"You have a good deal to answer for, Julia."
"Now, don't, Philip! That's what George says. It is too absurd. Just because she has a pretty face. All you men are bewitched by pretty faces."
"She has a good manner, too."
"Manner? She has no manner at all; and she don't know anything, out of her garden. We have saved Tom from a great danger. It would be a terrible thing, perfectly terrible, to have him marry a girl who is not a lady, nor even an educated woman."
"You think you could not have made a lady of her?"
"Mamma, do hear Philip! isn't he too bad? Just because that girl has a little beauty. I wonder what there is in beauty, it turns all your heads! Mamma, do you hear Mr. Dillwyn? he wishes we had let Tom have his head and marry that little gardening girl."
"Indeed I do not," said Philip seriously. "I am very glad you succeeded in preventing it But allow me to ask if you are sure you have succeeded? Is it quite certain Tom will not have his head after all? He may cheat you yet."
"O no! He's very melancholy, but he has given it up. If he don't, we'll take him abroad in the spring. I think he has given it up. His being melancholy looks like it."
"True. I'll sound him when I get a chance."
The chance offered itself very soon; for Tom came in, and when Dillwyn left the house, Tom went to walk with him. They sauntered along Fifth Avenue, which was pretty full of people still, enjoying the mild air and beautiful starlight.
"Tom, what did you do at the Isles of Shoals?" Mr. Dillwyn asked suddenly.
"Did a lot of fishing. Capital trolling."
"All your fishing done on the high seas, eh?"
"All my successful fishing."
"What was the matter? Not a faint heart?"
"No. It's disgusting, the whole thing!" Tom broke out with hearty emphasis.
"You don't like to talk about it? I'll spare you, if you say so."
"I don't care what you do to me," said Tom; "and I have no objection to talk about it—to you."
Nevertheless he stopped.
"Have you changed your mind?"
"I shouldn't change my mind, if I lived to be as old as Methuselah!"
"That's right. Well, then,—the thing is going on?"
"It isn't going on! and I suppose it never will!"
"Had the lady any objection? I cannot believe that."
"I don't know," said Tom, with a big sigh. "I almost think she hadn't; but I never could find that out."
"What hindered you, old fellow?"
"My blessed relations. Julia and mother made such a row. I wouldn't have minded the row neither; for a man must marry to please himself and not his mother; and I believe no man ever yet married to please his sister; but, Philip, they didn't give me a minute. I could never join her anywhere, but Julia would be round the next corner; or else George would be there before me. George must put his oar in; and between them they kept it up."
"And you think she liked you?"
Tom was silent a while.
"Well," said he at last, "I won't swear; for you never know where a woman is till you've got her; but if she didn't, all I have to say is, signs aren't good for anything."
It was Philip now who was silent, for several minutes.
"What's going to be the upshot of it?"
"O, I suppose I shall go abroad with Julia and George in the spring, and end by taking an orthodox wife some day; somebody with blue blood, and pretension, and nothing else. My people will be happy, and the family name will be safe."
"And what will become of her?"
"O, she's all right. She won't break her heart about me. She isn't that sort of girl," Tom Caruthers said gloomily. "Do you know, I admire her immensely, Philip! I believe she's good enough for anything. Maybe she's too good. That's what her aunt hinted."
"Her aunt! Who's she?"
"She's a sort of a snapping turtle. A good sort of woman, too. I took counsel with her, do you know, when I found it was no use for me to try to see Lois. I asked her if she would stand my friend. She was as sharp as a fish-hook, and about as ugly a customer; and she as good as told me to go about my business."
"Did she give reasons for such advice?"
"O yes! She saw through Julia and mother as well as I did; and she spoke as any friend of Lois would, who had a little pride about her. I can't blame her."
Silence fell again, and lasted while the two young men walked the length of several blocks. Then Mr. Dillwyn began again.
"Tom, there ought to be no more shilly-shallying about this matter."
"No more! Yes, you're right. I ought to have settled it long ago, before Julia and mother got hold of it. That's where I made a mistake."
"And you think it too late?"
Tom hesitated. "It's too late. I've lost my time. She has given me up, and mother and Julia have set their hearts that I should give her up. I am not a match for them. Is a man ever a match for a woman, do you think, Dillwyn, if she takes something seriously in hand?"
"Will you go to Europe next spring?"
"Perhaps. I suppose so."
"If you do, perhaps I will join the party—that is, if you will all let me."
So the conversation went over into another channel.
MR. DILLWYN'S PLAN.
Two or three evenings after this, Philip Dillwyn was taking his way down the Avenue, not up it. He followed it down to nearly its lower termination, and turned up into Clinton Place, where he presently run up the steps of a respectable but rather dingy house, rang the bell, and asked for Mrs. Barclay.
The room where he awaited her was one of those dismal places, a public parlour in a boarding-house of second or third rank. Respectable, but forlorn. Nothing was ragged or untidy, but nothing either had the least look of home comfort or home privacy. As to home elegance, or luxury, the look of such a room is enough to put it out of one's head that there can be such things in the world. The ugly ingrain carpet, the ungraceful frame of the small glass in the pier, the abominable portraits on the walls, the disagreeable paper with which they were hung, the hideous lamps on the mantelpiece;—wherever the eye looked, it came back with uneasy discomfort. Philip's eye came back to the fire; and that was not pleasant to see; for the fireplace was not properly cared for, the coals were lifeless, and evidently more economical than useful. Philip looked very out of place in these surroundings. No one could for a moment have supposed him to be living among them. His thoroughly well-dressed figure, the look of easy refinement in his face, the air of one who is his own master, so inimitable by one whose circumstances master him; all said plainly that Mr. Dillwyn was here only on account of some one else. It could be no home of his.
As little did it seem fitted to be the home of the lady who presently entered. A tall, elegant, dignified woman; in the simplest of dresses, indeed, which probably bespoke scantiness of means, but which could not at all disguise or injure the impression of high breeding and refinement of manners which her appearance immediately produced. She was a little older than her visitor, yet not much; a woman in the prime of life she would have been, had not life gone hard with her; and she had been very handsome, though the regular features were shadowed with sadness, and the eyes had wept too many tears not to have suffered loss of their original brightness. She had the slow, quiet manner of one whose life is played out; whom the joys and sorrows of the world have both swept over, like great waves, and receding, have left the world a barren strand for her; where the tide is never to rise again. She was a sad-eyed woman, who had accepted her sadness, and could be quietly cheerful on the surface of it. Always, at least, as far as good breeding demanded. She welcomed Mr. Dilhvyn with a smile and evident genuine pleasure.
"How do I find you?" he said, sitting down.
"Quite well. Where have you been all summer? I need not ask how you are."
"Useless things always thrive," he said. "I have been wandering about among the mountains and lakes in the northern part of Maine."
"That is very wild, isn't it?"
"Therein lies its charm."
"There are not roads and hotels?"
"The roads the lumberers make. And I saw one hotel, and did not want to see any more."
"How did you find your way?"
"I had a guide—an Indian, who could speak a little English."
"No other company?"
"Rifle and fishing-rod."
"Good work for them there, I suppose?"
"Capital. Moose, and wild-fowl, and fish, all of best quality. I wished I could have sent you some."
"Thank you for thinking of me. I should have liked the game too."
"Are you comfortable here?" he asked, lowering his voice. Just then the door opened; a man's head was put in, surveyed the two people in the room, and after a second's deliberation disappeared again.
"You have not this room to yourself?" inquired Dilhvyn.
"O no. It is public property."
"Then we may be interrupted?"
"At any minute. Do you want to talk to me, 'unter vier Augen'?"
"I want no more, certainly. Yes, I came to talk to you; and I cannot, if people keep coming in." A woman's head had now shown itself for a moment. "I suppose in half an hour there will be a couple of old gentlemen here playing backgammon. I see a board. Have you not a corner to yourself?"
"I have a corner," she said, hesitating; "but it is only big enough to hold me. However, if you will promise to make no remarks, and to 'make believe,' as the children say, that the place is six times as large as it is, I will, for once take you to it. I would take no one else."
"The honour will not outweigh the pleasure," said Dillwyn as he rose. "But why must I put such a force upon my imagination?"
"I do not want you to pity me. Do you mind going up two flights of stairs?"
"I would not mind going to the top of St. Peter's!"
"The prospect will be hardly like that."
She led the way up two flights of stairs. At the top of them, in the third story, she opened the door of a little end room, cut off the hall. Dillwyn waited outside till she had found her box of matches and lit a lamp; then she let him come in and shut the door. It was a little bit of a place indeed, about six feet by twelve. A table, covered with books and papers, hanging shelves with more books, a work-basket, a trunk converted into a divan by a cushion and chintz cover, and a rocking-chair, about filled the space. Dillwyn took the divan, and Mrs. Barclay the chair. Dillwyn looked around him.
"I should never dream of pitying the person who can be contented here," he said.
"The mental composition must be so admirable! I suppose you have another corner, where to sleep?"
"Yes," she said, smiling; "the other little room like this at the other end of the hall. I preferred this arrangement to having one larger room where I must sit and sleep both. Old habits are hard to get rid of. Now tell me more about the forests of Maine. I have always had a curiosity about that portion of the country."
He did gratify her for a while; told of his travels, and camping out; and of his hunting and fishing; and of the lovely scenery of the lakes and hills. He had been to the summit of Mount Kataydin, and he had explored the waters in 'birches;' and he told of odd specimens of humanity he had found on his way; but after a while of this talk Philip came suddenly back to his starting point.
"Mrs. Barclay, you are not comfortable here?"
