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" I do so well that I am sending them down to
Riverport every day that the packet goes, and
I wish that I had somebody to help me. You
don't know what a rich old river it is ! '

" Why, if here is n't Aunt Mary ! " cried
Betty. Sure enough, the eager voices and the
laughter had attracted another guest. And
Aunt Barbara sprang up joyfully and called
for a shawl and footstool from the house ; but
Betty did n't wait for them, and brought Aunt
Mary to the arbor bench. Nobody knew when
the poor lady had been in her own garden be-
fore, but here she was at last, and had her
supper with the rest. The good doctor would
have been delighted enough if he had seen the

Nothing had ever tasted so good as that out-
of-door supper. The white June moon came
up, and its bright light made the clay longer ;
and when everybody had eaten a last piece of
sponge-cake, and the heap of strawberries on
a great round India dish had been leveled,


what should be heard but sounds of a violin.
Betty had discovered that Seth Pond, the
clumsy, good-natured Seth of all people !
had, as he said, " ears for music," and had
taught himself to play.

So they had a country-dance on the green,
girls and boys and Aunt Barbara, who had
been a famous dancer in her youth ; and those
who did n't know the steps of " Money Musk "
and the Virginia reel were put in the middle
of the line, and had plenty of time to learn be-
fore their turns came. Afterward Seth played
"Bonny Doon," and "Nelly was a Lady," and
" Johnny Comes Marching Home," and " An-
nie Laurie," and half a dozen other songs, and
everybody sang, but, to Betty's delight, Mary
Beck's voice led all the rest.

The moon was high in the sky when the
guests went away. It seemed like a new world
to some young folks who were there, and every,
body was surprised because everybody else
looked so pretty and was so surprisingly gay.
Yet, here it was, the same old Tideshead after
all !

" Aunt Barbara," said Betty, as that aunt sat
vn the side of Betty's four-post bed, " Aunt


Barbara, don't say good -night just yet. I
must talk about one or two things before I
forget them in the morning. Mary Picknell
asked me ever so many questions about some
of the pictures, but she knows more about
them than I do, and I thought I would ask
her to come some day so that you could tell
her everything. She ought to be an artist.
Did n't you see how she kept looking at the
pictures? And then Harry Foster knows a
lovely place down the river for a picnic, and
can borrow boats enough beside his own to
take us all there, only it 's a secret yet. Harry
said that it was a beautiful point of land, with
large trees, and that there was a lane that
came across the fields from the road, so that
you could be driven down to meet us, if you
disliked the boats."

" I am very fond of going on the water,"
said Aunt Barbara, with great spirit. "I
knew that point, and those oak-trees, long
before either of you were born. It was very
polite of Harry to think of my coming with
the young folks. Yes, we '11 think about the
picnic, certainly, but you must go to sleep
now, Betty."


" Aunt Barbara must have been such a nice
girl," thinks Betty, as the door shuts. " And
if we go, Harry must take her in his boat.
It is strange that Mary Beck should not like
the Fosters, just because their father was a

But the room was still and dark, and sleep!
ness got the better of Betty's thoughts that




ONE morning Betty was hurrying down
Tideshead street to the post-office, and hap-
pened to meet the minister's girls and Lizzie
French, who were great friends with each
other. They seemed to be unusually confiden-
tial and interested about something.

" We 've got a secret club and we 're go-
ing to let you belong," said Lizzie French.
" Where can we go to tell you about it, and
make you take the oath ? '

" Come home with me just as soon as I post
this letter," responded Betty with great pleas-
ure. " Do you think my front steps would
be a good place ? '

" It would be too hot ; beside, we don't want
Mary Beck to see us," objected Ellen Grant,
who was the most pale and quiet of the two
sisters. They were both pleasant, persistent,
mild-faced girls, who never seemed tired or con-


fused, and never liked to change their minds
or to go out of their own way. Usually all the
other girls liked to do as they said, and they
were accordingly very much pleased with Betty,
apparently because she hardly ever agreed with

" Let 's go to walk, then," said Betty.

