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A daughter of Jehu written by Laura E. Richards who was an American writer. This book was published in 1918. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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A daughter of Jehu
Laura E. Richards
CHAPTER I. cyrus
CHAPTER II. enter kitty
CHAPTER III. ross house
CHAPTER IV. the home guard
CHAPTER V. the neighbors
CHAPTER VI. johanna ex machina
CHAPTER VII. a symposium
CHAPTER VIII. the trivial round
CHAPTER IX. the skeleton in cyrus' cupboard
CHAPTER X. the party
CHAPTER XI. on the rialto
CHAPTER XII. wilson wimberley wibird
CHAPTER XIII. pilot
CHAPTER XIV. johanna rediviva
CHAPTER XV. largely literary
CHAPTER XVI. psycho-cardiac processes
CHAPTER XVII. kitty sings
CHAPTER XVIII. old love and new
CHAPTER XIX. "the trivial round"
CHAPTER XX. the pan-american
CHAPTER XXI. the tribulations of cyrus
CHAPTER XXII. the duke of lee
CHAPTER XXIII. haste to the wedding!
"A daughter of Jehu, for behold she driveth furiously."
HENRIETTE AND MOLLY
WITH MUCH LOVE
The June sun, lighting up the yard of the big white house, lights up a pretty scene. To begin with, the yard is pretty in itself, with its stretch of emerald lawn, its trim gravel sweep, its linden tree, in which the bees are humming, its fragrant masses of purple lilac; but though one feels all these things, one looks at the people in the yard. Two ladies, in light summer dresses, sitting on the steps by the kitchen door; two children, riding a pony by turns, shrieking with glee. Both ladies are good to look at: one, she in the pale green muslin, is so lovely that it takes one's breath; like a dark lily, with her pale clear skin, her shadowy hair and eyes, her bending grace and languor. The other contrasts with her prettily enough: a tall, powerful young creature, vigor in every line of her, color flashing in her red-gold hair, in her dark blue eyes, in the shell-pink of her cheeks. She is in white, as befits her; this type should wear white always. A white dimity gown, made with absolute simplicity, this again contrasting with the green muslin, which is flounced and ruffled and lace-trimmed, as if the lily had clad herself in fronds of the lady fern. The two are talking earnestly together, their eyes on the shouting children.
"No, Eleanor! No! You are wrong. Kitty shall know nothing, if I can help it, but what is lovely. Think of St. Paul: 'Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.' My Kitty shall think on these things, and on nothing else."
"Very well, my dear! But that will never do for my Tom. He must worship the God of things as they are. The public school for Tommy, the very minute he strikes six! He must rub shoulders with the ashman's children, the washerwoman's, the——"
"Eleanor! Kitty shall never know that the washerwoman has any children! She shall not touch, if I can help it, anything that is rude or squalid or ugly. No, no! My little flower shall be 'a gentlewoman of high quality'! And she shall marry the Duke of Lee, and go to the King's levee, or at least to the President's. I don't dare to say, you fierce republican, that I wish we had a King! Come here, Kitty my Pretty, and dance the 'Duke of Lee' with Tommy! He shall be the duke—you'd love to be a duke, wouldn't you, Tommy? See! Now Kitty is a gentlewoman of high quality, and she picks up her petticoats—pick them up, Kitty!—and you make a low bow, so! Left hand on your heart, Tom, right hand on your sword—so! Now dance, while I sing!"
The boy is perhaps eight years old, the girl six. Here, too, is contrast; Tommy Lee, a sturdy, square-shouldered, rosy urchin, Kitty Ross a slender windflower of a child, with all her mother's lissome grace, but with the fair hair and steady gray eyes of her father. They are both on the pony digging their heels into his side and shouting to him to "Go on! go won, Rosy Nanty!" Rosinante meanwhile, standing firm, revolving in his mind whether to rub them off gently against the fence, or to lie down and make believe go to sleep. They are his second generation of children; he knows all about them.
At the call, they slide down and come running. Everybody does what Mary Ross bids. Readily enough they take place opposite each other: they often dance together. Tom is a bit clumsy, but Kitty has grace enough for two, her mother thinks; indeed, so does Tom's mother. Now Mary Ross, leaning forward, claps her hands, and begins to sing:
"When the Duke of Lee would marriéd be
To a gentlewoman of high quality,
How happy would that gentlewoman be
When she's blest with the duke's good company!
Marry oo diddy glu, diddy glu glu glu,
Diddy oo oo oo, diddy goo goo goo,
Marry oo diddy goo, diddy oo oo oo,
Marry oo, diddy glu, diddy glu!
"And she shall have silks and satins for to wear;
And a coach and six for to take the air;
And she shall ride in St. James's Square;
And no lady in the city shall with her compare!
Marry oo, etc.
"And she shall go to the king's levee,
And dance a minuet with his majestie;
And she shall the very finest be
Of all the great nobility!
Marry oo," etc.1
1 Republished by permission of The Page Company from "The Wooing of Calvin Parks" and "Up to Calvin's," by Laura E. Richards. Copyright, 1908 and 1910, respectively, by The Page Company.
