school meetings. But he is the hardest man to write about that there is among them, because you can never tell what he may happen to say or do next. It will never do to jump at his conclusions, and slip in a neat little sentence of your own as coming from him if you don't happen to have taken very profuse notes, because as sure as you do he will spring up in some tiresome meeting in less than a week and unsay every single word that you said. He said—"
At this point a poor martyr, who had the misery to sit directly in front of these two whisperers, turned and gave them such a look as only a man can under like circumstances, and awed them into five minutes of quiet. It lasted until Dr. Eggleston was announced. Then Marion's tongue broke loose again:
"He is the 'Hoosier Schoolmaster.' Don't you know we read his book aloud at the seminary? Looks as though he might have written it, doesn't he? Let's listen to what he says. He always says a word or two that a body can report; very few of them do."
This is a fair specimen of the way in which Miss Wilbur buzzed through that meeting—that wonderful meeting, that Flossy Shipley will remember all her life. She made no answer to Marion's comments after a little, and the pink flush glowed deeper on her face. She was wonderfully interested—indeed she was more than interested. There was a strange feeling of pain at her heart, a sort of sick, longing feeling that she had never felt before, to understand what all these people meant, to feel as they seemed to feel.
The Christian world is more to blame for the unspoken infidelity that thrives in its circles than is generally supposed. Flossy Shipley had been in many religious meetings, but she had really never in her life before been among a large gathering of cultured people, who were eager and excited and happy, and the cause for that eagerness and that happiness been found in the religion of Jesus Christ. I do not say that there had never been such meetings before, nor that there have not been many of them. I simply say that it was a new revelation to Flossy, and she had been to the church prayer-meeting at home several times. Whether that church may have been peculiar or not I do not say, but Flossy had certainly failed to get the idea that prayer-meetings were blessed places; that the people who went there from week to week found their joy and their rest and their comfort there. She began to have an unutterable sense of want and longing creeping over her; she stole shy glances at Marion to see if she felt this, but Marion was absorbed just then in catching the speaker's last sentence and writing it down. Her face expressed nothing but business earnestness. Speech-making concluded, there came the "covenant service."
"I wonder what that is supposed to be?" whispered Marion. "It sounds like something dreadfully solemn. I hope they are not going to have any scenes. Revivals are not fashionable except in the winter."
"Marion, don't!" Flossy said, in an earnest undertone. The gay, and what for the first time struck her as the sacrilegious words, chilled her. And for almost the first time in her life she uttered an unhesitating remonstrance. Something in the tone surprised Marion, and she looked curiously down at her little companion, but said not another word.
The covenant service was the simplest of all services; in fact, only the singing of a familiar hymn and the offering of a prayer. But the hymn was read first, in such solemn, tender, pleading tones as it seemed to Flossy she had never heard before; and the singing rolled around that great tent like the voices of the ten thousand who sing before the throne—at least to Flossy's heart it seemed like that. The prayer that followed was the simplest of all prayers as to words, and the briefest public prayer she ever remembered to have heard, and it made her feel as nothing in life had ever done before. She did not understand the cause for her emotion; she was not acquainted with the Spirit of God; she did not know that he was speaking to her softened heart, and calling her gently to himself, so she felt ashamed of the emotion that she could not help. She wiped the tears away secretly, and was glad that the night was dark and the need for haste great, for the steamer's warning whistle could already be beard. Marion talked on as they went down the hill, not alone now but accompanied by hundreds, talked precisely as she had before the singing of those words and the prayer. "How could she?" Flossy wondered. "How could anything look the same to her?" The Spirit had found no softened heart in which to leave a message, and so had passed by. This, if Flossy had known it, was the reason that Marion was gay and indifferent. If either of them had fully realized the reason for the different effect of the meeting upon them, how startled they would have been! It is not strange after all that a service is not the same to one soul that it is to another, when we remember that God speaks to one and passes another.
The night was still heavy with clouds, not a star to lighten the gloom; a fine mist was falling. It was Marion who shivered this time, and said:
"It is a horrible night, that is a fact; but I am not sorry we went. That meeting will write up splendidly, though it was too long; I will say that in print about it. You must find some fault, you know, when you are writing for the public; it is the fashion."
