Mother Carey's Chickens
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 4 out of 5
When it was over all made their way into the rosy, bowery, summer
parlor. Soon another fire sparkled and snapped on the hearth, and there
were songs and poems and choruses and Osh Popham's fiddle, to say
nothing of the supreme event of the evening, his rendition of "Fly like
a youthful hart or roe, over the hills where spices grow," to Mother
Carey's accompaniment. He always slipped up his glasses during this
performance and closed his eyes, but neither grey hairs nor "specs"
could dim the radiant smile that made him seem about fifteen years old
and the junior of both his children.
Mrs. Harmon thought he sang too much, and told her husband privately
that if he was a canary bird she should want to keep a table cover over
his head most of the time, but he was immensely popular with the rest of
Last of all the entire company gathered round the old-fashioned piano
for a parting hymn. The face of the mahogany shone with delight, and why
not, when it was doing everything (almost everything!) within the scope
of a piano, and yet the family had enjoyed weeks of good nourishing
meals on what had been saved by its exertions. Also, what rational
family could mourn the loss of an irregularly shaped instrument standing
on three legs and played on one corner? The tall silver candle sticks
gleamed in the firelight, the silver dish of polished Baldwins blushed
rosier in the glow. Mother Carey played the dear old common metre tune,
and the voices rang out in Whittier's hymn. The Careys all sang like
thrushes, and even Peter, holding his hymn book upside down, put in
little bird notes, always on the key, whenever he caught a
"Once more the liberal year laughs out
O'er richer stores than gems or gold;
Once more, with harvest-song and shout
Is Nature's bloodless triumph told."
"We shut our eyes, the flowers bloom on;
We murmur, but the corn-ears fill;
We choose the shadow, but the sun
That casts it shines behind us still."
"O favors every year made new!
O gifts with rain and sunshine sent!
The bounty overruns our due,
The fulness shames our discontent."
"TIBI SPLENDET FOCUS"
There was one watcher of all this, and one listener, outside of the
Yellow House, that none of the party suspected, and that was Henry
When he left Mrs. Carey at the gate at five o'clock, he went back to his
own house and ordered his supper to be brought him on a tray in his
study. He particularly liked this, always, as it freed him from all
responsibility of serving his children, and making an occasional remark;
and as a matter of fact everybody was as pleased as he when he ate
alone, the occasional meals Olive and Cyril had by themselves being the
only ones they ever enjoyed or digested.
He studied and wrote and consulted heavy tomes, and walked up and down
the room, and pulled out colored plates from portfolios, all with great
satisfaction until he chanced to look at the clock when it struck ten.
He had forgotten to send for the children as he had promised Mother
Carey! He went out into the hall and called Mrs. Bangs in a stentorian
voice. No answer. Irritated, as he always was when crossed in the
slightest degree, he went downstairs and found the kitchen empty.
"Her cub of a nephew has been staying to supper with her, guzzling and
cramming himself at my expense," he thought, "and now she has walked
home with him! It's perfect nonsense to go after a girl of sixteen and a
boy of thirteen. As if they couldn't walk along a country road at ten
o'clock! Still, it may look odd if some one doesn't go, and I can't lock
the house till they come, anyway."
He drew on his great coat, put on his cap, and started down the lane in
no good humor. It was a crisp, starlight night and the ground was
freezing fast. He walked along, his hands in his pockets, his head bent.
As he went through the gate to the main road he glanced up. The Yellow
House, a third of a mile distant, was a blaze of light! There must have
been a candle or a lamp in every one of its windows, he thought. The
ground rose a little where the house stood, and although it could not be
seen in summer because of the dense foliage everywhere, the trees were
nearly bare now.
"My handsome neighbor is extravagant," he said to himself with a grim
smile. "Is the illumination for Thanksgiving, I wonder? Oh, no, I
remember she said the party was in the nature of a housewarming."
As he went up the pathway he saw that the shades were up and no curtains
drawn anywhere. The Yellow House had no intention of hiding its lights
under bushels that evening, of all others; besides, there were no
neighbors within a long distance.
Standing on the lowest of the governor's "circ'lar steps" he could see
the corner where the group stood singing, with shining faces:--
"Once more the liberal year laughs out
O'er richer stores than gems or gold."
Mother Carey's fine head rose nobly from her simple black dress, and her
throat was as white as the deep lace collar that was her only ornament.
Nancy he knew by sight, and Nancy in a crimson dress was singing her
thankful heart out. Who was the dark-haired girl standing by her side,
the two with arms round each other's waists,--his own Olive! He had
always thought her unattractive, but her hair was smoothly braided and
her eyes all aglow. Cyril stood between Gilbert and Mother Carey. Cyril,
he knew, could not carry a tune to save his life, but he seemed to be
opening his lips and uttering words all the same. Where was the timid
eye, the "hangdog look," the shrinking manner, he so disliked in his
son? Great Heavens! the boy laid his hand on Mrs. Carey's shoulder and
beat time there gently with a finger, as if a mother's shoulder could be
used for any nice, necessary sort of purpose.
If he knocked at the door now, he thought, he should interrupt the
party; which was seemingly at its height. He, Henry Lord, Ph.D.,
certainly had no intention of going in to join it, not with Ossian
Popham and Bill Harmon as fellow guests.
He made his way curiously around the outside of the house, looking in at
all the windows, and by choosing various positions, seeing as much as he
could of the different rooms. Finally he went up on the little back
piazza, attracted by the firelight in the family sitting room. There was
a noble fire, and once, while he was looking, Digby Popham stole quietly
in, braced up the logs with a proprietary air, swept up the hearth,
replaced the brass wire screen, and stole out again as quickly as
possible, so that he might not miss too much of the party.
"They seem to feel pretty much at home," thought Mr. Lord.
The fire blazed higher and brighter. It lighted up certain words painted
in dark green and gold on the white panel under the mantelpiece. He
pressed his face quite close to the window, thinking that he must be
mistaken in seeing such unconnected letters as T-i-b-i, but gradually
they looked clearer to him and he read distinctly "Tibi splendet focus."
"Somebody knows his Horace," thought Henry Lord, Ph.D., as he stumbled
off the piazza. "'For you the hearth-fire glows,' I shan't go in; not
with that crew; let them wait; and if it gets too late, somebody else
will walk home with the children."
"For you the hearth-fire glows."
He picked his way along the side of the house to the front, every window
sending out its candle gleam.
"For you the hearth-fire glows."
From dozens of windows the welcome shone. Its gleams and sparkles
positively pursued him as he turned his face towards the road and his
own dark, cheerless house. Perhaps he had better, on the whole, keep one
lamp burning in the lower part after this, to show that the place was
"For you the hearth-fire glows."
He had "bricked up" the fireplace in his study and put an air-tight
stove in, because it was simply impossible to feed an open fire and
write a book at the same time. He didn't know that you could write twice
as good a book in half the time with an open fire to help you! He didn't
know any single one of the myriad aids that can come to you from such
cheery, unexpected sources of grace and inspiration!
"For you the hearth-fire glows."
Would the words never stop ringing in his ears? Perhaps, after all, it
would look queer to Mrs. Carey (he cared nothing for Popham or Harmon
opinion) if he left the children to get home by themselves. Perhaps--
"FOR YOU THE HEARTH-FIRE GLOWS."
Henry Lord, Ph.D., ascended the steps, and plied the knocker. Digby
Popham came out of the parlor and opened the front door.
Everybody listened to see who was the late comer at the party.
"Will you kindly tell Miss Olive and Master Cyril Lord that their father
has called for them?"
Mr. Lord's cold, severe voice sounded clearly in the parlor, and every
word could be distinctly heard.
Gilbert and Nancy were standing together, and Gilbert whispered
instantly to his sister: "The old beast has actually called for Olive
"Hush, Gilly! He must be a 'new beast' or he wouldn't have come at all!"
"TH' ACTION FINE"
December, January, and February passed with a speed that had something
of magic in it. The Careys had known nothing heretofore of the rigors of
a State o' Maine winter, but as yet they counted it all joy. They were
young and hearty and merry, and the air seemed to give them all new
energy. Kathleen's delicate throat gave no trouble for the first time in
years; Nancy's cheeks bloomed more like roses than ever; Gilbert,
growing broader shouldered and deeper chested daily, simply revelled in
skating and coasting; even Julia was forced into an activity wholly
alien to her nature, because it was impossible for her to keep warm
unless she kept busy.
Mother Carey and Peter used to look from a bedroom window of a clear
cold morning and see the gay little procession start for the academy.
Over the dazzling snow crust Olive and Cyril Lord would be skimming to
meet the Careys, always at the same point at the same hour. There were
rough red coats and capes, red mittens, squirrel caps pulled well down
over curly and smooth heads; glimpses of red woolen stockings; thick
shoes with rubbers over them; great parcels of books in straps. They
looked like a flock of cardinal birds, Mother Carey thought, as the
upturned faces, all aglow with ruddy color, smiled their morning
good-bye. Gilbert had "stoked" the great stove in the cellar full of
hard wood logs before he left, and Mrs. Carey and Peter had a busy
morning before them with the housework. The family had risen at seven.
Julia had swept and dusted; Kathleen had opened the bedroom windows,
made the washstands tidy, filled the water pitchers, and changed the
towels. Gilbert had carried wood and Peter kindlings, for the fires that
had to be laid on the hearths here and there. Mother had cooked the
plain breakfast while Nancy put the dining room in order and set the
table, and at eight o'clock, when they sat down to plates piled high
with slices of brown and white bread, to dishes of eggs or picked-up cod
fish, or beans warmed over in the pot, with baked potatoes sometimes,
and sometimes milk toast, or Nancy's famous corn muffins, no family of
young bears ever displayed such appetites! On Saturday mornings there
were griddle cakes and maple syrup from their own trees; for Osh Popham
had shown them in the spring how to tap their maples, and collect the
great pails of sap to boil down into syrup. Mother Carey and Peter made
the beds after the departure of the others for school, and it was pretty
to see the sturdy Peter-bird, sometimes in his coat and mittens,
standing on the easiest side of the beds and helping his mother to
spread the blankets and comforters smooth. His fat legs carried him up
and downstairs a dozen times on errands, while his sweet piping voice
was lifted in a never ending stream of genial conversation, as he told
his mother what he had just done, what he was doing at the present
moment, how he was doing it, and what he proposed to do in a minute or
two. Then there was a lull from half past ten to half past eleven,
shortened sometimes on baking days, when the Peter-bird had his lessons.
