Kitty's Class Day And Other Stories
Louisa M. Alcott
Part 1 out of 5
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KITTY'S CLASS DAY AND OTHER STORIES
Louisa M. Alcott
Author of "Little Women," etc.
Originally published under the title
[Illustration: Deeper in the wood sounded the measured ring of axes]
Being forbidden to write anything at present I have collected various
waifs and strays to appease the young people who clamor for more,
forgetting that mortal brains need rest.
As many girls have asked to see what sort of tales Jo March wrote at
the beginning of her career, I have added "The Baron's Gloves," as a
sample of the romantic rubbish which paid so well once upon a time. If
it shows them what _not_ to write it will not have been rescued from
oblivion in vain.
L. M. ALCOTT.
KITTY'S CLASS DAY
A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS
ON PICKET DUTY
THE BARON'S GLOVES
MY RED CAP
WHAT THE BELLS SAW AND SAID
KITTY'S CLASS DAY
"A stitch in time saves nine."
"O Pris, Pris, I'm really going! Here's the invitation--rough
paper--Chapel--spreads--Lyceum Hall--everything splendid; and Jack to
take care of me!"
As Kitty burst into the room and performed a rapturous _pas seul_,
waving the cards over her head, sister Priscilla looked up from her
work with a smile of satisfaction on her quiet face.
"Who invites you, dear?"
"Why, Jack, of course,--dear old cousin Jack. Nobody else ever thinks
of me, or cares whether I have a bit of pleasure now and then. Isn't
he kind? Mayn't I go? and, O Pris, what _shall_ I wear?"
Kitty paused suddenly, as if the last all-important question had a
solemnizing effect upon both mind and body.
"Why, your white muslin, silk sacque, and new hat, of course," began
Pris with an air of surprise. But Kitty broke in impetuously,--
"I'll never wear that old muslin again; it's full of darns, up to my
knees, and all out of fashion. So is my sacque; and as for my hat,
though it does well enough here, it would be absurd for Class Day."
"You don't expect an entirely new suit for this occasion,--do you?"
asked Pris, anxiously.
"Yes, I do, and I'll tell you how I mean to get it. I've planned
everything; for, though I hardly dreamed of going, I amused myself by
thinking how I could manage if I _did_ get invited."
"Let us hear." And Pris took up her work with an air of resignation.
"First, my dress," began Kitty, perching herself on the arm of the
sofa, and entering into the subject with enthusiasm. "I've got the ten
dollars grandpa sent me, and with eight of it I'm going to buy
Lizzie King's organdie muslin. She got it in Paris; but her aunt
providentially--no, unfortunately--died; so she can't wear it, and
wants to get rid of it. She is bigger than I am, you know; so there is
enough for a little mantle or sacque, for it isn't made up. The skirt
is cut off and gored, with a splendid train--"
"My dear, you don't mean you are going to wear one of those absurd,
new-fashioned dresses?" exclaimed Pris, lifting hands and eyes.
"I do! Nothing would induce me to go to Class Day without a train.
It's been the desire of my heart to have one, and now I _will_, if
I never have another gown to my back!" returned Kitty, with immense
Pris shook her head, and said, "Go on!" as if prepared for any
extravagance after that.
"We can make it ourselves," continued Kitty, "and trim it with the
same. It's white with blue stripes and daisies in the stripes; the
loveliest thing you ever saw, and can't be got here. So simple,
yet distingue, I know you'll like it. Next, my bonnet,"--here the
solemnity of Kitty's face and manner was charming to behold. "I shall
make it out of one of my new illusion undersleeves. I've never worn
them; and the puffed part will be a plenty for a little fly-away
bonnet of the latest style. I've got blue ribbons to tie it with, and
have only to look up some daisies for the inside. With my extra two
dollars I shall buy my gloves, and pay my fares,--and there I am, all
She looked so happy, so pretty, and full of girlish satisfaction, that
sister Pris couldn't bear to disturb the little plan, much as she
disapproved of it. They were poor, and every penny had to be counted.
There were plenty of neighbors to gossip and criticise, and plenty of
friends to make disagreeable remarks on any unusual extravagance.
Pris saw things with the prudent eyes of thirty, but Kitty with the
romantic eyes of seventeen; and the elder sister, in the kindness of
her heart, had no wish to sadden life to those bright young eyes,
or deny the child a harmless pleasure. She sewed thoughtfully for a
minute, then looked up, saying, with the smile that always assured
Kitty the day was won,--
"Get your things together, and we will see what can be done. But
remember, dear, that it is both bad taste and bad economy for poor
people to try to ape the rich."
"You're a perfect angel, Pris; so don't moralize. I'll run and get the
dress, and we'll begin at once, for there is much to do, and only
two days to do it in." And Kitty skipped away, singing "Lauriger
Horatius," at the top of her voice.
Priscilla soon found that the girl's head was completely turned by the
advice and example of certain fashionable young neighbors. It was in
vain for Pris to remonstrate and warn.
"Just this once let me do as others do, and thoroughly enjoy myself."
pleaded Kitty; and Pris yielded, saying to herself, "She shall have
her wish, and if she learns a lesson, neither time nor money will be
So they snipped and sewed, and planned and pieced, going through all
the alternations of despair and triumph, worry and satisfaction, which
women undergo when a new suit is under way. Company kept coming, for
news of Kitty's expedition had flown abroad, and her young friends
must just run in to hear about it, and ask what she was going to wear;
while Kitty was so glad and proud to tell, and show, and enjoy her
little triumph that many half hours were wasted, and the second day
found much still to do.
The lovely muslin didn't hold out, and Kitty sacrificed the waist to
the train, for a train she must have or the whole thing would be an
utter failure. A little sacque was eked out, however, and when the
frills were on, it was "ravishing," as Kitty said, with a sigh of
mingled delight and fatigue. The gored skirt was a fearful job, as any
one who has ever plunged into the mysteries will testify; and before
the facing, even experienced Pris quailed.
The bonnet also was a trial, for when the lace was on, it was
discovered that the ribbons didn't match the dress. Here was a
catastrophe! Kitty frantically rummaged the house, the shops, the
stores of her friends, and rummaged in vain. There was no time to send
to the city, and despair was about to fall on Kitty, when Pris rescued
her by quietly making one of the small sacrifices which were easy to
her because her life was spent for others. Some one suggested a strip
of blue illusion,--and that could be got; but, alas! Kitty had
no money, for the gloves were already bought. Pris heard the
lamentations, and giving up fresh ribbons for herself, pulled her
sister out of a slough of despond with two yards of "heavenly tulle."
"Now the daisies; and oh, dear me, not one can I find in this
poverty-stricken town," sighed Kitty, prinking at the glass, and
fervently hoping that nothing would happen to her complexion over
"I see plenty just like those on your dress," answered Pris, nodding
toward the meadow full of young whiteweed.
"Pris, you're a treasure! I'll wear real ones; they keep well, I know,
and are so common I can refresh my bonnet anywhere. It's a splendid
Away rushed Kitty to return with an apron full of American daisies. A
pretty cluster was soon fastened just over the left-hand frizzle of
bright hair, and the little bonnet was complete.
"Now, Pris, tell me how I look," cried Kitty, as she swept into the
room late that afternoon in full gala costume.
It would have been impossible for the primmest, the sourest, or the
most sensible creature in the world to say that it wasn't a pretty
sight. The long train, the big chignon, the apology for a bonnet, were
all ridiculous,--no one could deny that,--but youth, beauty, and a
happy heart made even those absurdities charming. The erect young
figure gave an air to the crisp folds of the delicate dress; the
bright eyes and fresh cheeks under the lace rosette made one forget
its size; and the rippling brown hair won admiration in spite of the
ugly bunch which disfigured the girl's head. The little jacket set
"divinely," the new gloves were as immaculate as white kids could be,
and to crown all, Lizzie King, in a burst of generosity, lent Kitty
the blue and white Paris sunshade which she couldn't use herself.
"Now I could die content; I'm perfect in all respects, and I know Jack
won't be ashamed of me. I really owe it to him to look my best, you
know, and that's why I'm so particular," said Kitty, in an apologetic
tone, as she began to lay away her finery.
"I hope you will enjoy every minute of the time, deary. Don't forget
to finish running up the facing; I've basted it carefully, and would
do it if my head didn't ache so, I really can't hold it up any
longer," answered Pris, who had worked like a disinterested bee, while
Kitty had flown about like a distracted butterfly.
"Go and lie down, you dear, kind soul, and don't think of my nonsense
again," said Kitty, feeling remorseful, till Pris was comfortably
asleep, when she went to her room and revelled in her finery till
bedtime. So absorbed was she in learning to manage her train
gracefully, that she forgot the facing till very late. Then, being
worn out with work and worry, she did, what girls are too apt to do,
stuck a pin here and there, and, trusting to Priscilla's careful
bastings, left it as it was, retiring to dream of a certain Horace
Fletcher, whose aristocratic elegance had made a deep impression upon
her during the few evenings she had seen him.
Nothing could have been lovelier than the morning, and few hearts
happier than Kitty's, as she arrayed herself with the utmost care, and
waited in solemn state for the carriage; for muslin trains and dewy
roads were incompatible, and one luxury brought another.
"My goodness, where did she get that stylish suit?" whispered Miss
Smith to Miss Jones, as Kitty floated into the station with all sail
set, finding it impossible to resist the temptation to astonish
certain young ladies who had snubbed her in times past, which snubs
had rankled, and were now avenged.
"I looked everywhere for a muslin for to-day and couldn't find any I
liked, so I was forced to wear my mauve silk," observed Miss Smith,
complacently settling the silvery folds of her dress.
"It's very pretty, but one ruins a silk at Class Day, you know. I
thought this organdie would be more comfortable and appropriate this
warm day. A friend brought it from Paris, and it's like one the
Princess of Wales wore at the great flower-show this year," returned
Kitty, with the air of a young lady who had all her dresses from
Paris, and was intimately acquainted with the royal family.
"Those girls" were entirely extinguished by this stroke, and hadn't
a word to say for themselves, while Kitty casually mentioned Horace
Fletcher, Lyceum Hall, and Cousin Jack, for _they_ had only a little
Freshman brother to boast of, and were _not_ going to Lyceum Hall.
