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ness and dignity about him, as if he knew that
his mother and Nelly had no one but himself
to depend upon. It was plain to see that his
early burden of shame and sorrow had devel-
oped a strong character in the lad. There was
none of the listlessness and awkward incapa-
city and self -admiration that made some of



DOWN THE RIVER. 247

the other Tidesliead boys so unattractive, but
Harry Foster had a simple way of speaking
and of doing whatever had to be done.

There was a group of wooden pails on the
boat, and a queer apparatus for dredging which
Mr. Leicester had made the afternoon before
with Seth's and Jonathan's help. They had
implored a flat-iron from Serena for one of
the weights, and she had also contributed a
tin pail, which was curiously weighted also
with small pieces of iron, so that it would sink
in a particular way. It was believed that a
certain uncommon little creature would be
found in the flats farther down the river, and
Mr. Leicester told the ship's company cer-
tain interesting facts about its life and behav-
ior which made everybody eager to join the
search. " I have been meaning to hunt for it
for years," he said. " Professor Agassiz told
me about it when I was in college ; but then he
always roused one's enthusiasm as no one else
could, and made whatever he was interested
In seem the one thing in the world that was of
veTy first importance." Betty's heart glowed
as she listened ; she thought the same thing of
papa. " He was such an inspirer of others to



248 BETTY LEICESTER.

do good work," said Mr. Leicester, still think-
ing lovingly of his great teacher.

Sometimes the river was narrow and deep
and the Starlight's course lay near the shore,
so that the children came running down to the
water's edge to see the pretty boat go by,
and envy Betty and Mary Beck in the shadow
of her great white sail. Some of them shouted
Hollo ! and the two girls answered again and
again, until the little voices sounded small and
piping and were lost in the distance. Half-
way to Klverport, where the houses were a good
way from any village, it seemed as if these old
homes had remained the same for many years ;
none of them had bay-windows, and the paint
was worn away by wind and weather. It was
like stepping back twenty or thirty years in
the rural history. Aunt Barbara said that
everything looked almost exactly the same
along one reach of the river as it did when she
could first remember it. The shores were
green with pines and ferns and gray with
ledges. It was salt water here, so that they
could smell the seaweed and the woods, and
could hear the song-sparrows and the chil-
dren's voices as they passed the lonely farm-



DOWN THE RIVER. 249

houses standing high and fog-free above the
water. From one of these they heard the
sound of women's voices singing.

" They 're havin' a meetin' in there, I ex-
pect,'* explained Seth. " Yes, I hear 'Liza
Loomis's voice too. You know, Miss Leicester,
she used to live up to Tideshead and sing in
the Methodist choir. She 's got a lovely voice
to sing. She 's married down this way. They
like to git together in these scattered places,
but 't is more customary up where I come from
to have them neighborhood meetin's of an
afternoon." Betty watched the small gray
house with deep interest, and thought she
should like to go in. There were little chil-
dren playing about the door, as if they had
been brought and left outside to amuse them-
selves. It was very touching to hear the old
hymn as they sailed by, and Aunt Barbara
and Betty's father looked at each other signifi-
cantly as they listened. " Becky, you ought to
be there to help sing," Betty whispered, as
they sat side by side, but Becky thought it was
very stupid to be having a prayer-meeting that
lovely morning.

Seth Pond had celebrated the Fourth of



250 BETTY LEICESTER.

July by going down to Biverport on the
packet, and he had gathered much informa-
tion about the river which he was glad to give
now for everybody's pleasure and enlighten-
ment.

" There 's a bo't lay in' up in that cove that 's
drowned two men," he said solemnly. " There
was a ladv with 'em, but she was saved. I

*/ '

understand they 'd been drinking heavy."

Betty looked at the boat with awe where it
lay with the stern under water and the bows
ashore and all warped apart. "Isn't she
good for anything? " she asked.

" Nobody '11 ever touch Aer," said Seth con-
temptuously, " she 's drowned two men."

But Miss Leicester smiled, and said that it
appeared to have been their own fault.

They could see into the low ruined cabin
from the deck of the Starlight, and, after thej
passed, the cabin port-hole seemed to watch
them like an eye until it was far astern.

