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A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 26078

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

"Oh, Uncle Win," exclaimed Doris, "I can't be sorry that I went to Salem, and I've had a queer, delightful time seeing so many strange things and hearing stories about them! But I am very, very glad to get back to Boston, and gladdest of all to be your little girl. There isn't anybody in the whole wide world I'd change you for!"

Her arms were about him. He was so tall that she could not quite reach up to his neck when he stood straight, but he had a way of bending over, and she was growing, and the clasp gave him a thrill of exquisite pleasure.

"I've missed my little girl a great deal," he said. "I am afraid I shall never want you to go away again."

"The next time you must go with me. Though Betty was delightful and Mrs. King is just splendid."

They had famous talks about Salem afterward, and the little towns around. Miss Recompense said now she shouldn't know how to live without a child in the house. Mrs. King went home to her husband and little ones, and Doris imagined the joy in greeting such a fond mother. Uncle Win half promised he would visit New York sometime. Even Aunt Priscilla was pleased when Doris came up to Sudbury Street, and wanted her full share of every visit. And they were all amazed when she went over to Uncle Win's to spend a day and was very cordial with Miss Recompense. They had a nice chat about the old times and the Salem witches and the dead and gone Governors-even Governor and Lady Gage, who had been very gay in her day; and both women had seen her riding about in her elegant carriage, often with a handsome young girl at her side.

She had some business, too, with Uncle Win. They were in the study a long while together.

"Living with the Leveretts has certainly changed Aunt Priscilla very much," he said later in the evening to Miss Recompense. "I begin to think it is not good for people to live so much alone when they are going down the shady side of life. Or perhaps it would not be so shady if they would allow a little sun to shine in it."

Solomon was full of purring content and growing lazier every day. Latterly he had courted Uncle Win's society. There was a wide ledge in one of the southern windows, and Doris made a cushion to fit one end. He loved to lie here and bask in the sunshine. When there was a fire on the hearth he had another cushion in the corner. Sometimes he sauntered around and interviewed the books quite as if he was aware of their contents. He considered that he had a supreme right to Doris' lap, and he sometimes had half a mind to spring up on Uncle Win's knee, but the invitation did not seem sufficiently pressing.

Cary was at home regularly now, except that he spent one night every week with a friend at Charlestown, and went frequently to the Cragies' to meet some of his old chums. He had not appeared to care much for Doris at first, and she was rather shy. Latterly they had become quite friends.

But it seemed to Doris that he was so much gayer and brighter at Madam Royall's, where he certainly was a great favorite. Miss Alice was very brilliant and charming. They were always having hosts of company. Mr. and Mrs. Winslow were at the head of one circle in society. And this autumn Miss Jane Morse was married and went to live in Sheaffe Street in handsome style. She had done very well indeed. Betty was one of the bridesmaids and wore a white India silk in which she looked quite a beauty.

Miss Helen Chapman was transferred to Mrs. Rowson's school to be finished. Doris and Eudora still attended Miss Parker's. But Madam Royall had treated the girls to the new instrument coming into vogue, the pianoforte. It's tone was so much richer and deeper than the old spinet. She liked it very much herself. Doris was quite wild over it. Madam Royal begged that she might be allowed to take lessons on it with the girls. Uncle Winthrop said in a year or two she might have one if she liked it and could learn to play.

She and Betty used to talk about Elizabeth Manning. There was a new baby now, another little boy. Mrs. Leverett made a visit and brought home Hester, to ease up things for the winter. Elizabeth couldn't go to school any more, there was so much to do. She wrote Doris quite a long letter and sent it by grandmother. Postage was high then, and people did not write much for pure pleasure.

And just before the new year, when Betty was planning to go to New York for her visit to Mrs. King, a great sorrow came to all of them. Uncle Leverett had not seemed well all the fall, though he was for the most part his usual happy self, but business anxieties pressed deeply upon him and Warren. He used to drop in now and then and take tea with Cousin Winthrop, and as they sat round the cheerful fire Doris would bring her stool to his side and slip her hand in his as she had that first winter. She was growing tall quite rapidly now, and pretty by the minute, Uncle Leverett said.