"As well as I can expect," she said, in her quiet, sad manner. The sadness was not obtrusive, not on the surface; it was only the background to everything.
"But it is not comfort. I am not insulting you with pity, mind; but I am thinking. Would you not like better to be in the country? in some pleasant place?"
"You do not call this a pleasant place?" she said, with her faint smile. "Now I do. When I get up here, and shut the door, I am my own mistress."
"Would you not like the country?"
"It is out of my reach, Philip. I must do something, you know, to keep even this refuge."
"I think you said you would not be averse to doing something in the line of giving instruction?"
"If I had the right pupils. But there is no chance of that. There are too many competitors. The city is overstocked."
"We were talking of the country."
"Yes, but it is still less possible in the country. I could not find there the sort of teaching I could do. All requisitions of that sort, people expect to have met in the city; and they come to the city for it,"
"I do not speak with certain'ty," said Philip, "but I think I know a place that would suit you. Good air, pleasant country, comfortable quarters, and moderate charges. And if you went there, there is work."
"Where is it?"
"On the Connecticut shore—far down the Sound. Not too far from New York, though; perfectly accessible."
"Who lives there?"
"It is a New England village, and you know what those are. Broad grassy streets, and shadowy old elms, and comfortable houses; and the sea not far off. Quiet, and good air, and people with their intelligence alive. There is even a library."
"And among these comfortable inhabitants, who would want to be troubled with me?"
"I think I know. I think I know just the house, where your coming would be a boon. They are not very well-to-do. I have not asked, but I am inclined to believe they would be glad to have you."
"Who are they?"
"A household of women. The father and mother are dead; the grandmother is there yet, and there are three daughters. They are relations of an old friend of mine, indeed a connection of mine, in the city. So I know something about them."
"Not the people themselves?"
"Yes, I know the people,—so far as one specimen goes. I fancy they are people you could get along with."
Mrs. Barclay looked a little scrutinizingly at the young man. His face revealed nothing, more than a friendly solicitude. But he caught the look, and broke out suddenly with a change of subject.
"How do you women get along without cigars? What is your substitute?"
"What does the cigar, to you, represent?"
"Soothing and comforting of the nerves—aids to thought—powerful helps to good humour—something to do—"
"There! now you have it. Philip you are talking nonsense. Your nerves are as steady and sound as a granite mountain; you can think without help of any extraneous kind; your good-humour is quite as fair as most people's; but—you do want something to do! I cannot bear to have you waste your life in smoke, be it never so fragrant."
"What would you have me do?"
"Anything! so you were hard at work, and doing work."
"There is nothing for me to do."
"That cannot be," said she, shaking her head.
"You have no need to work for yourself," she said; "so it must be for other people. Say politics."
"If ever there was anything carried on purely for selfish interests, it is the business you name."
"The more need for some men to go into it not for self, but for the country."
"It's a Maelstrom; one would be sure to get drawn in. And it is a dirty business. You know the proverb about touching pitch."
"It need not be so, Philip."
"It brings one into disgusting contact and associations. My cigar is better."
"It does nobody any good except the tobacconist. And, Philip, it helps this habit of careless letting everything go, which you have got into."
"I take care of myself, and of my money," he said.
"Men ought to live for more than to take care of themselves."
"I was just trying to take care of somebody else, and you head me off! You should encourage a fellow better. One must make a beginning. And I would like to be of use to somebody, if I could."
"Go on," she said, with her faint smile again. "How do you propose that I shall meet the increased expenditures of your Connecticut paradise?"
"You would like it?" he said eagerly.
"I cannot tell. But if the people are as pleasant as the place—it would be a paradise. Still, I cannot afford to live in paradise, I am afraid."
"You have only heard half my plan. It will cost you nothing. You have heard only what you are to get—not what you are to give."
"Let me hear. What am I to give?"
"The benefits of your knowledge of the world, and knowledge of literature, and knowledge of languages, to two persons who need and are with out them all."
"'Two persons.' What sort of persons?"
"Two of the daughters I spoke of."
Mrs. Barclay was silent a minute, looking at him.
"Whose plan is this?"
"Your humble servant's. As I said, one must make a beginning; and this is my beginning of an attempt to do good in the world."
"How old are these two persons?"
"One of them, about eighteen, I judge. The other, a year or two older."
"And they wish for such instruction?"
"I believe they would welcome it. But they know nothing about the plan—and must not know," he added very distinctly, meeting Mrs. Barclay's eyes with praiseworthy steadiness.
"What makes you think they would be willing to pay for my services, then? Or, indeed, how could they do it?"
"They are not to do it. They are to know nothing whatever about it. They are not able to pay for any such advantages. Here comes in the benevolence of my plan. You are to do it for me, and I am to pay the worth of the work; which I will do to the full. It will much more than meet the cost of your stay in the house. You can lay up money," he said, smiling.
"Phil," said Mrs. Barclay, "what is behind this very odd scheme?"
"I do not know that anything—beyond the good done to two young girls, and the good done to you."
"It is not that," she said. "This plan never originated in your regard for my welfare solely."
"No. I had an eye to theirs also."
"Only to theirs and mine, Phil?" she asked, bending a keen look upon him. He laughed, and changed his position, but did not answer.
"Philip, Philip, what is this?"
"You may call it a whim, a fancy, a notion. I do not know that anything will ever come of it. I could wish there might—but that is a very cloudy and misty chateau en Espagne, and I do not much look at it. The present thing is practical. Will you take the place, and do what you can for these girls?"
"What ever put this thing in your head?"
"What matter, if it is a good thing?"
"I must know more about it. Who are these people?"
"Connections of Mrs. Wishart. Perfectly respectable."
"What are they, then?"
"Country people. They belong, I suppose, to the farming population of a New England village. That is very good material."
"Certainly—for some things. How do they live—by keeping boarders?"
"Nothing of the kind! They live, I suppose,—I don't know how they live; and I do not care. They live as farmers, I suppose. But they are poor."
"And so, without education?"
"Which I am asking you to supply."
"Phil, you are interested in one of these girls?"
"Didn't I tell you I was interested in both of them?" he said, laughing. And he rose now, and stood half leaning against the door of the little room, looking down at Mrs. Barclay; and she reviewed him. He looked exactly like what he was; a refined and cultivated man of the world, with a lively intelligence in full play, and every instinct and habit of a gentleman. Mrs. Barclay looked at him with a very grave face.
"Philip, this is a very crazy scheme!" she said, after a minute or two of mutual consideration.
"I cannot prove it anything else," he said lightly. "Time must do that."
"I do not think Time will do anything of the kind. What Time does ordinarily, is to draw the veil off the follies our passions and fancies have covered up."
"True; and there is another work Time some times does. He sometimes draws forth a treasure from under the encumbering rubbish that hid it, and lets it appear for the gold it is."
"Philip, you have never lost your heart to one of these girls?" said Mrs. Barclay, with an expression of real and grave anxiety.
"But your words mean that."
"They are not intended to convey any such meaning. Why should they?"
"Because if they do not mean that, your plan is utterly wild and extravagant. And if they do—"
"Then it would be far more wild and extravagant. And deplorable."
"See there the inconsistency of you good people!" said Mr. Dillwyn, still speaking lightly. "A little while ago you were urging me to make myself useful. I propose a way, in which I want your co-operation, calculated to be highly beneficial in a variety of ways,—and I hit upon hindrances directly."
"Philip, it isn't that. I cannot bear to think of your marrying a woman unworthy of you."
"I still less!" he assured her, with mock gravity.
"And that is what you are thinking of. A woman without education, without breeding, without knowledge of the world, without anything, that could make her a fit companion for you. Philip, give this up!"
"Not my plan," said he cheerfully. "The rest is all in your imagination. What you have to do, if you will grant my prayer, is to make this little country girl the exact opposite of all that. You will do it, won't you?"
"Where will you be?"
"Not near, to trouble you. Probably in Europe. I think of going with the Caruthers in the spring."
"What makes you think this girl wants—I mean, desires—education?"
"If she does not, then the fat's in the fire, that's all."
"I did not know you were so romantic, before."
"Romantic! Could anything be more practical? And I think it will be so good for you, in that sea air."
"I would rather never smell the sea air, if this is going to be for your damage. Does the girl know you are an admirer of hers?"
"She hardly knows I am in the world! O yes, she has seen me, and I have talked with her; by which means I come to know that labour spent on her will not be spent in vain. But of me she knows nothing."
"After talking with you!" said Mrs. Barclay. "What else is she? Handsome?"
"Perhaps I had better let you judge of that. I could never marry a mere pretty face, I think. But there is a wonderful charm about this creature, which I do not yet understand. I have never been able to find out what is the secret of it."
"A pretty face and a pink cheek!" said Mrs. Barclay, with half a groan. "You are all alike, you men! Now we women—Philip, is the thing mutual already? Does she think of you as you think of her?"
"She does not think of me at all," said he, sitting down again, and facing Mrs. Barclay with an earnest face. "She hardly knows me. Her attention has been taken up, I fancy, with another suitor."
"Another suitor! You are not going to be Quixote enough to educate a wife for another man?"
"No," said he, half laughing. "The other man is out of the way, and makes no more pretension."
"Rejected? And how do you know all this so accurately?"
"Because he told me. Now have you done with objections?"
"Philip, this is a very blind business! You may send me to this place, and I may do my best, and you may spend your money,—and at the end of all, she may marry somebody else; or, which is quite on the cards, you may get another fancy."
"Well," said he, "suppose it. No harm will be done. As I never had any fancy whatever before, perhaps your second alternative is hardly likely. The other I must risk, and you must watch against."
