Infomotions, Inc.People of the Whirlpool / Wright, Mabel Osgood, 1859-1934



Author: Wright, Mabel Osgood, 1859-1934
Title: People of the Whirlpool
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lavinia; miss lavinia; sylvia; evan; latham; lavinia dorman; martin cortright; bradford; martin; sylvia latham; miss lavinia's; horace bradford
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 82,499 words (short) Grade range: 13-15 (college) Readability score: 53 (average)
Identifier: etext11561
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Title: People of the Whirlpool 

Author: Mabel Osgood Wright

Release Date: March 13, 2004  [eBook #11561]

Language: English

Character set encoding: US-ASCII


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E-text prepared by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, Mary Meehan, and the Project
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PEOPLE OF THE WHIRLPOOL

FROM THE EXPERIENCE BOOK OF A COMMUTER'S WIFE

BY MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT

1903



CONTENTS


      CHAPTER I  ON THE ADVANTAGE OF TWINS

     CHAPTER II  MISS LAVINIA'S LETTERS TO BARBARA

    CHAPTER III  MARTIN CORTRIGHT'S LETTERS

     CHAPTER IV  WHEN BARBARA GOES TO TOWN

      CHAPTER V  FEBRUARY VIOLETS

     CHAPTER VI  ENTER A MAN

    CHAPTER VII  SYLVIA LATHAM

   CHAPTER VIII  THE SWEATING OF THE CORN

     CHAPTER IX  A WAYSIDE COMEDY

      CHAPTER X  THE WHIRL BEGINS

     CHAPTER XI  REARRANGED FAMILIES

    CHAPTER XII  HIS MOTHER

   CHAPTER XIII  GOSSIP AND THE BUG HUNTERS

    CHAPTER XIV  THE OASIS




I

ON THE ADVANTAGE OF TWINS


_February 2_. Candlemas and mild, gray weather. If the woodchuck stirs
up his banked life-fire and ventures forth, he will not see his shadow,
and must straightway arrange with winter for a rebate in our favour.
To-day, however, it seems like the very dawn of winter, and as if the
cloud brooms were abroad gathering snow from remote and chilly corners
of the sky.

Six years ago I began the planting of my garden, and at the same time my
girlish habit of journal keeping veered into the making of a "Garden
Boke," to be a reversible signal, crying danger in face of forgotten
mistakes, then turning to give back glints of summer sunshine when read
in the attic of winter days and blue Mondays. Now once again I am in the
attic, writing. Not in a garden diary, but in my "Social Experience Boke"
this time, for it is "human warious," and its first volume, already
filled out, is lying in the old desk. Martin Cortright said, one stormy
day last autumn when he was sitting in the corner I have loaned him of my
precious attic retreat, that, owing to the incursion of the Bluff Colony
of New Yorkers, which we had been discussing, I should call this second
volume "People of the Whirlpool," because--ah, but I must wait and hunt
among my papers for his very words as I wrote them down.

My desk needs cleaning out and rearranging, for the dust flies up as I
rummage among the papers and letters that are a blending of past,
present, and future. All my pet pens are rusty, and must be replaced from
the box of stubs, for a stub pen assists one to straightforward, truthful
expression, while a fine point suggests evasion, polite equivocation, or
thin ideas. Even Lavinia Dorman's letters, whose cream-white envelopes,
with a curlicue monogram on the flap, quite cover the litter below, have
been, if possible, more satisfactory since she has adopted a fountain
stub that Evan gave her at Christmas.

There are many other things in the desk now beside the hickory-nut beads
and old papers. Little whiffs of subtle fragrance call me backward
through time faster than thought, and make me pinch myself to be sure
that I am awake, like the little old woman with the cutabout petticoats,
who was sure that if she was herself, her little dog would know her,--but
then he _didn't!_

I am awake and surely myself, yet my old dog is not near to recognize me.
This ring of rough, reddish hair, tied with a cigar ribbon and lying atop
the beads, was Bluff's best tail curl. Dear, happy, brave-hearted Bluff
with the human eyes; after an honourable life of fifteen years he stole
off to the happy hunting grounds of perpetual open season, quail and
rabbit, two years ago at beginning of winter, as quietly as he used to
slip out the back door and away to the fields on the first fall morning
that brings the hunting fever. For a long while not only I, but neither
father nor Evan could speak of him, it hurt so. Yet by a blessed
dispensation a good dog lives on in his race, and may be renewed (I
prefer that word to _replaced_) after a season, in a way in which our
best human friends may not be, so that we do not lack dogs. Lark is
senior now, and Timothy Saunders's sheep dog, The Orphan, is also a
veteran; the foxhounds are in their prime, while Martha Corkle, as we
shall always call her, is raising a promising pair of collie pups.

Beside the curl, and covering mother's diaries, lies a square white
volume, the first part of my "Experience Boke" before mentioned, and upon
it two queer fat little pairs of bronze kid shoes, buttonless and much
worn on the toes, telling a tale of feet that dragged and ankles that
wobbled through inexperience in walking. Ah yes! I'm quite awake and the
same Barbara, though looking over a wider and eye-opening horizon, having
had three rows of candles, ten in a row, around my last birthday cake and
one extra in the middle, which extravagance has constrained the family to
use lopsided, tearful, pink candles ever since.

And the two pairs of feet that first touched good earth so hesitatingly
with those crumpled shoes are now standing firmly in wool-lined rubber
boots topped by brown corduroy trousers, upon the winter slat walk that
leads to the tool house, while their owners, touched by the swish of the
Whirlpool that has recently drawn this peaceful town into its eddies, are
busy trying to turn their patrol wagon, that for a year has led a most
conservative existence as a hay wain and a stage-coach dragged by a
curiously assorted team of dogs and goat, into the semblance of some
weird sort of autocart, by the aid of bits of old garden hose, cast-away
bicycle gearing, a watering-pot, and an oil lantern.

I have wondered for a week past what yeast was working in their brains.
Of course, the seven-year-old Vanderveer boy on the Bluffs had an
electric runabout for a Christmas gift, also a man to run it! Corney
Delaney, as Evan named the majestic gray goat--of firm disposition
blended with a keen sense of humour--that father gave the boys last
spring and who has been their best beloved ever since, has for many days
been left in duress with the calves in the stack-yard, where the all-day
diet of cornstalks is fatally bulging his once straight-fronted figure.

In fact, it is the doings of these two pairs of precious feet, with the
bodies, heads, and arms that belong to them, that have caused the dust to
gather in my desk, and the "Garden Boke," though not the garden, which is
more of a joy than ever, to be suspended and take a different form.
Flesh-and-blood books that write themselves are so compelling and
absorbing that one often wonders at the existence of any other kind, and,
feeling this strongly, yet I turn to paper pages as silent confidants.
Why? Heredity and its understudy, Habit, the two _h_'s that control both
the making of solitary tartlets as well as family pies.

So the last entry in the "Garden Boke" was made a week before the day
recorded in the white book with the cherubs' heads painted on it that
underlies the shoes.

It seems both strange and significant to me now that this book chanced to
be given me by Lavinia Dorman, mother's school friend and bridesmaid, a
spinster of fifty-five, and was really the beginning of the transfer of
her friendship to me, the only woman friendship that I have ever had, and
its quality has that fragrant pungence that comes from sweet herbs, that
of all garden odours are the most lasting.

I suppose that it is one of the strongest human habits to write down the
very things that one is least likely to forget, and _vice-versa;_ for
certainly I shall never forget the date and double record on that first
fair page beneath the illuminated word _Born_,--yet I often steal up here
to peep at it,--and live the intervening five years backward for pure
joy. January 10, 189-, Richard Russell------ and John Evan------.

Every time I read the names anew I wonder what I should have done if
there had been a single name upon the page. I must then have chosen
between naming him for father _or_ Evan--an impossibility; for even if
the names had been combined, whose should I have put first?

No, the twins are in every way an advantage. To Evan, in providing him at
once with a commuted family sufficient for his means; to father, among
other reasons, by giving him the pleasure of saying, to friends who felt
it necessary to visit him in the privacy of his study and be
apologetically sympathetic, "I have observed that the first editions of
very important books are frequently in two volumes," sending them away
wondering what he really meant; to me by saving the rack of argument, the
form of evil I most detest, and to their own chubby selves no less, in
that neither one has been handicapped for a single day by the
disadvantage of being an only child!

It doubtless seems very odd for me to feel this last to be a
disadvantage, being myself an only child, and always a happy one, sharing
with mother all the space in father's big heart. But this is because God
has been very good to me, leaving me safe in the shelter of the home
nest. Suppose it had been otherwise and I had been forced to face the
world, how it would have hurt, for individual love is cruelly precious
sometimes, and an "onliest" cannot in the very nature of things be as
unselfish and adaptable as one of many.

I was selfish even when the twins came. I was so glad that they were
men-children. I could not bear to think of other woman hands ministering
to father and Evan, and I rejoiced in the promise of two more champions.
I often wonder how mother felt when I was born and what she thought.
Was she glad or disappointed? I wish that she had left written words to
guide me, if ever so few,--they would mean so much now; and let me know
if in her day social things surprised and troubled her as for the first
time they now stir me, and therefore belong to all awakening motherhood.
Her diaries were a blending of simple household happenings and garden
lore, nothing more; for when I was five years old and her son came, he
stayed but a few short hours and then stole her away with him.

I wonder if my boys, when they are grown and begin to realize woman, will
care to look into this book of mine, and read in and between the lines of
its jumble of scraps and letters what their mother thought of them, and
how things appeared to her in the days of their babyhood. Perhaps; who
knows? At present, being but five years old, they are centred in whatever
thing the particular day brings forth, and but that they are leashed fast
by an almost prenatal and unconscious affection, they are as unlike in
disposition, temperament, and colouring as they are alike in feature.
Richard is dark, like father and me, very quiet, except in the matter of
affection, in which he is clingingly demonstrative, slow to receive
impressions, but withal tenacious. He clearly inherits father's medical
instinct of preserving life, and the very thought of suffering on the
part of man or beast arouses him to action. When he was only a little
over three years old, I found him carefully mending some windfall robins'
eggs, cracked by their tumble, with bits of rubber sticking-plaster, then
putting them hopefully back into the nest, with an admonition to the
anxious parents to "sit very still and don't stwatch." While last summer
he unfortunately saw a chicken decapitated over at the farm barn, and, in
Martha Corkle's language, "the way he wound a bit o' paper round its poor
neck to stop its bleedin' went straight to my stummick, so it did, Mrs.
Evan;" for be it said here that Martha has fulfilled my wildest
expectations, and whereas, as queen of the kitchen, she was a trifle
unexpected and uncomfortable, as Mrs. Timothy Saunders, now comfortably
settled in the new cottage above the stable at the north corner of the
hayland, she is a veritable guardian angel, ready to swoop down with
strong wings at a moment's notice, in sickness or health, day or night,
and seize the nursery helm.

It is owing to her that I have never been obliged to have a nursemaid
under my feet or tagging after the boys, to the ruin of their
independence. For the first few years Effie, whose fiery locks have not
yet found their affinity, helped me, but now merely sees to buttons,
strings, and darns.

I found out long ago that those who get the best return from their flower
gardens were those who kept no gardeners, and it is the same way with the
child garden; those who are too overbusy, irresponsible, ignorant, or
rich to do without the orthodox nurse, never can know precisely what they
lose. To watch a baby untrammelled with clothes, dimple, glow, and expand
in its bath, is in an intense personal degree like watching, early of a
June morning, the first opening bud of a rose that you have coaxed and
raised from a mere cutting. You hoped and believed that it would be fair
and beautiful, but ah, what a glorious surprise it is!

And so it is at the other end of day, when sleep comes over the garden
and all the flowers that have been basking in sun vigour relax and their
colours are subdued, blended by the brush of darkness, and the night wind
steals new perfumes from them, and wings of all but a few night birds
have ceased to cleave the air. As you walk among the flowers and touch
them, or throw back the casement and look out, you read new meanings
everywhere. In the white cribs in the alcove the same change comes,
bright eyes, hair, cheeks, and lips lie blended in the shadow, the only
sound is the even breath of night, and when you press your lips behind
the ear where a curl curves and neck and garments meet, there comes a
little fragrance born of sweet flesh and new flannel, and the only motion
is that of the half-open hand that seems to recognize and closes about
your fingers as a vine to its trellis, or as a sleeping bird clings to
its perch.

A gardener or a nurse is equally a door between one and these silent
pleasures, for who would not steal up now and then from a troubled
dream to satisfy with sight and touch that the babes are really there
and all is well?

       *        *       *       *       *

Richard has a clinging way even in sleep, and his speech, though very
direct for his age, is soft and cooing; he says "mother" in a lingering
tone that might belong to a girl, and there are what are called feminine
traits in him.

Ian (to save confusion, we called him from the first by the pretty Scotch
equivalent of Evan's first name) is of a wholly masculine mould, and like
his father in light hair, gray eyes, and determination. His very speech
is quick and staccato, his tendency is to overcome, to fight rather than
assuage, though he is the champion of everything he loves. From the time
he could form distinct sounds he has called me Barbara, and no amount of
reasoning will make him do otherwise, while the imitation of his father's
pronunciation of the word goes to my heart.

Recently, now that he is fully able to comprehend, Evan took him quietly
on his knee and told him that he must say "mother" and that he was not
respectful to me. He thought a few minutes, as if reasoning with himself,
and then the big gray eyes filled with tears, a very rare occurrence, as
he seemed to feel that he could not yield, and he said, trying very hard
to steady his voice, "Favver, I truly can't, I _think it _muvver_ inside,
but you and I, we must _say it_ Barbara," and I confess that my heart
leaped with joy, and I begged Evan to let the matter end here. To be
called, if it so may be, by one name from the beginning to the end of
life by the only true lovers that can never be rivals, is bliss enough
for any woman.

Equally resolved, but in a thing of minor importance, is Ian about his
headgear. As a baby of three, when he first tasted the liberty of going
out of garden bounds daily into the daisy field beyond the wild walk,
while Richard clung to his protecting baby sunbonnet, Ian spurned head
covering of any kind, and blinked away at the sun through his tangled
curls whenever he had the chance, in primitive directness until his
cheeks glowed like burnished copper; and his present compromise is a
little cap worn visor backward.

When the twins were very young, people were most funny in the way in
which they seemed to think it necessary to feel carefully about to make
sure whether condolence or congratulations were in order. The Severely
Protestant was greatly agitated, as, being himself the possessor of an
overflowing quiverful, his position was difficult. After making sure
which was the right side of the fence, and placing himself on it, he
tugged painfully at his starved red beard, and made an elaborate address
ending in a parallel,--the idea of the complete Bible being in two
volumes, the Old and New Testament, each being so necessary to the other,
and so inseparable, that they were only comparable to twins!

Father and Evan were present at the time,--I dared not look at
either,--and as soon as we were again alone, the room shook with
laughter, until Martha Corkle, who was then in temporary residence,
popped in to be sure that I was not being unduly agitated.

"The Old and New Testament, I wonder which is which?" gasped father,
going upstairs to look at the uninteresting if promising woolly bundles
by light of this startling suggestion.

Now, however, the joke has developed a serious side, as their two
characters, though in no wise precocious, have become distinctive. Ian
represents the Old, primitive and direct, the "sword of the Lord and
Gideon" type, while Richard is the New, the reconciler and peacemaker.

       *       *       *       *       *

The various congratulations that the twins were boys, from my standpoint
I took as a matter of course, even though I had always heard that boys
gave the most worry and girls were referred to among our friends and
neighbours as the greatest comforts in a home unless they did something
decidedly unusual, fitting into nooks, and often taking up and bearing
burdens the brothers left behind. But when many people who had either
daughters or nieces of their own, and might be said to be in that mystic
ring called "Society," congratulated me pointedly about the boys, I began
to ponder about the matter mother-wise. Then, three years ago the New
York Colony seized upon the broad acres along the Bluffs, and dotted two
miles with the elaborate stone and brick houses they call cottages; not
for permanent summer homes (the very rich, the spenders, have no homes),
but merely hotels in series. These, for the spring and fall between
seasons and week-end parties and golfing, men and girls gay in red and
green coats, replaced the wild flowers in the shorn outlying fields. I
watched these girls, and, beginning to understand, wondered if I had
grown old before my time, or if I were too young to comprehend their
point of view, for, to their strange enlightenment I was practically as
yet unborn.

Lavinia Dorman says caustically that I really belong with her in the
middle of the last century, and she, born to what father says was really
the best society and privilege of New York life, like his college chum
Martin Cortright, is now swept quite aside by the swirl.

"Yes, dear child," she insists (how different this use of the word
sounds from when the Lady of the Bluffs uses the universal "my dear"
impartially to mistress and maid, shopgirl and guest), "you not only
belong to the last century, but as far back in it as myself, and I am
fifty-five, full measure.

"The new idea among the richer and consequently more privileged classes
is, that girls are to be fitted not only to go out into the world and
shine in different ways unknown to their grandmothers, but to be
superior to home, which of necessity unfits them for a return trip if the
excursion is unsuccessful.

"What with high ideas, high rents, and higher education, the home myth is
speedily following Santa Claus out of female education, and, argue as one
may, New York is the social pace-maker 'East of the Rockies,' as the free
delivery furniture companies advertise. I congratulate you anew that the
twins are boys!"

I laughed to myself over Miss Lavinia's letter; she is always so
deliciously in earnest and so perturbed over any change in the social
ways of her dearly beloved New York, that I'm wondering how she finds it,
on her return after two years or more abroad (she was becoming agitated
before she left), and whether she will ask me down for another of those
quaint little visits, where she so faithfully tours me through the shops
and a few select teas, when, to wind it up, Evan buys opera box seats so
that she may have the satisfaction of having her hair dressed, wearing
her point lace bertha and aigret, and showing us who is who, and the
remainder who are not. For she is well born, intricately related to the
original weavers of the social cobweb, and knows every one by name and
sight; but has found lately, I judge, that this knowledge unbacked by
money is no longer a social power that carries beyond mixed tea and
charity entertainments. Never mind, Lavinia Dorman is a dear! Ah, if she
would only come out here, and return my many little visits by a long
stay, and act as a key to the riddle the Whirlpool people are to me. But
of course she will not; for she frankly detests the country,--that is,
except Newport and Staten Island,--is wedded even in summer to her trim
back-yard that looks like a picture in a seed catalogue, and, like a
faithful spouse, declines to leave it or Josephus for more than a few
days. Josephus is a large, sleek, black cat, a fence-top sphinx, who sits
all day in summer wearing a silver collar, watching the sparrows and the
neighbourhood's wash with impartial interest, while at night he goes on
excursions of his own to a stable down a crooked street in "Greenwich
Village," where they still keep pigeons. Some day he won't come back!

Yet Martin Cortright, the Bookworm, was a pavement worshipper too, and he
came last fall for over a Sunday to wake father up; for I believe men
sometimes need the society of others of their own age and past, as much
as children need childlife, and Martin stayed a month, and is promising
to return next spring.  I wonder if the Sylvia Latham who has been
travelling with Miss Lavinia is any kin of the Lathams who are building
the great colonial home above the Jenks-Smiths. I have never seen any of
the family except Mrs. Latham, a tall, colourless blonde, who reminds one
of a handsome unlit lamp. She seems to be superintending the work by
coming up now and then, and I met her at the butcher's where she was
buying sweetbreads--"a trifle for luncheon." Accusation No. 1, against
the Whirlpoolers: Since their advent sweetbreads have risen from two
pairs for a quarter, and "thank you kindly for taking them off our
hands," to fifty cents to a dollar a "set." We no longer care for
sweetbreads!

       *       *       *       *       *

I was therefore amused, but no longer surprised, at the exaggerated way
in which the childless Lady of the Bluffs,--her step-daughter having ten
years back made a foolish foreign marriage,--gave me her views upon the
drawbacks of the daughters of her world, when she made me, on her return
from a European trip, a visit upon the twins' first birthday,--bearing,
with her usually reckless generosity, a pair of costly gold apostle
spoons, as she said, "to cut their teeth on." I admired, but frugally
popped them into the applewood treasure chests that father has had made
for the boys from the "mother tree," that was finally laid low by a
tornado the winter of their birth and is now succeeded by a younger one
of Richard's choice.

"My dear woman," she gasped, turning my face toward the light and
dropping into a chair at the same time, "how well you look; not a bit
upset by the double dose and sitting up nights and all that. But then,
maybe, they sleep and you haven't; for it's always the unexpected and
unusual that happens in your case, as this proves. But then, they are
boys, and that's everything nowadays, the way society's going, especially
to people like you, whose husband's trade, though pretty, is too open and
above-board to be a well-paying one, and yet you're thoroughbreds
underneath." (Poor vulgar soul, she didn't in the least realize how I
might take her stricture any more than she saw my desire to laugh.)

"Of course here and there a girl in society does turn out well and rides
an elephant or a coronet,--of course I mean wears a coronet,--though ten
to one it jams the hairpins into her head, but mostly daughters are
regular hornets,--that is, if you're ambitious and mean to keep in
society. Of course you're not in it, and, being comfortably poor, so to
speak, might be content to see your girls marry their best chance, even
if it wasn't worth much a year, and settle down to babies and minding
their own business; but then they mightn't agree to that, and where would
you and Evan be?

"This nice old house and garden of yours wouldn't hold 'em after they got
through with dolls, and some girls don't even have any doll-days now. It
would be town and travel and change, and you haven't got the price of
that between you all, and to keep this going, too. You'd have to go to
N'York, for a couple of months at least, to a hotel, and what would that
Evan of yours do trailing round to dances? For you're not built for it,
though I did once think you'd be a go in society with that innocent-wise
way, and your nose in the air, when you don't like people, would pass for
family pride. I'd wager soon, in a few years, he'd stop picking
boutonnieres in the garden every morning and sailing down to that 8:15
train as cool as if he owned time, if those boys were girls! Though if
Jenks-Smith gets the Bluff Colony he's planned under way next spring,
there'll soon be some riding and golfing men hereabouts that'll shake
things up a bit,--bridge whist, poker, and perhaps red and black to help
out in the between-seasons." (I little thought then what this colony and
shaking would come to mean.)

"Money or not, it's hard lines with daughters now--work and poor pay for
the mothers mostly. You know that Mrs. Townley that used to visit me? He
was a banker and very rich; died four years ago, and left his wife with
one son, who lived west, and five daughters, four that travelled in pairs
and an odd one,--all well fixed and living in a big house in one of those
swell streets, east of the park, where never less than ten in help are
kept. Well, if you'll believe it, she's living alone with a pet dog and a
companion, except in summer, when the Chicago son and his wife and babies
make her a good visit down at North East, the only home comfort she has.

"All the girls married to foreigners? Not a blessed one. Two were bookish
and called literary, but not enough to break out into anything; they
didn't agree with society (had impossible foreheads that ran nearly back
to their necks, and thin hair); they went to college just to get the name
of it and to kill time, but when they got through they didn't rub along
well at home; called taking an interest in the house beneath them and the
pair that liked society frivolous; so they took a flat (I mean
apartment--a flat is when it's less than a hundred a month and only has
one bathroom), and set up for bachelor girls. The younger pair did
society for a while, and poor Mrs. Townley chaperoned round after them,
as befitted her duty and position, and had gorgeous Worth gowns, all lace
and jets, that I do believe shortened her breath, until one night in a
slippery music-room she walked up the back of a polar bear rug, fell off
his head, and had an awful coast on the floor, that racked her knee so
that she could stay at home without causing remark, which she cheerfully
did. The two youngest girls were pretty, but they were snobs, and carried
their money on their sleeves in such plain sight that they were too
suspicious, and seemed to expect every man that said 'good evening' was
waiting to grab it. So they weren't popular, and started off for Europe
to study art and music. Of course when they came back they had a lot of
lingo about the art atmosphere and all that; home was a misfit and
impossible, so they went to live in a swell studio with two maids and a
Jap butler in costume, and do really give bang-up musicals, with paid
talent of course. I went to one.

"That left Georgie, the odd one, who was the eldest, with poor Mrs.
Townley. By this time the old lady was kind of broken-spirited, and
worried a good deal as to why all her girls left her,--'she'd always
tried to do her duty,'--and all that. This discouraged Georgie; she got
blue and nervous, had indigestion, and, mistaking it for religion,
vamoosed into a high-church retreat. And I call it mighty hard lines for
the old lady."

I thought "too much money," but I didn't say it, for this brutally direct
but well-meaning woman could not imagine such a thing, and she continued:
"Yet Mrs. Townley had a soft snap compared to some, for she was in the
right set at the start, with both feet well up on the ladder, and didn't
have to climb; but Heaven help those with daughters who have thin purses
and have to stretch a long neck and keep it stiff, so, in a crowd at
least, nobody'll notice their feet are dangling and haven't any hold.

"Ah, but this isn't the worst yet; that's the clever 'new daughter' kind
that sticks by her ma, who was herself once a particular housekeeper, and
takes charge of her long before there's any need; regulates her clothes
and her food and her callers, drags her around Europe to rheumatism
doctors, and pushes her into mud baths; jerks her south in winter and
north in summer, for her 'health and amusement,' so she needn't grow
narrow, when all the poor soul needs and asks is to be let stay in her
nice old-fashioned country house, and have the village children in to
make flannel petticoats; entertain the bishop when he comes to confirm,
with a clerical dinner the same as she used to; spoil a lot of
grandchildren, of which there aren't any; and once in a while to be
allowed to go into the pantry between meals, when the butler isn't
looking, and eat something out of the refrigerator with her fingers to
make sure she's got them!

"No, my dear, rather than that, I choose the lap dog and poor relation,
who is generally too dejected to object to anything. Besides, lap dogs
are much better now than in the days when the choice lay only between
sore-eyed white poodles and pugs. Boston bulls are such darlings that for
companions they beat half the people one knows!"

I am doubly glad that the twins are boys! Well, so be it, for women do
often frighten me and I misunderstand them, but men are so easy to
comprehend and love. While now, when Richard and Ian puzzle me, all I
need to do is to point to father and Evan, and say, "Look! ask them, for
they can tell you all you need to know!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost sunset, the boys climbing up stairs, and Effie bringing a letter?
Yes, and from Lavinia Dorman, pages and pages--the dear soul! I must wait
for a light. What is this?--she wishes to see me--will make me a long
visit--in May--if I like--has no longer the conscience to ask me to leave
the twins to come to her--boys of their age need so much care--then
something about Josephus! Yes, Sylvia Latham is the daughter of the new
house on the Bluffs, etc. You blessed twins! here is another advantage I
owe to you--at last a promised visit from Lavinia Dorman!

Ah, as I push my book into the desk the reason for its title turns up
before me, worded in Martin Cortright's precise language:--

"Everything, my dear Barbara, has a precedent in history or the basis of
it. It is well known that the Indian tribes have taken their distinctive
names chiefly from geographical features, and these often in turn control
the pace of the people. The name for the island since called New
Amsterdam and York was Mon-ah-tan-uk, a phrase descriptive of the rushing
waters of Hell Gate that separated them from their Long Island
neighbours, the inhabitants themselves being called by these neighbours
Mon-ah-tans, _anglice_ Manhattans, literally, _People of the Whirlpool_,
a title which, even though the termagant humour of the waters be abated,
it beseems me as aptly fits them at this day."




II

MISS LAVINIA'S LETTERS TO BARBARA


NEW YORK, "GREENWICH VILLAGE,"  January 20, 19--.

"So you are glad that I have returned? I wish that I could say so also,
in your hearty tone of conviction. Every day of the two years that I have
been scattering myself about Europe I have wished myself at home in the
house where I was born, and have wandered through the rooms in my dreams;
yet now that I am here, I find that I was mixing the past impossibly with
the present, in a way common to those over fifty. Yes, you see I no
longer pretend, wear unsuitable headgear, and blink obliviously at my age
as I did in those trying later forties. I not only face it squarely, but
exaggerate it, for it is so much more comfortable to have people say
'Fifty-five! Is it possible?'

"By the way, do you know that you and I share a distinction in common? We
are both living in the houses where we were born, for the reason that we
wish to and not because we cannot help ourselves. Since I have been away
it appears that every one I know, of my own age, has made a change of
some sort, and joined the two streams that are flowing steadily upward,
east and west of the Park; while the people who were neither my financial
nor social equals thirty years ago are dividing the year into quarters,
with a house for each. A few months in town, a few of hotel life for
'rest' in the south, then a 'between-season' residence near by, seaside
next, mountains in early autumn, and the 'between-season' again before
the winter cruise through the Whirlpool.

"I like that name that your Martin Cortright gives to New York. Before I
went abroad I should have resented it bitterly, but the two months since
my return have convinced me of its truth, which I have fought against for
many years; for even the most staid of us who, either of choice or
necessity, give the social vortex a wide berth, cannot escape from the
unrest of it, or sight of the wreckage it from time to time gives forth.
It is strange that I have not met this Cortright, or never even knew that
he shared your father's admiration of your mother, though owing to our
school tie we were like sisters. Yet it was like her to regret and hold
sacred any pain she might have caused, no matter how unwillingly. Did his
elder sister marry _a_ Schuyler, though not one of _the_ well-known
branch, and did he as a boy live in one of those houses on the west side
of Lafayette Place that were later turned into an hotel?

"The worst of it all appears to me to be that the increase of wealth in
the upper class is exterminating the home idea, to which I cling, single
woman as I am; and consequently the middle classes, as blind copyists,
also are tending to throw it over.

"The rich, having no particular reason for remaining in any particular
place until they become attached to it, live in half a dozen houses,
which seems to have a deteriorating effect upon their domesticity; just
as the Sultan, with fifty wives that may be dropped or replaced according
to will, cannot prize them as does the husband of only one.

"Your letters are so full of questions and wonderments about ways in your
mother's day, that they set me rambling in the backwoods of the sixties,
when women were sending their lovers to the Civil War, and then bravely
sitting down and rolling their own hearts up with the bandages with which
they busied their fingers. I suppose you are wondering if I lost a lover
in those days, or why I have not married, as I am in no wise opposed to
the institution, but consider it quite necessary to happiness. The truth
is, I never saw but two men whose tastes so harmonized with mine that I
considered them possible as companions, and when I first met them neither
was eligible, one being my own father and the other yours! I shall have
to list your queries, to be answered deliberately, write my letters in
sections, day by day, and send them off packet-wise, like the
correspondence of the time of two-shilling post and hand messengers. To
begin with, I will pick out the three easiest:--

"1. What is it in particular that has so upset me on my home-coming?

"2. Do I think that I could break through my habits sufficiently to make
you a real country visit this spring or early summer, before the
mosquitoes come? (Confessing with your altogether out-of-date frankness
that there are mosquitoes, a word usually dropped from the vocabulary
of commuters and their wives, even though they live in Staten Island or
New Jersey.)

"3. Is the Sylvia Latham, to whom I have been a friendly chaperon during
my recent travels, related to the Lathams who are building the finest
house on the Bluffs? You have never seen the head of the house, but his
initials are S.J.; he is said to be a power in Wall Street, and the
family consists of a son and daughter, neither of whom has yet appeared,
although the house is quite ready for occupancy.

"(My German teacher has arrived.)"

       *        *       *       *       *

"January 22d.

"1. Why am I upset? For several reasons, some of which have been clouding
the horizon for many years, others crashing up like a thunder-storm.

"I have for a long time past noticed a certain apathy in the social
atmosphere of the little circle that formed my world. I gave up any
pretensions to general New York society after my father's death, which
came at a time when the social centre was splitting into several cliques;
distances increased, New Year's calling ceased, going to the country for
even midwinter holidays came in vogue, and cosmopolitanism finally
overcame the neighbourhood community interest of my girlhood. People
stopped making evening calls uninvited; you no longer knew who lived in
the street or even next house, save by accident; the cosey row of private
dwellings opposite turned to lodging houses and sometimes worse; friends
who had not seen me for a few months seemed surprised to find me living
in the same place. When I began to go about again, one day Cordelia
Martin (she was a Bleecker--your father will remember her) met me in the
street and asked me to come in the next evening informally to dinner and
meet her sister, an army officer's wife, who would be there _en route_
from one post to another, and have an old-time game of whist.

"I went, glad to see old friends, and anticipating a pleasant evening. I
wore a new soft black satin gown slightly V in front, some of my best
lace, and my pearl ornaments; I even wondered if the latter were in good
taste at a family dinner. You know I never dwell much upon attire, but it
is sometimes necessary when it is in a way epoch making.

"A butler had supplanted Cordelia's usual cordial waitress; he presented
a tray for the card that I had not brought and said 'second story front.'
This seemed strange to me, as Cordelia herself had always come to the
stairway to greet me when the door opened.

"The 'second story front' had been done over into a picturesque but
useless boudoir, a wood floor polished like glass was dotted by white fur
islands; the rich velvet carpets, put down a few years before, had in
fact disappeared from the entire house. A maid, anything but cordial,
removed my wrap, looking me and it over very deliberately as she did so.
I wondered if by mistake I had been bidden to a grand function--no, there
were no visible signs of other guests.

"Not a word was spoken, so I made my way down to where the library
living-room had been, not a little curious to see what would come next.
Thick portieres covered the doorway, and by them stood the butler, who
asked my name. Really, for a moment I could not remember it, I was so
startled at this sudden ceremony in the house of a friend, of such long
standing that I had jumped rope on the sidewalk with her, making
occasional trips arm-in-arm around the corner to Taffy John's little shop
for molasses peppermints and 'blubber rubbers.'

"My hesitation seemed to add to the distrust that my appearance had in
some way created. The butler also swept me from head to foot with his
critical stare, and at the same moment I became internally aware that I
had forgotten to remove my arctic over-boots. Never mind, my gown was
long, I would curl up my toes, but return to the dressing-room in full
sight of that man, I whose forbears had outbowled Peter Stuyvesant, and,
I fear, outdrunk him--never! Then the portieres flew apart, and facing
a glare of bilious-hued electric light, I heard the shouted announcement
of 'Miss Doormat' as I stumbled over a tiger rug into the room. I believe
the fellow did it on purpose. However, it was very funny, and my
rubber-soled arctics probably prevented my either coasting straight
across into the open fireplace, or having a nasty fall, while the laugh
that the announcement created on the part of my host, Archie Martin,
saved me from an awkward moment, for from a sort of gilt throne-like
arrangement at one side of the hearth, arrayed in brocaded satin gowns
cut very low and very long, heads crimped to a crisp, and fastened to
meagre shoulders by jewelled collars, the whole topped by a group of
three 'Prince of Wales' feathers, Cordelia and her sister came forward
two steps to greet me.

"Of course, I thought to myself, they are going to a ball later on. I
naturally made no comment, and we went in to dinner. The dining room was
very cold, as extensions usually are, and the ladies presently had white
fur capes brought to cover their exposure, while I, sitting in the
draught from the butler's pantry, was grateful for my arctics. The meal
was more pretentious than edible,--a strange commentary upon many
delightful little four or at most five course affairs I had eaten in the
same room. I soon found that there was no ball in prospect, also that
Cordelia and her sister seemed ill at ease, while Archie had a look of
suppressed mischief on his face, which in spite of warning signals broke
forth as soon as, the coffee being served, the butler left.

"One great comfort about men is that they do not take easily to being
unnatural. Archie and I, having been brought up like brother and sister
from the time we went to a little mixed school over in old Clinton Hall,
were always on cordial terms.

"'Well, Lavvy,' he began, 'I see you're surprised at the change of base
here, and _I'm_ going to let you in on the ground floor, if Cordelia
won't. You see, Janet (she's not in town to-night, by the way) is coming
out next month, and we are getting in training for what her mother thinks
is her duty toward her, or else what they both think is their duty to
society, or something else equally uncomfortable.'

"'Archie!' remonstrated Cordelia, but he good-naturedly ignored her and
continued: 'Now I want Janet to have a jolly winter and marry a good
fellow when the time comes, but as we've got the nicest sort of friends,
educated and all that, who have travelled along with us, as you have,
from the beginning, why should we change our habits and feathers and try
to fly for a different roost?'

"'Archibald,' said Cordelia, in such a tone that she was not to be
gainsaid, 'Lavinia, as a woman of the world, will understand what you
refuse to: that it is very important that our daughter should have the
surroundings that are now customary to the social set with whom she has
been educated, and into which, if she is to be happy, she must marry. If
she is to meet the right people, she must be rightly presented. All her
set wear low gowns at dinner, whether guests are present or not, just as
much as men wear their evening dress at night and their business suits in
the morning. That we have kept up our old-fogy habits so long has nothing
to do with the present question.'

"'Except that I have to strain my purse to bring up everything else to
suit the clothes, as naturally gaslight, a leg of mutton, and two
vegetables do not make a good foreground to bare shoulders and a white
vest! And I'd rather fund the cash as a nest-egg for Jenny.'

"'Archie, you are too absurd!' snapped Cordelia, yet more than half
inclined to laugh; for she used to be the jolliest woman in the world
before the spray of the Whirlpool got into her eyes.

"'As to meeting suitable people to marry, and all that rubbish,' pursued
Archie, relentlessly, 'I was considered fairly eligible in my time, and
did you meet me at any of the dances you went to, or at the Assemblies at
Fourteenth Street Delmonico's that were the swell thing in those days?
No; I pulled you out of an old Broadway stage that had lost a wheel and
keeled over into a pile of snow opposite father's office, when you were
practically standing on your head. You didn't fuss, and I got to know you
better in five minutes than any one could in five years of this rotten
fuss and feathers.'

"'That was purely accidental, and I wish you wouldn't mention it so
often,' said Cordelia, flushing; and so the conversation, at first
playful, gradually working toward a painful dispute, went on, until my
faithful Lucy came to escort me home, without our having our game of
whist, that excuse for intelligent and silent companionship."

       *       *       *       *       *

"January 25th.

"I dwelt on that little dinner episode, my dear Barbara, because in it
you will find an answer to several questions I read between your lines.
Since my return I find that practically all my old friends have flown to
what Archie Martin called 'a different roost,' or else failing, or having
no desire so to do, have left the city altogether, leaving me very
lonely. Not only those with daughters to bring out, but many of my
spinster contemporaries are listed with the buds at balls and dinner
dances, and their gowns and jewels described. Ah, what a fatal memory for
ages one has in regard to schoolmates! Josephine Ponsonby was but one
class behind us, and she is dancing away yet.

"The middle-aged French women who now, as always, hold their own in
public life have better tact, and make the cultivation of some
intellectual quality or political scheme at least the excuse for holding
their salons, and not the mere excuse of rivalry in money spending.

"I find the very vocabulary altered--for _rest_ read _change_, for
_sleep_ read _stimulation_, etc, _ad infin_.

"Born a clergyman's daughter of the old regime, I was always obliged to
be more conservative than was really natural to my temperament; even so,
I find myself at middle life with comfortable means (owing to that bit of
rock and mud of grandma's on the old Bloomingdale road that father
persistently kept through thick and thin), either obliged to compromise
myself, alter my dress and habits, go to luncheons where the prelude is a
cocktail, and the after entertainment to play cards for money, contract
bronchitis by buzzing at afternoon teas, make a vocation of charity,
or--stay by myself,--these being the only forms of amusement left open,
and none offering the intimate form of social intercourse I need.

"I did mission schools and parish visiting pretty thoroughly and
conscientiously during forty years of my life,--on my return an
ecclesiastical, also, as well as a social shock awaited me. St. Jacob's
has been made a free church, and my special department has been given in
charge of two newly adopted Deaconesses, 'both for the betterment of
parish work and reaching of the poor.' So be it, but Heaven help those
who are neither rich nor poor enough to be of consequence and yet are
spiritually hungry.

"The church system is necessarily reduced to mathematics. The rector has
office hours, so have the curates, and they will 'cheerfully come in
response to any call.' It was pleasant to have one's pastor drop in now
and then in a sympathetic sort of way, pleasant to have a chance to ask
his advice without formally sending for him as if you wished to be prayed
over! But everything has grown so big and mechanical that there is not
time. The clergy in many high places are emancipating themselves from the
Bible and preaching politics, history, fiction, local sensation, and what
not, or lauding in print the moral qualities of a drama in which the
friendship between Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot is dwelt on and the
latter adjudged a patriot. I don't like it, and I don't like hurrying to
church that I may secure my seat in the corner of our once family pew,
where as a child I loved to think that the light that shone across my
face from a particular star in one of the stained-glass windows was a
special message to me. It all hurts, and I do not deny that I am bitter.
Those in charge of gathering in new souls should take heed how they
ignore or trample on the old crop!

"So I attend to my household duties, marketing, take my exercise, and
keep up my French and German; but when evening comes, no one rings the
bell except some intoxicated person looking for one of the lodging houses
opposite, and the silence is positively asphyxiating--if they would only
play an accordion in the kitchen I should be grateful. I'm really
thinking of offering the maids a piano and refreshments if they will give
an 'at home' once a week, as the only men in the neighbourhood seem to be
the butchers and grocery clerks and the police. There is an inordinate
banging going on in the rear of the house, and I must break off to see
what it _is_."

       *       *       *       *       *

"January 3th.

"MY DEAR CHILD:--

"Your second question, regarding visiting you the coming season, was
answering itself the other day when I was writing. Life here, except in
winter, is becoming impossible to me. I have lost not only Josephus, but
my back yard! The stable where they keep the pigeons has changed hands.
Yes, you were right,--he did haunt the place, the postman says; and I
suppose they did not understand that he was merely playful, and not
hungry, or who he was, else maybe he was too careless about sitting on
the side fence by the street. I _could_ replace Josephus, but not the
yard,--there are no more back yards to be had; their decadence is
complete. I've closed my eyes for years to the ash heap my neighbour on
the right kept in hers; also to the cast-off teeth that came over from
the 'painless' dentist's on the left.

"When the great tenement flat ran up on the north, where I could, not so
long ago, see the masts of the shipping in the Hudson, I sighed, and
prayed that the tins and bottles that I gathered up each morning might
not single me out when I was tying up my vines in the moonlight of early
summer nights.

"Josephus resented these missiles, however, and his foolish habit of
sitting on the low side fence under the ailantus tree then began. Next, I
was obliged to give up growing roses, because, as you know, they are
fresh-air lovers; and so much air and light was cut off by the high
building that they yielded only leaves and worms. Still I struggled, and
adapted myself to new conditions, and grew more of the stronger summer
bedding plants.

"Five days ago I heard a banging and pounding. Only that morning Lucy had
been told that the low, rambling carpenter's shop, that occupied a double
lot along the 'street to the southwest, had been sold, and we anxiously
waited developments. We were spared long suspense; for, on hearing the
noise, and going to the little tea-room extension where I keep my winter
plants, I saw a horde of men rapidly demolishing the shop, under
directions of a superintendent, who was absolutely sitting on top of my
honeysuckle trellis. After swallowing six times,--a trick father once
taught me to cure explosive speech,--I went down and asked him if he
could tell me to what use the lot was to be put. He replied: 'My job is
only to clean it up; but the plans call for a twelve-story
structure,--warehouse, I guess. But you needn't fret; it's to be
fireproof.'

"'Fireproof! What do I care?' I cried, gazing around my poor garden--or
rather I must have fairly snorted, for he looked down quickly and took in
the situation at a glance, gave a whistle and added: 'I see, you'll be
planted in; but, marm, that's what's got to happen in a pushing city--it
don't stop even for graveyards, but just plants 'em in.'

"My afternoon sun gone. Not for one minute in the day will its light rest
on my garden, and _finis_ is already written on it, and I see it an arid
mud bank. I wonder if you can realize, you open-air Barbara, with your
garden and fields and all space around you, how a city-bred woman, to
whom crowds are more vital than nature, still loves her back yard. I had
a cockney nature calendar planted in mine, that began with a bunch of
snowdrops, ran through hot poppy days, and ended in a glow of
chrysanthemums, but all the while I worked among these I felt the breath
of civilization about me and the solid pavement under my feet.

"I believe that every woman primarily has concealed in the three rounded
corners of her heart, waiting development, love of home, love of
children, and love of nature, and my nature love has yet only developed
to the size of a back yard.

"Yes, I will come to visit you at Oaklands gladly, though it's a poor
compliment under the circumstances. The mother of twins should be gone
_to_; but tremble! you may never get rid of me, for I may supplant Martha
Corkle, the miraculous, in spoiling the boys."

       *       *       *       *       *

"February 1st.

"One more question to answer and this budget of letters will go to the
post with at least four stamps on it, for since you have yoked me to a
stub pen and begged me not to criss-cross the sheets, my bills for stamps
and stationery have increased.

"Sylvia Latham _is_ the daughter of your Bluff people. Her father's name
is Sylvester Johns Latham, and he is a Wall Street broker and promoter,
with a deal of money, and ability for pulling the wires, but not much
liked socially, I should judge,--that is, outside of a certain
commercial group.

"Mrs. Latham was, at the time of her marriage, a pretty southern girl,
Vivian Carhart, with only a face for a fortune. In a way she is a
beautiful woman now, has quite a social following, a gift for
entertaining, and, I judge, unbounded vanity and ambition.

"Quite recently some apparently valueless western land, belonging to her
people, has developed fabulous ore, and they say that she is now more
opulent than her husband.

"They were pewholders at St. Jacob's for many years, until three
seasons ago, when they moved from a side street near Washington Square
to 'Millionaire Row,' on the east side of the Park. There are two
children, Sylvia, the younger, and a son, Carhart, a fine-looking blond
fellow when I knew him, but who got into some bad scrape the year after
he left college,--a gambling debt, I think, that his father repudiated,
and sent him to try ranch life in the West. There was a good deal of
talk at the time, and it was said that the boy fell into bad company at
his mother's own card table, and that it has caused a chilliness
between Mr. and Mrs. Latham.