As she stepped out of the cars at Cambridge, Jack opened his honest
blue eyes and indulged in a low whistle of astonishment: for if there
was anything he especially hated, it was the trains, chignons and tiny
bonnets then in fashion. He was very fond of Kitty, and prided himself
on being able to show his friends a girl who was charming, and yet not
"She has made a regular guy of herself; I won't tell her so, and the
dear little soul shall have a jolly time in spite of her fuss and
feathers. But I do wish she had let her hair alone and worn that
pretty hat of hers."
As this thought passed through Jack's mind he smiled and bowed and
made his way among the crowd, whispering as he drew his cousin's arm
through his own,--
"Why, Kitty, you're got up regardless of expense, aren't you? I'm so
glad you came, we'll have a rousing good time, and you shall see all
"Oh, thank you, Jack! Do I look nice, really? I tried to be a credit
to you and Pris, and I did have such a job of it. I'll make you laugh
over it some time. A carriage for me? Bless us, how fine we are!" and
Kitty stepped in, feeling that only one thing more was needed to make
her cup overflow. That one thing was speedily vouchsafed, for before
her skirts were smoothly settled, Jack called out, in his hearty
"How are you, Fletcher? If you are bound for Chapel I'll take you up."
"Thanks; good-morning, Miss Heath."
It was all done in an instant, and the next thing Kitty knew she was
rolling away with the elegant Horace sitting opposite. How little
it takes to make a young girl happy! A pretty dress, sunshine, and
somebody opposite, and they are blest. Kitty's face glowed and dimpled
with pleasure as she glanced about her, especially when _she_, sitting
in state with two gentlemen all to herself, passed "those girls"
walking in the dust with a beardless boy; she felt that she could
forgive past slights, and did so with a magnanimous smile and bow.
Both Jack and Fletcher had graduated the year before, but still took
an interest in their old haunts, and patronized the fellows who were
not yet through the mill, at least the Seniors and Juniors; of Sophs
and Freshs they were sublimely unconscious. Greeted by frequent slaps
on the shoulder, and hearty "How are you, old fellows," they piloted
Kitty to a seat in the chapel. An excellent place, but the girl's
satisfaction was marred by Fletcher's desertion, and she could not see
anything attractive about the dashing young lady in the pink bonnet to
whom he devoted himself, "because she was a stranger," Kitty said.
Everybody knows what goes on in the Chapel, after the fight and
scramble are over. The rustle and buzz, the music, the oratory and the
poem, during which the men cheer and the girls simper; the professors
yawn, and the poet's friends pronounce him a second Longfellow. Then
the closing flourishes, the grand crush, and general scattering.
Then the fun really begins, as far as the young folks are concerned.
_They_ don't mind swarming up and down stairs in a solid phalanx; they
can enjoy half a dozen courses of salad, ice and strawberries, with
stout gentlemen crushing their feet, anxious mammas sticking sharp
elbows into their sides, and absent-minded tutors walking over them.
They can flirt vigorously in a torrid atmosphere of dinner, dust,
and din; can smile with hot coffee running down their backs, small
avalanches of ice-cream descending upon their best bonnets, and
sandwiches, butter-side down, reposing on their delicate silks. They
know that it is a costly rapture, but they carefully refrain from
thinking of the morrow, and energetically illustrate the Yankee maxim
which bids us enjoy ourselves in our early bloom.
Kitty did have "a rousing good time;" for Jack was devoted, taking
her everywhere, showing her everything, feeding and fanning her,
and festooning her train with untiring patience. How many forcible
expressions he mentally indulged in as he walked on that unlucky train
we will not record; he smiled and skipped and talked of treading on
flowers in a way that would have charmed Kitty, if some one else had
not been hovering about "The Daisy," as Fletcher called her.
After he returned, she neglected Jack, who took it coolly, and was
never in the way unless she wanted him. For the first time in her
life, Kitty deliberately flirted. The little coquetries, which are as
natural to a gay young girl as her laughter, were all in full play,
and had she gone no further no harm would have been done. But,
excited by the example of those about her, Kitty tried to enact the
fashionable young lady, and, like most novices, she overdid the part.
Quite forgetting her cousin, she tossed her head, twirled her fan,
gave affected little shrieks at college jokes, and talked college
slang in a way that convulsed Fletcher, who enjoyed the fun immensely.
Jack saw it all, shook his head and said nothing; but his face
grew rather sober as he watched Kitty, flushed, dishevelled, and
breathless, whirling round Lyceum Hall, on the arm of Fletcher, who
danced divinely, as all the girls agreed. Jack had proposed going, but
Kitty had frowned, so he fell back, leaving her to listen and laugh,
blush and shrink a little at her partner's flowery compliments and
"If she stands that long she's not the girl I took her for," thought
Jack, beginning to lose patience. "She doesn't look like my little
Kitty, and somehow I don't feel half so fond and proud of her as
usual. I know one thing, _my_ daughters shall never be seen knocking
about in that style."
As if the thought suggested the act, Jack suddenly assumed an air of
paternal authority, and, arresting his cousin as she was about to
begin again, he said, in a tone she had never heard before,--
"I promised Pris to take care of you, so I shall carry you off to
rest, and put yourself to rights after this game of romps. I advise
you to do the same, Fletcher, or give your friend in the pink bonnet a
Kitty took Jack's arm pettishly, but glanced over her shoulder with
such an inviting smile that Fletcher followed, feeling very much like
a top, in danger of tumbling down the instant he stopped spinning. As
she came out Kitty's face cleared, and, assuming her sprightliest air,
she spread her plumage and prepared to descend with effect, for a
party of uninvited _peris_ stood at the gate of this Paradise casting
longing glances at the forbidden splendors within. Slowly, that all
might see her, Kitty sailed down, with Horace, the debonair, in her
wake, and was just thinking to herself, "Those girls won't get over
this very soon, I fancy," when all in one moment she heard Fletcher
exclaim, wrathfully, "Hang the flounces!" she saw a very glossy black
hat come skipping down the steps, felt a violent twitch backward, and,
to save herself from a fall, sat down on the lower step with most
It was impossible for the bystanders to help laughing, for there was
Fletcher hopping wildly about, with one foot nicely caught in a muslin
loop, and there sat Kitty longing to run away and hide herself, yet
perfectly helpless, while every one tittered. Miss Jones and Miss
Smith laughed shrilly, and the despised little Freshman completed her
mortification, by a feeble joke about Kitty Heath's new man-trap. It
was only an instant, but it seemed an hour before Fletcher freed her,
and snatching up the dusty beaver, left her with a flushed countenance
and an abrupt bow.
If it hadn't been for Jack, Kitty would have burst into tears then and
there, so terrible was the sense of humiliation which oppressed her.
For his sake she controlled herself, and, bundling up her torn train,
set her teeth, stared straight before her, and let him lead her in
dead silence to a friend's room near by. There he locked the door, and
began to comfort her by making light of the little mishap. But Kitty
cried so tragically, that he was at his wit's end, till the ludicrous
side of the affair struck her, and she began to laugh hysterically.
With a vague idea that vigorous treatment was best for that feminine
ailment, Jack was about to empty the contents of an ice-pitcher over
her, when she arrested him, by exclaiming, incoherently,--
"Oh, don't!--it was so funny!--how can you laugh, you cruel boy?--I'm
disgraced, forever--take me home to Pris, oh, take me home to Pris!"
"I will, my dear, I will; but first let me right you up a bit; you
look as if you had been hazed, upon my life you do;" and Jack laughed
in spite of himself at the wretched little object before him, for
dust, dancing, and the downfall produced a ruinous spectacle.
That broke Kitty's heart; and, spreading her hands before her face,
she was about to cry again, when the sad sight which met her eyes
dispelled the gathering tears. The new gloves were both split up the
middle and very dirty with clutching at the steps as she went down.
"Never mind, you can wash them," said Jack, soothingly.
"I paid a dollar and a half for them, and they can't be washed,"
"Oh, hang the gloves! I meant your hands," cried Jack, trying to keep
"No matter for my hands, I mourn my gloves. But I won't cry any more,
for my head aches now so I can hardly see." And Kitty threw off her
bonnet, as if even that airy trifle hurt her.
Seeing how pale she looked, Jack tenderly suggested a rest on the old
sofa, and a wet handkerchief on her hot forehead, while he got the
good landlady to send her up a cup of tea. As Kitty rose to comply
she glanced at her dress, and, clasping her hands, exclaimed,
tragically,--"The facing, the fatal facing! That made all the
mischief, for if I'd sewed it last night it wouldn't have ripped
to-day; if it hadn't ripped Fletcher wouldn't have got his foot in it,
I shouldn't have made an object of myself, he wouldn't have gone off
in a rage, and--who knows what might have happened?"
"Bless the what's-its-name if it has settled him," cried Jack. "He is
a contemptible fellow not to stay and help you out of the scrape he
got you into. Follow his lead and don't trouble yourself about him."
"Well, he _was_ rather absurd to-day, I allow; but he _has_ got
handsome eyes and hands, and he _does_ dance like an angel," sighed
Kitty, as she pinned up the treacherous loop which had brought
destruction to her little castle in the air.
"Handsome eyes, white hands, and angelic feet don't make a man. Wait
till you can do better, Kit."
With an odd, grave look, that rather startled Kitty, Jack vanished, to
return presently with a comfortable cup of tea and a motherly old lady
to help repair damages and soothe her by the foolish little purrings
and pattings so grateful to female nerves after a flurry.
"I'll come back and take you out to see the dance round the tree when
you've had a bit of a rest," said Jack, vibrating between door and
sofa as if it wasn't easy to get away.
"Oh, I couldn't," cried Kitty, with a shudder at the bare idea of
meeting any one. "I can't be seen again to-night; let me stay here
till my train goes."
"I thought it had gone, already," said Jack, with an irrepressible
twinkle of the eye that glanced at the draggled dress sweeping the
"How _can_ you joke about it!" and the girl's reproachful eyes filled
with tears of shame. "I know I've been very silly, Jack, but I've had
my punishment, and I don't need any more. To feel that you despise me
is worse than all the rest."
She ended with a little sob, and turned her face away to hide the
trembling of her lips. At that, Jack flushed up, his eyes shone,
and he stooped suddenly as if to make some impetuous reply. But,
remembering the old lady (who, by the by, was discreetly looking out
of the window), he put his hands in his pockets and strolled out of
"I've lost them both by this day's folly," thought Kitty, as Mrs.
