“It’s an idea to get rid of the Curse of the House of Carey!”
“It can’t be done, Nancy; you know it can’t! Even if you could think out a way, mother couldn’t be made to agree.”
“She must never know. I would not think of mixing up a good lovely woman like mother in such an affair!”
This was said so mysteriously that Kathleen almost suspected that bloodshed was included in Nancy’s plan. It must be explained that when young Ensign Carey and Margaret Gilbert had been married, Cousin Ann Chadwick had presented them with four tall black and white marble mantel ornaments shaped like funeral urns; and then, feeling that she had not yet shown her approval of the match sufficiently, she purchased a large group of clay statuary entitled You Dirty Boy.
The Careys had moved often, like all naval families, but even when their other goods and chattels were stored, Cousin Ann generously managed to defray the expense of sending on to them the mantel ornaments and the Dirty Boy. “I know what your home is to you,” she used to say to them, “and how you must miss your ornaments. If I have chanced to give you things as unwieldy as they are handsome, I ought to see that you have them around you without trouble or expense, and I will!”
So for sixteen years, save for a brief respite when the family was in the Philippines, their existence was blighted by these hated objects. Once when they had given an especially beautiful party for the Admiral, Captain Carey had carried the whole lot to the attic, but Cousin Ann arrived unexpectedly in the middle of the afternoon, and Nancy, with the aid of Gilbert and Joanna, had brought them down the back way and put them in the dining room.
“You’ve taken the ornaments out of the parlor, I see,” Cousin Ann said at the dinner table. “It’s rather nice for a change, and after all, perhaps you spend as much time in this room as in any, and entertain as much company here!”
Cousin Ann always had been, always would be, a frequent visitor, for she was devoted to the family in her own peculiar way; what therefore could Nancy be proposing to do with the Carey Curse?
“Listen, my good girl,” Nancy now said to Kathleen, after she had closed the door. “Thou dost know that the china-packer comes early to-morrow morn, and that e’en now the barrels and boxes and excelsior are bestrewing the dining room?”
“Then you and I, who have been brought up under the shadow of those funeral urns, and have seen that tidy mother scrubbing the ears of that unwilling boy ever since we were born,–you and I, or thou and I, perhaps I should say, will do a little private packing before the true packer arriveth.”
“Still do I not see the point, wench!” said the puzzled Kathleen, trying to model her conversation on Nancy’s, though she was never thoroughly successful.
“Don’t call me ‘wench,’ because I am the mistress and you my tiring woman, but when you Watch, and assist me, at the packing, a great light will break upon you,” Nancy answered “In the removal of cherished articles from Charlestown to Beulah, certain tragedies will occur, certain accidents will happen, although Cousin Ann knows that the Carey family is a well regulated one. But if there are accidents, and _there will be_, my good girl, then the authors of them will be forever unknown to all but thou and I. Wouldst prefer to pack this midnight or at cock crow, for packing is our task!”
“I simply hate cock crow, and you know it,” said Kathleen testily. “Why not now? Ellen and Gilbert are out and mother is rocking Peter to sleep.”
“Very well; come on; and step softly. It won’t take long, because I have planned all in secret, well and thoroughly. Don’t puff and blow like that! Mother will hear you!”
“I’m excited,” whispered Kathleen as they stole down the back stairs and went into the parlor for the funeral urns, which they carried silently to the dining room. These safely deposited, they took You Dirty Boy from its abominable pedestal of Mexican onyx (also Cousin Ann’s gift) and staggered under its heavyweight, their natural strength being considerably sapped by suppressed laughter.
Nancy chose an especially large and stout barrel. They put a little (very little) excelsior in the bottom, then a pair of dumb-bells, then a funeral urn, then a little hay, and another funeral urn, crosswise. The spaces between were carelessly filled in with Indian clubs. On these they painfully dropped You Dirty Boy, and on top of him the other pair of nike ireland head office funeral urns, more dumbbells, and another Indian club. They had packed the barrel in the corner where it stood, so they simply laid the cover on top and threw a piece of sacking carelessly over it. The whole performance had been punctuated with such hysterical laughter from Kathleen that she was too weak to be of any real use,–she simply aided and abetted the chief conspirator. The night was not as other nights. The girls kept waking up to laugh a little, then they went to sleep, and waked again, and laughed again, and so on. Nancy composed several letters to her Cousin Ann dated from Beulah and explaining the sad accident that had occurred. As she concocted these documents between her naps she could never remember in her whole life any such night of mirth and minstrelsy, and not one pang of conscience interfered, to cloud the presen ireland t joy nor dim that anticipation which is even greater.