"However it may be, Sylvia, who is an unspoiled girl of the frank and
intellectual type, tall, and radiant with warm-hearted health, was kept
much away at boarding-school for three years, and then went to college
for a special two years' course in literature. She had barely returned
home when her mother, hearing that I was going abroad, asked me to take
Sylvia with me, as she was deficient in languages, which would be a
drawback to her social career.

"It seemed a trifle strange to me, as she was then nineteen, an age when
most girls of her class are brought out, and had been away for
practically five years. But I took her gladly, and she has been a most
lovable companion and friend. She called me Aunt, to overcome the formal
Miss, and I wish she were my daughter. I'm only wondering if her high,
unworldly standpoint, absorbed from wise teachers, and the halo that she
has constructed from imagination and desire about her parents during the
years of her separation from them, will not embarrass them a little, now
that she is at home for good.

"By the way, we met in England last spring a young sub-professor, Horace
Bradford, a most unusual young man for nowadays, but of old New England
stock. He was one of Sylvia's literature instructors at Rockcliffe
College, and he joined our party during the month we spent in the
Shakespeare country. It was his first trip, and, I take it, earned by
great self-sacrifice; and his scholarly yet boyish enthusiasm added
hugely to our enjoyment.

"He spoke constantly of his mother. Do you know her? She lives on the old
place, which was a farm of the better class, I take it, his father having
been the local judge, tax collector, and general consulting factotum of
his county. It is at Pine Ridge Centre, which, if I remember rightly, is
not far from your town. I should like you to know him.

"I have only seen Sylvia twice since our return, but she lunches with me
to-morrow. You and she should be fast friends, for she is of your ilk;
and if this happens, I shall not regret the advent of the Whirlpool
Colony in your beloved Oaklands as much as I do now.

"I am really beginning to look forward to my country visit, and am glad
to see that some 'advance season' tops are spinning on the pavement in
front of the house, and a game of marbles is in progress in my front yard
itself, safe from the annoying skirts of passers-by. For you should know,
dear Madam Pan, that marbles and tops are the city's first spring sign.

"By the way, I am sure that Horace Bradford and Sylvia are keeping up a
literary correspondence. They are perfectly suited to each other for any
and every grade of friendship, yet from her family standpoint no one
could be more unwelcome. He has no social backing; his mother is a
religious little country woman, who doubtless says 'riz' and 'reckon,'
and he only has what he can earn by mental effort. But this is neither
here nor there, and I'm sure you and I will have an interesting summer
croon in spite of your qualms and resentment of the moneyed
invasion.--Not another word, Lucy is waiting to take this to the
post-box.

"Yours faithfully,

"LAVINIA DORMAN.

"P. S.--Josephus has just come back! Lean, and singed by hot ashes, I
judge. I dread the shock to him when he knows about the yard!"




III

MARTIN CORTRIGHT'S LETTERS TO BARBARA AND DOCTOR RICHARD RUSSELL


"December 10, 19--.

"MY DEAR BARBARA:--

"You have often asked me to write you something of myself, my youth, but
where shall I begin?

"I sometimes think that I must have been born facing backward, and a
fatality has kept me walking in that direction ever since, so wide a
space there seems to be to-day between myself and those whose age shows
them to be my contemporaries.

"My father, being a man of solid position both in commerce and society,
and having a far greater admiration for men of art and letters than would
have been tolerated by his wholly commercial Knickerbocker forbears, I,
his youngest child and only son, grew up to man's estate among the set of
contemporaries that formed his world, men of literary and social parts,
whose like I may safely say, for none will contradict, are unknown to the
rising generation of New Yorkers; for not only have types changed, but
also the circumstances and appreciations under which the development of
those types was possible.

"In my nineteenth year events occurred that altered the entire course of
my life, for not only did the almost fatal accident and illness that laid
me low bar my study of a profession, but it rendered me at the same time,
though I did not then realize it, that most unfortunate of beings, the
semi-dependent son of parents whose overzeal to preserve a boy's life
that is precious, causes them to deprive him of the untrammelled manhood
that alone makes the life worth living.

"I always had a bent for research, a passion for following the history of
my country and city to its fountain heads. I devoured old books,
journals, and the precious documents to which my father had ready access,
that passed from the attic treasure chests of the old houses in decline
to the keeping of the Historical Society. As a lad I besought every gray
head at my father's table to tell me a story, so what more natural, under
the circumstances, than that my father should make me free of his
library, and say: 'I do not expect or desire you to earn your living; I
can provide for you. Here are companions, follow your inclinations, live
your own life, and do not be troubled by outside affairs.' At first I
was too broken in health and disappointed in ambition to rebel, then
inertia became a habit.

"As my health unexpectedly improved and energy moved me to reassert
myself and step out, a soft hand was laid on mine--the hand of my mother,
invalided at my birth, retired at forty from a world where she had shone
by force of beauty and wit--and a gentle voice would say: 'Stay with me,
my son, my baby. Oh, bear with me a little longer. If you only knew the
comfort it is to feel that you are in the house, to hear your voice. You
will pen a history some day that will bring you fame, and you will read
it to me here--we two, all alone in my chamber, before the world hears
it.' So I stayed on. How mother love often blinds the eyes to its own
selfishness.

"That fatal twentieth year, the time of my overthrow, brought me one good
gift, your father's friendship. It was a strange chance, that meeting,
and it was my love of hearing of past events and the questions concerning
them that brought it about. Has your father ever told you of it?

"Likely not, for his life work has been the good physician's, to bring
forth and keep alive, and mine the antiquarian's, dreaming and groping
among ruins for doubtful treasure of fallen walls.

"My mother came of English, not Knickerbocker stock like my father,
though both belong distinctly to New York; and female education being in
a somewhat chaotic state between the old regime and new, her parents,
desirous of having her receive the genteel polish of courtly manners,
music, and dancing, sent her, when about fifteen, to Mrs. Rowson's
school, then located at Hollis Street, Boston. The fame of this school
had travelled far and wide, for not only had the preceptress in her
youth, as Susanna Haswell, been governess to the children of the
beautiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of the most accomplished
women of her day, and profited by her fine taste, but her own high morals
and literary gifts made her tutorship a much sought privilege.

"While there my mother met the little New England girl who was long
afterward to become your grandmother. She had also come to study music,
for which she had a talent. My mother related to me, when I was a little
lad and used to burrow in her carved oak treasure chest and beg for
stories of the articles it contained, many fascinating tales of those two
school years, a pretty colour coming to her cheeks as she told of the
dances learned together, pas-de-deux and minuet, from old 'Doctor'
Shaffer, who was at the time second violin of the Boston Theatre, as
well as authority in the correct methods of bowing and courtesying for
gentlewomen. Your grandmother married first, and the letter telling of it
was stored away with others in the oak chest.

"Some months before the steamboat accident that shattered my nerves, and
preceded the long illness, I was browsing at a bookstall, on my way up
from college homeward, when I came across a copy of Charlotte Temple--one
of the dozen later editions--printed in New York by one R. Hobbs, in
1827, its distinguishing interest lying in a frontispiece depicting
Charlotte's flight from Portsmouth.

"The story had long been a familiar one, and I, in common with others of
many times my age and judgment, had lingered before the slab that bears
her name in the graveyard of old Trinity, and sometimes laid a flower on
it for sympathy's sake, as I have done many times since.

"On my return home I showed the little book to my mother, and as she held
it in her hinds and read a word here and there, she too began to journey
backward to her school days, and asked my father to bring out her
treasure chest, and from it she took her school relics,--a tattered
ribbon watch-guard fastened by a flat gold buckle that Mrs. Rowson had
given her as a reward for good conduct, and a package of letters. She
spent an hour reading these, and old ties strengthened as she read. I can
see her now as she sat bolstered by pillows in her reclining chair, a
writing tray upon her knees, penning a long letter.

"A few months afterward, as I lay in my bed too weak even to stir, your
father stood there, looking across the footboard at me,--the answer to
that letter. Your father, tall and strong of body and brain, a Harvard
graduate drawn to New York to study medicine at the College of Physicians
and Surgeons. His eyes of strengthening manly pity looked into mine and
drew me slowly back to life with them.

"His long absence as surgeon in the Civil War, the settling down as a
country doctor, and even loving the same woman, has not separated us.
Never more than a few months passed but our thoughts met on paper, or our
hands clasped. His solicitude in a large measure restored my health, so
that at sixty-three, physically, I can hold my own with any man of my
age, and to-day I walk my ten miles with less ado than many younger men.
Because of my intense dislike of the modern means of street
transportation, I have kept on walking ever since the time that your
father and I footed it from Washington Park to Van Cortlandt Manor,
through the muskrat marshes whereon the park plaza now stands, up
through the wilds of the future Central Park, McGowan's Pass, and
northwestward across the Harlem to our destination. He will recollect. We
were two days picking our way in going and two days on the return, for we
scorned the 'bus route, and that was only in the later fifties. Never
mind, if we ever do get back to small clothes and silk stockings, Martin
Cortright can show a rounded calf, if he has been esteemed little more
than a crawling bookworm these many years.

"Methinks I hear you yawn and crumple these sheets together in your hand,
saying: 'What ails the man--is he grown doity? I thought he was
contented, even if sluggishly serene.'

"And so he was, as one grown used to numbness, until last summer one
Mistress Barbara visited the man-snail in his shell and exorcised him to
come forth for an outing, to feed among fresh green leaves and breathe
the perfume of flowers and young lives. When lo and behold, on the
snail's return, the shell had grown too small!

"Faithfully,

"M. C."

       *       *       *       *       *

(To R. R.)

"December 22, 19--.

"So social change has also cast its shadow across even your country
pathway, dear Hippocrates? I wish it had spared you, but I feared as much
when I heard that your peaceful town had been invaded by an advance guard
of those same People of the Whirlpool who keep the social life of their
own city in a ferment.

"You ask what is the matter, what the cause of the increasing
restlessness that appears on every side, driving the conservative
thinking class of moderate means to seek home shelter beyond city limits,
and drawing the rest into a swirl that, sooner or later, either casts
them forth as wrecks or sucks them wholly down.

"The question is difficult of answer, but there are two things that are
potent causes of the third. Money too quickly earned, or rather won,
causes an unwise expansion, and a fictitious prosperity that has degraded
the life standard. Except in exclusively academic circles, the man is
gauged by his power of financial purchase and control, and the dollar is
his hall mark. He is forced to buy, not win, his way. Of course, if
pedigree and private character correspond in quantity, so much the
better, but their importance is strictly held in abeyance.

"Even in the legendary classic shades of learning, the cold pressure of
the golden thumb crowds down and chills penniless brains. All students do
not have equal _chance_ and equal _rights_. How can they, when the
exclusiveness of many fraternities is not by intellectual gauge or the
capability for comradeship, but the power to pay high dues and spend
lavishly. Of later years, in several conspicuous cases, even the choice
of college officials of high control has been guided rather by their
capacity as financiers than for ripened and inspiring scholarship.

"Then, too, the rack of constant change is detrimental to the finer grade
of civic sentiment. It would seem that the Island's significant Indian
name was wrought into its physical construction like the curse that kept
the Jew of fable a wanderer. Periodically the city is rent and upheaved
in unison with the surrounding changes of tide. Here one does not need to
live out his threescore years and ten to see the city of his youth slip
away from him. Even his Alma Mater packs her trunks and moves about too
rapidly to foster the undying loyal home spirit among her sons--my
college has lived in three houses since my freshman year. How I envy the
sons of Harvard, Yale, and all the rest who can go back, and, feeling at
least a scrap of the old campus turf beneath their feet, close their eyes
and be young again for one brief minute. Is not this the reason why so
many of Columbia's sons, in spite of the magnificent opportunities she
offers, send _their_ sons elsewhere, because they realize the value of
associations they have missed, and recognize the Whirlpool's
changefulness?

"What would be the feelings of an Oxford man, on returning from his life
struggle in India or Australia, to visit his old haunts, if he found, as
a sign of vaunted progress, the Bodleian Library turned into an
apartment house!

"The primal difference between civilized men and the nameless savage is
love of home, and the powerful races are those in whom this instinct is
the strongest. Such fealty is _not_ born in the shifting almost
tent-dwellers of Manhattan.

"It was in the late seventies, the winter before his passing, that one
mild night I walked home from a meeting of the Goethe Club in company
with the poet Bryant. He and my father had been stanch comrades, and many
a time had I studied his Homeric head silhouetted by firelight on our
library wall. As we crossed the Park front going from Fifth Avenue east
to west, he paused, and leaning on his cane gazed skyward, where the
outlines of some buildings, in process of construction on Fifty-ninth
Street, and then considered high, stood out against the sky.  "'Poor New
York,' he said, half to himself, half to me, 'created and yet cramped by
force of her watery boundaries, where shall her sons and daughters find
safe dwelling-places? They have covered the ground with their
habitations, and even now they are climbing into the sky.' And he went on
leaving his question unanswered.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A caller interrupted me yesterday, a most persistent fellow and a
dangerous one to the purse of the tyro collector of Americana, though not
to me. He was a man of some pretence to classic education, and
superficially versed in lore of title, date, and _editio princeps_. He
had half a dozen prints of rarity and value had they not been forgeries,
and a book ... that I had long sought after in its original form, but the
only copy I had seen for many years when put up at auction lacked the
title page and fully half a dozen leaves, besides having some other
defects. Would you believe it, Dick, this copy was that from the auction,
its defects repaired, its missing leaves replaced by careful forgery, and
what is more, I know the vender was aware of the deceit. But he will sell
it to some young moneyed sprig who will not know.

"I was angry, Dick, very angry, and yet all this is a trivial part of
what we have a long time been discussing. The sudden glint of wealth in
certain quarters has changed the aspect of even book collecting, that
once most individual of occupations, and syndicated it.

"Once a book collection was the natural accumulation, more or less
perfect according to purse and opportunity, of one following a certain
line of thought, and bore the stamp of individuality; but as these
bibliophiles of the old regime pass away, the ranks are recruited by men
to whom money is of no account, whose competition forces irrational
prices and creates false values. Methinks I see the finish of the small
collectors like ourselves. Meanwhile, just so much intellectual pleasure
is wrested from the modern scholar of small means who dares not make
beginning. I do not like it, Dick, indeed I do not.

"But we were discussing domesticity, I think, when this wretch rang the
bell. The restlessness I speak of as born of undisciplined bigness, of
moneyed magnitude, is visible everywhere, and more so in the hours of
relaxation than those of business.

"We have acquired the knowledge of many arts in these late years, and we
needed it; but we have lost one that is irreparable--sociality. There is
no longer time to know oneself, how then shall we know our neighbours?

"The verb _to entertain_ has largely driven the verb _to enjoy_ from the
social page. It is not too extreme, I think, to say the home and
playhouse have changed places. Many conservative people that I know turn
to the theatre as the only safe means of relaxation and enjoyment within
their reach, the stress and penalty of criticism in entertaining modern
company being unbearable to them.

"To the bachelor who, like myself, has a modest hearthstone, yet no hand
but his own to stir the fire, the dinner tables of his married friends
and his clubs have been supposed to replace, in a measure at least, the
need of family ties. Once they did this as far as such things may, but
the easy sociality of the family board has almost ceased, and the
average club has so expanded that it savours more of hotel freedom than
home cosiness.

"I am not a misanthrope or a woman hater, as you know, yet from what I
gather I fear that, in the upper middle class at least, it is the women
who are responsible for this increased formality that most men naturally
would avoid. Led by personal ambition, or that of young daughters, they
seek to maintain a standard just enough beyond their easy grasp to feel
ill at ease, if not humiliated, to be caught off guard. I remember once
when I was a mere boy hearing my father say in a sorrowing tone to my
eldest sister, who was giving fugitive reasons for not being able to
array herself quickly for some festivity for which the invitation had
been delayed, yet to which she longed to go: 'Wherever woman enters
socially, then complications begin that are wholly of her own making. I
warrant before Eve had finished her fig-leaf petticoat she was bothering
Adam to know if he thought there could be another woman anywhere who had
a garment of rarer leaves than her own.'

"The clubs do somewhat better, being under male management, but those
among them that ranked as so conservative that membership was the hall
mark of intellectual acquirements and stamped a man as either author,
artist, or amateur of letters and the fine arts, have had their doors
pushed open by many of those who wish to wear in public the name of
being without good right, and so the little groups of kindred spirits
have broken away, the authors in one direction, the followers of the
drama to habitations of their own, artists who are too independent to be
overborne by money in another, and thus the splitting spirit increases
until it vanishes in a maze of cliques and coteries. The names may stand
on the lists, the faces are absent, and one must wander through half a
dozen clubs to really meet the aggregation of thinkers and workers of
the grade who gathered in the snug corners of the Century's old club
house in East Fifteenth Street when we were young fellows, and my father
secured us cards for an occasional monthly meeting as the greatest
favour he could do us.

"Come down if you can, take a holiday, or rather night, and go with me to
the January meeting, and we will also stroll among some of our old
haunts. You may perhaps realize, what I cannot altogether explain, the
reason why I feel almost a stranger though at home."

       *       *       *       *       *

(To DR. R. R.)

"January 10, 19--.

"Could not get away, you conscientious old Medicus, because of the
strange accidents and holiday doings of the Whirlpool Colony at
the Bluffs!

"Well, well! I read your last with infinite amusement. You are in a fair
way to have enlightenment borne in upon you without leaving your surgery,
or at least travelling farther than your substantial gig will take you.

"Meanwhile I have had what should be a crushing blow to my vanity, and in
analyzing it I've made an important discovery. One night last week I was
sitting quietly in the card room at the Dibdin Club, awaiting my whist
mates (for here at least one may be reasonably sure of finding a group
with bibliographic interests in common, and the pleasures of a
non-commercial game of cards), when I heard a voice, one of a group
outside, belonging to a wholesome, smooth-faced young fellow, with good
tastes and instincts, say:--

"'I don't know what happened to the old boy when he took that unheard-of
vacation of his last fall, or where he went, but one thing's very sure,
since his return Cortright's grown _pudgy_ and he's waked bang up. Wonder
if he's finished that Colonial History, that's to be his monument, he's
been working on all his life, or if he's fallen in love?'

"'If he'd fall in love, he might stand more chance of finishing his
history,' replied a graybeard friend in deep didactic tones; 'he has
material in plenty, but no vital stimulus for focussing his work.'

"I gave an unpremeditated laugh that dwindled to a chuckle, as if it were
produced by a choking process. Two heads appeared a second at the doorway
of the room they had thought empty, and then vanished!

"When I came home I sat a long while before my den fireplace thinking.
They were right in two things, though not in the falling in love--that
was done thirty-five years ago once and for all. I wondered if I had
grown _pudgy_, dreadful word; _stout_ carries a certain dignity, but
pudgy suggests bunchy, wabbling flesh. I've noticed my gloves go on
lingeringly, clinging at the joints, but I read that to mean rheumatism!

"That night I stood before the mirror and studied my face as I unbuttoned
my vest and loosened my shirt band at the neck. Suddenly I experienced
great relief. For several months past I have felt a strange asphyxiation
and a vertigo sensation when wearing formal clothes of any kind, enjoying
complete comfort only in the loose neckcloth and wrapper of my private
hours. I had thought of asking medical advice, but having acquired a
distrust of general physic in my youth, and hoping you might come down, I
put it off.

"Unfasten your own top button, and now prepare to laugh--Martin Cortright
is not threatened with apoplexy or heart failure, he's grown _pudgy_, and
his clothes are all too small! Yet but for that boy's good-tempered
ridicule he might not have discovered it.

"Think of it, Richard! I, whom my mother considered interesting and of
somewhat distinguished mien, owing to my pallor and slim stature! A
pudgy worm belongs to chestnuts, not to books. A pudgy antiquarian is a
thing unheard of since monastic days, when annal making was not deemed
out of place if mingled with the rotund jollity of a Friar Tuck. You
must bear half the blame, for it must be the butter habit that your
Martha Corkle's fresh churned pats inoculated me with, for I always
detested the stuff before.

"Graybeard's stricture, however, struck a deeper chord--'He has material
in plenty for his book, but no vital stimulus.' This, too, is deeply
true, and I have felt it vaguely so for some time, but no more realized
it than I did my pudginess.

"No matter how much material one collects, if the vitalizing spirit is
not there, no matter how realistically the stage may be set if the actors
are mere dummies. The only use of the past is to illuminate and sustain
the present.

"Your own home life and work, the honest questions of little Richard and
Ian waken me from a long sleep, I believe, and set me thinking. What is
a man remembered by the longest? Brain work, memorial building, or heart
touching? Do you recollect once meeting old Moore--Clement Clark
Moore--at my father's? He was a profound scholar in Greek and Hebrew
lexicology, and gave what was once his country house and garden in old
Chelsea Village to the theological seminary of his professorship. How
many people remember this, or his scholarship? But before that old
rooftree was laid low, he wrote beneath it, quite offhand, a little
poem, 'The Night Before Christmas,' that blends with childhood's dreams
anew each Christmas Eve--a few short verses holding more vitality than
all his learning.

"If my book ever takes body, my friend, it will be under your roof, where
you and yours can vitalize it. This is no fishing for invitations--we
know each other too frankly well for that. What I wish to do is to come
into your neighbourhood next springtime, without encroaching on your
hospitality, and work some hours every day in the library, or that corner
of her charmed attic that Barbara has shared with me. It is bewitching.
Upon my word, I do not wonder that she sees the world rose-colour as she
looks upon it from that window. I, too, had long reveries there, in which
experience and tradition mixed themselves so cleverly that for the time I
could not tell whether it was my father or myself who had sometimes
proudly escorted the lovely Carroll sisters upon their afternoon
promenade down Broadway, from Prince Street to the Bowling Green, each
leading her pet greyhound by a ribbon leash, or which of us it was that,
in seeking to recapture an escaping hound, was upset by it in the mud, to
the audible delight of some rivals in a 'bus and his own discomfiture,
being rendered thereby unseemly for the beauty's further company."

       *       *       *       *       *

"January 20, 19--.

"Thank you, dear Richard, for your brotherly letter. I make no
protestations, for I know your invitation would not be given if you felt
my presence would in any way be a drawback or impose care on any member
of your household, and the four little hearts that Barbara drew, with her
own, Evan's, and the boys' initials in them, are seals upon the
invitation.

"Do not deplore, however, the lack of nearness of my haunts in Astor and
Lenox libraries. Times are changed, and the new order condemns me to sit
here if I read, there if I take out pencil and pad to copy--the red tape
distracts me. The old Historical Society alone remains in comfortable
confusion, and that is soon to move upward half a day's walk.

"But, as it chances, you have collected many of the volumes that are
necessary to me, and I will use them freely, for some day, friend of
mine, my books will be joined to yours, and also feel the touch of little
Richard's and Ian's fingers, and of their sons, also, I hope.

"I declare, I'm growing childishly expectant and impatient for spring,
like Barbara with her packages of flower seeds.

"You ask if I ever remember meeting one Lavinia Dorman. I think I used to
see her with a bevy of girls from Miss Black's school, who used sometimes
to attend lectures at the Historical Society rooms, and had an unlimited
appetite for the chocolate and sandwiches that were served below in the
'tombs' afterward, which appetite I may have helped to appease, for you
know father was always a sort of mine host at those functions.

"The girls must have all been eight or ten years my junior, and you know
how a fellow of twenty-three or four regards giggling schoolgirls--they
seem quite like kittens to him.

"Stop, was she one of the older girls, the special friend of--Barbara's
mother? If so, I remember her face, though she did not walk in the school
procession with the other 'convicts,' as the boys called them; but I was
never presented.

"I'm sending a small birthday token to the boys--a little printing-press.
Richard showed no small skill in setting the letters of my rubber stamp.
It is some days late, but that will separate it from the glut of the
Christmas market. Ask Evan to notify me if he and Barbara go to town.

"Gratefully,

"M. C."




IV

WHEN BARBARA GOES TO TOWN


_March_ 4. I like to go to a plain people's play, where the spectators
groan and hiss the villain. It is a wholesome sort of clearing house
where one may be freed from pent-up emotion under cover of other people's
tears and smiles; the smiles triumphing at the end, which always winds up
with a sudden recoil, leaving the nerves in a healthy thrill. I believe
that I can only comprehend the primal emotions and what is called in
intellectual jargon mental dissipation, and the problem play, in its many
phases, appeals to me even less than crude physical dissipation.

We have seen a drama of the people played quite recently, having been to
New York to spend part of a "midwinter" week's vacation, which father
insisted that Evan should take between two rather complex and
eye-straining pieces of work. Speaking by the almanac, it wasn't
midwinter at all, but pre-spring, which, in spite of lengthening _days_,
is the only uncompromisingly disagreeable season in the country--the time
when measles usually invades the village school, the dogs come slinking
in guiltily to the fire, pasted with frozen mud, the boys have snuffle
colds, in spite of father's precautions, and I grow desperate and flout
the jonquils in my window garden, it seems so very long since summer, and
longer yet to real budding spring. We arrived at home last night in the
wildest snowstorm of the season, and this morning Evan, having smoothed
out his mental wrinkles by means of our mild city diversions, is now
filling his lungs and straightening his shoulders by building a wonderful
snow fort for the boys. Presently I shall go down to help them bombard
him in it, and try to persuade them that it will last longer if they do
not squeeze the snowballs too hard, for Evan has prohibited "baking"
altogether.

The "baking" of snowballs consists of making up quite a batch at once,
then dipping them in water and leaving them out until they are hard as
rocks, and really wicked missiles.

The process, unknown in polite circles here, though practised by the
factory town "muskrats," was taught my babies by the Vanderveer boy
during the Christmas holidays, which, being snowy and bright, drew the
colony to the Bluffs for coasting, skating, etc., giving father such a
river of senseless accidents to wade through that he threatens to absent
himself and take refuge with Martin Cortright in his Irving Place den for
holiday week next year. Father has ridden many a night when the roads
would not admit of wheeling, without thought of complaint, to the
charcoal camp to tend a new mother, a baby, or a woodchopper suddenly
stricken with pneumonia, that is so common a disease among men living as
these do on poor food, in tiny close cabins, and continually getting
checks of perspiration in the variable climate. During the holidays he
was called to the Bluffs in the middle of two consecutive nights, first
to the Vanderveers, and requested to "drug" the second assistant butler,
who was wildly drunk, and being a recent acquisition had been brought to
officiate at the house party without due trial, "so that he wouldn't be
used up the next day," and then to the Ponsonby's, where the family had
evidently not yet gone to bed. Here he found that the patient, a visiting
school friend of one of the daughters, from up the state, and evidently
not used to the whirl of the pool, had skated all day, and, kept going by
unaccustomed stimulants, taken half from ignorance, half from bravado,
had danced the evening through at the club house, and then collapsed. Her
hostess, careless through familiarity with it, had given her a dose of
one of the chloral mixtures "to let her have a good night's sleep"; but
instead it had sent her into hysterics, and she was calling wildly for
her mother to come and take her home. Father returned from both visits
fairly white with rage. Not at the unfortunates themselves, be it said,
but at the cool nonchalance of those who summoned him.

The butler's was a common enough case. That of the young girl moved him
to pity, and then indignation, as he sifted, out the cause of the attack,
in order to treat her intelligently. This questioning Mrs. Ponsonby
resented most emphatically, telling him "to attend to his business and
not treat ladies as if they were criminals." This to a man of father's
professional ability, and one of over sixty years of age in the bargain.

"Madam," said he, "you _are_ a criminal; for to my thinking all
preventable illness, such as this, is a crime. Leave the room, and when I
have soothed this poor child I will go home; and remember, do not send
for me again; it will be useless."

Never a word did he say of the matter at home, though I read part in his
face; but the Ponsonby's housekeeper, a countrywoman of Martha Corkle's,
took the news to her, adding "and the missus stepped lively too, she
did; only, law's sakes, by next mornin' she'd forgot all about it, and,
we being short-handed, wanted me to go down with James and get the Doctor
up to spray her throat for a hoarseness, and I remindin' her what he'd
said, she laughed and answered, 'He had a bear's manners,' but to go tell
him she'd pay him city prices, and she bet that would mend him and them!"

I took good care not to repeat this to father, for he would be wounded.
He is beginning to see that they use him as a sort of ambulance surgeon,
but he does not yet understand the absolute money insolence of these
people to those not of their "set," whom they consider socially or
financially beneath them, and I hope he never may. He is so full of good
will to all men, so pitiful toward weakness and sin, and has kept his
faith in human nature through thirty-five years' practice in a factory
town, hospital wards, charcoal camp, and among the odd characters of the
scattering hillsides, that it would be an undying shame to have it
shattered by the very people that the others regard with hopeless envy.

Shame on you, Barbara, but you are growing bitter. Yes, I know you do
not yourself mind left-handed snubs and remarks about your being
"comfortably poor," but you won't have that splendid old father of yours
put upon and sneezed at, with cigarette sneezes, too. You should realize
that they don't know any better, also that presently they may become
dreadfully bored after the manner of degenerates and move away from the
Bluffs, and then companionable, commuting, or summer resident people will
have a chance to buy their houses.

Shrewd Martha Corkle foresaw the probable outcome the day that the
foundation-stone for the first cottage was laid, even before our
prettiest flower-hedged lane was shorn and torn up to make it into a
macadam road, in order to shorten the time, for motor vehicles, between
the Bluffs and the station by possibly three minutes. Not that the people
were obliged to be on time for early trains, for they are mostly the
reapers of other people's sowing; but to men of a certain calibre, born
for activity, the feeling that, simply for the pleasure of it, they can
wait until the very latest moment and still get there, is an amusement
savouring of both chance and power.

"Yes, Mrs. Evan," said Martha, with as much of a sniff as she felt
compatible with her dignity, "I knows colernies of folks not born to or
loving the soil, but just trying to get something temporary out o' it in
the way o' pleasure, as rabbits, or mayhap bad smelling water for the
rheumatics. (It was the waters Lunnon swells came for down on the old
estate.) To my thinkin' these pleasure colernies is bad things; they
settles as senseless as a swarm of bees, just because their leader's lit
there first; and when they've buzzed themselves out and moved on, like as
not some sillies as has come gapin' too close is bit fatal or poisoned
for life."

Well-a-day! Evan says that I take things to heart that belong to the head
alone, while father says that, to his mind, feeling is much more of a
need to-day than logic; so what can I do but still stumble along
according to feeling.

A shout from beneath the window, then a soft snowball on it, the signal
that the fort is finished,--yes, and the old Christmas tree stuck up top
as a standard. Richard has built a queer-looking snow man with red knobs
all over his chest and stomach, while Ian has achieved several most
curious looking things with carrot horns,--whatever are they? Father has
just driven in, and is laughing heartily, and Evan is waving to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Calm reigns again. The fort has surrendered, the final charge having been
led by Corney Delaney. We've had hot milk all around, father has retired
to the study to decipher a complicated letter from Aunt Lot, Evan has
taken the boys into the den for a drawing lesson, and the mystery of the
snow man is solved.

We do not intend to have the boys learn any regular lessons before
another fall, but for the last two years I have managed that they
should sit still and be occupied with something every morning, so that
they may learn how to keep quiet without its being a strain,--shelling
peas, cutting papers for jelly pots, stringing popcorn for the hospital
Christmas tree, seeding raisins with a dozen for pay at the end--this
latter is an heroic feat when it is accomplished without drawing the
pay on the instalment plan--and many other little tasks, varied
according to season.

Ian has a quick eye and comprehension, and he is extremely colour
sensitive, but healthily ignorant of book learning, while Richard, how we
do not know, has learned to read in a fashion of his own, not seeming yet
to separate letters or words, but "swallowing the sense in lumps," as
Martha puts it.

Yesterday, before our return, the weather being threatening, and the
boys, keyed for mischief, clamouring and uneasy, very much as birds and
animals are before a storm, father invited them to spend the afternoon
with him in the study, and Martha Corkle, who mounts guard during my
brief holidays, saw that their paws were scrubbed, and then relaxed her
vigilance, joining Evan in the sewing room.

After many three-cornered discussions as to what liberty was to be
allowed the boys in study and den, we decided that when they learned to
respect books in the handling they should be free to browse as they
pleased; the curiosities, rarities, and special professional literature,
being behind glass doors, could easily be protected by lock and key.
Father's theory is that if you want children to love books, no barriers
must be interposed from the beginning, and that being so much with us the
boys will only understand what is suited to their age, and therefore the
harmful will pass them by. I was never shut from the library shelves, or
mysteries made about the plain-spoken literature of other days, in spite
of Aunt Lot's fuming. I did not understand it, so it did not tempt, and
as I look back, I realize that the book of life was spread before me
wisely and gradually, father turning page after page, then passing the
task to Evan, so that I never had a shock or disillusionment.

I wonder if mother had lived if I should think differently, and be more
apprehensive about the boys, womanwise? I think not; for I am a
sun-loving Pagan all through, really born far back in an overlooked
corner of Eden, and I prefer the forceful father influence that teaches
one _to overcome_ rather than the mother cult which is _to bear_, for so
much is cumbrously borne in self-glorified martyrdom by women of their
own volition.

I know that I am very primitive in my instincts and emotions; so are the
boys, and that keeps us close, or so close, together.

Of course illustrated books are now the chief attraction to them in the
library, and yesterday, when father went there with the boys, he supplied
Ian, as usual, with "The Uncivilized Races of Man," which always opens of
itself at the Mumbo Jumbo picture, and as a great treat for Richard, took
down the three quarto volumes of Audubon's "Quadrupeds," and ranged them
on a low stand with a stool in front of it. Then, being tired after a
hard morning's work, he drew his big leather chair near the, fire, put on
an extra log, and proceeded to--meditate. You will doubtless notice
that when father or husband close their eyes, sitting in comfortable
chairs by the fire, they are always meditating, and never sleeping,
little nosey protestations to the contrary.

Father's meditations must have been long and deep, for when he was
startled from them by the breaking in two of the hickory log, a gory
spectacle met his eyes.

Richard was sitting on the hearth rug, which he had carefully covered
with newspapers; these, as well as his hands and face, were stained a
deep crimson, while with a stout silver fruit-knife he was hacking pieces
from a great pulpy red mass before him.

Checking an exclamation of horror father started forward, to meet
Richard's cheerful, frank gaze and the request, as he dug away
persistently, to "Please wait one minute more, dranpa. I've got the heart
all done, that big floppy piece is lungs, an' I've most made the liver.
Not the good kind that goes wif curly bacon, but a nasty one like what we
wear inside."

Then spying a medical chart with coloured pictures that was propped up
against the wood box, father found the clew, and comprehended that
Richard was giving himself a practical lesson in anatomy by trying to
carve these organs from a huge mangel wurzel beet that he had rolled in
from the root cellar. Did father scold him for mess-making, or laugh at
his attempt that had little shape except in his own baby brain?

No, neither; he carefully closed the door against Martha's possible
entrance, seriously and respectfully put the precious objects on a plate,
to which he gave a place of honour on the mantel shelf, and after
removing as far as possible all traces of beet from face and hands in his
sacred office lavatory, he took Richard with him into the depths of the
great chair and told the happy child his favourite rigmarole, all about
the "three gentlemen of high degree," who do our housework for us. How
the lungs, who are Siamese twins, called to the heart to pump them up
some blood to air, because they were almost out of work, and how the big
lazy liver lay on one side and groaned because he had drunk too much
coffee for breakfast, and had a headache,--until Richard really felt that
he had achieved something. So the first thing this morning he set about
making a snow man, that he might put the beet vitals in their proper
places, nearly convulsing father by their location. Though, as he told
me, they were accurate, compared to the ideas of many trained nurses with
whom he had come in contact.

But where was Ian during the beet carving? Father quite forgot him
until, Richard falling asleep in his arms, he arose to tuck him up on
the sofa. A sound of the slow turning of large pages guided him to the
corner by the bay window where some bookcases, standing back to back,
made a sort of alcove. There was Ian, flat upon his stomach, while
before him the "Wandering Jew" legend, with the Dore pictures, lay open
at the final scene--The Last Judgment--where the Jew, his journey over,
looks up at the angels coming to greet him, while little devils pull
vainly at his tattered boots. It was not the Jew or the angels, however,
that held Ian's attention, and whose outlines he was tracing with his
forefinger, but the devils, one big fellow with cows' horns and wings
drooping like those of a moulting crow, and a bevy of imps with young
horns and curly tails who were pulling a half-buried body toward the
fiery pit by its hair.

Father explained the pictures in brief, and closed the book as quickly as
possible, thinking the boy might be frightened in his dreams by the
demons. But no, Ian was fascinated, not frightened. He would have liked
the pygmies to come and play with him, and he turned to father with a
sigh, saying, "They're bully pullers, dranpop. I guess if they and me
pulled against Corney Delaney we could get him over the line all right,"
one of the boys' favourite pastimes being to play tug-of-war with the
goat, the rope being fastened to its horns, but Corney was always
conqueror.

Neither did Ian forget the imps quickly, as some children do their
impressions, but strove to model them this morning, making round snow
bodies, carrot horns, corncob legs, and funny celery tails; the result
being positively startling and "overmuch like witch brats," as Effie
declared, with bulging eyes.

They unfortunately did not perish with the fort, for Richard doesn't like
them; but are now huddled in a group under the old Christmas tree, where
Lark is barking at them.

       *       *       *       *       *

I started to record our visit to Lavinia Dorman, but my "human
documents," printed on vellum, came between, and I would not miss a word
they have to say for the "Mechlinia Albertus Magnus," which father says
is the rarest book in the world, though Evan disputes his preference, and
Martin Cortright would doubtless prefer the first edition of Denton's
"New York."

In past times, when we have visited Miss Lavinia, we have been fairly
meek and decorous guests, following the programme that she planned with
such infinite attention to detail that free will was impossible, and we
often felt like paper dolls.

We had read her lament on the death of sociability and back yards with
many a smile, and a sigh also, for to one born in the pool, every ripple
that stirs it must be of importance, and it is impossible for outsiders
to urge her to step out of the eddies altogether and begin anew, for New
Yorkitis seems to be not only a rarely curable disease to those who have
it, but an hereditary one as well.

As usual, Evan came to the rescue, as we sat in the den the night before
our departure. "Let us turn tables on Miss Lavinia this time and take her
to see our New York," he said, "since we are all quite tired of hers. Do
you remember the time when we went to town to buy the trappings for the
boys' first tree and were detained until Christmas morning by the delay
of a cable I had to wait for? After dinner Christmas Eve we coaxed Miss
Lavinia out with us and bought half a bushel of jolly little toys from
street fakirs to take home, and then boarded an elevated train and rode
about the city until after midnight, in and out the downtown streets and
along the outskirts, to see all the poor people's Christmas trees in the
second stories of tenements, cheap flats, and over little shops. How she
enjoyed it, and said that she never dreamed that tenement people could be
so happy; and she finally waxed so enthusiastic that she gave a silver
half dollar each to four little newsboys crouching over the steam on a
grating in Twenty-third Street, and when they cheered her and a policeman
came along, we told the dear old soul that he evidently thought her a
suspicious character, a counterfeiter at the very least. And she always
spoke afterward with bated breath on the dangers of the streets late at
night, and her narrow escape from arrest. We came to New York unsated and
without responsibilities to push us, and looked from the outside in.

"No, Barbara, you did better than you knew that day six years ago, when
we sat in the Somerset garden, and you persuaded me to become a commuter
and let you plant a garden, promising never to talk about servants, and
you've kept your word. I was dubious then, but now--if you only knew the
tragedies I've seen among men of my means and aims these last few years,
the struggle to be in the swim, or rather the backwater of it. The
disappointment, the debt and despair, the pink teas and blue dinners
given in cramped flats, the good fellows afraid to say no to wives whose
hearts are set on being thought 'in it,' and the wives, haggard and
hollow-eyed because the husbands wish to keep the pace by joining clubs
that are supposedly the hall-marks of the millionnaire. New York is the
best place for doing everything in but three--to be born in, to live in,
and to die in."

"So you wish us to play bachelor girl and man for a few days, and herd
Miss Lavinia about, which I suppose is the pith of these heroics of
yours," I said, rather astonished, for Evan seldom preaches. "I never
knew that you were such an anti-whirlpooler before, and I've at times
felt selfish about keeping you at the old home, though not since the boys
came, it's so healthy for them, bless them. Now I feel quite relieved,"
and I arranged a little crisp curl that will break loose in spite of
persistent wetting, for men always seem to discourage curly hair, father
keeping his shorn like a prize-fighter. This curl softens the rigour of
Evan's horseshoe scowl, and when I fix it gives him a chance to put his
arm around my waist, which is the only satisfactory way of discussing
plans for a pleasure trip.

We arrived in town duly a little before dinner time. It is one of Evan's
comfortable travelling habits, this always arriving at a new place at the
end of day, so as to get the bearings and be adjusted when we awake next
morning. To arrive in the morning, when paying a visit especially, is
reversing the natural order of things; you are absent-minded until lunch,
sleepy all the afternoon, dyspeptic at dinner, when, like as not, some
one you have wholly forgotten or hoped to is asked to meet you. If the
theatre follows, you recuperate, but if it is cards (of which I must have
a prenatal hatred, it is so intense) with the apology, "I thought you
might be tired and prefer a cosey game of whist to going out," you trump
your partner's tricks, lead the short suits and mix clubs and spades with
equal oblivion, and, finally, going to bed, leave a bad impression behind
that causes your hostess to say, strictly to herself, if she is
charitable, "How Barbara has deteriorated; she used to be a good talker,
but then, poor dear, living in the country is _so_ narrowing."

Of course if you merely go away to spend the day it is different; you
generally keep on the move and go home to recover from it. And how men
usually hate staying in other people's houses, no matter how wide they
keep their doors open or how hospitably inclined they may be themselves.
They seem to be self-conscious, and are constrained to alter their
ordinary habits, which makes them miserable and feel as if they had given
up their free will and identity. There are only two places that I ever
dream of taking Evan, and Lavinia Dorman's is one of them.

When we had made ourselves smart for dinner and joined Miss Lavinia by
the fire in her tiny library, we read by her hair that she was evidently
intending to stay at home that evening, for her head has its nodes like
the moon. She has naturally pretty, soft wavy hair, with now and then a
silver streak running through it. I have often seen Lucy when she brushes
it out at night. But because there is a dash of white in the front as if
a powder puff had rested there a moment by accident, it is screwed into a
little knob and covered with skilfully made yet perfectly apparent
frontlets to represent the different styles of hair-dressing affected by
women of abundant locks.

No. 1, worn at breakfast, is the most reasonable. It is quite plain,
slightly waved, and has a few stray hairs carelessly curved where it
joins the forehead. No. 2 is for rainy weather; the curls are fuzzy and
evidently baked in; it requires a durable veil to keep it in
countenance. Evan calls it the "rasher of bacon front." No. 3 is for
calling and all entertainments where the bonnet stays on; it has a baby
bang edge a trifle curled and a substantial cushion atop to hold the hat
pins; while No. 4, the one she wore on our arrival, is an elaborate
evening toupie with a pompadour rolling over on itself and drooping
slightly over one eye while it melts into a butterfly bow and handful of
puffs on the crown that in turn end in a single curl behind.

We had a dainty little dinner, grape fruit, clear soup, smelts, wild
duck, salad, fruit, and coffee, and it was daintily served, for Miss
Lavinia always keeps a good cook and remembers our dislike of the various
forms of hash known as entrees.

The coffee was placed on a low mahogany stand by the library fire, and
Miss Lavinia herself handed Evan a quaint little silver lamp by which to
light his cigar, for she has all the cosmopolitan instincts of a woman
who not only knows the world but had heard her father discuss tobacco,
and really enjoyed the soothing fragrance of a good cigar.

As soon as we were settled and poor singed Josephus had tiptoed in by
the fire, evidently trying to make up for his shabby coat by the
profundity of his purr, Evan set forth his scheme to our hostess. We
were to lodge and breakfast with her, but after that she was to play our
way, and be at our disposal morning, afternoon, and evening, at
luncheon, dinner, and supper, and the game was to be the old-fashioned
one of "follow the leader!"

At first Miss Lavinia hesitated regretfully, it seemed so
inhospitable,--she had thought to take us to several parlour concerts.
Mrs. Vanderdonk, she that was a De Leyster, was going to throw open her
picture gallery for charity, which would give us an opportunity to see
her new house. In fact the undertow of the Whirlpool was still pulling at
her ankles, even though she had freed her head, and it seemed impossible
to her that there could be any New York other than the one she knew.

Finally her almost girlish vitality asserted itself, and bargaining that
we should allow her one evening to have Sylvia Latham to dinner, she
surrendered.

"Then we will begin at once by going to the theatre," said Evan, jumping
up and looking at the clock, which pointed at a few minutes of eight.

"Have you tickets? Isn't this a little sudden?" asked Miss Lavinia with a
little gasp, evidently remembering that her hair was arranged for the
house only.

"No, I have no tickets, but Barbara and I always go in this way, and if
we cannot get in at one place we try another, for usually some good seats
are returned from the outside ticket offices a few minutes before the
play begins. The downtown theatres open the earliest, so we can start
near by and work our way upward, if necessary."

To my surprise in five minutes Miss Lavinia was ready, and we sallied
forth, Evan sandwiched between us. As the old Dorman house is in the
northeastern corner of what was far away Greenwich Village,--at the
time-the Bouerie was a blooming orchard, and is meshed in by a curious
jumble of thoroughfares, that must have originally either followed the
tracks of wandering cattle or worthy citizens who had lost their
bearings, for Waverley Place comes to an untimely end in West Eleventh
Street, and Fourth Street collides with Horatio and is headed off by
Thirteenth Street before it has a chance even to catch a glimpse of the
river,--a few steps brought us into Fourteenth Street, where naming
gas-jets announced that the play of "Jim Bludso" might be seen.

