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" Do they last long, the dull times ? "
asked Mary Beck in an unusually sympathetic
voice. Betty had spoken sadly, and it dawned
upon her friend's mind that life was not all a
holiday even to Betty Leicester.

"Ever so long," answered Betty briskly;
" but you see I have my mending and house-
keeping when we are in lodgings. We are
masters of the situation now, papa always says ;
but when I was too small to look after him,
we used to have to depend upon old lodging-
house women, and they made us miserable,
though I love them all for the sake of the good
ones who will let you go into the kitchen your-
self and make a cup of tea for papa just right,
and be honest and good, and cry when you go
away instead of slamming the door. Oh, I
could tell you stories, Mary Eliza Beck ! " and
Betty took one or two frisky steps along the
sidewalk as if she meant to dance. Mary
Beck felt as if she were looking out of a very
small and high garret window at a vast and
surprising world. She was not sure that she
should not like to keep house in country lodg-
ings, though, and order the dinner, and have
a housekeeping purse, as Betty had done these


three or four years. They had often talked
about these experiences ; but Becky's heart
always faltered when she thought of being
alone in strange houses and walking alone in
strange streets. Sometimes Betty had delight-
ful visits, and excellent town lodgings, and
diversified hotel life of the most entertaining
sort. She seemed to be thinking about all
this and reflecting upon it deeply. " I wish
that papa and I were going to be here a year,"
she said. " I love Tideshead."

Mr. Leicester did not wait to come back
with the packet boat, but appeared by the
stage from the railway station in good season
for dinner. He was very hungry, and looked
well satisfied with his morning's work, and he
told Betty that she should know toward the
end of the afternoon the reason of his going to
Riverport, so that there was nothing to do but
to wait. She was disappointed, because she
had fancied that he meant to bring home a
new row-boat ; perhaps, after all, he had made
some arrangements about it. Why, yes ! it
might be coming up by the packet, and they
would go out together that very evening.
Betty could hardly wait for the hour to come.


When dinner was over, papa was enticed up
to see the cubby-house, while the aunts took
their nap. There was a little roast pig for din-
ner, and Aunt Barbara had been disappointed
to find that her guest had gone away, as it was
his favorite dinner ; but his unexpected return
made up for everything, and they had a great
deal of good fun. Papa was in the best of
spirits, and went out to speak to Serena about
the batter pudding as soon as Aunt Barbara
rose from her chair.

" Now don't you tell me you don't get
them batter puddings a sight better in the
dwellings of the rich and great," insisted
Serena, with great complacency. " Setting
down to feast with lords and dukes, same 's
you do, you must eat of the best the year
round. We do season the sauce well, I will
allow. Miss Barbara, she always thinks it
may need a drop more."

" Serena," said Betty's father solemnly, " I
assure you that I have eaten a slice of bacon
between two tough pieces of hard tack for my
dinner many a day this summer, and I have n't
had such a batter pudding since the last one
made yourself."


" You don't tell me they 're goin' out o' fash-
ion," said Serena, much shocked. " I know
some ain't got the knack o' makin' 'em."

Betty stood by, enjoying the conversation.
Serena always said proudly that a great light
of intellect would have been lost to the world
if she had not rescued Mr. Leicester from the
duck-pond when he was a boy, and they were
indeed the best of friends. Serena's heart re-
joiced when anybody praised her cooking, and
she turned away now toward the pantry with
a beaming smile, while the father and daughter
went up to the garret.

It was hot there at this time of day ; still
the great elms outside kept the sun from shin-
ing directly on the roof, and a light breeze
was blowing in at the dormer window.

Mr. Leicester sat down in the high-hacked
wooden rocking-chair, and looked about the
quaint little place with evident pleasure. Betty
was perched on the window-sill. She had
looked forward eagerly to this moment.

" There is my old butterfly - net," he ex
claimed, " and my minerals, and why, all
the old traps ! Where did you find them ? I
remember that once I came up here and found


everything cleared away but the gun, they
were afraid to touch that."

" I looked in the boxes under the eaves," ex-
plained Betty. "Your little Fourth of July
cannon is there in the dark corner. I had it
out at first, but Becky tumbled over it three
times, and once Aunt Mary heard the noise
and had a palpitation of the heart, so I pushed
it back again out of the way. I did so wish
that you were here to fire it. I had almost
forgotten what fun the Fourth is. I wrote you
all about it, did n't 1 ?"

