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dim and faded, but I simply cannot have them covered up!”
“It would be wicked to hide them!” said Nancy. “Oh, Muddy, _is_ it our duty to write to Mr. Hamilton and tell him about them? He would certainly take the house away from us if he could see how beautiful we have made it, and now here is another lovely thing to tempt him. Could anybody give up this painted chamber if it belonged to him?”
“Well, you see,” said Mr. Popham assuringly, “if you want to use this painted chamber much, you’ve got to live in Beulah; an’ Lem Hamilton ain’t goin’ to stop consullin’ at the age o’ fifty, to come here an’ rust out with the rest of us;–no, siree! Nor Mis’ Lem Hamilton wouldn’t stop over night in this village if you give her the town drinkin’ trough for a premium!”
“Is she fashionable?” asked Julia.
“You bet she is! She’s tall an’ slim an’ so chuck full of airs she’d blow away if you give her a puff o’ the bellers! The only time she come here she stayed just twenty-four hours, but she nearly died, we was all so ‘vulgar.’ She wore a white dress ruffled up to the waist, and a white Alpine hat, an’ she looked exactly like the picture of Pike’s Peak in my stereopticon. Mis’ Popham overheard her say Beulah was full o’ savages if not cannibals. ‘Well,’ I says to Maria, ‘no matter where she goes, nobody’ll ever want to eat _her_ alive!’–Look at that meetin’ house over the mantel shelf, an’ that grassy Common an’ elm trees! ‘T wa’n’t no house painter done these walls!”
“And look at this space between the two front windows,” cried Kathleen. “See the hens and chickens and the Plymouth Rock rooster!”
“And the white calf lying down under the maple; he’s about the prettiest thing in the room,” said Gilbert.
“We must just let it be and think it out,” said Mother Carey. “Don’t put any new paper on, now; there’s plenty to do downstairs.”
“I don’t know ‘s I should particularly like to lay abed in this room,” said Osh, his eyes roving about the chamber judicially. “I shouldn’t hev no comfort ondressin’ here, nohow; not with this mess o’ live stock lookin’ at me every minute, whatever I happened to be takin’ off. I s’pose that rooster’d be right on to his job at sun-up! Well, he couldn’t git ahead of Mis’ Popham, that’s one thing; so ‘t I shouldn’t be any worse off ‘n I be now! I don’t get any too much good sleep as ‘t is! Mis’ Popham makes me go to bed long afore I’m ready, so ‘t she can git the house shut up in good season; then ’bout ‘s soon’s I’ve settled down an’ bed one short nap she says, ‘It’s time you was up, Ossian!”‘
“Mother! I have an idea!” cried Nancy suddenly, as Mr. Popham took his leave and the family went out into the hall. “Do you know who could make the walls look as they used to? My dear Olive Lord!”
“She’s only sixteen!” objected Mrs. Carey.
“But she’s a natural born genius! You wait and see the things she does!”
“Perhaps I could take her into town and get some suggestions or some instruction, with the proper materials,” said Mrs. Carey, “and I suppose she could experiment on some small space behind the door, first?”
“Nothing that Olive does would ever be put behind anybody’s door,” Nancy answered decisively. “I’m not old enough to know anything about painting, of course (except that good landscapes ought not to be reversible like our Van Twiller), but there’s something about Olive’s pictures that makes you want to touch them and love them!”
So began the happiest, most wonderful, most fruitful autumn of Olive Lord’s life, when she spent morning after morning in the painted chamber, refreshing its faded tints. Whoever had done the original work had done it lovingly and well, and Olive learned many a lesson while she was following the lines of the quaint houses, like those on old china, renewing the green of the feathery elms, or retracing and coloring the curious sampler trees that stood straight and stiff like sentinels in the corners of the room.
Chapter 21 A Family Rhomboid
The Honorable Lemuel Hamilton sat in the private office of the American Consulate in Breslau, Germany, one warm day in July. The post had been brought in half an hour before, and he had two open letters on the desk in front of him. It was only ten o’clock of a bright morning, but he looked tired and worn. He was about fifty, with slightly grey hair and smoothly shaven face. He must have been merry at one time in his life, for there were many nice little laughing-wrinkles around his eyes, but somehow these seemed to have faded out, as if they had not been used for years, and the corners of his mouth turned down to increase the look of weariness and discontent.
A smile had crept over his face at his old friend Bill Harmon’s spelling and penmanship, for a missive of that kind seldom came to the American Consulate. When the second letter postmarked Beulah first struck his eye, he could not imagine why he should have another correspondent in the quaintly named little village. He had read Nancy’s letter twice now, and still he sat smoking and dreaming with an occasional glance at the girlish handwriting, or a twinkle of the eye at the re-reading of some particular passage. His own girls were not ready writers, and their mother generally sent their messages for them. Nancy and Kitty did not yet write nearly as well as they talked, but they contrived to express something of their own individuality in their communications, which were free and fluent, though childlike and crude.
“What a nice girl this Nancy Carey must be!” thought the American Consul. “This is such a jolly, confidential, gossipy, winsome little letter! Her first ‘business letter’ she calls it! Alas! when she learns how, a few years later, there will be no charming little confidences; no details of family income and expenditures; no tell-tale glimpses of ‘mother’ and ‘Julia.’ I believe I should know the whole family even without this photograph!–The lady sitting in the chair, to whom the photographer’s snapshot has not done justice, is worthy of Nancy’s praise,–and Bill Harmon’s. What a pretty, piquant, curly head Nancy has! What a gay, vivacious, alert, spirited expression. The boy is handsome and gentlemanly, but he’ll have to wake up, or Nancy will be the man of the family. The girl sitting down is less attractive. She’s Uncle Allan’s daughter, and” (consulting the letter) “Uncle Allan has nervous prostration and all of mother’s money.” Here Mr. Hamilton gave vent to audible laughter for the third time in a quarter of an hour. “Nancy doesn’t realize with what perfection her somewhat imperfect English states the case,” he thought. “I know Uncle Allan like a book, from his resemblance to certain other unfortunate gentlemen who have nervous prostration in combination with other people’s money. Let’s see! I know Nancy; friendly little Nancy, about fifteen or sixteen, I should judge; I know Uncle Allan’s ‘Julia,’ who hems in photographs, but not otherwise; I know Gilbert, who is depressed at having to make his own way; the