HALLOWELL'S PRETTY SISTER
Sarah Orne Jewett
HALLOWELL himself was my classmate at Harvard and is still my good friend; in fact he and Jack Spenser and I have been cronies from the time of our fitting for college at Exeter until now.
When Spenser reached the eminence of being a Junior he felt himself to be a greater man than ever before or since - a state of mind which I am ready to say is not uncommon in members of that class. At that time he was by far the most grown-up looking of our set, and, from being chief baseball player and foremost in the riots and frolics of the year before, he seemed to blossom out all at once into a famous ladies' man and something of a dandy. He grew wonderfully particular about his cravats and boots, not to mention the fit of his clothes and the color of his gloves; and that Winter of our junior year he went to germans, and to the assemblies and parties, of every description. We missed Jack; for our old comrade, instead of showing his former interest in the subjects to which we gave our whole attention, showed no satisfaction even at being a Junior, seeming to ignore that conspicuous position entirely. He affected the company of society men in the class ahead, who, in consideration of his size and good manners, position and generosity and congenial tastes, treated him almost exactly as if he were aSenior. We teased him unmercifully, and were much interested in trying to keep track of his flirtations, and managed somehow or other to get the full particulars of his behavior and experiences on almost every occasion, to his annoyance - though he wisely concealed any feeling of this kind as much as possible. We liked him and we missed him, for he seemed to have no time nowadays for a stroll or a frolic in town, and he was almost never to be seen at any of the private spreads sometimes given of an evening. I must add that we also missed the entertainments which he used to give the year before. His room was decorated with trophies from the germans, and photographs of his young lady friends, and there were always several notes of invitation ostentatiously displayed on the table and mantel. At last, when he had a pair of slippers given him by one girl and a gorgeous, sofa-cushion came from another, (neither of which were made up,) we almost lost hope of ever regaining his old interest and affection for us. Hallowell, Jack and I had been inseparable during our sophomore year, and Hallowell and I grew sad and angry by turns at being deserted, and finally gave up Jack despairingly and went on with our own fashion of living. Jack was as friendly as ever, and we saw him more or less, of course, though he had little time to spare for us.
Hallowell lived fifty or sixty miles from Boston, in a small country town where his family had a pleasant old place and lived in most charming fashion. His mother was dead, and his father, younger brother and sister had been abroad until within a month or two of the time of which I write, so Dick had spent his vacations with the family of an uncle who lived in New York. He had always spoken of our going to visit him, and it was odd to notice how much interest Jack Spenser manifested in carrying out the old plan, after Hallowell came home from the holiday vacation bringing with him a fascinating photograph of his sister Alice, of whom he seemed very fond, and had always spoken with such enthusiasm that we had frequently accused him of bragging. His room suddenly became much more interesting to Jack Spenser, who had a way of lounging about in an easy chair by the center-table, where the photograph stood in a blue velvet frame, looking at it admiringly; and once he went so far as to borrow it for a day or two. Finally when Hallowell asked us to go home with him to spend Washington's birthday, which came on Monday that year, his satisfaction was great; and Dick confided to me that he didn't believe Spenser cared anything for going with us, it was only because he should meet Alice.
Just before the visit, a letter came to Dick to say that Mr. Hallowell and the younger brother Tom would be away, but it caused us no sorrow since Miss Hallowell's presence was the pleasure to which we looked forward most; and what could be better than spending a day or two at such a place as we imagined Hallowell's home to be? Fathers and younger brothers could be dispensed with easily.
I was a shy fellow then and half afraid of young ladies, but I also had admired the photograph, and Miss Hallowell and I had exchanged messages through her brother's letters, so it was not exactly like meeting an utter stranger. I must confess that I was a rival to Spenser in my elaborate preparations in the line of gloves and cravats, and I even went to the length of getting a new supply of unreasonably elegant pocket-handkerchiefs and a tight new pair of shoes; and I anxiously asked the advice of Spenser and several other class authorities concerning the relative becomingness of my hat or seal-skin cap. Altogether it was one of the most interesting and important occasions of my life. It seems at least twenty years ago!
Behold us at the station in Boston on Saturday, carrying the neatest of traveling bags, with primly rolled umbrellas! I saw with satisfaction that my collar was exactly the same shape as Spenser's, and Dick confided that he didn't know which of us looked the most of a swell. To tell the truth, we were perfectly satisfied with ourselves. It seemed odd that Dick should appear so unconcerned and act in such a matter-of-fact way; but then one must remember that it was his own sister, after all, whom we were to see, and we rather pitied him for losing so much. We felt that he missed a great deal; other peoples' sisters are always so much nicer than one's own!
