MoboReader > Literature > A Little Girl in Old Boston

   Chapter 2 IN A NEW HOME

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 24025

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

The sun was shining when Doris opened her eyes, and she rubbed them to make sure she was not dreaming. There was no motion, and her bed was so soft and wide. She sat up straight, half-startled, and she seemed in a well of fluffy feathers. There were two white curtained windows and a straight splint chair at each one, with a queer little knob on the top of the post that suggested a sprite from some of the old legends she had been used to hearing.

What enchantment had transported her thither? Oh, yes-she had been brought to Cousin Leverett's, she remembered now; and, oh, how sleepy she had been last night as she sat by the warm, crackling fire!

"Well, little Doris!" exclaimed a fresh, wholesome voice, with a laughing sound back of it.

"Oh, you are Betty! It is like a dream. I could not think where I was at first. And this bed is so high. It's like Miss Arabella's with the curtains around it. And at home I had a little pallet-just a low, straight bed almost like a bench, with no curtains. You slept here with me?"

"Yes. It is my bed and my room. And it was delightful to have you last night. I think you never stirred. My niece Elizabeth was here in the summer from Salem, and after two nights I turned her out-she kicked unmercifully, and I couldn't endure it. Now, do you want to get up?"

"Oh, yes. Must I jump out or just slip."

"Here is a stool."

But Doris had slipped and come down on a rug of woven rags almost as soft as Persian pile. Her nightdress fell about her in a train; it was Betty's, and she looked like a slim white wraith.

"Now I will help you dress. Here is a gown of mine that I outgrew when I was a little girl, and it was so nice mother said it should be saved for Elizabeth. We call her that because my other sister Electa has a daughter she calls Bessy. They are both named after mother. And so am I, but I have always been called Betty. So many of one name are confusing. But yours is so pretty and odd. I never knew a girl called Doris."

"I am glad you like it," said Doris simply. "It was papa's choice. My mother's name was Jacqueline."

"That is very French."

"And that is my name, too. But Doris is easier to say."

Betty had been helping her dress. The blue woolen gown was not any too long, but, oh, it was worlds too wide! They both laughed.

"I wasn't such a slim little thing. See here, I will pin a plait over in front, and that will help it. Now that does nicely. And you must be choice of that beautiful brocade. What a pity that you will outgrow it! It would make such a splendid gown when you go to parties. I've never had a silk gown," and Betty sighed.

They went downstairs. It would seem queer enough now to attend to one's toilet in the corner of the kitchen, but it was quite customary then. In Mrs. Leverett's room there were a washing stand with a white cloth, and a china bowl and ewer in dark blue flowers on a white ground, picked out with gilt edges. The bowl had scallops around the edge, and the ewer was tall and slim. There were a soap dish and a small pitcher, and they looked beautiful on the thick white cloth, that was fringed all around. It had been brought over from England by Mrs. Leverett's grandmother, and was esteemed very highly, and had been promised to Betty for her name. But Mrs. Leverett would have considered it sacrilege to use it.

It is true, many houses now began to have wash rooms, which were very nice in summer, but of small account in winter, when the water froze so easily, unless you could have a fire.

When people sigh for the good old times they forget the hardships and the inconveniences.

Doris brushed out her hair and curled it in a twinkling; then she had some breakfast. Mrs. Leverett was baking bread and making pies and a large cake full of raisins that Betty had seeded, which went by the name of election cake.

The kitchen was a great cheery place with some sunny windows and a big oven built at one side, a capacious working table, a dresser, some wooden chairs, and a yellow-painted floor. The kitchen opened into mother's room as well as the hall.

Doris sat and watched both busy women. At Miss Arabella's they had an old serving maid and the kitchen was not a place of tidiness and beauty. It had a hard dirt floor, and Barby sat out of doors in the sunshine to do whatever work she could take out there, and often washed and dried her dishes when the weather was pleasant.

But here the houses were close enough to smile at each other. After the great spaces these yards seemed small, but there were trees and vines, and Mrs. Leverett had quite a garden spot, where she raised all manner of sweet herbs and some vegetables. Mr. Leverett had a shop over on Ann Street, and attended steadily to his business, early and late, as men did at that time.

