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   Chapter 12 A CHILDREN'S PARTY

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 30219

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


"This is Doris Adams, a little girl who came from England not long ago. You must make her welcome and show her what delightful children there are in Boston. These two girls are Helen and Eudora Chapman, my grandchildren, and the others are grandnieces and friends. Helen, you must do the honors."

Dorcas Payne came forward. "She goes to the same school that I do." She had been entertaining the girls with nearly all she knew about Doris. That Mr. Winthrop Adams was her uncle and guardian raised her a good deal in the estimation of Dorcas, for even then a man was thought unusually well off to be able to live without doing any real business.

"Would you like to play graces?" asked Eudora.

"I don't know," admitted Doris.

"We were playing. Grace and Molly, you go down that end of the room. Now, this is the way. When Betty tosses it you catch it on the sticks, so."

It seemed very easy when Eudora caught it and tossed it back, and Betty threw it again.

"Now you try," and she put the sticks in Doris' hands. "Oh, what tiny little hands you have, and as white as snow!"

Doris blushed. She threw the hoop and it "wabbled," but Betty, a bright, black-eyed girl, made a lunge or two, and caught it on the tip of one stick, and back it came. Doris was looking at her and never moved her hand.

"Pick it up and try again," said Eudora. "That isn't the right way, but we will excuse you this time."

Alas! this time Doris ran and brandished her stick in the air to no purpose.

"I would rather see you play," she said. "You are all doing it so beautifully."

"Then you stand here and watch."

It was very fascinating. There were three sets playing. Doris found that when a girl missed she gave up to some other companion. Her eyes could hardly move quickly enough to watch all the hoops. Now and then a girl was crowned,-that meant the hoops encircled her head,-and they all shouted.

Then Helen said they had played that long enough, and now they would try "Hunt the slipper." The slipper was a pretty one, made of pink plush with a dainty heel and a shining buckle set in a small pink bow. Doris said "it looked like a Cinderella slipper."

"Oh, do you know about Cinderella? Do you know many stories?"

"Not a great many. Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast, and a few in verses."

"I wish you knew something quite new. Oh!"

Eudora had forgotten to keep the slipper going. The girls were sitting in a ring, so she jumped up cheerfully and began to hunt. There were a great many little giggles and exclamations, and then someone said: "Oh, let's stop playing and tell riddles!"

That was a never-failing amusement. There were some very bright ones, some very puzzling ones. One girl asked how many baskets of dirt there were in Copp's Hill.

"Why, there can't anybody tell," said Helen. "You couldn't measure it that way."

Everybody looked at everybody else, and the glances finally grew indignant.

"There isn't any answer."

"Give it up?"

"Yes," cried the voices in unison.

"Why, one-if the basket is big enough."

"There couldn't be a basket made as large as that. You might as well ask how many drops of water there are in the sea, and then say only one because they all run together."

The girls applauded that, and, before anyone had thought of another, Miranda,-tall, black, imposing, with a gay turban wound round her head,-announced:

"De little misses were all disquested to walk out to de Christmas supper."

Grandmamma did not know how to leave her guests, and she was in the middle of a game of loo, but she had promised to sit at the head of the table, so Mrs. Chapman took her place. No one felt troubled because there were no boys at the party: the only boy of the house had gone out skating with some other boys.

It was quite a royal feast. There were thin bread and butter, dainty biscuits not much larger than the penny of that day, cold turkey and cold ham, and cake of every kind, it would seem, ranged around the iced Christmas cake that was surmounted by a wreath of some odd golden flowers that people dried and kept all winter for ornamental purposes.

They puzzled grandmamma with the two riddles, but she thought that about the sea the better one. And she said no one would ever have an opportunity to measure Copp's Hill, but for all that they did, if they had cared to.

The grown-up people had some tea and chocolate in the dining room, and seemed to be having as merry a time as the children. There was something infectious in the air or the house. Doris thought it very delightful. Her cheeks began to bloom in a wild-rose tint, and her eyes had a luminous look, as if happiness was shining through them.

