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put them away. Serena entered into the spirit
of the thing and was so funny and nice mak-
ing believe to be afraid they were not doing
things right and that " sister Sarah would turn
to and do 'em over again, being amazing par-

Then when the flies were whisked out by
two efficient aprons, Betty left the sisters to
themselves for a good talk and rest, and wan-
dered out along the hillsides by the path Serena
had taken, and there she sat and thought and
looked off at the green country and at the sky.
A little black and white dog came trotting
\Long the path on some errand of his own, and
when he saw Betty he held up one paw and
looked at her and then came to be patted and


to snuggle down by her side as if she were ar*
old friend. Betty was touched by this expres-
sion of confidence and sympathy, as indeed she
might be, and was sorry to say good-by to the
little dog when it was time to go back to the
house. He licked her fingers affectionately as
she gave him a last patting, and seemed dis-
appointed because she left him so soon, as if he
had gone trotting about the world all bis life
to find her and now she was going away again.
He did not offer to follow her, but whenever
she looked back there he was, sitting quite still
and watching.

Jonathan was already at the house, impa-
tient to be on his way home, and Serena's bon-
net was just being taken down from its nail
as Betty came in. It seemed too bad to leave
sister Sarah behind, but then she had all the
piece-bags for company, as Serena said.



THE Leicester household had been so long
drifting into a staid and ceremonious fashion
of life that this visit of Betty's threatened at
times to be disturbing. If Aunt Barbara's
heart had not been kept young, under all her
austere look and manners, Betty might have
felt constrained more than once, but there
always was an excuse to give Aunt Mary, who
sometimes complained of too much chattering
on the front door steps, or too much scurrying
up and down stairs from Betty's room. It was
impossible to count the number of times that
important secrets had to be considered in the
course of a week, or to understand why there
were so many flurries of excitement among the
girls of Betty's set, while the general course
of events in Tideshead flowed so smoothly.


Miss Barbara Leicester was always a frank
ind outspoken person, and the young people


were sure to hear her opinion whenever they
asked for it ; but she herself seemed to grow
younger, in these days, and Betty pleased her
immensely one day, when it was mentioned
that a certain person who wore caps, and was
what Betty called "poky," was about Miss
Barbara's age : " Aunt Barbara, you are
always the same age as anybody except &
baby ! "

" I must acknowledge that I feel younger
than my grand-niece, sometimes," said Aunt
Barbara, with a funny little laugh ; but Betty
was puzzled to know exactly what she meant.

In one corner of the upper story of the large
old house there was a delightful little place
by one of the dormer-windows. It lighted the
crooked stairway which came up to the open
garret-floor, and the way to some bedrooms
which were finished off in a row. Betty remem-
bered playing with her dolls in this pleasant lit-
tle corner on rainy days, years before, and re-
vived its old name of the " cubby-house." Her
father had kept his guns and a collection of min-
erals there, in his boyhood. It was over Bet-
ty's own room, and noises made there did not


affect Aunt Mary's nerves, while it was a great
relief from the dignity of the east bedroom.
or, still more, the lower rooms of the house, to
betake one's self with one's friend to this
queer-shaped, brown-raftered little corner of
V ,h3 world. There was a great sea-chest under
the eaves, and an astounding fireboard, with
a picture of Apollo in his chariot. There
was a shelf with some old brown books that
everybody had forgotten, an old guitar, and
a comfortable wooden rocking-chair, beside
Betty's favorite perch in the broad window-
seat that looked out into the tops of the trees.
Her father's boyish trophies of rose-quartz and
beryl crystals and mica were still scattered
along on the narrow ledges of the old beams,
and hanging to a nail overhead were two dusty
bunches of pennyroyal, which had left a mild
fragrance behind them as they withered.

Betty had added to this array a toppling
light-stand from another part of the garret and
a china mug which she kept full of fresh wild
flowers. She pinned " London Graphic " pic-
tures here and there, to make a little bright-
ness, and there were some of her favorite ar-
tist's (Caldecott's) sketches of country squires


and dames, reproduced in faint bright colors,
which looked delightfully in keeping with
their surroundings. As midsummer came on
the cubby-house grew too hot for comfort, but
one afternoon, when rain had been falling all
the morning to cool the high roof, Mary Beck
and Betty sat there together in great comfort
and peace. See for yourself Mary in the
rocking-chair, and Betty in the window-seat ;
they were deep in thought of girlish problems,
and, as usual, taking nearly opposite sides.
They had been discussing their plans for the
future. Mary Beck had confessed that she
wished to learn to be a splendid singer and
sing in a great church or even in public con-
certs. She knew that she could, if she were
only well taught ; but there was nobody to give
her lessons in Tideshead, and her mother
would not hear of her going to Biverport
twice a week.

