It is always foggy here when it does not rain, and the cooking is very bad. The manager of the hotel is uncivil and the office clerks very rude, so that Beulah, unfortunate place of residence as I consider it, will be much preferable.
I hope you are getting on well with the work on the house, although I regard your treating it as if it were your own, as the height of extravagance. You will never get back a penny you spend on it, and probably when you get it in good order Mr. Hamilton will come back from Europe and live in it himself, or take it away from you and sell it to some one else.
Gilbert will be home by now, but I should not allow him to touch the woodwork, as he is too careless and unreliable.
[“She’ll never forget that the bed came down with her!” exclaimed Gilbert, his voice muffled by the sofa cushions.]
Remember me to Julia. I hope she enjoys her food better than when I was with you. Children must eat if they would grow.
[Mother Carey pricked up her ears at this point, and Gilbert raised himself on one elbow, but Nancy went on gravely.]
Tell Kathleen to keep out of the sun, or wear a hat, as her complexion is not at all what it used to be. Without color and with freckles she will be an unusually plain child.
[Kathleen flushed angrily and laid down her work.]
Give my love to darling Nancy. What a treasure you have in your eldest, Margaret! I hope you are properly grateful for her. Such talent, such beauty, such grace, such discretion–
But here the family rose _en masse_ and descended on the reader of the spurious letter just as she had turned the first page. In the amiable scuffle that ensued, a blue slip fell from Cousin Ann’s envelope and Gilbert handed it to his mother with the letter.
Mrs. Carey, wiping the tears of merriment that came to her eyes in spite of her, so exactly had Nancy caught Cousin Ann’s epistolary style, read the real communication, which ran as follows:–
DEAR MARGARET,–I have had you much in mind since I left you, always with great anxiety lest your strength should fail under the unexpected strain you put upon it. I had intended to give each of you a check for thirty-five dollars at Christmas to spend as you liked, but I must say I have not entire confidence in your judgment. You will be likelier far to decorate the walls of the house than to bring water into the kitchen sink. I therefore enclose you three hundred dollars and beg that you will have the well piped _at once_, and if there is any way to carry the water to the bedroom floor, do it, and let me send the extra amount involved. You will naturally have the well cleaned out anyway, but I should prefer never to know what you found in it. My only other large gift to you in the past was one of ornaments, sent, you remember, at the time of your wedding!
[“We remember!” groaned the children in chorus.]
I do not regret this, though my view of life, of its sorrows and perplexities, has changed somewhat, and I am more practical than I used to be. The general opinion is that in giving for a present an object of permanent beauty, your friends think of you whenever they look upon it.
[“That’s so!” remarked Gilbert to Nancy.]
This is true, no doubt, but there are other ways of making yourself remembered, and I am willing that you should think kindly of Cousin Ann whenever you use the new pump.
The second improvement I wish made with the money is the instalment of a large furnace-like stove in the cellar, which will send up a little heat, at least, into the hall and lower rooms in winter. You will probably have to get the owner’s consent, and I should certainly ask for a five years’ lease before expending any considerable amount of money on the premises.
If there is any money left, I should suggest new sills to the back doors and those in the shed. I noticed that the present ones are very rotten, and I dare say by this time you have processions of red and black ants coming into your house. It seemed to me that I never saw so much insect life as in Beulah. Moths, caterpillars, brown-tails, slugs, spiders, June bugs, horseflies, and mosquitoes were among the pests I specially noted. The Mr. Popham who drove me to the station said that snakes also abounded in the tall grass, but I should not lay any stress on his remarks, as I never saw such manners in my life in any Christian civilized community. He asked me my age, and when I naturally made no reply, he inquired after a few minutes’ silence whether I was unmarried from choice or necessity. When I refused to carry on any conversation with him he sang jovial songs so audibly that persons going along the street smiled and waved their hands to him. I tell you this because you appear to have false ideas of the people in Beulah, most of whom seemed to me either eccentric or absolutely insane.
Hoping that you can endure your life there when the water smells better and you do not have to carry it from the well, I am
“Children!” said Mrs. Carey, folding the letter and slipping the check into the envelope for safety, “your Cousin Ann is really a very good woman.”
“I wish her bed hadn’t come down with her,” said Gilbert. “We could never have afforded to get that water into the house, or had the little furnace, and I suppose, though no one of us ever thought of it, that you would have had a hard time doing the work in the winter in a cold house, and it would have been dreadful going to the pump.”
“Dreadful for you too, Gilly,” replied Kathleen pointedly.
“I shall be at school, where I can’t help,” said Gilbert.
Mrs. Carey made no remark, as she intended the fact that there was no money for Gilbert’s tuition at Eastover to sink gradually into his mind, so that he might make the painful discovery himself. His fees had fortunately been paid in advance up to the end of the summer term, so the strain on their resources had not been felt up to now.
Nancy had disappeared from the room and now stood in the doorway.
“I wish to remark that, having said a good many disagreeable things about Cousin Ann, and regretting them very much, I have placed the four black and white marble ornaments on my bedroom mantelpiece, there to be a perpetual reminder of my sins. You Dirty Boy is in a hundred pieces in the barn chamber, but if Cousin Ann ever comes to visit us again, I’ll be the one to confess that Gilly and I were the cause of the accident.”
“Now take your pencil, Nancy, and see where we are in point of income, at the present moment,” her mother suggested, with an approving smile. “Put down the pension of thirty dollars a month.”
“Down.–Three hundred and sixty dollars.”
“Now the hundred dollars over and above the rent of the Charlestown house.”
“Down; but it lasts only four years.”
“We may all be dead by that time.” (This cheerfully from Gilbert.)
“Then the interest on our insurance money. Four per cent on five thousand dollars is two hundred; I have multiplied it twenty times.”
“Of course if anything serious happens, or any great need comes, we have the five thousand to draw upon,” interpolated Gilbert.
“I will draw upon that to save one of us in illness or to bury one of us,” said Mrs. Carey with determination, “but I will never live out of it myself, nor permit you to. We are five,–six, while Julia is with us,” she added hastily,–“and six persons will surely have rainy days coming to them. What if I should die and leave you?”
“Don’t, mother!” they cried in chorus, so passionately that Mrs. Carey changed the subject quickly. “How much a year does it make, Nancy?”
“Three hundred and sixty plus one hundred plus two hundred equals six hundred and sixty,” read Nancy. “And I call it a splendid big lump of money!”
“Oh, my dear,” sighed her mother with a shake of the head, “if you knew the difficulty your father and I have had to take care of ourselves and of you on five and six times that sum! We may have been a little extravagant sometimes following him about,–he was always so anxious to have us with him,–but that has been our only luxury.”
“We saved enough out of exchanging the grand piano to pay all the expenses down here, and all our railway fares, and everything so far, in the way of boards and nails and Osh Popham’s labor,” recalled Gilbert.
“Yes, and we are still eating the grand piano at the end of two months, but it’s about gone, isn’t it, Muddy?” Nancy asked.
“About gone, but it has been a great help, and our dear little old-fashioned square is just as much of a comfort.–Of course there’s the tapestry and the Van Twiller landscape Uncle gave me; they may yet be sold.”
“Somebody’ll buy the tapestry, but the Van Twiller’ll go hard,” and Gilbert winked at Nancy.
“A picture that looks just the same upside down as the right way about won’t find many buyers,” was Nancy’s idea.
“Still it is a Van Twiller, and has a certain authentic value for all time!”
