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A Little Girl in Old Salem
Amanda Minnie Douglas
CHAPTER I. TWO LETTERS
CHAPTER II. THE LITTLE GIRL
CHAPTER III. A STRANGER, YET AT HOME
CHAPTER IV. UNWELCOME
CHAPTER V. MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE LITTLE GIRL
CHAPTER VI. GOING TO SCHOOL
CHAPTER VII. CHANGEFUL LIGHTS OF CHILDHOOD
CHAPTER VIII. SORROW'S CROWN OF SORROW
CHAPTER IX. LESSONS OF LIFE
CHAPTER X. A NEW DEPARTURE
CHAPTER XI. THE VOICE OF A ROSE
CHAPTER XII. CHANGES IN THE OLD HOUSE
CHAPTER XIII. A TASTE OF PLEASURE
CHAPTER XIV. IN GAY OLD SALEM
CHAPTER XV. LOVERS AND LOVERS
CHAPTER XVI. PERILOUS PATHS
CHAPTER XVII. THE FLOWERING OF THE SOUL
CHAPTER XVIII. THE PASSING OF OLD SALEM
The Leveretts were at their breakfast in the large sunny room in Derby Street. It had an outlook on the garden, and beyond the garden was a lane, well used and to be a street itself in the future. Then, at quite a distance, a strip of woods on a rise of ground, that still further enhanced the prospect. The sun slanted in at the windows on one side, there was nothing to shut it out. It would go all round the house now, and seem to end where it began, in the garden.
Chilian was very fond of it. He always brought his book to the table; he liked to eat slowly, to gaze out and digest one or two thoughts at his leisure, as well as the delightful breakfast set before him. He was a man of delicate tastes and much refinement, for with all the New England sturdiness, hardness one might say, there was in many families a strain of what we might term high breeding. His face, with its clear-cut features, indicated this. His hair was rather light, fine, with a few waves in it that gave it a slightly tumbled look—far from any touch of disorder. His eyes were a deep, clear blue, his complexion fair enough for a woman.
His father and grandfather had lived and died in this house. He had bought out his sister's share when she married, and she had gone to Providence. He had asked the two relatives of his father—termed cousins by courtesy—to continue housekeeping. They were the last of their family and in rather straitened circumstances. Miss Elizabeth was nearing sixty, tall, straight, fair, and rather austere-looking. Eunice was two years younger, shorter, a trifle stouter, with a rounder face, and a mouth that wore a certain sweetness when it did not actually smile.
Chilian was past thirty. He was a Harvard graduate, and now went in two days each week for teaching classes. His father had left some business interests in Salem, rather distasteful to him, but he was a strictly conscientious person and attended to them, if with a sort of mental protest. For the rest, he was a bookworm and revelled in intellectual pursuits.
The day previous had been desperately stormy, this late March morning was simply glorious. The mail, which came late in the afternoon, had not been delivered, causing no uneasiness, as letters were not daily visitors. But now the serving-man, with a gentle rap, opened the door and said briefly:
Eunice rose and took them.
"An East Indian one for you, Chilian, and why—one from Boston—for you, Elizabeth. It is Cousin Giles' hand."
Elizabeth reached for it. They were both so interested that they took no note of Chilian's missive. She cut carefully around the big wafer he had used. It was a large letter sheet, quite blue and not of over-fine quality. Envelopes had not come in and there was quite an art in folding a letter—unfolding it as well.
"Really what has started Cousin Giles? I hope no one is dead——"
"There would have been a black seal."
"Oh, yes, m'm;" making a curious sound with closed lips. "They are well. Oh, the Thatchers have been visiting them and are coming out here for a week—why, on Saturday, and to-day is Thursday. Chilian, do you hear that?"
"What?" he asked, closing his book over his own letter.
"Why, the Thatchers are coming—on Saturday, not a long notice, and I don't know how many. They have had a nice time in Boston—and Cousin Giles has been beauing them round and seems to like it. He might have sent you word on Tuesday, when you were in;" and Elizabeth's tone expressed a grievance.
"And the house not cleaned! It's been so cold."
