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   Chapter 15 A FREEDOM SUIT

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 29582

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Aunt Priscilla had a dozen changes of mind as to whether to go to Cousin Adams' or not. But Betty insisted. She trimmed her cap and altered the sleeves of her best black silk gown. The elderly people were wearing "leg-o'-mutton" sleeves now, while the young people had great puffs. Long straight Puritan sleeves were hardly considered stylish. And then Cousin Win sent the chaise up for her.

Mrs. March, Cary's aunt, had come up to Boston to make a little visit. Mr. March was a ship builder at Plymouth. She was quite anxious to see this cousin that Cary had talked about so much, and she was almost jealous lest he should be crowded out of his rightful place. She had no children of her own, but her husband had four when they were married. So a kind of motherly sympathy still went out to Cary.

Betty came over in the morning. She and Miss Recompense were always very friendly. They talked of jells and jams and preserves; it was too early for any fresh fruit except strawberries, and Cato always took a good deal of pains to have these of the very nicest.

The wide fireplace was filled in with green boughs and the shining leaves of "bread and butter." The rugs were taken up and the floor had a coat of polish. The parlor was wide open, arrayed in the stately furnishings of a century ago. There were two Louis XIV. chairs that had really come from France. There were some square, heavy pieces of furniture that we should call Eastlake now. And the extravagant thing was a Brussels carpet with a scroll centerpiece and a border in arabesque.

The guests began to come at two. Miss Recompense and Betty had been arranging the long table with its thick basket-work cloth that was fragrant with sweet scents. Betty wore her blue and white silk, as that had met with some mishaps at Hartford. Miss Recompense had on a brown silk with a choice bit of thread lace, and a thread lace cap. Many of the elderly society ladies wore immense headgears like turbans, with sometimes one or two marabou feathers, which were considered extremely elegant. But Miss Recompense kept to her small rather plain cap, and looked very ladylike, quite fit to do the honors of the house.

Some of the cousins had driven in from Cambridge and South Boston. Miss Cragie, who admired her second-cousin Adams very much, and it was said would not have been averse to a marriage with him, came over from the old house that had once been Washington's headquarters and was to be more famous still as the home of one of America's finest poets. She took a great interest in Cary and made him a welcome guest.

We should call it a kind of lawn party now. The guests flitted around the garden and lawn, inspected the promising fruit trees, and were enthusiastic over the roses. Then they wandered over to the Mall and discussed the impending changes in Boston, and said, as people nearly always do, that it would be ruined by improvements. It was sacrilegious to take away Beacon Hill. It was absurd to think of filling in the flats! Who would want to live on made ground? And where were all the people to come from to build houses on these wonderful streets? Why, it was simply ridiculous!

There were some young men who felt rather awkward and kept in a little knot with Cary. There were a few young girls who envied Betty Leverett her at-homeness, and the fact that she had spent a winter in Hartford. Croquet would have been a boon then, to make a breach in the walls of deadly reserve.

Elderly men smoked, walked about, and talked of the prospect of war. Most of them had high hopes of President Madison just now.

Doris was a point of interest for everybody. Her charming simplicity went to all hearts. Betty had dressed her hair a dozen different ways, but found none so pretty as tying part of the curls on top with a ribbon. She had grown quite a little taller, but was still slim and fair.

Miss Cragie took a great fancy to her and said she must come and spend the day with her and visit the notable points of Cambridge. And next year Cary would graduate, and she supposed they would have a grand time.

The supper was quite imposing. Cato's nephew, a tidy young colored lad, came from one of the inns, and acquitted himself with superior elegance. It was indeed a feast, enlivened with bright conversation. People expected to talk then, not look bored and indifferent. Each one brought something besides appetite to the feast.

Afterward they went out on the porch and sang, the ice being broken between the younger part of the company. There were some amusing patriotic songs with choruses that inspired even the older people. "Hail, Columbia!" was greeted with applause.