“The landscapes Van Twiller painted in the dark, or when he had his blinders on, can’t be worth very much,” insisted Gilbert. “You remember the Admiral thought it was partridges nesting in the underbrush at twilight, and then we found Joanna had cleaned the dining room and hung the thing upside down. When it was hung the other end up neither father nor the Admiral could tell what it was; they’d lost the partridges and couldn’t find anything else!”
“We shall get something for it because it is a Van Twiller,” said Mrs. Carey hopefully; “and the tapestry is lovely.–Now we have been doing all our own work to save money enough to make the house beautiful; yet, as Cousin Ann says, it does not belong to us and may be taken away at any moment after the year is up. We have never even seen our landlord, though Mr. Harmon has written to him. Are we foolish? What do you think, Julia?”
Chapter 15 Belonging To Beulah
The Person without a Fault had been quietly working at her embroidery, raising her head now and then to look at some extraordinary Carey, when he or she made some unusually silly or fantastic remark.
“I’m not so old as Gilbert and Nancy, and I’m only a niece,” she said modestly, “so I ought not to have an opinion. But I should get a maid-of-all-work at once, so that we shouldn’t all be drudges as we are now; then I should not spend a single cent on the house, but just live here in hiding, as it were, till better times come and till we are old enough to go into society. You could scrimp and save for Nancy’s coming out, and then for Kathleen’s. Father would certainly be well long before then, and Kathleen and I could debut together!”
“Who wants to ‘debut’ together or any other way,” sniffed Nancy scornfully. “I’m coming out right here in Beulah; indeed I’m not sure but I’m out already! Mr. Bill Harmon has asked me to come to the church sociable and Mr. Popham has invited me to the Red Men’s picnic at Greentown. Beulah’s good for something better than a place to hide in! We’ll have to save every penny at first, of course, but in three or four years Gilly and I ought to be earning something.”
“The trouble is, I _can’t_ earn anything in college,” objected Gilbert, “though I’d like to.”
“That will be the only way a college course can come to you now, Gilbert,” his mother said quietly. “You know nothing of the expenses involved. They would have taxed our resources to the utmost if father had lived, and we had had our more than five thousand a year! You and I together must think out your problem this summer.”
Gilbert looked blank and walked to the window with his hands in his pockets.
“I should lose all my friends, and it’s hard for a fellow to make his way in the world if he has nothing to recommend him but his graduation from some God-forsaken little hole like Beulah Academy.”
Nancy looked as if she could scalp her brother when he alluded to her beloved village in these terms, but her mother’s warning look stopped any comment.
Julia took up arms for her cousin. “We ought to go without everything for the sake of sending Gilbert to college,” she said. “Gladys Ferguson doesn’t know a single boy who isn’t going to Harvard or Yale.”
“If a boy of good family and good breeding cannot make friends by his own personality and his own qualities of mind and character, I should think he would better go without them,” said Gilbert’s mother casually.
“Don’t you believe in a college education, mother?” inquired Gilbert in an astonished tone.
“Certainly! Why else should we have made sacrifices to send you? To begin with, it is much simpler and easier to be educated in college. You have a thousand helps and encouragements that other fellows have to get as they may. The paths are all made straight for the students. A stupid boy, or one with small industry or little originality, must have _something_ drummed into him in four years, with all the splendid teaching energy that the colleges employ. It requires a very high grade of mental and moral power to do without such helps, and it may be that you are not strong enough to succeed without them;–I do not know your possibilities yet, Gilbert, and neither do you know them yourself!”
Gilbert looked rather nonplussed. “Pretty stiff, I call it!” he grumbled, “to say that if you’ve got brains enough you can do without college.”
“It is true, nevertheless. If you have brains enough, and will enough, and heart enough, you can stay here in Beulah and make the universe search you out, and drag you into the open, where men have need of you!” (Mrs. Carey’s eyes shone and her cheeks glowed.) “What we all want as a family is to keep well and strong and good, in body and mind and soul; to conquer our weaknesses, to train our gifts, to harness our powers to some wished-for end, and then _pull_, with all our might. Can’t my girls be fine women, fit for New York or Washington, London or Paris, because their young days were passed in Beulah? Can’t my boys be anything that their brains and courage fit them for, whether they make their own associations or have them made for them? Father would never have flung the burden on your shoulders, Gilbert, but he is no longer here. You can’t have the help of Yale or Harvard or Bowdoin to make a man of you, my son,–you will have to fight your own battles and win your own spurs.”
“Oh! mother, but you’re splendid!” cried Nancy, the quick tears in her eyes. “Brace up, old Gilly, and show what the Careys can do without ‘advantages.’ Brace up, Kitty and Julia! We three will make Beulah Academy ring next year!”
“And I don’t want you to look upon Beulah as a place of hiding while adversity lasts,” said Mother Carey. “We must make it home; as beautiful and complete as we can afford. One real home always makes others, I am sure of that! We will ask Mr. Harmon to write Mr. Hamilton and see if he will promise to leave us undisturbed. We cannot be happy, or prosperous, or useful, or successful, unless we can contrive to make the Yellow House a home. The river is our river; the village is our village; the people are our neighbors; Beulah belongs to us and we belong to Beulah, don’t we, Peter?”
Mother Carey always turned to Peter with some nonsensical appeal when her heart was full and her voice a trifle unsteady. You could bury your head in Peter’s little white sailor jacket just under his chin, at which he would dimple and gurgle and chuckle and wriggle, and when you withdrew your flushed face and presented it to the public gaze all the tears would have been wiped off on Peter.
So on this occasion did Mrs. Carey repeat, as she set Peter down, “Don’t we belong to Beulah, dear?”
“Yes, we does,” he lisped, “and I’m going to work myself, pretty soon bimebye just after a while, when I’m a little more grown up, and then I’ll buy the Yellow House quick.”
“So you shall, precious!” cried Kathleen.
“I was measured on Muddy this morning, wasn’t I, Muddy, and I was half way to her belt; and in Charlestown I was only a little farder up than her knees. All the time I’m growing up she’s ungrowing down! She’s smallering and I’m biggering.”
“Are you afraid your mother’ll be too small, sweet Pete?” asked Mrs. Carey.
“No!” this very stoutly. “Danny Harmon’s mother’s more’n up to the mantelpiece and I’d hate to have my mother so far away!” said Peter as he embraced Mrs. Carey’s knees.
Julia had said little during this long conversation, though her mind was fairly bristling with objections and negatives and different points of view, but she was always more or less awed by her Aunt Margaret, and never dared defy her opinion. She had a real admiration for her aunt’s beauty and dignity and radiant presence, though it is to be feared she cared less for the qualities of character that made her personality so luminous with charm for everybody. She saw people look at her, listen to her, follow her with their eyes, comment on her appearance, her elegance, and her distinction, and all this impressed her deeply. As to Cousin Ann’s present her most prominent fe ghd outlet eling was that it would have been much better if that lady had followed her original plan of sending individual thirty-five-dollar checks. In that event she, Julia, was quite certain that hers never would have gone into a water-pipe or a door-sill.
“Oh, Kathleen!” sighed Nancy as the two went into the kitchen together. “Isn’t mother the most interesting ‘scolder’ you ever listened to? I love to hear her do it, especially when somebody else is getting it. When it’s I, I grow smaller and smaller, curling myself up like a little worm. Then when she has finished I squirm to the door and wriggle out. Other mothers say: ‘If you don’t, I shall tell your father!’ ‘Do as I tell you, and ask no questions.’ ‘I never heard of such behavior in my life!’ ‘Haven’t you any sense of propriety?’ ‘If this happens again I shall have to do something desperate.’ ‘Leave the room at once,’ and so on; but mother sets you to thinking.”
“Mother doesn’t really scold,” Kathleen objected.