Brown departed with the teacup. "I don't care for Fletcher, for I dare
say he didn't mean half he said, and I was only flattered because he
is rich and handsome and the girls glorify him. But I shall miss Jack,
for I've known and loved him all my life. How good he's been to me
to-day! so patient, careful, and kind, though he must have been
ashamed of me. I know he didn't like my dress; but he never said a
word and stood by me through everything. Oh, I wish I'd minded Pris!
then he would have respected me, at least; I wonder if he ever will,
Following a sudden impulse, Kitty sprang up, locked the door, and then
proceeded to destroy all her little vanities as far as possible. She
smoothed out her crimps with a wet and ruthless hand; fastened up her
pretty hair in the simple way Jack liked; gave her once cherished
bonnet a spiteful shake, as she put it on, and utterly extinguished it
with a big blue veil. She looped up her dress, leaving no vestige of
the now hateful train, and did herself up uncompromisingly in the
Quakerish gray shawl Pris had insisted on her taking for the evening.
Then she surveyed herself with pensive satisfaction, saying, in the
tone of one bent on resolutely mortifying the flesh,--
"Neat but not gaudy; I'm a fright, but I deserve it, and it's better
than being a peacock."
Kitty had time to feel a little friendless and forlorn, sitting there
alone as twilight fell, and amused herself by wondering if Fletcher
would come to inquire about her, or show any further interest in her;
yet when the sound of a manly tramp approached, she trembled lest it
should be the victim of the fatal facing. The door opened, and with a
sigh of relief she saw Jack come in, bearing a pair of new gloves in
one hand and a great bouquet of June roses in the other.
"How good of you to bring me these! They are more refreshing than
oceans of tea. You know what I like, Jack; thank you very much" cried
Kitty, sniffing at her roses with grateful rapture.
"And you know what I like," returned Jack, with an approving glance at
the altered figure before him.
"I'll never do so any more," murmured Kitty, wondering why she felt
bashful all of a sudden, when it was only cousin Jack.
"Now put on your gloves, dear, and come out and hear the music: your
train doesn't go for two hours yet, and you mustn't mope here all that
time," said Jack, offering his second gift.
"How did you know my size?" asked Kitty, putting on the gloves in a
hurry; for though Jack had called her "dear" for years, the little
word had a new sound to-night.
"I guessed,--no, I didn't, I had the old ones with me; they are no
good now, are they?" and too honest to lie, Jack tried to speak
carelessly, though he turned red in the dusk, well knowing that the
dirty little gloves were folded away in his left breast-pocket at that
"Oh, dear, no! these fit nicely. I'm ready, if you don't mind going
with such a fright," said Kitty, forgetting her dread of seeing people
in her desire to get away from that room, because for the first time
in her life she wasn't at ease with Jack.
"I think I like the little gray moth better than the fine butterfly,"
returned Jack, who, in spite of his invitation, seemed to find
"moping" rather pleasant.
"You are a rainy-day friend, and he isn't," said Kitty, softly, as she
drew him away.
Jack's only answer was to lay his hand on the little white glove
resting so confidingly on his arm, and, keeping it there, they roamed
away into the summer twilight.
Something had happened to the evening and the place, for both seemed
suddenly endowed with uncommon beauty and interest. The dingy old
houses might have been fairy palaces, for anything they saw to the
contrary; the dusty walks, the trampled grass, were regular Elysian
fields to them, and the music was the music of the spheres, though
they found themselves "Right in the middle of the boom, jing, jing."
For both had made a little discovery,--no, not a little one, the
greatest and sweetest man and woman can make. In the sharp twinge of
jealousy which the sight of Kitty's flirtation with Fletcher gave him,
and the delight he found in her after conduct, Jack discovered how
much he loved her. In the shame, gratitude, and half sweet, half
bitter emotion that filled her heart, Kitty felt that to her Jack
would never be "only cousin Jack" any more. All the vanity, coquetry,
selfishness, and ill-temper of the day seemed magnified to heinous
sins, for now her only thought was, "seeing these faults, he _can't_
care for me. Oh, I wish I was a better girl!"
She did not say "for his sake," but in the new humility, the ardent
wish to be all that a woman should be, little Kitty proved how true
her love was, and might have said with Portia,--
"For myself alone, I would not be
Ambitious in my wish; but, for you,
I would be trebled twenty times myself;
A thousand times more fair,
Ten thousand times more rich."
All about them other pairs were wandering under the patriarchal elms,
enjoying music, starlight, balmy winds, and all the luxuries of the
season. If the band had played
"Oh, there's nothing half so sweet in life
As love's young dream--"
it is my private opinion that it would have suited the audience to
a T. Being principally composed of elderly gentlemen with large
families, they had not that fine sense of the fitness of things so
charming to see, and tooted and banged away with waltzes and marches,
quite regardless of the flocks of Romeos and Juliets philandering all
Under cover of a popular medley, Kitty overheard Fletcher quizzing her
for the amusement of Miss Pinkbonnet, who was evidently making up
for lost time. It was feeble wit, but it put the finishing stroke to
Kitty's vanity, and she dropped a tear in her blue tissue retreat, and
clung to Jack, feeling that she had never valued him half enough. She
hoped he didn't hear the gossip going on at the other side of the tree
near which they stood; but he did, for his hand involuntarily doubled
itself up into a very dangerous-looking fist, and he darted such
fiery glances at the speaker, that, if the thing had been possible.
Fletcher's ambrosial curls would have been scorched off his head.
"Never mind, and don't get angry, Jack. They are right about one
thing,--the daisies in my bonnet _were_ real, and I _couldn't_ afford
any others. I don't care much, only Pris worked so hard to get me
ready I hate to have my things made fun of."
"He isn't worth a thrashing, so we'll let it pass this time," said
Jack, irefully, yet privately resolving to have it out with Fletcher
by and by.
"Why, Kitty, I thought the real daisies the prettiest things about
your dress. Don't throw them away. I'll wear them just to show that
noodle that I prefer nature to art;" and Jack gallantly stuck the
faded posy in his button-hole, while Kitty treasured up the hint so
kindly given for future use.
If a clock with great want of tact hadn't insisted on telling them
that it was getting late, Kitty never would have got home, for both
the young people felt inclined to loiter about arm in arm through the
sweet summer night forever.
Jack had meant to say something before she went, and was immensely
surprised to find the chance lost for the present. He wanted to go
home with her and free his mind; but a neighborly old gentleman having
been engaged as escort, there would have been very little satisfaction
in a travelling trio; so he gave it up. He was very silent as they
walked to the station with Dr. Dodd trudging behind them. Kitty
thought he was tired, perhaps glad to be rid of her, and meekly
accepted her fate. But as the train approached, she gave his hand an
impulsive squeeze, and said very gratefully,--
"Jack, I can't thank you enough for your kindness to your silly little
cousin; but I never shall forget it, and if I ever can return it in
any way, I will with all my heart."
Jack looked down at the young face almost pathetic now with weariness,
humility, and pain, yet very sweet, with that new shyness in the
loving eyes, and, stooping suddenly, he kissed it, whispering in a
tone that made the girl's heart flutter,--
"I'll tell you how you may return it 'with all your heart,' by and by.
Good-night, my Kitty."
"Have you had a good time, dear?" asked Pris, as her sister appeared
an hour later.
"Don't I look as if I had?" and, throwing off her wraps, Kitty
revolved slowly before her that she might behold every portion of the
wreck. "My gown is all dust, crumple, and rags, my bonnet perfectly
limp and flat, and my gloves are ruined; I've broken Lizzie's parasol,
made a spectacle of myself, and wasted money, time, and temper; yet my
Class Day isn't a failure, for Jack is the dearest boy in the world,
and I'm very, very happy!"
Pris looked at her a minute, then opened her arms without a word, and
Kitty forgot all her little troubles in one great joy.
When Miss Smith and Miss Jones called a few days after to tell her
that Mr. Fletcher was going abroad, the amiable creatures were
entirely routed by finding Jack there in a most unmistakable
situation. He blandly wished Horace "bon voyage," and regretted that
he wouldn't be there to the wedding in October. Kitty devoted herself
to blushing beautifully, and darning many rents in a short daisy
muslin skirt, "which I intend to wear a great deal, because Jack likes
it, and so do I," she said, with a demure look at her lover, who
laughed as if that was the best joke of the season.
"Children and fools speak the truth."
"What's that sigh for, Polly dear?" "I'm tired, mother, tired of
working and waiting. If I'm ever going to have any fun, I want it
_now_ while I can enjoy it."
"You shouldn't wait another hour if I could have my way; but you
know how helpless I am;" and poor Mrs. Snow sighed dolefully, as she
glanced about the dingy room and pretty Mary turning her faded gown
for the second time.
"If Aunt Kipp would give us the money she is always talking about,
instead of waiting till she dies, we should be _so_ comfortable. She
is a dreadful bore, for she lives in such terror of dropping dead with
her heart-complaint that she doesn't take any pleasure in life herself
or let any one else; so the sooner she goes the better for all of us,"
said Polly, in a desperate tone; for things looked very black to her
"My dear, don't say that," began her mother, mildly shocked; but a
bluff little voice broke in with the forcible remark,--
"She's everlastingly telling me never to put off till to-morrow what
can be done to-day; next time she comes I'll remind her of that, and
ask her, if she is going to die, why she doesn't do it?"
"Toady! you're a wicked, disrespectful boy; never let me hear you say
such a thing again about your dear Aunt Kipp."
"She isn't dear! You know we all hate her, and you are more afraid of
her than you are of spiders,--so now."
The young personage whose proper name had been corrupted into Toady,
was a small boy of ten or eleven, apple-cheeked, round-eyed, and
curly-headed; arrayed in well-worn, gray knickerbockers, profusely
adorned with paint, glue, and shreds of cotton. Perched on a high
stool, at an isolated table in a state of chaos, he was absorbed in
making a boat, entirely oblivious of the racking tooth-ache which had
been his excuse for staying from school. As cool, saucy, hard-handed,
and soft-hearted a little specimen of young America was Toady as you
would care to see; a tyrant at home, a rebel at school, a sworn foe
to law, order, and Aunt Kipp. This young person was regarded as a
reprobate by all but his mother, sister, and sister's sweetheart, Van
Bahr Lamb. Having been, through much anguish of flesh and spirit,
taught that lying was a deadly sin, Toady rushed to the other extreme,
and bolted out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,
at all times and places, with a startling abruptness that brought
wrath and dismay upon his friends and relatives.