Mrs. Barclay shook her head, but the end was, she yielded.
November had come. It was early in the month still; yet, as often happens, the season was thoroughly defined already. Later, perhaps, some sweet relics or reminders of October would come in, or days of the soberer charm which October's successor often brings; but just now, a grey sky and a brown earth and a wind with no tenderness in it banished all thought of such pleasant times. The day was dark and gloomy. So the fire which burned bright in the kitchen of Mrs. Armadale's house showed particularly bright, and its warm reflections were exceedingly welcome both to the eye and to the mind. It was a wood fire, in an open chimney, for Mrs. Armadale would sit by no other; and I call the place the kitchen, for really a large portion of the work of the kitchen was done there; however, there was a stove in an adjoining room, which accommodated most of the boilers and kettles in use, while the room itself was used for all the "mussy" work. Nevertheless, it was only upon occasion that fire was kindled in that outer room, economy in fuel forbidding that two fires should be all the while kept going.
In the sitting-room kitchen, then, this November afternoon, the whole family were assembled. The place was as nice as a pin, and as neat as if no work were ever done there. All the work of the day, indeed, was over; and even Miss Charity had come to sit down with the rest, knitting in hand. They had all changed their dresses and put off their big aprons, and looked unexceptionably nice and proper; only, it is needless to say, with no attempt at a fashionable appearance. Their gowns were calico; collars and cuffs of plain linen; and the white aprons they all wore were not fine nor ornamented. Only the old lady, who did no housework any longer, was dressed in a stuff gown, and wore an apron of black silk. Charity, as I said, was knitting; so was her grandmother. Madge was making more linen collars. Lois sat by her grandmother's chair, for the minute doing nothing.
"What do you expect to do for a bonnet, Lois?" Charity broke the silence.
"Or I either?" put in Madge. "Or you yourself, Charity? We are all in the same box."
"I wish our hats were!" said the elder sister.
"I have not thought much about it," Lois answered. "I suppose, if necessary, I shall wear my straw."
"Then you'll have nothing to wear in the summer! It's robbing Peter to pay Paul."
"Well," said Lois, smiling,—"if Paul's turn comes first. I cannot look so long ahead as next summer."
"It'll be here before you can turn round," said Charity, whose knitting needles flew without her having any occasion to watch them. "And then, straw is cold in winter."
"I can tie a comforter over my ears."
"That would look poverty-stricken."
"I suppose," said Madge slowly, "that is what we are. It looks like it, just now."
"'The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich,'" Mrs. Armadale said.
"Yes, mother," said Charity; "but our cow died because she was tethered carelessly."
"And our hay failed because there was no rain," Madge added. "And our apples gave out because they killed themselves with bearing last year."
"You forget, child, it is the Lord 'that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season.'"
"But he didn't give it, mother; that's what I'm talking about; neither the former nor the latter; though what that means, I'm sure I don't know; we have it all the year round, most years."
"Then be contented if a year comes when he does not send it."
"Grandmother, it'll do for you to talk; but what are we girls going to do without bonnets?"
"Do without," said Lois archly, with the gleam of her eye and the arch of her pretty brow which used now and then to bewitch poor Tom Caruthers.
"We have hardly apples to make sauce of," Charity went on. "If it had been a good year, we could have got our bonnets with our apples, nicely. Now, I don't see where they are to come from."
"Don't wish for what the Lord don't send, child," said Mrs. Armadale.
"O mother! that's a good deal to ask," cried Charity. "It's very well for you, sitting in your arm-chair all the year round; but we have to put our heads out; and for one, I'd rather have something on them. Lois, haven't you got anything to do, that you sit there with your hands in your lap?"
"I am going to the post-office," said Lois, rising; "the train's in. I heard the whistle."
The village street lay very empty, this brown November day; and so, to Lois's fancy, lay the prospect of the winter. Even so; brown and lightless, with a chill nip in the air that dampened rather than encouraged energy. She was young and cheery-tempered; but perhaps there was a shimmer yet in her memory of the colours on the Isles of Shoals; at any rate the village street seemed dull to her and the day forbidding. She walked fast, to stir her spirits. The country around Shampuashuh is flat; never a hill or lofty object of any kind rose upon her horizon to suggest wider look-outs and higher standing-points than her present footing gave her. The best she could see was a glimpse of the distant Connecticut, a little light blue thread afar off; and I cannot tell why, what she thought of when she saw it was Tom Caruthers. I suppose Tom was associated in her mind with any wider horizon than Shampuashuh street afforded. Anyhow, Mr. Caruthers' handsome face came be fore her; and a little, a very little, breath of regret escaped her, because it was a face she would see no more. Yet why should she wish to see it? she asked herself. Mr. Caruthers could be nothing to her; he never could be anything to her; for he knew not and cared not to know either the joys or the obligations of religion, in which Lois's whole life was bound up. However, though he could be nothing to her, Lois had a woman's instinctive perception that she herself was, or had been, something to him; and that is an experience a simple girl does not easily forget. She had a kindness for him, and she was pretty sure he had more than a kindness for her, or would have had, if his sister had let him alone. Lois went back to her Appledore experiences, revolving and studying them, and understanding them a little better now, she thought, than at the time. At the time she had not understood them at all. It was just as well! she said to herself. She could never have married him. But why did his friends not want him to marry her? She was in the depths of this problem when she arrived at the post-office.
The post-office was in the further end of a grocery store, or rather a store of varieties, such as country villages find convenient. From behind a little lattice the grocer's boy handed her a letter, with the remark that she was in luck to-day. Lois recognized Mrs. Wishart's hand, and half questioned the assertion. What was this? a new invitation? That cannot be, thought Lois; I was with her so long last winter, and now this summer again for weeks and weeks— And, anyhow, I could not go if she asked me. I could not even get a bonnet to go in; and I could not afford the money for the journey.
She hoped it was not an invitation. It is hard to have the cup set to your lips, if you are not to drink it; any cup; and a visit to Mrs. Wishart was a very sweet cup to Lois. The letter filled her thoughts all the way home; and she took it to her own room at once, to have the pleasure, or the pain, mastered before she told of it to the rest of the family. But in a very few minutes Lois came flying down-stairs, with light in her eyes and a sudden colour in her cheeks.
"Girls, I've got some news for you!" she burst in.
Charity dropped her knitting in her lap. Madge, who was setting the table for tea, stood still with a plate in her hand. All eyes were on Lois.
"Don't say news never comes! We've got it to-day."
"What? Who is the letter from?" said Charity.
"The letter is from Mrs. Wishart, but that does not tell you anything."
"O, if it is from Mrs. Wishart, I suppose the news only concerns you," said Madge, setting down her plate.
"Mistaken!" cried Lois. "It concerns us all. Madge, don't go off. It is such a big piece of news that I do not know how to begin to give it to you; it seems as if every side of it was too big to take hold of for a handle. Mother, listen, for it concerns you specially."
"I hear, child." And Mrs. Armadale looked interested and curious.
"It's delightful to have you all looking like that," said Lois, "and to know it's not for nothing. You'll look more 'like that' when I've told you—if ever I can begin."
"My dear, you are quite excited," said the old lady.
"Yes, grandmother, a little. It's so seldom that anything happens, here."
"The days are very good, when nothing happens. I think," said the old lady softly.
"And now something has really happened—for once. Prick up your ears, Charity! Ah, I see they are pricked up already," Lois went on merrily. "Now listen. This letter is from Mrs. Wishart."
"She wants you again!" cried Madge.
"Nothing of the sort. She asks—"
"Why don't you read the letter?"
"I will; but I want to tell you first. She says there is a certain friend of a friend of hers—a very nice person, a widow lady, who would like to live in the country if she could find a good place; and Mrs. Wishart wants to know, if we would like to have her in our house."
"To board?" cried Madge.
Lois nodded, and watched the faces around her.
"We never did that before," said Madge.
"No. The question is, whether we will do it now."
"Take her to board!" repeated Charity. "It would be a great bother. What room would you give her?"
"Rooms. She wants two. One for a sitting-room."
"Two! We couldn't, unless we gave her our best parlour, and had none for ourselves. That wouldn't do."
"Unless she would pay for it," Lois suggested.
"How much would she pay? Does Mrs. Wishart say?"
"Guess, girls! She would pay—twelve dollars a week."
Charity almost jumped from her chair. Madge stood leaning with her hands upon the table and stared at her sister. Only the old grandmother went on now quietly with her knitting. The words were re-echoed by both sisters.
"Twelve dollars a week! Fifty dollars a month!" cried Madge, and clapped her hands. "We can have bonnets all round; and the hay and the apples won't matter. Fifty dollars a month! Why, Lois!—"
"It would be an awful bother," said Charity.
"Mrs. Wishart says not. At least she says this lady—this Mrs. Barclay—is a delightful person, and we shall like her so much we shall not mind the trouble. Besides, I do not think it will be so much trouble. And we do not use our parlour much. I'll read you the letter now."
So she did; and then followed an eager talk.
"She is a city body, of course. Do you suppose she will be contented with our ways of going on?" Charity queried.
"What ways do you mean?"
"Well—will our table suit her?"
"We can make it suit her," said Madge. "Just think—with fifty dollars a month—"
"But we're not going to keep a cook," Charity went on. "I won't do that. I can do all the work of the house, but I can't do half of it. And if I do the cooking, I shall do it just as I have always done it. I can't go to fussing. It'll be country ways she'll be treated to; and the question is, how she'll like 'em?"
"She can try," said Lois.
"And then, maybe she'll be somebody that'll take airs."