" I suppose she will lie there until she
breaks up in a high tide, and then the women
will gather her wreck wood to burn," said
Mr. Leicester, watching the warped mast , and
Harry Foster said that JIG fishermen on the



.DOWN THE RIVER. 251

river wauld ever touch a boat that they be-
lieved to be unlucky. Just then they came
round a point and passed a little house close
by the water, where there were flakes for dry-
ins: fish and a collection of little weather-beaten

o

boxes shaped like roofs which were used to
cover the fish in wet weather. Betty thought
they looked like a village of baby-houses. At
this moment a woman darted out of the house
door, screaming to some one inside, " I 've lost
Georgie and Idy both ! ' and off the anxious
mother hurried along the steep path to the
fish flakes, as if that were where she usually
found the runaways. Presently they heard
a child's shrill voice, and a pink pinafore
emerged from among the little roofs. Ida was
deposited angrily in the lane, while the mother
went back to hunt for the other one. It was
very droll to see and hear it all from the river,
but it was some minutes before loud shrieks
announced the adventurous Georgie's capture.
" Georgie must ha' been hull down on the
horizon," remarked Seth blandly, trying to
be very nautical, and everybody laughed ; but
Betty and Mary thought the woman very
cross, when it was such a pretty place to play



252 BETTY LEICESTER.

out there among the bayberry, and perhaps
there were ripe blackberries. Harry Foster
said that children did mischief in pulling off
bits of the dry fish and spoiling them for mar-
ket ; but there was no end of fish, and every*
body felt a sympathy for " Idy and Georgie
both " in their sad captivity.

Before long the houses were nearer together,
and even clustered in little groups close by
the river, and sometimes the Starlight passed
some schooners going up or down, or being
laden with bricks or hay or firewood at small
wharves. Then they came in sight of the
Riverport steeples, only a few miles below.
The wind was not so gusty now and blew
steadily, but it was very light, and the Starlight
moved slowly. Harry and Seth had already
hoisted a topsail, and while Mr. Leicester
steered Harry came and stood by the masts,
looking out ahead and talking with the two
girls. But Harry felt responsible for the boat,
and could not give himself up to pleasuring
until, as he said, he understood the tricks and
manners of the Starlight a little better. It
was toward noon, now, for they had come
slowly the last third of the way; and Mr.



DOWN THE RIVER. 253

Leicester, after a word with Aunt Barbara,
proposed that they should go ashore for a
while, for there was a beautiful piece of pine
woods close at hand, and the flats which he
was going to investigate were also within
rowing distance. So down came the sails and
alongside came the tag-boat ; and Aunt Bar-
bara was landed first, parasol and all, and the
others followed her. The tide was running
out fast, and it was not easy to find a landing-
place along the muddy shores. Betty thought
the Starlight looked much smaller from the
shore than she seemed when they were on
board. Harry and Seth made everything trig
and came in last, leaving the cat-boat at anchor
far out.

Even after the joy of sailing it was very
pleasant ashore under the shady pines, and
Mr. Leicester found a delightfully comforta-
ble place for Aunt Barbara to sit in, while the
girls were near by. " What an interesting
morning we have had ! ' Betty heard Aunt
Barbara say. " Sailing down the river brings
to mind so many things in the past. The be-
ginnings of history in this part of the country
always have to do with the river. I wish that



254 BETTY LEICESTER.

I could remember all the stories of the early
settlements that I used to hear old people tell
in my childhood."

" See that little green farm in the middle of
the sunburnt pastures across the river," said
Mr. Leicester, who had been looking that way
intently. " Look, Betty ! what a small green
spot it makes with its orchard and fields
among the woods and brown pastures, and yet
what toil has been spent there year after
year ! "

Betty looked with great interest. She had
seen the green farm, but she had not thought
about it, and neither had Mary Beck, who could
not tell why she kept looking that way again
and again, and somehow could not help thinking
how good it would be to make a green place
like that by one's own life among dull and
difficult surroundings. Betty was her green
place ; by and by she could do the same thing
for somebody else, perhaps.

" What a lovely place this is ! " said Aunt
Barbara, still enthusiastic. " There is such
sweet air here among the pines, and I delight
in the wide outlook over the river. I begin
to feel as young as ever. I thought that I



DOWN THE RIVER. 255

was almost too old to enjoy myself any more,
last winter. It is such a mistake to let one's
self make great things out of little ones, as I
did, and carry life too heavily," she added.

" You must feel ever so much older inside
ihan you look outside," said Betty, who was in
famous spirits.