" She says that I can keep up with my
singing at home, and she wants me to go into
the choir, and I can't bear it. I hate to hear
' we can't afford it,' and I am sure to, if I set
my heart on anything. Mother says that it
will be time enough to learn to sing when I


am through school. Oh, dear me ! " and poor
Mary looked disappointed and fretful.

A disheartening picture of the present Becky
on the concert-stage flashed through Betty's
usually hopeful mind. She felt a heartache,
as she thought of her friend's unfitness and
inevitable disappointment. Becky plain, un-
gainly, honest Becky felt it in her to do
great things, yet she hardly knew what great
things were. Persons of Betty's age never
count upon having years of time in which to
make themselves better. Everything must be
finally decided by the state of things at the
moment. Years of patient study were sure to
develop the wonderful gift of Becky's strong,
sweet voice.

" Why don't you sing in the choir, Becky ? '
asked Betty suddenly. " It would make the
singing so much better. I should love to do
it, if I could, and it would help to make Sun-
day so pleasant for everybody, to hear you
sing. Poor Miss Fedge's voice sounds funny,
doesn't it? Sing me something now, Becky
dear ; sing ' Bonny Doon ' ! '

But Becky took no notice of the request.
u What do you mean to be, yourself ? ' she
asked her companion, with great interest.


" You know that I can't sing or paint or do
any of those things," answered Betty humbly
" I used to wish that I could write books when
I grew up, or at any rate help papa to write
his. I am almost discouraged, though papa
says I must keep on trying to do the things
I really wish to do." And a bright flush cov-
ered Betty's eager face.

" Oh, Becky dear ! : she said suddenly.
" You have something that I envy you more
than even your singing : just living at home
in one place and having your mother and the
boys. I am always wishing and wishing, and
telling myself stories about living somewhere
in the same house all the time, with papa, and
having a real home and taking care of him.
You don't know how good it would feel ! Papa
says the best we can do now is to make
a home wherever we are, for ourselves and
others but I think it is pretty hard, some-

" Well, I think the nicest thing would be
to see the world, as you do," insisted Mary
Beck. " I just hate dusting and keeping
things to rio-hts, and I never shall learn to


cook ! I like to do fancy work pretty well.


You would think Tideshead was perfectly
awful, in winter ! '

" Why should it be ? ' asked Betty inno
cently. " Winter is house-time. I save things
to do in winter, and "

" Oh, you are so preachy, you are so
good-natured, you believe all the prim things
that grown people say ! ' exclaimed Becky.
" What would you say if you never went to
Boston but once, and then had the toothache
all the time ? You have been everywhere,
and you think it 's great fun to stay a little
while in poky old Tideshead, this one sum-
mer ! "

" Why, it is because I have seen so many
other places that I know just how pleasant
Tideshead is."

" Well, I want to see other places, too,"
maintained the dissatisfied Becky.

" Papa says that we ourselves are the places
we live in," said Betty, as if it took a great
deal of courage to tell Mary Beck so unwel-
come a truth. " I like to remember just what
he says, for sometimes, when I have n't un-
derstood at first, something will happen, may
be a year after, to make it flash right mto my


mind. Once I heard a girl say London was
stupid ; just think ! London ! '

Mary Beck was rocking steadily, but Betty
sat still, with her feet on the window-seat and
her hands clasped about her knees. She could
look down into the green yard below, and
watch some birds that were fluttering near by
in the wet trees. The wind blew in very soft
and sweet after the rain.

" I used to think, when I was a little bit
of a girl, that I would be a missionary, but I
should perfectly hate it now ! ' said Mary,
with great vehemence. " I just hate to go
to Sunday-school and be asked the questions ;
it makes me prickle all over. I always feel
sorry when I wake up and find it is Sunday
morning. I suppose you think that 's heathen
and horrid."

