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   Chapter 20 A VISITOR FOR DORIS

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 30223

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Doris was in the little still-room, as it was called-a large sort of pantry shelved on one side, and with numerous drawers and a kind of dresser with glass doors on another. By the window there were a table and the dainty little still where Miss Recompense made perfumes and extracts. There were boxes of sweet herbs, useful ones, bottles of medicinal cordials and salves. Miss Recompense was a "master hand" at such things, and the neighbors around thought her as good as a doctor.

It was so fragrant in this little room that Doris always had a vague impression of a beautiful country. She had a kind of poetical temperament, and she hoped some day to be able to write verses. Helen Chapman had written a pretty song for a friend's birthday and had it set to music. The quartette sang it so well that the leading paper had praised it. There was no one she could confess her secret ambition to, but if she ever did achieve anything she would confide in Uncle Winthrop. So she sat here with all manner of vague, delightful ideas floating through her brain, steeped with the fragrance of balms and odors.

"Please, 'm," and Dinah stood in the door in all the glory of her gay afternoon turban, which seemed to make her face more black and shining-"Please, 'm, dere's a young sojer man jus' come. He got a bundle an' he say he got strict d'rections to gib it to missy. An' here's de ticket."

"Oh, for me!" Doris took it eagerly and read aloud, "Lieutenant E. D. Hawthorne." "Oh, Miss Recompense, it's from Cary, I know," and for a moment she looked undecided.

Miss Recompense had on her morning gown, rather faded, though she had changed it for dinner. Her sleeves were pushed above the elbow, her hands were a little stained, and just now she could not leave her concoction without great injury to it, though it was evidently improper for a child like Doris, or indeed a young lady, to see a strange gentleman alone. And Mr. Adams was out.

Doris cut the Gordian knot by flashing through the kitchen and entering the lower end of the hall. The young man stood viewing "The Destruction of the Spanish Armada." But he turned at the sort of bird-like flutter and glanced at the vision that all his life long he thought the prettiest sight he had ever beheld.

She had on a simple white frock, though it was one of her best, with a narrow embroidered ruffle around the bottom that Madam Royall had given her. When it was a little crumpled she put it on for afternoon wear. The neck was cut a small square with a bit of edging around it, gathered with a pink ribbon tied in a bow in front. She still wore her hair in ringlets; it did not seem to grow very fast, but she had been promoted to a pompadour, the front hair being brushed up over a cushion. That left innumerable short ends to curl in tiny tendrils about her forehead. Oddly enough, too, she had on a pink apron Betty had made out of the best breadth of a pink India lawn frock she had worn out. It had pretty pockets with a bow of the same.

"Miss Doris Adams," exclaimed the young lieutenant. "I should have known you in a minute, although you are--" He paused and flushed, for Cary had said, "She isn't exactly handsome, but very sweet-looking with pretty, eager eyes and fair hair." He checked himself suddenly, understanding the impropriety of paying her the compliment on the end of his tongue, but he thought her an enchanting picture. "You are larger than I supposed. Adams always said 'My little cousin.'"

"I was little when I first came. And I have grown ever so much this summer-since Cary went away. Oh, have you seen him? How is he? Where is he?"

Doris had a soft and curiously musical voice, the sound that lingered with a sort of cadence. Her eyes shone in eager expectation, her curved red lips were dewy sweet.

"He is well. He has sailed on the United States as midshipman. I saw him at Annapolis-indeed, we came quite near being on the same vessel. He is a fine young fellow, but he doesn't look a day over eighteen. And there is a family resemblance," but he thought Doris would make a much handsomer young woman than Cary would a young man. "And I have a small packet for you that I was to deliver to no one else."

He held it out to her with a smile. It was sealed, and was also secured with a bit of cord, which, of course, should have been a thread of silk, but we saved our refinements of chivalry for other purposes.

"He is going to make a fine, earnest, patriotic sailor. You will never hear anything about him that you need be ashamed of. He told me his father wasn't quite reconciled to the step, but after this splendid victory in Boston harbor-to strain a little point," laughingly, "the town may well be proud of the courageous navy. And I hope you will hear good news of him. One thing you may be sure of-he will never show the white feather."