Mr. Leicester laughed with the rest, and
then looked over his shoulder with a droll ex-
pression, as if something was causing him great
apprehension. " Aunt Barbara ! ' he began,
and then hid his face with his arm, as if he
were about to be well whipped.

"What mischief now?" said she.

" I have played you a trick : you are not
leaving your home and friends for one day,
but for two."

Miss Leicester looked puzzled.

" You were very good not to say that I was
foolish to carry two extra sails."

" I did think it was nonsense, Tom," he was
promptly assured, " but then I remembered that
you had only hired the boat, and thought per-
aaps the sails went with it. Of course they take
up too much room in the cabin. You can't
mean that you are going on a longer voyage ? '



256 BETTY LEICESTER.

" Tents ! ' shouted Betty, jumping up and
dancing about in great excitement. " Tents !
don't you see, Aunt Barbara ? and we 're going
to camp out." It was a very anxious moment,
for if Aunt Barbara said, " We must go home
to-night," there would be nothing to do but
obey.

" But your Aunt Mary will be worried, won't
she ? ' asked Miss Leicester, whose quick wit
suspected a deep-laid plot. She was already
filled with a spirit of adventure ; she really
looked pleased, but was not without a sense of
responsibility.

" I thought you would like it," explained
Mr. Leicester, in a matter-of-fact way ; " and
there was no need of telling you beforehand,
so that you would make your will and pay
your taxes and get in all the winter supplies
and have the minister to tea before you started.
Aunt Mary knows, and so does Serena ; you
will see that Serena contemplated the situation
by the way she filled these big baskets."

" I saw that they were amused with some-
thing that I did n't quite understand. And
Mary Beck's mother will not feel anxious ? '
she asked, for a final assurance. " I never



DOWN THE RIVER. 267

expected to turn myself fnto a wild Indian at
my age, even to please foolish children like
you and Betty, but I have always wished that
I could sleep one night under the pine woods."

" You said so when we were reading Mr.
Stevenson's fc Travels with a Donkey ' aloud to
Aunt Mary," Betty stated eagerly, as if the
others would find it hard to believe her grand-
aunt. Somehow, a stranger would have found
it difficult to believe that Miss Leicester had
unsatisfied desires about gypsying.

Mary Beck was deeply astonished ; she had
a huge admiration for her dignified neighbor
across the way, and yet it was always a little
perilous to her ease of mind and self-posses-
sion to find herself in Miss Leicester's company.
Many a time, in the days before Betty came
to Tideshead, she had walked to and fro before
the old house hoping to be spoken to or called
in for a visit, and yet was too shy to properly
, answer a kind good-morning when they met.
Aunt Barbara used to think that Becky was a
dull girl, but they were already better friends.
It took a long time to rouse Becky's enthu-
siasm, but when roused it burned with steady
flame. To think that she should be camping
out with Miss Leicester !



258 BETTY LEICESTER.

But Mr. Leicester and Betty and Becky
were soon at work making their camp, and the
novices took their first lesson in woodcraft.
The young men, Harry Foster and Seth, came
ashore bringing the tender loaded deep with
tents and blankets, some of them from Jona-
than's carefully kept chests in the carriage-
house, and Miss Leicester wondered again how
anybody had contrived to get so many things
from the house to the boat without her knowl-
edge. There were two sharp hatchets, and
presently Seth and Harry were dispatched to
gather some dry wood for the fire, though
until near evening the tents need not be put
up nor the last arrangements made for sleep-
ing. By and by everybody could help either
to cut or carry hemlock and spruce boughs
for the beds.

Betty helped her father to roll some stones
together for a fireplace just at the edge of the
river beach, and pleased him very much by
rolling a heavy one up to the top of the heap
on a piece of board which had washed ashore,
just as she had seen farmers do in building &
stone wall. Mary Beck, in a trepidation of
delight, was helping Miss Barbara Leicester



DOWN THE RIVER. 259

unpack the baskets, to see what should be
eaten for dinner and what should be kept
for future meals, when Mr. Leicester called
them.

" Aunt Barbara," he proclaimed, " I am
not going to let you keep tent ; you only know
how to keep house ; and beside, you must n't
do what you always do at home. Let the girls
manage dinner and you come with me, now
that the fire is started. I have thought of an
errand."

Miss Leicester meekly obeyed ; she was
ready for anything, having once cast off, as
she said, all obligation to society, and with a
few parting charges to Betty about the pro-
visions she disappeared among the pines with
her nephew.