"Was it long?" said Flossy, in an absent tone. She had not thought of it in that way. Then she went to the side of the boat again and sat down in a tumult. What was the matter with her? Where had her complacent, pretty little content gone? Would she always feel so sad and anxious and unhappy, have such a longing as she did now? If she had been wiser she could have told herself that the trouble of heart was caused by an unhealthy excitement upon this question, and that this was the great fault with religious meetings; but she was not wise, she did not think of such a reason. If it had been suggested to her it is doubtful if, in her ignorance, she would not have said: "Why, she had been more excited at an evening party a hundred times than she had thought of being then!" She actually did not know that eagerness and zeal are proper enough at parties, but utterly out of place in religion. Just in front of her sat a young man who hummed in undertone the closing words of the covenant song. It brought the tears again to Flossy's eyes. He turned suddenly toward her.
"It was a pleasant service," he said. "Don't you think so?"
It was rather startling to be addressed by a strange young gentleman, or would have been it his voice had not been so quiet and dignified, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to compare notes with one who had just come out from the great meeting.
"I don't know whether it was or not," she said, hurriedly. She could not seem to decide whether she enjoyed it or hated it.
"It was blessed to me," the young man said, in quiet voice; and added in undertone, as if speaking to himself only: "God was there."
"Do you feel that?" said Flossy, suddenly. "Then I wonder that you were not afraid."
He turned toward her a pleasant face and said, earnestly:
"You would not be afraid of your father, would you? Well, God is my Father, my reconciled Father;" And then, after a moment, he added: "It I were not at peace with him, and had reason to think that he was angry with me, then it would be different. Then I suppose I should be afraid; at least I think it would be reasonable to be."
Flossy spoke out of the fullness of a troubled heart:
"I don't understand it at all. I never wanted to, either, until just to-night; but now I want to feel as those people did when they sang that hymn."
Marion came quickly up from the other side.
"Flossy," she said, with sudden sharpness, "come over here and watch the track of the boat through the water." And as Flossy mechanically obeyed, she added: "What a foolish, heedless little mouse you are! I wonder that your mother let you go from her sight. Don't you know that you mustn't get up conversations with strange young men in that fashion?"
Flossy had not thought of it at all: but now she said a little drearily, as if the subject did not interest her:
"But I have often held conversations with strange young men at the dancing-hall, you know, and danced with them, too, when everything I knew about them was their names, and generally I forgot that."
Marion gave a light laugh.
"That is different," she said, letting her lip curl in the darkness over the folly of her own words. "What its proper at a dance in very improper coming home from prayer-meeting, don't you see?"
"What do you think!" she said the minute they were in their rooms. "There was I, leaning meditatively over the boat, thinking solemnly on the truths I had heard, and that absurd little water-proof morsel was having a flirtation with a nice young man. Here is one of the fruits of the system! What on earth was he saying to you, Flossy?"
"Don't!" said Flossy, for the second time that evening. "He wasn't saying any harm."
The whole thing jarred on her with an inexpressible and to her bewildering pain. She had always been ready for fun before.
"That girl is homesick or something," Marion said, as she and Eurie went to their rooms, leaving Flossy with Ruth, who prefered her as a room-mate to either of the others because she could keep from talking.
"I haven't the least idea what is the matter, but she has been as unlike herself as possible. I hope she isn't going to get sick and spoil our fun. How silly we were to bring her, anyway. The baby hasn't life enough to see the frolic of the thing, and the intellectual is miles beyond her. I suspect she was dreadfully bored this evening. But, Eurie, there is going to be some splendid speaking done here. I shouldn't wonder if we attended a good many of the meetings."
Flossy went to the window and stood looking out into the starless night. The pain in her heart deepened with every moment.
"If there was only some one to ask, some one to say a word to me," she sighed to herself. "It seems as though I could never go to sleep with this feeling clinging to me. I wonder what can be the matter? Perhaps I am sick and am going to die. It feels almost like that, and I am not fit to die—I am afraid. I wonder if Ruth Erskine is afraid to die? I have almost a mind to ask her. I wonder if she ever prays? People who are not afraid of death are always those who pray. Perhaps she will to-night. I feel as though I wanted to pray: I think if I only knew how it would be just the thing to do. If she kneels down I mean to go and kneel beside her."