Oh, how her eyes glistened! There were tears in them as well.

"He described the house to me, and the town. I have never been in Boston before, and have come from Washington on important business. I return this evening. I don't know when I shall see him again, and letters to vessels are so uncertain. That seems the hardest part of it all. But he may happen in this very port before a great while. One never knows. Believe that I am very glad to have the opportunity of coming myself, and if in the future I should run across him on the high seas or the shore even,"-smiling again,-"I shall feel better acquainted and more than ever interested in him. There is one great favor I should like to ask-could you show me the study? Adams talked so much about that and his father."

"It is here." Doris made a pretty gesture with her hand, and he walked to the door, glancing around. There was the high backed chair by the table with its covering of Cordovan leather, and he could imagine the father sitting there.

"One would want a year to journey around these four walls," he said with a soft sigh. "A library like this is an uncommon sight. And you study here? Adams said you had been such a comfort and pleasure to his father. Oh, what a magnificent cat!"

"Kitty is mine," said Doris. She crossed over to the window, and Solomon rose to his fullest extent, gave a comfortable stretch, and rubbed the cheek of his young mistress, then arched his back, studied the visitor out of sleepy green eyes and began to turn around him three times in cat fashion.

They both laughed at that. Did Doris know what a pretty picture she made of herself in her girlish grace?

"Thank you. What a splendid old hall! I should like to spend a day looking round. But I had only the briefest while, and I was afraid I should not get here. So I must be satisfied with my glimpse. I shall hope that fate will send me this way again when I have more leisure. May I pay a visit here?"

"Oh, yes," returned Doris impulsively. "And I can never tell you how glad I am for this," touching the little packet caressingly to her cheek. "There isn't any word with enough thanks and gratitude in it."

"I am glad to have earned your gratitude. And now I must say farewell, for I know you are impatient to read your letter."

He stepped out on the porch and bowed with a kind of courtly grace. Doris realized then that he was a very handsome young man.

"Miss Doris,"-he paused halfway down the steps,-"I wonder if I might be so bold as to ask for yonder rose-the last on its parent stem?"

Thomas Moore had not yet immortalized "The Last Rose of Summer" and given it such pathetic possibilities.

"Oh, yes," she said. "That is a late-blooming rose-indeed, it blooms twice in the season." Only this morning she had gathered a bowl of rose leaves for Miss Recompense, and this one had opened since. She broke the stem and handed it to him. "It is a very little gift for all you have brought me," she added in a soft, heart-felt tone.

"Thank you. I shall cherish it sacredly."

Miss Recompense had hurried and donned a gingham gown and a fresh cap. She had come just in time to see the gift, and the manner in which the young man received it alarmed her. And when he had walked down to the street he turned and bowed and made a farewell gesture with his hand.

Doris had nothing to cut the cord around the packet, so she bit it with her pretty teeth and tore off the wrapper, coming up the steps. Then raising her eyes she sprang forward.

"Oh, dear Miss Recompense, letters, see! A letter from Cary all to myself, and one for Uncle Win! I'll just put that on his table to be a joyful surprise. And may I come and read mine to you? He was in such a hurry, though really I did not ask him to stay. Was that impolite?"

"No-under the circumstances." She cleared her throat a little, but the lecture on propriety would not materialize.

"'Dear little Doris.' Think of that-wouldn't Cary be surprised to see how much I have grown! May I sit here?"

Miss Recompense was about to decant some of her preparations. Doris took the high stool and read eagerly, though now and then a little break came in her voice. The journey to Annapolis with half a dozen college chums bent on the same errand, the being mustered into the country's service and assigned to positions, meeting famous people and hearing some thrilling news, and at last the order for sailing, were vivid as a picture. She was to let Madam Royall and the household read all this, and he sent respectful regard to them all, and real love to all the Leveretts. There had been moments when he was wild to see them again, but after all he was prouder than ever to be of service to his country, who needed her bravest sons as much now as in her seven years' struggle.

There was a loose page beginning "For your eyes alone, Doris," and she laid it by, for she felt even now that she wanted to cry over her brave cousin. Then he spoke of Lieutenant Hawthorne, who had been instrumental in getting him his appointment, and who had undertaken to see that this would reach her safely. And so many farewells, as if he could hardly say the very last one.

