Note: There are three lines of text missing from the original printed book. These are marked with: [missing text].
A STORY OF TWO GIRLS' LIVES
By JENNIE M. DRINKWATER
"We are not to lead events but to follow them."—Epictetus.
I. AFTER SCHOOL
III. WHAT "DESULTORY" MEANS
IV. A RIDE, A WALK, A TALK, AND A TUMBLE
V. TWO PROMISES
VI. MARJORIE ASLEEP AND AWAKE
VII. UNDER THE APPLE-TREE
VIII. BISCUITS AND OTHER THINGS
IX. JOHN HOLMES
XII. A BUDGET OF LETTERS
XIII. A WEDDING DAY
XIV. A TALK AND ANOTHER TALK
XVI. MAPLE STREET
XVIII. ONE DAY
XIX. A STORY THAT WAS NOT VERY SAD
XX. "HEIRS TOGETHER"
XXI. MORRIS AGAIN
XXIII. GOD'S LOVE
XXIV. JUST AS IT OUGHT TO BE
XXV. THE WILL OF GOD
XXVI. MARJORIE'S MOTHER
XXVII. ANOTHER WALK AND ANOTHER TALE
XXVIII. THE LINNET
XXIX. ONE NIGHT
XXX. THE COSEY CORNER
XXXI. AND WHAT ELSE?
"Our content is our best having."—Shakespeare.
Nobody had ever told Marjorie that she was, as somebody says we all are, three people,—the Marjorie she knew herself, the Marjorie other people knew, and the Marjorie God knew. It was a "bother" sometimes to be the Marjorie she knew herself, and she had never guessed there was another Marjorie for other people to know, and the Marjorie God knew and understood she did not learn much about for years and years. At eleven years old it was hard enough to know about herself—her naughty, absent-minded, story-book-loving self. Her mother said that she loved story-books entirely too much, that they made her absent-minded and forgetful, and her mother's words were proving themselves true this very afternoon. She was a real trouble to herself and there was no one near to "confess" to; she never could talk about herself unless enveloped in the friendly darkness, and then the confessor must draw her out, step by step, with perfect frankness and sympathy; even then, a sigh, or sob, or quickly drawn breath and half inarticulate expression revealed more than her spoken words.
She was one of the children that are left to themselves. Only Linnet knew the things she cared most about; even when Linnet laughed at her, she could feel the sympathetic twinkle in her eye and the sympathetic undertone smothered in her laugh.
It was sunset, and she was watching it from the schoolroom window, the clouds over the hill were brightening and brightening and a red glare shone over the fields of snow. It was sunset and the schoolroom clock pointed to a quarter of five. The schoolroom was chilly, for the fire had died out half an hour since. Hollis Rheid had shoved big sticks into the stove until it would hold no more and had opened the draft, whispering to her as he passed her seat that he would keep her warm at any rate. But now she was shivering, although she had wrapped herself in her coarse green and red shawl, and tapped her feet on the bare floor to keep them warm; she was hungry, too; the noon lunch had left her unsatisfied, for she had given her cake to Rie Blauvelt in return for a splendid Northern Spy, and had munched the apple and eaten her two sandwiches wishing all the time for more. Leaving the work on her slate unfinished, she had dived into the depths of her home-made satchel and discovered two crumbs of molasses cake. That was an hour ago. School had closed at three o'clock to-day because it was Friday and she had been nearly two hours writing nervously on her slate or standing at the blackboard making hurried figures. For the first time in her life Marjorie West had been "kept in." And that "Lucy" book hidden in her desk was the cause of it; she had taken it out for just one delicious moment, and the moment had extended itself into an hour and a half, and the spelling lesson was unlearned and the three hard examples in complex fractions unworked. She had not been ignorant of what the penalty would be. Mr. Holmes had announced it at the opening of school: "Each word in spelling that is missed, must be written one hundred times, and every example not brought in on the slate must be put on the blackboard after school."
She had smiled in self-confidence. Who ever knew Marjorie West to miss in spelling? And had not her father looked over her examples last night and pronounced them correct? But on her way to school the paper on which the examples were solved had dropped out of her Geography, and she had been wholly absorbed in the "Lucy" book during the time that she had expected to study the test words in spelling. And the overwhelming result was doing three examples on the board, after school, and writing seven hundred words. Oh, how her back ached and how her wrist hurt her and how her strained eyes smarted! Would she ever again forget amateur, abyss, accelerate, bagatelle, bronchitis, boudoir and isosceles?
Rie Blauvelt had written three words one hundred times, laughed at her, and gone home; Josie Grey had written isosceles one hundred times, and then taken up a slate to help Marjorie; before Marjorie was aware Josie had written abyss seventy-five times, then suspecting something by the demureness of Josie's eyes she had snatched her slate and erased the pretty writing.
"You're real mean," pouted Josie; "he said he would take our word for it, and you could have answered some way and got out of it."
Marjorie's reply was two flashing eyes.
"You needn't take my head off," laughed Josie; "now I'll go home and leave you, and you may stay all night for all I care."
"I will, before I will deceive anybody," resented Marjorie stoutly.
Without another word Josie donned sack and hood and went out, leaving the door ajar and the cold air to play about Marjorie's feet.
But five o'clock came and the work was done!
More than one or two tears fell slowly on the neat writing on Marjorie's slate; the schoolroom was cold and she was shivering and hungry. It would have been such a treat to read the last chapter in the "Lucy" book; she might have curled her feet underneath her and drawn her shawl closer; but it was so late, and what would they think at home? She was ashamed to go home. Her father would look at her from under his eyebrows, and her mother would exclaim, "Why, Marjorie!" She would rather that her father would look at her from under his eyebrows, than that her mother would say, "Why, Marjorie!" Her mother never scolded, and sometimes she almost wished she would. It would be a relief if somebody would scold her tonight; she would stick a pin into herself if it would do any good.
Her photograph would not be in the group next time. She looked across at the framed photograph on the wall; six girls in the group and herself the youngest—the reward for perfect recitations and perfect deportment for one year. Her father was so proud of it that he had ordered a copied picture for himself, and, with a black walnut frame, it was hanging in the sitting-room at home. The resentment against herself was tugging away at her heart and drawing miserable lines on her brow and lips—on her sweet brow and happy lips.
It was a bare, ugly country schoolroom, anyway, with the stained floor, the windows with two broken panes, and the unpainted desks with innumerable scars made by the boys' jack-knives, and Mr. Holmes was unreasonable, anyway, to give her such a hard punishment, and she didn't care if she had been kept in, anyway!
In that "anyway" she found vent for all her crossness. Sometimes she said, "I don't care," but when she said, "I don't care, anyway!" then everybody knew that Marjorie West was dreadful.
"I'm through," she thought triumphantly, "and I didn't cheat, and I wasn't mean, and nobody has helped me."
Yes, somebody had helped her. She was sorry that she forgot to think that God had helped her. Perhaps people always did get through! If they didn't help themselves along by doing wrong and—God helped them. The sunshine rippled over her face again and she counted the words on her slate for the second time to assure herself that there could be no possible mistake. Slowly she counted seven hundred, then with a sudden impulse seized her pencil and wrote each of the seven words five times more to be "sure they were all right."
Josie Grey called her "horridly conscientious," and even Rie Blauvelt wished that she would not think it wicked to "tell" in the class, and to whisper about something else when they had permission to whisper about the lessons.
By this time you have learned that my little Marjorie was strong and sweet. I wish you might have seen her that afternoon as she crouched over the wooden desk, snuggled down in the coarse, plaid shawl, her elbows resting on the hard desk, her chin dropped in her two plump hands, with her eyes fixed on the long, closely written columns of her large slate. She was not sitting in her own seat, her seat was the back seat on the girls' side, of course, but she was sitting midway on the boys' side, and her slate was placed on the side of the double desk wherein H.R. was cut in deep, ugly letters. She had fled to this seat as to a refuge, when she found herself alone, with something of the same feeling, that once two or three years ago when she was away from home and homesick she used to kneel to say her prayers in the corner of the chamber where her valise was; there was home about the valise and there was protection and safety and a sort of helpfulness about this desk where her friend Hollis Rheid had sat ever since she had come to school. This was her first winter at school, her mother had taught her at home, but in family council this winter it had been decided that Marjorie was "big" enough to go to school.
The half mile home seemed a long way to walk alone, and the huge Newfoundland at the farmhouse down the hill was not always chained; he had sprung out at them this morning and the girls had huddled together while Hollis and Frank Grey had driven him inside his own yard. Hollis had thrown her an intelligent glance as he filed out with the boys, and had telegraphed something back to her as he paused for one instant at the door. Not quite understanding the telegraphic signal, she was waiting for him, or for something. His lips had looked like: "Wait till I come." If the people at home were not anxious about her she would have been willing to wait until midnight; it would never occur to her that Hollis might forget her.
Her cheeks flushed as she waited, and her eyes filled with tears; it was a soft, warm, round face, with coaxing, kissable lips, a smooth, low brow and the gentlest of hazel eyes: not a pretty face, excepting in its lovely childishness and its hints of womanly graces; some of the girls said she was homely. Marjorie thought herself that she was very homely; but she had comforted herself with, "God made my face, and he likes it this way." Some one says that God made the other features, but permits us to make the mouth. Marjorie's sweetness certainly made her mouth. But then she was born sweet. Josie Grey declared that she would rather see a girl "get mad" than cry, as Marjorie did when the boys washed her face in the snow.