The old-fashioned kitchen was clean and shining by that time. The stove
glistened and the fire snapped and crackled. The sun beamed in at the
sink window, doing all he could for the climate in the few hours he was
permitted to be on duty in a short New England winter day. Peter sat on
a cricket beside his mother's chair and clasped his "Reading without
Tears" earnestly and rigidly, believing it to be the key to the
universe. Oh! what an hour of happiness to Mother Carey when the boy
would lift the very copy of his father's face to her own; when the
well-remembered smile and the dear twinkle of the eyes in Peter's face
would give her heart a stab of pain that was half joy after all, it was
so full to the brim of sweet memories. In that warm still hour, when she
was filling the Peter-bird's mind and soul with heavenly learning, how
much she learned herself! Love poured from her, through voice and lips
and eyes, and in return she drank it in thirstily from the little
creature who sat there at her knee, a twig growing just as her bending
hand inclined it; all the buds of his nature opening out in the
mother-sunshine that surrounded him. Eleven thirty came all too soon.
Then before long the kettle would begin to sing, the potatoes to bubble
in the saucepan, and Mother Carey's spoon to stir the good things that
had long been sizzling quietly in an iron pot. Sometimes it was bits of
beef, sometimes mutton, but the result was mostly a toothsome mixture of
turnips and carrots and onions in a sea of delicious gravy, with
surprises of meat here and there to vary any possible monotony. Once or
twice a week dumplings appeared, giving an air of excitement to the
meal, and there was a delectable "poor man's stew" learned from Mrs.
Popham; the ingredients being strips of parsnip, potatoes cut in
quarters, a slice or two of sweet browned pork for a flavor, and a quart
of rich milk, mixed with the parsnip juices into an appetizing sauce.
The after part of the dinner would be a dish of baked apples with warm
gingerbread, or sometimes a deep apple pandowdy, or the baked Indian
pudding that was a syrupy, fragrant concoction made of corn meal and
butter and molasses baked patiently in the oven for hours.
Mother had the dishes to wash after she had tucked the Peter-bird under
the afghan on the sitting room sofa for his daily nap, but there was
never any grumbling in her heart over the weary days and the
unaccustomed tasks; she was too busy "making things make themselves." If
only there were a little more money! That was her chief anxiety; for the
unexpected, the outside sources of income were growing fewer, and in a
year's time the little hoard would be woefully small. Was she doing all
that she could, she wondered, as her steps flew over the Yellow House
from attic to cellar. She could play the piano and sing; she could speak
three languages and read four; she had made her curtsy at two foreign
courts; admiration and love had followed her ever since she could
remember, and here she was, a widow at forty, living in a half-deserted
New England village, making parsnip stews for her children's dinner.
Well, it was a time of preparation, and its rigors and self-denials must
be cheer fully faced. She ought to be thankful that she was able to get
a simple dinner that her children could eat; she ought to be thankful
that her beef and parsnip stews and cracker puddings and corn bread were
being transmuted into blood and brawn and brain-tissue, to help the
world along somewhere a little later! She ought to be grateful that it
was her blessed fortune to be sending four rosy, laughing, vigorous
young people down the snowy street to the white-painted academy; that it
was her good luck to see four heads bending eagerly over their books
around the evening lamp, and have them all turn to her for help and
encouragement in the hard places. Why should she complain, so long as
the stormy petrels were all working and playing in Mother Carey's water
garden where they ought to be; gathering strength to fly over or dive
under the ice-pack and climb Shiny Wall? There is never any gate in the
wall; Tom the Water Baby had found that out for himself; so it is only
the plucky ones who are able to surmount the thousand difficulties they
encounter on their hazardous journey to Peacepool. How else, if they had
not learned themselves, could Mother Carey's chickens go out over the
seas and show good birds the way home? At such moments Mrs. Carey would
look at her image in the glass and say, "No whimpering, madam! You can't
have the joys of motherhood without some of its pangs! Think of your
blessings, and don't be a coward!--
"Who sweeps a room as by God's laws
Makes that and th' action fine."
Then her eyes would turn from blue velvet to blue steel, and strength
would flow into her from some divine, benignant source and transmute her
into father as well as mother!
Was the hearth fire kindled in the Yellow House sending its glow through
the village as well as warming those who sat beside it? There were
Christmas and New Year's and St. Valentine parties, and by that time
Bill Harmon saw the woodpile in the Carey shed grow beautifully less. He
knew the price per cord,--no man better; but he and Osh Popham winked at
each other one windy February day and delivered three cords for two,
knowing that measurement of wood had not been included in Mother Carey's
education. Natty Harmon and Digby Popham, following examples a million
per cent better than parental lectures, asked one afternoon if they
shouldn't saw and chop some big logs for the fireplaces.
Mrs. Carey looked at them searchingly, wondering if they could possibly
guess the state of her finances, concluded they couldn't and said
smilingly: "Indeed I will gladly let you saw for an hour or two if
you'll come and sit by the fire on Saturday night, when we are going to
play spelling games and have doughnuts and root beer."
The Widow Berry, who kept academy boarders, sent in a luscious mince pie
now and then, and Mrs. Popham and Mrs. Harmon brought dried apples or
pumpkins, winter beets and Baldwin apples. It was little enough, they
thought, when the Yellow House, so long vacant, was like a beacon light
to the dull village; sending out its beams on every side.
"She ain't no kind of a manager, I'm 'fraid!" said Bill Harmon. "I give
her 'bout four quarts and a half of kerosene for a gallon every time she
sends her can to be filled, but bless you, she ain't any the wiser! I
try to give her as good measure in everything as she gives my children,
but you can't keep up with her! She's like the sun, that shines on the
just 'n' on the unjust. Hen Lord's young ones eat their lunch or their
supper there once or twice a week, though the old skinflint's got fifty
thousand dollars in the bank."
"Never mind, Bill." said Osh Popham; "there's goin' to be an everlastin'
evenupness somewheres! Probably God A'mighty hez his eye on that woman,
and He'll see her through. The young ones are growin' up, and the
teacher at the academy says they beat the devil on book learnin'! The
boy'll make a smart man, pretty soon, and bring good wages home to his
mother. The girls are handsome enough to pick up husbands as soon as
they've fully feathered out, so it won't be long afore they're all on
the up grade. I've set great store by that family from the outset, and
I'm turrible glad they're goin' to fix up the house some more when it
comes spring. I'm willin' to work cheap for such folks as them."
"You owe 'em somethin' for listenin' to you, Osh! Seems if they moved
here jest in time to hear your stories when you'd 'bout tuckered out the
rest o' the village!"
"It's a pity you didn't know a few more stories yourself, Bill,"
retorted Mr. Popham; "then you'd be asked up oftener to put on the
back-log for 'em, and pop corn and roast apples and pass the evenin'. I
ain't hed sech a gay winter sence I begun settin' up with Maria, twenty
"She's kept you settin' up ever since, Osh!" chuckled Bill Harmon.
"She has so!" agreed Osh cheerfully, "but you ain't hardly the one to
twit me of it; bein' as how you've never took a long breath yourself
sence you was married! But you don't ketch me complainin'! It's a poor
rule that won't work both ways! Maria hurried me into poppin' the
question, and hurried me into marryin' her, an' she ain't let up on me a
minute sence then; but she'll railroad me into heaven the same way, you
see if she don't. She'll arrive 'head o' time as usual and stan' right
there at the bars till she gits Dig 'n' Lallie Joy 'n' me under cover!"
"She's a good woman, an' so's my wife," remarked Bill sententiously;
"an' Colonel Wheeler says good women are so rigged inside that they
can't be agreeable all the time. The couple of 'em are workin' their
fingers to the bone for the school teacher to-day; fixin' him up for all
the world as if he was a bride. He's got the women folks o' this village
kind o' mesmerized, Thurston has."
"He's a first-rate teacher; nobody that ain't hed experience in the
school room is fitted to jedge jest how good a teacher Ralph Thurston
is, but I have, an' I know what I 'm talkin' about."
"I never heard nothin' about your teachin' school, Osh."
"There's a good deal about me you never heard; specially about the time
afore I come to Beulah, 'cause you ain't a good hearer, Bill! I taught
the most notorious school in Digby once, and taught it to a finish; I
named my boy Digby after that school! You see my father an' mother was
determined to give me an education, an' I wa'n't intended for it. I was
a great big, strong, clumsy lunkhead, an' the only thing I could do,
even in a one-horse college, was to play base ball, so they kep' me
along jest for that. I never got further than the second class, an' I
wouldn't 'a' got there if the Faculty hadn't 'a' promoted me jest for
the looks o' the thing. Well Prof. Millard was off in the country
lecturin' somewheres near Bangor an' he met a school superintendent who
told him they was awful hard up for a teacher in Digby. He said they'd
hed three in three weeks an' had lost two stoves besides; for the boys
had fired out the teachers and broke up the stoves an' pitched 'em out
the door after 'em. When Prof. Millard heard the story he says, 'I've
got a young man that could teach that school; a feller named Ossian
Popham.' The superintendent hed an interview with me, an' I says: 'I'll
agree to teach out your nine weeks o' school for a hundred dollars, an'
if I leave afore the last day I won't claim a cent!' 'That's the right
sperit,' says the Supe, an' we struck a bargain then an' there. I was
glad it was Saturday, so 't I could start right off while my blood was
up. I got to Digby on Sunday an' found a good boardin' place. The
trustees didn't examine me, an' 't was lucky for me they didn't. The
last three teachers hed been splendid scholars, but that didn't save the
stoves any, so they just looked at my six feet o' height, an' the muscle
in my arms, an' said they'd drop in sometime durin' the month. 'Look in
any time you like after the first day,' I says. 'I shall be turrible
busy the first day!'
"I went into the school house early Monday mornin' an' built a good fire
in the new stove. When it was safe to leave it I went into the next
house an' watched the scholars arrive. The lady was a widder with one
great unruly boy in the school, an' she was glad to give me a winder to
look out of. It was a turrible cold day, an' when 't was ten minutes to
nine an' the school room was full I walked in as big as Cuffy. There was
five rows of big boys an' girls in the back, all lookin' as if they was
loaded for bear, an' they graded down to little ones down in front, all
of 'em hitchin' to an' fro in their seats an' snickerin'. I give 'em a
surprise to begin with, for I locked the door when I come in, an' put
the key in my pocket, cool as a cucumber.
"I never said a word, an' they never moved their eyes away from me. I
took off my fur cap, then my mittens, then my overcoat, an' laid 'em in
the chair behind my desk. Then my undercoat come off, then my necktie
an' collar, an' by that time the big girls begun to look nervous; they
'd been used to addressin', but not undressin', in the school room. Then
I wound my galluses round my waist an' tied 'em; then I says, clear an'
loud:' I'm your new teacher! I'm goin' to have a hundred dollars for
teachin' out this school, an' I intend to teach it out an' git my money.
It's five minutes to nine. I give you just that long to tell me what
you're goin' to do about it. Come on now!' I says, 'all o' you big boys,
if you're comin', an' we'll settle this thing here an' now. We can't hev
fights an' lessons mixed up together every day, more 'n 's necessary;
better decide right now who's boss o' this school. The stove's new an'
I'm new, an' we call'ate to stay here till the end o' the term!'