"It's wicked to fib; you've whipped that into me and you can't rub it
out," he was wont to say, with vivid recollection of the past tingling
in the chubby portions of his frame.
"Mind your chips, Toady, and take care what you say to Aunt Kipp, or
you'll be as poor as a little rat all the days of your life," said
"I don't want her old money, and I'll tell her so if she bothers me
about it. I shall go into business with Van and take care of the whole
lot; so don't you preach, Polly," returned Toady, with as much dignity
as was compatible with a great dab of glue on the end of his snub
"Mother, did aunt say anything about coming this week?" asked Polly,
after a pause of intense thought over a breadth with three darns, two
spots, and a burn.
"Yes; she wrote that she was too feeble to come at present, as she had
such dreadful palpitations she didn't dare stir from her room. So we
are quite safe for the next week at least, and--bless my soul, there
she is now!"
Mrs. Snow clasped her hands with a gesture of dismay, and sat as if
transfixed by the spectacle of a ponderous lady, in an awe-inspiring
bonnet, who came walking slowly down the street. Polly gave a groan,
and pulled a bright ribbon from her hair. Toady muttered, "Oh,
bother!" and vainly attempted to polish up his countenance with a
"Nothing but salt fish for dinner," wailed Mrs. Snow, as the shadow of
the coming event fell upon her.
"Van will make a fool of himself, and ruin everything," sighed Polly,
glancing at the ring on her finger.
"I know she'll kiss me; she never _will_ let a fellow alone," growled
Toady, scowling darkly.
The garden gate clashed, dust flew from the door-mat, a heavy step
echoed in the hall, an imperious voice called "Sophy!" and Aunt Kipp
entered with a flourish of trumpets, for Toady blew a blast through
his fingers which made the bows totter on her bonnet.
"My dear aunt, I'm very glad to see you," murmured Mrs. Snow,
advancing with a smile of welcome; for though as weak as water gruel,
she was as kind-hearted a little woman as ever lived.
"What a fib that was!" said Toady, _sotto voce_.
"We were just saying we were afraid you wouldn't"--began Mary, when a
warning, "Mind now, Polly," caused her to stop short and busy herself
with the newcomer's bag and umbrella.
"I changed my mind. Theodore, come and kiss me," answered Aunt Kipp,
"Yes'm," was the plaintive reply, and, closing his eyes, Toady awaited
his fate with fortitude.
But the dreaded salute did not come, for Aunt Kipp exclaimed in
"Mercy on us! has the boy got the plague?"
"No'm, it's paint, and dirt, and glue, and it _won't_ come off," said
Toady, stroking his variegated countenance with grateful admiration
for the stains that saved him.
"Go and wash this moment, sir. Thank Heaven, _I've_ got no boys,"
cried Aunt Kipp. as if boys were some virulent disease which she had
With a hasty peck at the lips of her two elder relatives, the old lady
seated herself, and slowly removed the awful bonnet, which in shape
and hue much resembled a hearse hung with black crape.
"I'm glad you are better," said Mary, reverently receiving the
"I'm _not_ better," cut in Aunt Kipp. "I'm worse, much worse; my days
are numbered; I stand on the brink of the tomb, and may drop at any
Toady's face was a study, as he glanced up at the old lady's florid
countenance, down at the floor, as if in search of the above-mentioned
"brink," and looked unaffectedly anxious to see her drop. "Why don't
you, then?" was on his lips; but a frown from Polly restrained him,
and he sat himself down on the rug to contemplate the corpulent
"Have a cup of tea, aunt?" said Mrs. Snow.
"Lie down and rest a little," suggested Polly.
"Can we do anything for you?" said both.
"Take my things away, and have dinner early."
Both departed to perform these behests, and, leaning back in her
chair, Aunt Kipp reposed.
"I say, what's a bore?" asked Toady from the rug, where he sat rocking
meditatively to and fro, holding on by his shoe-strings.
"It's a kind of a pig, very fierce, and folks are afraid of 'em," said
Aunt Kipp, whose knowledge of Natural History was limited.
"Good for Polly! so you are!" sung out the boy, with the hearty
child's laugh so pleasant to most ears.
"What do you mean, sir?" demanded the old lady, irefully poking at him
with her umbrella.
"Why, Polly said you were a bore," explained Toady, with artless
frankness. "You _are_ fat, you know, and fierce sometimes, and folks
are afraid of you. Good, wasn't it?"
"Very! Mary is a nice, grateful, respectful, loving niece, and I
shan't forget her, she may depend on that," and Aunt Kipp laughed
"May she? well, that's jolly now. She was afraid you wouldn't give her
the money; so I'll tell her it's all right;" and innocent Toady nodded
"Oh, she expects some of my money, does she?"
"Course she does; ain't you always saying you'll remember us in your
will, because father was your favorite nephew, and all that? I'll tell
you a secret, if you won't let Polly know I spoke first. You'll find
it out to-night, for you 'd see Van and she were sweethearts in a
"Sweethearts?" cried Aunt Kipp, turning red in the face.
"Yes'm. Van settled it last week, and Polly's been so happy ever
since. Mother likes it, and _I_ like it, for I'm fond of Van, though
I do call him Baa-baa, because he looks like a sheep. We all like it,
and we 'd all say so, if we were not afraid of you. Mother and Polly,
I mean; of course we men don't mind, but we don't want a fuss. You
won't make one, will you, now?"
Anything more expressive of brotherly good-will, persuasive frankness,
and a placid consciousness of having "fixed it," than Toady's dirty
little face, it would be hard to find. Aunt Kipp eyed him so fiercely
that even before she spoke a dim suspicion that something was wrong
began to dawn on his too-confiding soul.
"_I_ don't like it, and I'll put a stop to it. I won't have any
ridiculous baa-baas in my family. If Mary counts on my money to begin
housekeeping with, she'll find herself mistaken; for not one penny
shall she have, married or single, and you may tell her so."
Toady was so taken aback by this explosion that he let go his
shoe-strings, fell over with a crash, and lay flat, with shovel and
tongs spread upon him like a pall. In rushed Mrs. Snow and Polly, to
find the boy's spirits quite quenched, for once, and Aunt Kipp in a
towering passion. It all came out in one overwhelming flood of words,
and Toady fled from the storm to wander round the house, a prey to
the deepest remorse. The meekness of that boy at dinner-time was so
angelic that Mrs. Snow would have feared speedy translation for him,
if she had not been very angry. Polly's red eyes, and Aunt Kipp's
griffinesque expression of countenance, weighed upon his soul so
heavily, that even roly-poly pudding failed to assuage his trouble,
and, taking his mother into the china-closet, he anxiously inquired
"if it was all up with Polly?"
"I'm afraid so, for aunt vows she will make a new will to-morrow, and
leave every penny to the Charitable Rag-bag Society," sighed Mrs.
"I didn't mean to do it, I truly didn't! I thought I'd just 'give her
a hint,' as you say. She looked all right, and laughed when I told her
about being a bore, and I thought she liked it. If she was a man, I'd
thrash her for making Polly cry;" and Toady shook his fist at Aunt
Kipp's umbrella, which was an immense relief to his perturbed spirit.
"Bless the boy! I do believe he would!" cried Mrs. Snow, watching the
little turkey-cock with maternal pride. "You can't do that: so just be
careful and not make any more mischief, dear."
"I'll try, mother; but I'm always getting into scrapes with Aunt Kipp.
She's worse than measles, any day,--such an old aggrawater! Van's
coming this afternoon, won't he make her pleasant again?"
"Oh, dear, no! He will probably make things ten times worse, he's so
bashful and queer. I'm afraid our last chance is gone, deary, and we
must rub along as we have done."
One sniff of emotion burst from Toady, and for a moment he laid his
head in the knife-tray, overcome with disappointment and regret.
But scorning to yield to unmanly tears, he was soon himself again.
Thrusting his beloved jackknife, with three blades and a file, into
Polly's hand, he whispered, brokenly,--
"Keep it forever 'n' ever; I'm awful sorry!" Then, feeling that the
magnitude of this sacrifice atoned for everything, he went to watch
for Van,--the forlorn hope to which he now clung.
"Sophy, I'm surprised at your want of judgment. Do you really mean
to let your girl marry this Lamb? Why, the man's a fool!" began Aunt
Kipp, after dinner, by way of opening a pleasant conversation with her
"Dear me, aunt! how can you know that, when you never saw him?" mildly
returned Mrs. Snow.
"I've heard of him, and that's enough for me. I've a deal of
penetration in judging character, and I tell you Van Bahr Lamb is a
The amiable old lady thought this would rouse Polly, against whom her
anger still burned hotly. But Polly also possessed penetration;
and, well knowing that contradiction would delight Aunt Kipp, she
completely took the wind out of her sails, by coolly remarking,--
"I like fools."
"Bless my heart! what does the girl mean?" ejaculated Aunt Kipp.
"Just what I say. If Van is a fool, I prefer simpletons to wiseacres.
I know he is shy and awkward, and does absurd things now and then. But
I also know that he has the kindest heart that ever was; is unselfish,
faithful and loving; that he took good care of his old parents till
they died, and never thought of himself while they needed him. He
loves me dearly; will wait for me a dozen years, if I say so, and work
all his days to make me happy. He's a help and comfort to mother, a
good friend to Toady, and I love and respect and am proud of him,
though you do say he is a fool," cried Polly heartily.
"And you insist on marrying him?" demanded Aunt Kipp.
"Yes, I do."
"Then I wish a carriage immediately," was the somewhat irrelevant
"Why, aunt, you don't mean to go so soon?" cried Mrs. Snow, with a
reproachful glance at the rebellious Polly.
"Far from it. I wish to see Judge Banks about altering my will," was
the awful answer.
Polly's face fell; her mother gave a despairing sigh; Toady, who had
hovered about the door, uttered a suppressed whistle of dismay; and
Mrs. Kipp looked about her with vengeful satisfaction.
"Get the big carryall and old Bob, so the boy can drive, and all of
you come; the trip will do you good."
It was like Aunt Kipp to invite her poor relations to go and "nip
their own noses off," as she elegantly expressed it. It was a party of
pleasure that just suited her, for all the fun was on her side. She
grew affable at once, was quite pressing in her invitation, regretted
that Sophy was too busy to go, praised Polly's hat; and professed
herself quite satisfied with "that dear boy" for a driver. The "dear
boy" distorted his young countenance frightfully behind her back, but
found a balm for every wound in the delight of being commander of the
The big carryall appeared, and, with much creaking and swaying Mrs.