"Perhaps," said Lois, laughing; "but not likely. What if she did, Charity? That would be her affair."
"It would be my affair to bear it," said Charity grimly.
"Daughters," said Mrs. Armadale gently, "suppose we have some tea."
This suggestion brought all to their bearings. Madge set the table briskly, Charity made the tea, Lois cut bread and made toast; and presently talking and eating went on in the harmonious combination which is so agreeable.
"If she comes," said Lois, "there must be curtains to the parlour windows. I can make some of chintz, that will look pretty and not cost much. And there must be a cover for the table."
"Why must there? The table is nice mahogany," said Charity.
"It looks cold and bare so. All tables in use have covers, at Mrs. Wishart's."
"I don't see any sense in that. What's the good of it?"
"Looks pretty and comfortable."
"That's nothing but a notion. I don't believe in notions. You'll tell me next our steel forks won't do."
"Well, I do tell you that. Certainly they will not do, to a person always accustomed to silver."
"That's nothing but uppishness, Lois. I can't stand that sort of thing. Steel's just as good as silver, only it don't cost so much; that's all."
"It don't taste as well."
"You don't need to eat your fork."
"No, but you have to touch your lips to it."
"How does that hurt you, I want to know?"
"It hurts my taste," said Lois; "and so it is uncomfortable. If Mrs. Barclay comes, I should certainly get some plated forks. Half a dozen would not cost much."
"Mother," said Charity, "speak to Lois! She's getting right worldly, I think. Set her right, mother!"
"It is something I don't understand," said the old lady gravely. "Steel forks were good enough for anybody in the land, when I was young. I don't see, for my part, why they ain't just as good now."
Lois wisely left this question unanswered.
"But you think we ought to let this lady come, mother, don't you?"
"My dear," said Mrs. Armadale, "I think it's a providence!"
"And it won't worry you, grandmother, will it?"
"I hope not. If she's agreeable, she may do us good; and if she's disagreeable, we may do her good."
"That's grandma all over!" exclaimed Charity; "but if she's disagreeable, I'll tell you what, girls, I'd rather scrub floors. 'Tain't my vocation to do ugly folks good."
"Charity," said Mrs. Armadale, "it is your vocation. It is what everybody is called to do."
"It's what you've been trying to do to me all my life, ain't it?" said Charity, laughing. "But you've got to keep on, mother; it ain't done yet. But I declare! there ought to be somebody in a house who can be disagreeable by spells, or the rest of the world'd grow rampant."
It was in vain to try to talk of anything else; the conversation ran on that one subject all the evening. Indeed, there was a great deal to be thought of and to be done, and it must of necessity be talked of first.
"How soon does she want to come?" Mrs. Armadale asked, meaning of course the new inmate proposed for the house.
"Just as soon as we are ready for her; didn't you hear what I read, grandmother? She wants to get into the country air."
"A queer time to come into the country!" said Charity. "I thought city folks kept to the city in winter. But it's good for us."
"We must get in some coal for the parlour," remarked Madge.
"Yes; and who's going to make coal fires and clean the grate and fetch boxes of coal?" said Charity. "I don't mind makin' a wood fire, and keepin' it up; wood's clean; but coals I do hate."
There was general silence.
"I'll do it," said Lois.
"I guess you will! You look like it."
"Somebody must; and I may as well as anybody."
"You could get Tim Bodson to carry coal for you," remarked Mrs. Armadale.
"So we could; that's an excellent idea; and I don't mind the rest at all," said Lois. "I like to kindle fires. But maybe she'll want soft coal. I think it is likely. Mrs. Wishart never will burn hard coal where she sits. And soft coal is easier to manage."
"It's dirtier, though," said Charity. "I hope she ain't going to be a fanciful woman. I can't get along with fancy folks. Then she'll be in a fidget about her eating; and I can't stand that. I'll cook for her, but she must take things as she finds them. I can't have anything to do with tomfooleries."
"That means custards?" said Lois, laughing. "I like custards myself. I'll take the tomfoolery part of the business, Charity."
"Will you?" said Charity. "What else?"
"I'll tell you what else, girls. We must have some new tablecloths, and some napkins."
"And we ought to have our bonnets before anybody comes," added Madge.
"And I must make some covers and mats for the dressing table and washstand in the best room," said Lois.
"Covers and mats! What for? What ails the things as they are? They've got covers."
"O, I mean white covers. They make the room look so much nicer."
"I'll tell you what, Lois; you can't do everything that rich folks do; and it's no use to try. And you may as well begin as you're goin' on. Where are you going to get money for coal and bonnets and tablecloths and napkins and curtains, before we begin to have the board paid in?"
"I have thought of that. Aunt Marx will lend us some. It won't be much, the whole of it."
"I hope we aren't buying a pig in a poke," said Charity.
"Mother, do you think it will worry you to have her?" Lois asked tenderly.
"No, child," said the old lady; "why should it worry me?"
So the thing was settled, and eager preparations immediately set on foot. Simple preparations, which did not take much time. On her part Mrs. Barclay had some to make, but hers were still more quickly despatched; so that before November had run all its thirty days, she had all ready for the move. Mr. Dillwyn went with her to the station and put her into the car. They were early, so he took a seat beside her to bear her company during the minutes of waiting.
"I would gladly have gone with you, to see you safe there," he remarked; "but I thought it not best, for several reasons."
"I should think so!" Mrs. Barclay returned dryly. "Philip, I consider this the very craziest scheme I ever had to do with!"
"Precisely; your being in it redeems it from that character."
"I do not think so. I am afraid you are preparing trouble for yourself; but your heart cannot be much in it yet!"
"Don't swear that," he said.
"Well, it cannot, surely. Love will grow on scant fare, I acknowledge; but it must have a little."
"It has had a little. But you are hardly to give it that name yet. Say, a fancy."
"Sensible men do not do such things for a fancy. Why, Philip, suppose I am able to do my part, and that it succeeds to the full; though how I am even to set about it I have at present no idea; I cannot assume that these young women are ignorant, and say I have come to give them an education! But suppose I find a way, and suppose I succeed; what then? You will be no nearer your aim—perhaps not so near."
"Perhaps not," he said carelessly.
"Phil, it's a very crazy business! I wouldn't go into it, only I am so selfish, and the plan is so magnificent for me."
"That is enough to recommend it. Now I want you to let me know, from time to time, what I can send you that will either tend to your comfort, or help the work we have in view. Will you?"
"But where are you going to be? I thought you were going to Europe?"
"Not till spring. I shall be in New York this winter."
"But you will not come to—what is the name of the place—where I am going?" she asked earnestly.
"No," said he, smiling. "Shall I send you a piano?"
"A piano! Is music intended to be in the programme? What should I do with a piano?"
"That you would find out. But you are so fond of music—it would be a comfort, and I have no doubt it would be a help."
Mrs. Barclay looked at him with a steady gravity, under which lurked a little sparkle of amusement.
"Do you mean that I am to teach your Dulcinea to play? Or to sing?"
"The use of the possessive pronoun is entirely inappropriate."
"Which is she, by the way? There are three, are there not? How am I to know the person in whom I am to be interested?"
"By the interest."
"That will do!" said Mrs. Barclay, laughing. "But it is a very mad scheme, Philip—a very mad scheme! Here you have got me—who ought to be wiser—into a plan for making, not history, but romance. I do not approve of romance, and not at all of making it."
"Thank you!" said he, as he rose in obedience to the warning stroke of the bell. "Do not be romantic, but as practical as possible. I am. Good-bye! Write me, won't you?"
The train moved out of the station, and Mrs. Barclay fell to meditating. The prospect before her, she thought, was extremely misty and doubtful. She liked neither the object of Mr. Dillwyn's plan, nor the means he had chosen to attain it; and yet, here she was, going to be his active agent, obedient to his will in the matter. Partly because she liked Philip, who had been a dear and faithful friend of her husband; partly because, as she said, the scheme offered such tempting advantage to herself; but more than either, because she knew that if Philip could not get her help he was more than likely to find some other which would not serve him so well. If Mrs. Barclay had thought that her refusal to help him would have put an end to the thing, she would undoubtedly have refused. Now she pondered what she had undertaken to do, and wondered what the end would be. Mr. DilIwyn had been taken by a pretty face; that was the old story; he retained wit enough to feel that something more than a pretty face was necessary, therefore he had applied to her; but suppose her mission failed? Brains cannot be bought. Or suppose even the brains were there, and her mission succeeded? What then? How was the wooing to be done? However, one thing was certain—Mr. Dillwyn must wait. Education is a thing that demands time. While he was waiting, he might wear out his fancy, or get up a fancy for some one else. Time was everything.
So at last she quieted herself, and fell to a restful enjoyment of her journey, and amused watching of her fellow-travellers, and observing of the country. The country offered nothing very remarkable. After the Sound was lost sight of, the road ran on among farms and fields and villages; now and then crossing a stream; with nothing specially picturesque in land or water. Mrs. Barclay went back to thoughts that led her far away, and forgot both the fact of her travelling and the reason why. Till the civil conductor said at her elbow—"Here's your place, ma'am—Shampuashuh."
Mrs. Barclay was almost sorry, but she rose, and the conductor took her bag, and they went out. The afternoons were short now, and the sun was already down; but Mrs. Barclay could see a neat station-house, with a long platform extending along the track, and a wide, level, green country. The train puffed off again. A few people were taking their way homewards, on foot and in waggons; she saw no cab or omnibus in waiting for the benefit of strangers. Then, while she was thinking to find some railway official and ask instructions, a person came towards her; a woman, bundled up in a shawl and carrying a horsewhip.