"Well, sir, not one o' that gang stirred in their seats, an' not one of
'em yipped! I taught school in my shirt sleeves consid'able the first
week, but I never hed to afterwards. I was a little mite weak on
mathematics, an' the older boys an' girls hed to depend on their study
books for their information,--they never got any from me,--but every
scholar in that Digby school got a hundred per cent in deportment the
nine weeks I taught there!"
It was a wild Friday night in March, after days of blustering storms and
drifting snow. Beulah was clad in royal ermine; not only clad, indeed,
but nearly buried in it. The timbers of the Yellow House creaked, and
the wreaths of snow blew against the windows and lodged there. King
Frost was abroad, nipping toes and ears, hanging icicles on the eaves of
houses, and decorating the forest trees with glittering pendants. The
wind howled in the sitting room chimney, but in front of the great
back-log the bed of live coals glowed red and the flames danced high,
casting flickering shadows on the children's faces. It is possible to
bring up a family by steam heat, and it is often necessary, but nobody
can claim that it is either so simple or so delightful as by an
The three cats were all nestled cosily in Nancy's lap or snuggled by her
side. Mother Carey had demurred at two, and when Nancy appeared one day
after school with a third, she spoke, with some firmness, of refusing it
a home. "If we must economize on cats," cried Nancy passionately, "don't
let's begin on this one! She doesn't look it, but she is a heroine. When
the Rideout's house burned down, her kittens were in a basket by the
kitchen stove. Three times she ran in through the flames and brought out
a kitten in her mouth. The tip of her tail is gone, and part of an ear,
and she's blind in one eye. Mr. Harmon says she's too homely to live;
now what do you think?"
"I think nobody pretending to be a mother could turn her back on another
mother like that," said Mrs. Carey promptly. "We'll take a pint more
milk, and I think you children will have to leave something in your
plates now and then, you polish them until it really is indecent."
To-night an impromptu meeting of the Ways and Means Committee was taking
place by the sitting room fire, perhaps because the family plates had
been polished to a terrifying degree that week.
"Children," said Mother Carey, "we have been as economical as we knew
how to be; we have worked to the limit of our strength; we have spent
almost nothing on clothing, but the fact remains that we have scarcely
money enough in our reserve fund to last another six months. What
shall we do?"
Nancy leaped to her feet, scattering cats in every direction.
"Mother Carey!" she exclaimed remorsefully. "You haven't mentioned money
since New Year's, and I thought we were rubbing along as usual. The
bills are all paid; what's the matter?"
"That is the matter!" answered Mrs. Carey with the suspicion of a tear
in her laughing voice, "The bills _are_ paid, and there's too little
left! We eat so much, and we burn so much wood, and so many gallons
"The back of the winter's broken, mother dear!" said Gilbert, as a
terrific blast shook the blinds as a terrier would a rat. "Don't listen
to that wind; it 's only a March bluff! Osh Popham says snow is the poor
man's manure; he says it's going to be an early season and a grand hay
crop. We'll get fifty dollars for our field."
"That will be in July, and this is March," said his mother. "Still, the
small reversible Van Twiller will carry us through May, with our other
income. But the saving days are over, and the earning days have come,
dears! I am the oldest and the biggest, I must begin."
"Never!" cried Nancy. "You slave enough for us, as it is, but you shall
never slave for anybody else; shall she, Gilly?"
"Not if I know it!" answered Gilbert with good ringing emphasis.
"Another winter I fear we must close the Yellow House and--"
The rest of Mother Carey's remark was never heard, for at Nancy's given
signal the four younger Careys all swooned on the floor. Nancy had
secretly trained Peter so that he was the best swooner of the family,
and his comical imitation of Nancy was so mirth-compelling that Mother
Carey laughed and declared there was no such thing as talking seriously
to children like hers.
"But, Muddy dear, you weren't in earnest?" coaxed Nancy, bending her
bright head over her mother's shoulder and cuddling up to her side;
whereupon Gilbert gave his imitation of a jealous puppy; barking,
snarling, and pushing his frowzly pate under his mother's arm to crowd
Nancy from her point of vantage, to which she clung valiantly. Of course
Kitty found a small vacant space on which she could festoon herself, and
Peter promptly climbed on his mother's lap, so that she was covered
with--fairly submerged in--children! A year ago Julia used to creep away
and look at such exhibitions of family affection, with a curling lip,
but to-night, at Mother Carey's outstretched hand and smothered cry of
"Help, Judy!" she felt herself gathered into the heart of the laughing,
boisterous group. That hand, had she but known it, was stretched out to
her because only that day a letter had come, saying that Allan Carey was
much worse and that his mental condition admitted of no cure. He was
bright and hopeful and happy, so said Mr. Manson;--forever sounding the
praises of the labor-saving device in which he had sunk his last
thousands. "We can manufacture it at ten cents and sell it for ten
dollars," he would say, rubbing his hands excitedly. "We can pay fifty
dollars a month office rent and do a business of fifty thousand dollars
a year!" "And I almost believe we could!" added Mr. Manson, "if we had
faith enough and capital enough!"
"Of course you know, darlings, I would never leave Beulah save for the
coldest months; or only to earn a little money," said Mrs. Carey,
smoothing her dress, flattening her collar, and pinning up the braids
that Nancy's hugs had loosened.
"I must put my mind on the problem at once," said Nancy, pacing the
floor. "I've been so interested in my Virgil, so wrapped up in my
rhetoric and composition, that I haven't thought of ways and means for a
month, but of course we will never leave the Yellow House, and of course
we must contrive to earn money enough to live in it. We must think about
it every spare minute till vacation comes; then we'll have nearly four
months to amass a fortune big enough to carry us through the next year.
I have an idea for myself already. I was going to wait till my
seventeenth birthday, but that's four months away and it's too long. I'm
old enough to begin any time. I feel old enough to write my
Reminiscences this minute."
"You might publish your letters to the American Consul in Breslau;
they'd make a book!" teased Gilbert.
"Very likely I shall, silly Gilly," retorted Nancy, swinging her mane
haughtily. "It isn't every girl who has a monthly letter from an Admiral
in China and a Consul in Germany."
"You wouldn't catch me answering the Queen of Sheba's letters or the
Empress of India's," exclaimed Gilbert, whose pen was emphatically less
mighty than his sword. "Hullo, you two! what are you whispering about?"
he called to Kathleen and Julia, who were huddled together in a far
corner of the long room, gesticulating eloquently.
"We've an idea! We've an idea! We've found a way to help!" sang the two
girls, pirouetting back into the circle of firelight. "We won't tell
till it's all started, but it's perfectly splendid, and practical too."
"And so ladylike!" added Julia triumphantly.
"How much?" asked Gilbert succinctly.
The girls whispered a minute or two, and appeared to be multiplying
twenty-five first by fifteen, and then again by twenty.
"From three dollars and seventy-five cents to four dollars and a half a
week according to circumstances!" answered Kathleen proudly.
"Will it take both of you?"
"All your time?"
More nods and whispers and calculation.
"No, indeed; only three hours a day."
"Any of my time?"
"Just a little."
"I thought so!" said Gilbert loftily. "You always want me and my hammer
or my saw; but I'll be busy on my own account; you'll have to paddle
your own canoe!"
"You'll be paid for what you do for us," said Julia slyly, giving
Kathleen a poke, at which they both fell into laughter only possible to
the very young.
Then suddenly there came a knock at the front door; a stamping of feet
on the circular steps, and a noise of shaking off snow.
"Go to the door, Gilbert; who can that be on a night like
this,--although it is only eight o'clock after all! Why, it's Mr.
Ralph Thurston came in blushing and smiling, glad to be welcomed,
fearful of intruding, afraid of showing how much he liked to be there.
"Good-evening, all!" he said. "You see I couldn't wait to thank you,
Mrs. Carey! No storm could keep me away to-night."
"What has mother been doing, now?" asked Nancy. "Her right hand is
forever busy, and she never tells her left hand a thing, so we children
are always in the dark."
"It was nothing much," said Mrs. Carey, pushing the young man gently
into the high-backed rocker. "Mrs. Harmon, Mrs. Popham, and I simply
tried to show our gratitude to Mr. Thurston for teaching our troublesome
"How did you know it was my birthday?" asked Thurston.
"Didn't you write the date in Lallie Joy's book?"
"True, I did; and forgot it long ago; but I have never had my birthday
noticed before, and I am twenty-four!"
"It was high time, then!" said Mother Carey with her bright smile.
"But what did mother do?" clamored Nancy, Kathleen and Gilbert in
"She took my forlorn, cheerless room and made it into a home for me,"
said Thurston. "Perhaps she wanted me to stay in it a little more, and
bother her less! At any rate she has created an almost possible rival to
the Yellow House!"
Ralph Thurston had a large, rather dreary room over Bill Harmon's store,
and took his meals at the Widow Berry's, near by. He was an orphan and
had no money to spend on luxuries, because all his earnings went to pay
the inevitable debts incurred when a fellow is working his way
Mrs. Carey, with the help of the other two women, had seized upon this
stormy Friday, when the teacher always took his luncheon with him to the
academy, to convert Ralph's room into something comfortable and
cheerful. The old, cracked, air-tight stove had been removed, and Bill
Harmon had contributed a second-hand Franklin, left with him for a bad
debt. It was of soapstone and had sliding doors in front, so that the
blaze could be disclosed when life was very dull or discouraging. The
straw matting on the floor had done very well in the autumn, but Mrs.
Carey now covered the centre of the room with a bright red drugget left
from the Charlestown house-furnishings, and hung the two windows with
curtains of printed muslin. Ossian Popham had taken a clotheshorse and
covered it with red felting, so that the screen, so evolved could be
made to hide the bed and washstand. Ralph's small, rickety table had
been changed for a big, roomy one of pine, hidden by the half of an old
crimson piano cloth. When Osh had seen the effect of this he hurried
back to his barn chamber and returned with some book shelves that he had
hastily glued and riveted into shape. These he nailed to the wall and
filled with books that he found in the closet, on the floor, on the foot
of the bed, and standing on the long, old-fashioned mantel shelf.
"Do you care partic'larly where you set, nights, Ossian?" inquired Mrs.
Popham, who was now in a state of uncontrolled energy bordering on
delirium. "Because your rockin' chair has a Turkey red cushion and it
would look splendid in Mr. Thurston's room. You know you fiddle 'bout
half the time evenin's, and you always go to bed early."
"Don't mind me!" exclaimed Ossian facetiously, starting immediately for
the required chair and bringing back with it two huge yellow sea shells,
which he deposited on the floor at each end of the hearth rug.
"How do you like 'em?" he inquired of Mrs. Carey.
"Not at all," she replied promptly.
"You don't?" he asked incredulously. "Well, it takes all kinds o' folks
to make a world! I've been keepin' 'em fifteen years, hopin' I'd get
enough more to make a border for our parlor fireplace, and now you don't
take to 'em! Back they go to the barn chamber, Maria; Mis' Carey's
bossin' this job, and she ain't got no taste for sea shells. Would you
like an old student lamp? I found one that I can bronze up in about two
minutes if Mis' Harmon can hook a shade and chimbly out of Bill's stock."