There were sentimental songs as well, Scotch and old English ballads. Two of Cary's friends sang "Queen Mary's Escape" with a great deal of spirit. Then Uncle Win asked Doris if she could not sing a little French song that she sang for him quite often, and that was set to a very touching melody.

She hung back and colored up, but she did want to please Uncle Win. She was standing beside him, so she straightened up and took a step out, and holding his hand sang with a grace that went to each heart. But she hid herself behind Uncle Win's shoulder when the compliments began. Cary came around, and said "She need not be afraid; it was just beautiful!"

After that the company began to disperse. Everybody said "It always was delightful to come over here," and the women wondered how it happened that such an attractive man as Mr. Winthrop Adams had not married again and had someone to entertain regularly.

There was a magnificent full moon, and the air was delicious with fragrance. One after another drove away, or taking the arm of a companion uttered a cordial good-night. Mr. Adams had sent some elderly friends home in a carriage, and begged the Leveretts to wait until it came back.

Warren had not been very intimate with the young collegian; their walks in life lay quite far apart. But Cary came and joined them as they were all out on the porch.

"I hope you had a pleasant time," he began. "If it had not been a family party I should have asked the club to come over and sing some of the college songs. Arthur Sprague has a fine voice. And you sing very well, Warren."

"I have been in a singing class this winter, I like music so much."

"You ought to hear half a dozen of our fellows together! But this little bird warbled melodiously," and he put his arm over the shoulder of Doris. "I did not know she could move an audience so deeply."

"I was so frightened at first," began Doris with a long breath. "I don't mind singing for Uncle Win, and one day when there were some guests Madam Royall asked me to sing a little French song she had known in her youth. Isn't it queer a song should last so long?"

"The fine songs ought to last forever. I hope we will have some national songs presently besides the ridiculous 'Yankee Doodle.' It doesn't seem quite so bad when it is played by the band and men are marching to it."

Cary straightened himself up. Being slender he often allowed his shoulders to droop.

"Now you look like a soldier," exclaimed Warren.

"I'd like to be one, first-rate. I'd leave college now and go in the Navy if there was another boy to follow out father's plans. But I can't bear to disappoint him. It's hard to go against your father when you are all he has. So I suppose I will go on and study law, and some day you will hear of my being judge. But we are going to have a big war, and I would like to take a hand in it. I wish I was twenty-one."

"I shall be next month. I am going to have a little company. I'd like you to come, Cary."

"I just will, thank you. What are you going to do?"

"I shall stay with father, of course. I have been learning the business. I think I shouldn't like to go to war unless the enemy really came to us. I should fight for my home."

"There are larger questions even than homes," replied Cary.

Betty came around the corner of the porch with Uncle Win, to whom she was talking in her bright, energetic fashion. Aunt Elizabeth said it was very pleasant to see so many of the relatives again.

"The older generation is dropping out, and we shall soon be among the old people ourselves," Mr. Leverett said. "I was thinking to-night how many youngish people were here who have grown up in the last ten years."

"We each have a young staff to lean upon," rejoined Mr. Adams proudly, glancing at the two boys.

The carriage came round. Aunt Priscilla shook hands with Cousin Winthrop, and said, much moved:

"I've had a pleasant time, and I had a good mind not to come. I'm getting old and queer and not fit for anything but to sit in the corner and grumble, instead of frolicking round."

"Oh, don't grumble. Why, I believe I am going backward. I feel ten years younger, and you are not old enough to die of old age. Betty, you must keep prodding her up."

He handed her in the carriage himself, and when they were all in Doris said:

"It seems as if I ought to go, too."

Uncle Win caught her hand, as if she might run away.

"I do think Cousin Winthrop has improved of late," said Mrs. Leverett. "He has gained a little flesh and looks so bright and interested, and he talked to all the folks in such a cordial way, as if he was really glad to see them. And those strawberries did beat all for size. Betty, the table looked like a feast for a king, if they deserve anything better than common folks."

"Any other child would be clear out of bonds and past redemption," declared Aunt Priscilla. "Everybody made so much of her, as if it was her party. And how the little creetur does sing! I'd like to hear her praising the Lord with that voice instead of wasting it on French things that may be so bad you couldn't say them in good English."