“No, but she shows you how wrong you are, just the same. Did you notice how Julia _withered_ when mother said leopard ghd straighteners we were not to look upon Beulah as a place of hiding?”
“She didn’t stay withered long,” Kathleen remarked.
“And she said just the right thing to dear old Gilly, for Fred Bascom is filling his head with foolish notions. He needs father to set him right.”
“We all need father,” sighed Kitty tearfully, “but somehow mother grows a little more splendid every day. I believe she’s trying to fill father’s place and be herself too!”
Chapter 16 The Post Bag
Letter from Mr. William Harmon, storekeeper cheap ghd wide plate straighteners at Beulah Corner, to Hon. Lemuel Hamilton, American Consul at Breslau, Germany.
Beulah, _June 27th._
Dear Lem: The folks up to your house want to lay out money on it and don’t dass for fear you’ll turn em out and pocket their improvements. If you haint got any better use for the propety I advise you to hold on to this bunch of tennants as they are O.K. wash goods, all wool, and a yard wide. I woodent like Mrs. Harmon _to know how I feel about the lady_, who is hansome as a picture and the children are a first class crop and no mistake. They will not lay out much at first as they are short of cash but if ever good luck comes along they will fit up the house like a pallis and your granchildren will reep the proffit. I’ll look out for your interest and see they don’t do nothing outlandish. They’d have hard work to beat that fool-job your boys did on the old barn, fixin it up so’t nobody could keep critters in it, so no more from your old school frend
P.S. We’ve been having a spell of turrible hot wether in Beulah. Cheap leopard print ghd How is it with you? I never framed it up jest what kind of a job an American Counsul’s was; but I guess he aint never het up with overwork! There was a piece in a Portland paper about a Counsul somewhere being fired because he set in his shirt-sleeves durin office hours. I says to Col. Wheeler if Uncle Sam could keep em all in their shirtsleeves, hustlin for cheap ghd straighteners next day delivery dear life, it wood be all the better for him and us!
Letter from Miss Nancy Carey to the Hon. Lemuel Hamilton.
BEULAH, _June 27th_.
DEAR MR. HAMILTON,–I am Nancy, the oldest of the Carey children, who live in your house. When father was alive, he took us on a driving trip, and we stopped and had luncheon under your big maple and fell in love with your empty house. Father (he was a Captain in the Navy and there was never anybody like him in the world!)–Father leaned over the gate and said if he was only rich he would drive the horse into the barn and buy the place that very day; and mother said it would be a beautiful spot to bring up a family. We children had wriggled under the fence, and were climbing th http://leopardprintghds.weebly.com/ e apple trees by that time, and we wanted to be brought up there that very minute. We all of us look back to that day as the happiest one that we can remember. Mother laughs when I talk of looking back, because I am not sixteen yet, but I think, although we did not know it, God knew that father was going to die and we were going to live in that very spot afterwards. Father asked us what we could do for the place that had been so hospitable to us, and I remembered a box of plants in the carryall, that we had bought at a wayside nursery, for the flower beds in Charlestown. “Plant something!” I said, and fath ghd straighteners er thought it was a good idea and took a little crimson rambler rose bush from the box. Each of us helped make the place for it by taking a turn with the luncheon knives and spoons; then I planted the rose and father took off his hat and said, “Three cheers for the Yellow House!” and mother added, “God bless it, and the children who come to live in it!”–There is surely something strange leopard print ghds in that, don’t you think so? Then when father died last year we had to find a cheap and quiet place to live, and I remembered the Yellow House in Beulah and told mother my idea. She does not say “Bosh!” like some mothers, but if our ideas sound like anything she tries them; so she sent Gilbert to see if the house was still vacant, and when we found it was, we took it. The rent is sixty dollars a year, as I suppose Bill Harmon told you when he sent you mother’s check for fifteen dollars for the first quarter. We think it is very reasonable, and do not wonder you don’t like to spend anything on repairs or improvements for us, as you have to pay taxes and insurance. We hope you will have a good deal over for your own use out of our rent, as we shouldn’t like to feel under obligation. If we had a million we’d spend it all on th cheap ghd straighteners e Yellow House, because we are fond of it in the way you are fond of a person; it’s not only that we want to paint it and paper it, but we would like to pat it and squeeze it. If you can’t live in it yourself, even in the summer, perhaps you will be glad to know we love it so much and want to take good care of it always. What troubles us is the fear that you will take it away or sell it to somebody before Gilbert and I are grown up and have earned money enough to buy it. It was Cousin Ann that put the idea into our heads, but everybody says it is quite likely and sensible. Cousin Ann has made us a splendid present of enough money to bring the water from the well into the kitchen sink and to put a large stove like a furnace into the cellar. We would cut two registers behin cheap ghds d the doors in the dining-room and sitting-room floors, and two little round holes in the ceilings to let the heat up into two bedrooms, if you are willing to let us do it. [Mother says that Cousin Ann is a good and generous person. It is true, and it makes us very unhappy that we cannot really love her on account of her being so fault-finding; but you, being an American Consul and travelling all over the world, must have seen somebody like her.]
Mr. Harmon is writing to you, but I thought he wouldn’t know so much about us as I do. We have father’s pension; that is three hundred and sixty dollars a year; and one hundred dollars a year from the Charlestown house, but that only lasts for four years; and two hundred dollars cheap ghd flat iron a year from the interest on father’s insurance. That makes six hundred and sixty dollars, which is a great deal if you haven’t been used to three thousand, but does not seem to be enough for a family of six. There is the insurance money itself, too, but mother says nothing but a very dreadful need must make us touch that. You see there are four of us children, which with mother makes five, and now there is Julia, which makes six. She is Uncle Allan’s only child. Uncle Allan has nervous prostration and all of mother’s money. We are not poor at all, just now, on account of having exchanged the grand piano for an old-fash cheap ghd air ioned square and eating up the extra money. It is great fun, and whenever we have anything very good for supper Kathleen says, “Here goes a piano leg!” and Gilbert says, “Let’s have an octave of white notes for Sunday supper, mother!” I send you a little photograph of the family taken together on your side piazza (we call it our piazza, and I hope you don’t mind). I am the tallest girl, with the curly hair. Julia heap ghd hair straighteners uk is sitting down in front, hemming. She said we should look so idle if somebody didn’t do something, but she never really hems; and Kathleen is leaning over mother’s shoulder. We all wanted to lean over mother’s shoulder, but Kitty got there first. The big boy is Gilbert. He can’t go to college now, as father intended, and he is very sad and depressed; but mother says he has a splendid chance to show what father’s son can do without any help but his own industry and pluck. Please look carefully at the lady sitting in the chair, for it is our mother. It is only a snap shot, but you can see how beautiful she is. Her hair is very long, and the wave in it is natural. The little boy is Peter. He is the loveliest and the dearest of all of us. The second picture is of me tying up the crimson rambler. I thought you would like to see what a wonderful rose it is. I was standing in a ch cheap ghd straighteners ￡50 air, training the long branches and tacking them against the house, when a gentleman drove by with a camera in his wagon. He stopped and took the picture and sent us one, explaining that every one admired it. I happened to be wearing my yellow muslin, and I am sending you the one the gentleman colored, because it is the beautiful crimson of the rose against the yellow house that makes people admire it so. If you come to America please don’t forget Beulah, because if you once saw mother you could never bear to disturb her, seeing how brave she is, living without father. Admiral Southwick, who is in China, calls us Mother Carey’s chickens. They are stormy petrels, and are supposed to go out over the seas and show good birds the way home. We haven’t done anything splendid yet, but we mean to when the chance comes. I haven’t told anybody that I am writing this, but I wanted you to know everything about us, as you are our landlord. We could be so happy if Cousin Ann wouldn’t always say we are spending money on another person’s house and such a silly performance never came to any good.