Nancy was do nike ireland clearance wnstairs early next morning and managed to be the one to greet the china-packers. “We filled one barrel last evening,” she explained to them. “Will you please head that up before you begin work?” which one of the men obligingly did.
“We’ll mark all this stuff and take it nike ireland clearance down to the station this afternoon,” said the head packer to Mrs. Carey.
“Be careful with it, won’t you?” she begged. “We are very fond of our glass and china, our clocks and all our little treasures.”
“You won’t have any breakage so long as you deal with James Perkins & Co.!” said the packer.
Nancy went back into the room for a moment to speak with the skilful, virtuous J.P. & Co. “There’s no need to use any care with that corner barrel,” she said carelessly. “It has nothing of value in it!”
James Perkins went home in the middle of the afternoon and left his son to finish the work, and the son tagged and labelled and painted with all his might. The Dirty Boy barrel in nike ireland store the corner, being separated from the others, looked to him especiall nike ireland nfl y important, so he gave particular attention to that; pasted on it one label marked “Fragile,” one “This Side Up,” two “Glass with Care,” and finding several “Perishables” in his pocket tied on a few of those, and removed the entire lot of boxes, crates, and barrels to the freight depot.
The man who put the articles in the car was much interested in the Dirty Boy barrel. “You’d ought to have walked to Greentown and carried that one in your arms,” he jeered. “What is the precious thing, anyway?”
“Don’ nike air max ireland t you mind what it is,” responded young Perkins. “Jest you keep everybody http://nike4ireland.weebly.com/ ‘n’ everything from teching it! Does this lot o’ stuff have to be shifted ‘tween here and Greentown?”
“No; not unless we git kind o’ dull and turn it upside down jest for fun.”
“I guess you’re dull consid’able often, by the way things look when you git through carryin’ ’em, on this line,” said Perkins, who had no opinion of the freight department of the A.&B. Th nike ireland e answer, though not proper to record in this place, was worthy of Perkins’s opponent, who had a standing grudge against the entire race of expressmen and carters who brought him boxes and barrels to handle. It always seemed to him that if they were all out of the country or dead he would have no work to do.
Chapter 11 The Service On The Threshold
From this point on, the flitting went easily and smoothly enough, and the transportation of the Carey family itself to Greentown, on a mild budding day in April, was nothing compared to the heavy labor that had preceded it. All the goods and chattels had been despatched a week before, so that they would be o nike ireland head office n the spot well in advance, and the actual flitting took place on a Friday, so that Gilbert wo nike ireland online uld have every hour of his vacation to assist in the settling process. He had accepted an invitation to visit a school friend at Easter, saying to his mother magisterially: “I didn’t suppose you’d want me round the house when you were getting things to rights; men are always in the way; so I told Fred Bascom I’d go home with him.”
“Home with Fred! Our only man! Sole prop of the House of Carey!” exclaimed his mother with con Nike ireland summate tact. “Why, Gilly dear, I shall want your advice every hour! And who will know about the planting,–for we are only ‘women folks’; and who will do all the hamm Nike ireland ering and carpenter work? You are so wonderful with tools that you’ll be worth all the rest of us put together!”
“Oh, well, if you need me so much as that I’ll go along, of course,” said Gilbert, “but Fred said his mother and sisters always did this kind of thing by themselves.”
“‘By themselves,’ in Fred’s family,” remarked Mrs. Carey, “means a butler, footman, and plenty of money for help of every sort. And though no wonder you’re fond of Fred, who is so jolly and such good company, you must have noticed how nike ireland online store selfish he is!”
“Now, mother, you’ve never seen Fred Bascom more than half a dozen times!”
“No; and I don’t remember at all what I saw in him the last five of them, for I found out everything needful the first time he came to visit us!” returned Mrs. Carey quietly. “Still, he’s a likable, agreeable sort of boy.”
“And no doubt he’ll succeed in destroying the pi nike ireland online store g in him before he grows up,” said Nancy, passing through the room. “I thought it gobbled and snuffled a good deal when we last met!”
Colonel Wheeler was at Greentown station when the family arrived, and drove Mrs. Carey and Peter to the Yellow House himself, while the rest followed in the depot carryall, with a trail of trunks and packages following on behind in an express wagon. It was a very early season, the r nike ireland promo code oads were free from mud, the trees were budding, and the young grass showed green on all the sunny slopes. When the Careys had first seen their future home they had entered the village from the west, nike ireland careers the Yellow House being the last one on the elm-shaded street, and quite on the outskirts of Beulah itself. Now they crossed the river below the station and drove through East Beulah, over a road unknown to any of them but Gilbert, who was the hero and instructor of the party. Soon the well-remembered house came into view, and as the two vehicles had kept one behind the other there was a g ireland eneral cheer.