"Perhaps you are Mrs. Barclay?" she said unceremoniously. "I have come after you."
"Thank you. And who is it that has come after me?"
"You are going to the Lothrops' house, ain't you? I thought so. It's all right. I'm their aunt. You see, they haven't a team; and I told 'em I'd come and fetch you, for as like as not Tompkins wouldn't be here. Is that your trunk?—Mr. Lifton, won't you have the goodness to get this into my buggy? it's round at the other side. Now, will you come?"
This last to Mrs. Barclay. And, following her new friend, she and her baggage were presently disposed of in a neat little vehicle, and the owner of it got into her place and drove off.
The soft light showed one of those peaceful-looking landscapes which impress one immediately with this feature in their character. A wide grassy street, or road, in which carriages might take their choice of tracks; a level open country wherever the eye caught a sight of it; great shadowy elms at intervals, giving an air of dignity and elegance to the place; and neat and well-to-do houses scattered along on both sides, not too near each other for privacy and independence. Cool fresh air, with a savour in it of salt water; and stillness—stillness that told of evening rest, and quiet, and leisure. One got a respect for the place involuntarily.
"They're lookin' for you," the driving lady began.
"Yes. I wrote I would be here to-day."
"They'll do all they can to make you comfortable; and if there's anything you'd like, you've only to tell 'em. That is, anything that can be had at Shampuashuh; for you see, we ain't at New York; and the girls never took in a lodger before. But they'll do what they can."
"I hope I shall not be very exacting."
"Most folks like Shampuashuh that come to know it. That is!—we don't have much of the high-flyin' public; that sort goes over to Castletown, and I'm quite willin' they should; but in summer we have quite a sprinklin' of people that want country and the sea; and they most of 'em stay right along, from the beginning of the season to the end of it. We don't often have 'em come in November, though."
"I suppose not."
"Though the winters here are pleasant," the other went on. "I think they're first-rate. You see, we're so near the sea, we never have it very cold; and the snow don't get a chance to lie. The worst we have here is in March; and if anybody is particular about his head and his eyes, I'd advise him to take 'em somewheres else; but, dear me! there's somethin' to be said about every place. I do hear folks say, down in Florida is a regular garden of Eden; but I don' know! seems to me I wouldn't want to live on oranges all the year round, and never see the snow. I'd rather have a good pippin now than ne'er an orange. Here we are. Mr. Starks!"—addressing a man who was going along the side way—"hold on, will you? here's a box to lift down—won't you bear a hand?"
This service was very willingly rendered, the man not only lifting the heavy trunk out of the vehicle, but carrying it in and up the stairs to its destination. The door of the house stood open. Mrs. Barclay descended from the buggy, Mrs. Marx kept her seat.
"Good-bye," she said. "Go right in—you'll find somebody, and they'll take care of you."
Mrs. Barclay went in at the little gate, and up the path of a few yards to the house. It was a very seemly white house, quite large, with a porch over the door and a balcony above it. Mrs. Barclay went in, feeling herself on very doubtful ground; then appeared a figure in the doorway which put her meditations to flight. Such a fair figure, with a grave, sweet, innocent charm, and a manner which surprised the lady. Mrs. Barclay looked, in a sort of fascination.
"We are very glad to see you," Lois said simply. "It is Mrs. Barclay, I suppose? The train was in good time. Let me take your bag, and I will show you right up to your room."
"Thank you. Yes, I am Mrs. Barclay; but who are you?"
"I am Lois. Mrs. Wishart wrote to me about you. Now, here is your room; and here is your trunk. Thank you, Mr. Starks.—What can I do for you? Tea will be ready presently."
"You seem to have obliging neighbours! Ought I not to pay him for his trouble?" said Mrs. Barclay, looking after the retreating Starks.
"Pay? O no!" said Lois, smiling. "Mr Starks does not want pay. He is very well off indeed; has a farm of his own, and makes it valuable."
"He deserves to be well off, for his obligingness. Is it a general characteristic of Shampuashuh?"
"I rather think it is," said Lois. "When you come down, Mrs. Barclay, I will show you your other room."
Mrs. Barclay took off her wrappings and looked about her in a maze. The room was extremely neat and pleasant, with its white naperies and old-fashioned furniture. All that she had seen of the place was pleasant. But the girl!—O Philip, Philip! thought Mrs. Barclay, have you lost your heart here! and what ever will come of it all? I can understand it; but what will come of it!
Down-stairs Lois met her again, and took her into the room arranged for her sitting-room. It was not a New York drawing-room; but many gorgeous drawing-rooms would fail in a comparison with it. Warm-coloured chintz curtains; the carpet neither fine nor handsome, indeed, but of a hue which did not clash violently with the hue of the draperies; plain, dark furniture; and a blaze of soft coal. Mrs. Barclay exclaimed,
"Delightful! O, delightful! Is this my room, did you say? It is quite charming. I am afraid I am putting you to great inconvenience?"
"The convenience is much greater than the inconvenience," said Lois simply. "I hope we may be able to make you comfortable; but my sisters are afraid you will not like our country way of living."
"Are you the housekeeper?"
"No," said Lois, with her pleasant smile again; "I am the gardener and the out-of-doors woman generally; the man of business of the house."
"That is a rather hard place for a woman to fill, sometimes."
"It is easy here, and where people have so little out-of-door business as we have."
She arranged the fire and shut the shutters of the windows; Mrs. Barclay watching and admiring her as she did so. It was a pretty figure, though in a calico and white apron. The manner of quiet self-possession and simplicity left nothing to be desired. And the face,—but what was it in the face which so struck Mrs. Barclay? It was not the fair features; they were fair, but she had seen others as fair, a thousand times before. This charm was something she had never seen before in all her life. There was a gravity that had no connection with shadows, nor even suggested them; a curious loftiness of mien, which had nothing to do with external position or internal consciousness; and a purity, which was like the grave purity of a child, without the child's want of knowledge or immaturity of mental power. Mrs. Barclay was attracted, and curious. At the same time, the dress and the apron were of a style—well, of no style; the plainest attire of a plain country girl.
"I will call you when tea is ready," said Lois. "Or would you like to come out at once, and see the rest of the family?"
"By all means! let me go with you," Mrs. Barclay answered; and Lois opened a door and ushered her at once into the common room of the family. Here Mrs. Armadale was sitting in her rocking-chair.
"This is my grandmother," said Lois simply; and Mrs. Barclay came up.
"How do you do, ma'am?" said the old lady. "I am pleased to see you."
Mrs. Barclay took a chair by her side, made her greetings, and surveyed the room. It was very cheerful and home-looking, with its firelight, and the table comfortably spread in the middle of the floor, and various little tokens of domestic occupation.
"How pleasant this fire is!" she remarked. "Wood is so sweet!"
"It's better than the fire in the parlour," said Mrs. Armadale; "but that room has only a grate."
"I will never complain, as long as I have soft coal," returned the new guest; "but there is an uncommon charm to me in a wood fire."
"You don't get it often in New York, Lois says."
"Miss Lois has been to the great city, then?"
"Yes, she's been there. Our cousin, Mrs. Wishart, likes to have her, and Lois was there quite a spell last winter; but I expect that's the end of it. I guess she'll stay at home the rest of her life."
"Why should she?"
"Here's where her work is," said the old lady; "and one is best where one's work is."
"But her work might be elsewhere? She'll marry some day. If I were a man, I think I should fall in love with her."
"She mightn't marry you, still," said Mrs. Armadale, with a fine smile.
"No, certainly," said Mrs. Barclay, returning the smile; "but—you know, girls' hearts are not to be depended on. They do run away with them, when the right person comes."
"My Lois will wait till he comes," said the old lady, with a sort of tender confidence that was impressive and almost solemn. Mrs. Barclay's thoughts made a few quick gyrations; and then the door opened, and Lois, who had left the room, came in again, followed by one of her sisters bearing a plate of butter.
"Another beauty!" thought Mrs. Barclay, as Madge was presented to her. "Which is which, I wonder?" This was a beauty of quite another sort. Regular features, black hair, eyes dark and soft under long lashes, a white brow and a very handsome mouth. But Madge had a bow of ribband in her black hair, while Lois's red-brown masses were soft, and fluffy, and unadorned. Madge's face lacked the loftiness, if it had the quietness, of the other; and it had not that innocent dignity which seemed—to Mrs. Barclay's fancy—to set Lois apart from the rest of young women. Yet most men would admire Madge most, she thought. O Philip, Philip! she said to herself, what sort of a mess have you brought me into! This is no common romance you have induced me to put my fingers in. These girls!—
But then entered a third, of a different type, and Mrs. Barclay felt some amusement at the variety surrounding her. Miss Charity was plain, like her grandmother; and Mrs. Armadale was not, as I have said, a handsome old woman. She had never been a handsome young one; bony, angular, strong, not gracious; although the expression of calm sense, and character, and the handwriting of life-work, and the dignity of mental calm, were unmistakeable now, and made her a person worth looking at. Charity was much younger, of course; but she had the plainness without the dignity; sense, I am bound to say, was not wanting.
The supper was ready, and they all sat down. The meal was excellent; but at first very silently enjoyed. Save the words of anxious hospitality, there were none spoken. The quicker I get acquain'ted, the better, thought Mrs. Barclay. So she began.
"Your village looks to me like a quiet place."
"That is its character," said Mrs. Armadale.
"Especially in winter, I suppose?"
"Well, it allays was quiet, since I've known it," the old lady went on. "They've got a hotel now for strangers, down at the Point—but that ain't the village."