I enclose you a little picture cut from the wall paper we want to put on the front hall, hoping you will like it. The old paper is hanging in shreds and some of the plaster is loose, but Mr. Popham will make it all right. Mother says she feels as if he had pasted laughter and good nature on all the walls as he papered them. When you open the front door (and we hope you will, sometime, and walk right in!) how lovely it will be to look into yellow hayfields! And isn’t the boatful of people coming to the haymaking, nice, with the bright shirts of the men and the women’s scarlet aprons? Don’t you love the white horse in the haycart, and the jolly party picnicking under the tree? Mother says just think of buying so much joy and color for twenty cents a double roll; and we children think we shall never get tired of sitting on the stairs in cold weather and making believe it is haying time. Gilbert says we are putting another grand piano leg on the walls, but we are not, for we are doing all our own cooking and dishwashing and saving the money that a cook would cost, to do lovely things for the Yellow House. Thank you, dearest Mr. Hamilton, for letting us live in it. We are very proud of the circular steps and very proud of your being an American consul.
P.S. It is June, and Beulah is so beautiful you feel like eating it with sugar and cream! We do hope that you and your children are living in as sweet a place, so that you will not miss this one so much. We know you have five, older than we are, but if there are any the right size for me to send my love to, please do it. Mother would wish to be remembered to Mrs. Hamilton, but she will never know I am writing to you. It is my first business letter.
Chapter 17 Jack Of All Trades
Mr. Ossian (otherwise “Osh”) Popham was covering the hall of the Yellow House with the hayfield paper. Bill Harmon’s father had left considerable stock of one sort and another in the great unfinished attic over the store, and though much of it was worthless, and all of it was out of date, it seemed probable that it would eventually be sold to the Careys, who had the most unlimited ingenuity in making bricks without straw, when it came to house decoration. They had always moved from post to pillar and Dan to Beersheba, and had always, inside of a week, had the prettiest and most delightful habitation in the naval colony where they found themselves. Beulah itself, as well as all the surrounding country, had looked upon the golden hayfield paper and scorned it as ugly and countrified; never suspecting that, in its day, it had been made in France and cost a dollar and a half a roll. It had been imported for a governor’s house, and only half of it used, so for thirty years the other half had waited for the Careys. There always are Careys and their like, and plenty of them, in every generation, so old things, if they are good, need never be discouraged.
Mr. Popham never worked at his bricklaying or carpentering or cabinet making or papering by the hour, but “by the job”; and a kind Providence, intent on the welfare of the community, must have guided him in this choice of business methods, for he talked so much more than he worked, that unless householders were well-to-do, the rights of employer and employee could never have been adjusted. If they were rich no one of them would have stopped Ossian’s conversation for a second. In the first place it was even better than his work, which was always good, and in the second place he would never consent to go to any one, unless he could talk as much as he liked. The Careys loved him, all but Julia, who pronounced him “common” and said Miss Tewksbury told her never to listen to anyone who said “I done it” or “I seen it.” To this Nancy replied (her mother being in the garden, and she herself not yet started on a line of conduct arranged to please the angels) that Miss Tewksbury and Julia ought to have a little corner of heaven finished off for themselves; and Julia made a rude, distinct, hideous “face” at Nancy. I have always dated the beginning of Julia’s final transformation from this critical moment, when the old Adam in her began to work. It was good for Nancy too, who would have trodden on Julia so long as she was an irritating but patient, well-behaved worm; but who would have to use a little care if the worm showed signs of turning.
“Your tongue is like a bread knife, Nancy Carey!” Julia exclaimed passionately, after twisting her nose and mouth into terrifying and dreadful shapes. “If it wasn’t that Miss Tewksbury told me ladies never were telltales, I could soon make trouble between you and your blessed mother.”
“No, you couldn’t,” said Nancy curtly, “for I’d reform sooner than let you do that!–Perhaps I did say too much, Julia, only I can’t bear to have you make game of Mr. Popham when he’s so funny and nice. Think of his living with nagging Mrs. Popham and his stupid daughter and son in that tiny house, and being happy as a king.”
“If there wasn’t something wrong with him he wouldn’t _be_ happy there,” insisted Julia.
Mr. Popham himself accounted for his contentment without insulting his intelligence. “The way I look at it,” he said, “this world’s all the world we’ll git till we git to the next one; an’ we might’s well smile on it, ‘s frown! You git your piece o’ life an’ you make what you can of it;–that’s the idee! Now the other day I got some nice soft wood that was prime for whittlin’; jest the right color an’ grain an’ all, an’ I started in to make a little statue o’ the Duke o’ Wellington. Well, when I got to shapin’ him out, I found my piece o’ wood wouldn’t be long enough to give him his height; so I says, ‘Well, I don’t care, I’ll cut the Duke right down and make Napoleon Bonaparte.’ I’d ‘a’ been all right if I’d cal’lated better, but I cut my block off too short, and I couldn’t make Napoleon nohow; so I says, ‘Well, Isaac Watts was an awful short man, so I guess I’ll make him!’ But this time my wood split right in two. Some men would ‘a’ been discouraged, but I wasn’t, not a mite; I jest said, ‘I never did fancy Ike Watts, an’ there’s one thing this blamed chip _will_ make, an’ that’s a button for the barn door!'”
Osh not only whittled and papered and painted, but did anything whatsoever that needed to be done on the premises. If the pump refused to draw water, or the sink drain was stopped, or the gutters needed cleaning, or the grass had to be mowed, he was the man ordained by Providence and his own versatility to do the work. While he was papering the front hall the entire Carey family lived on the stairs between meals, fearful lest they should lose any incident, any anecdote, any story, any reminiscence that might fall from his lips. Mrs. Carey took her mending basket and sat in the doorway, within ear shot, while Peter had all the scraps of paper and a small pasting board on the steps, where he conducted his private enterprises.
Osh would cut his length of paper, lay it flat on the board, and apply the wide brush up and down neatly while he began his story. Sometimes if the tale were long and interesting the paste would dry, but in that case he went over the surface again. At the precise moment of hanging, the flow of his eloquence stopped abruptly and his hearers had to wait until the piece was finished before they learned what finally became of Lyddy Brown after she drove her husband ou’ doors, or of Bill Harmon’s bull terrier, who set an entire community quarreling among themselves. His racy accounts of Mrs. Popham’s pessimism, which had grown prodigiously from living in the house with his optimism; his anecdotes of Lallie Joy Popham, who was given to moods, having inherited portions of her father’s incurable hopefulness, and fragments of her mother’s ineradicable gloom,–these were of a character that made the finishing of the hall a matter of profound unimportance.
“I ain’t one to hurry,” he would say genially; “that’s the reason I won’t work by the hour or by the day. We’ve got one ‘hurrier’ in the family, and that’s enough for Lallie Joy ‘n’ me! Mis’ Popham does everything right on the dot, an’ Lallie Joy ‘n’ me git turrible sick o’ seein’ that dot, ‘n’ hevin’ our ‘tention drawed to it if we _don’t_ see it. Mis’ Bill Harmon’s another ‘hurrier,’–well, you jest ask Bill, that’s all! She an’ Mis’ Popham hev been at it for fifteen years, but the village ain’t ready to give out the blue ribbon yet. Last week my wife went over to Harmon’s and Mis’ Harmon said she was goin’ to make some molasses candy that mornin’. Well, my wife hurried home, put on her molasses, made her candy, cooled it and worked it, and took some over to treat Mis’ Harmon, who was jest gittin’ her kittle out from under the sink!”