" Some day we will come to Tideshead and
have a great celebration, to make up for losing
that," said papa. " Betty, my child, I 'm sleepy.
I don't know whether it is this rocking-chair
or Serena's dinner."

" Perhaps it was getting up so early in the
morning," suggested Betty. " Go to sleep,
papa. I '11 say some of my new pieces of po-
etry. I learned all you gave me, and some
others beside."

" Not the ' Scholar Gypsy,' I suppose ? '

"Yes, indeed," said Betty. "The last of
it was hard, but all those verses about the
jields are lovely, and make me remember that


spring when we lived in Oxford. That was
the only long one you gave me. I am not sure
that I can say it without the book. I always
play that I am in the ' high field corner ?
looking down at the meadows, and I can re-


member the first pages beautifully."

Papa's eyes were already shut, and by the
time Betty had said

" All the live murmur of a summer's day "

she found that he was fast asleep. She stole
a glance at him now and then, and a little
pang went through her heart as she saw that
his hair was really growing gray. Aunt Mary
and Aunt Barbara appeared to believe that he
was hardly more than a boy, but to Betty
thirty-nine years was a long lifetime, and in-
deed her father had achieved much more than
most men of his age. She was afraid of wak-
ing him and kept very still, so that a sparrow
lit on the window-sill and looked at her a mo-
ment or two before he flew away again. She
could even hear the pigeons walking on the
roof overhead and hopping on the shingles,
with a tap, from the little fence that went
about the house-top* When Mr. Leicester


waked lie still wished to hear the " Scholar
Gypsy," which was accordingly begun again,
and repeated with only two or three stops.
Sometimes they said a verse together, and
then they fell to talking about some of the peo-
ple whom they both loved in Oxford, and had
a delightful hour together. At first Betty had
not liked to learn long poems, and thought her
father was stern and inconsiderate in choosing
such old and sober ones ; but she was already
beginning to see a reason for it, and was glad,
if for nothing else, to know the poems papa
himself liked best, even if she did not wholly
understand them. It was easy now to remem-
ber a new one, for she had learned so many.
Aunt Barbara was much pleased with this
accomplishment, for she had learned a great
many herself in her lifetime. It seemed to
be an old custom in the Leicester family, and
Betty thought one day that she could let this
gift stand in the place of singing as Becky
could ; one's own friends were not apt to care
so much for poetry, but older people liked to
be " repeated ' ' to. One night, however, she
had said Tennyson's ballad of " The Revenge "
to Harry Foster and Nelly as they came up the
river, and they liked it surprisingly.


Papa reached for the old guitar presently
and after mending the broken strings he
began to sing a delightful little Italian song,
a great favorite of Betty's. Then there was
a step on the stairs, Aunt Barbara's dignified
head appeared behind the railing, and they
called her to come up and join them.

" I felt as if there must be ghosts walking
In daylight when I heard the old guitar," she
said a little wistfully. When she was seated
in the rocking-chair and Betty's father had
pulled forward a flowered tea-chest for him-
self, he went on with his singing, and then
played a Spanish dancing tune, with a nod to
Betty, so that she skipped at once to the open
garret-floor and took the pretty steps with
much gayety. Aunt Barbara smiled and kept
time with her foot ; then she left the prirn
rocking-chair and began to follow the dance
too, soberly chasing Betty and receding and
even twirling her about, until they were both
out of breath and came back to their places
very warm and excited. They looked strangely
alike as they danced. Betty was almost as
tall and only a little more quick and graceful
than her grandaunt.


" It is such fun to be just the same age as
you and papa," insisted Betty. " We do
everything together now." She took on a
pretty grown-up air, and looked at Aunt Bar-
bara admiringly. It was only this summer
that she had begun to understand how young
grown people really are. Aunt Mary seemed
much older because she had stopped doing so
many pleasant things. This garret dance was
a thing to remember. Betty liked Aunt Bar-
bara better every day, but it had never oc-
curred to her that she knew that particular
Spanish dance. An army officer's wife had
taught it to Betty and some of her friends the
summer she was in the Isle of Wight. Becky
had been brought up to be very doubtful
about dancing, which was a great pity, for she
was apt to be stiff and awkward when she
walked or tried to move about in the room,
Somehow she moved her feet as if they had
been made too heavy for her, but she learned
a good deal from trying to keep step as she
walked with Betty, who was naturally light-

Mr. Leicester put down the guitar at last,
and said that he had an errand to do, and
that Betty had better come along.


