Mother Carey's Chickens
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 2 out of 5
like mother in such an affair!"
This was said so mysteriously that Kathleen almost suspected that
bloodshed was included in Nancy's plan. It must be explained that when
young Ensign Carey and Margaret Gilbert had been married, Cousin Ann
Chadwick had presented them with four tall black and white marble mantel
ornaments shaped like funeral urns; and then, feeling that she had not
yet shown her approval of the match sufficiently, she purchased a large
group of clay statuary entitled You Dirty Boy.
The Careys had moved often, like all naval families, but even when their
other goods and chattels were stored, Cousin Ann generously managed to
defray the expense of sending on to them the mantel ornaments and the
Dirty Boy. "I know what your home is to you," she used to say to them,
"and how you must miss your ornaments. If I have chanced to give you
things as unwieldy as they are handsome, I ought to see that you have
them around you without trouble or expense, and I will!"
So for sixteen years, save for a brief respite when the family was in
the Philippines, their existence was blighted by these hated objects.
Once when they had given an especially beautiful party for the Admiral,
Captain Carey had carried the whole lot to the attic, but Cousin Ann
arrived unexpectedly in the middle of the afternoon, and Nancy, with the
aid of Gilbert and Joanna, had brought them down the back way and put
them in the dining room.
"You've taken the ornaments out of the parlor, I see," Cousin Ann said
at the dinner table. "It's rather nice for a change, and after all,
perhaps you spend as much time in this room as in any, and entertain as
much company here!"
Cousin Ann always had been, always would be, a frequent visitor, for she
was devoted to the family in her own peculiar way; what therefore could
Nancy be proposing to do with the Carey Curse?
"Listen, my good girl," Nancy now said to Kathleen, after she had closed
the door. "Thou dost know that the china-packer comes early to-morrow
morn, and that e'en now the barrels and boxes and excelsior are
bestrewing the dining room?"
"Then you and I, who have been brought up under the shadow of those
funeral urns, and have seen that tidy mother scrubbing the ears of that
unwilling boy ever since we were born,--you and I, or thou and I,
perhaps I should say, will do a little private packing before the true
"Still do I not see the point, wench!" said the puzzled Kathleen, trying
to model her conversation on Nancy's, though she was never thoroughly
"Don't call me 'wench,' because I am the mistress and you my tiring
woman, but when you Watch, and assist me, at the packing, a great light
will break upon you," Nancy answered "In the removal of cherished
articles from Charlestown to Beulah, certain tragedies will occur,
certain accidents will happen, although Cousin Ann knows that the Carey
family is a well regulated one. But if there are accidents, and _there
will be_, my good girl, then the authors of them will be forever unknown
to all but thou and I. Wouldst prefer to pack this midnight or at cock
crow, for packing is our task!"
"I simply hate cock crow, and you know it," said Kathleen testily. "Why
not now? Ellen and Gilbert are out and mother is rocking Peter
"Very well; come on; and step softly. It won't take long, because I have
planned all in secret, well and thoroughly. Don't puff and blow like
that! Mother will hear you!"
"I'm excited," whispered Kathleen as they stole down the back stairs and
went into the parlor for the funeral urns, which they carried silently
to the dining room. These safely deposited, they took You Dirty Boy from
its abominable pedestal of Mexican onyx (also Cousin Ann's gift) and
staggered under its heavyweight, their natural strength being
considerably sapped by suppressed laughter.
Nancy chose an especially large and stout barrel. They put a little
(very little) excelsior in the bottom, then a pair of dumb-bells, then a
funeral urn, then a little hay, and another funeral urn, crosswise. The
spaces between were carelessly filled in with Indian clubs. On these
they painfully dropped You Dirty Boy, and on top of him the other pair
of funeral urns, more dumbbells, and another Indian club. They had
packed the barrel in the corner where it stood, so they simply laid the
cover on top and threw a piece of sacking carelessly over it. The whole
performance had been punctuated with such hysterical laughter from
Kathleen that she was too weak to be of any real use,--she simply aided
and abetted the chief conspirator. The night was not as other nights.
The girls kept waking up to laugh a little, then they went to sleep, and
waked again, and laughed again, and so on. Nancy composed several
letters to her Cousin Ann dated from Beulah and explaining the sad
accident that had occurred. As she concocted these documents between her
naps she could never remember in her whole life any such night of mirth
and minstrelsy, and not one pang of conscience interfered, to cloud the
present joy nor dim that anticipation which is even greater.
Nancy was downstairs early next morning and managed to be the one to
greet the china-packers. "We filled one barrel last evening," she
explained to them. "Will you please head that up before you begin work?"
which one of the men obligingly did.
"We'll mark all this stuff and take it down to the station this
afternoon," said the head packer to Mrs. Carey.
"Be careful with it, won't you?" she begged. "We are very fond of our
glass and china, our clocks and all our little treasures."
"You won't have any breakage so long as you deal with James Perkins &
Co.!" said the packer.
Nancy went back into the room for a moment to speak with the skilful,
virtuous J.P. & Co. "There's no need to use any care with that corner
barrel," she said carelessly. "It has nothing of value in it!"
James Perkins went home in the middle of the afternoon and left his son
to finish the work, and the son tagged and labelled and painted with all
his might. The Dirty Boy barrel in the corner, being separated from the
others, looked to him especially important, so he gave particular
attention to that; pasted on it one label marked "Fragile," one "This
Side Up," two "Glass with Care," and finding several "Perishables" in
his pocket tied on a few of those, and removed the entire lot of boxes,
crates, and barrels to the freight depot.
The man who put the articles in the car was much interested in the Dirty
Boy barrel. "You'd ought to have walked to Greentown and carried that
one in your arms," he jeered. "What is the precious thing, anyway?"
"Don't you mind what it is," responded young Perkins. "Jest you keep
everybody 'n' everything from teching it! Does this lot o' stuff have to
be shifted 'tween here and Greentown?"
"No; not unless we git kind o' dull and turn it upside down jest for
"I guess you're dull consid'able often, by the way things look when you
git through carryin' 'em, on this line," said Perkins, who had no
opinion of the freight department of the A.&B. The answer, though not
proper to record in this place, was worthy of Perkins's opponent, who
had a standing grudge against the entire race of expressmen and carters
who brought him boxes and barrels to handle. It always seemed to him
that if they were all out of the country or dead he would have no
work to do.
THE SERVICE ON THE THRESHOLD
From this point on, the flitting went easily and smoothly enough, and
the transportation of the Carey family itself to Greentown, on a mild
budding day in April, was nothing compared to the heavy labor that had
preceded it. All the goods and chattels had been despatched a week
before, so that they would be on the spot well in advance, and the
actual flitting took place on a Friday, so that Gilbert would have every
hour of his vacation to assist in the settling process. He had accepted
an invitation to visit a school friend at Easter, saying to his mother
magisterially: "I didn't suppose you'd want me round the house when you
were getting things to rights; men are always in the way; so I told Fred
Bascom I'd go home with him."
"Home with Fred! Our only man! Sole prop of the House of Carey!"
exclaimed his mother with consummate tact. "Why, Gilly dear, I shall
want your advice every hour! And who will know about the planting,--for
we are only 'women folks'; and who will do all the hammering and
carpenter work? You are so wonderful with tools that you'll be worth all
the rest of us put together!"
"Oh, well, if you need me so much as that I'll go along, of course,"
said Gilbert, "but Fred said his mother and sisters always did this kind
of thing by themselves."
"'By themselves,' in Fred's family," remarked Mrs. Carey, "means a
butler, footman, and plenty of money for help of every sort. And though
no wonder you're fond of Fred, who is so jolly and such good company,
you must have noticed how selfish he is!"
"Now, mother, you've never seen Fred Bascom more than half a dozen
"No; and I don't remember at all what I saw in him the last five of
them, for I found out everything needful the first time he came to visit
us!" returned Mrs. Carey quietly. "Still, he's a likable, agreeable
sort of boy."
"And no doubt he'll succeed in destroying the pig in him before he grows
up," said Nancy, passing through the room. "I thought it gobbled and
snuffled a good deal when we last met!"
Colonel Wheeler was at Greentown station when the family arrived, and
drove Mrs. Carey and Peter to the Yellow House himself, while the rest
followed in the depot carryall, with a trail of trunks and packages
following on behind in an express wagon. It was a very early season, the
roads were free from mud, the trees were budding, and the young grass
showed green on all the sunny slopes. When the Careys had first seen
their future home they had entered the village from the west, the Yellow
House being the last one on the elm-shaded street, and quite on the
outskirts of Beulah itself. Now they crossed the river below the station
and drove through East Beulah, over a road unknown to any of them but
Gilbert, who was the hero and instructor of the party. Soon the
well-remembered house came into view, and as the two vehicles had kept
one behind the other there was a general cheer.
It was more beautiful even than they had remembered it; and more
commodious, and more delightfully situated. The barn door was open,
showing crates of furniture, and the piazza was piled high with boxes.
Bill Harmon stood in the front doorway, smiling. He hoped for trade, and
he was a good sort anyway.
"I'd about given you up to-night," he called as he came to the gate.
"Your train's half an hour late. I got tired o' waitin', so I made free
to open up some o' your things for you to start housekeepin' with. I
guess there won't be no supper here for you to-night."
"We've got it with us," said Nancy joyously, making acquaintance in an
"You _are_ forehanded, ain't you! That's right!--jump, you little pint
o' cider!" Bill said, holding out his arms to Peter. Peter, carrying
many small things too valuable to trust to others, jumped, as suggested,
and gave his new friend an unexpected shower of bumps from hard
substances concealed about his person.
"Land o' Goshen, you're _loaded_, hain't you?" he inquired jocosely as
he set Peter down on the ground.
The dazzling smile with which Peter greeted this supposed tribute
converted Bill Harmon at once into a victim and slave. Little did he
know, as he carelessly stood there at the wagon wheel, that he was
destined to bestow upon that small boy offerings from his stock for
years to come.
He and Colonel Wheeler were speedily lifting things from the carryall,
while the Careys walked up the pathway together, thrilling with the
excitement of the moment. Nancy breathed hard, flushed, and caught her
"O Motherdy!" she said under her breath; "it's all happening just as we
dreamed it, and now that it's really here it's like--it's like--a
dedication,--somehow. Gilbert, don't, dear! Let mother step over the
sill first and call us into the Yellow House! I'll lock the door again
and give the key to her."
Mother Carey, her heart in her throat, felt anew the solemn nature of
the undertaking. It broke over her in waves, fresher, stronger, now that
the actual moment had arrived, than it ever had done in prospect. She
took the last step upward, and standing in the doorway, trembling, said
softly as she turned the key, "Come home, children! Nancy! Gilbert!
Kathleen! Peter-bird!" They flocked in, all their laughter hushed by the
new tone in her voice. Nancy's and Kitty's arms encircled their mother's
waist. Gilbert with sudden instinct took off his hat, and Peter, looking
at his elder brother wonderingly, did the same. There was a moment of
silence; the kind of golden silence that is full to the brim of thoughts
and prayers and memories and hopes and desires,--so full of all these
and other beautiful, quiet things that it makes speech seem poor and
shabby; then Mother Carey turned, and the Yellow House was blessed.