" I always have my Sunday lessons with
papa ; he reads to me, and gives me some-
thing to learn by heart, a hymn or some
lovely verses of poetry. I suppose that his
telling me what things in the Bible really
toean keeps me from being 4 prickly ' when
other people talk about it. What made you
wish to be a missionary ? ' Betty inquired,
with interest.


" Oh, there used to be some who came here
and talked in the vestry Sunday evenings
about riding on donkeys and camels. Some-
times they would dress up in Syrian costumes,
and I used to look grandpa's 4 Missionary
Herald ' all through, to find their names after-
ward. It was so nice to hear about their
travels and the natives ; but that was a long
while ago," and Becky rocked angrily, so that
the boards creaked underneath.

" Last summer I used to go to such a dear
old church, in the Isle of Wight," said Betty.
" You could look out of the open door by our
pew and see the old churchyard, and look away
over the green downs and the blue sea. You
could see the red poppies in the fields, and
hear the laiks, too."

"What kind of a church was it?" asked
Mary, with suspicion. " Episcopal ? '

" Yes," answered Betty. " Church of Eng-
land, people say there."

" I heard somebody say once that your
father was very lax in religious matters," said
Becky seriously.

" I 'd rather be very lax and love my Sun-

ys"' said Betty severely. " I don't think it


makes any difference, really, about what ono
does in church. I want to be good, and i:
helps me to be in church and think and hear
about it. Oh, dear ! my foot 's getting asleep,"
said Betty, beginning to pound it up and
down. The two girls did not like to look at
each other ; they were considering questions
that were very hard to talk about.

" I suppose it 's being good that made you
run after Nelly Foster. I wished that 1 had
gone to see her more, when you went ; but she
used to act hatefully sometimes before you
came. She used to cry in school, though,"
confessed Becky.

" I did n't ' run after ' her. You do call
things such dreadful names, Mary Beck !
There, I 'm getting cross, my oot is all sting-


" Turn it just the other way," advised Mary
eagerly. " Let me pound it for you," and she
briskly went to the rescue. Betty wondered
afresh why she liked this friend herself so
much, and yet disliked so many things that
she said and did.

Serena always said that Betty had a won't-
you-please-like-me sort of way with her, and


Mary Beck felt it more than ever as she re-
turned to her rocking-chair and jogged on
again, but she could not bend from her high
sense of disapproval immediately. " What do
you think the unjust steward parable means,
then?' she asked, not exactly returning to
the fray, but with an injured manner. " It is
in the Sunday-school lesson to-morrow, and I
can't understand it a bit, I never could."

" Nor I," said Betty, in a most cheerful tone.
" See here, Becky, it does n't rain, and we can
go and ask Mr. Grant to tell us about it."

" Go ask the minister ! ' exclaimed Mary
Beck, much shocked. " Why, would you dare

" That's what ministers are for," answered
Betty simply. " We can stay a little while
and see the girls, if he is busy. Come now,
Becky," and Becky reluctantly came. Sh*
was , to think a great many times afterward oi
that talk in the garret. She was beginning
to doubt whether she had really succeeded in
settling all the questions of life, at the age of

The two friends went along arm-in-arm un-
ier the still-dripping trees. The parsonage


was some distance up the long Tidesbead
street, and the sun was coming out as they
stood on the doorsteps. The minister was
amazed when he found that these parishioners
had come to have a talk with him in the study,
and to ask something directly at his willing
hands. He preached the better for it, next
day, and the two girls listened the better. As
for Mary Beck, the revelation to her honest
heart of having a right in the minister, and
the welcome convenience of his fund of knowl-
edge and his desire to be of use to her per-
sonally, was an immense surprise. Kind Mr.
Grant had been a part of the dreaded Sun-
days, a fixture of the day and the church
and the pulpit, before that ; he was, indirectly,
a reproach, and, until this day, had never
seemed like other people exactly, or an every-
day friend. Perhaps the good man wondered
if it were not his own fault, a little. He tried
to be very gay and friendly with his own girls
at supper-time, and said afterward that they
must have Mary Beck and Betty Leicester to
take tea with them some time during the next

" But there are others in the parish who will


feel hurt," urged Mrs. Grant anxiously ; and
Mr. Grant only answered that there must be a
dozen tea-parties, then, as if there were no
such things as sponge-cake and ceremony m
the world !