Afterward grandmamma played on the spinet and they danced several pretty simple figures, ending with the minuet. When the clock struck seven someone came in a sleigh for four of the girls who lived quite near together. Pompey, the Royalls' servant, was to escort the others, and Betty March lived just across in Winter Street. When children went out the hours were kept pretty strictly. Seven o'clock meant seven truly, and not eight or nine.

Each child had a pretty paper box of candy, tied with a bright ribbon. Bonbons we should call them now. And they all expressed their thanks and made a courtesy as they reached the hall door.

"Have you had a good time?" asked Madam Royall, taking Doris by the hand.

"It's been just delightful, every moment," the child answered.

"And she's only looked on, grandmamma," exclaimed Eudora. "Now, let's us get real acquainted. We will go in the parlor and have a good talk."

"Very well," returned grandmamma. "I'll go and see what the old people are about."

"I am glad you don't have to go home so soon," began Helen. "Why don't you live with your Uncle Adams instead of in Sudbury Street? Are there any girls there?"

"One real big one who is sixteen. She has gone to Hartford now. That's Betty Leverett. And I went there first, because-well, Uncle Leverett came for me when the vessel reached Boston."

"Oh, he is your uncle, too! Did you come from another Boston, truly now?"

"Yes, it was Boston."

"And like this?"

"Oh, no."

"Did you know ever so many girls?"

"No. We lived quite out of the town."

"And, oh, were you not afraid to cross the ocean? Suppose there had been a pirate or something?"

"I didn't know anything about pirates," said Doris. "But I was afraid at first, when you could not see any land for days and days. There were two little girls and they had a doll. We played together and grew used to the water. But it was worse when it stormed."

"I should have been frightened out of my life. Grandmamma has been to England. We have some cousins there, but they are grown-up people and married. Which place do you like best?"

"I had no real relatives there after papa died. Oh, I like this Boston best."

Then they branched off into school matters. Eudora and her sister went to a Miss Parker, and to a writing school an hour in the afternoon. Eudora wished she was grown-up like Isabel and Alice, and could go out to real parties and have a silk frock. Grandmamma was going to give her one when she was fifteen.

A feeling of delicacy kept Doris from confessing that she owned the coveted article. Some of the girls had worn very pretty frocks. Eudora's was a beautiful soft blue, and had bands of black velvet and short sleeves with lace around them. But Doris had forgotten about her own attire, though she recalled the fact that there was only one little girl in a gray frock, and it didn't seem very pretty.

So they chattered on, and Eudora said they would have splendid times if she came in the summer. They had a big swing, and they went over on the Common and had no end of fun playing tag. The warm weather was the nicest, though there was great fun sledding and snowballing when the boys were not too rough. Oh, had she seen the forts and the great light out at Fort Hill? Wasn't it just grand?

"But, you know, Walter said if the redoubts had been stone instead of snow, the Rebels never could have taken them. You know, they called us Rebels then. And now we are a nation."

Doris wondered what a redoubt was, but she saved it to ask Uncle Win. She gave a sigh to think what an ignorant little girl she was.

"I think it is a great deal finer to be a country all by yourself and govern your own people. The King of England is half crazy, you know. You don't mind, do you, when we talk about the English? We don't really mean every person, and our friends and-and all"-getting rather confused with distinctions.

"We mean the government," interposed Helen. "It stands to reason people thousands of miles away wouldn't know what is best for us. Wouldn't it be ridiculous if someone in Virginia should pretend to instruct grandmamma what to do? Grandmamma knows so much. And she is one of the handsomest old ladies in Boston. Oh, listen!"

A mysterious sound came from the kitchen. A fiddle was surely tuning up somewhere.

"The big folks are going to dance, and that is black Joe, Mr. Winslow's man."

Mr. Winslow and a young lady had arrived also. They tendered many apologies about their lateness.

The people in the dining room left the table and came out in the hall. Cary Adams had been having a very nice time, for a young fellow. Isabel poured the chocolate, and on her right sat a Harvard senior. Alice poured the tea, and beside her sat Cary, who made himself useful handing it about. He liked Alice very much. A young married couple were over on the other side, and now this addition and the fiddle looked suspicious.

"My dear Doris," exclaimed her uncle. He had been discussing Greek poets with the Harvard professor, and had really forgotten about her. "Are you tired? It's about time a young person like you, and an old person like me, went home."