small boy, who ‘is the nicest of us all’; Kitty, who beat all the others in getting to mother’s shoulder; and the mother herself, who is beautiful, and doesn’t say ‘Bosh’ to her children’s ideas, and refuses to touch the insurance money, and wants Gilbert to show what ‘father’s son’ can do without anybody’s help, and who revels in the color and joy of a yellow wall paper at twenty cents a roll! Bless their simple hearts! They mustn’t pay any rent while they are bringing water into the kitchen and making expensive improvements! And what Hamilton could be persuaded to live in the yellow house? To think of any one’s wanting to settle down in that little deserted spot, Beulah, where the only sound that ever strikes one’s ear is Osh Popham’s laugh or the tinkle of a cow bell! Oh! if my own girls would write me letters like this, letting me see how their minds are growing, how they are taking hold of life, above all what is in their hearts! Well, little Miss Nancy Carey! honest, outspoken, confidential, clever little Nancy, who calls me her ‘dearest Mr. Hamilton’ and thanks me for letting her live in my yellow house, you shall never be disturbed, and if you and Gilbert ever earn enough money to buy it, it shall go to you cheap! There’s not one of my brood that would live in it–except Tom, perhaps–for after spending three hundred dollars, they even got tired of dancing in the barn on Saturday nights; so if it can fall into the hands of some one who will bring a blessing on it, good old Granny Hamilton will rest peacefully in her grave!”
We have discoursed in another place of family circles, but it cannot be truthfully said that at any moment the Lemuel Hamiltons had ever assumed that symmetrical and harmonious shape. Still, during the first eight or ten years of their married life, when the children were young, they had at least appeared to the casual eye as, say, a rectangular parallelogram. A little later the cares and jolts of life wrenched the right angles a trifle “out of plumb,” and a rhomboid was the result. Mrs. Hamilton had money of her own, but wished Lemuel to amass enough fame and position to match it. She liked a diplomatic life if her husband could be an ambassador, but she thought him strangely slow in achieving this dignity. No pleasure or pride in her husband’s ability to serve his country, even in a modest position, ever crossed her mind. She had no desire to spend her valuable time in various poky Continental towns, and she had many excuses for not doing so; the proper education of her children being the chief among them. Luckily for her, good and desirable schools were generally at an easy distance from the jewellers’ shops and the dressmakers’ and milliners’ establishments her soul loved, so while Mr. Hamilton did his daily task in Antwerp, Mrs. Hamilton resided mostly in Brussels or Paris; when he was in Zittau, in Saxony, she was in Dresden. If he were appointed to some business city she remained with him several months each year, and spent the others in a more artistic and fashionable locality. The situation was growing difficult because the children were gradually getting beyond school age, although there still remained to her the sacred duty of settling them properly in life. Agnes, her mother’s favorite, was still at school, and was devoted to foreign languages, foreign manners, and foreign modes of life. Edith had grown restless and developed an uncomfortable fondness for her native land, so that she spent most of her time with her mother’s relatives in New York, or in visiting school friends here or there. The boys had gone far away; Jack, the elder, to Texas, where he had lost what money his father and mother had put into his first business venture; Thomas, the younger, to China, where he was woefully lonely, but doing well in business. A really good diplomatic appointment in a large and important city would have enabled Mr. Hamilton to collect some of his scattered sons and daughters and provide them with the background for which his wife had yearned without ceasing (and very audibly) for years. But Mr. Hamilton did not get the coveted appointment, and Mrs. Hamilton did not specially care for Mr. Hamilton when he failed in securing the things she wanted. This was the time when the laughing-wrinkles began to fade away from Mr. Hamilton’s eyes, just for lack of daily use; and it was then that the corners of his mouth began to turn down; and his shoulders to stoop, and his eye to grow less keen and brave, and his step less vigorous. It may be a commonplace remark, but it is not at these precise moments in life that tired, depressed men in modest positions are wafted by Uncle Sam to great and desirable heights; but to Mrs. Hamilton it appeared that her husband was simply indolent, unambitious, and unlucky; not at all that he needed to be believed in, or loved, or comforted, or helped, or braced! It might have startled her, and hurt her wifely pride, if she had seen her lonely husband drinking in little Nancy Carey’s letter as if it were dew to a thirsty spirit; to see him set the photograph of the Carey group on his desk and look at it from time to time affectionately, as if he had found some new friends. It was the contentment, the hope, the unity, the pluck, the mutual love, the confidence, the ambition, of the group that touched his imagination and made his heart run out to them. “Airs from the Eden of youth awoke and stirred in his soul” as he took his pen to answer Nancy’s first business communication.
Having completed his letter he lighted another cigar, and leaning back in his revolving chair clasped his hands behind his head and fell into a reverie. The various diplomatic posts that might be opened to him crossed his mind in procession. If A or B or C were possible, his wife would be content, and their combined incomes might be sufficient to bring the children together, if not quite under one roof, then to points not so far separated from each other but that a speaking acquaintance might be developed. Tom was the farthest away, and he was the dearest; the only Hamilton of the lot; the only one who loved his father.