It was more beautiful even than they had remembered it; and more commodious, and more delightfully situated. The barn door was open, showing crates of furniture, and the piazza was piled high with boxes.
Bill Harmon stood in the f nike ireland contact ront doorway, smiling. He hoped for trade, and he was a good sort anyway.
“I’d about given you up to-night,” he called as he came to the gate. “Your train’s half an hour late. I got tired o’ waitin’, so I made free to open up some o’ your things for you to start housekeepin’ with. I guess there won’t be no supper here for you to-night.”
“We’ve got it with us,” said Nancy joyously, making acquaintance in an instant.
“You _are_ forehanded, ain’t you! That’s right!–jump, you little pint o’ cider!” Bill said, holdi nike ireland promo code ng out his arms to Peter. Peter, carrying many small things too valuable to trust to others, jumped, as suggested, and gave his new friend an unexpected shower of bumps from hard substances concealed about his person.
“Land o’ Goshen, you’re _loaded_, hain’t you?” he inquired jocosely as he set Peter down on the grou nike ireland nd.
The dazzling smile with which Peter greeted this supposed tribute converted Bill Harmon at once into a victim and slave. Little did he know, as he carelessly stood there at the wagon wheel, that he was destined to bestow upon that small boy offerings from his stock for years to come.
He and Colonel Wheeler were speedily lifting things from the carryall, while the Careys walked up the pathway nike air max ireland together, thrilling with the excitement of the moment. Nancy breathed hard, flushed, and caught her mother’s hand.
“O Motherdy!” she said under her breath; “it’s all happening just as we dreamed it, and now that it’s really here it’s like–it’s like–a dedication,–somehow. Gilbert, don’t, dear! Let mother step over the sill first and call us into the Yellow House! I’ll lock the door again and give the key to her.”
Mother Carey, her nike ireland online heart in her throat, felt anew the solemn nature of the undertaking. It broke over her in waves, fresher, stronger, now that the actual moment had arrived, than it eve nike ireland store r had done in prospect. She took the last step upward, and standing in the doorway, trembling, said softly as she turned the key, “Come home, children! Nancy! Gilbert! Kathleen! Peter-bird!” They flocked in, all their laughter hushed by the new tone in her voice. Nancy’s and Kitty’s arms encircled their mother’s waist. Gilbert with sudden instinct took off his hat, and Peter, looking at his elder brother wonderingly, did the same. There was a moment of silence; the nike ireland contact kind of golden silence that is full to the brim of thoughts and prayers and memories and hopes and desires,–so full of all these and other beautiful, quiet things that it makes speech seem poor and shabby; then Mother Carey turned, and the Yellow H nike ireland careers ouse was blessed. Colonel Wheeler and Bill Harmon at the gate never even suspected that there had been a little service on the threshold, when they came up the pathway to see if there was anything more needed.
“I set up all the bedsteads and got the mattresses on ’em,” said Bill Harmon, “thinkin’ the sandman would come early to-night.”
“I never heard of anything so kind and neighborly!” cried Mrs. Carey gratefully. “I thought we should have to go somewhere else to sleep. Is it you who keeps the village store?”
“That’s me!” said Bill.
“Well, if you’ll be good enough to come back once more to-night with a little of everything, we’ll be very much obliged. We have an oil stove, tea and coffee, tinned meats, bread and fruit; what we need most is butter, eggs, milk, and flour. Gilbert, open the box of eatables, please; and, Nancy, unlock the trunk that has the bed linen in it. We http://nike4ireland.weebly.com/ little thought we should find such friends here, did we?”
“I got your extension table into the dining-room,” said Bill, “and tried my best to find your dishes, but I didn’t make out, up to the time you got here. Mebbe you marked ’em someway so’t you know which to unpack first? I was only findin’ things that wan’t no present use, as I guess you’ll say when you see ’em on the dining table.”
They all followed him as he threw open the door, Nancy well in the front, as I fear was generally the case. There, on the centre of the table stood You Dirty Boy rearing his crested head in triumph, and round him like the gate posts of a mausoleum stood the four black and white marble funeral urns. Perfect and entire, without a flaw, they stood there, confronting Nancy.
“It is like them to be the first to greet us!” exclaimed Mrs. Carey, with an attempt at a smile, but there was not a sound from Kathleen or Nancy. They stood rooted to the flo nike ireland nfl or, gazing at the Curse of the House of Carey as if their eyes must deceive them.
“You look as though you didn’t expect to see them, girls!” said their mother, “but when did they ever fail us?–Do you know, I have a courage at this moment that I never felt before?–Beulah is so far from Buffalo that Cousin Ann cannot visit us often, and never without warning. I should not like to offend her or hurt her feelings, but I think we’ll keep You Dirty Boy and the mantel ornaments in the attic for the present, or the barn chamber. What do you say?”