The Careys laughed heartily at this evidence of Mrs. Popham’s celerity, while Osh, as pleased as possible, gave one dab with his paste brush and went on:–
“Maria’s blood was up one while, ’cause Mis’ Bill Harmon always contrives to git her wash out the earliest of a Monday morning. Yesterday Maria got up ’bout daybreak (I allers tell her if she was real forehanded she’d eat her breakfast overnight), and by half past five she hed her clothes in the boiler. Jest as she was lookin’ out the kitchen winder for signs o’ Mis’ Bill Harmon, she seen her start for her side door with a big basket. Maria was so mad then that she vowed she wouldn’t be beat, so she dug for the bedroom and slat some clean sheets and piller cases out of a bureau drawer, run into the yard, and I’m blamed if she didn’t get ’em over the line afore Mis’ Harmon found her clothespins!”
Good old Osh! He hadn’t had such an audience for years, for Beulah knew all its own stories thoroughly, and although it valued them highly it did not care to hear them too often; but the Careys were absolutely fresh material, and such good, appreciative listeners! Mrs. Carey looked so handsome when she wiped the tears of enjoyment from her eyes that Osh told Bill Harmon if ‘t wa’n’t agin the law you would want to kiss her every time she laughed.
Well, the hall papering was, luckily, to be paid for, not by the hour, but by an incredibly small price per roll, and everybody was pleased. Nancy, Kathleen, and Julia sat on the stairs preparing a whiteweed and buttercup border for the spare bedroom according to a plan of Mother Carey’s. It was an affair of time, as it involved the delicate cutting out of daisy garlands from a wider bordering filled with flowers of other colors, and proved a fascinating occupation.
Gilbert hovered on the outskirts of the hall, doing odd jobs of one sort and another and learning bits of every trade at which Mr. Popham was expert.
“If we hadn’t been in such a sweat to git settled,” remarked Osh with a clip of his big shears, “I really’d ought to have plastered this front entry all over! ‘T wa’n’t callin’ for paper half’s loud as ‘t was for plaster. Old Parson Bradley hed been a farmer afore he turned minister, and one Sunday mornin’ his parish was thornin’ him to pray for rain, so he says: ‘Thou knowest, O Lord! it’s manure this land wants, ‘n’ not water, but in Thy mercy send rain plenteously upon us.'”
“Mr. Popham,” said Gilbert, who had been patiently awaiting his opportunity, “the pieces of paper are cut for those narrow places each side of the front door. Can’t I paste those on while you talk to us?”
“‘Course you can, handy as you be with tools! There ain’t no trick to it. Most anybody can be a paperer. As Parson Bradley said when he was talkin’ to a Sunday-school during a presidential campaign: ‘One of you boys perhaps can be a George Washington and another may rise to be a Thomas Jefferson; any of you, the Lord knows, can be a James K. Polk!'”
“I don’t know much about Polk,” said Gilbert.
“P’raps nobody did very much, but the parson hated him like p’ison. See here, Peter, I ain’t _made_ o’ paste! You’ve used up ’bout a quart a’ready! What are you doin’ out there anyway? I’ve heerd o’ paintin’ the town,–I guess you’re paperin’ it, ain’t you?”
Peter was too busy and too eager for paste to reply, the facts of the case being that while Mr. Popham held the family spellbound by his conversation, he himself was papering the outside of the house with scraps of assorted paper as high up as his short arms could reach.
“There’s another thing you can do, Gilbert,” continued Mr. Popham. “I’ve mixed a pail o’ that green paint same as your mother wanted, an’ I’ve brought you a tip-top brush. The settin’ room has a good nice floor; matched boards, no hummocks nor hollers,–all as flat’s one of my wife’s pancakes,–an’ not a knot hole in it anywheres. You jest put your first coat on, brushin’ lengthways o’ the boards, and let it dry good. Don’t let your folks go stepping on it, neither. The minute a floor’s painted women folks are crazy to git int’ the room. They want their black alpacky that’s in the closet, an’ the lookin’ glass that’s on the mantelpiece, or the feather duster that’s hangin’ on the winder, an’ will you jest pass out the broom that’s behind the door? The next mornin’ you’ll find lots o’ little spots where they’ve tiptoed in to see if the paint’s dry an’ how it’s goin’ to look. Where I work, they most allers say it’s the cat,–well! that answer may deceive some folks, but ‘t wouldn’t me.–Don’t slop your paint, Gilbert; work quick an’ neat an’ even; then paintin’ ain’t no trick ‘t all. Any fool, the Lord knows, can pick up that trade!–Now I guess it’s about noon time, an’ I’ll have to be diggin’ for home. Maria sets down an’ looks at the clock from half past eleven on. She’ll git a meal o’ cold pork ‘n’ greens, cold string beans, gingerbread, ‘n’ custard pie on t’ the table; then she’ll stan’ in the front door an’ holler: ‘Hurry up, Ossian! it’s struck twelve more ‘n two minutes ago, ‘n’ everything ‘s gittin’ overdone!'”
So saying he took off his overalls, seized his hat, and with a parting salute was off down the road, singing his favorite song. I can give you the words and the time, but alas! I cannot print Osh Popham’s dauntless spirit and serene content, nor his cheery voice as he travelled with tolerable swiftness to meet his waiting Maria.
Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
Here comes a maid-en full of woe.
Hi der-ry O!
Here comes a maid-en full of woe,
As full of woe as she can go!
Hi dum did-dy i
O! Hi der-ry O!
Chapter 18 The House Of Lords
The Carey children had only found it by accident. All their errands took them down the main street to the village; to the Popham’s cottage at the foot of a little lane turning towards the river, or on to the post-office and Bill Harmon’s store, or to Colonel Wheeler’s house and then to the railway station. One afternoon Nancy and Kathleen had walked up the road in search of pastures new, and had spied down in a distant hollow a gloomy grey house almost surrounded by cedars. A grove of poplars to the left of it only made the prospect more depressing, and if it had not been for a great sheet of water near by, floating with cow lilies and pond lilies, the whole aspect of the place would have been unspeakably dreary.
Nancy asked Mr. Popham who lived in the grey house behind the cedars, and when he told them a certain Mr. Henry Lord, his two children and housekeeper, they fell into the habit of speaking of the place as the House of Lords.
“You won’t never see nothin’ of ’em,” said Mr. Popham. “Henry Lord ain’t never darkened the village for years, I guess, and the young ones ain’t never been to school so far; they have a teacher out from Portland Tuesdays and Fridays, and the rest o’ the week they study up for him. Henry’s ’bout as much of a hermit’s if he lived in a hut on a mounting, an’ he’s bringing up the children so they’ll be jest as odd’s he is.”
“Is the mother dead?” Mrs. Carey asked.
“Yes, dead these four years, an’ a good job for her, too. It’s an awful queer world! Not that I could make a better one! I allers say, when folks grumble, ‘Now if you was given the materials, could you turn out a better world than this is? And when it come to that, what if you hed to furnish your _own_ materials, same as the Lord did! I guess you’d be put to it!’–Well, as I say, it’s an awful queer world; they clap all the burglars into jail, and the murderers and the wife-beaters (I’ve allers thought a gentle reproof would be enough punishment for a wife-beater, ’cause he probably has a lot o’ provocation that nobody knows), and the firebugs (can’t think o’ the right name–something like cendenaries), an’ the breakers o’ the peace, an’ what not; an’ yet the law has nothin’ to say to a man like Hen Lord! He’s been a college professor, but I went to school with him, darn his picter, an’ I’ll call him Hen whenever I git a chance, though he does declare he’s a doctor.”
