THE GIRLS AT MOUNT MORRIS
AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
Author of "Sherburne Series," "A Little Girl Series," "A Modern Cinderella," Etc.
M. A. Donohue & Co. Chicago
Copyright 1914 M. A. Donohue & Company Chicago
Made in U. S. A.
I Looking the Future in the Face 1 II A New Outlook 22 III Food For Consideration 39 IV The Grace of Endeavor 58 V Zaidee 77 VI An Escapade and What Came of It 100 VII A Supreme Moment 118 VIII A Strange Confession 134 IX Whose Child Am I? 154 X Unraveling Tangled Threads 171 XI Standing Up to the Mark 186 XII Oh, Will I Be Welcome? 204 XIII A Mother's Love 220 XIV Going Out of the Old Life 244 XV Your True Home 267 XVI Out of Her Loyalty 287
THE GIRLS AT MT. MORRIS
LOOKING THE FUTURE IN THE FACE
Lilian Boyd entered the small, rather shabby room, neat, though everything was well worn. Her mother sat by a little work table busy with some muslin sewing and she looked up with a weary smile. Lilian laid a five-dollar bill on the table.
"Madame Lupton sails on Saturday," she said. "Oh how splendid it must be to go to Paris! Mrs. Cairns is to finish up; there is only a little to do, but Madame said everything you did was so neat, so well finished that she should be very glad to have you by the first of October."
The mother sighed. "Meanwhile there is almost two months to provide for, and I had to break in the last hundred dollars to pay the rent. Oh Lilian! I hardly know which way to turn. I am not strong any more, I have made every effort to—" and her voice broke, "but I am afraid you will have to give up school."
She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
"Oh, mother, don't! don't!" the girl implored. "I suppose it was selfish of me to think of such a thing and you couldn't go through two years more. You are not as well as you were a year ago. I'll see Sally Meeks tonight and take the place in the factory. I only have to give two weeks and then begin on five dollars a week. It will be better than the sewing."
Lilian Boyd stood up very straight and determined, though her heart sank within her. To give up her cherished wish, to join the great army of shop girls with no hope of advancement in the future! She was almost sixteen; she had been two years in the High School and was a favorite scholar. Two years more and she could teach. It was in the walk of life that she so ardently desired. Tall for her age, vigorous, with courage and earnestness in every line of the face that was fine, now, to the casual observer and might develop into beauty. It was spirited, eager, with a clear complexion, deep blue eyes that in some moods seemed black, while the hair was light and abundant. The brows and lashes were much darker. The features were regular, the chin broad and cleft, but it was the courage and uplift in the face that gave it character.
The mother was so different. It was not altogether a weak face but intensely commonplace; the sort of woman who has no ambitions beyond the ordinary round of life. Was it the old story of the eagle in the dove's nest?
"You are very tired," she began, presently. "Lie down on the lounge while I get supper."
Mrs. Boyd was still crying softly. Lilian kissed her, threw a light shawl over her shoulders, then lighted the gas burner and set on the kettle. She would run out and get a chop for her mother, some for breakfast as well. Yes, she must begin to be the care taker, she had been so engrossed with her studies and giving her help with the sewing they did for a dressmaking establishment that she had hardly noted. She swallowed over a great lump in her throat, it was a bitter sacrifice and yet she must make it. She could not even study during the evenings for she must help with the sewing, and if her mother should be ill!
The little supper was tastily arranged, the tea and the chop had an unwonted fragrance.
"I'm awfully sorry," said the mother, "but Sally says it is a nice shop and the boss is particular about the kind of girls he has, and to think Sally's earning nine dollars a week now!"
"Yes, Sally's a nice pleasant girl," that was all she could trust her voice to say.
"And it will be company back and forth. Maybe—sometime—"
Oh, had she been right in that long ago time? It seemed ages to her, so much had happened since, and she thought she could not live without the child, but after all the girl was not of her kind. What if she had done her a great wrong! She had never been an introspective woman, her life was mostly on the surface, with commonplace aims and desires.
The kitchen was small, the middle room not much larger, but it had two nice windows, the front was on a much neglected street with a big carpenter's shop across the way. They used that for a sleeping room and it had in it the remnant of better days. The sewing room was much more quiet.
Lilian cleared away the things. Mrs. Boyd went back to the lounge. Then the girl went down the street. She had best make her sacrifice at once, it was not a subject to ponder over and she realized it had been a big black cloud hanging about her the last month.
Sally's mother sat out on the small porch gossiping with a neighbor.
"Oh, Lily Boyd," she exclaimed. "Sally was coming up on Saturday but she had to fly round like a bee in a flower garden. It want her turn to go to the Rest House, but the other girl couldn't—sickness at home. So Sally went in her place. Splendid, isn't it! And board only two dollars a week. I tell Sally she's got the nicest boss we've ever heard about. She'll be home Sat'day night and tell you all about it."
"Yes, I want to see her. No, I can't stay. Oh, mother does not seem very well. Good-night."
Lilian did not go straight home. This was the old part of the town there were no real cottages and little gardens fragrant with flowers, but people were huddled in them. There would presently be factories and tenement houses.
She was making a sharp, desperate fight. Strong natures have to. Why was she born with these ambitions and aims and capabilities and the ardent desire to do something? All girls did not have them. Some in the class laughed and made merry without a thought of the future. Some expected to teach and 'just hated it.' She would have been so glad. Well the dream must be given up—at least for years. It would be horrible to count on her mother's death for freedom. She shuddered.
They went to bed, but neither of them slept until after midnight. Now and then Lilian heard a soft sob. She felt that she ought to comfort her mother, but what could she say? Since she had been growing up she had become aware of a barrier between them. Mrs. Boyd had loved her fervently as a little girl, she had not taken any special pride in her entering the High School with such a fine record. She was in no sense an ambitious or an intellectual woman and the girl's vigor and intentness sometimes frightened her. She should have been in some other sphere.
Lilian sank into a sort of dull apathy, questioning everything as youth often does under a great disappointment. What was the use of living if one could never attain the things one desired? She was not like Sally nor dozens of other girls. Their commonplace lives would be martyrdom to her.
So they both slept late. Lilian prepared the simple breakfast.
"Perhaps it would be a good thing to get out last winter's clothes and see what can be fixed over," said the mother. "But you have grown so much this year, Lilian."
Oh, if clothes mattered, if anything mattered! There was the postman's whistle.
Quite a thick letter for her mother in a neat lady's hand.
"Why that's funny," and a smile brightened the girl's face.
Mrs. Boyd glanced it over. "Why it's from Mrs. Searing. She was here last March, you know. She has always taken such an interest in you, and—oh read it, read it aloud. My head is so bad this morning."
She began to cry again.
Helen took the letter. The first page was full of friendly interest and then she branched off into a delightful visit she had been making at a very pretty place, one of the old fashioned aristocratic towns where a relative kept a select and high class Seminary for young ladies. She had found her in something of a quandary. The woman who had taken charge of the bed and table line and a sort of general seamstress had suddenly married, and it was necessary to fill her place before school opened. She wanted a middle aged person with some experience who was neat and careful. She would have a pleasant room and the duties would not be arduous. There was a housekeeper and several maids beside the cook.
"So," wrote Mrs. Searing, "I told her about Lilian, remembering you had said you were afraid you could not keep her in school to finish, and her ambition to be a teacher. She was wonderfully interested and I told her somewhat of your misfortunes and struggles. So she proposes that you shall accept this position and that Lilian shall take a sort of supervision of some of the younger pupils and go on with her own education. Mrs. Barrington has been very kind and helpful to several young girls and I know Lilian will admire her extremely."
The girl sprang up with a glad cry and flung her arms around her mother's neck.
"Oh, let us go, let us go! Why it seems like a miracle," and then she was crying, too, from an overwrought heart.
Presently she resumed the letter. They would have a pleasant room together, considerable leisure, and there would be music, a fine library beside that in the town and the society was charming. The mother's salary was a very fair one and in another year the daughter might be able to earn something for herself. Mrs. Searing really urged the matter. Would Mrs. Boyd write at once to Mrs. Barrington?
"Oh, mother, to think! No rent to pay, no bills to meet, no bother of cooking and house keeping. It seems too good to be true. Let me read it over again lest I must have skipped something."
It seemed more attractive at the second perusal. Lilian's heart beat with unwonted emotion. Mrs. Boyd leaned back in her chair, paler than ever but not quite so depressed.
"You must answer it, Lilian; I couldn't make it sound right, and you can tell her about yourself; I don't understand all these things. I never had any high up education. People were not thinking of it then."
Lilian was glad to do it. She knew a person of refinement and education would see what her mother missed and perhaps doubt her ability. She made a draft and read it aloud to Mrs. Boyd.
"It sounds beautiful; I couldn't have done it."
Was it education that gave one the power, the sense of what was appropriate, or some underlying fact that she dared not face? What if it had been a great mistake in that far back time? Could it ever be remedied?
"Oh, mother, I thought last night that I shouldn't want to live if I could never reach any of my aims. When I hear delicious music I feel it in my very finger ends. When I read about pictures and statuary and magnificent churches I can almost see them, and a rift in the sky, an autumnal branch of red brown leaves, nooks that I have seen now and then, looks that are grand and high and beautiful stir my very soul. Where did I get this from? Was my father—"
She looked really beautiful standing there, her eyes full of inspiration, her cheeks aglow, her scarlet lips quivering. Mrs. Boyd trembled with a mysterious chill, and a shiver went over her.
"Oh, no, no! he was a plain man, a good, honest man"—her voice failed.
"And if he had lived we should have been very happy, I know; and I did like the boarding house better. I wish we could have kept it, but to sit here day after day and not see any way out of the narrow distasteful life, feeling as if you could fly—am I wicked? Poor little mother do I frighten you? Oh, don't cry, I am going to be a good daughter and not wish for impossible things if this comes true."
She clasped her mother's hands that were seldom idle so long. How thin they were with dullish, prominent veins. The mother looked past her child rather than at her, but she could feel the glowing, spirited force like a ghost out of the past that shook its upbraiding finger at her. She leaned her face on Lilian's breast.