Colonel Wheeler and Bill Harmon at the gate never even suspected that
there had been a little service on the threshold, when they came up the
pathway to see if there was anything more needed.
"I set up all the bedsteads and got the mattresses on 'em," said Bill
Harmon, "thinkin' the sandman would come early to-night."
"I never heard of anything so kind and neighborly!" cried Mrs. Carey
gratefully. "I thought we should have to go somewhere else to sleep. Is
it you who keeps the village store?"
"That's me!" said Bill.
"Well, if you'll be good enough to come back once more to-night with a
little of everything, we'll be very much obliged. We have an oil stove,
tea and coffee, tinned meats, bread and fruit; what we need most is
butter, eggs, milk, and flour. Gilbert, open the box of eatables,
please; and, Nancy, unlock the trunk that has the bed linen in it. We
little thought we should find such friends here, did we?"
"I got your extension table into the dining-room," said Bill, "and tried
my best to find your dishes, but I didn't make out, up to the time you
got here. Mebbe you marked 'em someway so't you know which to unpack
first? I was only findin' things that wan't no present use, as I guess
you'll say when you see 'em on the dining table."
They all followed him as he threw open the door, Nancy well in the
front, as I fear was generally the case. There, on the centre of the
table stood You Dirty Boy rearing his crested head in triumph, and round
him like the gate posts of a mausoleum stood the four black and white
marble funeral urns. Perfect and entire, without a flaw, they stood
there, confronting Nancy.
"It is like them to be the first to greet us!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey,
with an attempt at a smile, but there was not a sound from Kathleen or
Nancy. They stood rooted to the floor, gazing at the Curse of the House
of Carey as if their eyes must deceive them.
"You look as though you didn't expect to see them, girls!" said their
mother, "but when did they ever fail us?--Do you know, I have a courage
at this moment that I never felt before?--Beulah is so far from Buffalo
that Cousin Ann cannot visit us often, and never without warning. I
should not like to offend her or hurt her feelings, but I think we'll
keep You Dirty Boy and the mantel ornaments in the attic for the
present, or the barn chamber. What do you say?"
Colonel Wheeler and Mr. Harmon had departed, so a shout of agreement
went up from the young Careys. Nancy approached You Dirty Boy with a
bloodthirsty glare in her eye.
"Come along, you evil, uncanny thing!" she said. "Take hold of his other
end, Gilly, and start for the barn; that's farthest away; but it's no
use; he's just like that bloodstain on Lady Macbeth's hand,--he will not
out! Kathleen, open the linen trunk while we're gone. We can't set the
table till these curses are removed. When you've got the linen out, take
a marble urn in each hand and trail them along to where we are. You can
track us by a line of my tears!"
They found the stairs to the barn chamber, and lifted You Dirty Boy up
step by step with slow, painful effort. Kathleen ran out and put two
vases on the lowest step and ran back to the house for the other pair.
Gilbert and Nancy stood at the top of the stairs with You Dirty Boy
between them, settling where he could be easiest reached if he had to be
brought down for any occasion,--an unwelcome occasion that was certain
to occur sometime in the coming years.
Suddenly they heard their names called in a tragic whisper! "_Gilbert!
Nancy! Quick! Cousin Ann's at the front gate_!"
There was a crash! No human being, however self-contained, could have
withstood the shock of that surprise; coming as it did so swiftly, so
unexpectedly, and with such awful inappropriateness. Gilbert and Nancy
let go of You Dirty Boy simultaneously, and he fell to the floor in two
large fragments, the break occurring so happily that the mother and the
washcloth were on one half, and the boy on the other,--a situation long
desired by the boy, to whom the parting was most welcome!
"She got off at the wrong station," panted Kathleen at the foot of the
stairs, "and had to be driven five miles, or she would have got here as
she planned, an hour before we did. She's come to help us settle, and
says she was afraid mother would overdo. Did you drop anything? Hurry
down, and I'll leave the vases here, in among the furniture; or shall I
take back two of them to show that they were our first thought?--And oh!
I forgot. She's brought Julia! Two more to feed, and not enough beds!"
Nancy and Gilbert confronted each other.
"Hide the body in the corner, Gilly," said Nancy; "and say, Gilly--"
"You see he's in two pieces?"
"_What do you say to making him four, or more_?"
"I say you go downstairs ahead of me and into the house, and I follow
you a moment later! Close the barn door carefully behind you!--Am I
"You are, Gilly! understood, and gloried in, and reverenced. My spirit
will be with you when you do it, Gilly dear, though I myself will be
greeting Cousin Ann and Julia!"
Mother Carey, not wishing to make any larger number of persons
uncomfortable than necessary, had asked Julia not to come to them until
after the house in Beulah had been put to rights; but the Fergusons went
abroad rather unexpectedly, and Mr. Ferguson tore Julia from the arms of
Gladys and put her on the train with very little formality. Her meeting
Cousin Ann on the way was merely one of those unpleasant coincidences
with which life is filled, although it is hardly possible, usually, for
two such disagreeable persons to be on the same small spot at the same
On the third morning after the Careys' arrival, however, matters assumed
a more hopeful attitude, for Cousin Ann became discontented with Beulah.
The weather had turned cold, and the fireplaces, so long unused, were
uniformly smoky. Cousin Ann's stomach, always delicate, turned from
tinned meats, eggs three times a day, and soda biscuits made by Bill
Harmon's wife; likewise did it turn from nuts, apples, oranges, and
bananas, on which the children thrived; so she went to the so-called
hotel for her meals. Her remarks to the landlady after two dinners and
one supper were of a character not to be endured by any outspoken,
free-born New England woman.
"I keep a hotel, and I'll give you your meals for twenty-five cents
apiece so long as you eat what's set before you and hold your tongue,"
was the irate Mrs. Buck's ultimatum. "I'll feed you," she continued
passionately, "because it's my business to put up and take in anything
that's respectable; but I won't take none o' your sass!"
Well, Cousin Ann's temper was up, too, by this time, and she declined on
her part to take any of the landlady's "sass"; so they parted, rather to
Mrs. Carey's embarrassment, as she did not wish to make enemies at the
outset. That night Cousin Ann, still smarting under the memory of Mrs.
Buck's snapping eyes, high color, and unbridled tongue, complained after
supper that her bedstead rocked whenever she moved, and asked Gilbert if
he could readjust it in some way, so that it should be as stationary as
beds usually are in a normal state.
He took his tool basket and went upstairs obediently, spending fifteen
or twenty minutes with the much-criticised article of furniture, which
he suspected of rocking merely because it couldn't bear Cousin Ann. This
idea so delighted Nancy that she was obliged to retire from Gilbert's
proximity, lest the family should observe her mirth and Gilbert's and
impute undue importance to it.
"I've done everything to the bedstead I can think of," Gilbert said, on
coming downstairs. "You can see how it works to-night, Cousin Ann!"
As a matter of fact it _did_ work, instead of remaining in perfect quiet
as a well-bred bedstead should. When the family was sound asleep at
midnight a loud crash was heard, and Cousin Ann, throwing open the door
of her room, speedily informed everybody in the house that her bed had
come down with her, giving her nerves a shock from which they probably
would never recover.
"Gilbert is far too young for the responsibilities you put upon him,
Margaret," Cousin Ann exclaimed, drawing her wrapper more closely over
her tall spare figure; "and if he was as old as Methuselah he would
still be careless, for he was born so! All this talk about his being
skilful with tools has only swollen his vanity. A boy of his age should
be able to make a bedstead stay together."
The whole family, including the crestfallen Gilbert, proposed various
plans of relief, all except Nancy, who did not wish to meet Gilbert's
glance for fear that she should have to suspect him of a new crime.
Having embarked on a career of villainy under her direct instigation, he
might go on of his own accord, indefinitely. She did not believe him
guilty, but she preferred not to look into the matter more closely.
Mother Carey's eyes searched Gilbert's, but found there no confirmation
of her fears.
"You needn't look at me like that, mother," said the boy. "I wouldn't be
so mean as to rig up an accident for Cousin Ann, though I'd like her to
have a little one every night, just for the fun of it."
Cousin Ann refused to let Gilbert try again on the bedstead, and refused
part of Mrs. Carey's bed, preferring to sleep on two hair mattresses
laid on her bedroom floor. "They may not be comfortable," she said
tersely, "but at least they will not endanger my life."
The next morning's post brought business letters, and Cousin Ann feared
she would have to leave Beulah, although there was work for a fortnight
to come, right there, and Margaret had not strength enough to get
through it alone.
She thought the chimneys were full of soot, and didn't believe the
kitchen stove would ever draw; she was sure that there were dead toads
and frogs in the well; the house was inconvenient and always would be
till water was brought into the kitchen sink; Julia seemed to have no
leaning towards housework and had an appetite that she could only
describe as a crime, inasmuch as the wherewithal to satisfy it had to be
purchased by others; the climate was damp because of the river, and
there was no proper market within eight miles; Kathleen was too delicate
to live in such a place, and the move from Charlestown was an utter and
absolute and entire mistake from A to Z.
Then she packed her small trunk and Gilbert ran to the village on glad
and winged feet to get some one to take his depressing relative to the
noon train to Boston. As for Nancy, she stood in front of the parlor
fireplace, and when she heard the hoot of the engine in the distance she
removed the four mortuary vases from the mantelpiece and took them to
the attic, while Gilbert from the upper hall was chanting a favorite
"She called us names till she was tired,
She called us names till we perspired,
She called us names we never could spell,
She called us names we never may tell.
"She called us names that made us laugh,
She called us names for a day and a half,
She called us names till her memory failed,
But finally out of our sight she sailed."
"It must have been written about Cousin Ann in the first place," said
Nancy, joining Kathleen in the kitchen. "Well, she's gone at last!
"Now every prospect pleases,
And only Julia's vile,"
she paraphrased from the old hymn, into Kathleen's private ear.
"You oughtn't to say such things, Nancy," rebuked Kathleen. "Mother
wouldn't like it."
"I know it," confessed Nancy remorsefully. "I have been wicked since the
moment I tried to get rid of You Dirty Boy. I don't know what's the
matter with me. My blood seems to be too red, and it courses wildly
through my veins, as the books say. I am going to turn over a new leaf,
now that Cousin Ann's gone and our only cross is Julia!"
Oh! but it is rather dreadful to think how one person can spoil the
world! If only you could have seen the Yellow House after Cousin Ana
went! If only you could have heard the hotel landlady exclaim as she
drove past: "Well! Good riddance to bad rubbish!" The weather grew
warmer outside almost at once, and Bill Harmon's son planted the garden.
The fireplaces ceased to smoke and the kitchen stove drew. Colonel
Wheeler suggested a new chain pump instead of the old wooden one, after
which the water took a turn for the better, and before the month was
ended the Yellow House began to look like home, notwithstanding Julia.