Kipp was got into the back seat, where the big bonnet gloomed like a
thunder-cloud. Polly, in a high state of indignation, which only made
her look ten times prettier, sat in front with Toady, who was a sight
to see as he drove off with his short legs planted against the boot,
his elbows squared, and the big whip scientifically cracking now
and then. Away they went, leaving poor Mrs. Snow to bewail herself
dismally after she had smiled and nodded them out of sight.
"Don't go over any bridges or railroad crossings or by any saw-mills,"
said the old lady, as if the town could be suddenly remodelled to suit
"Yes'm," returned Toady, with a crack which would have done honor to a
It was a fine day, and the young people would have enjoyed the ride in
spite of the breakers ahead, if Aunt Kipp hadn't entertained the
girl with a glowing account of the splendors of her own wedding, and
aggravated the boy by frequent pokes and directions in the art of
driving, of which she was of course, profoundly ignorant. Polly
couldn't restrain a tear or two, in thinking of her own poor little
prospects, and Toady was goaded to desperation.
"I'll give her a regular shaking up; it'll make her hold her tongue
and do her good," he said to himself, as a stony hill sloped
temptingly before him.
A sly chuck, and some mysterious manoeuvre with the reins, and Bob
started off at a brisk trot, as if he objected to the old lady as much
as her mischievous little nephew.
"Hold him in! Keep a taut rein! Lord 'a mercy, he's running away!"
shrieked Aunt Kipp, or tried to shriek, for the bouncing and bumping
jerked the words out of her mouth with ludicrous incoherency.
"I am holding him, but he _will_ go," said Toady, with a wicked
triumph in his eye as he glanced back at Polly.
The next minute the words were quite true; for, as he spoke, two or
three distracted hens flew squalling over the wall and scattered
about, under, over, and before the horse, as only distracted hens
could do. It was too much for Bob's nerves; and, taking matters into
his own hands, or feet, rather, he broke into a run, and rattled the
old lady over the stones with a velocity which left her speechless.
Polly laughed, and Toady chuckled, as they caught glimpses of the
awful bonnet vibrating wildly in the background, and felt the frantic
clutchings of the old lady's hands. But both grew sober as a shrill
car-whistle sounded not far off; and Bob, as if possessed by an
evil spirit, turned suddenly into the road that led to the railroad
"That will do, Toady; now pull up, for we can't get over in time,"
said Polly, glancing anxiously toward the rapidly approaching puffs of
"I can't, Polly,--I really can't," cried the boy, tugging with all his
might, and beginning to look scared.
Polly lent her aid; but Bob scarcely seemed to feel it, for he had
been a racer once, and when his blood was up he was hard to handle.
His own good sense might have checked him, if Aunt Kipp hadn't
unfortunately recovered her voice at this crisis, and uttered a
succession of the shrillest screams that ever saluted mortal ears.
With a snort and a bound Bob dashed straight on toward the crossing,
as the train appeared round the bend.
"Let me out! Let me out! Jump! Jump!" shrieked Aunt Kipp, thrusting
her head out of the window, while she fumbled madly for the
"O Toady, save us! save us!" gasped Polly, losing her presence of
mind, and dropping the reins to cling to her brother, with a woman's
instinctive faith in the stronger sex.
But Toady held on manfully, though his arms were nearly pulled off,
for "Never say die," was his motto, and the plucky little lad wouldn't
show fear before the women.
"Don't howl; we'll do it! Hi, Bob!" and with a savage slash of the
whip, an exciting cry, a terrible reeling and rattling, they _did_ do
it; for Bob cleared the track at a breakneck pace, just in time for
the train to sweep swiftly by behind them.
Aunt Kipp dropped in a heap, Polly looked up at her brother, with a
look which he never forgot; and Toady tried to say, stoutly, "It's all
right!" with lips that were white and dry in spite of himself.
"We shall smash up at the bridge," he muttered, as they tore through
the town, where every one obligingly shouted, waved their hats, and
danced about on the sidewalks, doing nothing but add to Bob's fright
and the party's danger. But Toady was wrong,--they did not smash up at
the bridge; for, before they reached the perilous spot, one man had
the sense to fly straight at the horse's head and hold on till the
momentary check enabled others to lend a hand.
The instant they were safe, Polly, like a regular heroine, threw
herself into the arms of her dishevelled preserver, who of course was
Van, and would have refreshed herself with hysterics if the sight of
Toady hadn't steadied her. The boy sat as stiff and rigid as a wooden
figure till they took the reins from him; then all the strength seemed
to go out of him, and he leaned against his sister, as white and
trembling as she, whispering with an irrepressible sob,--
"O Polly, wasn't it horrid? Tell mother I stood by you like a man. Do
tell her that!"
If any one had had time or heart to laugh, they certainly would have
done it when, after much groping, heaving, and hoisting. Mrs. Kipp
was extricated and restored to consciousness; for a more ludicrously
deplorable spectacle was seldom seen. Quite unhurt, though much
shaken, the old lady insisted on believing herself to be dying, and
kept the town in a ferment till three doctors had pronounced her
perfectly well able to go home. Then the perversity of her nature
induced her to comply, that she might have the satisfaction of dying
on the way, and proving herself in the right.
Unfortunately she did not expire, but, having safely arrived, went to
bed in high dudgeon, and led Polly and her mother a sad life of it for
two weary days. Having heard of Toady's gallant behavior, she solemnly
ordered him up to receive her blessing. But the sight of Aunt Kipp's
rubicund visage, surrounded by the stiff frills of an immense
nightcap, caused the irreverent boy to explode with laughter in his
handkerchief, and to be hustled away by his mother before Aunt Kipp
discovered the true cause of his convulsed appearance.
"Ah! poor dear, his feelings are too much for him. He sees my doom
in my face, and is overcome by what you refuse to believe. I shan't
forget that boy's devotion. Now leave me to the meditations befitting
these solemn hours."
Mrs. Snow retired, and Aunt Kipp tried to sleep; but the murmur of
voices, and the sound of stifled laughter in the next room disturbed
"They are rejoicing over my approaching end, knowing that I haven't
changed my will. Mercenary creatures, don't exult too soon! there's
time yet," she muttered; and presently, unable to control her
curiosity, she crept out of bed to listen and peep through the
Van Bahr Lamb did look rather like a sheep. He had a blond curly
head, a long face, pale, mild eyes, a plaintive voice, and a general
expression of innocent timidity strongly suggestive of animated
mutton. But Baa-baa was a "trump," as Toady emphatically declared, and
though every one laughed at him, every one liked him, and that is
more than can be said of many saints and sages. He adored Polly, was
dutifully kind to her mother, and had stood by T. Snow, Jr., in many
an hour of tribulation with fraternal fidelity. Though he had long
blushed, sighed, and cast sheep's eyes at the idol of his affections,
only till lately had he dared to bleat forth his passion. Polly loved
him because she couldn't help it; but she was proud, and wouldn't
marry till Aunt Kipp's money was hers, or at least a sure prospect
of it; and now even the prospect of a prospect was destroyed by
that irrepressible Toady. They were talking of this as the old lady
suspected, and of course the following conversation afforded her
"It's a shame to torment us as she does, knowing how poor we are and
how happy a little of her money would make us. I'm tired of being a
slave to a cruel old woman just because she's rich. If it was not for
mother, I declare I'd wash my hands of her entirely, and do the best I
could for myself."
"Hooray for Polly! I always said let her money go and be jolly without
it," cried Toady, who, in his character of wounded hero, reposed with
a lordly air on the sofa, enjoying the fragrance of the opodeldoc with
which his strained wrists were bandaged.
"It's on your account, children, that I bear with aunt's temper as I
do. I don't want anything for myself, but I really think she owes it
to your dear father, who was devoted to her while he lived, to provide
for his children when he couldn't;" after which remarkably spirited
speech for her, Mrs. Snow dropped a tear, and stitched away on a small
trouser-leg which was suffering from a complicated compound fracture.
"Don't you worry about me, mother; I'll take care of myself and you
too," remarked Toady, with the cheery belief in impossibilities which
makes youth so charming.
"Now, Van, tell us what to do, for things have come to such a pass
that we must either break away altogether or be galley-slaves as long
as Aunt Kipp lives," said Polly, who was a good deal excited about the
"Well, really, my dear, I don't know," hesitated Van, who did know
what _he_ wanted, but thought it might be selfish to urge it. "Have
you tried to soften your aunt's heart?" he asked, after a moment's
"Good gracious, Van, she hasn't got any," cried Polly, who firmly
"It's hossified," thoughtfully remarked Toady, quite unconscious of
any approach to a joke till every one giggled.
"You've had hossification enough for one while, my lad," laughed Van.
"Well, Polly, if the old lady has no heart you'd better let her go,
for people without hearts are not worth much."
"That's a beautiful remark, Van, and a wise one. I just wish she could
hear you make it, for she called you a fool," said Polly, irefully.
"Did she? Well, I don't mind, I'm used to it," returned Van, placidly;
and so he was, for Polly called him a goose every day of her life, and
he enjoyed it immensely.
"Then you think, dear, if we stopped worrying about aunt and her
money, and worked instead of waiting, that we shouldn't be any poorer
and might be a great deal happier than we are now?" asked Polly,
making a pretty little tableau as she put her hand through Van's arm
and looked up at him with as much love, respect, and reliance as if he
had been six feet tall, with the face of an Apollo and the manners of
"Yes, my dear, I do, for it has troubled me a good deal to see you so
badgered by that very uncomfortable old lady. Independence is a very
nice thing, and poverty isn't half as bad as this sort of slavery. But
you are not going to be poor, nor worry about anything. We'll just be
married and take mother and Toady home and be as jolly as grigs, and
never think of Mrs. K. again,--unless she loses her fortune, or
gets sick, or comes to grief in any way. We'd lend her a hand then,
wouldn't we, Polly?" and Van's mild face was pleasant to behold as he
made the kindly proposition.
"Well, we'd think of it," said Polly, trying not to relent, but
feeling that she was going very fast.