There was no end of disquieting rumors. American shipping was greatly interfered with and American seamen impressed aboard British ships by the hundreds, often to desert at the first opportunity. Merchantmen were deprived of the best of their crews for the British navy, as that country was carrying on several wars; and now Wellington had gone to the assistance of the Spanish, and all Europe was trying to break the power of Napoleon, who had set out since the birth of his son, now crowned King of Rome, to subdue all the nations.

The Leopard-Chesapeake affair had nearly plunged us into war, but it was promptly disavowed by the British Government and some indemnity paid. There was a powerful sentiment opposed to war in New York and New England, but the people were becoming much inflamed under repeated outrages. Young men were training in companies and studying up naval matters. The country had so few ships then that to rush into a struggle was considered madness.

Mr. Winthrop Adams was among those bitterly opposed to war. Cary was strongly imbued with a young man's patriotic enthusiasm. There was a good deal of talk at Madam Royall's, and a young lieutenant had been quite a frequent visitor and was an admirer also of the fair Miss Alice. Then Alfred Barron, his friend at Charlestown, had entered the naval service. Studying law seemed dry and tiresome to the young fellow when such stirring events were happening on every side.

Uncle Leverett took a hard cold early in the new year. He was indoors several days, then some business difficulties seemed to demand his attention and he went out again. A fever set in, and though at first it did not appear serious, after a week the doctor began to look very grave. Betty stopped her preparations and wrote a rather apprehensive letter to Mrs. King.

One day Uncle Win was sent for, and remained all the afternoon and evening. The next morning he went down to the store.

"I'm afraid father's worse," said Warren. "His fever was very high through the night, and he was flighty, and now he seems to be in a sort of stupor, with a very feeble pulse. Oh, Uncle Win, I haven't once thought of his dying, and now I am awfully afraid. Business is in such a dreadful way. That has worried him."

Mr. Adams went up to Sudbury Street at once. The doctor was there.

"There has been a great change since yesterday," he said gravely. "We must prepare for the worst. It has taken me by surprise, for he bid fair to pull through."

Alas, the fears were only too true! By night they had all given up hope and watched tearfully for the next twenty-four hours, when the kindly, upright life that had blessed so many went to its own reward.

To Doris is seemed incredible. That poor Miss Henrietta Maria should slip out of life was only a release, and that Miss Arabella in the ripeness of age should follow had awakened in her heart no real sorrow, but a gentle sense of their having gained something in another world. But Uncle Leverett had so much here, so many to love him and to need him.

Death, the mystery to all of us, is doubly so to the young. When Doris looked on Uncle Leverett's placid face she was very sure he could not be really gone, but mysteriously asleep.

Yes, little Doris-the active, loving, thinking man had "fallen on sleep," and the soul had gone to its reward.

Foster Leverett had been very much respected, and there were many friends to follow him to his grave in the old Granary burying ground, where the Fosters and Leveretts rested from their labors. There on the walk stood the noble row of elms that Captain Adino Paddock had imported from England a dozen years before the Revolutionary War broke out, in their very pride of strength and grandeur now, even if they were leafless.

It seemed very hard and cruel to leave him here in the bleakness of midwinter, Doris thought. And he was not really dead to her until the bearers turned away with empty hands, and the friends with sorrowful greeting passed out of the inclosure and left him alone to the coming evening and the requiem of the wind soughing through the trees.

Doris sat by Miss Recompense that evening with Solomon on her lap. She could not study, she did not want to read or sew or make lace. Uncle Winthrop had gone up to Sudbury Street. All the family were to be there. The Kings had come from New York and the Mannings from Salem.

"Oh," said Doris, after a long silence, "how can Aunt Elizabeth live, and Betty and Warren, when they cannot see uncle Leverett any more! And there are so many things to talk about, only they can never ask him any questions, and he was so-so comforting. He was the first one that came to me on the vessel, you know, and he said to Captain Grier, 'Have you a little girl who has come from Old Boston to New Boston?' Then he put his arm around me, and I liked him right away. And the great fire in the hall was so lovely. I liked everybody but Aunt Priscilla, and now I feel sorry for her and like her a good deal. Sometimes she gets queer and what she calls 'pudgicky.' But she is real good to Betty."

"She's a sensible, clear-headed woman, and she has good solid principles. I do suppose we all get a little queer. I can see it in myself."