" Is n't it fun? " said Mary Beck, and she
put on such a comical face when Betty sedately
quoted,

" What is that, mother ?

A lark, ray child,"

that Betty fell into a fit of laughter, and
Becky caught it, and they were gasping for
breath before they could stop. " Oh, think
of Aunt Barbara camping out and setting



260 BETTY LEICESTER.

herself up for a gypsy!" said Betty. "This
is just the way papa does now and then.
I always told you so, did n't I ? only you
never know when to watch for his tricks. He
does n't always catch me like this, I can tell
you. Think of Aunt Barbara ! I hope the
dear thing will pass a good night ; she is n't
a bit older than we are in her dear heart.
How will she ever have the face to walk into
church so grandly Sunday morning ! " and so
the merry girls chattered on, while they spread
the cloth and Betty put a decoration of leaves
round the edge and a handful of flowers in
the middle. " You have such a way of pretti-
fying things," said Mary Beck ; " there, the
chocolate pot is beginning to boil already."

" We ought to have some fresh water ; it is
time papa came back," said Betty anxiously ;
and just then appeared papa and smiling Aunt
Barbara, and a small tin pail which had to be
borrowed at a farm-house half a mile away
because it was forgotten.

The wind blew cool across the river, and
more and more boats went gliding up and
down in the channel, though the tide was very
low. Everybody was hungrier than ever, be-



DOWN THE RIVER. 261

cause the sea wind is famous for helping on
an appetite, and the hot chocolate was none too
hot after all, though Aunt Barbara's bonnet
was hanging on a branch and she did not seem
to miss the shelter of it. Becky was forced
to change her opinion about cooking ; she had
always disliked to have anything to do with
it ; it seemed to her a thing to be ignored and
concealed in polite society, and yet Betty was
openly proud of having had a few cooking-
school lessons, and of knowing the right way
to do things. Becky suddenly began to parade
her own knowledge, and found herself of great
use to the party. Instead of being unwilling
when her mother asked for help again, she
meant to learn a great many more things. She
was overjoyed when she found a tin box of
coffee, and remembered that Betty had said it
was her father's chief delight. She would
make a good cup for him in the morning.
Betty was always saying how nice it was to
know how to do things. She never expected
to like to wash dinner dishes, but the time had
jo me, though a hot sun was somehow pleas-
anter than a hot stove, and it had been a
gypsy dinner, with potatoes in the ashes and



262 BETTY LEICESTER.

buns toasted on a hot stone, and no end of
good things beside.

" We must have some oysters to roast foi
our supper. I know a place just below here
where they are very salt and good," said Mr.
Leicester ; " and one of you young men might
go fishing, and bring us in a string of floun-
ders, or anything you can get. We have break-
fast to look out for, you remember."

" Ay, ay, sir," said Harry Foster, sailor fash-
ion, but with uncommon heartiness. Harry
had been very quiet and care-taking on the
boat, and had not said much, either, since he
came ashore, but his eyes had been growing
brighter, and as Miss Leicester looked up at
him she was touched at the change in his face.
How boyish and almost gay he was again !
She caught his eye, and gave him a kind re-
assuring little nod, as if nobody could be more
pleased to have him happy than herself.

The Starlight was now aground in the
bright green river grass and the flats were
bare for a long distance beyond, so that there
was no more boating for the present. There
were plenty of comfortable hollows to rest in
farther back on the soft carpet under the



DOWN THE RIVER. 263

pines, and so the dining-room nearer the shore
was abandoned and the provisions cached, as
Mr. Leicester called it, under an oak-tree.
Certain things had been forgotten, but just
round the point the steeples of Riverport were
in full view ; and when everybody had rested
enough and the tide was creeping in, Mr.
Leicester first sent Harry out in the small boat
and his long-legged fishing-boots to get two
buckets of river mud, and after he had seated
himself beside them with his magnifying-
glasses and a paraphernalia of tools familiar
to Betty, Harry was given orders to take
Seth Pond and the two girls and go down to
Riverport shopping, as soon as the Starlight
floated again.