They all stayed in the room until this last feat was accomplished;
stayed indeed until the fire in the open stove had died down to ruddy
coals. Then they pulled down the shades, lighted the lamp, gave one last
admiring look, and went home.
It had meant only a few hours' thought and labor, with scarcely a penny
of expense, but you can judge what Ralph Thurston felt when he entered
the door out of the storm outside. To him it looked like a room conjured
up by some magician in a fairy tale. He fell into the rocking-chair and
looked at his own fire; gazed about at the cheerful crimson glow that
radiated from the dazzling drugget, in a state of puzzled ecstasy, till
he caught sight of a card lying near the lamp,--"A birthday present
from three mothers who value your work for their boys and girls."
He knew Mrs. Carey's handwriting, so he sped to the Yellow House as soon
as his supper was over, and now, in the presence of the whole family, he
felt tongue-tied and wholly unable to express his gratitude.
It was bed time, and the young people melted away from the fireside.
"Kiss your mother good-night, sweet Pete," said Nancy, taking the
reluctant cherub by the hand. "'_Hoc opus, hic labor est_,' Mr.
Thurston, to get the Peter-bird upstairs when once he is down. Shake
hands with your future teacher, Peter; no, you mustn't kiss him; little
boys don't kiss great Latin scholars unless they are asked."
Thurston laughed and lifted the gurgling Peter high in the air. "Good
night, old chap!" he said "Hurry up and come to school!"
"I'm 'bout ready now!" piped Peter. "I can read
with the book upside down,--can't I, Muddy?"
"You can, my son; trot along with sister."
Thurston opened the door for Nancy, and his eye followed her for a
second as she mounted the stairs. She glowed like a ruby to-night in her
old red cashmere. The sparkle of her eye, the gloss of her hair, the
soft red of her lips, the curve and bend of her graceful young body
struck even her mother anew, though she was used to her daughter's
beauty. "She is growing!" thought Mrs. Carey wistfully. "I see it all at
once, and soon others will be seeing it!"
Alas! young Ralph Thurston had seen it for weeks past! He was not
perhaps so much in love with Nancy the girl, as he was with Nancy the
potential woman. Some of the glamour that surrounded the mother had
fallen upon the daughter. One felt the influences that had rained upon
Nancy ever since she had come into the world, One could not look at her,
nor talk with her, without feeling that her mother--like a vine in the
blood, as the old proverb says--was breathing, growing, budding,
blossoming in her day by day.
The young teacher came back to the fireplace, where Mother Carey was
standing in a momentary brown study.
"I've never had you alone before," he stammered, "and now is my chance
to tell you what you've been to me ever since I came to Beulah."
"You have helped me in my problems more than I can possibly have aided
you," Mrs. Carey replied quietly. "Gilbert was so rebellious about
country schools, so patronizing, so scornful of their merits, that I
fully expected he would never stay at the academy of his own free will.
You have converted him, and I am very grateful."
"Meantime I am making a record there," said Ralph, "and I have this
family to thank for it! Your children, with Olive and Cyril Lord, have
set the pace for the school, and the rest are following to the best of
their ability. There is not a shirk nor a dunce in the whole roll of
sixty pupils! Beulah has not been so proud of its academy for thirty
years, and I shall come in for the chief share in the praise. I am
trying to do for Gilbert and Cyril what an elder brother would do, but I
should have been powerless if I had not had this home and this fireside
to inspire me!"
"_Tibi splendet focus_!" quoted Mrs. Carey, pointing to Olive's
inscription under the mantelpiece. "For you the hearth fire glows!"
"Have I not felt it from the beginning?" asked Ralph. "I never knew my
mother, Mrs. Carey, and few women have come into my life; I have been
too poor and too busy to cultivate their friendship. Then I came to
Beulah and you drew me into your circle; admitted an unknown, friendless
fellow into your little group! It was beautiful; it was wonderful!"
"What are mothers for, but to do just that, and more than all, for the
"Well, I may never again have the courage to say it, so just believe me
when I say your influence will be the turning-point in my life. I will
never, so help me God, do anything to make me unworthy to sit in this
fireglow! So long as I have brains and hands to work with, I will keep
striving to create another home like this when my time comes. Any girl
that takes me will get a better husband because of you; any children I
may be blessed with will have a better father because I have known you.
Don't make any mistake, dear Mrs. Carey, your hearth fire glows a long,
Mother Carey was moved to the very heart. She leaned forward and took
Ralph Thurston's young face, thin with privation and study, in her two
hands. He bent his head instinctively, partly to hide the tears that had
sprung to his eyes, and she kissed his forehead simply and tenderly. He
was at her knees on the hearth rug in an instant; all his boyish
affection laid at her feet; all his youthful chivalry kindled at the
honor of her touch.
And there are women in the world who do not care about being mothers!
GROOVES OF CHANGE
The winter passed. The snow gradually melted in the meadows and the
fields, which first grew brown and then displayed patches of green here
and there where the sun fell strongest. There was deep, sticky mud in
the roads, and the discouraged farmers urged their horses along with the
wheels of their wagons sunk to the hub in ooze. Then there were wet
days, the wind ruffling the leaden surface of the river, the sound of
the rain dripping from the bare tree-boughs, the smell of the wet grass
and the clean, thirsty soil. Milder weather came, then blustery days,
then chill damp ones, but steadily life grew, here, there, everywhere,
and the ever-new miracle of the awakening earth took place once again.
Sap mounted in the trees, blood coursed in the children's veins, mothers
began giving herb tea and sulphur and molasses, young human nature was
restless; the whole creation throbbed and sighed, and was tremulous, and
had growing pains.
April passed, with all its varying moods of sun and shower, and settled
All the earth was gay.
Land and sea
Gave themselves up to jollity
And with the heart of May
Did every Beast keep holiday.
The Carey girls had never heard of "the joy of living" as a phrase, but
oh! they knew a deal about it in these first two heavenly springs in
little Beulah village! The sunrise was so wonderful; the trees and grass
so marvellously green; the wild flowers so beautiful! Then the river on
clear days, the glimpse of the sea from Beulah's hill tops, the walks in
the pine woods,--could Paradise show anything to compare?
And how good the food tasted; and the books they read, how fresh, how
moving, how glorious! Then when the happy day was over, sleep came
without pause or effort the moment the flushed cheek touched the
"These," Nancy reflected, quoting from her favorite Wordsworth as she
dressed beside her open window, "These must be
"The gifts of morn,
Ere life grows noisy and slower-footed thought
Can overtake the rapture of the sense.
"I was fifteen and a half last spring, and now, though it is only a year
ago, everything is different!" she mused. "When did it get to be
different, I wonder? It never was all at once, so it must have been a
little every day, so little that I hardly noticed it until just now."
A young girl's heart is ever yearning for and trembling at the future.
In its innocent depths the things that are to be are sometimes rustling
and whispering secrets, and sometimes keeping an exquisite, haunting
silence. In the midst of the mystery the solemn young creature is
sighing to herself, "What am I meant for? Am I everything? Am I nothing?
Must I wait till my future comes to me, or must I seek it?"
This was all like the sound of a still, small voice in Nancy's mind, but
it meant that she was "growing up," taking hold on life at more points
than before, seeing new visions, dreaming new dreams. Kathleen and Julia
seemed ridiculously young to her. She longed to advise them, but her
sense of humor luckily kept her silent. Gilbert appeared crude, raw;
promising, but undeveloped; she hated to think how much experience he
would have to pass through before he could see existence as it really
was, and as she herself saw it. Olive's older view of things, her sad,
strange outlook upon life, her dislike of anything in the shape of man,
her melancholy aversion to her father, all this fascinated and puzzled
Nancy, whose impetuous nature ran out to every living thing, revelling
in the very act of loving, so long as she did not meet rebuff.
Cyril perplexed her. Silent, unresponsive, shy, she would sometimes
raise her eyes from her book in school and find him gazing steadily at
her like a timid deer drinking thirstily at a spring. Nancy did not like
Cyril, but she pitied him and was as friendly with him, in her offhand,
boyish fashion, as she was with every one.
The last days of the academy term were close at hand, and the air was
full of graduation exercises and white muslin and ribbon sashes. June
brought two surprises to the Yellow House. One morning Kathleen burst
into Nancy's room with the news: "Nancy! The Fergusons offer to adopt
Judy, and she doesn't want to go. Think of that! But she's afraid to ask
mother if she can stay. Let's us do it; shall we?"
"I will; but of course there is not enough money to go around, Kitty,
even if we all succeed in our vacation plans. Julia will never have any
pretty dresses if she stays with us, and she loves pretty dresses. Why
didn't the Fergusons adopt her before mother had made her over?"
"Yes," chimed in Kathleen. "Then everybody would have been glad, but now
we shall miss her! Think of missing Judy! We would never have
"It's like seeing how a book turns out, to watch her priggishness and
smuggishness all melting away," Nancy said. "I shouldn't like to see her
slip back into the old Judyisms, and neither would mother. Mother'll
probably keep her, for I know Mr. Manson thinks it's only a matter of a
few months before Uncle Allan dies."
"And mother wouldn't want a Carey to grow up into an imitation Gladys
Ferguson; but that's what Judy would be, in course of time."
Julia took Mrs. Ferguson's letter herself to her Aunt Margaret, showing
many signs of perturbation in her usually tranquil face.
Mrs. Carey read it through carefully. "It is a very kind, generous
offer, Julia. Your father cannot be consulted about it, so you must
decide. You would have every luxury, and your life would be full of
change and pleasure; while with us it must be, in the nature of things,
busy and frugal for a long time to come."
"But I am one more to feed and clothe, Aunt Margaret, and there is so
"I know, but you are one more to help, after all. The days are soon
coming when Nancy and Gilbert will be out in the world, helping
themselves. You and Kathleen could stay with Peter and me, awaiting your
turn. It doesn't look attractive in comparison with what the Fergusons
Then the gentle little rivers that had been swelling all the past year
in Julia's heart, rivers of tenderness and gratitude and sympathy,
suddenly overflowed their banks and, running hither and thither,
softened everything with which they came in contact. Rocky places
melted, barren spots waked into life, and under the impulse of a new
mood that she scarcely understood Julia cried, "Oh! dear Aunt Margaret,
keep me, keep me! This is home; I never want to leave it! I want to be
one of Mother Carey's chickens!"
The child had flung herself into the arms that never failed anybody, and
with tears streaming down her cheeks made her plea.
"There, there, Judy dear; you are one of us, and we could not let you go
unless you were to gain something by it. If you really want to stay we
shall love you all the better, and you will belong to us more than you
ever did; so dry your eyes, or you will be somebody's duckling instead
of my chicken!"
The next surprise was a visit from Cousin Ann Chadwick, who drove up to
the door one morning quite unannounced, and asked the driver of the
depot wagon to bring over her two trunks immediately.