"Let's do it!" cried Toady, fired with the thought of privy conspiracy
and rebellion. "Mother would be so comfortable with Polly, and
I'd help Van in the store, when I've learned that confounded
multiplication table," he added with a groan; "and if Aunt Kipp comes
a visiting, we'll just say 'Not at home,' and let her trot off again."
"It sounds very nice, but aunt will be dreadfully offended and I don't
wish to be ungrateful," said Mrs. Snow, brightening visibly.
"There's no ingratitude about it," cried Van. "She might have done
everything to make you love, and respect, and admire her, and been a
happy, useful, motherly, old soul; but she didn't choose to, and now
she must take the consequences. No one cares for her, because she
cares for nobody; her money's the plague of her life, and not a single
heart will ache when she dies."
"Poor Aunt Kipp!" said Polly, softly.
Mrs. Snow echoed the words, and for a moment all thought pitifully of
the woman whose life had given so little happiness, whose age had won
so little reverence, and whose death would cause so little regret.
Even Toady had a kind thought for her, as he broke the silence, saying
"You'd better put tails on my jackets, mother; then the next time we
get run away with, Aunt Kipp will have something to hold on by."
It was impossible to help laughing at the recollection of the old lady
clutching at the boy till he had hardly a button left, and at the
paternal air with which he now proposed a much-desired change of
costume, as if intent on Aunt Kipp's future accommodation.
Under cover of the laugh, the old lady stole back to bed, wide awake,
and with subjects enough to meditate upon now. The shaking up had
certainly done her good, for somehow the few virtues she possessed
came to the surface, and the mental shower-bath just received had
produced a salutary change. Polly wouldn't have doubted her aunt's
possession of a heart, if she could have known the pain and loneliness
that made it ache, as the old woman crept away; and Toady wouldn't
have laughed if he had seen the tears on the face, between the big
frills, as Aunt Kipp laid it on the pillow, muttering, drearily,--
"I might have been a happy, useful woman, but I didn't choose to, and
now it's too late."
It _was_ too late to be all she might have been, for the work of
seventy selfish years couldn't be undone in a minute. But with regret,
rose the sincere wish to earn a little love before the end came, and
the old perversity gave a relish to the reformation, for even while
she resolved to do the just and generous thing, she said to herself,--
"They say I've got no heart; I'll show 'em that I have: they don't
want my money; I'll _make_ 'em take it: they turn their backs on me;
I'll just render myself so useful and agreeable that they can't do
Aunt Kipp sat bolt upright in the parlor, hemming a small
handkerchief, adorned with a red ship, surrounded by a border of
green monkeys. Toady suspected that this elegant article of dress was
intended for him, and yearned to possess it; so, taking advantage of
his mother's and Polly's absence, he strolled into the room, and,
seating himself on a high, hard chair, folded his hands, crossed his
legs, and asked for a story with the thirsting-for-knowledge air which
little boys wear in the moral story-books.
Now Aunt Kipp had one soft place in her heart, though it _was_
partially ossified, as she very truly declared, and Toady was
enshrined therein. She thought there never was such a child, and loved
him as she had done his father before him, though the rack wouldn't
have forced her to confess it. She scolded, snubbed, and predicted
he'd come to a bad end in public; but she forgave his naughtiest
pranks, always brought him something when she came, and privately
intended to make his future comfortable with half of her fortune.
There was a dash and daring, a generosity and integrity, about the
little fellow, that charmed her. Sophy was weak and low-spirited,
Polly pretty and headstrong, and Aunt Kipp didn't think much of either
of them; but Toady defied, distracted, and delighted her, and to Toady
she clung, as the one sunshiny thing in her sour, selfish old age.
When he made his demure request, she looked at him, and her eyes began
to twinkle, for the child's purpose was plainly seen in the loving
glances cast upon the pictorial pocket-handkerchief.
"A story? Yes, I'll tell you one about a little boy who had a kind
old--ahem!--grandma. She was rich, and hadn't made up her mind who she'd
leave her money to. She was fond of the boy,--a deal fonder than he
deserved,--for he was as mischievous a monkey as any that ever lived
in a tree, with a curly tail. He put pepper in her snuff-box,"--here
Toady turned scarlett,--"he cut up her bestt frisette to make a mane
for his rocking-horse,"--Toady opened his mouth impulsively, but shut
it again without betraying himself--"he repeated rude things to her,
and called her 'an old aggrewater,'"--here Toady wriggled in his
chair, and gave a little gasp.
"If you are tired I won't go on," observed Aunt Kipp, mildly.
"I'm not tired, 'm; it's a very interesting story," replied Toady,
with a gravity that nearly upset the old lady.
"Well, in spite of all this, that kind, good, forgiving grandma left
that bad boy twenty thousand dollars when she died. What do you think
of that?" asked Aunt Kipp, pausing suddenly with her sharp eye on him.
"I--I think she was a regular dear," cried Toady, holding on to the
chair with both hands, as if that climax rather took him off his legs.
"And what did the boy do about it?" continued Aunt Kipp, curiously.
"He bought a velocipede, and gave his sister half, and paid his
mother's rent, and put a splendid marble cherakin over the old lady,
and had a jolly good time, and--"
"What in the world is a cherakin?" laughed Aunt Kipp, as Toady paused
"Why, don't you know? It's a angel crying, or pointing up, or flapping
his wings. They have them over graves; and I'll give you the biggest
one I can find when you die. But I'm not in a _very_ great hurry to
"Thankee, dear; I'm in no hurry, myself. But, Toady, the boy did wrong
in giving his sister half; she didn't deserve _any_; and the grandma
left word she wasn't to have a penny of it."
"Really?" cried the boy, with a troubled face.
"Yes, really. If he gave her any he lost it all; the old lady said so.
Now what do you think?" asked Aunt Kipp, who found it impossible to
pardon Polly,--perhaps because she was young, and pretty, and much
Toady's eyes kindled, and his red cheeks grew redder still, as he
cried out defiantly,--
"I think she was a selfish pig,--don't you?"
"No, I don't, sir; and I'm sure that little boy wasn't such a fool as
to lose the money. He minded his grandma's wishes, and kept it all."
"No, he didn't," roared Toady, tumbling off his chair in great
excitement. "He just threw it out a winder, and smashed the old
cherakin all to bits."
Aunt Kipp dropped her work with a shrill squeak, for she thought the
boy was dangerous, as he stood before her, sparring away at nothing as
the only vent for his indignation.
"It isn't an interesting story," he cried; "and I won't hear any more;
and I won't have your money if I mayn't go halves with Polly; and I'll
work to earn more than that, and we'll all be jolly together, and you
may give your twenty thousand to the old rag-bags, and so I tell you,
"Why, Toady, my boy, what's the matter?" cried a mild voice at the
door, as young Lamb came trotting up to the rescue.
"Never you mind, Baa-baa; I shan't do it; and it's a mean shame Polly
can't have half; then she could marry you and be so happy," blubbered
Toady, running to try to hide his tears of disappointment in the
coat-skirts of his friend.
"Mr. Lamb, I suppose you _are_ that misguided young man?" said Aunt
Kipp, as if it was a personal insult to herself.
"Van Bahr Lamb, ma'am, if you please. Yes, thank you," murmured
Baa-Baa, bowing, blushing, and rumpling his curly fleece in bashful
"Don't thank me," cried the old lady. "I'm not going to give you
anything,--far from it. I object to you altogether. What business have
you to come courting my niece?"
"Because I love her, ma'am," returned Van, with unexpected spirit.
"No, you don't; you want her money, or rather my money. She depends
on it; but you'll both be disappointed, for she won't have a penny of
it," cried Aunt Kipp, who, in spite of her good resolutions, found it
impossible to be amiable all at once.
"I'm glad of it!" burst out Van, indignant at her accusation. "I
didn't want Polly for the money; I always doubted if she got it; and I
never wished her to make herself a slave to anybody. I've got enough
for all, if we're careful; and when my share of the Van Bahr property
comes, we shall live in clover."
"What's that? What property are you talking of?" demanded Aunt Kipp,
pricking up her ears.
"The great Van Bahr estate, ma'am. There has been a long lawsuit about
it, but it's nearly settled, and there isn't much doubt that we shall
get it. I am the last of our branch, and my share will be a large
"Oh, indeed! I wish you joy," said Aunt Kipp, with sudden affability;
for she adored wealth, like a few other persons in the world. "But
suppose you don't get it, how then?"
"Then I shall try to be contented with my salary of two thousand, and
make Polly as happy as I can. Money doesn't _always_ make people happy
or agreeable, I find." And Van looked at Aunt Kipp in a way that would
have made her hair stand erect if she had possessed any. She stared
at him a moment, then, obeying one of the odd whims that made an
irascible weathercock of her, she said, abruptly,--
"If you had capital should you go into business for yourself, Mr.
"Yes, ma'am, at once," replied Van, promptly.
"Suppose you lost the Van Bahr money, and some one offered you a tidy
little sum to start with, would you take it?"
"It would depend upon who made the offer, ma'am," said Van, looking
more like a sheep than ever, as he stood staring in blank surprise.
"Suppose it was me, wouldn't you take it?" asked Aunt Kipp, blandly,
for the new fancy pleased her.
"No, thank you, ma'am," said Van, decidedly.
"And why not, pray?" cried the old lady, with a shrillness that made
him jump, and Toady back to the door precipitately.
"Because, if you'll excuse my speaking plainly, I think you owe
anything you may have to spare to your niece, Mrs. Snow;" and, having
freed his mind, Van joined Toady, ready to fly if necessary.
"You're an idiot, sir," began Aunt Kipp, in a rage again.
"Thank you, ma'am." And Van actually laughed and bowed in return for
"Hold your tongue, sir," snapped the old lady. "You're a fool and
Sophy is another. She's no strength of mind, no sense about anything;
and would make ducks and drakes of my money in less than no time if I
gave it to her, as I've thought of doing."
"Mrs. Kipp, you forget who you are speaking to. Mrs. Snow's sons love
and respect her if you don't, and they won't hear anything untrue
or unkind said of a good woman, a devoted mother, and an almost
Van wasn't a dignified man at all, but as he said that with a sudden
flash of his mild eyes, there was something in his face and manner
that daunted Aunt Kipp more than the small fist belligerently shaken
at her from behind the sofa. The poor old soul was cross, and worried,
and ashamed of herself, and being as feeble-minded as Sophy in many
respects, she suddenly burst into tears, and, covering her face with
the gay handkerchief, cried as if bent on floating the red ship in a
sea of salt water without delay.