These were some of the thoughts that whirled through her brain as she stood with her nose pressed to the glass. But Ruth did not pray. She went around with the composed air of one who was at peace with all the world; and when her elaborate preparations for rest were concluded she laid her head on her pillow without one thought of prayer.
"Why in the name of sense don't you come to bed?" she presently asked, surveying with curious glance the quiet little creature whose face was hidden from her, and who was acting entirely out of accordance with anything she had ever seen in her before. "What can you possibly find to keep you gazing out of that window? It can't be called star-gazing, for to my certain knowledge there isn't a single star visible; in fact, I should say nothing could be visible but the darkness."
For a minute Flossy made no answer. She did not move nor turn her head; but presently she said, in a low and gentle voice:
"Ruth, should you be afraid to die?"
"To die!" said Ruth; and I have no means of telling you what an astonished face and voice she had. "Flossy Shipley, what do you mean?"
"Why, I mean that," said Flossy, in the same quiet tone. "Of course we have got to die, and everybody knows it; and what I say is, should you be afraid if it were to-night, you know?"
"Humph!" said Ruth, turning her pillow and waiting to beat it into shape before she spoke further. "I haven't the least idea of dying to-night."
"But how can you be sure of that? You might have to die to-night, you know people do sometimes."
"I know one thing, am perfectly certain of it, and that is, that you will take cold standing there and making yourself dismal. You are shivering like a leaf, I can see you from here. If that is all the good to be gotten from the 'religious impressions' that they harp about being so great here, the less religion they have the better, and there is quite little enough you may be sure." Saying which, Ruth turned her pillow again and her head, so that she could not see the small creature at the window. She was unaccountably rasped, not to say startled, by her question, and she did not like to be startled; she liked to have her current of life run smoothly.
As for Flossy, she gave a great sigh of disappointment and unrest, and turned slowly from the window. She had vaguely hoped for help of some sort from Ruth, and as she lay down on her prayerless pillow she said to herself, "If she had only knelt down I should certainly have done so, too; and perhaps I might have been helped out of this dreadful feeling." Yet so ignorant was she of the way that it never once occurred to her to kneel alone and pray.
No more words were spoken by those two girls that night, but each lay awake for a long time and tossed about restlessly. Ruth had been most effectually disturbed, and try as best she could it was impossible to banish the memory of those quiet words: "You might have to die to-night; people do, you know." To actually have to do something that she had not planned to do and was not quite ready for, would be a new experience to this girl. Yet when would she be ready to plan for dying? At last she grew thoroughly vexed, and vented her disgust on the "religionists" who got up camp-meeting excitements for the purpose of turning weak brains like Flossy Shipley's. After that she went to sleep.
"Flossy Shipley, for pity's sake don't rig your self up in that awful cashmere! It rains yet and you will just be going around with five wrinkles on your forehead all day, besides spoiling your dress."
It was morning, and the door of communication between the two sleeping-rooms being thrown open the four girls were in full tide of talk and preparation for Fairpoint. Flossy, though kept her strangely quiet face and manner; the night had not brought her peace; she had tossed restlessly for hours, and when at last she slept it was only to be haunted with troubled dreams. With the first breath of morning she opened her eyes and felt that the weight of yesterday was still pressing on her heart.
"What shall I wear?" she asked, in an absent, bewildered way of Eurie, who had objected to the cashmere.
"I'm sure I don't know. Didn't you bring anything suited to the rain? Let me go fishing in that ponderous trunk and see if I can't find something."
The "fishing" produced nothing more suitable than a heavy black silk, elaborately trimmed, and looking, as Eurie phrased it, "elegantly out of place."
Through much confusion and frolicking the four were at last entering the grounds at Chautauqua. By reason of their superior knowledge Marion and Flossy led the way, while the others followed eagerly, looking and exclaiming.
"I'll tell you what it is, girls," Eurie said, eagerly. "Let's come over here and board. We'll have a tent or a cottage. A tent will be jollier, and it will be twice as much fun as to stay at the hotel."
There being no dissenting voice to this proposal, they started in much glee to look up a home; only Flossy demurred timidly.
"Can't we go to the meeting, girls, and look for the tent afterward? The meeting has commenced; I hear them singing."