Miss Recompense wiped her eyes and stepped about softly, as if her whole body was pervaded with a new tenderness. She made little comments to restore the equilibrium, so that neither would give way to undue emotion.

"Miss Recompense, do you think I might run up to Aunt Elizabeth's with my letter? They will all want to hear."

"Why-I see no objections, child. And then if you wanted to go to Madam Royall's-but I think they will keep you to tea at Sudbury Street. Let Betty or Warren walk home with you. Take off your apron."

Doris read half a dozen lines of her own personal letter and laid it in the bottom of her workbox, that had come from India, and had a subtle fragrance. She did not want to cry in real earnest, as she felt she should, with all these references to Uncle Win. She tied on her hat and said "Good-afternoon," and really did run part of the way.

They were just overflowing with joy to hear, only Betty said, "What a shame Cary had to go before the glorious news of the Constitution! There was a chance of two days after he had written his letter, so he might have heard." Postage was high at that time and mails uncertain, so letters and important matters were often trusted to private hands. Then Lieutenant Hawthorne had not gone to Boston as soon as he expected.

Betty had some news too. Mr. and Mrs. King were going to Washington, perhaps for the greater part of the winter.

As they walked home Betty rehearsed her perplexities to Doris. It was odd how many matters were confided to this girl of thirteen, but she seemed so wise and sensible and sympathetic.

"If it wasn't quite such hard times, and if Warren could marry and bring Mercy home! She's an excellent housekeeper, just the wife for a struggling young man, mother admits. But whether she would like it, and whether Aunt Priscilla would feel comfortable, are the great questions. She's been so good to Warren. Mary badgered him dreadfully about her part. If Mary was a little more like Electa!"

Warren had been keeping company with Mercy Gilman for the last year. She was a bright, cheerful, industrious girl, well brought up, and the engagement was acceptable to both families. Young people paid more deference to their elders then. Warren felt that he could not go away from home, and surely there was room enough if they could all agree.

"It's odd how many splendid things come to Electa, though it may be because she is always willing to take advantage of them. They have rented their house in New York and are to take some rooms in Washington. Bessy and Leverett are to be put in school, and she takes the two little ones. Their meals are to be sent in from a cook shop. Of course she can't be very gay, being in mourning. Everybody says Mrs. Madison is so charming."

"Oh, I wish you could go," sighed Doris.

"And Mary is always wondering why I do not come and stay with her, and sew and help along. Oh, Doris, what if I should be the old maid aunt and go visiting round! For there hasn't a soul asked me to keep company yet," and Betty laughed. But she was not very anxious on the subject.

They reached the corner and kissed each other good-night. Miss Recompense sat on the stoop with a little shawl about her shoulders. She drew Doris down beside her and inquired about her visit.

While there was much that was stern and hard and reticent in the Puritan character, there was also an innate delicacy concerning the inward life. They made few appeals to each other's sympathies. Perhaps this very reserve gave them strength to endure trials heroically and not burden others.

Miss Recompense had judged wisely that Mr. Adams would prefer to receive his missive alone. His first remark had been the usual question:

"Where is Doris?"

"Oh, we have had quite an adventure-a call from a young naval officer. Here is his card. He brought letters to you and Doris, and she was eager to take hers over to Betty. She will stay to supper."

He scrutinized the card while his breath came in strangling gasps, but he preserved his composure outwardly.

"Did you-did he--" pausing confusedly.

"I did not see him," returned Miss Recompense quietly. "I was not in company trim, and he asked for Doris. I dare say he thought her a young lady."

"Is he staying in Boston?" fingering the card irresolutely.

"He was to return to Washington at once. He had come on some urgent business."

Mr. Adams went through to his study. He looked at the address some moments before he broke the seal, but he found the first lines reassuring.

"Will you have supper now?" asked Miss Recompense from the doorway.

"If convenient, yes." He laid down his letter and came out in the hall. "Doris told you all her news, I suppose?"

"She read me her letter. Cary seems to be in good spirits and position. He spoke very highly of Lieutenant Hawthorne."

"The accounts seem very satisfactory."

Then they went out to the quiet supper. A meal was not the same without Doris.