Colonel Wheeler and Mr. Harmon had departed, so a shout of agreement went up from the young Careys. Nancy approached You Dirty Boy with a bloodthirsty glare in her eye.
“Come along, you evil, uncanny thing!” she said. “Take hold of his other end, Gilly, and start for the barn; that’s farthest away; but it’s no use; he’s just like that bloodstain on Lady Macbeth’s hand,–he will not out! Kathleen, open the linen trunk while we’re gone. We can’t set the table till these curses are removed. When you’ve got the linen out, take a marble urn in each hand and trail them along to where we are. You can track us by a line of my tears!”
They found the stairs to the barn chamber, and lifted You Dirty Boy up step by step with slow, painful effort. Kathleen ran out and put two vases on the lowest step and ran back to the house for the other pair. Gilbert and Nancy stood at the top of the stairs with You Dirty Boy between them, settling where he could be easiest reached if he had to be brought down for any occasion,–an unwelcome occasion that was certain to occur sometime in the coming years.
Suddenly they heard their names called in a tragic whisper! “_Gilbert! Nancy! Quick! Cousin Ann’s at the front gate_!”
There was a crash! No human being, however self-contained, could have withstood the shock of that surprise; coming as it did so swiftly, so unexpectedly, and with such awful inappropriateness. Gilbert and Nancy let go of You Dirty Boy simultaneously, and he fell to the floor in two large fragments, the break occurring so happily that the mother and the washcloth were on one half, and the boy on the other,–a situation long desired by the boy, to whom the parting was most welcome!
“She got off at the wrong station,” panted Kathleen at the foot of the stairs, “and had to be driven five miles, or she would have got here as she planned, an hour before we did. She’s come to help us settle, and says she was afraid mother would overdo. Did you drop anything? Hurry down, and I’ll leave the vases here, in among the furniture; or shall I take back two of them to show that they were our first thought?–And oh! I forgot. She’s brought Julia! Two more to feed, and not enough beds!”
Nancy and Gilbert confronted each other.
“Hide the body in the corner, Gilly,” said Nancy; “and say, Gilly–”
“You see he’s in two pieces?”
“_What do you say to making him four, or more_?”
“I say you go downstairs ahead of me and into the house, and I follow you a moment later! Close the barn door carefully behind you!–Am I understood?”
“You are, Gilly! understood, and gloried in, and reverenced. My spirit will be with you when you do it, Gilly dear, though I myself will be greeting Cousin Ann and Julia!”
Chapter 12 Cousin Ann
Mother Carey, not wishing to make any larger number of persons uncomfortable than necessary, had asked Julia not to come to them until after the house in Beulah had been put to rights; but the Fergusons went abroad rather unexpectedly, and Mr. Ferguson tore Julia from the arms of Gladys and put her on the train with very little formality. Her meeting Cousin Ann on the way was merely one of those unpleasant coincidences with which life is filled, although it is hardly possible, usually, for two such disagreeable persons to be on the same small spot at the same precise moment.
On the third morning after the Careys’ arrival, however, matters assumed a more hopeful attitude, for Cousin Ann became discontented with Beulah. The weather had turned cold, and the fireplaces, so long unused, were uniformly smoky. Cousin Ann’s stomach, always delicate, turned from tinned meats, eggs three times a day, and soda biscuits made by Bill Harmon’s wife; likewise did it turn from nuts, apples, oranges, and bananas, on which the children thrived; so she went to the so-called hotel for her meals. Her remarks to the landlady after two dinners and one supper were of a character not to be endured by any outspoken, free-born New England woman.
“I keep a hotel, and I’ll give you your meals for twenty-five cents apiece so long as you eat what’s set before you and hold your tongue,” was the irate Mrs. Buck’s ultimatum. “I’ll feed you,” she continued passionately, “because it’s my business to put up and take in anything that’s respectable; but I won’t take none o’ your sass!”
Well, Cousin Ann’s temper was up, too, by this time, and she declined on her part to take any of the landlady’s “sass”; so they parted, rather to Mrs. Carey’s embarrassment, as she did not wish to make enemies at the outset. That night Cousin Ann, still smarting under the memory of Mrs. Buck’s snapping eyes, high color, and unbridled tongue, complained after supper that her bedstead rocked whenever she moved, and asked Gilbert if he could readjust it in some way, so that it should be as stationary as beds usually are in a normal state.
He took his tool basket and went upstairs obediently, spending fifteen or twenty minutes with the much-criticised article of furniture, which he suspected of rocking merely because it couldn’t bear Cousin Ann. This idea so delighted Nancy that she was obliged to retire from Gilbert’s proximity, lest the family should observe her mirth and Gilbert’s and impute undue importance to it.