Mr. Holmes had written to a friend that Marjorie West, his favorite among the girls, was "almost too sweet." He said to himself that he feared she "lacked character." Marjorie's quiet, observant father would have smiled at that and said nothing. The teacher said that she did not know how to take her own part. Marjorie had been eleven years in this grasping world and had not learned that she had any "part" to take.
Since her pencil had ceased scribbling the room was so still that a tiny mouse had been nibbling at the toe of her shoe. Just then as she raised her head and pinned her shawl more securely the door opened and something happened. The something happened in Marjorie's face. Hollis Rheid thought the sunset had burst across it. She did not exclaim, "Oh, I am so glad!" but the gladness was all in her eyes. If Marjorie had been more given to exclamations her eyes would not have been so expressive. The closed lips were a gain to the eyes and her friends missed nothing. The boy had learned her eyes by heart. How stoutly he would have resisted if some one had told him that years hence Marjorie's face would be a sealed volume to him.
But she was making her eyes and mouth to-day and years hence she made them, too. Perhaps he had something to do with it then as he certainly had something to do with it now.
"I came back with my sled to take you home. I gave Sam my last ten cents to do the night work for me. It was my turn, but he was willing enough. Where's your hood, Mousie? Any books to take?"
"Yes, my Geography and Arithmetic," she answered, taking her fleecy white hood from the seat behind her.
"Now you look like a sunbeam in a cloud," he said poetically as she tied it over her brown head. "Oh, ho!" turning to the blackboard, "you do make handsome figures. Got them all right, did you?"
"I knew how to do them, it was only that—I forgot."
"I don't think you'll forget again in a hurry. And that's a nice looking slate, too," he added, stepping nearer. "Mother said it was too much of a strain on your nervous system to write all that."
"I guess I haven't much of a nervous system," returned Marjorie, seriously; "the girls wrote the words they missed fifty times last Friday and he warned us about the one hundred to-day. I suppose it will be one hundred and fifty next Friday. I don't believe I'll ever miss again," she said, her lips trembling at the mention of it.
"I think I'll have a word or two to say to the master if you do. I wonder how Linnet would have taken it."
"She wouldn't have missed."
"I'll ask Mr. Holmes to put you over on the boys side if you miss next week," he cried mischievously, "and make you sit with us all the afternoon."
"I'd rather write each word five hundred times," she cried vehemently.
"I believe you would," he said good humoredly. "Never mind, Mousie, I know you won't miss again."
"I'll do my examples to-night and father will help me if I can't do them. He used to teach in this very schoolhouse; he knows as much as Mr. Holmes."
"Then he must be a Solomon," laughed the boy.
The stamp of Hollis' boots and the sound of his laughter had frightened the mouse back into its hiding-place in the chimney; Marjorie would not have frightened the mouse all day long.
The books were pushed into her satchel, her desk arranged in perfect order, her rubbers and red mittens drawn on, and she stood ready, satchel in hand, for her ride on the sled down the slippery hill where the boys and girls had coasted at noon and then she would ride on over the snowy road half a mile to the old, brown farmhouse. Her eyes were subdued a little, but the sunshine lingered all over her face. She knew Hollis would come.
He smiled down at her with his superior fifteen-year-old smile, she was such a wee mousie and always needed taking care of. If he could have a sister, he would want her to be like Marjorie. He was very much like Marjorie himself, just as shy, just as sensitive, hardly more fitted to take his own part, and I think Marjorie was the braver of the two. He was slow-tempered and unforgiving; if a friend failed him once, he never took him into confidence again. He was proud where Marjorie was humble. He gave his services; she gave herself. He seldom quarrelled, but never was the first to yield. They were both mixtures of reserve and frankness; both speaking as often out of a shut heart as an open heart. But when Marjorie could open her heart, oh, how she opened it! As for Hollis, I think he had never opened his; demonstrative sympathy was equally the key to the hearts of both.
But here I am analyzing them before they had learned they had any self to analyze. But they existed, all the same.
Marjorie was a plain little body while Hollis was noticeably handsome with eloquent brown eyes and hair with its golden, boyish beauty just shading into brown; his sensitive, mobile lips were prettier than any girl's, and there was no voice in school like his in tone or culture. Mr. Holmes was an elocutionist and had taken great pains with Hollis Rheid's voice. There was a courteous gentleness in his manner all his own; if knighthood meant purity, goodness, truth and manliness, then Hollis Rheid was a knightly school-boy. The youngest of five rough boys, with a stern, narrow-minded father and a mother who loved her boys with all her heart and yet for herself had no aims beyond kitchen and dairy, he had not learned his refinement at home; I think he had not learned it anywhere. Marjorie's mother insisted that Hollis Rheid must have had a praying grandmother away back somewhere. The master had written to his friend, Miss Prudence Pomeroy, that Hollis Rheid was a born gentleman, and had added with more justice and penetration than he had shown in reading Marjorie, "he has too little application and is too mischievous to become a real student. But I am not looking for geniuses in a country school. Marjorie and Hollis are bright enough for every purpose in life excepting to become leaders."
"Are you going to church, to-night?" Hollis inquired as she seated herself carefully on the sled.
"In the church?" she asked, bracing her feet and tucking the ends of her shawl around them.
"Yes; an evangelist is going to preach."
"Evangelist!" repeated Marjorie in a voice with a thrill in it.
"Don't you know what that is?" asked Hollis, harnessing himself into the sled.
"Oh, yes, indeed," said she. "I know about him and Christian."
Hollis looked perplexed; this must be one of Marjorie's queer ways of expressing something, and the strange preacher certainly had something to do with Christians.
"If it were not for the fractions I suppose I might go. I wish I wasn't stupid about Arithmetic."
"It's no matter if girls are stupid," he said consolingly. "Are you sure you are on tight? I'm going to run pretty soon. You won't have to earn your living by making figures."
"Shall you?" she inquired with some anxiety.
"Of course, I shall. Haven't I been three times through the Arithmetic and once through the Algebra that I may support myself and somebody else, sometime?"
This seemed very grand to child Marjorie who found fractions a very Slough of Despond.
"I'm going to the city as soon as Uncle Jack finds a place for me. I expect a letter from him every night."
"Perhaps it will come to-night," said Marjorie, not very hopefully.
"I hope it will. And so this may be your last ride on Flyaway. Enjoy it all you can, Mousie."
Marjorie enjoyed everything all she could.
"Now, hurrah!" he shouted, starting on a quick run down the hill. "I'm going to turn you over into the brook."
Marjorie laughed her joyous little laugh. "I'm not afraid," she said in absolute content.
"You'd better be!" he retorted in his most savage tone.
The whole west was now in a glow and the glorious light stretched across fields of snow.
"Oh, how splendid," Marjorie exclaimed breathlessly as the rapid motion of the sled and the rush of cold air carried her breath away.
"Hold on tight," he cried mockingly, "we're coming to the brook."
Laughing aloud she held on "tight." Hollis was her true knight; she would not have been afraid to cross the Alps on that sled if he had asked her to!
She was in a talkative mood to-night, but her horse pranced on and would not listen. She wanted to tell him about vibgyor. The half mile was quickly travelled and he whirled the sled through the large gateway and around the house to the kitchen door. The long L at the back of the house seemed full of doors.
"There, Mousie, here you are!" he exclaimed. "And don't you miss your lesson to-morrow."
"To-morrow is Saturday! oh, I had forgotten. And I can go to see Evangelist to-night."
"You haven't said 'thank you' for your last ride on Flyaway."
"I will when I'm sure that it is," she returned with her eyes laughing.
He turned her over into a snowdrift and ran off whistling; springing up she brushed the snow off face and hands and with a very serious face entered the kitchen. The kitchen was long and low, bright with the sunset shining in at two windows and cheery with its carpeting of red, yellow and green mingled confusingly in the handsome oilcloth.
Unlike Hollis, Marjorie was the outgrowth of home influences; the kitchen oilcloth had something to do with her views of life, and her mother's broad face and good-humored eyes had a great deal more. Good-humor in the mother had developed sweet humor in the child.
Now I wonder if you understand Marjorie well enough to understand all she does and all she leaves undone during the coming fifteen or twenty years?
"The value of a thought cannot be told."—Bailey.
Her mother's broad, gingham back and the twist of iron gray hair low in her neck greeted her as she opened the door, then the odor of hot biscuits intruded itself, and then there came a shout from somebody kneeling on the oilcloth near the stove and pushing sticks of dry wood through its blazing open door.
"Oh, Marjie, what happened to you?"
"Something didn't happen. I didn't have my spelling or my examples. I read the "Lucy" book in school instead," she confessed dolefully.
"Why, Marjie!" was her mother's exclamation, but it brought the color to Marjorie's face and suffused her eyes.
"We are to have company for tea," announced the figure kneeling on the oilcloth as she banged the stove door. "A stranger; the evangelist Mr. Horton told us about Sunday."
"I know," said Marjorie. "I've read about him in Pilgrim's Progress; he showed Christian the way to the Wicket Gate."
Linnet jumped to her feet and shook a chip from her apron. "O, Goosie! Don't you know any better?"
Fourteen-year-old Linnet always knew better.
"Where is he?" questioned Marjorie.
"In the parlor. Go and entertain him. Mother and I must get him a good supper: cold chicken, canned raspberries, currant jelly, ham, hot biscuit, plain cake and fruit cake and—butter and—tea."
"I don't know how," hesitated Marjorie.
"Answer his questions, that's all," explained Linnet promptly. "I've told him all I know and now it's your turn."