"The house is always clean. Don't, I beg of you, Cousin Bessy, turn it upside down and scrub and scour, and wear yourself out and take a bad cold. There are two guest chambers, and I suppose half a dozen more might be made ready."
"That's the man of it. I don't believe a man would ever see dirt until some day when he had to dig himself out, or call upon the women folks to do it."
Elizabeth always softened, in spite of her austerity, when he called her Bessy. The newer generation indulged in household diminutives occasionally.
"Well, there is to be no regular house-cleaning. We shall want fires a good six weeks yet."
"I don't see why Cousin Giles couldn't have said how many there were. Let me see, Rachel Leverett, who married the Thatcher, was your father's cousin. They went up in Vermont. Then they came to Concord. He"—which meant the head of the house—"went to the State Legislature after the war. He had some sons married. Why, I haven't seen them in years."
"It will be just like meeting strangers," declared Eunice. "It's almost as if we kept an inn."
Chilian turned. "When I am in Boston to-morrow I will hunt up Cousin Giles."
"Oh, that will be good of you."
He slipped his letter into the Latin book he had been going over, and with a slight inclination of the head left the room. The hall was wide, though it ended just beyond this door, where it led to the kitchen. The woodwork was of oak, darkened much by the years that had passed over it. The broad staircase showed signs of the many feet that had trodden up and down.
Chilian's study was directly over the living-room, and next to the sleeping-chamber. This part had been added to the main house, but that was years ago. Bookshelves were ranged on two sides, but the windows interfered with their course around, two on each of the other sides. There was a wide fireplace between those at the west, and under them low closets, with cushions—ancestors of useful window-seats. A large easy-chair, covered with Cordovan leather, another curiously carved with a straight narrow strip up the back, set off by the side carving. The seat was broad and cushioned. Then one from France, as you could tell by the air and style, that had been in a palace. A low splint rocker, and one with a high back and comfortable cushions, inviting one to take a nap.
The bookcases went about two-thirds of the way up and were ornamented by articles beautiful and grotesque from almost every land, for there had been seafaring men in the Leverett family, and more than one home in Salem could boast of treasures of this sort.
Chilian stirred the fire, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney, and put on a fresh log. Then he settled himself in his chair and fingered his letter in an absent way. The last time Anthony wrote he vaguely suggested changes and chances and the uncertainty of life, rather despondent for a brisk business man who was always seeing opportunities at money-making. Had he been unfortunate in some of his ventures? And it was odd in him to write so soon again. Not that they were ever frequent correspondents.
He opened the letter slowly. It was tied about with a thread of waxed silk and sealed, so he cut about the seal deliberately; he had a delicate carefulness in all his ways that was rather womanly. Then unfolding it, he began to read.
Was this what the previous letter had meant? Was Anthony Leverett nearing the end, counting his days, finishing up his earthly work, and delegating it to other hands? There was something pathetic in it, and the trust in the uprightness and honor that Anthony Leverett reposed in him touched him keenly. But this part surprised and, at first, annoyed him. He drew his fine brows in a repellent sort of frown.
"Do you remember, Chilian, when you were a lad of eighteen, in your second year at Harvard, you came to Salem to recruit after a period of rather severe study? And you met Alletta Orne, who was four-and-twenty and engaged to me. In some sort of fashion we were all related. Your father had been like a father to me in my later boyhood. And, with a young man's fervor, you fell in love with her. I was sorry then for any pain you suffered, I am glad now; for there is no one else in the wide world I would as soon trust her child and mine to.
"We had been away nearly three years, when we came back, and the baby was born in the house endeared to me by many tender recollections. You were away then, but on our second visit we were the most congenial friends again. I did not think then it would be our last meeting. I had meant, after making my fortune, to return and end my days in my birthplace. My greatest interest was in the commercial house I had established. My first mate, John Corwin, took my place and sailed the vessel. Then my dear wife died, and I had only my little girl left.