"Dear me!" ejaculated Miss Lavinia, "do people still go to this theatre?
The last time I came here it was in the seventies to see Mrs. Rousby as
Rosalind."

When we took our seats the play, founded, as the bill informed us,
upon one of the Pike County Ballads, had begun, and Miss Lavinia soon
became absorbed.

It is a great deal to be surrounded by an audience all thoroughly in the
mood to be swayed by the emotion of the piece, plain people, perhaps, but
solidly honest. Directly in front sat a young couple; the girl, in a
fresh white silk waist, wore so fat and new a wedding ring upon her
ungloved hand, which the man held in a tight grip, that I surmised that
this trip into stageland was perhaps their humble wedding journey, from
which they would return to "rooms" made ready by jubilant relatives, eat
a wonderful supper, and begin life.

The next couple were not so entirely _en rapport_. The girl, who wore
a gorgeous garnet engagement ring, also very new, merely rested her
hand on her lover's coat sleeve where she could see the light play
upon the stones.

When, after the first act, in answer to hearty rounds of applause, varied
with whistles and shouts from the gallery, the characters stepped
forward, not in the unnatural string usual in more genteel play-houses,
where victor and vanquished join hands and bow, but one by one, each
being greeted by cheers, hisses, or groans, according to the part, and
when the villain appeared I found myself groaning with the rest, and
though Evan laughed, I know he understood.

After it was over, as we went out into the night, Evan headed toward
Sixth Avenue instead of homeward.

"May I ask where we are going now?" said Miss Lavinia, meekly. She had
really enjoyed the play, and I know I heard her sniff once or twice at
the proper time, though of course I pretended not to.

"Going?" echoed Evan. "Only around the corner to get three fries in a
box, with the usual pickle and cracker trimmings, there being no
restaurant close by that you would care for; then we will carry them home
and have a little supper in the pantry, if your Lucy has not locked up
the forks and taken the key to bed. If she has, we can use wooden
toothpicks."

At first Miss Lavinia seemed to feel guilty at the idea of disturbing
Lucy's immaculate pantry at such an hour; but liberty is highly
infectious. She had spent the evening out without previous intent; the
next step was to feel that her soul was her own on her return. She
unlocked the forks, Evan unpacked the upstairs ice-chest for the dog's
head bass that wise women always have when they expect visiting
Englishmen, even though they are transplanted and acclimated ones, and
she ate the oysters, still steaming from their original package, with
great satisfaction. After we had finished Miss Lavinia bravely declared
her independence of Lucy. The happy don't-care feeling produced by
broiled oysters and bass on a cold night is a perfect revelation to
people used to after-theatre suppers composed of complications, sticky
sweets, and champagne.

When we had finished I thought for a moment that she showed a desire to
conceal the invasion by washing the dishes, but she put it aside, and we
all went upstairs together.

A little shopping being in order, Evan took himself off in the morning,
leaving Miss Lavinia and me to prowl, after we had promised to meet him
at a downtown restaurant at one.

Little boys are delightful things to shop for,--there is no matching this
and that, no getting a yard too much or too little, everything is
substantial and straight away, and all you have to do when the bundles
are sent home by express is to strengthen the sewing on of buttons and
reinforce the seats and knees of everyday pantikins from the inside.

We strolled about slowly, and at half past one were quite ready to sit
still and not only eat our lunch but watch business mankind eat his. If
any one wishes to feel the clutch and motive power of the Whirlpool let
him go to the Mazarin any time between twelve-thirty and two o'clock. The
streets themselves are surging with men, all hurrying first in one
direction, then another, until it seems as if there either must be a fire
somewhere, or else a riot afoot. The doors of the restaurant open and
shut incessantly, corks pop, knives and forks rattle, everything is being
served from a sandwich and a glass of beer to an elaborate repast with a
wine to every course, while through and above it all the stress of
business is felt. Of course the great financiers usually have luncheon
served in their offices, to save them from the crowd; besides, it might
give common humanity a chance to scrutinize their countenances, and
perchance read what they thought upon some question of moment, for it
sometimes seems as if the eye of the New York journalist has X-ray power.
On the other hand, the humbler grade, with less of either time or money
to spare, go to the "quick lunch" counters and "dime-in-the-slot"
sandwich concerns; yet Evan says that the gathering at the Mazarin is
fairly representative.

Miss Lavinia was bewildered. Her downtown visits to her broker's office
were always made in a cab, with Lucy to stay in it as a preventative of
the driver's taking a sly glass or a thief snatching her lap-robe--she
never uses public carriage rugs. She clung to the obsolete idea that Wall
Street was no place for women, and saw, as in a dream, the daintily
dressed stenographers, bookkeepers, and confidential clerks mingling with
the trousered ranks in the street, not to mention the damsels in tidy
shirtwaists, with carefully undulated hair and pointed, polished finger
nails, who were lunching at near-by tables, sometimes seemingly with
their employers as well as with other male or female friends.

"I wonder how much of all this is bad for uptown home life?" Miss Lavinia
queried, gazing around the room; but as she did not address either of us
in particular, we did not answer, as we did not know,--who does?

A spare half-hour before closing time we gave to the Stock Exchange, and
it was quite enough, for some one was short on something, and pandemonium
reigned. As we stood on the corner of Rector Street and Broadway,
hesitating whether to take surface or elevated cars, faint strains of
organ music from Trinity attracted us.

"Service or choir practice; let us go in a few moments," said Evan, to
whom the organ is a voice that never fails to draw.  We took seats far
back, and lost ourselves among the shadows. A special service was in
progress, the music half Gregorian, and the congregation was too
scattered to mar the feeling that we had slipped suddenly out of the
material world. The shadows of the sparrows outside flitted upward on the
stained glass windows, until it seemed as if the great chords had broken
free and taking form were trying to escape.

Now and then the door would open softly and unaccustomed figures slip in
and linger in the open space behind the pews. Aliens, newly landed and
wandering about in the vicinity of their water-front lodging-houses,
music and a church appealed to their loneliness. Some stood, heads bowed,
and some knelt in prayer and crossed themselves on leaving; one woman,
lugging a great bundle tied in a blue cloth, a baby on her arm and
another clinging to her skirts, put down her load, bedded the baby upon
it, and began to tell her beads.

The service ended, and the people scattered, but the organist played on,
and the boy choir regathered, but less formally.

"What is it?" we asked of the verger, who was preparing to close
the doors.

"There will be a funeral of one of the oldest members of the
congregation to-morrow, and they are about to go through the music of
the office."

Suddenly a rich bass voice, strong in conviction, trumpeted forth--"I am
the resurrection and the life!" And only a stone's throw away jingled the
money market of the western world. The temple and the table of the money
changers keep step as of old. Ah, wonderful New York!

       *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon was clear staccato and mild withal, and the sun, almost at
setting, lingered above orange and dim cloud banks at the end of the
vista Broadway made.

"Are you tired? Can you walk half a dozen blocks?" asked Evan of Miss
Lavinia, as we came out.

"No, quite the reverse; I think that I am electrified," she
replied briskly.

"Then we will go to Battery Park," he said, turning south.

"Battery Park, where all the immigrants and roughs congregate! What an
idea! We shall catch smallpox or have our pockets picked!"

"Have you ever _been_ there?" persisted Evan.

"Yes, once, I think, when steamship passengers lathed at the barge
office, and of course I've seen it often in going to Staten Island to
visit Cousin Lucretia."

Evan's only reply was to keep on walking. We did not cross the "bowling
green," but swung to the right toward Pier I, and took the path between
old Castle Garden and the sea wall at the point where one of the fire
patrol boats was resting, steam up and hose nozzles pointed, lance
couchant wise.

Ah, what a picture! No wonder Miss Lavinia adjusted her glasses quickly
(she is blindly nearsighted), caught her breath, and clung to Evan's arm
as the fresh sea breeze coming up from the Narrows wheeled her about.
Before us Staten Island divided the water left and right, while between
it and the Long Island shore, just leaving quarantine and dwarfing the
smaller craft, an ocean liner, glistening with ice, was coming on in
majestic haste. All about little tugs puffed and snorted, and freighters
passed crosswise, parting the floating ice and churning it with their
paddles, scarcely disturbing the gulls, that flew so close above the
water that their wings touched, or floated at leisure.

The sun that had been gilding everything from masthead to floating spar
gathered in its forces, and for one moment seemed to rest upon Liberty's
torch, throwing the statue into clear relief, and then dropped rapidly
behind the river's night-cloud bank, and presently lights began to
glimmer far and near, the night breath rose from the water, and the
wave-cradled gulls slept.

"Do you like our New York?" asked Evan, turning to go.

"Don't speak," whispered Miss Lavinia, hanging back.

But we were no sooner on the elevated train than she found use for her
tongue, for whose feet should I stumble over on entering, quite big feet
too, or rather shoes, for the size of the man, but Martin Cortright's,
and of course he was duly presented to Miss Lavinia.




V

FEBRUARY VIOLETS


That night Miss Lavinia was forced to ask "for time for 'forty winks'"
before she could even think of dinner, and Evan and I sat them out in the
deep, hospitable chairs by the library fire. We were not tired, simply
held in check; country vitality shut off from certain ways for six months
is not quickly exhausted, but, on the other hand, when it is spent, it
takes several months to recuperate.

The first night that I leave home for these little excursions I have a
sense of virtue and simmering self-congratulation. I feel that I am doing
a sensible thing in making a break from what the theorists call "the
narrowing evenness of domestic existence." Of course it is a good thing
for me to leave father and the boys, and see and hear something new to
take back report of to them; it is better for them to be taught
appreciation of me by absence; change is beneficial to every one, etc.,
etc., and all that jargon.

The second night I am still true to the theory, but am convinced that to
the highly imaginative, a city day and its doings may appear like the
Biblical idea of eternity--reversed--"a thousand years."  The third
night I am painfully sure of this, and if I remain away over a fourth,
which is very rare, I cast the whole theory out to the winds of
scepticism, and am so restless and disagreeable that Evan usually
suggests that I take a morning train home and do not wait for him, which
is exactly the responsibility that I wish him to assume, thus saving me
from absolute surrender.

We always have a good time on our outings, and yet after each the
pleasure of return grows keener, so that occasionally Evan remonstrates
and says: "Sometimes I cannot understand your attitude; you appear to
enjoy every moment keenly, and yet when you go home you act as if you had
mercifully escaped from a prison that necessitated going through a sort
of thanksgiving ceremony. It seems very irrational."

But when I ask him if it would be more rational to be sorry to come home,
he does not answer,--at least not in words.

"Where do we dine to-night?" I asked Evan, as he was giving unmistakable
signs of "meditation," and I heard by the footsteps overhead that Miss
Lavinia was stirring.

"At the Art and Nature Club. You can dress as much or as little as you
please, and we can get a table in a cosey corner, and afterward sit about
upstairs for an hour, for there will be music to-night. I have asked
Martin Cortright to join us. It has its interesting side, this--a
transplanted Englishman married to a country girl introducing old
bred-in-the-bone New Yorkers to New Manhattan."

When I go to town my costuming consists merely in change of waists, as
street and public conveyances alike are a perpetual menace to one's best
petticoats, so in a few moments we were on our way uptown.

We did not tell Miss Lavinia where we were going until we were almost
there, and she was quite upset, as dining at the two or three hotels and
other places affected by the Whirlpoolers implies a careful and special
toilet to run the gantlet of society reporters, for every one is somebody
in one sense, though in another "nobody is really any one."

She was reassured, however, the moment that she drew her high-backed oak
chair up to the table that Evan had reserved in a little alcove near the
fireplace. Before the oysters arrived, and Martin Cortright appeared to
fill the fourth seat, she had completely relaxed, and was beaming at the
brass jugs and pottery beakers ranged along a shelf above the dark
wainscot, and at the general company, while the warmth from the fire logs
gave her really a very pretty colour, and she began to question Martin as
to who all these people, indicating the rapidly filling-up tables, were.
But Martin gazed serenely about and confessed he did not know.

The people came singly, or in twos and threes, men and women together or
alone, a fact at which Miss Lavinia greatly marvelled. Greetings were
exchanged, and there was much visiting from table to table, as if the
footing was that of a private house.

"Nice-looking people," said Miss Lavinia, meditatively scrutinizing the
room through her lorgnette without a trace of snobbery in her voice or
attitude, yet I was aware that she was mentally drawing herself apart.
"Some of them quite unusual, but there is not a face here that I ever saw
in society. Are they members of the Club? Where do they come from? Where
do they live?"

Evan's lips shut together a moment before he answered, and I saw a
certain steely gleam in his eye that I always regarded as a danger
signal.

"Perhaps they might ask the same questions about you," he answered;
"though they are not likely to, their world is so much broader. They are
men and women chiefly having an inspiration, an art or craft, or some
vital reason for living besides the mere fact that it has become a habit.
They are none of them rich enough to be disagreeable or feel that they
own the right to trample on their fellows. They all live either in or
near New York, as best suits their means, vocations, and temperaments.
Men and women together, they represent, as well as a gathering can, the
hopeful spirit of our New York of New Manhattan that does not grovel to
mere money power."

Miss Lavinia seemed a little abashed, but Martin Cortright, who had been
a silent observer until now, said: "It surprises me to see fraternity of
this sort in the midst of so many institutions of specialized
exclusiveness and the decadence of clubs, that used to be veritable
brotherhoods, by unwise expansion. I like the general atmosphere, it
seems cheerful and, if one may blend the terms, conservatively Bohemian."

"Come upstairs before the music begins, so that we can get comfortably
settled in the background, that I may tell you who some of these
'unknown-to-Whirlpool-society' people are. You may be surprised," said
Evan to Miss Lavinia, who had by this time finished her coffee.

The rooms were cheerful with artistic simplicity. The piano had been
moved from the lounging room into the picture gallery opposite to where a
fine stained glass window was exhibited, backed by electric lights.

We stowed ourselves away in a deep seat, shaped something like an
old-fashioned school form, backed and cushioned with leather, to watch
the audience gather. Every phase of dress was present, from the ball gown
to the rainy weather skirt, and enough of each grade to keep one another
in countenance. About half the men wore evening suits, but those who did
not were completely at their ease.

There was no regular ushering to seats, but every one was placed
easily and naturally. Evan, who had Miss Lavinia in charge, was
alert, and rather, it seemed to me, on the defensive; but though
Martin asked questions, he was comfortably soothing, and seemed to
take in much at a glance.

That short man with the fine head, white hair and beard, aquiline nose,
and intense eyes is not only a poet, but the first American critic of
pure literature. He lives out of town, but comes to the city daily for a
certain stimulus. The petite woman with the pretty colour who has crossed
the room to speak to him is the best known writer of New England romance.
That shy-looking fellow standing against the curtain at your right, with
the brown mustache and broad forehead, is the New England sculptor whose
forcible creations are known everywhere, yet he is almost shrinkingly
modest, and he never, it seems, even in thought, has broken the
injunction of "Let another praise thee, not thine own lips."

Half a dozen promising painters are standing in the doorway talking to a
young woman who, beginning with newspaper work, has stepped suddenly into
a niche of fiction. The tall, loose-jointed man at the left of the group,
the editor of a conservative monthly, has for his vis-a-vis the artist
who has had so much to do with the redemption of American architecture
and decoration from the mongrel period of the middle century. Another
night you may not see a single one of these faces, but another set, yet
equally interesting.

Meanwhile Martin Cortright had discovered a man, a financier and also a
book collector of prominence, who was reputed to have a complete set of
some early records that he had long wished to consult; he had never found
a suitable time for meeting him, as the man, owing to having been
oftentime the prey of both unscrupulous dealers and parasitic friends,
was esteemed difficult.

Infected by the freedom of his surroundings, Martin plucked up courage
and spoke to him, the result being an interchange of cards, book talk,
and an invitation to visit the library.

Then the music began, and lasted not above an hour, with breathing and
chatting intervals, followed by claret cup and lemonade. A pleasant
evening's recreation, with no opportunity of accumulating the material
for either mental or physical headache.

The night air was very soft, but of that delusive quality that in
February portends snow, and not the return of bluebirds, as the
uninitiated might expect. Miss Lavinia was fascinated by the lights and
motion of Herald Square, and at her suggestion, it being but a little
past ten, we strolled homeward down Broadway instead of taking a car. Her
delight at the crowd of promenaders, the picturesque florists' shops, and
the general buzz of night life was almost pathetic. Her after-dark
experience having been to get to and from specified places as quickly as
possible with Lucy for escort, solicitous when in a street car lest they
should pass their destination, and trembling even more when in a cab lest
the driver should have committed the variable and expansive crime of
"taking something." She bought a "ten o'clock edition" of the _Telegram_,
some of "Match Mary's" wares, that perennially middle-aged woman who
haunts the theatre region, and suggested that we have ice-cream soda at a
particularly glittering drug store, but this desire was switched into hot
bouillon by Evan, who retains the Englishman's dislike of chilling his
internals.

New York is really a fine city by night, that is, in parts at least, and
yet it is very strange how comparatively few of the rank and file of its
inhabitants walk abroad to see the spectacle.

By lamplight the scars and wounds of subways appear less vivid, and the
perpetual skeleton of the skyscraper merges in its background. The
occasional good bit of architecture steps out boldly from the surrounding
shadows of daylight discouragement. City life does not seem to be such an
exhausting struggle, and even the "misery wagons," as I always call
ambulances to myself, look less dreary with the blinking light fore and
aft, for you cannot go far in New York without feeling the pitying thrill
of their gongs.

After the brightness of Broadway the side streets seemed cavernous. As we
turned westward and crossed Sixth Avenue a dark figure, outlined full
length against the blazing window of a corner liquor saloon, lined with
mirrors, in some way fixed my attention. It was a woman's figure, slight,
and a little crouching. The hat was gay and set on puffy hair, the jacket
brave with lace, but the skirt was frayed where it lapped the pavement,
and the boot that was pushed from beneath it, as if to steady a swaying
frame, was thin and broken. I do not know why I looked back after I had
passed, but as I did so, I saw the girl, for she was little more, pull a
scrap of chamois from a little bag she carried and quickly rub rouge upon
her hollow cheeks, using the saloon mirror for a toilet glass. But when I
saw the face itself I stopped short, giving Evan's arm such a tug that he
also turned.

The woman was Jennie, the Oakland baker's only daughter, who had no lack
of country beaus, but was flattered by the attentions of one of the
Jenks-Smith's butlers, whose irreproachable manners of the
count-in-disguise variety made the native youths appear indeed uncouth.
She grew discontented, thought it beneath her social position to help her
mother in the shop, and went to town to work in a store, it was said
until her wedding, which was to be that autumn. Father worried over her
and tried to advise, but to no purpose. This was more than two years ago.
The butler left the Jenks-Smith's, and we heard that he was a married
man, with a family who had come to look him up.

Jennie's mother said she had a fine place in a store, and showed us, from
time to time, presents the girl had sent her, so thus to find the truth
was a shock indeed. Not but what all women who are grown must bear upon
them the weight of the general knowledge of evil, but it is none the
less awful to come face to face on a street corner with one who was the
pretty village girl, whom you last saw standing behind the neat counter
with a pitcher of honeysuckles at her elbow as she filled a bag with
sugar cookies for your clamouring babies.

       *       *       *       *       *

I suppose that I must have exclaimed aloud, for Jennie started back and
saw us, then dropped her bag and began to grope about for it as if she
was in a dream.

"Can't we do something?" I whispered to Evan, but he only gravely
shook his head.

"Give her this for the boys' sake," I begged, fumbling in his change
pocket and finding a bill there. "Tell her it's home money from the
Doctor's daughter--and--to go home--or--buy--a--pair of shoes."

At first I thought she was not going to take it; but having found her bag
she straightened herself a moment, and without looking at Evan gave me a
glance, half defiant, half beseeching, grasped the money almost fiercely,
and scuttled away in the darkness, and I found that I was crying. But
Evan understood,--he always does,--and I hope that if the boys read this
little book fifteen or twenty years hence, that they will also.

[Illustration: FEBRUARY VIOLETS.]

As we reached the door the first snowflakes fell. Poor Jennie!

       *       *       *       *       *

The third day of our stay began in country quiet. In fact we did not wake
up until eight; everything was snowbound, and even the occasional horse
cars that pass the front of the house had ceased their primitive
tinkling. The milkman did not come, neither did the long crispy French
rolls, a New York breakfast institution for which the commuters
confessedly have no substitute, and it was after nine before breakfast
was served.

Evan, who had disappeared, returned at the right moment with his
newspaper and two bulky tissue paper bundles all powdered with snow, one
of which he gave to Miss Lavinia, the other to me. I knew their contents
the moment I set eyes on them, and yet it was none the less a
heart-warming surprise.

Down in a near-by market is a little florist's shop, so small that one
might pass twenty times without noticing it; the man, a local authority,
who has kept it for years, makes a specialty of the great long-stemmed
single violets, whose fleeting fragrance no words may express. They call
them Californias now, but they are evidently the opulent kin of those
sturdy, dark-eyed Russian violets of my mother's garden, and as they mean
more than any other flower to me, Evan always brings them to me when I
come to town. This morning he trudged out in the snow, hardly thinking
this man would have any, but by mere chance the grower, suspecting snow,
brought in his crop the night before, and in spite of the storm I had the
first morning breath of these flowers of a day.

Miss Lavinia sniffed and sighed, and then buried her aristocratic, but
rather chilly, nose in the mass. "I feel like a young girl with her first
bouquet," she said presently.

"Ah, how good it is to be given something with a meaning. Most people
think that to be able to buy what they wish, within reason, is perfect
happiness, but it isn't. Barbara, you and this man of yours quite
unsettle me and shake my pet theories. You show sides of things in my own
birthplace that I never dreamed of looking up, and you convince me, when
I am on the wane, that married friendship is the only thing worth living
for. It's too bad of you, but fortunately for me the notion passes off
after you have gone away," and Miss Lavinia, after loving her violets a
bit longer, put them in a chubby jug of richly chased old silver.  After
breakfast we tried to coax her to bundle up and come with us to
Washington Square to see the crystal trees in all their beauty; but that
was too unorthodox a feat. To plough through snow in rubber boots in the
very heart of the city was entirely too radical a move. She knew people
about the square, and I suppose did not wish to be seen by them, so she
was obliged to content herself with sight of the snow draperies and ice
jewels that decked the trees and shrubs of the doomed back yard.

Even though the storm called a halt in our plans for Miss Lavinia,
Evan and I had a little errand of our own, our annual pilgrimage to
see the auction room where we first met that February afternoon. The
room is not there now, to be sure, but we go to see it all the same,
and have our little thrill and buy something near the place to take
home to the boys, and we shall continue to come each year unless
public improvement causes the thoroughfare itself to be hung up in the
sky, which is quite possible.

Then Evan went down town, and I returned to lunch with Miss Lavinia, for,
if possible, we were to call on Sylvia Latham and ask her to dinner on
the morrow, the last day of our stay. Miss Lavinia proposed to invite
Sylvia to spend the night also, that we might become acquainted upon a
basis less formal than a mere dinner.

Shortly after three o'clock we started in a coupe with two stout horses
driven by a man above suspicion of having "taken anything," at least at
the start. It is a curious fact that eight or ten inches of damp snow
can so nearly paralyze the transportation facilities of a city like New
York, but such is the case. The elevated rails become slippery, the
wheels will not grip, and the entire wheel traffic of the streets
betakes itself to the tracks of the surface lines, where trolley, truck,
and private carriage all move along solemnly in a strange procession,
like a funeral I once saw outside of Paris, where the hearse was
followed by two finely draped carriages, then by the business wagon of
the deceased, filled with employees, the draperies on this arranged so
as not to disturb the sign,--he kept a patisserie,--while a donkey cart,
belonging to the market garden that supplied the deceased with
vegetables, brought up the rear.

In the middle and lower parts of New York the streets and their life
dominate the houses; on the east side of the park the houses dominate the
streets, and the flunkies, whose duty it is either to let you in or
preferably to keep you out of these houses, control the entire
situation. I may in the course of time come to respect or even like some
of these mariners of the Whirlpool, but as a class their servants are
wholly and unendurably objectionable, and the sum of all that is most
aggravating.

The house faced the park. A carpet was spread down the steps, but we
could not conjecture if it was an ordinary custom in bad weather, or if
some function was afoot. Evidently the latter, as I had barely touched
the bell when the door flew open. Two liveried attendants were within,
one turned the door knob and the other presented his tray for the cards,
while in the distance a third, wearing the dress of a butler or
majordomo, stood by closed portieres.

We had asked for Mrs. and Miss Latham, and evidently the combination
caused confusion. No. 1 remained by the front door, No. 2, after a
moment's hesitation, motioned us to seats near the fireplace in the great
reception hall, a room by itself, wainscoted with carved oak, that also
formed the banisters and the railing of a sort of balcony above, while
the walls were hung with rich-hued tapestries, whose colours were
revealed by quaint shield-shaped electroliers of gilded glass. Man No. 3
disappeared within the portieres bearing our cards. In a moment he
reappeared, drew them apart, and stood aside as his mistress swept out,
the same cold blond woman I had seen in the market, but now most
exquisitely clad in a pale gray gown of crepe embroidered with silver
fern fronds and held at the neck by a deep collar of splendid pearls,
pearl rings alone upon her hands, in her hair a spray of silver mistletoe
with pearls for berries. She made an exquisite picture as she advanced
swiftly to meet us, a half smile on her lips and one pink-tipped hand
extended. I love to look at beautiful women, yet the sight of her gave me
a sort of Undine shiver.

"Dear Miss Dorman, so glad to see you, and Mrs. Evan of Oaklands also. I
have seen, but never met you, I believe," she said, giving us her hand in
turn. "I must ask you to the library, (Perkins, Miss Sylvia," she said in
an aside to No. 2, who immediately vanished upstairs,) "and then excuse
myself regretfully, for this is my afternoon for 'bridge,' as Monty Bell
and a friend or two of his are good enough to promise to come and give us
hints. Monty is so useful, you know, and so good-natured. I think you
knew his mother, didn't you, Miss Lavinia? No, Sylvia is not to play; she
is not up enough for 'bridge.' I wish you could persuade her to take
lessons and an interest in the game, for when Lent begins she will be
horribly bored, for there will be a game somewhere every day, and
sometimes two and three, and she will be quite out of it, which is very
ill-advised for a girl in her first winter, and especially when she
starts as late as Sylvia. I'm afraid that I shall have to take her south
to wake her up, and that is not in my schedule this season, I've so much
to oversee at my Oaklands cottage.

"It is a very cold afternoon for you to have come so far, dear Miss
Lavinia; a cup of tea or something? No? Ah, here comes Sylvia, and I know
you will forgive me for going," and Mrs. Latham glided away with a glance
toward the stairs. She evidently was in a desperate hurry to return to
her guests, and yet she spoke slowly, with that delightful southern
deliberation that suits women with pretty mouths so well, and still as I
felt her eyes upon me I knew that to move her in any way against her own
will would be impossible, and that she could never love anything but
herself, and never would.

I did not look at Miss Lavinia in the brief moment before Sylvia entered,
for we were both too well bred to criticise a woman in her own house,
even with our eyes, which had they met would have been inevitable.

At first Sylvia only saw Miss Lavinia, and gathered her into her arms
spontaneously, as if she were the elder, as she was by far the bigger of
the two. Then seeing me, the cards not having been sent up, she
hesitated a moment, colouring shyly, as a girl of sixteen might, and then
straightway greeted me without embarrassment. As we laid aside our wraps
and seated ourselves in a sort of cosey corner nook deep with pillows,
and fur rugs nestling about the feet, I drew my first comfortable breath
since entering, and as Miss Lavinia naturally took the lead in the
conversation, giving her invitation for the next night, I had ample time
to study Sylvia. She was fine looking rather than handsome, a warm
brunette with copper glints threading her brown hair, thick curved
lashes, big brown eyes, a good straight nose, and a decidedly humorous,
but not small mouth, with lips that curled back from even teeth, while
her whole face was punctuated and made winningly feminine by a deep
dimple in the chin and a couple of vagrant ones that played about her
mouth corners when she spoke, as she always did, looking directly at one.

Her hands were long and well shaped, not small, but competent looking, a
great contrast to her mother's, as well as to Miss Lavinia's, that could
slip easily into a five-and-a-half glove. She wore a graceful afternoon
gown of pale blue with lace butterflies on the blouse and skirt, held in
at waist and neck by enamelled butterfly buckles. She moved gracefully,
and had a strong individuality, a warmth of nature that contrasted
keenly with the statuesque perfection of her mother, and I fell to
wondering what her father was like, and if she resembled him.

"Not yet, not until late spring," I heard her say in answer to Miss
Lavinia's question as to whether her father had returned from his
Japan tour.

"He is detained by railway business in San Francisco, and cannot go
farther north to settle it until winter breaks. I've written him to ask
leave to join him and perhaps stop awhile at Los Angeles and go up to see
my brother on his Wyoming ranch in May. I do so hope he will let me. I've
tried to coax mamma to go too, she has had such a wearing life this
winter in trying to make it pleasant for me and introduce me to her
friends. I wish I could tell her exactly how much I should prefer to be
more alone with her. I do not want her to think me ungrateful, but to go
out with her to father and pay dear old Carthy a visit would be simply
splendid."

Then turning to me she said, I thought with a little quiver in her
voice, "They tell me you live with your father, Mrs. Evan--even though
you are married, and I have not seen mine for more than two years, only
think of it!"

Whereat my heart went out to her, and I prayed mentally that her father
might have a broad warm shoulder to pillow her head and a ready ear to
hear her confidences, for the perfectly rounded neck and shell ear of
the mother playing cards in the next room would never give harbour or
heed, I knew.

Sylvia was as pleased as a child at the idea of coming down to spend the
night, stipulating that if it was still cold she should be allowed to
make taffy and put it on the shed to harden, saying, with a pout: "At
school and college there was always somewhere that I could mess with
sticky things and cook, but here it is impossible, though mamma says I
shall have an outdoor tea-room at the Oaklands all to myself, and give
chafing-dish parties, for they are quite the thing. 'The thing' is my
boogy man, I'm afraid. If what you wish to do, no matter how silly,
agrees with it, it's all right, but if it doesn't, all the wisdom of
Solomon won't prevail against those two words."

Man No. 2 at this juncture came in and presented a florist's box and
envelope in a tray, saying, _sotto voce,_ as he did so, "Shall I hopen it
and arrange them, miss, or will you wear them?" for, as the result of
lavish entertaining and many hothouses as well as friends, flowers
showered upon the Latham house at all hours, and both library and hall
were almost too fragrant.  Sylvia glanced at the note, saying, "I will
wear them," to the man, handed the card to Miss Lavinia, her face
flushing with pleasure, while No. 2 extracted a modest bunch of
California violets from the paper, handed them to his young mistress, and
retired with the box on his tray.

The name on the card was Horace Bradford, the pencilled address
University Club, on the reverse were the words, "May I give myself the
pleasure of calling to-morrow night? These February violets are in
remembrance of a May ducking. Am in town for two days only on college
business."

"The day that he rowed us on the Avon and reached too far up the bank to
pick you wild violets and the boat shot ahead and he fell into the
water," laughed Miss Lavinia, as pleased as Sylvia at the recollection.

"But I am going to you to-morrow evening," said Sylvia, ruefully at
thought of missing a friend, but quite heart-free, as Miss Lavinia saw.

"Let me take the card, and I will ask him to dinner also," said the
dear, comfortable, prim soul, who was still bubbling over with love of
youth, "and Barbara shall ask her adopted uncle Cortright to keep the
number even."

Time, it seems, had flown rapidly. She had barely slipped the card in
her case when the door opened and No. 3 approached solemnly and
whispered, "Mrs. Latham requests, Miss, as how you will come and pour
tea, likewise bringing the ladies, if _still here_!" How those words
_still here_ smote the silence.

We immediately huddled on our wraps, anxious to be gone and spare Sylvia
possible embarrassment, in spite of her protestations. As No. 2 led the
way to the door a gentleman crossed the hall from the card-room and
greeted Sylvia with easy familiarity. He was about forty, a rather
colourless blonde, with clean shaven face of the type so commonly seen
now that it might belong equally either to footman or master. His eyes
had a slantwise expression, but his dress was immaculate.

Strolling carelessly by the girl's side I heard him say, "I came to see
if you needed coaxing; some of the ladies are green over their losses, so
have a care for your eyes." Then he laughed at the wide-eyed look of
wonder she gave him as he begged a violet for his coat.

But Sylvia drew herself up, full an inch above him, and replied,
decidedly, but with perfect good nature, "No, those violets are a message
from Shakespeare,--one does not give such away."

"That is Monty Bell," said Miss Lavinia, tragically, as soon as the
door closed.

"Is there anything the matter with him except that his colouring is like
a summer squash?" I asked.

"He's been divorced by his wife, and it was her mother that was my
friend, not his, as Mrs. Latham hinted. I know the story; it makes me
shiver to see him near Sylvia." Then Miss Lavinia drew into a shell, in
which she remained until we reached home.

Meanwhile, as we drove in silence, I remembered that Richard's rubber
boots leaked, and I wondered if Martha Corkle would discover it, or if he
was paddling about getting his feet wet and bringing on a sore throat.
But when I got home Evan said he had sent the boots to the bicycle tire
mender's the morning I came away. It was the third night of my stay, and
he would not have known what to make of it if I had not raised some sort
of a ghost.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sidewalks being clear, we dined at the Laurent, giving Miss Lavinia
a resurrection of French cooking, manners, women, ogling, ventilation,
wine, and music. Then we took her, on the way home, to see some horrible
wax figures, listen to a good Hungarian band, and nearly put her eyes
out with a cinematograph show of the Coronation and Indian Durbar.
Finishing up by brewing French chocolate in the pantry and stirring it
with stick bread, and our guest, in her own house, went to bed fairly
giggling in Gallic gayety, declaring that she felt as if she had spent
the evening on the Paris boulevards, that she liked our New York, and
felt ten years younger.




VI

ENTER A MAN


If I weather my fourth day in town I am apt to grow a trifle waspish,
even though I may not be goaded to the stinging point. This is especially
the case if, as on this recent visit, I am obliged to do any shopping for
myself. Personally, I prefer the rapid transit shopping of ordering by
mail, it avoids so many complications. Having made up your mind what you
need, or perhaps, to speak more truthfully, what you want, for one can
hardly be quite content with mere necessities until one grows either so
old or shapeless that everything is equally unbecoming, samples are
forthcoming, from which an intelligent selection can be made without the
demoralizing effect of glib salespeople upon one's judgment.

I know my own shortcomings by heart, and I should never have
deliberately walked into temptation yesterday morning if Lavinia Dorman
had not said that she wished my advice. Last year I went with the
intention of buying substantial blue serge for an outing gown, and was
led astray by some gayly flowered muslins. I have a weakness for gay
colours, especially red. These when made up Evan pronounced "extremely
pretty--in the abstract"--which is his way of saying that a thing is
either unsuitable or very unbecoming. When I went to father, hoping for
consolation, he was even less charitable, remarking that he thought now
long lines were more suitable and graceful for me than bunches and
bowknots. True, the boys admired the most thickly flowered gown
immensely for a few minutes, Richard bringing me a posy to match for my
hair, while Ian walked about me in silence which he broke suddenly with
the trenchant remark--"Barbara, I think your dwess would be prettier if
it was weeded some!"

All of which is of course perfectly true. I have not been growing
thinner all these six years, but this morning, in stooping over one of
the cold frames to see how the plants within had weathered the storm, it
came quite as a shock to me to feel that, like Martin Cortright, I am
getting stout and in the way of myself when I bend, like an impediment
in a door hinge.

However, as Miss Lavinia desired guidance in buying some real country
clothes, I felt it my duty to give it. She is already making elaborate
preparations for her visit to me. It seems strange, that simplicity is
apparently one of the most laborious things in the world to those
unaccustomed to it, yet so it is.

She is about to make her initial venture in shirtwaists, and she
approaches them with as much caution as if she were experimenting with
tights and trunks. The poor little seamstress who is officiating has, to
my certain knowledge, tried one waist on five times, because, as Miss
Lavinia does not "feel it," she thinks it cannot fit properly.

Never mind, she will get over all that, of course. The plan that she has
formed of spending five or six months in the real country must appear
somewhat in the light of a revolution to her, and the preparation of a
special uniform and munitions for the campaign a necessary precaution.
Her present plan is to come to me for May, then, if the life suits her,
she will either take a small house that one of our farmer neighbours
often rents for the summer months, or else, together with her maid, Lucy,
board at one of the hill farms.

I have told her plainly (for what is friendship worth if one may not be
frank) that if after trial we agree with each other, I hope she will
stay with us all the season; but as for her maid, I myself will supply
her place, if need be, and Effie do her mending, for I could not have
Lucy come.

Perhaps it may be very narrow and provincial, but to harbour other
people's servants seems to me like inviting contagion and subjecting
one's kitchen to all the evils of boarding house atmosphere.

I used to think last summer, when I saw the arrival of various men and
maids belonging to guests of the Bluff Colony, that I should feel much
more at ease in the presence of royalty, and that I could probably
entertain Queen Alexandra at dinner with less shock to her nerves and
traditions than one of these ladies' maids or gentlemen's gentlemen.

Martha Corkle expresses her opinion freely upon this subject, and I must
confess to being a willing listener, for she does not gossip, she
portrays, and often with a masterly touch. The woes of her countrywoman,
the Ponsonby's housekeeper, often stir her to the quick. The Ponsonby
household is perhaps one of the most "difficult" on the Bluffs, because
its members are of widely divergent ages. The three Ponsonby girls range
from six to twenty-two, with a college freshman son second from the
beginning, while Josephine, sister of the head of the family, though
quite Miss Lavinia's age, is the gayest of the gay, and almost outdoes
her good-naturedly giddy sister-in-law.

"It's just hawful, Mrs. Evan," Martha said one day, when, judging by the
contents of the station 'bus and baggage wagon, almost the entire
Ponsonby house staff must have left at a swoop; "my eyes fairly bleeds
for poor Mrs. Maggs" (the housekeeper), "that they do. 'Twas bad enough
in the old country, where we knew our places, even though some was
ambitioned to get out of them; but here it's like blind man's buff, and
enough to turn a body giddy. Mrs. Maggs hasn't a sittin' room of her own
where she and the butler and the nurse can have their tea in peace or
entertain guests, but she sets two tables in the servants' hall, and a
pretty time she has of it.

"The kitchen maid and the laundress's assistant wait on the first table;
but one day when, the maid of one of Miss Ponsonby's friends comin' down
over late, she was served _with_ instead o' _by_ them, she gave Mrs.
Maggs the 'orriblest settin' down, as not knowin' her business in puttin'
a lady's lady with servants' servants, the same which Mrs. Maggs does
know perfectly (accidents bein' unpreventable), bein' child of Lord
Peacock's steward and his head nurse, and swallowin' it all in with her
mother's milk, so to speak, not borrowin' it second hand as some of the
great folks on the Bluffs themselves do from their servants, not feelin'
sure of the kerrect thing, yet desirin' so to do. Mrs. Maggs, poor body,
she has more mess with that servants' hall first table than with all the
big dinners the master gives.

"'Mrs. Corkle,' says she, bein' used to that name, besides Corkle bein'
kin to her husband, 'what I sets before my own household, as it were,
they leaves or they eats, it's one to me; but company's got to be handled
different, be it upstairs or down, for the name of the 'ouse, but when
Mr. Jollie, the French valet that comes here frequent with the master's
partner, wants dripped coffee and the fat scraped clean from his chop
shank, else the flavour's spoiled for him, and Bruce the mistress'
brother's man wants boiled coffee, and thick fat left on his breakfast
ham, what stands between my poor 'ead and a h'assleyum? that's what I
wants to know. Three cooks I've had this very season, it really bein' the
duty of the first kitchen maid to cook for the servants' hall; but if a
cook is suited to a kitchen maid, as is most important, she'll stand by
her. No, Martha Corkle, wages is 'igh, no doubt,--fortunes to what they
were when we were gells,--but not 'igh for the worry; and bein' in
service ain't what it were.'"

Then I knew that Martha, even as her bosom heaves over her friend's
grievances, was also sighing with content at thought of Timothy Saunders
and her own lot; and I recalled the Lady of the Bluffs' passing remark,
and felt that I am only beginning to realize the deliciousness of
"comfortable poverty."

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Lavinia and I spent some time browsing among the shops, finally
bringing up at an old conservative dry goods concern in Broadway, the
most satisfactory place to shop in New York, because there is never a
crowd, and the salesmen, many of them grown gray in the service, take an
Old World interest in their wares and in you.

While I was trying to convince Miss Lavinia as to the need of the
serviceable, she was equally determined to decoy me toward the frivolous;
and I yielded, I may say fell, to the extent of buying a white crepey
sort of pattern gown that had an open work white lilac pattern
embroidered on it. It certainly was very lovely, and it is nice to have a
really good gown in reserve, even if a plainer one that will stand
hugging, sticky fingers, and dogs' damp noses is more truly enjoyable.

N.B.--I must get over apologizing to myself when I buy respectable
clothes. It savours too much of Aunt Lot's old habit of saying, every
time she bought a best gown, and I remonstrated with her for the colour
(it was always black in those days; since she's married the Reverend
Jabez she's taken to greens), "When I consider that a black dress would
be suitable to be buried in, it seems less like a vain luxury."

We were admiring the dainty muslins, but only in the "abstract," when I
looked up, conscious that some one was coming directly toward us, and saw
Sylvia Latham crossing the shop from the door, her rapid, swinging gait
bringing her to us before short-sighted Miss Lavinia had a chance to
raise her lorgnette.

Sylvia was genuinely glad to see us, and she expressed it both by look
and speech, without the slightest symptom of gush, yet with the confiding
manner of one who craves companionship. I had, in fact, noticed the same
thing during our call the afternoon before.

"Well, and what are we buying to-day?" asked Miss Lavinia, clearing her
voice by a little caressing sound halfway between a purr and a cluck, and
patting the hand that lingered affectionately on hers.

"I really--don't--know," answered Sylvia, smiling at her own hesitation.
"Mamma says that if I do not get my clothes together before people begin
to come back from the South, I shall be nowhere, so she took me with
her to Mme. Couteaux's this morning. Mamma goes there because she says
it saves so much trouble. Madame keeps a list of every article her
customers have, and supplies everything, even down to under linen and
hosiery, so she has made for mamma a plan of exactly what she would need
for next season, and after having received her permission, will at once
begin to carry it out. Of course the clothes will be very beautiful and
harmonious, and mamma has so much on her hands, now that father is
away,--the new cottage at Oaklands is being furnished, and me to
initiate in the way I'm supposed to go,--that it certainly simplifies
matters for her.

"Me? Ah, I do not like the system at all, or Madame Couteaux either, and
the feeling is mutual, I assure you. Without waiting to be asked, even,
she looked me over from head to foot and said that my lines are very bad,
that I curve in and out at the wrong places, that I must begin at once by
wearing higher heels to throw me forward!

"At first I was indignant, and then the ludicrous climbed uppermost, and
I laughed, whereat Madame looked positively shocked, and even mamma
seemed aghast and murmured something apologetic about my having been at
boarding-school in the country, and at college, where I had ridden
horseback without proper instruction, which had injured my figure. Only
imagine, Aunt Lavinia, those glorious gallops among the Rockcliffe Hills
hurting one's body in any way! But then, I suppose body and figure are
wholly different things; at any rate, Madame Couteaux gave a shrug, as if
shedding all responsibility for my future from her fat shoulders, and so,
while mamma is there, I am taking a run out in the cold world of raw
material and observing for myself.

"Of course I shall make mistakes, but I have had everything done for me
to such an extent, during the last four months, that I really must make a
point of picking and choosing for once. I've had a mad desire since the
last storm to stir up the pools in the gutters with my best shoes, as the
happy little children do with their rubber boots. How I shall enjoy it
when we go to Oaklands, and there is really something to _do_ instead of
merely being amused.

"By the way, Mrs. Evan, won't you and Miss Lavinia join us at luncheon?
We are to have it somewhere downtown, to-day,--the Waldorf, I
believe,--as mamma expects to spend most of the afternoon at the
decorators, to see the designs for the Oaklands hangings and furniture,
and," glancing at the big clock, between the lifts, as Miss Lavinia made
her last purchase, "it's high time for me to go and pick her up."

Having a feeling that possibly mamma might not be so cordial, in addition
to being due at home for more shirtwaist fittings, Miss Lavinia declined,
and reminding Sylvia that dinner would be at the old-fashioned hour of
half-past six, we drifted out the door together, Sylvia going toward
Fifth Avenue, while we turned the corner and sauntered down Broadway,
pausing at every attractive window.

Miss Lavinia's short-sightedness caused her to bump into a man, who was
intently gazing, from the height of six feet, at jewelled bugs, displayed
in the window of a dealer in Oriental wares.

The man, thinking himself to blame, raised his hat in apology, glancing
casually down as he did so, whereupon the hat remained off, and he and
Miss Lavinia grasped hands with sudden enthusiasm, followed by a medley
of questions and answers, so that before she remembered me, and turned to
introduce the stranger, I knew that it was Horace Bradford himself. A
strange, but positive, fact about New York is that one may at one time be
in it but a few hours and run across half the people of one's
acquaintance, gathered from all parts of the country, and at another,
wander about for weeks without seeing a familiar face.

I liked Bradford from the moment I shook hands with him. There is so much
in the mere touching of hands. His neither crushed as if to compel, nor
flopped equivocally, but said, as it enclosed yours in its bigness, "I am
here, command me."