"That isn't," replied Betty. "It is a little good-night that her mother used to sing to her and taught her."

Aunt Priscilla winked hard and subsided. A little orphan girl-well, Cousin Winthrop would be a good father to her. Perhaps no one would ever be quite tender enough for her mother.

Everybody went home pleased. Yet nowadays such a family party would have been dull and formal, with no new books and theaters and plays and tennis and golf to talk about, and the last ball game, perhaps. There had been a kind of gracious courtesy in inquiries about each other's families-a true sympathy for the deaths and misfortunes, a kindly pleasure in the successes, a congratulation for the younger members of the family growing up, a little circling about religion and the recent rather broad doctrines the clergy were entertaining. For it was a time of ferment when the five strong points of Calvinism were being severely shaken, and the doctrine of election assaulted by the doctrine that, since Christ died for all, all might in some mysterious manner share the benefit without being ruled out by their neighbors.

Winthrop Adams would hardly have dreamed that the presence of a little girl in the house was stirring every pulse in an unwonted fashion. He had brooded over books so long; now he took to nature and saw many things through the child's fresh, joyous sight. He brushed up his stories of half-forgotten knowledge for her; he recalled his boyhood's lore of birds and squirrels, bees and butterflies, and began to feast anew on the beauty of the world and all things in their season.

It is true, in those days knowledge and literature were not widely diffused. A book or two of sermons, the "Pilgrim's Progress," perhaps "Fox's Book of Martyrs," and the Farmer's Almanac were the extent of literature in most families. Women had too much to do to spend their time reading except on Saturday evening and after second service on the Sabbath-then it must be religious reading.

But Boston was beginning to stir in the education of its women. Mrs. Abigail Adams had said, "If we mean to have heroes, statesmen, and philosophers, we should have learned women." They started a circle of sociality that was to be above the newest pattern for a gown and the latest recipe for cake or preserves. A Mrs. Grant had written a volume called "Letters from the Mountains," which they interested themselves in having republished. Hannah Adams had written some valuable works, and was now braiding straw for a living; and Mrs. Josiah Quincy exerted herself to have so talented a woman placed above indigence. She also endeavored to have Miss Edgeworth's "Moral Tales" republished for young people. Scott was beginning to infuse new life with his wonderful tales, which could safely be put in the hands of younger readers. The first decade of the century was laying a foundation for the grand work to be done later on. And with nearly every vessel, or with the travelers from abroad, would come some new books from England. Though they were dear, yet there were a few "foolish" people who liked a book better than several dollars added to their savings.

Warren's freedom suit and his freedom party interested Doris a great deal. Since Betty's return there had been several evening companies, with the parlor opened and the cake and lemonade set out on the table instead of being passed around. Betty and Jane Morse were fast friends. They went "uptown" of an afternoon and had a promenade, with now and then a nod from some of the quality. Betty was very much elated when Cary Adams walked home with her one afternoon and planned about the party. He would ask three of the young fellows, and with himself they would give some college songs. He knew Miss Morse's cousin, Morris Winslow, very well-he met him quite frequently at the Royalls'. Indeed, Cary knew he was a warm admirer of Isabel Royall.

After all, the much-talked-of suit was only a best Sunday suit of black broadcloth. Doris looked disappointed.

"Did you expect I would have red and white stripes down the sides and blue stars all over the coat?" Warren asked teasingly. "And an eagle on the buttons? I am afraid then I should be impressed and taken out to sea."

"Betty," she said afterward, "will you have a freedom suit when you are twenty-one. And must it be a black gown?"

"I think they never give girls that," answered Betty laughingly. "Theirs is a wedding gown. Though after you are twenty-one, if you go anywhere and earn money, you can keep it for yourself. Your parents cannot claim it."

Warren had a holiday. His father said he did not want to see him near the store all day long. He went over to Uncle Win's, who was just having some late cherries picked to grace the feast, and he was asked into the library, where Uncle Win made him a very pleasant little birthday speech and gave him a silver watch to remember the occasion by. Warre

n was so surprised he hardly knew how to thank him.

