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   Chapter 4 OUT TO TEA

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 24651

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


"There! Does it look like Old Boston?"

They were winding around Copp's Hill. Warren had been given part of a day off, and the use of the chaise and Jack, to show the little cousin something of Boston before they went to Uncle Winthrop's to tea.

Doris had her new coat, which was a sort of fawn color, and the close Puritan cap to keep her neck and ears warm. For earache was quite a common complaint among children, and people were careful through the long cold winter. A strip of beaver fur edged the front, and went around the little cape at the back. Its soft grayish-brown framed in her fair face like a picture, and her eyes were almost the tint of the deep, unclouded blue sky.

They had a fine view of Old Boston, but they could hardly dream of the Boston that was to be. There were still the three elevations of Beacon Hill, lowered somewhat, to be sure, but not taken away entirely. And there was Fort Hill in the distance.

"Why, it looks like a chain of islands, and instead of a great sea the water runs round and round. At home the Witham comes down to the winding cove called The Wash. Boston is sort of set between two rivers, but it is fast of the mainland, and doesn't look so much like floating off. You can go over to the Norfolk shore, and you look out on the great North Sea. But it isn't as big as the Atlantic Ocean."

"Well, I should say not!" with disdain. "Why, you can look over to Holland!"

"You can't see Holland, but it's there, and Denmark."

"And we shall have to be something like the Dutch, if ever we mean to have a grand city. We shall have to dike and fill in and bridge. I have a great regard for those sturdy old Dutchmen and the way they fought the Spanish as well as the sea."

Doris didn't know much about Holland, even if she could make pillow lace and read French verses with a charming accent.

"That's the Mill Pond. And all that is the back part of the bay. And over there a grand battle was fought-but you were not born before the Revolutionary War."

"I guess you were not born yourself, Warren Leverett," said Betty, with unnecessary vigor.

"Well, I am rather glad I wasn't; I shall have the longer to live. But grandfather and ever so many relatives were, and father knows all about it. I am proud, too, of having been named for General Warren."

"And down there near the bay is Fort Hill. Boston wasn't built on seven hills like Rome, and though there are acres and acres of low ground, we are not likely to be overflowed, unless the Atlantic Ocean should rise and sweep us out of existence. And there is the old burying ground, full of queer names and curious epitaphs."

The long peninsula stretched out in a sort of irregular pear-shape, and then was connected to another portion by a narrow neck. The little villages about had a rural aspect, and some of them were joined to the mainland by bridges. And cows were still pastured on the commons and in several tracts of meadow land in the city. Many people had their own milk and made butter. There were large gardens at the sides of the houses, many of them standing with the gable end to the street, and built mostly of wood. But nearly all the leaves had fallen now, and though the sun shone with a mellow softness, it was quite evident the reign of summer was ended.

They drove slowly about, Warren rehearsing stories of this and that place, and wishing there was more time so they might go over to Charlestown.

"But Doris is to stay, and there will be time enough next summer. It is confusing to see so many places at once. And mother said we must be at Uncle Win's about four," declared Betty.

It was rather confusing to Doris, who had heard so little of American history in her quiet home. War seemed a dreadful thing to her, and she could not take Warren's pride in battle and conquest.

So they turned and went down through the winding streets.

"Do you know why they are so crooked?" Warren asked.

"No; why?" asked Doris innocently.

"Well, William Blackstone's cows made the paths. He came here first of all and had an allotment. Then when people began to come over from Charlestown he sold out for thirty pounds English money. Grandfather used to go over to the old orchard for apples. But think of Boston being bought for thirty pounds!"

"It wasn't this Boston with the houses and churches and everything. Come, do get along, or else let me drive," said Betty.

There was quite a descent as they came down. Streets seemed to stop suddenly, and you had to make a curve to get into the next one. From Main they turned into Fish Street, and here the wind from the harbor swept across to the Mill Pond.

"That's Long Wharf, and it has lots of famous stories connected with it. And just down there is father's. And now we could cut across and go over home."

"As if we meant to do any such foolish thing?" ejaculated Betty.