It was nearly evening when we reached our stopping-place, and we were to have a drive of two or three miles. A man was waiting with a handsome double sleigh and pair of horses, and Dick took the reins with an air of delight. I felt a little shaky as we neared the house and as if I had left behind something important, and at last I settled down into a horrible dread that I had left all my new collars in a drawer at college. I could see that Jack Spenser's thoughts were with Miss Hallowell, but being more accustomed to society it evidently caused him no feeling of embarrassment, and he was probably sure of making a good impression. The house looked imposing, as we drove up the avenue, and there was a bright light shining out across the snow from the parlor windows where the shutters had not been drawn, and a big dog bounced down the steps to meet us as some one opened the hall door. Dick ushered us in politely, and after leaving our coats we went into a handsome library to warm ourselves at a bright wood-fire. Dick beamed with happiness, and told the man to tell Miss Alice that we had come, asking where she was.
John said we were to make ourselves comfortable, and added, "She has a very bad cold, Miss Alice has."
"Goodness! that's too bad!" said Dick, and I understood his sorry look, for he had told me she was delicate and often had these horrible colds, which made them uneasy, as there was consumption in the family. "I'll just run upstairs," said he, and John walked away smiling, after telling us that supper would be ready in a short time, and that the gentlemen would find their rooms ready whenever they chose to go upstairs. It was gratifying to be called a gentleman, for I had several elder brothers and had never dared make any pretensions of being anything but a boy. Jack took no notice of the compliment, probably being used to it. Looking at him as he stood on the rug before the fire, I had a sudden and great longing to be tall and entirely self-possessed, and was conscious that there was some advantage in being a society man. I looked at my hands which had been much battered by base-balls the Summer before, and had suffered recently from crooks and strains in the gymnasium. Dick soon joined us, apparently in a very happy mood. His sister had not expected us so soon and we must therefore wait longer. He looked so glad to be at home again and had such a twinkle in his eyes!
"What a swell you are, Hallowell!" said Jack admiringly. "This is a stunning house. Why didn't you ever put on airs? Jackson's house won't hold a candle to this, and he is always bragging, and forever lugging in something about the billiard room."
"We have a first-rate table upstairs," said Dick meekly; "we'll have a game after supper. Glad you like the look of things. I hope you'll have a decent sort of time, I'm sure, but I wish Father were at home. It's pleasanter here in Summer of course; and then the place has gone back every way, having been shut up so long. We'll have no end of fun if you'll come down in Summer some time."
Just now we heard a footstep on the stairs, and our hearts beat quicker in anticipation of the lovely vision. Dick jumped up and rushed out into the hall, and we heard a loud kiss and they both laughed and talked a minute, and then Hallowell and the young lady came in. She was pretty, and no doubt about it. Tall and slender, with dark eyes and light curly hair and a fresh complexion, and the pleasantest manner which put us at our ease at once. She evidently had a terrible cold and could speak only in a hoarse whisper, and her brother asked about it, and remonstrated with her in a fatherly manner for being out that afternoon in such a bitter cold wind. Supper was ready then, and we were as jolly and hungry a party as ever sat down together. Miss Hallowell did not talk much, but she was full of fun; and we told one story after another, and made ourselves agreeable, while she confessed she never had been hungrier in her life, and she hoped our appetites would keep hers company - to which task they were not unequal.
She devoted herself especially to Spenser, - it was no shock to me, for I had supposed she would all the time, - and she looked at him a great deal when he was not looking at her. Of course Spenser knew it, and his worst enemy could not have denied that he was a handsome fellow. At last we could eat no more, in spite of much urging and a fourth supply of fried oysters brought in smoking hot.
We went up to the billiard room and tried manfully to go through a game, but the balls were disorderly and we didn't succeed in getting interested; it was evident that Spenser's thoughts were elsewhere, and at last we went down stairs again. Miss Hallowell had gone upstairs with us at first, but had discovered that it was not warm enough and left us. It was such a jolly house to be in; one could not help having a good time. The very atmosphere was suggestive of comfort and late breakfasts and doing as one pleased. There seemed to be no restraint, and everything was so comfortable and in such capital good taste! The servants whom we saw treated us with respect enough to satisfy even a Harvard Junior, and they seemed as full of fun and good nature as ourselves.
Presently Miss Hallowell called to us to come into the parlor.