Betty was sorry there could be no dancing at the party, especially as Mr. Winslow had offered black Joe. But mother would be so opposed they did not even suggest it.

The young people began to gather about seven. They congratulated the hero of the occasion, and one young fellow recited some amusing verses. They played games and forfeits and had a merry time. The Cambridge boys sang several beautiful songs, and others of the gay, rollicking order. The supper table looked very inviting, Betty thought. Altogether it was a great pleasure to the young people, who kept it up quite late, but then it was such a delightful summer night! Doris thought the singing the most beautiful part of all.

Warren's great surprise occurred the next morning. There was a new sign up over the door in the place of the old weather-beaten one that his father had admitted was disgraceful. And on it in nice fresh lettering was:

F. LEVERETT & SON.

"Oh, father!" was all he could say for a moment.

"Hollis was a good, steady boy-I've been blest in my boys, and I thank God for it, so when Hollis was through with his trade, and had that good opportunity to go in business, I advanced him some money. He has been prospered and would have paid it back, but I told him to keep it for his part. This will be your offset to it. Cousin Winthrop is coming down presently, and Giles Thatcher, and we will have all the papers signed, so that if anything happens to me there will be no trouble. You've been a good son, Warren, and I hope you will make a good, honorable man."

The tears sprang to Warren's eyes. He was very glad he had yielded some points to his father and accepted obedience as his due to be rendered cheerfully. For Mr. Leverett had never been an unreasonable man.

Uncle Win congratulated him again. Betty and her mother went down in the afternoon to see the new sign. Aunt Priscilla thought it rather risky business, for being twenty-one didn't always bring good sense with it, and too much liberty was apt to spoil anyone with no more experience than Warren.

Betty said Aunt Priscilla must have something to worry about, which was true enough. She had come to the Leveretts' to see how she could stand "being without a home," as she phrased it. But she found herself quite feeble, and with a cough, and she admitted she never had quite gotten over the winter's cold which she took going to church that bitter Sunday. As just the right person to keep her house had not come to hand, and as it really was cheaper to live this way, and gave one a secure feeling in case of illness, she thought it best to go on. Elizabeth Leverett made her feel very much at home. She could go down in the kitchen and do a bit of work when she wanted to, she could weed a little out in the garden, she could mend and knit and pass away the time, and it was a pleasure to have someone to converse with, to argue with.

She had been in great trouble at first about black Polly. That she had really entertained the thought of getting rid of her in a helpless old age seemed a great sin now.

"And the poor old thing had been so faithful until she began to lose her memory. How could I have resolved to do such a thing!" she would exclaim.

"You never did resolve to do it, Aunt Priscilla," Mr. Leverett said one day. "I am quite sure you could not have done it when it came to the pinch. It was one of the temptations only."

"But I never struggled against it. That is what troubles me."

"God knew just how it would end. He did not mean the poor creature to become a trouble to anyone. If he had wanted to try you further, no doubt he would have done it. Now, why can't you accept the release as he sent it? It seems almost as if you couldn't resign yourself to his wisdom."

"You make religion so comfortable, Foster Leverett, that I hardly know whether to take it that way. It isn't the old-fashioned way in which I was brought up."

"There was just one Doubting Thomas among the Twelve," he replied smilingly.

There was little need of people going away for a summering then, though they did try to visit their relatives in the country places about. People came up from the more southern States for the cool breezes and the pleasant excursions everywhere. There were delightful parties going out almost every day, to the islands lying off the city, to the little towns farther away, to some places where it was necessary to remain all night. Madam Royall insisted upon taking Doris with the girls for a week's excursion, and she had a happy time. Cary went to Plymouth to his aunt's, and was fascinated with sea-going matters and the naval wars in progress. Josiah March was a stanch patriot, and said the thing would never be settled until we had taught England to let our men and our vessels alone.