“Doctor of what?” asked Mrs. Carey.
“Blamed if I know! I wouldn’t trust him to doctor a sick cat.”
“People don’t have to be doctors of medicine,” interrupted Gilbert. “Grandfather was Alexander Carey, LL.D.,–Doctor of Laws, that is.”
Mr. Popham laid down his brush. “I swan to man!” he ejaculated. “If you don’t work hard you can’t keep up with the times! Doctor of Laws! Well, all I can say is they _need_ doctorin’, an’ I’m glad they’ve got round to ’em; only Hen Lord ain’t the man to do ’em any good.”
“What has he done to make him so unpopular?” queried Mrs. Carey.
“Done? He ain’t done a thing he’d oughter sence he was born. He keeps the thou shalt not commandments first rate, Hen Lord does! He neglected his wife and froze her blood and frightened her to death, poor little shadder! He give up his position and shut the family up in that tomb of a house so ‘t he could study his books. My boy knows his boy, an’ I tell you the life he leads them children is enough to make your flesh creep. When I git roun’ to it I cal’late to set the house on fire some night. Mebbe I’d be lucky enough to ketch Hen too, an’ if so, nobody in the village’d wear mournin’! So fur, I can’t get Maria’s consent to be a cendenary. She says she can’t spare me long enough to go to jail; she needs me to work durin’ the summer, an’ in the winter time she’d hev nobody to jaw, if I was in the lockup.” This information was delivered in the intervals of covering the guest chamber walls with a delightful white moire paper which Osh always alluded to as the “white maria,” whether in memory of his wife’s Christian name or because his French accent was not up to the mark, no one could say.
Mr. Popham exaggerated nothing, but on the contrary left much unsaid in his narrative of the family at the House of Lords. Henry Lord, with the degree of Ph.D. to his credit, had been Professor of Zoology at a New England college, but had resigned his post in order to write a series of scientific text books. Always irritable, cold, indifferent, he had grown rapidly more so as years went on. Had his pale, timid wife been a rosy, plucky tyrant, things might have gone otherwise, but the only memories the two children possessed were of bitter words and reproaches on their father’s side, and of tears and sad looks on their mother’s part. Then the poor little shadow of a woman dropped wearily into her grave, and a certain elderly Mrs. Bangs, with grey hair and firm chin, came to keep house and do the work.
A lonelier creature than Olive Lord at sixteen could hardly be imagined. She was a tiny thing for her years, with a little white oval face and peaked chin, pronounced eyebrows, beautifully arched, and a mass of tangled, untidy dark hair. Her only interests in life were her younger brother Cyril, delicate and timid, and in continual terror of his father,–and a passion for drawing and sketching that was fairly devouring in its intensity. When she was ten she “drew” the cat and the dog, the hens and chickens, and colored the sketches with the paints her mother provided. Whatever appealed to her sense of beauty was straightway transferred to paper or canvas. Then for the three years before her mother’s death there had been surreptitious lessons from a Portland teacher, paid for out of Mr. Lord’s house allowance; for one of his chief faults was an incredible parsimony, amounting almost to miserliness.
“Something terrible will happen to Olive if she isn’t taught to use her talent,” Mrs. Lord pleaded to her husband. “She is wild to know how to do things. She makes effort after effort, trembling with eagerness, and when she fails to reproduce what she sees, she works herself into a frenzy of grief and disappointment.”
“You’d better give her lessons in self-control,” Mr. Lord answered. “They are cheaper than instruction in drawing, and much more practical.”
So Olive lived and struggled and grew; and luckily her talent was such a passion that no circumstances could crush or extinguish it. She worked, discovering laws and making rules for herself, since she had no helpers. When she could not make a rabbit or a bird look “real” on paper, she searched in her father’s books for pictures of its bones. “If I could only know what it is like _inside_, Cyril,” she said, “perhaps its _outside_ wouldn’t look so flat! O! Cyril, there must be some better way of doing; I just draw the outline of an animal and then I put hairs or feathers on it. They have no bodies. They couldn’t run nor move; they’re just pasteboard.”
“Why don’t you do flowers and houses, Olive?” inquired Cyril solicitously. “And people paint fruit, and dead fish on platters, and pitchers of lemonade with ice in,–why don’t you try things like those?”
“I suppose they’re easier,” Olive returned with a sigh, “but who could bear to do them when there are living, breathing, moving things; things that puzzle you by looking different every minute? No, I’ll keep on trying, and when you get a little older we’ll run away together and live and learn things by ourselves, in some place where father can never find us!”
“He wouldn’t search, so don’t worry,” replied Cyril quietly, and the two looked at each other and knew that it was so.
There, in the cedar hollow, then, lived Olive Lord, an angry, resentful, little creature weighed down by a fierce sense of injury. Her gloomy young heart was visited by frequent storms and she looked as unlovable as she was unloved. But Nancy Carey, never shy, and as eager to give herself as people always are who are born and bred in joy and love, Nancy hopped out of Mother Carey’s warm nest one day, and fixing her bright eyes and sunny, hopeful glance on the lonely, frowning little neighbor, stretched out her hand in friendship. Olive’s mournful black eyes met Nancy’s sparkling brown ones. Her hand, so marvellously full of skill, had never held another’s, and she was desperately self-conscious; but magnetism flowed from Nancy as electric currents from a battery. She drew Olive to her by some unknown force and held her fast, not realizing at the moment that she was getting as much as she gave.
The first interview, purely a casual one, took place on the edge of the lily pond where Olive was sketching frogs, and where Nancy went for cat-o’-nine-tails. It proved to be a long and intimate talk, and when Mrs. Carey looked out of her bedroom window just before supper she saw, at the pasture bars, the two girls with their arms round each other and their cheeks close together. Nancy’s curly chestnut crop shone in the sun, and Olive’s thick black plaits looked blacker by contrast. Suddenly she flung her arms round Nancy’s neck, and with a sob darted under the bars and across the fields without a backward glance.
A few moments later Nancy entered her mother’s room, her arms filled with treasures from the woods and fields. “Oh, Motherdy!” she cried, laying down her flowers and taking off her hat. “I’ve found such a friend; a real understanding friend; and it’s the girl from the House of Lords. She’s wonderful! More wonderful than anybody we’ve ever seen anywhere, and she draws better than the teacher in Charlestown! She’s older than I am, but so tiny and sad and shy that she seems like a child. Oh, mother, there’s always so much spare room in your heart,–for you took in Julia and yet we never felt the difference,–won’t you make a place for Olive? There never was anybody needed you so much as she does,–never.”
Have you ever lifted a stone and seen the pale, yellow, stunted shoots of grass under it? And have you gone next day and next, and watched the little blades shoot upward, spread themselves with delight, grow green and wax strong; and finally, warm with the sun, cool with the dew, vigorous with the flow of sap in their veins, seen them wave their green tips in the breeze? That was what happened to Olive Lord when she and Cyril were drawn into a different family circle, and ran in and out of the Yellow House with the busy, eager group of Mother Carey’s chickens.
Chapter 19 Old And New
The Yellow House had not always belonged to the Hamiltons, but had been built by a governor of the state when he retired from public office. He lived only a few years, and it then passed into the hands of Lemuel Hamilton’s grandfather, who had done little or nothing in the way of remodelling the buildings.
