By ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS
New York Dodd, Mead and Company
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by GRAVES & YOUNG, in the Clerk's Office for the District Court of Massachusetts
Copyright, 1894, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward.
Having been asked to write a preface to the new edition of the Gypsy books, I am not a little perplexed. I was hardly more than a girl myself, when I recorded the history of this young person; and I find it hard, at this distance, to photograph her as she looks, or ought to look to-day. She does not sit still long enough to be "taken." I see a lively girl in pretty short dresses and very long stockings,—quite a Tom-boy, if I remember rightly. She paddles a raft, she climbs a tree, she skates and tramps and coasts, she is usually very muddy, and a little torn. There is apt to be a pin in her gathers; but there is sure to be a laugh in her eyes. Wherever there is mischief, there is Gypsy. Yet, wherever there is fun, and health, and hope, and happiness,—and I think, wherever there is truthfulness and generosity,—there is Gypsy, too.
And now, the publishers tell me that Gypsy is thirty years old, and that girls who were not so much as born when I knew the little lady, are her readers and her friends to-day.
Thirty years old? Indeed, it is more than that! For is it not thirty years since the publication of her memoirs? And was she, at that time, possibly sixteen? Forty-six years? Incredible! How in the world did Gypsy "grow up?" For that was before toboggans and telephones, before bicycles and electric cars, before bangs and puffed sleeves, before girls studied Greek, and golf-capes came in. Did she go to college? For the Annex, and Smith, and Wellesley were not. Did she have a career? Or take a husband? Did she edit a Quarterly Review, or sing a baby to sleep? Did she write poetry, or make pies? Did she practice medicine, or matrimony? Who knows? Not even the author of her being.
Only one thing I do know: Gypsy never grew up to be "timid," or silly, or mean, or lazy; but a sensible woman, true and strong; asking little help of other people, but giving much; an honor to her brave and loving sex, and a safe comrade to the girls who kept step with her into middle life; and I trust that I may bespeak from their daughters and their scholars a kindly welcome to an old story, told again.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.
Newton Centre, Mass., April, 1895.
CHAPTER I WHICH INTRODUCES HER 7 CHAPTER II A SPASM OF ORDER 21 CHAPTER III MISS MELVILLE'S VISITOR 42 CHAPTER IV GYPSY HAS A DREAM 69 CHAPTER V WHAT SHE SAW 89 CHAPTER VI UP IN THE APPLE TREE 105 CHAPTER VII JUST LIKE GYPSY 126 CHAPTER VIII PEACE MAYTHORNE 146 CHAPTER IX CAMPING OUT 167 CHAPTER X THE END OF THE WEEK 202 CHAPTER XI GYPSY'S OPINION OF BOSTON 213 CHAPTER XII NO PLACE LIKE HOME 242
WHICH INTRODUCES HER
"Gypsy Breynton. Hon. Gypsy Breynton, Esq., M. A., D. D., LL. D., &c., &c. Gypsy Breynton, R. R."
Tom was very proud of his handwriting. It was black and business-like, round and rolling and readable, and drowned in a deluge of hair-line flourishes, with little black curves in the middle of them. It had been acquired in the book-keeping class of Yorkbury high school, and had taken a prize at the end of the summer term. And therefore did Tom lean back in his chair, and survey, with intense satisfaction, the great sheet of sermon-paper which was covered with his scrawlings.
Tom was a handsome fellow, if he did look very well pleased with himself at that particular moment. His curly hair was black and bright, and brushed off from a full forehead, and what with that faint, dark line of moustache just visible above his lips, and that irresistible twinkle to his great merry eyes, it was no wonder Gypsy was proud of him, as indeed she certainly was, nor did she hesitate to tell him so twenty times a day. This was a treatment of which Tom decidedly approved. Exactly how beneficial it was to the growth within him of modesty, self-forgetfulness, and the passive virtues generally, is another question.
The room in which Tom was sitting might have been exhibited with profit by Mr. Barnum, as a legitimate relic of that chaos and Old Night, which the poets tell us was dispelled by the light of this order-loving creation.
It had a bed in it, as well as several chairs and a carpet, but it required considerable search to discover them, for the billows of feminine drapery that were piled upon them. Three dresses,—Tom counted, to make sure,—one on the bedpost, one rolled up in a heap on the floor where it had fallen, and one spread out on the counterpane, with benzine on it. What with kerosene oil, candle drippings, and mugs of milk, Gypsy managed to keep one dress under the benzine treatment all the time; it was an established institution, and had long ago ceased to arouse remark, even from Tom. There was also a cloak upon one chair, and a crocheted cape tied by the tassels on another. There was a white tippet hanging on the stovepipe. There was a bandbox up in one corner with a pretty hat lying on the outside, its long, light feather catching the dust; it was three days now since Sunday. There were also two pairs of shoes, one pair of rubbers, and one slipper under the bed; the other slipper lay directly in the middle of the room. Then the wardrobe door was wide open,—it was too full to stay shut,—upon a sight which, I think, even Gypsy would hardly want put into print. White skirts and dressing-sacks; winter hoods that ought to have been put up in camphor long ago; aprons hung up by the trimming; a calico dress that yawned mournfully out of a twelve-inch tear in the skirt; a pile of stockings that had waited long, and were likely to wait longer, for darning; some rubber-boots and a hatchet.
The bureau drawers, Tom observed, were tightly shut,—probably for very good reasons. The table, at which he sat, was a curiosity to the speculative mind. The cloth was two-thirds off, and slipping, by a very gradual process, to the floor. On the remaining third stood an inkstand and a bottle of mucilage, as well as a huge pile of books, a glass tumbler, a Parian vase, a jack-knife, a pair of scissors, a thimble, two spools of thread, a small kite, and a riding-whip. The rest of the table had been left free to draw a map on, and was covered with pencils and rubber, compasses, paper, and torn geography leaves.
There were several pretty pictures on the walls, but they were all hung crookedly; the curtain at the window was unlooped, and you could write your name anywhere in the dust that covered mantel, stove, and furniture.
And this was Gypsy's room.
Tom had spent a longer time in looking at it than I have taken to tell about it, and when he was through looking he did one of those things that big brothers of sixteen long years' experience in this life, who are always teasing you and making fun of you and "preaching" at you, are afflicted with a chronic and incurable tendency to do. It is very fortunate that Gypsy deserved it, for it was really a horrible thing, girls, and if I were you I wouldn't let my brothers read about it, as you value your peace of mind, lace collars, clean clothes, good tempers, and private property generally. I'd put a pin through these leaves, or fasten them together with sealing-wax, or cut them out, before I'd run the risk.
And what did he do? Why, he put a chair in the middle of the room, tied a broom to it (he found it in the corner with a little heap of dust behind it, as Gypsy had left it when her mother sent her up to sweep the room that morning), and dressed it up in the three dresses, the cloaks and the cape, one above another, the chair serving as crinoline. Upon the top of the broom-handle he tied the torn apron, stuffed out with the rubber-boots, and pinned on slips of the geography leaves for features; Massachusetts and Vermont giving the graceful effect of one pink eye and one yellow eye, Australia making a very blue nose, and Japan a small green mouth. The hatchet and the riding-whip served as arms, and the whole figure was surmounted by the Sunday hat that had the dust on its feather. From under the hem of the lowest dress, peeped the toes of all the pairs of shoes and rubbers, and the entire contents of the sliding table-cloth, down to every solitary pencil, needle, and crumb of cake, were ranged in a line on the carpet. To crown the whole, he pinned upon the image that paper placard upon which he had been scribbling.
When his laudable work was completed, this ingenious and remorseless boy had to stand and laugh at it for five minutes. If Gypsy had only seen him then! And Gypsy was nearer than he thought—in the front door, and coming up the stairs with a great banging and singing and laughing, as nobody but Gypsy could come up stairs. Tom just put his hand on the window-sill, and gave one leap out on the kitchen roof, and Gypsy burst in, and stopped short.
Tom crouched down against the side of the house, and held his breath. For about half a minute it was perfectly still. Then a soft, merry laugh broke out all at once on the air, something as a little brook would splash down in a sudden cascade on the rocks.
"O—oh! Did you ever? I never saw anything so funny! Oh, dear me!"
Then it was still again, and then the merry laugh began to spell out the placard.
"Gypsy Breynton. Hon.—Hon. Gypsy Breynton,—what? Oh, Esq., M. A., D. D., LL. D.—what a creature he is! Gypsy Breynton, R. R. R. R.? I'm sure I don't know what that means—Tom! Thom—as!"
Just then she caught sight of him out on the ridge-pole, whittling away as coolly as if he had sat there all his life.
"Good afternoon," said Gypsy, politely.
"Good afternoon," said Tom.
"Been whittling out there ever since dinner, I suppose?"
"I thought so. Come here a minute."
"Come out here," said Tom. Gypsy climbed out of the window without the slightest hesitation, and walked along the ridge-pole with the ease and fearlessness of a boy. She had on a pretty blue delaine dress, which was wet and torn, and all stuck together with burs; her boots were covered with mud to the ankle; her white stockings spattered and brown; her turban was hanging round her neck by its elastic; her net had come off, and the wind was blowing her hair all over her eyes; she had her sack thrown over one arm, and a basket filled to overflowing, with flowers and green moss, upon the other.
"Well, you're a pretty sight!" said Tom, leisurely regarding her. Indeed, he was not far from right. In spite of the mud and the burs and the tears, and the general dropping-to-pieces look about her, Gypsy managed, somehow or other, to look as pretty as a picture, with her cheeks as red as a coral, and the soft brown hair that was tossing about her eyes. Gypsy's eyes were the best part of her. They were very large and brown, and had that same irresistible twinkle that was in Tom's eyes, only a great deal more of it; and then it was always there. They twinkled when she was happy and when she was cross; they twinkled over her school-books; they twinkled, in spite of themselves, at church and Sabbath school; and, when she was at play, they shone like a whole galaxy of stars. If ever Gypsy's eyes ceased twinkling, people knew she was going to be sick. Her hair, I am sorry to say, was not curly.