Only a few years before our commerce had extended over the world. Boston-with her eighty wharves and quays, her merchants of shrewd and sound judgment, ability of a high order and comprehensive as well as authentic information-at that time stood at the head of the maritime world. The West Indies, China,-though Canton was the only port to which foreigners were admitted,-and all the ports of Europe had been open to her. The coastwise trade was also enormous. From seventy to eighty sail of vessels had cleared in one day. Long Wharf, at the foot of State Street, was one of the most interesting and busy places.

The treaty between France and America had agreed that "free bottoms made free ships," but during the wars of Napoleon this had been so abridged that trade was now practically destroyed. Then England had insisted upon the right of search, which left every ship at her mercy, and hundreds of our sailors were being taken prisoners. There was a great deal of war talk already. Trade was seriously disturbed.

There was a very strong party opposed to war. What could so young a country, unprepared in every way, do? The government temporized-tried various methods in the hope of averting the storm.

People began to economize; still there was a good deal of money in Boston. Pleasures took on a rather more economical aspect and grew simpler. But business was at a standstill. The Leveretts were among the first to suffer, but Mr. Leverett's equable temperament and serene philosophy kept his family from undue anxiety.

"It's rather a hard beginning for you, my boy," he said, "but you will have years enough to recover. Only I sometimes wish it could come to a crisis and be over, so that we could begin again. It can never be quite as bad as the old war."

Doris commenced school with the Chapman girls at Miss Parker's. Uncle Win had a great fancy for sending her to Mrs. Rowson.

"Wait a year or so," counseled Madam Royall. "Children grow up fast enough without pushing them ahead. Little girlhood is the sweetest time of life for the elderly people, whatever it may be for the girls. I should like Helen and Eudora to stand still for a few years, and Doris is too perfect a little bud to be lured into blossoming. There is something unusual about the child."

When anyone praised Doris, Uncle Win experienced a thrill of delight.

Miss Parker's school was much more aristocratic than Mrs. Webb's. There were no boys and no very small children. Some of the accomplishments were taught. French, drawing and painting, and what was called the "use of the globe," which meant a large globe with all the countries of the world upon it, arranged to turn around on an axis. This was a new thing. Doris was quite fascinated by it, and when she found the North Sea and the Devonshire coast and the "Wash" the girls looked on eagerly and straightway she became a heroine.

But one unlucky recess when she had won in the game of graces a girl said:

"I don't care! That isn't anything! We beat your old English in the Revolutionary War, and if there's another war we'll beat you again. My father says so. I wouldn't be English for all the gold on the Guinea coast!"

"I am not English," Doris protested. "My father was born in this very Boston. And I was born in France."

"Well, the French are just as bad. They are not to be depended upon. You are a mean little foreign girl, and I shall not speak to you again, there now!"

Doris looked very sober. Helen Chapman comforted her and said Faith Dunscomb was not worth minding.

She told it over to Uncle Win that evening.

"I suppose I can never be a real Boston girl," she said sorrowfully.

"I think you are a pretty good one now, and of good old Boston stock," he replied smilingly. "Sometime you will be proud that you came from the other Boston. Oddly enough most of us came from England in the beginning. And the Faneuils came from France, and they are proud enough of their old Huguenot blood."

She had been to Faneuil Hall and the Market with Uncle Winthrop. They raised all their vegetables and fruit, unless it was something quite rare, and Cato did the family marketing.

Only a few years before the Market had been enlarged and improved. Fifty years earlier the building had burned down and been replaced, but even the old building had been identified with liberty of thought, and had a well-known portrait painter of that day, John Smibert, for its architect. In the later improvements it had been much enlarged, and the beautiful open arches of the ground floor were closed by doors and windows, which rendered it less picturesque. It was the marketplace par excellence then, as Quincy Market came in with the enterprise of the real city. But even then it rejoiced in the appellation of "The Cradle of Liberty," and the hall over the market-space was used for political gatherings.

