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easily. She wished for Becky more than ever
after the first few minutes, but her thoughts
were very busy. She had had a misunder-
standing with both the aunts that morning,
and was still moved by a little pity for herself.
They had grown used to their own orderly
habits, and it seemed to be no trouble to them
to keep their possessions in order, and Betty


had found them standing before an open bu
reau drawer in her room quite aghast with the
general disarray, and also with the buttonless
and be-ripped condition of different articles of
her underclothing. They had laughed good-
naturedly and were not so hard upon Betty as
they meant to be, when they saw her shame-
stricken face, and Betty herself tried to laugh.
She did not mind Aunt Barbara's seeing the
things so much as Aunt Mary's aggravating
assumption that it was a perfectly hopeless
case, and nothing could be done about it.

"Nobody knows how or where they were
washed," Aunt Barbara said in her brisk way ;
and though she looked very stern, Betty knew
that she meant it partly for an excuse.

" You certainly ought to have been looking
them over in this rainy weather," complained
Aunt Mary. " A young lady of your age
is expected to keep her clothing in exquisite

Betty hated being called a young lady of
her age.

" I hope that you take better care of your
father's wardrobe than this : why, there is n't
a whole thing here, and they are most expen-


sive new things, one can see ; unmended and
spoiled." Aunt Mary held up a pretty under-
waist and sighed deeply.

" Mrs. Duncan chose them with me ; one
does n't have to give so much for such things
in London," explained Betty somewhat hotly.
" It is no use to pick out ugly things to wear."

"Dear, dear! ' said Aunt Barbara, "don't
fret about it, either of you ! We '11 look them
over by and by, Betty, and see what can be
done ; ' and she shut the drawer upon the pa-
thetic relics. " You must be ready to meet
your responsibilities better than this," she said
sharply to her niece, but Betty was already
hurrying out of the door. She did not mind
Aunt Barbara, but Aunt Mary in the distress-
ing silk wrapper that belonged to cross days
was too much for one to bear. They had no
business to be looking over her bureau drawer ;
then Betty was sorry for having been so ill-
natured about it. Letty had told her, earlier,
that some of her clothes could not be worn
again until they were mended, and Aunt Bar-
bara had, no doubt, been consulted also, and
was wondering what was best to be done.
Betty's great pride had been in being able to


take care of papa, and she had almost boasted
of her skill, and of her management of
housekeeping affairs when they were in lodg-
ings. She was too old now to be treated


like a child, and hated being what Serena
called " stood over."

Betty's temper was usually very good, and
such provocations could not make her misera-
ble very long. As she sat under the oak-tree
she even laughed at the remembrance of Aunt
Mary's expression of perfect hopelessness as
she held up the underwaist. Aunt Barbara's
favorite maxim that there was " nothing so in-
convenient as disorder " seemed to have deeper
reason and wisdom than ever. Betty consid-
ered the propriety of throwing away all her
subterfuges of pins, so that a proper stitch
must be inevitably taken when it was needed.
Pins in underclothes are not always comfort-
able, but our heroine was apt to be in a hurry,
and to suffer the consequences in more ways
than one. She made some brave resolutions
now, and promised herself to look over her
belongings, and to mend all that could be
mended and throw away the remainder rags
that very day after dinner. Betty was fond


of making good resolutions, and it seemed to
help her much about keeping them if she wrote
them down. She had learned lately from
Aunt Barbara, who complained of forgetting
things over night, to make little lists of things
to be done, and it appeared a good deal easier
to mark off the items on the list one by one,
than to carry them in one's mind and wonder
what should be done next. Out friend liked
to make notes about life in general and her
own responsibilities, and had many serious
thoughts now that she was growing older.

She made her lead pencil as pointed as pos-
sible with a knife newly sharpened by Jona-
than, and wrote at the end of her slip of pa-
per, which had come out much crumpled from
her pocket : " Look over my clothes and every
one of my stockings, and put them in as good
order as possible." Then she smoothed out
another larger piece of paper on her knee and
read it. One day she had copied some scat-
tered sentences from a book, and prefaced them
with some things that her father often had
said : " Learn the right way to do things. Do
everything that you can for yourself. Try to
make yourself fit to live with other people.