" 1 11 tell you what we '11 do," Lizzie
Grant said in a business-like tone. " Let 's go
down the old road a little way, toward the
river, and sit under the black cherry - tree
on the stone wall ; you know how cool it
is there in the morning ? I can't stay but
a little while any way. I am going to help

Nobody objected and away they went two
by two. Evidently there was serious business
on hand, which could by no means be told
lightly or without some regard to the sur-

" Now what is it ? ' demanded Betty, when
they had seated themselves under the old black
cherry - tree ; but neither of the girls took it
upon her to speak first. "I promise never,
never to tell."

Mary Grant took a thin, square little book


out of her pocket, half of a tiny account book
of the plainest sort, and held it up to Betty so-
that she could see the letters S. B. C. on the
pale brown pasteboard cover. It certainly
looked very interesting and mysterious. " We
thought that we would admit another mem-
ber," said Mary ; " but it is a very difficult
thing to belong, and you must hold up your
right hand and promise on your word of honor
that you will never speak of it to any girl in

" I may have to speak of it to papa. I al-
ways tell papa if I am not quite certain about
things. He said a great while ago that it was
the safest way. I mean I am on my honor
about it, that 's all. He never asks me."
Betty's cheeks grew red as she spoke, but she
did speak bravely, and the girls were more
impressed than ever by the seriousness of the

" I don't believe that she will have to tell
him, do you, girls ? ' Lizzie French insisted*
" Any way we want you to belong, Betty. You
be the one to tell her, Mary."

" It is a society to help us not to say things
about people," said Mary Grant solemnly, and


Betty Leicester gave a little sigh of relief-
She thought that would be a most worthy ob-
ject, though somewhat poky.

" We have made a league that we will try
to break ourselves of speaking harshly and
making fun of people, and of not standing up
for them when others talk scandal. There,
you see this book is ruled into little squares
for the days of the week, a month on a page,
and when we get through a day without say-
ing anything against anybody we can put a
nice little cross in, but when we have broken
the pledge we must mark it with a cipher, and
then when we are just horrid and keep on
being cross, we must black the day all over.
Then once a week we have to show the books
to each other and make our confessions. 5 '

" Would n't it be splendid, if we could have
a whole week of good marks, to wear a little
badge or something ? ' proposed Lizzie French.

" Oh Lizzie ! we never can, it will be so
hard to get through one single day," Betty
answered quickly. " I should just love to be-
long, though ; I am always saying ugly things
and being sorry. What does S. B. C. mean ?
How did you ever think of it ? "


"The Sin Book Club," Ellen Grant ex-
plained. " Mary and I heard of one that our
cousin belonged to at boarding-school. She
said that it took weeks and weeks for some of
the members to make one good mark, but
after you get into the habit of it, you find it
quite easy. I will let you take my book to
make yours by, if you will let me have it back
to-night. I bought a little book for Mary
and me that was only three cents, and cut it in
two; and Lizzie has n't got hers yet, so you
can buy one together and go halves."

" I 'd like to know who will pay the two
cents," laughed Betty. " I will, and then you
can give rne half a one-cent lead pencil to
make change. Papa always has such a joke
about a man in one of Mr. Lowell's poems
who used to change a board nail for a shingle
nail so as to make the weight come right."

" No, you give me the pencil," said Lizzie,
"I lost mine yesterday," and the new mem-
bers became unduly frivolous.

" Now we must n't laugh, girls, because it is a
solemn moment," said Ellen Grant, though she
lid not succeed in looking very sober herself.

Betty was looking at Mary Grant's sin


book, which had kept the record of two tlajs,
both with bad marks. If Mary had failed, what
could impulsive Betty hope for ? it was oae of
her worst temptations to make fun or to find
petty faults in people. She did not know
what her friends would think of her as time
went on, but she meant to try very hard.

" Just think how lovely it will be if we learn
never to say anything against any one ! Per-
haps we ought to make it a big club instead of
a little one," but one of the girls said that peo-
ple would laugh and would be watching them.

" Ought n't we to ask Becky to belong ? ' It
was difficult for Betty to ask this question, but
she feared that her dear friend and neighbor's
sharp eyes would detect the secret alliance, and
Mary Beck was very hard to console when she
was once roused into displeasure. Somehow
'Betty liked the idea of belonging to a club
that Mary Beck did not know about. She
was a little ashamed of this feeling, but there
it was ! The Grants and Lizzie refused to
have Becky join, at any rate just now ; and so
Betty said no more- Perhaps it would be just
as well at first, and she would be as careful
as possible to gain good marks for her friend's


sake as well as her own. Then the four mem-
bers of the S. B. C. came back together into
the village, and if the black cherry-tree heard
their secret it never told. Whom should they
meet as they turned the corner into the main
street but Mary Beck herself, and Betty for
one moment felt guilty of great disloyalty.