This was Gypsy's one unalleviated affliction in life. That a girl could possibly be pretty with straight hair, had never once entered her mind. All the little girls in story-books had curls. Who ever heard of the straight-haired maiden that made wreaths of the rosebuds, or saw the fairies, or married the Prince? And Gypsy's hair was not only straight, it was absolutely uncurlable. A week's penance "done up in paper" made no more impression than if you were to pinch it.
However, that did not interfere with her making a bit of a picture, perched up there on the roof beside Tom, among her burs and her flowers and her moss, her face all dimples from forehead to chin.
"Where have you been?" said Tom, trying to look severe, and making a most remarkable failure.
"Oh, only over to the three-mile swamp after white violets. Sarah Rowe, she got her two hands full, and then she just fell splash into the water, full length, and lost 'em—Oh, dear me, how I laughed! She did look so funny."
"Your boots are all mud," said Tom.
"Who cares?" said Gypsy, with a merry laugh, tipping all the wet, earthy moss out on her lap, as she spoke. "See! isn't there a quantity? I like moss 'cause it fills up. Violets are pretty enough, only you do have to pick 'em one at a time. Innocence comes up by the handful,—only mine's most all roots."
"I don't know what's going to become of you," said Tom, drawing down the corner of his mouth.
"Neither do I," said Gypsy, demurely; "I wish I did."
"You won't learn to apply yourself to anything," persisted Tom. "Work or play, there's no system to you. You're like a——" Tom paused for a simile—"Well, like a toad that's always on the jump."
"Ow!" said Gypsy, with a little scream, "there's a horrid old snail crawled out my moss!" and over went moss, flowers, basket, and all, down the roof and upon the stone steps below. "There! Good enough for it!"
Tom coughed and whittled. Gypsy pulled her net out of her basket, and put up her hair. There was a little silence. Nothing had yet been said about the image in Gypsy's room, and both were determined not to be the first to speak of it. Gypsy could have patience enough where a joke was in question, and as is very apt to be the case, the boy found himself outwitted. For not a word said Gypsy of the matter, and half an hour passed and the supper-bell rang.
"There!" said Gypsy, jumping up, "I do declare if it isn't supper, and I've got these burs to get off and my dress to mend and my shoes and stockings to change, and—Oh, dear! I wish people didn't ever have to do things, anyway!"
With this very wise remark, she walked back across the ridge-pole and climbed in the window. There was nothing for Tom to do but follow; which he did slowly and reluctantly. Something would have to be said now, at any rate. But not a syllable said Gypsy. She went to the looking-glass, and began to brush her hair as unconcernedly as if everything were just as she left it and precisely as she wanted it.
Tom passed through the room and out of the door; then he stopped. Gypsy's eyes began to twinkle as if somebody had dropped two little diamonds in them.
"I say," said Tom.
"What do you say?" replied Gypsy.
"What do you suppose mother would have to say to you about this looking room?"
"I don't know what she'd say to you, I'm sure," said Gypsy, gravely.
"And you, a great girl, twelve years old!"
"I should like to know why I'm a railroad, anyway," said Gypsy.
"Who said you were a railroad?"
"Whoever wrote Gypsy Breynton, R. R., with my red ink."
"That doesn't stand for railroad."
"Doesn't? Well, what?"
A SPASM OF ORDER
"I can't help it," said Gypsy, after supper; "I can't possibly help it, and it's no use for me to try."
"If you cannot help it," replied Mrs. Breynton, quietly, "then it is no fault of yours, but in every way a suitable and praiseworthy condition of things that you should keep your room looking as I would be ashamed to have a servant's room look, in my house. People are never to blame for what they can't help."
"Oh, there it is again!" said Gypsy, with the least bit of a blush, "you always stop me right off with that, on every subject, from saying my prayers down to threading a needle."
"Your mother was trained in the new-school theology, and she applies her principles to things terrestrial as well as things celestial," observed her father, with an amused smile.
"Yes, sir," said Gypsy, without the least idea what he was talking about.
"Besides," added Mrs. Breynton, finishing, as she spoke, the long darn in Gypsy's dress, "I think people who give right up at little difficulties, on the theory that they can't help it, are——"
"Oh, I know that too!"
"I hate cowards," said Gypsy, in a little flash, and then stood with her back half turned, her eyes fixed on the carpet, as if she were puzzling out a proposition in Euclid, somewhere hidden in its brown oak-leaves.
"Take a chair, and sit by the window and think of it," remarked Tom, in his most aggravating tone.
"That's precisely what I intend to do, sir," said Gypsy; and was as good as her word. She went up-stairs and shut her door, and, what was remarkable, nobody saw anything more of her. What was still more remarkable, nobody heard anything of her. For a little while it was perfectly still overhead.
"I hope she isn't crying," said Mr. Breynton, who was always afraid Gypsy was doing something she ought not to do, and who was in about such a state of continual astonishment over the little nut-brown romp that had been making such commotion in his quiet home for twelve years, as a respectable middle-aged and kind-hearted oyster might be, if a lively young toad were shut up in his shell.
"Catch her!" said the more appreciative Tom; "I don't believe she cries four times a year. That's the best part of Gyp.; with all her faults, there's none of your girl's nonsense about her."
Another person in the room, who had listened to the conversation, went off at this period into a sudden fit of curiosity concerning Gypsy, and started up-stairs to find her. This was Master Winthrop Breynton, familiarly and disrespectfully known as Winnie. A word must be said as to this young person; for, whatever he may be in the eyes of other people, he was of considerable importance in his own. He had several distinguishing characteristics, as is apt to be the case with gentlemen of his age and experience. One was that he was five lengthy and important years of age; of which impressive fact his friends, relatives, and chance acquaintances, were informed at every possible and impossible opportunity. Another was, that there were always, at least, half a dozen buttons off from his jacket, at all times and places, though his long-suffering mother lived in her work-basket. A third, lay in the fact that he never walked. He trotted, he cantered, he galloped; he progressed in jerks, in jumps, in somersets; he crawled up-stairs like a little Scotch plaid spider, on "all fours;" he came down stairs on the banisters, the balance of power lying between his steel buttons and the smooth varnish of the mahogany. On several memorable occasions, he has narrowly escaped pitching head first into the hall lamp. His favorite method of locomotion, however, consisted in a series of thumps, beginning with a gentle tread, and increasing in impetus by mathematical progression till it ended in a thunder-clap. A long hall to him was bliss unalloyed; the bare garret floor a dream of delight, and the plank walk in the woodshed an ecstasy. Still a fourth peculiarity was a pleasing habit when matters went contrary to his expressed wishes, of throwing himself full length upon the floor without any warning whatsoever, squirming around in his clothes, and crying at the top of his lungs. Added to this is the fact that, for some unaccountable reason, Winnie's eyes were so blue, and Winnie's laugh so funny, and Winnie's hands were so pink and little, that somehow or other Winnie didn't get half the scoldings he deserved. But who is there of us that does, for that matter?
Well, Winnie it was who stamped across the hall, and crawled up-stairs hand over hand, and stamped across the upper entry, and pounded on Gypsy's door, and burst it open, and slammed in with one of Winnie's inimitable shouts.
"I say, father wants to know if——"
"Just see what you've done!"
Winnie stopped short, in considerable astonishment. Gypsy was sitting on the floor beside one of her bureau drawers which she had pulled out of its place. That drawer was a sight well worth seeing, by the way; but of that presently. Gypsy had taken out of it a little box (without a cover, like all Gypsy's boxes) filled with beadwork,—collars, cuffs, nets, and bracelets, all tumbled in together, and as much as a handful of loose beads of every size, color, and description, thrown down on the bottom. Gypsy was sorting these beads, and this was what had kept her so still. Now Winnie, in slamming into the room after his usual style, had stepped directly into the box, crushed its pasteboard flat, and scattered the unlucky beads to all four points of the compass.
Gypsy sat for about half a minute watching the stream of crimson and blue and black and silver and gold, that was rolling away under the bed and the chair and the table, her face a perfect little thunder-cloud. Then she took hold of Winnie's shoulder, without any remarks, and—shook him.
It was a little shake, and, if it had been given in good temper, would not have struck Winnie as anything but a pleasant joke. But he knew, from Gypsy's face, it was no joke; and, feeling his dignity insulted, down he went flat upon the floor with a scream and a jerk that sent two fresh buttons flying off from his jacket.
Mrs. Breynton ran up-stairs in a great hurry.
"What's the matter, Gypsy?"
"She sh—sh—shooked me—the old thing!" sobbed Winnie.
"He broke my box and lost all my beads, and I've got them all to pick up just as I was trying to put my room in order, and so I was mad," said Gypsy, frankly.
"Winnie, you may go down stairs," said Mrs. Breynton, "you must learn to be more careful with Gypsy's things."
Winnie slid down on the banisters, and Mrs. Breynton shut the door.
"What are you trying to do, Gypsy?"
"Pick up my room," said Gypsy.
"But what had that to do with stringing the beads?"
"Why, I—don't know exactly. I took out my drawer to fix it up, and my beads were all in a muss, and so I thought I'd sort them, and then I forgot."
"I see several things in the room that want putting in order before a little box of beads," said Mrs. Breynton, with a smile that was half amused, half sorrowful. Gypsy cast a deprecating glance around the room, and into her mother's face.
"Oh, I did mean to shut the wardrobe door, and I thought I'd taken the broom down stairs as much as could be, but that everlasting Tom had to go and—— Oh dear! did you ever see anything so funny in all your life?" And Gypsy looked at the image, and broke into one of her rippling laughs.
"It is really a serious matter, Gypsy," said Mrs. Breynton, looking somewhat troubled at the laugh.
"I know it," said Gypsy, sobering down, "and I came up-stairs on purpose to put everything to rights, and then I was going to live like other people, and keep my stockings darned, and—then I had to go head first into a box of beads, and that was the end of me. It's always so."
"You know, Gypsy, it is one of the signs of a lady to keep one's room in order; I've told you so many times."