"Two trunks!" groaned Gilbert. "That means the whole season!"
But it meant nothing of the kind; it meant pretty white dresses for the
three girls, two pairs of stockings and two of gloves for the whole
family, a pattern of black silk for Mrs. Carey, and numberless small
things to which the Carey wardrobe had long been a stranger.
Having bestowed these offerings rather grimly, as was her wont, and
having received the family's grateful acknowledgments with her usual
lack of grace, she proceeded in the course of a few days to make herself
far more disagreeable than had been the case on any previous visit of
her life. She had never seen such dusty roads as in Beulah; so many
mosquitoes and flies; such tough meat; such a lack of fruit, such
talkative, over-familiar neighbors, such a dull minister, such an
inattentive doctor, such extortionate tradesmen.
"What shall we do with Cousin Ann!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey to Nancy in
despair. "She makes us these generous presents, yet she cannot possibly
have any affection for us. We accept them without any affection for her,
because we hardly know how to avoid it. The whole situation is
positively degrading! I have borne it for years because she was good to
your father when he was a boy, but now that she has grown so much more
difficult I really think I must talk openly with her."
"She talked openly enough with me when I confessed that Gilbert and I
had dropped and broken the Dirty Boy!" said Nancy, "and she has been
very cross with me ever since."
"Cousin Ann," said Mrs. Carey that afternoon on the piazza, "it is very
easy to see that you do not approve of the way we live, or the way we
think about things in general. Feeling as you do, I really wish you
would not spend your money on us, and give us these beautiful and
expensive presents. It puts me under an obligation that chafes me and
makes me unhappy."
"I don't disapprove of you, particularly," said Miss Chadwick. "Do I act
as if I did?"
"Your manner seems to suggest it."
"You can't tell much by manners," replied Cousin Ann. "I think you're
entirely too soft and sentimental, but we all have our faults. I don't
think you have any right to feed the neighbors and burn up fuel and oil
in their behalf when you haven't got enough for your own family. I think
you oughtn't to have had four children, and having had them you needn't
have taken another one in, though she's turned out better than I
expected. But all that is none of my business, I suppose, and,
wrong-headed as you are, I like you better than most folks, which isn't
"But if you don't share my way of thinking, why do you keep fretting
yourself to come and see us? It only annoys you."
"It annoys me, but I can't help coming, somehow. I guess I hate other
places and other ways worse than I do yours. You don't grudge me bed and
board, I suppose?"
"How could I grudge you anything when you give us so much,--so much more
than we ought to accept, so much more than we can ever thank you for?"
"I don't want to be thanked; you know that well enough; but there's so
much demonstration in your family you can't understand anybody's keeping
themselves exclusive. I don't like to fuss over people or have them fuss
over me. Kissing comes as easy to you as eating, but I never could abide
it. A nasty, common habit, I call it! I want to give what I like and
where and when I like, and act as I'm a mind to afterwards. I don't give
because I see things are needed, but because I can't spend my income
unless I do give. If I could have my way I'd buy you a good house in
Buffalo, right side of mine; take your beggarly little income and manage
it for you; build a six-foot barbed wire fence round the lot so 't the
neighbors couldn't get in and eat you out of house and home, and in a
couple of years I could make something out of your family!"
Mrs. Carey put down her sewing, leaned her head back against the crimson
rambler, and laughed till the welkin rang.
"I suppose you think I'm crazy?" Cousin Ann remarked after a moment's
"I don't know, Cousin Ann," said Mrs. Carey, taking up her work again.
"Whatever it is, you can't help it! If you'll give up trying to
understand my point of view, I won't meddle with yours!"
"I suppose you won't come to Buffalo?"
"No indeed, thank you, Cousin Ann!"
"You'll stay here, in this benighted village, and grow old,--you that
are a handsome woman of forty and might have a millionaire husband to
take care of you?"
"My husband had money enough to please me, and when I meet him again and
show him the four children, he will be the richest man in Paradise."
Cousin Ann rose. "I'm going to-morrow, and I shan't be back this year.
I've taken passage on a steamer that's leaving for Liverpool next week!"
"Going abroad! Alone, Cousin Ann?"
"No, with a party of Cook's tourists."
"What a strange idea!" exclaimed Mrs. Carey.
"I don't see why; 'most everybody's been abroad. I don't expect to like
the way they live over there, but if other folks can stand it, I guess I
can. It'll amuse me for a spell, maybe, and if it don't, I've got money
enough to break away and do as I'm a mind to."
The last evening was a pleasant, friendly one, every Carey doing his or
her best to avoid risky subjects and to be as agreeable as possible.
Cousin Ann Chadwick left next day, and Mrs. Carey, bidding the strange
creature good-bye, was almost sorry that she had ever had any
arguments with her.
"It will be so long before I see you again, Cousin Ann, I was on the
point of kissing you,--till I remembered!" she said with a smile as she
stood at the gate.
"I don't know as I mind, for once," said Miss Chadwick. "If anybody's
got to kiss me I'd rather it would be you than anybody!"
She drove away, her two empty trunks in the back of the wagon. She
sailed for Liverpool the next week and accompanied her chosen party to
the cathedral towns of England. There, in a quiet corner of York
Minster, as the boy choir was chanting its anthems, her heart, an organ
she had never been conscious of possessing, gave one brief sudden
physical pang and she passed out of what she had called life. Neither
her family affairs nor the names of her relations were known, and the
news of her death did not reach far-away Beulah till more than two
months afterward, and with it came the knowledge that Cousin Ann
Chadwick had left the income of five thousand dollars to each of the
five Carey children, with five thousand to be paid in cash to Mother
Carey on the settlement of the estate.
DOORS OF DARING
Little the Careys suspected how their fortunes were mending, during
those last days of June! Had they known, they might almost have been
disappointed, for the spur of need was already pricking them, and their
valiant young spirits longed to be in the thick of the fray. Plans had
been formed for the past week, many of them in secret, and the very next
day after the close of the academy, various business projects would
burst upon a waiting world. One Sunday night Mother Carey had read to
the little group a poem in which there was a verse that struck on their
ears with a fine spirit:--
"And all the bars at which we fret,
That seem to prison and control,
Are but the doors of daring set
Ajar before the soul."
They recited it over and over to themselves afterwards, and two or three
of them wrote it down and pinned it to the wall, or tucked it in the
frame of the looking glass.
Olive Lord knocked at her father's study door the morning of the
twenty-first of June. Walking in quietly she said, "Father, yesterday
was my seventeenth birthday. Mother left me a letter to read on that
day, telling me that I should have fifty dollars a month of my own when
I was seventeen, Cyril to have as much when he is the same age."
"If you had waited courteously and patiently for a few days you would
have heard this from me," her father answered.
"I couldn't be sure!" Olive replied. "You never did notice a birthday;
why should you begin now?"
"I have more important matters to take up my mind than the consideration
of trivial dates," her father answered. "You know that very well, and
you know too, that notwithstanding my absorbing labors, I have
endeavored for the last few months to give more of my time to you
"I realize that, or I should not speak to you at all," said Olive. "It
is because you have shown a little interest in us lately that I consult
you. I want to go at once to Boston to study painting. I will deny
myself everything else, if necessary, but I will go, and I will study!
It is the only life I care for, the only life I am likely to have, and I
am determined to lead it."
"You must see that you are too young to start out for yourself anywhere;
it is simply impossible."
"I shall not be alone. Mrs. Carey will find me a good home in
Charlestown, with friends of hers. You trust her judgment, if no
"If she is charitable enough to conduct your foolish enterprises as well
as those of her own children, I have nothing to say. I have talked with
her frequently, and she knows that as soon as I have finished my last
volume I shall be able to take a more active interest in your affairs
"Then may I go?"
"When I hear from the person in Charlestown, yes. There is an expedition
starting for South America in a few months and I have been asked to
accompany the party. If you are determined to leave home I shall be free
to accept the invitation. Perhaps Mrs. Carey would allow Cyril to stay
with her during my absence."
"I dare say, and I advise you to go to South America by all means; you
will be no farther away from your family than you have always been!"
With this parting shot Olive Lord closed the study door behind her.
"That girl has the most unpleasant disposition, and the sharpest tongue,
I ever met in the course of my life!" said Henry Lord to himself as he
turned to his task.
Mother Carey's magic was working very slowly in his blood. It had roused
him a little from the bottomless pit of his selfishness, but much
mischief had been done on all sides, and it would be a work of time
before matters could be materially mended. Olive's nature was already
warped and embittered, and it would require a deal of sunshine to make a
plant bloom that had been so dwarfed by neglect and indifference.
Nancy's door of daring opened into an editorial office. An hour here, an
hour there, when the Yellow House was asleep, had brought about a story
that was on its way to a distant city. It was written, with incredible
care, on one side of the paper only; it enclosed a fully stamped
envelope for a reply or a return of the manuscript, and all day long
Nancy, trembling between hope and despair, went about hugging her first
secret to her heart.
Gilbert had opened his own particular door, and if it entailed no more
daring than that of Nancy's effort, it required twice the amount of
self-sacrifice. He was to be, from June twenty-seventh till August
twenty-seventh, Bill Harmon's post-office clerk and delivery boy, and
the first that the family would know about it would be his arrival at
the back door, in a linen jacket, with an order-book in his hand. Bravo,
Gilly! One can see your heels disappearing over the top of Shiny Wall!
The door of daring just ready to be opened by Kathleen and Julia was of
a truly dramatic and unexpected character.
Printed in plain letters, twenty-five circulars reposed in the folds of
Julia's nightdresses in her lower bureau drawer. The last thing to be
done at night and the first in the morning was the stealthy, whispered
reading of one of these documents, lest even after the hundredth time,
something wrong should suddenly appear to the eye or ear. They were
addressed, they were stamped, and they would be posted to twenty-five
families in the neighborhood on the closing day of the academy.
SUMMER VACATION SCHOOL
The Misses Kathleen and Julia Carey announce the opening of
classes for private instruction on July 1st, from two to four
o'clock daily in the
Miss Kathleen Carey Reading & Elocution 2 P.M.
Miss Julia Carey Dancing, Embroidery 2-30 P.M.
Mrs. Peter Carey Vocal Music, Part Singing 3 P.M.
Miss Nancy Carey Composition 4 P.M.
Mr. Gilbert Carey Wood carving, Jig Sawing, Manual
Training from 4 to 5 Fridays only.
Terms cash. 25 cents a week.
N. B. Children prepared for entrance to the academy at special prices.
Meantime the Honorable Lemuel Hamilton had come to America, and was
opening doors of daring at such a rate of speed that he hardly realized
the extent of his own courage and what it involved. He accepted an
official position of considerable honor and distinction in Washington,
rented a house there, and cabled his wife and younger daughter to come
over in September. He wrote his elder daughter that she might go with
some friends to Honolulu if she would return for Christmas. ("It's
eleven years since we had a Christmas tree," he added, "and the first
thing you know we shall have lost the habit!")