"Oh! Eleanor, aren't they darlings? Aren't they darlings? They simply are the Duke and the Gentlewoman! What if—oh, Eleanor, dear!"
The little creatures dance sedately, tiptoeing here, pirouetting there. The young mothers clap their hands in time to the quaint, old-world tune. The pony stamps and whinnies, rather vexed at being left out of the fun after all. The June sun, shining through the linden branches, thinks, perhaps, that he has seen nothing prettier that day, nor for many days.
Dance, little Duke! Dance, fairy Duchess! Sing and clap your hands, sweet, dark lily-lady! It is June, in the world and in your hearts; dance and sing while yet you may!
To understand this story, you must know something of the topography of Cyrus, which is like no other town in the State. (But every town says that of itself!)
In the middle is the Common; square, green, with intersecting gravel paths, each with its marshaled rows of maples, which in summer are just trees, but in autumn turn to bowers and towers of scarlet and gold. On one side of the Common are the Churches, Congregational and Baptist; on two others the Houses, whereof anon; the fourth side, that fronting west, is mostly occupied by the Mallow House, where Mr. Marshall Mallow reigns as king and landlord. Under the hill runs the Street proper, where are the "stores": Abram Hanks's, where you may buy everything from pins to poplin, from buttons to bonnet wire; the general store, kept by Orison and Aquila Wesley—peace to their memory! they are gone now, but one never forgets the large sign which gave their names in full, black on white, spelled over in wonder by generations of children; the "bookstore"—how proud we were of having a bookstore! Tinkham had none, nor Tupham. There were not many books in it, it is true; a selection of fifty-cent novels, chosen (it was always supposed) by Miss Almeria Bygood for their "tone." Parents were perfectly safe in buying a book for their children at Bygood's; "Bygones," Cissy Sharpe called them; some of the novels, the shopworn ones, were let out at two cents a day. My first novel, "John Halifax," came from Bygood's; I read "St. Elmo," too, and "Queechy," and learned from the latter that a heroine may weep on every page of two hundred and be none the worse for it. Mr. Bygood was very old even when I first remember him. He sat mostly in the back shop, reading the Farmers' Almanac; a venerable figure in a black frock coat with a high dickey. His blue eyes were full of kindness. If a child of his acquaintance (and what child was not?) came in to buy a paper or get a library book, he would utter a gentle bellow. Then Miss Almeria or Miss Egeria would give one a little push and say, "Go on, dear! Father wants to pass the time of day with you!"
One was not clear in one's mind as to what passing the time of day meant, but one went, and shook hands with Mr. Bygood—rather dreadful, this, because his hand shook, and the joints had chalk swellings—and said one was very well, thank you, and so was Father, and so was Mother. Then Mr. Bygood would say, "Do you mind your book, my dear? Always mind your book! Remember Goody Twoshoes!" The first part of this address was also puzzling, for to "mind" meant, in our vocabulary, A, to obey, as one's parents and elders, B, to dislike, as spiders and large, smooth green caterpillars. (We were told that they were Beautiful Works of Nature, but we knew better!) However, when we came to Goody Twoshoes, we were on safe ground, and could say heartily and sincerely, "Please show me, Mr. Bygood!"
Then Mr. Bygood's mild blue eyes would brighten, and he would open a queer old desk and take out a queer little old book—very old, for he had had it when he was a little boy, he said—only one could hardly think printing was invented then!—and read aloud in his high quavering voice the immortal tale of the little school mistress.
"Nothing could have supported little Margery under the affliction she was in for the loss of her brother but the pleasure she took in her two shoes. She ran to Mrs. Smith as soon as they were put on, and stroking down her ragged apron, cried out: 'Two Shoes, Ma'am; see Two Shoes!' And so she behaved to all the people she met, and by that means obtained the name of Little Goody Twoshoes."
This was for little girls. Mr. Bygood did not care much for boys as a rule; but when Tom Lee came in he always produced "Marmaduke Multiply," which was even older than Goody Twoshoes, and read to him from that. Dear Mr. Bygood! How kind he was! He had peppermints, too, sometimes, but I fear we were not always grateful for these: they were apt to be fuzzy, from carrying in his blue cotton handkerchief; and besides, was not Cheeseman's next door? But we have not come to Cheeseman's yet.
Miss Almeria and Miss Egeria kept the shop, sold the daily paper (that came from Tinkham; Tinkham was larger, we had to admit that, though otherwise—well, no matter!) and the Cyrus Centinel, our own weekly; besides pens and paper and the above-described books. They were dear ladies, Miss Almeria and Miss Egeria: we loved them both, and much of the romance of old-time Cyrus—long before our own time, Kitty Ross's and mine—clustered about them. Miss Almeria was tall and handsome, with jet-black hair and eyes of brilliant Irish blue. She had a fine figure and great dignity, yet her laugh was as merry as Kitty's own. Apparently, half Cyrus had wanted to marry Miss Almeria: it was matter of common knowledge that Mr. Mallow had asked her five times, and Mr. Jordano three. Hannah Sullivan, who did our chores and waited at our parties, was a warm partisan of Mr. Mallow's, and could never meet Miss Almeria without crying, "He'll die but he'll have ye!" Mr. Mallow did not look as if he would die, but one never could tell.