"It's nothing in the world but a Bible service," Eurie said. "That man at the gate handed me a programme. Who wants to go to a Bible service? We have Bibles enough at home. We want to be on hand at eleven o'clock, because Edward Eggleston is to speak on 'The Paradise of Childhood.' My childhood was anything but paradise, but I am anxious to know what he will make of it."
Flossy succumbed, of course, as every one expected she would; and the party went in search of tents and accommodations. It was no easy matter to suit them, as the patient and courteous President found.
"I don't like the location of any one of them," Ruth Erskine said. Of course she was the hardest to suit. "Why can't we have one of those in that row on the hill?"
"Those are the guest tents, ma'am."
"The guest tents?" Eurie exclaimed, in surprise. "I wonder if they entertain guests here! Who are they?"
"Why, those who have been invited to take part in the exercises, of course. You did not suppose that they paid their own expenses and did the work besides, did you?"
This explanation was given by Marion, who, by virtue of her experience as reporter was better versed in the ways of these great gatherings than the others.
"What an idea!" Eurie said. "Fancy being a guest and speaking at this great meeting. Being a person of distinction, you know; so that people would be pointing you out, and telling their neighbors who you were.
"There goes Miss Mitchell. She is the leading speaker on Sunday-school books. How does that sound? Only, on the whole, I should choose some other department than Sunday-school books; they are all so horridly good—the people in them, I mean—that one can't get through with more than two in a season. I tried to read one last week for Sunday, but I abandoned it in despair."
This was an aside, while Ruth was questioning the President. She was looking dismayed.
"Can't we have one of the tents on that side near the stand?"
"Those were taken months ago. This is a large gathering, you know."
"I should think it was! Then, it seems, we must go back to the hotel. I thought you would be glad to let us have accommodations at any price."
The gentlemanly President here carefully repressed an amused smile. Here were people who had evidently misunderstood Chautauqua.
"Oh, yes," he said, "we can give you accommodations, only not the very best, I am sorry to say. Our best tents were secured many months ago. Still, we will do the best we can for you, and I think we can make you entirely comfortable."
"People have different ideas as to the meaning of that word," Miss Eurie said, loftily.
Then she moved to another tent, over which she exclaimed in dismay:
"Why, the bed isn't made up! Pray, are we to sleep on the slats?"
"Oh, no. But you have to hire all those things, you know. Have you seen our bulletin? There are parties on the ground prepared to fit up everything that you need, and to do it very reasonably. Of course we can not know what degree of expense those requiring tents care to incur, so we leave that matter for them to decide for themselves. You can have as many or as few comforts as you choose, and pay accordingly."
"And are all four of us expected to occupy this one room?" There was an expression of decided disgust on Miss Erskine's face.
"Way, you see," explained the amused President, "this tent is designed for four; two good-sized bedsteads set up in it; and the necessity seems to be upon us to crowd as much as we can conveniently. There will be no danger of impure air, you know, for you have all out-doors to breathe."
"And you really don't have toilet stands or toilet accommodations! What a way to live!"
Another voice chimed in now, which was the very embodiment of refined horror.
"And you don't have pianos nor sofas, and the room isn't lighted with gas! I'm sure I don't see how we can live! It is not what we have been accustomed to."
This was Marion, with the most dancing eyes in the world, and the President completed the scene by laughing outright. Suddenly Ruth discovered that she was acting the part of a simpleton, and with flushed face she turned from them, and walked to a vacant seat, in the opposite direction from where they were standing.
"We will take this one," she said, haughtily, without vouchsafing it a look. "I presume it is as good as any of them, and, since we are fairly into this absurd scrape we must make the best of it."
"Or the worst of it," Marion said, still laughing. "You are bent on doing that, I think, Ruthie."
By a violent effort and rare good sense Ruth controlled herself sufficiently to laugh, and the embarrassment vanished. There were splendid points about this girl's character, not the least among them being the ability to laugh at a joke that had been turned toward herself. At least the effect was splendid. The reasons, therefore, might have been better. It was because her sharp brain saw the better effect that her ability to do this thing immediately produced on the people around her. But I shall have to confess that a poise of character strong enough to gracefully avert unpleasant effects arising from causes of her own making ought to have been strong enough to have suppressed the causes.
