A.D. T. Whitney.

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mind to be on hand.

Ruth was first, though. She kept her little bolt drawn all night,
between her room and that of Barbara and Rose. At five o'clock, she
went softly across the passage to Stephen's room, in her little
wrapper and knit slippers. "I shall be ready in ten minutes," she
whispered, right into his ear, and into his dream.

"Scat!" cried Stephen, starting up bewildered.

And Ruth "scatted."

Down on the front piazza, twenty minutes after, she superintended the
tucking in of the kittens, and then told him to bring a mallet and
wedge. She had been very particular to have the kittens put under at a
precise place, though there was a ready-made hole farther on. The cat
babies mewed and sprawled and dragged themselves at feeble length on
their miserable little legs, as small blind kittiewinks are given to
doing.

"They won't go far," said Ruth. "Now, let's take this board up."

"What - _for_?" cried Stephen, again.

"To get them out, of course," says Ruth.

"Well, if girls ain't queer! Queerer than cats!"

"Hush!" said Ruth, softly. "I _believe_ - but I don't dare say a word
yet - there's something there!"

"Of course there is. Two little yowling - "

"Something we all want found, Steve," Ruth whispered, earnestly. "But
I don't know. Do hush! Make haste!"

Stephen put down his face to the crack, and took a peep. Rather a long
serious peep. When he took his face back again, "I _see_ something,"
he said. "It's white paper. Kind of white, that is. Do you suppose,
Ruth - ? My cracky! if you do!"

"We won't suppose," said Ruth. "We'll hammer."

Stephen knocked up the end of the board with the mallet, and then he
got the wedge under and pried. Ruth pulled. Stephen kept hammering and
prying, and Ruth held on to all he gained, until they slipped the
wedge along gradually, to where the board was nailed again, to the
middle joist or stringer. Then a few more vigorous strokes, and a
little smart levering, and the nails loosened, and one good wrench
lifted it from the inside timber and they slid it out from under the
house-boarding.

Underneath lay a long, folded paper, much covered with drifts of
dust, and speckled somewhat with damp. But it was a dry, sandy place,
and weather had not badly injured it.

"Stephen, I am sure!" said Ruth, holding Stephen back by the arm.
"Don't touch it, though! Let it be, right there. Look at that corner,
that lies opened up a little. Isn't that grandfather's writing?"

[Illustration]

It lay deep down, and not directly under. They could scarcely have
reached it with their hands. Stephen ran into the parlor, and brought
out an opera-glass that was upon the table there.

"That's bright of you, Steve!" cried Ruth.

Through the glass they discerned clearly the handwriting. They read
the words, at the upturned corner, - "heirs after him."

"Lay the board back in its place," said Ruth. "It isn't for us to
meddle with any more. Take the kittens away." Ruth had turned quite
pale.

Going down to the barn with Stephen, presently, carrying the two
kittens in her arms, while he had the mallet and wedge, -

"Stephen," said she, "I'm going to do something on my own
responsibility."

"I should think you had."

"O, that was nothing. I had to do that. I had to make sure before I
said anything. But now, - I'm going to ask Uncle and Aunt Roderick to
come over. They ought to be here, you know."

"Why! don't you suppose they will believe, _now_?"

"Stephen Holabird! you're a bad boy! No; of course it isn't _that_."
Ruth kept right on from the barn, across the field, into the "old
place."

Mrs. Roderick Holabird was out in the east piazza, watering her house
plants, that stood in a row against the wall. Her cats always had
their milk, and her plants their water, before she had her own
breakfast. It was a good thing about Mrs. Roderick Holabird, and it
was a good time to take her.

"Aunt Roderick," said Ruth, coming up, "I want you and Uncle to come
over right after breakfast; or before, if you like; if you please."

It was rather sudden, but for the repeated "ifs."

"_You_ want!" said Mrs. Roderick in surprise. "Who sent you?"

"Nobody. Nobody knows but Stephen and me. Something is going to
happen." Ruth smiled, as one who has a pleasant astonishment in store.
She smiled right up out of her heart-faith in Aunt Roderick and
everybody.

"On the whole, I guess you'd better come right off, - _to_ breakfast!"
How boldly little Ruth took the responsibility! Mr. and Mrs. Roderick
had not been over to our house for at least two months. It had seemed
to happen so. Father always went there to attend to the "business."
The "papers" were all at grandfather's. All but this one, that the
"gale" had taken care of.