"I said we could. There are a great many things possible that are not advisable," returned the oracular young man. "And I have heard the longest way round was the surest way home. We shall reach there about nine o'clock to-night."

"Like the old woman and her pig. I should laugh if we found mother already at Uncle Win's."

"She's going to wait for father, and something always happens to him."

They crossed Market Square, and passed Faneuil Hall, that was to grow more famous as the years went on; then they took Cornhill and went over to Marlborough Street.

"That's Fort Hill. It's lovely in summer, when the wind doesn't blow you to shreds. Now we will take Marlborough, and to-night you will be surprised to see how straight it is to Sudbury Street."

They drove rapidly down, and made one turn. It was like a beautiful country road, over to Common Street, and there was the great tract of ground that would grow more beautiful with every decade. Tall, overarching trees; ways that were grassy a month ago, but now turning brown.

"Here we are," and they turned up a driveway at the side of the long porch upheld with round columns. Betty sprang out on the stepping block and half-lifted Doris, while Warren drove up to the barn.

Uncle Winthrop came out to welcome them, and smiled down into the little girl's face.

"But where is your mother?" he asked.

"Oh, she had some shopping to do and then she was to meet father. We have been driving up around Copp's Hill and giving Doris a peep at the country."

"The wind begins to blow up sharply, though it was very pleasant. I am glad to see you, little Doris, and I hope you have not grown homesick sighing for Old Boston. For if you should reach the threescore-and-ten, things will have changed so much that this will be old Boston; and, Betty, you will be telling-your grandchildren what it was like."

Betty laughed gayly.

There was the same wide hall as at home, but it wasn't the keeping-room here. It had a great fireplace, and at one side a big square sofa. The floor was inlaid with different-colored woods, following geometric designs, much like those of to-day. Before the fire was a rug of generous dimensions, and a high-backed chair stood on each of the nearest corners. There was a bookcase with some busts ranged on the top; there were some portraits of ancestors in military attire, and women with enormous head-dresses; there was one in a Puritan cap, wide collar, and a long-sleeved gown, that quite spoiled the effect of her pretty hands. Over the mantel was a pair of very large deer's antlers. Down at one corner there were two swords crossed and some other firearms. Just under them was a cabinet with glass doors that contained many curiosities.

A tall, thin woman entered from a door at the lower end of the hall and greeted Betty with a quiet dignity that would have seemed cold, if it had not been the usual manner of Recompense Gardiner, who could never have been effusive, and who took it for granted that anyone Mr. Winthrop Adams invited to the house was welcome. Her forehead was high and rather narrow, her brown hair was combed straight back and twisted in a little knot high on her head, in which in the afternoon, or on company occasions, she wore a large shell comb. Her features were rather long and spare, and she wore plain little gold hoops in her ears because her eyes had been weak in youth and it was believed this strengthened them. Anyhow, she could see well enough at five-and-forty to detect a bit of dust or dirt, or lint left on a plate from the towel, or a chair that was a trifle out of its rightful place. She was an excellent housekeeper, and suited her master exactly.

"This is the little English girl I was telling you about, Recompense-Cousin Charles' grandniece, and my ward," announced Mr. Adams.

"How do you do, child! Let me take off your hood and cloak. Why, she isn't very stout or rosy. She might have been born here in the east wind. And she is an Adams through and through."

"Do you think so?" with an expression of pleasure, as Recompense held her off and looked her over.

"Are her eyes black?" rather disapprovingly.

"No, the very darkest blue you can imagine," said Mr. Adams.

"Betty, run upstairs with these things. Your feet are younger than mine, and haven't done so much trotting round. Lay them on my bed. Why, where's your mother?" in a tone of surprise.

Betty made the proper explanation and skipped lightly upstairs.

Mr. Adams took one of the large chairs, drawing it closer to the fire. Recompense brought out a stool for the little girl. It was covered with thick crimson brocade, a good deal faded, but it had a warm, inviting aspect. Children were not expected to sit in chairs then, or to run about and ask what everything was for.