All the evening he had remained in his r

oom, reading his son's letter more than once and lapsing into deep thought over it. He heard the greetings now, and came out, inquiring after the folks in Sudbury Street, sitting down on the step and listening with evident pleasure to Doris' eager chat. It was bedtime when they dispersed.

"Uncle Win," Doris said the next morning, "there is a page in my letter I would like you to read. And do you think I might go home with Eudora and take dinner at Madam Royall's? Cary sent them some messages."

"Yes, child," he made answer.

They were indeed very glad, but like Betty they could not help wishing he had been on the famous Constitution. Alice was particularly interested, and said she should watch the career of the United States.

After that the ice seemed broken and no one hesitated to mention Cary. But Mr. Winthrop said to Doris:

"My dear child, will you give me this leaf of your letter. I know Cary did not mean it for my eyes, but it is very precious to me. Doris, how comes it that you find the way to everybody's heart?"

"And you will forgive him, Uncle Win? He was so brave--" Her voice trembled.

"I have forgiven him, Doris. If I should never see him again,-you are young and most likely will,-assure him there never was a moment that I ceased to love him. Perhaps I have not taken as much pains to understand him as I might have. I suppose different influences act upon the new generation. If we should both live to welcome him back--"

"Oh, we must, Uncle Win."

"If he has you--" Oh, what was he saying?

"You will both have me. I shall stay here always."

He stooped and kissed her.

The other alternative, that Cary might not return, they banished resolutely. But it drew them nearer together in unspoken sympathy.

Everybody noted how thin and frail-looking Mr. Adams had grown. Doris became his constant companion. She had a well-trained horse now, and they rode a good deal. Or they walked down Washington street, where there were some pretty shops, and met promenaders. They sauntered about Cornhill, where Uncle Win picked up now and then an odd book, and they discovered strange things that had belonged to the Old Boston of a hundred years agone. There was quite an art gallery in Cornhill kept by Dogget & Williams-the nucleus of great things to come. It was quite the fashion for young ladies to drop in and exercise their powers of budding criticism or love of art. Now and then someone lent a portrait of Smibert's or Copley's, or you found some fine German or English engravings. An elder person generally accompanied the younger people. The law students, released from their labors, or the young society men, would walk home beside the chaperone, but talk to the maidens.

Then Uncle Winthrop committed a piece of great extravagance, everybody said-especially in such times as these, when the British might take and destroy Boston. This was buying a pianoforte. Madam Royall approved, for Doris was learning to play very nicely. An old German musician, Gottlieb Graupner, who was quite a visitor at the Royall house, had imported it for a friend who had been nearly ruined by war troubles and was compelled to part with it. Mr. Graupner and a knot of musical friends used to meet Saturday evenings in old Pond Street, and with a few instruments made a sort of orchestra. As a very great favor, friends were occasionally invited in.

There was a new organist at Trinity Church, a Mr. Jackson, who was trying to bring in the higher class cathedral music. The choir of Park Street Church, some fifty in number, was considered one of the great successes of the day, and people flocked to hear it. Puritan music had been rather doleful and depressing.

There was quite a discussion as to where the piano should stand. They had very little call to use the parlor in winter. Uncle Winthrop's friends generally visited him in the study. The spacious hall was the ordinary living-room, and Doris begged that it might be kept here-for the winter, at least.

Oh, what a cheerful sound the music made in the old house! Uncle Win would bring out a book of poems, often Milton's "L'Allegro" and half read, half listen, to the entrancing combination. Dinah declared "It was like de w'ice ob de Angel Gabriel hisself." Miss Recompense enjoyed the grand old hymns that brought back her childhood.

Solomon at first made a vigorous protest. He seemed jealous of the pretty fingers gliding over the keys, and would spring up to cover them or rest on her arms. But when he found he was banished to the kitchen every evening, he began to consider and presently gave in. He would sit beside Uncle Win in dignified protest, looking very "dour," as a Scotchman would say.

And then the country was electrified with the news of another great victory. Off the Canary Islands, Captain Decatur, with the frigate United States, met the Macedonian, one of the finest of the British fleet. The fight had been at close quarters with terrific broadsides. After an hour and a half, with her fighting force disabled, the Macedonian struck her colors. Her loss in men killed and wounded was over one hundred, and the United States lost five killed and seven wounded.