* Can't you sit still five minutes, either of
you?" maliciously asked Aunt Barbara, who
bad quite regained her breath. "I really
did not know how cozy this corner was. I
must say that I had forgot to associate it with
anything but Serena's and my putting away
blankets in the spring. I used to like to sit
by the window and read when I was your age,
Betty. In those days I could look over this
nearest elm and see way down the river, just
as you can now in winter when the leaves are
gone. I dare say the three generations before
me have played here too. I am so glad that
we could have Betty this summer ; it is time
she began to strike her roots a little deeper

" Yes," said Mr. Leicester, " but I can't do
without her, my only Betsey ! " and they all
laughed, but Betty had a sudden suspicion
that Aunt Barbara would try to keep her alto-
gether now. This frightened our friend a
little, for though she loved the old home
dearly, she must take care of papa. It was
her place to take care of him now ; she had
been looking over his damaged wardrobe most
anxiously that morning, as if her own had


never known ruin. His outside clothes were
well enough, but alas for his pocket hand-
kerchiefs and stockings ! He looked a little
pale, too, and as if he had on the whole been
badly neglected in minor ways.

But there never was a more cheerful and
contented papa, as they walked toward the
river together hand-in-hand, in the fashion of
Betty's childhood. They found that the packet
had come in, and there was a group of spec-
tators on the old wharf, who were looking
eagerly at something which proved to be a
large cat-boat which the packet had in tow.
Mr. Leicester left Betty suddenly and went to
the wharf's edge.

" Did you have any trouble bringing her
up ? " he asked.

" Bless ye, no, sir," said the packet's skip*
per ; " did n't hinder us one grain ; had a clever
little breeze right astern all the way up."

"Look here, Betty," said papa, returning
presently. "I went down this morning to
hunt for a dory with a sail, and I saw this cat-
boat which somebody was willing to let, and I
have hired it for a while. I wish to look up
the river shell-fish a bit ; it 's not altogether
play, I mean you to understand."



Oh, papa!'' cried Betty joyfully. "The
only tiling we needed was a nice boat. But
you can't have clutters in pots and pans at
Aunt Barbara's, can you, and your works go-
ing on ? Serena won't like it, and she can be
quite terrible, you know ! '

" Come on board and look at her," said
Mr. Leicester, regardless of the terrors of
Serena's disapproval. The cat - boat carried
a jib beside a good-sized mainsail, and had a
comfortable little cabin with a tiny stove and
two berths and plenty of lockers. Two young
men had just spent their vacation in her, coast-
ing eastward, and one of them told Mr. Leices-
ter that she was the quickest and steadiest
boat he ever saw, sailing close to the wind and
answering her rudder capitally. They had
lived on board altogether and made themselves
very comfortable indeed. There was a light
little flat-bottomed boat for tender, and the
white cat-boat itself had been newly painted
with gilt lettering across the stern, Starlight,

" I can ask the Out-of-Door Club one day
next week," announced Betty, with great en-
thusiasm. " Is n't she clean and pretty ?
Won't Aunt Barbara like her, papa ? "


" I must look about for some one to help me
to sail her," said Mr. Leicester, with uncom-
mon gravity. " What do you think of young
Foster ? He must know the river well, and his
fishing may be falling off a little now. It
would be a good way to help him, don't you
think so?"

Betty's eyes shone with joy. " Oh, yes,"
she said ; " they do have such a hard time now.
Nelly told me so yesterday morning. It has
cost them so much lately. Harry has been
trying to get something to do in Biverport."