He didn't look a bit old. There was a tint of pink in his cheeks-he had been so roused and warmed with his argument and his tea.

"Oh, do let Doris stay and see them dance, just one dance," pleaded Eudora. "We have been sitting here talking, and haven't tired ourselves out a bit."

The fiddler and the dancers went to the room where the children had their frolic. That was Jane Morse's cousin Winslow. How odd she should see him and hear black Joe, who fiddled like the blind piper. The children kept time with their feet.

The minuet was elegant. Then they had a cotillion in which there was a great deal of bowing. After that Mr. Adams said they must go home, and Madam Royall came and talked to Doris in a charming fashion, and then told Susan, the slim colored maid, to wrap her up head and ears, and in spite of Mr. Adams' protest Pompey came round with the sleigh.

"I hope you had a nice time," said Madam Royall, as she put a Christmas box in the little girl's hand.

"I'm just full of joy," she answered with shining eyes. "I couldn't hold any more unless I grew," laughingly.

They made her promise to come again, and the children kissed her good-by. Then they were whisked off and set down at their own door in no time.

"Now you must run to bed. Aunt Elizabeth would be horrified at your staying up so late."

Miss Recompense was-almost. She had been nodding over the fire.

They went upstairs together. She took a look at Doris, and suddenly the child clasped her round the waist.

"Oh, dear Miss Recompense, I was so glad about the beautiful sash. Most of the frocks were prettier than mine. Some had tiny ruffles round the bottom and the sleeves. But the party was so nice I forgot all about that. Oh, Miss Recompense, were you ever brimful of happiness, and you wanted to sing for pure gladness? I think that is the way the birds must feel."

No, Miss Recompense had never been that happy. A great joy, the delight of childhood, had been lost out of her life. She had been trained to believe that for every miserable day you spent bewailing your sins, a day in heaven would be intensified, and that happiness on earth was a snare of the Evil One to lead astray. She had gone out in the fields and bemoaned herself, and wondered how the birds could sing when they had to die so soon, and how anyone could laugh when he had to answer for everything at the Day of Judgment.

"Everybody was so delightful, though at first I felt strange. And I did not make out at all playing graces. That's just beautiful, and I'd like to know how. And now if you will untie the sash and put it away, and I am a hundred times obliged to you."

Some of the children she had known would have begged for the sash. Doris' frank return touched her. Mr. Adams no doubt meant her to keep it-she would ask him.

And then the happy little girl went to bed, while even in the dark the room seemed full of exquisite visions and voices that charmed her.

Cary had to go away the next morning. Uncle Win said he couldn't spare her, and sent Cato over to tell Mrs. Leverett. A young man came in for some instruction, and Doris followed the fate of the Vicar's household a while, until she felt she ought to study, since there were so many things she did not know.

Uncle Win found her in the chimney corner with a pile of books.

"What is it now?" he asked.

"I think I know all my spelling. But I can't get some of the addition tables right when I ask myself questions. I wish there had not been any nine."

"The world couldn't get along without the nine. It is very necessary."

"Most of the good things are hard," she said with a philosophic sigh.

He laughed.

"Eudora does not like tables either."

"I will tell you a famous thing about nine that you can't do with any other figure. How much is ten and ten?"

"Why, twenty, and ten more are thirty, and so on. It is easy as turning over your hand."

"Ten and nine."

Doris looked nonplused and began to draw her brow in perplexed lines.

"Nine is only one less than ten. Now, if you can remember that--"

"Nineteen! Why, that is splendid."

"Now sixteen and nine?"

"Twenty-five," rather hesitatingly.

He nodded. "And nine more."

"Thirty-four. Oh, we made a rhyme. Uncle Winthrop, is it very hard to write verses? They are so beautiful."

"I think it is-rather," with his half-smile.