Governor Weatherby had harbored no extraordinary ambition regarding architectural excellence, for he was not a rich man; he had simply built a large, comfortable Colonial house. He desired no gardens, no luxurious stables, no fountains nor grottoes, no bathroom (for it was only the year 1810), while the old oaken bucket left nothing to be desired as a means of dispensing water to the household. He had one weakness, however, and that was a wish to make the front of the house as impressive as possible. The window over the front door was as beautiful a window as any in the county, and the doorway itself was celebrated throughout the state. It had a wonderful fan light and side lights, green blind doors outside of the white painted one with its massive brass knocker, and still more unique and impressive, it had for its approach, semi-circular stone steps instead of the usual oblong ones. The large blocks of granite had been cut so that each of the four steps should be smaller than the one below it; and when, after months of gossip and suspense, they were finally laid in place, their straight edges towards the house and their expensive curved sides to the road, a procession of curious persons in wagons, carryalls, buggies, and gigs wound their way past the premises. The governor’s “circ’lar steps” brought many pilgrims down the main street of Beulah first and last, and the original Hamiltons had been very proud of them. Pride (of such simple things as stone steps) had died out of the Hamilton stock in the course of years, and the house had been so long vacant that no one but Lemuel, the Consul, remembered any of its charming features; but Ossian Popham, when he pried up and straightened the ancient landmarks, had much to say of the wonderful steps.
“There’s so much goin’ on now-a-days,” he complained, as he puffed and pried and strained, and rested in between, “that young ones won’t amount to nothin’, fust thing you know. My boy Digby says to me this mornin’, when I asked him if he was goin’ to the County Fair ‘No, Pop, I ain’t goin’,’ he says, ‘it’s the same old fair every year.’ Land sakes! when I was a boy, ’bout once a month, in warm weather, I used to ask father if I could walk to the other end o’ the village and look at the governor’s circ’lar steps; that used to be the liveliest entertainment parents could think up for their young ones, an’ it _was_ a heap livelier than two sermons of a Sunday, each of ’em an hour and fifteen minutes long.”
Digby, a lad of eighteen and master of only one trade instead of a dozen, like his father, had been deputed to paper Mother Carey’s bedroom while she moved for a few days into the newly fitted guest room, which was almost too beautiful to sleep in, with its white satiny walls, its yellow and green garlands hanging from the ceiling, its yellow floor, and its old white chamber set repainted by the faithful and clever Popham.
The chintz parlor, once Governor Weatherby’s study, was finished too, and the whole family looked in at the doors a dozen times a day with admiring exclamations. It had six doors, opening into two entries, one small bedroom, one sitting room, one cellar, and one china closet; a passion for entrances and exits having been the whim of that generation. If the truth were known, Nancy had once lighted her candle and slipped downstairs at midnight to sit on the parlor sofa and feast her eyes on the room’s loveliness. Gilbert had painted the white matting the color of a ripe cherry. Mrs. Popham had washed and ironed and fluted the old white ruffled muslin curtains from the Charlestown home, and they adorned the four windows. It was the north room, on the left as you entered the house, and would be closed during the cold winter months, so it was fitted entirely for summer use and comfort. The old-fashioned square piano looked in its element placed across one corner, with the four tall silver candlesticks and snuffer tray on the shining mahogany. All the shabbiest furniture, and the Carey furniture was mostly shabby, was covered with a cheap, gay chintz, and crimson Jacqueminot roses clambered all over the wall paper, so that the room was a cool bower of beauty.
On the other side of the hall were the double parlors of the governor’s time, made into a great living room. Here was Gilbert’s green painted floor, smooth and glossy, with braided rugs bought from neighbors in East Beulah; here all the old-fashioned Gilbert furniture that the Careys had kept during their many wanderings; here all the quaint chairs that Mr. Bill Harmon could pick up at a small price; here were two noble fireplaces, one with a crane and iron pot filled with flowers, the other filled sometimes with sprays of green asparagus and sometimes with fragrant hemlock boughs. The paper was one in which green rushes and cat-o’-nine-tails grew on a fawn-colored ground, and anything that the Careys did not possess for the family sitting room Ossian Popham went straight home and made in his barn. He could make a barrel-chair or an hour-glass table, a box lounge and the mattress to put on top of it, or a low table for games and puzzles, or a window seat. He could polish the piano and then sit down to it and play “Those Tassels on Her Boots” or “Marching through Georgia” with great skill. He could paint bunches of gold grapes and leaves on the old-fashioned high-backed rocker, and, as soon as it was dry, could sit down in it and entertain the whole family without charging them a penny.
The housewarming could not be until the later autumn, Mrs. Carey had decided, for although most of the living rooms could be finished, Cousin Ann’s expensive improvements were not to be set in motion until Bill Harmon heard from Mr. Hamilton that his tenants were not to be disturbed for at least three years.
The house, which was daily growing into a home, was full of the busy hum of labor from top to bottom and from morning till night, and there was hardly a moment when Mother Carey and the girls were not transporting articles of furniture through the rooms, and up and down the staircases, to see how they would look somewhere else. This, indeed, had been the diversion of their simple life for many years, and was just as delightful, in their opinion, as buying new things. Any Carey, from mother down to Peter, would spring from his chair at any moment and assist any other Carey to move a sofa, a bureau, a piano, a kitchen stove, if necessary, with the view of determining if it would add a new zest to life in a different position.
Not a word has been said thus far about the Yellow House barn, the barn that the “fool Hamilton boys” (according to Bill Harmon’s theories) had converted from a place of practical usefulness and possible gain, into something that would “make a cat laugh”; but it really needs a chapter to itself. You remember that Dr. Holmes says of certain majestic and dignified trees that they ought to have a Christian name, like other folks? The barn, in the same way, deserves more distinction than a paragraph, but at this moment it was being used as a storeroom and was merely awaiting its splendid destiny, quite unconscious of the future. The Hamilton boys were no doubt as extravagant and thriftless as they were insane, but the Careys sympathized with their extravagance and thriftlessness and insanity so heartily, in this particular, that they could hardly conceal their real feelings from Bill Harmon. Nothing could so have accorded with their secret desires as the “fool changes” made by the “crazy Hamilton boys”; light-hearted, irresponsible, and frivolous changes that could never have been compassed by the Careys’ slender income. They had no money to purchase horse or cow or pig, and no man in the family to take care of them if purchased; so the removal of stalls and all the necessary appurtenances for the care of cattle was no source of grief or loss to them. A good floor had been laid over the old one and stained to a dark color; the ceiling, with its heavy hand-hewn beams, was almost as fine as some old oak counterpart in an English hall. Not a new board met the eye;–old weathered lumber everywhere, even to the quaint settle-shaped benches that lined the room. There was a place like an old-fashioned “tie-up” for musicians to play for a country dance, or for tableaux and charades; in fine, there would be, with the addition of Carey ideas here and there, provision for frolics and diversions of any sort. You no sooner opened the door and peeped in, though few of the Beulah villagers had ever been invited to do so by the gay young Hamiltons, than your tongue spontaneously exclaimed: “What a place for good times!”
“I shall ‘come out’ here,” Nancy announced, as the three girls stood in the centre of the floor, surrounded by bedsteads, tables, bureaus, and stoves. “Julia, you can ‘debut’ where you like, but I shall ‘come out’ here next summer!”
“You’ll be only seventeen; you can’t come out!” objected Julia conventionally.
“Not in a drawing room, perhaps, but perfectly well in a barn. Even you and Kitty, youthful as you will still be, can attend my coming out party, in a barn!”
“It doesn’t seem proper to think of giving entertainments when everybody knows our circumstances,–how poor we are!” Julia said rebukingly.
“We are talking of next summer, my child! Who can say how rich we shall be next summer? A party could be given in this barn with mother to play the piano and Mr. Popham the fiddle. The refreshments would be incredibly weak lemonade, and I think we might ‘solicit’ the cake, as they do for church sociables!”