They were busy anchoring the Starlight out
in the stream, and now Mr. Leicester helped
Betty over the side into the tender and sculled
her ashore. Some of the men on the wharf
had disappeared, but others were still there,
and there was a great bustle of unloading
some bags of grain from the packet. Mr.
Leicester invited one of his old acquaintances
who asked many questions to come out and
see the cat-boat, and as Betty hurried up the
street to the house she saw over her shoulder
that a large company in small leaky crafts
had surrounded the pretty Starlight like pi
rates. It was apt to be very dull in Tides


head for many of the idle citizens, and Mr.
Leicester's return was always hailed with de-
light. It was nearly tea-time, so that Betty
could not go over to tell Mary Beck the good
news ; but one white handkerchief, meaning
Come over, was quickly displayed on the pear-
tree branch, and while Betty was getting
dressed in a much-needed fresh gown for tea
Becky kindly appeared, and was delighted
with the good news. She had seen the Star-
light already from a distance.

" My father used to have a splendid sail-
boat," said fatherless Becky with much wist-
fulness, and Betty put her arms round her and
gave her a warm kiss. Sometimes it seemed
that whatever one had the other lacked.



THERE was a great stirring about and open*
ing and shutting of kitchen doors early the
next morning but one. Betty had been anx-
ious the day before to set forth on what she
was pleased to call a long cruise in the Star-
light, but Mr. Leicester said that he must
give up the morning to his letters, and after
that came a long business talk with Aunt Bar-
bara in the library, where she sat before her
capacious secretary and produced some neat
packages of papers from a little red morocco
trunk which Betty had never seen before. To
say truth, Aunt Barbara was a famous business
woman and quite the superior of her nephew
in financial matters, but she deferred to him
meekly, and in fact gained some long-desired
information about a northwestern city in
which Mr. Leicester had lately been obliged
to linger for two or three days.




It was a day of clear hot sunshine and light
breeze, not in the least a good day for sailing;
but Betty was just as much disappointed to
be kept at home as if it had been, and after
breakfast she loitered about in idleness, with
a look of dark disapproval, until papa sud-
denly faced about and held her before him
by her two shoulders, looking gravely into her
eyes, which fell at once.

Don't be cross, Betty," he said quietly;
we shall play all the better if we don't
forget our work. What is there to do first ?
Where 's ' Things to be Done ' ? "

Betty dipped into her pocket and pulled out
a bit of paper with the above heading, and
held it up to him. Papa's eyes began to
twinkle and she felt her cheeks grow red, but
good humor was restored. " 1. Ask Seth to
sharpen my knife. 2. Find Aunt Mary's old
' Evenings at Home ' and read her the Trans-
migrations of Indur. 3. Find out what ' hedon-
ism ' means in the dictionary. 4. Sew on papa's

" Those were all the things I could think
of last night," explained Betty apologetically,
" I was so sleepy."


" It strikes me that the most important duty
happened to be set clown last," said Mr. Leices-
ter, beginning to laugh. " If you will look
after the buttons, I will tell you the meaning of
* hedonism ' and sharpen the jack-knife, and I
am not sure that I won't read the Transmigra-
tions to Aunt Mary beside, for the sake of old
times. I know where those little old brown
books are, too, unless they have been moved
from their old places. I am willing to make
a good offer, for I have hardly a button to my
back, you know. And this evening we will
have a row, if not a sail. The sky looks as
if the wind were rising, and you can ask Mary
Beck to go with us to-morrow down the river,
if you like. I am going to see young Fos-
ter the first time I go down the street. Now
good-by until dinner-time, dear child."

" Good-by, dear papa ! " and Betty ran up*
stairs two steps at a time. She had already
looked to see if there were plenty of ink in
his ink-bottle, and some water in a tiny vase
on his writing-table for the quill pens. It was
almost the only thing she had done that morn-
ing, but it was one of her special cares when
they were together. She gathered aj armful of


his clothes, and finding that Aunt Mary was
in a hospitable frame went into her room for
advice and society, and sat busily sewing by
the favorite cool western window nearly all the

In the evening, when the tide was high,
Betty and Mr. Leicester went out for a little
row by themselves, floating under some over-
hanging oak-boughs and talking about things
that had happened when they were apart.

Now we come back to where we began this
chapter, the early morning of the next day,
and Serena's and Letty's bustling in the pan-
try to have a basket of luncheon ready, so that
the boating party need not lose the tide ; the
boating party itself at breakfast in the dining-
room ; Mary Beck in a transport of delight
sitting by her window at the other side of the
street, all ready to rush out the minute she saw
Betty appear. As for Harry Foster and Seth,
they had already gone down to the shore.