The dining table was set out at noon, and soon after twelve o'clock the two men made their appearance.

"Let me look at you," said Mr. Leverett, taking both of Doris' small hands. "I hardly saw you yesterday. You were buried in that big hat, and it was getting so dark. You have not much Adams about you, neither do you look French."

"Miss Arabella always said I looked like papa. There is a picture of him in my box. He had dark-blue eyes."

"Well, yours would pass for black. Do they snap when you get out of temper?"

Doris colored and cast them down.

"Don't tease her," interposed Mrs. Leverett. "She is not going to get angry. It is a bad thing for little girls."

"I don't remember much of anything about your father. Both of your aunts are dead. You have one cousin somewhere-Margaret's husband married and went South-to Virginia, didn't he? Well, there is no end of Adams connection even if some of them have different names. Captain Grier dropped into the warehouse with a tin box of papers, and your things are to be sent this afternoon. He is coming up this evening, and I've sent for Uncle Win to come over to supper. Then I suppose the child's fate will be settled, and she'll be a regular Boston girl."

"I do wonder if Uncle Win will let her stay here? Mother and I have decided that it is the best place."

"Do you think it a good place?"

He turned so suddenly to Doris that her face was scarlet with embarrassment.

"It's splendid," she said when she caught her breath. "I should like to stay. And Aunt Elizabeth will teach me to make pies."

"Well, pies are pretty good things, according to my way of thinking. There's lots for little girls to learn, though I dare say Uncle Win will think it can all come out of a book."

"Some of it might come out of a cookbook," said Betty demurely.

"Your mother's the best cookbook I know about-good enough for anyone."

"But we can't send mother all round the world."

"We just don't want to," said Warren.

Mrs. Leverett smiled. She was proud of her ability in the culinary line.

Mr. Leverett looked at Doris presently. "Come, come," he began good-naturedly, "this will never do! You are not eating enough to keep a bird alive. No wonder you are so thin!"

"But I ate a great deal of breakfast," explained Doris with na?ve honesty.

"And you are not homesick?"

Doris thought a moment. "I don't want to go away, if that is what you mean."

"Yes, that's about it," nodding humorously.

Warren thought her the quaintest, prettiest child he had ever seen, but he hardly knew what to say to her.

When the men had eaten and gone, the dishes were soon washed up, and then mother and daughter brought their sewing. Mrs. Leverett was mending Warren's coat. Betty darned a small pile of stockings, and then she took out some needlework. She had begun her next summer's white gown, and she meant to do it by odd spells, especially when Aunt Priscilla, who would lecture her on so much vanity, was not around.

Mrs. Leverett gently questioned Doris-she was not an aggressive woman, nor unduly curious. No, Doris had not sewed much. Barby always darned the stockings, and Miss Easter had come to make whatever clothes she needed. She used to go to Father Langhorne and recite, and Mrs. Leverett wondered whether she and the father both were Roman Catholics. What did she study? Oh, French and a little Latin, and she was reading history and "Paradise Lost," but she didn't like sums, and she could make pillow lace. Miss Arabella made beautiful pillow lace, and sometimes the grand ladies came in carriages and paid her ever so much money for it.

And presently dusk began to mingle with the golden touches of sunset, and Mrs. Leverett went to make biscuit and fry some chicken, and Uncle Winthrop came at the same moment that a man on a dray brought an old-fashioned chest and carried it upstairs to Betty's room. But Betty had already attired Doris in her silk gown.

Doris liked Uncle Winthrop at once, although he was so different from Uncle Leverett, who wore all around his face a brownish-red beard that seemed to grow out of his neck, and had tumbled hair and a somewhat weather-beaten face. Mr. Winthrop Adams was two good inches taller and stood up very straight in spite of his being a bookworm. His complexion was fair and rather pale, his features were of the long, slender type, which his beard, worn in the Vandyke style, intensified. His hair was light and his eyes were a grayish blue, and he had a refined and gentle expression.