Miss Egeria was gentle and quiet, a still brook where her sister was a flashing rapid. She had her father's mild eyes and kind, hesitating way. She never seemed quite sure of anything, dear Miss Egeria, but would always appeal to her sister. "I wouldn't wonder but it rained to-morrow, would you, Almy?" And if Miss Almeria said crisply, "Nonsense, Gerie! there isn't a cloud in the sky," Miss Egeria would nod her curls with a gentle, "I wouldn't wonder if 'twas pleasant, after all!"
Miss Egeria, if not such a belle as Miss Almeria, had yet had her admirers. We all knew that the two gentlemen disrespectfully known as "Twinnies" had loved Miss Egeria and her alone, the greater part of their meek lives. They were not twins, not even brothers; but cousins and closest friends, Mr. Jason and Mr. Josiah Jebus. They kept the Crewel Shop: it had been opened under that name during the last craze for crewel work in the seventies, and had never changed. As Mr. Jason said, if they changed with every turn of fashion in fancy work, where would they be?
"Why not call it the Fancy Shop once for all, and stick to that?" Kitty Ross asked him once; but Mr. Jason shook his head. "That would sound frivolous, Katharine!" he said. "Josiah and I are not frivolous!"
They were not. They carried on their funny little business with a gravity and decorum that was all their own. Mr. Jason, as a rule, did the selling, matched the worsteds and yarns, advised the selection of patterns. Mr. Josiah embroidered. He had a club foot, and walked very lame, but his fingers were wonderfully nimble; we loved to watch him, as seated at his embroidery frame, half hidden by the green rep curtain which divided the front shop from the back (the latter was their living room), he sent his needle flying back and forth with what seemed to us miraculous speed.
The Crewel Shop was a tiny building, tucked in between Adams's and the Mallow House. A minute kitchen behind the back-shop-sitting-room, a bedroom above:—that was all, but it was enough for the little gentlemen. They never wanted to lose sight of each other; they had only one opinion between them on any subject. In this they differed from the Miss Bygoods. They did not appeal to each other; they simply said, "We think it will rain to-morrow." This was carried so far that one or the other might be heard, in "grippy" weather, to say, "We have a cold!" and Cissy Sharpe insisted—but one did not always believe Cissy implicitly—that that she had seen Mr. Jason on several occasions try to walk lame like Mr. Josiah.
This being so, it was no more than natural that both gentlemen should have loved the same lady. Our theory (a knot of school girls gossiping over their noonday buns and pickled limes, we had a theory to fit everything in town) was that they had never told their love, for fear of interfering with each other. If this was true, it might have been hard on Miss Egeria, supposing her to have cared for either; but we somehow doubted if she ever had. They were so very mild, and their wigs (exactly alike, and dressed every month by Mr. Beard the barber—so appropriately named, we thought!) were such a peculiar shade of pinkish brown, and so palpably made of jute!
My mother, who detested gossip, put an end one fine day to all our romancing about still-remaining possibilities for "Miss Bygoods" by telling us the simple truth; that the dear ladies had both lost their lovers in the Civil War, and had never thought of matrimony since. She added that Kitty and I were a pair of silly girls, and would much better study our algebra lesson than gossip about people who presumably knew their own affairs; Kitty and I went off with hanging heads, but more imbued than ever with sentimental melancholy.
We couldn't help it, we agreed: Cyrus certainly was a romantic place. There were so many interesting people; so many curious names! Mr. Very Jordano! How could a man be named Very Jordano and not be romantic? His mother was a Miss Very, but his father was—must be—of Italian descent. Look at Mr. Jordano's hair, and eyes, and the way he wore that picturesque cloak, such as no one else in Cyrus would ever think of wearing. Mr. Jordano had no objection to our looking at his hair and eyes and cloak: his Italian aspect was his joy and pride, and he cultivated it sedulously. "A poor scribbler!" he was wont to say of himself. "A poor country editor, sir; but in my veins flows the blood of—h'm! ha! nimporto!" and then he would glance over his shoulder mysteriously, as if to see whether he was being followed, and curl his long mustache, and hum "Santa Lucia" as fiercely as that plaintive air can be hummed. He edited the Centinel, as I have said, and signed his own articles "Italio." When, as sometimes happened, his spelling of Centinel was criticized, he would say: "It is the spelling used by Sir Walter Scott, sir! What is good enough for the Wizard of the North is good enough for me—tee! tee!"
I have left Cheeseman's till the last, but it was first in our hearts and our thoughts. Mr. Ivory Cheeseman's candy shop and kitchen was the delight and the despair of every child in Cyrus. We knew to a nicety the day each kind of candy was made. Monday was peppermint day, Tuesday was devoted to caramels, Wednesday to sticks, Thursday to drops, and so on. We timed our visits accordingly, and I fear we were shameless little beggars, for though we clutched our legitimate "nickel" tight, prepared to surrender it when we had made our choice, we knew very well that if we were "pretty-behaved," Uncle Ivory would probably ask us to taste those lemon drops or to see if that batch of cream ribbon wasn't a little mite better than common. Dear Uncle Ivory! how we loved him, spite of the sharp tongue that was the terror of "slack" or unmannerly children!