"Oh, dear Miss Recompense, you are not queer," protested Doris, seizing her hand. "When I first came I was a little afraid-you were so very nice. And then I remembered that Miss Arabella had all these nice ways, and could not bear a cloth askew nor towels wrinkled instead of being laid straight, nor anything spilled at the table, nor an untidy room, and she was very sweet and nice. And then I tried to be as neat as I could."

"I knew you had been well brought up." Miss Recompense was pleased always to be compared to her "dear Miss Arabella." There was something grateful to her woman's heart, that had long ago held a longing for a child of her own, in the ardent tone Doris always uttered this endearment.

"Miss Recompense, don't you think there is something in people loving you? You want to love them in return. You want to do the things they like. And when they smile and are glad, your whole heart is light with a kind of inward sunshine. And I think if Mrs. Manning would smile on Elizabeth once in a while, and tell her what she did was nice, and that she was smart,-for she is very, very smart,-I know it would comfort her."

"You see, people haven't thought it was best to praise children. They rarely did in my day."

"But Uncle Leverett praised Warren and Betty, and always said what Aunt Elizabeth cooked and did was delightful."

"Foster Leverett was one man out of a thousand. They will all miss him dreadfully."

Aunt Priscilla would have been amazed to know that Mr. Leverett had been in the estimation of Miss Recompense an ideal husband. Years ago she had compared other men with him and found them wanting.

Uncle Win was much surprised to find them sitting there talking when he came home, for it was ten o'clock. Cary returned shortly after, and the two men retired to the study. But there was a curious half-dread of some intangible influence that kept Doris awake a long while. The wind moaned outside and now and then raised to a somber gust sweeping across the wide Common. Oh, how lonely it must be in the old burying ground!

Mr. Leverett's will had been read that evening. The business was left to Warren, as Hollis had most of his share years before. To the married daughters a small remembrance, to Betty and her mother the house in Sudbury Street, to be kept or sold as they should elect; if sold, they were to share equally.

Mrs. King was very well satisfied. In the present state of affairs Warren's part was very uncertain, and his married sisters were to be paid out of that. The building was old, and though the lot was in a good business location, the value at that time was not great.

"It seems to me the estate ought to be worth more," said Mrs. Manning. "I did suppose father was quite well off, and had considerable ready money."

"So he did two years ago," answered Warren. "But it

has been spent in the effort to keep afloat. If the times should ever get better--"

"You'll pull through," said Hollis encouragingly.

He had not suffered so much from the hard times, and was prospering.

The will had been remade six months before, after a good deal of consideration.

When Mrs. King went home, a few days after, she said privately to Warren: "Do not trouble about my legacy, and if you come to hard places I am sure Matt will help you out if he possibly can."

Warren thanked her in a broken voice.

Mr. King said nearly the same thing as he grasped the young fellow's hand.

They were a very lonely household. Of course, Betty could not think of going away. And now that they knew what a struggle it had been for some time to keep matters going comfortably, they cast about to see what retrenchment could be made. Even if they wanted to, this would be no time to sell. The house seemed much too large for them, yet it was not planned so that any could be rented out.

"If you're set upon that," said Aunt Priscilla, "I'll take the spare rooms, whether I need them or not. And we will just go on together. Strange though that Foster, who was so much needed, should be taken, and I, without a chick or a child, and so much older, be left behind."

There was a new trustee to be looked up for Doris. A much younger man was needed. If Cary were five or six years older! Foster Leverett's death was a great shock to Winthrop Adams. Sometimes it seemed as if a shadowy form hovered over his shoulder, warning him that middle life was passing. He had a keen disappointment, too, in his son. He had hoped to find in him an intellectual companion as the years went on, but he could plainly see that his heart was not in his profession. The young fellow's ardor had been aroused on other lines that brought him in direct opposition to the elder's views. He had gone so far as to ask his father's permission to enlist in the navy, which had been refused, not only with prompt decision, but with a feeling of amazement that a son of his should have proposed such a step.