As for Beulah village, after its sleep of months under deep snow-drifts
it had waked into the adorable beauty of an early New England summer. It
had no snow-capped mountains in the distance; no amethyst foothills to
enchain the eye; no wonderful canyons and splendid rocky passes to make
the tourist marvel; no length of yellow sea sands nor plash of ocean
surf; no trade, no amusements, no summer visitors;--it was just a quiet,
little, sunny, verdant, leafy piece of heart's content, that's what
Beulah was, and Julia couldn't spoil it; indeed, the odds were, that it
would sweeten Julia! That was what Mother Carey hoped when her heart had
an hour's leisure to drift beyond Shiny Wall into Peacepool and consider
the needs of her five children. It was generally at twilight, when she
was getting Peter to sleep, that she was busiest making "old beasts
"People fancy that I make things, my little dear," says Mother Carey to
Tom the Water Baby, "but I sit here and make them make themselves!"
There was once a fairy, so the tale goes, who was so clever that she
found out how to make butterflies, and she was so proud that she flew
straight off to Peacepool to boast to Mother Carey of her skill.
But Mother Carey laughed.
"Know, silly child," she said, "that any one can make things if he will
take time and trouble enough, but it is not every one who can make
things make themselves."
"Make things make themselves!" Mother Carey used to think in the
twilight. "I suppose that is what mothers are for!"
Nancy was making herself busily these days, and the offending Julia was
directly responsible for such self-control and gains in general virtue
as poor impetuous Nancy achieved. Kathleen was growing stronger and
steadier and less self-conscious. Gilbert was doing better at school,
and his letters showed more consideration and thought for the family
than they had done heretofore. Even the Peter-bird was a little sweeter
and more self-helpful just now, thought Mother Carey fondly, as she
rocked him to sleep. He was worn out with following Natty Harmon at the
plough, and succumbed quickly to the music of her good-night song and
the comfort of her sheltering arms. Mother Carey had arms to carry, arms
to enfold, arms to comfort and caress. She also had a fine, handsome,
strong hand admirable for spanking, but she had so many invisible
methods of discipline at her command that she never needed a visible
spanker for Peter. "Spanking is all very well in its poor way," she used
to say, "but a woman who has to fall back on it very often is sadly
lacking in ingenuity."
As she lifted Peter into his crib Nancy came softly in at the door with
a slip of paper in her hand.
She drew her mother out to the window over the front door. "Listen," she
said. "Do you hear the frogs?"
"I've been listening to them for the last half-hour," her mother said.
"Isn't everything sweet to-night, with the soft air and the elms all
feathered out, and the new moon!"
"Was it ever so green before?" Nancy wondered, leaning over the
window-sill by her mother's side. "Were the trees ever so lace-y? Was
any river ever so clear, or any moon so yellow? I am so sorry for the
city people tonight! Sometimes I think it can't be so beautiful here as
it looks, mother. Sometimes I wonder if part of the beauty isn't inside
of us!" said Nancy.
"Part of all beauty is in the eyes that look at, it," her mother
"And I've been reading Mrs. Harmon's new reference Bible," Nancy
continued, "and here is what it says about Beulah."
She held the paper to the waning light and read: "_Thou shalt no more be
termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate ...
but it shall be called Beulah, for the Lord delighteth in thee_.
"I think father would be comforted if he could see us all in the Yellow
House at Beulah!" Nancy went on softly as the two leaned out of the
window together. "He was so loving, so careful of us, so afraid that
anything should trouble us, that for months I couldn't think of him,
even in heaven, as anything but worried. But now it seems just as if we
were over the hardest time and could learn to live here in Beulah; and
so he must be comforted if he can see us or think about us at
all;--don't you feel like that, mother?"
Yes, her mother agreed gently, and her heart was grateful and full of
hope. She had lost the father of her children and the dear companion of
her life, and that loss could never be made good. Still her mind
acknowledged the riches she possessed in her children, so she confessed
herself neither desolate nor forsaken, but something in a humble human
way that the Lord could take delight in.
THE PINK OF PERFECTION
That was the only trouble with Allan Carey's little daughter Julia, aged
thirteen; she was, and always had been, the pink of perfection. As a
baby she had always been exemplary, eating heartily and sleeping
soundly. When she felt a pin in her flannel petticoat she deemed it
discourteous to cry, because she knew that her nurse had at least tried
to dress her properly. When awake, her mental machinery moved slowly and
without any jerks. As to her moral machinery, the angels must have set
it going at birth and planned it in such a way that it could neither
stop nor go wrong. It was well meant, of course, but probably the angels
who had the matter in charge were new, young, inexperienced angels, with
vague ideas of human nature and inexact knowledge of God's intentions;
because a child that has no capability of doing the wrong thing will
hardly be able to manage a right one; not one of the big sort, anyway.
At four or five years old Julia was always spoken of as "such a good
little girl." Many a time had Nancy in early youth stamped her foot and
cried: "Don't talk about Julia! I will not hear about Julia!" for she
was always held up as a pattern of excellence. Truth to tell she bored
her own mother terribly; but that is not strange, for by a curious freak
of nature, Mrs. Allan Carey was as flighty and capricious and
irresponsible and gay and naughty as Julia was steady, limited, narrow,
conventional, and dull; but the flighty mother passed out of the Carey
family life, and Julia, from the age of five onward, fell into the
charge of a pious, unimaginative governess, instead of being turned out
to pasture with a lot of frolicsome young human creatures; so at
thirteen she had apparently settled--hard, solid, and firm--into a
mould. She had smooth fair hair, pale blue eyes, thin lips, and a
somewhat too plump shape for her years. She was always tidy and wore her
clothes well, laying enormous stress upon their material and style, this
trait in her character having been added under the fostering influence
of the wealthy and fashionable Gladys Ferguson. At thirteen, when Julia
joined the flock of Carey chickens, she had the air of belonging to
quite another order of beings. They had been through a discipline seldom
suffered by "only children." They had had to divide apples and toys,
take turns at reading books, and learn generally to trot in double
harness. If Nancy had a new dress at Christmas, Kathleen had a new hat
in the spring. Gilbert heard the cry of "Low bridge!" very often after
Kathleen appeared on the scene, and Kathleen's ears, too, grew well
accustomed to the same phrase after Peter was born.
"Julia never did a naughty thing in her life, nor spoke a wrong word,"
said her father once, proudly.
"Never mind, she's only ten, and there's hope for her yet," Captain
Carey had replied cheerfully; though if he had known her a little later,
in her first Beulah days, he might not have been so sanguine. She seemed
to have no instinct of adapting herself to the family life, standing
just a little aloof and in an attitude of silent criticism. She was a
trig, smug prig, Nancy said, delighting in her accidental muster of
three short, hard, descriptive words. She hadn't a bit of humor, no fun,
no gayety, no generous enthusiasms that carried her too far for safety
or propriety. She brought with her to Beulah sheaves of school
certificates, and when she showed them to Gilbert with their hundred per
cent deportment and ninety-eight and seven-eighths per cent scholarship
every month for years, he went out behind the barn and kicked its
foundations savagely for several minutes. She was a sort of continual
Sunday child, with an air of church and cold dinner and sermon-reading
and hymn-singing and early bed. Nobody could fear, as for some
impulsive, reckless little creature, that she would come to a bad end.
Nancy said no one could imagine her as coming to anything, not even
"You never let mother hear you say these things, Nancy," Kathleen
remarked once, "but really and truly it's just as bad to say them at
all, when you know she wouldn't approve."
"My present object is to be as good as gold in mother's eyes, but there
I stop!" retorted Nancy cheerfully. "Pretty soon I shall get virtuous
enough to go a step further and endeavor to please the angels,--not
Julia's cast-iron angels, but the other angels, who understand and are
patient, because they remember our frames and know that being dust we
are likely to be dusty once in a while. Julia wasn't made of dust. She
was made of--let me see--of skim milk and baked custard (the watery
kind) and rice flour and gelatine, with a very little piece of overripe
banana,--not enough to flavor, just enough to sicken. Stir this up with
weak barley water without putting In a trace of salt, sugar, spice, or
pepper, set it in a cool oven, take it out before it is done, and you
will get Julia."
Nancy was triumphant over this recipe for making Julias, only regretting
that she could never show it to her mother, who, if critical, was always
most appreciative. She did send it in a letter to the Admiral, off in
China, and he, being "none too good for human nature's daily food,"
enjoyed it hugely and never scolded her at all.
Julia's only conversation at this time was on matters concerning Gladys
Ferguson and the Ferguson family. When you are washing dishes in the
sink of the Yellow House in Beulah it is very irritating to hear of
Gladys Ferguson's mother-of-pearl opera glasses, her French maid, her
breakfast on a tray in bed, her diamond ring, her photograph in the
Sunday "Times," her travels abroad, her proficiency in French
"Don't trot Gladys into the kitchen, for goodness' sake, Julia!"
grumbled Nancy on a warm day. "I don't want her diamond ring in my
dishwater. Wait till Sunday, when we go to the hotel for dinner in our
best clothes, if you must talk about her. You don't wipe the tumblers
dry, nor put them in the proper place, when your mind is full
"All right!" said Julia gently. "Only I hope I shall always be able to
wipe dishes and keep my mind on better things at the same time. That's
what Miss Tewksbury told me when she knew I had got to give up my home
luxuries for a long time. 'Don't let poverty drag you down, Julia,' she
said: 'keep your high thoughts and don't let them get soiled with the
grime of daily living.'"
It is only just to say that Nancy was not absolutely destitute of
self-control and politeness, because at this moment she had a really
vicious desire to wash Julia's supercilious face and neat nose with the
dishcloth, fresh from the frying pan. She knew that she could not grasp
those irritating "high thoughts" and apply the grime of daily living to
them concretely and actually, but Julia's face was within her reach, and
Nancy's fingers tingled with desire. No trace of this savage impulse
appeared in her behavior, however; she rinsed the dishpan, turned it
upside down in the sink, and gave the wiping towels to Julia, asking her
to wring them out in hot water and hang them on the barberry bushes,
according to Mrs. Carey's instructions.
"It doesn't seem as if I could!" whimpered Julia. "I have always been so
sensitive, and dish towels are so disgusting! They do _smell_, Nancy!"
"They do," said Nancy sternly, "but they will smell worse if they are
not washed! I give you the dish-wiping and take the washing, just to
save your hands, but you must turn and turn about with Kathleen and me
with some of the ugly, hateful things. If you were company of course we
couldn't let you, but you are a member of the family. Our principal
concern must be to keep mother's 'high thoughts' from grime; ours must
just take their chance!"
Oh! how Julia disliked Nancy at this epoch in their common history; and
how cordially and vigorously the dislike was returned! Many an unhappy
moment did Mother Carey have over the feud, mostly deep and silent, that
went on between these two; and Gilbert's attitude was not much more
hopeful. He had found a timetable or syllabus for the day's doings, over
Julia's washstand. It had been framed under Miss Tewksbury's guidance,
who knew Julia's unpunctuality and lack of system, and read as
Rise at 6.45.
Bathe and dress.