People had not had the leisure to be very poetical as yet. But through these years some children were being born into the world whose verses were to find a place by every fireside before the little girl said her last good-night to it. So far there had been some bright witticisms and sarcasms in rhyme, and the clergy had penned verses for wedding and funeral occasions. The Rev. John Cotton had indulged in flowing versification, and even Governor Bradford had interspersed his severer cares with visions of softer strains. Anne Dudley, the wife of Governor Bradstreet, with her eight children, had found time for study and writing, and about 1650 had a volume of verse published in London entitled "The Tenth Muse. Several poems compiled with a great variety of wit and learning. By an Ame

rican Gentlewoman." And she makes this protest even then:

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue,

Who says my hand a needle better fits;

A poet's pen all scorn I thus should wrong,

For such despite they cast on female wits:

If what I do prove well it won't advance,

They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance.

There was also a Mrs. Murray and a Mercy Otis Warren, who evinced very fine intellectual ability; and Mrs. Adams had written letters that the world a hundred years later was to admire and esteem.

On the parlor table in some houses you found a thin volume of poems with a romantic history. A Mrs. Wheatley bought a little girl at the slave market one day, mostly out of pity. She learned to read very rapidly, and was so modest and thoughtful that as a young woman she was held in high esteem by Dr. Sewall's flock at the Old South Church. She went abroad with her master's son before the breaking out of the war, and interested Londoners so much that her poems were published and she was the recipient of a good many attentions. Afterward they were reissued in Boston and met with warm commendations for the nobility of sentiment and smooth versification. So to Phillis Wheately belongs the honor of having been one of the first female poets in Boston.

And young men even now celebrated their sweethearts' charms in rhyme. Gay gallants wrote their own valentines. Young collegians struggled with Latin verse, and sometimes scaled the heights of Thessaly from whence inspiration sprang. But, for the most part, the temperaments that inclined to the worship of the Muses sought solace in Chaucer, Shakspere, and Milton while the later ones were winning their way.

Doris sighed over the doubtfulness in her uncle's tone. But it was music rather than poetry that floated through her brain.

"You might come and read a little Latin, and then we will have a talk in French. We will leave the prosaic part. What you will do in square root and cube root--"

"I am afraid I shall not grow at all. I'll just wither up. Isn't there some round root?"

"Yes, among vegetables."

They both laughed at that.

She did quite well in the Latin. Then she spelled some rather difficult words, and being in the high tide of French when dinner was announced, they kept on talking, to the great amusement of Miss Recompense, who could hardly convince herself that it really did mean anything reasonable.

Uncle Winthrop said then they certainly deserved some indulgence, and if she was not afraid of blowing away they would go out riding again. They took the small sleigh and he drove, and they turned down toward the stem end of the pear, and if Boston had not held on good and strong in those early years it might in some high wind have been twisted off and left an island.

It does not look, to-day, much as it did when Doris first saw it. Charles River has shrunken, Back Bay has been filled up. It has stretched out everywhere and made itself a marvelous city. The Common has changed as well, and is more beautiful than one could have imagined then, but a thousand old recollections cling to it.

They left the streets behind. Sleigh riding was the great winter amusement then, but you had to take it in cold weather, for the salt air all about softened the snow the first mild day. There was no factory smoke or dust to mar it, and it lay in great unbroken sheets. There were people skating on Back Bay, and chairs on runners with ladies well wrapped up in furs, and sleds of every description.

They came up around the other side and saw the wharves and the idle shipping and the white-capped islands in the harbor. Now the wind did nearly blow you away.

The next day was very lowering and chilly. Uncle Winthrop had to go to a dinner among some notables. Miss Recompense always brushed his hair and tied the queue. Young men did not wear them, but some of the older people thought leaving them off was aping youthfulness. He put on his black velvet smallclothes, his silk stockings and low shoes with silver buckles, his flowered waistcoat, his high stock and fine French broadcloth coat. His shirt front had two full ruffles beautifully crimped. Miss Recompense did it with a penknife.

"You look just like a picture, Uncle Winthrop," Doris exclaimed admiringly. "Party clothes do make one handsomer. I suppose it isn't good for one to be handsome all the time."

"We should grow too vain," he answered smilingly, yet he did enjoy the honest praise.

"Perhaps if we were used to it all the time it would not seem so beautiful. It would get to be everyday-like, and you would not think about it."

True enough. He had a fancy Madam Royall did not think half so much about her apparel as some of the more strenuous people who referred continually to conscience.

"Good-by. Maybe you will be in bed when I come back."