Broadway, during shopping hours, is not an ideal place for the
interchange of either ideas, or more, even, than the merest
courtesies; but after thanking Miss Lavinia for the dinner invitation,
to which he had just sent the answer, and inquiring for Sylvia Latham,
as he walked beside us for a block or two, it was very evident that he
had something on his mind that he wished to say, and did not know how
to compass the matter.

As he talked to Miss Lavinia in jerky monosyllables,--the only speech
that the noise made possible,--I had a chance to look at him. He did not
possess a single feature of classic proportions, and yet he was a
handsome man, owing to the illumination of his face. Brown, introspective
eyes, with a merry way of shutting; heavy, dark hair and brows, and a few
thoughtful lines here and there; mustache pulled down at the corners, as
if by the unconscious weight of a nervously strong hand; and a firm jaw,
but not squared to the point that suggests the dominance of the
physical. He wore a dark gray Inverness coat, evidently one of the fruits
of his English tour, and a well-proportioned soft felt hat, set on
firmly, the crown creased in the precise way necessary to justify the
city use of the article by a man of thirty. He seemed to be in excellent,
almost boyish spirits, and so natural and wholesome withal, that I am
sure I should not feel at all embarrassed at finding myself alone with
him on a desert island. This is one of my pet similes of approval.

Finally he blurted out: "Miss Lavinia, I do so wish your advice upon a
strictly woman's matter; one, however, that is of great importance to me.
I shall have to take the night express back, and this is the only time I
have left. Would you--could we go in somewhere, do you think, and have
something while I explain?"

Miss Lavinia looked dubious as to whether his invitation might mean
drinks, man fashion, or luncheon. But as at that moment we reached the
chief New York residence of well-born ice cream soda, for which I always
hanker, in spite of snow and slush, much to Evan's disgust, I relieved
the situation by plunging in, saying that I was even more thirsty in
winter than in summer. Whereat Miss Lavinia shivered, but cheerfully
resigned herself to hot chocolate.  "The matter in point is," continued
Bradford, feeling boyishly of one of the blocks of ice that decorated the
counter to find if it was real, and speaking directly to Miss Lavinia,
"I've had a great happiness come into my life this last week; something
that I did not expect to happen for years. My chief has retired, and I
have been promoted. I will not take your time to go selfishly into
details now. I can tell you to-night, if you care to hear. I cannot go
home until the Easter holidays, and so I want to send something to my
mother by way of celebration. Would you select it for me?" and the big
fellow swept the shop with an indefinite sort of gaze, as if buying candy
for the universe would but feebly express his feelings.

"Certainly I will," replied Miss Lavinia, warming at once;--"but what
kind of something?"

"I think,"--hesitating a trifle,--"a very good gown, and an ornament of
some kind."

"Would she not prefer choosing the gown herself? People's tastes differ
so much about clothing," ventured Miss Lavinia, willing, even anxious, to
help the man, yet shrinking from the possibility of feminine criticism.

"No, I think not; that is, it doesn't work well. Beforetimes I've often
written her to buy some little finery to wear for my sake, but my gift
has generally been turned into flannels for poor children or to restock
the chickenyard of some unfortunate neighbour whose fowls have all died
of gapes. While if I send her the articles themselves, she will prize and
wear them, even if the gown was a horse blanket and the ornament a
Plymouth Rock rooster to wear on her head. You know how mothers are about
buying things for themselves, don't you, Mrs. Evan?" he said, turning to
me, that I need not consider myself excluded from the conversation.

"I have no mother, but I have two little sons," I answered.

"Ah, then you will know as soon as they grow old enough to wish to buy
things for you," and somehow the soda water flew up my nose, and I had to
grope for my handkerchief.

Miss Lavinia evidently did not like to ask Mrs. Bradford's age, so she
evaded it by asking, "Does your mother wear colours or black, Mr.
Bradford?"

"She has worn black ever since my father died; for the last ten years, in
fact. I wish I could persuade her to adopt something that looks more
cheerful, for she is the very essence of cheerfulness herself. Do you
think this would be a good time to give a sort of hint by choosing a
coloured gown,--a handsome blue silk, for instance?"  "I know precisely
how you feel," said Miss Lavinia, laying her hand upon his sleeve
sympathetically, "men never like mourning; but still I advise you not to
try the experiment or force the change. A brocaded black silk gown, with
a pretty lace fichu to soften it about the shoulders, and a simple pin to
hold it together at the neck,--how would that suit you?" As she spoke she
waved her dainty hands about so expressively in a way of her own that I
could seem to see the folds of the material drape themselves.

"That is it! You have exactly the idea that I could not formulate. How
clever women are!" he exclaimed, and for a minute I really thought he was
going to hug Miss Lavinia.

"One other favour. Will you buy these things for me? I always feel so out
of place and cowardly in the women's shops where such things are sold.
Will $100 be enough, think you?" he added a trifle anxiously, I thought,
as he drew a small envelope from a compartment of his letter book, where
it had evidently been stowed away for this special purpose.

"Yes, I can manage nicely with it," replied Miss Lavinia, cheerfully;
"and now you must leave us at once, so that we can do this shopping, and
not be too late for luncheon. Remember, dinner to-night at 6:30."  "One
thing more," he said, as we turned to leave, "I shall not now have time
to present my respects to Miss Latham's mother as I intended; do you
think that she will hold me very rude? I remember that Miss Sylvia once
said her mother was very particular in matters of etiquette,--about her
going out unchaperoned and all that,--and should not wish her to feel
slighted." Miss Lavinia assured him very dryly that he need not worry
upon that score, that no notice would be taken of the omission. Not
saying, however, that in all probability he was entirely unconsidered,
ranked as a tutor and little better than a governess by the elder woman,
even if Sylvia had spoken of him as her instructor.

So, after holding open the heavy doors for us, he strode off down town,
the bright smile still lingering about his eyes, while we retraced our
steps to the shop we had visited early that morning, and then down
again to a jeweller's. The result was a dress pattern of soft black
silk, brocaded with a small leafy design, a graceful lace-edged, muslin
fichu, and an onyx bar pin upon which three butterflies were outlined
by tiny pearls.

"Isn't he a dear fellow?" asked Miss Lavinia, apparently of a big gray
truck horse that blocked the way as we waited at the last crossing before
reaching home. And I replied, "He certainly is," with rash but
unshakable feminine conviction.




VII

SYLVIA LATHAM


Sylvia came that afternoon well before dark, a trim footman following
from the brougham with her suitcase and an enormous box of forced early
spring flowers, hyacinths, narcissi, tulips, English primroses,
lilies-of-the-valley, white lilacs, and some yellow wands of Forsythia,
"with Mrs. Latham's compliments to Miss Dorman."

"What luxury!" exclaimed Miss Lavinia, turning out the flowers upon the
table in the tea room where she kept her window garden, "and how pale and
spindling my poor posies look in comparison. Are these from the Bluffs?"

"Oh no, from Newport," replied Sylvia. "There is to be no glass at the
Bluffs, only an outdoor garden, mamma says, that will not be too much
trouble to keep up. Mrs. Jenks-Smith was dining at the house last night,
and told me what a lovely garden you have, Mrs. Evan, and I thought
perhaps, if we do not go to California to meet father, but go to Oaklands
early in April, you might be good enough to come up and talk my garden
over with me. The landscape architect has, I believe, made a plan for the
beds and walks about the house, but I am to have an acre or two of
ground on the opposite side of the highway quite to myself.

"Oh, please don't squeeze those tulips into the tight high vases, Aunt
Lavinia," she said, going behind that lady and giving her a hug with one
arm, while she rescued the tulips with the other hand; for Miss Lavinia,
feeling hurried and embarrassed by the quantity of flowers, was jumbling
them at random into very unsuitable receptacles.

"May I arrange the dinner table," Sylvia begged, "like a Dutch garden,
with a path all around, beds in the corners, and those dear little silver
jugs and the candlesticks for a bower in the middle?

"A month ago," she continued, as she surveyed the table at a glance and
began to work with charming enthusiasm, "mamma was giving a very
particular dinner. She had told the gardener to send on all the flowers
that could possibly be cut, so that there were four great hampers full;
but owing to some mistake Darley, the florist, who always comes to
decorate the rooms, did not appear. We telephoned, and the men flew
about, but he could not be found, and mamma was fairly pale with anxiety,
as Mrs. Center, who gives the swell dinner dances, was to dine with her
for the first time, and it was important to make an impression, so that
_I_ might be invited to one or possibly more of these affairs, and so
receive a sort of social hall mark, without which, it seems, no young New
York woman is complete. I didn't know the whole of the reason then, to be
sure, or very possibly I should not have worked so hard. Still, poor
mamma is so in earnest about all these little intricacies, and thinks
them so important to my happiness and fate, or something else she has in
view, that I am trying not to undeceive her until the winter is over."

Sylvia spoke with careless gayety, which was to my mind somehow belied by
the expression of her eyes.

"I asked Perkins to get out the Dutch silver, toys and all, that mamma
has been collecting ever since I can remember, and bring down a long
narrow mirror in a plain silver frame that backs my mantel shelf. Then I
begged mother to go for her beauty sleep and let me wrestle with the
flowers, also to be sure to wear her new Van Dyck gown to dinner.

"This was not according to her plan, but she went perforce. I knew that
she felt extremely dubious, and, trembling at my rashness, I set at work
to make a Dutch flower garden, with the mirror for a canal down the
centre. Perkins and his understudies, Potts and Parker, stood watching me
with grim faces, exchanging glances that seemed to question my sanity
when I told Parker to go out to the corner where I had seen workmen that
afternoon dump a load of little white pebbles, such as are used in
repairing the paving, and bring me in a large basketful. But when the
garden was finished, with the addition of the little Delft windmills I
brought home, and the family of Dutch peasant dolls that we bought at the
Antwerp fair, Perkins was absolutely moved to express his approval."

"What effect did the garden have upon the dance invitations?" asked Miss
Lavinia, highly amused, and also more eager to hear of the doings of
society than she would care to confess.

"Excellent! Mrs. Center asked mother who her decorator was, and said she
should certainly employ him; which, it seems, was a compliment so rare
that it was equivalent to the falling of the whole social sky at my feet,
Mr. Bell said, who let the secret out. I was invited to the last two of
the series,--for they come to a conspicuous stop and turn into theatre
parties when Lent begins,--and I really enjoyed myself, the only drawback
being that so few of the really tall and steady men care for dancing.
Most of my partners were very short, and loitered so, that I felt
top-heavy, and it reminded me of play-days, when I used to practise
waltzing with the library fire tongs.  I dislike long elaborate
dinners, though mamma delights in them, and says one may observe so much
that is useful, but I do like to dance with a partner who moves, and not
simply progresses in languid ripples, for dancing is one of the few
indoor things that one is allowed to do for oneself.

"Now, Aunt Lavinia, you see the garden is all growing and blowing, and
there are only enough tulips left for the Rookwood jars in the library,"
Sylvia said, stepping back to look at the table, "and a few for us to
wear. Lilies-of-the-valley for you, pink tulips for you, Mrs. Evan,--they
will soon close, and look like pointed rosebuds,--yellow daffies to match
my gown, and you must choose for the two men I do not know. I'll take a
tuft of these primroses for Mr. Bradford, and play they grew wild. We
always joked him about these flowers at college until 'The Primrose' came
to be his nickname among ourselves. Why?

"One day when he was lecturing to us on Wordsworth, and reading
examples of different styles and metres, he finished a rather
sentimental phrase with

"'A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him
And it was nothing more.'

"Suddenly, the disparity between the bigness of the reader and the
slimness of the verse overcame me, and catching his eye, I laughed aloud.
Of course, the entire class followed in a chorus, which he, catching the
point, joined heartily. It sounds silly now, but it seemed very funny at
the time; and it is such little points that make events at school, and
even at college."

"Mr. Bradford told me some news this morning," said Miss Lavinia, walking
admiringly about the table as she spoke. "He is Professor Bradford, of
the University, not merely the women's college now, or rather will be at
the beginning of the next term."

"That is pleasant news. I wonder how old Professor Jameson happened to
step out, and why none of the Rockcliffe girls have written me about it."

"He did not tell me any details; said that they would keep until
to-night. We met him in the street this morning, immediately after we
left you," and Miss Lavinia gave a brief account of our shopping.

"That sounds quite like him. All his air castles seemed to be built about
his mother and the old farm at Pine Ridge. He has often told me how easy
it would be to get back the house to the colonial style, with wide
fireplaces, that it was originally, and he always had longings to be in a
position to coax his mother to come to Northbridge for the winter, and
keep a little apartment for him. Perhaps he will be able to do both now."

Sylvia spoke with keen but quite impersonal interest, and looking at her
I began to wonder if here might not, after all, be the comrade type of
woman in whose existence I never before believed,--feminine,
sympathetic, buoyant, yet capable of absolutely rational and unemotional
friendship with a man within ten years of her own age. But after all it
is common enough to find the first half of such a friendship, it is the
unit that is difficult; and I had then had no opportunity of seeing the
two together.

We went upstairs together, and lingered by the fire in Miss Lavinia's
sitting room before going to make ready for dinner. The thaw of the
morning was again locked by ice, and it was quite a nippy night for the
season. I, revelled mentally in the fact that my dinner waist was crimson
in colour, and abbreviated only in the way of elbow sleeves, and the
pretty low corn-coloured crepe bodice that I saw Lucy unpacking from
Sylvia's suit case quite made me shiver.

The only light in Miss Lavinia's den, other than the fire, was a low
lamp, with a soft-hued amber shade, so that the room seemed to draw close
about one like protecting arms, country fashion, instead of seeking to
turn one out, which is the feeling that so many of the stately apartments
in the great city houses give me.

When I am indoors I want space to move and breathe in, of course, but I
like to feel intrenched; and only when I open the door and step outside,
do I wish to give myself up to space, for Nature is the only one who
really knows how to handle vastness without overdoing it.

As we sat there in silence I watched the play of firelight on
Sylvia's face, and the same thought seemed to cross it as she closed
her eyes and nestled back in Miss Lavinia's funny little fat sewing
chair, that was like a squab done in upholstery. Then, as the clock
struck six, she started, rubbed her eyes, and crossed the hall to her
room half in a dream.

"She is as like her Grandmother Latham when I first saw her, as a girl
of twenty-one can be like a woman of fifty," said Miss Lavinia, from the
lounge close at my elbow. "Not in colouring or feature, but in poise
and gesture. The Lathams were of Massachusetts stock, and have, I
imagine, a good deal of the Plymouth Rock mixture in their back-bones.
Her father has the reputation, in fact, of being all rock, if not quite
of the Plymouth variety. Well, I think she will need it, poor child;
that is, if any of the rumours that are beginning to float in the air
settle to the ground."

"Meaning what?" I asked, half unconsciously, and paying little heed,
for I then realized that the daily letter from father had not arrived;
and Lucy at that moment came in, lit the lamps, and began to rattle
the hair-brushes in Miss Lavinia's bedroom, which I took as a signal
for me to leave.

The door-bell rang. It was Evan; but before I met him halfway on the
stairs, he called up: "I telephoned home an hour ago, and they are all
well. The storm held over last night there. Father says it was the most
showy snow they have had for years, and he was delayed in getting his
letter to the post."

"Is that all?" I asked, as I got down far enough to rest my hands on his
shoulders.

"Yes; the wires buzzed badly and did not encourage gossip. Ah!" (this
with an effort to appear as if it was an afterthought), "I told him I
thought that you would not wait for me tomorrow, but probably go home on
the 9:30. Not that I really committed you to it if you have other plans!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Martin Cortright appeared some five minutes before Horace Bradford. As it
chanced, when the latter came in the door Sylvia was on the stairs, so
that her greeting and hearty handshake were given looking down at him,
and she waited in the hall, in a perfectly unembarrassed way, as a matter
of course, while he freed himself from his heavy coat. His glance at the
tall girl, who came down from the darkness above, in her shimmering gown,
with golden daffies in her hair and on her breast, like a beam of
wholesome sunshine, was full of honest, personal admiration. If it had
been otherwise I should have been disappointed in the man's completeness.
Then, looking at them from out of the library shadows, I wondered what he
would have thought if his entry had been at the Latham home instead of at
Miss Lavinia's, how he would have passed the ordeal of Perkins, Potts,
and Parker, and if his spontaneity would have been marred by the
formality.

Perhaps he would have been oblivious. Some men have the happy gift of
not being annoyed by things that are thorns in the flesh to otherwise
quite independent women. Father, however, is always amused by flunkies,
and treats them as an expected part of the show; even as the jovial
Autocrat did when, at a grand London house, "it took full six men in red
satin knee-breeches" to admit him and his companion.

Bradford did not wear an evening suit; neither did he deem apology
necessary. If he thought of the matter at all, which I doubt, he
evidently considered that he was among friends, who would make whatever
excuses were necessary from the circumstances of his hurried trip.

Then we went in to the dining-room, Miss Lavinia leading with Martin
Cortright, as the most recent acquaintance, and therefore formal guest,
the rest of us following in a group. Miss Lavinia, of course, took the
head of the table, Evan opposite, and the two men, Cortright on her right
and Bradford on her left, making Sylvia and me vis-a-vis.

The men appropriated their buttonhole flowers naturally. Martin smiled at
my choice for him, which was a small, but chubby, red and yellow,
uncompromising Dutch tulip, far too stout to be able to follow its family
habit of night closing, except to contract itself slightly. Evan
caressed his lilies-of-the-valley lightly with his finger-tips as he
fastened them in place, but Bradford broke into a boyish laugh, and then
blushed to the eyes, when he saw the tiny bunch of primroses, saying:
"You have a long memory, Miss Sylvia, yet mine is longer. May I have a
sprig of that, too?" and he reached over a big-boned hand to where the
greenhouse-bred wands of yellow Forsythia were laid in a formal pattern
bordering the paths. "That is the first flower that I remember. A great
bush of it used to grow in a protected spot almost against the kitchen
window at home; and when I see a bit of it in a strange place, for a
minute I collapse into the little chap in outrageous gathered trousers,
who used to reach out the window for the top twigs, that blossomed
earliest, so as to be the first to carry 'yellow bells' to school for a
teacher that I used to think was Venus and Minerva rolled in one. I saw
her in Boston the other day, and the Venus hallucination is shattered,
but the yellow bells look just the same, proving--"

"That every prospect pleases
And man (or woman) alone is vile,"

interpolated Evan.

Grape fruit, with a dash of sherry, or the more wholesome sloe-gin, is
Miss Lavinia's compromise with the before-dinner cocktail of society,
that is really very awakening to both brain and digestion; and before the
quaint silver soup tureen had disappeared, even Martin Cortright had not
only come wholly out of his shell, but might have been said to have
fairly perched on top of it, before starting on a reminiscent career with
his hostess, beginning at one of the monthly meetings of the Historical
Society; for though Martin's past belonged more to the "Second Avenue"
faction of the old east side, and Miss Lavinia to the west, among the
environs of what had once been Greenwich and Chelsea villages, they had
trodden the same paths, though not at the same time. While Sylvia and the
"Professor," as she at once began to call him, picked up the web of the
college loom that takes in threads of silk, wool, and cotton, and mixing
or separating them at random, turns out garments of complete fashion and
pattern, or misfits full of false starts or dropped stitches that not
only hamper the wearers, but sometimes their families, for life. All that
Evan and I had to do was to maintain a sympathetic silence, kept by
occasional ejaculations and murmurs from growing so profound as to cause
a draught at our corner of the table.  "Yes, we used to go there
regularly," I heard Miss Lavinia say; "when we were girls Eleanor
(Barbara's mother) and I attended the same school--Miss Black's,--Eleanor
being a boarding and I a day pupil and a clergyman's daughter also,
which, in those days, was considered a sort of patent of respectability.
Miss Black used to allow her to spend the shorter holidays with me and go
to those historical lectures as a matter of course. We never publicly
mentioned the fact that Eleanor also liked to come to my house to get
thoroughly warmed and take a bath, as one of Miss Black's principles of
education was that feminine propriety and cold rooms were synonymous, and
the long room with a glass roof, sacred to bathing, was known as the
'refrigerator'; but those atrocities that were committed in the name of
education have fortunately been stopped by education itself. I don't
think that either of us paid much attention to the lectures; the main
thing was to get out and go somewhere; yet I don't think any other later
good times were as breathlessly fascinating.

"Mother seldom went, the hermetically sealed, air-proof architecture of
the place not agreeing with her; so father, Eleanor, and I used to walk
over, crossing the head of Washington Square, until, as we passed St.
Mark's Church and reached the steps of the building, we often headed a
procession as sedate and serious as if going to Sunday meeting, for there
were fewer places to go in those days. Once within, we usually crept well
up front, for my father was one of the executive committee who sat in the
row of chairs immediately facing the platform, and to be near him added
several inches to my stature and importance, at least in my own
estimation. Then, too, there was always the awesome and fascinating
possibility that one of these honourable personages might fall audibly
asleep, or slip from his chair in a moment of relaxation. Such events had
been known to occur. In fact, my father's habit of settling down until
his neck rested upon the low chair back, made the slipping accident a
perpetual possibility in his case.

"Then, when the meeting was called to order, and the minutes read with
many h-hems and clearings of the throat, and the various motions put to
vote with the mumbled 'All-in-favour-of-the-motion-will-please-signify-
by-saying-Ay! Contrary-minded-no-the-motion-is-accepted!' that some one
would only say 'No' was our perpetual wish, and we even once meditated
doing it ourselves, but could not decide which should take the risk.

"Another one of our amusements was to give odd names to the dignitaries
who presided. One with lurching gait, erectile whiskers, and blinking
eyes we called 'The Owl'; while another, a handsome old man of the
'Signer' type, pink-cheeked, deep eyed, with a fine aquiline nose, we
named 'The Eagle.'"

"Oh, I know whom you mean, exactly!" cried Martin, throwing back his head
and laughing as heartily as Bradford might; "and 'The Owl' was supposed
to have intentions of perpetuating his name by leaving the society money
enough for a new building, but he didn't. But then, he doubtless
inherited his thrift from the worthy ancestors of the ilk of those men
who utilized trousers for a land measure. Do you also remember the
discussions that followed the reading of paper or lecture? Sometimes
quite heated ones too, if the remarks had ventured to even graze the
historical bunions that afflicted the feet of many old families."

"No, I think we were too anxious to have the meeting declared adjourned
to heed such things. How we stretched ourselves; the physical oppression
that had been settling for an hour or two lifting suddenly as we got on
our feet and felt that we might speak in our natural voices.

"Then father would say, 'You may go upstairs and examine the curiosities
before joining us in the basement,' and we would go up timidly and
inspect the Egyptian mummy. I wonder how he felt last year when there was
a reception in the hall and a band broke the long stillness with 'The Gay
Tomtit.' Was ever such chocolate or such sandwiches served in equally
sepulchral surroundings as in the long room below stairs. I remember
wondering if the early Christians ever lunched in the catacombs, and how
they felt; and I should not have been surprised if Lazarus himself had
appeared in one of the archways trailing his graveclothes after him, so
strong was the spell of the mummy upon us.

"It seems really very odd that you were one of those polite young men who
used sometimes to pass the plates of sandwiches to us where we stayed
hidden in a corner so that the parental eye need not see how many we
consumed."

Thus did Martin Cortright and Miss Lavinia meet on common ground and
drift into easy friendship which it would have taken years of
conventional intercourse to accomplish, while opposite, the talk between
Sylvia and Bradford dwelt upon the new professorship and Sylvia's
roommate of two years, who, instead of being able to remain and finish
the course which was to fit her for gaining nominal independence through
teaching, had been obliged to go home and take charge, owing to her
mother's illness.

"Yes, Professor Jameson's decision to give all his time to outside
literary work was very sudden," I heard Bradford say. "I thought that it
might happen two or three years hence; but to find myself now not only in
possession of a salary of four thousand dollars a year (hardly a fortune
in New York, I suppose), but also freed this season from being tied at
Northbridge to teach in the summer school, and able to be at home in
peace and quiet and get together my little book of the 'Country of the
English Poets,' seems to me almost unbelievable."

"I have been wondering how the book was coming on, for you never wrote of
it," answered Sylvia. "I have been trying all winter, without success, to
arrange my photographs in scrap-books with merely names and dates. But
though, as I look back over the four months, everything has been done for
me, even to the buttoning of my gloves, while I've seemingly done nothing
for any one, I've barely had a moment that I could call my own."

"I do not think that it is strange, after having been away practically
for six years, that family life and your friends should absorb you.
Doubtless you will have time now that Lent has come," said Bradford,
smiling. "Of course we country Congregationalists do not treat the
season as you Anglican Catholics do, and I've often thought it rather a
pity. It must be good to have a stated time and season for stopping and
sitting down to look at oneself. I picked up one of your New York church
papers in the library the other day, and was fairly surprised at the
number of services and the scope of the movement and the work of the
church in general."

Sylvia looked at him for a moment with an odd expression in her eyes, as
if questioning the sincerity of his remarks, and then answered, I thought
a little sadly: "I'm afraid it is very much like other things we read of
in the papers, half truth, half fiction; the churches and the services
are there, and the good earnest people, too--but as for our stopping! Ah,
Mr. Bradford, I can hardly expect to make you understand how it is, for I
cannot myself. It was all so different before I went to boarding school,
and we lived down in the house in Waverley Place where I was born. The
people of mamma's world do not stop; we simply whirl to a slightly
different tune. It's like waltzing one way around a ballroom until you
are quite dizzy, and then reversing,--there is no sitting down to rest,
that is, unless it is to play cards."

"Yet whist is a restful game in itself," said Bradford, cheerfully; "an
evening of whist, with even fairly intelligent partners, I've always
found a great smoother-out of nerves and wrinkles."

"They do not play it that way here," answered Sylvia, laughing, in spite
of herself, at his quiet assumption. "It's 'bridge' for money or
expensive prizes; and compared to the excitement it causes, the
tarantella is a sitting-down dance. I'm too stupid with cards to take the
risk of playing; even mamma does not advise it yet, though she wishes to
have me coached. So I shall have some time to myself after all, for my
defect puts me out of three Lenten card clubs to which mamma belongs, two
of which meet at our house. That leaves only two sewing classes, three
Lenten theatre clubs (one for lunch and matinee and two for dinner and
the evening), and Mr. Bell's cake-walk club, that practises with a
teacher at our house on Monday evenings. The club is to have a
semi-public performance at the Waldorf for charity, in Easter week, and
as the tickets are to be ten dollars each, they expect to make a great
deal of money. So you see there is very little time allowed us to sit
down and look at ourselves."

"I cannot excuse cake-walking off the stage, among civilized people,"
interpolated Miss Lavinia, catching the word but not the connection, and
realizing that, as hostess, she had inconsiderately lost the thread of
the conversation. "It appeals to me as the expression of physical
exuberance of a lower race, and for people of our grade of intelligence
to imitate it is certainly lowering! The more successfully it is carried
out the worse it is!"

Miss Lavinia spoke so fiercely that everybody laughed but Sylvia, who
coloured painfully, and Horace Bradford deftly changed the subject in the
lull that followed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The men did not care to be left alone with their cigars and coffee, so we
lingered in the dining-room. Suddenly a shrieking whistle sounded in the
street, and the rapid clatter of hoofs made us listen, while Evan rushed
to the door, seizing his hat on the way.

"Only the fire engines," said Miss Lavinia; "you would soon be used to
them if you lived here; the engine house is almost around the corner."

"Don't you ever go after them?" I asked, without thinking, because
to Evan and me going to fires is one of the standard attractions of
our New York.

"Barbara, child, don't be absurd. What should I do traipsing after
an engine?"

"Yet a good fire is a very exciting spectacle. I once had the habit of
going," said Martin Cortright, emerging from a cloud of cigar smoke. "I
remember when Barnum's Museum was burned my father and I ran to the fire
together and stayed out, practically, all night."

More whistling and a fresh galloping of hoofs indicated that there was a
second call, and the engines from up town were answering. I began to tap
my feet restlessly, and Miss Lavinia noticed it.

"Don't hesitate to go if you wish to," she said. At the same moment Evan
dashed back, calling: "It's a fire on the river front, a lumber yard;
plenty of work ahead, with little danger and a wonderful spectacle. Why
can we not all go to see it, for it's only half a dozen blocks away?
Bundle up, though, it's bitterly cold."

Horace Bradford sprang to his feet and Sylvia was halfway upstairs and
fairly out of her evening gown when Miss Lavinia made up her mind to go
also, Evan's words having the infection of a stampede.

"Don't forget the apples," I called to Evan as I followed my hostess.

"The shops and stands are closed, I'm afraid," he called back from the
stoop where he was waiting; "perhaps Miss Lavinia has some in the house."

"Apples, yes, plenty; but for mercy's sake what for? You surely aren't
thinking of pelting the fire out with them!" she gasped, hurrying
downstairs and struggling to disentangle her eyeglasses from her bonnet
strings; a complication that was always happening at crucial moments,
such as picking out change in an elevated railway station, and thereby
blocking the crowd.

"No, apples to feed the fire horses; Barbara always does," Evan answered,
dashing down the basement stairs to the kitchen, and returning quickly
with a medley of apples and soup vegetables in a dish-towel bundle,
leaving the solemn cook speechlessly astonished.

Then we started off, Evan leading the way, and the procession straggling
after in Indian file; for the back streets were not well shovelled, and
to go two abreast meant that one foot of each was on a side hill. Evan
fairly dragged me along. Sylvia and Bradford, being fleet of foot, had no
difficulty in following, but Martin and Miss Lavinia had rather a bumpy
time of it. Still, as pretty much all the uncrippled inhabitants of the
district were going the same way, our flight was not conspicuous.

It was, as Evan had promised, a glorious fire! Long before we reached
the Hudson the sky rayed and flamed with all the smokeless change of the
Northern Lights. Once there, Evan piloted us through the densely packed
crowd to the side string-piece of a pier, Miss Lavinia giving little
shrieks the while, and begging not to be pushed into the water.

From this point the great stacks of lumber that made the giant bonfire
could be seen at the two points, from land and water side, where the
fire-boats were shooting streams from their well-aimed nozzles.

As usual, after running the steam-pumping engines as close as desirable
to the flames, the horses were detached, blanketed, and tied up safe from
harm, and we found a group of three great intelligent iron-gray beauties
close behind us, who accepted the contents of the dish-towel with almost
human appreciation, while a queer, wise, brown dog, an engine mascot, who
was perched on the back of the middle horse, shared the petting with a
politely matter-of-fact air.

"It is wonderful! I only wish I could see a little better," murmured Miss
Lavinia, who was short, and buried in the crowd.

"Why not stand on this barrel?" suggested Bradford, holding out his
hand.

"It's full of garbage and ashes," she objected.

"Never mind that, they are frozen hard," replied Bradford, poking the
mass practically.

Three pairs of hands tugged and boosted, and lo! Miss Lavinia was safely
perched; and as there were more barrels Sylvia and I quickly followed
suit, and we soon all became spellbound at the dramatic contrasts, for
every now and again a fresh pile of Georgia pine would be devoured by the
flames, the sudden flare coming like a noiseless explosion, making the
air fragrantly resinous, while at the same time the outer boundaries of
the doomed lumber yard were being draped with a fantastic ice fabric from
the water that froze as it fell.

As to the firemen! don't talk to me of the bygone bravery of the
crusaders and the lords of feudal times, who spent their lives in the
sport of encamping outside of fortresses, at whose walls they
occasionally butted with rams, lances, and strong language, leaving their
wives and children in badly drained and draughty castles. If any one
wishes to see brave men and true, simply come to a fire with Evan and me
in our New York.

We might have stood there on our garbage pedestals half the night if
Horace Bradford had not remembered that he must catch the midnight
express, glanced at his watch, found that it was already nearly half-past
ten, and realized that he had left his grip at Miss Lavinia's.
Consequently we dismounted and pushed our way home.

As we were half groping our way up ill-lighted West Tenth Street Martin
Cortright paused suddenly and, after looking about, remarked: "This is
certainly a most interesting locality. That building opposite, which has
long been a brewery, was once, in part at least, the first city or
State's Prison. How often criminals must have traversed this very route
we are following, on their way to Washington Square to be hanged. For you
know that place, of later years esteemed so select, was once not only the
site of Potter's Field, but of the city gallows as well!"

No one, however, joined more heartily than he in the merriment that his
inapropos reminiscence caused, and we reached home in a good humour that
effectually kept off the cold.

"Did you succeed in buying the gown?" Horace Bradford asked Miss Lavinia,
as he stood in the hall making his farewells.

"Oh, yes, I had almost forgotten. Here is the package only waiting for
your approval to be tied," and she led the way to the library.

Bradford touched the articles with his big fingers, as lovingly as if he
were smoothing his mother's hair, or her hand.

"They are exactly right," he said heartily, turning and grasping Miss
Lavinia's hand, as he looked straight into her eyes with an expression of
mingled gratitude and satisfaction. "She will thank you herself, when we
all meet next summer," and with a happy look at Sylvia, who had come to
the library to see the gifts, and was leaning on the table, he grasped
bag and parcel, shook hands all round, and hurried away.

"What do you think?" I asked Evan, as we closed our bedroom door.

"Of what?" he answered, with the occasional obtuseness that will overtake
the best of men.

"Of Sylvia and Bradford, of course. Are they in love, do you think?"

"I rather think that _he_ is," Evan answered, slowly, as if bringing
his mind from afar, "but that he doesn't know it, and I hope he may
stay in ignorance, for it will do him no good, for I am sure that she
is not, at least with Bradford. She is drifting about in the Whirlpool
now. She has not 'found herself' in any way, as yet. She seems a
charming girl, but I warn you, Barbara, don't think you scent romance,
and try to put a finger in this pie! Your knowledge of complex human
nature isn't nearly as big as your heart, and the Latham set are wholly
beyond your ken and comprehension." Then Evan, declining to argue the
matter, went promptly to sleep.

Not so Sylvia. When Miss Lavinia went to her room to see if the girl was
comfortable and have a little go-to-bed chat by the fire, she found her
stretched upon the bed; her head hidden between the pillows, in a vain
effort to stifle her passionate sobbing.

"What is it, my child?" she asked, truly distressed. "Are you tired, or
have you taken cold, or what?"

"No, nothing like that," she whispered, keeping her face hidden and
jerking out disjointed sentences, "but I can't do anything for anybody.
No one really depends on me for anything. Helen Baker must leave college,
because they need her _at home_,--just think, _need her_! Isn't that
happiness? And Mr. Bradford is so joyful over his new salary, thinks it
is a fortune, and with being able to buy those things for his
mother,--father has sent me more money during the four months I've been
back, so I may feel independent, he says, than the Professor will earn in
a year. Independent? deserted is a better word! I hardly know my own
parents, I find, and they expect nothing from me, even my companionship.

"Before I went away to school, if mamma was ill, I used to carry up her
breakfast, and brush her hair; now she treats me almost like a
stranger,--dislikes my going to her room at odd times. I hardly ever see
her, she is always so busy, and if I beg to be with her, as I did once,
she says I do not understand her duty to society.

"People should not have children and then send them away to school until
they feel like strangers, and their homes drift so far away that they do
not know them when they come back,--and there's poor Carthy out west all
alone, after the plans we made to be together. It is all so different
from what I expected. Why does not father come home, or mother seem to
mind that he stays away? What is the matter, Aunt Lavinia? Is mamma
hiding something, or is the fault all mine?"

Miss Lavinia closed the door, and soothed the excited girl, talking to
her for an hour, and in fact slept on the lounge, and did not return to
her own room until morning. She was surprised at the storm in a clear
sky, but not at the cause. Miss Lavinia was keenly observant, and from
two years' daily intercourse, she knew Sylvia's nature thoroughly. For
some reasons, she wished with all her heart that Sylvia was in love with
Horace Bradford, and at the same time feared for it; but before the poor
girl fell asleep, she was convinced that such was not the case, and that
the trouble that was already rising well up from her horizon was
something far more complicated.




VIII

THE SWEATING OF THE CORN


_April_ 14. Every one who has led, even in a partial degree, the life
outdoors, must recognize his kinship with the soil. It was the first
recorded fact of race history embodied in the Old Testament allegory of
the creation, and it would seem from the beginning that nations have been
strong or weak, as they acknowledged or sought to suppress it.

I read a deeper meaning in my garden book as the boys' human calendar
runs parallel with it, and I can see month by month and day by day that
it is truly the touch of Nature that makes kindred of us all--the throb
of the human heart and not the touch of learning or the arts.

Everything grows restless as spring comes on--animate, and what is called
inanimate, nature. March is the trying month of indecision, the
tug-of-war between winter and spring, pulling us first one way and then
the other, the victory often being, until the final moment, on the side
of winter. Then comes a languid period of inaction, and a swift recovery.
When the world finally throws off frost bondage, sun and the earth call,
while humanity, indoors and out, in city tenement as well as in
farmhouse, hears the voice, even though its words are meaningless, and
grows restless.

Lavinia Dorman writes that she is feeling tired and low-spirited, the
doctor has advised a tonic, and she misses the change of planting her
back-yard garden. Down in the streets the tenement children are swarming
in the sunny spots, and dancing to the hand-organs. I saw them early last
week when I was in town for a few hours.

In one of the downtown parks the youngsters were fairly rolling in the
dirt, and rubbing their cheeks on the scanty grass as they furtively
scooped up handfuls of cement-like soil to make mud pies, in spite of the
big policeman, who, I like to think, was sympathetically blind.

The same impulse stirs my boys, even though they have all outdoors around
them. They have suddenly left their house toys and outdoor games alike to
fairly burrow in the soil. The heap of beach sand and pebbles that was
carted from the shore and left under an old shed for their amusement, has
lost its charm. They go across the road and claw the fresh earth from an
exposed bank, using fingers instead of their little rakes and spades,
and decorate the moist brown "pies" they make with dandelion ornaments.

A few days ago the Vanderveer boy came down to play with them,
accompanied by an English head nurse of tyrannical mien, and an
assortment of coats and wraps. The poor little chap had been ailing half
the winter, it seems, with indigestion and various aches, until the
doctor told his mother that she must take him to the country and try a
change, as he feared the trouble was chronic appendicitis; so the entire
establishment has arrived to stay until the Newport season, and the boy's
every movement is watched, weighed, and discussed.

The nurse, having tucked him up in a big chair in the sun on the porch,
with the boys for company, and in charge of father, who was looking at
him with a pitying and critical medical eye, said she would leave him for
half an hour while she went up the lane to see Martha Corkle. A few
moments after, as I glanced across the road, I saw my boys burrowing away
at their dirt bank, and their guest with them. I flew downstairs to call
him in, fearing for the consequences, but father, who was watching the
proceedings from the porch, laid a detaining hand upon me, saying: "His
mother has consulted me about the child, and really sent him down here
that I may look him over, and I am doing it, in my own fashion. I've no
idea the trouble is appendicitis, though it might be driven that way. I
read it as a plain case of suppressed boyhood.

"He doesn't know how to play, or run naturally without falling; he's
afraid to sit down in the dirt--no wonder with those starched linen
clothes; and he keeps looking about for the nurse, first over one
shoulder and then over the other, like a hunted thing. Evidently they
have weighed his food, measured his exercise, and bought his amusements;
his only free will and vent is to get in a temper. They give him no
chance to sweat off his irritation, only to fume; while that shaking,
snorting teakettle of an automobile they bowl him about in, puts the
final touch to his nervousness."

Then I sat down by father and watched the three boys together, while
Richard was preventing his guest from pounding a toad with a stone
because it preferred to hop away instead of being made into a dirt pie,
and I saw the truth of what he said. The seven-year-old child who went to
riding school, dancing school, and a military drill, did not know how to
express his emotions in play, and frozen snowballs and other cruelty was
his distorted idea of amusement. Poor rich boy, sad little only son, he
was not allowed the freedom to respond to the voice of nature even as the
tenement children that dance in the streets to the hand-organs or stir
the mud in the gutter with their bare toes. It is not the tenement
children of New York who are to be pitied; it is those that are being
fitted to keep the places, in the unstable and frail crafts of the
Whirlpool, that their parents are either striving to seize or struggling
to reserve for them.

At the end of half an hour the boys came back to the porch, all three
delightfully and completely dirty, and clamouring that they were hungry.
The English tyrant not appearing, I took them into the house and, after a
washing of hands and faces, gave the boys the usual eleven o'clock lunch
of milk and simple cookies to take out in the sun to eat. As they were
thus engaged the tyrant appeared on the horizon, horror written in every
feature, and a volley of correction evidently taking shape on her lips,
while an ugly look of cowed defiance spread itself over the child's face
as he caught sight of her.

There was no scene, however. Father said in the most offhand way, as if
being obeyed was a matter of course, "Go back and tell your mistress that
I am carrying out her request, and that after luncheon I will send the
boy safely home, with a written message."

"But his medicines, his hour's rest alone in the dark, his special
food,--the medical man in New York said--" protested the woman,
completely taken aback.

"You heard my message?" said father, cheerfully, and that was all.

"What are you going to advise?" I asked, as in the middle of the
afternoon father came from his office, where he had given the lad a
thorough inspection.

"Simply to turn him loose in light woollen clothes, give him companions
of his age, and let him alone."

"Can't you word it differently?" I asked.

"Why, is not that fairly direct?" he replied, looking surprised; "and
surely the direct method is almost always the best."

"I think this is the one case where it is not, dear old Daddy. In fact,
if you are destined, as I see that you are, to pick up and tie the
threads of ravelled health in the Bluff Colony, you will have to become
more complicated, at least in speech, accustomed as they are to a series
of specialists, and having importance attached to the very key in which a
sneeze is pitched.

"Those few words would savour to the Whirlpoolers of lack of proper
respect and consideration. You must give a name to both ailment and cure
if you expect to be obeyed. Call the case a 'serious one of physical
suppression,' and the remedy the 'fresh earth cure,' to be taken only in
light woollen clothes, tell them to report progress to you every other
day, and you gain the boy his liberty."

Father laughed heartily, and his nose twitched in a curious way it has
when he is secretly amused and convinced against his will; but I think he
took my advice, at least in part, for the next morning Papa Vanderveer
drove down in the brake, announcing in a shout that "De Peyster slept all
night without waking up and crying, for the first time in months,"
adding, "And, Dr. Russell, if you've got anything further in this liberty
line to suggest, even to getting rid of the Duchess, now's your time.
'The Duchess?' Ah, she is that confounded head nurse woman that Maria
will keep so that things may be done properly, until the poor kid's
nearly been done for, I say. The Ponsonbys are crazy to get the woman to
break in their youngest girl and keep her down and from growing up until
they marry the others off; so Maria could part with her in the light of a
favour to them, don't you see, without spilling blood. Peysey'll have to
have some sort of a chaser, though, or Maria'll not hear of it."

Mr. Vanderveer glowed all over with delight when father condemned the
automobile as a nerve racker, and suggested that a young man of the
companionable tutor order, who could either play games, fish, and drive
with the boy and his chums, or at times leave him wholly alone, according
to need, would be a good substitute for a woman who viewed life as a
school of don'ts, and had either wholly outlived her youth, or else had
most unpleasant recollections of it.

"I've got my innings at last," he said. "You're the first doctor I've had
who hasn't sided with Maria and shut me out until pay day."

"I wonder why spring is such a restless season," I said half to myself
and half to father, as I sat on the porch half an hour later, trying to
focus my mind on writing to Lavinia Dorman, while father, lounging on the
steps opposite, was busy reading his mail.

"One would think we might be content merely to throw off winter and look
and enjoy, but no, every one is restless,--birds, fourfoots, and humans.
Lavinia Dorman writes that Sylvia Latham has just started for California
to see her brother, and she expects to bring her father back with her.
The boys disappeared mysteriously in the direction of Martha Corkle's
immediately after breakfast, Evan went reluctantly to the train,
declaring that it seemed impossible to sit still long enough to reach the
city, you are twisting about and shuffling your feet, looking far oftener
at the river woods than at your letters, and as for myself, it seems as
if I must go over yonder and seize Bertel's spade and show him how to dig
those seed beds more rapidly, so that I can begin to plant and kneel down
and get close to the ground. Yesterday when the boys came in with very
earthy faces, and I questioned them, I found that they had stuck their
precious noses in their mud pies, essaying to play mole and burrow
literally."

"It is the same mystery as the sweating of the corn," replied father,
gathering his letters in a heap and tossing them into a chair with a
gesture of impatience; "none of us may escape, even though we do not
understand it.

"It was years ago that I first heard the legend from an old farmer of the
corn belt, who, longing for a sight of salt water, had drifted eastward
into one of the little hill farms beyond the charcoal camp. He had been
bedridden nearly all winter, but uncomplainingly, his wife and
daughter-in-law caring for him, and it was not until the early part of
May, when all the world was growing green, that he began to mend and at
the same time groan at his confinement.

"I tried to cheer him up, telling him that the worst was over, and that
he soon would be about again, and he replied: ''Tain't me that's doin' of
it, Doctor, hit's the sweatin' of the corn. You know everywhere in May
folks be plantin' corn, the time bein' the sign that frost is over and
done with.' I nodded assent, and he continued: 'Now naterally there's
lots of corn in ear and shelled and ground to meal that isn't planted,
and along as when the kernels in the ground begins to swell and sprout,
this other corn knows it and begins to heave and sweat, and if it isn't
handled careful-like, and taken in the air and cooled, it'll take on all
sorts of moulds and musts, and like as not turn useless. I holds it's
just the same with folks,--when springtime comes they fetch up restless
and need the air and turning out to sweeten in the sun until they settle
down again, else their naturs turn sour, pisen'us, and unwholesome,
breedin' worms like sweated corn!'