EVERYBODY was as kind as possible when
Betty Leicester first came to Tideshead, and
best company manners prevailed toward her ;
but as the girls got used to having a new
friend and playmate, some of them proved
disappointing. Nothing could shake her deep
affection for honest-hearted Mary Beck, but in
some directions Mary had made up her inex-
perienced and narrow mind, and would listen
to none of Betty's kindly persuasions. The
Fosters' father had done some very dishonest
deeds, and had run away from justice after
defrauding some of the most trustful of his
neighbors. Mary Beck's mother had lost
some money in this way, and old Captain
Beck even more, so that the girl had heard
sharp comments and indignant blame at
home ; and she shocked Miss Barbara Leices-
ter and Betty one morning by wondering how


Henry and Nelly Foster could have had the
face to go to church the very Sunday after
their father was sent to jail. She did not be-
lieve that they cared a bit what people thought.

" Poor children," said Miss Leicester, with
quiet compassion, " the sight of their pitiful
young faces was enough for me. When
should one go to church if not in bitter
trouble ? That boy and girl look years older
than the rest of you young folks."

" It never seemed to me that they thought
any less of themselves," said Mary Beck, in a
disagreeable tone ; " and I would n't ask them
to my party, if I had one."

" But they have worked so hard," said Betty.
" Jonathan said yesterday that Harry Foster
told him this spring, when he was working
here, that he was going to pay every cent that
Lis father owed, if he lived long enough. He
is studying hard, too ; you know that he hoped
to go to college before this happened. They
always look as if they were grateful for just
being spoken to."

" Plenty of people have made everything of
them and turned their heads," said Mary Beck,
as if she were repeating something that had been


said at home. " I think I should pity some
people whose father had behaved so, but I
don't like the Fosters a bit."

" They are carrying a heavy load on their
young shoulders," said Miss Barbara Leices-
ter. " You will feel differently by and by,
about them. Help them all you can, Mary ! '

Mary Beck went home that morning much
displeased. She did n't mean to be hard-
hearted, but it had seemed to her like proper
condemnation of wrong-doing to treat the Fos-
ters loftily. Now that Betty's eyes had filled
with tears as she listened, and Miss Leices-
ter evidently thought less of her for what
had been said, Mary began to feel doubtful
about the matter. Yes, what if her father
had been like theirs, could she be shut up
like a prisoner, and behave as she expected
the Fosters to behave? By the time she
reached her own house she was ashamed of
what she had said. Miss Leicester was at that
moment telling Betty that she was astonished
at such bitter feeling in their young neighbor.
" She has never really thought about it. I
dare say she only needs a sensible word or
two to change her mind. You children have


such tremendous opinions," and Aunt Barbara

" Once when I was staying in the Isle of
Wight," said Betty, " I belonged to such a
nice out-of-door club, Aunt Barbara."
" Did you ? What was it like ? "
" Oh, not really like anything that I can
think of, only we had great fun together. We
used to walk miles and miles, and carry some
buns or buy them, and get milk or ginger-
beer at the farms. There are so many ruins
to go to see, and old churches, and homes of
eminent persons of the time of Elizabeth, and
we would read from their works ; and it was so
pleasant coming home by the foot-paths after-
ward," announced Betty with satisfaction.
" The governesses used to go, too, but we could
outrun all but one of them, the Barry's, and
my Miss Winter, who was as dear as could be.
I had my lessons with the Duncans, you know.
Oh, it was such fun ! the others would let
us go on as fast as we liked, and come poking
along together, and have their own quiet pleas-
ures." Betty was much diverted with her
recollections. " I mean to begin an out-of-
door club here, Aunt Barbara."


" In my time," said Aunt Barbara, " girls
were expected to know how to sew, and to
learn to be good housekeepers."

" You would join the club, would n't you ? '
asked Betty anxiously.

" And be run away from, like the stout
governesses, I dare say."

There was an attempt at a serious expres-
sion, but Miss Leicester could not help laugh-
ing a little. Down came Miss Mary at this
moment, with Letty behind her, carrying
cushions, and Betty sprang up to help make
the couch ready.