"I know it," said Gypsy, forlornly; "don't you remember when I was a little bit of a thing, my telling you that I guessed God made a mistake when he made me, and put in some ginger-beer somehow, that was always going off? It's pretty much so; the cork's always coming out at the wrong time."
"Well," said Mrs. Breynton, with a smile, "I'm glad you're trying afresh to hammer it in. Pick up the beads, and tear down the image, and go to work with a little system. You'll be surprised to find how fast the room will come to order."
"I think," she added, as she shut the door, "that it was hardly worth while to——"
"To shake Winnie?" interrupted Gypsy, demurely. "No, not at all; I ought to have known better."
Mrs. Breynton did not offer to help Gypsy in the task which bade fair to be no easy one, of putting her room in order; but, with a few encouraging words, she went down stairs and left her. It would have been far easier for her to have gone to work and done the thing herself, than to see Gypsy's face so clouded and discouraged. But she knew it would be the ruin of Gypsy. Her only chance of overcoming her natural thoughtlessness, and acquiring the habits of a lady, lay in the persistent doing over and over again, by her own unaided patience, these very things that came so hard to her. Gypsy understood this perfectly, and had the good sense to think her mother was just right about it. It was not want of training, that gave Gypsy her careless fashion of looking after things. Mrs. Breynton was a wise, as well as a loving mother, and had done everything in the way of punishment, reproof, warning, persuasion, and argument, that mothers can do for the faults of children. Nor was it for want of a good example, Mrs. Breynton was the very pink of neatness. It was a natural kink in Gypsy, that was as hard to get out as a knot in an apple-tree, and which depended entirely on the child's own will for its eradication. This disorder in her room and about her toilet was only one development of it, and by no means a fixed or continued one. Gypsy could be, and half the time she was, as orderly and lady-like as anybody. She did everything by fits and starts. As Tom said, she was "always on the jump." If her dress didn't happen to be torn and her room dusty, why, she had a turn of forgetting everything. If she didn't forget, she was always getting hurt. If it wasn't that, she lost her temper every five minutes. Or else she was making terrible blunders, and hurting people's feelings; something was always the matter; and some one was always on the qui vive, wondering what Gypsy was going to do next.
Yet, in spite of it all, the person who did not love Gypsy Breynton (provided he knew her) was not to be found in Yorkbury. Whether there was any reason for this, you can judge for yourself as the story goes on.
After her mother had gone down, Gypsy went to work in earnest. She picked up the beads, and put them back into the drawer which she left upon the floor. Then she attacked Tom's image. It took her fully fifteen minutes merely to get the thing to pieces, for the true boy-fashion in which it was tied, pinned, sewed, and nailed together, would have been a puzzle to any feminine mind. She would have called Tom up to help her, but she was just a little bit too proud.
The broom she put out in the entry the first thing; then, remembering that that was not systematic, she carried it down stairs and hung it on its nail. The shoes and the dresses, the cape and the cloak, the tippet and the hat, she put in their places; the torn apron and the unmended stockings she tumbled into her basket, then went back and folded them up neatly; she also made a journey into the woodshed expressly to put the hatchet where it belonged, on the chopping-block. By this time it was quite dark, but she lighted a lamp, and went at it afresh. Winnie came up to the entry door, and, at a respectful distance, told her they were "popping" corn down stairs; but she shook her head, and proceeded with her dusting like a hero. Tom whistled for her up the chimney-flue; but she only gave a little thump on the floor, and said she was busy.
It was like walking into a labyrinth to dispose of the contents of that table-cloth. How to put away the pencils and the rubber, when the drawing-box was lost; how to collect all the cookey-crumbs and wandering needles, that slipped out of your finger as fast as you took hold of them; where on earth to put those torn geography leaves, that wouldn't stay in the book, and couldn't be thrown away; where was the cork to the inkstand? and how should she hang up the riding-whip, with the string gone? These were questions that might well puzzle a more systematic mind than Gypsy's. However, in due time, the room was restored to an order that was delightful to see,—for, if Gypsy made up her mind to a thing, she could do it thoroughly and skilfully,—and she returned to the bureau drawer. This drawer was a fair specimen of the rest of Gypsy's drawers, shelves, and cupboards, and their name was Legion. Moreover, it was an "upper drawer," and where is the girl that does not know what a delicate science is involved in the rearranging of these upper drawers? So many laces, and half-worn collars that don't belong there, are always getting in; loose coppers have such a way of accumulating in the crevices; all your wandering pins and hair-pins make it a rendezvous by a species of free-masonry utterly inexplicable; then your little boxes fit in so tightly, and never have room to open, and are always getting their covers caught when you shut the drawer, and, when you try to keep them down, you pinch your fingers so.
Please to imagine, O orderly readers! who keep every pin in its proper place, the worst looking upper drawer that your horrified eyes ever beheld, and you will have some idea of this drawer of Gypsy's.
There were boxes large, and boxes small, boxes round, square, and oblong; boxes with covers (only two), and boxes without; handkerchiefs, under-sleeves, collars,—both clean and soiled,—laces and ribbons, and bows and nets; purses and old gloves, a piece of soap, a pile of letters, scratched and scattering jewelry, a piece of dried cake, several fans all covered with dust, and nobody knew what not, in the lower strata, out of sight.
Gypsy sat and looked at it for about two minutes in utter despair. Then she just turned the whole thing bottom upwards in a great heap on the floor, and began to investigate matters, with her cheeks very red.
Presently, the family down stairs heard a little scream. Winnie stamped up to see what was the matter.
"Why, I've found my grammar!" said Gypsy. "It's the one in marble covers I lost ever—ever so long ago, and had to get a new one. It was right down at the bottom of the drawer!"
Pretty soon there was another little scream, and Gypsy called down the chimney:
"Tom Breynton! What do you think? I've found that dollar bill of yours you thought I'd burnt up."
After awhile there came still another scream, a pretty loud one this time. Mrs. Breynton came up to see what had happened.
"I've cut my hand," said Gypsy, faintly; "there was a great heap of broken glass in my drawer!"
"Yes, I'm sure I don't know how it came there; I guess I was going to frame a picture."
Mrs. Breynton bound up her finger, and went down again. She was no more than fairly seated before there came from up-stairs, not a scream, but one of the merriest laughs that ever was heard.
"What is to pay, now?" called Tom, from the entry.
"Oh, dear!" gasped Gypsy; "it's too funny for anything! If here isn't the carving-knife we scolded Patty for losing last winter, and—Oh, Tom, just look here!—my stick of peanut candy, that I thought I'd eaten up, all stuck on to my lace under-sleeves!"
It was past Gypsy's bed-time when the upper drawer was fairly in order and put back in its place. Three others remained to go through the same process, as well as wardrobe shelves innumerable. Gypsy, with her characteristic impulsiveness, would have sat up till twelve o'clock to complete the work, but her mother said "No" very decidedly, and so it must wait till to-morrow.
Tom came in just as everything was done, and Gypsy had drawn a long breath and stood up to look, with great satisfaction, all around her pleasant, orderly room.
"Well done! I say, Gypsy, what a jewel you are when you're a mind to be."
"Of course, I am. Have you just found it out?"
"Well, you know you're a diamond, decidedly in the rough, as a general thing. You need cutting down and polishing."
"And you to polish me? Well, I like the looks of this room, anyhow. It is nice to have things somewhere where you won't trip over them when you walk across the room—only if somebody else would pick 'em up for me."
"How long do you suppose it will last?" asked Tom, with an air of great superiority.
"Tom," said Gypsy, solemnly; "that's a serious question."
"It might last forever if you have a mind to have it,—come now, Gyp., why not?"
"That's a long time," said Gypsy, shaking her head; "I wouldn't trust myself two inches. To-morrow I shall be in a hurry to go to school; then I shall be in a hurry to go to dinner; then I shall be in a terrible hurry to get off with Sarah Rowe, and so it goes. However, I'll see. I feel, to-night, precisely as if I should never want to take a single pin out of those little black squares I've put them into on the cushion."
Gypsy found herself in a hurry the next day and the next, and is likely to, to the end of her life, I am afraid. But she seemed to have taken a little gasp of order, and for a long time no one had any complaint to make of Gypsy's room or Gypsy's toilet.
MISS MELVILLE'S VISITOR
As will be readily supposed, Gypsy's name was not her original one; though it might have been, for there have been actual Billys and Sallys, who began and ended Billys and Sallys only.
Gypsy's real name was an uncouth one—Jemima. It was partly for this reason, partly for its singular appropriateness, that her nickname had entirely transplanted the lawful and ugly one.
This subject of nicknames is a curiosity. All rules of euphony, fitness, and common sense, that apply to other things, are utterly at fault here. A baby who cannot talk plainly, dubs himself "Tuty," or "Dess," or "Pet," or "Honey," and forthwith becomes Tuty, Dess, Pet, or Honey, the rest of his mortal life. All the particularly cross and disagreeable girls are Birdies and Sunbeams. All the brunettes with loud voices and red hands, who are growing up into the "strong-minded women," are Lilies and Effies and Angelinas, and other etherial creatures; while the little shallow, pink-and-white young ladies who cry very often and "get nervous," are quite as likely to be royal Constance, or Elizabeth, without any nickname at all.
But Gypsy's name had undoubtedly been foreordained, so perfectly was it suited to Gypsy. For never a wild rover led a more untamed and happy life. Summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, found Gypsy out in the open air, as many hours out of the twenty-four as were not absolutely bolted and barred down into the school-room and dreamland. A fear of the weather never entered into Gypsy's creed; drenchings and freezings were so many soap-bubbles,—great fun while they lasted, and blown right away by dry stockings and mother's warm fire; so where was the harm? A good brisk thunderstorm out in the woods, with the lightning quivering all about her and the thunder crashing over her, was simple delight. A day of snow and sleet, with drifts knee-deep, and winds like so many little knives, was a festival. If you don't know the supreme bliss of a two-mile walk on such a day, when you have to shut your eyes, and wade your way, then Gypsy would pity you. Not a patch of woods, a pond, a brook, a river, a mountain, in the region (and there, in Vermont, there were plenty of them), but Gypsy knew it by heart.
