Betty Leicester Stories
Betty Leicester: A Story for Girls, 1890
Sarah Orne Jewett
VII. THE SIN BOOKS
VIII. A CHAPTER OF LETTERS
IX. BETTY'S REFLECTIONS
XI. THE TWO FRIENDS
XII. BETTY AT HOME
See first note for Chapter 1.
THE SIN BOOKS.
One morning Betty was hurrying down Tideshead street to the post-office, and happened to meet the minister's girls and Lizzie French, who were great friends with each other. They seemed to be unusually confidential and interested about something.
"We've got a secret club and we're going to let you belong," said Lizzie French. "Where can we go to tell you about it, and make you take the oath?"
"Come home with me just as soon as I post this letter," responded Betty with great pleasure. "Do you think my front steps would be a good place?"
"It would be too hot; beside, we don't want Mary Beck to see us," objected Ellen Grant, who was the most pale and quiet of the two sisters. They were both pleasant, persistent, mild-faced girls, who never seemed tired or confused, and never liked to change their minds or to go out of their own way. Usually all the other girls liked to do as they said, and they were accordingly very much pleased with Betty, apparently because she hardly ever agreed with them.
"Let's go to walk, then," said Betty.
"I'll tell you what we'll do," Lizzie Grant said in a business-like tone. "Let's go down the old road a little way, toward the river, and sit under the black cherry-tree on the stone wall; you know how cool it is there in the morning? I can't stay but a little while any way. I am going to help mother."
Nobody objected and away they went two by two. Evidently there was serious business on hand, which could by no means be told lightly or without some regard to the surroundings.
"Now what is it?" demanded Betty, when they had seated themselves under the old black cherry-tree; but neither of the girls took it upon her to speak first. "I promise never, never to tell."
Mary Grant took a thin, square little book out of her pocket, half of a tiny account book of the plainest sort, and held it up to Betty so that she could see the letters S. B. C. on the pale brown pasteboard cover. It certainly looked very interesting and mysterious. "We thought that we would admit another member," said Mary; "but it is a very difficult thing to belong, and you must hold up your right hand and promise on your word of honor that you will never speak of it to any girl in Tideshead."
"I may have to speak of it to papa. I always tell papa if I am not quite certain about things. He said a great while ago that it was the safest way. I mean I am on my honor about it, that's all. He never asks me." Betty's cheeks grew red as she spoke, but she did speak bravely, and the girls were more impressed than ever by the seriousness of the club.
"I don't believe that she will have to tell him, do you, girls?" Lizzie French insisted. "Any way we want you to belong, Betty. You be the one to tell her, Mary."
"It is a society to help us not to say things about people," said Mary Grant solemnly, and Betty Leicester gave a little sigh of relief. [ - ] She thought that would be a most worthy object, though somewhat poky.
"We have made a league that we will try to break ourselves of speaking harshly and making fun of people, and of not standing up for them when others talk scandal. There, you see this book is ruled into little squares for the days of the week, a month on a page, and when we get through a day without saying anything against anybody we can put a nice little cross in, but when we have broken the pledge we mustmark it with a cipher, and then when we are just horrid and keep on being cross, we must black the day all over. Then once a week we have to show the books to each other and make our confessions."
"Wouldn't it be splendid, if we could have a whole week of good marks, to wear a little badge or something?" proposed Lizzie French.
"Oh Lizzie! we never can, it will be so hard to get through one single day," Betty answered quickly. "I should just love to belong, though; I am always saying ugly things and being sorry. What does S. B. C. mean? How did you ever think of it?"
"The Sin Book Club," Ellen Grant explained. "Mary and I heard of one that our cousin belonged to at boarding-school. She said that it took weeks and weeks for some of the members to make one good mark, but after you get into the habit of it, you find it quite easy. I will let you take my book to make yours by, if you will let me have it back to-night. I bought a little book for Mary and me that was only three cents, and cut it in two; and Lizzie hasn't got hers yet, so you can buy on together and go halves."
"I'd like to know who will pay the two cents," laughed Betty. "I will, and then you can give me half a one-cent lead pencil to make change. Papa always has such a joke about a man in one of Mr. Lowell's poems who used to change a board nail for a shingle nail so as to make the weight come right."
"No, you give me the pencil," said Lizzie, "I lost mine yesterday," and the new members became unduly frivolous.
"Now we mustn't laugh, girls, because it is a solemn moment," said Ellen Grant, though she did not succeed in looking very sober herself.
Betty was looking at Mary Grant's sin book, which had kept the record of two days, both with bad marks. If Mary had failed, what could impulsive Betty hope for? it was one of her worst temptations to make fun or to find petty faults in people. She did not know what her friends would think of her as time went on, but she meant to try very hard.
"Just think how lovely it will be if we learn never to say anything against any one! Perhaps we ought to make it a big club instead of a little one," but one of the girls said that people would laugh and would be watching them.
"Oughtn't we to ask Becky to belong?" It was difficult for Betty to ask this question, but she feared that her dear friend and neighbor's sharp eyes would detect the secret alliance, and Mary Beck was very hard to console when she was once roused into displeasure. Somehow Betty liked the idea of belonging to a club that Mary Beck did not know about. She was a little ashamed of this feeling, but there it was! The Grants and Lizzie refused to have Becky join, at any rate just now; and so Betty said no more. Perhaps it would be just as well at first, and she would be as careful as possible to gain good marks for her friend's sake as well as her own. Then the four members of the S. B. C. came back together into the village, and if the black cherry-tree heard their secret it never told. Whom should they meet as they turned the corner into the main street but Mary Beck herself, and Betty for one moment felt guilty of great disloyalty.
"We have been to walk a little way; I met the girls as I was going to the post-office, and we just went down to the old road and sat under the cherry-tree," she hastened to explain, but Becky was in a most friendly mood and joined them with no suspicion of having been left out of any pleasure. Betty felt a secret joy in belonging to the club while Becky did not, and yet she was sorry all the time for Becky, who had a great pride in being at the front when anything important was going on. Becky liked to keep Betty Leicester to herself, and indeed the two girls were growing more and more fond of each other, though a touch of jealousy in one and a spirit of independence and freedom in the other sometimes blew clouds over their sunny spring sky. Mary Beck had a way of seeing how people treated her and rating them accordingly - a silly self-compassionate way of saying that one was good to her, and a surly suspicion of another who did not pay her an expected attention, and these traits offended Betty Leicester, who was not given to putting either herself or other people under a microscope. There was nothing morbid about Betty and no sentimentality in her way of looking at herself. Becky's sensitiveness and prejudice were sometimes very tiresome, but they made nobody half so miserable as they did Becky herself; the talk she had always heard at home was very narrowing; a good deal of fruitless talk about small neighborhood affairs went on continually and had nothing to do with the real interests of life. It was a house where there was very little to show for the time that was spent. Mary Beck and her mother let many chances for their own usefulness and pleasure slip by, while they said mournfully that everything would have been so different if Mary's father had lived. Betty Leicester was taught to do the things that ought to be done.
The Sin Book Club continued to be a profound secret, and was considered of great value. Some days passed without a second meeting of the members for reports, but they gave each other significant looks and tried very hard to gain the little crosses that were to mark a good day. Betty was in despair when evening after evening she had to put down a cipher, and it was a great humiliation to find how often she yielded to a temptation to say funny things about people. To be sure old Mrs. Max was an ugly old gossip, but Betty need not have confided this opinion to Serena and Letty as they happened to look out of the kitchen windows, to see Mrs. Max go by. Betty had succeeded in being blameless until past six o'clock that day, and it was the fifth day of trial; lost now, and black-marked like those that had gone before. She went back to the garden and sat down in the summer-house much dejected. The light that came through the grape and clematis leaves was dim and tinted with green; it was a little damp there too, and quite like a sorrowful little hermitage. It is very hard work trying to cure a fault. Betty did so like to make people laugh, and she was always seeing what funny things people looked like; and altogether life was much soberer if one could no longer say whatever came into one's head. She was sure that all funny personalities did not make people think the less of their fellows, but it seemed as if most, and the very funniest, did. Our friend dreaded the inspection of her sin book, but when the Grants and Lizzie French showed theirs too in solemn conclave there was only one good mark for the whole four. This was Ellen Grant's, who talked much less than either of the others and so may have found that silence cost less effort.
"Even if we never succeed it will make us more careful," Lizzie French said, trying to keep up good courage.
"I keep wishing that Mary Beck belonged;" urged Betty loyally, but the others were resolute and insisted, nobody could tell exactly why, that Becky would spoil it all. Betty was valiant enough in case of open war, but she hated heartily - as who does not hate? - a chilling atmosphere of disapproval, in which no good-fellowship can flourish. Of course the club soon betrayed its common interest, and because Mary Beck was unobservant for the first week or two, Betty took little pains to conceal the fact that she and the Grants had a new interest in common. Then one day Becky did not come over, though the white handkerchief was displayed betimes; and when, as soon as possible, Betty hurried over to see what the matter was, Becky showed unmistakable signs of briefness and grumpiness of speech, and declared that she was busy at home, and evidently did not care for the news that an old Æolian harp had been discovered on a high upper shelf and carried to one of the dormer windows, where it was then wailing. The plaintive strains of it would have suited Becky's spirit and temper of mind excellently. It did not occur to Betty until she was going home, disappointed, that the club was beginning to make trouble; then her own good temper was spoiled for that day, and she was angry with Becky for thinking that she had no right to be intimate with anybody else. So serious a disagreement had never parted them before. Betty Leicester assured herself that Mary knew she was fond of her and like to be with her best, and that ought to be enough. The Aeolian harp was quite forgotten.
Later in the day Betty happened to look across the street as she was shutting the blinds in the upper hall, and saw Mary Beck come proudly down her short front walk with her best hat on and go stiffly away without a look across. The sight made her feel misunderstood and lonely; and one minute later she was just going to shout to Becky when she remembered that it was a far cry and would wake the aunts from their afternoon naps. Then she ran lightly down the wide staircase and all the way to the gate and called as loud as she could, "Mary! Mary!" but either Becky was too far away or would not turn her proud head. There were some other persons in the street, who looked with surprise and interest to see where such an eager shout came from, but Betty Leicester had turned toward the house again with a heartful of rage and sorrow. It seemed to be the sudden and unlooked for end of the summer's pleasure. When Aunt Barbara waked she asked Betty, being somewhat surprised to find her in the house alone, to go to the other end of the village to do an errand.
It was good to have something to do beside growing crosser and crosser, and Betty gladly hurried away. She hoped that she should meet Becky, and yet she did not mean to make up too easily, and when she saw Mrs. Beck watching her out of a front window she felt certain that Mrs. Beck was cross too. "Let them get pleased again!" grumbled Miss Betty Leicester, and Mary Beck herself had not borne a more forbidding expression. She lingered a moment at Nelly Foster's gate, hoping to find Nelly free, but the noise of the sewing-machine was plainly to be heard, and Nelly said wistfully that she could not go out until after tea; then she would come down to the house for a little while if Betty would like it, and Betty gladly said yes. Her heart was shaken as she walked on alone and came to the oak-tree on the high ridge where Becky had taken her to see the view and told her that she always called it their tree, in that first afternoon's walk. What could make poor old Becky so untrustful and unkind? Perhaps after all everything would be right when they met again; it might be one of Becky's freaks, only a little worse than usual. Alas, Mary with Julia Picknell, who happened to be in the village that afternoon, came out of one of the stores as the returning Betty was passing, and Becky looked another way and pushed by, though Betty had spoken pleasantly and tried to stop her.
"I don't care one bit; you're rude and hateful, Mary Beck!" said Betty hotly, at which Julia, mild little friend that she was, looked frightened and amazed. She had thought many times how lovely it must be to live in town and have friendships of a close and intimate kind with the girls. She pitied Betty Leicester, who looked as if she could hardly keep from crying; but the grievous Becky was more grumpy than before.
Serena was walking in the side yard in her nice plain afternoon dress, and somehow Betty felt more like seeking comfort from her than from Aunt Barbara, and was glad to go in at the little gate and join her kind old friend.
"What's fell upon you?" asked Serena, with sincere compassion.
"Mary Beck's just as disagreeable as she can be to-day," responded Betty, regardless of her sin book. "Serena! I just hate her, and I hate that horrid best hat of hers with the feather in it."
"Oh, no you don't, sweetin's;" Serena protested peacefully. "You'll be keepin' company same 's ever to-morrow. Now I think of 't, you've been off a good deal with the Grants and that French girl" (not a favorite of Serena's); "I wonder if that's all?"
"Yes - no" - wavered Betty. "Don't you tell anybody, but I do belong to a little club, but Becky doesn't really understand, for we've kept it very secret indeed."
"I want to know," exclaimed Serena.