"I'm a poor, lonely, abused old woman," she moaned, with a green
monkey at each eye. "No one loves me, or minds me, or thanks me when
I want to help 'em. My money's only a worryment and a burden, and I
don't know what to do with it, for people I don't want to leave it to
ought to have it, and people I do like won't take it. Oh, deary me,
what _shall_ I do! what shall I do!"
"Shall I tell you, ma'am?" asked Van, gently, for, though she was a
very provoking old lady, he pitied and wished to help her.
A nod and a gurgle seemed to give consent, and, boldly advancing, Van
said, with blush and a stammer, but a very hearty voice,--
"I think, ma'am, if you'd do the right thing with your money you'd be
at ease and find it saved a deal of worry all round. Give it to Mrs.
Snow; she deserves it, poor lady, for she's had a hard time, and done
her duty faithfully. Don't wait till you are--that is, till you--well,
till you in point of fact die, ma'am. Give it now, and enjoy the
happiness it will make. Give it kindly, let them see you're glad to
do it, and I am sure you'll find them grateful; I'm sure you won't be
lonely any more, or feel that you are not loved and thanked. Try it,
ma'am, just try it," cried Van, getting excited by the picture he
drew. "And I give you my word I'll do my best to respect and love you
like a son, ma'am."
He knew that he was promising a great deal, but for Polly's sake he
felt that he could make even that Herculean effort. Aunt Kipp was
surprised and touched; but the contrary old lady couldn't make up her
mind to yield so soon, and wouldn't have done it if Toady hadn't taken
her by storm. Having a truly masculine horror of tears, a very tender
heart under his tailless jacket, and being much "tumbled up and down
in his own mind" by the events of the week, the poor little lad felt
nerved to attempt any novel enterprise, even that of voluntarily
embracing Aunt Kipp. First a grimy little hand came on her shoulder,
as she sat sniffing behind the handkerchief; then, peeping out, she
saw an apple-cheeked face very near her own, with eyes full of pity,
penitence, and affection; and then she heard a choky little voice say
"Don't cry, aunty; I'm sorry I was rude. Please be good to Mother and
Polly, and I'll love and take care of you, and stand by you all my
life. Yes, I'll--I'll _kiss_ you, I will, by George!" And with one
promiscuous plunge the Spartan boy cast himself into her arms.
That finished Aunt Kipp; she hugged him dose, and cried out with a
salute that went off like a pistol-shot,--
"Oh, my dear, my dear! this is better than a dozen cherakins!"
When Toady emerged, somewhat flushed and tumbled, Mrs. Snow, Polly,
and Van were looking on with faces full of wonder, doubt, and
satisfaction. To be an object of interest was agreeable to Aunt
Kipp; and, as her old heart was really softened, she met them with a
gracious smile, and extended the olive-branch generally.
"Sophy, I shall give my money to _you_ at once and entirely, only
asking that you'll let me stay with you when Polly's gone. I'll do my
best to be agreeable, and you'll bear with me because I'm a cranky,
solitary old woman, and I loved your husband."
Mrs. Snow hugged her on the spot, and gushed, of course, murmuring
thanks, welcomes, and promises in one grateful burst.
"Polly, I forgive you; I consent to your marriage, and will provide
your wedding finery. Mr. Lamb, you are not a fool, but a very
excellent young man. I thank you for saving my life, and I wish you
well with all my heart. You needn't say anything. I'm far from strong,
and all this agitation is shortening my life."
Polly and Van shook her hand heartily, and beamed upon each other like
a pair of infatuated turtle-doves with good prospects.
"Toady, you are as near an angel as a boy can be. Put a name to
whatever you most wish for in the world, and it's yours," said Aunt
Kipp, dramatically waving the rest away.
With his short legs wide apart, his hands behind him, and his rosy
face as round and radiant as a rising sun, Toady stood before the fire
surveying the scene with the air of a man who has successfully carried
through a difficult and dangerous undertaking, and wasn't proud. His
face brightened, then fell, as he heaved a sigh, and answered, with a
shake of his curly head,--
"You can't give me what I want most. There are three things, and I've
got to wait for them all."
"Gracious me, what are they?" cried the old lady, good-naturedly, for
she felt better already.
"A mustache, a beaver, _and_ a sweetheart," answered Toady, with his
eyes fixed wistfully on Baa-baa, who possessed all these blessings,
and was particularly enjoying the latter at that moment.
How Aunt Kipp did laugh at this early budding of romance in her
pet! And all the rest joined her, for Toady's sentimental air was
"You precocious chick! I dare say you will have them all before we
know where we are. Never mind, deary; you shall have my little watch,
and the silver-headed cane with a _boar's_ head on it," answered the
old lady, in high good-humor. "You needn't blush, dear; I don't bear
malice; so let's forget and forgive. I shall settle things to-morrow,
and have a free mind. You are welcome to my money, and I hope I shall
live to see you all enjoy it."
So she did; for she lived to see Sophy plump, cheery, and care-free;
Polly surrounded by a flock of Lambkins; Van in possession of a
generous slice of the Van Bahr fortune; Toady revelling in the objects
of his desire; and, best of all, she lived to find that it is never
too late to make oneself useful, happy, and beloved.
"Handsome is that handsome does."
Once upon a time there raged in a certain city one of those
fashionable epidemics which occasionally attack our youthful
population. It wasn't the music mania, nor gymnastic convulsions, nor
that wide-spread malady, croquet. Neither was it one of the new dances
which, like a tarantula-bite, set every one a twirling, nor stage
madness, nor yet that American lecturing influenza which yearly sweeps
over the land. No, it was a new disease called the Art fever, and it
attacked the young women of the community with great violence.
Nothing but time could cure it, and it ran its course to the dismay,
amusement, or edification of the beholders, for its victims did all
manner of queer things in their delirium. They begged potteries
for clay, drove Italian plaster-corkers out of their wits with
unexecutable orders got neuralgia and rheumatism sketching perched on
fences and trees like artistic hens, and caused a rise in the price of
bread, paper, and charcoal, by their ardor in crayoning. They covered
canvas with the expedition of scene-painters, had classes, lectures,
receptions, and exhibitions, made models of each other, and rendered
their walls hideous with bad likenesses of all their friends. Their
conversation ceased to be intelligible to the uninitiated, and they
prattled prettily of "chiaro oscuro, French sauce, refraction of the
angle of the eye, seventh spinus process, depth and juiciness of
color, tender touch, and a good tone." Even in dress the artistic
disorder was visible; some cast aside crinoline altogether, and
stalked about with a severe simplicity of outline worthy of Flaxman.
Others flushed themselves with scarlet, that no landscape which they
adorned should be without some touch of Turner's favorite tint. Some
were _blue_ in every sense of the word, and the heads of all were
adorned with classic braids, curls tied Hebe-wise, or hair dressed a
It was found impossible to keep them safe at home, and, as the fever
grew, these harmless maniacs invaded the sacred retreats where artists
of the other sex did congregate, startling those anchorites with
visions of large-eyed damsels bearing portfolios in hands delicately
begrimed with crayon, chalk, and clay, gliding through the corridors
hitherto haunted only by shabby paletots, shadowy hats, and cigar
smoke. This irruption was borne with manly fortitude, not to say
cheerfulness, for studio doors stood hospitably open as the fair
invaders passed, and studies from life were generously offered them in
glimpses of picturesque gentlemen posed before easels, brooding over
master-pieces in "a divine despair," or attitudinizing upon couches as
if exhausted by the soarings of genius.
An atmosphere of romance began to pervade the old buildings when the
girls came, and nature and art took turns. There were peepings and
whisperings, much stifled laughter and whisking in and out; not to
mention the accidental rencontres, small services, and eye telegrams,
which somewhat lightened the severe studies of all parties.
Half a dozen young victims of this malady met daily in one of the
cells of a great art beehive called "Raphael's Rooms," and devoted
their shining hours to modelling fancy heads, gossiping the while; for
the poor things found the road to fame rather dull and dusty without
such verbal sprinklings.
"Psyche Dean, you've had an adventure! I see it in your face; so tell
it at once, for we are stupid as owls here to-day," cried one of the
sisterhood, as a bright-eyed girl entered with some precipitation.
"I dropped my portfolio, and a man picked it up, that's all." replied
Psyche, hurrying on her gray linen pinafore.
"That won't do; I know something interesting happened, for you've been
blushing, and you look brisker than usual this morning," said the
first speaker, polishing off the massive nose of her Homer.
"It wasn't anything," began Psyche a little reluctantly. "I was coming
up in a hurry when I ran against a man coming down in a hurry. My
portfolio slipped, and my papers went flying all about the landing. Of
course we both laughed and begged pardon, and I began to pick them
up, but he wouldn't let me; so I held the book while he collected the
sketches. I saw him glance at them as he did so, and that made me
blush, for they are wretched things, you know."
"Not a bit of it; they are capital, and you are a regular genius, as
we all agree," cut in the Homeric Miss Cutter.
"Never tell people they are geniuses unless you wish to spoil them,"
returned Psyche severely. "Well, when the portfolio was put to rights
I was going on, but he fell to picking up a little bunch of violets
I had dropped; you know I always wear a posy into town to give me
inspiration. I didn't care for the dusty flowers, and told him so, and
hurried away before any one came. At the top of the stairs I peeped
over the railing, and there he was, gathering up every one of those
half-dead violets as carefully as if they had been tea-roses."
"Psyche Dean, you have met your fate this day!" exclaimed a third
damsel, with straw-colored tresses, and a good deal of weedy shrubbery
in her hat, which gave an Ophelia-like expression to her sentimental
Psyche frowned and shook her head, as if half sorry she had told her
"Was he handsome?" asked Miss Larkins, the believer in fate.
"I didn't particularly observe."
"It was the red-headed man, whom we call Titian: he's always on the
"No, it wasn't; his hair was brown and curly," cried Psyche,
innocently falling into the trap.
"Like Peerybingle's baby when its cap was taken off," quoted Miss
Dickenson, who pined to drop the last two letters of her name.
"Was it Murillo, the black-eyed one?" asked the fair Cutter, for the
girls had a name for all the attitudinizers and promenaders whom they
"No, he had gray eyes, and very fine ones they were too," answered
Psyche, adding, as if to herself, "he looked as I imagine Michael
Angelo might have looked when young."
