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[Frontispiece: Kitty Canary.]






Kitty Canary

A NOVEL


BY

KATE LANGLEY BOSHER





AUTHOR OF

"MARY CARY" ETC.






HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON




HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK

ESTABLISHED 1817




Copyright, 1913, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of America

Published February, 1918




KITTY CANARY


CHAPTER I

I am in love. It is the most scrumptious thing I have ever been in.
Perfectly magnificent! Every time I think of it I feel as if I were
going down an elevator forty floors and my heart flippity-flops so my
teeth mortify me. He used to be engaged to Elizabeth Hamilton Carter,
the niece of the lady at whose house I am boarding this summer, but he
did something he ought not to have done, or he didn't do something he
ought to have done, and they had a fuss. No one seems to know the
cause of it, but it was probably from her wanting him to be blind to
everything on earth but her, and a man isn't going to be blind when he
wants to see, and then she got _hurt_. I'd rather live in a house with
a cackling hen or a grunting pig than the sort of person who is always
getting hurt. But she's very pretty. Pink-and-white pretty, with
uplifting eyes and a little mouth that shuts itself when mad and says
nothing, and oozes more disagreeableness than if it talked. He still
thinks there isn't another girl in town who can touch her in looks. I
don't suppose a man ever gets over a real case of pink-and-white. It's
the kind that makes a tender memory if it isn't the best sort to live
with, and men like to have a memory to sigh over in secret. Her
rejected one may sigh in secret, but in public he does not seem to be
suffering. He isn't suffering. We like each other very much.

The reason I am glad I am in love is that I am sixteen and I was
getting afraid I wasn't ever going to fall in love. Three or four
times I have thought I was in it, but I wasn't, and I was beginning to
be sure I was the sort of person who doesn't fall. And, besides, it is
good for Billy, who, because he is twenty, thinks he is old enough to
have some things settled which there is no need to settle too soon.
Settled things are not exciting. I love excitement and not knowing
what a day may bring forth. Billy doesn't. He wants his ducks to be
always in a row.

Ever since he fished me out of the water-barrel sunk in Grandmother
Hatley's garden, when I was four and he eight, he has seemed to think I
belonged to him; and, though he doesn't imagine I know it and never
mentions it, he is always around when I am in danger or trouble, to get
me out. I suppose saving my life three or four times makes him feel I
can't take care of myself and therefore he must take care of me, but
that's a mistake. I have never had a horse to run away with me but
once. Billy did tell me not to ride her, and when she ran and would
have pitched me over her head and down a gully he caught her in the
nick of time and caught me, too, but that's the only time a thing of
that sort ever happened. He was real nice about it and never said
anything concerning having told me so and didn't make remarks of the
sort which other people rub in, but the next day the horse was sent
away. That's the thing which makes me fighting furious with Billy
sometimes. He doesn't say things. He does them. I wasn't afraid of
that horse and was going to keep on riding her, but the next day there
was no Lady-Bird to ride. The reason he sent her away was I wouldn't
promise not to ride her. Our summer homes are on adjoining places and
Horson, their stableman, a nice, drinky old person, lets me take out
anything I want, anything of Billy's, and, knowing he couldn't trust
Horson any more than me, he lent Lady-Bird to a man miles and miles
away and I never saw her again until she was a tame old thing I did not
want to ride. Billy behaves as if I were a child!

And then the very next winter I fell through the ice and he had to jump
in and get me out. He told me not to go to a certain part of the lake.
He had been all over it and tried it before I got my skates on, but I
forgot and went. A boy was with me, a skunky little rat, who, when he
saw the ice was cracking, tried to pull me back, and then he let go my
hand and flop I went in and flop came Billy behind me while the little
Fur Coat stood off and bawled for help and said afterward he didn't
know how to swim. Having on heavy clothes, I went down quick and was
hard to get up, and I would be an angel this minute if Billy hadn't
been there. But Billy is always there, which is what makes this summer
so queer. He isn't here.