There was not a trout-brook for miles where she had not fished. There was hardly a tree she had not climbed, or a fence or stone-wall—provided, of course, that it was away from the main road and people's eyes—that she had not walked. Gypsy could row and skate and swim, and play ball and make kites, and coast and race, and drive, and chop wood. Altogether Gypsy seemed like a very pretty, piquant mistake; as if a mischievous boy had somehow stolen the plaid dresses, red cheeks, quick wit, and little indescribable graces of a girl, and was playing off a continual joke on the world. Old Mrs. Surly, who lived opposite, and wore green spectacles, used to roll up her eyes, and say What would become of that child? A whit cared Gypsy for Mrs. Surly! As long as her mother thought the sport and exercise in the open air a fine thing for her, and did not complain of the torn dresses oftener than twice a week, she would roll her hoop and toss her ball under Mrs. Surly's very windows, and laugh merrily to see the green glasses pushed up and taken off in horror at what Mrs. Surly termed an "impropriety."
Therefore it created no surprise in the family one morning, when school-time came and passed, and Gypsy did not make her appearance, that she was reported to be "making a raft" down in the orchard swamp.
"Run and call her, Winnie," said Mrs. Breynton. "Tell her it is very late, and I want her to come right up,—remember."
"Yes mum," said Winnie, with unusual alacrity, and started off down the lane as fast as his copper-toed feet could carry him. It was quite a long lane, and a very pleasant one in summer. There was a row of hazel-nut bushes, always green and sweet, on one side, and a stone-wall on the other, with the broad leaves and tiny blossoms of a grape-vine trailing over it. The lane opened into a wide field which had an apple-orchard at one end of it, and sloped down over quite a little hill into a piece of marshy ground, where ferns and white violets, anemones, and sweet-flag grew in abundance. In the summer, the water was apt to dry up. In the spring, it was sometimes four feet deep. It was a pleasant spot, for the mountains lay all around it, and shut it in with their great forest-arms, and the sharp peaks that were purple and crimson and gold, under passing shadows and fading sunsets. And, then, is there any better fun than to paddle in the water?
Gypsy looked as if she thought not, when Winnie suddenly turned the corner, and ran down the slope.
She had finished her raft, and launched it off from the root of an old oak-tree that grew half in the water, and, with a long pole, had pushed herself a third of the way across the swamp. Her dress was tucked up over her bright balmoral, and the ribbons of her hat were streaming in the wind. She had no mittens or gloves on her hands, which were very pink and plump, and her feet were incased in high rubber boots.
"Hullo!" said Winnie, walking out on the root of the oak.
"Hilloa!" said Gypsy.
"I say—that's a bully raft."
"To be sure it is."
"I haven't had a ride on a raft since—why since 'leven or six years ago when I was a little boy. I shouldn't wonder if it was twenty-three years, either."
"Oh, I can't bear people that hint. Why don't you say right out, if you want a ride?"
"I want a ride," said Winnie, without any hesitation.
"Wait till I turn her round. I'll bring her up on the larboard side," replied Gypsy, in the tone of an old salt of fifty years' experience.
So she paddled up to the oak-tree, and Winnie jumped on board.
"I guess we'll have time to row across and back before school," said Gypsy, pushing off.
Winnie maintained a discreet silence.
"I don't suppose it's very late," said Gypsy.
"Oh, just look at that toad with a green head, down in the water!" observed Winnie.
They paddled on a little ways in silence.
"What makes your cheeks so red?" asked Gypsy.
"I guess it's scarlet fever, or maybe it's appleplexy, you know."
Just then Winnie gave a little scream.
"Look here—Gyp.! The boat's goin'clock down. I don't want to go very much. I saw another toad down there."
"I declare!" said Gypsy, "we're going to be swamped, as true as you live! It isn't strong enough to bear two,—sit still, Winnie. Perhaps we'll get ashore."
But no sooner had she spoken the words than the water washed up about her ankles, and Winnie's end of the raft went under. The next she knew, they were both floundering in the water.
It chanced to be about three feet and a half deep, very cold, and somewhat slimy. Gypsy had a strong impression that a frog jumped into her neck when she plunged, head first, into the deep mud at the bottom. After a little splashing and gasping, she regained her feet, and stood up to her elbows in the water. But what she could do, Winnie could not. He had sunk in the soft mud, and even if he had had the courage to stand up straight, the water would have been above his head. But it had never occurred to him to do otherwise than lie gasping and flat on the bottom, where he was drowning as fast as he possibly could.
Gypsy pulled him out and carried him ashore. She wrung him out a little, and set him down on the grass, and then, by way of doing something, she took her dripping handkerchief out of her dripping pocket and wiped her hands on it.
"O—o—oh!" gasped Winnie; "I never did—you'd ought to know—you've just gone'n drownded me!"
"What a story!" said Gypsy; "you're no more drowned than I am. To be sure you are rather wet," she added, with a disconsolate attempt at a laugh.
"You oughtn't to have tooken me out on that old raft," glared Winnie, through the shower of water-drops that rained down from his forehead, "you know you hadn't! I'll just tell mother. I'll get sick and be died after it, you see if I don't."
"Very well," said Gypsy, giving herself a little shake, very much as a pretty brown spaniel would do, who had been in swimming.
"You may do as you like. Who teased to go on the raft, I'd like to know?"
"Besides," resumed Winnie, with an impressive cough; "you're late to school, 'cause mother, she said you was to come right up when she sent me down, only I—well I guess, I b'lieve I forgot to tell you,—I rather think I did. Anyways, you're late,—so!"
Gypsy looked at Winnie, and Winnie looked at Gypsy. There was an awful silence.
"Winnie Breynton," said Gypsy, solemnly, "if you don't get one whipping!"
"I don't care to hear folks talk," interrupted Winnie, with dignity, "I am five years old."
Gypsy's reply is not recorded.
I have heard it said that when Tom espied the two children coming up the lane, he went to his mother with the information that the fishman was somewhere around, only he had sent his fishes on ahead of him. They appeared to have been freshly caught, and would, he thought, make several dinners; but I cannot take the responsibility of the statement.
It was very late, much nearer ten o'clock than nine, when Gypsy was fairly metamorphosed into a clean, dry, very penitent-looking child.
She hurried off to school, leaving Winnie and his mother in close conference. Exactly what happened on the occasion of that interview, has never been made known to an inquiring public.
On the way to school Gypsy had as many as six sober thoughts; a larger number than she was usually capable of in forty-eight hours. One was, that it was too bad she had got so wet. Another was, that she really supposed it was her business to know when school-time came, no matter where she was or what she was doing. Another, that she had made her mother a great deal of trouble. A fourth was, that she was sorry to be so late at school—it always made Miss Melville look so; and then a bad mark was not, on the whole, a desirable thing. Still a fifth was, that she would never do such a thing again as long as she lived—never. The sixth lay in a valiant determination to behave herself the rest of this particular day. She would study hard. She would get to the head of the class. She wouldn't put a single pin in the girls' chairs, nor tickle anybody, nor make up funny faces, nor whisper, nor make one of the girls laugh, not one, not even that silly Delia Guest, who laughed at nothing,—why, you couldn't so much as make a doll out of your handkerchief and gloves, and hang it on your pen-handle, but what she had to go into a spasm over it.
No, she wouldn't do a single funny thing all day. She would just sit still and look sober and sorry, and not trouble Miss Melville in the least. Her mind was quite made up.
Just as she had arrived at this conclusion she came to the school-house door. Gypsy and a number of other girls, both her own age and younger, who either were not prepared to enter the high school, or whose parents preferred the select school system, composed Miss Melville's charge. They were most of them pleasant girls, and Miss Melville was an unusually successful teacher, and as dearly loved as a judicious teacher can be. The school-house was a bit of a brown building tucked away under some apple-trees on a quiet by-road. It had been built for a district school, but had fallen into disuse years ago, and Miss Melville had taken possession of it.
Gypsy slackened her pace as she passed under the apple-boughs, where the tiny, budding leaves filled all the air with faint fragrance. It was nearly recess time; she knew, because she could hear, through the windows, the third geography class reciting. It was really too bad to be so late. She went up the steps slowly, the corners of her mouth drawn down as penitently as Gypsy's mouth could well be.
Just inside the door she stopped. A quick color ran all over her face, her eyes began to twinkle like sparks from a great fire of hickory, and, in an instant, every one of those six sober thoughts was gone away somewhere—nobody could have told where; and the funniest little laugh broke the silence of the entry.
The most interested observer could not have told what Gypsy saw that was so very amusing. The entry was quite deserted. Nothing was to be seen but a long row of girls' "things," hanging up on the nails—hats and bonnets, tippets, sacks, rubbers, and baskets; apparently as demure and respectable as hats, bonnets, tippets, sacks, rubbers, and baskets could be. Yet there Gypsy stood for as much as a minute laughing away quietly to herself, as if she had come across some remarkable joke.
About ten minutes after, some one knocked at the school-room door. Miss Melville laid down her geography.
"Cape Ann, Cape Hatteras, Cape—may I go to the door?" piped little Cely Hunt, holding up her hand. Miss Melville nodded and Cely went. She opened the door—and jumped.
"What's the matter, Cely?—Oh!" For there stood the funniest old woman that Cely or Miss Melville had ever seen. She had on a black dress, very long and very scant, that looked as if it were made out of an old waterproof cloak. Over that, she wore a curious drab-silk sack, somewhat faded and patched, with all the edges of the seams outside. Over that, was a plaid red-and-green shawl, tied about her waist. There was a little black shawl over that, and a green tippet wound twice around her throat with the ends tucked in under the shawl. She had a pair of black mitts on her hands, and she carried a basket. Her face no one could see, for it was covered with a thick green veil, tied closely about her bonnet.
Cely gave a little scream, and ran behind the door. Miss Melville stepped down from the platform, and went to meet the visitor.