The American vessel brought her prize and prisoners into port amid general acclaim. The Macedonian was repaired and added to the fast-increasing navy, that was rapidly winning a world-wide reputation. And when she came up to New York early in January with "The compliments of the season," there was great rejoicing. Samuel Woodworth, printer and poet, wrote the song of the occasion, and Calvert, another poet, celebrated the event in an ode.

Captain Carden was severely censured by his own government, as Captain Dacres had been, for not going down with flying colors instead of allowing his flag to be captured and his ship turned to the enemy's advantage. Instead of jeering at the navy of "pine boards and striped bunting," it was claimed the American vessels were of superior size and armament and met the British at unfair advantage, and that they were largely manned by English sailors.

There was an enthusiastic note from Cary. He was well, and it had been a glorious action. Captain Carden had been a brave gentleman, and he said regretfully, "Oh, why do we have to fight these heroic men!"

But Betty had the letter of triumph this time. Mrs. King was a delightful correspondent, though she was always imploring Betty to join her.

There had been a ball and reception given to several naval officers who were soon to go away. The President, engaged with some weighty affairs, had not come in yet, but the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Hamilton, and no end of military and naval men, in gold lace and epaulettes and gleaming swords, were present, and beautiful, enthusiastic women in shimmering silks and laces. One did not have to get a new gown for every occasion in those days.

There was a little lull in the dancing. Mrs. Madison, who was charmingly affable, was seated with a group of men about her, when there was a stir in the hall, and a sudden thrill of expectancy quivered through the apartment. Ensign Hamilton, son of the Secretary, and several midshipmen entered, and the young man went straight to his father with the captured flag of the Macedonian. Such a cheer as rent the air! Ladies wiped their eyes and then waved their handkerchiefs in the wild burst of joy. They held the flag over the heads of the chief officer while the band played "Hail, Columbia!" Then it was laid at the feet of Mrs. Madison, who accepted it in the name of the country with a charming and graceful speech. Afterward it was festooned on the wall with the flag of the Guerriere.

"So, you see, Cary has been the hero of a great victory," said Betty enthusiastically; "but we all wish it had been 'off Boston Light' instead of on the distant ocean. And it is a shame not to be in Washington. Electa seems to be going everywhere and seeing everything, 'in spite of her being the mother of four children,' as Aunt Priscilla says. And the ladies dress so beautifully. We shall come to be known as 'plain Boston' presently."

There was no Worth or Pingat to charge enormous prices. Patterns were passed around. Ladies went visiting and took their sleeves along to make, or their ruffles to plait, and altered over their brocades and paduasoys and crapes, and some darned Brussels "footing" until it was transformed into really handsome lace. They could clean their feathers and ribbons, and one wonders how they found time for so many things. They were very good letter writers too. Dolly Madison and Mrs. Adams are fresh and interesting to-day.

But Boston could rejoice, nevertheless. To the little girl Cary was invested with the attributes of a hero. He even looked different to her enchanted eyes.

Uncle Win used to smile with grave softness when she chattered about him. At first it had given him a heartache to hear Cary's name mentioned, but now it was like a strain of comforting music. Only he wondered how he ever would have lived without the little girl from Old Boston.

She used to play and sing "Hail, Columbia!"-for people were patriotic then. But the sweetest of all were the old-fashioned ones that his wife had sung as a young girl, daintily tender love songs. Sometimes he tried them with her, but his voice sounded to himself like a pale ghost out of the past, yet it still had a mournful sweetness.

But with the rejoicing we had many sorrows. Our northern frontier warfare had been full of defeats; 1813 opened with various misfortunes. Ports were blockaded, business dropped lower and lower. Still social life went on, and in a tentative way intellectual life was making some progress.

The drama was not neglected either. The old Boston Theater gave several stirring representations that to-day would be called quite realistic. One was the capture of the Guerriere with officers, sailors and marines, and songs that aroused drooping patriotism. Perhaps the young people of that time enjoyed it as much as their grandchildren did "H. M. S. Pinafore."