"Poor mother, dear mother," in a sweet comforting tone. "I'm afraid I haven't always been a loving daughter, but whatever comes we will share it together. In a few years I will be working for you, that is the splendid side to this offer."
"But—if you shouldn't be—some girls, young ladies think they must draw a line—"
"Oh, I shall not mind that if I suit Mrs. Barrington. I shall go to work and to study, and when I reach some high place in teaching, I shall smile over those petty things. A boy gets praised when he works for his education, why shouldn't a girl?"
Then she brought out her paper and wrote her letter. She wished her stationery had been finer, but she would not spend the money to gratify pride. Then she went and posted it and bought some little luxuries for dinner. After they had partaken of it she made her mother lie down and take a good rest while she went over some of her school books and worked out several problems.
Yet the waiting was very wearing. Sally came after having had a splendid time at the Rest House and said she, Lilian, could come in two weeks. She wrote a letter to her mother's friend Mrs. Searing who was most happy that they had accepted the position, and enclosed a ten-dollar note to buy some of the little things young girls long for.
They took out last winter's clothing, but alas, it was outgrown and well worn.
"When we hear you must have a new outfit," the mother commented.
"But it seems dreadful to break into your last resource," said the girl regretfully.
"But I shall be able to replace it from my salary, for as you said we shall have no expense in the future for living. Oh, what a blessed relief! Mrs. Searing has been our good providence."
"And you are quite happy about it?"
"Yes, oh yes!"
The mother watched her elastic step, her proud carriage, the attractive face that had so much vigor and purpose. Oh, she was not of her kind. At times the thought was terrifying.
Then the longed for letter came. It began:
"My dear Miss Boyd. I was much pleased with your letter and the consideration evinced for your mother. I hope the change will benefit her. Mount Morris is considered a very healthy place and it is certainly beautiful. I hope you will both be very happy here, and you seem not only an ambitious girl but quite willing to work for the things you desire." Then follows a description of the school and the duties, and what would be expected of the mother, the routes of travel and several time tables enclosed. Mrs. Barrington would like them to come as soon after the 20th of August as they could.
Lilian could not conceal her joy. They shopped a little, finding some bargains from early spring left-overs. They packed up a few things and disposed of the rest. Lilian's few friends were surprised. Sally hoped she would not be disappointed.
"Mount Morris has such a pretty sound," exclaimed Lilian, "and I think Mrs. Barrington is a tall and stately woman with the grand beauty you sometimes see in a picture. I want her complexion to be lovely and her hair snowy white, and her voice like the music that makes you feel sorry when it stops. I want to like her very much, and make myself useful to her."
"I am quite sure she will like you," returned the mother.
Lilian felt as if she could dance and sing. Was there such a thing as being too glad and happy? To go out of this poor old life with its pinches, and the sordid economies to a lovely home! She read Mrs. Searing's letter over and over again. These were the things that appealed to her, that she enjoyed in every fibre of her being. She glanced at her mother. Why the face was almost stolid! Oh, that was wicked! She had been so good and kind. Was it not the hard grind of poverty and hopeless work, never making any advance, that quenched the vitality of soul and brain? She must make her mark before hope dropped out of the years. She had watched her teachers in a curious manner, though she was too young to understand analysis of character. Some were favorites, some had favorites, girls who were of the noted families or had prosperity back of them. There were others, one she had liked very much who seemed to study with you, to help you to understand. Her classes always had many of the finest pupils. That was the kind of teacher she meant to be.
Of course there had been slights, sometimes sneers. These lilies of the field in their fine array longed to crowd their mates out in the arid, dusty highway. She stood her ground and she was a fine scholar. She was helpful, too; she had no sneers or cruel laughs over the blunders of others.
A few of her mates were truly sorry to part with her and surprised to find she was going to a high-up Seminary to be trained for a teacher. The teacher she liked so much was away on her vacation.
So they left the old noisy, dirty factory city. It was Lilian's first journey in the great world. And oh how large and beautiful it was! They passed thriving towns, beautiful villages, great fields of waving corn, fruit orchards, then towns again, rivers, lakes, high hills cleft by rocky passes that sparkled in places as if set by gems. Then stretches so serene so instinct with fairy beauty she drew long breaths and dreamed of delightful futures, and what is a girl of sixteen filled with a love of beauty and ambition worth if she cannot dream some grand ventures.
Mrs. Boyd was not interested in the scenery. She gave a quiet assent to the girl's enthusiasms and presently Lilian ceased to appeal. It was so when she had read stirring prose or exquisite poetry aloud.
Mrs. Boyd was going over her past life. It had been much in her mind the last year. A commonplace factory girl earning her living, an orphan at that. Her dream was a lover, presently, marriage, a little home, and keeping it tidy, and babies of her very own. The lover came, a nice steady machinist with a little education, saving up money, marriage and the home of a few rooms, buying this and that of the simplest kind, and then the baby, a nice, plump, blue-eyed boy who grew apace and was the delight of both. What more could she ask for? That was certainly content.
He took out a small life insurance, though it almost broke her heart to think of his dying. And she never dreamed of the baby. He was so well and strong and joyous. Yet a few days' illness swept him out of the world, and almost broke their hearts. Then a little girl came. She liked girls the best, they were more to the mother. She could make their clothes, they could go out together. Then lovers would come and marriage, and all the everyday interest of new lives.
One sad day James Boyd was brought home dead. Something had gone wrong with the machinery and before it could be stopped his life had been beaten out. Neighbors were kind to her, the employer took charge of the funeral, but there were other sorrows and losses in the world.
She had one brother of whom she had seen very little, as he had gone West when a mere boy. He had a big farm and five children and he wrote for her to come out, as his wife had recently died. The steady home looked so inviting. Yes, she would go.
The life insurance had been well invested by a friend of her husbands'.
"Don't disturb it," he counseled. "You may not like it there and want to come back, and your brother may marry again. There's enough to give you a nice start in something."
If she had never gone! How many times she had wondered! For midway in the journey there was a horrible accident in a small town where two roads crossed. The child flew out of her arms and she lay unconscious. There was no hospital. Kindly neighbors took in the wounded and the dead.
When she came to herself one morning the child was fretting and she nursed it. She could not remember distinctly, but they were both alive and she gave thanks as she hugged the child to her heart.
"Will you have some breakfast? You had a good natural sleep last night, and the baby is all right. The other poor baby was killed and its mother is dying, maybe dead now. There was so much confusion. The baggage car was wrecked and burned, the trunks lost, and it seems so hard to get on track of relatives. Some cannot be identified."
The listener shuddered. Then the breakfast came and she ate it with an eager appetite.
"You might try getting up by and by. The railroad company are doing all they can and sending passengers to their destination."
"When was it?" in a tremulous tone.
"Two days ago; well, it will be three tonight. It was hardly midnight when it happened. I never was in an accident before. It was awful."
Emma Boyd sat up in the bed and took the child in her arms, studying it earnestly. Oh, how sweet and rosy it was with its dimpled mouth and its fringe of soft hair. Then she laid it down and crept out of bed, feeling rather shaky, but having the use of all her limbs. There was the dress hanging on her chair. She wondered what would be done. Should she go on?
There was another pocket in the side of her skirt and she felt for that. There was the remainder of her trip ticket and some money. She had only put a small amount in her satchel and that was safe as well. Rescuers had been honest. Was it a token that she should go on?
The official was in that afternoon and made her a general allowance, she thought, for her losses. There would be a through train at nine the next morning if she was able to go.
"Could I see the—the other lady. How was the baby hurt?"
"Oh, it was all crushed. The mother was killed. One of the passengers recognized her and the lady, and though you were stunned for a long while you came partly to, and called for your baby. So we brought it, and although you were not quite rational you were so happy with it and improved rapidly. You've been fortunate, ma'am."
"Yes," with a queer, frightened sound.
"She's a beautiful woman and belongs to the quality, but her hip is broken and her back twisted, and there's something hurt in her head. She can't live—we thought her dead in the night. It's a blessing the poor baby has gone."
She lay like marble. A beautiful woman, truly. The eyelids with their long lashes looked as if they were carven. There was only an infrequent sign of respiration.
"We hope we are on the track of some one belonging to her. The doctors want her moved to the hospital."
The next morning Emma Boyd journeyed out to her brother's. A coarse, common, loud voiced farmer, rough and unkempt and five unruly children. She was appalled, and a dreary stretch of prairie land with hardly a neighbor in sight. Why she had been crazy to come! and she found farm work quite too hard for her. She had better be housemaid at Laconia, or go in the mills again. And when her brother found she had a little money he was eager to get hold of it. Yes, she had better return to her native town, especially as her brother was meaning to marry again.
So she came back to Laconia which was a manufacturing town with iron mines at its elbow. There were varying fortunes as there often is with the poor. Mill work when she had to leave the child alone, then a boarding house which really prospered, but was sold with some other property for a big factory. Then housekeeping for a nervous invalid wife, and here she had met Mrs. Searing who had proved a true friend. After that sewing, making skirts for a dressmaker and working at childrens' clothes. When it was dull times they drew on the little fund. The girl was ambitious and had mapped out her own life, different from what her mother had planned. They loved each other but it was as if two foreign natures were trying to assimilate and there was no conformable ground for perfect harmony. Yes, she would take this last step for the girl's sake; she owed it to her.
A NEW OUTLOOK
Lilian Boyd glanced around the station at Mount Morris with a kind of joyous surprise and wonder. The beautiful town with its straight streets, some of them with a narrow park in the centre, houses that were palatial to her inexperienced eyes, with terraced lawns, wide porches, graceful shrubbery and a profusion of flowers. True, the station was quite at one side and a little farther down the road crossed the river that went meandering along, too winding and shallow for business purposes. Opposite there was a succession of wooded hills with here and there a stately residence.
"How beautiful, mother!" Lilian cried, moved in every pulse of her being, her eyes lustrous with tears, her lips quivering.
The beauty did not so move the mother. She was embarrassed and shrank when the coachman with an authoritative air approached them.
"Mrs. Boyd?" tentatively. There had been but few passengers and they had gone their way.
She glanced timidly at Lilian who answered for her.
"Give me your checks, please, and I will order the trunks sent up."
"There is only one," in a deprecating tone.
Lilian was glad she had insisted on a nice new trunk.