"I don't like to answer questions," said Marjorie, still doubtfully.
"Oh, only your age and what you study and—if—you are a Christian."
"And he tells you how if you don't know how," said Marjorie, eagerly; "that's what he's for."
"Yes," replied her mother, approvingly, "run in and let him talk to you."
Very shyly glad of the opportunity, and yet dreading it inexpressibly, Marjorie hung her school clothing away and laid her satchel on the shelf in the hall closet, and then stood wavering in the closet, wondering if she dared go in to see Evangelist. He had spoken very kindly to Christian. She longed, oh, how she longed! to find the Wicket Gate, but would she dare ask any questions? Last Sabbath in church she had seen a sweet, beautiful face that she persuaded herself must be Mercy, and now to have Evangelist come to her very door!
What was there to know any better about? She did not care if Linnet had laughed. Linnet never cared to read Pilgrim's Progress.
It is on record that the first book a child reads intensely is the book that will influence all the life.
At ten Marjorie had read Pilgrim's Progress intensely. Timidly, with shining eyes, she stood one moment upon the red mat outside the parlor door, and then, with sudden courage, turned the knob and entered. At a glance she felt that there was no need of courage; Evangelist was seated comfortably in the horse-hair rocker with his feet to the fire resting on the camp stool; he did not look like Evangelist at all, she thought, disappointedly; he reminded her altogether more of a picture of Santa Claus: massive head and shoulders, white beard and moustache, ruddy cheeks, and, as the head turned quickly at her entrance, she beheld, beneath the shaggy, white brows, twinkling blue eyes.
"Ah," he exclaimed, in an abrupt voice, "you are the little girl they were expecting home from school."
He extended a plump, white hand and, not at all shyly, Marjorie laid her hand in it.
"Isn't it late to come from school? Did you play on the way home?"
"No sir; I'm too big for that"
"Doesn't school dismiss earlier?"
"Yes, sir," flushing and dropping her eyes, "but I was kept in."
"Kept in," he repeated, smoothing the little hand. "I'm sure it was not for bad behavior and you look bright enough to learn your lessons."
"I didn't know my lessons," she faltered.
"Then you should have done as Stephen Grellet did," he returned, releasing her hand.
"How did he do?" she asked.
Nobody loved stories better than Marjorie.
Pushing her mother's spring rocker nearer the fire, she sat down, arranged the skirt of her dress, and, prepared herself, not to "entertain" him, but to listen.
"Did you never read about him?"
"I never even heard of him."
"Then I'll tell you something about him. His father was an intimate friend and counsellor of Louis XVI. Stephen was a French boy. Do you know who Louis XVI was?"
"Do you know the French for Stephen?"
"Then you don't study French. I'd study everything if I were you. My wife has read the Hebrew Bible through. She is a scholar as well as a good housewife. It needn't hinder, you see."
"No, sir," repeated Marjorie.
"When little Etienne—that's French for Stephen—was five or six years old he had a long Latin exercise to learn, and he was quite disheartened."
Marjorie's eyes opened wide in wonder. Six years old and a long Latin exercise. Even Hollis had not studied Latin.
"Sitting alone, all by himself, to study, he looked out of the window abroad upon nature in all her glorious beauty, and remembered that God made the gardens, the fields and the sky, and the thought came to him: 'Cannot the same God give me memory, also?' Then he knelt at the foot of his bed and poured out his soul in prayer. The prayer was wonderfully answered; on beginning to study again, he found himself master of his hard lesson, and, after that, he acquired learning with great readiness."
It was wonderful, Marjorie thought, and beautiful, but she could not say that; she asked instead: "Did he write about it himself?"
"Yes, he has written all about himself."
"When I was six I didn't know my small letters. Was he so bright because he was French?"
The gentleman laughed and remarked that the French were a pretty bright nation.
"Is that all you know about him?"
"Oh, no, indeed; there's a large book of his memoirs in my library. He visited many of the crowned heads of Europe."
There was another question forming on Marjorie's lips, but at that instant her mother opened the door. Now she would hear no more about Stephen Grellet and she could not ask about the Wicket Gate or Mercy or the children.
Rising in her pretty, respectful manner she gave her mother the spring rocker and pushed an ottoman behind the stove and seated herself where she might watch Evangelist's face as he talked.
How the talk drifted in this direction Marjorie did not understand; she knew it was something about finding the will of the Lord, but a story was coming and she listened with her listening eyes on his face.
"I had been thinking that God would certainly reveal his will if we inquired of him, feeling sure of that, for some time, and then I had this experience."
Marjorie's mother enjoyed "experiences" as well as Marjorie enjoyed stories. And she liked nothing better than to relate her own; after hearing an experience she usually began, "Now I will tell you mine."
Marjorie thought she knew every one of her mother's experiences. But it was Evangelist who was speaking.
The little girl in the brown and blue plaid dress with red stockings and buttoned boots, bent forward as she sat half concealed behind the stove and drank in every word with intent, wondering, unquestioning eyes.
Her mother listened, also, with eyes as intent and believing, and years afterward, recalled this true experience, when she was tempted to take Marjorie's happiness into her own hands, her own unwise, haste-making hands.
"My wife had been dead about two years," began Evangelist again, speaking in a retrospective tone. "I had two little children, the elder not eight years old, and my sister was my housekeeper. She did not like housekeeping nor taking care of children. Some women don't. She came to me one day with a very serious face. 'Brother,' said she, 'you need a wife, you must have a wife. I do not know how to take care of your children and you are almost never at home.' She left me before I could reply, almost before I could think what to reply. I was just home from helping a pastor in Wisconsin, it was thirty-six degrees below zero the day I left, and I had another engagement in Maine for the next week. I was very little at home, and my children did need a mother. I had not thought whether I needed a wife or not; I was too much taken up with the Lord's work to think about it. But that day I asked the Lord to find me a wife. After praying about it three days it came to me that a certain young lady was the one the Lord had chosen. Like Peter, I drew back and said, 'Not so, Lord.' My first wife was a continual spiritual help to me; she was the Lord's own messenger every day; but this lady, although a church member, was not particularly spiritually minded. Several years before she had been my pupil in Hebrew and Greek. I admired her intellectual gifts, but if a brother in the ministry had asked me if she would be a helpful wife to him, I should have hesitated about replying in the affirmative. And, yet here it was, the Lord had chosen her for me. I said, 'Not so, Lord,' until he assured me that her heart was in his hand and he could fit her to become my wife and a mother to my children. After waiting until I knew I was obeying the mind of my Master, I asked her to marry me. She accepted, as far as her own heart and will were concerned, but refused, because her father, a rich and worldly-minded man, was not willing for her to marry an itinerant preacher.
"I had not had a charge for three years then. I was so continually called to help other pastors that I had no time for a charge of my own. So it kept on for months and months; her father was not willing, and she would not marry me without his consent. My sister often said to me, 'I don't see how you can want to marry a woman that isn't willing to have you,' but I kept my own counsel. I knew the matter was in safe hands. I was not at all troubled; I kept about my Master's business and he kept about mine. Therefore, when she wrote to say that suddenly and unexpectedly her father had withdrawn all opposition, I was not in the least surprised. My sister declared I was plucky to hold on, but the Lord held on for me; I felt as if I had nothing to do with it. And a better wife and mother God never blessed one of his servants with. She could do something beside read the Bible in Hebrew; she could practice it in English. For forty years [missing text] my companion and counsellor and dearest friend. So you see"—he added in his bright, convincing voice, "we may know the will of the Lord about such things and everything else."
"I believe it," responded Marjorie's mother, emphatically.
"Now tell me about all the young people in your village. How many have you that are unconverted?"
Was Hollis one of them? Marjorie wondered with a beating heart. Would Evangelist talk to him? Would he kiss him, and give him a smile, and bid him God speed?
But—she began to doubt—perhaps there was another Evangelist and this was not the very one in Pilgrim's Progress; somehow, he did not seem just like that one. Might she dare ask him? How would she say it? Before she was aware her thought had become a spoken thought; in the interval of quiet while her mother was counting the young people in the village she was very much astonished to hear her own timid, bold, little voice inquire:
"Is there more than one Evangelist?"
"Why, yes, child," her mother answered absently and Evangelist began to tell her about some of the evangelists he was acquainted with.
"Wonderful men! Wonderful men!" he repeated.
Before another question could form itself on her eager lips her father entered and gave the stranger a cordial welcome.
"We have to thank scarlet fever at the Parsonage for the pleasure of your visit with us, I believe," he said.
"Yes, that seems to be the bright side of the trouble."
"Well, I hope you have brought a blessing with you."
"I hope I have! I prayed the Lord not to bring me here unless he came with me."
"I think the hush of the Spirit's presence has been in our church all winter," said Mrs. West. "I've had no rest day or night pleading for our young people."
The words filled Marjorie with a great awe; she slipped out to unburden herself to Linnet, but Linnet was setting the tea-table in a frolicsome mood and Marjorie's heart could not vent itself upon a frolicsome listener.
From the china closet in the hall Linnet had brought out the china, one of her mother's wedding presents and therefore seldom used, and the glass water pitcher and the small glass fruit saucers.
"Can't I help?" suggested Marjorie looking on with great interest.
"No," refused Linnet, decidedly, "you might break something as you did the night Mrs. Rheid and Hollis were here."
"My fingers were too cold, then."
"Perhaps they are too warm, now," laughed Linnet.
"Then I can tell you about the primary colors; I suppose I won't break them," returned Marjorie with her usual sweet-humor.