Devotional Exercises 7.15.
Household tasks till 9.
Exercise out of doors 9 to 10.
Study 10 to 12.
Preparations for dinner 12 to 1.
Recreation 2 to 4.
Study 4 to 5.
Preparation for supper 5 to 6.
Wholesome reading, walking, or conversation 7 to 8.
Devotional exercises 9.
There was nothing wrong about this; indeed, it was excellently
conceived; still it appeared to Gilbert as excessively funny, and with
Nancy's help he wrote another syllabus and tacked it over
On waking I can
Pray for Gilly and Nan;
Eat breakfast at seven.
Or ten or eleven,
Nor think when it's noon
That luncheon's too soon.
From twelve until one
I can munch on a bun.
At one or at two
My dinner'll be due.
At three, say, or four,
I'll eat a bit more.
When the clock's striking five
Some mild exercise,
Very brief, would be wise,
Lest I lack appetite
For my supper at night.
Don't go to bed late,
Eat a light lunch at eight,
Nor forget to say prayers
For my cousins downstairs.
Then with conscience like mine
I'll be sleeping at nine.
Mrs. Carey had a sense of humor, and when the weeping Julia brought the
two documents to her for consideration she had great difficulty in
adjusting the matter gravely and with due sympathy for her niece.
"The F-f-f-fergusons never mentioned my appetite," Julia wailed. "They
were always trying to g-g-get me to eat!"
"Gilbert and Nancy are a little too fond of fun, and a little too prone
to chaffing," said Mrs. Carey. "They forget that you are not used to it,
but I will try to make them more considerate. And don't forget, my dear,
that in a large family like ours we must learn to 'live and let live.'"
WAYS AND MEANS
It was late June, and Gilbert had returned from school, so the work of
making the Yellow House attractive and convenient was to move forward at
once. Up to now, the unpacking and distribution of the furniture, with
the daily housework and cooking, had been all that Mrs. Carey and the
girls could manage.
A village Jack-of-all-trades, Mr. Ossian Popham, generally and
familiarly called "Osh" Popham, had been called in to whitewash existing
closets and put hooks in them; also, with Bill Harmon's consent, to make
new ones here and there in handy corners. Dozens of shelves in odd
spaces helped much in the tidy stowing away of household articles,
bed-clothing, and stores. In the midst of this delightful and cheery
setting-to-rights a letter arrived from Cousin Ann. The family was all
sitting together in Mrs. Carey's room, the announced intention being to
hold an important meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, the Careys
being strong on ways and uniformly short on means.
The arrival of the letters by the hand of Bill Harmon's boy occurred
before the meeting was called to order.
"May I read Cousin Ann's aloud?" asked Nancy, who had her private
reasons for making the offer.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Carey unsuspectingly, as she took up the
inevitable stocking. "I almost wish you had all been storks instead of
chickens; then you would always have held up one foot, and perhaps that
stocking, at least, wouldn't have had holes in it!"
"Poor Muddy! I'm learning to darn," cried Kathleen, kissing her.
LONGHAMPTON, NEW JERSEY, _June 27th_.
MY DEAR MARGARET [so Nancy read],--The climate of this seaside
place suits me so badly that I have concluded to spend the rest
of the summer with you, lightening those household tasks which
will fall so heavily on your shoulders.
[Groans from the whole family greeted this opening passage, and Gilbert
cast himself, face down, on his mother's lounge.]
It is always foggy here when it does not rain, and the cooking
is very bad. The manager of the hotel is uncivil and the office
clerks very rude, so that Beulah, unfortunate place of residence
as I consider it, will be much preferable.
I hope you are getting on well with the work on the house,
although I regard your treating it as if it were your own, as
the height of extravagance. You will never get back a penny you
spend on it, and probably when you get it in good order Mr.
Hamilton will come back from Europe and live in it himself, or
take it away from you and sell it to some one else.
Gilbert will be home by now, but I should not allow him to touch
the woodwork, as he is too careless and unreliable.
["She'll never forget that the bed came down with her!" exclaimed
Gilbert, his voice muffled by the sofa cushions.]
Remember me to Julia. I hope she enjoys her food better than
when I was with you. Children must eat if they would grow.
[Mother Carey pricked up her ears at this point, and Gilbert raised
himself on one elbow, but Nancy went on gravely.]
Tell Kathleen to keep out of the sun, or wear a hat, as her
complexion is not at all what it used to be. Without color and
with freckles she will be an unusually plain child.
[Kathleen flushed angrily and laid down her work.]
Give my love to darling Nancy. What a treasure you have in your
eldest, Margaret! I hope you are properly grateful for her. Such
talent, such beauty, such grace, such discretion--
But here the family rose _en masse_ and descended on the reader of the
spurious letter just as she had turned the first page. In the amiable
scuffle that ensued, a blue slip fell from Cousin Ann's envelope and
Gilbert handed it to his mother with the letter.
Mrs. Carey, wiping the tears of merriment that came to her eyes in spite
of her, so exactly had Nancy caught Cousin Ann's epistolary style, read
the real communication, which ran as follows:--
DEAR MARGARET,--I have had you much in mind since I left you,
always with great anxiety lest your strength should fail under
the unexpected strain you put upon it. I had intended to give
each of you a check for thirty-five dollars at Christmas to
spend as you liked, but I must say I have not entire confidence
in your judgment. You will be likelier far to decorate the walls
of the house than to bring water into the kitchen sink. I
therefore enclose you three hundred dollars and beg that you
will have the well piped _at once_, and if there is any way to
carry the water to the bedroom floor, do it, and let me send the
extra amount involved. You will naturally have the well cleaned
out anyway, but I should prefer never to know what you found in
it. My only other large gift to you in the past was one of
ornaments, sent, you remember, at the time of your wedding!
["We remember!" groaned the children in chorus.]
I do not regret this, though my view of life, of its sorrows and
perplexities, has changed somewhat, and I am more practical than
I used to be. The general opinion is that in giving for a
present an object of permanent beauty, your friends think of you
whenever they look upon it.
["That's so!" remarked Gilbert to Nancy.]
This is true, no doubt, but there are other ways of making
yourself remembered, and I am willing that you should think
kindly of Cousin Ann whenever you use the new pump.
The second improvement I wish made with the money is the
instalment of a large furnace-like stove in the cellar, which
will send up a little heat, at least, into the hall and lower
rooms in winter. You will probably have to get the owner's
consent, and I should certainly ask for a five years' lease
before expending any considerable amount of money on the
If there is any money left, I should suggest new sills to the
back doors and those in the shed. I noticed that the present
ones are very rotten, and I dare say by this time you have
processions of red and black ants coming into your house. It
seemed to me that I never saw so much insect life as in Beulah.
Moths, caterpillars, brown-tails, slugs, spiders, June bugs,
horseflies, and mosquitoes were among the pests I specially
noted. The Mr. Popham who drove me to the station said that
snakes also abounded in the tall grass, but I should not lay any
stress on his remarks, as I never saw such manners in my life in
any Christian civilized community. He asked me my age, and when
I naturally made no reply, he inquired after a few minutes'
silence whether I was unmarried from choice or necessity. When I
refused to carry on any conversation with him he sang jovial
songs so audibly that persons going along the street smiled and
waved their hands to him. I tell you this because you appear to
have false ideas of the people in Beulah, most of whom seemed to
me either eccentric or absolutely insane.
Hoping that you can endure your life there when the water smells
better and you do not have to carry it from the well, I am
"Children!" said Mrs. Carey, folding the letter and slipping the check
into the envelope for safety, "your Cousin Ann is really a very
"I wish her bed hadn't come down with her," said Gilbert. "We could
never have afforded to get that water into the house, or had the little
furnace, and I suppose, though no one of us ever thought of it, that you
would have had a hard time doing the work in the winter in a cold house,
and it would have been dreadful going to the pump."
"Dreadful for you too, Gilly," replied Kathleen pointedly.
"I shall be at school, where I can't help," said Gilbert.
Mrs. Carey made no remark, as she intended the fact that there was no
money for Gilbert's tuition at Eastover to sink gradually into his mind,
so that he might make the painful discovery himself. His fees had
fortunately been paid in advance up to the end of the summer term, so
the strain on their resources had not been felt up to now.
Nancy had disappeared from the room and now stood in the doorway.
"I wish to remark that, having said a good many disagreeable things
about Cousin Ann, and regretting them very much, I have placed the four
black and white marble ornaments on my bedroom mantelpiece, there to be
a perpetual reminder of my sins. You Dirty Boy is in a hundred pieces in
the barn chamber, but if Cousin Ann ever comes to visit us again, I'll
be the one to confess that Gilly and I were the cause of the accident."
"Now take your pencil, Nancy, and see where we are in point of income,
at the present moment," her mother suggested, with an approving smile.
"Put down the pension of thirty dollars a month."
"Down.--Three hundred and sixty dollars."
"Now the hundred dollars over and above the rent of the Charlestown
"Down; but it lasts only four years."
"We may all be dead by that time." (This cheerfully from Gilbert.)
"Then the interest on our insurance money. Four per cent on five
thousand dollars is two hundred; I have multiplied it twenty times."
"Of course if anything serious happens, or any great need comes, we have
the five thousand to draw upon," interpolated Gilbert.
"I will draw upon that to save one of us in illness or to bury one of
us," said Mrs. Carey with determination, "but I will never live out of
it myself, nor permit you to. We are five,--six, while Julia is with
us," she added hastily,--"and six persons will surely have rainy days
coming to them. What if I should die and leave you?"
"Don't, mother!" they cried in chorus, so passionately that Mrs. Carey
changed the subject quickly. "How much a year does it make, Nancy?"
"Three hundred and sixty plus one hundred plus two hundred equals six
hundred and sixty," read Nancy. "And I call it a splendid big lump
"Oh, my dear," sighed her mother with a shake of the head, "if you knew
the difficulty your father and I have had to take care of ourselves and
of you on five and six times that sum! We may have been a little
extravagant sometimes following him about,--he was always so anxious to
have us with him,--but that has been our only luxury."
"We saved enough out of exchanging the grand piano to pay all the
expenses down here, and all our railway fares, and everything so far, in
the way of boards and nails and Osh Popham's labor," recalled Gilbert.
"Yes, and we are still eating the grand piano at the end of two months,
but it's about gone, isn't it, Muddy?" Nancy asked.
"About gone, but it has been a great help, and our dear little
old-fashioned square is just as much of a comfort.--Of course there's
the tapestry and the Van Twiller landscape Uncle gave me; they may
yet be sold."
"Somebody'll buy the tapestry, but the Van Twiller'll go hard," and
Gilbert winked at Nancy.
"A picture that looks just the same upside down as the right way about
won't find many buyers," was Nancy's idea.
"Still it is a Van Twiller, and has a certain authentic value for all
"The landscapes Van Twiller painted in the dark, or when he had his
blinders on, can't be worth very much," insisted Gilbert. "You remember
the Admiral thought it was partridges nesting in the underbrush at
twilight, and then we found Joanna had cleaned the dining room and hung
the thing upside down. When it was hung the other end up neither father
nor the Admiral could tell what it was; they'd lost the partridges and
couldn't find anything else!"