“I’ve done everything to the bedstead I can think of,” Gilbert said, on coming downstairs. “You can see how it works to-night, Cousin Ann!”
As a matter of fact it _did_ work, instead of remaining in perfect quiet as a well-bred bedstead should. When the family was sound asleep at midnight a loud crash was heard, and Cousin Ann, throwing open the door of her room, speedily informed everybody in the house that her bed had come down with her, giving her nerves a shock from which they probably would never recover.
“Gilbert is far too young for the responsibilities you put upon him, Margaret,” Cousin Ann exclaimed, drawing her wrapper more closely over her tall spare figure; “and if he was as old as Methuselah he would still be careless, for he was born so! All this talk about his being skilful with tools has only swollen his vanity. A boy of his age should be able to make a bedstead stay together.”
The whole family, including the crestfallen Gilbert, proposed various plans of relief, all except Nancy, who did not wish to meet Gilbert’s glance for fear that she should have to suspect him of a new crime. Having embarked on a career of villainy under her direct instigation, he might go on of his own accord, indefinitely. She did not believe him guilty, but she preferred not to look into the matter more closely.
Mother Carey’s eyes searched Gilbert’s, but found there no confirmation of her fears.
“You needn’t look at me like that, mother,” said the boy. “I wouldn’t be so mean as to rig up an accident for Cousin Ann, though I’d like her to have a little one every night, just for the fun of it.”
Cousin Ann refused to let Gilbert try again on the bedstead, and refused part of Mrs. Carey’s bed, preferring to sleep on two hair mattresses laid on her bedroom floor. “They may not be comfortable,” she said tersely, “but at least they will not endanger my life.”
The next morning’s post brought business letters, and Cousin Ann feared she would have to leave Beulah, although there was work for a fortnight to come, right there, and Margaret had not strength enough to get through it alone.
She thought the chimneys were full of soot, and didn’t believe the kitchen stove would ever draw; she was sure that there were dead toads and frogs in the well; the house was inconvenient and always would be till water was brought into the kitchen sink; Julia seemed to have no leaning towards housework and had an appetite that she could only describe as a crime, inasmuch as the wherewithal to satisfy it had to be purchased by others; the climate was damp because of the river, and there was no proper market within eight miles; Kathleen was too delicate to live in such a place, and the move from Charlestown was an utter and absolute and entire mistake from A to Z.
Then she packed her small trunk and Gilbert ran to the village on glad and winged feet to get some one to take his depressing relative to the noon train to Boston. As for Nancy, she stood in front of the parlor fireplace, and when she heard the hoot of the engine in the distance she removed the four mortuary vases from the mantelpiece and took them to the attic, while Gilbert from the upper hall was chanting a favorite old rhyme:–
“She called us names till she was tired,
She called us names till we perspired,
She called us names we never could spell,
She called us names we never may tell.
“She called us names that made us laugh,
She called us names for a day and a half,
She called us names till her memory failed,
But finally out of our sight she sailed.”
“It must have been written about Cousin Ann in the first place,” said Nancy, joining Kathleen in the kitchen. “Well, she’s gone at last!
“Now every prospect pleases,
And only Julia’s vile,”
she paraphrased from the old hymn, into Kathleen’s private ear.
“You oughtn’t to say such things, Nancy,” rebuked Kathleen. “Mother wouldn’t like it.”
“I know it,” confessed Nancy remorsefully. “I have been wicked since the moment I tried to get rid of You Dirty Boy. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. My blood seems to be too red, and it courses wildly through my veins, as the books say. I am going to turn over a new leaf, now that Cousin Ann’s gone and our only cross is Julia!”
Oh! but it is rather dreadful to think how one person can spoil the world! If only you could have seen the Yellow House after Cousin Ana went! If only you could have heard the hotel landlady exclaim as she drove past: “Well! Good riddance to bad rubbish!” The weather grew warmer outside almost at once, and Bill Harmon’s son planted the garden. The fireplaces ceased to smoke and the kitchen stove drew. Colonel Wheeler suggested a new chain pump instead of the old wooden one, after which the water took a turn for the better, and before the month was ended the Yellow House began to look like home, notwithstanding Julia.
