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   Chapter 23 THE COST OF WOMANHOOD

A Little Girl in Old Boston By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 26937

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


A happy fortnight. It was worth all the after-pain to have it to remember. When Boston was a great city half a century later, and there had been another war, and Captain Hawthorne had risen in the ranks and been put on the retired list, he came a grizzled old man to find the place that had always lived in his remembrance. But the old house had been swept away by the march of improvement, the rounding corner straightened and given over to business, and the Common was magnificent in beauty. The tall, thin, scholarly man had gone to the wife of his youth. Doris, little Doris, was very happy. So what did it matter?

There was a succession of lovely days. One morning, early, Captain Hawthorne joined Doris and her uncle in a long ride over on Boston Neck. They found an odd old tavern kept by a sailor who had been round the world and taken a hand in the "scrimmage," as he called it, and with his small prize money bought out the place. There was some delightful bread and cold chicken, wine and bottled cider equal to champagne. There was another long lovely day when with Betty they went up to Salem and drove around the quaint streets and watched the signs of awakening business. There was Fort Pickering, the lighthouse out on the island, the pretty Common, the East India Marine Society's hall with its curiosities (quite wonderful even then), and the clean streets with their tidy shops, the children coming from school, the housewives going about on errands. Foster Manning drove his grandmother down to join them; and he was almost a young man now. He told Doris they all missed Elizabeth so much, but he was glad she had had that nice visit to Boston.

So the days drifted on; Doris unconsciously sweet in her simplicity, yet so innocent that the lover began to fear while he hoped.

Uncle Winthrop had gone to a meeting of the Historical Society. Miss Recompense had a neighbor in great trouble that she was trying to console out in the supper room, where they could talk unreservedly. Cary was in the study, and the two were sauntering around the fragrant walks where the grassy beds had recently been cut. There was no moon, and the whole world seemed soft and still, as if it was listening to the story Captain Hawthorne had to tell, as if it was in love with itself.

"Oh," interrupted Doris with a sharp, pained cry, "do not, please do not! I never dreamed-I-shall never go away from Uncle Winthrop. I do not want any other love. I thought it was-Betty. Oh, forgive me for the pain and disappointment. I seem even to myself such a little girl--"

"But I can wait years. I wanted you to know. Oh, Doris, as the years go on can you not learn to love me? I will be patient and live in the sweet, grand hope that some day--"

"No, no; do not hope. I cannot promise. Oh, you are so noble and upright, can you not accept this truth from me? For it would only be pain and disappointment in the end."

No, she did not love him. Her sweet soul was still asleep within her fair body. He was too really honorable to persist.

"Doris," he said,-what a sweet girl's name it was!-"five years from this time I shall come back. You will be a woman then, you are still a child. And if no other lover has won you, I shall ask again."

He pressed her hand to his lips. Then he led her around to the porch, and bade her a tender good-night. He would not embarrass her by any longer stay.

She ran up the steps. Cary intercepted her in the hall.

"Has he gone? Doris--"

"Oh, did you know? How could you let him!" she cried in anguish. "How could you!"

"Doris-my dear little sister, he loved you so. But I wish it had been Betty. Oh, don't cry. You have done nothing. I am sorry, but he would not have been satisfied if he had not spoken. He wanted to ask father first, but I hated to have him pained if it was not necessary--"

"Thank you for that, Cary. Do not tell him. You will not?" she pleaded, thinking of the other first.

"No, dear. We must shield him all we can."

Yes, they would try always. There was a little rift in the cloud of pain.

The next evening Captain Hawthorne came over to bid them a formal good-by. Helen Chapman and her lover and Eudora were there, so it was an unembarrassing affair with many good wishes on both sides.

Doris thought she would like to run away and hide. It seemed as if the whole story was written in her face. Betty suspected, but she loved her too well to tease. And almost immediately Helen announced her arrangements. She was to be married in October. Doris and Cary must stand with her, and one of the Chapman cousins with Eudora. Another warm girl friend and her lover would complete the party. Grandmamma had stipulated that Mr. Harrison Gray should cast in his lot with them for a year. Mr. Sargent had been attached to the embassy at London and they would remain two years longer at least. Madam Royall could not bear to have the family shrink so rapidly.

Betty was to go away again. Mr. and Mrs. Matthias King came together this time to see old friends and Boston, that Mr. King found wonderfully changed. He was to go to France on business for the firm of which he was a member, and be absent a year at least. It would be such a splendid chance for Betty. They were to take their own little Bessy and leave the three younger children with a friend who had a school for small people and who would give them a mother's care.