But this will never do. I am wandering all about Cyrus, shaking hands with everybody—I wish I could!—as if I still lived there, as if this were my own story; whereas, it is the story of Kitty Ross, and it is high time that I brought her in properly, instead of letting her whisk round an occasional corner, as she has hitherto been doing.
The story begins with Kitty's return to Cyrus after her mother's death. Her father had died two years before. Mrs. Ross—the gay, lovely, flower-like little lady, who had never felt a rough wind while he lived—could not stay long after him. She and Kitty went abroad, and wandered about here and there. Then came the panic, and most of the comfortable property Dr. Ross had left was swept away, I am not clear just how. Very little was left, and much of that little was invested in western railroads that paid no dividends. I will hurry over this part. Mrs. Ross drooped like a broken flower; drooped and died, and Kitty was left alone.
If Tom Lee had been at home that year, this story would never have been written; but Tom was in China, building railways. So Kitty came back alone to Cyrus, where she was born and bred. Cyrus people are the kindest in the world, I believe. They may be fond of gossip (I don't find that a thousand miles away it is less popular) and they may be a trifle stiff-necked, like their Puritan ancestors before them, but kind they certainly are. Ever since the news of Mrs. Ross's death came, Cyrus had been asking, what would Kitty do? The money was gone, practically gone, Judge Peters said. There was enough for her clothes and fal-lals, but little more, sir, little more. Something must be thought of. Some—thing—must—be—thought—of. The judge looked and spoke cheerfully, because he had already thought of something. He was Dr. Ross's executor, and who had a better right, he would like to know?
The Miss Bygoods, talking together in low tones, while Father nodded over the fire, voiced the same sentiment. The dear child! they said. Of course she could not stay in that great house alone, even with Sarepta. Sarepta was good and faithful, of course, and an excellent cook, as everyone knew; but she was no companion for Kitty, even if her temper were not—well, uncertain.
"I think the little blue room, Sister!" said Miss Almeria. "There are bluebirds on the paper, you know, and Kitty always made me think of a bluebird. Dear me! How pleasant to think of having a young creature in the house again!"
"And oh, sister!" Miss Egeria beamed softly over her tatting. "We can give her a little Society! Nothing elaborate, of course, only ice-cream and sponge-drops, but—wandering about the Continent as she has been—not that I mean a word in criticism of dear, sainted Mrs. Ross; no, indeed! but to meet Cyrus people, and have a little social life, will mean a great deal to dear Kitty. I mean when she puts on half mourning, of course."
Miss Almeria pondered.
"I wish there were more young people!" she said. "There is no better society than that of Cyrus, but—but we must acknowledge that most of our agreeable people are—a—mature, and Kitty is so young!"
"There is Wilson Wibird;" Miss Egeria spoke timidly. "Wilson is young."
Miss Almeria looked grave.
"Wilson is young!" she acknowledged with a dignified bend of her handsome head. "I fear there is little more to be said in his favor." She paused. Wilson Wibird had been in Egeria's Sunday School class, and she could not bear to think ill of him. Why give pain? Thought Miss Almeria.
"I cannot think that Kitty would find him interesting!" she concluded.
Interesting, indeed! Miss Almeria had never heard Wilson Wibird shrieking from the gutter, "Ma! Ma! Kitty Ross knocked me down and trompled on me!"
"And there are the Chanters!" Miss Egeria spoke more confidently, as Miss Almeria's face lightened.
"Yes, there are the Chanters. They will be pleasant playmates for Kitty: they are young, and gay: I almost think—I fear—Zephine and Rodney may sometimes be a little too gay, sister, but perhaps not. Yes, the Chanters will certainly be a resource; still, my dear, we must acknowledge that there have been great changes in Cyrus. It is not what it was in our youth."
And Miss Egeria did acknowledge it meekly.
Mr. Marshall Mallow, at the Mallow House, made a careful examination of his rooms about this time; studying wall-papers, carpets and decorations, with meticulous care. One room, he decided, a pleasant corner room, facing south and west, could do with a new paper, and one or two nice "edgin's." "I don't care for these chromios," he said to Billy. (Billy was his clerk: if he had another name, I never knew it.) "They're too glarish. Give me a good edgin' or engravement!"
Mr. Mallow's English was all his own, but nobody minded, because he never said anything unkind in it. He overflowed with warmth, like the rising sun, which, indeed, he somewhat resembled, with his round, rosy face and polished head. He inherited the Mallow House from his father, who in turn had taken it from his father, who built it. It was a family affair. Since old Mrs. Mallow died, Mr. Marshall (known as "Marsh" among his intimates) had been his own housekeeper, major-domo and butler. "I don't want no woman gormineerin' over me!" he often said; but this was when youth was past, and with it all hope of Miss Almeria; or so we girls maintained.
The boarders at the Mallow House—but here I go wandering again. The boarders must wait.
Judge Peters, tall and spare, in glossy frock coat and tall hat, met Kitty at the station. Miss Almeria Bygood was there, too, and Mr. Mallow. It was quite a getherin', the latter said: quite a getherin'. Gen'lly, he despised to see folks conjugating round the deepo, but this was an occasion, you see.