"This way please," and he took the girl's satchel. Mrs. Boyd followed rather than led, but her daughter stood aside so that she should be assisted in first.
"What a beautiful town!" she exclaimed involuntarily. She had a feeling that they were recovering from a reverse of fortune and this was their rightful place. Then she smiled at the absurdity.
Mount Morris Seminary was rather at the lower part of the town, and a long level stretched between that and the river, broken by a few clumps of shrubbery. The house was a handsome old style building, colonial in its aspect with its broad piazza and fluted columns going up to the second story.
There was an imposing entrance, but the porte cochere was at the side where the wide screen door showed a sort of reception hall, furnished with willow and splint belongings, a table with magazines and papers and two great jars of ferns.
A tidy maid received them. "Would they please be seated, Mrs. Barrington would be down in a moment."
Lilian drew a long breath of rapture. To live in a place like this! To wander in the beautiful garden, to work and study in such inspiring environments. Yes, she had come to work as well. She had been too young to discriminate, but in an instant she seemed to realize how bitter the struggle with poverty and discouragement had been, the hurry with hardly an hour's real enjoyment. No wonder it had made her mother worn and hesitating, fearful, and here everything was so leisurely aspected.
She heard the soft trail of a gown over the stairs and rose in eager expectancy.
Mrs. Barrington was a handsome woman at sixty, tall and straight, with a gracious presence. Her hair was snowy white as the girl had hoped and lay in loose waves about her forehead. Her dark eyes were not easily evaded, but her manner of smiling serenity was in itself a welcome.
"I am afraid it has been a long and tiresome journey in this warm weather, but a few days' rest will restore you I hope. You look very delicate, Mrs. Boyd."
She gave the hand a friendly pressure.
"Mother had so much to do before we started," explained Lilian, "and the change—"
"And the parting with old friends," with her sympathetic smile. "I hope you will soon feel at home and like us all. Mrs. Searing gave you both such an excellent recommendation, and I confess I take a warm interest in girls who are eager for advancement. Now allow me to show you to your room and shall I send you up some tea? That is a rather pleasant English fashion, I am glad you came so promptly for my housekeeper has gone on her vacation and we shall have the better chance to get acquainted."
"Oh, thank you," said Lilian warmly.
They followed her up the stairs where a cross hall led to a wing. The room was large with two single beds, the windows in white drapery, a capacious bureau, a dressing table, a washing stand in a recess, a writing desk and some book shelves. It looked so cozy and inviting.
"I will send up the tea, and I think your mother had better take a rest. If you like to come down you will find me in the hall."
"Thank you," she replied. "I shall be glad to come."
She took her mother's bonnet and wrap and placed her in the rocking chair.
"Oh, isn't this a splendid closet? It's like another room. We are going to be so happy here; I feel it in every pulse. Heaven bless Mrs. Searing for finding us this shelter. Now drink this cup of tea. Thank you," to the maid.
It was reviving.
Lilian brushed out her dress and smoothed her hair. Her coat had left some wrinkles in her shirtwaist, but she stretched and patted them out. Then when she had seen her mother comfortable on the bed, she came down. Even the little freshening made her look bright and rosy and her eyes were vivid with the light of pleasure.
Mrs. Barrington had a bit of fancy work in her hands which were white and shapely. She studied the young girl. It seemed to call up something from the long past years that eluded and yet piqued her. How different she was from the mother.
"Have you always lived in that western town, Laconia, I believe it is, and was it your mother's birthplace?"
"Yes, I am quite sure. I was away once as a baby. Mother went to her brother's after father died but did not like it, and Laconia is an ugly manufacturing town of smoke and grime, but it is said to have a fine High School. Of course there are some rich manufacturers."
"How long were you in it?"
"Two years, and I was fairly broken hearted at the thought of not completing the course, but mother wasn't strong as she had been, and"—yes, she would be bravely honest—"we were poor, mother's little money was almost spent. Boys supported themselves while they are studying, why shouldn't girls?"
Oh, where had she seen just that proud uplifting look! It puzzled the lady.
"I am always pleased to help an ambitious girl along, and you have a dignity which will be a great aid in teaching. Mrs. Searing said that was your desire."
"I love to study. I think I shall love to teach, and sometime I hope to go to college."
"I think you will work your way there. What branches were you in?"
Lilian was very frank. She showed that she was a thorough student. History was one of her delights. Latin was the only language admitted until the third year, and in mathematics she seemed well grounded.
"I want some one to take charge of a few of the younger classes and be of service in the study hour from eight to nine. I think you will fit in admirably, but do you think your mother is quite strong enough?"—and she paused.
"Oh, she is used to sewing of all kinds. She is very tired now and I think she has been worried all the time lest something should go wrong with this nice offer. You see sewing is not very profitable ordinarily unless you can do high up dressmaking or are forewoman in some factory, and I couldn't sew for a living. It is one thing over and over. You are never learning anything new, broadening out, enjoying the wisdom of the master minds, the beautiful poetry, the grand philosophies. Oh, am I a very romantic or conceited girl?" and she paused with a bright flush.
"You are meant for a scholar."
Just that instant the trunk came and Lilian excused herself and went up with it. Her mother was up and looked rested.
"And please put on that black and white lawn, even if it is a little crumpled, and my white batiste always shakes out. It is nice if it isn't very fine."
The bell sounded and they went down. The table was laid in the pretty little tea room. Lilian ate and drank with a sensation of delight. The china was so delicate, the table so beautifully arranged, the serving so perfect. Often in reading a story Lilian had fancied herself the heroine and enjoyed the feast.
The child has much finer breeding than the mother, Mrs. Barrington mused. She almost fancied she detected something furtive about Mrs. Boyd. Was she being won by the girl's proud face to the detriment of the mother? It seemed to her that Mrs. Boyd stood in awe of her daughter.
Afterward they went to the parlor which was a fine large room splendidly furnished, Lilian thought. There was a grand piano, an organ, two beautiful marbles, vases and pictures. There was a wide hall that was like another room. Here on the west side was the school and recitation rooms, the girl's dining room and a commodious kitchen.
"Will you go up stairs?" asked Mrs. Barrington.
Lilian answered eagerly, Mrs. Boyd followed.
Over this side were the dormitories and baths. Some rooms accommodated two beds, others only one. They were neat and pleasant and had been lately put in order.
"I do not care for more than twenty boarding pupils," explained Mrs. Barrington. "That makes a nice family with sufficient variety of character. I am much interested in the development of girls, and the town has nothing detrimental in it. We have a fine music hall where there are concerts and lectures, occasionally a play, and a nice library. The walks and drives about are beautiful."
The hall was not so wide up here. There were two entrances to the family side, the one to Mrs. Barrington's rooms which was divided by a short hall from those of the assistants. Two of the teachers lived at the school, though one of them had a room where she could be in touch with the girls.
When they reached her room Mrs. Boyd said—
"If you don't mind I will retire. I am so little used to long journeys that this has fatigued me. No, Lilian you need not stay. I shall not want anything. By morning I shall be rested," and she waved her away.
"Are you quite sure?" asked the girl, "and you will not be lonely?"
"Oh no, I shall enjoy the quiet."
"Are you fond of music?" asked Mrs. Barrington. "Shall I play a little for you?"
"Oh, that would be delightful. I have heard very little that might be called refined music."
Then she knew the difference.
She was charmed, though the hostess played mostly the simpler things. She thought she could have listened all night.
A night's rest refreshed Mrs. Boyd very much and the certainty that Lilian had found a good friend. For she knew she could not stand the struggle much longer. She was really worn out.
Her duties were explained in a very kindly manner. There were the linen closets at hand, the bedding that she was to deal out as it was needed, the table napery. What she did for the girls was quite her own affairs.
"And you must not allow them to impose on you. My rule is that all small bills must be settled once a month. Most of the girls get their allowance then. You will have considerable leisure for yourself. I hope you will soon feel very much at home."
As for Lilian she seemed in an enchanted land. Such stores of splendid reading, such a magnificent out of doors! She and her mother were sent out to drive, and the town was like the places she had read about in books or the higher grade monthly papers. Then Mrs. Dane, the housekeeper, returned and Miss Arran, who was a kind of secretary, took her outing.
Mrs. Dane was a tall, rather severe looking person. All disputes with the servants and any discomforts in the rooms were under her jurisdiction. Why it was like a little kingdom in itself.
"Mrs. Boyd doesn't look very robust and seems rather timid, uncertain, though if she is capable—" Mrs. Dane began rather sharply.
"She has been seamstress to a dressmaker for several years. I fancy she has had it pretty hard for the last year or two, but Miss Lilian is very bright and energetic, only I am afraid she will hold her head rather too high."
"I fancy she will make an excellent teacher. That is her aim."
Mrs. Barrington had looked through the big book of photographs of school girls. Some turns of the head, some glances and a sound in the voice still puzzled her, but it was connected with something in the past. Few young girls made characteristic portraits. Ah, here was one who had just that poise, that eager ambitious expression. A Miss Mortimer who certainly possessed fine abilities, and a resonant voice. She had taken the lead in school entertainments, and then she had joined a theatrical troupe and married a third rate actor, to the lady's great disappointment.
"There is some likeness," she mused, "only the voice is much gentler, more truly musical. It must be that is the elusive suggestion, and Miss Boyd is wild over Shakespeare. It shall be my purpose to prevent her from being an actress, unless she can stand in the front ranks."
Lilian and Miss Arran became friends almost at once. Both were fond of walking, and to Lilian the beautiful aspect of the town, the woods and the picturesque river with its many windings and suggestive nooks where she always found a new touch of beauty stirred her with a vivid and intense delight.
Then the real life began. Girls trouped in, trunks were set down with a thump or oftener carried up on the third floor for unpacking. Girls in the remnant of summer suits, for it was still warm, others in cloth or serge, laughing chatting, running to and fro. How bright and merry it all was!
It took some time to get settled. The first grade girls who were to be the next year graduates, if they chose, were at one table with Mrs. Barrington and Madame Eustis, the French teacher; the other had Miss Arran, Miss Davis, and the new scholars or the second grade old ones. Lilian was at this table, though they could have their meals in their own rooms.