Mr. Hamilton leaned forward abstractedly, and fumbling through one drawer of his desk after another succeeded in bringing out a photograph of Tom, taken at seventeen or eighteen. Then by a little extra search he found his wife in her presentation dress at a foreign court. There was no comfort or companionship in that, it was too furbelowed to be anybody’s wife,–but underneath it i cheap ghds n the same frame was one taken just after their marriage. That was too full of memories to hold much joy, but it stirred his heart, and made it beat a little; enough at any rate to show it was not dead. In the letter case in his vest pocket was an almost forgotten picture of the girls when they were children. This with the others he stood in a row in front of him, reminding himself that he did not know the subjects much more intimately than the photographers who had made their likenesses. He glanced from one family to the other and back again, several times. The Careys were handsomer, there was no doubt of that; but th cheap ghd straighteners next day delivery ere was a deeper difference that eluded him. The Hamiltons were far more stylishly dressed, but they all looked a little conscious and a little discontented. That was it; the Careys were happier! There were six of them, living in the forgotten Hamilton house in a half-deserted village, on five or six hundred dollars a year, and doing their own housework, and they were happier than his own brood, spending forty or cheap ghd air fifty times that sum. Well, they were grown up, his sons and daughters, and the only change in their lives now would come from wise or unwise marriages. No poverty-stricken sons-in-law would ever come into the family, with Mrs. Hamilton standing at the bars, he was sure of that! As for the boys, they might choose their mates in Texas or China; they might even have chosen them now, for aught he knew, though Jack was only twenty-six and Tom twenty-two. He must write to them oftener, all of them, no matter how busy and anxious he might be; especially to Tom, who was so far away.
He drew a sheet of paper towards him, and having filled it, another, and yet another. Having folded and slipped it into an envelope and addressed it to Thomas Hamilton, Esq., Hong Kong, China, he was about to seal it when he stopped a moment. “I’ll enc cheap ghd straighteners £50 lose the little Carey girl’s letter,” he thought. “Tom’s the only one who cares a penny for the old house, and I’ve told him I have rented it. He’s a generous boy, and he won’t grudge a few dollars lost to a good cause. Besides, these Careys will increase the value of the property every year they live in it, and without them the buildings would gradually have fallen into ruins.” He added a postscript to his letter, saying: “I’ve sent you little Miss Nancy’s letter, the photograph of her tying up the rambler rose, and the family group; so that you can see exactly what influenced me to write her (and Bill Harmon) that they should be undisturbed in their tenancy, and that their repairs and improvements should be taken in lieu of rent.” This done and the letters stamped, he put the photographs of his wife and children here and there on his desk and left the office.
Oh! it is qui cheap ghd flat iron te certain that Mother Carey’s own chickens go out over the seas and show good birds the way home; and it is quite true, as she said, “One real home always makes another, I am sure of that!” It can even send a vision of a home across fields and forests and lakes and oceans from Beulah village to Breslau, Germany, and on to Hong Kong, China.
Chapter 22 Cradle Gifts
Mrs. Henry Lord sent out a good many invitations to the fairies for Cyril’s birthday party, but Mr. Lord was at his critical point in the first volume of his text book, and forgot that he had a son. Where both parents are not interested in these little affairs, something is sure to be forgotten. Cyril’s mother was weak and ill at the time, and the upshot of it was that the anger of The Fairy Who Wasn’t Invited was visited on the baby Cyril in his cradle. In the revengeful spirit of that fairy who is omitted from the se functions, she sent a threat instead of a blessing, and decreed that Cyril should walk in fear all the days of his life. Of course, being a fairy, she knew very well that, if Cyril, or anybody very much interested in Cyril, went to declare that there was no power whatever behind her curse, she would not be able to gratify her spite; but she knew also, being a fairy, that if Cyril got into the habit of believing himself a coward, he would end by being one, so she stood a good chance of winning, after all.
Cyril, when he came into the world, had come with only half a welcome. No mother and father ever met over his cradle and looked at him together, wondering if it were “well with the child.” When he was old enough to have his red-gold hair curled, and a sash tied around his baby waist, he was sometimes taken downstairs, but he always fled to his mother’s or his nurse’s knee when his father approached. How many times he and h ghd straighteners is little sister Olive had hidden under the stairs when father had called mother down to the study to scold her about the grocer’s bill! And there was a nightmare of a memory concerning a certain birthday of father’s, when mother had determined to be gay. It was just before supper. Cyril, clad in his first brief trousers, was to knock at the study door with a little purple nosegay in his hand, to show his father that the lilac had bloomed. Olive, in crimson cashmere, was to stand near, and when the door opened, present him with her own picture of the cat and her new kittens; while mother, looking so pretty, with her own gift all ready in her hand, was palpitating on the staircase to see how the plans would work. Nothing could have been worse, however, in the way of a small domestic tragedy, than the event itself when it finally came off.
Cyril knocked. “What do you want?” came from within, in tones that breathed vexation at being interrupted.
“Knock again!” whispered Mrs. Lord. “Father doesn’t remember that it’s his birthday, an heap ghd hair straighteners uk d he doesn’t know that it’s you knocking.”
Cyril knocked again timidly, but at the first sound of his father’s irritable voice as he rose hurriedly from his desk, the boy turned and fled through the kitchen to the shed.
Olive held the fort, picture in hand.
“It’s your birthday, father,” she said. “There’s a cake for supper, and here’s my present.” There was no love in the child’s voice. Her heart, filled with pass cheap ghd wide plate straighteners ionate sympathy for Cyril, had lost all zest for its task, and she handed her gift to her father with tightly closed lips and heaving breast.
“All right; I’m much obliged, but I wish you would not knock at this door when I am writing,–I’ve told you that before. Tell your mother I can’t come to supper to-night, but to send me a tray, please!”
As he closed the door Olive saw him lay the picture on a table, never looking at it as he crossed the room to one of the great book-cases that lined the walls.
Mrs. Lord had by this time disappeared forlornly from the upper hall. Olive, aged ten, talked up the stairs in a state of mind ferocious in its anger. Entering her mother’s room she tore the crimson ribbon from her hair and began to unbutton her dress. “I hate him! I _hate_ him!” she cried, stamping her foot. “I will never knock leopard ghd straighteners at his door again! I’d like to take Cyril and run away! I’ll get the birthday cake and fling it into the pond; nothing shall stop me!”. Then, seeing her mother’s white face, she wailed, as she flung herself on the bed: “Oh, mother, mother,–why did you ever let him come to live with us? Did we _have_ to have him for a father? Couldn’t you _help_ it, mother?”