Try to avoid making other people wait upon
you. Remember that every person stands in
a different place from every other and so sees
life from a different point of view. Remem-
ber that nobody likes to be proved in the
wrong, and be careful in what manner you say
things to people that they do not wish to hear."
Betty read slowly with great approval at
first, but the end seemed disturbing. " That 's
just what Aunt Mary likes ! ' she reflected,
with suddenly rising wrath. " She says things
over twice, for fear I don't hear them the first
time. I wish she would let me alone ! ' but
Betty's conscience smote her at this point.
She really was beginning to wish most heart-
ily that she were good, and like every one else
wished for the approval of others as well as
for the peace of her own conscience. This was
a black-mark day when she had neither, and
she thought about her life more intently than
usual. When she liked herself everybody
liked her, but when she was on bad terms
with herself everybody else seemed ready to
join in the stern disapproval. Papa was
always ready to lend a helping hand at such
times, but papa was far away. Nothing was


so pleasant as usual that morning, and a fog
of discouragement seemed to shut out all the
sunshine in Betty Leicester's heart. She did
not often get low-spirited, but for that hour all
the excitement of coming to Tideshead and
being liked and befriended by her old friends
had vanished and left only a miserable hope-
lessness in its place. The road of life ap-
peared to lead nowhere, and perhaps our
friend missed the constant change and excite-
ment of interest brought to her by living
alongside such a busy, inspiriting life as her
father's. Here in Tideshead she had to pro-
vide her own motive power instead of being
tributary to a stronger current.

" I don't seem to have anything to do,"
thought Betty. " I used to be so busy all the
time last spring in London and never had half
time enough, and now everything is raveling
out instead of knitting up. I poke through
the days hoping something nice will happen,
just like the Tideshead girls." This thought
came with a curious flash of self-recognition
such as rarely comes, and always is the minute
of inspiration. " I must think and think what
to do," Betty went on, leaning her cheek on her


hand and looking off at the blue mountains
far to the northward. There was a tuft of
rudbeckias in bloom near by, and just then th(
breeze made them bow at her as if they were
watching and approved her serious thoughts.
They had indeed a friendly and cheering look,
as if there were still much hope in life, and
Betty forgot herself for a minute as she was
suddenly conscious of their companionship.
She even gave the gay yellow flowers a friendly
nod, and resolved to carry some of them
home to the aunts. It would be a good thing
to make a rule for devoting the first half hour
after breakfast to the care of her clothes and
that sort of thing : then she could take the
next hour for her writing. But it was often
very pleasant to scurry down into the gar-
den or to the yard for a word with Jonathan
or Seth. Aunt Barbara was always busy
housekeeping with Serena just after break-
fast, and Betty was left to herself for a
while ; it would take stern principle to settle
at once to the day's work, but to-morrow morn-
ing the plan should be tried. Betty had of-
fered, soon after she came, to take care of the
tiowers in the house, to pick fresh ones or to


put fresh water in the vases, but she had for-
gotten to do it regularly of late, though Aunt
Barbara had been so pleased in the beginning.
" I ought to do my part in the house," she
thought, and again the gay " rude beckies "
nodded approval, and a catbird overhead said
a great deal on the subject which was difficult
to understand but very insistent. Betty was
beginning to be cheerful again ; in truth, noth-
ing gets a girl out of a tangle of provocations
and bewilderments and regrets like going out
into the fields alone.

Nobody had driven by in all the time that
Betty had sat in the fence corner until now
there was a noise of wheels in the distance.
It seemed suddenly as if the session were over,
and Betty, quite restored to her usual serenity,
said good-by to her solitary self and the cheer-
ful wild-flowers. " I am going to be good,
papa," she thought with a warm love in her
hopeful heart, as she looked out through the
young black cherry-trees to see who was going
by in the road. " Seth ! Seth Pond ! ' she
called, "Where are you going?" for it proved
io be that important member of the aunts'
household, with the old wagon and Jimmy, the
old black horse.


" Goin' to mill," answered Seth, recognizing
the voice and looking about him, much pleased.
" Want to come? be pleased to have ye," and
Betty was over the fence in a minute and ap-
peared to his view from behind the thicket.
I dare say the flowers waved a farewell and
looked fondly after her as she drove away.