"You're not going to leave me to myself all the evening," said she persuasively, "even if I am stupid? Mr. Spenser plays, I have heard, and I know you both sing; can't you give me some music?"
And thereupon Spenser, who was musical and who had a piano in his room at college, was delighted to play for some time, and then we sang some of the new tunes which Miss Alice hadn't heard and some of the old ones which she liked, and then she played for us - first some gay music, and afterward a plaintive tune which made me feel forsaken, and poor Spenser was quite overcome. I shouldn't like to say for certain that he kept his eyes wide open without winking until the tears came; but I happened to be watching him and it looked uncommonly like it. It's too bad to tell you that, for he is one of the best fellows in the world; but he was young and he wished to make a good impression, and he sat with his hand over his eyes looking at Miss Hallowell between his fingers. Such a heavenly look as he gave her when she stopped playing! - and he said so gently that it was just the kind of music that he liked. I had heard Dick say a great deal about her playing, and I must confess that, although I know nothing about it, it didn't strike me as being at all extraordinary. But she looked like a beauty, with the firelight making her eyes seem darker and her hair more golden, and I begged her to play something else. "I wish you could sing," said Dick, with great politeness considering that she was his sister, and then they laughed as if there were some joke, and she answered that she was sorry she couldn't, but he could see how hoarse she was. She left the piano and sat in a low chair in the shadow of a screen, as she complained that the firelight hurt her eyes. Jack moved a chair near hers and they entered upon a long conversation, and finally Dick and I adjourned to the library for a smoke, and talked over our own affairs in sensible fashion. I could see Miss Hallowell as she sat opposite the door; she looked pale and tired, and I began to feel sorry about the cold. She was certainly a very pretty girl, and I remember she had on a very dark blue silk dress with a white ruffle round her throat and a bright yellow gold chain just under it. There was something so pleasant and frank about her! - but sometimes she put on the little ways most girls have in talking to gentlemen - so conscious of themselves, and looking at you with that devoted little smile.
"Jack's in for it, sure enough," said Dick to me in an exultant whisper. "I hoped there'd be a flirtation. Did you ever see anything done better in all your life?" and he shook with laughter - and then began to talk about something else.
I had no wish to change the subject and said, "I should think he would enjoy her, after having that stuck-up Miss Daneweight for a lady-love." (We somehow had never approved of any of poor Jack's flames.)
"Alice is a good looking girl," said Dick in a matter-of-fact way. "You aren't hit yourself, are you Phil?" - and then he went on talking about running-jumps and standing-jumps, the giant-swing and other gymnasium affairs, and I wondered why his eyes twinkled so and why he seemed so full of the old Harry. He seemed so glad to be at home, and that made me feel blue, for I couldn't help thinking of my home, which only a year or two before had been broken up and which I missed terribly.
We sat before the fire some time, and at last I began to grow sleepy; for I had got up early that morning to do some studying, - a most uncommon piece of behavior on my part, - and between that and the journey, the drive and the supper, my eyes kept shutting up. I discovered my miserable state of mind to Dick, who said he was sleepy too and volunteered to keep me company. We listened a minute in the hall, and found that Jack was repeating poetry. He looked up at me in rather a shamefaced fashion when I said good-night to Miss Hallowell, and seemed more ill at ease than I ever had seen him. Dick said in a casual way that he should be down again presently, and we departed.
"Sentimental goose!" said he, when we were half way upstairs, "He'll be made fun of if he goes far on that tack. I said I was coming down again just to start him off. I'm afraid you've had a stupid evening, Phil; but Alice will be all right to-morrow and we'll have no end of fun."
I put in a remark not altogether complimentary to Spenser, for to tell the truth I was a little jealous and had a sense of being left out of sight. When we were in my room, Dick banged the door and rolled over and over on a wide sofa, laughing until he was almost in hysterics. I never had seen the fellow behave so in all the time I had known him. I laughed at first from sympathy, and finally I pounded him on the back and shook him and made him sit up, and then I gave my whole mind to finding out what the matter was.
"Oh I can't tell you, old boy!" said he gasping, "but it's such a go! I'm afraid I never can keep it until to-morrow. If we both knew it we should spoil it; but it's such fun, and you shall know to-morrow afternoon - " and my friend sat up and wiped his eyes, and told me if everything wasn't all right in the room to sing out, and that I should be called for breakfast, and I mustn't tell Spenser that there was any joke coming off. I made another attempt to learn the secret, but Dick scurried away down-stairs in self-defense.