" We have been to walk a little way ; I met
the girls as I was going to the post-office, and
we just went down the old road and sat under
the cherry-tree," she hastened to explain, but
Becky was in a most friendly mood and joined
them with no suspicion of having been left out
of any pleasure. Betty felt a secret joy in be-
longing to the club while Becky did not, and yet
she was sorry all the time for Becky, who had
a great pride in being at the front when any-
thing important was going on. Becky liked
to keep Betty Leicester to herself, and indeed
the two girls were growing more and more
fond of each other, though a touch of jealousy
in one and a spirit of independence and free-
dom in the other sometimes blew clouds over
Mieir sunny spring sky. Mary Beck had a
way of seeing how people treated her and rat-
ing them accordingly a silly self -compassion


ate way of saying that one was good to her,
and a surly suspicion of another who did not
pay her an expected attention, and these traits
offended Betty Leicester, who was not given to
putting either herself or other people under a
microscope. There was nothing morbid about
Betty and no sentimentality in her way of look-
ing at herself. Becky's sensitiveness and prej-
udice were sometimes very tiresome, but they
made nobody half so miserable as they did
Becky herself; the talk she had always heard
at home was very narrowing ; a good deal of
fruitless talk about small neighborhood affairs
went on continually and had nothing to do
with the real interests of life. It was a house
where there was very little to show for the time
that was spent. Mary Beck and her mother
let many chances for their own usefulness and
pleasure slip by, while they said mournfully
that everything would have been so different
if Mary's father had lived. Betty Leicester
was taught to do the things that ought to be

The Sin Book Club continued to be a pro-
found secret, and was considered of great
?alue. Some days passed without a second


meeting of the members for reports, but they
gave each other significant looks and tried verj
hard to gain the little crosses that were to mark
a good day. Betty was in despair when evening
after evening she had to put down a cipher,
and it was a great humiliation to find how of-
ten she yielded to a temptation to say funny
things about people. To be sure old Mrs. Max
was an ugly old gossip, but Betty need not
have confided this opinion to Serena and Letty
as they happened to look out of the kitchen win-
dows, to see Mrs. Max go by. Betty had suc-
ceeded in being blameless until past six o'clock
that day, and it was the fifth day of trial ;
lost now, and black-marked like those that
had gone before. She went back to the gar-
den and sat down in the summer-house much
dejected. The light that came through the
grape and clematis leaves was dim and tinted
with green ; it was a little damp there too, and
quite like a sorrowful little hermitage. It is
very hard work trying to cure a fault. Betty
did so like to make people laugh, and she was
always seeing what funny things people looked
like ; and altogether life was much soberer if
one could no longer say whatever came into


one's head. She was sure that all funny per-
sonalities did not make people think the less of
their fellows, but it seemed as if most, and the
very funniest, did. Our friend dreaded the in-
spection of her sin book, but when the Grants
and Lizzie French showed theirs too in solemn
conclave there was only one good mark for the
whole four. This was Ellen Grant's, who talked
much less than either of the others and so may
have found that silence cost less effort.

" Even if we never succeed it will make us
more careful," Lizzie French said, trying to
keep up good courage.

"I keep wishing that Mary Beck be-
longed ; ' ' urged Betty loyally, but the others
were resolute and insisted, nobody could tell
exactly why, that Becky would spoil it all.

Betty was valiant enough in case of open
war, but she hated heartily as who does not
hate ? a chilling atmosphere of disapproval,
in which no good-fellowship can flourish. Of
course the club soon betrayed its common in-
terest, and because Mary Beck was unobser-
vant for the first week or two, Betty took
little pains to conceal the fact that she and
the Grants had a new interest in common.