As for Beulah village, after its sleep of months under deep snow-drifts it had waked into the adorable beauty of an early New England summer. It had no snow-capped mountains in the distance; no amethyst foothills to enchain the eye; no wonderful canyons and splendid rocky passes to make the tourist marvel; no length of yellow sea sands nor plash of ocean surf; no trade, no amusements, no summer visitors;–it was just a quiet, little, sunny, verdant, leafy piece of heart’s content, that’s what Beulah was, and Julia couldn’t spoil it; indeed, the odds were, that it would sweeten Julia! That was what Mother Carey hoped when her heart had an hour’s leisure to drift beyond Shiny Wall into Peacepool and consider the needs of her five children. It was generally at twilight, when she was getting Peter to sleep, that she was busiest making “old beasts into new.”
“People fancy that I make things, my little dear,” says Mother Carey to Tom the Water Baby, “but I sit here and make them make themselves!”
There was once a fairy, so the tale goes, who was so clever that she found out how to make butterflies, and she was so proud that she flew straight off to Peacepool to boast to Mother Carey of her skill.
But Mother Carey laughed.
“Know, silly child,” she said, “that any one can make things if he will take time and trouble enough, but it is not every one who can make things make themselves.”
“Make things make themselves!” Mother Carey used to think in the twilight. “I suppose that is what mothers are for!”
Nancy was making herself busily these days, and the offending Julia was directly responsible for such self-control and gains in general virtue as poor impetuous Nancy achieved. Kathleen was growing stronger and steadier and less self-conscious. Gilbert was doing better at school, and his letters showed more consideration and thought for the family than they had done heretofore. Even the Peter-bird was a little sweeter and more self-helpful just now, thought Mother Carey fondly, as she rocked him to sleep. He was worn out with following Natty Harmon at the plough, and succumbed quickly to the music of her good-night song and the comfort of her sheltering arms. Mother Carey had arms to carry, arms to enfold, arms to comfort and caress. She also had a fine, handsome, strong hand admirable for spanking, but she had so many invisible methods of discipline at her command that she never needed a visible spanker for Peter. “Spanking is all very well in its poor way,” she used to say, “but a woman who has to fall back on it very often is sadly lacking in ingenuity.”
As she lifted Peter into his crib Nancy came softly in at the door with a slip of paper in her hand.
She drew her mother out to the window over the front door. “Listen,” she said. “Do you hear the frogs?”
“I’ve been listening to them for the last half-hour,” her mother said. “Isn’t everything sweet to-night, with the soft air and the elms all feathered out, and the new moon!”
“Was it ever so green before?” Nancy wondered, leaning over the window-sill by her mother’s side. “Were the trees ever so lace-y? Was any river ever so clear, or any moon so yellow? I am so sorry for the city people tonight! Sometimes I think it can’t be so beautiful here as it looks, mother. Sometimes I wonder if part of the beauty isn’t inside of us!” said Nancy.
“Part of all beauty is in the eyes that look at, it,” her mother answered.
“And I’ve been reading Mrs. Harmon’s new reference Bible,” Nancy continued, “and here is what it says about Beulah.”
She held the paper to the waning light and read: “_Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate … but it shall be called Beulah, for the Lord delighteth in thee_.
“I think father would be comforted if he could see us all in the Yellow House at Beulah!” Nancy went on softly as the two leaned out of the window together. “He was so loving, so careful of us, so afraid that anything should trouble us, that for months I couldn’t think of him, even in heaven, as anything but worried. But now it seems just as if we were over the hardest time and could learn to live here in Beulah; and so he must be comforted if he can see us or think about us at all;–don’t you feel like that, mother?”
Yes, her mother agreed gently, and her heart was grateful and full of hope. She had lost the father of her children and the dear companion of her life, and that loss could never be made good. Still her mind acknowledged the riches she possessed in her children, so she confessed herself neither desolate nor forsaken, but something in a humble human way that the Lord could take delight in.
Chapter 13 The Pink Of Perfection
That was the only trouble with Allan Carey’s little daughter Julia, aged thirteen; she was, and always had been, the pink of perfection. As a baby she had always been exemplary, eating heartily and sleeping soundly. When she felt a pin in her flannel petticoat she deemed it discourteous to cry, because she knew that her nurse had at least tried to dress her properly. When awake, her mental machinery moved slowly and without any jerks. As to her moral machinery, the angels must have set it going at birth and planned it in such a way that it could neither stop nor go wrong. It was well meant, of course, but probably the angels who had the matter in charge were new, young, inexperienced angels, with vague ideas of human nature and inexact knowledge of God’s intentions; because a child that has no capability of doing the wrong thing will hardly be able to manage a right one; not one of the big sort, anyway.