"Had he a broken nose, like the great Mike?" asked an irreverent
"If he had, no one would mind it, for his head is splendid; he took
his hat off, so I had a fine view. He isn't handsome, but he'll _do_
something," said Psyche, prophetically, as she recalled the strong,
ambitious face which she had often observed, but never mentioned
"Well, dear, considering that you didn't 'particularly look' at the
man, you've given us a very good idea of his appearance. We'll call
him Michael Angelo, and he shall be your idol. I prefer stout old
Rembrandt myself, and Larkie adores that dandified Raphael," said the
lively Cutter, slapping away at Homer's bald pate energetically, as
"Raphael is a dear, but Rubens is more to my taste now," returned Miss
Larkins. "He was in the hall yesterday talking with Sir Joshua, who
had his inevitable umbrella, like a true Englishman. Just as I came
up, the umbrella fell right before me. I started back; Sir Joshua
laughed, but Rubens said, 'Deuce take it!' and caught up the umbrella,
giving me a never-to-be-forgotten look. It was perfectly thrilling."
"Which,--the umbrella, the speech, or the look?" asked Psyche, who was
"Ah, you have no soul for art in nature, and nature in art," sighed
the amber-tressed Larkins. "I have, for I feed upon a glance, a tint,
a curve, with exquisite delight. Rubens is adorable (_as a study_);
that lustrous eye, that night of hair, that sumptuous cheek, are
perfect. He only needs a cloak, lace collar, and slouching hat to be
the genuine thing."
"This isn't the genuine thing by any means. What _does_ it need?" said
Psyche, looking with a despondent air at the head on her stand.
Many would have pronounced it a clever thing; the nose was strictly
Greek, the chin curved upward gracefully, the mouth was sweetly
haughty, the brow classically smooth and low, and the breezy hair well
done. But something was wanting; Psyche felt that, and could have
taken her Venus by the dimpled shoulders, and given her a hearty
shake, if that would have put strength and spirit into the lifeless
"Now _I_ am perfectly satisfied with my Apollo, though you all insist
that it is the image of Theodore Smythe. He says so himself, and
assures me it will make a sensation when we exhibit," remarked Miss
Larkins, complacently caressing the ambrosial locks of her Smythified
"What shall you do if it does not?" asked Miss Cutter, with elegance.
"I shall feel that I have mistaken my sphere, shall drop my tools,
veil my bust, and cast myself into the arms of Nature, since Art
rejects me;" replied Miss Larkins, with a tragic gesture and an
expression which strongly suggested that in her eyes nature meant
"She must have capacious arms if she is to receive all Art's rejected
admirers. Shall I be one of them?"
Psyche put the question to herself as she turned to work, but somehow
ambitious aspirations were not in a flourishing condition that
morning; her heart was not in tune, and head and hands sympathized.
Nothing went well, for certain neglected home-duties had dogged
her into town, and now worried her more than dust, or heat, or the
ceaseless clatter of tongues. Tom, Dick, and Harry's unmended hose
persisted in dancing a spectral jig before her mental eye, mother's
querulous complaints spoilt the song she hummed to cheer herself, and
little May's wistful face put the goddess of beauty entirely out of
"It's no use; I can't work till the clay is wet again. Where is
Giovanni?" she asked, throwing down her tools with a petulant gesture
and a dejected air.
"He is probably playing truant in the empty upper rooms, as usual. I
can't wait for him any longer, so I'm doing his work myself," answered
Miss Dickenson, who was tenderly winding a wet bandage round her
Juno's face, one side of which was so much plumper than the other that
it looked as if the Queen of Olympus was being hydropathically treated
for a severe fit of ague.
"I'll go and find the little scamp; a run will do me good; so will a
breath of air and a view of the park from the upper windows."
Doffing her apron, Psyche strolled away up an unfrequented staircase
to the empty apartments, which seemed to be too high even for the
lovers of High Art. On the western side they were shady and cool, and,
leaning from one of the windows, Psyche watched the feathery tree-tops
ruffled by the balmy wind, that brought spring odors from the hills,
lying green and sunny far away. Silence and solitude were such
pleasant companions that the girl forgot herself, till a shrill
whistle disturbed her day-dreams, and reminded her what she came for.
Following the sound she found the little Italian errand-boy busily
uncovering a clay model which stood in the middle of a scantily
furnished room near by.
"He is not here; come and look; it is greatly beautiful," cried
Giovanni, beckoning with an air of importance.
Psyche did look and speedily forgot both her errand and herself. It
was the figure of a man, standing erect, and looking straight
before him with a wonderfully lifelike expression. It was neither a
mythological nor a historical character, Psyche thought, and was glad
of it, being tired to death of gods and heroes. She soon ceased to
wonder what it was, feeling only the indescribable charm of something
higher than beauty. Small as her knowledge was, she could see and
enjoy the power visible in every part of it; the accurate anatomy of
the vigorous limbs, the grace of the pose, the strength and spirit in
the countenance, clay though it was. A majestic figure, but the spell
lay in the face, which, while it suggested the divine, was full of
human truth and tenderness, for pain and passion seemed to have passed
over it, and a humility half pathetic, a courage half heroic seemed to
have been born from some great loss or woe.
How long she stood there Psyche did not know. Giovanni went away
unseen, to fill his water-pail, and in the silence she just stood and
looked. Her eyes kindled, her color rose, despondency and discontent
vanished, and her soul was in her face, for she loved beauty
passionately, and all that was best and truest in her did honor to the
genius of the unknown worker.
"If I could do a thing like that, I'd die happy!" she exclaimed
impetuously, as a feeling of despair came over her at the thought of
her own poor attempts.
"Who did it, Giovanni?" she asked, still looking up at the grand face
with unsatisfied eyes.
It was not the boy's voice, and, with a start, Psyche turned to see
her Michael Angelo, standing in the doorway, attentively observing
her. Being too full of artless admiration to think of herself just
yet, she neither blushed nor apologized, but looked straight at him,
"You have done a wonderful piece of work, and I envy you more than I
The enthusiasm in her face, the frankness of her manner, seemed to
please him, for there was no affectation about either. He gave her a
keen, kind glance out of the "fine gray eyes," a little bow, and a
grateful smile, saying quietly,--"Then my Adam is not a failure in
spite of his fall?"
Psyche turned from the sculptor to his model with increased admiration
in her face, and earnestness in her voice, as she exclaimed
"Adam! I might have known it was he. O sir, you have indeed succeeded,
for you have given that figure the power and pathos of the first man
who sinned and suffered, and began again."
"Then I am satisfied." That was all he said, but the look he gave his
work was a very eloquent one, for it betrayed that he had paid the
price of success in patience and privation, labor and hope.
"What can one do to learn your secret?" asked the girl wistfully, for
there was nothing in the man's manner to disturb her self-forgetful
mood, but much to foster it, because to the solitary worker this
confiding guest was as welcome as the doves who often hopped in at his
"Work and wait, and meantime feed heart, soul, and imagination with
the best food one can get," he answered slowly, finding it impossible
to give a receipt for genius.
"I can work and wait a long time to gain my end; but I don't know
where to find the food you speak of?" she answered, looking at him
like a hungry child.
"I wish I could tell you, but each needs different fare, and each must
look for it in different places."
The kindly tone and the sympathizing look, as well as the lines in his
forehead, and a few gray hairs among the brown, gave Psyche courage to
"I love beauty so much that I not only want to possess it myself,
but to gain the power of seeing it in all things, and the art of
reproducing it with truth. I have tried very hard to do it, but
something is wanting; and in spite of my intense desire I never get
As she spoke the girl's eyes filled and fell in spite of herself, and
turning a little with sudden shamefacedness she saw, lying on the
table beside her among other scraps in manuscript and print, the
"I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shall find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee."
She knew them at a glance, had read them many times, but now they came
home to her with sudden force, and, seeing that his eye had followed
hers, she said in her impulsive fashion.--
"Is doing one's duty a good way to feed heart, soul, and imagination?"
As if he had caught a glimpse of what was going on in her mind, Paul
"Excellent; for if one is good, one is happy, and if happy, one can
work well. Moulding character is the highest sort of sculpture, and
all of us should learn that art before we touch clay or marble."
He spoke with the energy of a man who believed what he said, and did
his best to be worthy of the rich gift bestowed upon him. The sight
of her violets in a glass of water, and Giovanni staring at her with
round eyes, suddenly recalled Psyche to a sense of the proprieties
which she had been innocently outraging for the last ten minutes. A
sort of panic seized her; she blushed deeply, retreated precipitately
to the door, and vanished, murmuring thanks and apologies as she went.
"Did you find him? I thought you had forgotten," said Miss Dickenson,
now hard at work.
"Yes, I found him. No, I shall not forget," returned Psyche, thinking
of Gage, not Giovanni.
She stood before her work eying it intently for several minutes; then,
with an expression of great contempt for the whole thing, she suddenly
tilted her cherished Venus on to the floor, gave the classical face
a finishing crunch, and put on her hat in a decisive manner, saying
briefly to the dismayed damsels,--
"Good-by, girls; I shan't come any more, for I'm going to work at home
The prospect of pursuing artistic studies at home was not brilliant,
as one may imagine when I mention that Psyche's father was a painfully
prosaic man, wrapt in flannel, so to speak; for his woollen mills left
him no time for anything but sleep, food, and newspapers. Mrs. Dean
was one of those exasperating women who pervade their mansions like
a domestic steam-engine one week and take to their sofas the next,
absorbed by fidgets and foot-stoves, shawls and lamentations. There
were three riotous and robust young brothers, whom it is unnecessary
to describe except by stating that they were _boys_ in the broadest
sense of that delightful word. There was a feeble little sister, whose
patient, suffering face demanded constant love and care to mitigate
the weariness of a life of pain. And last, but not least by any means,
there were two Irish ladies, who, with the best intentions imaginable,
produced a universal state of topsy-turviness when left to themselves
for a moment.
But being very much in earnest about doing her duty, not because it
_was_ her duty, but as a means toward an end, Psyche fell to work with
a will, hoping to serve both masters at once. So she might have done,
perhaps, if flesh and blood had been as plastic as clay, but the live
models were so exacting in their demands upon her time and strength,
that the poor statues went to the wall. Sculpture and sewing, calls
and crayons, Ruskin and receipt-books, didn't work well together, and
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