Huckster and market wagons from the country farms congregated in Dock Square. The mornings were the most interesting time for a visit. The "quality" came in their carriages with their servant man to run to and fro; or some young lady on horseback rode up through the busy throng to leave an order, and then the women whose servant carried a basket, or those having no servant carried their own baskets, and who went about cheapening everything.

So Doris was quite comforted to know that Peter Faneuil, who was held in such esteem, had not even been born in Boston, and was of French extraction.

But girls soon get over their tiffs and disputes. Play is the great leveler. Then Doris was so obliging about the French exercises that the girls could not stay away very long at a time.

Miss Parker's typified the conventional idea of a girl's education prevalent at that time: that it should be largely accomplishment. So Doris was allowed considerable latitude in the commoner branches. Mrs. Webb had been exacting in the few things she taught, especially arithmetic. And Uncle Win admitted to himself that Doris had a poor head for figures. When she came to fractions it was heartrending. Common multiples and least and greatest common divisors had such a way of getting mixed up in her brain, that he felt very sorry for her.

She brought over Betty's book in which all her sums in the more difficult rules had been worked out and copied beautifully. There were banking and equation of payments and all the "roots" and progression and alligation and mensuration.

"I don't know what good they will really be to Betty," said Uncle Win gravely. Then, as his face relaxed into a half-smile, he added: "Perhaps Mary Manning's fifty pairs of stockings she had when she was married may be more useful. Betty has a good head and "twinkling feet." Did you know a poet said that? And another one wrote:

"'Her feet beneath her petticoat,

Like little mice stole in and out

As if they feared the light;

But, oh, she dances such a way!

No sun upon an Easter day

Is half so fair a sight.'"

"Oh, Uncle Win, that's just delightful! Did your poet write any more such dainty things, and can I read them? Betty would just go wild over that."

"Yes, I will find it for you. And we won't worry now about the hard knots over in the back of the arithmetic."

"Nor about the stockings. Miss Isabel is knitting some beautiful silk ones, blossom color."

Ladies and girls danced in slippers then and wore them for evening company, and stockings were quite a feature in attire.

Uncle Win was too indulgent, of course. Miss Recompense said she had never known a girl to be brought up just that way, and shook her head doubtfully.

Early in the new year an event happened, or rather the tidings came to them that seemed to have a bearing on both of these points. An old sea captain one day brought a curious oaken chest, brass bound, and with three brass initials on the top. The key, which was tied up in a small leathern bag, and a letter stowed away in an enormous well-worn wallet, he delivered to "Mr. Winthrop Adams, Esq."

It contained an unfinished letter from Miss Arabella, beginning "Dear and Honored Sir," and another from the borough justice. Miss Arabella was dead. The care of her sister had worn her so much that she had dropped into a gentle decline, and knowing herself near the end had packed the chest with some table linen that belonged to the mother of Doris, some clothing, two dresses of her own, several petticoats, two pairs of satin slippers she had worn in her youth and outgrown, and six pairs of silk stockings. Doris would grow into them all presently.

Then inclosed was a bank note for one hundred pounds sterling, and much love and fond remembrances.

The other note announced the death of Miss Arabella Sophia Roulstone, aged eighty-one years and three months, and the time of her burial. Her will had been read and the bequests were being paid. Mr. Millington requested a release before a notary, and an acknowledgment of the safe arrival of the goods and the legacy, to be returned by the captain.

Mr. Adams went out with the captain and attended to the business.

Doris had a little cry over Miss Arabella. It did not seem as if she could be eighty years old. She could recall the sweet, placid face under the snowy cap, and almost hear the soft voice.

"That is quite a legacy," said Uncle Win. "Doris, can you compute it in dollars?"

We had come to have a currency of our own-"decimal" it was called, because computed by tens.

We still reckoned a good deal in pounds, shillings, and pence, but ours were not pounds sterling.

Doris considered and knit her delicate brows. Then a soft light illumined her face.

"Why, Uncle Win, it is five hundred dollars! Isn't that a great deal of money for a little girl like me? And must it not be saved up some way?"

"Yes, I think for your wedding day."

"And then suppose I should not get married?"

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