Mrs. Lord grew paler, put her hand to her heart, wavered, caught herself, wavered again, and fell into the great chair by the window. Her eyes closed, and Olive, frightened by the apparent effect of her words, ran down the back stairs and summoned the cook. When she returned, panting and breathless, her mother was sitting quite quietly by the window, looking out at the cedars.
“It was only a sudden pain, dear! I am all well again. Nothing is really the matter, Bridget. Mr. Lord will not be down to supper; spread a tray cheap ghd straighteners for him, please.”
“I’d like to spread a tray for him at the bottom of the Red Sea; that’s where he belongs!” muttered Bridget, as she descended to the kitchen to comfort Cyril.
“Was it my fault, mother?” asked Olive, bending over her anxiously.
Her mother drew the child’s head down and leaned her own against it feebly. “No, dear,” she sighed. “It’s nobody’s fault, unless it’s mine!”
“Is the pain gone?”
“Quite gone, dear.”
Nevertheless the pain was to prove the final wrench to a heart that had been on the verge of breaking for many a year, and it was not long before Olive and Cyril were motherless.
Mr. Lord did not have the slightest objection to the growing intimacy between his children and the new family in the Yellow House, so long as he was not disturbed by it, and so long as it cost him nothing. They had strict orders not to play with certain of their village acquaintanc ghd outlet es, Mr. Lord believing himself to be an aristocrat; the fact being that he was almost destitute of human sympathy, and to make a neighbor of him you would have had to begin with his grandfather and work for three generations. He had seen Nancy and Gilbert at the gates of his place, and he had passed Mrs. Carey in one of his infrequent walks to the post-office. She was not a person to pass without mental comment, and Mr. Lord instantly felt himself in the presence of an equal, an unusual fact in his experience; he would not have known a superior if he had met one ever so often!
“A very fine, unusual woman,” he thought. “She accounts for that handsome, manly boy. I wish he could knock some spirit into Cyril!”
The process of “knocking spirit” into a boy would seem to be inconsistent with educational logic, but by very different methods, Gilbert had certainly given Cyril a trifling belief in himself, and Mother Carey was gradually leopard print ghds winning him to some sort of self-expression by the warmth of her frequent welcomes and the delightful faculty she possessed of making him feel at ease.
“Come, come!” said the petrels to the molly-mocks in “Water Babies.” “This young gentleman is going to Shiny Wall. He is a plucky one to have gone so far. Give the little chap a cast over the ice-pack for Mother Carey’s sake.”
Gilbert was delighted, in a new place, to find a boy friend of his own age, and Cyril’s speedy attachment gratified his pride. Gilbert was doing well these summer months. The unceasing activity, the authority given him by his mother and sisters, his growing proficiency in all kinds of skilled labor, as he “puttered” about with Osh Popham or Bill Harmon in house and barn and garden, all this pleased his enterprising nature. Only one anxiety troubled his mother; his unresigned and mutinous attitude about exchanging popular and fashionable Eastover for Beulah Academy, which seat of learning he regarded with unutterable scorn. He knew that there was apparently Cheap leopard print ghd no money to pay Eastover fees, but he was still child enough to feel that it could be found, somewhere, if properly searched for. He even considered the education of Captain Carey’s eldest son an emergency vital enough to make it proper to dip into the precious five thousand dollars which was yielding them a part of their slender annual income. Once, when Gilbert was a little boy, he had put his shoulder out of joint, and to save time his mother took him at once to the doctor’s. He was suffering, but still strong enough to walk. They had to climb a hilly street, the child moaning with pain, his mother soothing and encouraging him as they went on. Suddenly he whimpered: “Oh! if this had only happened to Ellen or Joanna or Addy or Nancy, I could have borne it _so_ much better!”
There was a good deal of that small boy left in Gilbert still, and he endured best the economies that fell on the feminine members of the family. It was the very end of August, and although school opened the first Monday in September, Mrs. Carey was not certain whether Gilbert would walk into the old-fashioned, white painted academy with the despised Beulah “hayseeds,” or whether he would make a scene, and authority would have to be used.
“I declare, Gilly!” exclaimed Mother Carey one night, after an argument on the subject; “one would imagine the only course in life open to a boy was to prepare at Eastover and go to college afterwards! Yet you may take a list of the most famous men in America, and I dare say you will find half of them came from schools like Beulah Academy or infinitely poorer ones. I don’t mean the millionaires alone. I mean the merchants and engineers and surgeons and poets and authors and statesmen. Go ahead and try to stamp your school in some way, Gilly!–don’t sit down feebly and wait for it to stamp you!”
This was all very well as an exhibition of spirit on Mother Carey’s part, but it had been a very hard week. Gilbert was sulky; Peter had had a touch of tonsillitis; Nancy was faltering at the dishwashing and wishing she were a boy; Julia was a perfect barnacle; Kathleen had an aching tooth, and there being no dentist in the village, Was applying Popham remedies,–clove-chewing, roasted raisins, and disfiguring bread poultices; Bill Harmon had received no reply from Mr. Hamilton, and when Mother Carey went to her room that evening she felt conscious of a lassitude, and a sense of anxiety, deeper than for months. As Gilbert went by to his own room, he glanced in at her door, finding it slightly ajar. She sat before her dressing table, her long hair flowing over her shoulders, her head bent over her two hands. His father’s picture was in its accustomed place, and he heard her say as she looked at it: “Oh, my dear, my dear! I am so careworn, so troubled, so discouraged! Gilbert needs you, and so do I, more than tongue can tell!” The voice was so low that it was almost a whisper, but it reached Gilbert’s ears, and there was a sob strangled in it that touched his heart.
The boy tiptoed softly into his room and sat down on his bed in the moonlight.
“Dear old Mater!” he thought. “It’s no go! I’ve got to give up Eastover and college and all and settle down into a country bumpkin! No fellow could see his mother look like that, and speak like that, and go his own gait; he’s just got to go hers!”
Meantime Mrs. Carey had put out the lamp and lay quietly thinking. The last words that floated through her mind as she sank to sleep were those of a half-forgotten verse, learned, she could not say how many years before:–