"So this is our little traveler," he said. "Your father was somewhat older, perhaps, when we bade him good-by, but I have often thought of him. We corresponded a little off and on. And I am glad to be able to do all that I can for his child."

Doris glanced up, feeling rather shy, and wondering what she ought to say, but in the next breath Betty had said it all, even to declaring laughingly that as Doris had come to them they meant to keep her.

"Doris," he said softly. "Doris. You have a poetical name. And you are poetical-looking."

She wondered what the comparison meant. "Paradise Lost" was so grand it tired her. Oh, there was the old volume of Percy's "Reliques." Did he mean like some of the sweet little things in that? Miss Arabella had said it wasn't quite the thing for a child to read, and had taken it away until she grew older.

Uncle Winthrop took her hand again-a small, slim hand; and his was slender as well. No real physical work had hardened it. He dropped into the high-backed chair beside the fireplace, and, putting his arm about her, drew her near to his side. Uncle Leverett would have taken her on his knee if he had been moved by an impulse like that, but he was used to children and grandchildren, and the bookish man was not.

"It is a great change to you," he said in his low tone, which had a fascination for her. "Was Miss Arabella-were there any young people in the old Lincolnshire house?"

"Oh, no. Miss Henrietta was very, very old, but then she had lost her mind and forgotten everybody. And Miss Arabella had snowy white hair and a sweet wrinkled face."

"Did you go to school?"

"There wasn't any school except a dame's school for very little children. I used to go twice a week to Father Langhorne and read and write and do sums."

"Then we will have to educate you. Do you think you would like to go to school?"

"I don't know." She hung her head a little, and it gave her a still more winsome expression. There was an indescribable charm about her.

"What did you read with this father?"

"We read 'Paradise Lost' and some French. And I had begun Latin."

Winthrop Adams gave a soft, surprised whistle. By the firelight he looked her over critically. Prodigies were not to his taste, and a girl prodigy would be an abhorrence. But her face had a sweet unconcern that reassured him.

"And did you like it-'Paradise Lost'?"

"I think I did-not," returned Doris with hesitating frankness. "I liked the verses in Percy's 'Reliques' better. I like verses that rhyme, that you can sing to yourself."

"Ah! And how about the sums?"

"I didn't like them at all. Bu

t Miss Arabella said the right things were often hard, and the easy things--"

"Well, what is the fault of the easy things that we all like, and ought not to like?"

"They were not so good for anyone-though I don't see why. They are often very pleasant."

He laughed then, but some intuition told her he liked pleasant things as well.

"What do you do in such a case?"

"I did the sums. It was the right thing to do. And I studied Latin, though Miss Arabella said it was of no use to a girl."

"And the French?"

"Oh, I learned French when I was very little and had mamma, and when I was in the convent, too. But papa talked English, so I had them both. Isn't it strange that afterward you have to learn so much about them, and how to make right sentences, and why they are right. It seems as if there were a great many things in the world to learn. Betty doesn't know half of them, and she's as sweet as--Oh, I think the wisest person in the world couldn't be any sweeter."

Winthrop Adams smiled at the eager reasoning. Betty was a bright, gay girl. What occult quality was sweetness? And Doris had been in a convent. That startled him the first moment. The old strict bitterness and narrowness of Puritanism had been softened and refined away. The people who had banished Quakers had for a long while tolerated Roman Catholics. He had known Father Matignon, and enjoyed the scholarly and well-trained John Cheverus, who had lately been consecrated bishop. The Protestants had even been generous to their brethren of another faith when they were building their church. As for himself he was a rather stiff Church of England man, if he could be called stiff about anything.

"And-did you like the convent?" he asked, after a pause, in which he generously made up his mind he would not interfere with her religious belief.

"It's so long ago"-with a half-sigh. "I was very sad at first, and missed mamma. Papa had to go away somewhere and couldn't take me. Yes, I liked sister Thérèse very much. Mamma was a Huguenot, you know."

"You see, I really do not know anything about her, and have known very little about your father since he was a small boy."