To his son Jack in Texas he expressed himself as so encouraged by the
last business statement, which showed a decided turn for the better,
that he was willing to add a thousand dollars to the capital and
irrigate some more of the unimproved land on the ranch.
"If Jack has really got hold out there, he can come home every two or
three years," he thought. "Well, perhaps I shall succeed in getting part
of them together, part of the time, if I work hard enough; all but Tom,
whom I care most about! Now that everything is in train I'll take a
little vacation myself, and go down to Beulah to make the acquaintance
of those Careys. If I had ever contemplated returning to America I
suppose I shouldn't have allowed them to settle down in the old house,
still, Eleanor would never have been content to pass her summers there,
so perhaps it is just as well."
The Peter-bird was too young to greatly dare; still it ought perhaps to
be set down that he sold three dozen marbles and a new kite to Billy
Harmon that summer, and bought his mother a birthday present with the
money. All Peter's "doors of daring" had hitherto opened into places
from which he issued weeping, with sprained ankles, bruised hands,
skinned knees or burned eyelashes.
MOTHER HAMILTON'S BIRTHDAY
It was the Fourth of July; a hot, still day when one could fairly see
the green peas swelling in their pods and the string beans climbing
their poles like acrobats! Young Beulah had rung the church bell at
midnight, cast its torpedoes to earth in the early morning, flung its
fire-crackers under the horses' feet, and felt somewhat relieved of its
superfluous patriotism by breakfast time. Then there was a parade of
Antiques and Horribles, accompanied by the Beulah Band, which, though
not as antique, was fully as horrible as anything in the procession.
From that time on, the day had been somnolent, enlivened in the Carey
household only by the solemn rite of paying the annual rent of the
Yellow House. The votive nosegay had been carefully made up, and laid
lovingly by Nancy under Mother Hamilton's portrait, in the presence not
only of the entire family, but also of Osh Popham, who had called to
present early radishes and peppergrass.
"I'd like to go upstairs with you when you get your boquet tied up," he
said, "because it's an awful hot day, an' the queer kind o' things you
do 't this house allers makes my backbone cold! I never suspicioned that
Lena Hamilton hed the same kind o' fantasmic notions that you folks
have, but I guess it's like tenant, like landlord, in this case! Anyhow,
I want to see the rent paid, if you don't mind. I wish't you'd asked
that mean old sculpin of a Hen Lord over; he owns my house an' it might
put a few idees into his head!"
In the afternoon Nancy took her writing pad and sat on the circular
steps, where it was cool. The five o'clock train from Boston whistled at
the station a mile away as she gathered her white skirts daintily up and
settled herself in the shadiest corner. She was unconscious of the
passing time, and scarcely looked up until the rattling of wheels caught
her ear. It was the station wagon stopping at the Yellow House gate, and
a strange gentleman was alighting. He had an unmistakable air of the
town. His clothes were not as Beulah clothes and his hat was not as
Beulah hats, for it was a fine Panama with a broad sweeping brim. Nancy
rose from the steps, surprise dawning first in her eyes, then wonder,
then suspicion, then conviction; then two dimples appeared in
The stranger lifted the foreign-looking hat with a smile and said, "My
little friend and correspondent, Nancy Carey, I think?"
"My American Consul, I do believe!" cried Nancy joyously, as she ran
down the path with both hands outstretched. "Where did you come from?
Why didn't you tell us beforehand? We never even heard that you were in
this country! Oh! I know why you chose the Fourth of July! It's pay day,
and you thought we shouldn't be ready with the rent; but it's all
attended to, beautifully, this morning!"
"May I send my bag to the Mansion House and stay a while with you?"
asked Mr. Hamilton. "Are the rest of you at home? How are Gilbert and
Kathleen and Julia and Peter? How, especially, is Mother Carey?"
"What a memory you have!" exclaimed Nancy. "Take Mr. Hamilton's bag,
please, Mr. Bennett, and tell them at the hotel that he won't be there
until after supper."
It was a pleasant hour that ensued, for Nancy had broken the ice and
there was plenty of conversation. Then too, the whole house had to be
shown, room by room, even to Cousin Ann's stove in the cellar and the
pump in the kitchen sink.
"I never saw anything like it!" exclaimed Hamilton. "It is like magic! I
ought to pay you a thousand dollars on the spot! I ought to try and buy
the place of you for five thousand! Why don't you go into the business
of recreating houses and selling them to poor benighted creatures like
me, who never realize their possibilities?"
"If we show you the painted chamber will you promise not to be too
unhappy?" asked Nancy. "You can't help crying with rage and grief that
it is our painted chamber, not yours; but try to bear up until you get
to the hotel, because mother is so soft-hearted she will be giving it
back to you unless I interfere."
"You must have spent money lavishly when you restored this room," said
the Consul; "it is a real work of art."
"Not a penny," said Mrs. Carey. "It is the work of a great friend of
Nancy's, a seventeen-year-old girl, who, we expect, will make Beulah
famous some day. Now will you go into your mother's room and find your
way downstairs by yourself? Julia, will you show Mr. Hamilton the barn a
little later, while Nancy and I get supper? Kitty must go to the
Pophams' for Peter; he is spending the afternoon with them."
Nancy had enough presence of mind to intercept Kitty and hiss into her
ear: "Borrow a loaf of bread from Mrs. Popham, we are short; and see if
you can find any way to get strawberries from Bill Harmon's; it was to
have been a bread-and-milk supper on the piazza, to-night, and it must
be hurriedly changed into a Consular banquet! _Verb. sap._ Fly!"
Gilbert turned up a little before six o'clock and was introduced proudly
by his mother as a son who had just "gone into business."
"I'm Bill Harmon's summer clerk and delivery boy," he explained. "It's
great fun, and I get two dollars and a half a week."
Nancy and her mother worked like Trojans in the kitchen, for they agreed
it was no time for economy, even if they had less to eat for a week
"Mr. Hamilton is just as nice as I guessed he was, when his first letter
came," said Nancy. "I went upstairs to get a card for the supper menu,
and he was standing by your mantelpiece with his head bent over his
arms. He had the little bunch of field flowers in his hand, and I know
he had been smelling them, and looking at his mother's picture, and
What a merry supper it was, with a jug of black-eyed Susans in the
centre of the table and a written bill of fare for Mr. Hamilton,
"because he was a Consul," so Nancy said.
Gilbert sat at the head of the table, and Mr. Hamilton thought he had
never seen anything so beautiful as Mrs. Carey in her lavender challie,
sitting behind the tea cups; unless it was Nancy, flushed like a rose,
changing the plates and waiting on the table between courses. He had
never exerted himself so much at any diplomatic dinner, and he won the
hearts of the entire family before the meal was finished.
"By the way, I have a letter of introduction to you all, but especially
to Miss Nancy here, and I have never thought to deliver it," he said.
"Who do you think sent it,--all the way from China?"
"My son Tom!" exclaimed Nancy irrepressibly; "but no, he couldn't,
because he doesn't know us."
"The Admiral, of course!" cried Gilbert.
"You are both right," Mr. Hamilton answered, drawing a letter from his
coat pocket. "It is a Round Robin from the Admiral and my son Tom, who
have been making acquaintance in Hong Kong. It is addressed:
"FROM THE YELLOW PERIL, IN CHINA
"THE YELLOW HOUSE, IN BEULAH,
Nancy crimsoned. "Did the Admiral tell your son Tom I called him the
Yellow Peril? It was wicked of him! I did it, you know, because you
wrote me that the only Hamilton who cared anything for the old house, or
would ever want to live in it, was your son Tom. After that I always
called him the Yellow Peril, and I suppose I mentioned it in a letter to
"I am convinced that Nancy's mind is always empty at bedtime," said her
mother, "because she tells everything in it to somebody during the day.
I hope age will bring discretion, but I doubt it."
"My son Tom is coming home!" said his father, with unmistakable delight
in his voice.
Nancy, who was passing the cake, sat down so heavily in her chair that
"Come, come, Miss Nancy! I can't let you make an ogre of the boy," urged
Mr. Hamilton. "He is a fine fellow, and if he comes down here to look at
the old place you are sure to be good friends."
"Is he going back to China after his visit?" asked Mrs. Carey, who felt
a fear of the young man something akin to her daughter's.
"No, I am glad to say. Our family has been too widely separated for the
last ten years. At first it seemed necessary, or at least convenient and
desirable, and I did not think much about it. But lately it has been
continually on my mind that we were leading a cheerless existence, and I
am determined to arrange matters differently."
Mrs. Carey remembered Ossian Popham's description of Mrs. Lemuel
Hamilton and forebore to ask any questions with regard to her
whereabouts, since her husband did not mention her.
"You will all be in Washington then," she said, "and your son Tom with
you, of course?"
"Not quite so near as that," his father replied. "Tom's firm is opening
a Boston office and he will be in charge of that. When do you expect the
Admiral back? Tom talks of their coming together on the Bedouin, if it
can be arranged."
"We haven't heard lately," said Mrs. Carey; "but he should return within
a month or two, should he not, Nancy? My daughter writes all the letters
for the family, Mr. Hamilton, as you know by this time."
"I do, to my great delight and satisfaction. Now there is one thing I
have not seen yet, something about which I have a great deal of
sentiment. May I smoke my cigar under the famous crimson rambler?"
The sun set flaming red, behind the Beulah hills. The frogs sang in the
pond by the House of Lords, and the grasshoppers chirped in the long
grass of Mother Hamilton's favorite hayfield. Then the moon, round and
deep-hued as a great Mandarin orange, came up into the sky from which
the sun had faded, and the little group still sat on the side piazza,
talking. Nothing but their age and size kept the Carey chickens out of
Mr. Hamilton's lap, and Peter finally went to sleep with his head
against the consul's knee. He was a "lappy" man, Nancy said next
morning; and indeed there had been no one like him in the family circle
for many a long month. He was tender, he was gay, he was fatherly, he
was interested in all that concerned them; so no wonder that he heard
all about Gilbert's plans for earning money, and Nancy's accepted story.
No wonder he exclaimed at the check for ten dollars proudly exhibited in
payment, and no wonder he marvelled at the Summer Vacation School in the
barn, where fourteen little scholars were already enrolled under the
tutelage of the Carey Faculty. "I never wanted to go to anything in my
life as much as I want to go to that school!" he asserted. "If I could
write a circular as enticing as that, I should be a rich man. I wish
you'd let me have some new ones printed, girls, and put me down for
three evening lectures; I'd do almost anything to get into that
Faculty." "I wish you'd give the lectures for the benefit of the
Faculty, that would be better still," said Kitty. "Nancy's coming-out
party was to be in the barn this summer; that's one of the things we're
earning money for; or at least we make believe that it is, because it's
so much more fun to work for a party than for coal or flour or meat!"