At four or five years old Julia was always spoken of as “such a good little girl.” Many a time had Nancy in early youth stamped her foot and cried: “Don’t talk about Julia! I will not hear about Julia!” for she was always held up as a pattern of excellence. Truth to tell she bored her own mother terribly; but that is not strange, for by a curious freak of nature, Mrs. Allan Carey was as flighty and capricious and irresponsible and gay and naughty as Julia was steady, limited, narrow, conventional, and dull; but the flighty mother passed out of the Carey family life, and Julia, from the age of five onward, fell into the charge of a pious, unimaginative governess, instead of being turned out to pasture with a lot of frolicsome young human creatures; so at thirteen she had apparently settled–hard, solid, and firm–into a mould. She had smooth fair hair, pale blue eyes, thin lips, and a somewhat too plump shape for her years. She was always tidy and wore her clothes well, laying enormous stress upon their material and style, this trait in her character having been added under the fostering influence of the wealthy and fashionable Gladys Ferguson. At thirteen, when Julia joined the flock of Carey chickens, she had the air of belonging to quite another order of beings. They had been through a discipline seldom suffered by “only children.” They had had to divide apples and toys, take turns at reading books, and learn generally to trot in double harness. If Nancy had a new dress at Christmas, Kathleen had a new hat in the spring. Gilbert heard the cry of “Low bridge!” very often after Kathleen appeared on the scene, and Kathleen’s ears, too, grew well accustomed to the same phrase after Peter was born.
“Julia never did a naughty thing in her life, nor spoke a wrong word,” said her father once, proudly.
“Never mind, she’s only ten, and there’s hope for her yet,” Captain Carey had replied cheerfully; though if he had known her a little later, in her first Beulah days, he might not have been so sanguine. She seemed to have no instinct of adapting herself to the family life, standing just a little aloof and in an attitude of silent criticism. She was a trig, smug prig, Nancy said, delighting in her accidental muster of three short, hard, descriptive words. She hadn’t a bit of humor, no fun, no gayety, no generous enthusiasms that carried her too far for safety or propriety. She brought with her to Beulah sheaves of school certificates, and when she showed them to Gilbert with their hundred per cent deportment and ninety-eight and seven-eighths per cent scholarship every month for years, he went out behind the barn and kicked its foundations savagely for several minutes. She was a sort of continual Sunday child, with an air of church and cold dinner and sermon-reading and hymn-singing and early bed. Nobody could fear, as for some impulsive, reckless little creature, that she would come to a bad end. Nancy said no one could imagine her as coming to anything, not even an end!
“You never let mother hear you say these things, Nancy,” Kathleen remarked once, “but really and truly it’s just as bad to say them at all, when you know she wouldn’t approve.”
“My present object is to be as good as gold in mother’s eyes, but there I stop!” retorted Nancy cheerfully. “Pretty soon I shall get virtuous enough to go a step further and endeavor to please the angels,–not Julia’s cast-iron angels, but the other angels, who understand and are patient, because they remember our frames and know that being dust we are likely to be dusty once in a while. Julia wasn’t made of dust. She was made of–let me see–of skim milk and baked custard (the watery kind) and rice flour and gelatine, with a very little piece of overripe banana,–not enough to flavor, just enough to sicken. Stir this up with weak barley water without putting In a trace of salt, sugar, spice, or pepper, set it in a cool oven, take it out before it is done, and you will get Julia.”
Nancy was triumphant over this recipe for making Julias, only regretting that she could never show it to her mother, who, if critical, was always most appreciative. She did send it in a letter to the Admiral, off in China, and he, being “none too good for human nature’s daily food,” enjoyed it hugely and never scolded her at all.
Julia’s only conversation at this time was on matters concerning Gladys Ferguson and the Ferguson family. When you are washing dishes in the sink of the Yellow House in Beulah it is very irritating to hear of Gladys Ferguson’s mother-of-pearl opera glasses, her French maid, her breakfast on a tray in bed, her diamond ring, her photograph in the Sunday “Times,” her travels abroad, her proficiency in French and German.
“Don’t trot Gladys into the kitchen, for goodness’ sake, Julia!” grumbled Nancy on a warm day. “I don’t want her diamond ring in my dishwater. Wait till Sunday, when we go to the hotel for dinner in our best clothes, if you must talk about her. You don’t wipe the tumblers dry, nor put them in the proper place, when your mind is full of Gladys!”
“All right!” said Julia gently. “Only I hope I shall always be able to wipe dishes and keep my mind on better things at the same time. That’s what Miss Tewksbury told me when she knew I had got to give up my home luxuries for a long time. ‘Don’t let poverty drag you down, Julia,’ she said: ‘keep your high thoughts and don’t let them get soiled with the grime of daily living.'”