Then one clay Becky did not come over, though
the white handkerchief was displayed betimes ;
and when, as soon as possible, Betty hurried
over to see what the matter was, Becky
showed unmistakable signs of briefness and
grumpiness of speech, and declared that she
was busy at home, and evidently did not care
for the news that an old ^Eolian harp had
been discovered on a high upper shelf and
carried to one of the dormer windows, where
it was then wailing. The plaintive strains
of it would have suited Becky's spirit and
temper of mind excellently. It did not occur
to Betty until she was going home, disap-
pointed, that the club was beginning to make
trouble ; then her own good temper was spoiled
for that day, and she was angry with Becky
for thinking that she had no right to be in-
timate with anybody else. So serious a dis-
agreement had never parted them before.
Betty Leicester assured herself that Mary
knew she was fond of her and liked to be with
her best, and that ought to be enough. The
ZEolian harp was quite forgotten.

Later in the day Betty happened to look
across the street as she was shutting the


blinds in the upper hall, and saw Mary Beck
come proudly down her short front walk with
her best hat on and go stiffly away without
i look across. The sight made her feel mis-
understood and lonely ; and one minute later
she was just going to shout to Becky when she
remembered that it was a far cry and would
wake the aunts from their afternoon naps.
Then she ran lightly down the wide staircase
and all the way to the gate and called as loud
as she could, " Mary ! Mary ! ' but either
Becky was too far away or would not turn her
proud head. There were some other persons
in the street, who looked with surprise and in-
terest to see where such an eager shout came
from, but Betty Leicester had turned toward
the house again with a heartf ul of rage and
sorrow. It seemed to be the sudden and un-
looked-for end of the summer's pleasure.
When Aunt Barbara waked she asked Betty,
being somewhat surprised to find her in the
house alone, to go to the other end of the vil-
lage to do an errand.

It was good to have something to do beside
growing crosser and crosser, and Betty gladly
hurried away. She hoped that she should


meet Becky, and yet she did not mean to make
up too easily, and when she saw Mrs. Beck
watching her out of a front window she felt
certain that Mrs. Beck was cross too. " Let
them get pleased again ! ' grumbled Miss
Betty Leicester, and Mary Beck herself had
not borne a more forbidding expression. She
lingered a moment at Nelly Foster's gate, hop-
ing to find Nelly free, but the noise of the
sewing-machine was plainly to be heard, and
Nelly said wistfully that she could not go out
until after tea ; then she would come down to
the house for a little while if Betty would like
it, and Betty gladly said yes. Her heart was
shaken as she walked on alone and came to
the oak-tree on the high ridge where Becky
had taken her to see the view and told her
that she always called it their tree, in that first
afternoon's walk. What could make poor old
Becky so untrustful and unkind ? Perhaps
after all everything would be right when they
met again ; it might be one of Becky's freaks,
only a little worse than usual. Alas, Mary
with Julia Picknell, who happened to be in
the village that afternoon, came out of one of
the stores as the returning Betty was passing,


and Becky looked another way and pushed by,
though Betty had spoken pleasantly and tried
to stop her.

" I don't care one bit ; you 're rude and
hateful, Mary Beck ! ' said Betty hotly, at
which Julia, mild little friend that she was,
looked frightened and amazed. She had
thought many times how lovely it must be to
live in town and have friendships of a close
and intimate kind with the girls. She pitied
Betty Leicester, who looked as if she could
hardly keep from crying ; but the grievous
Becky was more grumpy than before.

Serena was walking in the side yard in her
nice plain afternoon dress, and somehow Betty
felt more like seeking comfort from her than
from Aunt Barbara, and was glad to go in at
the little gate and join her kind old friend.

" What 's fell upon you ? ' asked Serena,
with sincere compassion.

" Mary Beck 's just as disagreeable as she
can be to-day," responded Betty, regardless of
her sin book. " Serena ! I just hate her, and
I hate that horrid best hat of hers with the
feather in it."


" Oh, no you don't, sweetin's ; " Serena
tested peacefully. " You '11 be keepin' com-
pany same 's ever to-morrow. Now I thinl
of 't, you 've been off a good deal with the
Grants and that French girl ' ' (not a favorite
of Serena's) ; " I wonder if that 's all ? '

" Yes no " wavered Betty. " Don't you
tell anybody, but I do belong to a little club,
but Becky does n't really understand, for we 've
kept it very secret indeed."

" I want to know," exclaimed Serena.