On account of servants and things his mother didn't want to open their
country place this year, and my mother didn't want to open hers, so two
houses are closed. That means a scatteration for both families and is
why I am here and Billy in Europe; and if he is having as good a time
as I am he isn't grunting at the change. He didn't want to go to
Europe. His father made him. His mother and two sisters needed a man
along and, as Mr. Sloane couldn't go, Billy had to, and he was a great
big silent growl when he went off. I wasn't. I wanted to come to
Twickenham Town. We had passed through it once on our way to Florida
and I have been crazy to come back ever since, and when I found Mother
was going with Florine and Jessica to a splashy place I didn't want to
go to I begged her to let me come here and board with Miss Susanna
Mason and - glory be - she let me do it!

She is a sort of relation, Miss Susanna is, a farback one, but nothing
is too far back to claim here, and everybody who is anybody is kin to
one another, or kin to some one else's kin, which makes for
sociableness, and I am having a perfectly grand time. In all the world
there isn't another place like the one I am in this summer, and I am
getting so familiar with a new kind of natural history that maybe some
day I will be an authority on it. Ancestry is the chief asset of
Twickenham Town, and though you speak with the tongues of men and of
angels and have not ancestors it profiteth you nothing. That is, among
the natives. Being an outsider, I have decided not to have ancestors,
and I am going to see if the people won't take me in for myself. I
have always believed a nice person was nice if there weren't any family
shrubs and things, and a nasty one was nasty no matter how many coats
of arms there were or how heirloomy their houses, so I have asked Miss
Susanna please to excuse me if I don't call her cousin (we are seventh
removed, I think she said), and also, unless she has to, I hope she
won't tell any one my real name is Katherine Bird, but let everybody
call me Kitty Canary, as everybody does at home. I think she thought
it was very queer in me to say such things, but she smiled her
precious, patient little smile, and, though she didn't promise, she
evidently hasn't mentioned my sure-enough name, as no one here calls me
by any other than the one Billy gave me when I wasn't much bigger than
a baby. Just Kitty Canary will do for me.




CHAPTER II

The way I met Whythe (he's the one I'm almost perfectly certain I am in
love with) was this. When I got to the station in Twickenham Town
there was no one to meet me and take me to Rose Hill, which is Miss
Susanna Mason's home and right far out, because the train was three
hours late, and Uncle Henry, who drives the hack, and Mr. Briggs, who
runs the automobile, had gone home. There wasn't even anybody to take
my bag. I told Mother I had written Miss Susanna what train I would be
on, and because she was so busy and Father away she trusted me to do
things she had never trusted me to do before and didn't write herself,
which is why I wasn't met. I did write the letter saying I was coming,
but I forgot to mail it and found it in my bag when I got off the train
and was looking for my trunk check. It was nearly eleven o'clock and
nobody around but some train people who looked at me and said nothing.
And then a young man who had got off the same train came up and took
off his hat and asked if he could not do something for me, and I told
him I hoped he could and I certainly would be obliged if he would do it
as quick as possible, as it was getting later every minute and Mother
would be terribly worried if she knew I hadn't been met.

"But where are you going?" he asked, and his eyes, which are his
best-looking part, took me in from top to toe. When I told him I was a
boarder for Miss Susanna Mason and would like to get to her house he
said if I didn't mind a pretty good walk he would take me there with
pleasure, and we started off. It was a perfectly gorgeous night. The
stars were as thick as buttercups in spring, and the moon was
magnificent and the air full of all sorts of old-fashioned fragrances,
as if honeysuckle and mignonette and tea-roses and heliotrope were all
mixed together; and as there didn't seem any real need of grieving
because there was no one to meet me, I thought I might as well enjoy
myself. I did. I could not help the train being late, and I didn't
forget to mail my letter on purpose; and it was an accident, or
coincidence, that a nice man should be on the same train I was, who
lived in the place I was going to spend the summer in, and knew very
well the house I wanted to get to. I didn't know he had been engaged
to the niece of the house and hadn't been to the latter since the
engagement was broken, and I must say as we walked along he didn't show
any evidences of despair or things of that sort. He couldn't possibly
have been naturaler or in better spirits, and he laughed from the time
we left the station until we reached Rose Hill. Not knowing his
history, I told him I had come to Twickenham Town because I thought it
was the most delicious old place in America; the sweetest, slowest,
self-satisfiedest, cocksuredest place on earth, and everybody in it was
a character - that is, everybody over thirty. He said that let him out,
as he was only twenty-five, but he wasn't sure some under twenty-five
were not somewhat queer. They are, I have found out since.