She felt very sorry for her neighbor, Alice Nevins, who was dreadfully homesick and scarcely tasted anything, winking desperately to keep her eyes from overflowing. Some of them looked very bright and jolly.
"Girls," exclaimed Louie Howe, as a group gathered on the lawn, "there's a new pupil teacher, and you know that's one of Mrs. Barrington's fads. Last year's girl wasn't much of a success it seems. I think it's that lanky girl in brown silk who looks half frightened out of her wits, and her mother is the seamstress and caretaker. I wouldn't have put her in brown silk with that dull brown hair and wretched complexion."
"Thank fortune she isn't at our table!"
"Oh, Mrs. Barrington wouldn't put such a looking object with us. She really doesn't know enough to last over night. There are eight new scholars, three with us come for finishing touches, five in the second grade."
"There's a girl I'd like to know with that splendid light hair, just the least bit wavy. She sat opposite Miss Arran, and had a blue lawn frock with the baby waist and lace yoke. She is fine looking; a little too grave to be handsome, but her complexion is lovely. She's a princess in disguise, I can tell by the way she holds her head. I shall throw myself at her feet when I get a chance. It is a case of love at first sight. There she is with that brown girl. I'd go over but I am afraid of being snubbed. I do wonder who she can be, and there she's taking that Elma Ransom under her wing. It will take the child five years to get up to our first division." "That brown girl as you call her is a Miss Nevins. Her parents have gone abroad, I've learned that much, and they are well to do. That is the golden mean between comparative and great wealth. Miss Vincent introduced her to me, and then she turned her to that rather striking looking girl."
"And which do you suppose is Miss Boyd? Or has she run back to mamma's sheltering wing?"
"I think she has discreetly retired. We must make some excuse to get in to our lady of the needle. I'm sorry Miss Nevins isn't better looking if she has plenty of money."
"Well, the gods were just this time. She will need the money to illumine her pathway. Just see that girl in the blue frock. Why, they are thronging about her."
Louie Howe went over and caught little Elma Ransome by the arms. She was short and rather plump with an infantile face that made her look younger than her years.
"Why Elly, I'm glad to see you back. Now this year you must study hard and fill up some of the vacancies we graduates make." Then she glanced around the group.
Elma flushed and then said a little awkwardly—"This is Miss Boyd, and this Miss Nevins, and—I don't know all the names yet."
"You have more new scholars than we." Then she made a stiff little bow and turned away to her own group.
"Girls, what do you think? Why, I nearly fainted with surprise. 'Looks is often deceiving.' That girl I thought a princess in disguise is Miss Boyd. Why she has airs and graces enough to amaze you. If her mother is like that, will we ever dare to ask her to darn our stockings?"
"Miss Boyd!" exclaimed a chorus of voices.
"Well, it's good we have learned the fact at once so we shall not make any blunders. She'll be a sort of charity scholar working for her board and training. Of course we shan't have anything to do with her as she isn't in our set. Though it wouldn't be so bad but for the mother."
"That's real snobbish, Louie," said a girl.
"Well, I don't know, you have a right to choose your friends, and I heard Mrs. Dane say something about their being very poor."
"Well, she's stylish and she has an air, and Mrs. Barrington wouldn't take in any one objectionable. If my father should die I might be glad to have some one take me in, and I expect to teach when I am through. You see father has four more to educate."
"Well, Mattie Vincent, you can make a bosom friend of her for all that I care."
"Oh girls, don't let's quarrel about her when we have just come and are glad to see each other. I dare say Miss Boyd wont trouble us."
"She'll be pushing, and aspiring to the best—you'll see! One can tell by the way she holds her head, and she could stare you out of countenance with those bold black eyes. I shall keep on my guard. You'll see me take her down if she presumes."
But Lilian Boyd did not presume. She went to church with her mother on Sunday in a simple white pique frock, and spent the evening on the back porch with Miss Arran, not even going in the parlor for the singing, and on Monday school duties began. The classes received considerable accessions from the day scholars. Lilian had two of the younger classes and she found a real pleasure in the teaching. Then she was in the Latin class and proved herself an excellent scholar.
The evening hour was sometimes rather trying. Some of the girls asked foolish questions just to perplex her. Occasionally she suggested they should ask Miss Davis. The younger ones were quite tractable, though now and then a spirit of fun broke out, set a-foot generally by the larger girls.
FOOD FOR CONSIDERATION
Lilian Boyd did not want to cross the line of division that was acutely felt and yet so nicely projected that a faint move on her part would bring about a rebuff. She had the youthful longing for girlish friendships, for little confidences about books they liked, about aims and the future. Some of the pupils were so attractive; and it was because she was the caretaker's daughter; she saw it when they came in to her mother with any errand, when they passed her in the halls with a supercilious nod.
But then, why need she care? They would go their way presently and she might remain. She knew she had won Mrs. Barrington's favor. That lady made it a point of her joining the Sunday evening singing and she found that she had a good, flexible voice.
One lovely October afternoon she thought she would walk down to the river whose banks were now a blaze of color. Some one called and she turned. It was Alice Nevins who was sometimes tiresome. The girls were going down in town and one of them had really asked her if she would not like to join them. A gratified light shone in her eyes for a moment. There was something in the other's face that gave her a quick warning. There was some plot underneath.
"Thank you very much but I cannot go this afternoon. I hope you will all have a nice time."
Then she went to her room. Her mother was folding up some sewing. "There is so little to do," and she smiled vaguely.
"Come out and walk with me."
"No, I don't feel equal to it, I will put a shawl about me and sit on the porch."
"Shall I come and read to you?"
"No, dear, it is an effort to listen. I'll just sit and think."
"Mother, are you satisfied here?"
"Oh, my child, I could not have dreamed of anything so comfortable, and for your sake—you are happy?" with a touch of wistfulness.
"Oh, it is so delightful, and then to think that I shall fit myself for a nice position presently. Then mother dear we will have a few rooms and a real home again."
"Oh, you are so good," in a tremulous tone.
Lilian kissed her. She wondered why her mother's eyes rested on her at times with that unfathomable look and the lips would move, then suddenly compress.
So she walked down past the summer house where the Virginia creeper was flaunting long scarlet branches in the wind.
"Oh, Miss Boyd!"
She turned. Alice Nevins ran out. Her face was red and swollen with weeping.
"Oh, what is the matter?"
"Let me come with you? Oh, I'm so homesick, and I just hate some of the girls. They laugh when I blunder. I don't know things. I just hate school! Papa would send me here. Mamma begged to take me abroad. I'm sure I could have learned a great many things. People say travel is an education. I hate to study books. Do you really love it?"
"Yes, very much, and for all it brings to you. Were you never at school before?"
"Only a little. Then I had a governess. You see, I was growing fast and mamma thought I oughtn't study. She wasn't very well and papa wanted to take her somewhere in Italy, and he sent me here, and some of the girls do make fun of me. Can't you feel it when they are laughing at you?"
Lilian flushed. "I try to think of something else. They are not really worth minding."
"I know I'm not pretty. Oh, I wish I were! And you have such a lovely complexion. How is it made up?"
"Made up? What do you mean?"
"One of the girls said it was, and that sometimes you painted."
Lilian was angry then.
"My paint and powder are soap and water," she returned, indignantly. "It is a shame for a young girl to do such things."
"But you are pretty. Must your mother be the caretaker here? What does she have to do?"
"She looks after the sewing and the mending. Yes, because we are poor, we both have to earn our living. Some day I mean to teach and take care of her."
"Where is your father?"
"Oh, he died when I was a baby."
"Well—I'm awful sorry. Do you like that Phillipa Rosewald?"
"I don't know much about her."
"She makes fun of so many things, and she tells you words that sound wrong when you pronounce them. I said something yesterday and the girls giggled and Miss Davis thought I did it purposely and I was marked down."
"It was a very mean thing," Lilian's cheek glowed with indignation.
"Then Miss Rosewald tells such funny stories. Four or five of the girls just hang together and they think they are everything. But I guess father is as rich as any of their fathers. Only I wish I was real handsome."
"Oh, my dear, I would think of my studies instead. Now let us talk them over. What is it that bothers you most?"
"But you must study. Now, won't you try this evening. I'll help you all I can."
"Oh, I wish I was with mamma. I shall just tell her that I hate school. What's the use of so much education anyhow? Girls get married."
Lilian felt that Mrs. Nevins was a very poor mother not to have taught her daughter a little common sense. Then she asked how old Alice was.
"I was fifteen last May."
"And I will be sixteen in June. I wasn't quite fourteen when I was promoted to the High School, where I spent two years."
"Oh, but I'm not going to teach or anything. Mamma said she would be sure to send for me next vacation, but that is almost nine dreary months away," with a profound sigh.
"And you ought to learn a good deal in that time, so that you will not be classed with the ignorant and conceited girls who think their money will cover everything. There are so many young people going abroad nowadays, college girls who have all the nice points of travel by heart?"
"Oh, dear, I just can't study!" desperately.
"Oh, try. Now this evening I will help you. You see," smiling, "very little knowledge comes natural. It is true some acquire easier than others, but it is the continued effort after all."
"Oh, dear, I wish you had been my sister. Papa is always bemoaning that there are not more of us, but mamma says if there were I would have to go without many things. I've some lovely jewelry but papa would put it in the safe deposit, and he went and bought this cheap little watch for school. My nice one cost one hundred dollars. It's a real beauty, and mamma has lots of diamonds. I have two, they were birthday rings. Don't they have parties here when you dress up? I brought my pretty white silk, and I have a pink one with lots of lace, and my fur coat will be sent to me, it is being altered a little. It's real seal, and mother has such a lovely Russian sable. Oh, I do like pretty clothes, but Mrs. Barrington made out a list that seemed very plain for a high-up finishing school—don't you think so?"
"I have not seen it. Most girls come to study and fit themselves for the station they are to occupy. Unless you are going in society I think there is little need of very fine clothes. Now let us talk a little about your studies. Miss Davis feels quite concerned about you."
Miss Nevins pouted a little. Lilian felt her nice walk was spoiled so she turned her attention to the ignorant girl who "just hated study." What a foolish mother she must have, while it seemed that her father was far more sensible.