Mr. Very Jordano, notebook in hand, keeping a sharp lookout for the train, agreed with him.
"I expect Miss Kitty will be a distang young lady!" he said. "Traveled the world around; the world around. A select gathering is surely appropriate-tate-tate!"
It must not be supposed that Cyrus was a place of individual dialects. Most of us spoke ordinary English or good, strong, racy Yankee; it was only these two gentlemen who were peculiar in their speech. Mr. Jordano had formerly had an impediment; was, in fact, a confirmed stutterer, till he came to man's estate. The story went that one day, wishing to go to Tupham, he found himself wholly unable to ask for a ticket. He stood before the friendly station master, gasping, scarlet, but uttering no sound.
"Come, Very!" said Mr. Tosh. "Put a name to it! Where do you want to go? Train's due!"
"T-T-T-" stammered Mr. Very, "T-T-T-Damn it! I'll walk to Tupham!"
After this experience, he set himself, carefully and methodically, to remedy the defect: labored, suffered, finally conquered. I know not what his method was: I only know that he was apt to repeat the final syllable of a word, sometimes with singular effect. When he said, "Business is looking up-pup-pup," or "I fear I must be going now-wow-wow!" strangers were surprised. To us, it was as much a part of Mr. Jordano as his foreign idioms; foreign idiocies, Mrs. Sharpe called them. These were simply an assertion of his Italian descent. Nothing vexed him so much as to be addressed as "Jordan," a thing that happened now and then. "Names ending in O," he would say, "are invariably of Latin origin, Latin origin-gin-gin!"
He set great store by the letter "O," and seemed to think that it could not fail to impart a Latin tinge to whatever word it adorned. His favorite exclamation, "Nimporto!" (pronounced as spelled) was an example of his method, if it could be called a method. He knew little of French vowel sounds, nothing of accents; i was English i to him, long or short as might be, except when it was mysteriously a. Distingué was "distang," and so on. It is unlikely that he was acquainted with Mrs. Plornish, as he thought Dickens unrefined, and never read him; but his epithets sometimes rivaled those of that immortal lady.
Here is the train, and here is—a fine lady? a flounced and furbelowed Frenchwoman, as Mrs. Sharpe predicted? No! just Kitty! our own Kitty, rather pale, rather larger-eyed than usual (which was unreasonable!) sweet and simple in her dark gray dress.
"Very distang!" murmured Mr. Jordano, making a series of little bows over his note-book. "Oh, very distang, indeed!"
"Kitty! My dear child!" Miss Almeria had her in her arms, and the fair head drooped a moment on that kind black satin shoulder; but only for a moment; then Kitty was herself again.
"Dear Miss Almeria! How perfectly darling of you! Oh, Judge! Oh, Mr. Mallow, I am so glad to see you! And oh! if it isn't Mr. Jordano! How d'ye do, Mr. Jordano? Did you come to meet me, too? I do think you are the kindest people in the world! Oh, Judge, I've come home! I've come home!"
"Oh, Judge, I've come home! I've come home!"
Kitty's voice quavered, and the tears came into her gray eyes, but she winked them away resolutely. Judge Peters blew his nose with a long, sonorous note. He had had a little speech of welcome all ready in the back of his head; nothing formal, just distinctive enough to mark the occasion; but all he found to say, and that gruffly, without an atom of his beautiful Court manner, was: "How are you, Kitty? How are you? Glad to see you!"
Mr. Jordano was hardly more fortunate, even though he had written down his remarks the night before, and committed them to memory while shaving that morning. But he began bravely:
"Miss Kitty, I bid you welcome to your native heath! This day—a—every inhabitant of Cyrus—a—will be marked with a white letter and a red stone—I—I would say a red letter and a white stone-tone-tone. The Graces—a—the Muses——" Mr. Jordano hesitated and was lost. "Nimporto!" he said hastily. "I am glad to see you, Miss Kitty; you are looking well, my dear young lady, considering everything-ting-ting!"
Mr. Jordano retired in confusion, flourishing his note-book nervously. Mr. Mallow's turn had come. Taking both Kitty's hands, he shook them up and down solemnly, as if working a double pump.
"How are you, Kitty?" he said huskily. "Pretty well, thank ye! My bronical tubes don't conjingle, that's all. Well! well! well! How about it? Lots of water in the 'Tlantic Ocean, eh? Treat you pretty well, did they? Find anything better than the Mallow House in them foreign caravans? Bet you didn't!"
Here the Chanters swept round the corner, rosy, breathless, shouting, "Late, as usual!" and the reception was over. There could be no ceremony where the Chanters were. The three girls enveloped Kitty in exclamatory embraces: the three boys (well-grown youths, but always boys!) hovered about, as nearly embarrassed as Chanters could be, cracking their finger-joints and getting in a word when they could. It was something like this:
Trebles: "You dear, darling, delicious Thing! It is too simply heavenly to get you back! Oh, Kitty, it is so rapturous!"
Basses: "Great, Kitty! awf'lly glad!"
Trebles: "My dear, I can't believe it is you, though you do look so deliciously natural, you darling!"