He had left his bag at the station, but he had mine, which was right
heavy, and seeing there was a good stretch of open road before we began
to go up the hill on the top of which was Miss Susanna's home, I told
him he had better sit down a minute and rest, and I got up on the worm
fence and twisted my feet around the rail below, and looked at him
before he knew what I was going to do. He coughed a little and looked
at his watch and said it was rather late to be resting, as Miss Susanna
might be going to bed, and that if I were not too tired he thought we
had better go on; and I told him all right. And then, because I
couldn't help it, I stood up on the top of the fence, balanced myself
on it, and, opening my arms as if I were going to fly, sprang off and
ran up the road ahead of him.

At the gate, which was open and through which I could see the
rose-bordered path leading up to the white-pillared porch on which Miss
Susanna and her niece were sitting, he shook hands with me and told me
good night and said he hoped he would see me very often while I was in
town, and I said I hoped he would. He put my bag down and told me to
send one of the servants out for it, and went on down the road, which I
thought was the queerest behavior I had ever seen in my life. I didn't
know, of course, about embarrassments and broken engagements and things
of that sort, and for a moment I stared at his back and then picked up
my bag and went up to the porch with it. All the boarders had gone to
bed and only Miss Susanna and her niece were on the porch, and as I
came up the steps they got up and stared at me as if I had risen from
the grave.

I hadn't thought there was anything wrong in my coming from the station
at that time of night with a strange man until I saw the look on Miss
Susanna's face when I told her I had done it. If I had been a brand
snatched from the burning I could not have been folded to her bosom
with more fervent thanksgiving or a more pained expression, and at
first, still not understanding, I thought I had done right off the
worst thing a person could do in Twickenham Town. I had walked a long
way with a man who didn't have ancestors, perhaps. He had seemed all
right to me, and I was awfully glad to have him, as otherwise I might
have had to sit on my suit-case all night, for I certainly couldn't
have come up with the man who swung a lantern, and he was the only
other white one in sight. But I found out later it wasn't lack of
ancestors that caused the sudden chill which fell over us when I
mentioned Mr. Eppes's name. It was something else and - oh, my
granny! - the look that pretty little pink-and-white person gave me when
I said what I had done!

"Oh, my dear, my dear!" Miss Susanna put her arms around me as if I
were a little ewe lamb that had been lost and was found, and in the
moonlight her beautiful little wrinkles reddened as if she were
responsible for a most grievous calamity, "To think of your being alone
at a public station at this time of night! A young girl! And I had
promised your mother to take such good care of you! I wouldn't have
had such a thing occur for - "

"There hasn't anything occurred." I took off my hat and fanned hard
and then followed Miss Susanna up-stairs into a big square room with a
big tester bed in it, and if she hadn't been looking at me I would have
climbed up in it and gone to sleep in my clothes, I was so tired; but
she didn't leave me for some time. She couldn't get over my walking
two miles with a strange man late at night, and presently I found out
she hoped I wouldn't mention it to any one in the town, as in a little
place -

"Oh, I know - " I sat down in another chair. "I know little places. I
was in one once for a month. Every one in it knew everything every
other person did and didn't do, and said and didn't say, and if they
sneezed what for, and if they didn't sneeze why not, and it was more
fun! But I won't tell if you don't want me to, and did my horse come?
Father had her sent three days ago, and I hope you won't get uneasy if
I am not always back on time - "