"We shall get something for it because it is a Van Twiller," said Mrs.
Carey hopefully; "and the tapestry is lovely.--Now we have been doing
all our own work to save money enough to make the house beautiful; yet,
as Cousin Ann says, it does not belong to us and may be taken away at
any moment after the year is up. We have never even seen our landlord,
though Mr. Harmon has written to him. Are we foolish? What do you
BELONGING TO BEULAH
The Person without a Fault had been quietly working at her embroidery,
raising her head now and then to look at some extraordinary Carey, when
he or she made some unusually silly or fantastic remark.
"I'm not so old as Gilbert and Nancy, and I'm only a niece," she said
modestly, "so I ought not to have an opinion. But I should get a
maid-of-all-work at once, so that we shouldn't all be drudges as we are
now; then I should not spend a single cent on the house, but just live
here in hiding, as it were, till better times come and till we are old
enough to go into society. You could scrimp and save for Nancy's coming
out, and then for Kathleen's. Father would certainly be well long before
then, and Kathleen and I could debut together!"
"Who wants to 'debut' together or any other way," sniffed Nancy
scornfully. "I'm coming out right here in Beulah; indeed I'm not sure
but I'm out already! Mr. Bill Harmon has asked me to come to the church
sociable and Mr. Popham has invited me to the Red Men's picnic at
Greentown. Beulah's good for something better than a place to hide in!
We'll have to save every penny at first, of course, but in three or four
years Gilly and I ought to be earning something."
"The trouble is, I _can't_ earn anything in college," objected Gilbert,
"though I'd like to."
"That will be the only way a college course can come to you now,
Gilbert," his mother said quietly. "You know nothing of the expenses
involved. They would have taxed our resources to the utmost if father
had lived, and we had had our more than five thousand a year! You and I
together must think out your problem this summer."
Gilbert looked blank and walked to the window with his hands in his
"I should lose all my friends, and it's hard for a fellow to make his
way in the world if he has nothing to recommend him but his graduation
from some God-forsaken little hole like Beulah Academy."
Nancy looked as if she could scalp her brother when he alluded to her
beloved village in these terms, but her mother's warning look stopped
Julia took up arms for her cousin. "We ought to go without everything
for the sake of sending Gilbert to college," she said. "Gladys Ferguson
doesn't know a single boy who isn't going to Harvard or Yale."
"If a boy of good family and good breeding cannot make friends by his
own personality and his own qualities of mind and character, I should
think he would better go without them," said Gilbert's mother casually.
"Don't you believe in a college education, mother?" inquired Gilbert in
an astonished tone.
"Certainly! Why else should we have made sacrifices to send you? To
begin with, it is much simpler and easier to be educated in college. You
have a thousand helps and encouragements that other fellows have to get
as they may. The paths are all made straight for the students. A stupid
boy, or one with small industry or little originality, must have
_something_ drummed into him in four years, with all the splendid
teaching energy that the colleges employ. It requires a very high grade
of mental and moral power to do without such helps, and it may be that
you are not strong enough to succeed without them;--I do not know your
possibilities yet, Gilbert, and neither do you know them yourself!"
Gilbert looked rather nonplussed. "Pretty stiff, I call it!" he
grumbled, "to say that if you've got brains enough you can do
"It is true, nevertheless. If you have brains enough, and will enough,
and heart enough, you can stay here in Beulah and make the universe
search you out, and drag you into the open, where men have need of you!"
(Mrs. Carey's eyes shone and her cheeks glowed.) "What we all want as a
family is to keep well and strong and good, in body and mind and soul;
to conquer our weaknesses, to train our gifts, to harness our powers to
some wished-for end, and then _pull_, with all our might. Can't my girls
be fine women, fit for New York or Washington, London or Paris, because
their young days were passed in Beulah? Can't my boys be anything that
their brains and courage fit them for, whether they make their own
associations or have them made for them? Father would never have flung
the burden on your shoulders, Gilbert, but he is no longer here. You
can't have the help of Yale or Harvard or Bowdoin to make a man of you,
my son,--you will have to fight your own battles and win your
"Oh! mother, but you're splendid!" cried Nancy, the quick tears in her
eyes. "Brace up, old Gilly, and show what the Careys can do without
'advantages.' Brace up, Kitty and Julia! We three will make Beulah
Academy ring next year!"
"And I don't want you to look upon Beulah as a place of hiding while
adversity lasts," said Mother Carey. "We must make it home; as beautiful
and complete as we can afford. One real home always makes others, I am
sure of that! We will ask Mr. Harmon to write Mr. Hamilton and see if he
will promise to leave us undisturbed. We cannot be happy, or prosperous,
or useful, or successful, unless we can contrive to make the Yellow
House a home. The river is our river; the village is our village; the
people are our neighbors; Beulah belongs to us and we belong to Beulah,
don't we, Peter?"
Mother Carey always turned to Peter with some nonsensical appeal when
her heart was full and her voice a trifle unsteady. You could bury your
head in Peter's little white sailor jacket just under his chin, at which
he would dimple and gurgle and chuckle and wriggle, and when you
withdrew your flushed face and presented it to the public gaze all the
tears would have been wiped off on Peter.
So on this occasion did Mrs. Carey repeat, as she set Peter down, "Don't
we belong to Beulah, dear?"
"Yes, we does," he lisped, "and I'm going to work myself, pretty soon
bimebye just after a while, when I'm a little more grown up, and then
I'll buy the Yellow House quick."
"So you shall, precious!" cried Kathleen.
"I was measured on Muddy this morning, wasn't I, Muddy, and I was half
way to her belt; and in Charlestown I was only a little farder up than
her knees. All the time I'm growing up she's ungrowing down! She's
smallering and I'm biggering."
"Are you afraid your mother'll be too small, sweet Pete?" asked Mrs.
"No!" this very stoutly. "Danny Harmon's mother's more'n up to the
mantelpiece and I'd hate to have my mother so far away!" said Peter as
he embraced Mrs. Carey's knees.
Julia had said little during this long conversation, though her mind was
fairly bristling with objections and negatives and different points of
view, but she was always more or less awed by her Aunt Margaret, and
never dared defy her opinion. She had a real admiration for her aunt's
beauty and dignity and radiant presence, though it is to be feared she
cared less for the qualities of character that made her personality so
luminous with charm for everybody. She saw people look at her, listen to
her, follow her with their eyes, comment on her appearance, her
elegance, and her distinction, and all this impressed her deeply. As to
Cousin Ann's present her most prominent feeling was that it would have
been much better if that lady had followed her original plan of sending
individual thirty-five-dollar checks. In that event she, Julia, was
quite certain that hers never would have gone into a water-pipe or a
"Oh, Kathleen!" sighed Nancy as the two went into the kitchen together.
"Isn't mother the most interesting 'scolder' you ever listened to? I
love to hear her do it, especially when somebody else is getting it.
When it's I, I grow smaller and smaller, curling myself up like a little
worm. Then when she has finished I squirm to the door and wriggle out.
Other mothers say: 'If you don't, I shall tell your father!' 'Do as I
tell you, and ask no questions.' 'I never heard of such behavior in my
life!' 'Haven't you any sense of propriety?' 'If this happens again I
shall have to do something desperate.' 'Leave the room at once,' and so
on; but mother sets you to thinking."
"Mother doesn't really scold," Kathleen objected.
"No, but she shows you how wrong you are, just the same. Did you notice
how Julia _withered_ when mother said we were not to look upon Beulah as
a place of hiding?"
"She didn't stay withered long," Kathleen remarked.
"And she said just the right thing to dear old Gilly, for Fred Bascom is
filling his head with foolish notions. He needs father to set
"We all need father," sighed Kitty tearfully, "but somehow mother grows
a little more splendid every day. I believe she's trying to fill
father's place and be herself too!"
THE POST BAG
Letter from Mr. William Harmon, storekeeper at Beulah Corner, to Hon.
Lemuel Hamilton, American Consul at Breslau, Germany.
Beulah, _June 27th._
Dear Lem: The folks up to your house want to lay out money on it
and don't dass for fear you'll turn em out and pocket their
improvements. If you haint got any better use for the propety
I advise you to hold on to this bunch of tennants as they are
O.K. wash goods, all wool, and a yard wide. I woodent like
Mrs. Harmon _to know how I feel about the lady_, who is
hansome as a picture and the children are a first class crop and
no mistake. They will not lay out much at first as they are
short of cash but if ever good luck comes along they will fit
up the house like a pallis and your granchildren will reep the
proffit. I'll look out for your interest and see they don't do
nothing outlandish. They'd have hard work to beat that
fool-job your boys did on the old barn, fixin it up so't
nobody could keep critters in it, so no more from your old
P.S. We've been having a spell of turrible hot wether in Beulah.
How is it with you? I never framed it up jest what kind of a
job an American Counsul's was; but I guess he aint never het
up with overwork! There was a piece in a Portland paper about
a Counsul somewhere being fired because he set in his
shirt-sleeves durin office hours. I says to Col. Wheeler if
Uncle Sam could keep em all in their shirtsleeves, hustlin for
dear life, it wood be all the better for him and us!
Letter from Miss Nancy Carey to the Hon. Lemuel Hamilton.
BEULAH, _June 27th_.
DEAR MR. HAMILTON,--I am Nancy, the oldest of the Carey
children, who live in your house. When father was alive, he
took us on a driving trip, and we stopped and had luncheon
under your big maple and fell in love with your empty house.