Seth was not in the least vexed by his
thoughts. He was much gratified by Betty's
company and behaved with great dignity, giv-
ing her much information about the hay crop,
and how many tons were likely to be cut in
this field and the next. They could not drive
very fast because the wagon was well loaded
with bags of corn, and so they jogged on at an
even pace, though Seth flourished his whip a
good deal, striking sometimes at the old horse,
and sometimes at the bushes by the roadside.

" Do you expect I shall ever get to be much
of a hand to play the violin ? ' he inquired
with much earnestness.

" I don't know, Seth," answered Betty, a
little distressed by the responsibility of answer-
'Ing. " Do you mean to be a musician and
'lo nothing else ? '

" I used to count on it when I was little,"


said Seth humbly. " I heard a fellow
splendid in a show once, and I just used to lay
awake nights an' be good for nothin' days,
wonderin' how I could learn ; but I can play
now 'bout 's good 's he could, I s'pose, an' it
don't seem to be nothin'. Them tunes in the
book you give me let in some light on me
as to what playin' was. I mean them tough
ones over in the back part."

" I suppose you would have to go away and
study ; teachers cost a great deal. That is,
the best ones do."

" They 're wuth it ; I don't grudge 'em the
best they get," said Seth, honorably. " I 've
got to think o' marm, you see, up-country. She
could n't get along nohow without my wages
comin' in. You see I send her the most part.
I ain't to no expense myself while I live there
to Miss Leicester's. If there was only me I 'd
fetch it to live somehow up in somebody's
garret, and go to one o' them crack teachers
after I 'd saved up consid'able. Then I 'd go
to work again an' practice them lessons till I
earnt some more. But I ain't never goin 5
to pinch marm ; she worked an' slaved an'
picked huckleberries and went out nussin' and


tailorin' an' any work she could git, slick or
rough, an' give me everything she could till
I got a little schoolin' together and was big
enough to work. She 's kind o' slim now ; I
think she worked too hard. I was awful
homesick when I was first to your aunts', but
Jonathan he used me real good. He come
there a boy from up to our place just the same,
an' used to know marm. Miss Leicester she
lets me go up and spend Sunday consid'able
often. Marm 's all alone except what use she
gets of the neighbors comin' in. But seems
if I 'd lived for nothin', if I can't learn to
play a fiddle better than I can now," and Seth
struck hard with his whip at an unoffending

" Then you 're sure to do it," said Betty.
" I believe you must learn, Seth. Where there 's
a will there 's a way."

" Why, that 's just what Sereny says," ex-
claimed Seth with surprise. " W^ell, they say
't was the little dog that kep' runnin' that got
there Saturday night."

" Should you play in concerts, do you sup-
pose ? ' asked Betty, with reverence for such
overpowering ambition in the rough lad.


" You bet, an' travel with shows an' things,"
responded Seth. " But if I kep' to work on
something' else that give mother an' me a good
livin', I 'd like to be the one they sent for all
i'ound this part of the country when they
wanted first-rate playin' ; an' I 'd be ready, you
know, and just make the old fiddle squeak
lovely for dancin' or set pieces for weddings
an' any occasions that might rise. I 'd like
to be the player, an' I tell ye I 'm goin' to be
'fore I die. Marm she knows I can, but one
spell she used to expect 't would draw me into
bad company."

" Oh you would n't let it, I 'm sure, Seth,"
agreed Betty, with pleasing confidence. " I
like to hear you play now," she said. " I
wish we could get you a teacher. Perhaps
papa can tell you, and well, we '11 see."