I stopped. She was putting my hat on the top shelf of the biggest old
mahogany wardrobe that was ever built for human apparel, and I knew
right off that was one of the things the matter with pretty Miss
Pink-and-White. She was spoiled to death. I picked up the coat I had
dropped on the table and hung it up myself, and saw I would have to be
the thing I hate most on earth - an Example. I must be careful or that
precious old soul would be waiting on me just as she waits on everybody
else, and I wasn't going to stand for it. And then she asked me if I
were not hungry - said she knew I must be after such a long trip; and I
told her I was starving, but I would not eat of a feast of the gods if
it were right in front of me, as the only thing I wanted to do was to
go to sleep, and for fear she might keep on inquiring about all my
relations I kissed her good night and walked with her to the door and
asked if she would mind if I did not come down to breakfast, and she
said of course I must not come, that Elizabeth never came if she had
been up late the night before, and that decided me. I was the first
one down the next morning.




CHAPTER III

It was a perfectly grand feeling - -the feeling I had the next day and
have had every day since I got here - that I was in a place where there
wasn't a single member of my family to tell me not to do things I
wanted to do or to do what I did not want to do; and usually as I dress
in the morning I dance a new kind of highland fling which I made up for
times when I feel particularly happy. Everybody is well and Mother and
the girls are having a lovely time in a place where I would have had a
stupid one, being neither grown up nor a kid, but an in-betweener - too
young for some ages and not old enough for others; and here in
Twickenham Town I am as free as air, and Father is coming to see me as
often as he can. I can't let myself think much about Father or I would
take the train straight home.

I had begged him to let me stay with him, but neither he nor Mother
would agree. Just because I got the Grome medal at school they
imagined I had studied too hard and needed a quiet, restful summer in
the mountains; but I will never study too hard while on this little
planet called the earth. I got the medal because Billy said I'd never
sit still long enough to study for it, and just to show him he very
often does not know what he is talking about I made up my mind to get
it.

The only thing I ever expect to work hard over is one book. I am going
to write one book that the critics will call a Discovery. It is to be
dull and dry and dreary, and therefore it will be thought deep and
strong and big, and only a few people will know that it has been
written. After that I am going to write books that sell, write what
people want to read - things that make them forget for a few moments
that at times this world is but a fleeting show and there is a good
deal of rot in it. If I can I am going to make people laugh, though I
don't think I can do much in that line. I see the funny side of things
too quickly to ever be able to write them down, as that takes time; but
I am certainly going to be cheerful, and I am not going to croak. I
don't mean I am going to be smiling all the time. I am not. Perpetual
smilers are more than human nature can stand. Nothing is ever wrong,
everything is beautiful, their smiles seem to say, which isn't so.
There is a lot of life that is wrong, and any day horrid, hurting
things may pop up, but that doesn't mean you've got to sit down and
make a bosom friend of dolefulness. Some of the things you can shake
your fist at, and some turn your back on, and some you have to face;
but no matter what happens you can buck up and begin again if you get
knocked out or hit in the back. And that's what I hope I will have
sense enough to do - get up and get a move on when things go wrong.

So far nothing has gone wrong in Twickenham. Everybody has been lovely
to me, and all sorts of ages have been to see me and asked me to their
homes, and if they know my name is not really and truly Kitty Canary
they never say so or mention my family, which is very nice of them, for
I am sure they must talk of who I am and where I came from, that being
the first thing done here when a stranger arrives. The reason I think
they haven't let me off among themselves is that one of Miss Susanna's
boarders started to say something to me on the subject one day and I
told her I was a very plain person, almost common, and she could tell
any one she chose. She has never mentioned the subject since. Just
Kitty Canary is all I am going to be this summer, and if anybody
doesn't care for me as Kitty Canary I don't care for them to care for
me as Katherine Bird. So endeth that.




CHAPTER IV

I have seen him every day since I came - seen my station help in time of
need - and I must say he bears bravely the dispensations of a female
person. He is not dejected, and he still seems to find life worth
living; and if he weeps in secret, he shows no sign in public of
regrets; neither does he hide himself from the gaze of others, but is
always to be seen when one goes down-town or to the homes of other
people. I don't know how we happen to meet so often, but I never go
out that he doesn't appear; and though he does not come in at Rose
Hill, he comes to the gate, and I am afraid we stand at it a little
longer than is necessary, especially if Elizabeth Hamilton Carter is
sitting on the porch.