A look from Mrs. Carey prevented the children from making any further
allusions to economy, and Gilbert skillfully turned the subject by
giving a dramatic description of the rise and fall of The Dirty Boy,
from its first appearance at his mother's wedding breakfast to its last,
at the house-warming supper.
After Lemuel Hamilton had gone back to the little country hotel he sat
by the open window for another hour, watching the moonbeams shimmering
on the river and bathing the tip of the white meeting-house steeple in a
flood of light. The air was still and the fireflies were rising above
the thick grass and carrying their fairy lamps into the lower branches
of the feathery elms. "Haying" would begin next morning, and he would be
wakened by the sharpening of scythes and the click of mowing machines.
He would like to work in the Hamilton fields, he thought, knee-deep in
daisies,--fields on whose grass he had not stepped since he was a boy
just big enough to _go_ behind the cart and "rake after." What an
evening it had been! None of them had known it, but as a matter of fact
they had all scaled Shiny Wall and had been sitting with Mother Carey in
Peacepool; that was what had made everything so beautiful! Mr.
Hamilton's last glimpse of the Careys had been the group at the Yellow
House gate. Mrs. Carey, with her brown hair shining in the moonlight
leaned against Gilbert, the girls stood beside her, their arms locked in
hers, while Peter clung sleepily to her hand.
"I believe they are having hard times!" he thought, "and I can't think
of anything I can safely do to make things easier. Still, one cannot
pity, one can only envy them! That is the sort of mother I would have
made had I been Nature and given a free hand! I would have put a label
on Mrs. Carey, saying: 'This is what I meant a woman to be!'"
NANCY COMES OUT
Nancy's seventeenth birthday was past, and it was on the full of the
August moon that she finally "came out" in the Hamilton barn. It was the
barn's first public appearance too, for the villagers had not been
invited to the private Saturday night dances that took place during the
brief reign of the Hamilton boys and girls. Beulah was more excited
about the barn than it was about Nancy, and she was quite in sympathy
with this view of things, as the entire Carey family, from mother to
Peter, was fairly bewitched with its new toy. Day by day it had grown
more enchanting as fresh ideas occurred to one or another, and
especially to Osh Popham, who lived, breathed, and had his being in the
barn, and who had lavished his ingenuity and skill upon its fittings.
Not a word did he vouchsafe to the general public of the extraordinary
nature of these fittings, nor of the many bewildering features of the
entertainment which was to take place within the almost sacred
precincts. All the Carey festivities had heretofore been in the house
save the one in honor of the hanging of the weather vane, which had been
an out-of-door function, attended by the whole village. Now the
community was all agog to disport itself in pastures new; its curiosity
being further piqued by the reception of written invitations, a
convention not often indulged in by Beulah.
The eventful day dawned, clear and cool; a day with an air like liquid
amber, that properly belonged to September,--the weather prophet really
shifting it into August from pure kindness, having taken a sticky dogday
out and pitchforked it into the next month.
The afternoon passed in various stages of plotting, planning, and
palpitation, and every girl in Beulah, of dancing age, was in her
bedroom, trying her hair a new way. The excitement increased a thousand
fold when it was rumored that an Admiral (whatever that might be) had
arrived at the hotel and would appear at the barn in full uniform. After
that, nobody's braids or puffs would go right!
Nancy never needed to study Paris plates, for her hair dressed itself
after a fashion set by all the Venuses and Cupids and little Loves since
the world began. It curled, whether she would or no, so the only method
was to part the curls and give them a twist into a coil, from which
vagrant spirals fell to the white nape of her neck. Or, if she felt gay
and coquettish as she did tonight, the curls were pinned high to the
crown of her head and the runaways rioted here and there, touching her
cheek, her ear, her neck, never ugly, wherever they ran.
Nancy had a new yellow organdy made "almost to touch," and a twist of
yellow ribbon in her hair. Kathleen and Julia were in the white dresses
brought them by Cousin Ann, and Mrs. Carey wore her new black silk, made
with a sweeping little train. Her wedding necklace of seed pearls was
around her neck, and a tall comb of tortoise shell and pearls rose from
the low-coiled knot of her shining hair.
The family "received" in the old carriage house, and when everybody had
assembled, to the number of seventy-five or eighty, the door into the
barn was thrown open majestically by Gilbert, in his character as head
of the house of Carey. Words fail to describe the impression made by the
barn as it was introduced to the company, Nancy's debut sinking into
positive insignificance beside it.
Dozens of brown japanned candle-lanterns hung from the beamed ceiling,
dispensing little twinkles of light here and there, while larger ones
swung from harness pegs driven into the sides of the walls. The soft
gray-brown of the old weathered lumber everywhere, made a lovely
background for the birch-bark brackets, and the white birch-bark vases
that were filled with early golden-rod, mixed with tall Queen Anne's
lace and golden glow. The quaint settles surrounding the sides of the
room were speedily filled by the admiring guests. Colonel Wheeler's tiny
upright piano graced the platform in the "tie up." Miss Susie Bennett,
the church organist, was to play it, aided now and then by Mrs. Carey or
Julia. Osh Popham was to take turns on the violin with a cousin from
Warren's Mills, who was reported to be the master fiddler of the county.
When all was ready Mrs. Carey stood between the master fiddler and Susie
Bennett, and there was a sudden hush in the room. "Friends and
neighbors," she said, "we now declare the Hall of Happy Hours open for
the general good of the village. If it had not been for the generosity
of our landlord, Mr. Lemuel Hamilton, we could never have given you this
pleasure, and had not our helpers been so many, we could never have made
the place so beautiful. Before the general dancing begins there will be
a double quadrille of honor, in which all those will take part who have
driven a nail, papered or painted a wall, dug a spadeful of earth, or
done any work in or about the Yellow House."
"Three cheers for Mrs. Carey!" called Bill Harmon, and everybody
"Three cheers for Lemuel Hamilton!" and the rafters of the barn rang
with the response.
Just then the Admiral changed his position to conceal the moisture that
was beginning to gather in his eyes; and the sight of a personage so
unspeakably magnificent in a naval uniform induced Osh Popham to cry
spontaneously: "Three cheers for the Admiral! I don't know what he ever
done, but he looks as if he could, all right!" at which everybody
cheered and roared, and the Admiral to his great surprise made a speech,
during which the telltale tears appeared so often in his eyes and in his
voice, that Osh Popham concluded privately that if the naval hero ever
did meet an opposing battleship he would be likelier to drown the enemy
than fire into them!
The double quadrille of honor passed off with much elegance, everybody
not participating in it being green with envy because he was not. Mrs.
Carey and the Admiral were partners; Nancy danced with Mr. Popham,
Kathleen with Digby, Julia with Bill Harmon. The other couples were Mrs.
Popham and Gilbert, Lallie Joy and Cyril Lord, Olive and Nat Harmon,
while Mrs. Bill led out a very shy and uncomfortable gentleman who had
dug the ditches for Cousin Ann's expensive pipes.
Then the fun and the frolic began in earnest. The girls had been
practising the old-fashioned contra dances all summer, and training the
younger generation in them at the Vacation School. The old folks needed
no rehearsal! If you had waked any of them in the night suddenly they
could have called the changes for Speed the Plough, The Soldier's Joy,
The Maid in the Pump Room, or Hull's Victory.
Money Musk brought Nancy and Mr. Henry Lord on to the floor as head
couple; a result attained by that young lady by every means, fair or
foul, known to woman; at least a rudimentary, budding woman of seventeen
summers! His coming to the party at all was regarded by Mother Carey,
who had spent the whole force of her being in managing it, as nothing
short of a miracle. He had accepted partly from secret admiration of his
handsome neighbor, partly to show the village that he did not choose
always to be a hermit crab, partly out of curiosity to see the unusual
gathering. Having crawled out of his selfish shell far enough to grace
the occasion, he took another step when Nancy asked him to dance. It was
pretty to see her curtsey when she put the question, pretty to see the
air of triumph with which she led him to the head of the line, and
positively delightful to the onlookers to see Hen Lord doing right and
left, ladies' chain, balance to opposite and cast off, at a girl's beck
and call. He was not a bad dancer, when his sluggish blood once got into
circulation; and he was considerably more limber at the end of Money
Musk, considerably less like a wooden image, than at the beginning
In the interval between this astounding exhibition and the Rochester
Schottisch which followed it, Henry Lord went up to Mrs. Carey, who was
sitting in a corner a little apart from her guests for the moment.
"Shall I go to South America, or shall I not?" he asked her in an
undertone. "Olive seems pleasantly settled, and Cyril tells me you will
consent to take him into your family for six months; still, I would like
a woman's advice."
Mother Carey neither responded, "I should prefer not to take the
responsibility of advising you," nor "Pray do as you think best"; she
simply said, in a tone she might have used to a fractious boy:
"I wouldn't go, Mr. Lord! Wait till Olive and Cyril are a little older.
Cyril will grow into my family instead of into his own; Olive will learn
to do without you; worse yet, you will learn to do without your
children. Stay at home and have Olive come back to you and her brother
every week end. South America is a long distance when there are only
three of you!"
Prof. Lord was not satisfied with Mrs. Carey's tone. It was so maternal
that he expected at any moment she might brush his hair, straighten his
necktie, and beg him not to sit up too late, but his instinct told him
it was the only tone he was ever likely to hear from her, and so he said
reluctantly, "Very well; I confess that I really rely on your judgment,
and I will decline the invitation."
"I think you are right," Mrs. Carey answered, wondering if the man would
ever see his duty with his own eyes, or whether he had deliberately
blinded himself for life.
THE CRIMSON RAMBLER
While Mrs. Carey was talking with Mr. Lord, Nancy skimmed across the
barn floor intent on some suddenly remembered duty, went out into the
garden, and met face to face a strange young man standing by the rose
trellis and looking in at the dance through the open door.
He had on a conventional black dinner-coat, something never seen in
Beulah, and wore a soft travelling cap. At first Nancy thought he was a
friend of the visiting fiddler, but a closer look at his merry dark eyes
gave her the feeling that she had seen him before, or somebody very like
him. He did not wait for her to speak, but taking off his cap, put out
his hand and said: "By your resemblance to a photograph in my possession
I think you are the girl who planted the crimson rambler."
"Are you 'my son Tom'?" asked Nancy, open astonishment in her tone. "I
mean my Mr. Hamilton's son Tom?"
"I am _my_ Mr. Hamilton's son Tom; or shall we say _our_ Mr. Hamilton's?
Do two 'mys' make one 'our'?"
"Upon my word, wonders will never cease!" exclaimed Nancy. "The Admiral
said you were in Boston, but he never told us you would visit Beulah
"No, I wanted it to be a secret. I wanted to appear when the ball was at
its height; the ghost of the old regime confronting the new, so
"Beulah will soon be a summer resort; everybody seems to be coming
"It's partly your fault, isn't it?"
"'The Water Babies' is one of my favorite books, and I know all about
Mother Carey's chickens. They go out over the seas and show good birds
the way home."