"I 'd just like to have you see marm," said
Seth shyly as they drove to the mill door.
" She 'd like you an' you 'd like her. I don't
suppose your aunts would let you go up-coun-
try, would they ? It 's pretty up there ; moun-
tains, an' cleared pastur's way up their sides
higher 'n you 'd git in an afternoon. You can
see way down here right from our house, ' he


whispered, as they stopped before the

Betty thought it was very pleasant in the old
mill. While Seth and the miller were trans-
acting their business, she went to one of the
Jittle windows on the side next the swift rush-
ing mill-stream and looked out awhile, and
watched some swallows and the clear water
and the house on the other side where the
miller lived. Then she was shown how the
corn was ground and tasted the hot meal as
it came sifting down from the little boxes on
the band, and the miller even had the big
wheel stopped in its dripping dark closet
where it seemed to labor hard to keep the
mill going. " Something works hard for us
in our lives to make them all come right,"
she thought with wistful gratitude, and looked
with new interest at the busy maze of wheels
and hoppers and rude machinery that joggled
on steadily from the touch of the hidden wheel
and the plash of its live water. She wandered
out into the sunshine and down the river side
a little way. There was a clean yellow sandy
bottom in one place with shoals of frisky little
minnows and a small green island only a little


way out, and Betty was much tempted to take
off her shoes and stockings and wade across.
Her toes curled themselves in their shoes with
pleased anticipation, but she thought with a
sigh that she was too tall to go wading now,
that is, near a public place like the mill. It
was impossible not to give a heavy sigh ovei
such lost delights. Then she looked up at the
mill and discovered that there were only one
or two high and dusty windows at that end,
and down she sat on the short green turf to
pull off the shoes and stockings as fast as
she could, lest second thoughts might again
hinder this last wade. She gathered her
petticoats and over to the island she splashed,
causing awful apprehension of disaster among
the minnows.

The green island was a delightful place
indeed ; the upper end was near the roaring
dam, and the water plashed and dashed as it
ran away on either side. There were two or
three young elms and some alders on the
island, and the alders were full of clematis just
coming into bloom. The lower end of this
strip of island - ground was much less noisy,
Betty went down to sit there after she had


seen two or three turtles slide into the water,
and more minnows slip away into deeper pools
out of sight. There was a pleasant damp smell
of cool water, and a ripple of light went dan-
cing up the high stone foundation of the old
mill. Betty could still hear the great wet wheel
lumbering round. She thought that she never
had found a more delightful place, so much
business was going on all about her and yet it
was so quiet there, and as she looked under a
young alder what should she see but a wild
duck on its nest. Even if the shy thing had
fluttered off at her approach, it had gone back
again, and now watched her steadily as if to
be ready to fly, yet not really frightened. It
was a dear kind of relationship to be in this
wild little place with another living creature,
and Betty settled herself on the soft turf,
against the straight young elm trunk, deter-
mined not to give another glance in the duck's
direction. It would be great fun to come and
see it go away with its ducklings when they
were hatched, if one only knew the proper
minute. She wished that she could paint a
picture of the mill and the river, or could write
a song about it, even if she could not sing it,


so many girls had such gifts and did not carf
half so much for them as Betty herself would
Dear Betty ! she did not know what a rare
gift she had in being able to enjoy so many
things, and to understand the pictures and
songs of every day.

Then it was time to wade back to shore, and
jo she rose and left the duck to her peaceful
seclusion, not knowing how often she would
think of this pretty place in years to come.
The best thing about such pleasures is that
they seem more and more delightful, as years
go on. Seth was just coming to tell Betty that
the meal was all ground and ready when she
appeared discreetly from behind the willows
that grew at the mill end, and so they drove
home without anything exciting to mark the

Betty had taken many music lessons, but
she was by no means a musician, and seldom
played for the pleasure of it. For some reason,
after tea was over that evening she opened
Aunt Barbara's piano and began to play a
gay military march which she had toilsomely
learned from one of the familiar Englisb
operas. She played it once or twice, ant*


played it very well ; in fact, an old gentlemar
who was going slowly along the street stopped
and leaned on the fence to listen. He had
been a captain in the militia in the days of the
old New England trainings, and now though
he walked with two canes and was quite de-
crepit, he liked to be reminded of his mili-
tary service, and the march gave him a great
pleasure and made him young again while he
stood there beating time on the front fence,
and nodding his head. One may often give
pleasure without knowing it, if one does pleas-
ant things.