Father (he was a Captain in the Navy and there was never
anybody like him in the world!)--Father leaned over the gate
and said if he was only rich he would drive the horse into the
barn and buy the place that very day; and mother said it would
be a beautiful spot to bring up a family. We children had
wriggled under the fence, and were climbing the apple trees by
that time, and we wanted to be brought up there that very
minute. We all of us look back to that day as the happiest one
that we can remember. Mother laughs when I talk of looking
back, because I am not sixteen yet, but I think, although we did
not know it, God knew that father was going to die and we were
going to live in that very spot afterwards. Father asked us
what we could do for the place that had been so hospitable to
us, and I remembered a box of plants in the carryall, that we
had bought at a wayside nursery, for the flower beds in
Charlestown. "Plant something!" I said, and father thought it
was a good idea and took a little crimson rambler rose bush
from the box. Each of us helped make the place for it by taking
a turn with the luncheon knives and spoons; then I planted the
rose and father took off his hat and said, "Three cheers for
the Yellow House!" and mother added, "God bless it, and the
children who come to live in it!"--There is surely something
strange in that, don't you think so? Then when father died
last year we had to find a cheap and quiet place to live, and
I remembered the Yellow House in Beulah and told mother my
idea. She does not say "Bosh!" like some mothers, but if our
ideas sound like anything she tries them; so she sent Gilbert
to see if the house was still vacant, and when we found it
was, we took it. The rent is sixty dollars a year, as I
suppose Bill Harmon told you when he sent you mother's check
for fifteen dollars for the first quarter. We think it is very
reasonable, and do not wonder you don't like to spend anything
on repairs or improvements for us, as you have to pay taxes
and insurance. We hope you will have a good deal over for your
own use out of our rent, as we shouldn't like to feel under
obligation. If we had a million we'd spend it all on the
Yellow House, because we are fond of it in the way you are
fond of a person; it's not only that we want to paint it and
paper it, but we would like to pat it and squeeze it. If you
can't live in it yourself, even in the summer, perhaps you
will be glad to know we love it so much and want to take good
care of it always. What troubles us is the fear that you will
take it away or sell it to somebody before Gilbert and I are
grown up and have earned money enough to buy it. It was Cousin
Ann that put the idea into our heads, but everybody says it is
quite likely and sensible. Cousin Ann has made us a splendid
present of enough money to bring the water from the well into
the kitchen sink and to put a large stove like a furnace into
the cellar. We would cut two registers behind the doors in the
dining-room and sitting-room floors, and two little round
holes in the ceilings to let the heat up into two bedrooms, if
you are willing to let us do it. [Mother says that Cousin Ann
is a good and generous person. It is true, and it makes us
very unhappy that we cannot really love her on account of her
being so fault-finding; but you, being an American Consul and
travelling all over the world, must have seen somebody like
Mr. Harmon is writing to you, but I thought he wouldn't know so
much about us as I do. We have father's pension; that is three
hundred and sixty dollars a year; and one hundred dollars a
year from the Charlestown house, but that only lasts for four
years; and two hundred dollars a year from the interest on
father's insurance. That makes six hundred and sixty dollars,
which is a great deal if you haven't been used to three
thousand, but does not seem to be enough for a family of six.
There is the insurance money itself, too, but mother says
nothing but a very dreadful need must make us touch that. You
see there are four of us children, which with mother makes
five, and now there is Julia, which makes six. She is Uncle
Allan's only child. Uncle Allan has nervous prostration and
all of mother's money. We are not poor at all, just now, on
account of having exchanged the grand piano for an
old-fashioned square and eating up the extra money. It is great
fun, and whenever we have anything very good for supper
Kathleen says, "Here goes a piano leg!" and Gilbert says,
"Let's have an octave of white notes for Sunday supper,
mother!" I send you a little photograph of the family taken
together on your side piazza (we call it our piazza, and I hope
you don't mind). I am the tallest girl, with the curly hair.
Julia is sitting down in front, hemming. She said we should
look so idle if somebody didn't do something, but she never
really hems; and Kathleen is leaning over mother's shoulder.
We all wanted to lean over mother's shoulder, but Kitty got
there first. The big boy is Gilbert. He can't go to college
now, as father intended, and he is very sad and depressed; but
mother says he has a splendid chance to show what father's son
can do without any help but his own industry and pluck. Please
look carefully at the lady sitting in the chair, for it is our
mother. It is only a snap shot, but you can see how beautiful
she is. Her hair is very long, and the wave in it is natural.
The little boy is Peter. He is the loveliest and the dearest
of all of us. The second picture is of me tying up the crimson
rambler. I thought you would like to see what a wonderful rose
it is. I was standing in a chair, training the long branches
and tacking them against the house, when a gentleman drove by
with a camera in his wagon. He stopped and took the picture and
sent us one, explaining that every one admired it. I happened
to be wearing my yellow muslin, and I am sending you the one
the gentleman colored, because it is the beautiful crimson of
the rose against the yellow house that makes people admire it
so. If you come to America please don't forget Beulah, because
if you once saw mother you could never bear to disturb her,
seeing how brave she is, living without father. Admiral
Southwick, who is in China, calls us Mother Carey's chickens.
They are stormy petrels, and are supposed to go out over the
seas and show good birds the way home. We haven't done
anything splendid yet, but we mean to when the chance comes. I
haven't told anybody that I am writing this, but I wanted you
to know everything about us, as you are our landlord. We could
be so happy if Cousin Ann wouldn't always say we are spending
money on another person's house and such a silly performance
never came to any good.
I enclose you a little picture cut from the wall paper we want
to put on the front hall, hoping you will like it. The old
paper is hanging in shreds and some of the plaster is loose,
but Mr. Popham will make it all right. Mother says she feels
as if he had pasted laughter and good nature on all the walls
as he papered them. When you open the front door (and we hope
you will, sometime, and walk right in!) how lovely it will be
to look into yellow hayfields! And isn't the boatful of people
coming to the haymaking, nice, with the bright shirts of the
men and the women's scarlet aprons? Don't you love the white
horse in the haycart, and the jolly party picnicking under the
tree? Mother says just think of buying so much joy and color
for twenty cents a double roll; and we children think we shall
never get tired of sitting on the stairs in cold weather and
making believe it is haying time. Gilbert says we are putting
another grand piano leg on the walls, but we are not, for we are
doing all our own cooking and dishwashing and saving the money
that a cook would cost, to do lovely things for the Yellow
House. Thank you, dearest Mr. Hamilton, for letting us live in
it. We are very proud of the circular steps and very proud of
your being an American consul.
P.S. It is June, and Beulah is so beautiful you feel like eating
it with sugar and cream! We do hope that you and your children
are living in as sweet a place, so that you will not miss this
one so much. We know you have five, older than we are, but if
there are any the right size for me to send my love to, please
do it. Mother would wish to be remembered to Mrs. Hamilton,
but she will never know I am writing to you. It is my first
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Mr. Ossian (otherwise "Osh") Popham was covering the hall of the Yellow
House with the hayfield paper. Bill Harmon's father had left
considerable stock of one sort and another in the great unfinished attic
over the store, and though much of it was worthless, and all of it was
out of date, it seemed probable that it would eventually be sold to the
Careys, who had the most unlimited ingenuity in making bricks without
straw, when it came to house decoration. They had always moved from post
to pillar and Dan to Beersheba, and had always, inside of a week, had
the prettiest and most delightful habitation in the naval colony where
they found themselves. Beulah itself, as well as all the surrounding
country, had looked upon the golden hayfield paper and scorned it as
ugly and countrified; never suspecting that, in its day, it had been
made in France and cost a dollar and a half a roll. It had been imported
for a governor's house, and only half of it used, so for thirty years
the other half had waited for the Careys. There always are Careys and
their like, and plenty of them, in every generation, so old things, if
they are good, need never be discouraged.
Mr. Popham never worked at his bricklaying or carpentering or cabinet
making or papering by the hour, but "by the job"; and a kind Providence,
intent on the welfare of the community, must have guided him in this
choice of business methods, for he talked so much more than he worked,
that unless householders were well-to-do, the rights of employer and
employee could never have been adjusted. If they were rich no one of
them would have stopped Ossian's conversation for a second. In the first
place it was even better than his work, which was always good, and in
the second place he would never consent to go to any one, unless he
could talk as much as he liked. The Careys loved him, all but Julia, who
pronounced him "common" and said Miss Tewksbury told her never to listen
to anyone who said "I done it" or "I seen it." To this Nancy replied
(her mother being in the garden, and she herself not yet started on a
line of conduct arranged to please the angels) that Miss Tewksbury and
Julia ought to have a little corner of heaven finished off for
themselves; and Julia made a rude, distinct, hideous "face" at Nancy. I
have always dated the beginning of Julia's final transformation from
this critical moment, when the old Adam in her began to work. It was
good for Nancy too, who would have trodden on Julia so long as she was
an irritating but patient, well-behaved worm; but who would have to use
a little care if the worm showed signs of turning.
"Your tongue is like a bread knife, Nancy Carey!" Julia exclaimed
passionately, after twisting her nose and mouth into terrifying and
dreadful shapes. "If it wasn't that Miss Tewksbury told me ladies never
were telltales, I could soon make trouble between you and your
"No, you couldn't," said Nancy curtly, "for I'd reform sooner than let
you do that!--Perhaps I did say too much, Julia, only I can't bear to
have you make game of Mr. Popham when he's so funny and nice. Think of
his living with nagging Mrs. Popham and his stupid daughter and son in
that tiny house, and being happy as a king."
"If there wasn't something wrong with him he wouldn't _be_ happy there,"
Mr. Popham himself accounted for his contentment without insulting his
intelligence. "The way I look at it," he said, "this world's all the
world we'll git till we git to the next one; an' we might's well smile
on it, 's frown! You git your piece o' life an' you make what you can of
it;--that's the idee! Now the other day I got some nice soft wood that
was prime for whittlin'; jest the right color an' grain an' all, an' I
started in to make a little statue o' the Duke o' Wellington. Well, when
I got to shapin' him out, I found my piece o' wood wouldn't be long
enough to give him his height; so I says, 'Well, I don't care, I'll cut
the Duke right down and make Napoleon Bonaparte.' I'd 'a' been all right
if I'd cal'lated better, but I cut my block off too short, and I
couldn't make Napoleon nohow; so I says, 'Well, Isaac Watts was an awful
short man, so I guess I'll make him!' But this time my wood split right
in two. Some men would 'a' been discouraged, but I wasn't, not a mite; I
jest said, 'I never did fancy Ike Watts, an' there's one thing this
blamed chip _will_ make, an' that's a button for the barn door!'"
Osh not only whittled and papered and painted, but did anything
whatsoever that needed to be done on the premises. If the pump refused
to draw water, or the sink drain was stopped, or the gutters needed
cleaning, or the grass had to be mowed, he was the man ordained by
Providence and his own versatility to do the work. While he was papering
the front hall the entire Carey family lived on the stairs between
meals, fearful lest they should lose any incident, any anecdote, any
story, any reminiscence that might fall from his lips. Mrs. Carey took
her mending basket and sat in the doorway, within ear shot, while Peter
had all the scraps of paper and a small pasting board on the steps,
where he conducted his private enterprises.
Osh would cut his length of paper, lay it flat on the board, and apply
the wide brush up and down neatly while he began his story. Sometimes if
the tale were long and interesting the paste would dry, but in that case
he went over the surface again. At the precise moment of hanging, the
flow of his eloquence stopped abruptly and his hearers had to wait until
the piece was finished before they learned what finally became of Lyddy
Brown after she drove her husband ou' doors, or of Bill Harmon's bull
terrier, who set an entire community quarreling among themselves. His
racy accounts of Mrs. Popham's pessimism, which had grown prodigiously
from living in the house with his optimism; his anecdotes of Lallie Joy
Popham, who was given to moods, having inherited portions of her
father's incurable hopefulness, and fragments of her mother's
ineradicable gloom,--these were of a character that made the finishing
of the hall a matter of profound unimportance.