Cary had the larger love of country and the enthusiasm of youth. His father was deeply interested in the welfare and standing of the city, and he desired it to keep at the head. He had hoped to see his son one of the rising men of the coming generation. War horrified him: it called forth the cruel and brutal side of most men, and was to be undertaken only for extremely urgent reasons as the last hope and salvation of one's country. We had gained a right to stand among the nations of the world; it was time now that we should take upon ourselves something higher-the cultivation of literature and the fine arts. To plunge the country into war again would be setting it back decades.

He had taken a great deal of pleasure in the meetings, of the Anthology Club and the effort they had made to keep afloat a Magazine of Polite Literature. The little supper, which was very plain; the literary chat; the discussions of English poets and essayists, several of which were reprinted at this era; and the encouragement of native writers, of whom there were but few except in the line of sermons and orations. By 1793 there had been two American novels published, and though we should smile over them now we can find their compeers in several of the old English novels that crop out now and then, exhumed from what was meant to be a kindly oblivion.

The magazine had been given up, and the life somehow had gone out of the club. There was a plan to form a reading room and library to take its place. Men like Mr. Adams were anxious to advance the intellectual reputation of the town, though few people found sufficient leisure to devote to the idea of a national literature. Others said: "What need, when we have the world of brilliant English thinkers that we can never excel, the poets, and novelists! Let us study those and be content."

The incidents of the winter had been quite depressing to Mr. Adams. Cary was around to the Royalls' nearly every evening, sometimes to other places, and at discussions that would have alarmed his father still more if he had known it. The young fellow's conscience gave him many twinges. "Children, obey your parents" had been instilled into every generation and until a boy was of age he had no lawful right to think for himself.

So it happened that Doris became more of a companion to Uncle Win. They rambled about as the spring opened and noted the improvements. Old Frog Lane was being changed into Boylston Street. Every year the historic Common took on some new charm. There was the Old Elm, that dated back to tradition, for no one could remember its youth. She was interested in the conflicts that had ushered in the freedom of the American Colonies. Here the British waited behind their earthworks for Washington to attack them, just as every winter boys congregated behind their snowy walls and fought mimic battles. Indeed, during General Gage's administration the soldiers had driven the boys off their coasting place on the Common, and in a body they had gone to the Governor and demanded their rights, which were restored to them. Many a famous celebration had occurred here, and here the militia met on training days and had their banquets in tents. At the first training all the colored population was allowed to throng the Common; but at the second, when the Ancient and Honorable Artillery chose its new officers, they were strictly prohibited.

Many of the ropewalks up at the northern end were silent now. Indeed, everybody seemed waiting with bated breath for something to happen, but all nature went on its usual way and made the town a little world of beauty with wild flowers and shrubs and the gardens coming into bloom, and the myriads of fruit trees with their crowns of snowy white and pink in all gradations.

"I think the world never was so beautiful," said Doris to Uncle Winthrop.

It was so delightful to have such an appreciative companion, even if she was only a little girl.

Cary's birthday was the last of May, and it was decided to have the family party at the same time. Cary's young friends would be invited in the evening, but for the elders there would be the regular supper.

"You will have your freedom suit, and afterward you can do just as you like," said Doris laughingly. She and Cary had been quite friendly of late, young-mannish reserve having given place to a brotherly regard.

"Do you suppose I can do just as I like?" He studied the eager face.

"Of course you wouldn't want to do anything Uncle Win would not like."

Cary flushed. "I wonder if fathers always know what is best? And when you are a man--" he began.

"Don't you want to study law?"

"Under some circumstances I should like it."

"Would you like keeping a store or having a factory, or building beautiful houses-architecture, I believe, the fine part is called. Or painting portraits like Copley and Stuart and the young Mr. Allston up in Court Street."

"No, I can't aspire to that kind of genius, and I am sure I shouldn't like shop-keeping. I am just an ordinary young fellow and I am afraid I shall always be a disappointment to the kindest of fathers. I wish there were three or four other children."

"How strange it would seem," returned Doris musingly.

"I am glad he has you, little Doris."

"Are you really glad?" Her face was alight with joy. "Sometimes I have almost wondered--"

"Don't wonder any more. You are like a dear little sister. During the last six months it has been a great pleasure to me to see father so fond of you. I hope you will never go away."

"I don't mean to. I love Uncle Win dearly. It used to trouble me sometimes when Uncle Leverett was alive, lest I couldn't love quite even, you know," and a tiny line came in her smooth brow.