Julia’s pride was wounded beyond concealment at this humorously intended suggestion of Nancy’s.
“Of course if Aunt Margaret approves, I have nothing to say,” she remarked, “but I myself would never come to any private party where refreshments were ‘solicited.’ The very idea is horrible.”
“I’m ‘coming out’ in the barn next summer, Muddy!” Nancy called to her mother, who just then entered the door. “If we are poorer than ever, we can take up a collection to defray the expenses; Julia and Kitty would look so attractive going about with tambourines! I want to do what I can quickly, because I see plainly I shall have to marry young in order to help the family. The heroine always does that in books; she makes a worldly marriage with a rich nobleman, in order that her sister Kitty and her cousin Julia may have a good education.”
“I don’t know where you get your ideas, Nancy,” said her mother, smiling at her nonsense. “You certainly never read half a dozen novels in your life!”
“No, but Joanna used to read them by the hundred and tell me the stories; and I’ve heard father read aloud to you; and the older girls and the younger teachers used to discuss them at school;–oh! I know a lot about life,–as it is in books,–and I’m just waiting to see if any of it really happens!”
“Digby Popham is the only rich nobleman in sight for you, Nancy!” Kitty said teasingly.
“Or freckled Cyril Lord,” interpolated Julia.
“He looks like an unbaked pie!” This from Kitty.
Nancy flushed. “He’s shy and unhappy and pale, and no wonder; but he’s as nice and interesting as he can be.”
“I can’t see it,” Julia said, “but he never looks at anybody, or talks to anybody but you, so it’s well you like him; though you like all boys, for that matter!”
“The boys return the compliment!” asserted Kitty mischievously, “while poor you and I sit in corners!”
“Come, come, dears,” and Mrs. Carey joined in the conversation as she picked up a pillow before returning to the house. “It’s a little early for you to be talking about rich noblemen, isn’t it?”
Nancy followed her out of the door, saying as she thoughtfully chewed a straw, “Muddy, I do believe that when you’re getting on to sixteen the rich nobleman or the fairy prince or the wonderful youngest son does cross your mind now and then!”
Chapter 20 The Painted Chamber
Matters were in this state of forwardness when Nancy and Kathleen looked out of the window one morning and saw Lallie Joy Popham coming down the street. She “lugged” butter and milk regularly to the Careys (lugging is her own word for the act), and helped them in many ways, for she was fairly good at any kind of housework not demanding brains. Nobody could say why some of Ossian Popham’s gifts of mind and conversation had not descended to his children, but though the son was not really stupid at practical work, Lallie Joy was in a perpetual state of coma.
Nancy, as has been intimated before, had a kind of tendency to reform things that appeared to her lacking in any way, and she had early seized upon the stolid Lallie Joy as a worthy object.
“There she comes!” said Nancy. “She carries two quarts of milk in one hand and two pounds of butter in the other, exactly as if she was bending under the weight of a load of hay. I’ll run down into the kitchen and capture her for a half hour at five cents. She can peel the potatoes first, and while they’re boiling she can slice apples for sauce.”
“Have her chop the hash, do!” coaxed Julia for that was her special work. “The knife is dull beyond words.”
“Why don’t you get Mr. Popham to sharpen it? It’s a poor workman that complains of his tools; Columbus discovered America in an open boat,” quoted Nancy, with an irritating air of wisdom.
“That may be so,” Julia retorted, “but Columbus would never have discovered America with that chopping-knife, I’m sure of that.–Is Lallie Joy about our age?”
“I don’t know. She must have been at least forty when she was born, and that would make her fifty-five now. What _do_ you suppose would wake her up? If I could only get her to stand straight, or hold her head up, or let her hair down, or close her mouth! I believe I’ll stay in the kitchen and appeal to her better feelings a little this morning; I can seed the raisins for the bread pudding.”
Nancy sat in the Shaker rocker by the sink window with the yellow bowl in her lap. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes were bright, her lips were red, her hair was goldy-brown, her fingers flew, and a high-necked gingham apron was as becoming to her as it is to all nice girls. She was thoroughly awake, was Nancy, and there could not have been a greater contrast than that between her and the comatose Lallie Joy, who sat on a wooden chair with her feet on the side rounds. She had taken off her Turkey red sunbonnet and hung it on the chair-back, where its color violently assaulted her flaming locks. She sat wrong; she held the potato pan wrong, and the potatoes and the knife wrong. There seemed to be no sort of connection between her mind and her body. As she peeled potatoes and Nancy seeded raisins, the conversation was something like this.
“How did you chance to bring the butter to-day instead of to-morrow, Lallie Joy?”
“Had to dress me up to go to the store and get a new hat.”
“What colored trimming did you get?”
“Same as old.”
“Don’t they keep anything but magenta?”
“Why didn’t you try blue for a change?”
“Dunno; didn’t want any change, I guess.”
“Do you like magenta against your hair?”
“Never thought o’ my hair; jest thought o’ my hat.”
“Well, you see, Lallie Joy, you can’t change your hair, but you needn’t wear magenta hats nor red sunbonnets. Your hair is handsome enough, if you’d only brush it right.”
“I guess I know all ’bout my hair and how red ‘t is. The boys ask me if Pop painted it.”
“Why do you strain it back so tight?”
“Keep it out o’ my eyes.”
“Nonsense; you needn’t drag it out by the roots. Why do you tie the braids with strings?”
“‘Cause they hold, an’ I hain’t got no ribbons.”
“Why don’t you buy some with the money you earn here?”
“Savin’ up for the Fourth.”
“Well, I have yards of old Christmas ribbons that I’ll give you if you’ll use them.”
“What do you scrub your face with, that makes those shiny knobs stick right out on your forehead and cheek bones?”
“Well, you shouldn’t; haven’t you any other?”
“Aren’t your legs in good working order?”
Uncomprehending silence on Lallie Joy’s part and then Nancy returned to the onslaught.
“Don’t you like to look at pretty things?”
“Dunno but I do, an’ dunno as I do.”
“Don’t you love the rooms your father has finished here?”
“Not any more than that?”
“Pop thinks some of ’em’s queer, an’ so does Bill Harmon.”
Long silence, Nancy being utterly daunted.
“How did you come by your name, Lallie Joy?”
“Lallie’s out of a book named Lallie Rook, an’ I was born on the Joy steamboat line going to Boston.”
“Oh, I thought Joy was _Joy_!”
“Joy Line’s the only joy I ever heard of!”
There is no knowing how long this depressing conversation would have continued if the two girls had not heard loud calls from Gilbert upstairs. Lallie Joy evinced no surprise, and went on peeling potatoes; she might have been a sister of the famous Casabianca, and she certainly could have been trusted not to flee from any burning deck, whatever the provocation.
“Come and see what we’ve found, Digby and I!” Gilbert cried. “Come, girls; come, mother! We were stripping off the paper because Mr. Popham said there’d been so many layers on the walls it would be a good time to get to the bottom of it and have it all fresh and clean. So just now, as I was working over the mantel piece and Digby on the long wall, look in and see what we uncovered!”
Mrs. Carey had come from the nursery, Kitty and Julia from the garden, and Osh Popham from the shed, and they all gazed with joy and surprise at the quaint landscapes that had been painted in water colors before the day of wall paper had come.
Mr. Popham quickly took one of his tools and began on another side of the room. They worked slowly and carefully, and in an hour or two the pictures stood revealed, a little faded in color but beautifully drawn, with almost nothing of any moment missing from the scenes.
“Je-roosh-y! ain’t they handsome!” exclaimed Osh, standing in the middle of the room with the family surrounding him in various attitudes of ecstasy. 8