On the wide sofa in the hall was a funny old-
fashioned leather satchel with a strong strap-
handle. It seemed full to overflowing, and
beside it lay a warm shawl neatly folded, and,
not to make too long a story, Aunt Barbara's


third-best bonnet was close at hand, and these
were her provisions for spending the day on
the river. Mr. Leicester had insisted that she
should go with them, and that if she found it
tiresome there was nothing to prevent her
coming back by train from Kiverport in the
afternoon. Aunt Barbara felt as if she were
being a little adventurous, and packed her
small portmanteau with a secret foreboding
that she might be kept out over night ; still she
had always been very f oiid of boating, and had
seen almost none of it for many years, in fact
since Betty's father had been at home some-
times, in his college vacations. There was a
fine breeze blowing already in the elms and
making the tall hollyhocks bow in the garden,
and when they reached the wharf and put
down the creaking wicker basket on the very
edge the tide was still high, and Harry Foster
had already hoisted the Starlight's sail with
one careful reef in it, and was waiting to row
them out two at a time in the tag-boat. Nelly
Foster could not go, as she and her mother
were very busy that day, but Harry's face
looked brighter than Betty had ever seen it,
and she was sure that papa must have been


very good, and, to use a favorite phrase of
his, opened a new gate for him. Mary Beck
was strangely full of fears, considering that
she was the granddaughter of a brave old
sailor ; but after she was out of the unsteady
smaller boat, and had been decoyed by Betty
to the bows of the Starlight, and shown how
to stow herself away so that she hindered
neither jib nor boom, she began to enjoy her-
self highly. Aunt Barbara sat under her every-
day parasol, looking quite elegant and unsea-
worthy, but very happy. Harry Foster was
steering just beside her, and Mr. Leicester,
with Seth's assistance, was shaking out the
reef ; for the wind was quieter just now, and
they wished to get farther down river as soon
as possible, since here, where the banks were
often high and wooded and the stream narrow,
it was gusty and uncertain sailing for so large
a boat. They slipped down fast with the
wind and tide, and passed the packet, which
had started out ahead of them. She carried
an unusual number of passengers, and was
loaded deep with early potatoes. The girls
waved their handkerchiefs and the men on
board the packet gave a cheer, while Mr.


Leicester saluted with the Starlight's flag, and
it was altogether a ceremonious occasion. Seth
said that he " guessed folks would think old
Tideshead was waking up." Of all the pleas-
ure-boat's company Seth was perhaps the best
satisfied. He had been in a state of torture
lest he might not be asked to make one of the
rew, and it being divulged that although of
up-country origin he had once gone to the
Georges Banks fishing with a seafaring uncle,
Mr. Leicester considerately asked for his ser-
vices. Seth had put on the great rubber-
boots and a heavy red woolen shirt that he
wore on shipboard in March weather. He
was already obliged to fan himself incessantly
with his straw hat, as they were running before
the wind, and presently, after much suffering,
made an excuse to go into the little cabin,
whence he reappeared, much abashed, in his
stocking feet and a faded calico shirt, which
had been luckily put on under the red one.
Aunt Barbara held her parasol so that it cov-
ered her face for a few minutes, and there was
a considerate silence, until Seth mentioned
/hat he " had thought he knew before what it
A^as to be het up, but you never knew what
kind of weather 't was to be on the water."


At the next bend of the river the wind
made them much cooler, while the boat sailed
even better than before. There had been
plenty of rain, so that the shore was as green
as in June and the old farm-houses looked very
pleasant. Betty had not been so far down as
this since the day she came to Tideshead, and
was looking eagerly for certain places that
she remembered. Aunt Barbara and papa
were talking about John Paul Jones and his
famous river crew, some of whom Aunt Bar-
bara had known in their old age, while she
was a girl. Harry Foster was listening with
great interest. Betty and even Becky felt
proud of Harry as he steered, looking along
the river with quick, sure eyes. They did not
feel so familiar with him as usual ; somehow,
he looked a good deal older since the trouble
about his father, and there was a new manli-

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 11 of 13)