"Yes, and it's for such a good object. I'll tell you some time, perhaps, but we want to cure ourselves of a fault." It seemed no harm to tell good old Serena; the compact had only been that none of the other girls should know. "We keep a little book, and we can have a good mark at night if we haven't said anything against anybody, but to-day I shall have such a black one! It makes us careful how we speak; truly, Serena; but Becky doesn't know, and she's making me feel so badly just because she suspects something."
"The tongue is an evil member," said Serena. "I don't know but doing things is full as bad as sayin' 'em, though. I s'pose you ain't kind of flaunted it a little speck that you had some secret amon'st you, to spite Mary?"
"She was stuffy about it and she had no right to be," Betty said this at first hastily, and then added: "I did wish yesterday that she would ask to belong and find that for once she couldn't."
'I want to tell you something about me an' a girl I thought everything of when we was young.
Serena took Betty's light hand in her own work-worn one and held it fast. "Le's come and set on the doorstep a spell," she said; "I want to tell you something about me an' a girl I thought everything of when we was young.
"She was real pretty, and we went together and had our young men - not serious, only kind o' going together; an' Cynthy an' me we had a misunderstandin' o' once another and we didn't speak for must 's a fortnight an' said spiteful things. I was here same's I be now, an' your Aunt Barbara, she was young too, an' the old lady, Madam Leicester, she was alive and they all was inquirin' what had come over me. I used to have a pretty voice then, and I wouldn't go to singin'-school or evenin' meetin' nor nothin'. I set out to leave here an' my good kind home an' go off to Lowell working in the mill, 't was when so many did, and girls liked it. Cynthy lived to the minister's folks. I've never got over it how ugly spoken I was about that poor girl, and she used to look kind of beseechin' at me the two or three times we met, as if she'd make up if I would, but I wouldn't. An' don't you think, one night her brother come after her to take her home, up Great Hill way, and the horse got scared and threw 'em out on the ice; an' when they picked Cynthy up she was just breathin' an' that was all, an' never spoke nor knew nothin' again. 'T was at the foot o' that hill just this side o' the Picknells. It give me a fit o' sickness; it did so," said Serena mournfully. "I can't bear to think about her never. Oh, she was one of the prettiest girls you ever saw. I try to go every summer an' lay a bunch o' pink roses on to her grave; she used to like 'em. I know 't was a fault o' youth an' hastiness, but I ain't never forgot it all my long life. I tell you with a reason. Folks says it takes two to make a quarrel but only one to end it. Now you bear that in your mind."
Betty glanced at old Serena, and saw two great tears slowly running down her faded cheek. She was much moved by the sad little story, and Serena's pretty friend and the pink roses. She wondered what the quarrel had been about, but she did not like to ask, and as Serena still held one hand she put the other over it, while Serena took the corner of her afternoon apron to wipe away the tears.
"It's very hard to be good, isn't it, Serena dear?" asked Betty.
"It's master hard, sweetin's," answered Serena gravely, - "master hard; but it can be done with help." They sat there on the shady doorstep for some minutes without speaking. A robin was chirping loud, as if for rain, high in one of the elms overhead, and the sun was getting low. Presently Serena was mindful of her evening duties and rose to go in, but not before Betty had put both arms round her and kissed her.
"There, there! somebody'll see you," protested the kind soul, but her face shone with joy. "Which d'you want for your supper, shortcakes or some o' them crispy rye ones?" she asked, trying to be very matter-of-fact. As for Betty, she turned and went down the yard and out of the carriage gate and straight across the wide street. She opened the Becks' front door and saw Becky at the end of the entry trying to escape to the garden.
"Don't let's be grumpy," she said in a friendly tone, "I've come over to make up."
Becky tried to preserve a stern expression, but somehow there was a warmth at her heart which suddenly came to the surface in a smile and the two girls were friends again. That night Betty put down a black mark, but not without feeling that the day had ended well in spite of its dark shadows.
"I don't believe that we ought to keep the sin books secret," she told the members of the club one afternoon when the second week's trial was over and there had been four or five good days for encouragement. "I don't wish everybody to know, but now that we find how much good they do us, we ought to let somebody else try; only Becky and the Picknells and Nelly Foster."
But there was no expression of approval.
"Then I'm going to do this: not tell them about this club, but behave as if it was something new and start another club. I could belong to two as well as one, you know."
"I wouldn't be such a copy-cat," said Lizzie French quickly. "It's our secret; we shall be provoked that we ever asked you," and with this verdict Betty was forced to be contented. She felt as if she had taken most inflexible vows, but there was a pleasing excitement in such dark mystery. The girls had to employ much stratagem in order to have their weekly meeting unsuspected, for Betty was determined not to make any more trouble among her friends. When she was first in Tideshead she often felt more enlightened than her neighbors, as if she had been beyond those bounds and experiences of every-day life known to the other girls, but she soon discovered her self to be single-handed and weak before their force of habit and prejudice. With all their friendliness and affection for Betty Leicester they held their own with great decision, and sometimes she found herself nothing but a despised minority. This was very good for her, especially when, as it sometimes happened, she was quite in the wrong, while if she were right she became more sure of it and was able to make her reasons clear.
There were several solemn evening meetings of the Sin Book Club after this; the favorite place of assemblage was a shady corner of Lizzie French's damp garden, where the records were sorrowfully inspected by the fleeting light of burnt matches, and gratified crowds of mosquitoes forced the sessions to be extremely brief. Whether it was that new interests took the place of the club, or whether the members thought best to keep their trials to themselves, no one can say, but by the middle of August the regular meetings had ceased. Yet sometimes the little books came accidentally out of pocket with a member's handkerchief, and were not without a good and lasting effect upon four quick young tongues; perhaps this will be seen as the story goes on.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER VII. THE SIN BOOKS
cipher: Perhaps in this case a zero, but several other marks could be used.
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a joke about a man in one of Mr. Lowell's poems: James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) was an American poet and literary critic, well remembered for his humorous poetry, such as The Biglow Papers (1848). This anecdote appears in “Fitz Adam’s Story,” the setting of which is South Berwick (Quompegan):
Quompegan is a town some ten miles south
From Jethro, at Nagumscot river-mouth,
A seaport town, and makes its title good
With lumber and dried fish and eastern wood.
Here Deacon Bitters dwelt and kept the Store,
The richest man for many a mile of shore;
In little less than everything dealt he,
From meeting-houses to a chest of tea;
So dextrous therewithal a flint to skin,
He could make profit on a single pin;
In business strict, to bring the balance true
He had been known to bite a fig in two,
And change a board-nail for a shingle-nail.
The poem first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly Volume 19, Issue: 111, January 1867, pp. 17-29.
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clematis leaves: clematis is a vine or herb of the buttercup family.
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Æolian harp: A stringed harp-like instrument that vibrates in the wind.
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Lowell: About 48 km. northwest of Boston, Lowell was a textile center in the 19th Century, hence a center of technological innovation.
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A CHAPTER OF LETTERS.
The summer days flew by. Some letters came from Mr. Leicester on his rapid journey northward, and Betty said once that it seemed months since she left England instead of a few weeks, everybody was so friendly and pleasant. Tideshead was most delightful to a girl who had been used to seeing strange places and to knowing nobody but papa at first, and only getting acquainted by degrees with the lodgings people and the shops, and perhaps with some new or old friends of papa's who lived out of the town. Once or twice she had stayed for many weeks in rough places in the north of Scotland, going from village to village and finding many queer people, and sometimes being a little lonely when her father was away on his scientific quests. Mr. Leicester insisted that Betty learned more than she would from books in seeing the country and the people, and Betty herself liked it much better than if she had been kept steadily at her lessons. The most doleful time that she could remember was once when papa had gone to the south of Italy late in spring and had left her at a French convent school until his return. However, there were delightful things to remember, especially about some of the good sisters whom Betty learned to love dearly, and it may be imagined how brimful of stories she was, after all these queer and pleasant experiences, and how short she made the evenings to Aunt Barbara and Aunt Mary by recounting them. It was no use for the ladies to worry any more about Betty's being spoiled by such an erratic course of education, as they often used to worry while she was away. They had blamed Betty's father for letting her go about with him so much, but there did not seem to be any great harm wrought after all. She knew a great many things that she never would have known if she had stayed at school. Still, she had a great many things to learn, and the summer in Tideshead would help to teach her those. She was really a home-loving girl, our Betty Leicester, and the best part of any new town was always the familiar homelike place that she and papa at once made in it with their "kits" as Betty called their traveling array of books and a few little pictures, and papa's special kits and collections of the time being. Aunt Barbara could never know upon how many different rooms her little framed photograph had looked. She had grown older since it was taken, but when she said so Betty insisted that it was picture of herself and would always look exactly like her. Betty had grown so attached to it that it was still displayed on the dressing-table of the east bedroom, even though the original was hourly to be seen.
In this summer quiet of the old town it seemed impossible that papa should not come hurrying home, as he used in their long London winters, to demand an instant start for some distant place. When the traveling kit was first bestowed in the lower drawer of one of the deep bureaus, Betty felt as if it might have to come out again next day, but there it stayed, and was abandoned to neglect unless its owner needed the tumbler in its stiff leather box for a picnic, or thought of a particular spool that might be found in the traveling work-bag. But with all the quiet and security of her surroundings, sometimes her thoughts followed papa most wistfully, or she wondered what her friends were doing on the other side of the sea. It was very queer to be obliged to talk about entirely new and different things, and Tideshead affairs alone, and not to have anybody near who knew the same every-day life that had stopped when she came to Tideshead, and so letters were most welcome. Indeed, they made a great part of the summer's pleasure. Suppose we read a handful as if we had picked them from Betty's pocket: -
Letters were most welcome.
Interlaken, July 2.
My dear Betty, - It was very good of you to write me so soon. You would be sure that I was eager to hear from you, and to know whether you had a good voyage and found yourself contented in Tideshead. I am sure that your grandaunts are even more glad to have you than I was sorry to let you go. But we must have a summer here together one of these days; you would be sure to like Interlaken. It seems to me pleasanter and quainter than ever; that is, if one takes the trouble to step a little one side of the torrent of tourists. Our rooms in the old pension are well lighted and aired, and two of my windows give on the valley toward the Jungfrau and the high green mountain slopes. Every morning since we have been here I have looked out to see a fresh dazzling whiteness of new snow that has covered the Jungfrau in the night, and we always say with a sigh every evening, as we looked up out of the shadowy valley and see the high peak still flushed with red sunset light, that such clear weather cannot possibly last another day. There are some old Swiss châlets across the green, and we hear pleasant sounds of everyday life now and then; last night there was a festival of some sort, and the young people sang very loud and very late, jodeling [ so spelled ] famously and as if breath never failed them. I suppose that the girls have already written to you, and that you will have two full descriptions of our scramble up to one of the highest chalets which I can see now as I look up from my writing-table, like a toy from a Nurnberg box with a tiny patch of greenest grass beside it and two or three tufts of trees. In truth it is a good-sized, very old house, and the green square is a large field. It is so steep that I wonder all the small children have not rolled out of the door and down to the valley one after the other, which is indeed a foolish remark to have made.