"A small boy! How queer that seems," and she gave a tender, rippling laugh. "Then you can tell me about him. He used to come to the convent once in a while, and when he was ready to go to England he took me. Yes, I was sorry to leave Sister Thérèse and Sister Clare. There were some little girls, too. And then we went to Lincolnshire. Miss Arabella was very nice, and Barby was so queer and funny-at first I could hardly understand her. And then we went to a pretty little church where they didn't count beads nor pray to the Virgin nor Saints. But it was a good deal like. It was the Church of England. I suppose it had to be different from the Church of France."

"Yes." He drew her a little closer. That was a bond of sympathy between them. And just then Uncle Leverett and Warren came in, and there was a shaking of hands, and Uncle Leverett said:

"Well, I declare! The sight of you, Win, is good for sore eyes-well ones, too."

"I am rather remiss in a social way, I must confess. I'll try to do better. The years fly around so, I have always felt sorry that I saw so little of Cousin Charles until that last sad year."

"It takes womenkind to keep up sociability. Charles and you might as well have been a couple of old bachelors."

Uncle Win gave his soft half-smile, which was really more of an indication than a smile.

"Come to supper now," said Mrs. Leverett.

Doris kept hold of Uncle Win's hand until she reached her place. He went around to the other side of the table. She decided she liked him very much. She liked almost everybody: the captain had been so friendly, and Mrs. Jewett and some of the ladies on board the vessel so kind. But Betty and Uncle Win went to the very first place with her.

The elders had all the conversation, and it seemed about some coming trouble to the country that she did not understand. She knew there had been war in France and various other European countries. Little girls were not very well up in geography in those days, but they did learn a good deal listening to their elders.

They were hardly through supper when Captain Grier came with the very japanned box papa had brought over from France and placed in Miss Arabella's care. His name was on it-"Charles Winthrop Adams." Oh, and that was Uncle Win's name, too! Surely, they were relations! Doris experienced a sense of gladness.

Betty brought out a table standing against the wainscot. You touched a spring underneath, and the circular side came up and made a flat top. The captain took a small key out of a curious long leathern purse, and Uncle Win unlocked the box and spread out the papers. There was the marriage certificate of Jacqueline Marie de la Maur and Charles Winthrop Adams, and the birth and baptismal record of Doris Jacqueline de la Maur Adams, and ever so many other records and letters.

Mr. Winthrop Adams gave the captain a receipt for them, and thanked him cordially for all his care and attention to his little niece.

"She was a pretty fair sailor after the first week," said the captain with a twinkle in his eye. He was very much wrinkled and weather-beaten, but jolly and good-humored. "And now, sissy, I'm glad you're safe with your folks, and I hope you'll grow up into a nice clever woman. 'Taint no use wishin' you good looks, for you're purty as a pink now-one of them rather palish kind. But you'll soon have red cheeks."

Doris had very red cheeks for a moment. Betty leaned over to her brother, and whispered:

"What a splendid opportunity lost! Aunt Priscilla ought to be here to say, 'Handsome is as handsome does.'"

Then Captain Grier shook hands all round and took his departure.

Afterward the two men discussed business about the little girl. There must be another trustee, and papers must be taken out for guardianship. They would go to the court-house, say at eleven to-morrow, and put everything in train.

Betty took out some knitting. It was a stocking of fine linen thread, and along the instep it had a pretty openwork pattern that was like lace work.

"That is to wear with slippers," she explained to Doris. "But it's a sight of work. 'Lecty had six pairs when she was married. That's my second sister, Mrs. King. She lives in Hartford. I want to go and make her a visit this winter."

Mrs. Leverett's stocking was of the more useful kind, blue-gray yarn, thick and warm, for her husband's winter wear. She did not have to count stitches and make throws, and take up two here and three there.

"Warren," said his mother, when he had poked the fire until she was on 'pins and needles,'-they didn't call it nervous then,-"Warren, I am 'most out of corn. I wish you'd go shell some."

"The hens do eat an awful lot, seems to me. Why, I shelled only a few nights ago."

"I touched bottom when I gave them the last feed this afternoon. By spring we won't have so many," nodding in a half-humorous fashion.

"Don't you want to come out and see me? You don't have any Indian corn growing in England, I've heard."