Uncle Roderick, hearing the voices, came out into the piazza.

"We want you over at our house," repeated Ruth. "Right off, now;
there's something you ought to see about."

"I don't like mysteries," said Mrs. Roderick, severely, covering her
curiosity; "especially when children get them up. And it's no matter
about the breakfast, either way. We can walk across, I suppose, Mr.
Holabird, and see what it is all about. Kittens, I dare say."

"Yes," said Ruth, laughing out; "it _is_ kittens, partly. Or was."

So we saw them, from mother's room window, all coming along down the
side-hill path together.

We always went out at the front door to look at the morning. Arctura
had set the table, and baked the biscuits; we could breathe a little
first breath of life, nowadays, that did not come out of the oven.

Father was in the door-way. Stephen stood, as if he had been put
there, over the loose board, that we did not know was loose.

Ruth brought Uncle and Aunt Roderick up the long steps, and so around.

"Good morning," said father, surprised. "Why, Ruth, what is it?" And
he met them right on that very loose board; and Stephen stood stock
still, pertinaciously in the way, so that they dodged and blundered
about him.

"Yes, Ruth; what is it?" said Mrs. Roderick Holabird.

Then Ruth, after she had got the family solemnly together, began to be
struck with the solemnity. Her voice trembled.

"I didn't mean to make a fuss about it; only I knew you would all
care, and I wanted - Stephen and I have found something, mother!" She
turned to Mrs. Stephen Holabird, and took her hand, and held it hard.

Stephen stooped down, and drew out the loose board. "Under there,"
said he; and pointed in.

They could all see the folded paper, with the drifts of dust upon it,
just as it had lain for almost a year.

"It has been there ever since the day of the September Gale, father,"
he said. "The day, you know, that grandfather was here."

"Don't you remember the wind and the papers?" said Ruth. "It was
remembering that, that put it into our heads. I never thought of the
cracks and - " with a little, low, excited laugh - "the 'total depravity
of inanimate things,' till - just a little while ago."

She did not say a word about that bright boy at West Point, now,
before them all.

Uncle Roderick reached in with the crook of his cane, and drew
forward the packet, and stooped down and lifted it up. He shook off
the dust and opened it. He glanced along the lines, and at the
signature. Not a single witnessing name. No matter. Uncle Roderick is
an honest man. He turned round and held it out to father.

"It is your deed of gift," said he; and then they two shook hands.

"There!" said Ruth, tremulous with gladness. "I knew they would. That
was it. That was why. I told you, Stephen!"

"No, you didn't," said Stephen. "You never told me anything - but
cats."

"Well! I'm sure I am glad it is all settled," said Mrs. Roderick
Holabird, after a pause; "and nobody has any hard thoughts to lay up."

They would not stop to breakfast; they said they would come another
time.

But Aunt Roderick, just before she went away, turned round and kissed
Ruth. She is a supervising, regulating kind of a woman, and very
strict about - well, other people's - expenditures; but she was glad
that the "hard thoughts" were lifted off from her.

* * * * *

"I knew," said Ruth, again, "that we were all good people, and that it
must come right."

"Don't tell _me!_" says Miss Trixie, intolerantly. "She couldn't help
herself."




CHAPTER XI.

BARBARA'S BUZZ.


Leslie Goldthwaite's world of friendship is not a circle. Or if it is,
it is the far-off, immeasurable horizon that holds all of life and
possibility.

"You must draw the line somewhere," people say. "You cannot be
acquainted with everybody."

But Leslie's lines are only radii. They reach out to wherever there is
a sympathy; they hold fast wherever they have once been joined.
Consequently, she moves to laws that seem erratic to those for whom a
pair of compasses can lay down the limit. Consequently, her wedding
was "odd."

If Olivia Marchbanks had been going to be married there would have
been a "circle" invited. Nobody would have been left out; nobody would
have been let in. She had lived in this necromantic ring; she would
be married in it; she would die and be buried in it; and of all the
wide, rich, beautiful champaign of life beyond, - of all its noble
heights, and hidden, tender hollows, - its gracious harvest fields, and
its deep, grand, forest glooms, - she would be content, elegantly and
exclusively, to know nothing. To her wedding people might come,
indeed, from a distance, - geographically; but they would come out of a
precisely corresponding little sphere in some other place, and fit
right into this one, for the time being, with the most edifying
sameness.