"And the hotel is empty now," added Lois.
"What does the village do, to amuse itself, in these quiet winter days and nights?"
"Nothing," said Charity.
"Really? Are there no amusements? I never heard of such a place."
"I don't know what you mean by amusements," Mrs. Armadale took up the subject. "I think, doin' one's work is the best amusement there is. I never wanted no other."
"Does the old proverb not hold good then in Shampuashuh, of 'All work and no play'—you know? The consequences are said to be disastrous."
"No," said Lois, laughing, "it does not hold good. People are not dull here. I don't mean that they are very lively; but they are not dull."
"Is there a library here?"
"A sort of one; not large. Books that some of the people subscribe for, and pass round to each other's houses."
"Then it is not much of a reading community?"
"Well, it is, considerable," said Mrs. Armadale. "There's a good many books in the village, take 'em all together. I guess the folks have as much as they can do to read what they've got, and don't stand in need of no more."
"Well, are people any happier for living in such a quiet way? Are they sheltered in any degree from the storms that come upon the rest of the world? How is it? As I drove along from the station to-night, I thought it looked like a haven of peace, where people could not have heartbreaks."
"I hope the Lord will make it such to you, ma'am," the old lady said solemnly.
The turn was so sudden and so earnest, that it in a sort took Mrs. Barclay's breath away. She merely said, "Thank you!" and let the talk drop.
Mrs. Barclay found her room pleasant, her bed excellent, and all the arrangements and appointments simple, indeed, but quite sufficient. The next morning brought brilliant sunlight, glittering in the elm trees, and on the green sward which filled large spaces in the street, and on chimneys and housetops, and on the bit of the Connecticut river which was visible in the distance. Quiet it was certainly, and peaceful, and at the same time the sight was inspiriting. Mrs. Barclay dressed and went down; and there she found her parlour in order, the sunlight streaming in, and a beautiful fire blazing to welcome her.
"This is luxury!" thought she, as she took her place in a comfortable rocking-chair before the fire. "But how am I to get at my work!"—Presently Lois came in, looking like a young rose.
"I beg pardon!" she said, greeting Mrs. Barclay, "but I left my duster—"
Has she been putting my room in order! thought the lady. This elegant creature? But she showed nothing of her feeling; only asked Lois if she were busy.
"No," said Lois, with a smile; "I have done. Do you want something of me?"
"Yes, in that case. Sit down, and let us get acquain'ted."
Lois sat down, duster in hand, and looked pleasantly ready.
"I am afraid I am giving you a great deal of trouble! If you get tired of me, you must just let me know. Will you?"
"There is no fear," Lois assured her. "We are very glad to have you. If only you do not get tired of our quiet. It is very quiet, after what you have been accustomed to."
"Just what I want! I have been longing for the country; and the air here is delicious. I cannot get enough of it. I keep sniffing up the salt smell. And you have made me so comfortable! How lovely those old elms are over the way! I could hardly get dressed, for looking at them. Do you draw?"
"I? O no!" cried Lois. "I have been to school, of course, but I have learned only common things. I do not know anything about drawing."
"Perhaps you will let me teach you?"
The colour flashed into the girl's cheeks; she made no answer at first, and then murmured, "You are very kind!"
"One must do something, you know," Mrs. Bar clay said. "I cannot let all your goodness make me idle. I am very fond of drawing, myself; it has whiled away many an hour for me. Besides, it enables one to keep a record of pretty and pleasant things, wherever one goes."
"We live among our pleasant things," said Lois; "but I should think that would be delightful for the people who travel."
"You will travel some day."
"No, there is no hope of that."
"You would like it, then?"
"O, who would not like it! I went with Mrs. Wishart to the Isles of Shoals last summer; and it was the first time I began to have a notion what a place the world is."
"And what a place do you think it is?"
"O, so wonderfully full of beautiful things—so full! so full!—and of such different beautiful things. I had only known Shampuashuh and the Sound and New York; and Appledore was like a new world." Lois spoke with a kind of inner fire, which sparkled in her eyes and gave accent to her words.
"What was the charm? I do not know Appledore," said Mrs. Barclay carelessly, but watching her.
"It is difficult to put some things in words. I seemed to be out of the world of everyday life, and surrounded by what was pure and fresh and powerful and beautiful—it all comes back to me now, when I think of the surf breaking on the rocks, and the lights and colours, and the feeling of the air."
"But how were the people? were they uncommon too? Part of one's impression is apt to come from the human side of the thing."
"Mine did not. The people of the Islands are queer, rough people, almost as strange as all the rest; but I saw more of some city people staying at the hotel; and they did not fit the place at all."
"They did not enjoy it. They did not seem to see what I saw, unless they were told of it; nor then either."
"Well, you must come in and let me teach you to draw," said Mrs. Barclay. "I shall want to feel that I have some occupation, or I shall not be happy. Perhaps your sister will come too."
"Madge? O, thank you! how kind of you! I do not know whether Madge ever thought of such a thing."
"You are the man of business of the house. What is she?"
"Madge is the dairywoman, and the sempstress. But we all do that."
"You are fond of reading? I have brought a few books with me, which I hope you will use freely. I shall unpack them by and by."
"That will be delightful," Lois said, with a bright expression of pleasure. "We have not subscribed to the library, because we felt we could hardly spare the money."
They were called to breakfast; and Mrs. Barclay studied again with fresh interest all the family group. No want of capacity and receptive readiness, she was sure; nor of active energy. Sense, and self-reliance, and independence, and quick intelligence, were to be read in the face and manner of each one; good ground to work upon. Still Mrs. Barclay privately shook her head at her task.
"Miss Madge," she said suddenly, "I have been proposing to teach your sister to draw. Would you like to join her?"
Madge seemed too much astonished to answer immediately. Charity spoke up and asked, "To draw what?"
"Anything she likes. Pretty things, and places."
"I don't see what's the use. When you've got a pretty thing, what should you draw it for?"
"Suppose you have not got it."
"Then you can't draw it," said Charity.
"O Charity, you don't understand," cried Lois. "If I had known how to draw, I could have brought you home pictures of the Isles of Shoals last summer."
"They wouldn't have been like."
Lois laughed, and Mrs. Barclay remarked, that was rather begging the question.
"What question?" said Charity.
"I mean, you are assuming a thing without evidence."
"It don't need evidence," said Charity. "I never saw a picture yet that was worth a red cent. It's only a make-believe."
"Then you will not join our drawing class, Miss Charity?"
"No; and I should think Madge had better stick to her sewing. There's plenty to do."
"Duty comes first," said the old lady; "and I shouldn't think duty would leave much time for making marks on paper."
The first thing Mrs. Barclay did after breakfast was to unpack some of her books and get out her writing box; and then the impulse seized her to write to Mr. Dillwyn.
"I had meant to wait," she wrote him, "and not say anything to you until I had had more time for observation; but I have seen so much already that my head is in an excited state, and I feel I must relieve myself by talking to you. Which of these ladies is the one? Is it the black-haired beauty, with her white forehead and clean-cut features? she is very handsome! But the other, I confess, is my favourite; she is less handsome, but more lovely. Yes, she is lovely; and both of them have capacity and cleverness. But, Philip, they belong to the strictly religious sort; I see that; the old grandmother is a regular Puritan, and the girls follow her lead; and I am in a confused state of mind thinking what can ever be the end of it all. Whatever would you do with such a wife, Philip Dillwyn? You are not a bad sort of man at all; at least you know I think well of you; but you are not a Puritan, and this little girl is. I do not mean to say anything against her; only, you want me to make a woman of the world out of the girl—and I doubt much whether I shall be able. There is strength in the whole family; it is a characteristic of them; a capital trait, of course, but in certain cases interfering with any effort to mould or bend the material to which it belongs. What would you do, Philip, with a wife who would disapprove of worldly pleasures, and refuse to take part in worldly plans, and insist on bringing all questions to the bar of the Bible? I have indeed heard no distinctively religious conversation here yet; but I cannot be mistaken; I see what they are; I know what they will say when they open their lips. I feel as if I were a swindler, taking your money on false pretences; setting about an enterprise which may succeed, possibly, but would succeed little to your advantage. Think better of it and give it up! I am unselfish in saying that; for the people please me. Life in their house, I can fancy, might be very agreeable to me; but I am not seeking to marry them, and so there is no violent forcing of incongruities into union and fellowship. Phil, you cannot marry a Puritan."
How Mrs. Barclay was to initiate a system of higher education in this farmhouse, she did not clearly see. Drawing was a simple thing enough; but how was she to propose teaching languages, or suggest algebra, or insist upon history? She must wait, and feel her way; and in the meantime she scattered books about her room, books chosen with some care, to act as baits; hoping so by and by to catch her fish. Meanwhile she made herself very agreeable in the family; and that without any particular exertion, which she rightly judged would hinder and not help her object.
"Isn't she pleasant?" said Lois one evening, when the family were alone.
"She's elegant!" said Madge.
"She has plenty to say for herself," added Charity.
"But she don't look like a happy woman, Lois," Madge went on. "Her face is regularly sad, when she ain't talking."
"But it's sweet when she is."
"I'll tell you what, girls," said Charity,—"she's a real proud woman."
"O Charity! nothing of the sort," cried Lois. "She is as kind as she can be."
"Who said she wasn't? I said she was proud, and she is. She's a right, for all I know; she ain't like our Shampuashuh people."
"She is a lady," said Lois.
"What do you mean by that, Lois?" Madge fired up. "You don't mean, I hope, that the rest of us are not ladies, do you?"
"Not like her."