"I could hardly believe six months ago that I must die. Should I return, or remain here and sleep beside the one who had filled my soul with her serene and lovely life and her blessed memory? I could not endure the thought of leaving her precious body here alone. So I chose to remain. And now I send my little girl to your care and guardianship without even consulting you. She is amply provided for, though the business this side of the world cannot be settled in some time. I send her with a trusty maid and Captain Corwin, because I do not want her to remember the end. Some day you can tell her I am sleeping beside her dear mother and that we are together in the Better Land. She has been separated considerably from me of late,—I have had to be journeying about on business,—therefore it will not come so hard to her, and though children do not forget, the sorrow softens and has a tender vagueness from the hand of time.
"So I give my little girl to you. If so be you should marry and have children of your own, she will not be crowded out, I know. In the course of years,—for girls grow rapidly up to womanhood,—she may love and marry. Direct her a little here and see that no one takes her for the mere money. I want her to know the sweetness and richness of a true satisfying love."
All important papers, and a sort of diary Anthony Leverett had kept, were to come in the vessel that would bring the little girl in the charge of Captain Corwin.
Chilian Leverett sat for a long while with the letter in his hand, until the log broke in the middle and one end fell over the andiron. Then he started suddenly.
Had he been dreaming of the sweetness of the woman who had so captivated his youthful fancy, almost a dozen years agone? He never thought she had led him astray, and had no blame for her. Perhaps the love for her betrothed had so permeated her whole being that she shed an exquisitely fascinating sweetness all about. He was to her as if he had been her betrothed's younger brother. And when the engagement was confessed he allowed himself no reprehensible longing for the woman so soon to be another's. All his instincts were pure and high, perhaps rather too idealized, though there was much strength and heroism in the old Puritan blood. Right was right in those days. Lines were sharply drawn among those of the old stock.
But there had been years of what one might call living for self, indulgence in studious habits and tastes and the higher intellectual life, much solitary dreaming, although he was by no means a recluse. And to have a little girl come into his life! He would have liked a boy better, he thought. The boy would be out of doors, playing with mates. And now he bethought himself how few small children there were in his branch of the Leverett line. Some of the men and women had not married. His brother and one sister had died in childhood. The first cousins were nearly all older than he, many of them had dropped out of life. A little girl! No chance to decline the trust—well, he would hardly have done that. He knew Anthony Leverett had counted on a serene old age in his native town. And he was not much past middle life. What had befallen him?
Well, there was nothing to be done. He read the letter over again. Then he turned to some papers to compose his mind. There was a stir in the next room, his sleeping-chamber. He always opened the windows and closed the door between. After the dishes were washed and the dining-room and hall brushed up, Elizabeth came upstairs and made the two beds. When he had gone to Cambridge she opened the door between. So she did not disturb him now, but crossed the hall and inspected the two guest-chambers. She had swept them a week or so ago and had settled in her mind that they would do until house-cleaning time. To be sure, if she cleaned them now they would need it when the guests were gone. And Chilian had a man's objection to house-cleaning. It was hardly time to put away blankets. She wished she knew how many guests there would be.
The rooms were full of old Colonial furniture that had been in the family for generations. Every spring Elizabeth polished the mahogany until it shone. She dusted now, though there was hardly a speck visible. The snow through the winter had laid it, and the spring rains had not allowed it to rear its head.
Chilian put on his coat presently and sallied out for his morning exercise. The family had been connected with shipbuilding to a certain extent, and there was the old warehouse where vessels came in with their precious cargoes from civilized and barbaric lands. For at the close of the Revolutionary War the men of note, many of whom had not disdained privateering, found themselves in possession of idle fleets, that with their able seamen could outsail almost anything afloat. So they struck out for new ventures in unknown seas and new channels of trade. Calcutta, Bombay, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Batavia, and other ports came to know the American flag and the busy enterprising traders.
But the old Salem that was once the capital of the state, the Salem of John Endicott and Roger Williams, of stern Puritanism, of terrible witchcraft horrors, and then of the sturdy and vigorous stand in her differences with the mother country, her patriotism through the darkest days, was fast fading away, just as this grand commercial epoch was destined to merge into science and educational fame later on, and give to the world some master spirits. But as he wended his way hither and thither in a desultory fashion, one thought almost like spoken words kept running through his mind—"A little girl—a little girl in Old Salem"—for the almost two hundred years gave her the right to that eminence, and a little girl from a foreign land seemed incongruous. Not but that there were little girls in Salem, but their life-lines did not touch his. And this one came so near, for the sake of both parents he had loved.