"What an idea!" with a soft smile that suggested his father.

"It's curious how you can love so many people," she said reflectively.

At first the Leveretts thought they could not come to the party, but Uncle Winthrop insisted strongly. Some of the other relatives had lost members from their households. All the gayety would be reserved for the evening. But Cary said they would miss Betty very much.

They had a pleasant afternoon, and Betty was finally prevailed upon to stay a little while in the evening. Cary was congratulated by the elder relatives, who said many pleasant things and gave him good wishes as to his future success. One of the cousins proposed his health, and Cary replied in a very entertaining manner. There was a birthday cake that he had to cut and pass around.

"I think Cary has been real delightful," said Betty. "I've never felt intimately acquainted with him, because he has always seemed rather distant, and went with the quality and all that, and we are rather plain people. Oh, how proud of him Uncle Win must be!"

He certainly was proud of his gracious attentions to the elders and his pleasant way of taking the rather tiresome compliments of a few of the old ladies who had known his Grandfather Cary as well as his Grandfather Adams.

Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Priscilla sat up in the room of Miss Recompense with a few of the guests who wanted to see the young people gather. There were four colored musicians, and they began to tune their instruments out on the rustic settee at the side of the front garden, where the beautiful drooping honey locusts hid them from sight and made even the tuning seem enchanting. Girls in white gowns trooped up the path, young men in the height of fashion carried fans and nosegays for them; there was laughing and chattering and floating back and forth to the dressing rooms.

Madam Royall came with Miss Alice and Helen, who was allowed to go out occasionally under her wing. Eudora had been permitted just to look on a while and to return with grandmamma.

The large parlor was cleared of the small and dainty tables and articles likely to be in the way of the dancers. The first was to be a new march to a patriotic air, and the guests stood on the stairs to watch them come out of the lower door of the long room, march through the hall, and enter the parlor at the other door. Oh, what a pretty crowd they were! The old Continental styles had not all gone out, but were toned down a little. There were pretty embroidered satin petticoats and sheer gowns falling away at the sides, with a train one had to tuck up under the belt when one really danced. Hair of all shades done high on the head with a comb of silver or brilliants, or tortoise shell so clear that you could see the limpid variations. Pompadour rolls, short curls, dainty puffs, many of the dark heads powdered, laces and frills and ribbons, and dainty feet in satin slippers and silken hose.

After that they formed quadrilles in the parlor. There was space for three and one in the hall. Eudora and Doris patted their feet on the stairs in unison, and clasping each other's hands smiled and moved their heads in perfect time.

Aunt Priscilla admitted that it was a beautiful sight, but she had her doubts about it. Betty was sorry there was such a sad cause for her not being among them. Even Cary had expressed regrets about it.

Then the Leveretts and Madam Royall went home. A few of the elders had a game of loo, and Mr. Adams played chess with Morris Winslow, whose pretty wife still enjoyed dancing, though he was growing stout and begged to be excused on a warm night.

They played forfeits afterward and had a merry time. Then there was supper, and they drank toasts and made bright speeches, and there was a great deal of jesting and gay laughter, and much wishing of success, a judgeship in the future, a mission abroad perhaps, a pretty and loving wife, a happy and honorable old age.

They drank the health of Mr. Winthrop as well, and congratulated him on his promising son. He was very proud and happy that night, and planned within his heart what he would do for his boy.

Doris kept begging to stay up a little longer. The music was so fascinating, for the band was playing soft strains out on the front porch while the guests were at supper. She sat on the stairs quite enchanted with the gay scene.

The guests wandered about the hall and parlor and chatted joyously. Then there was a movement toward breaking up.

Miss Alice espied her.

"Oh, you midget, are you up here at midnight?" she cried. "Have we done Cary ample honor on his arrival at man's estate?"

"You were all so beautiful!" said Doris breathlessly. "And the dancing and the music: It was splendid!"

Helen kissed her good-night with girlish effusion. Some of the other ladies spoke to her, and Mrs. Winslow said: "No doubt you will have a party in this old house. But you will have a girl's advantage. You need not wait until you are twenty-one."

When the last good-nights were said, and the lights put out, Cary Adams wondered whether he would have the determination to avow his plans.

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