There had been children, little girls of different relatives, sitting at the fireside before. His own small boy had dozed in the fascinating warmth of the fire and hated to go to bed, and he had weakly indulged him, as there had been no mother to exercise authority. But Doris was different. She was alone in the world, and had been sent to him by a mysterious providence. He knew the responsibility of a girl must be greater. He couldn't send her to the Latin school and then to Harvard, and he really wondered how much education a girl ought to have to fit her for the position Doris would be able to take.

She was like a quaint picture sitting there. Betty had tied a cluster of curls high on her head with a blue ribbon, and just a few were left to cling about her neck over the lace tucker. Her slim hands lay in her lap. He glanced at his own-yes, they were Adams hands, and looked little like hard work. He was rather proud that Recompense should discern a family likeness.

Betty came flying down the oaken staircase, and Warren entered from the back door. For a few moments there was quite a confusion of tongues, and Recompense wondered how mothers stood it all the time.

"How queer not to have anyone know about Boston," began Warren with a teasing glance over at Doris. "We have been looking at it from Copp's Hill, and going through the odd places."

"And I wondered if people came to be fed in White Bread Alley," exclaimed Doris quickly.

"And I dare say Warren didn't know."

"Why, yes-a woman baked bread there."

"Women have baked bread in a great many places," returned Uncle Win, with a quizzical smile.

"Oh, I didn't mean just that."

"It was John Tudor's mother," appended Betty.

"Mrs. Tudor made the first penny rolls offered for sale in Boston, and little John, as he was then, took them around for sale."

"And Mr. Benjamin Franklin didn't make them famous either," laughed Warren.

"And Salutation Alley with its queer sign-its two old men with cocked hats and small clothes, bowing to each other," said Betty. "It always suggests a couplet I found in an old book:

"'O mortal man who lives by bread,

What is it makes your nose so red?

O mortal man with cheeks so pale,

'Tis drinking Levi Puncheon's ale!'"

"It is said the resolutions for the destruction of the tea were drawn up in the old tavern. It was famous for being the rendezvous of the patriots."

"It would be nice to drive all around Boston shore."

"Let it be summer time, then," rejoined Betty. "Or, like the Hollanders, we might do it on skates. Of course you do not k

now how to skate, Doris?"

Doris admitted with winsome frankness that she did not. But she could ride a pony, and she could row a little.

"There are some delightful summer parties when we do go out rowing. At least, the boys row mostly, because

"'Satan finds some mischief still

For idle hands to do!'"

and Betty laughed.

"And the girls always take their knitting," appended Warren. "There's never any mischief for them to get into."

"I suppose it doesn't look much like Old Boston," inquired Miss Recompense. "And what do the little girls do there, my dear?"

Warren opened his eyes wide. The idea of Miss Recompense saying "my dear" to a child.

It had slipped out in a curiously unpremeditated fashion. There was something about the little girl-perhaps it was the fact of her having come so far, and being an orphan-that moved Recompense Gardiner.

"I didn't know any real little girls," answered Doris modestly, "except the farmer's children. They worked out of doors in the summer in the fields."

"And I was the youngest of five sisters," said Miss Recompense. "There were three boys."

"It would be so nice to have a sister of one's very own. There were Sallie and Helen Jewett on the vessel."

"I think I like the sisters to be older," said Betty archly. "There are the weddings and the nieces and nephews. And they are always begging you to visit them."

"And I had no sisters," said Uncle Win, as if he would fain console Doris for her loneliness.

She glanced up with sympathetic sweetness. He was a little puzzled at the intuitive process.

"Fix up the fire, Warren. Your mother and father will be cold when they get in."

Warren gave the burned log a poke, and it fell in two ends, neither dropping over the andirons. Then he pushed them a little nearer and a shower of sparks flew about.

"Oh, how beautiful!" and Doris leaned over intently.

Warren placed a large log back of them, then he piled on some smaller split pieces. They began to blaze shortly. He picked up the turkey's wing and brushed around the stone hearth.

"That was very well done," remarked Miss Recompense approvingly.

"Warren knows how to make a fire," said his uncle, "and it is quite an art."