When he came in to dinner, he had made up his mind to say nothing of his letter until the guests had come and gone. He did not wish to be deluged with questions.
He hunted up Cousin Giles the next day, who was quite a real-estate dealer, investing his own and other people's money in sound mortgages, who had been a widower so long that he had quite gone back to bachelorhood.
And he found three Thatcher cousins—a widow, a married one, and a single one, the youngest of the family, but past girlhood. He was asked to take luncheon with them and they proved quite agreeable and intelligent, and much pleased at the prospect of seeing Elizabeth and Eunice Leverett.
"We have been hunting up several of the Boston relatives," said Miss Thatcher, with a kind of winsome smile. "Cousin Giles has been a good directory. We've kept in with so few of them. Father hunted up some of them while he was in the Legislature, but they are so scattered about and many of them dead. Mother was your father's cousin, I believe."
Chilian gave a graceful inclination of the head.
"Elizabeth and Eunice visited us years ago, along after the war when I was first left a widow," explained Mrs. Brent. "Henry went all through it, but was worn out, and died in '88. But I've two nice sons, who are a great comfort. Father was very good to them and me. And they're both promising farmers."
"I tell her that's a good deal to be thankful for," remarked Cousin Giles.
"It is indeed," commented Chilian.
"And I have a lad who is all for study and wants to come in to Harvard. He has been teaching school this winter. His father's quite set against it, and I don't know how it will end. He will be only nineteen in August, and his father thinks he has a hold on him two years longer."
Mrs. Drayton looked up rather appealingly.
"If his mind is made up to that, he will work his way through," said Chilian, and he thought he should like to know the boy.
"You see the next two are girls and they can't help much about a farm. Father really needs him. And I seem to stand between two fires. His teaching term will end in May, but he has planned to take the school next winter. He has made quite a bit of money."
Chilian thought he would be a lad fully worth helping, and made a mental note of it. He liked the mother.
It was settled that they would reach Salem about noon in the stage, the only mode of conveyance, and they parted with a pleased friendliness.
Chilian rehearsed the interview at home to the great delight of the household. Indeed, he had been very well pleased with the prospective visitors and he felt rather thankful for the respite from the shadow the coming event was casting. A little girl! It did annoy him.
He did not allow it to interfere with his duties as host, however. The three ladies had a most delightful visit at Salem, looking up points of interest and hearing old history concerning the Leveretts. Chilian's father had jotted down many facts. There were seafaring uncles, who had brought home trophies; there were men in the family, who had died for their country if they had not filled eminent positions; others who had. How this branch of the family seemed to have dwindled away!
Serena Thatcher was more than pleased with her cousin, though she felt somewhat awed by his attainments and his rather punctilious ways. Mrs. Brent set him down as a good deal of a Miss Nancy. But the ladies had a delightful time going over family histories and getting relationships disentangled.
When the eventful day of parting came it brought a very real sorrow. They made promises that they would renew their meetings and keep each other in mind.
It was Saturday evening when the Leverett household sat around the cheerful fire in the cozy room where the small family gathered on this evening of the week with their work all done, after the fashion of the past, still strictly observed by many of the older Puritan families. The industrious ladies sat with folded hands. Sometimes Chilian read aloud from a volume of the divines who had finished their good fight.
This night he was gazing idly in the fire, the lines in his face deepening now and then.
"I suppose he is tired with all the talk, and rambles, and confusion of the week," Elizabeth thought, stealing furtive glances at him.
He straightened himself presently and made a pretence of clearing his throat, as an embarrassed person often does.
"I have something to tell you," he began. "I thought I would not disturb you while our relatives were here. We found enough to talk about;" with a short half-laugh.
"And it tired you out, I know. We live so quietly that such an event quite upsets us," Eunice said in a gentle, deprecating tone.
"It was very pleasant," he added. "I was a good deal interested in Anthony Drayton. But this is something quite different. Can you recall that I had a letter from the East Indies the morning the word came from Cousin Giles?"