"Oh, will you be gone that late?" She stood upon a stool and reached over to give him a parting kiss, if she could not see him until to-morrow, and she did not even touch his immaculate ruffles.

It was growing dusky, and Miss Recompense was in and out, and was in no hurry for candlelight herself. Doris sat in a kind of chaotic thinking. Someone came up the steps, stamped his feet quite too noisily for Cato,-even if he had returned so soon,-knocked at the door, and then opened it.

"Oh, Uncle Leverett!" and she sprang up.

"Well, well, little runaway! I was quite struck when mother told me you were going to stay all the week. I wanted to see my little girl. It's lonesome without you and Betty, I can tell you-lonesome as the woods in winter; and as I couldn't get to see her, I thought I would run around this way and see you. The longest way round is the surest way home, I have heard"-with a twinkle in his eye. "Where's Uncle Win? What are you doing in the dark alone?"

"Uncle Win has gone to a grand dinner at the Exchange something. And he dressed all up. He looked splendid."

"I dare say. He isn't bad-looking in his everyday gear. And you are having a good time?"

"A most beautiful time, Uncle Leverett. I went to church Christmas morning. And a lady asked us both to a party-yes, it was a party. The grown people were by themselves, and the children-there were ten little girls-they had a grand supper and played games and told riddles, and we talked-"

"Where was this fine affair?"

"At Madam Royall's. And she was so kind and sweet and handsome."

"Well, I declare! Right in amongst the quality! I don't know what mother would say to a party. What a pity you didn't have that pretty frock!"

"I did wish for it at first, but we had such a nice time it made no difference. And then some more people came and Mr. Winslow and Black Joe, who was at Betty's party, and they danced. Cary went, too. He stayed after Uncle Win and I came home."

"Great doings. I am glad you are happy. But I shall be doubly glad to get you back. And now I must run off home."

Miss Recompense came in and lighted the candles. They were going to have supper in five minutes and he must take off his coat and stay.

"I've sort of run away, and no one would know where I am. Wife would keep supper waiting. No, I must hustle back, thanking you for the asking. I wanted to see Doris. Somehow we have grown so used to her already that the house seems kind of lost without her, Betty being away. We haven't had any letter from Hartford, but I dare say she is there all safe."

"Post teams do get delayed. Doris is well and satisfied. She and her uncle have great times studying."

"That is good. Wife worried a little about school. Now I must go. Good-night. You will surely be home on Saturday."

"Good-night," returned the soft voice.

Somehow the supper was very quiet. Doris had begun to read aloud to Miss Recompense "The Story of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia." She did not like it as well as her dear Vicar, but Uncle Win said it was good. He was not quite sure of the Vicar for such a child. So she read along very well for a while, and then she yawned.

"You were up late last night and you must go to bed," said the elder lady.

Doris was ready. She was sleepy, but somehow she did not drop asleep all in a minute. There was a grave subject to consider. All day she was thinking how splendid it would be if Uncle Win should ask her to come here and live. She liked him. She liked the books and the curiosities and the talks and the teaching. Uncle Win was so much more interesting than Mrs. Webb, who flung questions at you in a way that made you jump if you were not paying strict attention. There were other delights that she could not explain to herself. And the books, the leisure to sit and think. For careful Aunt Elizabeth said-"Have you hung up your cloak, Doris? Are you sure you know your spelling? I do wonder if you will ever get those tables perfect! The idea of such a big girl not knowing how to knit a stocking! Don't sit there looking into the fire and dreaming, Doris; attend to your book. Jimmie boy is away ahead of you in some things."

And here she could sit and dream. Of course she was not going to school. Miss Recompense did not think of something all the time. She had learned a sort of graciousness since she had lived with Mr. Winthrop Adams. True, she had nothing to worry about-no children to advance in life, no husband whose business she must be anxiously considering. She had a snug little sum of money, and was adding to it all the time, and she was still a long way from old age. Doris could not have understood the difference in both position and demands, but she enjoyed the atmosphere of ease. And there was a certain aspect of luxury, a freedom from the grinding exactions of conscience that had been trained to keep continually on the alert lest one "fall into temptation."

"He had wanted to see his little girl. He was lonesome without her."