"That is a sign he will make a good husband," commented Betty. "And I shall get a bad one, for my fires go out half the time."

"You are too heedless," said Miss Recompense.

"Now, we ought to tell some ghost stories," suggested Warren. "Or we could wait until it gets a little darker. The sun is going down, and the fire is coming up, and just see how they are fighting at the Spanish Armada. Uncle Win, when you break up housekeeping you can leave me that picture."

They all turned to look at the picture in the cross light, with one of the wonderful fleet ablaze from the broadside of her enemy. It was a vigorous if somewhat crude painting by a Dutch artist.

"Oh, Uncle Win," cried Betty; "do you really think there will be war when we have a new President?"

"I sincerely hope not."

"We ought to have an Armada. Well, I don't know either," continued Warren dubiously. "If it should go to pieces like that one," nodding his head over to the scene, growing more vivid by the reflection of the red light in the west. "Doris, do you know what happened to the Spanish Armada?"

"Indeed I do," returned Doris spiritedly. "I may not know so much about America, except that you fought England, and were called rebels and-and--"

"That we were the upper dog in the fight, and now we are citizens of a great and free Republic and rebels no longer."

"But the Spanish did not conquer England. Some of the ships were destroyed by English men-of-war, and then a terrific storm wrecked them, and there were only a few to return to Spain."

"Pretty good," said Uncle Win smilingly. "And now, Warren, maybe you can tell about the French Armada that was going to destroy Boston."

"Why, the French-came and helped us. Oh, there was the French and English war, but did they have a real Armada?"

"Why, after Louisburg was taken by the colonists-we were only Colonies in 1745. The French resolved to destroy all the towns the colonists had planted on the coast. You surely can't have forgotten?"

"The Revolution seems so much greater to this generation," said Miss Recompense. "That is almost seventy years ago. My father was called out for the defense of Boston. Governor Shirley knew it would be the first town attacked."

"And a real Armada!" said Warren, big-eyed.

"They didn't call it that exactly. Perhaps they thought the name unlucky. But there were twenty transports and thirty-four frigates and eleven ships of the line. Quite a formidable array, you must admit. The Duc d'Anville left Brest with five battalions of veterans."

"And then what happened? Warren, we do not know the history of our own city, after all. But surely they did not take it?"

"No, it is safely anchored to a bit of mainland yet," said Uncle Win dryly. "Off Cape Sable they encountered a violent storm. The Duc succeeded in reaching the rendezvous, but in such a damaged condition that he felt a victory would be impossible. Conflans with several partly disabled ships returned to France, and some steered for friendly ports in the West Indies. The Duc died in less than a week, of poison it was said, unwilling to endure the misfortune. The Governor General of Canada ordered the Vice Admiral to proceed and strike one blow at least. But he saw so many difficulties in the way, that he worried himself ill with a fever and put himself to death with his own sword. Boston was so well prepared for them by this time, the fleet decided to attack Annapolis, but encountering another furious storm they returned to France with the remnant. So Armadas do not seem to meet with brilliant success."

"Why, that is quite a romance, Uncle Win, and I must hunt it up. Curious that both should have shared so nearly the same fate."

"That was a special interposition of Providence," said Miss Recompense.

People believed quite strongly in such things then, and it certainly looked like it, since the storm was of no human agency.

Miss Recompense began to light the candles, and the steps of the tardy ones were heard on the porch. Betty sprang up and opened the door.

"I began to think I never should get here," exclaimed Mrs. Leverett. "I waited and waited for your father, and I thought something had surely happened."

"And so it had. Captain Conklin is going to start for China in a few days, and there was so much to talk about I couldn't get away."

"If I had been real sure he would have come on I would have started. It has blown off cold. Didn't you have a breezy ride? Were you warm enough, Doris?"

"It was splendid," replied Doris, her eyes shining. "And I have seen so many things."

"Now get good and warm and come out to supper."

"If you call this cold I don't know what you will do at midwinter."

"Well, it is chilly, and we are not used to it. But we must have our Indian summer yet."