Linnet moved the spoon holder nearer the sugar bowl with the air of a house wife, Marjorie stood at the table leaning both elbows upon it.
"If you remember vibgyor, you'll remember the seven primary colors!" she said mysteriously.
"Is it like cutting your nails on Saturday without thinking of a fox's tail and so never have the toothache?" questioned Linnet.
"No; this is earnest. It isn't a joke; it's a lesson," returned Marjorie, severely. "Mr. Holmes said a professor told it to him when he was in college."
"You see it's a joke! I remember vibgyor, but now I don't know the seven primary colors. You are always getting taken in, Goosie! I hope you didn't ask Mr. Woodfern if he is the man in Pilgrim's Progress."
"I know he isn't," said Marjorie, seriously, "there are a good many of them, he said so. I guess Pilgrim's Progress happened a long time ago. I shan't look for Great-heart, any more," she added, with a sigh.
Linnet laughed and scrutinized the white handled knives to see if there were any blemishes on the blades; her mother kept them laid away in old flannel.
"Now, Linnet, you see it isn't a joke," began Marjorie, protestingly; "the word is made of all the first letters of the seven colors,—just see!" counting on her fingers, "violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red! Did you see how it comes right?"
"I didn't see, but I will as soon as I get time. You were not taken in that time, I do believe. Did Mr. Woodfern ask you questions?"
"Not that kind! And I'm glad he didn't. Linnet, I haven't any 'experience' to talk about."
"You are not old enough," said Linnet, wisely.
"Yes, I have a little bit."
"Shall you tell him about it?" asked Marjorie curiously.
"I don't know."
"I wish I had some; how do you get it?"
"Oh, I don't know."
"Then you can't tell me how to get it," pleaded Marjorie.
"No," said Linnet, shaking her sunshiny curls, "perhaps mother can."
"When did you have yours?" Marjorie persisted.
"One day when I was reading about the little girl in the Sandwich Islands. Her father was a missionary there, and she wrote in her journal how she felt and I felt so, too,"
"Did you put it in your journal?"
"Some of it."
"Did you show it to mother?"
"Was she glad?"
"Yes, she kissed me and said her prayers were answered."
Marjorie looked very grave. She wished she could be as old as Linnet and have "experience" to write in her journal and have her mother kiss her and say her prayers were answered.
"Do you have it all the time?" she questioned anxiously as Linnet hurried in from the kitchen with a small platter of sliced ham in her hand.
"Not every day; I do some days."
"I want it every day."
"You call them to tea when I tell you. And you may help me bring things in."
When Marjorie opened the parlor door to call them to tea she heard Mr. Woodfern inquire:
"Do all your children belong to the Lord?"
"The two in heaven certainly do, and I think Linnet is a Christian," her mother was saying.
"And Marjorie," he asked.
"You know there are such things; I think Marjorie's heart was changed in her cradle."
With the door half opened Marjorie stood and heard this lovely story about herself.
"It was before she was three years old; one evening I undressed her and laid her in the cradle, it was summer and she was not ready to go to sleep; she had been in a frolic with Linnet and was all in a gale of mischief. She arose up and said she wanted to get out; I said 'no,' very firmly, 'mamma wants you to stay.' But she persisted with all her might, and I had to punish her twice before she would consent to lie still; I was turning to leave her when I thought her sobs sounded more rebellious than subdued, I knelt down and took her in my arms to kiss her, but she drew back and would not kiss me. I saw there was no submission in her obedience and made up my mind not to leave her until she had given up her will to mine. If you can believe it, it was two full hours before she would kiss me, and then she couldn't kiss me enough. I think when she yielded to my will she gave up so wholly that she gave up her whole being to the strongest and most loving will she knew. And as soon as she knew God, she knew—or I knew—that she had submitted to him."
"Come to tea," called Marjorie, joyfully, a moment later.
This lovely story about herself was only one of the happenings that caused Marjorie to remember this day and evening: this day of small events stood out clearly against the background of her childhood.
That evening in the church she had been moved to do the hardest, happiest thing she had ever done in her hard and happy eleven years. At the close of his stirring appeal to all who felt themselves sinners in God's sight, Evangelist (he would always be Evangelist to Marjorie) requested any to rise who had this evening newly resolved to seek Christ until they found him. A little figure in a pew against the wall, arose quickly, after an undecided, prayerful moment, a little figure in a gray cloak and broad, gray velvet hat, but it was such a little figure, and the radiant face was hidden by such a broad hat, and the little figure dropped back into its seat so hurriedly, that, in looking over the church, neither the pastor nor the evangelist noticed it. Her heart gave one great jump when the pastor arose and remarked in a grieved and surprised tone: "I am sorry that there is not one among us, young or old, ready to seek our Saviour to-night."
The head under the gray hat drooped lower, the radiant face became for one instant sorrowful. As they were moving down the aisle an old lady, who had been seated next to Marjorie, whispered to her, "I'm sorry they didn't see you, dear."
"Never mind," said the bright voice, "God saw me."
Hollis saw her, also, and his heart smote him. This timid little girl had been braver than he. From the group of boys in the gallery he had looked down at her and wondered. But she was a girl, and girls did not mind doing such things as boys did; being good was a part of Marjorie's life, she wouldn't be Marjorie without it. There was a letter in his pocket from his uncle bidding him to come to the city without delay; he pushed through the crowd to find Marjorie, "it would be fun to see how sorry she would look," but her father had hurried her out and lifted her into the sleigh, and he saw the gray hat in the moonlight close to her father's shoulder.
As he was driving to the train the next afternoon, he jumped out and ran up to the door to say good-bye to her.
Marjorie opened the door, arrayed in a blue checked apron with fingers stained with peeling apples.
"Good-bye, I'm off," he shouted, resisting the impulse to catch her in his arms and kiss her.
"Good-bye, I'm so glad, and so sorry," she exclaimed with a shadowed face.
"I wish I had something to give you to remember me by," he said suddenly.
"I think you have given me lots of things."
"Come, Hol, don't stand there all day," expostulated his brother from the sleigh.
"Good-bye, then," said Hollis.
"Good-bye," said Marjorie. And then he was off and the bells were jingling down the road and she had not even cautioned him "Be a good boy." She wished she had had something to give him to remember her by; she had never done one thing to help him remember her and when he came back in years and years they would both be grown up and not know each other.
"Marjie, you are taking too thick peels," remonstrated her mother. For the next half hour she conscientiously refrained from thinking of any thing but the apples.
"Oh, Marjie," exclaimed Linnet, "peel one whole, be careful and don't break it, and throw it over your right shoulder and see what letter comes."
"Why?" asked Magorie, selecting a large, fair apple to peel.
"I'll tell you when it comes," answered Linnet, seriously.
With an intent face, and slow, careful fingers, Marjorie peeled the handsome apple without breaking the coils of the skin, then poised her hand and gave the shining, green rings a toss over her shoulder to the oilcloth.
"S! S! Oh! what a handsome S!" screamed Linnet.
"Well, what does it mean?" inquired Marjorie, interestedly.
"Oh, nothing, only you will marry a man whose name begins with S," said Linnet, seriously.
"I don't believe I will!" returned Marjorie, contentedly. "Do you believe I will, mother?"
Mrs. West was lifting a deliciously browned pumpkin pie from the oven, she set it carefully on the table beside Marjorie's yellow dish of quartered apples and then turned to the oven for its mate.
"Now cut one for me," urged Linnet gleefully.
"But I don't believe it," persisted Marjorie, picking among the apples in the basket at her feet; "you don't believe it yourself."
"I never knew it to come true," admitted Linnet, sagely, "but S is a common letter. There are more Smiths in the world than any one else. A woman went to an auction and bought a brass door plate with Smith on it because she had six daughters and was sure one of them would marry a Smith."
"And did one?" asked Maijorie, in her innocent voice. Linnet was sure her lungs were made of leather else she would have burst them every day laughing at foolish little Marjorie.
"The story ended there," said Linnet.
"Stories always leave off at interesting places," said Marjorie, guarding Linnet's future with slow-moving fingers. "I hope mine won't."
"It will if you die in the middle of it," returned Linnet
Linnet was washing the baking dishes at the sink.
"No, it wouldn't, it would go on and be more interesting," said Marjorie, in her decided way; "but I do want to finish it all."
"Be careful, don't break mine," continued Linnet, as Marjorie gave the apple rings a toss. "There! you have!" she cried disappointedly. "You've spoiled my fortune, Marjie."
"Linnet! Linnet!" rebuked her mother, shutting the oven door, "I thought you were only playing. I wouldn't have let you go on if I had thought you would have taken it in earnest."
"I don't really," returned Linnet, with a vexed laugh, "but I did want to see what letter it would be."
"It's O," said Marjorie, turning to look over her shoulder.
"Rather a crooked one," conceded Linnet, "but it will have to do."
"Suppose you try a dozen times and they all come different," suggested practical Marjorie.
"That proves it's all nonsense," answered her mother.
"And suppose you don't marry anybody," Marjorie continued, spoiling Linnet's romance, "some letter, or something like a letter has to come, and then what of it?"
"Oh, it's only fun," explained Linnet.
"I don't want to know about my S" confessed Marjorie. "I'd rather wait and find out. I want my life to be like a story-book and have surprises in the next chapter."
"It's sure to have that," said her mother. "We mustn't try to find out what is hidden. We mustn't meddle with our lives, either. Hurry providence, as somebody says in a book."
"And we can't ask anybody but God," said Marjorie, "because nobody else knows. He could make any letter come that he wanted to."