Basses: "Corking, Kitty! looking awf'lly well!"
Trebles: "Isn't she? Only a scrap shadowy, but it makes her eyes all the bigger. Kitty! They are a mile round at least! I never saw—Oh, you precious Thing, I must kiss you again! Won't you give the boys just one—"
Basses: "Oh! I say!" Exeunt, blushing peony red.
It had been decided that Nelly Chanter should have tea that first night with Kitty. Miss Egeria Bygood had held an anxious consultation with Sarepta, the Ruler of Ross House. Miss Bygoods had hoped to have Kitty at their house this first evening; Miss Egeria advanced the proposition rather tremulously. What did Sarepta think? It would be such a pleasure to Father: Kitty had always been his favorite: there happened to be a sweetbread in the house—
Sarepta fixed her with an inscrutable pale blue eye.
"No'm! thankin' you all the same, but it can't be done. She's best off in her own home at the first of it. I've got everything provided. But it's real kind of you!" she added, relenting. "I'll tell her you asked her, and she'll be just as pleased."
"Oh!" Miss Egeria had been making little plaintive sounds, like a deprecating bird. "But do you think, Sarepta—won't it be sad for the dear child, all alone—not that you are not excellent company, Sarepta!"
"Ask Nelly Chanter!" Sarepta evidently had it all arranged in her mind. "I was goin' to send word to her, but if you would! She has the most sense of any of 'em. And she's young!"
Sarepta did not mean to be cruel, but the thing must be understood. It was understood: Miss Egeria bowed her head meekly.
John Tucker had waited till the first rush of Chanters was over. He now advanced quietly, and touching his hat with a twinkle of welcome, took possession of Kitty's bag.
"Glad to see you, Miss Kitty!" he said. "The checks, Miss? I'll see to your trunks. Pilot's round the corner."
"Oh, John!" Kitty's face broke into a wholly new combination of smiles. "Shake hands, John! Aren't you glad to see me? Oh, I am so glad to see you! How's Mary? And the children? Sarepta is well, of course! She wouldn't dare to be anything else, with me coming home: not that she ever was!"
Now, how exactly like John Tucker! All in a moment, with no word, with hardly a look, he had got Kitty away from the eager group of friends, each of whom was waiting for a little private word with her; had tucked her into the sleigh, given the checks to the expressman (who had rather hoped he might get a word and a glance, too), chirruped to Pilot, and whisked round the corner out of sight. Exactly like John Tucker!
"How mean of John!" cried Zephine Chanter. "Why, I hadn't time to see her dress, or anything!"
"John Tucker's movements are quick-wick-wick!" said Mr. Jordano. "We may as well be jogging, neighbors. Miss Almeria, may I accommodate my steps to yours as far as the corner?"
The little group dispersed, Miss Bygood and Mr. Jordano departing first, a stately pair.
"Aren't they too delicious?" demanded Zephine Chanter, looking after them. "Don't you think they might hit it off after all, Lina? Hannah Sullivan says he'll die but he'll have her!"
"Hannah Sullivan has said that of Mr. Mallow for twenty-five years, mother says!" Lina, the eldest and quietest of the Chanters, spoke reprovingly, "and—and I wouldn't, Zephine, if I were you!"
"I know you wouldn't, Sobersides dear; but I would, you see! Where's Nelly? Nell, mind you notice every stitch she has on. Disgusting of Sarepta to ask you instead of me—but perfectly right, you darling thing! Come on, girls! The boys have gone. Weren't they too craven! When, of course, they were dying to!"
Speeding along the level, jogging up the hill, John Tucker kept his eyes fixed steadily between Pilot's sharp-pricked ears, and kept up a steady stream of cheerful talk which enabled Kitty to cry quietly into her muff and no harm done. Yes, they was all well, he guessed. Mary had had one of them spells last summer, but she was rugged now, and the children similar. Sarepty was in her usual health, fur as he knew: he never knew anything to ail Sarepty. He didn't know but 'twas because she was so poor of flesh: nothin' for sickness to take holt of, or so it appeared. Bones wasn't liable to ail any, he guessed. What say?
"John Tucker, how you talk!" Kitty was actually laughing, a quavering little laugh, but still—"As if bones didn't ache when people have rheumatism! Dear me! how is old Mrs. Tosh, John?"
"I couldn't say, Miss Kitty; that is, not precisely. She ain't livin', Mis' Tosh ain't—at the present time!" John added gravely, with an air of guarding his words carefully. "She passed away—yes'm! 'Twas about the time we lost old Victory."
"Is Victory dead? Oh, John! The dear old horse! Why, she was the first horse I ever drove. Don't you remember Father giving me the reins, and dear Mother being so frightened?"
"I do, Miss!" John Tucker's face, which had been carefully wooden till now, broke into curiously carved wrinkles of laughter. "I'll remember that, I guess, long as I remember anything. Little tyke you was—excuse me, Miss Kitty!"
"I certainly was! Go on, John!"