Harry was hovering over the scientific en-
terprise and looked sorry for a minute, but it
seemed to the girls as if the tide had stopped
rising. At last they got on board by going
down the shore a little way to be taken off the
sooner from some rock. Aunt Barbara an-
nounced that she meant to go too ; indeed, she
was not tired ; what had there been to tire
her ? So off they all went, and left Mr. Leices-
ter to his investigations. It took some time



264 BETTY LEICESTER.

to go to Riverport, for the wind was light and
the tide against them. Everybody, and Betty
in particular, thought it great fun to make
fast to the wharf and go ashore up into the
town shopping. Aunt Barbara gayly stepped
off first, to see an old friend who lived a little
way above the business part of the town, and ,
asked to be called for, as they went back, at
the friend's river gate. Harry knew it ? the
high house with the lookout on top and the
gate at the garden - foot. Betty went first
to find her early friend, the woman who kept
the bake-house, and was recognized at once
and provided with fresh buns and crisp mo-
lasses cookies which had hardly cooled. Then
Betty and Becky walked about the narrow
streets for an hour, enjoying themselves highly
and collecting ship's stores at two or three
fruit shops ; also laying in a good store of
chocolate, which Betty proclaimed to be very
nourishing. She got two pots of her favorite
orange marmalade too, in case they made toast
for supper.

" All the old ladies are looking out of their
windows, just as they were the day I was
kerning to Tideshead," she said ; and Becky re-



DOWN THE RIVER. 265

plied that tlieir faces were always at just the
same pane of glass. The fences were very
high and had their tops cut in points, and over
them here and there drooped the heavy bough
of a fruit-tree or a long tendril of grapevine,
as if there were delightful gardens inside. The
sidewalks were very narrow underneath these
fences, so that Betty often walked in the street
to be alongside her companion. There were
pretty old knockers on tli3 front doors, and
sometimes a parrot hung out under the porch,
and shouted saucily at the passers-by. Rirer-
port was a delightful old town. Betty was
sure that if she did not love Tideshead best
she should like to belong in Riverport, and
Lave a garden with a river gate, and a great
square house of three stories and a lookout on
top.

The stores were put on board, and Seth
Pond came back from researches which had
been rewarded by a half-bushel basket full of
clams. Then they swung out into the stream
again, and ever so many little boys with four
grown men on the wharf gave them a cheer.
It was great fun stopping for Aunt Barbara,,
who was in the garden watching for them, and



266 BETTY LEICESTER.

was escorted by a charming white-haired oM
gentleman who teased her a little upon he*
youthful escapade, and a younger lady who
walked sedately under an antique Chinese
parasol. Betty sprang ashore to greet this
latter personage, who had lately paid a visit
to Miss Barbara at Tideshead. She was fond
of Miss Marcia Drummond.

" It seems like old times to have you going
home by boat," said Miss Marcia, kissing Aunt
Barbara good - by. " It is much pleasanter
than a car journey. Betty, my dear, you know
that your aunt is a very rash and heedless
person ; I hope you will hold her in check. I
have been trying to persuade her that she will
be much safer to-night in one of our old four-
posters ; " and so they said good-by merrily and
were off again, while the young people in the
boat looked back as long as they could see the
old garden with its hollyhocks and lilies, and
the two figures of the courtly old gentleman
and the lady with the parasol going up the
broad walk.

" What a good thing it was in Tom Leice"
ter to send his daughter to Tideshead this suu,
iner ! " said the old gentleman. " I think that



DOWN THE RIVER. 267

Barbara is renewing her youth. Tom is a
man of distinction, and yet keeps to his queer
wild ways. You are sure that Barbara quite
understands about our wishing them to dine
here ? I think this camping business is posi-
tively foolish conduct in a person of her age.'*

But Miss Marcia Drummond looked wist-
fully over her shoulder at the cat-boat's lessen-
ing sail, and wished that she too were going to
spend a night under the pines.

A little way up the river they passed the
packet boat, a little belated and heavily laden,
but moving steadily.

" Look at old Step-an'-fetch-it," said Seth.
" She spears all the little winds with that
peaked sail o' hern. Ain't one on 'em can git
by her." They kept company for a while, un-
til in the broad river bay above Riverport
bridge the Starlight skimmed far ahead, like a
great white moth. Seth mentioned that folks
would think they was settin' up a navy up to
Tideshead, and just then the Starlight yawed,
and the boom threw Seth off his balance and
nearly overboard, as much to his own amuse-
ment as the rest of the ship's company's.
Betty and Mary Beck stowed themselves



268 BETTY LEICESTER.

away before the mast, and wished that the
sail were longer. The sun was low, and the


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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 12 of 13)