"Since then I've heard it here and there in other words, but always the
same motive, the old miller holding it all fact and no legend at all,
saying that if he can keep his surplus corn from sweating and well aired
through May and June, he never fears for it in the damper, more potent
August heat. One thing is certain, that in my practice in countryside,
village, and town, if strange doings break out and restless
discontentment arises, it is never in winter, when I should expect
partial torpidity to breed unrest, but in the pushing season of renewal,
and, as the old man terms it, 'corn sweating.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

A little later I was going toward the garden when father called after me
to say that he was soon starting for a long trip, quite up to Pine Ridge,
and that if I cared to go, taking a lunch for both, it might give me a
chance to "turn and sweeten" in the sun and cure my restlessness with
natural motion.

Go? Of course my heart leaped at the very thought, because, in spite of
the boys, those long drives with father have grown more precious as they
grow more rare. But where were the twins? They had disappeared under my
very eyes; of a surety they must be at Martha's, but my conscience smote
me when, on glancing at the clock, I saw that it was two hours since they
left the breakfast table in their brand-new sailor suits, with the
intention of showing them to her.

No, they were not at Martha's, and she came hurrying back with me, a very
clucking hen of alarm. Timothy Saunders, who had by that time brought
round the horses in the stanhope, ventured the opinion that they might be
below, paddling in the duck pond, as all the village children gathered
there at the first warm weather, "jest fer all the world like gnats the
sun's drawd oot."

They were not there! Father had disappeared to make some preparations
for the drive, and so I asked Timothy to drive with me along the
highway toward the village. I did not feel exactly worried, but then
one never knows.

We had gone half a mile perhaps, vainly questioning every one, when I
spied two small figures coming across a field from the east, where the
ground fell lower and lower for a mile or so until it reached salt water.

"There be the lads!" shouted Timothy Saunders, as if I had been a
hundred yards away, and deaf at that; but the noise meant joy, so it was
welcome. "My, but they're fagged and tattered well to boot!" And so they
were; but they struggled along, hand in hand, waving cheerfully when
they caught sight of me, and finally crept through the pasture bars by
which I was waiting, and enveloped me with faint, weary hugs. Then I
noticed that they wore no hats, their fresh suits were grimy with a gray
dust like cement, the knees of their stockings and underwear were worn
completely through to red, scratched skin, and the tips entirely scraped
from their shoes.

I gathered them into the gig, and sought the explanation as we drove
homeward, Timothy hurried by the vision of tearful Martha, whom he had
seen with the tail of his eye dodge into the kitchen, her apron over her
head, as he turned out the gate.

"We've been playing we was moles," said Ian, in answer to the first
question as to where they had been. "Yesterday we tried to do it wif
our own noses, but we couldn't, 'cause it hurt, and we wanted to go
ever so far."

"So we went down to where those big round stone pipes are in the long
hole," said Richard, picking up the story as Ian paused. (Workmen had
been laying large cement sewer pipes from the foot of the Bluffs, a third
of a mile toward the marshes, but were not working that day, owing to
lack of material.) "They made nice mole holes, so I crawled right in, and
for a little it was bully fun."

"Oh Richard, Richard, what made you?" I cried, holding him so tight that
he squirmed away. "Suppose the other end had been closed, and you had
smothered in there, and mother had never found you?" for the ghastly
possibility made my knees quake.

"Oh no, mother," he pleaded, taking my face between his grimy hands and
looking straight in my eyes, "it wasn't a dark hole. I could see it light
out 'way at the other end, and it didn't look so vely far as it was to
crawl it. And after a little I'd have liked to back out, only--only,
well, you see, I couldn't."

"Why not?" I asked, and, as he did not answer, I again saw a vision of
two little forms wedged in the pipes.

"That _why_ was 'cause _I_ was in behind, and I _wouldn't_ back, and so
Dick couldn't," said Ian. "You see, Barbara, I really, truly had to be a
mole and get very far away, not to stay, only just for fun, you know," he
added, as he saw signs of tears in his brother's eyes, and began to feel
the smarting in his own bruised knees.

One blessed thing about Ian, even though he is sometimes passionate and
stubborn, and will probably have lots of trouble with himself by and by,
there isn't a drop of sneaky cur blood in him, which is the only trait
that need make a mother tremble.

What should I do, punish, or act as I longed to, coddle the boys and
comfort the poor knees? True, I had not forbidden them to crawl through
the sewer pipes, because the idea of their doing it had never occurred to
me, so they could not be said to have exactly disobeyed; but, on the
other hand, there was an unwritten law that they must not go off the
place without my permission, and the torn stockings furnished a hint.

"Mother is going away for all day with grandfather," I said slowly, as I
examined their knees. "Even though I never told you not to do it, if you
had stopped to think, you would have known it was wrong to crawl through
the pipes."

"But, Barbara," argued Ian, as we reached the porch, "it wasn't us that
crawled, it was moles, and they just digs right ahead and turns up the
ground and flowers and everything, and never thinks things, do they,
grandpop?"

"Martha will take you in," I said, steadying my voice with difficulty,
"and bathe your knees and let you rest a while before she dresses you
again. Martha, please put away those stockings for me to mend when I
return; I cannot ask Effie to darn such holes for two little moles; she
is only engaged to sew for boys."

"But, mother, you don't like to sew stockings; it makes you tight in your
chest. I heard you tell father so," objected Richard, while Ian's face
quivered and reddened, and he pounded his fists together, saying to
himself, "Barbara shall _not_ sit in the house and mend moles'
stockings. I won't let her," showing that they were both touched in a
tender spot.

Father only laughed when they went in, and said: "I'm glad you didn't do
anything more than that to the little chaps, daughter; it's only a bit of
boy life and impulse working in them, after all; their natural way of
cooling the 'sweating of the corn.'" Then we drove away through the lanes
draped with birch tassels and willow wands, while bloodroot and
marshmarigold kept pace in the runnels, and I heard the twitter of the
first barn-swallow of the year.

As we drove along we talked or were silent without apology and according
to mood; and as father outlined his route to me, I resolved that I would
call upon Horace Bradford's mother, for our way lay in that direction.

Many things filled father's mind aside from the beauty of the perfect
April day, that held even the proper suggestion of hidden showers behind
the curtain of hazy sunshine. The sweating of the human corn that came
under father's eye was not always to be cured by air and sun, or rather,
those who turned uneasily would not accept the cure.

The germ of unrest is busy in the village this spring. Not that it is
wholly new, for unrest is wherever people congregate. But this year the
key is altered somewhat. The sight of careless ease, life without
labour, and a constant change of pleasures, that obtain in the Bluff
Colony, is working harm. True, the people can always read of this life in
book and paper, but to come in direct contact is another thing. Father
said the other day that he wished that conservative country places that
had lived respected and respectable lives for years could have the power
to socially quarantine all newcomers before they were allowed to purchase
land and set a pace that lured the young cityward at any cost. I, too,
realize that the striving in certain quarters is no longer for home and
love and happy times, but for something new, even if it is merely for the
sake of change, and that this infection of social unrest is quickly
spreading downward from the Bluffs, touching the surface of our little
community, if not yet troubling its depths.

The leading merchant's daughter, Cora Blackburn, fresh from a college
course that was a strain upon the family means, finds that she has built
a wall four years wide between herself and her family; henceforth life
here is a vacuum,--she is misunderstood, and is advertising for an
opportunity to go to New York and the independence of a dreary back third
or fourth story hall bedroom. But, as she said the other day, putting on
what Evan calls her "capability-for-better-things" air, "One's scope is
so limited here, and one never can tell whom one may meet in New York,"
which is, of course, perfectly true.

It was only last night that father returned from the hospital, distressed
and perplexed, and called me into the office. A young woman of
twenty-two, that I know very well, of a plain middle-class family over in
town, had, it seems, sent her name for admission to the training-school
for nurses. Father, in his friendly way, stopped at the house on his way
home to talk with her about the matter, and found from a little sister,
who was washing dishes, that the mother of the family was ill and being
cared for by a neighbour. Presently, down tripped the candidate for
nursing, well dressed, well shod, and with pink, polished finger nails.

Father, wondering why she did not care for her mother, asked his usual
questions: "What leads you to wish to take up nursing? Are you interested
in medicine, and fond of caring for the sick? For you should be, to enter
such an exacting life." She seemed to misunderstand him altogether and
take his inquiry for prying. She coloured, bit her lip, then lost her
head and blurted out: "Interested in the sick! Of course not. Who could
be, for they are always so aggravating. I don't mean to stay so very long
at it, but it's a good chance to go into some swell family, and maybe
marry and get into society."

[Illustration: His Mother]

Poor father was fairly in a rage at the girl's idea of what he deems a
sacred calling, and it was not until Richard had kissed him from the end
of his nose up over his short thick gray hair, and down again to the
tickle place in his neck, that he calmed down. Unless my instinct fails
me, he will have his social experience considerably widened during the
coming season, even if his trustful nature is not strengthened.

Father had made three calls, and we had eaten our luncheon by the
wayside, unhooking the horses, and baiting them by a low bridge rail that
sloped into the bushes, where they could eat and drink at leisure, before
we reached Pine Ridge. Once there, he dropped me at the Bradford farm,
while he drove westward, along the Ridge, to a consultation with the
local doctor over a complicated broken leg that would not knit.

As I closed the neat white picket gate behind me, and walked slowly
toward the porch, a blaze of yellow on the south side of the red brick
house drew my attention. It was the Forsythia, the great bush of "yellow
bells," of which Horace Bradford had spoken as blooming in advance of any
in the neighbourhood, and for a moment I felt as if I were walking into
the pages of a story-book.

I wielded the heavy brass knocker on the half-door, with diamond-paned
glass top, and paused to look off to where the flower and fruit garden
sloped south and west. Presently, as no one answered the knock, I peered
through the glass, into an open square, that was evidently both hall and
sitting room. In one corner was a chimney place, in which a log burned
lazily, opposite a broad, low window, its shelves filled with flower
pots, near which, in a harp-backed chair, an old lady sat sewing. She
wore a simple black gown, with a small shawl thrown across her shoulders,
and her hair, clear steel colour and white, was held in a loose knot by
an old-fashioned shell comb. In spite of the droop and lines of age (for
Horace Bradford's mother must have been quite seventy), the nose had a
fine, strong Roman curve, and the brow a thoughtful width.

What was she thinking of as she sat there alone, this bright April
afternoon, shaping a garment, with a smile hovering about her lips? Her
son's promotion and bright prospects, perhaps.

I looked across at the old mahogany chest of drawers behind her, to see
if I could recognize any of the framed photographs that stood there.
One, evidently copied from a daguerrotype, was of a curly-haired girl,
about fourteen, probably the daughter who died years ago, and another,
close at her elbow, was of a lanky boy of eight or ten, wearing a broad
straw hat, and grasping a fishing pole, probably Horace, as a child, but
there was nowhere to be seen the photograph of him in cap, gown, and hood
that stood on Miss Lavinia's chimney shelf.

Then as Mrs. Bradford folded her hands over her work, and gazed through
the plants and window, at some far-away thought, I felt like a detective,
spying upon her, and hastily knocked again.

This time she heard at once, and coming quickly to the door, admitted
me, with a cordial smile and a hearty grasp of the hand that reminded
me of her son, and was totally unlike the clammy and noncommittal touch
of so many of the country folk, bred evidently of their general habit
of caution.

"You are Mrs. Evan, the Doctor's daughter. I know your father well,
though I have never met you face to face since you were a little girl."

Then the conversation drifted easily along to Miss Lavinia, and my
meeting with Horace, his professorship, the prospect of his being at home
all summer, and to the different changes in the community, especially
that wrought by the colony at the Bluffs, which were really the halfway
mark between Oaklands and Pine Ridge.

Mrs. Bradford saw the purely commercial and cheerful side of the matter;
as yet, few of the new places were well equipped with gardens,--it had
opened a good market for the farmers on the Ridge, and they were no
longer obliged to take their eggs, fruit, poultry, and butter into town.

In spite of a certain reticence, she was eager to know the names of all
the newcomers; but when I mentioned Mrs. Latham, saying that she was the
mother of Sylvia, one of her son's pupils, and described the beauty of
their place, I thought that she gave a little start, and that I heard her
speak the initials S. L. under her breath; but when I looked up, I could
detect nothing but a slight quiver of the eyelids.

Then we went out into the garden, arm in arm, for Mrs. Bradford's footing
seemed insecure upon the cobbled walk, and she turned to me at once as
naturally as if I were a neighbour's daughter. Together we grew
enthusiastic over the tufts of white violets, early hyacinths, and
narcissi, or equally so over the mere buds of things. For it is the
rotary promise that is the inspiration of a garden; it is this that
lures us on from year to year, and softens the sharp punctuation of
birthdays.

Was there anything in her garden that I had not? She would be so pleased
to exchange plants with me, and had I any of the new cactus Dahlias, and
so on, until we reached the walk's end, and turned about under a veteran
cherry tree that showered us with its almond-scented petals.

Then Mrs. Bradford relaxed completely, and pulling down a branch, buried
her face in the blossoms, drawing long breaths.

"I've kept away from the garden all day," she said, "because I had some
sewing to finish, so those unfortunate Hornblower children might begin
the spring term at school to-morrow; and when I once smell the cherry
flowers, my very bones ache to be out doors, and I'm not good for a thing
but to potter about the garden from now on, until the strawberries show
red, and everything settles down for summer. It's always been the same,
since I was a little girl, and used to watch the cherry blooms up through
the top sash of the schoolhouse windows, when they had screened the lower
part to keep us from idling, and it's lasted all through my married life.
The Squire and I always went on a May picnic by ourselves, until the
year he died, though the neighbours all reckoned us feeble-minded."

The "Sweating of the Corn," I almost said aloud.

"I've reasoned with myself every spring all through the between years,
until now I've made up my mind it's something that's meant to be, and I'm
going to give in to it. Sit down here under the trees, my dear, and
Esther Nichols will bring us some tea and fresh cider cake. Yes, I see
that you look surprised to have afternoon tea offered on Pine Ridge, but
I got the habit from the English grandmother that reared me, and I've
always counted it a better hospitality than the customary home-made
cordials and syrups that, between ourselves, make one stomach-sick. Yes,
there comes Esther now; she always knows my wants. She and her husband
are distant cousins of the Bradfords, and my helpers indoors and out, for
I am too old to manage farm hands, especially now that they are mostly
Slavs, and it makes Horace feel happier to have kinsfolk here than if I
trusted to transient service."

So we sipped the well-made breakfast tea beneath the cherry blossoms as I
told her about my boys and Miss Lavinia's expected visit. When father
called for me I left reluctantly, feeling as if nobody need be without a
family, when one becomes necessary, for in addition to an aunt in Lavinia
Dorman I had found a sort of spirit grandmother there in the remote and
peaceful highlands,--a woman at once simple and restful, yet withal
having no narrowness or crudity to cramp or jar.

It was nearly five o'clock when we turned into the highway west of the
Bluffs. We had gone but a few rods when a great clanking of chains and
jar of wheels sounded behind. As I stretched out to see what was coming,
a horn sounded merrily.

"A coaching party," said father. "I will turn out of the road, for there
is a treacherous pitch on the other side, and for me to let them topple
into the ditch might be profitable, but hardly professional."

We had barely turned into low bushes when the stage came alongside. The
horses dropped back to a walk, as they passed, for it was a decided up
grade for thirty yards, so that we had a good chance to view both
equipage and occupants. To my surprise I saw that the coach was the
Jenks-Smith's. I did not know they had returned from the trip abroad
where they had been making their annual visit to repair the finances of
their son-in-law.

Monty Bell was driving, with Mrs. Jenks-Smith at his side. The robust
Lady of the Bluffs, evidently having some difficulty in keeping her
balance, was clutching the side bar desperately. She was dressed in
bright-figured hues from top to toe, her filmy hat had lurched over one
eye, and all together she looked like a Chinese lantern, or a balloon
inflated for its rise but entangled in its moorings.

Jenks-Smith sat behind, with Mrs. Latham and a very pretty young girl as
seatmates, while behind them came a giggling bevy of young people and the
grooms,--Sylvia being of course absent.

Mrs. Latham was clad in pale violet embroidered with iris in deeper
tones, her wide hat was irreproachably poised, her veil draped
gracefully, her white parasol, also embroidered with iris, held at as
becoming an angle, and her corsage violets as fresh as if she was but
starting out, while in fact the party must have driven up from New York
since morning.

They did not even glance at the gray horses which had been drawn aside to
give them right of way, much less acknowledge the courtesy, but clanked
by in a cloud of misty April dust.

"What a contrast between his mother and hers," I said unconsciously,
half aloud.

"Which? Whose? I did not quite catch the connection of that remark,"
said father, turning toward me with his quizzical expression, for a
standing joke of both father and Evan was to thus trip me up when I
uttered fragmentary sentences, as was frequently the case, taking it for
granted, they said, that they either dreamed the connection or could
read my thoughts.

"I meant what a great contrast there is between Mrs. Bradford and Mrs.
Latham," I explained, at once realizing that there was really no sense in
the comparison outside of my own irrepressibly romantic imagination, even
before father said:--

"And why, pray, should they not be different? Under the circumstances
it would be very strange if they were not. And where does the _his_ and
_her_ come in? Barbara, child, I think you are 'dreaming pussy
willows,' as you used to say you did in springtime, when you were a
very little girl."

       *       *       *       *       *

The boys were having their supper in the hall when I arrived home, for,
warm as the days are, it grows cool toward night until we are past
middle May.

The scraped knees were still knobby with bandages, but the lads were in
good spirits, and seemed to have some secret with Martha that involved a
deal of whispering and some chuckling. After the traces of bread and
butter were all wiped away, they came hobbling up (for the poor knees
were sadly stiff and lame), and wedged themselves, one on each side of
me, in the window seat of the den, where I was watching for the smoke of
Evan's train, my signal for going down the road. Ah, how I always miss
the sight of the curling smoke and the little confidential walk in the
dark winter days!

There was some mystery afoot, I could see, for Martha hovered about the
fireplace, asking if a few sticks wouldn't temper the night air, to which
I readily assented, yet still she did not go, and the boys kept the hands
close against their blouse fronts.

Suddenly Ian threw his arms about my neck and bent my head close to his,
saying, in his abrupt voice of command, "Barbara must not stay indoors
tomorrow and be sad and mend the moles' stockings."

"Yes, Barbara must," I answered firmly, feeling, yet much dreading, the
necessity of the coming collision.

"No, she can't," said Ian, trying to look stern, but breaking into little
twinkling smiles at the mouth corners. "She can't, because the moles'
stockings haven't any more got holes!" and he pulled something from his
blouse and spread it in my lap, Richard doing likewise.

There were two stockings mended, fearfully and wonderfully, to be sure,
and quite unwearable, but still legally mended.

"I don't understand," I said, while the boys, seeing my puzzled
expression, clapped their hands and hopped painfully about as well as
they were able.

Then Martha Corkle emerged from the background and explained: "The boys
they felt most terrible in their minds, Mrs. Evan, soon after you'd went
(their sore knees, I think, also keepin' them in sight of their doings),
and they begged me, Mrs. Evan, wouldn't I mend the stockings, which I
would most cheerfully, only takin' the same as not to be your idea, mum.
So I says, says I, somebody havin' to be punished, your ma's goin' to do
it to take the punishment herself, that is, in lest you do it your own
selves instead. So, says I, I'll mend one stocking of each if you do the
other, Mrs. Evan, and no disrespect intended.

"I borried Effie's embroidery rings and set the two holes for them and
run them in one way, leavin' them the fillin' to do, which they have,
sittin' the whole afternoon at it most perseverin'."

"Richard did his one stitch, but I did mine four stitch; it ate up the
hole quicker, and it's more different," quoth Ian, waving his stocking,
into the knee of which he had managed to introduce a sort of
kindergarten weaving pattern.

"But mine looks more like Martha's, doesn't it, mother?" pleaded patient
Richard, who, though the threads were drawn and gathered, had kept to the
regular one up and one down throughout.

Then the signal of the smoke arose against the opal of the twilight sky,
and we went out hand in hand, all three happy, to meet our breadwinner.

Late that night, when all the household slept, I added a little package
to my treasures in the attic desk,--two long stockings with queer darned
knees,--and upon the paper band that bound them is written a date and
"The Sweating of the Corn."




IX

A WAYSIDE COMEDY


_May 5th_. Madame Etiquette has entered this peaceful village. Not,
however, as the court lady of the old French regime, but travelling in
the wake of the Whirlpoolers under dubious aliases, being sometimes
called Good Form and at other The Correct Thing. At present she is having
a hand-to-hand encounter with New England Prejudice, a once stalwart old
lady of firm will, but now considerably weakened by age and the incessant
arguing of her great-grandchildren.

The result of the conflict is quite uncertain, for actually even the
Sunday question hangs in the balance; while the spectacle is most amusing
to the outsider and embarrassing to the referees.

Father, seeing through medical eyes, regards the matter merely in the
light of a mild epidemic. Evan is rather sarcastic; he much preferred
garden quiet and smoking his evening pipe to the tune of soothing
conversation concerning the rural days' doings, to the reflex anxiety of
settling social problems. In these, lo and behold, I find myself
unwillingly involved, for one New England habit has not been
abandoned--that of consulting the wife of minister and doctor, even if
holes are afterward picked in the result, and in this case a daughter
stands in the wife's place.

The beginning was two years back, when the Bluff colony began to be an,
object of speculation, followed in turn by censure, envy, and finally
aspiration that has developed this spring into an outbreak of emulation.

Ever since I can remember, social life has moved along quite smoothly
hereabout, the doings being regulated by the age and purses of the
participants. The householders who went to the city for a few winter
months were a little more precise in their entertaining than the born and
bred country folk. As they commonly dined at night, they asked people to
dinner rather than to supper, which is the country meal of state. But
lawn parties, picnics, and clambakes at the shore were pretty much on the
same scale, those who could afford it having music and employing a
caterer, while those who could not made no secret of the cause, and felt
neither jealous nor humiliated. A wagon load of neighbourly young people
might go on a day's excursion uncriticised, without thought of dragging a
mother or aunt in their wake as chaperon. In fact, though no one is more
particular than father in matters of real propriety, I cannot remember
being formally chaperoned in my life or of suffering a shadow of
annoyance for the lack.

Weddings were always home affairs among the strictly country folk, by
common consent and custom, no matter to what denomination the people
belonged. Those with contracted houses went quietly to parsonage or
rectory with a few near friends; others were married at the bride's home,
the ceremony followed by more or less merrymaking. A church wedding was
regarded as so great a strain upon the families that the young people had
no right to ask it, even if they so desired.

That has passed, at least for the time being, and all eyes are fixed upon
the movements of the Bluff people, and many feet are stumbling along in
their supposed footsteps. It would be really funny if it were not half
pitiful. The dear simple folk are so terribly in earnest that they do not
see that they are losing their own individuality and gaining nothing to
replace it.

The Whirlpoolers, though only here for the between seasons, are
constantly entertaining among themselves, and hardly a day passes but a
coaching party drives up from town with week-end golfers for whom a dance
is given, or stops _en route_ to the Berkshires or some farther point. A
few outsiders are sometimes asked to the more general of these
festivities, friends of city friends who have places hereabout, the
clergy and their wives, and, alas, the Doctor's daughter; but
society-colonies do not intend associating with the-natives except purely
for their own convenience, and when they do, pay no heed to the code they
enforce among themselves.

It is not harsh judgment in me, I feel sure, when I say that Evan would
not be asked so often to the Bluffs to dinner if he were not a well-known
landscape architect whose advice has a commercial value. They always
manage to obtain enough of it in the guise of after-dinner conversation
and the discussion of garden plans to make him more than earn his fare.
For the Whirlpoolers are very thrifty, the richer the more so, especially
those of Dutch trading blood, and they are not above stopping father on
the road, engaging in easy converse, praising the boys, and then asking
his opinion about a supposititious case, rather than send for him in the
regular way and pay his modest fee.

In fact, Mrs. Ponsonby asked me to a luncheon last autumn, and it
quickly transpired afterward, that she had an open trap for sale suitable
for one horse; she knew that Evan was looking for such a vehicle for me,
and suggested that I might like this one.

A bulky and curious correspondence grew up around the transaction, and
the letters are now lying in my desk marked "Mrs. Ponsonby, and the road
cart." Finally I took the vehicle out on a trial trip. I noticed that it
had a peculiar gait, and stopping at the blacksmith's, called him to
examine the running gear. He gave one look and burst into a guffaw: "Land
alive, Mrs. Evan, that's Missis Ponsonby's cart, that stood so long in
the city stable, with the wheels on, that they're off the circle and no
good. I told her she'd have to get new ones; but her coachman allowed
she'd sell it to some Jay. You ain't bought it, hev yer?"

Good-natured Mrs. Jenks-Smith, the pioneer of the Bluffs, was the
first one to throw open her grounds, when completed, for an afternoon
and evening reception, with all the accompaniments of music, electric
lit fountains, and unlimited refreshments. Everybody went, and
satisfaction reigned for the time; but when another season it was
found that she had no intention of returning calls, great
disappointment was felt. Others in turn exhibited their grounds for
the benefit of the different churches, while the Ponsonbys gave a lawn
party for the orphan asylum, and considering that they had done their
duty, straightway forgot the village.

The village did not forget; it had observed and has begun to put in
practice. The first symptom was noticed by Evan. Last summer several
family horses of respectable mien and Roman noses appeared with their
tails banged. Not docked, mind you, but squared-off as closely as might
be without resorting to cruelty; while their venerable heads,
accustomed to turn freely and look their drivers in the face
reproachfully if kept standing too long, were held in place by overdraw
checks. At the same time the driver's seat in the buggy or runabout was
raised from beneath so as to tilt the occupant forward into an almost
standing posture. This worked well enough in an open wagon, but in a
buggy the view was apt to be cut off by the hood, if the driving lady
(it was always a woman) was tall.

The second sign was when Mrs. Barton--a widow of some sixty odd years,
with some pretensions to breeding, but who had been virtually driven from
several villages where she had located since her widowhood, owing to
inaccuracy of speech, beside which the words of the Village Liar and the
Emporium were quite harmless--contracted inflammatory rheumatism by
chaperoning her daughters' shore party and first wetting her lower half
in clamming and then the upper _via_ a thunder shower. The five "Barton
girls" range from twenty-five to forty, and are so mentally and
physically unattractive and maladroit that it would be impossible to
regard them as in any danger if they went unattended to the uttermost
parts of the earth. On this particular occasion the party consisted of
two dozen people, ranging from twenty to fifty, which it would seem
afforded ample protection.

To be chaperoned was the swell thing, however, and chaperoned the "Barton
girls" would be.

"I cannot compete with multi-millionnaires," said Mrs. Barton, lowering
her voice, when father, on being called in, asked if she had not been
rather rash at her age to go wading in cold water for clams; "but as a
woman of the world I must do all that I can to follow the customs of good
society, and give my daughters protection from even a breath that might
affect their reputations."

The drawling tone was such a good imitation of Mrs. Ponsonby's that
father could barely control his laughter, especially as she continued: "I
also feel that I owe it to the neighbourhood to do all in my power to
put a stop to buggy riding, the vulgar recreation of the unmarried. Of
course all cannot afford suitable traps and grooms to attend them, but
good form should be maintained at all hazards, and mothers should not
begrudge taking trouble."

Father said that the vision of shy young folks driving miserably along
the country lanes on Sunday afternoons in the family carryall, with mamma
seated in the middle of the back seat, rose so ludicrously before him
that he was obliged to beat a retreat, promising to send a special remedy
for the rheumatism by Timothy Saunders.

All winter I have noticed that great local interest has been taken in the
fashion journals that treat of house decoration and etiquette, and on one
occasion, when making a call at one of our most comfortable farms, I
found the worthy Deacon's wife poring over an ornamental volume, entitled
"Hints to those about to enter Society."

After she had welcomed me and asked me to "lay off" my things, she
hesitated a moment, and then, opening the book where her fat finger was
keeping the place, she laid it on my lap, saying in a whisper: "Would you
tell me if that is true, Mrs. Evan? Lurella says you hobnob some with the
Bluff folks, and I wanted to make sure before we break it to pa."

The sentence to which she pointed read, "No gentleman will ever come
to the table without a collar, or be seen on porch or street in his
shirt sleeves." Here, indeed, was a difficulty and a difference. How
should I explain?

I compromised feebly and advised her not to worry the Deacon about what
the Bluff people did or the book said, for it need not apply to the Cross
Roads farmers.

"I'm reel glad you don't hold it necessary fer pa," she said with a sigh
of relief; "he'd take it so hard, eatin' gettin' him all het up anyhow.
Now between ourselves, Mrs. Evan, don't you think writ out manners is
terrible confusin' and contradictin'? I wouldn't hev Lurella hear me say
so, she's so set on keepin' up with things, but she's over to town this
afternoon.

"I've been readin' for myself some, and observin' too. The Bluff folks
that plays grass hockey, all over what was Bijah Woods's farm, men and
girls both, has their sleeves pushed up as if they were going at a day's
wash, and their collars open and hanging to the hind button, which to my
mind looks shiftlesser than doin' without. I do hear also that those same
girls when they git in to dinner takes off their waists altogether and
sets down to eat all stripped off to a scrap of an underbody. That's
true, for pa saw it when he was takin' cream over to Ponsonby's; the
windows was open on the piazza, and he couldn't refrain from peekin',
though I hope you'll not repeat. Of course they may feel dreadful sweaty
after chasin' round in the sun all day, though I wouldn't hold such
sudden coolin' wholesome; but why if women so doin' should they insist on
men folks wearin' collars, say I?"

I told the dear soul that I had never quite been able to understand the
_reason why_ of many of these things, and that my ways were also quite
different from those of the Bluff people; for though father and Evan had
been brought up to wear collars, I had never yet stripped to my underbody
at dinner time.

Thus emboldened, she beckoned me mysteriously toward the best parlour,
saying as she went, "Lurella seen the picture of a Turkey room in the
pattern book, and as she's goin' to have a social this spring, she's
fixed a corner of it into our north room."

When the light was let in I beheld a "cosey corner" composed of a very
hard divan covered with a broche shawl, and piled high with pillows of
various hues, while a bamboo fishing-pole fastened crosswise between the
top of the window frames held a sort of beaded string drapery that hung
to the floor in front, and was gathered to the ceiling, in the corner,
with a red rosette. On close examination I found, to my surprise, that
the trailers were made of strings of "Job's Tears," the seed of a sort of
ornamental maize, the thought of the labour that the thing had involved
fairly making my eyes ache.

"That is a very pretty shawl," I remarked, as no other truthful word of
commendation seemed possible.

"Yes, it is handsome, and I miss it dreadful. You see, it belonged to
pa's mother, and I calkerlated to wear it a lifetime for winter best, but
the fashion papers do say shawls are out of it, and this is the only use
for them, which Lurella holds. I can't ever take the same comfert in a
bindin' sack, noway; and pa, he's that riled about the shawl bein' used
to set on, I daren't leave the door open. Says the whole thing's a 'poke
hole,' and the curt'in recollects him of 'strings of spinnin'
caterpillars,' and 'no beau that's worth his shoes won't ever get caught
in no such trap,' which is most tryin' to Lurella, so I hev to act
pleased, and smooth things over best I can."

Well-a-day, it is always easier to answer the riddles that puzzle others,
rather than those that confront ourselves.

Fully a year ago Mrs. Jenks-Smith gave me a well-meaning hint that it is
not "good form" for me to allow father or Evan to smoke while we drive
or walk in public together. The very next night we three happened to be
dining, why I don't know, at the most socially advanced house on the
Bluffs. When the moment came for the midway pause in the rotation of
foods, that we might tamp down and make secure what we had already eaten
by the aid of Roman punch, the gentlemen very nearly discounted the
effort, as far as I was concerned at least, by smoking cigarettes,
leaning easily back in their chairs, and with no more than a vague "by
your leave," to the ladies. What was more, there was a peculiarly
sickening sweet odour to the smoke that father afterward told me was
because the tobacco was tinctured with opium. Yet it is "bad form" for
Evan and father to smoke in my society, out in the road or street under
the big generous roof of the sky. Dear little boys, I wonder what the
custom will be when you are grown, and read your mother's social
experience book?

       *       *       *       *       *

The present crisis to be faced is in the form of a wedding,--an
apple-blossom wedding, to take place in St. Peter's Church. I have
been made a confident in the matter from the very beginning of the
wayside comedy which led to it; but I wish it understood that I am
not responsible for the list of invited guests, or the details of
the ceremony, which have been laboriously compiled from many
sources, any more than I shall be for the heartburnings that are
sure to follow in its wake.

       *       *       *       *       *

One morning early last summer Fannie Penney was driving home from town,
with a rather lopsided load of groceries on the back of the buckboard.
Fanny did not enjoy these weekly trips for groceries, but she did not
rebel, as her sisters did; and though she had aspirations, they had not
developed as quickly in her as in the others, for she was considered
already an old maid (a state that in the country, strangely enough, sets
in long before it does in the city, often beginning quite at noonday) at
the time the Bluff colony began to attract attention.

The Penney family live in a plain but substantial house on the main road,
a little way north of the village, where Mr. Penney combines farming, a
blacksmith's shop, and a small line of groceries, for the benefit of his
family. Up to the present time this family has jogged along at a fairly
comfortable pace, only one daughter, the youngest, Mollie, having so far
escaped from the traditional female employments of the region as to spend
a season in New York, supplementing the grammar school education by a
course in elocution, with Delsarte accompaniments. When she returned she
gave her old friends to understand that she was thoroughly misunderstood
by her family; also, that she was now to be called Marie and preferably
Miss, hinted that she was soon going on a professional tour, and
condescendingly agreed to give a free recital at a Sunday-school
entertainment. At this she startled the community by reciting the
sleep-walking scene from Lady Macbeth, clad in a lace-trimmed Empire
nightgown, red slippers with high heels, whitened face, wild hair, and,
of course, the candlestick, with such terrible effect that the mothers of
the infant class had difficulty in getting their progeny to stay in bed
in the dark for some weeks to come. The pastor considered that, under the
circumstances, she gave the words "out damned spot" undue emphasis, while
the "Watch-out Committee" of the S. C. E. failed entirely to agree as to
what gave the nightgown a decided pink tint, opinions greatly varying.
Some insisted that it was flesh, while the pastor's wife, knowing the
flavour of persecution, firmly insisted that it was merely a pink cambric
slip, as was most right and proper. But her charity was immediately
discounted by Mrs. Barton, who said that likely it was pink lining, for
Marie's flesh was yellow, and not pink.

However, this event was soon forgotten in the greater interest that
gathered about Fannie Penney's return ride from town.

It seems that soon after Fannie left the town limits and was jogging
along the turnpike, the big roan horse of all work began to stumble, then
grew lame forward, and finally came to a standstill.

Fannie got out, examined his feet, soon found that not only had he cast a
shoe, but in doing so had managed to step on a nail and drive it into his
frog. With the good judgment of a farrier's daughter, she promptly
unharnessed him. Looking about and seeing cows grazing in a neighbouring
pasture, she led him slowly to the side of the road, let down the bars
and turned him loose, where he immediately showed his appreciation of the
situation by lying down and nibbling at the grass within reach.

So far so good, but when Fannie began to consider the possibility of
walking home, with the chance of being picked up on the road by some one,
and getting her father to come and remove the nail, the load of groceries
loomed up before her. Not only did they represent considerable money
value, country reckoning, and there was no house within half a mile
either way, but some of the articles, such as lard, were in danger of
being ruined by the hot sun; so Fannie walked along the road, searching
the dust for the lost shoe, seeing no way out of her dilemma unless some
one should come by.

She did not find the shoe, but soon a cloud of dust from the town side
told of an approaching team, and she went to the shade of the only
near-by tree and waited.

A moment later, the team coming up proved to be a freshly painted
runabout, drawn by a fine bay horse in trim harness, driven by the
average stable boy; while beside him sat a smooth-faced, keen-eyed man,
rather under middle age, dressed in a spotless light suit, tan shoes,
lilac shirt, opalesque tie, finished above by a Panama hat pinched into
many dimples.

He was evidently a man of quick action, for he saw the girl and horseless
wagon at a glance, touched the reins, stopped the horse, and jumped out
before Fannie could think, taking off his hat and saying:--

"Lady in distress, runaway horse, lucky not to have upset load--can I be
of any use?" all in one breath.

Fannie had never read Dickens, so that no comparison with the speech of
Alfred Jingle arose to make her distrustful, which was unnecessary, and
the bowing figure appeared to her the perfection of up-to-date manly
elegance. Could it--yes, it must be a guest on the way to the Bluffs.

She blushingly explained the complication, feeling almost ashamed to
mention her fears as to the melting lard, it seemed so insignificant in
such a presence; but he quickly reassured her by going to the wagon,
pulling it energetically under the tree, and spreading the linen lap-robe
over the goods, the effort causing streams of perspiration to alter the
stately appearance of a three-inch high collar. Next he sprang over the
fence into the field, found that the nail was too firmly wedged to be
drawn from the horse's hoof with either fingers or a wagon wrench, and
returned to the road again.

"Now, may I ask where you live?" he said, dusting himself off with
vigorous flips of a large Yale blue silk handkerchief.

Fannie told him, and her name, also, and ventured to ask that, if he was
going through Oaklands, he would be good enough to tell her uncle, who
kept the livery stable, to send out for her.

"I guess we can better that," he said, smiling genially. "I'm going to
Oaklands to meet my trunk and stop over a day. I'll leave the boy here
with your goods, drive you in, pick up your father, he returns with this
horse, brings tools, fixes up his own, boy takes rig back to town, your
father drives goods home, see?"

Fannie saw that the arrangements were unanswerably suitable; also, that
to carry them out she must take a drive with the unknown, a drive of
necessity to be sure, yet one that she could safely call romantic,
especially as, when he turned to help her into the runabout, he picked up
a horseshoe that lay in the bottom and gave it to her, saying, "It's
yours; I found it half a mile back; I never pass a horseshoe, never can
tell when it'll bring luck."

Before they had gone very far her dream of his being a guest on his way
to the Bluffs was shattered by his saying: "I've got the advantage of
you--know your name, you don't know mine. That's not fair. 'Aim to be
fair' 's my motto, even if I don't chance to hit it," and he pulled out a
bulky wallet and held it toward her with one hand, that she might help
herself to one of the cards with which it was filled.

Her hand touched his; she blushed so that her freckles were veiled for
the moment as she read, half aloud: "L. Middleton--with Frank Brothers.
Dealers in first-class canned goods," the New York address being in the
corner. The feeling of disappointment only lasted for a moment, for was
not a travelling man, as the drummer is always called in country towns,
a person of experience and knowledge of the world, as well as being not
infrequently shrouded in mystery? As she pondered on the card, wondering
if she dared put it in her pocket, he said in a matter-of-fact way,
again extending the wallet: "Don't hesitate, take the deck, may come
handy, father like to keep goods in stock some time. That's my regular;
carry a side line too, perfumes and an A1 hair restorer. Got all my
samples at Oaklands depot. You mind stopping there on the way? Want to
get fresh collar."

No, of course Fannie would not mind; this last request fixed her
companion firmly in her esteem. Any other man of her acquaintance would
have removed his collar and proceeded without one, never giving the
matter a thought; in fact, she had been momentarily expecting that this
would happen. Now she would have the bliss of taking him home in all the
perfection of his toilet as she first beheld him.

From that moment she grew more conversational, and his utterance became
less jerky, until, when they finally drove up back of the long red brick
railway station at Oaklands, a little before noon, she had not only given
him a synopsis of local history, but was, in her excitement, vainly
trying to recollect what day of the week it was, so that she might judge
of the dinner probabilities at home, also if it would be safe to ask him
to stay. Fortunately remembering that she saw her father beheading
chickens the night before, which guaranteed a substantial meal, she
decided it was an absolute duty.

As L. Middleton emerged from the baggage room in a fresh collar, even
higher than the other, he threw an ornamental bottle of violet water into
Fannie's lap to keep company with the horseshoe. Immediately Hope arose
at the combination, and Settled under the left folds of Fannie's pink
shirt waist; for Middleton seems a distinguished name to one who has been
called Penney for twenty-eight years, and romance had never died in the
heart under the pink waist for the reason that it was only at this moment
being born.

On arriving at home, Fate continued to prove kind. Mrs. Penney was
inspired to ask the guest to "stop to dinner," without any hints or
gesticulations being necessary, which might have marred the first
impression. Not only did the chickens appear at the table, where no
canned food was present, but there was a deep cherry pie as well, which
was eaten with peculiar relish by the commercial traveller, accustomed to
the awful fare of New England country hotels, where he was often obliged
to use his own samples to fill gaps. He gazed about at the comfortable
kitchen, and won Mamma Penney by praising the food and saying that he was
raised on a farm. Father Penney took a hasty bite in the buttery, and
soon disappeared to rescue his goods from the highway. He was always
considered something of a drawback to the matrimonial prospects of his
daughters; for, as his nose indicated, he had a firm, not to say
combative, disposition, and frequently insisted upon having not only the
last but the first word upon every subject, so that Fannie regarded his
going in the light of a special providence.

After dinner the three other Penney sisters all tried their best to be
agreeable, Marie donning a clinging blue gown and walking up and down the
piazza watering plants at this unusual hour of the day for his particular
benefit, a performance which caused L. Middleton to ask, "Say, did you
ever do a vaudeville turn?" And Marie, not knowing whether to take the
remark as a criticism or a compliment, preferred to take the latter view
and answer in languid tones,--

"No, but I have acted, and I've been seriously advised to go on
the stage."

In the middle of the afternoon, the load of groceries having arrived
safely, Fannie's "hero" took his leave, Papa Penney driving him to the
village inn, where he was to unpack his samples.

For a while L. Middleton was a standard topic of conversation among the
girls. They wondered for what L. stood. Fannie guessed Louis, Marie
spitefully suggested that it might be Lucifer, and that was why he didn't
spell it out. Then as he seemed about fading from the horizon, he
reappeared suddenly one crisp October morning, just starting on his
eastern fall route, he said, and invited Fanny to go to the County Fair.

Again a period of silence followed. The sisters remarked that most
travelling men were swindlers, etc., but Fannie persistently put violet
water on the handkerchief that she tucked under her pillow every night,
until, as winter set in, the supply failed.

Then an idea came to her, she took the horseshoe from where it had been
hanging over her door, covered its dinginess with two coats of gold
paint, cut the legend, "Sweet Violets," together with the embossed
flowers, from the label on the perfume bottle, and pasted them on the
horseshoe, which she further ornamented with an enormous ribbon bow, and
despatched it secretly to L. Middleton by express a few days before
Christmas.

At New Year's a box arrived for Fannie. It contained a gold pin in the
shape of a horseshoe, in addition to a large, heart-shaped candy box
filled with such chocolates that each was as a foretaste of celestial
bliss to Fannie, who now thought she might fairly assume airs of
importance.

Half a dozen letters went rapidly back and forth, and then the proposal
bounded along as unexpectedly as every other detail of the courtship.
There was very little sentiment of expression about it, but he was in
earnest and gave references as to his respectability, etc., much as if he
were applying for a business position, and ended by asking her at which
end of his route she preferred to live, New York, or Portland, Maine, and
if in New York, would she prefer Brooklyn or Harlem?

Fannie quickly decided upon Harlem, for, as Marie said, "There one only
need give the street name and number, while very few people yet realize
that Brooklyn really is in New York."

This important matter settled, the Penney girls arose in their might upon
the wings of ambition. There should be a church wedding.

Now the Penneys were, as all their forbears had been, Congregationalists;
but that church had no middle aisle, besides, as there was no giving away
of the bride in the service, there was little chance for pomp and
ceremony. It was discovered that the groom's parents had been
Episcopalians, and though he was liberal to the degree of indifference
upon such matters, it was decided that to have the wedding in St. Peter's
would be a delicate compliment to him.

All the spring the village dressmaker has been at work upon the gowns of
bride and of bridesmaids, of whom there are to be six, and now the cards
are out and the groom's name also, the L at the last moment having been
found to stand for Liberty. If they had consulted the groom, he would
have decried all fuss, for Fannie's chief attraction was that he thought
her an unspoiled, simple-minded country girl.

The hour was originally set for the morning, but as Fannie saw in her
fashion paper that freckled people often developed a peculiarly charming
complexion when seen by lamplight, the time was changed to eight at
night, in spite of the complications it caused.

A week before the invitations were issued Fannie came to see me and after
some preamble said: "Mrs. Evan, I want my wedding to be good form, and
I'd like to do the swell thing all through. Now the _Parlour Journal_
says that the front pews that are divided off by a white ribbon should be
for the bride's folks on one side of the aisle and the groom's on the
other. Mr. Middleton hasn't any people near by enough to come, so I
thought I'd have the Bluff folks sit on that side."

"The Bluff people?" I queried, in amazement. "You surely aren't going to
invite them? Do you know any of them?"

"Well, not intimately, but Mrs. Ponsonby has been to the house for eggs,
and Mrs. Latham's horse dropped a shoe last week and father set it, and
the Vanderveer boy's pony ran away into our front yard the other day, so
I don't feel as if they were strangers and to be left out. Oh, Mrs. Evan,
if they'd only come and wear some of their fine clothes to light up the
church, it would be in the papers, the _Bee_ and the _Week's News_ over
town maybe, and give me such a start! For you know I'm to live in New
York, and as I've never left home before, it would be so pleasant to know
somebody there!"

I almost made up my mind to try to put things before her in their true
light, and save her from disappointment, but then I realized that I was
too near her own age. Ah, if Lavinia Dorman had only been here that day
she could possibly have advised Fannie without giving offence.