"Six years old, warn't you? Or not more'n seven anyhow. 'You may drive round to the stable, Daughterkin!' says Doctor, and puts the reins in your little mites of hands. 'Yes, Doctor,' says you. 'I'll drive round!' and you took them reins, and before any one could so much as wink, you was out of the yard, cuttin' down the ro'd full chisel—gee whiminy! I can see you now. Your Ma hollered right out, and I don't wonder, fraygile as she was. I know it took my breath away. Why, I never see anything go so quick. It appeared like you and Victory had got it fixed up between you, so to speak. Doctor himself was took aback, I could see that, the way he winked his eyes, but he wouldn't let on.
"'Don't be frightened, Mary,' he says. 'The little imp has a good grip, and Victory is as kind as kindness!' he says. All the same, I noticed he was lookin' pretty sharp up the ro'd! And when he see the old mare's nose come round the corner, gee whiminy! He slaps his leg and hollers out, 'A daughter of Jehu!' he says, quotin' Scriptur', I believe, the way he did. 'A daughter of Jehu, for behold she driveth furiously!'"
Kitty was laughing outright now.
"Dear Papa! I was a little imp, wasn't I, John?"
"Yes, Miss, you sure was. But yet—" John Tucker, cocking his head argumentatively, ventured for the first time to look at his companion, saw her face firm and cheerful, and went on with confidence—"but yet you knew what you was about well enough. You'd ben handlin' the ribbons a year or more goin' to and from the stable, 'longside o' me or your Pa: you was tough as hickory, and you was knowledgeable: there warn't nothing to be scared of. 'A daughter of Jehu!' says Doctor, 'for behold she driveth furiously. Here she comes, Mary! She's all right!' He laughed right out, and then he pulls his face straight, and looks mighty solemn, and you come lickety-split along the ro'd and turned in the gate as neat as a whistle, and pulls up front the door. I says to myself, 'Wal!' I says; 'that young one,' I says, 'is all right!' And so it has proved."
"Nice John! Thank you, John! And we've been friends ever since, haven't we? But Papa scolded me, didn't he?"
"He did, Miss. 'You little imp,' he says, 'I told you to drive round to the stable!' 'Yes, Papa dear,' you says: I can hear you now. 'So I did, dear Papa; round the square!' He had to laugh then, would he or wouldn't he!"
"Victory could have made just as good a turn without me!" said honest Kitty. "She was as wise as three ordinary horses; and she knew the way round that turn as well as the way into her own stall. She was pretty old even then, John, wasn't she?"
"Victory," said John Tucker, slowly, "was thirty-five years old when she died this spring. I set out to write you, but I couldn't seem to. Kind o' broke me up, losin' her. She was the first hoss ever I come to know and care for. Lemme see! I come to work for Doctor thirty years ago this winter. Victory was five years old, and she was a pictur! prettiest hoss I ever see, bar none. Well! Now you might be—?"
"Twenty!" said Kitty.
"That's right! And Vict'ry was twenty that time you driv her round the square. She kep' smart right along up to the last week, old mare did: I didn't drive her any last summer, only once in a while, so's her feelin's wouldn't be hurt, seein' the other hosses go out. She'd whinny out just as askin'! 'Why ain't I goin' out?' she'd say, plain as any person need to speak. Then I'd put her in the light sulky and drive her up and down the ro'd a piece, and she'd antic round and toss up her head as if she was the President's wife goin' to meetin'."
"I hope she didn't suffer, John?"
"No'm! no! She died like a Christian, the old mare did. One night she wouldn't take her sugar; I allers gave her the sugar, like you told me, Miss Kitty—"
"Dear, good John! Thank you, John!"
"So I suspicioned what was comin', seein' her age and all. I told S'repty, and she brung out an extry good mash, but 'twas no use. Old mare laid down, and we set there with her. She looked at me real lovin', and put her nose in my hand, and I rubbed her, and S'repty rubbed her; and 'long about ten o'clock she just stretched out and passed away, same as if she was a person."
John Tucker cleared his throat and was silent for a few minutes; then he addressed Pilot, his present joy and pride, with some asperity:
"Git ap, you! No reason for your goin' to sleep that I know of. Miss Kitty—" he glanced sidelong at his companion—"the ro'd's first rate here on the level. I didn't know but you might like to drive a spell—"
"Oh, John!" Kitty looked down ruefully at the gray suède gloves which had seemed just the right thing for traveling. Pilot had a pretty solid mouth. "If I only had some decent gloves!" she sighed.
With a sheepish look, John Tucker fumbled in an outside pocket and pulled out a stout pair of leather gloves, fur-lined.
"S'repty wouldn't give 'em to me!" he chuckled; "but I remembered the drawer where you kep' 'em. You'll need 'em. I kep' him in yes'day a-puppose."
With a flashing, "Oh, John! You are a darling!" Kitty almost snatched the gloves from him. Another moment, and they were speeding along the level, a swallow-flight which brought the blood to the girl's pale cheeks and the light to her eyes.
"I tell ye!" chuckled John Tucker. "Gee whiminy! Go it, Miss Kitty, he's fresh: I kep' him in yes'day a-puppose."
Kitty chirruped; Pilot tossed his handsome head and sped on the faster.
"If I am a daughter of Jehu," said Kitty, "I might as well live up to my name, John Tucker!"