"Good arternoon," said the old woman, in a very shrill voice.
"Good afternoon," said Miss Melville, politely.
"I come to see the young uns," piped the old woman. "I ben deown teown fur some eggs, an'clock I heerd the little creaturs a sayin'clock of their lessons as I come by, an'clock thinks says I to myself, says I, bless their dear hearts, I'll go in an'clock see 'em, says I, an'clock I'll thank ye kindly for a seat, for I'm pretty nigh beat out."
The scholars all began to laugh. Miss Melville, somewhat reluctantly, handed her visitor a chair by the door, but did not ask her upon the platform, as the visitor seemed to expect.
"There's a drefful draught here on my neck," she muttered, discontentedly; "an'clock I'm terribly afflicted with rheumatiz mostly. Can't see much of the young uns here, nuther."
"I doubt if there is much here that will interest you," observed Miss Melville, looking at her keenly. "You may rest yourself, and then I think you had better go. Visitors always disturb the children."
"Bless their dear hearts!" cried the old woman, shrilly. "They needn't be afraid of me—I wouldn't hurt 'em. Had a little angel boy once myself; he's gone to Californy now, an'clock I'm a lone, lorn widdy. I say—little gal!" and the stranger pointed her finger (it trembled a little) at Sarah Rowe, who had grown quite red in the face with her polite efforts not to laugh. "Little gal, whar's yer manners?—laughin'clock at a poor ole creetur like me! Come out here, and le's hear ye say that beautiful psalm of Dr. Watts—now!"
"How doth the little busy bee!"
But just then something happened for which the old woman and the scholars were equally unprepared. Miss Melville looked through the green veil straight into the old woman's eyes, and said just one word. She said it very quietly, and she said it without a smile. It was
There was a great hush. Sarah Rowe was the first to break it.
"Why, that's my sack turned wrong side out!"
"And those are my mitts!" said Agnes Gaylord.
"If you please, Miss Melville, that's my black shawl,—I know it by the border," piped a very little girl in mourning.
"I do believe that's my waterproof, and Lucy's plaid shawl," giggled Delia Guest. "Did you ever?"
"And my green veil," put in somebody else, faintly.
Miss Melville quietly removed the veil, and Gypsy looked up with her mischief bright all over her face. Her eyes fell, however, and her cheeks flushed crimson, when she saw the look about Miss Melville's mouth.
"You may go and put away the things, Gypsy," said Miss Melville, still without a smile. Gypsy obeyed in silence. The girls stopped laughing, and began to whisper together behind the desk-covers.
"The school will come to order," said Miss Melville. "Cely, what is the largest river in New England?—Next."
Gypsy hung up the things, and came slowly back into the room. Miss Melville motioned her to her seat, but took no further notice of her. Gypsy, silent and ashamed, took out her spelling-book, and began to study. The girls looked at her out of the corners of their eyes, and every now and then Delia Guest broke out afresh into a smothered laugh, but no one spoke to her, and she spoke to nobody.
The spelling-class was called out, but Miss Melville signified, by a look, that Gypsy was to keep her seat. Recess came, but Miss Melville was busy writing at her desk, and took no notice of her, further than to tell the group of girls, who had instantly clustered buzzing and laughing about her, that they were all to go out doors and play. They went, and Gypsy sat still with her head behind the desk-cover. Something in Miss Melville's manner said, louder than words, that she was displeased. It was a manner which made Gypsy feel, for once in her life, that she had not one word to say.
She busied herself with her books, and tried to look unconcerned when the scholars came back. The arithmetic class recited, but her teacher did not call for her; the history class, but no one spoke to Gypsy. The disgrace of this punishment was what Gypsy minded the most, though it was no slight thing to see so many "absent" marks going down on her report, when she was right in the room and had learned her lessons.
After what seemed to her an interminable time, the morning passed and the school broke up. The children, controlled by that something in Miss Melville's manner, and by Gypsy's averted head and burning cheeks, left the room quickly, and Gypsy and her teacher were alone.
"Gypsy," said Miss Melville.
There was no answer.
There came a faint "Yes'm" from behind the desk-cover. Miss Melville laid down her pencil, closed her own desk, and came and sat down on the bench beside Gypsy.
"I wonder if you are as sorry as I am," she said, simply.
Something very bright glittered on Gypsy's lashes, and two great drops stood on her hot cheeks.
"I don't see what possessed me!" she said, vehemently. "Why don't you turn me out of school?"
"I did not think you could willingly try to make me trouble," continued Miss Melville, without noticing the last remark.
The two great drops rolled slowly down Gypsy's cheeks, and into her mouth. She swallowed them with a gulp, and brushed her hand, angrily, across her eyes. Gypsy very seldom cried, but I fancy she came pretty near it on that occasion.
"Miss Melville," she said, with an earnestness that was comical, in spite of itself; "I wish you'd please to scold me. I should feel a great deal better."
"Scoldings won't do you much good," said Miss Melville, with a sad smile; "you must cure your own faults, Gypsy. Nobody else can do it for you."
Gypsy turned around in a little passion of despair.
"Miss Melville, I can't! It isn't in me—you don't know! Here this very morning I got late to school, tipping Winnie over in a raft—drenched through both of us, and mother, so patient and sweet with the dry stockings she'd just mended, and wasn't I sorry? Didn't I think about it all the way to school—the whole way, Miss Melville? And didn't I make up my mind I'd be as good as a kitten all day, and sit still like Agnes Gaylord, and not tickle the girls, nor make you any trouble, nor anything? Then what should I do but come into the entry and see those things, and it all came like a flash how funny it would be'n I'd talk up high like Mrs. Surly 'n you wouldn't know me, and—that was the last I thought, till you took off the veil, and I wished I hadn't done it. It's just like me—I never can help anything anyhow."
"I think you can," said her teacher, kindly. "You certainly had the power, when you stood out there in the entry, to stop and think before you touched the things."
"I don't know," said Gypsy, shaking her head, thoughtfully; "I don't believe I had."
"But you wouldn't do it again?"
"I guess I wouldn't!" said Gypsy, with an emphasis.
"What you can do one time, you can another," said Miss Melville.
Gypsy was silent.
"There's one other thing about it," continued her teacher, "besides the impropriety of playing such a trick in school hours—that is, that it was very unkind to me."
"Unkind!" exclaimed Gypsy.
"Yes," said Miss Melville, quietly, "unkind."
"Why, Miss Melville, I wouldn't be unkind to you for anything!—I love you dearly."
"Nevertheless, Gypsy, it was very unkind to deliberately set to work to annoy me and make me trouble, by getting the school into a frolic. Anything done to break the order of study-hours, or to withstand any rule of the school, is always an unkindness to a teacher. There is scarcely a girl in school that might help me more than you, Gypsy, if you chose."
"I don't see how," said Gypsy, astonished.
"I do," said Miss Melville, smiling, "and I always think a little vote of thanks to you, when you are quiet and well-behaved. An orderly scholar has a great deal of influence. The girls all love you, and are apt to do as they see you do, Gypsy."
There was a little silence, in which Gypsy's eyes were wandering away under the apple-boughs, their twinkling dimmed and soft.
At last she turned quickly, and threw her arms about her teacher's neck.
"Miss Melville, if you'll give me one kiss, I'll never be an old woman again, if I live as long as Methuselah!"
Miss Melville kissed her, and whispered one or two little loving words of encouragement, such as nobody but Miss Melville knew how to say. But Gypsy never told what they were.
"I believe there's a bolt left out of me somewhere," she said, as they left the school-house together; "what do you suppose it is?"
"It is the strong, iron bolt, 'stop and think,' Gypsy."
"Um—yes—perhaps it is," said Gypsy, and walked slowly home.
GYPSY HAS A DREAM
"You know as well as I do."
"What did you observe?"
"That's my name."
"Will you, or will you not, come down to the pond and have a row?"
"Let's hear you tease a little."
"Catch me! If you won't come for a civil request, I won't tease for it."
"Very good," said Tom, laying aside his Euclid; "I like your spunk. Rather think I'll go."
Tom tossed on his cap and was ready. Gypsy hurried away to array herself in the complication of garments necessary to the feminine adventurer, if she so much as crosses the yard; a continual mystery of Providence, was this little necessity to Gypsy, and one against which she lived in a state of incessant rebellion. It was provoking enough to stand there in her room, tugging and hurrying till she was red in the face, over a pair of utterly heartless and unimpressible rubbers, that absolutely refused to slip over the heel of her boot, and to see Tom through the window, with his hands in his pocket, ready, waiting, and impatient, alternately whistling and calling for her.
"I never did!" said Gypsy, in no very gentle tone.
"Hur—ry up!" called Tom, coolly.
"These old rubbers!" said Gypsy.
"What's the matter?" asked her mother, stopping at the door.
"It's enough to try the patience of a saint!" said Gypsy, emphatically, holding out her foot.
"Perhaps I can help you," said Mrs. Breynton, stooping down. "Why, Gypsy! your boots are wet through; of course the rubbers won't go on."
"I didn't suppose that would make any difference," said Gypsy, looking rather foolish. "I got them wet this morning, down at the swamp. I thought they were dry, though: I sat with my feet in the oven until Patty drove me off. She said I was in the bread."
"You will have to put on your best boots," said her mother.
"Oh, Tom!" called Gypsy, in despair, as the shrillest of all shrill whistles came up through the window. "Everything's in a jumble! I'll be there as soon as I can."
She changed her boots, tossed on her turban, whisked on her sack, and began to fasten it with a jerk, when off came the button at the throat, and rolled maliciously quite out of sight under the bed.
"There!" said Gypsy.
"Can't wait!" shouted Tom.
"I mended that sack," said Gypsy, "only yesterday afternoon. I call it too bad, when a body's trying to keep their things in order, and do up all their mending, that things have to act so!"
"I think you have been trying to be orderly," said her mother, helping her to pin the offending sack about the throat, for there was no time now to restore the wandering button. "I have noticed a great improvement in you; but there's one thing wanting yet, that would have kept the button in its place, and had the boots properly taken off and dried at the right time."