From the east and the west, the north and the south, they began to
come, days beforehand, - the people who could not let Leslie
Goldthwaite be married without being there. There were no proclamation
cards issued, bearing in imposing characters the announcement of
"Their Daughter's Marriage," by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Goldthwaite, after
the like of which one almost looks to see, and somewhat feels the need
of, the regular final invocation, - "God save the Commonwealth!"

There had been loving letters sent here and there; old Miss Craydocke,
up in the mountains, got one, and came down a month earlier in
consequence, and by the way of Boston. She stayed there at Mrs. Frank
Scherman's; and Frank and his wife and little Sinsie, the baby, - "she
isn't Original Sin, as I was," says her mother, - came up to Z - -
together, and stopped at the hotel. Martha Josselyn came from New
York, and stayed, of course, with the Inglesides.

Martha is a horrible thing, girls; how do you suppose I dare to put
her in here as I do? She is a milliner. And this is how it happens.
Her father is a comparatively poor man, - a book-keeper with a salary.
There are ever so many little Josselyns; and Martha has always felt
bound to help. She is not very likely to marry, and she is not one to
take it into her calculation, if she were; but she is of the sort who
are said to be "cut out for old maids," and she knows it. She could
not teach music, nor keep a school, her own schooling - not her
education; God never lets that be cut short - was abridged by the need
of her at home. But she could do anything in the world with scissors
and needle; and she can make just the loveliest bonnets that ever were
put together.

So, as she can help more by making two bonnets in a day, and getting
six dollars for them beside the materials, she lets her step-mother
put out her impossible sewing, and has turned a little second-story
room in her father's house into a private millinery establishment. She
will only take the three dollars apiece, beyond the actual cost, for
her bonnets, although she might make a fortune if she would be
rapacious; for she says that pays her fairly for her time, and she has
made up her mind to get through the world fairly, if there is any
breathing-space left for fairness in it. If not, she can stop
breathing, and go where there is.

She gets as much to do as she can take. "Miss Josselyn" is one of the
little unadvertised resources of New York, which it is very knowing,
and rather elegant, to know about. But it would not be at all elegant
to have her at a party. Hence, Mrs. Van Alstyne, who had a little
bonnet, of black lace and nasturtiums, at this very time, that Martha
Josselyn had made for her, was astonished to find that she was Mrs.
Ingleside's sister and had come on to the marriage.

General and Mrs. Ingleside - Leslie's cousin Delight - had come from
their away-off, beautiful Wisconsin home, and brought little
three-year-old Rob and Rob's nurse with them. Sam Goldthwaite was at
home from Philadelphia, where he is just finishing his medical
course, - and Harry was just back again from the Mediterranean; so that
Mrs. Goldthwaite's house was full too. Jack could not be here; they
all grieved over that. Jack is out in Japan. But there came a
wonderful "solid silk" dress, and a lovely inlaid cabinet, for
Leslie's wedding present, - the first present that arrived from
anybody; sent the day he got the news; - and Leslie cried over them,
and kissed them, and put the beautiful silk away, to be made up in the
fashion next year, when Jack comes home; and set his picture on the
cabinet, and put his letters into it, and says she does not know what
other things she shall find quite dear enough to keep them company.

Last of all, the very day before the wedding, came old Mr. Marmaduke
Wharne. And of all things in the world, he brought her a telescope.
"To look out at creation with, and keep her soul wide," he says, and
"to put her in mind of that night when he first found her out, among
the Hivites and the Hittites and the Amalekites, up in Jefferson, and
took her away among the planets, out of the snarl."

Miss Craydocke has been all summer making a fernery for Leslie; and
she took two tickets in the cars, and brought it down beside her, on
the seat, all the way from Plymouth, and so out here. How they could
get it to wherever they are going we all wondered, but Dr. Hautayne
said it should go; he would have it most curiously packed, in a box on
rollers, and marked, - "Dr. J. Hautayne, U.S. Army. Valuable scientific
preparations; by no means to be turned or shaken." But he did say,
with a gentle prudence, - "If somebody should give you an observatory,
or a greenhouse, I think we might have to stop at _that_, dear."