"Are _you_ a good bird?" asked Nancy saucily.
"I'm _home_, at all events!" said Tom with an emphasis that made Nancy
shiver lest the young man had come to Beulah with a view of taking up
his residence in the paternal mansion.
The two young people sat down on the piazza steps while the music of
The Sultan's Polka floated out of the barn door. Old Mrs. Jenks was
dancing with Peter, her eighty-year-old steps as fleet as his, her white
side-curls bobbing to the tune. Her withered hands clasped his dimpled
ones and the two seemed to be of the same age, for in the atmosphere of
laughter and goodwill there would have been no place for the old in
heart, and certainly Mrs. Jenks was as young as any one at the party.
"I can't help dreading you, nice and amiable as you look," said Nancy
candidly to Tom Hamilton; "I am so afraid you'll fall in love with the
Yellow House and want it back again. Are you engaged to be married to a
little-footed China doll, or anything like that?" she asked with a
teasing, upward look and a disarming smile that robbed the question of
"No, not engaged to anything or anybody, but I've a notion I shall be,
soon, if all goes well! I'm getting along in years now!"
"I might have known it!" sighed Nancy. "It was a prophetic instinct, my
calling you the Yellow Peril."
"It isn't a bit nice of you to dislike me before you know me; I didn't
do that way with you!"
"What do you mean?"
"Why, in the first letter you ever wrote father you sent your love to
any of his children that should happen to be of the right size. I
chanced to be _just_ the right size, so I accepted it, gratefully; I've
got it here with me to-night; no, I left it in my other coat," he said
merrily, making a fictitious search through his pockets.
Nancy laughed at his nonsense; she could not help it.
"Will you promise to get over your foolish and wicked prejudices if I on
my part promise never to take the Yellow House away from you unless you
wish?" continued Tom.
"Willingly," exclaimed Nancy joyously. "That's the safest promise I
could make, for I would never give up living in it unless I had to.
First it was father's choice, then it was mother's, now all of us seem
to have built ourselves into it, as it were. I am almost afraid to care
so much about anything, and I shall be so relieved if you do not turn
out to be really a Yellow Peril after all!"
"You are much more of a Yellow Peril yourself!" said Tom, "with that
dress and that ribbon in your hair! Will you dance the next dance with
"It's The Tempest; do you know it?"
"No, but I'm not so old but I may learn. I'll form myself on that
wonderful person who makes jokes about the Admiral and plays
"That's Ossian Popham, principal prop of the House of Carey!"
"Lucky dog! Have you got all the props you need?"
Nancy's hand was not old or strong or experienced enough to keep this
strange young man in order, and just as she was meditating some
blighting retort he went on:--
"Who is that altogether adorable, that unspeakably beautiful lady in
black?--the one with the pearl comb that looks like a crown?"
"That's mother," said Nancy, glowing.
"I thought so. At least I didn't know any other way to account for her."
"Why does she have to be accounted for?" asked Nancy, a little
"For the same reason that you do," said the audacious youth. "You
explain your mother and your mother explains you, a little, at any rate.
Where is the celebrated crimson rambler, please?"
"You are sitting on it," Nancy answered tranquilly.
Tom sprang away from the trellis, on which he had been half reclining.
"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me? I have a great
affection for that rambler; it was your planting it that first made
me--think favorably of you. Has it any roses on it? I can't see in
"It is almost out of bloom; there may be a few at the top somewhere;
I'll look out my window to-morrow morning and see."
"At about what hour?"
"How should I know?" laughed Nancy.
"Oh! you're not to be depended on!" said Tom rebukingly. "Just give me
your hand a moment; step on that lowest rung of the trellis, now one
step higher, please; now stretch up your right hand and pick that little
cluster, do you see it?--That's right; now down, be careful, there you
are, thank you! A rose in the hand is worth two in the morning."
"Put it in your button hole," said Nancy. "It is the last; I gave your
father one of the first a month ago."
"I shall put this in my pocket book and send it to my mother in a
letter," Tom replied. ("And tell her it looks just like the girl who
planted it," he thought; "sweet, fragrant, spicy, graceful, vigorous,
full of color.")
"Now come in and meet mother," said Nancy. "The polka is over, and soon
they will be 'forming on' for The Tempest."
Tom Hamilton's entrance and introduction proved so interesting that it
delayed the dance for a few moments. Then Osh Popham and the master
fiddler tuned their violins and Mrs. Carey assisted Susie Bennett at the
piano, so that there were four musicians to give fresh stimulus to the
Tom Hamilton hardly knew whether he would rather dance with Nancy or
stand at the open door and watch her as he had been doing earlier in the
evening. He could not really see her now, although he was her partner,
his mind was so occupied with the intricate figures, but he could feel
her, in every fibre of his body, the touch of her light hand was so
charged with magnetism.
Somebody swung the back doors of the barn wide open. The fields, lately
mown, sloped gently up to a fringe of pines darkly green against the
sky. The cool night air stirred the elms, and the brilliant moon
appeared in the very centre of the doorway. The beauty of the whole
scene went to Tom Hamilton's head a little, but he kept his thoughts
steadily on the changes as Osh Popham called them.
To watch Nancy Carey dance The Tempest was a sight to stir the blood.
The two head couples joined hands and came down the length of the barn
four abreast; back they went in a whirl; then they balanced to the next
couple, then came four hands round and ladies' chain, and presently they
came down again flying, with another four behind them. The first four
were Nancy and Tom, Ralph Thurston and Kathleen, the last two among the
best dancers in Beulah; but while Kitty was slim and straight and
graceful as a young fawn, Nancy swept down the middle of the barn floor
like a flower borne by the breeze. She was Youth, Hope, Joy incarnate!
She had washed the dishes that night, would wash them again in the
morning, but what of that? What mattered it that the years just ahead
(for aught she knew to the contrary) were full of self-denial and
economy? Was she not seventeen? Anything was possible at seventeen! What
if the world was to be a work-a-day world? There was music and laughter
in it as well as work, and there was love in it, too, oceans of love, so
why not trip and be merry and guide one's young partner safely through
the difficult mazes of the dance and bring him out flushed and
triumphant, to receive mother's laughing compliments?
Everybody was dancing The Tempest in his or her own fashion, thought the
Admiral, looking on. Mrs. Popham was grave, even gloomy from the waist
up, but incredibly lively from the waist down, moving with the precision
of machinery, while her partner, a bricklayer from Beulah Centre,
engaged the attention of the entire company by his wonderful steps. She
was fully up to time too, you may be sure, as her rival, Mrs. Bill
Harmon, was opposite her in the set. Lallie Joy, clad in one of
Kathleen's dresses, her hair dressed by Julia, was a daily attendant at
the Vacation School, but five weeks of steady instruction had not
sufficed to make her sure of ladies' grand chain. Olive moved like a shy
little wild thing, with a bending head and a grace all her own, while
Gilbert had great ease and distinction.
There was a brief interval for ice cream, accompanied by marble cake,
gold cake, silver cake, election cake, sponge cake, cup cake, citron
cake, and White Mountain cake, and while it was being eaten, Susie
Bennett played The Sliding Waltz, The Maiden's Prayer, and Listen to the
Mocking Bird with variations; variations requiring almost
"I guess there ain't many that can touch Sutey at the piano!" said Osh
Popham, who sat beside the Admiral. "Have you seen anybody in the cities
that could play any faster'n she can? And Jo you ever ketch her landin'
on a black note when she started for a white one? I guess not!"
"You are right!" replied the Admiral, "and now there seems to be a
general demand for you. What are they requesting you to do,--fly?"
"That's it," said Osh. "Mis' Carey, will you play for me? Maria, you can
go into the carriage house if you don't want to be disgraced."
"Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay.
Fly like a youthful hart or roe
Over the hills where spices grow."
At length the strains of the favorite old tune faded on the ears of the
delighted audience. Then they had The Portland Fancy and The Irish
Washerwoman and The College Hornpipe, and at last the clock in the
carriage house struck midnight and the guests departed in groups of twos
and threes and fours, their cheerful voices sounding far down the
Osh Popham stayed behind to cover the piano, put out the lanterns, close
the doors and windows, and lock the barn, while Mrs. Carey and the
Admiral strolled slowly along the greensward to the side door of
"Good-night," Osh called happily as he passed them a few minutes later.
"I guess Beulah never see a party such as ourn was, this evenin'! I
guess if the truth was known, the State o' Maine never did, neither!
Good-night, all! Mebbe if I hurry along I can ketch up with Maria!"
His quick steps brushing the grassy pathway could be heard for some
minutes in the clear still air, and presently the sound of his mellow
tenor came floating back:--
"Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay.
Fly like a youthful hart or roe
Over the hills where spices grow."
Julia had gone upstairs with the sleepy Peter-bird, who had been
enjoying his first experience of late hours on the occasion of Nancy's
coming out; the rest of the young folks were gathered in a group under
the elms, chatting in couples,--Olive and Ralph Thurston, Kathleen and
Cyril Lord, Nancy and Tom Hamilton. Then they parted, Tom Hamilton
strolling to the country hotel with the young school teacher for
companion, while Olive and Cyril walked across the fields to the
House of Lords.
It was a night in a thousand. The air was warm, clear, and breathlessly
still; so still that not a leaf stirred on the trees. The sky was
cloudless, and the moon, brilliant and luminous, shone as it seldom
shines in a northern clime. The water was low in Beulah's shining river
and it ran almost noiselessly under the bridge. While Kathleen and Julia
were still unbraiding their hair, exclaiming at every twist of the hand
as to the "loveliness" of the party, Nancy had kissed her mother and
crept silently into bed. All night long the strains of The Tempest ran
through her dreams. There was the touch of a strange hand on hers, an
altogether new touch, warm and compelling. There was the gay trooping
down the centre of the barn in fours,--some one by her side who had
never been there before,--and a sensation entirely new and intoxicating,
that whenever she met the glance of her partner's merry dark eyes she
found herself at the bottom of them.
Was she a child when she heard Osh Popham cry: "Take your partners for
The Tempest!" and was she a woman when he called: "All promenade to
seats!" She hardly knew. Beulah was a dream; the Yellow House was a
dream, the dance was a dream, the partner was a dream. At one moment she
was a child helping her father to plant the crimson rambler, at another
she was a woman pulling a rose from the topmost branch and giving it to
some one who steadied her hand on the trellis; some one who said "Thank
you" and "Good-night" differently from the rest of the world.
Who was the young stranger? Was he the Knight of Beulah Castle, the
Overlord of the Yellow House, was he the Yellow Peril, was he a good
bird to whom Mother Carey's chicken had shown the way home? Still the
dream went on in bewildering circles, and Nancy kept hearing mysterious
phrases spoken with a new meaning,--"Will you dance with me?" "Doesn't
the House of Carey need another prop?" "Won't you give me a rose?" and
above all: "You sent your love to any one of the Hamilton children who
should be of the right size; I was just the right size, and I took it!"
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