"Did it belong to the Indians?" asked Doris.

"I rather guess it did, in the first instance. But now we plant it for ourselves. We don't, because father sold the two-acre lot, and they're bringing a street through. So now we have only the meadow."

Doris looked at the uncles, but she couldn't understand a word they were saying.

"Come!" Warren held out his hand.

"Put the big kitchen apron round her, Warren," said Betty, thinking of her silk gown.

He tied the apron round her neck and brought back the strings round her waist, so she was all covered. Then he found her a low chair, and poked the kitchen fire, putting on a pine log to make a nice blaze. He brought out from the shed a tub and a basket of ears of corn. Across the tub he laid the blade of an old saw and then sat on the end to keep it firm.

"Now you'll see business. Maybe you've never seen any corn before?"

She looked over in the basket, and then took up an ear with a mysterious expression.

"It won't bite you," he said laughingly.

"But how queer and hard, with all these little points," pinching them with her dainty fingers.

"Grains," he explained. "And a husk grows on the outside to keep it warm. When the winter is going to be very cold the husk is very thick."

"Will this winter be cold?"

"Land alive! yes. Winters always are cold."

Warren settled himself and drew the ear across the blade. A shower of corn rattled down on the bottom of the tub.

"Oh! is that the way you peel it off?"

He threw his head back and laughed.

"Oh, you Englisher! We shell it off."

"Well, it peels too. You peel a potato and an apple with a knife blade. Oh, what a pretty white core!"

"Cob. We Americans are adding new words to the language. A core has seeds in it. There, see how soft it is."

Doris took it in her hand and then laid her cheek against it. "Oh, how soft and fuzzy it is!" she cried. "And what do you do with it?"

"We don't plant that part of it. That core has no seeds. You have to plant a grain like this. The little clear point we call a heart, and that sprouts and grows. This is a good use for the cob."

He had finished another, which he tossed into the fire. A bright blaze seemed to run over it all at once and die down. Then the small end flamed out and the fire crept along in a doubtful manner until it was all covered again.

"They're splendid to kindle the fire with. And pine cones. America has lots of useful things."

"But they burn cones in France. I like the spicy smell. It's queer though," wrinkling her forehead. "Did the Indians know about corn the first?"

"That is the general impression unless America was settled before the Indians. Uncle Win has his head full of these things and is writing a book. And there is tobacco that Sir Walter Raleigh carried home from Virginia."

"Oh, I know about Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth."

"He was a splendid hero. I think people are growing tame now; there are no wars except Indian skirmishes."

"Why, Napoleon is fighting all the time."

"Oh, that doesn't count," declared the young man with a lofty air. "We had some magnificent heroes in the Revolution. There are lots of places for you to see. Bunker Hill and Lexington and Concord and the headquarters of Washington and Lafayette. The French were real good to us, though we have had some scrimmages with them. And now that you are to be a Boston girl--"

"But I was in Old Boston before," and she laughed. "Very old Boston, that is so far back no one can remember, and it was called Ikanhoe, which means Boston. There is the old church and the abbey that St. Botolph founded. They came over somewhere in six hundred, and were missionaries from France-St. Botolph and his brother."

"Whew!" ejaculated Warren with a long whistle, looking up at the little girl as if she were hundreds of years old.

Betty opened the door. "Uncle Win is going," she announced. "Come and say good-by to him."

He was standing up with the box of papers in his hand, and saying:

"I must have you all over to tea some night, and Doris must come and see my old house. And I have a big boy like Warren. Yes, we must be a little more friendly, for life is short at the best. And you are to stay here a while with good Cousin Elizabeth, and I hope you will be content and happy."

She pressed the hand Uncle Win held out in both of hers. In all the changes she had learned to be content, and she had a certain adaptiveness that kept her from being unhappy. She was very glad she was going to stay with Betty, and glanced up with a bright smile.

They all said good-night to Cousin Adams. Mr. Leverett turned the great key in the hall door, and it gave a shriek.

"I must oil that lock to-morrow. It groans enough to raise the dead," said Mrs. Leverett.

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top