In half an hour or so, when I was just going off to sleep, Spenser opened the door of his room, which was next mine, and was evidently much elated.
"Hallo! you aren't asleep?" said he. "Isn't it a larky place? I wish we were going to stay a month" - and he whistled a little, and moved about the room briskly, pulling his dressing-traps out of his traveling bag.
With a great struggle against jealousy and sleeping I said, "She's a stunner, isn't she, Spenser?" and he looked grateful for this sympathy and gave me his opinion of Miss Hallowell's charms in a most touchingly confidential manner.
"And the fact is," said he, "she is lonely here, and I don't wonder at it. There are no young ladies near, and she says she has grown up with her brothers. Of course she is awfully fond of Dick, but you know he is a little rough sometimes, and he seems only a boy to her" - and Jack looked at himself in the long dressing glass as if there was Miss Hallowell's beau ideal of what a young gentleman ought to be. "She says she always has wished to see me, ever since Dick used to write about me from Exeter. She knows how to say a nice thing to a fellow, and she means everything she says; you can tell she isn't trying to stuff you. That's Daneweight's fashion."
"Then her sun has set, has it?" I asked, waking up a little.
"Don't be rough," said Jack placidly. "Did you see what stunning rings she wears?"
Next morning we had breakfast late, and had to hurry to get through in time to get to church. Spenser supposed Miss Hallowell was going, and I didn't care to stay at home alone; but when the sleigh came round and we walked out of the library dressed in our highest style, Dick said that Miss Hallowell would not be of the party. Jack evidently wished to stay at home to keep her company, but didn't dare to say so, as Dick seemed to have no such idea, and so we started off ruefully enough; but we had a long drive, and the gait of Mr. Hallowell's black horses proved a great consolation to me if not to Spenser, and we heard a capital sermon. After we came home we had an early dinner, and Miss Hallowell came down looking pale, so that we could tell that the headache had been genuine. Dick took me all over the house and showed me his guns and all his own special treasures, and then we went out to the stables. In the meantime Jack was with Miss Hallowell in the parlor. She had lost her color, and her cold seemed even worse, and I must confess she was not so pretty as she had been the evening before. It was a great disappointment to us that she was ill. Still she was so cordial and bright and kind that one could not help liking her. By and by Dick and I came in, and finding that Spenser was reading aloud we considerately went into the library. It had begun to snow and the wind was blowing tremendously, and there was no prospect of the walk we had been planning; so we took some books and tried to read, and then we began to smoke, Dick having brought out a generous supply of his father's cigars. We talked a little, but it was rather a dull afternoon. We could hear Spenser reading in the parlor; they were sitting in a baywindow out at the farther end. I couldn't help feeling that I was left out in the cold, and then it occurred to me that this was a good chance to find out Dick's secret. I had alluded to it frequently during the day, and he had hushed me and put me off every time. He said, "Wait until evening"; and I thought it was some plan for a trick or frolic, as he had showed marvelous ingenuity in such affairs at college. I was sure of something entertaining, and hoped in my inmost heart that he meant to tease Spenser.
"Come, tell me," said I persuasively, and he laid down his book with a gleam of fun in his eyes and a doubtful look about the mouth.
"It's a shame it snows. I'm afraid it'll spoil the best of it, but I've a great mind to tell you. It is agony to keep it to myself. How the rascal has managed to keep it up so long I don't see. I haven't dared to look him in the face to-day. Hallo! what's that?" - and I followed him as he sprang to the window and saw a sleigh just coming up to the door. A young lady jumped out and ran up the steps covered with snow, while the man drove away toward the stable. Dick seemed convulsed, and I thought with joy that the tête-à-tête would be broken up.
The young lady had come into the hall, but Dick did not go out to receive her, and caught me by the arm and held me fast with a very funny expression.
The young lady called, "Boys! where are you?" - but nobody answered; and then we heard her go into the parlor, and Dick went to join her, dragging me with him.
The new-comer was unmistakably Miss Alice Hallowell herself, and she stood just inside the door, the picture of amazement, looking at the two people who sat at the further end of the room - Jack Spenser with his volume of poems open in his hand, and "Miss Hallowell" (or whoever she might be) in a big easy chair with a footstool and a cushion to lean against, playing with a pink rose bud in the most sentimentally invalid fashion. I forgot to tell you that Spenser had carried "her" a bouquet of roses from Boston.
"Tom, you wretch!" said Miss Hallowell, stamping her foot. "Tom! how dare you?"