Doris liked the rare musical entertainments. People grew quite used to seeing Mr. Winthrop Adams with the pretty, bright, growing girl, who might have been his daughter. It was a delight to her when anyone made the mistake. Occasionally an old gentleman remembered her grandfather, and the little boy Charles who went to England.

Then in the early summer Mrs. King came on for a visit, and brought her eldest child Bessy, a bright, well-trained little girl.

There had been a good deal of trouble at the Mannings', and grandmother had gone back and forth, making it very confining for Betty. Crops had proved poor in the autumn; the children had the measles and Mrs. Manning a run of fever. Elizabeth had taken a cold in the early fall and had a troublesome cough all winter. Mrs. Leverett wanted to bring her home for a rest, but Mrs. Manning could not spare her, with all the summer work, and the warm weather would set her up, she was quite sure.

The country was drawing a brief breath of relief. There had been the magnificent victories on the Lakes and some on the land, and now and then came cheering news of naval successes. Everybody was in better spirits. Mrs. King seemed to bring a waft of hope from the Capital itself, and the Leverett house was quite enlivened with callers. Invitations came in for dinners and suppers and evening parties. Madam Royall quite claimed her on the strength of the Adams relation, and also Doris, who was such a favorite. Doris and little Bessy fraternized at once, and practiced a duet for the entertainment of Uncle Winthrop, who praised them warmly.

She planned to take Betty back to New York with her.

"But I can't go," declared Betty. "Warren must not be taxed any more heavily, so there would be no hope of having help, and mother cannot be left alone."

"Is there any objection to Mercy coming? Why doesn't Warren marry? That would relieve you all. I suppose it is best for young people to have a home by themselves, but if it isn't possible-and I'd like to know how we are going to get along in heaven if we can't agree with each other here on earth!" Mrs. King inquired.

"That sounds like father," said Betty laughingly, yet the tears came to her eyes. "Poor father! He did not suppose we would have such hard times. If the war would only end. You see,"-after a pause,-"we are not quite sure of Aunt Priscilla. She's changed and softened wonderfully, and she and mother get along so well. She insisted upon paying a generous board, and she was good to Warren."

"I must talk it over with mother. There is no need of having your life spoiled, Betty."

For Betty was a very well-looking girl, arch and vivacious, and her harvest time of youth must not be wasted. Mrs. King was really glad she had no entanglement.

Mrs. Leverett had no objections to a speedy marriage If Mercy could be content. Warren had thought if he could be prosperous he would like to buy out Betty's share if she married. "And my share will be mine as long as I live," added the mother. "But Warren is fond of the old house, and Hollis has a home of his own. You girls will never want it."

Warren was delighted with what he called "Lecty's spunk." For Aunt Priscilla agreed quite readily. It was dull for Betty with two old people. Mercy would have her husband.

So the wedding day was appointed. Mercy had been a year getting ready. Girls began soon after they were engaged. Mrs. Gilman was rather afraid the thing wouldn't work, but she was sure Mercy was good tempered, and she had been a good daughter.

They made quite a "turning round." Mrs. Leverett went upstairs to Betty's room, which adjoined Aunt Priscilla's, and she gave some of her furniture for the adornment of the bridal chamber.

It was a very quiet wedding with a few friends and a supper. At nine o'clock the new wife went to Sudbury Street. Mrs. Gilman had some rather strict ideas, and declared it was no time for frolicking when war was at our very door, and no one knew what might happen, and hundreds of families were in pinching want.

Mercy was up the next morning betimes and assisted her new mother with the breakfast. Warren went down to his shop. But they had quite an elaborate tea drinking at the Leveretts', and some songs and games in the evening. Mercy did enjoy the wider life.

Mrs. Manning had come in for the wedding and a few days' stay, though she didn't see how she could be spared just now, and things would get dreadfully behindhand. Mrs. King was to go home with her and make a little visit. Bessy thought she would rather stay with Doris, and she was captivated with the Royall House and Eudora. The children never seemed in the way of the grown people there, and if elderly men talked politics and city improvements,-quite visionary, some thought them,-the young people with Alice and Helen had the garden walks and the wide porch, and discussed the enjoyments of the time with the zest of enthusiastic inexperience but keen delight.

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