Mrs. Barrington stood on the porch as they returned. She detained Lilian with a wave of the hand. When Miss Nevins was out of hearing she said in an approving tone—
"I am glad to see you take an interest in that poor child. Miss Davis thinks her lamentably ignorant. I am really sorry I accepted her, but her father wrote such urgent, sensible letters. Her mother must be a very foolish body and the girl is extremely backward. It is asking a good deal of you to take a little pains with her, but I see that you have an attractive way with you. You will make an excellent teacher, and I hope to keep you a long while."
"Oh, thank you, I will try to do my best," Lilian returned, delighted with the praise.
Miss Arran always came in the study room, generally bringing a bit of embroidery for it was not expected that Miss Boyd should attend to the upper division with some girls older than herself. The other class were quite at the lower end of the room, ranged around the table. Miss Boyd seated herself next to Miss Nevins and patiently explained, but it was very hard to keep the girl's attention to the subject in hand. She thought she had never seen any one so utterly indifferent and with so little ambition. There had been stolid, slow-witted girls among the operatives in Laconia in the grammar school, but they really desired to learn.
Miss Davis paused the next day to say—
"Miss Boyd your good training does begin to take effect. Miss Nevins had such excellent recitations today that I was pleased beyond measure. You are way up in Mrs. Barrington's good graces, I can tell you."
Lilian flushed at the commendation.
For the next hour the girls could have a social time in each others' rooms or the library. There was a crowd of eager talkers with Miss Rosewald.
"Yes," she was saying. "I ran over the housekeeper just as she was coming out of Rinsey's. Zay will be here by the 20th, and she's coming right to school, for the Major and Mrs. Crawford are going to the Mediterranean. The German doctors and the baths did wonders for her and she can walk without crutches. A friend is to take them on his yacht and they'll be home at Christmas, and there will be Vincent's graduation. Dear me! I hope I can go up to West Point. They say the balls are splendid. The Crawford house is to be all done over, and no doubt there will be a big housewarming there."
"Oh, it will be just delightful to have Zay back again. I suppose that's the reason Miss White was put in with Buttons and that room fixed up so nice. Mrs. Barrington has had word, of course. We just need her to round out, I was going to say, the atmosphere. It's too studious. Those Kirkland girls are going to college, dearly loved cousins, quite sufficient for themselves, and there's that granery, yallery, Grosvenor Gallery, one who writes poetry and is too lackadaisical for anything. What we want is a rollicking, fun loving girl to start us."
"And something's the matter with you, Phil. Have you been crossed in love?"
Phillipa Rosewald turned scarlet. "No," she answered, "it's two of them and I can't decide. One is rich and homely as a hedge fence and always says 'drawring' and 'reel,' but has lots of money and a fair enough family back of him. The other is handsome and oh, my! gay as a lark, but he had about run through with a fortune, and I'm afraid he will flirt now that the restraint of my serious and imposing presence is removed."
"Serious, that's good. Why didn't you say severe?"
Phil's love affairs were the entertainment of her coterie.
"Oh, girls, did you notice—well, I have a new name for them. 'Beauty and the Beast.' How devoted they were this evening!" broke in Louie Howe.
"Oh, you mean that Nevins girl? But do you call Miss Boyd handsome?"
"Well—she has a fine complexion—"
Louie wrinkled up her nose.
—"and lots of beautiful hair, a good figure and regular features. Maybe she lacks a certain style to make her noticeable—or something—"
"Money and position. I don't just see why a common sort of girl who has to earn her living should be above the average, and that Nevins girl's father is one of the firm of bankers in New York and London, and she's horrid!"
"Oh, girls," exclaimed May Gedney, "they kissed each other last night in the hall, a regular smack; I heard it. Fancy that pimply cheek being pressed against yours! and that lap-over tooth that sticks her lips out, and those pale gray-green eyes. Yes, Miss Boyd does look handsome by contrast."
There was a great giggle. "We must watch the course of this ardent love. Perhaps she understands the worth of contrast."
They went back to Zay Crawford, who was a general favorite. She and a brother nine years older than herself, a passed midshipman had gone to Germany in the summer, where her mother had been taking treatment. The Major had accompanied her. Miss Crawford had taken over the young people.
It was true, to Lilian's surprise, that Alice Nevins had clasped both arms around her and kissed her rapturously, exclaiming—"You are so sweet! Oh, I wish mother and father would adopt you! I'd just like to have you for a sister. I've never seen a girl before that I wanted."
Lilian freed herself and went to her room. She was not an effusive girl. At Laconia she had made some friends, but she was too proud to aspire to the higher ranks or accept overtures from them. She felt sorry for Alice Nevins but there was no real companionship. Yet was there not a duty? She seemed to occupy a peculiar position, and loved to listen to the fascinating bits of talk, places one and another had seen, music, operas, paintings, lectures, a knowledge of real things, not merely those gleamed from books.
Well, she must earn them herself. She used to dream of them at nights when the lights were put out. She was changing curiously, she felt it herself. It was not only in the added self-reliance, the nameless little ways of refinement and grace the intuitive knowledge of what we call good breeding, and the cordial smile of commendation from Mrs. Barrington thrilled every pulse.
Mrs. Boyd was not vulgar but she was undeniably commonplace. High thoughts such as stirred Lilian in verse, never roused her. Yet the girl did feel indignant at times at the manner in which some of the girls addressed her mother when they were uniformly polite to Miss Arran.
She was quite undecided about her duty to Miss Nevins. The kiss had come so suddenly she had no time to evade it but she took good care to do so the next night. Lilian had never been an effusive girl. She had almost broken her mother's heart in her little more than babyhood, when after a rapturous caress she had half pulled from the enclosing arms and said in a willful fashion—"Don't kiss me so hard, I don't liked to be kissed!" And later on when her mother had always called her Lily, she had said emphatically—"Why don't you call me Lilian! I'm too big a girl to be called by such a baby name as Lily and I don't like it."
That began a sort of gulf between them that the mother never had the courage to bridge over. There was a curious dignity about her that even the obtuse Miss Nevins could not surmount.
One day the girl brought her two beautiful orchids.
"You've been so good about my lessons that I wanted to do something, and these were"—hesitatingly—
"Handsome and expensive," in a chilling tone. "They were the finest things the florist had, and mamma always sends me some money in her letters, while papa sends my allowance to Mrs. Barrington. So I feel that is clear gain," laughing. "Mrs. Barrington is rather strict about allowances, and she's shut down on so much sweets and hot chocolates. Do you think it hurts one's complexion?"
"It certainly hurts yours. I would give them up, and so much cake; the regular school living is good enough, and you should take a cold bath in the morning."
"Ouch! That would be horrid," and the girl shuddered.
"But you want to be beautiful!"
"Oh, I am afraid that wouldn't make me beautiful, and when I am quite grown up I shall have lovely clothes, and it doesn't so much matter when you are rich."
Lilian glanced at her with a sort of pity that any girl could be so silly, and a sense of disgust, also.
"Miss Nevins, I must say one thing that I want you to observe for the future. You must not make me costly gifts nor any kind of gifts. The help I am giving you Mrs. Barrington wishes me to give to any girl who needs it. It is simply my duty, you see, and Mrs. Barrington repays me."
Miss Nevins looked as if she could not understand. Then she struck a rather tragic pose.
"Oh, if you would only love me!" she cried, clasping her hands together. "I am so lonely! I miss mamma every hour. Then I think I could learn to like it here, and I'd try to study. I'd give up cream soda and—yes, I would take the bath, but it must be warm."
"Oh, you foolish thing!" Lilian laughed in spite of herself. "There, I cannot stay here talking, and you must go to your lessons."
"No, I'll get some other girl and go down town. You are cold and cruel."
She was rather sullen all the evening and failed in some recitations the next day. After that she studied with a better grace.
"Miss Arran," Lilian said on Sunday morning, "do you think I might take mother to that little Chapel in Chester street. I think she would feel more at home there."
"Oh, certainly. Mrs. Barrington insists that the girls shall attend at least one service a Sunday. Then there is the Bible Class here, which she makes very interesting. She and many of the girls go to Trinity, but I like the Chapel a good deal myself. It is a Methodist, you know."
"Yes, mother was used to that service."
So they went together, though Louie Howe said—"We'll manage it so Beauty and the Beast will walk together," but she missed her plan.
It was a very simple and sweet service and the sermon was on hidden sins. Lilian wondered if hers was undue pride, the desire to rise above her station? She glanced at her mother. The tears were coursing silently down her sunken cheeks. Was she missing the love a daughter ought to give? She looked so frail and delicate that the girl's heart went out to her as it never had before.
In the vestibule stood a sweet faced young woman waiting while an elderly lady was talking to her friend. She came near and held out her hand in a friendly manner.
"You are a stranger here, but we are very glad to welcome you," she began cordially.
"You are one of the Seminary young ladies, I saw you on the porch one day when I was passing."
"Yes," Lilian returned, then added "in a way. And this is my mother, Mrs. Boyd."
"And I am Miss Trenham. This is my mother." The two ladies shook hands in an old-fashioned manner.
"Do you go up Elm Place? Then let us walk together. Is this your first year here?"
"Yes," answered Lilian.
"I hope you liked our clergyman and will come again."
"I think mother will feel more at home."
Miss Trenham smiled.
"I come here largely for my mother's sake. I think the simple service comes nearer the heart of the older people. I like Trinity church, I like the service of the whole year round, and the music is fine. I like coming in the house of God with a reverent hymn. You are one of the newer scholars, are you not?"
"Yes, we came in August. My mother has a position in the household." She would not sail under false colors. "And I am to study for a teacher."
"Oh, then we'll have a mutual bond. I am a teacher in the Franklin School."
"Oh, I know where that is," with a smile.
"You like your own school?"
"Oh, it is delightful, and such a beautiful home. Such a lovely town—"
Her face was radiant with pleasure. Then they paused.
"We go on a few blocks further. We live in Gray street. I am very glad to have met you. Shall I see you again next Sunday morning?"
"Oh, yes," promised Lilian.
Then she took her mother's arm.
"Did you like it mother dear? I thought the service very simple and sweet."
"And the lady was so friendly. I told her we were at the Seminary. The daughter teaches school, and she asked me to visit them—to come to tea some day. Do you suppose Mrs. Barrington would object? Would you like to go?" timidly.