The question of an abiding-place being thus summarily disposed of, the party set themselves to work with great energy to get settled, Marion and Eurie taking the lead. Both were used to both planning and working, and Marion at least had so much of it to do as to have lost all desire to lead unnecessarily, and therefore everything grew harmonious.
There was a good deal of genuine disgust in Ruth's part of it, though, her eyes having been opened, she bravely tried to hide the feeling from the rest. But you will remember that she had lived and breathed in an atmosphere of elegant refinement all her life, accepting the luxuries of life as common necessities until they had really become such to her, and the idea of doing without many things that people during camp life necessarily find themselves obliged to do without was not only strange to her but exceedingly disagreeable. The two leaders being less used to the extremes of luxury, and more indifferent to them by nature, could not understand and had little sympathy with her feeling.
"We shall have to go back after all to the hotel," Eurie said, as she dived both hands into the straw tick and tried to level the bed. "We have too fine a lady among us; she cannot sleep on a bedstead that doesn't rest its aristocratic legs on a velvet carpet. She doesn't see the fun at all. I thought Flossy would be the silly one, but Flossy is in a fit of the dumps. I never saw her so indifferent to her dress before. See her now, bringing that three-legged stand, without regard to rain! There is one comfort in this perpetual rain, we shall have less dust. After all, though, I don't know as that is any improvement, so long as it goes and makes itself up into mud. Look at the mud on my dress! That tent we were looking at first would have been ever so much the best, but after Ruth's silliness I really hadn't the face to suggest a change—I thought we had given trouble enough. She makes a mistake; she thinks this is a great hotel, where people are bound to get all the money they can and give as little return, instead of its being a place where people are striving to be as accommodating as they can, and give everybody as good a time as possible."
In the midst of all this talk and work they left and ran up the hill to the Tabernacle, where the crowds were gathering to hear Dr. Eggleston. It was a novel sight to these four girls; the great army of eager, strong, expectant faces; the ladies, almost without an exception, dressed to match the rain and the woods, looking neither tired nor annoyed about anything—looking only in earnest. To Ruth, especially, it came like a revelation. She looked around her with surprised eyes. There were intellectual faces on every hand. There was the hum of conversation all about her, for the meeting was not yet opened, and the tone of their words was different from any with which her life had been familiar; they seemed lifted up, enthused; they seemed to have found something worthy of enthusiasm. As a rule Ruth had not enjoyed enthusiastic people; they had seemed silly to her; and you will admit that there is a silly side to the consuming of a great deal of that trait on the dress for an evening party, or the arrangement of programmes for a fancy concert. Just now she had a glimmering fancy that there might be something worthy of arresting and holding one's eager attention.
"They look alive," she said, turning from right to left among the rows and rows of faces. "They look as though they had a good deal to do, and they thought it was worth doing."
Then, curiously enough, there came suddenly to her mind that question which she had banished the night before, and she wondered if these people had all really answered it to their satisfaction.
Flossy took a seat immediately in front of the speaker. She was hungry for something, and she did not know what to call it—something that would set her fevered heart at rest. As for Marion and Eurie, they hoped with all their hearts that the "Hoosier Schoolmaster" would give them a rich intellectual treat, at least Marion was after the intellectual. Eurie would be contented if she got the fun, and a man like Dr. Eggleston has enough of both those elements to make sure of satisfying their hopes. But would he bring something to help Flossy?
"He doesn't look in the least as I thought he did." It was Eurie who whispered this, and she nudged Marion's arm by way of emphasis as she did it.
"How did you think he looked?"
"Oh, I don't know—rough, rather."
Whereupon Marion laughed again.
"That is the way some people discriminate," she whispered back. "You think because he wrote about rough people he must be rough; and when one writes about people of culture and elegance you think straightway that he is the personification of those ideas. You forget, you see, that the world is full to the brim with hypocrisy; and it is easier to be perfect on paper than it is anywhere else in this world."
"Or to be a sinner either, according to that view of it."
"It is easy enough to be a sinner anywhere. Hush, I want to listen."
