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club one afternoon when the second week's trial
was over and there had been four or five good
days for encouragement. "I don't wish every-
body to know, but now that we find how much
good they do us, we ought to let somebody else
try ; only Becky and the Picknells and Nelly


But there was no expression of approval.

" Then I 'm going to do this : not tell them
about this club, but behave as if it was some-


thing new and start another club. I could be=
long to two as well as one, you know."

" I would n't be such a copy-cat," said Liz-
zie French quickly. " It 's our secret ; we shall
be provoked that we ever asked you," and with
this verdict Betty was forced to be contented.
She felt as if she had taken most inflexible
vows, but there was a pleasing excitement in
such dark mystery. The girls had to employ
much stratagem in order to have their weekly
meetings unsuspected, for Betty was deter-
mined not to make any more trouble among
her friends. When she was first in Tideshead
she often felt more enlightened than her neigh-
bors, as if she had been beyond those bounds
and experiences of every-day life known to the
other girls, but she soon discovered herself to
be single-handed and weak before their force
of habit and prejudice. With all their friend-
liness and affection for Betty Leicester they
held their own with great decision, and some-
times she found herself nothing but a despised
minority. This was very good for her, espe-
cially when, as it sometimes happened, she was
quite in the wrong, while if she were right she
became more sure of it and was able to make
her reasons clear.


There were several solemn evening meetings
of the Sin Book Club after this ; the favorite
place of assemblage was a shady corner of Liz-
zie French's damp garden, where the records
were sorrowfully inspected by the fleeting light
of burnt matches, and gratified crowds of mos-
quitoes forced the sessions to be extremely
brief. Whether it was that new interests took
the place of the club, or whether the members
thought best to keep their trials to themselves,
no one can say, but by the middle of August
the regular meetings had ceased. Yet some-
times the little books came accidentally out of
pocket with a member's handkerchief, and
were not without a good and lasting effect
upon four quick young tongues ; perhaps this
will be seen as the story goes on.



THE summer days flew by. Some letters
came from Mr. Leicester on his rapid journey
northward, and Betty said once that it seemed
months since she left England instead of a
few weeks, everybody was so friendly and
pleasant. Tideshead was most delightful to
a girl who had been used to seeing strange
places and to knowing nobody but papa at
first, and only getting acquainted by degrees
with the lodgings people and the shops, and
perhaps with some new or old friends of
papa's who lived out of the town. Once or
twice she had stayed for many weeks in rough
places in the north of Scotland, going from
village to village and finding many queer peo-
ple, and sometimes being a little lonely when
her father was away on his scientific quests.
Mr. Leicester insisted that Betty learned more
than she would from books in seeing the coun-


try and the people, and Betty herself liked it
much better than if she had been kept steadily
at her lessons. The most doleful time that she
could remember was once when papa had gone
to the south of Italy late in spring and had
left her at a French convent school until his
return. However, there were delightful things
to remember, especially about some of the good
sisters whom Betty learned to love dearly, and
it may be imagined how brimful of stories she
was, after all these queer and pleasant experi-
ences, and how short she made the evenings to
Aunt Barbara and Aunt Mary by recounting
them. It was no use for the ladies to worry
any more about Betty's being spoiled by such
an erratic course of education, as they often
used to worry while she was away. They had
blamed Betty's father for letting her go about
with him so much, but there did not seem to
be any great harm wrought after all. She
knew a great many things that she never would
have known if she had stayed at school. Still,
she had a great many things to learn, and the
summer in Tideshead would help to teach her
those. She was really a home-loving girl, our
Betty Leicester, and the best part of any new


town was always the familiar homelike place
that she and papa at once made in it with
their " kits," as Betty called their traveling
array of books and a few little pictures, and
papa's special kits and collections of the time
being. Aunt Barbara could never know upon
how many different rooms her little framed
photograph had looked. She had grown older
since it was taken, but when she said so Betty
insisted that it was a picture of herself and
would always look exactly like her. Betty had
grown so attached to it that it was still dis-
played on the dressing-table of the east bed-
room, even though the original was hourly to
be seen.