"What's that?" asked Gypsy, in a great hurry to go.
"A little more thoroughness, Gypsy."
This bit of a lesson, like most of Mrs. Breynton's moral teachings, was enforced with a little soft kiss on Gypsy's forehead, and a smile that was as unlike a sermon as smile could be.
Gypsy gave two thoughts to it, while she jumped down stairs three steps at a time; then, it must be confessed, she forgot it entirely, in the sight of Tom coolly walking off down the lane without her. But words that Mrs. Breynton said with a kiss did not slip away from Gypsy's memory "for good an a'," as easily as that. She had her own little places and times of private meditation, when such things came up to her like faithful angels, that are always ready to speak, if you give them the chance.
Tom was still in sight, among the hazel-nut bushes and budding grape-vines of the lane, and Gypsy ran swiftly after him. She was fleet of foot as a young gazelle, and soon overtook him. She had just stopped, panting, by his side, and was proceeding to make some remarks which she thought his conduct richly deserved, when the sound of some little trotting feet behind them attracted their attention.
"Why, Winnie Breynton!" said Gypsy.
"Where are you going?" asked Tom, turning round.
"Oh, nowheres in particular," said Winnie, with an absent air.
"Well, you may just turn round and go there, then," said Tom. "We don't want any little boys with us this afternoon."
"Little boys!" said Winnie, with a terrible look; "I'm five years old, sir. I can button my own jacket, and I've got a snowshovel!"
Tom walked rapidly on, and Gypsy with him. A moment's reflection seemed to convince Winnie that his company was not wanted, and he disappeared among the hazel nut bushes.
Gypsy and Tom were fast walkers, and they reached the pond in a marvellously short time. This pond was about a half-mile from the house, just at the foot of a hill which went by the name of Kleiner Berg—a German word meaning little mountain. There were many of these elevations all along the valley in which Yorkbury was situated. They seemed to be a sort of stepping-stones to the great, snow-crowned mountains, that towered sharply beyond. The pond that nestled in among the trees at the foot of the Kleiner Berg was called the Kleiner Berg Basin. It was a beautiful sheet of water, small and still and sheltered, and a great resort of pleasure-seekers because of the clouds of white and golden lilies that floated over it in the hot summer months. Mr. Breynton owned a boat there, which was kept locked to a tiny wharf under the trees, and was very often used by the children, although Tom declared it was no better to fish in than a wash-tub; as a Vermont boy, used to the trout-brooks up among the mountains, would be likely to think.
"What's that?" asked Gypsy, as they neared the wharf.
"Looks as much like a little green monkey as anything," said Tom, making a tube of his hands to look through. "It's in the boat, whatever it is."
"It's a green-and-white gingham monkey," said Gypsy, suddenly, "with a belt, and brown pants, and a cap on wrong side before."
"The little——, he may just walk home anyhow," observed Tom, in his autocratic style. "He ought to be taught better than to come where older people are, especially if they don't want him."
"I suppose he likes to have a boat-ride as well as we do," suggested Gypsy.
"Winthrop!" called Tom, severely.
Winnie's chin was on his little fat hand, and Winnie's eyes were fixed upon the water, and Winnie was altogether too deeply absorbed in meditation to deign a reply.
"Winnie, where did you come from?"
"Oh!" said Winnie, looking up, carelessly; "that you?"
"How did you get down here, I'd like to know?" said Gypsy.
Winnie regarded her impressively, as if to signify that his principles of action were his own until they were made public, and when they were made public she might have them.
"You may just get out of that boat," said Tom, rather crossly for him. Winnie hinted, as if it were quite an accidental remark, that he had no intention of doing so. He furthermore observed that he would be happy to take them to row. "Father said whoever took the boat first was to have it."
Tom replied by taking him up in one hand, twisting him over his shoulder, and landing him upon the grass. At this Winnie, as characteristic in his wrath as in his dignity, threw himself flat, and began to scream after his usual musical fashion.
"It's too bad!" said Gypsy. "Let him go, Tom—do."
"He should have stayed where he was told to," argued Tom, who, like most boys of his age, had a sufficiently just estimate of the importance of his own authority, and who would sometimes do a very selfish thing under the impression that it was his duty to family and state, as an order-loving individual and citizen.
"I know it isn't so pleasant to have him," said Gypsy, "but it does make him so dreadfully happy."
That was the best of Gypsy;—she was as generous a child as poor, fallen children of Adam are apt to be; as quick to do right as she was to do wrong, and much given to this fancy of seeing people "dreadfully happy." I have said that people loved Gypsy. I am inclined to think that herein lay the secret of it.
Then Gypsy never "preached." If she happened to be right, and another person wrong, she never put on superior airs, and tried to patronize them into becoming as good as she was. She made her suggestions in such a straightforward, matter-of-fact way, as if of course you thought so too, and she was only agreeing with you; and was apt to make them so merrily withal, that there was no resisting her.
Therefore Tom, while pretending to carry his point, really yielded to the influence of Gypsy's kind feeling, in saying,—
"On the whole, Winnie, I've come to the conclusion to take you, on condition that you always do as I tell you in future. And if you don't stop crying this minute, you sha'n't go."
This rather ungracious consent was sufficient to dry Winnie's tears and silence Winnie's lungs, and the three seated themselves in the little boat, and started off in high spirits. It was a light, pretty boat, painted in bright colors, and christened The Dipper, it being an appropriate and respectful title for a boat on the Kleiner Berg Basin. Moreover, the air was as sweet as a May-flower, and as warm as sunshine; there was a soft, blue sky with clouds of silver like stately ships sailing over it, and such a shimmering, bright photograph of it in the water; then Tom was so pleasant, and rowed so fast, and let Gypsy help, and she could keep time with him, and the spray dashed up like silver-dust about the oars, and the bees were humming among the buds on the trees, and the blue dragon-flies, that skipped from ripple to ripple, seemed to be having such a holiday. Altogether, Gypsy felt like saying, with famous little Prudy,—
"Oh, I'm so glad there happened to be a world, and God made me!"
After a while Tom laid down his oars, and they floated idly back and forth among the lily-stems and the soft, purple shadows of the maple-boughs, from which the perfumed scarlet blossoms dropped like coral into the water. Tom took off his cap, and leaned lazily against the side of the boat; Winnie, interested in making a series of remarkable faces at himself in the water, for a wonder sat still, and Gypsy lay down across two seats, with her face turned up watching the sky. It was very pleasant, and no one seemed inclined to talk.
"I wish I were a cloud," said Gypsy, suddenly, after a long silence. "A little white cloud, with a silver fringe, and not have anything to do but float round all day in the sunshine,—no lessons nor torn dresses nor hateful old sewing to do."
"S'posin' it thunder-stormed," suggested Winnie. "You might get striked."
"That would be fun," said Gypsy, laughing. "I always wanted to see where the lightning came from."
"Supposing there came a wind, and blew you away," suggested Tom, sleepily.
"I never thought of that," said Gypsy. "I guess I'd rather do the sewing."
Presently a little scarlet maple-blossom floated out on the wind, and dropped right into Gypsy's mouth (which most unpoetically happened to be open).
"Just think," said Gypsy, whose thoughts seemed to have taken a metaphysical turn, "of being a little red flower, that dies and drops into the water, and there's never any fruit nor anything,—I wonder what it was made for."
"Perhaps just to make you ask that question," answered Tom; and there was a great deal more in the answer than Tom himself supposed. This was every solitary word that was said on that boat-ride. A little is so much better than much, sometimes, and goes a great deal further.
It seemed to Gypsy the pleasantest boat-ride she had ever taken; but Tom became tired of it before she did, and went up to the house, carrying Winnie with him. Gypsy stayed a little while to row by herself.
"Be sure you lock the boat when you come up," called Tom, in starting.
"Oh yes," said Gypsy, "I always do."
"Did you bring up the oars?" asked Tom, at supper.
"Yes, they're in the barn. I do sometimes remember things, Mr. Tom."
"Did you——," began Tom, again.
But Winnie just then upset the entire contents of his silver mug of milk exactly into Tom's lap, and as this was the fourth time the young gentleman had done that very thing, within three days, Tom's sentence was broken off for another of a more agitated nature.
That night Tom had a dream.
He thought the house was a haunted castle—(he had, I am sorry to say, been reading novels in study hours), and that the ghost of old Baron Somebody who had defrauded the beautiful Lady Somebody-else, of Kleiner Berg Basin and the Dipper, in which it was supposed Mrs. Surly had secreted a blind kitten, which it was somehow or other imperatively necessary should be drowned, for the well-being of the beautiful and unfortunate heiress,—that the ghost of this atrocious Baron was going down stairs, with white silk stockings on his feet and a tin pan on his head.
At this crisis Tom awoke, with a jump, and heard, or thought he heard, a slight creaking noise in the entry. Winnie's cat, of course; or the wind rattling the blinds;—nevertheless, Tom went to his door, and looked out. He was exceedingly sleepy, and the entry was exceedingly dark, and, though he had not a breath of faith in ghosts, not he,—was there ever a boy who had?—and though he considered such persons, as had, as candidates for the State Idiot Asylum, yet it must be confessed that even Tom was possessed of an imagination, and this imagination certainly, for an instant, deluded him into the belief that a dim figure was flitting down stairs.
"Who's there?" said Tom, rather faintly.
There was no reply. A curious sound, like the lifting of a distant latch by phantom fingers, fell upon his ear,—then all was still.
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Tom. Nevertheless, Tom went to the head of the stairs, and looked down; went to the foot of the stairs, and looked around. The doors were all closed as they had been left for the night. Nothing was to be seen; nothing was to be heard.
"Curious mental delusions one will have when one is sleepy," said Tom, and went back to bed, where, the reader is confidentially informed, he lay for fifteen entire minutes with his eyes wide open, speculating on the proportion of authenticated ghost-stories;—to be sure, there had been some; it was, perhaps, foolish to deny as much as that.