" Yes, and it 's for such a good object. I '11
tell you some time, perhaps, but we want to
cure ourselves of a fault." It seemed no harn?
to tell good old Serena ; the compact had only
been that none of the other girls should
know. " We keep a little book, and we can
have a good mark at night if we have n't said
anything against anybody, but to-day I shall
liave such a black one ! It makes us careful
how we speak ; truly, Serena ; but Becky
does n't know, and she 's making me feel so
badly just because she suspects something."

" The tongue is an evil member," said
Serena. "I don't know but doing things is
full as bad as sayin' 'em, though. I s'pose


you ain't kind of flaunted it a little speck thai
you had some secret arnon'st you, to spite
Mary ? "

" She was stuffy about it and she had no
right to be," Betty said this at first hastily,
and then added : " I did wish yesterday th,
she would ask to belong and find that for once
she could n't."

Serena took Betty's light hand in her own
work-worn one and held it fast. " Le's come
and set on the doorstep a spell," she said ;
" I want to tell you something about me an'
a girl I thought everything of when we was

" She was real pretty, and we went together
and had our young men not serious, only
kind o' going together ; an' Cynthy an' me
we had a misunderstandin' o' one another and
we did n't speak for much 's a fortnight an'
said spiteful things. I was here same 's I be
now, an' your Aunt Barbara, she was young
too, an' the old lady, Madam Leicester, she was
alive and they all was inquirin' what had come
over me. I used to have a pretty voice then,
and I would n't go to singiii'-school or evenin'
meetin' nor nothin'. I set out to leave here an'


my good kind home an' go off to Lowell work-
ing in the mill, 't was when so many did, and
girls liked it. Cynthy lived to the minister's
folks. I Ve never got over it how ugly spoken
I was about that poor girl, and she used to
look kind of beseechin' at me the two or three
times we met, as if she 'd make up if I would,
but I would n't. An' don't you think, one
night her brother come after her to take her
home, up Great Hill way, and the horse got
scared and threw 'em out on the ice ; an' when
they picked Cynthy up she was just breathin'
an' that was all, an' never spoke nor knew
nothin' again. 'T was at the foot o' that hill
just this side o' the Picknells. It give me a
fit o' sickness ; it did so," said Serena mourn-
fully. " I can't bear to think about her never.
Oh, she was one of the prettiest girls you ever
saw. I try to go every summer an' lay a
bunch o' pink roses on to her grave ; she used
to like 'em. I know 't was a fault o' youth
an' hastiness, but I ain't never forgot it all
my long life. I tell you witih a reason. Folks
says it takes two to make a quarrel but only
one to end it. Now you bear that in your


Betty glanced at old Serena, and saw two
great tears slowly running down her faded
cheek. She was much moved by the sad little
story, and Serena's pretty friend and the pink
roses. She wondered what the quarrel had
been about, but she did not like to ask, and as
Serena still held one hand she put the other
over it, while Serena took the corner of her
afternoon apron to wipe away the tears.

" It 's very hard to be good, is n't it, Serena
dear ? " asked Betty.

" It 's master hard, sweetin's," answered Se-
rena gravely, " master hard ; but it can be
done with help." They sat there on the shady
doorstep for some minutes without speaking.
A robin was chirping loud, as if for rain, high
in one of the elms overhead, and the sun was
getting low. Presently Serena was mindful of
her evening duties and rose to go in, but not
before Betty had put both arms round her and
kissed her.

" There,, there ! somebody '11 see you," pro-
tested the kind soul, but her face shone with
joy. " Which d' you want for your supper,
shortcakes or some o' them crispy rye ones ? '
ke asked, trying to be very matter-of-fact. As


for Betty, she turned and went down the yard
and out of the carriage gate and straight across
the wide street. She opened the Becks' front
door and saw Becky at the end of the entry
trying to escape to the garden.

" Don't let 's be grumpy," she said in a
friendly tone, " I 've come over to make up."

Becky tried to preserve a stern expression,
but somehow there was a warmth at her heart
which suddenly came to the surface in a smile
and the two girls were friends again. That
night Betty put down a black mark, but not
without feeling that the day had ended well in
spite of its dark shadows.

" I don't believe that we ought to keep the
sin books secret," she told the members of the

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 4 of 13)