You can glad your child or grieve it!
You can trust it or deceive it;
When all’s done
Beneath God’s sun
You can only love and leave it.
Chapter 23 Nearing Shiny Wall
Another person presumably on the way to Shiny Wall and Peacepool, but putting small energy into the journey, was that mass of positively glaring virtues, Julia Carey. More than one fairy must have been forgotten when Julia’s christening party came off. No heart-to-heart talk in the twilight had thus far produced any obvious effect. She had never, even when very young, experienced a desire to sit at the feet of superior wisdom, always greatly preferring a chair of her own. She seldom did wrong, in her own opinion, because the moment she entertained an idea it at once became right, her vanity serving as a pair of blinders to keep her from seeing the truth. The doctors did not permit any one to write to poor Allan Carey, so that Julia’s heart could not be softened by continual communication with her invalid father, who, with Gladys Ferguson, constituted the only tribunal she was willing to recognize. Her consciousness of superiority to the conditions that surrounded her, her love of luxury, the silken selfishness with which she squirmed out of unpleasant duties, these made her an unlikable and undesirable housemate, and that these faults could exist with what Nancy called her “everlasting stained-glass attitude” made it difficult for Mother Carey to maintain a harmonious family circle. It was an outburst of Nancy’s impetuous temper that Mrs. Carey had always secretly dreaded, but after all it was poor Kathleen who precipitated an unforgettable scene which left an influence behind it for many months.
The morning after Mother Carey’s interview with Gilbert she looked up as her door was pushed open, and beheld Julia, white and rigid with temper, standing on the threshold.
“What is the matter, child?” exclaimed her aunt, laying down her work in alarm.
Close behind Julia came Kathleen, her face swollen with tears, her expression full of unutterable woe.
Julia’s lips opened almost automatically as she said slowly and with bitter emphasis, “Aunt Margaret, is it true, as Kathleen says, that my father has all your money and some of Uncle Peter’s?”
Something snapped in Mother Carey! One glance at Kathleen showed only too well that she had committed the almost unpardonable sin of telling Julia what had been carefully and tenderly kept from her. Before she could answer Kathleen had swept past Julia and flung herself on the floor near her mother.
“Oh, mother, I can’t say anything that will ever make you understand. Julia knows, she knows in her heart, what she said that provoked me! She does nothing but grumble about the work, and how few dresses we have, and what a drudge she is, and what common neighbors we have, and how Miss Tewksbury would pity her if she knew all, and how Uncle Allan would suffer if he could see his daughter living such a life! And this morning my head ached and my tooth ached and I was cross, and all at once something leaped out of my mouth!”
“Tell her what you said,” urged Julia inexorably.
Sobs choked Kathleen’s voice. “I said–I said–oh! how can I tell it! I said, if her father hadn’t lost so much of my father’s and my mother’s money we shouldn’t have been so poor, any of us.”
“Kathleen, how could you!” cried her mother.
If Julia wished to precipitate a tempest she had succeeded, and her face showed a certain sedate triumph.
“Oh! mother! don’t give me up; don’t give me up!” wailed Kathleen. “It wasn’t me that said it, it was somebody else that I didn’t know lived inside of me. I don’t expect you to forgive it or forget it, Julia, but if you’ll only try, just a little bit, I’ll show you how sorry I feel. I’d cut myself and make it bleed, I’d go to prison, if I could get back to where I was before I said it! Oh! what shall I do, mother, if you look at me like that again or say ‘How could you!'”
There was no doubting Kathleen’s remorse; even Julia saw that.
“Did she tell the truth, Aunt Margaret?” she repeated.
“Come here, Julia, and sit by me. It is true that your Uncle Peter and I have both put money into your father’s business, and it is true that he has not been able to give it back to us, and perhaps may never do so. There is just enough left to pay your poor father’s living expenses, but we trust his honor; we are as sorry for him as we can be, and we love him dearly. Kathleen meant nothing but that your father has been unfortunate and we all have to abide by the consequences; but I am amazed that my daughter should have so forgotten herself as to speak of it to you!” (Renewed sobs from the prostrate Kathleen).
“Especially,” said Julia, “when, as Gladys Ferguson says, I haven’t anybody in the world but you, to turn to in my trouble. I am a fatherless girl” (her voice quivered here), “and I am a guest in your house.”