"He will not tell us anything that way," returned her mother.
"I don't want him to," said Marjorie.
"Mother, I was in fun and you are making serious," cried Linnet with a distressed face.
"Not making it dreadful, only serious," smiled her mother.
"I don't see why the letter has to be about your husband," argued Marjorie, "lots of things will happen to us first"
"But that is exciting," said Linnet, "and it is the most of things in story-books."
"I don't see why," continued Marjorie, unconvinced, turning an apple around in her fingers, "isn't the other part of the story worth anything?"
"Worth anything!" repeated Linnet, puzzled.
"Doesn't God care for the other part?" questioned the child. "I've got to have a good deal of the other part."
"So have all unmarried people," said her mother, smiling at the quaint gravity of Marjorie's eyes.
"Then I don't see why—" said Marjorie.
"Perhaps you will by and by," her mother replied, laughing, for Marjorie was looking as wise as an owl; "and now, please hurry with the apples, for they must bake before tea. Mr. Woodfern says he never ate baked apple sauce anywhere else."
Marjorie hoped he would not stay a whole week, as he proposed, if she had to cut the apples. And then, with a shock and revulsion at herself, she remembered that her father had read at worship that morning something about giving even a cup of cold water to a disciple for Christ's sake.
Linnet laughed again as she stooped to pick up the doubtful O and crooked S from the oilcloth.
But the letters had given Marjorie something to think about.
I had decided to hasten over the story of Marjorie's childhood and bring her into her joyous and promising girlhood, but the child's own words about the "other part" that she must have a "good deal" of have changed my mind. Surely God does care for the "other part," too.
And I wonder what it is in you (do you know?) that inclines you to hurry along and skip a little now and then, that you may discover whether Marjorie ever married Hollis? Why can't you wait and take her life as patiently as she did?
That same Saturday evening Marjorie's mother said to Marjorie's father, with a look of perplexity upon her face,
"Father, I don't know what to make of our Marjorie."
He was half dozing over the Agriculturist; he raised his head and asked sharply, "Why? What has she done now?"
Everybody knew that Marjorie was the apple of her father's eye.
"Nothing new! Only everything she does is new. She is two Marjories, and that's what I can't make out. She is silent and she is talkative; she is shy, very shy, and she is as bold as a little lion; sometimes she won't tell you anything, and sometimes she tells you everything; sometimes I think she doesn't love me, and again she loves me to death; sometimes I think she isn't as bright as other girls, and then again I'm sure she is a genius. Now Linnet is always the same; I always know what she will do and say; but there's no telling about Marjorie. I don't know what to make of her," she sighed.
"Then I wouldn't try, wife," said Marjorie's father, with his shrewd smile. "I'd let somebody that knows."
After a while, Marjorie's mother spoke again:
"I don't know that you help me any."
"I don't know that I can; girls are mysteries—you were a mystery once yourself. Marjorie can respond, but she will not respond, unless she has some one to respond to, or some thing to respond to. Towards myself I never find but one Marjorie!"
"That means that you always give her something to respond to!"
"Well, yes, something like it," he returned in one of Marjorie's contented tones.
"She'll have a good many heart aches before she's through, then," decided Mrs. West, with some sharpness.
"Probably," said Marjorie's father with the shadow of a smile on his thin lips.
WHAT "DESULTORY" MEANS.
"A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded."
"Miss Prudence! O, Miss Prudence!"
It was summer time and Marjorie was almost fourteen years old. Her soul was looking out of troubled eyes to-day. Just now life was all one unanswered question.
"Marjorie! O, Marjorie!" mimicked Miss Prudence.
"I don't know what desultory means," said Marjorie.
"And you don't know where to find a dictionary?"
"Mustn't I ask you questions when I can find the answer myself?" asked Marjorie, straightforwardly.
"I think it's rather impertinent, don't you?"
"Yes," considered Marjorie, "rather."
Miss Prudence was a fair vision in Marjorie's eyes and Marjorie was a radiant vision in Miss Prudence's eyes. The radiant vision was not clothed in gorgeous apparel; the radiance was in the face and voice and in every motion; the apparel was simply a stiffly starched blue muslin, that had once belonged to Linnet and had been "let down" for Marjorie, and her head was crowned with a broad-brimmed straw hat, around the crown of which was tied a somewhat faded blue ribbon, also a relic of Linnet's summer days; her linen collar was fastened with an old-fashioned pin of her mother's; her boots were new and neatly fitting, her father had made them especially for herself.
Her sense of the fitness of things was sometimes outraged; one of the reasons why she longed to grow up was that she might have things of her own; things bought for her and made for her as they always were for Linnet. But Linnet was pretty and good and was going away to school!
The fair vision was clothed in white, a soft white, that fell in folds and had no kinship with starch. Marjorie had never seen this kind of white dress before; it was a part of Miss Prudence's loveliness. The face was oval and delicate, with little color in the lips and less in the cheeks, smooth black hair was brushed away from the thoughtful forehead and underneath the heavily pencilled black brows large, believing, gray eyes looked unquestioningly out upon the world. Unlike Marjorie, Miss Prudence's questions had been answered. She would have told Marjorie that it was because she had asked her questions of One who knew how to answer. She was swinging in her hammock on the back porch; this back porch looked over towards the sea, a grass plat touched the edge of the porch and then came the garden; it was a kitchen garden, and stretched down to the flat rocks, and beyond the flat rocks were the sand and the sea.
Marjorie had walked two miles and a half this hot afternoon to spend two or three hours with her friend, Miss Prudence. Miss Prudence was boarding at Marjorie's grandfather's; this was the second summer that she had been at this farmhouse by the sea. She was the lady of whom Marjorie had caught a glimpse so long ago in church, and called her Mercy. Throwing aside her hat, Marjorie dropped down on the floor of the porch, so near the gently swaying hammock that she might touch the soft, white drapery, and in a position to watch Miss Prudence's face.
"I don't see the use of learning somethings," Marjorie began; that is, if she could be said to begin anything with Miss Prudence, the beginning of all her questions had been so long ago. So long ago to Marjorie; long ago to Miss Prudence was before Marjorie was born.
There were no books or papers in the hammock. Miss Prudence had settled herself comfortably, so comfortably that she was not conscious of inhabiting her body when Marjorie had unlatched the gate.
"Which one of the things, for instance?"
In the interested voice there was not one trace of the delicious reverie she had been lost in.
"Punctuation," said Marjorie, promptly; "and Mr. Holmes says we must be thorough in it. I can't see the use of anything beside periods, and, of course, a comma once in a while."
A gleam of fun flashed into the gray eyes. Miss Prudence was a born pedagogue.
"I'll show you something I learned when I was a little girl; and, after this, if you don't confess that punctuation has its work in the world, I have nothing more to say about it."
Marjorie had been fanning herself with her broad brim, she let it fall in her eagerness and her eyes were two convincing arguments against the truth of her own theory, for they were two emphasized exclamation points; sometimes when she was very eager she doubled herself up and made an interrogation point of herself.
"Up in my room on the table you will find paper and pencil; please bring them to me."
Marjorie flew away and Miss Prudence gave herself up to her interrupted reverie. To-day was one of Miss Prudence's hard-working days; that is, it was followed by the effect of a hard-working day; the days in which she felt too weak to do anything beside pray she counted the successful days of her life. She said they were the only days in her life in which she accomplished anything.
Marjorie was at home in every part of her grandfather's queer old house; Miss Prudence's room was her especial delight. It was a low-studded chamber, with three windows looking out to the sea, the wide fireplace was open, filled with boughs of fragrant hemlock; the smooth yellow floor with its coolness and sweet cleanliness invited you to enter; there were round braided mats spread before the bureau and rude washstand, and more pretentious ones in size and beauty were laid in front of the red, high-posted bedstead and over the brick hearth. There were, beside, in the apartment, two tables, an easy-chair with arms, its cushions covered with red calico, a camp stool, three rush-bottomed chairs, a Saratoga trunk, intruding itself with ugly modernness, also, hanging upon hooks, several articles of clothing, conspicuously among them a gray flannel bathing suit. The windows were draperied in dotted swiss, fastened back with green cord; her grandmother would never have been guilty of those curtains. Marjorie was sure they had intimate connection with the Saratoga trunk. Sunshine, the salt-breath of the sea and the odor of pine woods as well!
There were rollicking voices outside the window, Marjorie looked out and spied her five little cousins playing in the sand. Three of them held in their hands, half-eaten, the inevitable doughnut; morning, noon, and night those children were to be found with doughnuts in their hands.
She laughed and turned again to the contemplation of the room; on the high mantel was a yellow pitcher, that her grandmother knew was a hundred years old, and in the centre of the mantel were arranged a sugar bowl and a vinegar cruet that Miss Prudence had coaxed away from the old lady; her city friends would rave over them, she said. The old lady had laughed, remarking that "city folks" had ways of their own.
"I've given away a whole set of dishes to folks that come in the yachts," she said. "I should think you would rather have new dishes."
Miss Prudence never dusted her old possessions; she told Marjorie that she had not the heart to disturb the dust of ages.
Marjorie was tempted to linger and linger; in winter this room was closed and seemed always bare and cold when she peeped into it; there was no temptation to stay one moment; and now she had to tear herself away. It must be Miss Prudence's spirit that brooded over it and gave it sweetness and sunshine. This was the way Marjorie put the thought to herself. The child was very poetical when she lived alone with herself. Miss Prudence's wicker work-basket with its dainty lining of rose-tinted silk, its shining scissors and gold thimble, with its spools and sea-green silk needlebook was a whole poem to the child; she thought the possession of one could make any kind of sewing, even darning stockings, very delightful work. "Stitch, stitch, stitch," would not seem dreadful, at all.