"Why it would be very pleasant."
"Everybody seems so grand, I'm glad not to go to the high-up tables; I'm so afraid of mistakes. You see when people get along in life it isn't so easy to take up new ways. But that Mrs. Trenham seemed like some of the Laconia folks."
"Yes, we will go again next Sunday," said Lilian. "And to tea the first time we are invited."
THE GRACE OF ENDEAVOR
The door of Mrs. Boyd's room stood partly open. Louie Howe gave a light tap and marched in with an air that was rather insolent.
"Oh, Mrs. Boyd, I've given my walking dress such an awful tear! Mrs. Barrington said she was quite sure you could mend it. You see I'm going to a sort of musicale in about an hour and I couldn't take it to the tailors. It's my best suit, too, and—it must be done very neatly."
Mrs. Boyd examined it. "Yes, it's pretty bad, I've done worse though, and part of it will be under the plait. Let me see if I have the right color."
She opened a box of spools and took up several colors to match.
"Oh, yes, here is one," and she gave a smile of gratification.
Louie dropped into a chair. Was she going to wait? Lilian wondered.
"What a pleasant room this is, Mrs. Boyd! But all the rooms are just cozy and nice. Of course Mrs. Barrington can afford to keep it in a lovely fashion for her prices are high and she doesn't care to take any scholars only from the best families. I do wonder how that Nevins girl slipped in? Her father is a first-class banker, I have understood. They have a big house in New York and a summer house at Elberon, and their New York house is rented out for seven thousand dollars; but isn't she a terror? How do you stand her, Miss Boyd?"
"She has had very little training. Her mother has been ill and seems very indulgent," answered Lilian quietly. "Yet she may make a very fair scholar."
"It's funny to hear her talk. Bragging, we call it. Do you suppose the stories are true?"
"Mrs. Barrington would know," was the cautious reply.
"Well, I suppose she must be satisfactory or she wouldn't be here. But there's common blood back of her somewhere. Money doesn't give you the prestige of good birth. That always shows—don't you think so?" with a confident upward glance.
"I have not had experience enough with the world to judge," answered Lilian. "We lived in a factory town—"
"And in such places there are a good many newly rich, and they think they have it all."
Mrs. Boyd had been straightening out the rent and basting it on a piece of stiff paper.
"I wonder if you would mind asking Mrs. Dane if there were irons on the range."
She looked straight at Louie, not at all as if she was asking a favor. Lilian was on her knees straightening and dusting the lower shelf of the book case. She did not even turn her head.
Miss Howe went out with what she thought was a stately step and frowned at the girl on the floor whose business was to wait on her mother. When she was clear out of sight and hearing Lilian sprang up and clasped her arms about her mother.
"Oh, that was just splendid!" she cried, her eyes soft and shining.
"I—I think I meant—either of you!" hesitating.
"It was her business and it won't hurt her to wait on herself. The girls go down to the kitchen and iron out ribbons and things. I'm not their maid, and she had no business to stand here gossipping about Miss Nevins. I'm sorry for her and I don't like her, but there are some girls that are real friendly. There are two girls going to college next year. They have money, too, and they think a degree a great thing, and know of girls who have taught awhile and then taken a year or two and taught again. I was reading such a fine book—this girl and her mother took a cottage and boarded the overflow of girls and had a lovely time, she helping and studying. That's what we will try to do, and this year you will get real well and strong. Oh, isn't it nice not to have any care of things and so much comfort?"
The mother bent over her work turning her head aside so that a tear shouldn't fall on it. Oh, wouldn't the child be better off without her? She was so courageous, so fertile in expedients. Oh, they could not be all day dreams.
The skirt was beautifully darned and pressed and sent to Miss Howe's room by the maid. Then a note came to Mrs. Boyd. "Wouldn't she and Miss Lilian walk home with the Trenhams from church tomorrow morning and dine and meet a delightful young friend who had graduated at a Woman's College. Lilian might like to hear the experiences."
"Oh, that will be just royal!" the girl exclaimed. "Mother you must rest this afternoon. If there is any mending let me do it."
"Nothing is needed. Sometimes I feel as if I did not really earn my salary, and Mrs. Barrington is so kind."
"And now I begin to feel quite at home with some of the young ladies. I am proud of being a good scholar, but I study with all my might and main," laughing. "And next year I may earn a little money."
Sunday was bright but rather blowy. The leaves fell and whirled about like flocks of birds and the sky was like a June day. Miss Benson had come to church, a bright rather pretty woman of five or six and twenty. Her voice was attractive. Lilian had come to remark the differences in voices. Some did repel you; many were indecisive.
They walked down to Elm place. This was the old end of the street in a row of small detached houses with gardens running back to the next street and a space of six feet or so between. The Trenham's was in very nice tidy order, the windows with neat white drapery.
"Our next door neighbors are considered quite a detriment," explained Edith Trenham. "The woman professes to be a clairvoyant, and there are five children, two very unruly boys. I do hope they will go away in the spring."
Edith ushered her guests into the pretty parlor where the cheerful fire seemed to radiate pleasure as well as heat. In a small wheeling chair sat the invalid, a pale little girl of fifteen, but who looked years younger. She held out her hand to Lilian.
"Oh, what pleasure it is to see you," she cried. "Your color is radiant—like a June rose, isn't it mamma? and such beautiful hair. Edith is always well but she hasn't much color. Oh, if you could have seen our roses in June! They were bewildering. Don't you feel that gorgeous things sometimes are? Then the next door boys came over and stole the roses and broke the bushes. I cried nearly all day. It seemed as if I had been pulled to pieces. The mother said she was sorry but that wouldn't put the roses back."
"Claire you will find is quite a spoiled child," Edith said, stooping to kiss her. She was very pale and the dark hair framing in the little face gave her an almost uncanny look.
When they had laid aside their wraps Claire took possession of Lilian again, and wanted to know about the girls in the Seminary.
"Why, Claire, they are most all young ladies," said Edith.
"Well—are there many pretty ones? and what do they do beside study? They would get tired studying all the time."
Lilian explained that they visited in each others rooms and had calisthenics and danced, and went through some beautiful evolutions with Indian clubs—
"Oh, how funny!" Claire interrupted. "Do they make believe they are Indians?"
"Oh, no," and Lilian explained. They had a bell double quartette and made lovely music by striking some sweet-toned bells with small wands, and they were allowed to go down town. One evening a week there were dances.
"Oh, do you dance? You look that way?"
Lilian colored. "You see I spend a good deal of my time with my mother. Then I have lessons to learn—"
"And I don't study, I read delightful books. For you must know I can never get about or do things like other children. I draw and I paint over pictures, and I have an autoharp, and a beautiful big doll that I make believe is alive and we go traveling. Edith reads about journeys."
Mrs. Trenham had been adding a few last touches to the table which had been mostly prepared in the morning, the real cooking having been done the day before. Claire was lifted out in a cushioned chair and insisted that Lilian should sit next. Miss Benson was on the other side and took a turn with Lilian.
"Yes, she had worked her way through college. She had studied type-writing and done work for the professors and copied essays for the girls and coached backward girls, and trimmed hats, as she had a genius for millinery. Then, in vacation she had been a sort of summer governess when parents wanted to take journeys. It had all been very interesting, too, but it had taken longer, and now she was studying medicine in New York and teaching some hours a day."
"I like to teach but I don't believe I want to be a doctor, I think I should like to go to college."
"It is a fine discipline and broadens out one's mind. It makes excellent teachers, as well, and you do have many happy times. Think of a settlement of hundreds of girls!"
"Mrs. Barrington will only have twenty boarders and there are about twenty day scholars."
"Not a very large family to be sure, but enough to give you some variety. You look as if you might be a good student."
Mrs. Trenham was entertaining the mother.
She had been a widow twelve years, but was left with a small competency. Claire had been thrown out of a carriage by a runaway horse when she was barely five and very seriously injured so that for two years she was entirely helpless and now held her life on a very frail tenure, but she was a happy child and they made her life as entertaining as possible.
"You are blest in your daughter," said Mrs. Trenham. "She is so bright and eager and vigorous, and has so much character. Well, I have Edith who has always been a great comfort, and I suppose one gets used to a burden when it is a pleasant one. Claire is very loving and we try to keep all sad things from her."
Lilian thought it a delightful afternoon. These were the kind of people you could get close to. She saw that her mother was enjoying it as well. Wasn't it rather monotonous for her at Mrs. Barrington's? At Laconia there had been neighbors dropping in, some who had known her early life and sympathized with her misfortunes, and here, no one. She was glad to have been taken in this kindly family.
"Oh, won't you come often?" pleaded Claire. "I like you so much, and if you could come some Saturday mamma and Edith might go out together. An old lady does come in when they go to church, but she isn't any real company. She hasn't any ideas. Don't you think old people get sort of stupid?" Lilian laughed.
Miss Benson expressed a good deal of pleasure at meeting such an ambitious girl and hoped to keep in touch with her for sometime; she might be able to counsel her or perhaps direct her on her way.
"It has been just delightful," she said when they reached their own rooms.
She did not go in to sing but read to her mother. Yes, she would try in the future to share more of her life with the colorless one. She had resolved to make the great sacrifice when she found she could not go on with school, and lo, this had been the outcome. They were delightfully sheltered, there were no hardships, only pin pricks and she would be silly to mind those. There was a sudden commotion through the place on Monday morning. Such glad bursts of welcome, such joyous laughter and absolute peans of delight.
For Zaidee Crawford had come. She, Lilian, was not in it and she wondered if at any time or in any place there would be such unalloyed gladness at her coming.
A girl of fifteen, bewilderingly pretty in the changes that passed over her mobile face. A complexion that was pink and pearl, golden hair that was a mass of waves and shining rings that seemed to ray off sunshine with every movement of the head that had a bird-like poise; a low broad Clytie brow and eyes that were the loveliest violet color, sometimes blue, sometimes the tenderest, most appealing gray. Her smile was captivating, disarming. It played about her lips that shut with dimples in the corners, it quivered in her eyes and made the whole face radiant.