Mrs. Carey’s blood rose a little as she looked at poor Kitty’s shaken body and streaming eyes, and Julia’s unforgiving face. “You are wrong there, Julia. I fail to see why you should not take your full share of our misfortunes, and suffer as much as we, from our too small income. It is not our fault, it is not yours. You are not a privileged guest, you are one of the family. If you are fatherless just now, my children are fatherless forever; yet you have not made one single burden lighter by joining our forces. You have been an outsider, instead of putting yourself loyally into the breach, and working with us heart to heart. I welcomed you with open arms and you have made my life harder, much harder, than it was before your coming. To protect you I have had to discipline my own children continually, and all the time you were putting their tempers to quite unnecessary tests! I am not extenuating Kathleen, but I merely say you have no right to behave as you do. You are thirteen years old, quite old enough to make up your mind whether you wish to be loved by anybody or not; at present you are not!”
Never had the ears of the Paragon heard such disagreeably plain speech. She was not inclined to tears, but moisture began to appear in her eyes and she looked as though a shower were imminent. Aunt Margaret was magnificent in her wrath, and though Julia feared, she admired her. Not to be loved, if that really were to be her lot, rather terrified Julia. She secretly envied Nancy’s unconscious gift of drawing people to her instantly; men, women, children,–dogs and horses, for that matter. She never noticed that Nancy’s heart ran out to meet everybody, and that she was overflowing with vitality and joy and sympathy; on the contrary, she considered the tribute of affection paid to Nancy as a part of Nancy’s luck. Virtuous, conscientious, intelligent, and well-dressed as she felt herself to be, she emphatically did not wish to be disliked, and it was a complete surprise to her that she had not been a successful Carey chicken.
“Gladys Ferguson always loved me,” she expostulated after a brief silence, and there was a quiver in her voice.
“Then either Gladys has a remarkable gift of loving, or else you are a different Julia in her company,” remarked Mother Carey, quietly, raising Julia’s astonishment and perturbation to an immeasurable height.
“Now, Kathleen,” continued Mother Carey, “Mrs. Godfrey has often asked you to spend a week with Elsie, and you can go to Charlestown on the afternoon train. Go away from Julia and forget everything but that you have done wrong and you must find a way to repair it. I hope Julia will learn while you are away to make it easier for you to be courteous and amiable. There is a good deal in the Bible, Julia, about the sin of causing your brother to offend. Between that sin and Kathleen’s offence, there is little, in my mind, to choose!”
“Yes, there is!” cried Kathleen. “I am much, much worse than Julia. Father couldn’t bear to know that I had hurt Julia’s feelings and hurt yours too. I was false to father, and you, and Uncle Allan, and Julia. Nothing can be said for me, _nothing_! I am so ashamed of myself that I shall never get over it in the world. Oh, Julia, could you shake hands with me, just to show me you know how I despise myself?”
Julia shook hands considerably less like a slug or a limpet than usual, and something very queer and unexpected happened when her hand met poor Kitty’s wet, feverish little paw and she heard the quiver in her voice. She suddenly stooped and kissed her cousin, quite without intention. Kathleen returned the salute with grateful, pathetic warmth, and then the two fell on Mother Carey’s neck to be kissed and cried over for a full minute.
“I’ll go to the doctor and have my ugly tooth pulled out,” exclaimed Kathleen, wiping her eyes. “If it hadn’t been for that I never could have been so horrible!”
“That would be all very well for once,” answered her mother with a tired smile, “but if you pluck out a supposed offending member every time you do something wrong, I fear you will not have many left when you are an old lady!”
“Mother!” said Kathleen, almost under her breath and not daring to look up, “couldn’t I stay at home from Charlestown and show you and Julia, here, how sorry I am?”
“Yes, let her, Aunt Margaret, and then I can have a chance to try too,” pleaded Julia.
Had the heavens fallen? Had the Paragon, the Pink of Propriety and Perfection, confessed a fault? Had the heart of the smug one, the prig, melted, and did she feel at last her kinship to the Carey chickens? Had she suffered a real grievance, the first amongst numberless deeds of tenderness, and having resented it like an “old beast,” forgiven it like a “new” one? It certainly seemed as if Mother Carey that week were at her old trade of making things make themselves. Gilbert, Kathleen, and Julia had all fought their way under the ice-pack and were getting a glimpse of Shiny Wall.
Chapter 24 A Letter Prom Germany
Mother Carey walked down the village street one morning late in August, while Peter, milk pail in hand, was running by her side and making frequent excursions off the main line of travel. Beulah looked enchanting after a night of rain, and the fields were greener than they had been since haying time. Unless Mr. Hamilton were away from his consular post on a vacation somewhere on the Continent, he should have received, and answered, Bill Harmon’s letter before this, she was thinking, as she looked at the quiet beauty of the scene that had so endeared itself to her in a few short months.
Mrs. Popham had finished her morning’s work and was already sitting at her drawing-in frame in the open doorway, making a very purple rose with a very scarlet centre.
“Will you come inside, Mis’ Carey?” she asked hospitably, “or do you want Lallie Joy to set you a chair on the grass, same as you had last time?”