In this summer quiet of the old town it
seemed impossible that papa should not come
hurrying home, as he used in their long Lon-
don winters, to demand an instant start for
some distant place. When the traveling
kit was first bestowed in the lower drawer
of one of the deep bureaus, Betty felt as if it
might have to come out again next day, but
there it stayed, and was abandoned to neglect
unless its owner needed the tumbler in its
stiff leather box for a picnic, or thought of a


particular spool that might be found in the
traveling work-bag. But with all the quiet
and security of her surroundings, sometimes
her thoughts followed papa most wistfully, or
she wondered what her friends were doino 1 on


the other side of the sea. It was very queer to
be obliged to talk about entirely new and dif-
ferent things, and Tideshead affairs alone, and
not to have anybody near who knew the same
every-day life that had stopped when she came
to Tideshead, and so letters were most wel-
come. Indeed, they made a great part of the
summer's pleasure. Suppose we read a hand-
ful as if we had picked them from Betty's
pocket :


MY DEAR BETTY, It was very good of
you to write me so soon. You would be sure
that I was eager to hear from you, and to know
whether you had a good voyage and found
yourself contented in Tideshead. I am sure
that your grand aunts are even more glad to
have you than I was sorry to let you go. But
we must have a summer here together one of
these days ; you would be sure to like Inter-
laken. It seems to me pleasanter and quainter


than ever ; that is, if one takes the trouble to
step a little one side of the torrent of tourists.
Our rooms in the old pension are well lighted
and aired, and two of my windows give on the
valley toward the Jungfrau and the high green
mountain slopes. Every morning since we
have been here I have looked out to see a fresh
dazzling whiteness of new snow that has cov-
ered the Jungfrau in the night, and we always
say with a sigh every evening, as we look up
out of the shadowy valley and see the high peak
still flushed with red sunset light, that such
clear weather cannot possibly last another day.
There are some old Swiss chalets across the
green, and we hear pleasant sounds of every-
day life now and then ; last night there w T as a
festival of some sort, and the young people
sang very loud and very late, jodeling famously
and as if breath never failed them. I suppose
that the girls have already written to you, and
that you will have two full descriptions of
our scramble up to one of the highest chalets
which I can see now as I look up from my
writing-table, like a toy from a Niirnberg box
with a tiny patch of greenest grass beside it
and two or three tufts of trees. In truth it is


a good-sized, very old house, and the green
square is a large field. It is so steep that I
wonder all the small children have not rolled
out of the door and down to the valley one
after the other, which is indeed a foolish re-
mark to have made.

I take great pleasure in my early morning
walks, in which you have so often kept me
company, dear child. I meet the little peasants
coming down from the hillsides to eight o'clock
school in their quaint long frocks like little old
fairies, they look so wise and sedate. Often
I go to the village of Unterseen, just beyond
the great modern hotels, but looking as if it
belonged to another century than ours. We
have some friends, artists, who have lodgings
in one of the old houses, and when I go to see
them I envy them heartily. Here it is very
comfortable, but some of the people at table
d'hote are very tiresome to see, noisy strangers,
who eat their dinners in most unpleasant fash-
ion ; but I should not forget two delightful
German ladies from Hanover, who are takiuo-


their first journey after many years, and are
most simple and enviable in their deep enjoy-
ment of the Kursaal and other pleasures


easily to be had. But I must not write too
long about familiar pictures of travel. I will
not even tell you our enthusiastic plan for a
long journey afoot which will take nine days
even with the best of weather. Ada and
Bessie will be sure to keep a journal for your
benefit and their own. Are you really well,
my dear Betty, and busy, and do you find
yourself making new friends with your old
friends and playmates? It goes without say-
ing that you are missing your papa, but be-
fore one knows we shall all be at home in
London, as hurried and surprised as ever with
the interesting people and events that pass
by. Mr. Duncan is to join us for the walk-
ing tour, and has planned at least one daring
ascent with the Alpine Club. I came upon
his terrible shoes this morning in one of
his boxes and they made me quite gloomy.
Pray give my best regards to Miss Leicester,
and Miss Mary Leicester ; they seem very
dear friends to me already, and when I come
to America I shall be seeing old friends for
the first time, which is always charming. I
leave the girls to write their own words to you,
but Standish desires her duty to Miss Betty,