After which, he slept the rest of the night as soundly as young people of sixteen, who are well and happy, are apt to sleep.
That night, also, Gypsy had a dream.
She dreamed that Miss Melville sailed in through the window on an oar, which she paddled through the air with a parasol, and told her that her (Gypsy's) father had been hung upon a lamp-post by Senator Sumner, for advocating the coercion of the seceded States, and that Tom had set Winnie afloat on the Kleiner Berg Basin, in a milk-pitcher. Winnie had tipped over, and was in imminent danger of drowning, if indeed he were not past hope already, and Tom sat up in the maple-tree, laughing at him.
Her mother appeared to have enlisted in the Union army, and, her father being detained in that characteristic manner by Mr. Sumner, there was evidently nothing to be done but for Gypsy to go to Winnie's relief. This she hastened to do with all possible speed. She dressed herself under a remarkable sense of not being able to find any buttons, and of getting all her sleeves upon the wrong arm. She put on her rubber-boots, because it took so long to lace up her boots. Her stockings she wore upon her arms. The reason appeared to be, that she might not get her hands wet in pulling Winnie out. She stopped to put on her sack, her turban, and her blue veil. She also spent considerable time in commendable efforts to pin on a lace collar which utterly refused to be pinned, and to fasten at her throat a velvet bow that kept turning into a little green snake, and twisting round her fingers.
When at length she was fairly ready, she left the house softly, under the impression that Tom (who appeared to have the remarkable capacity of being in the house and down in the maple-trees at one and the same time) would stop her if he heard her.
She ran down the lane and over the fields and into the woods, where the Kleiner Berg rose darkly in front of her; so, at last, to the Basin, which rippled and washed on its shore, and tossed up at her feet—an empty milk-pitcher!
A horrible fear seized her. She had come too late. Winnie was drowned. It was all owing to that lace collar.
She sprang into the boat; she floated away; she peered down into the dark water. But Tom laughed in the maple-tree; and there was no sign nor sound of Winnie.
She cried out with a loud cry, and awoke. She lifted up her head, and saw——
WHAT SHE SAW
A great, solemn stretch of sky, alive with stars.
A sheet of silent water.
A long line of silent hills.
She had acted out her dream! When the truth came to Gypsy, she sat for a moment like one stunned. The terrible sense of awakening in a desolate place, at midnight, and alone, instead of in a safe and quiet bed, with bolted doors, and friends within the slightest call, might well alarm an older and stouter heart than Gypsy's. The consciousness of having wandered she did not know whither, she did not know how, in the helplessness of sleep, into a place where her voice could reach no human ear, was in itself enough to freeze her where she sat, with hands locked, and wide, frightened eyes, staring into the darkness.
After a few moments she stirred, shivered a little, and looked about her.
It was the Basin, surely. There were the maples, there was the Kleiner Berg rolling up, soft and shadowy, among its pines. There were the mountains, towering and sharp—terrible shadows against the sky. Here, too, was the Dipper beneath her, swaying idly back and forth upon the water. She remembered, with a little cry of joy, that the boat was always locked; she could not have stirred from the shore; it would be but the work of a moment to jump upon the wharf, then back swiftly through the fields to the house.
She looked back. The wharf was not in sight. A dark distance lay between her and it. The beds of lily-leaves, and the dropping blossoms of the maples were about her on every side. She had drifted half across the pond.
She understood it all in a moment—she had not locked the boat that afternoon.
What was to be done? The oars were half a mile away, in the barn at home. There was not so much as a branch floating within reach on the water. She tried to pull up the board seats of the boat, under the impression that she could, by degrees, paddle herself ashore with one of them. But they were nailed tightly in their places, and she could not stir them. Evidently, there was nothing to be done.
Perhaps the boat would drift ashore somewhere; she could land anywhere; even on the steep Kleiner Berg side she could easily have found footing; she was well used to climbing its narrow ledges, and knew every crack and crevice and projection where a step could be taken. But, no; the boat was not going to drift ashore. It had stopped in a tangle of lily-leaves, far out in the water, and there was not a breath of wind to stir it. If the water had not been deep she could have waded ashore; but her practised ear told her, from the sound of the little waves against her hand, that wading was not to be thought of. To be sure, Gypsy could swim; but a walk of half a mile in drenched clothes was hardly preferable to sitting still in a dry boat, to say nothing of the inconvenience of swimming in crinoline, and on a dark night.
No, there was nothing to be done but to sit still till morning.
Having come to this conclusion, Gypsy gave another little shiver, and slipped down into the bottom of the boat, thinking she might lie with her head under the stern-seat, and thus be somewhat shielded from the chilly air. In turning up her sack-collar, to protect her throat, she touched something soft, which proved to be the lace collar. This led her to examine her dress. She now noticed for the first time that one stocking was drawn up over her hand,—the other she had probably lost on the way,—and that she had put her bare feet into rubber-boots. The lace collar was fastened by a bit of green chenille she sometimes wore at her throat, and which had doubtless been the snake of her dream.
Lonely, frightened, and cold as she was, Gypsy's sense of the ludicrous overcame her at that, and she broke into a little laugh. That laugh seemed to drive away the mystery and terror of her situation, in spite of the curious sound it had in echoing over the lonely water; and Gypsy set herself to work with her usual good sense to see how matters stood.
"In the first place," she reasoned, talking half aloud for the sake of the company of her own voice, "I've had a fit of what the dictionary calls somnambulism, I suppose. I eat too much pop-corn after supper, and that's the whole of it,—it always makes me dream,—only I never was goose enough to get out of bed before, and I rather think it'll be some time before I do again. I came down stairs softly, and out of the back door. Nobody heard me, and of course nobody will hear me till morning, and I'm in a pretty fix. If I hadn't forgotten to lock the boat I should be back in bed by this time. Oh dear! I wish I were. However, I'm too large to tip myself over and get drowned, and I couldn't get hurt any other way; and there's nothing to be afraid of if I do have to stay here till morning, except sore throat, so there's no great harm done. The worst of it is, that old Tom! Won't he laugh at me about the boat! I never expect to hear the end of it. Then when they go to my room and find me gone, in the morning, they'll be frightened. I'm rather sorry for that. I wish I knew what time it is."
Just then the distant church-clock struck two. Gypsy held her breath, and listened to it. It had a singular, solemn sound. She had never heard the clock strike two in the morning but once before in her life. That was once when she was very small, when her father was dangerously sick, and the coming of the doctor had wakened her. She had always somehow associated the hour with mysterious flickering lights, and anxious whispers and softened steps, and a dread as terrible as it was undefined. Now, out here in this desolate place, where the birds were asleep in their nests, and the winds quiet among the mountain-tops, and the very frogs tired of their chanting,—herself the only waking thing,—these two far, deep-toned syllables seemed like a human voice. Like the voice, Gypsy fancied, of some one imprisoned for years in the belfry, and crying to get out.
Two o'clock. Three—four—five—six. At about six they would begin to miss her; her mother always called her, then, to get up. Four hours.
"Hum,—well," said Gypsy, drawing her sack-collar closer, "pretty long time to sit out in a boat and shiver. It might be worse, though." Just then her foot struck something soft under the seat. She pulled it out, and found it to be an old coat of Tom's, which he sometimes used for boating. Fortunately it was not wet, for the boat was new, and did not leak. She wrapped it closely around her shoulders, curled herself up snugly in the stern, and presently pronounced herself "as warm as toast, and as comfortable as an oyster."
Then she began to look about her. All around and underneath her lay the black, still water,—so black that the maple-branches cast no shadow on it. About and above her rose the mountains, grim and mute, and watching, as they had watched for ages, and would watch for ages still, all the long night through. Overhead, the stars glittered and throbbed, and shot in and out of ragged clouds. Far up in the great forests, that climbed the mountain-sides, the wind was muttering like an angry voice.
Somehow it made Gypsy sit very still. She thought, if she were a poet, she would write some verses just then; indeed, if she had had a pencil, I am not sure but she would have, as it was.
Then some other thoughts came to Gypsy. She wondered why, of all places, she chanced to come to the Basin in her dream. She might have gone to the saw-mill, and been caught and whirred to death in the machinery. She might have gone to the bridge over the river, and thrown herself off, not knowing what she did. Or, what if the pond had been a river, and she were now floating away, helpless, out of reach of any who came to save her, to some far-off dam where the water roared and splashed on cruel rocks. Or she might, in her dream, have tipped over the boat where the water was deep, and been unable to swim, encumbered by her clothing. Then she might have been such a girl as Sarah Rowe, who would have suffered agonies of fright at waking to find herself in such a place. But she had been led to the quiet, familiar Basin, and no harm had come to her, and she had good strong nerves, and lost all her fear in five minutes, so that the mischance would end only in an exciting adventure, which would give her something to talk about as long as she lived.
Well; she was sure she was very thankful to—whom? and Gypsy bowed her head a little at the question, and she sat a moment very still.
Then she had other thoughts. She looked up at the shadowed mountains, and thought how year after year, summer and winter, day and night, those terrible masses of rock had cleaved together, and stood still, and caught the rains and the snows and vapors, the golden crowns of sunsets and sunrisings, the cooling winds and mellow moonlights, and done all their work of beauty and of use, and done it aright. "Not one faileth." No avalanche had thundered down their sides, destroying such happy homes as hers. No volcanic fires had torn them into seething lava. No beetling precipice, of which she ever heard, had fallen and crushed so much as the sheep feeding in the valleys. To the power of the hills as to the power of the seas, Someone had said, Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.
And the Hand that could uphold a mountain in its place, was the Hand that had guided her—one little foolish, helpless girl, out of millions and millions of creatures for whom He was caring—in the wanderings of an uneasy sleep that night.
There was a great awe and a great joy in this thought; but sharp upon it came another, as a pleasure is followed by a sudden pain,—a thought that came all unbidden, and talked with Gypsy, and would not go away. It was, that she had gone to bed that night without a prayer. She was tired and sleepy, and the lamp went out, and so,—and so,—well, she didn't know exactly how it came about.