"Why, yes!" Elizabeth started in surprise. "I had really forgotten about it. Business, I suppose, with Anthony Leverett. Why, I think it is high time he came home."
Chilian sighed. "I am afraid—though I cannot see why we should fear so much to enter the other portal, since it is the destiny of all, and we believe in a better world. He was hopelessly ill when he wrote and was winding up some business matters. He is a brave man to meet death so composedly. The only pang is parting from his child."
"Oh, his little girl! Let me see—she must be eight or nine years old. What will become of her?"
"He makes me executor and guardian of the child. She was to start three weeks after his letter with Captain Corwin in the Flying Star. That will be due, if it meets with no mishap, from the middle to the last of April."
"But she doesn't come alone!" ejaculated Elizabeth in surprise.
"Yes. He wishes to be buried there beside his wife. And he does not want her to have the remembrance of his death. So he sends her with the woman who has been her nurse and maid the last three years, an Englishwoman."
"Of all things! I wonder what will come next! We seem in the line of surprises. And it's queer they should happen together. A little girl! Chilian, do you like it? Why, it will fairly turn the house upside down!"
There was an accent of protest in Elizabeth's tone, showing plainly her unwillingness to accept the situation.
"One little girl can't move much furniture about;" with a sound of humor in his voice.
"Oh, you know what I mean—not actually dragging sofas and tables about, but she will chairs, as you'll see. And lots of other things. Look at the Rendall children. The house always looks as if it had been stirred up with the pudding-stick, and Sally Rendall spends good half her time looking for things they have carted off. Tom and Anstice were digging up the path the day we called, and what do you suppose they had! The tablespoons. And I'll venture to say they were left out of doors."
"There are so many of them," Chilian said, as if in apology.
"And I don't see how we can keep this child away from them. It isn't as if they were low-down people. Sally's father having been a major in the war, and the Rendalls are good stock. Let me see—what's her name? Her mother was called Letty."
"Cynthia. She was named for my mother." Chilian's voice had a reverent softness in it.
"I always thought it a pretty name," said Eunice.
"And I've heard people call it 'Cyn.' I do abominate nicknames."
Elizabeth uttered this with a good deal of vigor. Then she remembered she quite liked Bessy.
No one spoke for some moments. Chilian thought of the sister, whose brief married life had ended in her pretty home at Providence, and how she looked in her coffin with her baby sheltered by one arm. The picture came before him vividly.
Elizabeth liked cleanliness and order. It was natural after a long practice in it. Chilian's particular ways suited her. Year after year had settled them—perhaps she had settled him more definitely, as he liked the way. Eunice was thinking of the little girl who had neither father or mother. She had some unfulfilled dreams. In her youth there had been a lover, and a wedding planned when he came home from his voyage. She had begun to "lay by" for housekeeping. And there were some pretty garments in the trunk upstairs, packed away with other articles. The lover was lost at sea, as befell many another New England coast woman.
She had hoped against hope for several years—men were sometimes restored as by a miracle—but he never came. So she sometimes dreamed of what might have been, of home and children, and it kept her heart tender. Anthony's little girl would make a sight of trouble, she could see that, but a little girl about would be a great pleasure—to her at least. She glanced furtively at Elizabeth, then at Chilian. She could not comfort either of them with this sudden glow and warmth that thrilled through her veins.
"Well, we will be through with house-cleaning before she comes," said the practical and particular housewife. Chilian simply sighed. It was the usual spring ordeal, and did end. But who could predict the ending of the other?
Down at the wharf there was much bustle and stir. Vessels were lading for various home ports, fishing craft were going out on their ventures, even a whaler had just fitted up for a long cruise, and the young as well as middle-aged sailors were shouting out farewells. White and black men were running to and fro, laughing, chaffing, and swearing at each other.
There lay the East Indiaman, with her foreign flag as well as that of her country. She had come in about midnight and at early dawn preliminaries had begun. Captain Corwin had been ashore a time or two, looking up and down amid the motley throng, and now he touched his hat and nodded to Chilian Leverett, who picked his way over to him.
"We are somewhat late," he began apologetically. "A little due to rough weather, but one can never fix an exact date."
"All is well, I hope;" in an anxious tone.