For which want the people all about her must have been very thankful. Our young ladies gave Dr. Eggleston their attention at the moment when he was drawling out in his most nasal and ludicrous tones the hymn that used to be a favorite in Sunday-schools ninety years ago:
"Broad is the road that leads to death, And thousands walk together there, But wisdom shows a narrow path, With here and there a traveler."
The manner in which part of these lines were repeated was irresistibly funny. To Eurie it was explosively so; she laughed until the seat shook with mirth. To be sure, she knew nothing about modern Sunday-schools; for aught that she was certain of, they might have sung that very hymn in the First Church Sunday-school the Sabbath before; and it made not the least atom of difference whether they did or not; the way in which Dr. Eggleston was putting it was funny, and Eurie never spoiled fun for the sake of sentiment. Presently she looked up at Marion for sympathy. That young lady's eyes were in a blaze of indignation. What in the world was the matter with her? Surely she, with her hearty and unquestioning belief in nothing, could not have been disturbed by any jar! Let me tell you a word about Marion. Away back in her childhood there was a memory of a little dingy, old-fashioned kitchen, one of the oldest and dreariest of its kind, where the chimney smoked and the winter wind crawled in through endless cracks and crannies; where it was not always possible to get enough to eat during the hardest times; but there was a large, old-fashioned arm-chair, covered with frayed and faded calico, and in this chair sat often of a winter evening a clean-faced old man, with thin and many-patched clothes, with a worn and sickly face, with a few gray hairs straggling sadly about on his smooth crown: and that old man used often and often to drone out in a cracked voice and in a tune pitched too low by half an octave the very words which had just been repeated in Marion's hearing. What of all that? Why, that little gloomy kitchen was Marion's memory of home; that old, tired man was her father, and he used to sing those words while his hand wandered tenderly through the curls of her brown head, and patted softly the white forehead over which they fell; and all of love that there was in life, all that the word "tenderness" meant, all that was dear, or sweet or to be reverenced, was embodied in that one memory to Marion. Now you understand the flashing eyes. She did not believe it at all; she believed, or thought she did, that the "broad" and "narrow" roads were all nonsense; that go where you would, or do what you would, all the roads led to death; and that was the end. But the father who had quavered through those lines so many times had staked his hopes forever on that belief, and the assurance of it had clothed his face in a grand smile as he lay dying—a smile that she liked to think of, that she did not like to hear ridiculed, and to her excited imagination Dr. Eggleston seemed to be ridiculing the faith on which the hymn was built. "They are more thorough hypocrites than I supposed," she said, in scorn, and hardly in undertone, in answer to Eurie's inquiring look. "I don't believe the stuff myself, but I always supposed the ministers did. I gave some of them at least credit for sincerity, but it seems it is nothing but a fable to be laughed to scorn."
"Why, Marion!" Eurie said, and her look expressed surprise and dismay. "He is not making fun of religion, you know; he is simply referring to the inappropriateness of such hymns for children."
"What is so glaringly inappropriate about it if they really believe the Bible? I'm sure it says there that there are two roads, one broad and the other narrow; and that many people are on one and but few on the other. Why shouldn't it be put into a hymn if it is desirable to impress it?"
"I'm sure I don't know," Eurie said, unaccustomed to being put through a course of logic. "Only, you know, I suppose he simply means that it is beyond their comprehensions."
"They must have remarkably limited comprehensions then if they are incapable of understanding so simple a figure of speech, as that there are two ways to go, and one is harder and safer than the other. I understood it when it was sung to me—and I was a very little child—and believed it, too, until I saw the lives of people contradict it; but if I believed, it still I would not make public sport of it."
At this point Ruth leaned forward from the seat behind and whispered:
"Girls, do keep still; you are drawing the attention of all the people around you and disturbing everybody."