Nobody did, however. There was only one more big present, and that did
not come. Dakie Thayne knew better. He gave her a magnificent copy of
the Sistine Madonna, which his father had bought in Italy, and he
wrote her that it was to be boxed and sent after her to her home.
_He_ did not say that it was magnificent; Leslie wrote that to us
afterward, herself. She said it made it seem as if one side of her
little home had been broken through and let in heaven.

We were all sorry that Dakie could not be here. They waited till
September for Harry; "but who," wrote Dakie, "could expect a military
engagement to wait till all the stragglers could come up? I have given
my consent and my blessing; all I ask is that you will stop at West
Point on your way." And that was what they were going to do.

Arabel Waite and Delia made all the wedding dresses. But Mrs.
Goldthwaite had her own carefully perfected patterns, adjusted to a
line in every part. Arabel meekly followed these, and saved her whole,
fresh soul to pour out upon the flutings and finishing.

It was a morning wedding, and a pearl of days. The summer had not gone
from a single leaf. Only the parch and the blaze were over, and
beautiful dews had cooled away their fever. The day-lilies were white
among their broad, tender green leaves, and the tube-roses had come in
blossom. There were beds of red and white carnations, heavy with
perfume. The wide garden porch, into which double doors opened from
the summer-room where they were married, showed these, among the
grass-walks of the shady, secluded place, through its own splendid
vista of trumpet-hung bignonia vines.

Everybody wanted to help at this wedding who could help. Arabel Waite
asked to be allowed to pour out coffee, or something. So in a black
silk gown, and a new white cap, she took charge of the little room up
stairs, where were coffee and cakes and sandwiches for the friends who
came from a distance by the train, and might be glad of something to
eat at twelve o'clock. Delia offered, "if she only might," to assist
in the dining-room, where the real wedding collation stood ready. And
even our Arctura came and asked if she might be "lent," to "open
doors, or anything." The regular maids of the house found labor so
divided that it was a festival day all through.

Arctura looked as pretty a little waiting-damsel as might be seen, in
her brown, two-skirted, best delaine dress, and her white, ruffled,
muslin bib-apron, her nicely arranged hair, braided up high around her
head and frizzed a little, gently, at the front, - since why shouldn't
she, too, have a bit of the fashion? - and tied round with a soft,
simple white ribbon. Delia had on a violet-and-white striped pique,
quite new, with a ruffled apron also; and her ribbon was white, too,
and she had a bunch of violets and green leaves upon her bosom. We
cared as much about their dress as they did about ours. Barbara
herself had pinched Arctura's crimps, and tied the little white bow
among-them.

Every room in the house was attended.

"There never was such pretty serving," said Mrs. Van Alstyne,
afterward. "Where _did_ they get such people? - And beautiful serving,"
she went on, reverting to her favorite axiom, "is, after all, the very
soul of living!"

"Yes, ma'am," said Barbara, gravely. "I think we shall find that true
always."

Opposite the door into the garden porch were corresponding ones into
the hall, and directly down to these reached the last flight of the
staircase, that skirted the walls at the back with its steps and
landings. We could see Leslie all the way, as she came down, with her
hand in her father's arm.

She descended beside him like a softly accompanying white cloud; her
dress was of tulle, without a hitch or a puff or a festoon about it.
It had two skirts, I believe, but they were plain-hemmed, and fell
like a mist about her figure. Underneath was no rustling silk, or
shining satin; only more mist, of finest, sheerest quaker-muslin; you
could not tell where the cloud met the opaque of soft, unstarched
cambric below it all. And from her head to her feet floated the
shimmering veil, fastened to her hair with only two or three tube-rose
blooms and the green leaves and white stars of the larger myrtle.
There was a cluster of them upon her bosom, and she held some in her
left hand.

Dr. Hautayne looked nobly handsome, as he came forward to her side
in his military dress; but I think we all had another picture of
him in our minds, - dusty, and battle-stained, bareheaded, in his
shirt-sleeves, as he rode across the fire to save men's lives. When a
man has once looked like that, it does not matter how he ever merely
_looks_ again.

Marmaduke Wharne stood close by Ruth, during the service. She saw his
gray, shaggy brows knit themselves into a low, earnest frown, as he
fixedly watched and listened; but there was a shining underneath, as
still water-drops shine under the gray moss of some old, cleft rock;
and a pleasure upon the lines of the rough-cast face, that was like
the tender glimmering of a sunbeam.

When Marmaduke Wharne first saw John Hautayne, he put his hand upon
his shoulder, and held him so, while he looked him hardly in the face.