How mysterious and charming it was to board by the seashore with somebody's grandfather! And then, in winter, to go back to some bewildering sort of a fairyland! To some kind of a world where people did not talk all the time about "getting along" and "saving" and "doing without" and "making both ends meet." How Marjorie's soul rebelled against the constant repetition of those expressions! How she thought she would never let her little girls know what one of them meant! If she and her little girls had to be saving and do without, how brave they would be about it, and laugh over it, and never ding it into anybody's ears! And she would never constantly be asking what things cost! Miss Prudence never asked such questions. But she would like to know if that gold pen cost so very much, and that glass inkstand shaped like a pyramid, and all that cream note-paper with maple tassels and autumn leaves and butterflies and ever so many cunning things painted in its left corners. And there was a pile of foolscap on the table, and some long, yellow envelopes, and some old books and some new books and an ivory paper-cutter; all something apart from the commonplace world she inhabited. Not apart from the world her thoughts and desires revelled in; not her hopes, for she had not gotten so far as to hope to live in a magical world like Miss Prudence. And yet when Miss Prudence did not wear white she was robed in deep mourning; there was sorrow in Miss Prudence's magical world.
It was some few moments before the roving eyes could settle themselves upon the paper and pencil she had been sent for; she would have liked to choose a sheet of the thick cream-paper with the autumn leaves painted on it, but that was not for study, and Miss Prudence certainly intended study, although there was fun in her eyes. She selected carefully a sheet of foolscap and from among the pen oils a nicely sharpened Faber number three. With the breath of the room about her, and the beauty and restfulness of it making a glory in her eyes, she ran down to the broad, airy hall.
Glancing into the sitting-room as she passed its partly opened door she discovered her grandfather asleep in his arm-chair and her grandmother sitting near him busy in slicing apples to be strung and hung up in the kitchen to dry! With a shiver of foreboding the child passed the door on tiptoe; suppose her grandmother should call her in to string those apples! The other children never strung them to suit her and she "admired" Marjorie's way of doing them. Marjorie said once that she hated apple blossoms because they turned into dried apples. But that was when she had stuck the darning needle into her thumb.
I'm afraid you will think now that Marjorie is not as sweet as she used to be.
She presented the paper, congratulating herself upon her escape, and Miss Prudence lifted herself in the hammock and took the pencil, holding it in her fingers while she meditated. What a little girl she was when her whiteheaded old teacher had bidden her write this sentence on the blackboard. She wrote it carefully, Marjorie's attentive eyes following each movement of the pencil.
"The persons inside the coach were Mr Miller a clergyman his son a lawyer Mr Angelo a foreigner his lady and a little child" In the entire sentence there was not one punctuation mark.
"Read it, please."
Marjorie began to read, then stopped and laughed.
"You wouldn't enjoy a book very much written in that style, would you?"
"I couldn't enjoy it at all. I wouldn't read it"
"Well, if you can't read it, explain it to me. How many persons are in the coach?"
"That's easy enough! There's Mr. Miller, that's one; there's the clergyman, that's two!"
"Perhaps that is only one; Mr. Miller may be a clergyman."
"So he may. But how can I tell?" asked Marjorie, perplexed. "Well, then, his son makes two."
"Why, Mr. Miller's!"
"Perhaps he was the clergyman's son," returned Miss Prudence seriously.
"Well, then," declared Marjorie, "I guess there were eight people! Mr. Miller, the clergyman, the son, the lawyer, Mr. Angelo, a foreigner, a lady, and a child!"
"Placing a comma after each there are eight persons," said Miss Prudence making the commas.
"Yes," assented Marjorie, watching her.
Beneath it Miss Prudence wrote the sentence again, punctuating thus:
"The persons inside the conch were Mr. Miller, a clergyman; his son, a lawyer; Mr. Angelo, a foreigner, his lady; and a little child."
"Now how many persons are there inside this coach?"
"Three gentlemen, a lady and child," laughed Marjorie—"five instead of eight. Those little marks have caused three people to vanish."
"And to change occupations."
"Yes, for Mr. Miller is a clergyman, his son a lawyer, and Mr. Angelo has become a foreigner."
The pencil was moving again and the amused, attentive eyes were steadfastly following.
"The persons inside the coach were Mr. Miller; a clergyman, his son; a lawyer, Mr. Angelo; a foreigner, his lady, and a little child."
Marjorie uttered an exclamation; it was so funny!
"Now, Mr. Miller's son is a clergyman instead of himself, Mr. Angelo is a lawyer, and nobody knows whether he is a foreigner or not, and we don't know the foreigner's name, and he has a wife and child."
Miss Prudence smiled over the young eagerness, and rewrote the sentence once again causing Mr. Angelo to cease to be a lawyer and giving the foreigner a wife but no little child.
"O, Miss Prudence, you've made the little thing an orphan all alone in a stage-coach all through the change of a comma to be a semi-colon!" exclaimed Marjorie in comical earnestness. "I think punctuation means ever so much; it isn't dry one bit," she added, enthusiastically.
"You couldn't enjoy Mrs. Browning very well without it," smiled Miss Prudence.
"I never would know what the 'Cry of the Children' meant, or anything about Cowper's grave, would I? And if I punctuated it myself, I might not get all she meant. I might make a meaning of my own, and that would be sad."
"I think you do," said Miss Prudence; "when I read it to you and the children, there were tears in your eyes, but the others said all they liked was my voice."
"Yes," said Marjorie, "but if somebody had stumbled over every line I shouldn't have felt it so. I know the good there is in studying elocution. When Mr. Woodfern was here and read 'O, Absalom, my son! My son, Absalom!' everybody had tears in their eyes, and I had never seen tears about it before. And now I know the good of punctuation. I guess punctuation helps elocution, too."
"I shouldn't wonder," replied Miss Prudence, smiling at Marjorie's air of having discovered something. "Now, I'll give you something to do while I close my eyes and think awhile."
"Am I interrupting you?" inquired Marjorie in consternation. "I didn't know how I could any more than I can interrupt—"
"God" was in her thought, but she did not give it utterance.
"I shall not allow you," returned Miss Prudence, quietly. "You will work awhile, and I will think and when I open my eyes you may talk to me about anything you please. You are a great rest to me, child."
"Thank you," said the child, simply.
"You may take the paper and change the number of people, or relationship, or professions again. I know it may be done."
"I don't see how."
"Then it will give you really something to do."
Seating herself again on the yellow floor of the porch, within range of Miss Prudence's vision, but not near enough to disturb her, Marjorie bit the unsharpened end of her pencil and looked long at the puzzling sentences on the foolscap. With the attitude of attentiveness she was not always attentive; Mr. Holmes told her that she lacked concentration and that she could not succeed without it. Marjorie was very anxious to "succeed." She scribbled awhile, making a comma and a dash, a parenthesis, an interrogation point, an asterisk and a line of asterisks! But the sense was not changed; there was nobody new in the stage-coach and nobody did anything new. Then she rewrote it again, giving the little child to the foreigner and lady; she wanted the child to have a father and mother, even if the father were a foreigner and did not speak English; she called the foreigner Mr. Angelo, and imagined him to be a brother of the celebrated Michael Angelo; making a dive into the shallow depths of her knowledge of Italian nomenclature she selected a name for the child, a little girl, of course—Corrinne would do, or it might be a boy and named for his uncle Michael. In what age of the world had Michael Angelo lived? At the same time with Petrarch and Galileo, and Tasso and—did she know about any other Italians? Oh, yes. Silvio Pellico,—wasn't he in prison and didn't he write about it? And was not the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy? Was that one of the Seven Wonders of the World? And weren't there Seven Wise Men of Greece? And wasn't there a story about the Seven Sleepers? But weren't they in Asia? And weren't the churches in Revelation in Asia? And wasn't the one at Laodicea lukewarm? And did people mix bread with lukewarm water in summer as well as winter? And wasn't it queer—why how had she got there? But it was queer for the oriental king to refuse to believe and say it wasn't so—that water couldn't become hard enough for people to walk on it! And it was funny for the East Indian servant to be alarmed because the butter was "spoiled," just because when they were up in the mountains it became hard and was not like oil as it was down in Calcutta! And that was where Henry Martyn went, and he dressed all in white, and his face was so lovely and pure, like an angel's; and angels were like young men, for at the resurrection didn't it say they were young men! Or was it some other time? And how do you spell resurrection? Was that the word that had one s and two r's in it? And how would you write two r's? Would punctuation teach you that? Was B a word and could you spell it?
"Oh, dear me!" exclaimed Marjorie. "I've been away off! I always do go away off! I don't remember what the last thing I thought of was. I never shall be concentrated," she sighed. "I believe I could go right on and think of fifty other things. One thing always reminds me of some thing else."
"And some day," rebuked Miss Prudence, "when you must concentrate your thoughts you will find that you have spoiled yourself."
"I have found it out now," acknowledged Marjorie humbly.
"I have to be very severe with myself."