Gypsy's bowed head fell into her hands, and there, crouched in the lonely boat, under the lonely sky, she put this thought into a few whispered words, and I know there was One to hear it.
Other thoughts had Gypsy after this; but they were those she could not have put into words. For three of those solemn, human syllables had sounded from the distant clock, and far over the mountain-tops the sweet summer dawn was coming. Gypsy had never seen the sun rise. She had seen, to be sure, many times, the late, winter painting of crimson and gold in the East, which unfolded itself before her window, and chased away her dreams. But she had never watched that slow, mysterious change from midnight to morning, which is the only spectacle that can properly be called a sunrise.
There was something in Gypsy that made her sit like a statue there, wrapped in Tom's old coat, her face upturned, and her very breath held in, as the heavy shadows softened and melted, and the stars began to dim in a pale, gray light, that fell and folded in the earth like a mist; as the clouds, that floated faintly over the mountains, blushed pink from the touch of an unseen sun; as the pink deepened into crimson, and the crimson burned to fire, and the outlines of the mountains were cut in gold; as the gold broadened and brightened, and stole over the ragged peaks, and shot down among the forests, and filtered through the maple-leaves, and chased the purple shadows far down among the valleys; as the birds twittered in unseen nests, and the crickets chirped in the meadows, and the dews fell and sparkled from nodding grasses, and "all the world grew green again."
Gypsy thought it was worth an ugly dream and a little fright, to see such a sight. She wondered if those old pictures of the great masters far away over the sea, of which she had heard so much, were anything like it. She also had a faint, flitting notion that, in a world where there were sunrises every day, it was very strange people should ever be cross, and tear their dresses, and forget to lock boats. It seemed as if they ought to know better.
Just then Gypsy fell asleep, with her head on the bottom of the boat; and the next she knew it was broad day, and a dear, familiar voice, from somewhere, was calling,—
"How do you do?" said Gypsy, sleepily, sitting up straight.
Tom was standing on the shore. He did not say another word. He jumped into an old mud-scull, that lay floating among the bushes, and paddled up to her before she was wide enough awake to speak.
"Why, Gypsy Breynton!"
"I've been walking in my sleep," said Gypsy, with a little laugh; "I came out here to save Winnie from upsetting in a milk-pitcher, and then I woke up, and I did forget to lock the boat, and I couldn't get ashore."
"How long have you been here?" Tom was very pale.
"Since a little before two. There was a splendid sunrise, only it was rather cold, and I didn't know where I was at first, and I—well, I'm glad you're come."
"Put on my coat over that. Lean up against my arm—so. Don't try to talk," said Tom, in a quick, business-like tone. But Tom was curiously pale.
"Why, there's no harm done, Tom, dear," said Gypsy, looking up into his face.
"I can't talk about it, Gypsy—I can't, I thought, I——"
Tom looked the other way to see the view, and did not finish his sentence.
"You don't suppose she's going to be a somnambulist?" asked Mr. Breynton. This was the first time he had remembered to be worried over any of Gypsy's peculiarities all day. He had spent so much time in looking at her, and kissing her, and wiping his spectacles.
"No, indeed," said her mother; "it was nothing in the world but popped-corn. The child will never have another such turn, I'll venture."
And she never did.
It is needless to say that nobody scolded Gypsy for forgetting to lock the boat. She was likely enough to remember the incident. She had, perhaps, received a severe punishment for so slight a negligence, but the reader may rest assured that the boat was always locked thereafter when Gypsy had anything to do with it.
UP IN THE APPLE TREE
"Where are you?"
"I don't know where 'here' is."
"Well, you'll find out after a while."
Winnie trotted along down the garden-path, and across the brook. "Here" proved to be the great golden-russet tree. High up on a gnarled old branch, there was a little flutter of a crimson and white gingham dress, and a merry face peeping down through the dainty pink blossoms that blushed all over the tree. It looked so pretty, framed in by the bright color and glistening sunlight, and it seemed to fit in so exactly with the fragrance and the soft, dropping petals, and the chirping of the blue-birds overhead, that I doubt if even Mrs. Surly would have had the heart to say, as Mrs. Surly was much in the habit of saying,—
"A young lady, twelve years old, climbing an apple-tree! Laws a massy! I pity your ma—what a sight of trainin'clock she must ha' wasted on you!"
"It looks nice up there," said Winnie, admiringly, looking up with his mouth open; "I'm acomin'clock up."
"Very well," said Gypsy.
Winnie assailed a low-hanging bough, and crawled half way up, where he stopped.
"Why don't you come?" said Gypsy.
"Oh, I—well, I think I like it better down here. You can see the grass, and things. There's a black grasshopper here, too."
"What do you want, anyway?" asked Gypsy, taking a few spasmodic stitches on a long, white seam; "I'm busy. I can't talk to little boys when I'm sewing."
"Oh, I guess I don't want anythin'clock, very much," said Winnie, folding his arms composedly, as if he had seated himself for the day; "I'm five years old."
Down went Gypsy's work, and a whole handful of pink and white blossoms came fluttering into Winnie's eyes.
"How am I going to sew?" said Gypsy, despairingly; "you're so exactly in the right place to be hit. I don't believe Mrs. Surly herself could help snowballing you."
"Mrs. Surly snowball! Why, I never saw her. Wouldn't it be just funny?"
"Winnie Breynton, will you please to go away?"
"I say, Gypsy,—if you cut off a grasshopper's wings, and frow him in a milk-pan, what would he do?" remarked Winnie, inclining to metaphysics, as was Winnie's custom when he wasn't wanted. Gypsy took several severe stitches, and made no answer.
"Gypsy—if somebody builded a fire inside of me and made steam, couldn't I draw a train of cars?"
"Look here—Gyp., when a cat eats up a mouse——"
Winnie forgot what he was aiming at, just there, coughed, and began again.
"Samson could have drawed a train of cars, anyway."
"Oh, Winnie Breynton!"
"Well, if he had a steam-leg, he'd be jest as good as an engine—wouldn't I like to seen him!" Just then a branch struck Winnie's head with decidedly more emphasis than the handful of blossoms, and Winnie slid to the ground, and remarked, with dignity, that he was sorry he couldn't stay longer. He would come again another day. About half way up the walk, he stopped, and turned leisurely round.
"Oh—Gypsy! Mother want's to know where's the key of the china-closet she let you have. She's in a great hurry. That's what I come down for; I s'posed there was something or nuther."
"Why, Winnie Breynton! and you've been sitting there all this——"
"Where's the key?" interrupted Winnie, severely; "mother hadn't ought to be kept waitin'clock."
"It's up-stairs in—in, I guess in my slippers," said Gypsy, stopping to think.
"Yes. I was afraid I should forget to put it up, so I put it in my slipper, because I should feel it, and remember it. Then I took off the slippers, and that was the last I thought of it."
"It was very careless," said Winnie, with a virtuous air. It was noticeable that he took good care to be out of hearing of Gypsy's reply.
Gypsy returned to her seam, and the apple-blossoms, and to her own little meditations about the china-closet key; which, being of a private and somewhat humiliating nature, are not given to the public.
The apple-tree stood in one corner of a very pleasant garden. Mr. Breynton had a great fancy for working over his trees and flowers, and, if he had not been a publisher and bookseller, might have made a very successful landscape-gardener. Poor health had driven him out of the professions, and the tastes of a scholar drove him away from out-door life; he had compromised the matter by that book-store down opposite the post-office. The literature of a Vermont town is not of the most world-stirring nature, and it did occur to him, occasionally, that business was rather dull, but his wife loved the old home, the children were comfortable and happy, and he himself, he thought, was getting rather old to start out on any new venture elsewhere; so Yorkbury seemed likely to be the family nest for life.
It was the same methodical kind-heartedness that made him at once so thoughtful and tender a father, and yet so habitually worried by the children's little failings, that gave him his taste for beautiful flowers and shrubbery, and his skill in cultivating them. This garden was his pet enterprise. It was gracefully laid out with winding walks, evergreens, fruit-trees and flower-beds; not in stiff patterns, but with a delightful studied negligence, such as that with which an artist would group the figures on a landscape. Rocks and vines and wild flowers were scattered over the garden very much as they would be found in the fields; stately roses and dahlias, delicate heliotrope and aristocratic fuchsias, would grow, side by side, with daisies and buttercups. But, best of all, Gypsy liked the corner where the golden russet stood. A bit of a brook ran across it, which had been caught in a frolic one day, as it went singing away to the meadows, and dammed up and paved down into a tiny pond.
The short-tufted grass swept over its edge like a fringe, and in their season slender hair-bells bent over, casting little blue shadows into the water; the apple-boughs, too, hung over it, and flung down their showers of pearls and rubies, when the wind was high. Moreover, there was a statue. This statue was Gypsy's pride and delight. It was Aladdin's Palace, the Tuilleries, Versailles, and the Alhambra, all in one. The only fault to be found with it was that it was not marble. It was a species of weather-proof composition, but very finely carved, and much valued by Mr. Breynton. It was a pretty thing—a water-nymph rising from an unfolded lily, with both hands parting her long hair from a wondering face, that, pleased with its own beauty, was bent to watch its reflection in the water.
Altogether, the spot was so bewitching, that it is little wonder Gypsy's work kept dropping into her lap, and her eyes wandering away somewhere into dreamland.
One of those endless seams on a white skirt that you have torn from the placket to the hem, is not a very attractive sight, if you have it to mend, and don't happen to like to sew any better than Gypsy did.
She seemed fated to be interrupted in her convulsive attempts at "run-and-back stitching." Winnie was hardly in the house, before Sarah Rowe came out in the garden to hunt her up.
"Oh, dear," said Gypsy, as Sarah's face appeared under the apple-boughs; "I'm not a bit glad to see you."
"That's polite," said Sarah, reddening; "I'll go home again."
"Look," said Gypsy, laughing; "just see what I've got to mend, and I came out here on purpose to get it done, so I could come over to your house. You see I oughtn't to be glad to see you at all, but I am exceedingly."