"Do you think you deserve her, John?" the old man said. And John
looked him back, and answered straightly, "No!" It was not mere apt
and effective reply; there was an honest heartful on the lips and in
the eyes; and Leslie's old friend let his hand slip down along the
strong, young arm, until it grasped the answering hand, and said
again, -

"Perhaps, then, John, - you'll do!"

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" That is what the
church asks, in her service, though nobody asked it here to-day. But
we all felt we had a share to give of what we loved so much. Her
father and her mother gave; her girl friends gave; Miss Trixie Spring,
Arabel Waite, Delia, little Arctura, the home-servants, gathered in
the door-way, all gave; Miss Craydocke, crying, and disdaining her
pocket-handkerchief till the tears trickled off her chin, because she
was smiling also and would not cover _that_ up, - gave; and nobody gave
with a more loving wrench out of a deep heart, than bluff old frowning
Marmaduke Wharne.

[Illustration]

* * * * *

Nobody knows the comfort that we Holabirds took, though, in those
autumn days, after all this was over, in our home; feeling every
bright, comfortable minute, that our home was our own. "It is so nice
to have it to love grandfather by," said Ruth, like a little child.

"Everything is so pleasant," said Barbara, one sumptuous morning.
"I've so many nice things that I can choose among to do. I feel like a
bee in a barrel of sugar. I don't know where to begin." Barbara had a
new dress to make; she had also a piece of worsted work to begin; she
had also two new books to read aloud, that Mrs. Scherman had brought
up from Boston.

We felt rich in much prospectively; we could afford things better now;
we had proposed and arranged a book-club; Miss Pennington and we were
to manage it; Mrs. Scherman was to purchase for us. Ruth was to have
plenty of music. Life was full and bright to us, this golden
autumn-time, as it had never been before. The time itself was radiant;
and the winter was stored beforehand with pleasures; Arctura was as
glad as anybody; she hears our readings in the afternoons, when she
can come up stairs, and sit mending stockings or hemming aprons.

We knew, almost for the first time, what it was to be without any
pressure of anxiety. We dared to look round the house and see what was
wearing out. We could replace things - _some_, at any rate - as well as
not; so we had the delight of choosing, and the delight of putting by;
it was a delicious perplexity. We all felt like Barbara's bee; and
when she said that once she said it for every day, all through the new
and happy time.

It was wonderful how little there was, after all, that we did want in
any hurry. We thought it over. We did not care to carpet the
dining-room; we liked the drugget and the dark wood-margins better. It
came down pretty nearly, at last, so far as household improvements
were concerned, to a new broadcloth cover for the great family table
in the brown-room.

Barbara's _bee_-havior, however, had its own queer fluctuations at
this time, it must be confessed. Whatever the reason was, it was not
altogether to be depended on. It had its alternations of humming
content with a good deal of whimsical bouncing and buzzing and the
most unpredictable flights. To use a phrase of Aunt Trixie's applied
to her childhood, but coming into new appropriateness now, Barbara
"acted like a witch."

She began at the wedding. Only a minute or two before Leslie came
down, Harry Goldthwaite moved over to where she stood just a little
apart from the rest of us, by the porch door, and placed himself
beside her, with some little commonplace word in a low tone, as
befitted the hushed expectancy of the moment.

All at once, with an "O, I forgot!" she started away from him in the
abruptest fashion, and glanced off across the room, and over into a
little side parlor beyond the hall, into which she certainly had not
been before that day. She could have "forgotten" nothing there; but
she doubtless had just enough presence of mind not to rush up the
staircase toward the dressing-rooms, at the risk of colliding with the
bridal party. When Leslie an instant later came in at the double
doors, Mrs. Holabird caught sight of Barbara again just sliding into
the far, lower corner of the room by the forward entrance, where she
stood looking out meekly between the shoulders and the floating
cap-ribbons of Aunt Trixie Spring and Miss Arabel Waite during the
whole ceremony.

Whether it was that she felt there was something dangerous in the air,
or that Harry Goldthwaite had some new awfulness in her eyes from
being actually a commissioned officer, - Ensign Goldthwaite, now,
(Rose had borrowed from the future, for the sake of euphony and
effect, when she had so retorted feet and dignities upon her last
year,) - we could not guess; but his name or presence seemed all at
once a centre of electrical disturbances in which her whisks and


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