       *       *       *       *       *

_May 16th._ The wedding is over. Shall I ever forget it? The rain and
cool weather of the past ten days kept back the apple blossoms, so that
the supply for decorating the church was poor and the blossoms
themselves only half open and water-soaked. Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who always
hears everything, knowing of the dilemma, in the goodness of her heart
sent some baskets of hothouse flowers, but the girls and men who were
decorating did not know how to handle them effectively, for Fannie, still
clinging to sentiment, had gilded nearly a barrel of old horseshoes,
which were tied with white ribbon to every available place, being
especially prominent on the doors of the reserved pews.

Late in the afternoon a fine mist set in with clouds of fog, which, if it
got into the church, I knew would completely conceal the glimmer of the
oil lamps. It seems that Papa Penney was not told until an hour before
the ceremony that he was to walk up the aisle with the bride on his arm
and give her away. This he flatly refused to do. He considered it enough
of an affliction to have the wedding in church at all, and it was not
until his wife had given her first exhibition of fainting, and Fannie had
cried her eyes red, that he apparently yielded.

We arrived at the church at about ten minutes to eight, father and Evan
having been persuaded to come in recognition of good neighbourhood
feeling. The back part of the church was well filled, but the space
above the ribbon was painfully empty. The glimmering lamps did little
more than reveal the gloom, and the horseshoes gave a strange
racing-stable effect.

We tried to spread ourselves out as much as possible to fill up, and
presently the Ponsonby girls entered with some friends, seemingly
astonished at being seated within the barrier, for they had never seen
their cards of invitation, and had come as a sort of lark to kill time on
a wet evening.

The ushers wandered dismally up and down, stretching their hands
nervously as if unused to gloves. Presently they fell back, and the
organ, in the hands of an amateur performer and an inadequate blower,
began to chirp and hoot merrily, by which we knew the bridal party was
about to appear.

The ushers came first, divided, and disappeared successfully in the
shadows, on either side of the chancel steps. A long wait and then Marie
Penney followed, walking alone, as maid of honour; she had insisted upon
having plenty of room, as she said so few people walked well that they
spoiled her gait. Next came the six bridesmaids on a gallop, then Papa
Penney and the bride. He walked along at a jog trot, and he looked
furtively about as if for a loophole of escape. As for poor Mrs. Penney,
instead of being seated in the front pew before the procession entered,
she was entirely forgotten in the excitement, and stood trembling near
the door, until some one drew her into a seat in neighbourly sympathy.

The clergyman stood waiting, the bridesmaids grouped themselves behind
papa, so that there was no retreat, but where was the groom and the best
man? One, two, three minutes passed, but no sign. He had been directed to
the vestry door as the bridal party drove up. Could he suddenly have
changed his mind, and disappeared?

The silence was awful, the Ponsonby girls giggled aloud, and finally got
into such gales of laughter that I was ashamed. The organ had dropped
into the customary groaning undertone that is meant, I suppose, to give
courage to the nervous and weak-voiced during the responses.

       *       *       *       *       *

Outside the church, in the rear, two men in evening dress might have been
seen blundering about in the dark, vainly trying to find an open door,
for besides the door to the vestry there were three others close
together, one opening into the little chantry, one the Sunday-school
room, and one into the cellar. They battered and pulled and beat to no
purpose, until a mighty pound forced one in, and the two men found
themselves flying down a flight of steps, and landing in a heap of coal.

Dazed, and not a little bruised, the groom struck a match, and looked
about; the best man had sprained his ankle, and said so in language
unbefitting the location, but Liberty Middleton arose superior to the
coal. Judging by the music that the ceremony had begun, he told his
crippled friend to sit still until he came back for him, and, by lighting
a series of wax matches, found his way back to the front door of the
church, and strode up the aisle dishevelled, and with a smutty forehead,
just as Papa Penney had succeeded in breaking through the bridesmaids,
dragging Fannie with him. A sigh of relief arose. The couple stepped
forward and the ceremony began. When, however, the giving away time came,
it was found that Papa Penney had retreated to a pew, from which he could
not be dislodged. Another hitch was only averted by the groom turning
pleasantly toward his father-in-law, and saying, with a wave of his hand,
"It's all right, don't trouble to move; you said 'I do,' I think; the
Parson understands." The ceremony was ended without further complication.
When Fannie walked out upon the arm of the self-possessed Liberty, I
thought that the travelling man had the makings of a hero in him after
all. It afterward transpired that the hapless best man, left in the coal
cellar, and not missed until the party was halfway home, had only
wrenched his ankle, and made his escape to the village tavern for
consolation, proving that even commercial travellers may be upset by a
fashionable wedding ceremony.




X

THE WHIRL BEGINS


_May 30_. The People of the Whirlpool have come to the Bluffs, and the
swirl and spray has, in a measure, followed them. I had well-nigh
written, "are settled at the Bluffs," but the Whirlpoolers are perpetual
migrants, unlike the feathered birds of passage never absolutely settling
anywhere even for the nesting season, sometimes even taking to the water
by preference, at the time, of all others, when home is most loved and
cherished by the "comfortably poor."

The houses, nominally closed since the holidays, have been reopened, one
by one, ever since the general return from the south in April, after
which season, Mrs. Jenks-Smith assures me, it is bad form to be seen in
New York on Sunday.

This fiat, however, does not prevent members of almost every family from
spending several days a week in the city, thus protecting themselves
against the possible monotony of home living by lunching and dining,
either singly or in informal groups, at the public restaurants.

Father has always held the theory that ladies should dress
inconspicuously in the public streets and hostelries, and for a woman to
do otherwise, he considered, was to prove that she had no claim upon
gentility. Evan used to go so far as to say that the only people who
display their fine clothes in hotels are those who have no homes in which
to wear them.

Dear, innocent provincials, the Whirlpoolers have changed all that, and
given the custom their hall mark that stamps it vogue. In fact, in
glancing at the papers, by the light of our Bluff Colony, which, after
all, is but a single current of the pool that whirls in the shape of the
letter S, it seems to me that a new field has been opened for the society
journalist--the reporting of the gowns worn at the restaurants in the
"between seasons."

One evening, a few weeks ago, Evan and I went, by request, to one of the
most celebrated of these resorts to call upon some friends of his, a
bride and groom, then passing through the city. We were directed where to
find them in the corridor--midway would have been a better term. We found
them, and many others beside!

"Where do these people come from?" I whispered to Evan, looking down the
row of women of all ages and, if expression may indicate, all grades,
who, dressed and undressed in lavish opulence, were lolling about, much
as if expecting a call to go upon the stage and take part in some
spectacle, but that the clothes and jewels were too magnificent to be
stage properties.

"Brewers' wives from the west, and unknown quantities; people who come to
New York to see and be seen," he answered carelessly; but almost as he
spoke his words were checked by the entrance of an equally gorgeous
group, composed of those who Lavinia Dorman had assured us were among the
most conservative of our new neighbours, all talking aloud, as if to an
audience, as they literally swept into the dining room, where Mrs. Center
was already seated. To be sure, the clothes, in their cases, were worn
with a difference,--the ease of habit,--but to all outward appearance the
distinction began and ended there. Ah me! to think of having such things
cross the horizon in May, when, unless one is forced to be miserable, one
must be inexpressibly happy.

I have been working all the month in my garden, as of old, or trying to,
at least, but upon the principle that no member of a community can either
live or die wholly to, or by, himself, I here missed the untrammelled
liberty of yore. Not that I care if I am detected collarless, in a brown
holland apron, with earthy fingers, and sometimes even a smutty nose, but
the Whirlpoolers, unable to regard the work as serious, do not hesitate
to interrupt, if nothing more.

Imagine the assurance of the twenty-two-year-old Ponsonby girl, who came
dashing up all of a fume last Saturday morning, when I was comfortably
seated on the old tea tray, transplanting a flat of my best ostrich
plume asters, and begging me, her mother being away, to chaperon her to
a ball game, in a town not far off up the railroad, with harmless,
pink-eyed Teddy Tice, one of her brother's college mates. It seems that
if she could have driven up and taken a groom it would have been good
form, but there was some complication about the horses, and to go by
rail unchaperoned, even though surrounded by a earful of people, was not
to be thought of. I pointed to the asters that must be set out and
covered before the sun was high, but she couldn't understand, and went
off in a huff.

What a disagreeable word chaperon is at best, and what a thankless
vocation the unlisted, active, and very irregular verb 'to chaperon'
implies. I quite agree with Johnson, who denounced the term as affected,
for certainly its application is, though Lavinia Dorman says it is the
natural effect of a definite cause, and that it is quite necessary from
the point of view of the quarter where it most obtains.

Monday morning I was again interrupted in my garden operations by a
Whirlpooler, but the reason was quite different. The twins have gardens
of their own, which are as individual and distinctive as their two
selves. Richard delights in straight rows, well patted down between, and
treats the small seeds that he plants with a sort of paternal patience.
Ian disdains any seed smaller than a nasturtium or bean, whose growth is
soon apparent, and has collected a motley assortment of bulbs, roots, and
plants, without regard to size or season, and bordered his patch with
onion sets for Corney Delaney's express benefit, the goat having a Gallic
taste for highly flavoured morsels. Both boys are fairly patient with
their own gardening operations, but their joy is to "help" me by handing
tools, watering plants, and squirting insecticides, in my society and
under my direction.

Of course I could do it all much quicker by myself, and it has hampered
me this spring, for last season they were too irresponsible to more than
play work a few minutes at a time.

Now I have come to the conclusion that it is their right to learn by
helping me, and that it is the denial of companionship, either from
selfishness or some absurd educational theory, that weakens the force of
home ties later on.

I have been frequently lectured by those older, but more especially "new
mothers" younger than I, about staying with the boys at bedtime until
they grow drowsy. "The baby is put to bed, and if he cries I pay no
attention; it is only temper, not pain, for he stops the minute I speak
to him," they say. I feel the blood rush to my face and the sting to my
tongue always when I hear this.

Not pain, not temper, but the unconscious yearning for companionship, for
mother-love, is oftener the motive of the pitiful cry. Why should it be
denied? The mother bird broods her young in the nest at twilight, and the
father bird sings a lullaby to both. The kittens luxuriously sup
themselves to sleep with the warm mother flesh responding to their
seeking paws. In wild life I know not an animal who does not in some way
soothe her young to sleep. Why should the human child, the son of man, be
forced to live without the dream memories that linger about happy
sleeping times? What can the vaunted discipline give to replace them? It
is then, as they grow, and speech forms on their lips, that little
confessions come out and wrongs are naturally righted through
confidence, before they can sprout and grow.

I was not quite five when I last watched mother sowing her flower seeds,
and yet I remember to this day the way in which she did it, and so when
it came time to give my bed of summer roses its first bath of whale oil,
soap, and water, and the boys gave whoops of joy when they saw Bertel
wheel out the tub and I appeared with the shining brass syringe, I
resolved to let them have the questionable delight of administering the
shower bath, even if it took all day.

I have appropriated a long strip of rich, deep soil for these tender
roses, quite away from the formal garden and across the path from the new
strawberry bed, which by the necessity of rotation has worked its way
from the vegetable garden to the open spot under the bank wall by the
stable where the hotbeds congregate. This wall breaks the sweep of the
wind, and so both our tender roses and strawberries are of the earliest,
the fruit already being well set and large.

It was the middle of the morning. The work was progressing finely,
without more than the usual amount of slop and misdirected effort, when a
violent tooting from the direction of the highway caused me to stop, and
Ian dropped the squirter that I had newly filled for his turn, upon the
grass border, while he and Richard scurried toward the gateway to see
what was the matter, for the sound was like the screech of an automobile
horn in distress. It was!

A streak of dark red and a glitter of brass flashed in between the gate
posts, grazing them, and barely escaping an upset, and then came plunging
toward me. I screamed to the boys, who seemed to me directly in the path
of the _Thing_, which in another moment I recognized as an automobile of
the battering-ram variety, belonging to Harvey Somers, Gwendolen Burton's
fiance, which for the past week had been the terror of father's steady
old gray horses, owing to its constitutional eccentricities.

Mr. Somers was handling it single-handed, and though he was coming at a
reckless speed, I expected that he would swing back of the house and come
to one of the dramatic sudden stops, on the verge of an accident, for
which he is famous. So he did, but not on the driveway!

The _Thing_ gave a lurch and veered toward the barn, spitting like a
cageful of tiger cats. Somers was pushing the lever and gripping the
brake with all his athletic might, but to no purpose. The children, who,
wild with excitement, had by this time sought the safety of the open barn
door, seemed a second time to be in the monster's path.

Another lurch! Surely man and machine would be dashed to bits against
the substantial stable wall!

Then the _Thing_ changed its course, and showing a ray of flustered
intelligence, made a mighty leap off the bank wall and landed hub deep in
the soft, friable soil of the new strawberry bed, where, after one
convulsive effort, some part of its anatomy blew up with the triple
report of a rapid-fire gun, and after having relieved itself of a cloud
of steam, it settled down peacefully, as if a strawberry bed was the
place of all others it preferred for a noonday nap.

Harvey Somers was shot with a left-handed twirl directly into one of the
hotbed frames, from which the sash was pushed back, and landed in a
doubled-up position, amid a tearing sound and the crash of broken glass.
Meanwhile, the boys, frightened at the cloud of steam, yelled "Fire!" at
the top of their lungs.

As I flew to help him, I could for the instant think of nothing but the
Lizard Bill's assisted progress up the chimney and into the cucumber
frame, but as a rather faint voice said, "Not you; kindly call the
Doctor," my mirth changed to alarm, which was not lessened when Timothy
Saunders, hearing the uproar and the cry of fire, arriving too late to
grasp the situation with his slow Scotch brain, and seeing me leaning
over the plant frame, picked up the squirt and deluged the unfortunate
man with whale-oil spray!

Coughing and choking, Mr. Somers finally sat up, but did not offer to do
more, wiped his eyes, and said to me in most delightful and courteous
tones, "Would you be so good as to allow your man to bring me either a
bath robe or a mackintosh?"

I was at once relieved, for I knew that the lacerations were of trousers
and not flesh, and at the same time I saw that the crash of glass was
caused merely by the toppling backward of the sash, also that all my
young heliotrope plants that were in the frame where the chauffeur
reposed were hopelessly ruined.

Timothy brought out Evan's bath gown, and in a few moments Mr. Somers was
himself again, and after surveying the scene of the disaster, he
approached me with a charming bow, and drawing a crumpled note from his
pocket said:--

"I promised Bertie Chatterton to give you this invitation for his studio
tea to-morrow, in person, and I fear that I have rather overshot my
promise. Best way to get that brute up will be from the bank wall,--will
damage your fruit less. I will have a derrick sent up to-morrow, or if
possible this afternoon. I'm awfully sorry, Mrs. Evan, but I think you'll
bear me witness that the accident was quite out of my control. May I beg
the favour of a trap home? I'm a trifle shaken up, that's all." And as if
the accident were an everyday affair, he departed without fuss and having
steadied my nerves by his entire self-control.

As I stood by the gateway pondering upon the matter and the easy manners
of this Whirlpooler, Mrs. Jenks-Smith drove past. She had met Mr. Somers,
and as her curiosity was piqued by his strange attire, she stopped to see
if I could furnish a clew. She says, by the way, that he is not a New
Yorker, but from Boston, and that his father is an English Honourable and
his mother a Frenchwoman.

A gang of men with a sort of wrecking machine hired from the railroad
company removed the _Thing_ next day, and towed it off, but of course the
strawberries were half ruined; next a man from the florist's in town came
with directions to repair all damage to turf and replace the smashed
plants. Yet that is not all--the sense of peace and protection that I had
when working in my garden has had a shock. In spite of the inhospitable
air it gives the place, I think we must keep the gates closed.

Why was Jenks-Smith inspired to start a land-boom here and fate allowed
to make fashion smile on it, when we were so uneventfully happy, so
twinfully content?

       *       *       *       *       *

Martin Cortright arrived on Wednesday, and is safely ensconced with
Martha and Timothy Saunders, who could give him the couple of plainly
furnished rooms he desired, and breakfast at any hour. For a man of no
hours (which usually means he never breakfasts before nine) to forgather
cheerfully at a commuter's table at 7:15 A.M. is a trial to him, and a
second breakfast is apt to cause a cloud in Madam C.'s domestic horizon.
Therefore, father allowed Martin to do as he suggested, live at the farm
cottage and work here in the library or attic den, as suits his
convenience. In this way he feels quite independent, has motive for
exercise in walking to and fro, and as he is always welcome to dine with
us, can mix his portion of solitude and society in the exact proportion
of his taste, even as his well-shaped fingers carefully blend the tobacco
for his outdoor pipe.

Dear old fellow, he seems so happy and bubbling over with good temper at
having overstepped the tyranny of habit, that I shall almost expect to
see his gray hairs turn brown again as the wintry pelt of the weasel does
in spring.

If the Vanderveer boy is diagnosed as a case of "suppressed boyhood,"
then Martin Cortright's only ailment should be dubbed "suppressed youth!"

He was to have come earlier in the month, but a singular circumstance
prevented. The old-time gentlewoman, at whose house in Irving Place he
has had his apartments so long that a change seemed impossible, died, and
he was obliged not only to move, but put his precious belongings in
storage until he can place himself suitably once more. So that his plan
of coming here bridges the break, and seems quite providential.

He and father walk up and down the garden together after dinner, smoking
and chatting, and it does me good to see dear daddy with one of his
old-time friends. I think I am only now realizing what he, with his
sociable disposition, gave up in all those years before Evan came, that I
should not be alone, and that he might be all in all to me.

It was quite cool yesterday. We had hearth fires all through the house,
and Martin, rearranging some reference books for his own convenience in
the little room that is an annex to father's library, wore his skull cap
and Chinese silk dressing gown, which gave him an antique air quite at
variance with his clear skin and eyes.

Lavinia Dorman had been due all the week, but worry with the workmen who
are building in the rear of her house detained her, and she telegraphed
me that she would take the morning express, and asked me to meet her over
in town. So I drove in myself, dropping father at the hospital on the
way, but on reaching the station the train brought me no passenger.

I returned home, hoping to be in time for our way train, thinking I had
mistaken her message, and missed it; but the postmistress,--for every
strange face is noticed in town,--told me that the lady who visited me
two weeks ago walked up from the ten o'clock train; that she had a new
bonnet and "moved right spry," and asked if she was a relative of mine.
"An aunt, maybe, and was the pleasant new gentleman an uncle, and did he
write a newspaper? She thought maybe he did because he was so particular
about his mail." I said something about their being adopted relations,
and hurried home.

The boys were industriously digging dandelions on the side lawn. I
inconsistently let the dear, cheery flowers grow and bloom their fill in
the early season, when they lie close to the sward, but when they begin
to stretch awkward, rubbery necks, and gape about as if to see where they
might best shake out their seed puffs, they must be routed. Do it as
thoroughly as possible, enough always remain to repay my cruelty with a
shower of golden coin the next spring. Bertel spends all his spare time
on the other bits of grass, but the side lawn is the boys' plunder,
where, by patiently working each day at grubbing out the roots at
twenty-five cents a hundred, they expect, before the dandelion season is
over, to amass wealth enough to buy an alluring red goat harness trimmed
with bells that is on exhibition at the harness shop in town, for Corney
Delaney. Yes, they said, Aunt Lavinia had just come, but she said they
need not stop, for she could go in by herself.

There was no one in the hall, sitting room, den, or upstairs, neither had
Effie seen any person enter. Thinking I heard voices in the direction of
father's office, I went there and through to the library "annex," where
an unexpected picture met my gaze. Martin Cortright, the precise, in
stocking feet, skull cap, and dressing gown, perched on top of the
step-ladder, was clutching a book in one hand, within the other he held
Miss Lavinia's slender fingers in greeting, while his face had a curious
expression of surprise, pleasure, and a wild desire to regain his
slippers that were down on the floor, a combination that made him look
extremely foolish as well as "pudgy."

Up to that moment, Miss Lavinia, who cannot distinguish a face three
feet away without her lorgnette, thought she was speaking to father.
Under cover of our mutual hilarity, I led her back to a seat in the
study, so that Martin might recover his wits, coat, and slippers at the
same time, for Miss Lavinia had stumbled over the latter and sent them
coasting in different directions.

Yes, the postmistress was right, Lavinia Dorman had a new bonnet. Not the
customary conservative but monotonous upholstered affair of jet and lace,
but a handful of pink roses in a tulle nest, held on by wisps of tulle
instead of ribbons.

"Hortense, who has made bonnets for years, said this was more appropriate
for the country, and would show dirt less than black,--and even went so
far as to suggest omitting the strings altogether," she said in rather
flurried tones, as a few moments later we went upstairs, and I removed
the pins that held the confection in place, and commented upon its
prettiness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Martin Cortright stayed to dinner, and afterward he, Miss Lavinia,
father, and Evan sat down to a "real old-fashioned," serious game of
whist! Of all things, to the fifth wheel, who is out of it, would not be
in if she could, cannot learn, and prefers jackstraws to card games of
any sort, an evening of serious whist is the most aggravating. They were
too well matched to even enliven matters by squabbling or casting
venomous glances at each other. Evan played with Martin Cortright, whose
system he was absorbed in mastering, and he never spoke a word, and
barely looked up. This, too, when he had been away for several days on a
business trip. It was moonlight, and I wanted him to see the new iris
that were in bloom along the wild walk, dilate upon the game of leap-frog
that the automobile played, and--well--there is a great deal to say when
Evan has been away that cannot be thought of indoors or be spoken
hurriedly in the concise, compact, public terms in which one orders a
meal. Conversation is only in part made of words, its subtilties are
largely composed of touch and silence.

I myself, being wholly responsible for the present whist combination, of
course could say nothing except to myself and the moon. What a hoard of
personal reminiscences and heart to heart confessions the simpering old
thing must have stored away behind her placid countenance. It is a wonder
that no enterprising journal has syndicated her memoirs by wireless
telegraphy for the exclusive use of their Sunday issue.

I resolved that I must wait awhile, and then if this silence lasted many
evenings, I must hunt up a game of cards that takes only two. How could I
get out of the room without appearing to be in a huff or bored? Ah! a
wordless excuse; a slight noise upstairs. Ian sometimes walks in his
sleep. I go up and sit in my window and look out through the diamond
panes at the garden. Ian stirs and mutters something about a drink. I
hasten to get it, and he, gripping the glass with his teeth, swallows
eagerly, with a clicking noise in his throat.

"Is your throat sore?" I ask apprehensively. He opens his eyes, realizes
where he is, nestles his head into my neck and whispers,--

"Not zactly lumpy sore, Barbara, just crusty, 'cause I made--lots of
dandelion curls wif my tongue to-day, and they're--velly--sour," and with
a satisfied yawn he rolled back on his pillow, into the funny
spread-eagle attitude peculiar to himself, but Richard slept peacefully
on like a picture child, cheek on hand, and the other little
dandelion-stained paw above the sheet.

(N.B.--When one's husband and father together take to serious whist of a
moonlight night in spring, twins are not only an advantage but a
necessity.)

I have searched the encyclopedia for the description of an intellectual
game of cards, arranged as a duet, and found one. It is piquet! Now I
can wait developments peacefully, for are there not also in reserve
chess, checkers, backgammon, and--jackstraws?

       *       *       *       *       *

_June_ 2. A gentle summer shower at sunset after a perfect day has filled
the world with fragrance and song, for do the birds ever sing so
perfectly with such serene full-noted ecstasy as after the rains of May
and June? Or is it the clearness of the air after the rain that transmits
each note in full, prisoning nothing of its value?

To-night I am unhappy. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, and perplexed is
the better word, and it is only in pages of my social experience book
that the cause can be given.

Friday was Peysey Vanderveer's eighth birthday, and it has been
celebrated by a party on a scale of magnificence that to my mind would
have been suitable for the only son of royalty.

Though the invitations fortunately were only given two days in advance,
Richard and Ian were agog over the matter to the extent of muttering in
their sleep, and getting up this morning before eight, in order, if
possible, to make the hour of three come quicker, and to be sure to be
ready in time.

When the invitation was brought by Mr. Vanderveer in person, he asked if
Lavinia Dorman and I would not like to come up also and see the children
play, adding that I need feel no responsibility about the boys, as he was
going to be at home and give himself up to seeing that the "kids" had a
jolly time, and got into no scrapes.

We agreed that it would be amusing to go up with the children, stay a
little while to be sure that they could adapt themselves, and then leave;
for if there is anything dampening to the ardour of children at play it
is a group of elders with minds divided between admiration and
correction, punctuating unwise remarks upon beauty and cleverness with
"Maud, you are overheated." "Tommy, don't! Use your handkerchief!"
"Billy, your stocking is coming down!" "Reggie, you must wait, girls
should be helped first."

The boys certainly looked comfortably and humanly handsome in their white
cheviot sailor suits, loose blue ties, black stockings and pumps. They
really are good-looking children. Lavinia Dorman, who is candour itself,
says so. I suppose people think that my opinion does not count, and that
I should consider them perfect if they were of the human chipmunk
variety. But I am sure I am not prejudiced, for I do _not_ think them
perfect, only well made and promising, thus having the two first
requisites of all young animals.

When we arrived at the Vanderveers a little late, owing to the fact of
father's having been obliged to use our horse for a hurry call, the party
had "gathered," to use an old-fashioned expression, and I saw that
Richard and Ian were by several years the youngest of the group of thirty
or more, the others ranging from eight to thirteen or fourteen.

The house and grounds were decorated wherever decoration was possible.
Though it was wholly a daylight affair, Japanese lanterns hung by
festoons of handsome ribbon from verandas, trees, and around the new
pergola, the marble columns of which, in the absence of vines, were wound
with ribbons and roofed with bright flags, to form a tent for the
collation. In an arbour decorated in a like manner, an Hungarian
orchestra in uniform, much in vogue, Miss Lavinia says, for New York
dinner dances, was playing ragtime, while a dozen smart traps and road
carts filled with exquisitely dressed women lining the driveway around
the sunken tennis court, indicated that a matched game was to take place.

Yes, after every one had exchanged greetings, Miss Lavinia, meeting
several friends who not only treated her with something akin to homage,
but were unfeignedly pleased to see her, the guests divided, a dozen of
the elder girls and boys going toward the tennis court, where Monty Bell
seemed to be acting as general manager. I afterward discovered that two
prizes for doubles and two for singles were to be played for, not pretty
trifles suitable for children, but jewellery, belt buckles of gold and
silver, gold sleeve links, and a loving cup.

Meanwhile Mr. Vanderveer took charge of the younger group and led them
through the garden to where some young spruce trees hid the wall. Here a
surprise awaited them in the shape of two of the largest of the growing
trees festooned with ribbons and laden with strange fruit in the shape of
coloured toy balloons that bobbed about and tugged at their moorings as
if anxious to escape.

On each balloon a number was painted in white. A wide ribbon was
stretched barrierwise across the walk about fifteen feet from the trees,
and near it were several large baskets, one full of bows and dart-pointed
arrows, and the other heaped with expensive toys and bonbon boxes of
painted satin, for prizes, each article being numbered.

"Step up, ladies and gentlemen. Stand in line by the ribbon and take your
turn at the most unique shooting match ever seen in this county,--one at
a time,--and whoever points the arrow at anything but the balloons is
ruled out," rattled Mr. Vanderveer, after the manner of a fakir at a
country fair, and beaming with pleasure. For Evan says that outside of
business dealings he has the reputation of being the most good-natured
and generous of men, and that to invent ways to lavish money upon his son
and his friends is almost as keen a pleasure to him as to promote schemes
for winning it.

Mr. Vanderveer picked up a bow and dart to illustrate the game, aimed at
a balloon, the arrow glanced off, but at the second shot the balloon went
pop and shrivelled away with the whistle of escaping gas and shouts of
applause from both children and their elders.

Feeling assured that my boys were quite at their ease and not likely to
balk and act like wild rabbits, as is sometimes the case with children
when they find themselves among strangers, and seeing nothing that they
would be likely to fall out of or into, except a great bowl of lemonade
arranged in a bower that represented a well, we came away, Lavinia Dorman
sniffing in the spectacle like a veteran war-horse scenting powder, and
enjoying the gayety, as I myself should have done heartily if it had not
been for the boys.

I was not worried about their clothes, their taking cold, or sticking
the darts into their fingers, but I was beginning to realize the
responsibility of consequences. What would the effect of this fete be
upon the birthday parties of our village community, where a dish of
mottoes, a home-made frosted sponge cake, and a freezer of ice cream
(possibly, but not always) from town, eaten out-of-doors, meant bliss.

I suppose it is only the comfortably poor who have to think of
consequences, the uncomfortably rich think they can afford not to,
and tired of mere possession, they must express their wealth audibly
at any cost.

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard and Ian came home about half past six, driven by Timothy
Saunders, who was in a sulky mood. When I asked him, by way of cheerful
conversation, if the Vanderveer grounds did not look pretty, and if he
had heard the band (he is very fond of music), he fairly glowered at me
as he used in his bachelor days, before Martha's energetic affection had
mellowed him, and he began to jerk out texts, his dialect growing more
impossible each moment, so that the only words that I caught were
"scarlet weemen--Philistines--wrath--mammon o' the unriteous," etc.,
until I seized the boys and fled into the porch, because when Timothy
Saunders is wrathful, and quotes scripture as a means of expressing it,
some one must fly, and it is never Timothy.

The boys, however, were jubilant, and began at once to unwrap the various
bundles they were hugging, prizes, it seemed, for every game they played,
that represented enough plunder to deck a small Christmas tree. After
these had been duly admired, with some misgivings on my part, Ian jumped
up suddenly, clapping his hand to his pocket, and coming close, so that
he could rest upon my knee, he began pulling out shining new dimes and
quarters, until his hands, moist and trembling with excitement, could
hold no more, and he poured the coins into my lap.

"Count them please, Barbara, vely quick, 'cause I can't say so many," he
begged, standing with his curly head a little on one side, and his eyes
flashing with eagerness.

Wondering what new form of extravagance it was, I counted, "One, two,
three dollars and a half."

"Then we can go and buy the red harness for Corney to-morrow, without
bothering to dig up any more dandies, 'cause Dick's got some too," he
fairly shouted. "It was all bully fun, but that swizzle game where the
marble ran round was the bestest of all, only some numbers it sat on took
the pennies and some gave them back," and he indicated something flying
round in a circle as he capered about. Ian's slightest gestures, like his
father's, are very realistic, and I turned sick as I realized the game by
which the silver had been won was probably roulette! Could it be
possible? How had Mr. Vanderveer dared? No, there must be some mistake.

At that instant my attention was attracted by Richard, who, after
unpacking his toys, had curled up in a deep piazza chair, where he sat
without saying a word, but looking flushed and heavy-eyed.

"Do you feel sick? Perhaps you ate too much cream, and then ran too fast.
Come and let mother feel of your hands," I said. His hands were cold and
his head burning.

"It wasn't the cweam," he replied finally, as if not quite sure what was
the matter, "it was the lemonade with the bitter currant jelly in it
that made the cweam and all swell up,--and I guess it's going to spill
pretty soon."

"Lemonade with bitter jelly in it?" queried father, coming out, "what
sort of a mess have they given him?" Father stooped, smelled his breath,
saying, "Astringent wine of some sort, unless my nose fails me. Did you
have any, Ian?"

"Not pink, only yellow. I was all full up by then."

"When?"

"Why, when the big boys caught some of us and said we must drink pink
lemonade to make us grow quick."

Father gave me a keen glance of intelligence, and I took the boys
upstairs, where Richard's trouble soon righted itself, and, early as it
was, they went quickly to sleep with the precious money under their
pillows, fatigue conquering even their excitement.

Evan came home rather late, and at dinner we talked of other things. As
far back as I remember anything, I can hear father's voice saying alike
to Aunt Lot, myself, or a complaining servant, "The family board is
sacred; meals are not the time for disagreeables."

Immediately after dinner, and before I had a chance to tell Evan, Mrs.
Jenks-Smith stopped on her way home from a drive, the Whirlpoolers not
dining until eight, to ask father if she might take some friends in to
see the hospital to-morrow, an appeal having been recently made for new
bedding, etc., saying: "We're going to have smashing strawberries and
roses this year; they'll come on before the crowd moves along in July,
and we might as well shake up a fete for the hospital as anything else,
as we're bound to keep moving.

"Were you up at Vanderveers this afternoon? Oh, yes, to be sure, I saw
you going down hill as I drove in. Quite a chic affair for a little
between-season place like this; but after all, it's the people, not the
place, that make the pace, isn't it, Miss Dorman? And a swell New Yorker
can leave a wake that'll show the way anywhere.

"You don't look happy, though, Mrs. Evan. The boys ate too much? No?
Roulette a little too high for you?

"Well, my dear, I half agree with you. I think things were a little too
stiff this afternoon for such youngsters; but Vandy is such a liberal
fellow he couldn't do enough,--nor tell when to stop,--actually lugged up
half a dozen bags of new silver and dealt it to the kids in handfuls.
Harm? Why, he didn't see any, I dare say. He wasn't robbing anybody;
besides, I'll bet Monty Bell put him up to it. I know how you feel,
though. I wouldn't play for money myself, if I'd young boys; but as I
haven't, it doesn't matter, and one must be amused. That's the way Mrs.
Latham jogged poor Carthy off and began the gap with her husband. Latham
gambles on change, of course, but drew the line at his house. Didn't know
it? You poor innocent, you're as bad as Sylvia herself. Why, yes, they're
as good as divorced, by mutual agreement, though; he's kept away all of
two years. I expect that they will announce it any time now.

"Won't let the boys keep the money? Don't be silly now and make a fuss;
change it to bills and put it on the church plate; that's what all the
really conscientious women always do with their Lenten winnings
anyway,--that is, when they can afford it.

"I'll allow, though, they didn't manage the drinks well this afternoon.
The lemonade was for the youngsters, and their spread was in the pergola;
the next age had claret cup in the tea house back of the tennis court,
and there was also a spread there with champagne cup for the elders.

"Claret cup? Oh, yes, nowadays you insult a boy over twelve if you offer
him lemonade. But the trouble was, the big boys tumbled to the champagne
cup, got hold of a bowl of it, grew excited, and fed the youngsters with
the claret stuff, and made a lot of them sick. Your Richard one of them?
I see,--I don't wonder you're put out, my dear, indeed I don't. I should
be too, that is, if it mattered; but one person disapproving won't turn
the wheel the other way, it only means to lose your own footing." So
saying, the Lady of the Bluffs rustled away, promising to call for father
in her 'bus in the morning.

"Is this true?" asked Evan, presently, and I had never seen his eyes look
so steely cold.

"Yes, I'm afraid so," I answered, meeting his gaze.

"Where is the money?"

"Under their pillows; they expect to buy the red goat harness to-morrow."

"It's a crying shame, the whole thing. The poor little babies!"

"What shall I do?"

"You? Nothing. I shall return the money. This is my business; man to
man. As a woman you inevitably must be emotional and make a doubtful
issue of it. You mother the boys well, God knows; this is my chance to
father them."

"But the money,--shall I get it now?"

"No, in the morning; they will bring it to me, and I will make them
understand, as far as babies may. In one way, I fear, we are unwittingly
somewhat to blame ourselves. Every one who is drawn toward a social and
financial class a little beyond his depth, and yields, though feeling the
danger, is unwise. I think, sweetheart, this commuter, his wife, and
babies had better be content to wade in safe shallows and not go within
touch of the Whirlpool current."

Then Evan and I went and stood silently by the two white beds, and now he
is walking up and down in the garden smoking quietly, while I am writing
up here, and unhappy because I think of to-morrow and the boys'
disappointment about the little red harness.




XI

REARRANGED FAMILIES


_June_ 10. Sylvia Latham has returned alone. Her father came with her as
far as Chicago, where, having business that would detain him for perhaps
ten days, and warm weather having set in, he insisted that Sylvia should
at once proceed eastward. At least that is what Miss Lavinia tells me;
but she has suddenly turned quite reticent in everything that concerns
the Lathams, which, together with Mrs. Jenks-Smith's random remarks, have
inevitably set me to thinking.

I had hoped to form a pleasant friendship with Sylvia, for though I have
only met her two or three times, I feel as if I really knew her; but
there will be little chance now, as they go on to Newport the first of
July, and the continual procession of house parties, for golf, tennis,
etc., at the Bluffs, even though they are called informal, necessarily
stand in the way of intimate neighbourly relations between us. Monty Bell
has been dividing his week ends between the Ponsonby, Vanderveer, and
Jenks-Smith households, yet he always is in the foreground when I have
been to see Sylvia, even though I have tried to slip in between times in
the morning.

I do not like this Monty Bell; he seems to be merely an eater of dinners
and a cajoler of dames, such superficial chivalry of speech as he
exhibits being only one of the many expedients that gain him the title of
"socially indispensable" that the Whirlpoolers accord him.

Personally anything but attractive, he seems able to organize and control
others in a most singular way. Perhaps it is because he has a genius for
taking pains and planning successful entertainments for his friends, even
to the minutest detail, and giving them the subtle distinction of both
originality and finish, without troubling their givers to think for
themselves. Miss Lavinia-says that he has the entree of the two or three
very exclusive New York houses that have never yet opened their doors to
Mrs. Latham and several more aspiring Whirlpoolers, Mrs. Jenks-Smith
having penetrated the sacred precincts, only by right of having been
presented at the English Court in the last reign through the influence of
her stepdaughter, who married a poverty-stricken title.

"I don't know what it all amounts to," said the outspoken Lady of
the Bluffs on her return, "except that I'm in it now with both feet,
which is little enough pay for the trouble I took and the money
Jenks-Smith put out.

"Our son-in-law? No, he's not exactly English, he's Irish, blood of the
old kings, they say; but all the good it does him is, that he can wear
his hat with a feather in it, or else his shoes, I can never remember
which, in the presence of royalty, when if it wasn't for good American
money he'd have neither one or the other.

"Money? Oh yes, that's all they want of us over there; we've no cause to
stick up our noses and think it's ourselves. We know, Jenks-Smith and I,
for haven't we been financial mother and father in law to a pair of them
for ten years? Jenks-Smith was smart, though; he wouldn't give a lump sum
down, but makes them an allowance, and we go over every year or so and
bail them out of some sort of a mess to boot, have the plumbing fixed up,
and start the children all over with new clothes. That's what we're doing
when the papers say, 'Mr. and Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who went to Carlsbad for
the waters, are now in Ireland, being entertained in regal style by their
daughter and son-in-law at Bally-whack House.'"

Miss Lavinia says with a shiver that whoever marries Monty Bell, and it
is absolutely necessary for him to make a wealthy connection in the
immediate future, will have all New York doors open to her, and that, as
Mrs. Latham is leaving no stone unturned in order to become a social
leader, a marriage between Sylvia and Mr. Bell would secure her the
complete prestige necessary to her ambition, while rearranged families
are so common and often the results of such trivial causes, that the fact
of the man's having a lovely wife and two children living abroad does not
militate against him in the least. It all seems ghastly, this living life
as if it was a race track, where to reach the social goal is the only
thought, no matter how, or over or through what wreckage, or in what
company the race is to be won.

Since her return Sylvia has looked pale and seemed less buoyant. She is
much disappointed because her plan of going to Rockcliffe to see her
class graduate cannot be carried out. Miss Lavinia had promised to go
with her, and the poor child was looking forward to a week of girlish
pleasure among the friends with whom she had spent two years, when, lo
and behold! the rose and strawberry festival, that the Lady of the Bluffs
had stirred up for the benefit of the hospital, assumed such huge
proportions that the entire colony became involved, and the dates
conflicting, it was impossible for Sylvia to leave home without entirely
tipping over her mother's plans.

The places on the north side of the Bluff road are to be thrown open,
grand-chain fashion, each contributing something by way of entertainment,
games, a merry-go-round brought with great expense from the city, fortune
telling, a miniature show of pet animals, and an amateur circus, being a
few of the many attractions offered.

The spectators are to pay a fee and enter by the Ponsonbys', the first
place on the south, and gradually work their way up to the Jenks-Smiths',
where the rose garden and an elaborate refreshment booth will be reached.
The Latham garden is too new to make any showing, but Mrs. Latham, who
has been much in New York of late, promises something novel in the way of
a tea room in her great reception hall, while Mrs. Jenks-Smith insisted
that Sylvia should have charge of her rose booth, saying: "Your name's
suitable for the business, you'll look well in a simple hat and baggy
mull gown, such as artists always want to put on the people they paint,
and I must positively have some one who'll stay by me and see that things
are not torn to bits, for all the rest of the girls will slide off with
the first pair of trousers that comes along. Anyway, you don't match the
little Ponsonby and Chatfield minxes that your mother has chosen for her
six Geisha girls, for you are a head taller than the bunch."

Nothing is talked of now but this fete. Of course it will help the
hospital, even though ten times the amount is being spent upon the
preparation than any sum that can possibly be made for the charity; but
it pleases the people to spend. Father says that the Whirlpoolers are
already bored; that they have used up the place, for the time being, and
if it were not for this festival, the Bluffs would be deserted for
Newport and Long Island long before July.

Social ambition has even infected our rector's jolly little wife, who has
never felt able or called upon to entertain in any but the most informal
way. After hearing the report of a clerical luncheon in New York, where
the clergyman sat at the foot of his own table with a miniature
shepherd's crook before him, and the favour beside the plate of each
female guest consisted of a woolly lamb, she, not to be outdone,
immediately imperilled the possibility of a new winter gown by inviting
all the non-resident members of the congregation to lunch, and serving
the ice cream in a toy Noah's Ark, while the animals from it were grouped
about a large dish of water, to form an appropriate decoration in the
centre of the table, and sugar doves at each plate held leaves in their
mouths, upon which the name of the guest was neatly pricked with a pin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lavinia Dorman has decided to stay with me and do without her maid,
rather than take a cottage, or board, for we find that we do not wear on
each other in the least. We never plan for one another, or interfere in
any way, and each takes it for granted that if the other desires
assistance of any sort, she will ask for it.

Miss Lavinia pokes about the garden at her own sweet will. I gather the
flowers,--I could not give that up to any one,--and she takes charge of
arranging them in the house. She is very fond of doing fancy work, I am
not, so that her offer to re-cover the sofa cushions in den, study, and
library comes in the light of a household benefaction.

Besides this, she has a very good effect upon the boys, and without being
at all fussy, she is instilling their absorbent minds quite unconsciously
with some little bits of the quaint good breeding of other days that they
will never forget. They love to go to town with her, one of her first
stipulations being that if I chose to include her in some of our long
drives, well and good, otherwise she wished the liberty of telephoning
the stable for horse and man, whenever she pleased, without my troubling
myself about her movements.

Meanwhile, I really think that this living in the midst of a family
without losing her independence is making Lavinia Dorman grow backwards
toward youth. She has bought an outing hat without strings, trimmed with
fluffy white, she takes her work out under the trees in a basket, and
has given up tying her head in a thin and a thick veil every time she
drives out. If she could learn to sit comfortably back and lounge a
trifle, and if a friendly magpie would only chance along and steal her
stock of fronts, for a nest, so that she would be obliged to show her
own lovely hair that shades like oxidized silver, the transformation
would be complete.

Martin Cortright also is developing mental energy. He always had
considerable physical vim, as I found the Sunday after he first came,
when he accompanied Evan upon one of his long walks, and was not used up
by it. He has stopped fumbling with reference books and shuffling bits of
paper by the hour, and writes industriously every day by the west window
of the attic, where he can refresh himself by looking out of the window
at the garden, or across at the passers on the highway. I was afraid that
he might wish to read the results nightly to either father or Evan, but
no, he keeps them safely under lock and key in a great teacher's desk
that he bought second hand over in town. He stays to dine with us two or
three nights a week, but he has grown flexible, and our meals are very
merry ones. Laugh softly to yourself, Experience Book, and flutter your
leaves just a bit as I write, that of their own volition, Miss Lavinia
and Martin have drifted from whist to piquet, as by natural transition,
and Evan is free for garden saunterings once more.

       *       *       *       *       *

_June_ 25. Yesterday was the day of the festival, and it was neither
sultry, foggy, nor brought to a sudden stop by a thunder shower, as so
often happens at this season.

By half past two in the afternoon the country teams could be seen winding
Bluff ward by all the various roads, and before three, the hour at which
the gates were to be opened, every available hitching place was occupied,
and the line of vehicles extended well up one of the back lanes that was
bounded by a convenient rail fence.

Horace Bradford arrived home at Pine Ridge night before last. He had
expected to see Sylvia and Miss Lavinia at Rockcliffe. Missing them, and
not knowing the cause of their change of plan, very naturally his first
thought was to drive down to Oak-lands and make a double call. On taking
up the local paper he saw the announcement of the rose festival set forth
in ornamental type, which gave him a key to the situation, so that the
substantial, if not ornamental, farm buggy, drawn by a young horse with
plenty of free-gaited country go but no "manners," was one of the first
to reach the Bluffs, Horace innocently hoping to have a few moments with
Sylvia before the festivities began. He therefore inquired his way to the
Latham house direct, instead of going into the fair grounds by way of the
Ponsonbys', and encountered Perkins, Potts, and Parker, who were on guard
at the door, as well as two footmen who stood by the steps with straw
wheel guards ready to assist people from their traps, and two grooms in
silk-sleeved buff jackets, who waited to take charge of the horses of the
men who were expected to ride over from a neighbouring social settlement.

The outdoor group seemed to be in doubt how to proceed. Bradford had all
the ease of bearing that they instinctively felt belonged to a gentleman,
but his turnout was beyond the pale, and the grooms hesitated to give it
the shelter of the perfectly equipped stable.

Perkins, however, did not hesitate, and before Bradford could open his
lips, came through the doors that were fastened wide open, and, with a
wave of his hand said, in freezing tones, "You've come in the wrong way;
the entrance gate and ticket booth is below, as the sign shows."