I take great pleasure in my early morning walks, in which you have so often kept me company, dear child. I meet the little peasants coming down from the hillsides to eight o'clock school in their quaint long frocks like little old fairies, they look so wise and sedate. Often I go to the village of Unterseen, just beyond the great modern hotels, but looking as if it belonged to another century than ours. We have some friends, artists, who have lodgings in one of the old houses, and when I go to see them I envy them heartily. Here it is very comfortable, but some of the people at table d'hôte are very tiresome to see, noisy strangers, who eat their dinners in most unpleasant fashion; but I should not forget two delightful German ladies from Hanover, who are taking their first journey after many years, and are most simple and enviable in their deep enjoyment of the Kursaal and other pleasures easily to be had. But I must not write too long about familiar pictures of travel. I will not even tell you our enthusiastic plan for a long journey afoot which will take nine days even with the best of weather. Ada and Bessie will be sure to keep a journal for your benefit and their own. Are you really well, my dear Betty, and busy, and do you find yourself making new friends with your old friends and playmates? It goes without saying that you are missing your papa, but before one knows we shall all be at home in London, as hurried and surprised as ever with the interesting people and events that pass by. Mr. Duncan is to join us for the walking tour, and has planned at least one daring ascent with the Alpine Club. I came upon his terrible shoes this morning in one of his boxes and they made me quite gloomy. Pray give my best regards to Miss Leicester, and Miss Mary Leicester; they seem very dear friends to me already, and when I come to America I shall be seeing old friends for the first time, which is always charming. I leave the girls to write their own words to you, but Standish desires her duty to Miss Betty, and says that her winter coat is to be new-lined, if she would kindly bear it in mind; the silk is badly frayed, if Standish may say so! I do not think from what I know of the American climate that you will be needing it yet, but dear old Standish is very thoughtful of all her charges. We had only a flying note from your papa, written on his way north, and shall be glad when you can send us news of him. God bless you, my dear child, and make you a blessing! I hope that you will do good and get good in this quiet summer. Write to me often; I feel as if you were almost my own girl. Yours most tenderly,
From papa, these: -
Dearest Betty, - This morning it is a wild country all along the way, untamed and unhumanized for the most part, and we go flying along through dark forests and forlorn burnt lands from tiny station to station. I am getting a good bit of writing done with the only decent stylographic pen I ever saw. I thought I had brought plenty of pencils, but they were not in my small portmanteau, and after going to the baggage-car and putting everybody to great trouble to get out my large one, they were not there either. Can any on explain? I found the dear small copy of Florio's "Montaigne" which you must have tucked in at the last moment. I like to have it with me more than I can say. You must have bought it that last morning when I had to leave you to go to Cambridge. I do so like to own such a Betty! Why do you still wish that you had come with me? Tideshead is much the best place in the world. I send my dear love to the best of aunts, and you must assure Serena and Jonathan and all my old friends of my kind remembrance. I wish every day that our friend Mr. Duncan could have come with me. The country seems more and more wide and wonderful, and I am quite unconscious now of the motion of the cars and feel as fresh every morning and as sleepy every night as possible; so don't worry about me, but pick me a sprig of Aunt Barbara's sweetbrier roses now and then, and try not to be displeasing to any one, dear little girl. Your fond father,
Canadian Pacific Railway, 18th June
Dear Betty, - The pencils all tumbled on the car-floor out of my light overcoat pocket. I then recalled somebody's command that I should put them into the portmanteau at once, the day they came home from the stationer's. I have found a fortune-telling, second-sighted person in the car. She has the section next to mine and has been directed by a familiar spirit to go to Seattle. She has a parrot with her, and they are both very excitable and communicative. She just told me that it is revealed to her that my youngest boy will have a genius for sculpture. I miss you more than usual to-day. You could help me with some copying, and there is positively nothing interesting to see out of the window; what there is of uninteresting twirls itself about. We shall soon be reaching the mountains, in fact, I have just caught my first glimpse of them beyond these great plains. I must really have some one to write for me next year, but this winter we keep holiday, you and I, if we get in for nothing new. It pleases me to write to you and takes up the long day. You will have finished "L'Allegro" by this time; suppose you learn two of the "Sonnets" next. I wish you to know your Milton as well as possible, but I am sorry to have you take it while I am away. Take Lowell's "Biglow Papers" and learn the Spring poem. You will find nothing better to have in your mind in the Tideshead June weather. And so good-by for this day.
My dear Betty, -Your letter is very good, and I am more glad than ever that you chose to go to Tideshead. You will learn so much from Aunt Barbara that I wish my girl to know and to be. And you must remember, in Aunt Mary's self-pitying moments, all her sympathy and her true love for us both, and remember that she has in her character something that makes her the dearest being in the world to such a woman as Aunt Barbara. She is a person, in fact they both are, to be liked and appreciated more and more. You and your Mary Beck interest me very much. Are you sure that it is wise to call her Becky? I thought that she was a new girl, but a nickname is indeed hard to drop. I remember her, a good little red-cheeked child. Let me say this: You have indeed lived a wider sort of life, but I fear that I have made you spread your young self over too great a space, while your Becky has stepped patiently to and fro in a smaller one. You each have your advantages and disadvantages, so be "very observant and respectful of your neighbor," as that good old Scottish preacher prayed for us in Kelso. Be sure that you don't "feel superior," as your Miss Murdon used to say. It is a great thing to know Tideshead well. Remember Selborne and how famous that town came to be!
Interlaken, July 11th.
Dear Betty, - Ada and I mean to take turns in writing to you, - one letter on Sunday and one in the middle of the week; for if we write together we shall tell you exactly the same things. So, you see, this is my turn. We do so wish for you and think that you cannot possibly be having so much fun in Tideshead as if you had come with us. We see such droll people in traveling; they do not look as if they were gong anywhere, but as if they were lost and trying hard to find their way back, poor dears! There was an old woman sitting near us on a bench with a stupid-looking young man, to hear the band play, and when it stopped she said to him: "Now we've only got three tunes more, and they will soon be done." We wondered why she couldn't go and so something else if she hated them so much. Ada and I play a game every morning when we walk in the town: We take sides and one has the Germans and one the English, and then see which of us can count the most. Of course we don't always know them apart, and then we squabble for little families that pass by, and Ada is sure they are Germans, - you know how sure Ada always is if she feels a little doubtful! - but yesterday there were Cook's tourists as thick as ants and so she had no chance at all. Miss Winter writes that she will be ready to join us the first of August, which will be delightful, and mamma won't have us to worry about. She said yesterday that we were much less wild without you and Miss Winter, and we told her that it was because life was quite triste. She wishes to go to some far little villages quite off the usual line of travel, with papa, and does not yet know whether to go now and take us, or wait and leave us with Miss Winter. I promised to be triste if she would let us go. Triste is my word for everything. Do you still wear out two or three dozen hates a day? Ada said this morning that you would hate so many hard little green pears for breakfast; but we are coming to plum-time now, and they are so good and sweet. Every morning such a nice Swiss maiden called Marie (they are all Maries, I believe) comes and bumps the corner of her tray against our door and smiles a very wide smile and says "Das frühstuck" in exactly the same tone as she comes in, and we have such delectable breakfasts of crisp little rolls and Swiss honey and very weak and hot-milky café au lait. I don't believe Miss Winter will let us have honey every day, but mamma doesn't mind. I think she give orders for a very small dish of it, because Ada and I have requested more until we are disheartened. Mamma says that while we run up so many hillsides here we may eat what we please. Oh, and one thing more: no end of dry little mountain strawberries, sometimes they taste like strawberries and sometimes they don't; but this is enough about what one eats in Interlaken. I have filled my four pages and Ada is calling me to walk. We are going on with our botany. Are you? I send a better edelweiss which I plucked myself. I must let Ada tell you next time about that day. She is the best at a description, but I love you more than ever and I am always your fond and faithful.
P. S. I forgot to say that Ada has made such clever sketches. Papa says that they quite surprise him, and we just long to show them to Miss Winter. There is one of a little girl whom we saw making lace at Lauterbrunnen. The Drummonds of Park Lane drove by us yesterday; we couldn't hear the name of their hotel, though they called it out, but we are sure to find them. They looked, however, as if they were on a journey, the carriage was so dusty. It was so nice to see the girls again.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER VIII. A CHAPTER OF LETTERS
Interlaken ... Jungfrau ... Hanover ... Kursaal: Interlaken is in western Switzerland; Jungfrau is a prominent alpine peak south of Interlaken. Hanover is a city in northwest Germany. A Kursaal is a casino (German).
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stylographic pen: A fountain pen, with ink in a refillable reservoir that feeds to a fine writing point.
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Florio's "Montaigne": The Frenchman, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is credited with inventing the modern essay. His first English translator was John Florio (1553-1625).
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Canadian Pacific Railway: The main Canadian railway system, the Canadian Pacific was finished in 1885, linking Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic, with Vancouver, British Columbia, on the Pacific.
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"L'Allegro" ... two of the "Sonnets" next ... Milton ... Lowell's "Biglow Papers" and learn the Spring poem: John Milton (1608-1674), English poet and essayist is most famous for his verse epic, Paradise Lost (1667). He wrote “L’Allegro” and a number of sonnets. James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) was an American poet and literary critic, well remembered for his humorous poetry, such as The Biglow Papers (1848). “Sunthin’ in the Pastoral Line” is likely to be the “spring” poem Betty’s father has in mind. (Research assistance: Lonni Evans and Susan Wagner-Hecht.)
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Kelso: A town in Scotland, south of Edinburgh.
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Selbourne ... how that famous town came to be: Selbourne was made famous by Gilbert White (1720-1793). Though a fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, he lived most of his life at Selbourne, in England, as a curate, where he could follow his avocations of naturalist and writer. His correspondence with Daines Barrington (1727-1800) grew into the Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne (1788), a very popular book.
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triste: French meaning "sad, mournful." Bessie uses the word playfully.
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Das frühstuck: German meaning "breakfast."
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Lauterbrunnen: A Swiss village south of Interlaken.
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As Betty shut the gate behind her one day and walked down the main street of Tideshead she felt more than ever as if the past four years had been a dream, and as if she were exactly the same girl who had paid that last visit when she was eleven years old. Yet she seemed to herself to have clearer eyes than before; her years of travel had taught her how to observe, the best gift that traveling can bestow. She saw new beauties in the gardens and the queer-shaped porches over the front doors, and noticed particularly the cupolas of one or two barns that were clear and sharp in their good outlines. More than all, she was astonished at the beauty of the old trees. Tideshead was not a forest of maples, like many other New England towns, but there were oaks along the village streets, and ash-trees, and willows, beside great elms in stately rows, and silver poplars, and mountain ashes, and even some fruit-trees along the roadsides outside the village. Betty remembered a story that she had often heard with great interest about one of the old Tideshead ministers who had been much beloved, and whose influence was still felt. Every year he had brought ten trees from the woods and planted them either on the streets or in his neighbor's yards; one year he chose one sort of tree and the next another, and at last, when he grew older and could not go far afield in his search he asked his friends for fruit-trees and planted them for the benefit of wayfarers. These had made a delightful memorial of the good old man, but many of the trees had fallen by this time, and though everybody said that they ought to be replaced, and complained of such shiftless neglect, as usual what was everybody's business was nobody's business, and Tideshead looked as if it were sorry to be forgotten. Betty had been used to the thrifty English and French care of woodlands, and felt as if it were a great pity not to take better care of the precious legacy. Aunt Barbara sometimes sent Jonathan and Seth Pond to care for the trees that needed pruning or covering at the roots, but hardly any one else in Tideshead did anything but chop them up and clear them away when they blew down.
It seemed very strange that all the old houses were so handsome and all the new ones so ugly. A stranger might wonder, why, with the good proportions, and even a touch of simple elegance that the house builders of the last century almost always gave, their successors seemed to have no idea of either, and to take no lessons from the good models before their eyes. "Makeshifts o' splendor," sensible old Serena called some of the new houses which had run much to cheap decoration and irregular roofs and fancy colors of paint. But the old minister's elms and willows hung their green boughs before some of these architectural failures as if to kindly screen them from the passers-by. They looked like imitations of houses, one or two of them, and as if they were put down to fill spaces, and not meant to live in, as the old plain-roofed and wide-roomed dwellings are. The sober old village looked here and there as if it were a placid elderly lady upon whom a child had put it's own gay raiment. People do not consider the becomingness of a building to its surroundings as they should, but Betty did not make this clear to herself exactly, though she was sorry at the change in the familiar streets. She was more delighted than she knew because she felt so complete a sense of belongingness; as if she were indeed made of the very dust of Tideshead, and were a part of it. It was much better than getting used to new places, though even in the dullest ones she had known there was some charm and some attaching quality ever to be remembered. She liked dearly to think of some of the places where she and papa had made their home, but after all there was the temporary feeling about every one. She could bear transplanting from most of them with equanimity, no matter how deep her roots had seemed to strike.
Seated herself in the shade of Becky's favorite tree.
After she had posted her letters there was a question of what to do next. She had really come out for a walk, but Mary Beck's mother had a dressmaker that day and Becky was not at liberty; and Nelly Foster was busy, too. The Grants were away for a few days on a visit; it was a lonely morning with our friend, who felt a hearty wish for one of her usual companions. She strayed out toward the fields and seated herself in the shade of Becky's favorite tree, looking off toward the hills. The country was very green and fresh-looking after a long rain, and the farmers were out cutting the later hay in the lower meadows. She could hear the mowing-machines like the whirr of great locusts, and the men's voices as they shouted to each other and the horses. On the field side of the fence, in the field corner, she and Becky had made a comfortable seat by putting a piece of board across the angle of the two fences, and there was a black cherry-tree thicket near, so that the two girls could not be seen from the road as they sat there. As Betty perched herself here alone she could look along the road, but not be discovered easily. She wished for Becky more than ever after the first few minutes, but her thoughts were very busy. She had had a misunderstanding with both the aunts that morning, and was still moved by a little pity for herself. They had grown used to their own orderly habits, and it seemed to be no trouble to them to keep their possessions in order, and Betty had found them standing before an open bureau drawer in her room quite aghast with the general disarray, and also with the buttonless and be-ripped condition of different articles of her underclothing. They had laughed good-naturedly and were not so hard upon Betty as they meant to be, when they saw her shame-stricken face, and Betty herself tried to laugh. She did not mind Aunt Barbara's seeing the things so much as Aunt Mary's aggravating assumption that it was a perfectly hopeless case, and nothing could be done about it.
"Nobody knows how or where they were washed," Aunt Barbara said in her brisk way; and though she looked very stern, Betty knew that she meant it partly for an excuse.