Why Zaidee Crawford wasn't spoiled by the indulgence and adulation was quite a mystery. She had been longed for before her birth—one brother was seven the other nine years older. Major Crawford thought the tie between father and daughter was one of the choicest of heaven's blessings. He was proud of his sons whose straightforward, honorable careers in the lines they had chosen, to his great satisfaction, gave him profound happiness. Connected with Zaidee's birth had been the great sorrow of their lives that had cost Mrs. Crawford years of excruciating suffering and at first it seemed hopeless invalidism. In one of the Indian skirmishes the Major had been severely wounded in the leg that had left it lame and rather stiff. He resigned from the army to devote himself to his wife and the old residence that had been in his family for generations. And at this period a relative died and left him a large fortune. Beyond improving his estate and having the best medical attendance for his wife there was no real change in their living. They were both too sensible not to know how easily boys might be led astray by unwise indulgence in money. They were both high minded with a fine sense of right and justice. Both had gone down the dark valley and looked death in the face and thereafter walked humbly before God.
Zaidee Crawford had been a day scholar except at intervals when her mother had been taken away for medical treatment. Oddly enough, Mrs. Crawford as a girl, had been educated by Mrs. Barrington, then a young and childless widow, with an ardent desire for some useful aim in life, and they had remained the warmest of friends. Mrs. Barrington's comfort and faith had cheered many an hour of despondency.
But the Major had once said—"Margaret, while you can endure the suffering, always think that I would much rather have you as you are than to have lost you in that terrible time, and God has spared us our two fine sons and our sweet daughter."
Yes, there was much joy still left to life.
Zay went to her classes as a visitor this morning. There were many smiles of welcome. After all, she had not fallen so far behind, but her brother had been coaching her. There were four new scholars in the Latin class. The Kirklands, Louie Howe, who had been promoted, and a Miss Boyd, who roused a peculiar interest; but then her rendering in the translation was exceedingly fine.
"Who is that tall girl with the bronzy gold hair? And isn't she a fine reader?" exclaimed Zaidee.
They were in a little group of old friends. Louie Howe laughed. Phillipa made a funny face.
"Well?" and flushing a little she glanced up, inquiringly.
"The caretaker's daughter. We are democratic this year," announced May Gedney.
"A Mrs. Boyd, a pale little nonentity, but she darns in the most elegant fashion you ever saw. She had to bring her daughter you see, and the daughter is to be a teacher—is a sort of charity scholar, looks after the laggards in the evening, but she keeps her place pretty well. Of course she lives over on that side," nodding her head.
"See here," began Phillipa, "that girl has puzzled me with an elusive resemblance to somebody, Zay, it really is you. Her hair and eyes are darker, she's larger every way, she is not such a peerless maid—"
"I shouldn't feel complimented by that! Oh the idea! A girl from—well somewhere from the wild and woolly west—"
Much as Phillipa Rosewald loved her friends and she confessed to adoring Zaidee, she never stopped at a little fling.
"The compliment, of course, is to Miss Boyd. She has a temper of her own, you can catch a flash of it in her eyes, and I dare say her iron rule is what makes her mother so meek. She pets up that Nevins girl who is a—well they are called Beauty and the Beast. How she managed to slip in here puzzles me."
"That girl is my horrid familiar, my bete noire. She has the room next to mine and you ought to see it. Miss Davis marked her down for untidyness, and Mrs. Barrington put her on a diet, her complexion was so horrid, but she manages to get a lot of sweets and chocolates. And the way she dresses! A modiste in New York sends her clothes and told her the color of one's frocks must match the hair or the eyes, and no one could match those gray blue green eyes, so it has to be the hair."
"I wouldn't want that dull brown hair. I don't suppose she ever brushes it. At home the maid looked after her. The mother is traveling for her health, and they are very rich."
"Oh, is she making a confidante of you, too?" laughed May Gedney. "I thought it rather funny at first, I didn't believe half she said, but her father is quite an important man in banking circles it seems, and there are diamonds galore, but he wouldn't let her wear only that diamond birthday ring at school. She was wildly in love with Miss Boyd but the girl was too hard hearted to return it. She is a regular icicle and stony hearted and all that! Yes, her heart is irretrievably gone about the girl. They did have a kissing match one night but they don't do it any more in public! I don't know what they do in private, but the Boyd shut down on gifts which almost broke her heart, and she had spent two dollars for two orchids."
"That certainly speaks well for Miss Boyd," Zay exclaimed.
May flushed. Lately she had been the recipient of some gifts.
"Of course she is here to train the younger minds in the paths of knowledge while her mother mends their clothes."
"Well, is that to be despised?" asked Zay with spirit.
"Why, no, but of course you don't associate with your dressmaker's daughter, nor the store clerks though they are nice enough for the places they have to fill in life. If it wasn't for the mother she might pass muster, and you know this is the most select of schools. That is one reason mother sent me here there was no chance of making undesirable acquaintances. For one thing, the terms are too high," and Louie Howe bridled.
"Is this Miss Nevins at the highwater mark?" and there was a touch of sarcasm in Zay's tone.
"Oh let's quit the higher criticism," said another. "I want to hear Zay talk, and you've been to Berlin and that picturesque Dresden. Did you see the shepherdesses with their crooks, and Corydon making love to them, and Holland—that funny place of canals and windmills and stumpy dutchmen."
"And, oh, did you see the Kaiser?"
Zay laughed. "Yes, mounted on a fine horse, and the Empress and her pretty daughter in a state carriage. And Willard went to some sort of review with the Ambassador and was presented to the Kaiser who asked him about Annapolis, and some of the training. He thought the great Emperor very affable. Father has been at a few of the functions and seen the royal ladies in their state dresses. Then, there are some splendid professors and scientists—"
"But you didn't go to Paris?"
"No. Father and Willard spent ten days there while Aunt Kate and I staid with mother. Then she could cross the room without a cane, even. Now she can walk some distance. Oh, girls, its splendid not to have her go on crutches! And she thinks in two years or so we may go to Paris for quite a stay. You know real young girls don't understand fine pictures and all that! Willard begins his three-years cruise early in January, and in the summer Vincent will graduate and perhaps be sent off somewhere. The doctors wanted her to spend the whole winter about the Mediterranean, but she thought it would be so lovely to have our Christmas together."
"Oh, Zaidee Crawford, you're a girl to be envied! None but the rich, etc.," with sundry upturnings of the chin.
"Well, I hope I'll be able to go abroad on a wedding tour. Otherwise I won't have him!" announced Phillipa with great solemnity at which they all laughed.
"Young ladies do you know it is time to go out for exercise," said Miss Arran.
"Oh, let us go over to Crawford House," cried Zay. "Why, you will hardly know it. The two parlors are to be thrown into one—a regular drawing room, and I'm to have the prettiest study off of my bedroom. I have to decide what color I shall have them done in."
"We'll all help you."
"I just can't have blue and I like it so, but it is the one idea of blondes, therefore I avoid it."
"It seems Miss Boyd's favorite color," said Louie. "And she's not so very blondy, either."
They were the usual lot of girls in a sort of hubbub together. With the exception of the Kirklands they were not taking life seriously as yet. They studied and sang, painted, wrote verses, sometimes were caught on trigonometry and occasionally made awful translations in Latin and French. They changed their ideals, they vowed friendship and fell out with each other, they were spiteful and willful and sweet and penitent, and if "a boy's will's the wind's will," a young girl's will in the unformed years is not much better.
Phillipa Rosewald was a sort of leader. A kind of charming girl with many varieties, fascinating, making you like her when she chose and then giving you pin pricks instead of caresses. Before she put on long dresses boys were quarrelling about her and she seemed to sandwich love affairs in with her lessons; she had fine taste in dressing, she could tie a bow, or trim a hat, or furbish up an evening waist in a manner that filled her comrades with envy, and she was a fairly good scholar as well.
But Zaidee with her graciousness and sweet temper won all hearts. Every one was eager to have some little claim upon her. Her mother's sad accident and her father being one of the survivors of a fierce Indian battle made her a sort of heroine. She was not quite an angel but very human and with the peculiar sweetness that always disarms criticism.
And although it was considered a rather aristocratic school there were the usual feuds and bits of jealousy inseparable from a crowd of girls, the days in the main passed delightfully, and now they were all interested in the rehabilitation of Crawford House, the coming of the young midshipman and the lovely mother who at last had an almost miraculous restoration to health and strength.
Crawford House was full of workmen. Aunt Kate was supervisor. Willard was staying with his parents.
The house stood on a little eminence and had two terraces that were a mass of bloom in the summer. A broad portico ran on two sides and at the end fronting the south there was an imposing tower, many windows. Back of it was a flower garden, a vegetable garden, barns, carriage house and a useful little green-house.
"Dear, I hope the workmen will be through early in December," said Aunt Kate. "Then there is all the furnishing. Only about six weeks. Does school seem natural, Zay? Have the girls gone way ahead of you?"
"I hardly know yet," was the laughing reply. "Mrs. Barrington hasn't really set me at work."
"Are there many new scholars?"
"Not in our department, but it seems nice to be a school girl again and not a globe trotter."
"But you didn't go quite round the world."
"I'm glad there's something left. Look girls, this is my room with the southern and western exposure. I think I'll have it done in pale green and pink, Aunt Kate. That will tone down the summer sunshine. Phil and I have been discussing colors."
"That will be pretty, and you can stand green. It would turn some complexions yellow," returned Aunt Kate.
"How short the days are growing! And it gets dark so soon. Girls, we had better hurry off home."
"Shall I order samples of green, Zaidee?"
"Yes, Aunt Kate, if you please."
It was quite a treat to sit down at the table with a group of girls. Madame Eustice talked to them in French and Zay surprised her with her readiness and improved pronunciations.
"And I am quite a proficient in German as far as talking goes, I've heard so much of it, and it seemed so funny at first. Though a good many of the servants and waiters speak a little English."
Zay glanced down at the other table. She singled out Miss Nevins who had quite a fancy hair dressing and a pink bow. But she saw no one she thought Miss Boyd. Then there was a full hour to the study period.
Lilian and her mother often took this meal which was only a kind of high tea in their room. Mrs. Boyd could not overcome a half fear of Mrs. Dane. Then she read to her mother until it was time to go to the study. Often she left her mother asleep in the big easy chair. Oh, for some one to listen and to respond! But the practice was good for her if no one listened.