There was a little grandson in Sudbury Street, and Mercy had proved a very agreeable daughter-in-law. Warren had begun to prosper again, and was full of hope. The children at Hollis Leverett's were growing rapidly. They no longer said "little Sam." He was almost a young man. He had taken the Franklin prize at the Latin School and was now apprenticed to an architect and builder, and would set up for himself when he came of age, as Boston had begun to build up rapidly. But he couldn't help envying Cousin Cary Adams his prize money and wondering what he meant to do with it.

An invitation to go to Paris was not to be lightly declined then, any more than it would be now. Mrs. Manning did not see "how Betty could leave mother for so long," but Mrs. Leverett was in good health, and though she hated to have her go so far away, there really could be no objection, when Matthias King was so generous.

"I am going to have some of my good times while we are together and able to enjoy them," he said to Mrs. Leverett. "I shall have to leave Electa alone every now and then while I am about business, and it will be such a comfort to her to have Betty. No doubt, we shall marry her to a French count."

"Oh, no, bring her back to me," said Betty's mother.

There was quite a stir among Betty's compeers. She was congratulated and envied, and they begged her to write everything she could about French fashions. How lucky that she had been studying French!

Aunt Priscilla had a hard struggle with conscience about a matter that she felt to be quite a duty. Giving away finery that you would never wear was one thing, but your money was quite another.

"Betty," she said, "I'm going to make you a little gift. If you shouldn't want to use it maybe Mat will see some way to invest it for you. When the trouble came to Warren, I said he might as well have his part as to wait until I was dead and gone. I have been paid over and over again in comfort. He grows so much like your father, Betty. And he's weathered through the storm and stress. So I'll do the same by you, and if you never get any more you must be content."

It was an order for five hundred dollars. Winthrop Adams would see it paid.

Betty was quite overwhelmed. "I ought to give half of it to mother!" she cried.

"No, no. Your mother will have all she needs. The Mannings would borrow it of her to buy more ground with. I've no patience with all their scrimping, and sometimes I give thanks that poor Elizabeth is out of it all. Don't have an anxious thought about money where you mother is concerned."

"What a comfort you are, Aunt Priscilla."

"Well, it took years enough to teach me that anybody needed comforting."

As for Doris, she was so busy that she could hardly think about herself or Captain Hawthorne. She did wish he had not loved her. If she had known about the rose her heart would have been still more sore and pitiful.

Betty went before the wedding. They took a sloop to New York and were to leave there for Havre.

Madam Royall had this wedding just to her fancy, and it was quite a fine affair. Cary looked very nice, Doris thought, for the sea tan had nearly all bleached out. His figure was compact, and he had a rather soldierly bearing. He was quite a hero, too, to his old college mates, some of whom had not considered him possessed of really strong characteristics.

But the young ladies were proud of his notice and attention, and there was no end of invitations from their mothers when they were going to have evening companies.

The cold weather came on apace. Mr. Adams seemed to feel it more and gave up his horseback rides. He interested himself very much in the library plans, but he grew fonder of staying at home, and Doris was such a pleasant companion. Cary had never been fond of poetry, and now he threw himself into his profession with a resolve to stand high. Manhood's ambition was so different from the lukewarm endeavors of the boy.

His father did enjoy his earnestness very much. Sometimes he roused himself to argue a point when two or three young men dropped in, and the old fire flashed up, though he liked best his ease and his poets, or Doris reading or singing some old song. But he did not lose his interest in the world's progress or that of his beloved city.

Doris was very happy in a young girl's way. One did not expect to fill every moment with pleasure, or go to parties or the theater every evening. There were other duties and purposes to life. As Aunt Priscilla did not go out after the cold weather set in, she ran up there nearly every day with some cheerful bit of gossip. Madam Royall had grown very fond of her as well. There was the dancing class; and the sewing class, when they made garments for poor people; and shopping-even if one did not buy much, for now such pretty French and English goods were shown again. Then one stopped in the confectioner's on Newberry Street and had a cup of hot coffee or tea if it was a cold day; or strolled down Cornhill to see what new books had come over from London, for the Waverley novels had just begun, and everybody was wondering about the author. Or you went to Faneuil Hall to see Trumbull's Declaration of Independence, which was considered a very remarkable work. There were the sleigh-rides, when you went out in style and had a supper and a dance; and the sledding parties, that were really the most fun of all, when you almost forgot you were grown-up.

Cary was always ready to attend his cousin, though she quite as often went out with Mr. and Mrs. Gray and Eudora. When he thought of it, it did seem a little curious that Doris had no special company.

But a girl was not allowed to keep special company until the family had consented and she was regularly engaged. Young men and girls came to sing, for a piano was a rarity; there were parties going here and there, but Doris never evinced any particular preference.

So spring came again and gardening engrossed Doris. She had been learning housekeeping in all its branches under the experienced tuition of Miss Recompense and Dinah. A girl who did not know everything from the roasting of a turkey to the making of sack-posset, and through all the gradations of pickling and preserving, was not considered "finished."