"You certainly ought to have been looking them over in this rainy weather," complained Aunt Mary. "A young lady of your age is expected to keep her clothing in exquisite order."
Betty hated being called a young lady of her age.
"I hope that you take better care of your father's wardrobe than this: why, there isn't a whole thing here, and they are most expensive new things, one can see; unmended and spoiled." Aunt Mary held up a pretty underwaist and sighed deeply.
"Mrs. Duncan chose them with me; one doesn't have to give so much for such things in London," explained Betty somewhat hotly. "It is no use to pick out ugly things to wear."
"Dear, dear!" said Aunt Barbara, "don't fret about it, either of you! We'll look them over by and by, Betty, and see what can be done;" and she shut the drawer upon the pathetic relics. "You must be ready to meet your responsibilities better [ ] this," she said sharply to her niece, but Betty was already hurrying out of the door. She did not mind Aunt Barbara, but Aunt Mary in the distressing silk wrapper that belonged to cross days was too much for one to bear. They had no business to be looking over her bureau drawer; then Betty was sorry for having been so ill-natured about it. Letty had told her, earlier, that some of her clothes cold not be worn again until they were mended, and Aunt Barbara had, no doubt, been consulted also, and was wondering what was best to be done. Betty's great pride had been in being able to take care of papa, and she had almost boasted of her skill, and of her management of housekeeping affairs when they were in lodgings. She was too old now to be treated like a child, and hated being what Serena called "stood over."
Betty's temper was usually very good, and such provocations could not make her miserable very long. As she sat under the oak-tree she even laughed at the remembrance of Aunt Mary's expression of perfect hopelessness as she held up the underwaist. Aunt Barbara's favorite maxim that there was "nothing so inconvenient as disorder" seemed to have deeper reason and wisdom than ever. Betty considered the propriety of throwing away all her subterfuges of pins, so that a proper stitch must be inevitably taken when it was needed. Pins in underclothes are not always comfortable, but our heroine was apt to be in a hurry, and to suffer the consequences in more ways than one. She made some brave resolutions now, and promised herself to look over her belongings, and to mend all that could be mended and throw away the remainder rags that very day after dinner. Betty was fond of making good resolutions, and it seemed to help her much about keeping them if she wrote them down. She had learned lately from Aunt Barbara, who complained of forgetting things over night, to make little lists of things to be done, and it appeared a good deal easier to mark off the items on the list one by one, than to carry them in one's mind and wonder what should be done next. Our friend liked to make notes about life in general and her own responsibilities, and had many serious thoughts now that she was growing older.
She made her lead pencil as pointed as possible with a knife newly sharpened by Jonathan, and wrote at the end of her slip of paper, which had come out much crumpled from her pocket: "Look over my clothes and every one of my stockings, and put them in as good order as possible." Then she smoothed out another larger piece of paper on her knee and read it. One day she had copied some scattered sentences from a book, and prefaced them with some things that her father often had said: "Learn the right way to do things. Do everything that you can for yourself. Try to make yourself fit to live with other people. Try to avoid making other people wait upon you. Remember that every person stands in a different place from every other and so sees life from a different point of view. Remember that nobody like to be proved in the wrong, and be careful in what manner you say things to people that they do not wish to hear."
Betty read slowly with great approval at first, but the end seemed disturbing. "That's just what Aunt Mary likes!" she reflected, with suddenly rising wrath. "She says things over twice, for fear I don't hear them the first time. I wish she would let me alone!" but Betty's conscience smote her at this point. She really was beginning to wish must heartily that she were good, and like every one else wished for the approval of others as well as for the peace of her own conscience. This was a black-mark day when she had neither, and she thought about her life more intently than usual. When she liked herself everybody liked her, but when she was on bad terms with herself everybody else seemed ready to join in the stern disapproval. Papa was always ready to lend a helping hand at such times, but papa was far away. Nothing was so pleasant as usual that morning, and a fog of discouragement seemed to shut out all the sunshine in Betty Leicester's heart. She did not often get low-spirited, but for that hour all the excitement of coming to Tideshead and being liked and befriended by her old friends had vanished and left only a miserable hopelessness in its place. The road of life appeared to lead nowhere, and perhaps our friend missed the constant change and excitement of interest brought to her by living alongside such a busy, inspiriting life as her father's. Here in Tideshead she had to provide her own motive power instead of being tributary to a stronger current.
"I don't seem to have anything to do," thought Betty. "I used to be so busy all the time last spring in London and never had half time enough, and now everything is raveling out instead of knitting up. I poke through the days hoping something nice will happen, just like the Tideshead girls." This thought came with a curious flash of self-recognition such as rarely comes, and always is the minute of inspiration. "I must think and think what to do," Betty went on, leaning her cheek on her hand and looking off at the blue mountains far to the northward. There was a tuft of rudbeckias in bloom near by, and just then the breeze made them bow at her as if they were watching and approved her serious thoughts. They had indeed a friendly and cheering look, as if there were still much hope in life, and Betty forgot herself for a minute as she was suddenly conscious of their companionship. She even gave the gay yellow flowers a friendly nod, and resolved to carry some of them home to the aunts. It would be a good thing to make a rule for devoting the first half hour after breakfast to the care of her clothes and that sort of thing: then she could take the next hour for her writing. But it was often very pleasant to scurry down into the garden or to the yard for a word with Jonathan or Seth. Aunt Barbara was always busy housekeeping with Serena just after breakfast, and Betty was left to herself for a while; it would take stern principle to settle at once to the day's work, but to-morrow morning the plan should be tried. Betty had offered, soon after she came, to take care of the flowers in the house, to pick fresh ones or to put fresh water in the vases, but she had forgotten to do it regularly of late, though Aunt Barbara had been so pleased in the beginning. "I ought to do my part in the house," she thought, and again the gay "rude beckies" nodded approval, and a catbird overhead said a great deal on the subject which was difficult to understand but very insistent. Betty was beginning to be cheerful again; in truth, nothing gets a girl out of a tangle of provocations and bewilderments and regrets like going out into the fields alone.
Nobody had driven by in all the time that Betty had sat in the fence corner until now there was a noise of wheels in the distance. It seemed suddenly as if the session were over, and Betty, quite restored to her usual serenity, said good-by to her solitary self and the cheerful wild-flowers. "I am going to be good, papa," she thought with a warm love in her hopeful heart, as she looked out through the young black cherry-trees to see who was going by in the road. "Seth! Seth Pond!" she called, "Where are you going?" for it proved to be that important member of the aunts' household, with the old wagon and Jimmy, the old black horse.
"Goin' to mill," answered Seth, recognizing the voice and looking about him, much pleased. "Want to come? be pleased to have ye," and Betty was over the fence in a minute and appeared to his view from behind the thicket. I dare say the flowers waved a farewell and looked fondly after her as she drove away.
Seth was not in the least vexed by his thoughts. He was much gratified by Betty's company and behaved with great dignity, giving her much information about the hay crop, and how many tons were likely to be cut in this field and the next. They could not drive very fast because the wagon was well loaded with bags of corn, and so they jogged on at an even pace, though Seth flourished his whip a good deal, striking sometimes at the old horse, and sometimes at the bushes by the roadside.
"Do you expect I shall ever get to be much of a hand to play the violin?" he inquired with much earnestness.
"I don't know, Seth," answered Betty, a little distressed by the responsibility of answering. "Do you mean to be a musician and do nothing else?"
"I used to count on it when I was little," said Seth humbly. "I heard a fellow play splendid in a show once, and I just used to lay awake nights an' be good for nothin' days, wonderin' how I could learn; but I can play now 'bout 's good 's he could, I s'pose, an' it don't seem to be nothin'. Them tunes in the book you give me let in some light on me as to what playin' was. I mean them tough ones over in the back part."
"I suppose you would have to go away and study; teachers cost a great deal. That is, the best ones do."
"They're wuth it; I don't grudge 'em the best they get," said Seth, honorably. "I've got to think o' marm, you see, up-country. She couldn't get along nohow without my wages comin' in. You see I send her the most part. I ain't to no expense myself while I live there to Miss Leicester's. If there was only me I'd fetch it to live somehow up in somebody's garret, and go to one o' them crack teachers after I'd saved up consid'able. Then I'd go to work again an' practice them lessons till I earnt some more. But I ain't never goin' to pinch marm; she worked an' slaved an' picked huckleberries and went out nussin' and tailorin' an' any work she could git, slick or rough, an' give me everything she could till I got a little schoolin' together and was big enough to work. She's kind o' slim now; I think she worked too hard. I was awful homesick when I was first to your aunts', but Jonathan he used me real good. He come there a boy from up to our place just the same, an' used to know marm. Miss Leicester she lets me go up and spend Sunday consid'able often. Marm's all alone except what use she gets of the neighbors comin' in. But seems if I'd lived for nothin', if I can't learn to play a fiddle better than I can now," and Seth struck hard with his whip at an unoffending thistle.
"Then you're sure to do it," said Betty. "I believe you must learn, Seth. Where there's a will there's a way."
"Why, that's just what Sereny says," exclaimed Seth with surprise. "Well, they say 't was the little dog that kep' runnin' that got there Saturday night."
"Should you play in concerts, do you suppose?" asked Betty, with reverence for such overpowering ambition in the rough lad.
"You bet, an' travel with shows an' things," responded Seth. "But if I kep' to work on something['] else that give mother an' me a good livin', I'd like to be the one they sent for all round this part of the country when they wanted first-rate playin'; an' I'd be ready, you know, and just make the old fiddle squeak lovely for dancin' or set pieces for weddings an' any occasions that might rise. I'd like to be the player, an' I tell ye I'm goin' to be 'for I die. Marm she knows I can, but one spell she used to expect 't would draw me into bad company."
"Oh you wouldn't let it, I'm sure, Seth," agreed Betty, with pleasing confidence. "I like to hear you play now," she said. "I wish we could get you a teacher. Perhaps papa can tell you, and - well, we'll see."
"I'd just like to have you see marm," said Seth shyly as they drove to the mill door. "She'd like you an' you'd like h.r. I don't suppose your aunts would let you go up-country, would they? It's pretty up there; mountains, an' cleared pastur's way up their sides higher 'n you'd git in an afternoon. You can see way down here right from our house," he whispered, as they stopped before the mill door.
Betty thought it was very pleasant in the old mill. While Seth and the miller were transacting their business, she went to one of the little windows on the side next the swift rushing mill-stream and looked out awhile, and watched some swallows and the clear water and the house on the other side where the miller lived. Then she was shown how the corn was ground and tasted the hot meal as it came sifting down from the little boxes on the band, and the miller even had the big wheel stopped in its dripping dark closet where it seemed to labor hard to keep the mill going. "Something works hard for us in our lives to make them all come right," she thought with wistful gratitude, and looked with new interest at the busy maze of wheels and hoppers and rude machinery that joggled on steadily from the touch of the hidden wheel and the plash of its live water. She wandered out into the sunshine and down the river side a little way. There was a clean yellow sandy bottom in one place with shoals of frisky little minnows and a small green island only a little way out, and Betty was much tempted to take off her shoes and stockings and wade across. Her toes curled themselves in their shoes with pleased anticipation, but she thought with a sigh that she was too tall to go wading now, that is, near a public place like the mill. It was impossible not to give a heavy sigh over such lost delights. Then she looked up at the mill and discovered that there were only one or two high and dusty windows at that end, and down she sat on the short green turf to pull off the shoes and stockings as fast as she could, lest second thoughts might again hinder this last wade. She gathered her petticoats and over to the island she splashed, causing awful apprehension of disaster among the minnows.
The green island was a delightful place indeed; the upper end was near the roaring dam, and the water plashed and dashed as it ran away on either side. There were two or three young elms and some alders on the island, and the alders were full of clematis just coming into bloom. The lower end of this was a strip of island-ground was much less noisy, and Betty went down to sit there after she had seen two or three turtles slide into the water, and more minnows slip away into deeper pools out of sight. There was a pleasant damp smell of cool water, and a ripple of light went dancing up the high stone foundation of the old mill. Betty could still hear the great wet wheel lumbering round. She thought that she never had found a more delightful place, so much business was going on all about her and yet it was so quiet there, and as she looked under a young alder what should she see but a wild duck on its nest. Even if the shy thing had fluttered off at her approach, it had gone back again, and now watched her steadily as if to be ready to fly, yet not really frightened. It was a dear kind of relationship to be in this wild little place with another living creature, and Betty settled herself on the soft turf, against the straight young elm trunk, determined not to give another glance in the duck s direction. It would be great fun to come and see it go away with its ducklings when they were hatched, if one only knew the proper minute. She wished that she could paint a picture of the mill and the river, or could write a song about it, even if she could not sing it, so many girls had such gifts and did not care half so much for them as Betty herself would. Dear Betty! she did not know what a rare gift she had in being able to enjoy so many things, and to understand the pictures and songs of every day.