" I wish that you would belong, too, and
come with us on wheels," said she, return-
ing to the subject that had been interrupted.
"You could drive to the meetings and be
head-member, Aunt Mary." But Aunt Mary
was tired that day, and wished to have no
demands made upon her. There were days
when Betty had a plan for every half-hour, re-
marked Aunt Barbara indulgently.

" Suppose you come out to the garden with
me to pick some raspberries ? ' and Betty was
quietly removed from the weak nerves of
Aunt Mary, who plaintively said that Betty
had almost too much life.


" Too much life ! Not a bit of it," said
Serena, who was the grandniece's chief up-
holder and champion. " We did need waking
up, 't was a fact, Miss Leicester ; now, wa'n't
it ? It seemed just like old times, that night
of the tea-party. Trouble is, we 've all got
to bein' too master comfortable, and thought
we could n't step one foot out o' the beaten
rut. 'T is the misfortune o' livin' in a little

And Serena marched back to the kitchen,
carrying the empty glass from which Miss
Mary Leicester had taken some milk, as if it
were the banner of liberty.

She put it down on the clean kitchen-table.
"Too much life!" the good woman repeated
scornfully. " I 'd like to see a gal that had
too much life for me. I was that kind my-
self, and right up an' doin'. All these Tides-
head gals behave as slow as the everlastin^
month o' March. Fussin' about their clothes,
and fussin' about ''you do this' and 4 Zcap't
do that,' an' lettin' folks that know something
ride right by 'em. See this little Betty, now,
sweet as white laylocks, I do declare. There
she goes 'long o' Miss Barbary, out into
ros'berry bushes."


" Aunt Barbara," Betty was saying a few
minutes later, as one knelt each side of the
row of white raspberries, " Aunt Barbara, do
you like best being grown up or being about
as old as I ain ? '

" Being grown up, I 'm sure, dear," replied
the aunt, after serious reflection.

" I 'm so glad. I don't believe people ever
have such hard times with themselves after-
ward as they do growing up."

" What is the matter now, Betty ? "

" Mary Beck, Aunt Barbara. I thought
that I liked her ever and ever so much, but I
have days when I want to shake her. It 's
my fault, because I wake up and think about
her and feel cross before I even look at her,
and then I can't get on all day. Then some
days I can hardly wait to get over to see her,
and we have such a good time. But you can't
change her mind about anything."

" I thought that you would n't be so un-
reasonable all summer," said Aunt Barbara,
picking very fast. " You see that you expect
Mary Beck to be perfect, and the poor child
is n't. You made up a Mary Beck in your
own mind, who was perfect at all points and


just tine kind of a girl you would like best to
spend all your time with. Be thankful for
all you do like in her ; that 's the best way."

" I just fell in love with a girl in the Isle of
Wight, last summer," said Betty sorrowfully.
44 We wished to be together all the time, and
we wrote notes and always went about to-
gether. She was older than I. But one day
she said things that made me forget I ever
liked her a bit. She wanted to make up after-
ward, but I could rit ; and she writes and
writes me letters, but I never wish to see her
again. I am sorry I ever liked her." Betty's
eyes flashed, and her cheeks were very red.

" I suppose it has been hard for her too,"
said Aunt Barbara ; " but we must like dif-
ferent friends for different reasons. Just try
to remember that you cannot find perfection.
I used to know a great many girls when I was
growing up, and some of them are my friends
still, the few who are left. To find one true-
hearted friend is worth living through a great
many disappointments."

Two or three weeks went over before Betty
teased to have the feeling that she was a stranger


and foreigner in Tideshead. At first she said
" you ' ? and "I "when she was talking with
the girls, but soon it became easier to say
" we." She took great pleasure in doing
whatever the rest did, from joining a class in
Sunday-school to carrying round one of the
subscription-papers to pay for some Fourth
of July fireworks, which went up in a blaze
of splendor on the evening of that glorious

After the garden tea-party, nothing hap-
pened, of a social nature, for some time,
although several of the boys and girls gave
fine hints that something might be expected to
happen at their own houses. There was a
cheerful running to and fro about the Leices-
ter house, and the high white gate next the
street was heard to creak and clack at least
once in every half -hour. Nelly Foster came

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettBetty Leicester → online text (page 8 of 13)