"Yes; the child proved a good sailor and was much interested in everything. I was afraid she would take it hard. But she is counting on her father's coming. I don't know how you will ever console her when she learns the truth."
"And he——" Chilian looked intently into the captain's eyes.
"I suppose the end has come before this. They thought he might last a month when we left. It's sad enough. He should have lived to be ninety. But matters went well with him, and he has been an honest, kindly, upright man with a large heart. I've lost my best friend and adviser."
The captain drew his rough coat-sleeve across his face and looked past Chilian, winking hard.
"There's a sight of business when we come to that, Mr. Leverett, but now—will you go on board? The maid is a most excellent and sensible person. They are in the cabin."
"Yes," he answered and followed with a curious throb at his heart—pity for the orphaned child and a sense of responsibility he was conscious that he accepted unwillingly, yet he would do his duty to the uttermost.
Already some officials were on hand, for at this period Salem was really a notable port. Chilian passed them with a bow, followed the captain down the gangplank, stared a little at the foreign deck-hands in their odd habiliments, stepped over boxes and bales in canvas and matting full of Oriental fragrance that from the closeness was almost stifling, coming from the clear air. Then he was ushered into the cabin, that was replete with Orientalism as well.
A rather tall woman rose to meet him.
"This is Mistress Rachel Winn, who has mothered the little girl for several years, Mr. Leverett, her relative and guardian, and—Cynthia——"
The child threw herself down on the couch.
"I want to go back home. I want to see my father, and Aymeer, and Babo, and Nalla. I can't stay here."
"But perhaps your father will bring them when he comes. Don't you remember he told you he lived here when he was a little boy, and what nice times he had with the cousin he loved? And the cousin is here to bid you welcome. Come and speak to him. We cannot go back at once, the ship has to unload her cargo and take in ever so many other things. See, here is Cousin Leverett."
She sat up, made a forward movement as if she would rise, but simply stared.
"Yes, I am Cousin Leverett." He began advancing and held out his hand.
"And very glad to see such an excellent traveller as you have been," said the captain. "And such a nice little girl. You are an American girl; you know your father told you that. And this is your native town. Cousin Leverett remembers you when you were very little."
"But I don't remember you;" taking no notice of the proffered hand.
"Then you must get acquainted with me. And you must tell me about your life and your father, whom I have not seen in a long, long time. Let us shake hands."
She held out hers then and raised herself to her feet.
"Oh, how soft your hands are," she cried, "just like Nalla's. But they are very white. Nalla's were brown."
"And who was Nalla?"
"She used to come and play with me and make chains out of shells, and make bracelets and anklets, and dance. And she used to go to the Sahibs' house and dance with snakes. I'm afraid of them. Are you?"
"Indeed I am, of the large ones," he said at a venture.
He fancied that he felt a gentle pressure of sympathetic approval. She glanced up for an instant and her eyes transfixed him. They were a deep wonderful blue, almost black at the pupil, then raying off a little lighter. It made him think of a star in the winter midnight sky with a halo around it. The lashes were long and nearly black. Otherwise she had little claim to beauty just then. Her complexion had a tawny hue made by sun and wind, her hair was light, but it had a peculiar sunburned tint, though it was fine and abundant and hung in loose curls about her shoulders. Her nose was the only Leverett feature—it was straight, rather small, and had the flexibility that betrayed passing emotions. The Leverett lips were thin, hers were full in the middle, giving a certain roundness to the mouth.
"Are there any where you live?" hesitatingly.
"Any?" Then he recalled the subject they had touched upon. "Oh, no; you seldom see them, and they are mostly harmless."
"Have you any little girls in your house?"
"No, I am sorry to say."
"There were two little English girls on shipboard at first. They went on board another vessel after a while. I liked them very much. They knew a great many things about countries. I can read, but I don't a great deal. Sometimes father would tell me about America. There are a great many countries in it, and once they had a big war. They had wars, too, in India. Why must people kill each other?"
"There seem to be reasons. A little girl could not understand them all, I think;" and how could he explain them?
"Oh, there is Captain Corwin!" She flew across the cabin with outstretched arms, which she clasped about him.