"I wish to see Miss Latham," said Bradford, handing his card, and at
the same time with difficulty suppressing a violent desire to knock
the man down.

"Not at home," replied immovable Perkins, vouchsafing no further
information.

"Then take my card to Mrs. Latham," thundered Bradford, nettled by his
slip in not asking for both at the first instance, and; as the man still
hesitated, he strode past him through the porch and into the hall.

As Perkins disappeared through one of the many doorways, Bradford stood
still for a moment before his eyes focussed to the change of light. The
pillars of the hall that supported the balcony corridor of the second
story were wreathed with light green vines, delicate green draperies
screened the windows, the pale light coming from many Japanese lanterns
and exquisitely shaded bronze lamps rather than outside. Half a dozen
little arbours were formed by large Japanese umbrellas, under which tea
tables were placed, and the sweet air of the summer afternoon was
changed and made suffocatingly heavy by burning incense.

Of course all this paraphernalia belonged to the festival, and yet
Bradford was not prepared to find Sylvia living in such daily state as
the other surroundings implied. He knew that she belonged to a prosperous
family, but his entrance to what he supposed would be, as the name
implied, a country cottage, was a decided shock to him.

He had been drawn irresistibly toward Sylvia almost from their meeting
in the lecture room several years before, but he could hardly allow
himself the luxury of day dreams then, and it was not until his
promotion had seemed to him to place him upon a safe footing, that he
had paused long enough to realize how completely she was woven into all
his thoughts of the future. Now, as he waited there, a broad gulf, not a
crossable river, seemed to stretch before him, not alone financial but
ethical,--a sweeping troublous torrent, the force of which he could
neither stem nor even explain to himself,--verily the surging of the
Whirlpool at his feet.

Babbling girlish voices waked him from his revery, and half a dozen young
figures, disguised in handsomely embroidered Japanese costumes and
headgear, their eyes given the typical almond-shaped and upward slant by
means of paint and pencil, came down the stairs, followed a moment later
by a taller figure in still richer robes, and so carefully made up by
powder and paint that at a distance she looked but little older than the
girls. Coming toward Bradford with an expression of playful inquiry, she
said: "Is this Mr. Bradford? I am Mrs. Latham. Did you wish to see me?
I've only a moment to spare, for at three o'clock I lose my identity and
become a Geisha girl."

Bradford was embarrassed for a moment, even quite disconcerted. Why
should he have taken it for granted that Sylvia had spoken of him, and
that he should be known to her mother? But such was the case, and he felt
bitterly humbled.

"I was one of Miss Latham's instructors at Rockcliffe two years ago. I
have returned now to spend the vacation with my mother, whom perhaps you
know, at Pine Ridge, and finding that you have come to live
here--I--ventured to call." If poor Bradford had desired to be stiff and
uninterestingly didactic, he could not have succeeded better.

"Ah, yes--Rockcliffe--Sylvia was there for a couple of years, and will
doubtless be glad to hear of the place. I myself never approved of
college life for girls, it makes them so superior and offish when they
return to society. Even two years abroad have not put Sylvia completely
at her ease among us again.

"We do not live here; this is merely a between-season roost, and we leave
again next week, so I have not met your mother. The only one of the name
I recollect is an old country egg woman back somewhere in the hills
toward Pine Ridge. You will find Sylvia at Mrs. Jenks-Smith's, just
above, at the rose booth. Pardon me if I leave you now, I have so much on
my hands this afternoon."

Thus dismissed, Bradford went out into the light again. He noticed for
the first time that his horse and buggy, standing unheeded where he left
them, looked strangely out of date, and as he went down the steps, the
horse turned his head, and recognizing him, gave a joyful whinny that
caused the grooms to grin. He could feel the colour rising to his very
eyes, and for a moment he determined to go home without making any
further effort to find Sylvia, and he felt grateful that his mother had
declined his invitation to come with him to the festival.

His mother, "the egg-woman"! What would she have thought of Sylvia's
mother thus painted and transformed in the name of charity? He
experienced a thrill of relief at the escape.

As he found himself on the free highway once more, he faltered. He would
see how Sylvia bore herself in the new surroundings before he put it all
behind him. This time he found a bit of shade and a fence rail for the
too friendly nag, and entering the Jenks-Smith grounds afoot, followed
the crowd that was gathering.

The rose garden of five years' well-trained growth was extremely
beautiful, while the pergola that separated it from the formal garden of
the fountain, and at the same time served as a gateway to it, was
utilized as the booth where roses and fanciful boxes of giant
strawberries were to be sold.

Bradford, standing at a little distance, under an archway, scanned the
faces of the smart married women who bustled about canvassing, and the
young girls who carelessly gathered the sumptuous roses into bouquets for
the buyers, making a great fuss over the thorns as they did so. Then one
tall, white-clad figure arrested his attention. It was Sylvia. She
handled the flowers lovingly, and was bestowing patient attention upon a
country woman, to whom these pampered roses were a revelation, and who
wished a bouquet made up of samples, one of each variety, and not a mass
all of a colour like the bunches that were arranged in the great baskets.

As Sylvia held the bouquet up for the woman's approval, adding a bud
here and there, pausing to breathe its fragrance herself before handing
it to the purchaser, Horace's courage came back. She was plainly not a
part of the vortex that surrounded her. Circumstances at present seemed
to stand between. He could not even venture a guess if she ever gave him
other than a friendly thought; but a feeling came over him as he stood in
the deep shade, that some day she might be lonely and need steadfast
friendship, and then the opportunity to serve her would give him the
right to question.

Now thoroughly master of himself, he went toward her, and was rewarded by
a greeting of unfeigned pleasure, a few moments of general talk, and a
big bunch of roses for his mother.

"No, you shall not buy these. I am sending them to your mother with my
love, to beg pardon for Miss Lavinia and myself, for we've been trying to
go to Pine Ridge all the week; but this affair has kept me spinning like
a top, and when I do stop I expect to fall over with weariness. I was
_so_ sorry about Rockcliffe Commencement. Some day, perhaps, mamma will
have finished bringing me out, and then I can crawl in again where it is
quiet, and live. Ah, you went to the house and saw her, and she said we
were going away next week? I did not know it, but we flit about so one
can never tell. I've half a mind to be rebellious and ask to be left here
with Lavinia Dorman for guardian, I'm so tired of change. Yes, I enjoyed
my flying trip to the West, in a way, though father only came as far as
Chicago with me, but I expect him to-morrow."

Then the crowd surged along, peering, staring, and feeling, so that it
would have blocked the way conspicuously if Bradford had lingered longer.
As he vanished, Monty Bell sauntered up, and, entering the booth, took
his place by Sylvia. Under pretext of good-naturedly saving her fingers
from thorns by tying the bouquets for her, kept by her side all the
afternoon, and when a lull came at tea time, strolled with her toward the
refreshment tent, where he coaxed her to sit down to rest in one of the
little recesses that lined the garden wall, where she would be free from
the crowd while he brought her some supper.

This she did the more readily because she was really tired, almost to the
point of faintness, and even felt grateful when Mr. Bell returned with
some dainty food, and sat beside her to hold her plate. She was so used
to seeing him about at all hours, making himself generally useful, that
the little attentions he continually showered upon her never held a
fragment of personality in her eyes.

Now, however, something familiar in his manner jarred upon her and put
her strangely on her guard. One of the man's peculiarities was that he
had a hypnotic manner, and presently, almost before she could really
understand what he was about, he had put his arm around her and was
making an easy, take-it-all-for-granted declaration of love.

For an instant she could not believe her ears, and then his tightening
clasp brought realization. Tearing herself away, and dropping her plate
with a crash, she faced him with white face and blazing eyes, saying but
one word--"Stop!" in so commanding a tone that even his fluency faltered,
and he paused in exceeding amaze at the result of what he had supposed
any woman of his set would esteem an honour, much more this strange girl
whose mother was engaged so systematically in securing a place at the
ladder top.

"If I had understood that your casual politeness to me and usefulness to
my mother meant insult such as this, we should have checked it long ago."

"Insult?" ejaculated Monty Bell, looking over his shoulder, apprehensive
lest some one should be within ear-shot, for to be an object of ridicule
was the greatest evil that could come to him. "You don't understand. I
want you to marry me."

"Insult, most certainly! What else do you call it for a man with two
little daughters, and divorced by his wife for his own unforgivable
fault, to ask any woman to marry him! Yes, I know, you see. Lavinia
Dorman is a friend of Mrs. Bell!"

"The devil!" muttered the man, still looking about uneasily, under the
gaze of her uncompromising accusation. In some way the directness of her
words made him feel uncomfortable for the moment, but he quickly
recovered, changed his tactics, and burying his hands in his pockets,
assumed his usually jaunty air, while half a smile, half a sneer, crossed
his face as he said lightly: "What a droll, Puritan spitfire we are,
aren't we? As if rearranged families were not a thing of daily happening.
Don't feel called upon to kick up a rumpus, it isn't necessary; besides,
take a tip from me, _your mother won't like it!_ If you are through with
that cup, I will take the things back," and nonchalantly shying the bits
of the broken plate into the bushes, he went toward the refreshment tent,
saying to his host, Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who was inquiring for Sylvia: "Yes,
she is yonder in the second arbour. I've taken her some tea, for she's
quite done up; that beastly overland trip home was too much for her in
the first hot weather."

Consequently the warm-hearted Lady of the Bluffs was naturally prepared
to find Sylvia sick and faint, and urged sending her home, where she
could slip in and get to bed unobserved, which was the one thing that the
girl most desired. Also this shrewd lady was wise enough to give no sign,
even though she drew her conclusions, when on turning to leave the arbour
she saw a bit of the broken plate lying on the ground at the opposite
side near where a point of the rustic work had torn a shred from Sylvia's
mull drapery as she had pulled herself away.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time that Sylvia had gained her room the warm twilight sky had
been transformed to a silver lake by the moon, but she neither enjoyed
its beauty nor heard the music that was beginning to come from the rose
garden above, as well as the tea room below stairs. She sat by the
window, deaf to all outside things, with only one thought in her mind;
she would gladly have buried the occurrence of the arbour, if it were
possible, but as it was, she must tell her mother, as now, that his
motive was made plain, Monty Bell, as a matter of course, could no longer
come to the house. Finally she went to bed and slept from sheer
exhaustion, never for a moment doubting that her mother would take her
view of the matter. Presently the French maid crept in and closed the
blinds, wondering why Mademoiselle often seemed to take pleasure so
sadly, and appeared older than Madame, her mother, and then, feeling at
liberty, hurried down gayly to dance on the back porch with the loitering
gentlemen's gentlemen who gathered there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Latham slept late the next morning, and at eleven o'clock had only
finished looking over her mail without yet touching her breakfast, when,
without waiting for an answer to her knock, Sylvia entered. Her mother
looked up in some surprise, for she did not encourage running in and out
at all hours, or any of the usual intimacies between a mother and grown
daughter who are companions. In fact she did not even ask Sylvia to sit
down, or if she was ill, though her pallor was very apparent, but merely
raised questioning eyebrows, saying, "What is it?" as she turned her
attention to some legal-looking documents in her lace-decked lap.

Chilled to the heart Sylvia seated herself in a low chair by her mother,
so that she need not raise her voice, and twisting her hands nervously,
told what had happened in as few words as possible, much as if she had
repeated them over and over until they were learned like a lesson.

Mrs. Latham's cold gray eyes at first snapped viciously, and then grew
big with wonder as Sylvia ended by saying, "I should never have spoken of
this to any one, and tried to forget, but you would think it strange that
Mr. Bell should stop coming here--and--"

"Think it strange?" said Mrs. Latham, speaking harshly and rapidly, a
thing she rarely did. "Do you know what I think of you? That you are the
most absolute little fool I ever imagined. You not only refuse a man who
could make your social position secure, but rant and get into tantrums
over the compliment he pays you, and call it an 'insult,' exactly as your
canting grandmother Latham might have done. I've no patience with you;
and if you think that this nonsense of yours shuts the door in Monty
Bell's face, you are wholly mistaken.

"While we are upon this subject of divorce that seems to shock you so, I
may as well tell you what you will not see for yourself, and your father
appears to have been too mealy-mouthed to explain,--we have agreed to
separate. No need of your getting tragic, there are no public
recriminations on either side, no vulgar infidelity or common
quarrelling, everything quite amicable, I assure you. Simply we find our
tastes totally different, and have done so for several years. Mr.
Latham's ambitions are wholly financial, mine are social. He repelled and
ignored my best friends, and as we are in every way independent of each
other, he has been wise enough to avoid possible and annoying
complications by standing out of my way and making it easy for me to
legalize the arrangement and readjust myself completely to new
conditions."

"But what of Carthy and me?" gasped Sylvia, in a voice so choked and
hollow that the older woman hesitated, but for a single instant only.
"Have neither you nor father thought of us? Where do we belong? Where is
our home? Can people who have once loved each other forget their children
and throw them off so? Does God allow it? You must have cared for father
once, for I remember when I was a little girl you told me that you called
me Sylvia, to have my name as nearly like father's--Sylvester--as
possible. Have you forgotten it all, that you can do this thing, when you
say in the same breath that father has done no evil?"

"Don't be tragic, Sylvia, and rake up things that have nothing to do with
the matter. As to your brother, it was your father's foolish severity
about a card debt, and insisting upon placing him away from me, that is
primarily responsible for the divorce, not any wish of mine to exile
Carthy. And you ask where your home is, as if I had turned you out, when
you have just refused an offer that any unmarried society woman, who can
afford it, would clutch."

Sylvia sat silent, looking blindly before her. Her mother waited a
moment, as if expecting some reply, and then continued: "Now that the
matter is virtually settled, I suppose in a few days the papers will
save me the trouble of announcing it. Under the circumstances, I shall
rent the Newport house for the season, as I have had several good
offers, and go abroad for two or three months on the continent, so that
before my return the town house will be redecorated and everything will
be readjusted for a successful winter. You had better take a few days
before deciding what to do. You can, of course, come with me, if you are
not sick of travel, or go to your father, who is ready to make you a
handsome allowance; though you will find that awkward at present, as he
is moving about so much. If you choose to feel aggrieved just now, you
might persuade your dear, prim Miss Dorman to either stay here with you
or take that little furnished house that is to rent on the lower road,
if you prefer that form of discomfort they call simplicity. You needn't
decide now; take time," she added genially, as if she was doing all that
could be asked.

When she ceased speaking, Sylvia, with bowed head, rose and quickly
left the room.

Then Mrs. Latham gave a sigh of relief that the interview was over, threw
the papers into a bureau drawer, called to the maid, who had been all the
while listening in the dressing room, to prepare to arrange her hair,
and, taking the chances that Sylvia would keep her room, at least for
some hours, wrote a hasty note to Monty Bell, inviting him to luncheon.

Meanwhile, Sylvia, instead of going to her room to cry, took her hat and
crept out into the lane that led to the woods. She must be quite away by
herself and gain time to think. This was a terrible sort of grief that
could neither be kept secret nor halved by sympathy, but must be worn in
the full glare of day. Her heart condemned her mother wholly, and she
understood why her father kept the silence of shame,--to whom could she
turn? As she gained the woods, and throwing herself down on a soft bed of
hemlock needles, closed her dry, burning eyes, two people seemed to stand
side by side and look at her pityingly,--Lavinia Dorman and Horace
Bradford,--and mentally she turned toward one and shrank from the other.
In Miss Lavinia she saw her only refuge, but between herself and Horace
the shadow of his upright mother seemed to intervene. What could they
think of her mother playing at Geisha girl in her own home at the very
hour of its wreck?




XII

HIS MOTHER


_July_ 1. It was several days after the festival before the news of the
Latham divorce was made definitely public by a paragraph under the
heading of "Society News," in one of the New York papers, though of
course the rumour had crept into every house on the Bluffs, by way of the
back stairs.

Miss Lavinia was greatly distressed, and yet did not know exactly how to
act in the matter; for though Mrs. Latham was seen driving by, as usual,
Sylvia made no sign.

We may read of such cases often enough, and yet when the blow falls in
the immediate neighbourhood, one must feel the reflex of the shock. While
sympathy for Sylvia keeps the thing ever present, like a weight upon the
chest, I find myself wondering if anything could have been done to avert
the disaster, and we all rove about in a half unsettled condition. Half a
dozen times a day Lavinia Dorman starts up with the determination of
calling upon Sylvia, but this morning decided upon writing her a letter
instead, and having sent it up by Timothy Saunders, is now sitting out in
the arbour, while Martin Cortright is reading to her from his manuscript;
but her attention is for the first time divided, and she is continually
glancing up the road as if expecting a summons,--a state of things that
causes an expression of mild surprise and disappointment to cross
Martin's countenance at her random and inapropos criticisms. I see that
in my recent confusion I have forgotten to record the fact that Miss
Lavinia has fallen into the role of critic for Martin's book, and that
for the last ten days, as a matter of course, he reads to her every
afternoon the result of his morning's work, finding, as he says, that her
power of condensation is of the greatest help in enabling him to
eliminate much of the needless detail of his subject that blocked him,
and to concentrate his vitality upon the rest.

This all looks promising, to my romantic mind; for the beginning of all
kinds of affection, physical, mental, and spiritual, that are huddled
together in varying proportions as component parts of love, has its
origin in dependence. Father declares independence, selfishness, and
aloofness to be the trinity of hell. Now Martin Cortright has come to
depend upon Lavinia Dorman's opinion, and she is beginning not only to
realize and enjoy his dependence, but to aid and abet it. Is not this
symptomatic?

When I approach father upon the Latham affair, he says that he thinks the
rupture was inevitable from the point of view and conditions that
existed. He feels, from the evidence that long experience with the inner
life of households has given him, that though a thoughtless woman may be
brought to realize, and a woman with really bad inherited instincts
reclaimed, through love, the wholly selfish woman of Mrs. Latham's type
remains immovable to word of God or man, and is unreachable, save through
the social code of the class that forms her world, and this code
sanctions both the marriage and the divorce of convenience, and receives
the results equally with open arms.

As to the effect upon Sylvia, father exhibits much concern, and no
little anxiety, for he has read her as a nature in some respects old for
her twenty-one years, and in others, the side of the feminine, wholly
young and unawakened, so that this jar, he thinks, comes at a most
critical moment.

He has a pretty theory that the untroubled heart of a young girl is like
a vessel full of the fresh spring sap of the sugar maple that is being
freed by slow fire from its crudities and condensed to tangible form.
When a certain point is reached, it is ready to crystallize about the
first object that stirs it ever so lightly, irrespective of its quality:
this is first love. But if the condensing process is lingering, no jar
disturbing it prematurely until, as it reaches perfection, the vital
touch suddenly reaches its depths, then comes real love, perfected at
first sight, clinging everlastingly to the object, love that endures by
its own strength, not by mere force of habit; and this love belongs only
to the heart's springtime, before full consciousness has made it
speculative.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Horace Bradford drove homeward the afternoon of the fete, he was in
a brown study, having no realization of time or place until the wise
horse turned in at the barnyard gate, and after standing a moment by his
usual hitching post, looked over his shoulder and gave a whinny to
attract his master's attention. Then Horace started up, shook off his
lethargy, and hurried to the porch, where his mother stood waiting, to
give her the roses, and Sylvia's message.

Mrs. Bradford was, for one of her reserve, almost childishly eager to
hear of the experiences of the afternoon, and was prepared to sit down
comfortably on the porch and have her son give a full account of it; but
instead, he gave her a few rather incoherent details, and leaving her
standing with the splendid roses held close to her face, very much in
Sylvia's own attitude, he hurried up to his room, where she could hear
him moving about as if unpacking his things, and opening and shutting
drawers nervously.

"Never mind," she said softly to herself, "he will tell me all about her
when he is ready. Meanwhile, I'll wait, and not get in his way,--that is
what mothers are for." But by some strange impulse she loosened the
string that bound the roses, and placed them in one of her few treasures,
a silver bowl, in the centre of the supper table, and going to her
bedchamber, which was, country fashion, back of the sitting room, arrayed
herself in Horace's gifts,--the silk gown and fichu, with the onyx bar
and butterflies to fasten it,--and then returned to the porch to watch
the twilight gently veil sunset.

Upstairs, Horace unpacked his trunks in a rebellious mood. In the morning
he had felt in the proper sense self-sufficient and contented,--the
position, which a few months before he thought perhaps ten years ahead of
him, had suddenly dropped at his feet, and he felt a natural elation,
though it stopped quite short of self-conceit. He could afford to relax
the grip with which he had been holding himself in check, and face the
knowledge that he loved Sylvia; while the fact that fate had brought her
to summer in his vicinity seemed but another proof that fortune was
smiling upon him.

Now everything, though outwardly the same, was changed by the new point
of view, which he realized that he had already tried to conceal from his
mother, by his scanty account of the festival. He had been suddenly
confronted by conditions that he never expected to meet outside of the
pages of fiction, and felt himself utterly unable to combat them. Under
the present circumstances even neighbourly friendship with Sylvia would
be difficult. It was not that Mrs. Latham had overawed him in the least,
but she had raised in him so fierce and blinding a resentment by her only
half unconscious reference to his mother, that he resolved that under no
circumstances should she run the risk of being equally rebuffed. He would
protect her from a possible intercourse, where she could not be expected,
at her age, to hold her own, at no matter what cost to himself.

"Egg woman!" Was it not his mother's pride and endeavour, her thrift and
courage to carry on the great farm alone, and the price of such things as
those very eggs, that had carried through his dying father's wish, and
sent him to college, thus giving him his chance in the world? No regret
at the fact, no false pride, dawned on him even for a second. All his
rage was that such a woman as Sylvia's mother should have the power to
stir him so, and then his love for Sylvia herself, intensified by pity
for the unknown trouble that he sensed rather than read in her face, cut
into him like a wound. He felt as if he must pick her up in his strong
arms and bear her away from all those clamouring people; and then the
realization both of his inability and ignorance of her own attitude fell
upon him like a chill, for she had never written or said a word to him
that might not have passed between any two college friends. Such thoughts
occupied him, until finally, as often fortunately happens in our mental
crises, a humdrum, domestic voice, the supper bell, called him, and
leaving his garments strewn about the room, he went downstairs.

His mother was still sitting in the porch, and he became at once
conscious of a change in her appearance. As she looked up in pleased
expectancy, he recognized the cause, and his sternness vanished
instantly, as he said, "How fine we look to-night," and half sitting on
the little foot-bench beside her, and half kneeling, he touched the soft
lace, and gently kissed the withered cheek whose blood was still not so
far from the surface but that it could return in answer to the caress,
while she looked yearningly into the eyes that even now were hardly on a
level with hers, as if searching for the cause of what might be troubling
him. Yet she only said, as they rose and went indoors, "I put on your
gifts for you, at our first supper together," adding with an
unconsciousness that made Horace smile in spite of himself,--"besides, I
shouldn't wonder if some of the neighbours might drop in to see us, for
it must have got about by this time that you've come home; the mail
carrier saw you drive out this morning, I'm quite sure."

Neighbours did call; some from pure friendliness, others to see if
"Horace acted set up by his new callin' and fortune," and still others,
who had been to the Bluffs that afternoon, to tell of the wonders of the
festival, their praise or condemnation varying according to age, until
Mrs. Bradford was at a loss whether to think the affair a spectacle of
fairyland or a vision of the bottomless pit, and Horace was in torment
lest he should be appealed to for an opinion, which he was presently.
"What did he think of the tea room? Was Mrs. Latham painted? Was she
Sylvia's mother, or step-mother, and if she was the former, didn't she
act dreadful giddy for the mother of grown children? And didn't he think
Sylvia was just sweet, so different from the rest, and sort of sad, as
if she had a step-mother, as people said, and was sat on?" The questioner
being the very woman for whom Sylvia had taken such pains in selecting
the bouquet of specimen roses, who proved to be the new wife of a
neighbour whom Horace had not met.

It seemed to Horace that his mother purposely looked away from him as he
tried to pull himself together, and answer nonchalantly that he believed
that Mrs. Latham was Sylvia's own mother, though she did appear very
young, and that of course she was acting the part of a Geisha girl, a
tea-seller, which would account for her sprightly manner, etc.,
unconsciously putting what he wished in the place of what he knew, adding
with a heartiness that almost made his voice tremble that Miss Sylvia
certainly did seem different, and as if she was no kin of her mother's.

"I guess, then, likely it isn't her step-mother, but that she's worried
in her mind about her beau," continued the loquacious woman, pleased at
having such a large audience for her news. "I heard some folks say,--when
I was waitin' about for my cream, and havin' a good look at all the
millionnaires, which they didn't mind, but seemed to expect, the same
bein' fair enough, seein' as it's what I paid to go in for,--that the
man they call Mr. Bell, that's been hangin' around the Bluffs since
spring, is courtin' her steady, but she can't seem to make up her mind.
Thinks I to myself, I don't wonder, for I've had a good look at him, and
he's well over forty, and though he dresses fine, from his eyes I
wouldn't trust him, if he was a pedler, even to weigh out my rags and
change 'em for tin, without I'd shook the scales well first. The same
folks was sayin' that he's a grass widower, anyway, and I shouldn't think
her folks would put up with that, fixed as they be, yet they do say," and
here her voice dropped mysteriously, "that Mrs. Latham's a kind of grass
widder herself, for her husband hasn't turned up in all the year she's
been here, and nobody's so much as seen his name to a check."

At this point Mrs. Bradford made an effort to turn the conversation into
other channels; for friendly as she always was with her neighbours of all
degrees, she never allowed unkind gossip in her house, and only a
newcomer would have ventured upon it. As it was, the loquacious one felt
the rebuke in the air, and made hasty adieus on the plea of having to set
bread, leaving the rest to talk to their host of themselves, their
pleasure at his return, and the local interests of Pine Ridge.

When they had all gone, Horace locked the back door, after filling an
old yellow and bronze glazed pitcher, which bric-a-brac hunters would
have struggled for, at the well, as he had done every night during his
boyhood, he left it on the hall table, and going out the front way to the
garden, walked up and down the long straight walk, between the sweet peas
and rose bushes, for more than an hour, until, having fought to no
conclusion the battle into which a new foe had entered, he returned to
the house and went noiselessly to his room.

Here, in place of the confusion he had left, quiet and order reigned. All
his clothes were laid away in their old places. He had but to reach his
hand inside the closet, the door of which hesitated before opening in its
familiar way, to find his night gear; the sheets were turned down at the
exact angle, and the pillows arranged one crosswise, one upright, as he
liked them,--his mother's remembering touch was upon everything.

He undressed without striking a light, and lay down, only to look
wakefully out at the dark lattice of tree branches against the moonlit
sky. Presently a step sounded on the stairs and paused at his partly open
door. He raised himself on his elbow, and peering through the crack saw
his mother standing there in night-dress and short sack, shading the
candle with her hand as she used when he was a little chap, to make sure
that he was safe asleep and had not perhaps crept out the window to go
coon hunting with the bigger boys,--a proceeding his father always winked
at, but which she feared would lead him to overdo and get a fever.

"I'm here, mother," he said cheerfully.

"Are you quite comfortable, Horace? Is there nothing that you want?"

He hesitated a moment, and then said frankly, "Yes and no, mother."

"Is it anything that I can do for you?" she asked, coming into the room
and smoothing his hair as she spoke.

"Ah, that is the _no_ of it, and the hard part," he answered, capturing
the hand and holding it tight between his own.

"And the hard part for your old mother too, when the one thing comes
that she cannot give or do. Whatever it is, don't shut me out from it,
Horace,--that is, unless you must," and tucking the light summer quilt in
Under the pillow by one of his hands, she kissed his forehead and went
away.

Horace Bradford must have slept, for his next consciousness was of the
fresh wind and light of morning, and as he drew his cramped hand from
under his pillow, something soft and filmy came with it,--a woman's
handkerchief edged with lace.

For a minute he held it in surprise, and then began to search the
corners for the marking. There it was, two embroidered initials, S.L.
Where had it dropped from? Who had put it there? Was it a message or an
accident? Yet it was both and neither. His mother had found the dainty
thing in the package from New York that held the gown and ornaments,
where it had dropped from Sylvia's waist that night, four months before,
when she stood leaning on Miss Lavinia Dorman's table, as the parcel was
being tied.

Mrs. Bradford had pondered over it silently until, the day when I went to
see her and chanced to mention Sylvia Latham's name, its identity flashed
upon her; and when gropingly she came to associate this name with
something that troubled Horace, obliterating self and mother jealousy,
she tucked the bit of linen underneath his pillow, with an undefined
idea, knowing nothing, in the hope that it might comfort him. And so it
did; for even when he learned the manner of its coming, he put it in his
letter case as a reminder not to despair but wait.

       *       *       *       *       *

When a week had passed and the matter of the divorce had been well aired,
discussed, and was no longer a novelty to her neighbours on the Bluffs,
Mrs. Latham's plan of soon closing her cottage and transferring the
servants to Newport, with the exception of the stable men and a couple of
caretakers, was announced, as she was going abroad for the baths. The
same day Lavinia Dorman received an urgent note from Sylvia, asking her
"when and where she could see her alone, if, as she thought likely, she
did not feel inclined to come to the house." The tone of the brief note
showed that Sylvia felt the whole matter to be a keen disgrace that not
only compromised herself but her friends.

Of course Miss Lavinia went, and would have gone even if she had to
combat Mrs. Latham, for whom she asked courteously at the door; but that
lady, for some reason, did not choose to appear and run the gantlet, and
sent an elaborate message about a sick headache by the now somewhat
crestfallen Perkins. Presently Sylvia slipped into the morning room, and
crouching by Miss Lavinia, buried her face in her friend's lap, the
tension at last giving way, and it was some time before she grew quiet
enough to talk coherently, and tell her plan, which is this: she wishes
Miss Lavinia to take the Alton cottage (which is furnished) at the foot
of the Bluffs, for the rest of the season, and live there with her. Then
as soon as Mrs. Latham has gone, and the poor girl has steadied herself,
her father, to whom she has already written, will come, and what she will
do in the autumn will be arranged. Everything is as yet vague; but one
thing she has decided for herself--under no circumstances will she again
live with her mother, and she is now staying quietly in the house and
taking her meals in her room, in order to give the scandalmongers and
gossips as little material as possible.

Lavinia Dorman, who readily consented to do as she asked, says that
Sylvia is brave and heartbroken at the same time, that all her girlish
spontaneity has gone, and she is like a statue.

I am so sorry to have Miss Lavinia go, even a few hundred yards down the
road, it has seemed so good to have an older woman in the house to whom I
can say, "Would you, or wouldn't you?" Martin is also quite upset, and
has stopped writing and begun fumbling and pulling the reference books
about again; but Miss Lavinia says that she is not going to give up the
afternoon reading, for she thinks the history is a work of importance not
to be slighted, and that Sylvia will doubtless take up her own reading
and practising after a time; that while she herself has willingly
consented to chaperon her, she does not intend to give up her own
freedom, nor would it be good for Sylvia if she did.

Yesterday morning Miss Lavinia received a letter from Sylvester Latham,
thanking her for the offer of temporary protection for his daughter, and
telling her, in curt business terms, meant to be affable, to name her own
price for the office.

I have never before seen the ladylike Lavinia Dorman so completely and
ungovernably angry. I could do nothing with her, and last evening it took
the united efforts of Martin, father, and Evan to convince her that it
was not a real affront. Poor Mr. Latham, he has not yet gotten beyond
money valuation of friendship; but then it is probably because he has had
no chance. Perhaps--but no, life is too serious just now in that quarter
for me to allow myself remotely pleasant perhapses.

Miss Lavinia was too agitated to play piquet to-night, so she and Martin
sat in the porch where the light from the hall lamp was sufficient to
enable them to play a couple of games of backgammon, to steady her
nerves, she said; and presently, as the dice ceased rattling, Evan gave
me a nudge of intelligence, and looking over I found that they had
reversed the board and were playing "Give away" with checkers.

"After this, what?" I whispered to Evan.

"Jackstraws," he answered, shaking with silent laughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Horace Bradford turned his mind for the next few days to the many things
about the place that needed his attention, resolving that he would let a
week or so elapse before making any further attempt to see Sylvia, and in
that time hoped to find Miss Lavinia at home, and from her possibly
receive some light upon the gossip about Mr. Bell, as well as news of
Sylvia herself.

The sinking-fund for repairs and rebuilding the house that he and his
mother had been accumulating ever since he had made his own way, he found
to be in a healthy condition. A new hay barn and poultry house was to be
put up at once; and, as soon as practicable, his wish of many years, to
restore the brick house, that had been marred by "lean-tos" in the wrong
places, to its colonial simplicity, could be at least begun.

Every day until two or three o'clock in the afternoon he gave to these
affairs, and then he went to his books. But here again he met with a
strange surprise, a new sensation,--he could neither fix his mind upon
writing, nor take in what he read; the letters were as meaningless as
fly specks on the pages. After a day or two he gave up the attempt. He
had worked too closely during the last term, he thought; his sight did
not register on his brain,--he had heard of such cases; he would rest a
week or so.

Then every afternoon he walked over the Ridge to the little river in the
valley, carrying a book in his pocket, and his fishing-rod as a sort of
excuse, and poling an old flatboat down-stream to a shady spot under the
trees, propped his rod in place, where by a miracle he occasionally
caught a perch or bass, sat looking idly into the water, the brim of an
old felt hat turned down about his eyes. One day, near the week's end, as
he was lounging thus, his eye was attracted by a headline in a bit of
newspaper in which he had wrapped his bait box to save his pocket. It was
a semi-local paper from town, one that his mother took, but which they
seldom either of them read, and the date was three days back. He turned
it over idly, pausing as he did so to pull up the line which was being
jerked violently, but only by a mud eel. Why did he return again to the
scrap of paper when he had freed his hook? His eyes caught strange words,
and his hands began to tremble as he read. It was the condensed report of
the Latham divorce that was now going the rounds of the journals.

He paused a moment, then folded the paper, put it in his pocket, poled
the boat with vigorous strokes to the landing-place, and strode through
the woods and across the cornfields homeward, his heart beating
tumultuously until he seemed almost to be struggling with suffocation.

He stopped at the barn and harnessed a horse to the old buggy, passing by
the new one that he had recently ordered from town, and then went into
the house, where, taking off his slouchy fishing clothes, he put on the
same ceremonious afternoon wear that he would have worn at Northbridge if
going to call, put Sylvia's handkerchief in his inner pocket, and went in
search of his mother.

He found her in the kitchen, tying the covers upon countless jars of
currant jam. She looked surprised to see him back at such an hour,
but said nothing, as Esther Nichols was close by, employed in wiping
off the jars.

"I'm going over to Oaklands for a drive," he said, handing her the scrap
of newspaper with a gesture that meant silence.

"Shall I wait supper for you, or will you be late?" she said, touching
his hand with a gesture almost of entreaty.

"I may be late, but--yes, you may wait supper," he replied, looking back
at her in going out, as if he wanted to carry the picture well forward in
his mind, against any forgetfulness.

The miles between Pine Ridge and the Bluffs seemed endless. He had at
first intended to go to Oaklands village to see Miss Lavinia and gather
such tidings as he could of the calamity that had overtaken Sylvia; for
he never for a moment questioned but that the girl, who had been
entirely straightforward, even in days of college pranks, should so
regard the matter. But as he drove along, and the very fact that he was
moving toward a definite end calmed him and clarified his judgment, he
resolved to go directly to Sylvia herself. He would certainly do this
if he had seen the announcement of her parents' deaths; then why not
now, when their love that gave her birth was officially and publicly
declared extinct?

He drove through the wide gateway and left his horse standing by a stone
pillar outside the porte-cochere,--the beast would stand anywhere if
there was a bar or post for him to look at,--and walked up the steps with
the air of one who is not to be gainsaid.

"Not at home," replied the singsong voice of Perkins, in answer to
Bradford's demand for Miss Latham, Potts and Parker having already gone
to open the Newport house for the renter, as a staff of servants was let
with it, and then he added, as if conferring a favour, "and Mrs. Latham
has gone on the coach to the station to meet some guests, the last 'ouse
party before she sails."

"Before she sails," thought Bradford, numbly. Sylvia was going? Could he
believe the man? Should he go through the formality of leaving a card
that she might not get? No, he would go home and write a letter.

Sylvia kept the house until late in the afternoon, these days. Then she
slipped out by the servants' stairway, and through the garden, to walk in
the wood lane that ran northward, joining the two parallel highroads; for
her healthy body needed air, and she knew that if she did not have it,
she could not control herself to keep peaceful silence for even the few
days that remained. So it chanced this afternoon that she was walking to
and fro in the quiet lane where the ferns crept down quite to the grassy
wheel tracks, when Perkins said those repellent words, "Not at home."

As Bradford turned out the gate and noticed that the sun was already
setting, he thought to save time by cutting through the almost unused
lane to the turnpike that led directly to Pine Ridge. He had driven but
halfway across, when a flutter of light garments a little way ahead
attracted him. Could it be? Yes, it was Sylvia, in truth, and at the
moment that he recognized her and sprang to the ground she heard the
approaching hoofs and turned. For a full minute neither spoke nor moved,
then going quickly to her and stretching out both hands, he said, his
heart breaking through his voice, "I have been to see you. I did not know
until to-day."

She gave her hands, and in another moment his strong arms held her fast
and unresisting--the purifying friendship of those unconscious years
crystallized and perfected at love's first touch.

They said but very little as they walked up and down the lane together,
for half an hour; but as the shadows lengthened, the thought came equally
to both--"What should they do next? How could they part, and yet how stay
together?" Horace, with man's barbarian directness, would have liked to
bear her home to safety and his mother; but the shadow of usage and her
mother stood between, for in spite of the hollow mockery of it all,
Sylvia was still of her household.

"I must take you home," he said at last, "and to-morrow I will come--all
shall be arranged."

"To-night," she whispered, clasping his arm in nervous terror. "Come
back with me and tell her to-night; then I shall feel sure, and not
as if it was not real. And when you have told her,--before whoever
may be there, remember,--go home; do not stop to listen to anything
she may say."

They drove slowly back, and went up the steps to the house, from which
voices and laughter came, hand in hand, like two children; but they were
children no longer when they crossed the threshold and saw Monty Bell in
the group that loitered with Mrs. Latham in the reception hall, waiting
for dinner to be announced.

Sylvia's thin gown was wet with dew, her hair was tossed about, her eyes
big with excitement, and a red spot burned in each cheek in startling
contrast to her pallor--all of which gave her a wild and unusual beauty
that absolutely startled as well as shocked her mother, letting her think
for a second that Sylvia was going to make a scene, had gone mad,
perhaps, and run away, and that the tall man holding her by the hand had
found her and brought her home.

Taking a few hasty steps forward, and dreading anything disagreeably
tragic, she said: "Mr. Bradford, I believe. What is it? What has
happened?"

"Only this, that Miss Sylvia has promised to be my wife, and that, as her
mother, we have come to tell you of it before I go home to tell my own."
Horace Bradford drew himself up to every inch of his full height as he
spoke, bowed to Mrs. Latham, then led Sylvia to the foot of the stairs,
saying, "Until to-morrow," and walked quietly out of the house.

No one spoke. Then Mrs. Latham, choking with rage, feeling herself
helplessly at bay (Sylvia was of age, and she could not even assume
authority under the circumstances), collapsed on a divan in modified
hysterics, and Monty Bell, completely thunderstruck, finally broke the
silence by his characteristic exclamation, "I'll be damned!"

       *       *       *       *       *

After their belated supper, when Esther Nichols had gone over to a
neighbour's, Horace, sitting by his mother's side, out in the
honeysuckled porch, where the sphinx moths whirred like humming-birds of
night, holding her hands in his, told her all. And she, stifling the
mother pain that, like a birth pang, expected yet dreaded, must come at
first when the other woman, no matter how welcome, steps between, folded
his hands close, as if she held him again a baby in her arms, and said,
smiling through vague tears, "To-morrow we will go together to her, my
blessed son."

"I cannot ask you to do that; there are reasons--I will bring Sylvia to
you later, when her mother has gone," he answered hastily, resolving that
he would do anything to shield her self-respect from the possible shock
of meeting that other mother.

"Horace, you forget yourself, and your father too," she said almost
sternly. "I am country bred, but still I know the world's ways. Your
father's wife will go first to greet her who will be yours; you need not
fear for me," and he sat silent.

That next afternoon, when Horace's first and last love met, they looked
into each other's hearts and saw the same image there, while Mrs. Latham
lay on the lounge in her room, raging within, that again her tongue had
failed her in her own house, and realizing that, woman of the world as
she aimed to be, the "egg woman" had rendered her helpless by mere force
of homely courtesy. Presently she rose, and railing and scolding the
bewildered maid, sent a message to New York to transfer her passage, if
possible, to an earlier steamer.




XIII

GOSSIP AND THE BUG HUNTERS


_July_ 18. It is such a deadly sin to marry outside of the limited set
that is socially registered, that I now understand why many of the
Whirlpoolers are mentally inbred, almost to the vanishing point, so that
they have lost the capacity of thinking for themselves, and must
necessarily follow a leader.

Sylvia Latham's engagement to Horace Bradford has caused a much greater
sensation than her mother's divorce. To be sure, every one who has met
Horace, not only fails to find anything objectionable about him, but
accords him great powers of attraction; yet they declare in the same
breath that the affair will not do for a precedent, and deplore its
radical influence.

To-day we have settled down to midsummer quiet and to a period of silence
after much talking. The Bluffs are quite deserted except by a bevy of
children left with governesses while their parents are yachting or in
Europe, and the servants in charge of the various houses. But a trail of
discontent is left behind, for these servants, by their conspicuous
idleness, are having a very demoralizing effect upon the help in the
plain houses hereabout, who are necessarily expected to do more work for
lower wages.

I am fully realizing, also, that the excitement of living other people's
lives, which we cannot control, through sympathetic imagination, is even
more wearing than meeting one's own responsibilities. A certain amount of
separateness--I use the word in an entirely opposite meaning to that of
aloofness--is, I find, necessary to every member of our household, and
this chance for intimacy with oneself is a luxury denied to those who
live all their lives taking joy and sorrow equally in a crowd.

Even the boys, young as they are, recognize it unconsciously, and have
separate tree lairs, and neither may enter the other's, without going
through some mysterious and wonderful ceremony and sign language, by
which permission is asked and granted.

There are often days when father sits in his study with closed door or
drives over the hills without desire for even the boys as companions.
This need not signify that he is either ill or worried,--it is simply the
need of separateness. The same thing applies to Evan when he sometimes
slips out through the garden at night, without word or sign, and is only
traceable by the beacon his cigar point makes, as he moves among the
trees, until this also vanishes, while my attic corner and the seat at
the end of the wild walk offer me similar relief.

At least the attic did until Martin Cortright, at my own invitation,
established a rival lair at the opposite end. I did not think that it
would matter, the presence of this quiet man barricaded by his books and
papers, but it does, because the charm of isolation is destroyed. I would
not have done otherwise, however; I have all outdoors, and he will have
returned to New York to find winter quarters, and arrange for the
publication of the first volume of his history when autumn and shut-in
time draws near.

Mrs. Latham sailed last week, and Sylvia is now in New York visiting her
father at his hotel and arranging her future plans. To-morrow she
returns, and together with Lavinia Dorman goes to the Alton cottage
until late August or early September, when her wedding is expected to
take place.

At the last moment Mrs. Latham changed her plan of leaving the Bluff
cottage in the charge of servants, had all her personal belongings moved
away, and offered the place for sale.

"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who, being a sort of honorary
stewardess of the Colony, usually remains a full week after the
breaking-up time, and frequently runs in to report progress, "she's not
coming back; being divorced she doesn't need to claim residence here. The
place is so convenient to town, too, but I can't really blame
her,--though of course I'm glad poor Sylvia's to be happy in her own way,
and all that, for it's plain to be seen with one eye she's too slow to go
her mother's pace--you couldn't expect Vivvy Latham, over all the hurdles
but one, and almost at the end of the race, to relish her daughter's
mother-in-law being in the egg trade in the very neighbourhood.

"At first everybody thought that the Bradfords, mother and son, would
probably give up work and float on Sylvester J. Latham's money, for they
say (to spite Vivvy, most likely) he took to Horace Bradford at the
first, for what did the young fellow do but go straight to town and look
Sylvester up, and make a clean breast of it before the gossips could even
twist their tongues around the affair.

"Sylvester thought he could handle Bradford to suit himself, move him to
New York, jam him into business, cut up the farm in house lots,
reorganize his affairs, and declare a dividend out of him for his own
benefit, as he does with lame railroads,--but not a bit of it!

"'With what you may choose to do for Sylvia personally, it would be
selfish for me to interfere; but our way of living can only be planned
upon the basis of what I earn,' said Horace, looking Mr. Latham in the
face, and he's a big man too,--Sylvia gets her height from him.

"It rather knocked Sylvester out, because it was a kind of spunk he'd
never met, and he told Jenks-Smith about it. Thought they didn't speak?
Oh yes, they're thick again, just now, over some kind of a deal.

"Did you know Jenks-Smith had bought Vivvy's house here? Yes, the deed
was passed the day she sailed. We've got to keep the Bluffs select, you
know, and if the house was put on the market, goodness knows who might
buy it, just to get in with us.

"Mr. Latham had an idea of taking it and giving it to Sylvia, but they
wouldn't have that either,--are just fixing up the old house a bit, and
going to summer at the farm, while the old lady will keep on selling eggs
the same as ever. Not but what she's a thoroughbred all right, though in
a cheap stable. I was down at Vivvy's the day she came to call on Sylvia!
Just as quiet and cool, except that her hands in the openwork silk mits
shook, as if her son was a duke. I thought there would be a lively row,
and I wished myself out of it, but Vivvy hadn't a chance to strike out
until the old lady got up to go, then she only said: 'You must not
understand that I approve of Sylvia's folly, or in any way give my
consent to this rash engagement. I cannot prevent it, that is all.'