"I ought to be," Marjorie confessed with a rueful face, "for it spoils my prayers so often. I wouldn't dare tell you all the things I find myself thinking of. Why, last night—you know at the missionary meeting they asked us to pray for China and so I thought I'd begin last night, and I had hardly begun when it flashed into my mind—suppose somebody should make me Empress of China, and give me supreme power, of course. And I began to make plans as to how I should make them all Christians. I thought I wouldn't force them or destroy their temples, but I'd have all my officers real Christians; Americans, of course; and I thought I would compel them to send the children to Christian schools. I'd have such grand schools. I had you as principal for the grandest one. And I'd have the Bible and all our best books, and all our best Sunday School books translated into Chinese and I would make the Sabbath a holy day all over the land. I didn't know what I would do about that room in every large house called the Hall of Ancestors. You know they worship their grandparents and great-great-grandparents there. I think I should have to let them read the old books. Isn't it queer that one of the proverbs should be like the Bible? 'God hates the proud and is kind to the humble.' Do you know all about Buddha?"
"Is that as far as you got in your prayer?" asked Miss Prudence, gravely.
"About as far. And then I was so contrite that I began to pray for myself as hard as I could, and forgot all about China."
"Do you wander off in reading the Bible, too?"
"Oh, no; I can keep my attention on that. I read Genesis and Exodus last Sunday. It is the loveliest story-book I know. I've begun to read it through. Uncle James said once, that when he was a sea-captain, he brought a passenger from Germany and he used to sit up all night and read the Bible. He told me last Sunday because he thought I read so long. I told him I didn't wonder. Miss Prudence," fixing her innocent, questioning eyes upon Miss Prudence's face, "why did a lady tell mother once that she didn't want her little girl to read the Bible through until she was grown up? It was Mrs. Grey,—and she told mother she ought not to let me begin and read right through."
"What did your mother say?"
"She said she was glad I wanted to do it."
"I think Mrs. Grey meant that you might learn about some of the sin there is in the world. But if you live in the world, you will be kept from the evil, because Christ prayed that his disciples might be thus kept; but you must know the sin exists. And I would rather my little girl would learn about the sins that God hates direct from his lips than from any other source. As soon as you learn what sin is, you will learn to hate it, and that is not sure if you learn it in any other way. I read the Bible through when I was about your age, and I think there are some forms of sin I never should have hated so intensely if I had not learned about them in the way God thinks best to teach us his abhorrence of them. I never read any book in which a sin was fully delineated that I did not feel some of the excitement of the sin—some extenuation, perhaps, some glossing over, some excuse for the sinner,—but in the record God gives I always intensely hate the sin and feel how abominable it is in his sight. The first book I ever cried over was the Bible and it was somebody's sin that brought the tears. I would like to talk to Mrs. Grey!" cried Miss Prudence, her eyes kindling with indignation. "To think that God does not know what is good for his children."
"I wish you would," said Marjorie with enthusiasm, "for I don't know how to say it. Mother knows a lady who will not read Esther on Sunday because God isn't in it"
"The name of God, you mean," said Miss Prudence smiling. "I think Esther and Mordecai and all the Jews thought God was in it."
"I will try not to build castles," promised Marjorie often a silent half minute. "I've done it so much to please Linnet. After we go to bed at night she says, 'Shut your eyes, Marjie, and tell me what you see,' Then I shut my eyes and see things for us both. I see ourselves grown up and having a splendid home and a real splendid husband, and we each have three children. She has two boys and one girl, and I have two girls and one boy. And we educate them and dress them so nice, and they do lovely things. We travel all around the world with them, and I tell Linnet all we see in Europe and Asia. Our husbands stay home and send us money. They have to stay home and earn it, you know," Marjorie explained with a shrewd little smile. "Would you give that all up?" she asked disappointedly.
"Yes, I am sure I would. You are making a disappointment for yourself; your life may not be at all like that. You may never marry, in the first place, and you may marry a man who cannot send you to Europe, and I think you are rather selfish to spend his money and not stay home and be a good wife to him," said Miss Prudence, smiling.
"Oh. I write him splendid long letters!" said Marjorie quickly. "They are so splendid that he thinks of making a book of them."
"I'm afraid they wouldn't take," returned Miss Prudence seriously, "books of travel are too common nowadays."
"Is it wrong to build castles for any other reason than for making disappointments?" Marjorie asked anxiously.
"Yes, you dwell only on pleasant things and thus you do not prepare yourself, or rather un-prepare yourself for bearing trial. And why should a little girl live in a woman's world?"
"Oh, because it's so nice!" cried Marjorie.
"And are you willing to lose your precious childhood and girlhood?"
"Why no," acknowledged the child, looking startled.
"I think you lose a part of it when you love best to look forward to womanhood; I should think every day would be full enough for you to live in."
"To-day is full enough; but some days nothing happens at all."
"Now is your study time; now is the time for you to be a perfect little daughter and sister, a perfect friend, a perfect helper in every way that a child may help. And when womanhood comes you will be ready to enjoy it and to do its work. It would be very sad to look back upon a lost or blighted or unsatisfying childhood."
"Yes," assented Marjorie, gravely.
"Perhaps you and Linnet have been reading story-books that were not written for children."
"We read all the books in the school library."
"Does your mother look over them?"
"No, not always."
"They may harm you only in this way that I see. You are thinking of things before the time. It would be a pity to spoil May by bringing September into it."
"All the girls like the grown-up stories best" excused Marjorie.
"Perhaps they have not read books written purely for children. Think of the histories and travels and biographies and poems piled up for you to read!"
"I wish I had them. I read all I could get."
"I am sure you do. O, Marjorie, I don't want you to lose one of your precious days. I lost so many of mine by growing up too soon. There are years and years to be a woman, but there are so few years to be a child and a girl."
Marjorie scribbled awhile thinking of nothing to say. Had she been "spoiling" Linnet, too? But Linnet was two years older, almost old enough to think about growing up.
"Marjorie, look at me!"
Marjorie raised her eyes and fixed them upon the glowing eyes that were reading her own. Miss Prudence's lips were white and tremulous.
"I have had some very hard things in my life and I fully believe I brought many of them upon myself. I spoiled my childhood and early girlhood by light reading and castle-building; I preferred to live among scenes of my own imagining, than in my own common life, and oh, the things I left up done! The precious girlhood I lost and the hard womanhood I made for myself."
The child's eyes were as full of tears as the woman's.
"Please tell me what to do," Marjorie entreated. "I don't want to lose anything. I suppose it is as good to be a girl as a woman."
"Get all the sweetness out of every day; live in to-day, don't plan or hope about womanhood; God has all that in his safe hands. Read the kind of books I have spoken of and when you read grown-up stories let some one older and wiser choose them for you. By and by your taste will be so formed and cultivated that you will choose only the best for yourself. I hope the Bible will spoil some other books for you."
"I devour everything I can borrow or find anywhere."
"You don't eat everything you can borrow or find anywhere. If you choose for your body, how much more ought you to choose for your mind."
"I do get discontented sometimes and want things to happen as they do in books; something happens in every chapter in a book," acknowledged Marjorie.
"There's nothing said about the dull, uneventful days that come between; if the author should write only about the dull days no one would read the book."
"It wouldn't be like life, either," said Marjorie, quickly, "for something does happen, sometimes nothing has happened yet to me, though. But I suppose something will, some day."
"Then if I should write about your thirteen years the charm would have to be all in the telling."
"Like Hector in the Garden," said Marjorie, brightly. "How I do love that. And he was only nine years old."
"But how far we've gotten away from punctuation!"
Next to prayer children were Miss Prudence's most perfect rest. They were so utterly unconscious of what she was going through. It seemed to Miss Prudence as if she were always going through and never getting through.
"Are you fully satisfied that punctuation has its work in the world?"
"Yes, ever so fully. I should never get along in the Bible without it."
"That reminds me; run upstairs and bring me my Bible and I'll show you something.
"And, then, after that will you show me the good of remembering dates. They are so hard to remember. And I can't see the good. Do you suppose you could make it as interesting as punctuation?"
"I might try. The idea of a little girl who finds punctuation so interesting having to resort to castle-building to make life worth living," laughed Miss Prudence.
"Mother said to-day that she was afraid I was growing deaf, for she spoke three times before I answered; I was away off somewhere imagining I had a hundred dollars to spend, so she went down cellar for the butter herself."
Marjorie walked away with a self-rebuked air; she did dread to pass that open sitting-room door; Uncle James had come in in his shirt sleeves, wiping his bald head with his handkerchief and was telling her grandfather that the hay was poor this year; Aunt Miranda was brushing Nettie's hair and scolding her for having such greasy fingers; and her grandmother had a pile, such a pile of sliced apple all ready to be strung. Her head was turning, yes, she would see her and then she could not know about dates or have a lesson in reading poetry! Tiptoing more softly still and holding the skirt of her starched muslin in both hands to keep it from rustling, she at last passed the ordeal and breathed freely as she gained Miss Prudence's chamber. The spirit of handling things seemed to possess her this afternoon, for, after finding the Bible, she went to the mantel and took into her hands every article placed upon it; the bird's nest with the three tiny eggs, the bunch of feathers that she had gathered for Miss Prudence with their many shades of brown, the old pieces of crockery, handling these latter very carefully until she seized the yellow pitcher; Miss Prudence had paid her grandmother quite a sum for the pitcher, having purchased it for a friend; Marjorie turned it around and around in her hands, then, suddenly, being startled by a heavy, slow step on the stairs which she recognized as her grandmother's, and having in fear those apples to be strung, in attempting to lift it to the high mantel, it fell short of the mantel edge and dropped with a crash to the hearth.
For an instant Marjorie was paralyzed with horror; then she stifled a shriek and stood still gazing down through quick tears upon the yellow fragments. Fortunately her grandmother, being very deaf, had passed the door and heard no sound. What would have happened to her if her grandmother had looked in!