"Well, why should we be like her?"
"Because her ways are so beautiful. I should be glad to be like her. She is just what you called her—elegant."
"Everybody has their own ways," said Madge.
"I hope none of you will be like her," said Mrs. Armadale gravely; "for she's a woman of the world, and knows the world's ways, and she knows nothin' else, poor thing!"
"But, grandmother," Lois put in, "some of the world's ways are good."
"Be they?" said the old lady. "I don' know which of 'em."
"Well, grandmother, this way of beautiful manners. They don't all have it—I don't mean that—but some of them do. They seem to know exactly how to behave to everybody, and always what to do or to say; and you can see Mrs. Barclay is one of those. And I like those people. There is a charm about them."
"Don't you always know what's right to do or say, with the Bible before you?"
"O grandmother, but I mean in little things; little words and ways, and tones of voice even. It isn't like Shampuashuh people."
"Well, we're Shampuashuh folks," said Charity. "I hope you won't set up for nothin' else, Lois. I guess your head got turned a bit, with goin' round the world. But I wish I knew what makes her look so sober!"
"She has lost her husband."
"Other folks have lost their husbands, and a good many of 'em have found another. Don't be ridiculous, Lois!"
The first bait that took, in the shape of books, was Scott's "Lady of the Lake." Lois opened it one day, was caught, begged to be allowed to read it; and from that time had it in her hand whenever her hand was free to hold it. She read it aloud, sometimes, to her grandmother, who listened with a half shake of her head, but allowed it was pretty. Charity was less easy to bribe with sweet sounds.
"What on earth is the use of that?" she demanded one day, when she had stood still for ten minutes in her way through the room, to hear the account of Fitz James's adventure in the wood with Roderick Dhu.
"Don't you like it?" said Lois.
"Don't make head or tail of it. And there sits Madge with her mouth open, as if it was something to eat; and Lois's cheeks are as pink as if she expected the people to step out and walk in. Mother, do you like all that stuff?"
"It is poetry, Charity," cried Lois.
"What's the use o' poetry? can you tell me? It seems to me nonsense for a man to write in that way. If he has got something to say, why don't he say it, and be done with it?"
"He does say it, in a most beautiful way."
"It'd be a queer way of doing business!"
"It is not business," said Lois, laughing. "Charity, will you not understand? It is poetry."
"What is poetry?"
But alas! Charity had asked what nobody could answer, and she had the field in triumph.
"It is just a jingle-jangle, and what I call nonsense. Mother, ain't that what you would say is a waste of time?"
"I don't know, my dear," said Mrs. Armadale doubtfully, applying her knitting needle to the back of her ear.
"It isn't nonsense; it is delightful!" said Madge indignantly.
"You want me to go on, grandmother, don't you?" said Lois. "We want to know about the fight, when the two get to Coilantogle ford."
And as she was not forbidden, she went on; while Charity got the spice-box she had come for, and left the room superior.
The "Lady of the Lake" was read through. Mrs. Barclay had hoped to draw on some historical inquiries by means of it; but before she could find a chance, Lois took up Greville's Memoirs. This she read to herself; and not many pages, before she came with the book and a puzzled face to Mrs. Barclay's room. Mrs. Barclay was, we may say, a fisher lying in wait for a bite; now she saw she had got one; the thing was to haul in the line warily and skilfully. She broke up a piece of coal on the fire, and gave her visitor an easy-chair.
"Sit there, my dear. I am very glad of your company. What have you in your hand? Greville?"
"Yes. I want to ask you about some things. Am I not disturbing you?"
"Most agreeably. I can have nothing better to do than to talk with you. What is the question?"
"There are several questions. It seems to me a very strange book!"
"Perhaps it is. But why do you say so?"
"Perhaps I should rather say that the people are strange. Is this what the highest society in England is like?"
"In what particulars, do you mean?"
"Why, I think Shampuashuh is better. I am sure Shampuashuh would be ashamed of such doings."
"What are you thinking of?" Mrs. Barclay asked, carefully repressing a smile.
"Why, here are people with every advantage, with money and with education, and with the power of place and rank,—living for nothing but mere amusement, and very poor amusement too."
"The conversations alluded to were very often not poor amusement. Some of the society were very brilliant and very experienced men."
"But they did nothing with their lives."
"How does that appear?"
"Here, at the Duke of York's," said Lois, turning over her leaves;—"they sat up till four in the morning playing whist; and on Sunday they amused themselves shooting pistols and eating fruit in the garden, and playing with the monkeys! That is like children."
"My dear, half the world do nothing with their lives, as you phrase it."
"But they ought. And you expect it of people in high places, and having all sorts of advantages."
"You expect, then, what you do not find."
"And is all of what is called the great world, no better than that?"
"Some of it is better." (O Philip, Philip, where are you? thought Mrs. Barclay.) "They do not all play whist all night. But you know, Lois, people come together to be amused; and it is not everybody that can talk, or act, sensibly for a long stretch."
"How can they play cards all night?"
"Whist is very ensnaring. And the little excitement of stakes draws people on."
"Stakes?" said Lois inquiringly.
"Sums staked on the game."
"Oh! But that is worse than foolish."
"It is to keep the game from growing tiresome. Do you see any harm in it?"
"Why, that's gambling."
"In a small way."
"Is it always in a small way?"
"People do not generally play very high at whist."
"It is all the same thing," said Lois. "People begin with a little, and then a little will not satisfy them."
"True; but one must take the world as one finds it."
"Is the New York world like this?" said Lois, after a moment's pause.
"No! Not in the coarseness you find Mr. Greville tells of. In the matter of pleasure-seeking, I am afraid times and places are much alike. Those who live for pleasure, are driven to seek it in all manner of ways. The ways sometimes vary; the principle does not."
"And do all the men gamble?"
"No. Many do not touch cards. My friend, Mr. Dillwyn, for example."
"Mr. Dillwyn? Do you know him?"
"Very well. He was a dear friend of my husband, and has been a faithful friend to me. Do you know him?"
"A little. I have seen him."
"You must not expect too much from the world, my dear."
"According to what you say, one must not expect anything from it."
"That is too severe."
"No," said Lois. "What is there to admire or respect in a person who lives only for pleasure?"
"Sometimes there are fine qualities, and brilliant parts, and noble powers."
"Ah, that makes it only worse!" cried Lois. "Fine qualities, and brilliant parts, and noble powers, all used for nothing! That is miserable; and when there is so much to do in the world, too!"
"Of what kind?" asked Mrs. Barclay, curious to know her companion's course of thought.
"What sort of help?"
"Almost all sorts," said Lois. "You must know even better than I. Don't you see a great many people in New York that are in want of some sort of help?"
"Yes; but it is not always easy to give, even where the need is greatest. People's troubles come largely from their follies."
"Or from other people's follies."
"That is true. But how would you help, Lois?"
"Where there's a will, there's a way, Mrs. Barclay."
"You are thinking of help to the poor? There is a great deal of that done."
"I am thinking of poverty, and sickness, and weakness, and ignorance, and injustice. And a grand man could do a great deal. But not if he lived like the creatures in this book. I never saw such a book."
"But we must take men as we find them; and most men are busy seeking their own happiness. You cannot blame them for that. It is human nature."
"I blame them for seeking it so. And it is not happiness that people play whist for, till four o'clock in the morning."
"Forgetfulness, I should think; distraction; because they do not know anything about happiness."
"Who does?" said Mrs. Barclay sadly.
Lois was silent, not because she had not something to say, but because she was not certain how best to say it. There was no doubt in her sweet face, rather a grave assurance which stimulated Mrs. Barclay's curiosity.
"We must take people as we find them," she repeated. "You cannot expect men who live for pleasure to give up their search for the sake of other people's pleasure."
"Yet that is the way,—which they miss," said Lois.
"The way to what?"
"To real enjoyment. To life that is worth living."
"What would you have them do?"
"Only what the Bible says."
"I do not believe I know the Bible as well as you do. Of what directions are you thinking? 'The poor ye have always with you'?"
"Not that," said Lois. "Let me get my Bible, and I will tell you.—This, Mrs. Barclay—'To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke..... To deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house; when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh'....."
"And do you think, to live right, one must live so?"
"It is the Bible!" said Lois, with so innocent a look of having answered all questions, that Mrs. Barclay was near smiling.
"Do you think anybody ever did live so?"
"Did he! I forget."
Lois turned over some leaves, and again read—"'When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.... I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause that I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.'"
"To be a father to the poor, in these days, would give a man enough to do, certainly; especially if he searched out all the causes which were doubtful. It would take all a man's time, and all his money too, if he were as rich as Job;—unless you put some limit, Lois."
"What limit, Mrs. Barclay?"
"Do you put none? I was not long ago speaking with a friend, such a man of parts and powers as was mentioned just now; a man who thus far in his life has done nothing but for his own cultivation and amusement. I was urging upon him to do something with himself; but I did not tell him what. It did not occur to me to set him about righting ail the wrongs of the world."
"Is he a Christian?"
"I am afraid you would not say so."
"Then he could not. One must love other people, to live for them."
"Love all sorts?" said Mrs. Barclay.
"You cannot work for them unless you do."
"Then it is hopeless!—unless one is born with an exceptional mind."
"O no," said Lois, smiling, "not hopeless. The love of Christ brings the love of all that he loves."
There was a glow and a sparkle, and a tenderness too, in the girl's face, which made Mrs. Barclay look at her in a somewhat puzzled admiration. She did not understand Lois's words, and she saw that her face was a commentary upon them; therefore also unintelligible; but it was strangely pure and fair. "You would do for Philip, I do believe," she thought, "if he could get you; but he will never get you." Aloud she said nothing. By and by Lois returned to the book she had brought in with her.