After that they kept still; but the good doctor had effectually sealed one heart to whatever that was tender and earnest he might have to say. She sat erect, with scornful eyes and glowing cheeks, and when the first flush of excitement passed off was simply harder and gayer than before. Who imagined such a result as that? Nobody, of course. But how perfectly foolish and illogical! Couldn't she see that Dr. Eggleston only meant to refer to the fact that literature, both of prose and poetry, had been improved by being brought to the level of childish minds, and to reprove that way of teaching religious truth, that leaves a somber, dismal impression on youthful hearts? Apparently she could not, since she did not. As for being absurd and illogical, I did not say that she wasn't. I am simply giving you facts as they occurred. I think myself that she was dishonoring the memory of her father ten thousand times more than any chance and unmeant word of the speakers could possibly have done. The only trouble was, that she was such an idiot she did not see it; and she prided herself on her powers of reasoning, too! But the world is full of idiots. She sat like a stone during the rest of the brilliant lecture. Many things she heard because she could not help hearing; many she admired, because it was in her to admire a brilliant and charming thing, and she could not help that, either; but she could shut her heart to all tenderness of feeling and all softening influences, and that she did with much satisfaction, deliberately steeling herself against the words of a man because he had quoted a chance line that her father used to sing, while she lived every day of her life in defiance of the principles by which her father shaped his life and his death! Verily, the ways of girls are beyond understanding.
Eurie enjoyed it all. When Dr. Eggleston told of the men that, as soon as their children grew a little too restless, had business down town, she clapped her hands softly and whispered:
"That is for all the world like father. Neddie and Puss were never in a whining fit in their lives that father didn't at once think of a patient he had neglected to visit that day, and rush off."
She laughed over the thought that women were shut in with little steam engines, and said:
"That's a capital name for them; we have three at home that are always just at the very point of explosion. I mean to write to mother and tell her I have found a new name for them."
When he suggested the blunt-end scissors, and the colored crayons with which they could make wonderful yellow dogs, with green tails and blue eyes, her delight became so great that she looked around to Ruth to help her enjoy it, and said:
"You see if I don't invest in a ton of colored crayons the very first thing I do when I get home; it is just capital! So strange I never thought of it before."
"You did not think of it now," Ruth said, in her quiet cooling way. "Give the speaker credit for his own ideas, please. Half the world have to do the thinking for the other half always."
"That is the reason so much is left undone, then," retorted Eurie, with unfailing good humor, and turned back to the speaker in time to hear his description of the superintendent that was so long in finding the place to sing that the boys before him went around the world while he was giving the number.
"Slow people," said she, going down the hill afterward. "I never could endure them, and I shall have less patience with them in future than ever. Wasn't he splendid? Ruth, you liked the part about Dickens, of course."
"A valuable help the lecture will be to your after-life if all you have got is an added feeling of impatience toward slow people. Unfortunately for you they are in the world, and will be very likely to stay in it, and a very good sort of people they are, too."
It was Marion who said this, and her tone was dry and unsympathetic.
Eurie turned to her curiously.
"You didn't like him," she said, "did you? I am so surprised; I thought you would think him splendid. On your favorite hobby, too. I said to myself this will be just in Marion's line. She has so much to say about teaching children by rote in a dull and uninteresting way. You couldn't forgive him for reciting that horrid old hymn in such a funny way. Flossy, do you suppose you can ever hear that hymn read again without laughing? What was the matter, Marion? Who imagined you had any sentimental drawings toward Watts' hymns?"
"I didn't even know it was Watts' hymn," Marion said, indifferently. "But I hate to hear any one go back on his own belief. If he honestly believes in the sentiments of that verse, and they certainly are Bible sentiments, he shouldn't make fun of it. But I'm sure it is of no consequence to me. He may make fun of the whole Bible if he chooses, verse by verse, and preach a melting sermon from it the very next Sabbath; it will be all the same to me. Let us go in search of some dinner, and not talk any more about him."
"But that isn't fair. You are unjust, isn't she, Ruth? I say he didn't make fun of religion, as Marion persists in saying that he did."
"Of course not," Ruth said. "A minister would hardly be guilty of doing that. He was simply comparing the advanced methods of the present with the stupidity of the past."
And obstinate Marion said then he ought to get a new Bible, for the very same notions were in it that were when she was a child and learned verses. And that was all that this discussion amounted to. Nobody had appealed to Flossy. She had stood looking with an indifferent air around her, until Marion turned suddenly and said:
"What did the lecture say to you, Flossy? Eurie seems very anxious to get out of it something for our 'special needs,' as they say in church. What was yours?"
Flossy hesitated like a timid child, flushed and then paled, and finally said, simply:
"I have been thinking ever since he spoke it of that one sentence, 'Rock-firm, God-trust, has died out of the world.' I was wondering if it were true, and I was wishing that it wasn't."