How disappointed Miss Prudence would be! It belonged to her friend and how could she remedy the loss?
Stooping, with eyes so blinded with tears that she could scarcely see the pieces she took into her hand, she picked up each bit, and then on the spur of the moment hid them among the thick branches of hemlock. Now what was she to do next? Could she earn money to buy another hundred-years-old yellow pitcher? And if she could earn the money, where could she find the pitcher? She would not confess to Miss Prudence until she found some way of doing something for her. Oh, dear! This was not the kind of thing that she had been wishing would happen! And how could she go down with such a face to hear the rest about punctuation?
"Marjorie! Marjorie!" shouted Uncle James from below, "here's Cap'n Rheid at the gate, and if you want to catch a ride you'd better go a ways with him."
The opportunity to run away was better than the ride; hastening down to the hammock she laid the Bible in Miss Prudence's lap.
"I have to go, you see," she exclaimed, hurriedly, averting her face.
"Then our desultory conversation must be finished another time."
"If that's what it means, it means delightful!" said Marjorie. "Thank you, and good-bye."
The blue muslin vanished between the rows of currant bushes. She was hardly a radiant vision as she flew down to the gate; in those few minutes what could have happened to the child?
A RIDE, A WALK, A TALK, AND A TUMBLE.
"Children always turn toward the light"
The old voice and the old pet name; no one thought of calling her "Mousie" but Hollis Rheid.
Her mother said she was noisier than she used to be; perhaps he would not call her Mousie now if he could hear her sing about the house and run up and down stairs and shout when she played games at school. That time when she was so quiet and afraid of everybody seemed ages ago; ages ago before Hollis went to New York. He had returned home once since, but she had been at her grandfather's and had not seen him. Springing to the ground, he caught her in his arms, this tall, strange boy, who had changed so much, and yet who had not changed at all, and lifted her into the back of the open wagon.
"Will you squeeze in between us—there's but one seat you see, and father's a big man, or shall I make a place for you in the bottom among the bags?"
"I'd rather sit with the bags," said Marjorie, her timidity coming back. She had always been afraid of Hollis' father; his eyes were the color of steel, and his voice was not encouraging. He thought he was born to command. People said old Captain Rheid acted as if he were always on shipboard. His wife said once in the bitterness of her spirit that he always marched the quarter-deck and kept his boys in the forecastle.
"You don't weigh more than that bag of flour yourself, not as much, and that weighs one hundred pounds."
"I weigh ninety pounds," said Marjorie.
"And how old are you?"
"Almost fourteen," she answered proudly.
"Four years younger than I am! Now, are you comfortable? Are you afraid of spoiling your dress? I didn't think of that?"
"Oh, no; I wish I was," laughed Marjorie, glancing shyly at him from under her broad brim.
It was her own bright face, yet, he decided, with an older look in it, her eyelashes were suspiciously moist and her cheeks were reddened with something more than being lifted into the wagon.
Marjorie settled herself among the bags, feeling somewhat strange and thinking she would much rather have walked; Hollis sprang in beside his father, not inclined to make conversation with him, and restrained, by his presence, from turning around to talk to Marjorie.
Oh, how people misunderstand each other! How Captain Rheid misunderstood his boys and how his boys misunderstood him! The boys said that Hollis was the Joseph among them, his father's favorite; but Hollis and his father had never opened their hearts to each other. Captain Rheid often declared that there was no knowing what his boys would do if they were not kept in; perhaps they had him to thank that they were not all in state-prison. There was a whisper among the country folks that the old man himself had been in prison in some foreign country, but no one had ever proved it; in his many "yarns" at the village store, he had not even hinted at such a strait. If Marjorie had not stood quite so much in fear of him she would have enjoyed his adventures; as it was she did enjoy with a feverish enjoyment the story of thirteen days in an open boat on the ocean. His boys were fully aware that he had run away from home when he was fourteen, and had not returned for fourteen years, but they were not in the least inclined to follow his example. Hollis' brothers had all left home with the excuse that they could "better" themselves elsewhere; two were second mates on board large ships, Will and Harold, Sam was learning a trade in the nearest town, he was next to Hollis in age, and the eldest, Herbert, had married and was farming on shares within ten miles of his father's farm. But Captain Rheid held up his head, declaring that his boys were good boys, and had always obeyed him; if they had left him to farm his hundred and fifty acres alone, it was only because their tastes differed from his. In her lonely old age, how his wife sighed for a daughter!—a daughter that would stay at home and share her labors, and talk to her, and read to her on stormy Sundays, and see that her collar was on straight, and that her caps were made nice. Some mothers had daughters, but she had never had much pleasure in her life!
"Like to come over to your grandfather's, eh?" remarked Captain Rheid, looking around at the broad-brimmed hat among the full bags.
"Yes, sir," said Marjorie, denting one of the full bags with her forefinger and wondering what he would do to her if she should make a hole in the bag, and let the contents out.
She rarely got beyond monosyllables with Hollis' father.
"Your uncle James isn't going to stay much longer, he tells me,"
"No, sir," said Marjorie, obediently.
"Wife and children going back to Boston, too?"
Her forefinger was still making dents.
"Just come to board awhile, I suppose?"
"I thought they visited" said Marjorie.
"Visited? Humph! Visit his poor old father with a wife and five children!"
Marjorie wanted to say that her grandfather wasn't poor.
"Your grandfather's place don't bring in much, I reckon."
"I don't know," Marjorie answered.
"How many acres? Not more'n fifty, and some of that made land. I remember when some of your grandfather's land was water! I don't see what your uncle James had to settle down to business in Boston for—that's what comes of marrying a city girl! Why didn't he stay home and take care of his old father?"
Marjorie had nothing to say. Hollis flushed uncomfortably.
"And your mother had to get married, too. I'm glad I haven't a daughter to run away and get married?"
"She didn't run away," Marjorie found voice to answer indignantly.
"O, no, the Connecticut schoolmaster had to come and make a home for her."
Marjorie wondered what right he had to be so disagreeable to her, and why should he find fault with her mother and her uncle, and what right had he to say that her grandfather was poor and that some of his land had once been water?
"Hollis shan't grow up and marry a city girl if I can help it," he growled, half good-naturedly.
Hollis laughed; he thought he was already grown up, and he did admire "city girls" with their pretty finished manners and little ready speeches.
Marjorie wished Hollis would begin to talk about something pleasant; there were two miles further to ride, and would Captain Rheid talk all the way?
If she could only have an errand somewhere and make an excuse to get out! But the Captain's next words relieved her perplexity; "I can't take you all the way, Sis, I have to branch off another road to see a man about helping me with the hay. I would have let Hollis go to mill, but I couldn't trust him with these horses."
Hollis fidgeted on his seat; he had asked his father when they set out to let him take the lines, but he had replied ungraciously that as long as he had hands he preferred to hold the reins.
Hollis had laughed and retorted: "I believe that, father."
"Shall I get out now?" asked Marjorie, eagerly. "I like to walk. I expected to walk home."
"No; wait till we come to the turn."
The horses were walking slowly up the hill; Marjorie made dents in the bag of flour, in the bag of indian meal, and in the bag of wheat bran, and studied Hollis' back. The new navy-blue suit was handsome and stylish, and the back of his brown head with its thick waves of brownish hair was handsome also—handsome and familiar; but the navy-blue suit was not familiar, and the eyes that just then turned and looked at her were not familiar either. Marjorie could get on delightfully with souls, but bodies were something that came between her soul and their soul; the flesh, like a veil, hid herself and hid the other soul that she wanted to be at home with. She could have written to the Hollis she remembered many things that she could not utter to the Hollis that she saw today. Marjorie could not define this shrinking, of course.
"Hollis has to go back in a day or two," Captain Rheid announced; "he spent part of his vacation in the country with Uncle Jack before he came home. Boys nowadays don't think of their fathers and mothers."
Hollis wondered if he thought of his mother and father when he ran away from them those fourteen years: he wished that his father had never revealed that episode in his early life. He did not miss it that he did not love his father, but he would have given more than a little if he might respect him. He knew Marjorie would not believe that he did not think about his mother.
"I wonder if your father will work at his trade next winter," continued Captain Rheid.
"I don't know," said Marjorie, hoping the "turn" was not far off.
"I'd advise him to—summers, too, for that matter. These little places don't pay. Wants to sell, he tells me."
"Real estate's too low; 'tisn't a good time to sell. But it's a good time to buy; and I'll buy your place and give it to Hollis if he'll settle down and work it."
"It would take more than that farm to keep me here," said Hollis, quickly; "but, thank you all the same, father; Herbert would jump at the chance."
"Herbert shan't have it; I don't like his wife; she isn't respectful to Herbert's father. He wants to exchange it for city property, so he can go into business, he tells me."
"Oh, does he?" exclaimed Marjorie. "I didn't know that."
"Girls are rattlebrains and chatterboxes; they can't be told everything," he replied shortly.
"I wonder what makes you tell me, then," said Marjorie, demurely, in the fun of the repartee forgetting for the first time the bits of yellow ware secreted among the hemlock boughs.
Throwing back his head Captain Rheid laughed heartily, he touched the horses with the whip, laughing still.
"I wouldn't mind having a little girl like you," he said, reining in the horses at the turn of the road; "come over and see marm some day."
"Thank you," Marjorie said, rising.
Giving the reins to Hollis, Captain Rheid climbed out of the wagon that he might lift the child out himself.