Tom, with a sweet, tired little smile, put his hand into the pocket of his dark blue silk dress, and took out one of his sister's lace pocket handkerchiefs, which he held to his eyes, and then rose slowly and walked down the long parlor with short steps and a most effective sweep of his long skirts, caricaturing the young lady whom he had so skillfully represented until then. He paused at the door and said, "Good by, boys," in his natural voice, which sounded strangely grum and unladylike.
It was so absurd that even Jack Spenser laughed till he cried, and said he never had seen anything so capitally done in his life.
He was very good tempered about it, and said he had had no suspicion, though there had been some things which had surprised him which he had supposed were owing to "Miss Hallowell's" being so much with "her" brothers. We had stood for a minute on the piazza before breakfast, and "she" had made a snowball and thrown it at a bird in a most boyish fashion. He had thought "her" hands rather large, and had come to the conclusion that the photograph was somewhat flattering, though he liked "her" very much. We all liked him all the better for owning up so bravely. I do not know whether he bribed Tom to secrecy regarding the conversations which had taken place; at any rate that young person had the grace to be silent.
He came down-stairs presently, wearing his own clothes, - a slender fair-haired boy of fifteen, with a wonderful likeness to his sister. He was at home on a vacation from his boarding-school, where the chief pleasure had been getting up plays and he had distinguished himself in the young ladies' characters. He had always been a capital mimic since he was a little fellow, and it was surprising, after we had seen a little more of the real Miss Hallowell, to see how cleverly he had imitated her ways. The cold was a reality, and had been a great help to him - for one could not have any suspicion about his having lost his voice and being obliged to talk in a whisper, when he coughed so much.
I must confess that we found the true Miss Alice infinitely more entertaining than the false. The rest of our visit was so merry and we were so charmingly entertained, that we went back to college the most sorrowful persons imaginable, and were homesick at intervals for a month. The storm which began on Sunday was so violent that we were obliged to stay over until Tuesday, and of course we felt great satisfaction and only wished that it had lasted longer. It seemed that a friend whom Miss Hallowell had not seen for a long time was to spend Sunday with another friend who lived ten miles away, and they had persuaded her to stay with them until Sunday evening. When the storm came on she had started sooner, fearing she might be absent another night, and I dare say not feeling quite easy at the thought of leaving her brothers and their guests to their fate. Tom had not gone with his father on account of his cold, and when his sister's - absence had been decided upon he had laid his plan.
Jack had not much to say about his society affairs for some time, and finally confessed to me that he was sure that a fellow needed to go into society, but he had rather overdone the thing. He and Hallowell and I were fast friends through our college course and are fast friends still. Jack and I made other visits at the Hallowells, and perhaps it is no harm to tell you that he and Miss Hallowell are engaged and will be married in the Fall. You see all this happened several years ago, and Jack will be through the law school this year.
Hallowell suggested the other day that they ought to ask Tom to be chief bridesmaid. That young man is in college himself now, and it is needless to say that he is one of the brightest lights of a class which is highly distinguished for its array of talent for music and the drama.
"Hallowell's Pretty Sister" first appeared in Good Company (5:263-269), No. 9, 1880, and was collected in Richard Cary, Uncollected Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, 1971. This text is based on Cary.
[ Back ]
Harvard: Now Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The college was founded in 1636 to train young men for the ministry, and this continued to be an important mission well into the 19th Century.
[ Back ]
Exeter: The Phillips Exeter Academy was founded in 1781 by Dr. John Phillips of Exeter, NH, and remained a boys school until 1970. Research: Gabe Heller.
[ Back ]
germans: Parties at which the "german" is danced. A german is a cotillion, a complicated dance in which dances change partners often.
[ Back ]
Washington's birthday: George Washington (1732-1799), commander of the American Revolutionary Army and first president of the United States (1789-1797). He was born on 22 February.
[ Back ]
[ Back ]
down stairs: in the original copy text, these words appear hyphenated in all other instances.
[ Back ]
the old Harry: "Old Harry" is a nickname for Satan or the Devil in Christianity.
[ Back ]
larky place: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Larky" means "given to or ready for larking, or resulting from a lark." Research: Gabe Heller.
[ Back ]
dressing-traps: Traps, in this case, refers to trappings or personal belongings.
[ Back ]
grum: gloomy, morose, surly, or when of the voice, gruff, harsh or deep.
[ Back ]
Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
If you find errors or items needing annotation, pleae contact the site manager.