"Here are some words which I cannot read; they are not English. What are they?"
Mrs. Barclay read: "Le bon gout, les ris, l'aimable liberte. That is French."
"What does it mean?"
"Good taste, laughter, and charming liberty. You do not know French?"
"O no," said Lois, with a sort of breath of longing. "French words come in quite often here, and I am always so curious to know what they mean."
"Very well, why not learn? I will teach you."
"O, Mrs. Barclay!"—
"It will give me the greatest pleasure. And it is very easy."
"O, I do not care about that," said Lois; "but I would be so glad to know a little more than I do."
"You seem to me to have thought a good deal more than most girls of your age; and thought is better than knowledge."
"Ah, but one needs knowledge in order to think justly."
"An excellent remark! which—if you will for give me—I was making to myself a few minutes ago."
"A few minutes ago? About what I said? O, but there I have knowledge," said Lois, smiling.
"You are sure of that?"
"Yes," said Lois, gravely now. "The Bible cannot be mistaken, Mrs. Barclay."
"But your application of it?"
"How can that be mistaken? The words are plain."
"Pardon me. I was only venturing to think that you could have seen little, here in Shampuashuh, of the miseries of the world, and so know little of the difficulty of getting rid of them, or of ministering to them effectually."
"Not much," Lois agreed. "Yet I have seen so much done by people without means—I thought, those who have means might do more."
"What have you seen? Do tell me. Here I am ignorant; except in so far as I know what some large societies accomplish, and fail to accomplish."
"I have not seen much," Lois repeated. "But I know one person, a farmer's wife, no better off than a great many people here, who has brought up and educated a dozen girls who were friendless and poor."
"A dozen girls!" Mrs. Barclay echoed.
"I think there have been thirteen. She had no children of her own; she was comfortably well off; and she took these girls, one after another, sometimes two or three together; and taught them and trained them, and fed and clothed them, and sent them to school; and kept them with her until one by one they married off. They all turned out well."
"I am dumb!" said Mrs. Barclay. "Giving money is one thing; I can understand that; but taking strangers' children into one's house and home life—and a dozen strangers' children!"
"I know another woman, not so well off, who does her own work, as most do here; who goes to nurse any one she hears of that is sick and cannot afford to get help. She will sit up all night taking care of somebody, and then at break of the morning go home to make her own fire and get her own family's breakfast."
"But that is superb!" cried Mrs. Barclay.
"And my father," Lois went on, with a lowered voice,—"he was not very well off, but he used to keep a certain little sum for lending; to lend to anybody that might be in great need; and generally, as soon as one person paid it back another person was in want of it."
"Was it always paid back?"
"Always; except, I think, at two times. Once the man died before he could repay it. The other time it was lent to a woman, a widow; and she married again, and between the man and the woman my father never could get his money. But it was made up to him another way. He lost nothing."
"You have been in a different school from mine, Lois," said Mrs. Barclay. "I am filled with admiration."
"You see," Lois went on, "I thought, if with no money or opportunity to speak of, one can do so much, what might be done if one had the power and the will too?"
"But in my small experience it is by no means the rule, that money lent is honestly paid back again."
"Ah," said Lois, with an irradiating smile, "but this money was lent to the Lord; I suppose that makes the difference."
"And are you bound to think well of no man but one who lives after this exalted fashion? How will you ever get married, Lois?"
"I should not like to be married to this Duke of York the book tells of; nor to the writer of the book," Lois said, smiling.
"That Duke of York was brother to the King of England."
"The King was worse yet! He was not even respectable."
"I believe you are right. Come—let us begin our French lessons."
With shy delight, Lois came near and followed with most eager attention the instructions of her friend. Mrs. Barclay fetched a volume of Florian's "Easy Writing"; and to the end of her life Lois will never forget the opening sentences in which she made her first essay at French pronunciation, and received her first knowledge of what French words mean. "Non loin de la ville de Cures, dans le pays des Sabins, au milieu d'une antique foret, s'eleve un temple consacre a Ceres." So it began; and the words had a truly witching interest for Lois.. But while she delightedly forgot all she had been talking about, Mrs. Barclay, not delightedly, recalled and went over it. Philip, Philip! your case is dark! she was saying. And what am I about, trying to help you!
There came a charming new life into the house of the Lothrops. Madge and Lois were learning to draw, and Lois was prosecuting her French studies with a zeal which promised to carry all before it. Every minute of her time was used; every opportunity was grasped; "Numa Pompilius" and the dictionary were in her hands whenever her hands were free; or Lois was bending over her drawing with an intent eye and eager fingers. Madge kept her company in these new pursuits, perhaps with less engrossing interest; nevertheless with steady purpose and steady progress. Then Mrs. Barclay received from New York a consignment of beautiful drawings and engravings from the best old masters, and some of the best of the new; and she found her hands becoming very full. To look at these engravings was almost a passion with the two girls; but not in the common way of picture-seeing. Lois wanted to understand everything; and it was necessary, therefore, to go into wide fields of knowledge, where the paths branched many ways, and to follow these various tracks out, one after another. This could not be done all in talking; and Lois plunged into a very sea of reading. Mrs. Barclay was not obliged to restrain her, for the girl was thorough and methodical in her ways of study, as of doing other things; however, she would carry on two or three lines of reading at once. Mrs. Barclay wrote to her unknown correspondent, "Send me 'Sismondi';" "send me Hallam's 'Middle Ages';" "send me 'Walks about Kome';" "send me 'Plutarch's Lives';" "send me D'Aubigne's 'Reformation';" at last she wrote, "Send me Ruskin's 'Modern Painters'." "I have the most enormous intellectual appetite to feed that ever I had to do with in my life. And yet no danger of an indigestion. Positively, Philip, my task is growing from day to day delightful; it is only when I think of the end and aim of it all that I get feverish and uneasy. At present we are going with 'a full sail and a flowing sea'; a regular sweeping into knowledge, with a smooth, easy, swift occupying and taking possession, which gives the looker-on a stir of wondering admiration. Those engravings were a great success; they opened for me, and at once, doors before which I might have waited some time; and now, eyes are exploring eagerly the vast realms those doors unclose, and hesitating only in which first to set foot. You may send the 'Stones of Venice' too; I foresee that it will be useful; and the 'Seven Lamps of Architecture.' I am catching my breath, with the swiftness of the way we go on. It is astonishing, what all clustered round a view of Milan Cathedral yesterday. By the way, Philip,—no hurry,—but by and by a stereoscope would be a good thing here. Let it be a little hand-glass, not a great instrument of unvarying routine and magnificent sameness."
Books came by packages and packages. Such books! The eyes of the two girls gloated over them, as they helped Mrs. Barclay unpack; the room grew full, with delightful disorder of riches; but none too much, for they began to feel their minds so empty that no amount of provision could be too generous.
"The room is getting to be running-over full. What will you do, Mrs. Barclay?"
"It is terrible when you have to sweep the carpet, isn't it? I must send for some book cases."
"You might let Mr. Midgin put up some—shelves I could stain them, and make them look very nice."
"Who is Mr. Midgin?"
"Oh! Well.—I think we had better send for him, Lois."
The door stood open into the kitchen, or dining-room rather, on account of the packing-cases which the girls were just moving out; then appeared the figure of Mrs. Marx in the opening.
"Lois, Charity ain't at home—How much beef are you goin' to want?"
"Beef?" said Lois, smiling at the transition in her thoughts.—"For salting, you mean?"
"For salting, and for smoking, and for mince-meat, and for pickling. What is the girl thinking of?"
"She is thinking of books just now, Mrs. Marx," suggested Mrs. Barclay.
"Books!" The lady stepped nearer and looked in. "Well, I declare! I should think you had some. What in all the world can you do with so many?"
"Just what we were considering. I think we must have the carpenter here, to put up some shelves."
"Well I should say that was plain. But when you have got 'em on the shelves, what next? What will you do with 'em then?"
"Take 'em down and read them, aunt Anne."
"Your life ain't as busy as mine, then, if you have time for all that. What's the good o' readin' so much?"
"There's so much to know, that we don't know!"
"I should like to know what,"—said Mrs. Marx, going round and picking up one book after another. "You've been to school, haven't you?"
Lois changed her tone.
"I'll talk to Charity about the beef, and let you know, aunt Anne."
"Well, come out to the other room and let me talk to you! Good afternoon, ma'am—I hope you don't let these girls make you too much worry.—Now, Lois" (after the door was shut between them and Mrs. Barclay), "I just want you to tell me what you and Madge are about?"
Lois told her, and Mrs. Marx listened with a judicial air; then observed gravely,
"'Seems to me, there ain't much sense in all that, Lois."
"O, yes, aunt Anne! there is."
"What's the use? What do you want to know more tongues than your own for, to begin with? you can't talk but in one at once. And spending your time in making marks on paper! I believe in girls goin' to school, and gettin' all they can there; but when school is done, then they have something else to see to. I'd rather have you raakin' quilts and gettin' ready to be married; dom' women's work."
"I do my work," said Lois gaily.
"Child, your head's gettin' turned. Mother, do you know the way Madge and Lois are goin' on?"
"I don't understand it," said Mrs. Armadale.
"I understand it. And I'll tell you. I like learning,—nobody better; but I want things kept in their places. And I tell you, if this is let to go on, it'll be like Jack's bean vine, and not stop at the top of the house; and they'll be like Jack, and go after to see, and never come back to common ground any more."