and says that her winter coat is to be new.
lined, if she would kindly bear it in mind:
the silk is badly frayed, if Standish may say
so ! I do not think from what I know of the
American climate that you will be needing it
yet, but dear old Standish is very thoughtful
of all her charges. We had only a flying note
from your papa, written on his way north, and
shall be glad when you can send us news of
him. God bless you, my dear child, and make
you a blessing ! I hope that you will do good
and get good in this quiet summer. Write
to me often ; I feel as if you were almost my
own girl. Yours most tenderly,


From papa, these :

DEAREST BETTY, This morning it is a
wild country all along the way, untamed and
unhumanized for the most part, and we go
flying along through dark forests and forlorn
burnt lands from tiny station to station. I am
getting a good bit of writing done with the only
decent stylographic pen I ever saw. I thought
I had brought plenty of pencils, but they were
not in my small portmanteau, and after going


to the baggage-car and putting everybody to
great trouble to get out my large one, they
were not there either. Can any one explain ?
I found the dear small copy of Florio's "Mon-
taigne 5 ' which you must have tucked in at the
last moment. I like to have it with me more
than I can say. You must have bought it that
last morning when I had to leave you to go to
Cambridge. I do so like to own such a Betty !
Why do you still wish that you had come with
me? Tideshead is much the best place in the
world. I send my dear love to the best of aunts,
and you must assure Serena and Jonathan
and all my old friends of my kind remem-
brance. I wish every day that our friend
Mr. Duncan could have come with me. The
country seems more and more wide and won-
derful, and I am quite unconscious now of the
motion of the cars and feel as fresh every morn-
ing and as sleepy every night as possible ; so
don't worry about me, but pick me a sprig of
Aunt Barbara's sweetbrier roses now and then,
and try not to be displeasing to any one, dear
little girl. Your fond father,




DEAR BETTY, The pencils all tumbled on
the car-floor out of my light overcoat pocket.
I then recalled somebody's command that I
should put them into the portmanteau at once,
the day they came home from the stationer's.
have found a fortune-telling, second-sighted
person in the car. She has the section next
to mine and has been directed by a familiar
spirit to go to Seattle. She has a parrot with
her, and they are both very excitable and
communicative. She just told me that it is
revealed to her that my youngest boy will
have a genius for sculpture. I miss you more
than usual to-day. You could help me with
some copying, and there is positively nothing
interesting to see out of the window ; what
there is of uninteresting twirls itself about.
We shall soon be reaching the mountains, in
fact, I have just caught my first glimpse of
them beyond these great plains. I must really
have some one to write for me next year, but
this winter we keep holiday, you and I, if we
get in for nothing new. It pleases me to write
to you and takes up the long day. You will


have finished " L' Allegro " by this time; sup-
pose you learn two of the " Sonnets " next. I
wish you to know your Milton as well as pos-
sible, but I am sorry to have you take it while
I am away. Take Lowell's " Bigiow Papers '
and learn the Spring poem. You will find
nothing better to have in your mind in the
Tideshead June weather. And so good-by for
this day. T. LEICESTER.

Mr DEAR BETTY, Your letter is very
good, and I am more glad than ever that you
chose to go to Tideshead. You will learn so
much from Aunt Barbara that I wish my girl
to know and to be. And you must remember,
in Aunt Mary's self-pitying moments, all her
sympathy and her true love for us both, and
remember that she has in her character some-
thing that makes her the dearest being in the
world to such a woman as Aunt Barbara. She
is a person, in fact they both are, to be liked
and appreciated more and more. You and
your Mary Beck interest me very much, Are
you sure that it is wise to call her Becky ? I
thought that she was a new girl, but a nick-
name is indeed hard to droD. I remember


her, a good little red-cheeked child. Let me
say this : You have indeed lived a wider sort
of life, but I fear that I have made you spread
your young self over too great a space, while
your Becky has stepped patiently to and fro in
a smaller one. You each have your advan-
tages and disadvantages, so be " very observ-
ant and respectful of your neighbor," as that
good old Scottish preacher prayed for us in
Kelso. Be sure that you don't " feel superior,"
as your Miss Murdon used to say. It is a
great thing to know Tideshead well. Remem-
ber Selborne and how famous that town came
to be ! Yours fondly,