So it came to pass that when Kitty Ross came home to her father's house, it was with a rush and a swirl that brought Sarepta flying from the kitchen in a panic, dish-cloth in one hand, stove-lifter in the other.
"My land of the living!" cried Sarepta. "That John Tucker!"
The Ross house stood—stands, thank heaven!—on the north side of the Common, between Judge Peters's and Madam Flynt's, its front windows facing due south. The main body of the house is of brick, the two wings and the portico with its Doric columns, of wood; all gleaming white, with blinds of exactly the right shade of green. The front fence (Cyrus has not done away with its fences; it would scorn to do so. "When I wish to move into my neighbor's yard," says Madam Flynt, "I shall ask his permission first." And Miss Almeria Bygood says, "I prefer to live on the street, not in it") is of iron, with chains and tassels elaborately looped; the posts of white brick, surmounted by wooden balls large enough for a child to sit on with some measure of comfort. The gate, a beautiful affair of handwrought iron (a testimonial to Dr. Ross from a grateful blacksmith) was made, one would think, to be swung on. Near the bottom were four grapevine circles, into which two pairs of small feet fitted perfectly; while the smooth bar across the top was manifestly intended for the resting of dimpled chins and the grasping of chubby hands. Then, its squeak! At the friendly sound, Kitty Ross glanced down, and all her childhood came flooding back.
"Ah, Tommy!" she sighed. "Ah, Duke! We are too big now, even if you were anywhere."
Then the door opened, and there stood Sarepta Darwin, just as she had stood at similar home-comings all Kitty's lifetime.
"Come in this minute, child!" she said. "You had the life nigh scared out of me. You, John Tucker, you'd ought to be ashamed of yourself, at your time of life!"
"That's just it, S'repty," chuckled John. "I've outgrown the sensation!"
"Don't scold, Sarepta dear!" said Kitty. "I've come home!"
Sarepta snorted, and turned her head away. No one had ever seen a tear in that wintry blue eye, and no one ever should. The idea!
"You're froze, I expect," she said severely, "speedin' like that in this cold. Come in to the fire! Nelly Chanter's comin' to supper with you and spend the night, but I thought you'd want to get your things off first."
Home! After all the wandering, all the longing: home at last! Kitty had enjoyed much of the time abroad. Endless wonder, endless beauty; she rejoiced to have seen it; but the place where she was born, the countryside where she belonged, meant more to her than all the glories of Europe and Asia. So long as her mother was with her, so long as anything strange or fair could lift the languid head or bring a gleam of light to the sad eyes, on they must go, wherever the brightest way seemed to point: but when it was over, and the weary body which held the gay, innocent, flower-like soul, was hid quietly in the churchyard at Vevey, there was but one thought in Kitty's mind. The English cousins, the kind Swiss friends, might plead as they would; they all wanted her; it would mean so much to them if she would make her home with them. Kitty thanked them all with tears, and took the next and swiftest steamer for home.
A plain square hall, with stairs going up at one side; old prints on the walls: Regulus and the Carthaginian Ambassadors, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi:—Kitty had a loving glance for all: the very oilcloth felt friendly under her feet. Had not Grandfather Ross laid it down fifty years ago, when oilcloth was oilcloth, and not, as dear Father used to say, brown paper and fish glue?
It was late January, but the Christmas wreaths still hung in the windows, the fir boughs over the picture-frames. The mail-table, with its scales and weights, the barometer, the hanging shelf where garden baskets and implements slept the long winter away—Kitty's glance took them all in lovingly.
"Fire's in the settin' room!" said Sarepta.
Kitty turned to the right, and entered the room she loved best in the world. Shabby, Mrs. Sharpe called the sitting room of Ross House. If it was shabby, no one but Mrs. Sharpe knew it. The rugs were worn, it is true, the original patterns lost in a warm blending of reds and blues, but they were still thick and soft, and only Sarepta knew of the mended places. The wallpaper had not been changed since the memory of man. Why should it be, when it was in perfect condition? And how much of it was visible anyhow? Mellow, rich, warm: one sought for other kindred words, feeling the friendly harmony of everything from the Piranesi etchings to the books which lined half the walls and lay on every available flat surface. The fireplace occupied most of one side, the fire leaped and crackled behind the high fender—not so high as it used to be, Kitty, when you and Tom "stumped" each other to climb on it and grimace at your reflections in the round balls of the andirons. A leather sofa stood before the fireplace: well! I grant that the sofa was shabby, but who cared? Never was another, old or new, to compare with it in comfort. Kitty sank down on it now, and stretched her hands to the blaze, and made a little sound, half moan, half coo, of utter thankfulness. Sarepta, erect in the doorway, hands folded over her spotless apron, had the air of waiting for something. Presently Kitty spoke over her shoulder, her eyes still fixed on the fire.
"She didn't suffer at all, Sarepta!"
"She just faded away quietly, like a flower. It was like—do you remember how I used to put the hollyhocks in the little black pool, under the trees? They didn't wither or crumple up, they just grew more transparent, day by day, till at last they seemed almost to melt into the water: it was more like that than anything else."
Sarepta grunted again. "Got your feet wet reg'lar every time you did it!" she said.
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