Then it was time to wade back to shore, and so she rose and left the duck to her peaceful seclusion, not knowing how often she would think of this pretty place in years to come. The best thing about such pleasures is that they seem more and more delightful, as years go on. Seth was just coming to tell Betty that the meal was all ground and ready when she appeared discreetly from behind the willows that grew at the mill end, and so they drove home without anything exciting to mark the way.
Betty had taken many music lessons, but she was by no means a musician, and seldom played for the pleasure of it. For some reason, after tea was over that evening she opened Aunt Barbara's piano and began to play a gay military march which she had toilsomely learned from one of the familiar English operas. She played it once or twice, and played it very well; in fact, an old gentleman who was going slowly along the street stopped and leaned on the fence to listen. He had been a captain in the militia in the days of the old New England trainings, and now though he walked with two canes and was quite decrepit, he liked to be reminded of his military service, and the march gave him a great pleasure and made him young again while he stood there beating time on the front fence, and nodding his head. One may often give pleasure without knowing it, if one does pleasant things.
Next morning, early after breakfast, Betty appeared at Miss Mary Leicester's door with an armful of mending. Aunt Mary waked up early and had her breakfast in bed, and liked very much to be called upon afterward and to hear something pleasant. One of the windows of her room looked down into the garden and it was cool and shady there at this time of the day, so Betty seated herself with a dutiful and sober feeling not unmixed with enjoyment.
"I have thought ever since yesterday that I was too severe, my dear," said Aunt Mary somewhat wistfully from her three pillows. "But you see, Betty, I am so conscious of the mistakes of my own life that I wish to help you to avoid them. It is a terrible thing to become dependent upon other people, - especially if they are busy people," she added plaintively.
"Oh, I ought to have managed everything better," responded Betty, looking at the ends of two fingers that had poked directly through a stocking toe. "I don't mean to let things get so bad again. I never do when I am with papa, because - I know better. But it has been such fun to play since I came to Tideshead! I don't feel a bit grown up here."
Aunt Mary looked at little Betty with an affectionate smile.
"I think fifteen is such a funny age," Betty went on; "you seem to just perch there between being a little girl and a young lady, and first you think you are one and then you think you are the other. I feel like a bird on a bough, or as if I were living in a railway station, waiting for a train to come in before I could do anything." Betty said this gravely, and then felt a little shy and self-conscious. Aunt Mary watched her as she sat by the window sewing, and was wise enough not to answer, but she could not help thinking that Betty was a dear girl. It was one of Aunt Mary's very best days, and there were some things one could say more easily to her than to Aunt Barbara, though Aunt Barbara was what Betty was pleased to irreverently call her pal.
"I do wish that I had a talent for something," said Betty. "I can't sing; if I could, I am sure that I would sing for everybody who asked me. I don't see what makes people so silly about it, hear that old robin now!" and they both laughed. "Nobody asks me to play who knows anything about music. I wish I had Aunt Barbara's fingers; I don't believe I can ever learn. I told papa it was just throwing money away, and he said it was good to know how to play even a little, and good for my hands, to make them quick and clever."
"You played that march very well last night," said Aunt Mary kindly.
"Oh, that sort of thing! But I mean other music, the hard things that papa likes. There is one of the Chopin nocturnes that Mrs. Duncan plays, oh, it is so beautiful! I wish you and Aunt Barbara knew it."
"You must ask Aunt Barbara to practice it. I like to have her keep on playing. We used to hear a great deal of music when I was well enough to go to Boston in the winter, years ago," and Aunt Mary sighed. "I think it is a great thing to have a gift for home life, as you really have, Betty dear."
"Papa and I have been in such queer holes," laughed Betty. "Mrs. Duncan and some of our friends are never tired of hearing about them. But you know we always try to do the same things. If I hadn't any other teacher when we were just flying about, papa always heard my lessons and made me keep lesson hours; and he goes on with his affairs and we are quite orderly, indeed we are, so it doesn't make much difference where we happen to be. Then I have been whole winters in London, and Mrs. Duncan looks after us a good deal."
"Mary Duncan is a wise and charming woman," said Aunt Mary.
"All the big Duncans are so nice to the little ones!" said Betty; "but papa and I can be old or young, just as we choose, and we try to make up for not being a large family," which seemed to amuse both Aunt Mary and Letty, who had just come in.
The hour soon slipped by and Betty's needle had done great execution, but a little heap was laid aside for the rag-bag as too hopeless a wreck for any mending. It was plain that too much trust had been reposed in strange washer-women, for one could put a finger through the underwaists anywhere, such damaging soap had evidently been used to make them clean. Betty had heard that paper clothes were coming into fashion from Japan, and informed her aunt of this probable change for the better with great glee. Then she went away to the garden to cut some flowers for the house, and found Aunt Barbara there before her, tying up the hollyhock stalks to some stakes that Seth Pond was driving down. Aunt Barbara had a shallow basket and was going to cut the sweet-clover flowers that morning, to dry and put on her linen shelves along with some sprigs of lavender, and this pleasant employment took another half hour.
"Aunt Mary was so dear this morning!" said Betty, as they stood on opposite sides of a tall sweet-clover top.
"She feels pretty well, then," answered Miss Leicester, much pleased.
"Yes," said Betty, snipping away industriously; "she didn't wish to be pitied one bit. Don't you think we could give her some chloroform, Aunt Bab, and put her on the steamer and take her to England? She would get so excited and have such a good time and be well forever after."
"I really have thought so," acknowledged Aunt Barbara, smiling at Betty's audacity. But your Aunt Mary has suffered many things, and has lost her motive power. She cannot rouse herself when she wishes to, nowadays, but must take life as it comes. I can see that it was a mistake to yield years ago to her nervous illness, but I was not so wise then, and now it is too late. You know, Betty, she had a great sorrow, and has never been the same person since."
"So had papa when mamma died," said Betty gravely, and trying hard to understand; "but he cured himself by just living for other people, and thinking whether I were happy."
"It is the only way, dear," said Aunt Barbara, "but when you are older you will know better how it has been with my poor sister."
Betty said no more, but she had many thoughts. Something that had been said about losing one's motive power had struck very deep. She had said something herself about waiting for her train in the station, and she had a sudden vision of the aimlessness of it, and of even the train bills and advertisements on the wall. She was eager, as all girls are, for one single controlling fate or fortune to call out all her growing energies, but she was aware at this moment that she herself must choose and provide; she must learn to throw herself heartily into her life just as it was. It was a moment of clear vision to Betty Leicester, and her cheeks flushed with bright color. It wasn't the thing one had to do, but the way one learned to do it, that distinguished one's life. Perhaps she could be famous for every-day homely things and have a real genius for something so simple that nobody else had thought of it. That night when Betty said her prayers one new thing came into her mind to be asked for, and was a great help, so that she often remembered it afterward. "Help me to have a good time doing every-day things, and to make my work my pleasure."
NOTES FOR CHAPTER IX. BETTY'S REFLECTIONS
rudbeckias: "A perennial herb of the genus so called, belonging to the family Compositæ, native to North America, and bearing yellow or orange flowers with a prominent conical disc of dark florets in the centre of each one." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).
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catbird: The gray catbird, named because its characteristic call note is a cat-like mew.
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huckleberries: Gaylussacia, of the heath family, erica, is a shrub that produces an dark blue edible berry.
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little boxes on the band: These appear to be boxes on a conveyor belt for carrying grain or flour up and down, like an elevator, in grist mill. The mill seems to be based on Yeaton's Mill (now called Leigh's Mill) at the mouth of the Great Works River in South Berwick, ME, a place Jewett would have known well. (Research: Wendy Pirsig)
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Chopin nocturnes: Frederick Chopin (1810-1839) was a popular romantic composer, especially for the piano. He is especially known for his nocturnes, usually slow and quietly meditative piano compositions.
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chloroform: a liquid used as an anesthetic in the nineteenth century.
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Aunt Barbara and Betty had finished their breakfast in the cool breakfast-room, or little dining-room as it was sometimes called by the family. This looked out on the short elm-shaded grass of the side yard, but it was apt to get too warm later in the day. The dining-room was much larger, and had most of the family portraits in it and a ponderous sideboard and side tables, and Betty sometimes thought that a good deal of machinery had to be set running there to give a quiet dinner or supper just to Aunt Barbara and herself. But the little dining-room was very cosy, with a small sideboard and a tall clock and an old looking-glass and very old-fashioned slender wooden armchairs. The sun came dancing in through the leaves at a square window. The breakfast-room was nearer the kitchen, and Serena had a sociable custom of appearing now and then to ask Miss Leicester about the housekeeping.
"There now, Miss Barb'ra," she exclaimed, putting her head in at the door, while Betty and her aunt still lingered. "You excuse me this time, but here's Jonathan considers it best to go off up-country looking for winter's wood, of all things! I told him I 'd like to ride up long of him to see sister Sarah when he went, but I never expected he 'd select the very day I set two weeks ago for us to pick the currants."
"But one day will make very little difference; I thought yesterday when you spoke of them that they needed a little more sun," said Miss Leicester persuasively.
"'T will bring the jelly right into the last o' the week when there's enough to do any way." One would have thought that Serena was being forced into unpleasant duty, but this was her way of beginning a day's pleasure, and Miss Leicester had been familiar with it for many years.
"He's goin' right off; puttin' the hosses in now; never gives nobody a moment to consider," grumbled Serena, but Miss Leicester laughed and bade the good soul hurry and get herself ready. There was nothing to be done that day that Letty could not manage, or Letty's sister would come over in the afternoon, or Mrs. Grimshaw, the extra helper who was frequently on hand. "I think Jonathan is wise not to give you any more time to think about it. There's no use in scouring the whole house outside and in before you take a day's pleasure," she suggested cheerfully.
"I like to have my mind at rest," responded Serena, but still there was something unsaid. Betty's eyes were eager, but she considerately waited for Serena to speak first. "You see, Miss Barb'ra, Jonathan's got to take up the rag-bags, 't is most a year since I got 'em up to sister Sarah's before, and they're in the way here, we all know, and I've got some bundles beside, and I told Seth Pond to run out an' pick a mess o' snap beans. Sister Sarah's piece is very late land and I s'pose she won't have any; and Jonathan he knows when I start I fill up more than the little wagon; so he's got the big one, and that makes empty seats, an' Miss Betty was saying that when I was goin' up again" -
"You are base conspirators, both of you," said Aunt Barbara, much amused. "It is a delightful day; the weather couldn't be better. Now hurry, Betty, and don't keep Serena waiting."
"If it's so that you really want go, Miss Betty."
"I do, indeed, Miss Serena," responded Betty with great spirit, and off she ran up-stairs, while her aunt hurried to find something to send by way of remembrance, not only to Serena's sister Sarah, but to Seth's mother, who lived two miles this side.
There was great excitement for the next half hour. Everybody behaved as if there were danger of missing a train, and Seth and Letty were sent this way and that, and Serena gave as many last charges as if she meant to be absent a fortnight, while Jonathan, already in the wagon, grumbled at the delay and shouted to the horses if they so much as lifted a foot at a fly. When they had fairly started he gave a chuckle of satisfaction and said that he didn't expect when he was harnessing to get off until much as an hour later, whereat Serena with unwonted levity called him a "deceivin' old sarpent." The wind was blowing gently from the north, and was cool enough to make one comfortable in a jacket, though Betty could not be persuaded that hers was needed. Serena's shawl was pinned neatly about her shoulders. She sat alone on the back seat of the wagon, for Jonathan had said that it would ride better not to be too heavy behind and therefore Betty was keeping him company in front, of which scheme Serena had her own secret opinion. The piece-bags took up a large part of the spare seat. Sister Sarah was lame and took great joy in working the waste material of the Leicester house into rugs and rag carpets, and it was one of Serena's joys to fill the round piece-bags even to bursting.
Then there were the beans, and the bundles large and small, and Betty was in charge of a package of newspapers and magazines and patent medicine almanacs and interesting circulars of all sorts which Seth had been saving for his mother.
Jonathan was a tall, thin man, with a shrewd, clean-shaven face. He wore a new straw hat that day, with a faded linen coat, and a much washed-out plaid gingham cravat under his shirt collar. The' best hat was worn on Betty's account, and was evidently a little stiff and uncomfortable, for he took it off once or twice and looked into the crown soberly and then put it on again.
"Sorry you wore it, I s'pose?" observed Serena on one of these occasions.
"Got to wear it some time," answered Jonathan gruffly, so that nobody thought best to speak of the hat again even when a sudden puff of wind blew it over into a field. Betty had been ready to put on one of her old play-gowns, as she still called them, but upon reflection decided that it would be hardly respectful when she had been invited to go visiting with such kind and proper friends, and indeed Serena had given her a hasty and complacent glance from head to foot when she came down dressed in one of the prettiest of the London ginghams. Mrs. Duncan, Betty's kind friend and adviser, had been sure that these ginghams would all four be needed to clothe our heroine comfortably through the summer, that is to judge from experience in other summers; but it made a difference in the stress put upon ginghams, to be a year older.