"Well, have you been getting acquainted with—he will be your uncle, I suppose. What title are you going to take with the child, Mr. Leverett?"
Chilian Leverett colored, without a cause he thought, and it annoyed him.
"Are you going back to India to-day?" She was not interested in Chilian Leverett's answer.
Captain Corwin laughed heartily and patted her shoulder.
"Not to-day, nor even next week. The cargo will have to be taken off, little missy, and a new one stowed away. And I fancy there must be some repairs. I shall stay in town and run down to Marblehead. So you will see me quite often."
"And you are coming back again from India?"
"Oh, I hope so. More than once."
"You will bring father then. It is such a long while to wait;" and she sighed.
The men exchanged glances.
"I want to see him so much. Couldn't I go back with you?"
"Don't you remember I told you the other evening he might start before I reached India again? Don't you want to go ashore and see Salem? Ask Miss Rachel to get you ready."
Rachel was beckoning to her. "Let us go up on deck," she said. "It's a strange country to me as well as to you. And I fancy the men want to talk."
She crossed the cabin slowly, not quite certain what she did desire most, except to see her father.
"You will have a rather sorry task. But Captain Ant'ny would have it so. He wanted to feel that she would be among friends. He had the fullest confidence that you could manage wisely. There is a great box of papers, instructions, etc. You are appointed her guardian and trustee. I've brought boxes of stuff that the officers will have to go through. But the legal matters you may take with you. He tried to make it as easy as he could. She will have considerable of a fortune, and more to come when matters get settled on the other side. A cousin of the Bannings came out,—English are great hands to keep things in the family. But it is one of the biggest importing houses out there and it owes its success to the long and wise head of Captain Anthony. They want young Banning in it and the matter was about settled when we came away, but the payments will run over several years. All these papers will be sent to you. The Bannings are upright business men, and I think you need have no fear. But the child's fortune is to be invested on this side of the water. Oh, you cannot realize what a trial it was to give up all thoughts of ending his days here."
Captain Corwin brushed some tears from his honest, weather-beaten face.
"But if he had started earlier——"
"He would not believe the trouble would prove fatal. And when it was declared there was so much to put in order. Then he could not bear to think of leaving his wife alone there, though it's only the shell after all, and, if we believe the Good Book, we shall see the real part over there that was so much to us. But he could not explain the parting to the child, though death is such a common thing out there. Yet it is hard to believe our own can die. We are never ready for that. How you will manage——"
The customs officers had come. Captain Corwin went out to meet them. Chilian Leverett dropped into the well-worn leather-covered chair that had been fine in its day. A heavy burthen had been laid upon him. He was not fond of business. Cousin Giles might be of some assistance; he grasped at the thought as if he had been a drowning man and this the straw. And the child, somehow, was different from the average child, he felt; though he was not certain what the average child would unfold day after day. What would Elizabeth think? Eunice he could count on. Though she yielded on many points in that tacit sort of way, she was by no means an echo of her sister.
The three men entered the cabin. Chilian was no stranger to the officials, who greeted him cordially and who sympathized with Captain Anthony Leverett's untimely ending, as he was hardly past middle life.
"Why, it will be quite a change to have a child in your household," said Josiah Ward. "But if she is like mine, I advise you not to give her the run of your study. But there are two ladies to look after her;" and he smiled.
It was surmised that Mr. Ward, a widower of two years' standing, had glanced more than once in the direction of Miss Eunice Leverett.
Rachel came back at this juncture. The little girl had an accession of shyness and would only nod to the strangers. Then they made ready to leave the vessel. Chilian took his japanned case of important papers; the rest of the luggage would be sent after inspection.
A primitive street it was in those days, and the fine wharves of the present were rather rude if busy places. Over beyond they could see the river,—South River,—and that was alive with various small craft.
"It seems almost like home," said Rachel Winn, pausing to take a survey. "You do not find this rural aspect in India."
"How long were you there?" asked Chilian.
"Seven years. I went out with my brother, who had just married my dearest friend. He died the third year, and she soon after married a military man. Then I took charge of a little lame boy and was mostly up in the mountains until he was sent to England, when Captain Leverett's hospitable doors opened to me. Believe me, I was sorry to leave him at this crisis. Yet it was his wish;" and she glanced at Cynthia.