"The old lady's eyes flashed, and I thought, now for it; but she only
looked Vivvy through and through, and said very clearly: 'Most brides are
better for their mother's blessing, but under the circumstances I think
we prefer to do without it.'"

Well-meaning Lady of the Bluffs, I'm really acquiring a sort of affection
for her in spite of her crudity. If all the Whirlpoolers were like her,
the pool might be a noisy torrent, but never a dangerous one.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is Lavinia Dorman's last day with me, and I know she is really sorry
to go, in spite of a sort of pleasurable responsibility and excitement
she feels in managing Sylvia's affairs for a time.

She waked up with a bad headache--a rare thing for her--and after
breakfast seemed so forlorn and blue that I coaxed her into my room and
petted her for a while, almost as I would one of the children; and as she
no longer conceals the fact of the false front from me, I took it off,
brushed and brushed her lovely hair until it grew supple and alive, and
began to glisten, and the pain gradually slipped through it into the air;
then I drew it up cushionwise from her forehead and coiled it loosely on
top, and she, declaring that my fingers had a magic touch, spent the rest
of the morning at my desk in writing letters.

The lovable woman who has no one specially to love her is a common
tragedy of everyday life. Strangely enough it more often draws
ridicule than sympathy, and it seems to be always considered the
woman's own fault, instead of a combination of circumstances, woven
often of self-sacrifice, mistaken duty, and the studied suppression of
natural emotions.

I think that both Miss Lavinia and Martin Cortright dread the going back
to their old existence, and yet I am not sure that either of them would
consent to change it in any way, in spite of their growlings at the
modern conditions of life in New York. They have learned to lean upon the
very restrictions that cramp them, until the idea of cutting free seems
as impossible as for the bulky woman to sever the stay-lace that at once
suffocates and supports her.

Martin Cortright stayed to luncheon to-day. Not that it is an unusual
occurrence, but he wished to have a long afternoon to finish reading a
certain portion of his manuscript to Miss Lavinia before her flitting in
the morning.

We were seated at the table when she came in hurriedly, apologizing for
being late, saying that she had become so absorbed in finishing her
letters that she did not realize that it was even noon. I did not look at
her particularly until a few moments later, when Martin, after fussing
with his bread a good deal, looked up and said, with a charming smile,
"What a very becoming gown you have on to-day, Miss Lavinia."

"Yes," said father, "I was thinking precisely the same thing myself, so
you see that in spite of our condemning your sex for paying so much
attention to clothes, we men are the first to note the result of them."

Miss Lavinia looked puzzled. She was too much the politic woman of the
world to say that the dimity gown was the same one that she had worn for
the two or three days previous; besides, the fact would have cast a doubt
upon their judgment, and she was particular in all such little details of
good breeding; so she parried the compliment deftly, and straightway fell
to pondering as to what circumstance the remark might refer. Glancing
toward the open window, she caught a reflection of herself where the
glass, backed by the dark green curtain, made a mirror. She had forgotten
to rearrange her hair, and her burnished silver-shot locks remained
rolled back lightly from her white forehead without the ugly, concealing
front! I rejoiced inwardly, for the spontaneous tribute to the
improvement by those two dear, stupid, discriminating men, has settled
the fronts in a way in which no arguments of mine could, for to-night she
came to dinner not only with her own emancipated hair, but wearing a bit
of red geranium stuck fetchingly in the puff.

       *       *       *       *       *

_August_ 1. Sylvia has returned, and Miss Lavinia has gone to her, Lucy
and the portly cook having arrived from New York last night, in company
with Josephus, confined in a large hamper borrowed from the fishmonger,
in the top of which a ventilator had been introduced. Josephus was
naturally indignant when first let out, and switched his tail in wrath,
declining to recognize his mistress, and starting to explore the house
like an evil spirit. This morning I found him calmly perched on our
woodshed roof, gazing wickedly at the boys' banty chickens in the coop
below. I predict that he gets into trouble, unless his silver collar,
like a badge of aristocracy, protects him. But what can you expect of a
misguided Whirlpool cat, whose only conception of a bird is a dusty
street sparrow, when he meets face to face the delicious and whetting
elusiveness of a banty chick or a young robin.

Poor Sylvia is nervously tired out, and the month's rest will be a real
boon. Her plans are quite settled, and there is nothing for her to do but
rest until the time comes to carry them out. She and Horace are to be
married the last week in August, so that they will have time for a
Canadian trip before College begins and they return to settle down in a
scrap of a house in Northbridge.

August seems to be considered an unusual month for a wedding; but it
suits the circumstances, and as Sylvia has decided to be married quite
privately here at Oaklands, for her own sake, as well as for Mrs.
Bradford's convenience, she wisely wishes to have it over before the
possible return of the Whirlpoolers.

Horace had hoped that his mother would join them in Northbridge, but
she said "No," very firmly, adding, with a quaint, twinkling smile,
"Horace, nobody ever loved each other closer than your father and I,
but there were times in the beginning when ever so well meaning a third
finger in our pie would have spoiled the baking. Best leave old mother
on the farm until by and by, when she can't tell a fresh egg from a
bad one any longer."

So Horace comes down twice a week to visit Sylvia, and Miss Lavinia often
drives to Pine Ridge with her and leaves her for a day, so that Mrs.
Bradford may share the pleasant woman's talk of linen for table and bed,
and other details of a bridal outfit.

We all missed Miss Lavinia when she left, that is, all but the boys, and
they hailed the change with joy, as giving them another house to roam in
and out of. How much of the joy of childhood that we so envy comes from
their freedom from prejudice, the ability they have for adapting
themselves.

Martin was so distrait for a time that father absolutely ventured to
tease him a little, whereupon he turned stoutly about and declared: "I
have never denied the inspiration and value of congenial female society,
and the mere fact that circumstances have shut me from it so much of late
years makes me all the more appreciative of present privileges. Oh, Dick,
old friend, isn't it some credit to a man who has lived backward almost
from his birth, if, after he's sixty, he realizes it and tries to catch
up with the present? It seems to me as if the best things had always
been just within my grasp, only to slip away again, through unforeseen
circumstances, and my ill luck reminds me of a story and picture in a
comic paper that the boys were chuckling over last night. It was of a
well-intentioned beetle who fattened a nice green caterpillar for its
family's thanksgiving dinner, and the thing went and spun itself into a
cocoon the night before!"

Martin Cortright at times verges on the pathetic, but always cures
himself by his appreciation of his own limitations before he reaches the
bore stage. He too is taking a short vacation from work, or rather I
should say that he has developed industry in a new direction and become
absorbed in entomology, to the extent of waging war on the tent
caterpillars that are disfiguring both the orchards and the wild cherry
trees of the highways with their untidy filmy nests, leaving the foliage
prematurely brown and sere, from their ravages. Yesterday, in driving
home from Pine Ridge with Sylvia, we noticed that even the wood edges had
the appearance of being scorched by fire, and many of the old orchards
where we go in May for apple blossoms are wrecks meshed in the
treacherous slimy webs.

Martin's methods are regular and very simple, but he goes about his task
each day as if the matter was a marvel of military strategy. First he
puts a book ostentatiously in one pocket and a flask of alcohol in the
other. Next he takes his torch, consisting of a piece of sponge wired to
an old rake handle, which he keeps on the back stoop, and makes sure that
it is tight and secure, finally searching me out to say that in case he
meets Miss Lavinia, have I any message for her.

Why he does not keep his outfit up at Martha's I do not know; perhaps
because of Timothy's keen tongue.

Miss Lavinia, after her morning housekeeping is over, takes her work bag
to the narrow cottage porch and apparently gives herself up to the task
of making pin-cushions for Sylvia or embroidering initials on napery.
Suddenly she will get up, say that her feet are falling asleep and that
she needs a walk to restore her circulation. Will Sylvia go with her?
Sylvia, after pretending to consider, thinks not, making some excuse of
its being too warm or that she expects Horace that day. Presently two
prim people walking in opposite directions meet and, taking the same
path, may be seen any morning along the less frequented roads and orchard
paths, sometimes repairing the torch that has a constant tendency to lose
its head, sometimes watching the destruction by fire of an unusually
wicked worm city, and frequently with their heads stuck into some
suspicious bush, where they appear to be watching invisible things with
breathless interest.

[Illustration: The Bug Hunters.]

Father and I chanced upon them when thus employed the other morning.
Martin turned about and in the most serious manner began to dilate upon
the peculiarities of worms in general and particular, as well as of the
appropriateness of their study by the book collector, as the score and a
half insects that injure books and their bindings are not worms at all,
having none of the characteristics of the veritable book worm _Sitodrepa
panicea_, to all of which Miss Lavinia listened with devout attention.

"What makes them act so?" I said, half to myself, as we drove on, and
father stopped shaking with laughter. "There isn't the slightest reason
why they should not go to walk together; why do they manoeuvre with all
the transparency of ostriches?"

"It's another manifestation of suppressed youth," said father, wiping his
eyes, "upon the principle that the boy would rather slip out of the
window to go coasting at night than ask leave and walk out publicly, and
that when a young girl begins to grow romantic, she often takes infinite
pains to go round the back way to meet some one who is quite welcome at
the front door. When young folks have not had a chance to do these
things, and the motive for them lies dormant, heaven alone knows how or
when it will break loose."

Others, however, have observed, and the "Bug Hunters" has now come to be
the local nickname of these two most respectable middle-aged people with
ancestors.

Josephus, who has been leading a sporting life for many days, or rather
nights, has at last returned minus his long tail with which he used to
express his displeasure in such magnificent sweeps. Miss Lavinia is in
tears, and wishes to have a reward offered for the apprehension of the
doer of the deed.

Evan says that if she does, and thus acknowledges the cat as hers, she
may be deluged with bills for poultry, as he has been hearing weird tales
on the train, such as are often current among commuters who are not
zoologists, of a great black lynx that has been invading chicken coops
and killing for pleasure, as his victims are usually left on the ground.
Thus has country freedom corrupted the manners of a polite cat, and at
the same time a hay knife (probably) has rendered him tailless.

       *       *       *       *       *

_August_ 20. Summer is at high tide. How I dread its ebbing; yet even now
the hastening nights are giving warning. Evan has been taking a
vacation, and we have spent many days, we four, following the northward
windings of the river in a wide, comfortable boat and lunching in the
woods. We are pagans these days, basking in the sun, cooling in the
shade, and living a whole life between sunrise and sunset. The boys are
showing unconscious kinship with wood things, and getting a wholesome
touch of the earth in their thoughts.

I am sure that the mind often needs a vacation more than the body, and
yet the condition of change that bears the name of rest frequently merely
gives the head fresh work.

How far away the Whirlpool and its people seem as we sit perhaps on one
of the many tiny river islands enjoying this time separateness, not as
individuals, but as a family, for the whirl of the pool is tiresome even
to watch. I have felt old these last three months, and I suppose it is a
still further carrying out of the allegory and penalty of eating the
fruit of the tree of knowledge; only the discipline does seem a little
hard when, having no desire either to pluck or taste the apple, one
stands actually away with hands safely behind back, and yet has the fruit
absolutely thrust between unwilling lips.

Even the feathered things about us are in this mood; their family life
is over, the companionship of fall travel has not begun, and the woods
are full of moulting birds choosing this separateness in preparation for
the tension of new flight and its perils. Everything, in short, in wild
nature has its corresponding note in our own humanity,--the sweating of
the corn, the moulting of the bird, the contraction of the earth by
frost, all have a kindred season or experience in the heart.

Then, too, the August nights--so heavy with the intensity of sleep that
is akin to sleeplessness, broken by peremptory thunder voices and
searching lightning, or again enveloped by moonlight that floods the
room--shut out the world until, kneeling in its tide between the little
white beds, I can feel the refrain of that hymn of mother's that father
taught me long ago to say to myself in the night when she had gone away
from sight and I was lonely:--

"Father, on thy heart I lean
When the world comes not between."

       *       *       *       *       *

_August_ 30. Sylvia and Horace were married under sunshine yesterday in
the little chantry of the church that is used in winter and for week-day
services. To-day the cold northeasterly storm has come, under cover of
which August so often disappears and September enters the marshes upon
the wings of low-flying plovers, to the discordant call of the first
waterfowl of the return migration.

Mr. Latham came to the wedding. In fact, he has been here several times
during the month. He is a well-built man, under sixty, dark and taciturn,
and would be handsome but for the hard expression of his face.

His attitude toward the world has seemed to be one of perpetual parry and
self-defence; of course he may have good reason for this distrust, or, as
Evan says, he may have brought the necessity upon himself by his constant
severity of attack on others. Yesterday I partly changed my mind about
him. He evidently once had tender feelings, but, from what cause who can
say, they have in some way been compressed and frozen until they exist
only as hurts.

Sylvia was married in bridal white. She had wished to wear a travelling
gown and go away from the chantry door, but Miss Lavinia argued her out
of the notion, saying, "Horace has the right to a pretty bride, even if
you do not care." It would have taken but very little, after the strain
of the last two months, to make Sylvia morbid and old beyond her years,
her one thought seeming to be to get away from the surroundings of the
past year and begin to live anew.

Our group, and a dozen friends of the Bradfords, including some from
Northbridge who belonged to both, filled the little chapel which Horace,
Martin, and Evan had trimmed with flowers wholly from our garden. At the
last moment, Mrs. Jenks-Smith, whom we thought abroad, dashed up in a
depot hack, perspiring and radiant, her smart gown having a most peculiar
and unnatural looking promontory on the chest. "No, my dear, I'm not in
Carlsbad. Jenks-Smith was called back on business, and I sniffed the
wedding in the air and hooked on,--only arrived last night. _Have_ you
seen the papers? Hush, I'll tell you later," and her voice sank into an
awed whisper, and she gave a startled look as the bride entered on her
father's arm, with Ian and Richard as her only attendants. Having heard
so much talk of marrying and of weddings, they had asked Sylvia to let
them be "bridesmaids," and it seemed she really wanted them. Their faces
were solemn to the verge of comedy as they walked hand in hand before
her, their feet in brand-new pumps, keeping step and pointing out
carefully, while their evident satisfaction brought a smile like a ray of
belated sunshine to the face of the serious bride.

I watched Mr. Latham, usually so immovable, during the ceremony as he
stepped back from the altar into the shadows, when he left Sylvia finally
with Horace. His shoulders lost their squareness, his head drooped; but
when I saw that it was to hide the tears that filled his eyes, I looked
away. Father says he has seen this type of man, contracted by
money-getting, hardened by selfish misunderstanding, recover himself,
soften, and grow young again at the transforming touch of grandchildren.
Who knows, Sylvia may find her childhood's father again some day.

When we went back to the cottage for luncheon, the bump in Mrs.
Jenks-Smith's corsage was removed, and proved to be a gift for
Sylvia,--a thick leather case, holding a rich neck ornament of diamonds,
a sort of collar with pendants, for the Lady of the Bluffs is nothing if
not generous.

"I got it in this way without paying a cent of duty," she said in a stage
whisper to Miss Lavinia and me in the hall, as she struggled to release
the box, wrenching off a waist hook or two as she did so.

"Jenks-Smith said it didn't look natural, and I'd surely be spotted, but
I said I'd like to see mere hired men try to tell a lady how stout or how
thin she had a right to be. Almost too gorgeous for a professor's wife?
Not a bit; Miss Lavinia, you're not advanced. Nobody knows nowadays, at
the launching, how anybody's going to turn out,--whether they'll sink or
float,--and diamonds are an all-right cargo, anyway. If she moves up, she
can wear 'em, if she slumps, she can sell 'em, and if she just drifts
along on the level, she can look at 'em once in a time. No, my dear,
diamonds are a consolation that no woman can afford to miss."

Considering her usual careless good nature, it seemed to me that Mrs.
Jenks-Smith was very fussy during the luncheon, ill at ease, and
strangely anxious to hurry the departure of Sylvia and Horace. The
guests, all but ourselves, left first, then Mr. Latham, who went upstairs
to take leave of his daughter alone. When Sylvia finally came down, her
colour had returned and she looked her radiant self again as she kissed
Miss Lavinia and Mrs. Bradford, and went down the steps holding Horace,
not by the arm, but clinging to his hand.

As the carriage disappeared around the bend of the road, and as we
stood looking at one another, feeling for a second the reaction and the
sense of an empty house that always follows the going of a bride, the
Lady of the Bluffs sank into a deep chair exclaiming, "Thank the Lord,
they've gone!"

"Why, what is it? Are you ill?" cried father, who was just leaving,
coming quickly to her side.

"It's this. I wanted to get her started north ahead of it. When she comes
back she won't care so much," she replied incoherently, pulling a scrap
of a morning newspaper from her card-case and holding it out at random
for the nearest one to take. Father caught it from her hand, and going
to the window, read aloud in slow, precisive accents of astonishment:--

"AN EVENT OF INTEREST TO NEW YORK SOCIETY.

"(SPECIAL CABLE TO NEW YORK HERALD.)

"LONDON, Aug. 29.--Yesterday the marriage took place of Montgomery Bell
to Mrs. Vivian Latham, both of New York. The wedding, at the registrar's
and quite informal, was followed by a breakfast given the couple by
Mrs. Center--who chanced, with several other intimates of the American
colony, to be in the city en route to the German baths,--at her apartment
which she always keeps in readiness for occupancy. Mr. Bell, who is a
member of all the best clubs, is known socially as the 'Indispensable.'
Mr. and Mrs. Bell will return to New York in November and open their
magnificent house at Central Park East with a series of the delightful
entertainments which they both so well know how to render unique."




XIV

THE OASIS


_September_ 8. Three lowering days of wind and rain, and Summer, after a
feigned departure, has returned to complete her task of perfecting.

She does this year after year--the marvel is that we are ever deceived;
but after all, what is it but the conflict between arbitrary and natural
law? The almanac-maker says that on the first day of September autumn is
due. Nature, the orbit-maker, proclaims it summer until, the month
three-quarters old, the equinox is crossed. Nature is always right, and
after the usual breezy argument sends Summer, her garments a bit
storm-tattered, perchance, back to her own.

The ill wind that dashed the tall auratum lilies in the garden to the
ground, stripped the clinging fingers of the sweet peas from their
trellis, and decapitated the heavy-headed dahlias, has blown me good,
held me indoors awhile, sent me to my attic confessional once more, with
conscience for priest, and the twins for acolytes, though they presently
turned catechists with an entirely new series of questions.

When I have not opened my desk or my garden book for some time, and the
planting season, be it of spring or of autumn, as now, overtakes me
unawares, I am always newly convinced that gardening is the truly
religious life, for it implies a continual preparation for the future, a
treading in the straight and narrow path that painful experience alone
can mark, an absorption beyond compare, and the continual exercise of
hope and love, but above all, of entire childlike faith.

When the time had come in the creative evolution for the stamping of the
perfected animal with the Divine image that forever separates him from
all previous types, it was no wonder that God set man, in whom the
perpetual struggle between the body and soul was to take place, in a
garden for his education.

       *       *       *       *       *

Recently the boys have been absorbed in their little printing press,
which they have established in my attic corner, the present working
motive having come from the card announcing Sylvia's marriage to the
world in general, according to Mr. Latham's desire. Richard secured one
of these and busied himself an entire morning in setting it in type, for
the first time in his experience getting the capitals and small letters
in their proper places. The result was so praiseworthy that Evan hunted
up a large box of ornamental cards for them in town, and for two days
they have been "filling orders" for every one in the household.

I print the names they wish to copy very distinctly in big letters.
Richard does the type-setting, which is altogether too slow work for Ian,
who, as pressman, does the inking and printing, and in the process has
actually learned his tardy letters. As to the distributing and cleaning
of the type, I find a little assistance is gratefully accepted, even by
patient Richard, whose dear little pointed fingers by this time have
become tired, and fumble.

To-day, having exhausted the simple family names, they have tried
combinations and experiments with the words Mr., Mrs., and Miss, much
to their own amusement, "_Miss_ Timothy Saunders" being considered a
huge joke.

Suddenly Ian looked up with one of his most compelling, whimsical smiles,
and said, "Barbara, grandpop's Mrs. was grandma, and she's in heaven, but
where is Mrs. Uncle Martin?"

Rather startled, I said that I didn't know,--that there had never been
any Mrs. Uncle Martin.

"Why not?" persisted Ian, an answer that is simply an acknowledgment of
ignorance never being accepted by a child. Before I could think Richard
chirped out: "But Aunt Lavinia hasn't any Mr. for her card neiver, and
Martha, she said the other day that there was a Mr. and a Mrs. for
everybody, only sometimes they couldn't find each other for ever so long.
She told that to Effie, and I heard her."

A short pause, and then Ian jumped up, clapping his hands with joy, as
the solution of the problem flashed across him.

"I know what's happened, Barbara; maybe Uncle Martin's Mrs. and Aunt
Lavinia's Mr. has gone and got lost together, and some day they'll find
it out and bring each ovver back! Do you think they will, so we can have
some more weddings and pink ice cream, and couldn't we hurry up and help
find them? I guess we better print him some Mrs. cards so as in case."

I had drifted into gardening work on paper again, and I believe I said
that he had better ask Uncle Martin what he thought about the matter, and
at that moment the bell rang for luncheon.

The ringing of bells for meals in this house is what Lavinia Dorman
calls "a relic of barbarism," that she greatly deplores; but as I tell
her, our family gathers from so many points of the compass that if the
maid announced the meals, she would have to be gifted with the instinct
of a chaser of strayed freight cars.

Ian's queries have brought up a subject that has deluded and eluded my
hopes all summer, and has finally ended in the people that I hoped would
drift through the doorway of one of my most substantial air castles
refusing so to do, or else being too blind to see the open door.

Martin and Lavinia are the best possible friends, have been constantly in
each other's society, see from nearly the same point of view, and both
agree and disagree upon the same subjects, but they have not settled the
question of loneliness of living as I hoped, by making the companionship
permanent, _via_ matrimony.

Of course, I did not expect them to fall in love exactly as Evan and I or
Horace and Sylvia did--that belongs to spring and summer; still, I
thought that when they started worm-hunting together, and played checkers
every evening, that they were beginning to find each other mutually
indispensable, at least.

But no. Martin stored away his papers in the old desk, and went to New
York a week ago to see several suites of bachelor apartments that had
been offered him.

He writes this morning that he has found one to his liking, and will
return to-night, if he may, and stay over to-morrow to pack his things.
Meanwhile Miss Lavinia has sent her maids to clean and open her house in
"Greenwich Village," and will go home on Monday, spending her final
Sunday with me. Josephus went with the maids; the country had a
demoralizing effect upon him.

Miss Lavinia has been agitating moving uptown, several of her friends at
the Bluffs insisting that an apartment near the Park is much more
suitable for her than the little house so far from the social centre,
saying it is no wonder she is lonely and out of things; but yesterday she
told me that she had abandoned the idea of change, and had sent orders to
have her old back yard garden dismantled and the whole plot paved, as it
was now only a suitable place for drying clothes. Also that she had
written to ask her father's cousin Lydia, whose Staten Island home had
been built in by progress, very much like her own garden, to come to pass
the winter with her; and, lest she should repent of so rash an act, she
had given the letter to Evan before the ink was fairly dry, as he passed
the cottage on the way to the train, that he might post it in the city.

One consolation remains to me in the wreck of my romantic hopes for
her--Miss Lavinia has liked our neighbourhood so well that she has taken
the Alton cottage that she now occupies on a three years' lease, and
intends living here from May to October. The rambling garden is full of
old-time, hardy plants and roses, and oh, what good times we shall have
together there next spring, for of course she will stop with me when she
is getting things in order, and I can spare her enough roots and cuttings
to fill every spare inch of ground,--so, with Sylvia at Pine Ridge, what
more can I ask? The strain and hubbub of the Bluffs seems to be quite
vanishing from the foreground and merging with the horizon.

That reminds me that the people are drifting back quite rapidly now. The
golfers are afield again Sundays, and all talk of introducing fox hunting
with tame foxes; but they will have to learn the land, with its dips and
rocks, better first, or there will be a pretty crop of cracked crowns for
father. At present, I think that New England Prejudice will soon however
get the upper hand here, and tighten her hold of the reins that seemed
slipping from her grasp, which is well, for she has long borne aloft the
only standard of national morality whose code is not a sliding scale.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September_ 9. Martin came back to-night. As he entered the house with
Evan I positively did not know him, for he has shaved off his mustache
and queer little pussy-cat whiskers, and with them has gone his
"pudgyness." He is really a very fine-looking man, and his features are
developed by the shaving process in an unexpected way. He seems so wide
awake, too, and alive to everything that passes, that I could see that
father, who came from the office to greet him, had difficulty in
restraining his surprise, but he contented himself by asking:--

"How did you fare with the publishers? Did you fall among thieves or
among friends?"

"That is equivalent to asking if my book has been accepted, as it is only
when work is refused that we call the mediums through which we seek to
reach the public hard names. Yes, the fate of my book is soon told; it
has found its place, and is to be fully illustrated as well, though it
will take me many months to collect the unique material they desire; this
insures me a busy winter, for which I am not only prepared but eager.

"I wish I could as easily tell you what this summer here has done for me,
Dick," and he leaned over the chair in which father had seated himself
and laid his arm affectionately across his shoulder. "I think in asking
me here you rescued me from as dangerous a condition of mental apathy as
when you stood by my bed so many years ago."

"Don't thank me," said father, leaning back and looking up at him, "thank
God's sunshine, work, the babies here, and why not woman's society
also,--you used to appreciate that, too, eh, Martin, old man? Give
everybody his, or rather her, due."

"Yes," I heard him answer, as if pondering the matter, while I fled
discreetly upstairs at this juncture, "you doubtless are right; Lavinia
Dorman's criticisms have been of infinite value in ridding my work of a
litter of words that encumbered the spirit and purpose of it. She is
direct and to the point, and yet withal most sympathetic. I had thought
of dedicating the book to her in some private way, for really we are
joint heirs, as it were, in so many traditions and habits of old New
York, that it would not seem strained or inappropriate."

"On the contrary, I think it most suitable, and I would not go to any
great pains to hide the compliment of the dedication under a bushel of
disguise either, if I were you. The Lydia Languish age of abnormal
privacy and distorted, unhealthy sensibility has fortunately passed.
Nowadays women like men to be direct, outspoken, definite, where they are
concerned."

"Do you think so?" asked Martin, in real surprise. "I feared possibly
that it might annoy her."

"I know so--annoy her, fudge!" was father's comment.

       *      *       *       *       *

When we went in to dinner, Miss Lavinia at once noticed the change in
Martin's appearance, and said, in a spirit of mischief which of course I
alone noticed:--

"Back from the city, and with new clothes, too,--how very smart and
becoming they are."

But poor Martin was quite guileless, and looking down at his coat in a
puzzled way, as if to make doubly sure, replied, "No, it cannot be my
clothes, for they are the same." Then, brightening, as the possible
reason occurred to him: "Perhaps it may be my shaven face; you see, the
barber made an error in the trimming of my decorations yesterday, and he
thought it better to take them entirely off and have them grow afresh,
but I had not thought of the matter in the light of an improvement."

"But it is one, most decidedly," continued Miss Lavinia, nodding brightly
across at him, while father, who now realized the change he could not
locate, cried:--

"Don't let them grow again, my boy. You look ten years younger, at the
very least, which you know at our age is not to be despised!"

Then we all grew hilarious, and talked together like a lot of school
children, and when the boys came in to dessert, as usual, they also were
infectiously boisterous over the catching of some bass in the river where
Timothy Saunders had taken them that afternoon as a special treat. They
clamoured and begged so for Uncle Martin to stop over the next day for
fishing and have one more good time with them, that he, feeling flattered
almost to the point of embarrassment, yielded upon Evan's suggesting
that, instead of going by the eight o'clock morning train as he intended,
he could wait for one late in the evening, which would get him to town
before eleven. For Martin was to move into his new bachelor apartments
the following morning.

The three men lingered long at the table, smoking, the talk punctuated by
long periods of silence, each regretting in his own way the present
terminating of the summer intercourse, and yet, I fancy, realizing that
it had lasted exactly the safe length of time. To be able to adapt
oneself temporarily to the presence of outsiders in a house is a healthy
habit, but to adjust a family to do it permanently is to lose what can
never be regained. Miss Lavinia and I agreed upon that long ago, and for
this reason I am very much surprised that she has asked her cousin Lydia
to spend the winter, with a view of making the arrangement permanent.

The boys brought some of their games downstairs, and succeeded in adding
half an hour to their bedtime by coaxing Aunt Lavinia to play with them,
until I finally had to almost carry them to bed, they grew so suddenly
sleepy from their day's fishing.

When I returned below stairs after the boys were asleep, father had gone
to the village, Evan was walking up and down outside, all the windows and
doors were open again, and the sultry air answered the katydids' cry for
"Some-more-heat, some-more-heat."

Miss Lavinia was still in the hall, sitting on the lower step of the
stairs, for the boys had been using the broad landing that made a turn at
the top of the three steps as a place to play their games. Martin stood
leaning on the newel post, and from the few words I heard I knew that he
was telling her about the proposed dedication, so I went out and joined
Evan, for it seems as though we had had little leisure outdoors together
of late, and as if it was time to make it up as best we might.

Then, once again, as we crossed the streak of light that streamed like a
narrow moon path from the doorway, Evan paused and nodded his head toward
the hall. I turned--there sat Miss Lavinia and Martin Cortright on the
stairs, playing with the boys'--jack-straws!

"After this, what?" I asked, in my mirth leaning backward on Evan's
supporting arm.

"To be pat, it ought to be the deluge," chuckled Evan; "but as these are
prosy times, it simply means the end has been reached, and that to-morrow
they will put away mild summer madness, and return to the Whirlpool to
paddle about decorously as of yore."

I find that I am not the only person who is disappointed at the absence
of matrimonial intentions between Martin and Miss Lavinia. The
postmistress told me yesterday that she's been expecting to hear of a
second wedding any day, as when one took place it always meant three,
though she couldn't "fetch the third couple together, even in her mind's
eye," which I have found to be usually a capacious and well filled optic.

Mrs. Barton also stopped Martha Corkle on the road, and said with an
insinuating sneer, "She'd always supposed that the gentleman from New
York who lodged with her was making up to the proud old maid at the
Doctor's, but as he evidently wasn't going to, she'd advise Mrs. Evan to
watch out, as Miss Lavinia, doubtless being disappointed, might set her
cap for the Doctor himself, and then the Lord knows what would happen,
men being so easily flattered and trapped."

Martha was indignant, and I must say very rude, for she snapped back: "I
wonder at that same bein' your holdin', Mrs. Barton, bein' as you've five
maid daughters that's not so by their desirin', folks do say as knows."

Mud throwers should be careful to wear gloves,--their ammunition
is sticky.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September_ 10. This morning father and I were obliged to go to town upon
some hospital business, and as we had to remain there for luncheon, or
perhaps longer, we took the train instead of driving over, leaving
Lavinia to pack, so that she might have a free Saturday to drive with me
to bid Mrs. Bradford good-by, and learn the latest news of Sylvia and
Horace. Meanwhile the boys were to go fishing with Martin, who is as
careful of them as possible, taking their lunch with them.

They did not have good luck, however, and growing restless and tired of
fishing without catching, Martin brought them home by three o'clock, and
as both he and Miss Lavinia had finished their preparations for leaving,
they went out to the seat by the rose arbour to enjoy what was left of
the glorious afternoon, for it has been one of those days that come in
dreams, so perfect that one knows it cannot last.

"I hope that I shall not lose all track of you this winter," said Miss
Lavinia. "Of course you will be busy, but you might spare a lonely woman
an evening now and then for piquet, or whist if Evan or the Doctor should
come to town."

"Lose track of you, Miss Lavinia,--how could that be possible?" queried
Martin in mild-eyed astonishment. "You know there will be a second volume
of the book for you to read and criticise, besides all the illustrations
to discuss. No, I hoped that you could spare me two definite evenings
every week, at least until the work is in press, though I suppose that is
asking a great deal of a woman having so many friends, and places to go."

"If you could see the way I spend my evenings alone, you would not
hesitate. Of course I do dine out once in a time, and people come to me,
but between times--I envy even Josephus, who can have social enjoyment
any time by merely scratching on the door and running along the palings
to the neighbours."

"I am glad, for I decided upon taking the Washington Square rooms,
instead of moving up nearer the Clubs as my friends advised, because I
thought it would be so much more convenient if, in proof correcting, I
should require to consult you hastily."

Miss Lavinia felt a pleasurable flush rising to her cheeks, when it was
chilled by the memory of her invitation to her cousin Lydia. Why had she
given it? Then the realization that a third party would be unwelcome to
her made the flush return and deepen.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Uncle Martin, where is your Mrs.? Barbara said I'd have to ask you
'cause she didn't know," suddenly asked Ian's voice, so close behind
them that they both started. He had been up in the attic to get some of
his precious cards, one of which he now held in front of Martin
Cortright's gaze.

"My Mrs.! Why, what do you mean?" he asked in uncomprehending
astonishment, taking the boy on his knee; but when the little scamp had
explained, the stupidest person in the world could not plead ignorance.

"And," Ian continued, "Dick and me thought that p'r'aps if your Mrs. and
Aunt Lavinia's Mr. had got lost together we could find them for you, and
then there'd be two more weddings with pink ice cream. We're going to
look this afternoon, and we're going to ask Martha to help us, 'cause she
found her Mr. after he'd been lost a great while, Effie says."

"And he was right here in the place, too," chimed in Richard, "only he
didn't seem to see her, so p'r'aps yours aren't far off, and we might get
them in time to have the wedding to-night before you go. Wouldn't you
like to be in a wedding, Aunt Lavinia?"

"Mercy no, child, I'm too old!" she ejaculated, now as red as a
Jacqueminot rose, while the boys ran off in the direction of Martha's, to
ask her where it was best to begin this important quest, the prize for
which was pink ice cream.

Miss Lavinia did not look up for a moment, and when she did she found
Martin's eyes fastened on her face, and in them a strange
enlightenment that shook her like an electric bolt, as he arose and
stood before her, saying:--

"You need never be old. Some prefer June strawberries and others
September peaches, that is all. When once in June I thought to gather the
strawberries, I found they belonged to another, for I loved your friend,
who was Barbara's mother."

"And I loved your friend, who is Barbara's father," Miss Lavinia said,
rising and facing him.

"As they married each other, why may not we? I know now why my work has
prospered this summer and why life seems good again. Ian's little fancy
shows me the truth."

"Our Mr. and Mrs. were not far off, then," said she, laying her hand on
his, while she looked into his face with one of those rare smiles of
unreserved confidence that makes Lavinia Dorman more fascinating than
half the younger women that I know.

After a moment of romance they waked up to the fact of the present and
its comical aspect; the boys' talk of weddings brought that necessary
episode quickly before them.

"May I tell the Doctor when he returns? Shall we tell them all?" asked
Martin, eagerly, and Miss Lavinia sat suddenly down again and realized
that she still was in the world of responsibilities.

"I think I would rather wait and do it all at once, after--after the pink
ice-cream," she said, as he laughed at her hesitation over the word. "I
don't like keeping it from Barbara, but I'm so tired of talk and fuss and
feathers and Mrs. Grundy." "Then let us get it quietly over next week,
or tomorrow, if you say, unless you wish time to feel sure, or perhaps to
think it over," said Martin, with enthusiasm.

"Time to think it over!" cried Miss Lavinia, springing lightly to her
feet. "No, I'm sure I don't wish to think, I want to act--to do things my
own way and give no one a chance to speak until it is done. What have I
been doing all my life but thinking, and waiting for it to be a
convenient and suitable time for me to do this or that, wondering what
others will think if I do or don't; thinking that the disagreeable was
duty, often simply because it was disagreeable. Surely you have been
hampered by this perpetual thinking too, and watching the thumb of custom
to see if it pointed up or down. No, I'm done with it. We've agreed to be
married, so why not this very afternoon, and have the wedding over before
you go, as the boys suggested?"

"The best possible idea, though I should have hardly dared suggest it,"
said Martin, tramping to and fro in excitement. "How shall we manage? Go
down here to the rectory?"

"I would rather go over to town," said Miss Lavinia, beginning, in
spite of herself, to realize difficulties. "We do not know who might
drop in here."

"Very well," said Martin, decisively, looking at his watch. "I have it!
Timothy is off to-day; I will harness the grays to the stanhope, as we
can't wait to send to the stable, and we will drive over the back way by
the Ridge and be home again by dinner time. The rector of All Saints' was
a classmate of mine, and I met him again only the other day, so we shall
have no trouble there."

"Are you sure you can harness the horses properly?" asked Miss Lavinia,
with characteristic caution, and then smiling at herself, as Martin
hurried off to the stable.

       *       *       *       *       *

In less than twenty minutes the sober gray horses turned out of the
stable yard and up the road upon the most remarkable trip of their
career. Nothing strange was noticeable about the turnout, except that the
traces hung a trifle loose, and that the occupants sat unusually far back
under the hood for so pleasant an afternoon. That is, until after they
had passed Martha's house in the lane and turned into the unfrequented
back highway, then they both leaned forward, gave a sigh of relief, and,
looking at each other, laughed aloud.

"Do you realize that we are eloping, like runaway school children?" said
Miss Lavinia, "we two hitherto sober-minded Knickerbockers?"

"I realize that I like what we are doing very much, whatever it may be
called," replied Martin, "and that it is very considerate of you to spare
me and do it in this way. The conventional affair is very hard on a man
of my years, all of whose contemporaries are either bald or rheumatic;
besides, now I think of it, it is merely carrying out the ever-present
precedent. My father's great-great-grand father and mother eloped in
1689 from Staten Island to the Bouerie, and the boat upset when they
were going back."

"Mercy on us!" exclaimed Miss Lavinia, "I hope we shall not upset! I
wonder if the wheels are on securely. I thought I heard something rattle.
There it is again."

As they reached the bottom of the long hill, Martin let the reins hang
loose on the horses' necks and, lowering the hood, looked back to see if
he could find the cause of the jolting sound, accompanied by panting, as
of a dog running. Then he gave an exclamation of impatience, and pulled
the horses up short, for there, alternately running and lifting up their
feet and swinging, were the twins, clinging to the back of the gig!

Miss Lavinia gave a cry of dismay. "Where did you come from, and where
are you going?" she questioned rather sharply. "We went to Martha's, you
know," said Ian, as if his errand had been one of such importance that it
was impossible she should forget it, "and she wasn't there, so we thought
we'd just look for those people we said about, by ourselves. But we
couldn't find anybody, only a shiny black snake by the road, and he
rubber-necked at us and spit some 'fore he ran away. Then we saw
grandpop's horses coming, and when you went by we hooked on, and--"

"'Cause we thought if you was looking for those people and found them,
then we'd be there for the pink ice cream," added Richard, cheerfully,
supplementing Ian's story when his breath gave out.

"I suppose we must turn around and take them home," said Miss Lavinia,
with a sigh.

"Not a bit of it. Let them come with us; it is too late to turn back,
unless," he added, with a ring of mock humility in his tone, "you have
changed your mind and wish time to think. As for me, I've turned my back
on even thinking whether they will be missed or who will worry.

"Scramble in, boys, and curl up here in front. You are just in time; two
of these people you were searching for are going to be married this
afternoon. We are going to the wedding, and you shall be best men," and
the boys settled down, chuckling and whispering, but presently Ian
looked up, as light dawned, and cried: "I spy! It's you, Uncle Martin,
and Aunt Lavinia is your Mrs., only you couldn't find her all summer till
to-day," and he hugged his friend around the legs, which were all he
could reach, but Richard leaned backward until his head rested on Miss
Lavinia's knees, and he reached up his cooing lips to be kissed.

The rest of the ride to town was uneventful, except that when they
reached the outskirts they met Jenks-Smith's coach loaded with Whirlpool
people, but the Lady of the Bluffs saw nothing strange in the
combination, and merely shook her parasol at them, calling, "I'm sorry to
hear you're flitting, just when it's getting lively again, too!"

Fortunately the rector of All Saints' was at home, likewise the requisite
number of his family, for witnesses. Then it transpired that the couple
had never thought of the ring, and while Martin went out to buy one, Miss
Lavinia was left sitting on the edge of a very stiff sofa with a boy on
either side of her, with the Rectory family drawn up opposite like an
opposing force, which did not encourage easy conversation.

However, the agony was soon over, and the bride and groom left,
Martin giving his old classmate, to whom the world had been
penurious, a hand-shake that, when examined by the breathless family
a few moments later, was found to yield at least a new parlour
carpet, an easy-chair for the Rector's bent back, and a new clerical
suit to cover his gaunt frame.

"Now comes the pink ice cream," sang Ian, dancing a-tiptoe as they
reached the street; and there being but one good restaurant in town, on
the high street, next to the saddler's shop where the red goat harness
was still displayed, the party drove there, and the pink ice cream was
eaten, good and full measure thereof, while on their way out the coveted
goat harness found itself being taken from the window to be packed away
under the seat of the gig.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost dinner time when father and I returned to-night, and the
boys were squeezed together in a chair on the piazza, close to Miss
Lavinia, while Martin sat near by on the balustrade. The boys were in a
great state of giggles, and kept clapping their hands to their mouths as
if they feared something would escape. I hurried upstairs, not wishing to
make dinner late, as I knew Martin expected to take the nine o'clock
train, just as father came in saying that Timothy had returned, and that
he found the horses in a wonderful sweat, and feared they were sick, as
they hadn't been out all day.

By this time we were in the hall and walking toward the dining room.
Martin stopped short, as if to say something, and then changed his mind,
while a bumping at the pantry door attracted the attention of us all.

Out came Ian, a portion of the goat harness on his head and shoulders,
followed by Richard, around whose neck the reins were fastened, and
between them they carried the great heavy silver tea-tray only used on
state occasions. In the centre of it rested a pink sofa pillow, upon
which some small, flat object like a note was lying.

They came straight across the hall, halting in front of me, and saying
earnestly, "We didn't ask for the harness, but Uncle Martin says that
people always give their best mens presents." I looked at him for a
second, not understanding, then Evan, with a curious twinkle in his eye,
strode across, whispering to me, "The Deluge," as he picked up the card
and read aloud, "Mr. and Mrs. Martin Cortright!" It was the card that
Richard had printed several days before and carried in strange company in
his warm, mussy little pocket ever since.

There was tense silence, and then a shout, as Martin took his wife's hand
that wore the wedding ring and laid it on mine; then he and father
fairly hugged each other, for father did not forget those long-ago days
of the strawberries that Martin could not gather.

When the excitement had subsided and dinner was over, Martha and Tim, to
whom the horse matter had been explained, came over to offer their
congratulations,--at least Martha did. Timothy merely grinned, and, to
the best of my belief, winked slyly at Martin, as much as to say, "We may
be long in knowing our minds, but when we men are ready, the weemen fair
tumble over us."

"Indeed, mum, but I wish you joy, and that he'll lead you as easy a life
as Tim'thy here does me, 'deed I do, and _no_ disrespeck intended," was
Martha's parting sentence; and then our wonder as to whether Martin was
going to town, or what, was cut short by his rising, looking at his
watch, and saying in the most matter-of-fact way to Lavinia: "Is your bag
ready? You know we leave in an hour."

"Does Lucy expect you?" I ventured to ask.

"Oh no, I shall not trouble her until the day appointed. We shall go to
the Manhattan, I think."

"How about your cousin Lydia?" asked father, who could not resist a
chance to tease.

"I forgot all about her!" exclaimed poor Lavinia, clasping her hands
tragically and looking really conscience-stricken. "And I," said Evan,
who had suddenly jumped up and rammed his hand into his side pocket,
"forgot to post your letter to her!"

       *       *       *       *       *

_October_ 31. We have all been to New York to visit the runaway
Cortrights, as Evan calls them, now that they are settled, and it is
pleasant to see that so much belated happiness is possible. The fate of
Lavinia's house is definitely arranged; they will remain in "Greenwich
Village," in spite of all advice to move up in town. The defunct back
yard is being covered by an extension that will give Martin a fine
library, with a side window and a scrap of balcony, while the ailantus
tree is left, that bob-tailed Josephus may not be deprived of the feline
pleasures of the street or his original way of reaching it over the side
fence; and the flower garden that was, will be the foundation of a garden
of books under the kindly doctrine of compensation.

Above is to be a large guest room for Sylvia and Horace, or Evan and me,
so that there will be room in plenty when by and by we bring the boys to
see our New York.

Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who has formed a sincere attachment to Lavinia
Cortright, did all in her power to persuade her to be her neighbour up in
town, offering a charming house at a bargain and many advantages.
Finally becoming piqued at the refusal, she said:--

"Why will you be so stupid? Don't you know that this out-of-the-way
street is in the social desert?"

"It may be in a desert, as you say," said Lavinia, gently, "but we mean
at least to make it an oasis for our friends who are weary of the
whirling of the pool."

       *       *       *       *       *

We stood looking at the boys as they slept tonight. Strange thoughts will
crop up at times most unexpectedly. Horns blowing on the highway
proclaimed the late arrival of a coaching party at the Bluffs. "Would you
like to have money if you could, and go about the world when and where
you please?" I asked Evan, but he, shaking his head, drew me towards him,
answering my question with another--

"Would you, or why do you ask?"

I never thought that Mrs. Jenks-Smith's stricture would turn to a
prayer upon my lips, but before I knew it I whispered, "God keep us
comfortably poor."

Then Ian, feeling our presence, raised himself in sleepy leisure, and
nestling his cheek against my dress said, "Barbara, _please_ give Ian a
drink of water."



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