The up-country road wound first among farms and within sight of the river, then it took a sudden northward turn and there were not so many white elder flowers by the way as there were junipers and young birches. There were long reaches through the cool woods, and the road was always rising to a higher part of the country, veritable up-country, among the hills. From one high point where they stopped to let the horses rest a minute there was a beautiful view of the low lands that lay toward the sea, and the river which ran southward in shining lines. It would be hard to say who most enjoyed the morning. The elder members of the party seldom felt themselves free for a holiday, and Betty was always ready to enjoy whatever came in her way; but there was a delicious novelty in being asked to spend a day with Serena and Jonathan. They were hostess and host, and Betty felt an unusual spirit of deference and gratitude toward them; it seemed as if they were both quite conscious of a different relationship toward Betty from that at home. It was wonderful to see what cordial greetings most of the people gave them along the road, and how many warm friends they seemed to possess. The farther they went, the more struck by this was our Betty, who gave a little sigh at some unworded thought about always being a newcomer and stranger. She had begun to feel so recognized and at home in Tideshead that it was a little hard now to find herself unknown again. But Serena liked to tell her who every one was, and there was as much friendly interest shown in Miss Betty Leicester as any heart could wish.
From one high point where they stopped to let the horses rest a minute there was a beautiful view.
They had gone almost fourteen miles, and Betty was just nearing the end of a long description of her experiences at the Queen's Jubilee, when Jonathan said: "Now you can rec'lect just where you put the mark in. I don't calc'late to lose none of it, but here we've got to stop top of the hill an' see Seth's folks. You've got them papers an' things handy, ain't you, Serena?"
Betty saw a yellow story-and-a-half house by the roadside with some queer little sheds and outbuildings, and looked with great interest to see if any one came to the window. "Seth's folks" meant nobody but his mother, who lived alone as Betty knew, and there she was standing in the door, a kind-faced, round-shouldered little creature, who had the patient, half-apprehensive look of those women who live alone in lonely places. She threw her big clean gingham apron over her head and came forward just as Jonathan had got out of the wagon and Betty followed him.
"There, bless ye!" said "Seth's folks." "I waked up this morning kind of expecting that I should see somebody from down Seth's way. I expect he's well 's common?"
"Oh, yes," responded Jonathan. "We had to leave him to keep house. He was full o' messages, but I can't seem to remember none on 'em now."
"No matter, so long I know 's he's well," said the little woman, shaking hands with Betty and looking at her delightedly. "Now I want you all to come in and stop to dinner," but Serena could not even be persuaded to "'light down" on account of her duty to sister Sarah. Betty carried in the armful of reading matter and Mrs. Pond followed her, and while our friend looked at the plain little house and fancied Seth practicing his tunes, and saw the beautiful cone frame which he had helped his mother to make, the hospitable little mother was getting some home made root-beer out of a big stone jug, and soon served it to her three guests in pretty old-fashioned blue and white mugs. Betty thought she had never tasted anything so delicious as the flavor of spice and pleasing bitterness in the cold drink, and Jonathan smacked his lips loudly and promised to call for more as he came back. Mrs. Pond took another good long look at Betty before they parted. "I wasn't expectin' you to be so much of a young lady. I do' know 's you be quite growed up yet, though," she said. This was not the least of the pleasures of that day, and they went on next to sister Sarah's, where Betty and Serena and the freight were to be left while Jonathan went off about his business.
It almost seemed as if up-country existed for the sake of its market town of Tideshead. Betty had been there once or twice in her childhood, but her memories even of sister Sarah were rather indistinct. She had taken a long nap once on the patchwork quilt in the bed room, and had waked to find four or five women hooking a large rug in the kitchen, all talking together, which had made an impression upon her young mind. It was strawberry-time too on that last visit. But sister Sarah remembered a great deal more about it than this, and was delighted to see Betty once more. There was the very rug on the floor, already beginning to look worn. One could remember it by a white, or rather a gray, rabbit under some large green leaves which made part of the design. It was impossible to say how many rugs there were in the house, as if life went on for the sole purpose of making hooked and braided rugs. Those in the kitchen at Aunt Barbara's were evidently the work of sister Sarah's industrious fingers. Serena might have left the place of her birth the week before instead of nearly forty years, if one might judge by the manner in which she hung her bonnet and shawl on a nail behind the door and put her grey thread gloves into the table drawer.
Sister Sarah looked like a neat little nun, and limped painfully as she went about the room. Sometimes she used a crutch, but she seemed as lame with it as without it, and she was such a brisk little creature in spirit, and was so little depressed by her misfortune that one felt it would be unwelcome to express any pity. Betty knew that sometimes the poor woman suffered a great deal of pain and could not move at all, and that a neighbor who also lived alone came at those times and stayed with her for a few weeks. "Sister Sarah ain't one mite lame in her mind," Serena said proudly one day, and Betty found this to be the truth. She did not like to read, however, and told Betty that it was never anything but a task, except to study geography, and she only had one old geography, fairly worn to pieces, which she knew by heart, with all its lists of towns and countries and rivers, the productions and boundaries and capitals and climatic conditions and wild animals were at her tongue's end for anybody who cared to hear them. "The old folks used to think she'd better exercise her memory learning hymns, and Sister Sarah favored geography," Serena once explained; "but she knows what other folks knows, and has got a head crammed full o' learning. She never forgets nothing, whilst I leak by the way, myself, and do' know whether I know anything or not," she ended triumphantly.
Serena's mind was full of plans that day, and after resting a little while and hearing the news, she asked Betty whether she would go with her to a cousin's about a mile away by a pasture path, or whether she would stay where she was. The path sounded very pleasant, but from the tone of the invitation it seemed best to remain behind, so she quickly decided and Serena set forth alone. It was only about eleven o'clock and she meant to be back by twelve, and dinner was put off half an hour. Then Serena would have the afternoon clear until it was time to go. The cousin had seen trouble since the last visit, so it never would do to go home without seeing her. Sister Sarah and Betty sat by the front windows of the living-room, and Betty obeyed a parting charge to tell her companion "about seeing the Queen and the times when she used to go and see the Prince o' Wales's girls," so that the last of the morning was soon gone.
"Such folks has their aches an' pains just like us," commented sister Sarah at last. "I expected, though, they was more pompous-behaved than you seem to describe. Well, they have to think o' their example, and so does others, for that matter. I wonder 'f 'mongst all they've learned to do, anybody ever showed 'em how to braid or hook 'em a nice mat. I s'pose not, but with all their hired help an' all their rags that must come of a year's wear, 'twould be a shame for them to buy."
"I never saw any rugs just like these," said Betty, turning quickly to look out of the window. "I don't believe people make them except in America. But the princesses know how to do a good many things." It was very funny to Betty to think of their hooking rugs for themselves, however, but Serena's sister did not appear to suspect it.
"Land, won't I have a good time picking over those big full bags!" said she, looking at Aunt Barbara's rag-bags with delight, and forgetting the employments of royalty. "Your aunt's real generous, she is so! I sort out everything into heaps on the spare floor and if I have too much white I just reach for the dyepot. I do enjoy myself over them piece-bags."
"I don't know what would become of Aunt Barbara and Aunt Mary without Serena," said Betty, "but I don't see how you can spare her all the time."
"She wouldn't be spared by them," said sister Sarah, putting her head on one side like a bird. "When I was first left alone after marm's decease, folks thought she'd ought to come back, but I says No. She wouldn't be contented now same 's she was before she went, and I should get wuss and wuss if I was waited on stiddy. 'No!' says I to every one, 'let me be and let her be. She's free to come, and she's puttin' by her good earnin's.['] I wept all night when she first went off to Tideshead, seventeen year old, to be maid to Madam Leicester, but I knew from that day she was set to go her way same 's I was mine. But she's be'n a good sister to me; we never passed an hour unfriendly, and 't ain't all can say the same."
"No, indeed," said Betty cheerfully.
"Queen Victori' knows what it is to be alone," continued the little sister. "I always read how she was a real mourner. Now I seem to enter into her feelin's, bein' left by myself, through not a widow-woman."
Betty thought of the contrast between the Queen's life, with its formality and crowded households, and its retinues and solemn pageantry and this empty little New England farm-house on a long hillside that sloped eastward. It was so funny to hear the Queen discussed and to find her a familiar personage, just as one might in old England, where one was always hearing about "our dear Queen." But to sister Sarah the Queen was only another woman who lived alone, and had many responsibilities.
"I expect you're a regular little Britisher by this time, ain't you, Miss Betty?"
"Indeed, I'm not," answered our friend with spirit. "Papa would be ashamed of me. I'm a great American. What made you think so?" Sister Sarah looked pleased, but did not have anything more to offer on the subject. "We're all English to start with, but with the glory of America added on," said Betty with girlish enthusiasm. "You can't take away our English inheritance. I used to be always insisting upon that with the girls, that Shakespeare and King Arthur were just as much ours as theirs."
"I expect you know a sight o' things I never dreamt of," said sister Sarah, "but to me what takes place in this neighborhood is just as interesting as foreign parts. Folks is folks, I tell 'em. There ain't but a few kinds, neither, but they're put into all sorts of places, ain't they?"
Betty found that her hostess had a great many entertaining things to say, but presently there was a fear expressed lest Serena might be beguiled into staying too long at the cousin's, and so delay the dinner.
"Let me begin; oh please let me," said Betty, springing up. She had a sudden delighted instinct that it would be charming to wait upon Serena to-day and sister Sarah, and take her turn at making them comfortable. As quick as thought she turned up her skirt and pinned it behind her and said, "What next, if you please, ma'm," in a funny little tone copied from that of a precise London damsel in Mrs. Duncan's employ, who always amused the family very much.
Sister Sarah was fond of a joke, and to tell the truth this was one of her aching days and she had been dreading to take so many steps. She saw how pleased Betty was with her kind little plan.
Betty followed her directions.
"To lay the table and step lively," she answered, shaking with laughter. And Betty followed her directions until the square dinner-table stood in the middle of the floor, covered with a nice homespun linen cloth of which the history had to be told; and the old blue crockery; and Betty had cut just so many slices of bread, and brought just so many spiced pears from the brown jar in the cellar-way, and found the nice little square piece of cold corned beef which the hostess was so glad to have on hand, and had looked at the potatoes two or three times where they were baking in the stove oven in the shed-room where sister Sarah did her summer cooking; all these and other things were done when Serena, out of breath, and heated with hurrying, came in at the door.
"I'm going to finish since I have begun," said Betty proudly. "Now please use this fan, Serena, and rest yourself, and I shall be ready in a few minutes. I'm having a beautiful good time. Which pitcher shall I take for the fresh water?" and out she went to the cool old well under the apple-tree.
"Now was there ever such a darlin' gal," said sister Sarah, and Serena nodded her head. "I dare say she does like to take holt. Miss Barb'ra never was one that shirked at nothin'," she had time to reply before Betty came back and filled the tumblers and called the sisters to their dinner.
"Sarah," said Serena decisively, as she saw how hard it was for sister Sarah to move, "you've got to get Ann Sparks, ain't ye?"
And the lame woman answered Yes.
"I hate to give up, as you know, but one of my poor times is coming on," she said sadly.
The dinner was a great pleasure; Betty would do all the waiting, and there was an unexpected dessert of a jelly cake which Serena had brought with her, being mindful of her sister's fondness for it. Betty was touched with the sisters' delight in being together, for in spite of what Miss Sarah had said about their being contented apart, she knew that the family had seen trouble in earlier times, and that Serena's wages had been the main dependence, while sister Sarah could not be happy anywhere but in her own home.
There never were such delicious baked potatoes, and Betty humbly waited until she was perfectly sure neither of the sisters wanted the last one before she eagerly took it. It was delightful to be so hungry, as hungry as one could be on shipboard! And when the gay little dinner was over Betty made the hostess still play guest, and put on her apron again and carried the plates to the shed kitchen, and found the dish pan and the soap, and in spite of what anybody could say she washed them every one and only let Serena wipe them and put them away. Serena entered into the spirit of the thing and was so funny and nice - making believe to be afraid they were not doing things right and that "sister Sarah would turn to and do 'em over again, being amazing particular."
Then when the flies were whisked out by two efficient aprons, Betty left the sisters to themselves for a good talk and rest, and wandered out along the hillsides by the path Serena had taken, and there she sat and thought and looked off at the green country and at the sky. A little black and white dog came trotting along the path on some errand of his own, and when he saw Betty he held up one paw and looked at her and then came to be patted and to snuggle down by her side as if she were an old friend. Betty was touched by this expression of confidence and sympathy, as indeed she might be, and was sorry to say good-by to the little dog when it was time to go back to the house. He licked her fingers affectionately as she gave him a last patting, and seemed disappointed because she left him so soon, as if he had gone trotting about the world all his life to find her and now she was going away again. He did not offer to follow her, but whenever she looked back there he was, sitting quite still and watching.