"Why did we come away?" demanded the child passionately. "Oh, Rachel, are you sure father will come? It takes so long, so long;" and there were tears in her voice.
"Here we are!" exclaimed Chilian.
There was a white picket fence across the sort of courtyard that had a broad paved path leading up to the front door, bordered by shrubs that would presently be in bloom, and spaces between for smaller plants. This was the delight of Eunice's heart. A square but rather ornate porch, with fluted columns, supporting the outer edge of the roof, and an elaborately carved hall-door with a fanlight overhead. The stoop stood up some five steps, and at the sides there were benches for out-of-doors comfort on summer nights. A brass knocker, with a lion's head, announced visitors. Chilian, however, let himself in with his latchkey. But both sisters met the party in the hall.
"And this is Anthony's little girl!" said Elizabeth. "Child, let me look at you——"
But the child had a perverse fit at that moment and turned away her head, to the elder's surprise and almost displeasure.
"This is Miss Winn," interrupted Chilian. "My household guardians and cousins, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Eunice Leverett. I dare say our guests feel strange to be on land, after such a long journey."
"It seems almost incredible that one can stand it, but we see them starting every few days for distant ports. My farthest journey has been to Providence; but, land alive! you don't know where that is, and it's no great distance. Will you not come and have a cup of tea or coffee?"
"Thank you. We had breakfast not long ago, it seems."
"Let me take you to your room," said Eunice. "And I hope you will soon feel at home with us. We are quiet people, but we shall endeavor to make you comfortable. Cynthia, will you not shake hands with me?"
The soft, rather pleading voice attracted the child. She glanced up shyly and then held out a tiny hand hesitatingly.
"She is rather backward at first," explained Rachel, who followed the hostess up the broad stairway.
One of the guest-chambers had been set aside for their use after much discussion as to whether one or two would be needed. A smaller one opened into this, and a large closet was at the side.
"You can take off your things—I suppose your boxes, or whatever you have, will be here presently. The bureau is empty and this chest of drawers. We are rather old-fashioned people, and the house is the same as it was in the time of Chilian's father. The captain made one visit here, when the little girl was about four. It must have been hard for him to lose his wife in a strange country like that. I suppose there are not many Americans?"
"No; there are numbers of Englishwomen, wives of soldiers and traders, though I think most of them long to get home. They do not seem to take root easily."
"I shouldn't think they would, in that idolatrous country. The accounts of heathendom are appalling. And that car of Juggernaut, and drowning their poor little babies! They do not seem to make much of girl children."
"Indeed, they do not, only as in some families they are wanted for wives. But the devotion of mothers to their sons is wonderful."
Rachel had laid aside a silk coat that filled Eunice with a sort of wonder, being brocaded with beautiful leaves and roses that seemed as if they must have been worked by hand, they stood out so clearly. The child appeared fantastically attired to her plainer eyes, and her slim arms were weighted with bracelets. In her dainty ears were some splendid sapphires.
"I do hope you will soon feel at home," Eunice said from a full heart, if there was a rather awkward feeling about it. Yet she liked Miss Winn's face. It had a kindly and intelligent aspect and was medium in all respects. The social lines in the town, indeed in all the Eastern towns, were not sharply defined as to mistress and maid. True, many households preferred black servants; in not a few some elderly relative looked after the household, or a bound-out girl was trained in industrious ways.
There had been some discussion as to what sphere this Miss Winn would occupy. If she was simply the attendant on an over-indulged child, an uneducated person, as many of the English maids were who came over to better their conditions or get husbands, it might be rather awkward. But the woman was certainly well-bred and used her English in a correct manner.
"Perhaps you will get to feeling more at home if you come down to the sitting-room, since there is nothing to unpack;" with a faint smile.
Cynthia had been looking out of the window. "How queer it all is!" she said. "I think I do not quite like it. And how funny one feels. I want to go this way;" and she swayed from side to side.
"The motion of the vessel," interposed Rachel. "I have heard it took days to get over it."
Meanwhile, downstairs Elizabeth had studied her Cousin Chilian.