“I always prefer the grass, Mrs. Popham,” smiled Mrs. Carey. “As it’s the day for the fishman to come I thought we’d like an extra quart of milk for chowder.”
“I only hope he’ll make _out_ to come,” was Mrs. Popham’s curt response. “If I set out to _be_ a fishman, I vow I’d _be_ one! Mr. Tubbs stays to home whenever he’s hayin’, or his wife’s sick, or it’s stormy, or the children want to go to the circus!”
Mrs. Carey laughed. “That’s true; but as your husband reminded me last week, when Mr. Tubbs disappointed us, his fish is always fresh-caught, and good.”
“Oh! of course Mr. Popham would speak up for him!” returned his wife. “I don’t see myself as it makes much diff’rence whether his fish is good or bad, if he stays to home with it! Mebbe I look on the dark side a little mite; I can’t hardly help it, livin’ with Mr. Popham, and he so hopeful.”
“He keeps us all very merry at the Yellow House,” Mrs. Carey ventured.
“Yes, he would,” remarked Mrs. Popham drily, “but you don’t git it stiddy; hopefulness at meals, hopefulness evenin’s, an’ hopefulness nights!–one everlastin’ stiddy stream of hopefulness! He was jest so as a boy; always lookin’ on the bright side whether there was any or not. His mother ‘n’ father got turrible sick of it; so much sunshine in the house made a continual drouth, so old Mis’ Popham used to say. For her part, she said, she liked to think that, once in a while, there was a cloud that was a first-class cloud; a thick, black cloud, clean through to the back! She was tired to death lookin’ for Ossian’s silver linin’s! Lallie Joy’s real moody like me; I s’pose it’s only natural, livin’ with a father who never sees anything but good, no matter which way he looks. There’s two things I trust I shan’t hear any more when I git to heaven,–that’s ‘Cheer up Maria!’ an’ ‘It’s all for the best!’ As for Mr. Popham, he says any place’ll be heaven to him so long as I ain’t there, callin’ ‘Hurry up Ossian!’ so we have it, back an’ forth!”
“It’s a wonderful faculty, seeing the good in everything,” sighed Mrs. Carey.
“Wonderful tiresome,” returned Mrs. Popham, “though I will own up it’s Ossian’s only fault, and he can’t see his own misfortunes any clearer than he can see those of other folks. His new colt run away with him last week and stove the mowin’ machine all to pieces. ‘Never mind, Maria!’ he says, ‘it’ll make fust-rate gear for a windmill!’ He’s out in the barn now, fussin’ over it; you can hear him singin’. They was all here practicin’ for the Methodist concert last, night, an’ I didn’t sleep a wink, the tunes kep’ a-runnin’ in my head so! They always git Ossian to sing ‘Fly like a youthful hart or roe, over the hills where spices grow,’ an’ I tell him he’s too old; youthful harts an’ roes don’t fly over the hills wearin’ spectacles, I tell him, but he’ll go right on singin’ it till they have to carry him up on the platform in a wheeled chair!”
“You go to the Congregational church, don’t you, Mrs. Popham?” asked Mrs. Carey. “I’ve seen Lallie and Digby at Sunday-school.”
“Yes, Mr. Popham is a Methodist and I’m a Congregationalist, but I say let the children go where they like, so I always take them with me.”
Mrs. Carey was just struggling to conceal her amusement at this religious flexibility on Mrs. Popham’s part, when she espied Nancy flying down the street, bareheaded, waving a bit of paper in the air.
“Are you ‘most ready to come home, Muddy?” she called, without coming any nearer.
“Yes, quite ready, now Lallie has brought the milk. Good morning, Mrs. Popham; the children want me for some new enterprise.”
“You give yourself most too much to ’em,” expostulated Mrs. Popham; “you don’t take no vacations.”
“Ah, well, you see ‘myself’ is all I have to give them,” answered Mrs. Carey, taking Peter and going to meet Nancy.
“Mother,” said that young person breathlessly, “I must tell you what I didn’t tell at the time, for fear of troubling you. I wrote to Mr. Hamilton by the same post that Mr. Harmon did. Bill is so busy and such a poor writer I thought he wouldn’t put the matter nicely at all, and I didn’t want you, with all your worries, brought into it, so I wrote to the Consul myself, and kept a copy to show you exactly what I said. I have been waiting at the gate for the letters every day for a week, but this morning Gilbert happened to be there and shouted, ‘A letter from Germany for you, Nancy!’ So all of them are wild with curiosity; Olive and Cyril too, but I wanted you to open and read it first because it may be full of awful blows.”
Mrs. Carey sat down on the side of a green bank between the Pophams’ corner and the Yellow House and opened the letter,–with some misgivings, it must be confessed. Nancy sat close beside her and held one edge of the wide sheets, closely filled.
“Why, he has written you a volume, Nancy!” exclaimed Mrs. Carey. “It must be the complete story of his life! How long was yours to him?” “I don’t remember; pretty long; because there seemed to be so much to tell, to show him how we loved the house, and why we couldn’t spend Cousin Ann’s money and move out in a year or two, and a lot about ourselves, to let him see we were nice and agreeable and respectable.”
“I’m not sure all that was strictly necessary,” commented Mrs. Carey with some trepidation.
This was Lemuel Hamilton’s letter, dated from the office of the American Consul in Breslau, Germany.