"I ain't one to hurry," he would say genially; "that's the reason I
won't work by the hour or by the day. We've got one 'hurrier' in the
family, and that's enough for Lallie Joy 'n' me! Mis' Popham does
everything right on the dot, an' Lallie Joy 'n' me git turrible sick o'
seein' that dot, 'n' hevin' our 'tention drawed to it if we _don't_ see
it. Mis' Bill Harmon's another 'hurrier,'--well, you jest ask Bill,
that's all! She an' Mis' Popham hev been at it for fifteen years, but
the village ain't ready to give out the blue ribbon yet. Last week my
wife went over to Harmon's and Mis' Harmon said she was goin' to make
some molasses candy that mornin'. Well, my wife hurried home, put on her
molasses, made her candy, cooled it and worked it, and took some over to
treat Mis' Harmon, who was jest gittin' her kittle out from under
The Careys laughed heartily at this evidence of Mrs. Popham's celerity,
while Osh, as pleased as possible, gave one dab with his paste brush and
"Maria's blood was up one while, 'cause Mis' Bill Harmon always
contrives to git her wash out the earliest of a Monday morning.
Yesterday Maria got up 'bout daybreak (I allers tell her if she was real
forehanded she'd eat her breakfast overnight), and by half past five she
hed her clothes in the boiler. Jest as she was lookin' out the kitchen
winder for signs o' Mis' Bill Harmon, she seen her start for her side
door with a big basket. Maria was so mad then that she vowed she
wouldn't be beat, so she dug for the bedroom and slat some clean sheets
and piller cases out of a bureau drawer, run into the yard, and I'm
blamed if she didn't get 'em over the line afore Mis' Harmon found her
Good old Osh! He hadn't had such an audience for years, for Beulah knew
all its own stories thoroughly, and although it valued them highly it
did not care to hear them too often; but the Careys were absolutely
fresh material, and such good, appreciative listeners! Mrs. Carey looked
so handsome when she wiped the tears of enjoyment from her eyes that Osh
told Bill Harmon if 't wa'n't agin the law you would want to kiss her
every time she laughed.
Well, the hall papering was, luckily, to be paid for, not by the hour,
but by an incredibly small price per roll, and everybody was pleased.
Nancy, Kathleen, and Julia sat on the stairs preparing a whiteweed and
buttercup border for the spare bedroom according to a plan of Mother
Carey's. It was an affair of time, as it involved the delicate cutting
out of daisy garlands from a wider bordering filled with flowers of
other colors, and proved a fascinating occupation.
Gilbert hovered on the outskirts of the hall, doing odd jobs of one sort
and another and learning bits of every trade at which Mr. Popham
"If we hadn't been in such a sweat to git settled," remarked Osh with a
clip of his big shears, "I really'd ought to have plastered this front
entry all over! 'T wa'n't callin' for paper half's loud as 't was for
plaster. Old Parson Bradley hed been a farmer afore he turned minister,
and one Sunday mornin' his parish was thornin' him to pray for rain, so
he says: 'Thou knowest, O Lord! it's manure this land wants, 'n' not
water, but in Thy mercy send rain plenteously upon us.'"
"Mr. Popham," said Gilbert, who had been patiently awaiting his
opportunity, "the pieces of paper are cut for those narrow places each
side of the front door. Can't I paste those on while you talk to us?"
"'Course you can, handy as you be with tools! There ain't no trick to
it. Most anybody can be a paperer. As Parson Bradley said when he was
talkin' to a Sunday-school during a presidential campaign: 'One of you
boys perhaps can be a George Washington and another may rise to be a
Thomas Jefferson; any of you, the Lord knows, can be a James K. Polk!'"
"I don't know much about Polk," said Gilbert.
"P'raps nobody did very much, but the parson hated him like p'ison. See
here, Peter, I ain't _made_ o' paste! You've used up 'bout a quart
a'ready! What are you doin' out there anyway? I've heerd o' paintin' the
town,--I guess you're paperin' it, ain't you?"
Peter was too busy and too eager for paste to reply, the facts of the
case being that while Mr. Popham held the family spellbound by his
conversation, he himself was papering the outside of the house with
scraps of assorted paper as high up as his short arms could reach.
"There's another thing you can do, Gilbert," continued Mr. Popham. "I've
mixed a pail o' that green paint same as your mother wanted, an' I've
brought you a tip-top brush. The settin' room has a good nice floor;
matched boards, no hummocks nor hollers,--all as flat's one of my wife's
pancakes,--an' not a knot hole in it anywheres. You jest put your first
coat on, brushin' lengthways o' the boards, and let it dry good. Don't
let your folks go stepping on it, neither. The minute a floor's painted
women folks are crazy to git int' the room. They want their black
alpacky that's in the closet, an' the lookin' glass that's on the
mantelpiece, or the feather duster that's hangin' on the winder, an'
will you jest pass out the broom that's behind the door? The next
mornin' you'll find lots o' little spots where they've tiptoed in to see
if the paint's dry an' how it's goin' to look. Where I work, they most
allers say it's the cat,--well! that answer may deceive some folks, but
't wouldn't me.--Don't slop your paint, Gilbert; work quick an' neat an'
even; then paintin' ain't no trick 't all. Any fool, the Lord knows, can
pick up that trade!--Now I guess it's about noon time, an' I'll have to
be diggin' for home. Maria sets down an' looks at the clock from half
past eleven on. She'll git a meal o' cold pork 'n' greens, cold string
beans, gingerbread, 'n' custard pie on t' the table; then she'll stan'
in the front door an' holler: 'Hurry up, Ossian! it's struck twelve more
'n two minutes ago, 'n' everything 's gittin' overdone!'"
So saying he took off his overalls, seized his hat, and with a parting
salute was off down the road, singing his favorite song. I can give you
the words and the time, but alas! I cannot print Osh Popham's dauntless
spirit and serene content, nor his cheery voice as he travelled with
tolerable swiftness to meet his waiting Maria.
Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
Hi der-ry O!
Here comes a maid-en full of woe,
As full of woe as she can go!
Hi dum did-dy i
O! Hi der-ry O!
THE HOUSE OF LORDS
The Carey children had only found it by accident. All their errands took
them down the main street to the village; to the Popham's cottage at the
foot of a little lane turning towards the river, or on to the
post-office and Bill Harmon's store, or to Colonel Wheeler's house and
then to the railway station. One afternoon Nancy and Kathleen had walked
up the road in search of pastures new, and had spied down in a distant
hollow a gloomy grey house almost surrounded by cedars. A grove of
poplars to the left of it only made the prospect more depressing, and if
it had not been for a great sheet of water near by, floating with cow
lilies and pond lilies, the whole aspect of the place would have been
Nancy asked Mr. Popham who lived in the grey house behind the cedars,
and when he told them a certain Mr. Henry Lord, his two children and
housekeeper, they fell into the habit of speaking of the place as the
House of Lords.
"You won't never see nothin' of 'em," said Mr. Popham. "Henry Lord ain't
never darkened the village for years, I guess, and the young ones ain't
never been to school so far; they have a teacher out from Portland
Tuesdays and Fridays, and the rest o' the week they study up for him.
Henry's 'bout as much of a hermit's if he lived in a hut on a mounting,
an' he's bringing up the children so they'll be jest as odd's he is."
"Is the mother dead?" Mrs. Carey asked.
"Yes, dead these four years, an' a good job for her, too. It's an awful
queer world! Not that I could make a better one! I allers say, when
folks grumble, 'Now if you was given the materials, could you turn out a
better world than this is? And when it come to that, what if you hed to
furnish your _own_ materials, same as the Lord did! I guess you'd be put
to it!'--Well, as I say, it's an awful queer world; they clap all the
burglars into jail, and the murderers and the wife-beaters (I've allers
thought a gentle reproof would be enough punishment for a wife-beater,
'cause he probably has a lot o' provocation that nobody knows), and the
firebugs (can't think o' the right name--something like cendenaries),
an' the breakers o' the peace, an' what not; an' yet the law has nothin'
to say to a man like Hen Lord! He's been a college professor, but I went
to school with him, darn his picter, an' I'll call him Hen whenever I
git a chance, though he does declare he's a doctor."
"Doctor of what?" asked Mrs. Carey.
"Blamed if I know! I wouldn't trust him to doctor a sick cat."
"People don't have to be doctors of medicine," interrupted Gilbert.
"Grandfather was Alexander Carey, LL.D.,--Doctor of Laws, that is."
Mr. Popham laid down his brush. "I swan to man!" he ejaculated. "If you
don't work hard you can't keep up with the times! Doctor of Laws! Well,
all I can say is they _need_ doctorin', an' I'm glad they've got round
to 'em; only Hen Lord ain't the man to do 'em any good."
"What has he done to make him so unpopular?" queried Mrs. Carey.
"Done? He ain't done a thing he'd oughter sence he was born. He keeps
the thou shalt not commandments first rate, Hen Lord does! He neglected
his wife and froze her blood and frightened her to death, poor little
shadder! He give up his position and shut the family up in that tomb of
a house so 't he could study his books. My boy knows his boy, an' I tell
you the life he leads them children is enough to make your flesh creep.
When I git roun' to it I cal'late to set the house on fire some night.
Mebbe I'd be lucky enough to ketch Hen too, an' if so, nobody in the
village'd wear mournin'! So fur, I can't get Maria's consent to be a
cendenary. She says she can't spare me long enough to go to jail; she
needs me to work durin' the summer, an' in the winter time she'd hev
nobody to jaw, if I was in the lockup." This information was delivered
in the intervals of covering the guest chamber walls with a delightful
white moire paper which Osh always alluded to as the "white maria,"
whether in memory of his wife's Christian name or because his French
accent was not up to the mark, no one could say.
Mr. Popham exaggerated nothing, but on the contrary left much unsaid in
his narrative of the family at the House of Lords. Henry Lord, with the
degree of Ph.D. to his credit, had been Professor of Zoology at a New
England college, but had resigned his post in order to write a series of
scientific text books. Always irritable, cold, indifferent, he had grown
rapidly more so as years went on. Had his pale, timid wife been a rosy,
plucky tyrant, things might have gone otherwise, but the only memories
the two children possessed were of bitter words and reproaches on their
father's side, and of tears and sad looks on their mother's part. Then
the poor little shadow of a woman dropped wearily into her grave, and a
certain elderly Mrs. Bangs, with grey hair and firm chin, came to keep
house and do the work.
A lonelier creature than Olive Lord at sixteen could hardly be imagined.
She was a tiny thing for her years, with a little white oval face and
peaked chin, pronounced eyebrows, beautifully arched, and a mass of
tangled, untidy dark hair. Her only interests in life were her younger
brother Cyril, delicate and timid, and in continual terror of his
father,--and a passion for drawing and sketching that was fairly
devouring in its intensity. When she was ten she "drew" the cat and the
dog, the hens and chickens, and colored the sketches with the paints her
mother provided. Whatever appealed to her sense of beauty was
straightway transferred to paper or canvas. Then for the three years
before her mother's death there had been surreptitious lessons from a
Portland teacher, paid for out of Mr. Lord's house allowance; for one of
his chief faults was an incredible parsimony, amounting almost to
"Something terrible will happen to Olive if she isn't taught to use her
talent," Mrs. Lord pleaded to her husband. "She is wild to know how to
do things. She makes effort after effort, trembling with eagerness, and
when she fails to reproduce what she sees, she works herself into a
frenzy of grief and disappointment."
"You'd better give her lessons in self-control," Mr. Lord answered.
"They are cheaper than instruction in drawing, and much more practical."