Jonathan was already at the house, impatient to be on his way home, and Serena's bonnet was just being taken down from its nail as Betty came in. It seemed too bad to leave sister Sarah behind, but then she had all the piece-bags for company, as Serena said.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER X. UP-COUNTRY
patent medicine almanac: A patent medicine is made of secret ingredients to protect commercial advantage, as opposed to an herbal medicine in which the ingredients are generally known. Almanacs published by patent medicine companies were fairly common in the 19th century. Examples include: Vinegar Bitters Almanac for the Year 1872 : Adapted for Use Throughout the United States; Burdock Blood Bitters 1885 Almanac and Key to Health; Hop Bitters Five Years' Almanac for 1878-1882: Containing Valuable Family Recipes, Useful Information and Interesting Reading Matter.
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the Queen's Jubilee: Alexandrina Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. She was Queen of England and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840 and had nine children. The prince died in 1861. Her first Jubilee was held in 1887 to celebrate the fiftieth year of her reign; a second Jubilee was held in 1897.
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cone frame: This is likely a pine-cone frame for an engraving or print.
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root-beer: a non-alcoholic usually sweetened refreshing beverage using herbs for flavoring, like spruce beer.
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hooking a large rug: A hooked rug is made by drawing pieces of cloth or yarn back and forth through a burlap backing.
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a real mourner: Queen Victoria's husband died in 1861, and her long and deep mourning were well known.
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THE TWO FRIENDS.
The Leicester household had been so long drifting into a staid and ceremonious fashion of life that this visit of Betty's threatened at times to be disturbing. If Aunt Barbara's heart had not been kept young, under all her austere look and manners, Betty might have felt constrained more than once, but there always was an excuse to give Aunt Mary, who sometimes complained of too much chattering on the front door steps, or too much scurrying up and down stairs from Betty's room. It was impossible to count the number of times that important secrets had to be considered in the course of a week, or to understand why there were so many flurries of excitement among the girls of Betty's set, while the general course of events in Tideshead flowed so smoothly. Miss Barbara Leicester was always a frank and outspoken person, and the young people were sure to hear her opinion whenever they asked for it; but she herself seemed to grow younger, in these days, and Betty pleased her immensely one day, when it was mentioned that a certain person who wore caps, and was what Betty called "poky," was about Miss Barbara's age: "Aunt Barbara, you are always the same age as anybody except a baby!"
"I must acknowledge that I feel younger than my grand-niece, sometimes," said Aunt Barbara, with a funny little laugh; but Betty was puzzled to know exactly what she meant.
In one corner of the upper story of the large old house there was a delightful little place by one of the dormer-windows. It lighted the crooked stairway which came up to the open garret-floor, and the way to some bedrooms which were finished off in a row. Betty remembered playing with her dolls in this pleasant little corner on rainy days, years before, and revived its old name of the "cubby-house." Her father had kept his guns and a collection of minerals there, in his boyhood. It was over Betty's own room, and noises made there did not affect Aunt Mary's nerves, while it was a great relief from the dignity of the east bedroom, or, still more, the lower rooms of the house, to betake one's self with one's friend to this queer-shaped, brown-raftered little corner of the world. There was a great sea-chest under the eaves, and an astounding fireboard, with a picture of Apollo in his chariot. There was a shelf with some old brown books that everybody had forgotten, an old guitar, and a comfortable wooden rocking-chair, beside Betty s favorite perch in the broad window-seat that looked out into the tops of the trees. Her father s boyish trophies of rose-quartz and beryl crystals and mica were still scattered along on the narrow ledges of the old beams, and hanging to a nail overhead were two dusty bunches of pennyroyal, which had left a mild fragrance behind them as they withered.
Betty had added to this array a toppling light-stand from another part of the garret and a china mug which she kept full of fresh wild flowers. She pinned "London Graphic" pictures here and there, to make a little brightness, and there were some of her favorite artist's (Caldecott's) sketches of country squires and dames, reproduced in faint bright colors, which looked delightfully in keeping with their surroundings. As midsummer came on the cubby-house grew too hot for comfort, but one afternoon, when rain had been falling all the morning to cool the high roof, Mary Beck and Betty sat there together in great comfort and peace. See for yourself Mary in the rocking-chair, and Betty in the window-seat; they were deep in thought of girlish problems, and, as usual, taking nearly opposite sides. They had been discussing their plans for the future. Mary Beck had confessed that she wished to learn to he a splendid singer and sing in a great church or even in public concerts. She knew that she could, if she were only well taught; but there was nobody to give her lessons in Tideshead, and her mother would not hear of her going to Riverport twice a week.
"She says that I can keep up with my singing at home, and she wants me to go into the choir, and I can't bear it. I hate to hear 'we can't afford it,' and I am sure to, if I set my heart on anything. Mother says that it will be time enough to learn to sing when I am through school. Oh, dear me!" and poor Mary looked disappointed and fretful.
Mary in the rocking-chair, and Betty in the window-seat.
A disheartening picture of the present Becky on the concert-stage flashed through Betty's usually hopeful mind. She felt a heartache, as she thought of her friend's unfitness and inevitable disappointment. Becky - plain, ungainly, honest Becky - felt it in her to do great things, yet she hardly knew what great things were. Persons of Betty's age never count upon having years of time in which to make themselves better. Everything must be finally decided by the state of things at the moment. Years of patient study were sure to develop the wonderful gift of Becky's strong, sweet voice.
"Why don't you sing in the choir, Becky?" asked Betty suddenly. "It would make the singing so much better. I should love to do it, if I could, and it would help to make Sunday so pleasant for everybody, to hear you sing. Poor Miss Fedge's voice sounds funny, doesn't it? Sing me something now, Becky dear; sing 'Bonny Doon'!"
But Becky took no notice of the request. "What do you mean to be, yourself?" she asked her companion, with great interest.
"You know that I can't sing or paint or do any of those things," answered Betty humbly. "I used to wish that I could write books when I grew up, or at any rate help papa to write his. I am almost discouraged, though papa says I must keep on trying to do the things I really wish to do." And a bright flush covered Betty's eager face.
"Oh, Becky dear!" she said suddenly. "You have something that I envy you more than even your singing: just living at home in one place and having your mother and the boys. I am always wishing and wishing, and telling myself stories about living somewhere in the same house all the time, with papa, and having a real home and taking care of him. You don't know how good it would feel! Papa says the best we can do now is to make a home wherever we are, for ourselves and others - but I think it is pretty hard, sometimes."
"Well, I think the nicest thing would be to see the world, as you do," insisted Mary Beck. "I just hate dusting and keeping things to rights, and I never shall learn to cook! I like to do fancy work pretty well. You would think Tideshead was perfectly awful, in winter!"
"Why should it be?" asked Betty innocently. "Winter is house-time. I save things to do all winter, and" -
"Oh, you are so preachy, you are so good-natured, you believe all the prim things that grown people say!" exclaimed Becky. "What would you say if you never went to Boston but once, and then had the toothache all the time? You have been everywhere, and you think it's great fun to stay a little while in poky old Tideshead, this one summer!"
"Why, it is because I have seen so many other places that I know just how pleasant Tideshead is."
"Well, I want to see other places, too," maintained dissatisfied Becky.
"Papa says that we ourselves are the places we live in'," said Betty, as if it took a great deal of courage to tell Mary Beck so unwelcome a truth. "I like to remember just what he says, for sometimes, when I haven't understood at first, something will happen, may be a year after, to make it flash right into my mind. Once I heard a girl say London was stupid; just think! London!"
Mary Beck was rocking steadily, but Betty sat still, with her feet on the window-seat and her hands clasped about her knees. She could look down into the green yard below, and watch some birds that were fluttering near by in the wet trees. The wind blew in very soft and sweet after the rain.
"I used to think, when I was a little bit of a girl, that I would be a missionary, but I should perfectly hate it now!" said Mary, with great vehemence. "I just hate to go to Sunday-school and be asked the questions; it makes me prickle all over. I always feel sorry when I wake up and find it is Sunday morning. I suppose you think that's heathen and horrid."
"I always have my Sunday lessons with papa; he reads to me, and gives me something to learn by heart, - a hymn or some lovely verses of poetry. I suppose that his telling me what things in the Bible really mean keeps me from being 'prickly' when other people talk about it. What made you wish to be a missionary?" Betty inquired, with interest.
"Oh, there used to be some who came here and talked in the vestry Sunday evenings about riding on donkeys and camels. Some times they would dress up in Syrian costumes, and I used to look grandpa's 'Missionary Herald' all through, to find their names afterward. It was so nice to hear about their travels and the natives; but that was a long while ago," and Becky rocked angrily, so that the boards creaked underneath.
"Last summer I used to go to such a dear old church, in the Isle of Wight," said Betty. "You could look out of the open door by our pew and see the old churchyard, and look away over the green downs and the blue sea. You could see the red poppies in the fields, and hear the larks, too."
"What kind of a church was it?"asked Mary, with suspicion. "Episcopal?"
"Yes," answered Betty. "Church of England, people say there."
"I heard somebody say once that your father was very lax in religious matters," said Becky seriously.
"I'd rather be very lax and love my Sundays," said Betty severely. "I don't think it makes any difference, really, about what one does in church. I want to be good, and it helps me to be in church and think and hear about it. Oh, dear! my foot's getting asleep," said Betty, beginning to pound it up and down. The two girls did not like to look at each other; they were considering questions that were very hard to talk about.
"I suppose it's being good that made you run after Nelly Foster. I wished that I had gone to see her more, when you went; but she used to act hatefully sometimes before you came. She used to cry in school, though," confessed Becky.
"I didn't 'run after' her. You do call things such dreadful names, Mary Beck! There, I'm getting cross, my foot is all stinging."
"Turn it just the other way," advised Mary eagerly. "Let me pound it for you," and she briskly went to the rescue. Betty wondered afresh why she liked this friend herself so much, and yet disliked so many things that she said and did.
Serena always said that Betty had a won't-you-please-like-me sort of way with her, and Mary Beck felt it more than ever as she returned to her rocking-chair and jogged on again, but she could not bend from her high sense of disapproval immediately. "What do you think the unjust steward parable means, then?" she asked, not exactly returning to the fray, but with an injured manner. "It is in the Sunday-school lesson to-morrow, and I can't understand it a bit, - I never could."
"Nor I," said Betty, in a most cheerful tone. "See here, Becky, it doesn't rain, and we can go and ask Mr. Grant to tell us about it."
"Go ask the minister!" exclaimed Mary Beck, much shocked. "Why, would you dare to?"
"That's what ministers are for," answered Betty simply. "We can stay a little while and see the girls, if he is busy. Come now, Becky," and Becky reluctantly came. She was to think a great many times afterward of that talk in the garret. She was beginning to doubt whether she had really succeeded in settling all the questions of life, at the age of fifteen.
The two friends went along arm-in-arm under the still-dripping trees. The parsonage was some distance up the long Tideshead street, and the sun was coming out as they stood on the doorsteps. The minister was amazed when he found that these parishioners had come to have a talk with him in the study, and to ask something directly at his willing hands. He preached the better for it, next day, and the two girls listened the better. As for Mary Beck, the revelation to her honest heart of having a right in the minister, and the welcome convenience of his fund of knowledge and his desire to be of use to her personally, was an immense surprise. Kind Mr. Grant had been a part of the dreaded Sundays, a fixture of the day and the church and the pulpit, before that; he was, indirectly, a reproach, and, until this day, had never seemed like other people exactly, or an every-day friend. Perhaps the good man wondered if it were not his own fault, a little. He tried to be very gay and friendly with his own girls at supper-time, and said afterward that they must have Mary Beck and Betty Leicester to take tea with them some time during the next week.
"But there are others in the parish who will feel hurt," urged Mrs. Grant anxiously; and Mr. Grant only answered that there must be a dozen tea-parties, then, as if there were no such things as sponge-cake and ceremony in the world!
Betty and Mary in the "Cubby-house."
from "A Bit of Color," the serialization of an early version
of Betty Leicester; see note at the end of Chapter 1 for details.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER XI. THE TWO FRIENDS
cubby-house: as in a cubby, a small secluded space for personal withdrawal.
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Apollo in his chariot: Apollo was the Greek and Roman god of the sun, among other things; his chariot represented the sun in his daily journey across the sky.
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pennyroyal: an herb used for mosquito repellent, to improve digestion and relieve flatulence, for bronchial ailments, to purify water, and to promote expulsion of the placenta in childbirth.