I wonder why Satan walks right into me every time I see that piece of
pretty pink-and-whiteness! He has never taken possession of me in that
way before; but something about her just starts him off, and before I
know it I am doing what I wouldn't think of doing if she were not
around. She is perfectly furious with me, and I must say her manners,
if they are Southern, could be improved. At best she is not much of a
talker, I have been told; but since I arrived her little mouth has been
shut so tight that I wonder how she breathes; and if she has spoken a
dozen words to me since the night I came, they were too
between-the-teethy for me to hear. I didn't want her beau, and I
wouldn't have dreamed of noticing him if I had known how she felt about
him; but after she tried the freezing act on me I didn't tell Satan to
get behind me, as I suppose I should have done. I just went along and
took things as they came, and the first thing I knew I was in love
myself, and from the words of his mouth concerning the meditations of
his heart he seemingly has recovered from a former attack and is in for
a new one. Maybe we were not as considerate of the rejecter as we
might have been. Of course, I never knew for a long time why the
engagement was broken. He didn't tell me and no one else seemed to
know, and when I found out - But that was a long time after - when I
found out.

His name is Whythe Rives Eppes. The only things I don't like about him
are his front teeth and his relations. He could get three new teeth,
but nothing in human power could rid him of his relatives. There are
four of them - Mother, Sister, Sister Edwina, and Miss Lily Lou, and may
God have mercy on the girl who marries the male member of the family
and goes into their home to live! He is a perfectly grand sort to be
in love with, and I am almost sure I am in love or I wouldn't feel so
thrilly when I see him coming. But being in love is one thing and
getting married is a very different other, and there isn't a man person
living I want to think of marrying yet. It's awfully interesting, too,
to learn the different ways in which love can be made. Twickenham Town
may be slow about many things, but in others it is so quick it takes
your breath away. Whythe became personal in conversation the fourth
time I was with him. It was at the Braxtons' party and conditions were
favorable, but, not expecting the turn that was taken, I was as excited
as if I had never heard remarks of a similar character before, and the
first thing I knew I had promised Whythe (he begged me to call him
Whythe) to go horseback-riding with him the next day. We went - I on
Skylark, who is the joy of my life, and he on a borrowed horse, and we
had a perfectly wonderful time. I don't think Whythe will ever be much
of a lawyer, but as a love-maker he hasn't an equal on earth - that is,
any I have ever heard.

As we rode down the main street of Twickenham everybody in the town
seemed on it. Princess Street is the only one called by a name, though
of course the others have names, and it is the place where everybody
meets everybody else and learns all the news; and if anybody went to
sleep that night without knowing that Whythe and I had started on a
ride at ten o'clock in the morning and didn't get back until three it
was because that person was too deaf to hear and couldn't understand
the movement of lips. I didn't know I was doing anything I oughtn't,
and if I did it I am not sorry. I had a grand time. It was a gorgeous
day and cool enough for me to wear my brown-linen riding-habit and high
boots, which, with a stock collar and small sailor hat, made me look
real nice, and the way the people stared at me you would have thought
they had never seen a divided skirt before, and - oh, my granny! - the
faces of the family (Whythe's family) as we passed their house! I
smiled the politest and properest I knew and they bowed back, but in a
way that made me laugh out loud when out of sight, and so did Whythe.
And then we forgot them, forgot everything except it was awfully good
to be alive.




CHAPTER V

The place we went to is very historic and interesting. Something
happened there that was very important in American history, but I have
forgotten what it was. Whythe told me, and as it doesn't matter, being
over for such a long time, I haven't tried to remember. The sky was so
wonderful and the river so winding and lovely and the air so delicious
that yesterdays did not seem important and only to-day counted; and it
was when we were sitting under a beautiful big water-oak that Whythe
began to be terribly sentimental and say things that would have been
more suitable for moonlight and shadows and things of that sort. But
suitable or not, they were thrilly to hear, and I would have enjoyed


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