T. L.

INTERLAKEN, July llth.

DEAR BETTY, Ada and I mean to take
turns in writing to you, one letter on Sun-
day and one in the middle of the week ; for if
we write together we shall tell you exactly the
same things. So, you see, this is my turn.
We do so wish for you and think that you
cannot possibly be having so much fun in
Tideshead as if you had come with us. We
.see such droll people in traveling; they do not


look as if they were going anywhere, but as
if they were lost and trying hard to find their
way back, poor dears ! There was an old wo-
man sitting near us on a bench with a stupid-
looking young man, to hear the band play,
and when it stopped she said to him : " Now
we 've only got three tunes more, and they will
soon be done." We wondered why she could n't
go and do something else if she hated them so
much. Ada and I play a game every morning
when we walk in the town : We take sides and
one has the Germans and one the English, and
then see which of us can count the most. Of
course we don't always know them apart, and
then we squabble for little families that pass
by, and Ada is sure they are Germans, you
know how sure Ada always is if she feels
a little doubtful ! but yesterday there were
Cook's tourists as thick as ants and so she had
no chance at all. Miss Winter writes that she
will be ready to join us the first of August,
which will be delightful, and mamma won't
have us to worry about. She said yesterday
that we were much less wild without you and
Miss Winter, and we told her that it was be-
cause life was quite triste. She wishes to go


to some far little villages quite off the usual
line of travel, with papa, and does not ye'
know whether to go now and take us, or wail
and leave us with Miss Winter. I promised
to be triste if she would let us go. Triste is
my word for everything. Do you still wear
out two or three dozen hates a day? Ada said
this morning that you would hate so many hard
little green pears for breakfast ; but we are
coming to plum-time now, and they are so good
and sweet. Every morning such a nice Swiss
maiden called Marie (they are all Maries, I
believe) comes and bumps the corner of her
tray against our door and smiles a very wide
smile and says "Das friihstiick" in exactly
the same tone as she comes in, and we have
such delectable breakfasts of crisp little rolls
and Swiss honey and very weak and hot-milky
cafS au lait. I don't believe Miss Winter
will let us have honey every day, but mamma
does n't mind. I think she gives orders for a
very small dish of it, because Ada and I have
requested more until we are disheartened.
Mamma says that while we run up so many
hillsides here we may eat what we please.
Oh, and one thing more : no end of dry little


mountain strawberries, sometimes they taste
like strawberries and sometimes they don't;
but this is enough about what one eats in
Inteiiaken. I have filled my four pages and
Ada is calling me to walk. We are going on
with our botany. Are you ? I send a better
edelweiss which I plucked myself. I must let
Ada tell you next time about that day. She
is the best at a description, but I love you
more than ever and I am always your fond
and faithful BESSIE DUNCAN.

P. S. I forgot to say that Ada has made
such clever sketches. Papa says that they
quite surprise him, and we just long to show
them to Miss Winter. There is one of a little
girl whom we saw making lace at Lauterbrun-
nen. The Drummonds of Park Lane drove
by us yesterday ; we could n't hear the name
of their hotel, though they called it out, but
we are sure to find them. They looked, how-
ever, as if they were on a journey, the carriage
was so dusty. It was so nice to see the girls