It is only just to say that Nancy was not absolutely destitute of self-control and politeness, because at this moment she had a really vicious desire to wash Julia’s supercilious face and neat nose with the dishcloth, fresh from the frying pan. She knew that she could not grasp those irritating “high thoughts” and apply the grime of daily living to them concretely and actually, but Julia’s face was within her reach, and Nancy’s fingers tingled with desire. No trace of this savage impulse appeared in her behavior, however; she rinsed the dishpan, turned it upside down in the sink, and gave the wiping towels to Julia, asking her to wring them out in hot water and hang them on the barberry bushes, according to Mrs. Carey’s instructions.
“It doesn’t seem as if I could!” whimpered Julia. “I have always been so sensitive, and dish towels are so disgusting! They do _smell_, Nancy!”
“They do,” said Nancy sternly, “but they will smell worse if they are not washed! I give you the dish-wiping and take the washing, just to save your hands, but you must turn and turn about with Kathleen and me with some of the ugly, hateful things. If you were company of course we couldn’t let you, but you are a member of the family. Our principal concern must be to keep mother’s ‘high thoughts’ from grime; ours must just take their chance!”
Oh! how Julia disliked Nancy at this epoch in their common history; and how cordially and vigorously the dislike was returned! Many an unhappy moment did Mother Carey have over the feud, mostly deep and silent, that went on between these two; and Gilbert’s attitude was not much more hopeful. He had found a timetable or syllabus for the day’s doings, over Julia’s washstand. It had been framed under Miss Tewksbury’s guidance, who knew Julia’s unpunctuality and lack of system, and read as follows:–
Rise at 6.45.
Bathe and dress.
Devotional Exercises 7.15.
Household tasks till 9.
Exercise out of doors 9 to 10.
Study 10 to 12.
Preparations for dinner 12 to 1.
Recreation 2 to 4.
Study 4 to 5.
Preparation for supper 5 to 6.
Wholesome reading, walking, or conversation 7 to 8.
Devotional exercises 9.
There was nothing wrong about this; indeed, it was excellently conceived; still it appeared to Gilbert as excessively funny, and with Nancy’s help he wrote another syllabus and tacked it over Julia’s bureau.
On waking I can
Pray for Gilly and Nan;
Eat breakfast at seven.
Or ten or eleven,
Nor think when it’s noon
That luncheon’s too soon.
From twelve until one
I can munch on a bun.
At one or at two
My dinner’ll be due.
At three, say, or four,
I’ll eat a bit more.
When the clock’s striking five
Some mild exercise,
Very brief, would be wise,
Lest I lack appetite
For my supper at night.
Don’t go to bed late,
Eat a light lunch at eight,
Nor forget to say prayers
For my cousins downstairs.
Then with conscience like mine
I’ll be sleeping at nine.
Mrs. Carey had a sense of humor, and when the weeping Julia brought the two documents to her for consideration she had great difficulty in adjusting the matter gravely and with due sympathy for her niece.
“The F-f-f-fergusons never mentioned my appetite,” Julia wailed. “They were always trying to g-g-get me to eat!”
“Gilbert and Nancy are a little too fond of fun, and a little too prone to chaffing,” said Mrs. Carey. “They forget that you are not used to it, but I will try to make them more considerate. And don’t forget, my dear, that in a large family like ours we must learn to ‘live and let live.'”
Chapter 14 Ways And Means
It was late June, and Gilbert had returned from school, so the work of making the Yellow House attractive and convenient was to move forward at once. Up to now, the unpacking and distribution of the furniture, with the daily housework and cooking, had been all that Mrs. Carey and the girls could manage.
A village Jack-of-all-trades, Mr. Ossian Popham, generally and familiarly called “Osh” Popham, had been called in to whitewash existing closets and put hooks in them; also, with Bill Harmon’s consent, to make new ones here and there in handy corners. Dozens of shelves in odd spaces helped much in the tidy stowing away of household articles, bed-clothing, and stores. In the midst of this delightful and cheery setting-to-rights a letter arrived from Cousin Ann. The family was all sitting together in Mrs. Carey’s room, the announced intention being to hold an important meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, the Careys being strong on ways and uniformly short on means.
The arrival of the letters by the hand of Bill Harmon’s boy occurred before the meeting was called to order.
“May I read Cousin Ann’s aloud?” asked Nancy, who had her private reasons for making the offer.
“Certainly,” said Mrs. Carey unsuspectingly, as she took up the inevitable stocking. “I almost wish you had all been storks instead of chickens; then you would always have held up one foot, and perhaps that stocking, at least, wouldn’t have had holes in it!”
“Poor Muddy! I’m learning to darn,” cried Kathleen, kissing her.
LONGHAMPTON, NEW JERSEY, _June 27th_.
MY DEAR MARGARET [so Nancy read],–The climate of this seaside place suits me so badly that I have concluded to spend the rest of the summer with you, lightening those household tasks which will fall so heavily on your shoulders.
[Groans from the whole family gr8