MY DEAR MISS NANCY,–As your letter to me was a purely “business” communication I suppose I ought to begin my reply: “Dear Madam, Your esteemed favor was received on the sixth inst. and contents noted,” but I shall do nothing of the sort. I think you must have guessed that I have two girls of my own, for you wrote to me just as if we were sitting together side by side, like two friends, not a bit as landlord and tenant.

Mother Carey’s eyes twinkled. She well knew Nancy’s informal epistolary style, and her facile, instantaneous friendliness!

Every word in your letter interested me, pleased me, touched me. I feel that I know you all, from the dear mother who sits in the centre–

“What does he mean by that?”
“I sent him a snap shot of the family.”
“_Nancy_! What for?”
“So that he could see what we were like; so that he’d know we were fit to be lifelong tenants!”
Mrs. Carey turned resignedly to the letter again.

From the dear mother who sits in the centre, to the lovable little Peter who looks as if he were all that you describe him! I was about his age when I went to the Yellow House to spend a few years. Old Granny Hamilton had lived there all her life, and when my mother, who was a widow, was seized with a serious illness she took me home with her for a long visit. She was never well enough to go away, so my early childhood was passed in Beulah, and I only left the village when I was ten years old, and an orphan.

“Oh, dear!” interpolated Nancy. “It seems, lately, as if nobody had both father and mother!”

Granny Hamilton died soon after my mother, and I hardly know who lived in the house for the next thirty years. It was my brother’s property, and a succession of families occupied it until it fell to me in my turn. I have no happy memories connected with it, so you can go ahead and make them for yourselves. My only remembrance is of the west bedroom, where my mother lived and died.

“The west bedroom; that isn’t the painted one; no, of course it is the one where I sleep,” said Mrs. Carey. “The painted one must always have been the guest chamber.”

She could only move from bed to chair, and her greatest pleasure was to sit by the sunset window and look at the daisies and buttercups waving in that beautiful sloping stretch of field with the pine woods beyond. After the grass was mown, and that field was always left till the last for her sake, she used to sit there and wait for Queen Anne’s lace to come up; its tall stems and delicate white wheels nodding among the grasses.

“Oh! I do _like_ him!” exclaimed Nancy impetuously. “Can’t you _see_ him, mother? It’s so nice of him to remember that they always mowed the hayfield last for his mother’s sake, and so nice of him to think of Queen Anne’s lace all these years!”

Now as to business, your Cousin Ann is quite right when she tells you that you ought not to put expensive improvements on another person’s property lest you be disturbed in your tenancy. That sort of cousin is always right, whatever she says. Mine was not named Ann; she was Emma, but the principle is the same.

“Nancy!” asked Mrs. Carey, looking away from the letter again, “did you say anything about your Cousin Ann?”
“Yes, some little thing or other; for it was her money that we couldn’t spend until we knew we could stay in the house. I didn’t describe her, of course, to Mr. Hamilton; I just told him she was very businesslike, and yes, I remember now, I told him you said she was a very fine person; that’s about all. But you see how clever he is! he just has ‘instinks,’ as Mr. Popham says, and you don’t have to tell him much about anything.”

If you are intending to bring the water from the well into the house and put a large stove in the cellar to warm some of the upper rooms; if you are papering and painting inside, and keeping the place in good condition, you are preserving my property and even adding to its value; so under the circumstances I could not think of accepting any rent in money.

“No rent! Not even the sixty dollars!” exclaimed Nancy.
“Look; that is precisely what he says.”
“There never was such a dear since the world began!” cried Nancy joyously. “Oh! do read on; there’s a lot more, and the last may contradict the first.”

Shall I tell you what more the Careys may do for me, they who have done so much already?

“So much!” quoted Nancy with dramatic emphasis. “Oh, he _is_ a dear!”

My son Tom, when he went down to Beulah before starting for China, visited the house and at my request put away my mother’s picture safely. He is a clever boy, and instead of placing the thing in an attic where it might be injured, he tucked it away,–where do you think,–in the old brick oven of the room that is now, I suppose, your dining room. It is a capital hiding-place, for there had been no fire there for fifty years, nor ever will be again. I have other portraits of her with me, on this side of the water. Please remove the one I speak of from its wrappings and hang it over the mantel shelf in the west bedroom.

“My bedroom! I shall love to have it there,” said Mother Carey.

Then, once a year, on my mother’s birthday,–it is the fourth of July and an easy date to remember,–will my little friend Miss Nancy, or any of the other Careys, if she is absent, pick a little nosegay of daisies and buttercups (perhaps there will even be a bit of early Queen Anne’s lace) and put it in a vase under my mother’s picture? That shall be the annual rent paid for the Yellow House to Lemuel Hamilton by the Careys!

Tears of joy sprang to the eyes of emotional Nancy. She rose to her feet and paced the greensward excitedly.
“Oh, mother, I didn’t think there could be another such man after knowing father and the Admiral. Isn’t it all as wonderful as a fairy story?”
“There’s a little more; listen, dear.”8

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