JtS Betty shut the gate behind her one day
and walked down the main street of Tides-
head she felt more than ever as if the past
four years had been a dream, and as if she
were exactly the same girl who had paid that
last visit when she was eleven years old. Yet
she seemed to herself to have clearer eyes
than before; her years of travel had taught
her to observe, the best gift that traveling can
bestow. She saw new beauties in the gardens
and the queer-shaped porches over the front
doors, and noticed particularly the cupolas of
one or two barns that were clear and sharp
in their good outlines. More than all, she
was astonished at the beauty of the old trees.
Tideshead was not a forest of maples, like
many other New England towns, but there
were oaks along the village streets, and ash-
trees, and v?illows, beside great elms in stately


tows, and silver poplars, and mountain ashes,
and even some fruit-trees along the roadsides
outside the village. Betty remembered a story
that she had often heard with great interest
about one of the old Tideshead ministers who
had been much beloved, and whose influence
was still felt. Every year he had brought ten
trees from the woods and planted them either
on the streets or in his neighbor's yards; one
year he chose one sort of tree and the next an-
other, and at last, when he grew older and could
not go far afield in his search he asked his
friends for fruit-trees and planted them for the
benefit of waj^farers. These had made a delight-
ful memorial of the good old man, but many
of the trees had fallen by this time, and though
everybody said that they ought to be replaced,
and complained of such shiftless neglect, as
usual what was everybody's business was no-
body's business, and Tideshead looked as if it
were sorry to be forgotten. Betty had been
used to the thrifty English and French care of
woodlands, and felt as if it were a great pity
not to take better care of the precious legacy.
Aunt Barbara sometimes sent Jonathan and
Seth Pond to care for the trees that needed


pruning or covering at the roots, but hardly
any one else in Tideshead did anything but
chop them up and clear them away when they
blew down.

It seemed very strange that all the old
houses were so handsome and all the new ones
so ugly. A stranger might wonder, why, with
the good proportions, and even a touch of sim-
ple elegance that the house builders of the last
century almost always gave, their successors
seemed to have no idea of either, and to take
no lessons from the good models before their
eyes. " Makeshifts o' splendor," sensible old
Serena called some of the new houses which
had run much to cheap decoration and irregu-
lar roofs and fancy colors of paint. But the
old minister's elms and willows hung their
green boughs before some of these architec-
tural failures as if to kindly screen them from
the passers-by. They looked like imitations
of houses, one or two of them, and as if they
were put down to fill spaces, and not meant
to live in, as the old plain-roofed and wide-
roomed dwellings are. The sober old village
looked here and there as if it were a placid
elderly lady upon whom a child had put it's


own gay raiment. People do not consider the
becomingness of a building to its surroundings
as they should, but Betty did not make this
clear to herself exactly, though she was sorry
at the change in the familiar streets. She
was more delighted than she knew because she
felt so complete a sense of belongingness ; as
if she were indeed made of the very dust of
Tideshead, and were a part of it. It was
much better than getting used to new places,
though even in the dullest ones she had known
there was some charm and some attaching
quality ever to be remembered. She liked
dearly to think of some of the places where
she and papa had made their home, but after
all there was the temporary feeling about
every one. She could bear transplanting from
most of them with equanimity, no matter how
deep her roots had seemed to strike.

After she had posted her letters there was a
question of what to do next. She had really
come out for a walk, but Mary Beck's mother
had a dressmaker that day and Becky was not
at liberty ; and Nelly Foster was busy, too.
The Grants were away for a few days on a
?4sit ; it was a lonely morning with our friend,


who felt a hearty wish for one of her usual com.
panions. She strayed out toward the fields
and seated herself in the shade of Becky's


favorite tree, looking off toward the hills. The
country was very green and fresh-looking after
a long rain, and the farmers were out cutting
the later hay in the lower meadows. She could
hear the mowing-machines like the whirr of
great locusts, and the men's voices as they
shouted to each other and the horses. On the
field side of the fence, in the field corner, she
and Becky had made a comfortable seat by
putting a piece of board across the angle of
the two fences, and there was a black cherry-
tree thicket near, so that the two girls coiJd
not be seen from the road as they sat there.
As Betty perched herself here alone she could
look along the road, but not be discovered

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 5 of 13)