Next morning, early after breakfast, Betty
appeared at Miss Mary Leicester's door with
an armful of mending. Aunt Mary waked up
early and had her breakfast in bed, and liked
very much to be called upon afterward and to
hear something pleasant. One of the win-
dows of her room looked down into the gar-
den and it was cool and shady there at this
time of the day, so Betty seated herself with
a dutiful and sober feeling not unmixed with

" I have thought ever since yesterday that
I was too severe, my dear," said Aunt Mary


somewhat wistfully from her three pillows.
" But you see, Betty, I am so conscious of the
mistakes of my own life that I wish to help you
to avoid them. It is a terrible thing to become
dependent upon other people, especially if
they are busy people," she added plaintively.

" Oh, I ought to have managed everything
better," responded Betty, looking at the ends
of two fingers that had poked directly through
a stocking toe. " I don't mean to let things
get so bad again. I never do when I am with
papa, because I know better. But it has
been such fun to play since I came to Tides-
head ! I don't feel a bit grown up here."

Aunt Mary looked at little Betty with an
affectionate smile.

" I think fifteen is such a funny age," Betty
went on ; " you seem to just perch there be-
tween being a little girl and a young lady,
and first you think you are one and then you
think you are the other. I feel like a bird on
a bough, or as if I were living in a railway sta-
tion, waiting for a train to come in before I
eould do anything."

Betty said this gravely, and then felt a little
shy and self-conscious. Aunt Mary watched


her as she sat by the window sewing, and was
wise enough not to answer, but she could not
help thinking that Betty was a dear girl. It
was one of Aunt Mary's very best days, and
there were some things one could say more
easily to her than to Aunt Barbara, though
Aunt Barbara was what Betty was pleased to
irreverently call her pal.

" I do wish that I had a talent for some-
thing," said Betty. " I can't sing : if I could,
I am sure that I would sing for everybody
who asked me. I don't see what makes peo-
ple so silly about it ; hear that old robin
now ! ' and they both laughed. " Nobody
asks me to play who knows anything about
music. I wish I had Aunt Barbara's fingers ;
I don't believe I can ever learn. I told papa
it was just throwing money away, and he said
it was good to know how to play even a little,
and good for my hands, to make them quick
and clever."

"You played that march very well last
night," said Aunt Mary kindly.

" Oh, that sort of thing ! But I mean other
music, the hard things that papa likes. There
is one of the Chopin nocturnes that Mrs. Dun-


can plays, oh, it is so beautiful ! I wish yor
and Aunt Barbara knew it."

44 You must ask Aunt Barbara to practice it.
I like to have her keep on playing. We used
to hear a great deal of music when I was well
enough to go to Boston in the winter, years
ago," and Aunt Mary sighed. " I think it is
a great thing to have a gift for home life, as
you really have, Betty dear."

44 Papa and I have been in such queer holes,"
laughed Betty. 44 Mrs. Duncan and some of
our friends are never tired of hearing about
them. But you know we always try to do the
same things. If I hadn't any other teacher
when we were just flying about, papa always
heard my lessons and made me keep lesson
hours; and he goes on with his affairs and
we are quite orderly, indeed we are, so it
doesn't make much difference where we hap-
pen to be. Then I have been whole winters
in London, and Mrs. Duncan looks after us
a good deal."

44 Mary Duncan is a wise and charming
woman," said Aunt Mary.

44 All the big Duncans are so nice to the
little ones ! ' said Betty ; 44 but papa and I


Ban be old or young just as we choose, and we
try to make up for not being a large family,"
which seemed to amuse both Aunt Mary and
Letty, who had just come in.

The hour soon slipped by and Betty's needle
had done great execution, but a little heap was
Said aside for the rag-bag as too hopeless a
wreck for any mending. It was plain that too
much trust had been reposed in strange wash-
erwomen, for one could put a finger through
the underwaists anywhere, such damaging soap
had evidently been used to make them clean.
Betty had heard that paper clothes were com-
ing into fashion from Japan, and informed her
aunt of this probable change for the better
with great glee. Then she went away to the
garden to cut some flowers for the house, and
found Aunt Barbara there before her, tying up
the hollyhock stalks to some stakes that Seth
Pond was driving down. Aunt Barbara had a
shallow basket and was going to cut the sweet-
clover flowers that morning, to dry and put
}n her linen shelves along with some sprigs of
lavender, and this pleasant employment took

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 6 of 13)