Zay kept glancing furtively down at the table of the younger class. Yes, there was Miss Boyd. She went toward a pupil, as a small hand was held up. There was something interesting in the face, and the young student would glance up and smile. Was there any resemblance, she wondered? The hair was darker, but the complexion was certainly fine. Miss Nevins had a peevish look tonight and said something rather cross. Miss Boyd preserved her serenity.
Lilian was having quite a delightful new interest in the Trenhams. Her exercise hour led to a walk down there and an engaging half visionary talk with Claire who had wonderful adventures with a pretty squirrel who ran up and down a tree in range with her window. Or it was some belated bird who had lost his way south and had to hide to keep out of the way of the hunters.
"Why do they let them go out and kill the poor birdies?" she asked plaintively. "I should think it would be braver to go to Africa and shoot lions and tigers and those cruel animals that eat up human beings, and the dear pretty little squirrels!"
"Why, indeed?" Lilian had often thought of it herself.
Or it would be a story of a fairy who had a long search for a charmed ring that would bestow a wonderful power over everything in the forest and give the animals the gift of speech. Claire told one, Lilian must take the next.
"Edith comes home so tired sometimes. You are always fresh," the child said.
Then the girl would meet Edith who would turn about and walk with her and listen to the hopes and ambitions and dreams she could tell to no one else. So she had a comforting secret life.
Zaidee Crawford made two or three slight advances, but they were distantly received, and Zay was not used to being rebuffed. She was not much of an analyst and thought Miss Boyd very cold natured. But now and then the enthusiasm of the true student broke out in some class recitation and it transfigured her.
"Our pupil teacher quite distinguished herself today," said Phillipa Rosewald, "though I must say it was in exceedingly bad taste."
"Why bad taste?" asked Zay. "I thought it fine."
"She might have been a little more modest. You see, my dear child, we are not preparing for teachers nor to vulgarly distinguish ourselves. I thought Miss Grayson did not quite like it. Are you really growing fond of your double? But I can't imagine you standing up in that bold fashion."
Zay was silent. It always annoyed her to have Miss Boyd called her double. The figure and manner was so different. Zay was so light and airy, she seemed rather to skim over space than to walk, and every motion was replete with grace, while Miss Boyd was stately, and when critical eyes were upon her, sometimes seemed awkward.
Miss Nevins certainly was improving. Thanks to Mrs. Barrington's regimen her complexion had cleared up, she kept her hair in a tidier fashion. May Gedney had insisted upon her wearing something beside the dismal browns.
"Send this to your dressmaker and have a green suit trimmed with bands of gray fur—if it won't be too extravagant."
"Oh, father will pay the bill. He hasn't much idea of what things cost."
"See here—I know a lovely dressmaker in Livingston. I sometimes go there. Mrs. Barrington would let us go over with Miss Davis, I am sure, and as she keeps samples we could choose, and she could take your measure. I don't believe it would cost half as much, and will be prettier. Your clothes are too old."
"Oh, you are an angel," and May had to submit to an embrace.
Mrs. Barrington agreed. She gave Miss Nevins some money.
"As they are going on your business you must pay their expenses," she said.
Miss Nevins felt really grand. This was a true friend.
One evening she thrust a note in Lilian's hand. She had taken a seat on the other side of the table.
Lilian read it in her room. She smiled, yet she felt a little hurt after all she had done for Alice.
"I hope you won't feel bad because I changed my seat. Some of those hateful girls called us Beauty and the Beast. I know I am not handsome, but then rich people seldom are, and I don't think you are so very. I have a new dear friend who really does care for me and is going to plan about my clothes. Of course you don't know how the real style ought to dress, and I don't think mamma would like me to be intimate with a girl whose mother was caretaker here. It's such a pity she is, for if she wasn't here you wouldn't need to say anything about it and would be more respected. I hope you won't be mad.—Alice."
"I won't be ashamed of her, poor dear mother," Lilian said resolutely. But if she were like Mrs. Trenham, and the change would not be so very great, she mused.
Miss Nevins avoided her for the next few days. Lilian did not seem to notice it.
Mrs. Barrington called the girls together one evening.
"Young ladies," she began, "I have a plan to lay before you. There have always been some Hallowe'en plays and tricks that often seem both childish and reprehensible. I am going to propose you lay aside all these and instead let me give you a party with music, dancing and some refreshments. I will invite the young gentlemen of the neighborhood, many of whom you have met at church and elsewhere. What do you say?"
"Oh, Mrs. Barrington, that is utterly lovely."
Phillipa Rosewald sprang up and clasped both hands. There was a bevy of girls about her and they all talked at once.
"Understand, there are to be no tricks played in each other's rooms. You have been making very good progress so far this year and I am sincerely pleased. As many of you will go away on Saturday there can be no Christmas festivities, but this may be quite as pleasant."
"Oh, Mrs. Barrington, it will be just delightful!" cried Phillipa with enthusiasm. "Thank you a dozen times for thinking of it."
"You have accepted some invitations from outside and it seems the thing to return them. Every girl will be at her liberty to ask one guest and there are several I wish to invite. I hope you will have a happy time."
"Oh, we are sure of that."
"And now I hope your scholarship will be excellent at the winter examinations. It will be the last year for some of you and for your parents' sake I hope you will stand high."
The leisure of the next two days was spent working out lists.
"Oh," declared May Gedney, "I'd like to invite at least four. Ally and Archie Holmes, and the Pridhams. I suppose we can ask a young gentleman?"
"Let us make a list and divide up. Archie Holmes is such a delightful dancer, and Allie is so full of fun, and so many of us were at her birthday party."
"Do you suppose the smaller fry will invite their friends?"
"I think not, though they may be allowed to come in as spectators."
"That Nevins girl is a pretty dancer. What lots of fancy things she knows."
"I don't imagine we will have any high flings," laughing.
"Well, May, you ask Ally, and Nelly White ask Archie. That's the way we must pair off, and divide up the Pridhams. We must only ask one girl in a family. I'm afraid we won't have boys enough to go round."
"Then some of the girls will have to play Knights as we do in the practices."
After much study they presented their list to Mrs. Barrington who thought it very judicious. She said she had several gentlemen to add.
Then there was a time about the frocks. Miss Nevins unpacked two party gowns that had remained in her trunk when it was taken up stairs. A pretty rather simple white cluna silk and a pink satin.
"Oh, the satin is altogether too ornate, too really old," declared Phillipa.
"But it's so much prettier," longingly.
"I don't know about that, and I can tell you Mrs. Barrington will hustle it back in the box mighty quick. The party is for the older girls. You will simply be allowed in to look and partake of the treat if you are well behaved little girls."
Miss Nevins pouted.
Her new winter suit had come home and it was really admirable, making her look like quite a different girl.
"I don't see what that New York dressmaker can be thinking about. She makes a regular guy of her. And since Mrs. Barrington shut down on so much sweet stuff how her complexion has improved. But the morning baths are a terror to her. She is sure she can keep clean on a wash once a week."
"And girls, every time her mother wrote she enclosed five dollars. She didn't give any account of that for awhile, and Mrs. Barrington was quite affronted when her mother advised her to go to a restaurant now and then to get a good meal. I must say our living here is of the very best."
There was no dissenting voice.
They were all in a gale about the party. There was always a lawn fete when school closed in June at which the girls invited relatives and friends. Hallowe'en had been devoted to tricks in each other's room, sewing up sheets, sprinkling cayenne pepper and rice, and occasionally putting a toad in the bed if one could be found, or an artificial one would answer the purpose. Mrs. Barrington had made some appeals, but this new plan was a decided success. The girls were gay and eager with delight, and wonder who of the young men of the town would be asked.
Mrs. Barrington called Lilian in her room and spoke of the party, giving her a special invitation.
"It is very kind of you," the girl answered, "and I hope you will not think me ungrateful if I decline. I am not used to gayeties of this kind, and"—with a smile—"I have no party dress."
"That can easily be remedied. I really think you are making a mistake by effacing yourself so readily on all occasions. You are becoming a fine scholar and I am much interested in your welfare. Your hour in the study room is not at all detrimental—"
"There are other things. Oh, Mrs. Barrington let me keep to my own sphere. I have always been poor, I have not been much among what are called better class girls, but I do know they have better advantages and are trained in pretty and attractive society ways. Public schools are more on a level. I am not finding fault. My heart is full of gladness for this lovely offer that came to my mother and me. Some of the young ladies have been very kind. Believe me I am happy, but I should feel out of place in a gay party."
She looked really beautiful standing there, the bright flush coming and going over her face, her mouth with its winsome curves, her eyes so full of gratitude and candor. What was the elusive remembrance?
"You shall do as you like in this matter," returned Mrs. Barrington. "But at the beginning of the new term I propose to have matters on a somewhat different footing. You will end by being my best scholar."
"Oh, thank you a thousand times for taking so much interest in me. I hope I shall be able to repay you."
"My dear child some of the best things in the world are done without pay. Appreciation is better and you have a great deal of that."
The party was a great success. Several of the older graduates were asked in. There was music, some conversational plays where quick wit was necessary and in this Phillipa excelled. Then the dancing was charming to the young crowd. They were very merry over the refreshments, then dancing again.
"It's been just delightful! I never had such a good time in my life. Oh, Mrs. Barrington, how can we ever thank you," and a dozen other glad acknowledgments. They were all tired enough to tumble into bed, with no thought of tricks to disturb them.
Miss Nevins admitted that she had a first class time. "Only I wish I had been up in more dances. And if they'd had some fancy dances! I do love them so!"
"Hardly at such a party," said Phillipa, dryly. "And the maid of the evening who did not come. Do you suppose she was asked?" inquired Louie Howe.
"Oh, she would have come quick enough if she'd had anything to wear," subjoined Miss Gedney. "Well, I'm glad she didn't or wasn't. It would have been rather embarrassing."
"When I meet her abroad in the capacity of attendant to some charming young lady I should not know her, of course."
There was a laugh at that.
Then began the mouth of real study though there were a few heart burnings that Miss Boyd should come up to the best in some of the classes.