All the girls looked at each other in astonished silence; such a strange thing for Flossy to say.
"What of it?" said Marion, presently. "What if it has? or, rather, what if it were never in the world?"
"It wasn't that side of it that I thought about. It was what if it were."
"And what then?"
"Why, then, I should like to see the person who had it, just to see how he would seem."
Marion laughed somewhat scornfully.
"Curiosity is at the bottom of your wise thought, is it? Well, my little mousie, I am amazingly afraid you are destined never to discover how it will seem. So I wouldn't puzzle my brains about it. It might be too much for them. Shall we go to dinner?"
You should have seen our four young ladies taking their first meal at Chautauqua! It was an experience not to be forgotten. They went to the "hotel." This was a long board building, improvised for the occasion, and filled with as many comforts as the necessities of the occasion could furnish. To Miss Erskine the word "hotel" had only one sort of association. She had been a traveler in her own country only, and it had been her fortune to be intimate only with the hotels in large cities, and only with those where people go whose purses are full to overflowing. So she had come to associate with the name all that was elegant or refined or luxurious.
When the President of the grounds inquired whether they would Lave tickets for the hotel or one of the boarding-houses, Miss Erskine had answered without hesitation:
"For the hotel, of course. I never have anything to do with boarding-houses. They are almost certain to be second rate."
Said President kept his own counsel, thinking, I fancy, that here was a girl who needed some lessons in the practical things of this life, and Chautauqua hotels were good places in which to take lessons.
Imagine now, if you can, the look of this lady's face, as they made their way with much difficulty down the long room, and looked about them on either side for heats.
"A hotel, indeed!" she said, in utter contempt and disgust, as one of the attendants signaled them and politely drew back the long board seat that did duty in the place of chairs, and answered for five, or, if you were good natured and crowded, for six people. He was just as polite in his attentions as if the unplaned seat had been a carved chair of graceful shape and pattern. One would suppose that Ruth might have taken a hint from his example. But the truth is, she belonged to that class of people who are so accustomed to polite attentions that it is only their absence which calls forth remark.
"The idea of naming this horrid, dirty old lumber-room a hotel!" and she carefully and disdainfully spread her waterproof cloak on the seat before she took it.
Eurie's merry laugh rang out until others looked and smiled in sympathy with her fun, whatever it was.
"What in the world did you expect, Ruthie? I declare, you are too comical! I verily believe you expected Brussels carpets, and mirrors in which you could admire yourself all the while you were eating."
"I expected a hotel," Ruth said, in no wise diminishing her lofty tone. "That is what is advertised, and people naturally do not look for so much deception in a religious gathering. This is nothing in the world but a shanty."
Chautauqua was doing one thing for this young lady which surprised and annoyed her. It was helping her to get acquainted with herself. Up to this time she had looked upon herself as a person of smooth and even temperament, not by any means easily ruffled or turned from her quiet poise. She had prided herself on her composed, gracefully dignified way of receiving things. She never hurried, she never was breathless and flushed, and apologetic over something that she ought or ought not to have done, which was a chronic state with Eurie. She never was in a thorough and undisguised rage, as Marion was quite likely to be. She was, in her own estimation, a model of propriety. All this until she came to Chautauqua. Now, great was her surprise to discover in herself a disposition to be utterly disgusted with things that to Marion were of so little consequences as to be unnoticed, and that to Eurie were positive sources of fun.
Doubtless you understand her better than she did herself. The truth is, it is a comparatively easy matter to be gracious and courteous and unruffled when everything about you is moving exactly according to your mind, and when you can think of nothing earthly to be annoyed about. There are some natures that are deceiving their own hearts in just such an atmosphere as this. They are not the lowest type of nature by any means. The small, petty trials that come to every life are beneath them. If it rains when they want to walk they can go in a handsome carriage, and keep their tempers. If their elegant new robes prove to be badly made they can have them remodeled and made more elegant with a superior composure. In just so far are they above the class who can endure nothing in the shape of annoyances or disappointment, however small. The fact is, however, that there are petty annoyance, not coming in their line of life, that would be altogether too much for them. But of this they remain in graceful ignorance until some Chautauqua brings the sleeping shadows to the surface.