Betty had been carrying away her mother's hat and shawl, and now Uncle Win led the way to the dining room. The table was bountifully spread; it was a sort of high tea, and in those days people ate with a hearty relish and had not yet discovered the thousand dangers lurking in food. If it was good and well cooked no one asked any farther questions. At least, men did not. Women took recipes of this and that, and invented new ways of preparing some dish with as much elation as some of the greater discoveries have given.

The men talked politics and the possibilities of war. There was an uneasy feeling all along the border, where Indian troubles were being fomented. There were some unsettled questions between us and England. Abroad, Napoleon was making such strides that it seemed as if he might conquer all Europe.

Mrs. Leverett and Miss Recompense compared their successes in pickling and preserving, and discussed the high prices of dry goods and the newer scant skirts that would take so much less cloth and the improvement in home-made goods. Carpets of the higher grades were beginning to be manufactured in Philadelphia.

Warren, with the appetite of a healthy young fellow, thought everything tasted uncommonly good, and really had nothing to say. Doris watched one and another, with soft dark eyes, and wondered if it would be right to like Uncle Win any better than she did Uncle Leverett, and why she had any desire to do so, which troubled her a little. Uncle Win was the handsomest. She liked the something about him that she came to know afterward was culture and refinement. But she was a very loyal little girl, and Uncle Leverett had welcomed her so warmly, even on board the vessel.

After supper they went into Uncle Winthrop's study a while. There were more bookcases, and such a quantity of books and pamphlets and papers. There were busts of some of the old Roman orators and emperors, and more paintings. There was a beautiful young woman with a head full of soft curls and two bands passed through them in Greek fashion. A scarf was loosely wound around her shoulders, showing her white, shapely throat, and her short sleeves displayed almost perfect arms that looked like sculpture. Later Doris came to know this was Uncle Winthrop's sweet young wife, who died when her little boy was scarcely a year old.

There were many curiosities. The walls were wainscoted in panels, with moldings about them that looked like another frame for the pictures. The chimney piece was of wood, and exquisitely carved. There was an old escritoire that was both carved and gilded, and in the center of the room a large round table strewn with books and writing materials. At the windows were heavy red damask curtains, lined with yellow brocade. They were always put up the first of October and taken down punctually the first day of April. Uncle Win had a luxurious side to his nature, and there was a soft imported rug in the room as well.

Carpets were not in general use. Many floors were polished, some in the finer houses inlaid. Rag carpets were used for warmth in winter, and some were beautifully made. Weaving them was quite a business, and numbers of women were experts at it. Sometimes it was in a hit-or-miss style, the rags sewed just as one happened to pick them up. Then they were made of the ribbon pattern, a broad stripe of black or dark, with narrower and wider colors alternating. The rags were often colored to get pretty effects.

It was a long walk home, but in those days, when there were neither cars nor cabs, people were used to walking, and the two men would not mind it. Betty could drive Jack by night or day, as he was a sure-footed, steady-going animal, and for a distance the road was straight up Beacon Street.

"Some day I will come up and take you out to see a little more of your new home," said Uncle Winthrop to Doris. "When does she go to school, Elizabeth?"

"Why, I thought it would be as well for her to begin next week. From eight to twelve. And she is so young there is no real need of her beginning other things. Betty can teach her to sew and do embroidery."

"There is her French. It would be a pity to drop that."

"She might teach me French for the sake of the exercise," returned Betty laughingly when Uncle Win looked so perplexed.

"To be sure. We will get it all settled presently." He felt rather helpless where a girl was concerned, yet when he glanced down into her soft, wistful eyes he wished somehow that she was living here. But it would be lonely for a child.

Warren brought Jack around and helped in the womenkind when they had said all their good-nights, and Uncle Wrin added that he would be over some evening next week to supper.

It was a clear night, but there was no moon. Jack tossed up his head and trotted along, with the common on one side of him.

Boston had been improving very much in the last decade, and stretching herself out a little. But it was quite country-like where Uncle Win lived. He liked the quiet and the old house, the great trees and his garden that gave him all kinds of vegetables and some choice fruit, though he never did anything more arduous than to superintend it and enjoy the fruits of Jonas Starr's labor.

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