So Olive lived and struggled and grew; and luckily her talent was such a
passion that no circumstances could crush or extinguish it. She worked,
discovering laws and making rules for herself, since she had no helpers.
When she could not make a rabbit or a bird look "real" on paper, she
searched in her father's books for pictures of its bones. "If I could
only know what it is like _inside_, Cyril," she said, "perhaps its
_outside_ wouldn't look so flat! O! Cyril, there must be some better way
of doing; I just draw the outline of an animal and then I put hairs or
feathers on it. They have no bodies. They couldn't run nor move; they're
"Why don't you do flowers and houses, Olive?" inquired Cyril
solicitously. "And people paint fruit, and dead fish on platters, and
pitchers of lemonade with ice in,--why don't you try things like those?"
"I suppose they're easier," Olive returned with a sigh, "but who could
bear to do them when there are living, breathing, moving things; things
that puzzle you by looking different every minute? No, I'll keep on
trying, and when you get a little older we'll run away together and live
and learn things by ourselves, in some place where father can never
"He wouldn't search, so don't worry," replied Cyril quietly, and the two
looked at each other and knew that it was so.
There, in the cedar hollow, then, lived Olive Lord, an angry, resentful,
little creature weighed down by a fierce sense of injury. Her gloomy
young heart was visited by frequent storms and she looked as unlovable
as she was unloved. But Nancy Carey, never shy, and as eager to give
herself as people always are who are born and bred in joy and love,
Nancy hopped out of Mother Carey's warm nest one day, and fixing her
bright eyes and sunny, hopeful glance on the lonely, frowning little
neighbor, stretched out her hand in friendship. Olive's mournful black
eyes met Nancy's sparkling brown ones. Her hand, so marvellously full of
skill, had never held another's, and she was desperately self-conscious;
but magnetism flowed from Nancy as electric currents from a battery. She
drew Olive to her by some unknown force and held her fast, not realizing
at the moment that she was getting as much as she gave.
The first interview, purely a casual one, took place on the edge of the
lily pond where Olive was sketching frogs, and where Nancy went for
cat-o'-nine-tails. It proved to be a long and intimate talk, and when
Mrs. Carey looked out of her bedroom window just before supper she saw,
at the pasture bars, the two girls with their arms round each other and
their cheeks close together. Nancy's curly chestnut crop shone in the
sun, and Olive's thick black plaits looked blacker by contrast. Suddenly
she flung her arms round Nancy's neck, and with a sob darted under the
bars and across the fields without a backward glance.
A few moments later Nancy entered her mother's room, her arms filled
with treasures from the woods and fields. "Oh, Motherdy!" she cried,
laying down her flowers and taking off her hat. "I've found such a
friend; a real understanding friend; and it's the girl from the House of
Lords. She's wonderful! More wonderful than anybody we've ever seen
anywhere, and she draws better than the teacher in Charlestown! She's
older than I am, but so tiny and sad and shy that she seems like a
child. Oh, mother, there's always so much spare room in your heart,--for
you took in Julia and yet we never felt the difference,--won't you make
a place for Olive? There never was anybody needed you so much as she
Have you ever lifted a stone and seen the pale, yellow, stunted shoots
of grass under it? And have you gone next day and next, and watched the
little blades shoot upward, spread themselves with delight, grow green
and wax strong; and finally, warm with the sun, cool with the dew,
vigorous with the flow of sap in their veins, seen them wave their green
tips in the breeze? That was what happened to Olive Lord when she and
Cyril were drawn into a different family circle, and ran in and out of
the Yellow House with the busy, eager group of Mother Carey's chickens.
OLD AND NEW
The Yellow House had not always belonged to the Hamiltons, but had been
built by a governor of the state when he retired from public office. He
lived only a few years, and it then passed into the hands of Lemuel
Hamilton's grandfather, who had done little or nothing in the way of
remodelling the buildings.
Governor Weatherby had harbored no extraordinary ambition regarding
architectural excellence, for he was not a rich man; he had simply built
a large, comfortable Colonial house. He desired no gardens, no luxurious
stables, no fountains nor grottoes, no bathroom (for it was only the
year 1810), while the old oaken bucket left nothing to be desired as a
means of dispensing water to the household. He had one weakness,
however, and that was a wish to make the front of the house as
impressive as possible. The window over the front door was as beautiful
a window as any in the county, and the doorway itself was celebrated
throughout the state. It had a wonderful fan light and side lights,
green blind doors outside of the white painted one with its massive
brass knocker, and still more unique and impressive, it had for its
approach, semi-circular stone steps instead of the usual oblong ones.
The large blocks of granite had been cut so that each of the four steps
should be smaller than the one below it; and when, after months of
gossip and suspense, they were finally laid in place, their straight
edges towards the house and their expensive curved sides to the road, a
procession of curious persons in wagons, carryalls, buggies, and gigs
wound their way past the premises. The governor's "circ'lar steps"
brought many pilgrims down the main street of Beulah first and last, and
the original Hamiltons had been very proud of them. Pride (of such
simple things as stone steps) had died out of the Hamilton stock in the
course of years, and the house had been so long vacant that no one but
Lemuel, the Consul, remembered any of its charming features; but Ossian
Popham, when he pried up and straightened the ancient landmarks, had
much to say of the wonderful steps.
"There's so much goin' on now-a-days," he complained, as he puffed and
pried and strained, and rested in between, "that young ones won't amount
to nothin', fust thing you know. My boy Digby says to me this mornin',
when I asked him if he was goin' to the County Fair 'No, Pop, I ain't
goin',' he says, 'it's the same old fair every year.' Land sakes! when I
was a boy, 'bout once a month, in warm weather, I used to ask father if
I could walk to the other end o' the village and look at the governor's
circ'lar steps; that used to be the liveliest entertainment parents
could think up for their young ones, an' it _was_ a heap livelier than
two sermons of a Sunday, each of 'em an hour and fifteen minutes long."
Digby, a lad of eighteen and master of only one trade instead of a
dozen, like his father, had been deputed to paper Mother Carey's bedroom
while she moved for a few days into the newly fitted guest room, which
was almost too beautiful to sleep in, with its white satiny walls, its
yellow and green garlands hanging from the ceiling, its yellow floor,
and its old white chamber set repainted by the faithful and
The chintz parlor, once Governor Weatherby's study, was finished too,
and the whole family looked in at the doors a dozen times a day with
admiring exclamations. It had six doors, opening into two entries, one
small bedroom, one sitting room, one cellar, and one china closet; a
passion for entrances and exits having been the whim of that generation.
If the truth were known, Nancy had once lighted her candle and slipped
downstairs at midnight to sit on the parlor sofa and feast her eyes on
the room's loveliness. Gilbert had painted the white matting the color
of a ripe cherry. Mrs. Popham had washed and ironed and fluted the old
white ruffled muslin curtains from the Charlestown home, and they
adorned the four windows. It was the north room, on the left as you
entered the house, and would be closed during the cold winter months, so
it was fitted entirely for summer use and comfort. The old-fashioned
square piano looked in its element placed across one corner, with the
four tall silver candlesticks and snuffer tray on the shining mahogany.
All the shabbiest furniture, and the Carey furniture was mostly shabby,
was covered with a cheap, gay chintz, and crimson Jacqueminot roses
clambered all over the wall paper, so that the room was a cool bower
On the other side of the hall were the double parlors of the governor's
time, made into a great living room. Here was Gilbert's green painted
floor, smooth and glossy, with braided rugs bought from neighbors in
East Beulah; here all the old-fashioned Gilbert furniture that the
Careys had kept during their many wanderings; here all the quaint chairs
that Mr. Bill Harmon could pick up at a small price; here were two noble
fireplaces, one with a crane and iron pot filled with flowers, the other
filled sometimes with sprays of green asparagus and sometimes with
fragrant hemlock boughs. The paper was one in which green rushes and
cat-o'-nine-tails grew on a fawn-colored ground, and anything that the
Careys did not possess for the family sitting room Ossian Popham went
straight home and made in his barn. He could make a barrel-chair or an
hour-glass table, a box lounge and the mattress to put on top of it, or
a low table for games and puzzles, or a window seat. He could polish the
piano and then sit down to it and play "Those Tassels on Her Boots" or
"Marching through Georgia" with great skill. He could paint bunches of
gold grapes and leaves on the old-fashioned high-backed rocker, and, as
soon as it was dry, could sit down in it and entertain the whole family
without charging them a penny.
The housewarming could not be until the later autumn, Mrs. Carey had
decided, for although most of the living rooms could be finished, Cousin
Ann's expensive improvements were not to be set in motion until Bill
Harmon heard from Mr. Hamilton that his tenants were not to be disturbed
for at least three years.
The house, which was daily growing into a home, was full of the busy hum
of labor from top to bottom and from morning till night, and there was
hardly a moment when Mother Carey and the girls were not transporting
articles of furniture through the rooms, and up and down the staircases,
to see how they would look somewhere else. This, indeed, had been the
diversion of their simple life for many years, and was just as
delightful, in their opinion, as buying new things. Any Carey, from
mother down to Peter, would spring from his chair at any moment and
assist any other Carey to move a sofa, a bureau, a piano, a kitchen
stove, if necessary, with the view of determining if it would add a new
zest to life in a different position.
Not a word has been said thus far about the Yellow House barn, the barn
that the "fool Hamilton boys" (according to Bill Harmon's theories) had
converted from a place of practical usefulness and possible gain, into
something that would "make a cat laugh"; but it really needs a chapter
to itself. You remember that Dr. Holmes says of certain majestic and
dignified trees that they ought to have a Christian name, like other
folks? The barn, in the same way, deserves more distinction than a
paragraph, but at this moment it was being used as a storeroom and was
merely awaiting its splendid destiny, quite unconscious of the future.
The Hamilton boys were no doubt as extravagant and thriftless as they
were insane, but the Careys sympathized with their extravagance and
thriftlessness and insanity so heartily, in this particular, that they
could hardly conceal their real feelings from Bill Harmon. Nothing could
so have accorded with their secret desires as the "fool changes" made by
the "crazy Hamilton boys"; light-hearted, irresponsible, and frivolous
changes that could never have been compassed by the Careys' slender
income. They had no money to purchase horse or cow or pig, and no man in
the family to take care of them if purchased; so the removal of stalls
and all the necessary appurtenances for the care of cattle was no source
of grief or loss to them. A good floor had been laid over the old one
and stained to a dark color; the ceiling, with its heavy hand-hewn
beams, was almost as fine as some old oak counterpart in an English
hall. Not a new board met the eye;--old weathered lumber everywhere,
even to the quaint settle-shaped benches that lined the room. There was
a place like an old-fashioned "tie-up" for musicians to play for a
country dance, or for tableaux and charades; in fine, there would be,
with the addition of Carey ideas here and there, provision for frolics
and diversions of any sort. You no sooner opened the door and peeped in,
though few of the Beulah villagers had ever been invited to do so by the
gay young Hamiltons, than your tongue spontaneously exclaimed: "What a
place for good times!"
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