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London Graphic ... Caldecott's Sketches: The London Graphic was a popular illustrated magazine of the 19th century. Randolph J. Caldecott (1846-1886) was one of the most popular British artist/illustrators to appear in the magazine. Caldecott, whom the Caldecott medal for children's book illustration honors, was a maker of children's picture books as well. He is remembered for such titles as The House that Jack Built (1878), The Babes in the Woods (1879) and his illustrated edition of Oliver Goldsmith's An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog (1879).
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Missionary Herald: The Baptist denomination published The Missionary Herald in London from 1819 to 1911. Like sister publications in other parts of the world, such as India, the Herald contained news of Christian missionary activities in various parts of the world.
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the unjust steward parable: See Luke 16.
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BETTY AT HOME.
Everybody was as kind as possible when Betty Leicester first came to Tideshead, and best company manners prevailed toward her; but as the girls got used to having a new friend and playmate, some of them proved disappointing. Nothing could shake her deep affection for honest-hearted Mary Beck, but in some directions Mary had made up her inexperienced and narrow mind, and would listen to none of Betty's kindly persuasions. The Fosters' father had done some very dishonest deeds, and had run away from justice after defrauding some of the most trustful of his neighbors. Mary Beck's mother had lost some money in this way, and old Captain Beck even more, so that the girl had heard sharp comments and indignant blame at home; and she shocked Miss Barbara Leicester and Betty one morning by wondering how Henry and Nelly Foster could have had the face to go to church the very Sunday after their father was sent to jail. She did not believe that they cared a bit what people thought.
"Poor children," said Miss Leicester, with quiet compassion, "the sight of their pitiful young faces was enough for me. When should one go to church if not in bitter trouble? That boy and girl look years older than the rest of you young folks."
"It never seemed to me that they thought any less of themselves," said Mary Beck, in a disagreeable tone; "and I wouldn't ask them to my party, if I had one."
"But they have worked so hard," said Betty. "Jonathan said yesterday that Harry Foster told him this spring, when he was working here, that he was going to pay every cent that his father owed, if he lived long enough. He is studying hard, too; you know that he hoped to go to college before this happened. They always look as if they were grateful for just being spoken to."
"Plenty of people have made everything of them and turned their heads," said Mary Beck, as if she were repeating something that had been said at home. "I think I should pity some people whose father had behaved so, but I don't like the Fosters a bit."
"They are carrying a heavy load on their young shoulders," said Miss Barbara Leicester. "You will feel differently by and by, about them. Help them all you can, Mary!"
Mary Beck went home that morning much displeased. She didn't mean to be hard-hearted, but it had seemed to her like proper condemnation of wrong-doing to treat the Fosters loftily. Now that Betty's eyes had filled with tears as she listened, and Miss Leicester evidently thought less of her for what had been said, Mary began to feel doubtful about the matter. Yes, what if her father had been like theirs, - could she be shut up like a prisoner, and behave as she expected the Fosters to behave? By the time she reached her own house she was ashamed of what she had said. Miss Leicester was at that moment telling Betty that she was astonished at such bitter feeling in their young neighbor. "She has never really thought about it. I dare say she only needs a sensible word or two to change her mind. You children have such tremendous opinions," and Aunt Barbara smiled.
"Once when I was staying in the Isle of Wight," said Betty, "I belonged to such a nice out-of-door club, Aunt Barbara."
"Did you? What was it like?"
"Oh, not really like anything that I can think of, only we had great fun together. We used to walk miles and miles, and carry some buns or buy them, and get milk or ginger-beer at the farms. There are so many ruins to go to see, and old churches, and homes of eminent persons of the time of Elizabeth, and we would read from their works; and it was so pleasant coming home by the foot-paths afterward," announced Betty with satisfaction. "The governesses used to go, too, but we could outrun all but one of them, the Barry's, and my Miss Winter, who was as dear as could be. I had my lessons with the Duncans, you know. Oh, it was such fun! - the others would let us go on as fast as we liked, and come poking along together, and have their own quiet pleasures." Betty was much diverted with her recollections. "I mean to begin an out-of-door club here, Aunt Barbara."
"In my time," said Aunt Barbara, "girls were expected to know how to sew, and to learn to be good housekeepers."
"You would join the club, wouldn't you?" asked Betty anxiously.
"And be run away from, like the stout governesses, I dare say."
There was an attempt at a serious expression, but Miss Leicester could not help laughing a little. Down came Miss Mary at this moment, with Letty behind her, carrying cushions, and Betty sprang up to help make the couch ready.
"I wish that you would belong, too, and come with us on wheels," said she, returning to the subject that had been interrupted. "You could drive to the meetings and be head-member, Aunt Mary." But Aunt Mary was tired that day, and wished to have no demands made upon her. There were days when Betty had a plan for every half-hour, remarked Aunt Barbara indulgently.
"Suppose you come out to the garden with me to pick some raspberries?" and Betty was quietly removed from the weak nerves of Aunt Mary, who plaintively said that Betty had almost too much life.
"Too much life! Not a bit of it," said Serena, who was the grandniece's chief upholder and champion. "We did need waking up, 'twas a fact, Miss Leicester; now, wa'n't it? It seemed just like old times, that night of the tea-party. Trouble is, we've all got to bein' too master comfortable, and thought we couldn't step one foot out o' the beaten rut. 'T is the misfortune o' livin' in a little place."
And Serena marched back to the kitchen, carrying the empty glass from which Miss Mary Leicester had taken some milk, as if it were the banner of liberty.
She put it down on the clean kitchen-table. "Too much life!" the good woman repeated scornfully. "I'd like to see a gal that had too much life for me. I was that kind myself, and right up an' doin'. All these Tideshead gals behave as slow as the everlastin' month o' March. Fussin' about their clothes, and fussin' about 'you do this' and 'I can't do that,' an' lettin' folks that know something ride right by 'em. See this little Betty, now, sweet as white laylocks, I do declare. There she goes 'long o' Miss Barbary, out into the ros'berry bushes."
"Aunt Barbara," Betty was saying a few minutes later, as one knelt each side of the row of white raspberries, - "Aunt Barbara, do you like best being grown up or being about as old as I am?"
"Being grown up, I'm sure, dear," replied the aunt, after serious reflection.
"I'm so glad. I don't believe people ever have such hard times with themselves afterward as they do growing up."
"What is the matter now, Betty?"
'Aunt Barbara, do you like best being grown up or being about as old as I am?
"Mary Beck, Aunt Barbara. I thought that I liked her ever and ever so much, but I have days when I want to shake her. It's my fault, because I wake up and think about her and feel cross before I even look at her, and then I can't get on all day. Then some days I can hardly wait to get over to see her, and we have such a good time. But you can't change her mind about anything."
"I thought that you wouldn't be so unreasonable all summer," said Aunt Barbara, picking very fast. "You see that you expect Mary Beck to be perfect, and the poor child isn't. You made up a Mary Beck in your own mind, who was perfect at all points and just the kind of a girl you would like best to spend all your time with. Be thankful for all you do like in her; that's the best way."
"I just fell in love with a girl in the Isle of Wight, last summer," said Betty sorrowfully "We wished to be together all the time, and we wrote notes and always went about together. She was older than I. But one day she said things that made me forget I ever liked her a bit. She wanted to make up afterward, but I couldn't; and she writes and writes me letters, but I never wish to see her again. I am sorry I ever liked her." Betty's eyes flashed, and her cheeks were very red.
"I suppose it has been hard for her too," said Aunt Barbara; "but we must like different friends for different reasons. Just try to remember that you cannot find perfection. I used to know a great many girls when I was growing up, and some of them are my friends still, the few who are left. To find one true-hearted friend is worth living through a great many disappointments."
Two or three weeks went over before Betty ceased to have the feeling that she was a stranger and foreigner in Tideshead. At first she said "you" and "I" when she was talking with the girls, but soon it became easier to say "we." She took great pleasure in doing whatever the rest did, from joining a class in Sunday-school to carrying round one of the subscription-papers to pay for some Fourth of July fireworks, which went up in a blaze of splendor on the evening of that glorious day.
After the garden tea-party, nothing happened, of a social nature, for some time, although several of the boys and girls gave fine hints that something might be expected to happen at their own houses. There was a cheerful running to and fro about the Leicester house, and the high white gate next the street was heard to creak and clack at least once in every half-hour. Nelly Foster came seldom, but she was the brightest and merriest of all the girls when she grew a little excited, and lost the frightened look that had made lines on her forehead much too soon. Harry was not seen very often, but Betty wondered a great deal about him, and fancied him hunting and fishing in all sorts of dangerous places. The Picknell girls came into the village on Sundays always, and often once or twice in the week it but it was haying time now, and they were very busy at the farm. Betty liked them dearly, and so did Mary Beck, who did not get on with the minister's daughters at all, and had a prejudice, as we know, against Nelly Foster. These made the little company which seemed most closely allied, especially after the Sin Book Club became a thing of the past as an active society. Betty had proposed the out-of-door club, and had started a tennis-court, and devoted much time to it; but nobody knew how to play very well yet, except Harry Foster and Julia Picknell, and they were the most difficult ones to catch for an idle afternoon. George Max could play, and one or two others could stumble through a game and like it pretty well; but as for Mary Beck, her shoes were too small for much agility, and she liked to wear her clothes so tight that she was very clumsy with a racket. Betty's light little gowns looked prim and plain to the Tideshead girls, who thought their colors very strange, to begin with, and had not the sense to be envious when their wearer went by, as light-footed and graceful as they were awkward. They could not understand the simplicity that was natural to Betty, but everybody liked her, and felt as much interested as if she were an altogether new variety of human being. Perhaps we shall understand the situation better if we read a letter which our heroine wrote just then: -
My dear Papa, - This is from your Betty, who intended to take a long walk with Mary Beck this afternoon, but is now prevented by a thunder-shower. It makes me wonder what you do when you get wet, and who sees that you take off your wet clothes and tries not to let you have a cold. Isn't it almost time for you to come home now, papa? I do miss taking care of you so very much. You will be tired hearing about Mary Beck, and you can't stop it, can you? as if you laughed and then talked about something else when we were walking together. You must remember that you said we must be always fighting an enemy in ourselves, and my enemy just now is making little funs of Mary, and seeing that she doesn't know so much as she thinks she does. I like too well to show her that she is mistaken when she tells about things; but it makes me sorry afterward, because, in spite of myself, I like her better than I do anybody. I truly love her, papa; indeed, I do, but I like to tease her better than to help her, when she puts on airs about the very places where I have been and things I have done. Aunt Barbara speaks of her manners, and wishes I would "play with" Nelly Foster and the minister's girls: but Nelly is like anybody grown up, - I suppose it is because she has seen trouble, as people say here; and the minister's girls are little 'fraid cats. That is what Serena says, and is sure to make you laugh. "Try and make em hop 'round," Serena told me at the party, and I did try; but they aren't good hoppers, and that's all there is to say. I sent down to Riverport and bought Seth a book of violin airs, and he practiced until two o'clock one morning, so that Serena and Jonathan were saying dreadful things. Aunt Mary is about the same, and so is Aunt Barbara, and they send their love. Papa, you must never tell, but I hate the one and love the other.
Mary Beck isn't half so bad as I am to say that, but now it is a black mark and must stay. There is one awful piece of news. The Fosters' father has broken out of jail and escaped, and they are offering a great reward, and it is in all the papers. I ought to go to see Nelly, but I dread it. I am writing this last page another day, for yesterday the sun came out after the shower and I went out with Aunt Barbara. She is letting Mrs. Foster do some sewing for me. She says that my clothes were in ruins; she did indeed, and that they had been badly washed. I hope that yours are not the same. Mrs. Foster looked terribly frightened and pale, and asked Aunt B. to come into the other room, and told her about Mr. Foster. Then it was in the paper last night. Papa, dear, I do remember what you said in one of your letters about being a Tideshead girl myself for this summer, and not standing off and finding fault. I feel more like a Tideshead girl lately, but I wish they wouldn't keep saying how slow it is and nothing going on. We might do so many nice things, but they make such great fusses first, instead of just going and doing them, the way you and I do. They think of every reason why you can't do things that you can do. The currants are all gone. You can't have a currant pie this year. I thought those by the fence, under the cherry-tree, might last until you came because it is shady, but they all spoiled in the rain. Now I am going to read in "Walton's Lives" to Aunt Mary. She says it is a book everybody ought to know, and that I run wild more than I ought at my age. I like to read aloud, as you know, so good-by, but my age is such a trouble. If you were here, we would have the best good time.
Your own child,
NOTES FOR CHAPTER XII. BETTY AT HOME
ginger-beer: a ginger-flavored non-alcoholic drink similar in flavor to ginger ale.
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white laylocks: white lilacs.
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"Walton's Lives": Izaak Walton (1593-1683) wrote biographies of John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Richard Hooker, George Herbert, and Robert Sanderson. These were collected in 1670.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College, with assistance from Tanner Brossert and others as listed.
Betty Leicester Stories