She could see the longing in Uncle Leverett's face and hear his wistful voice there in the dark. He had come to the ship and given her the first greeting and brought her home. Yes, she supposed she was his little girl. Guardians were to take care of one's money; you did not have to live with them, of course. Uncle Leverett was something in a business way, too; and he loved her. She knew that without any explanation. She was quite sure Uncle Win loved her also, but her real place was in Sudbury Street.

Friday afternoon she was curled up by the fire reading, looking like a big kitten, if you had seen only her gray frock. Uncle Win had glanced at her every now and then. He did not mind having her around-not as much, in fact, as Cary, who tumbled books about and moved chairs noisily and kept one's nerves astir all the time, as a big healthy fellow whose body has grown so fast that he hardly knows what to do with his long arms and legs is apt to do.

Doris was like a little mouse. She never rattled the leaves when she turned them over, she never put books in the cases upside down, she did not finger papers or anything that lay on the table when she stood by it. He had a fancy that all children were meddlesome and curious and given to asking queer questions: these were the things he remembered about Cary in those first years of sorrow when he could hardly bear him out of his sight.

Instead, Doris was restful with her quaint ways. She did not run against chairs nor move a stool so that the legs emitted a "screak" of agony, and she could sit still for an hour at a time if she had a book. Of course, being a girl she ought to sew instead.

It was getting quite dusky. Uncle Winthrop came and stirred the fire and put on a pine log, then drew up his chair.

"Put away your book, Doris. You will try your eyes."

She shut it up and came and stood by him. He passed his arm around her.

"Uncle Win, there was a time when people had to read and sew by the blaze of logs and torches. There were no candles."

"They did it not so many years ago here. I dare say they are still doing it out in country places. They go to bed early."

"What seems queer to me is that people are continually finding out things. They must at one time have been very ignorant. No, they could not have been either," reflectively. "For just think how Adam named the animals. And Miss Arabella said that Job knew all about the stars and called them by their names. But perhaps it was the little things like candles and such. Yet they had lamps ever and ever so long ago."

"People seem to advance and then fall back. They emigrate and cannot take all their appliances with them, and they make simpler things to use until they have leisure and begin to accumulate wealth. You see, they could not bring a great deal from England or Holland in the vessels they had in early sixteen hundred. So they had to begin at the foundation in many things."

"It is all so wonderful when you really come to learn about it," she said with a gentle sigh.

The blaze was shining on her now, and bringing out the puzzles on the fair child's face. She was very intelligent, if she was slow at figures.

"Doris,"-after a long pause,-"how would you like to live here?"

"Oh, Uncle Win, it would be the most splendid thing--"

"I fancied you might like to change. And there are some matters connected with your education-why, what is it, Doris?"

She raised her eyes an instant, then they drooped and he saw the dark fringe beaded with tears. She took a long quivering inspiration.

"Uncle Win-I don't believe I can." The words came very slowly. "You see Betty is away, and Uncle Leverett missed me very much. He said the other night I was his little girl, and he was lonesome--"

"I shall be lonesome when you are gone."

"But you have so many books and things, and people coming, and-I should like to stay. Oh, I do like you so." She put her slim arm around his neck and laid her cheek against his. "Sometimes it seems as if you were like what I remember of papa. I only saw such a little of him, you know, after I went to England. But Aunt Elizabeth says it is the hard things that are right always. She would have Jimmie boy, you know, if I stayed, but Uncle Leverett wants me. I can just feel how it is, but I don't know how to explain it. He has always been so good to me. And that day on the ship he said, 'Is this my little girl?' and I was so glad to really belong to someone again--"

She was crying softly. He felt the tears on his cheek. Her simple heroism touched him.

"Yes, dear," he said with a comforting sound in his voice. "Perhaps it would be best to wait a little, until Betty returns, or in the summer. You can come over Friday night and spend Sunday, and brush up on Latin, and brush me up on French, and we will have a nice visit."

"Oh, thank you, thank you. Uncle Win-if I could be two little girls--"

"I want you all, complete. We will keep it to think about."

Then Miss Recompense said supper was ready, and Doris wiped the tears out of her eyes and smiled. But the pressure of her hand as they walked out confessed that she belonged to him.

* * *

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