Doris was very fond of the wide out-of-doors. She often took her work, and Uncle Winthrop his book, and sat out on a rustic seat at the edge of the Common, which was beginning to be beautiful, though it was twenty years later that the Botanic Garden was started. But now that our ships were going everywhere, curious bulbs and plants were brought from Holland and from the East Indies by sea captains. And they found wonderful wild flowers that developed under cultivation. Brookline was a great resort on pleasant days, with its meadows and wooded hillsides and beautiful gardens. Colonel Perkins had all manner of foreign fruits and flowers that he had brought home from abroad, and had a greenhouse where you could often find the grandmother of the family, who was most generous in her gifts. There were people who thought you "flew in the face of Providence" when you made flowers bloom in winter, but Providence seemed to smile on them.

Over on the Foster estate at Cambridge there was a genuine hawthorn. People made pilgrimages to see it when it was white with bloom and diffusing its peculiar odor all about. There were the sweet blossoms of the mulberry and the honey locust, and the air everywhere was fragrant, for there were so few factories, and people had not learned to turn waste materials into every sort of product and make vile smells.

Cary sometimes left his books early in the afternoon and went driving with them. If he did not appreciate poetry so much, he was on the lookout for every fine tree and curious flower, and twenty years later he was deep in the Horticultural Society.

Uncle Winthrop bought a new low carriage this summer. For anyone else but a grave gentleman it would have looked rather pron

ounced, but it was so much easier to get in and out. And Doris in her sweet unconsciousness never made any bid for attention, but people would turn and look at them as one looks at a picture.

Thirty years or so afterward old ladies would sometimes say to the daughters of Doris:

"My dear, I knew your mother when she was a sweet, fresh young girl and used to go out driving with her uncle. Mr. Winthrop Adams was one of the high-bred, delicate-looking men that would have graced a court. There wasn't a prettier sight in Boston-and, dear me! that was way back in '16 or '17. How time flies!"

They heard from Betty occasionally. The letters were long and "writ fine," though happily not crossed. They should have been saved for a book, they were so chatty. In August one came to Doris that stirred up a mighty excitement. Betty had a way of being quite dramatic and leading up to a climax.

A month before they had met a delightful Frenchman, a M. Henri de la Maur, twenty-five or thereabouts, and found him an excellent cicerone to some remarkable things they had not seen. He was much interested in America and its chief cities, especially Boston, when he found that was Betty's native town.

And one day he told them of a search he had been making for a little girl. The De la Maurs had suffered considerably under the Napoleonic régime, and had now been restored to some of their rights. There was one estate that could not be settled until they found a missing member. They had traced the mother, who had died and left a husband and a little girl-Jacqueline. "That is such a common name in France," explained Betty. She had been placed in a convent, and that was such a common occurrence, too. Then she had been taken to the North of England. He had gone to the old town, but the child's father had died and some elderly relatives had passed away, and the child herself had been sent to the United States. Everybody who had known her was dead or had forgotten.

"And I never thought until one day he said Old Boston," confessed Betty, "when I remembered suddenly that your mother's name was Jacqueline Marie de la Maur in the old marriage certificate. We had been talking of it a week or more, but one hears so many family stories here in Paris, and lost and found inheritances. But I almost screamed with surprise, and added the sequel; and he was just overjoyed, and brought the family papers. He and your mother are second- and third-cousins. It is queer you should have so many far-off relations, and so few near-by ones, and be mixed up in so many romances.

"The fortune sounds quite grand in francs, but if we enumerated our money by quarters of dollars, we might all be rich. It is a snug little sum, however, and they are anxious to get it settled before the next turn in the dynasty, lest it might be confiscated again. So M. Henri is coming home with us, and we shall start the first day of September, as Mr. King has finished his business and Electa is wild to see her children. I think I shall give 'talks' all winter and invite you over to Sudbury Street, with your sewing, for I never shall be talked out."

It was wonderful. Doris had to read the letter over and over. It had listeners at the Royall house who said it was a perfect romance, and at the Leveretts' they rejoiced greatly.

"I declare!" exclaimed Aunt Priscilla, "if you should live to be fifty or sixty, and everybody go on leaving you fortunes, you won't know what to do with your money. They're filling up the Mill Pond and the big ma'sh and going to lay out streets. I wouldn't have believed it! Foster Leverett held on to his legacy because he couldn't sell it, and now Warren has been offered a good sum. Mary Manning will pinch herself blue to think she sold out when she did. I'm just glad for Warren. And Cary'll know so much law that he will look out for you."

It was a beautiful autumn, for a wonder. Summer seemed loath to depart or allow the flame-colored finger of Fall to place her seal on the glowing foliage. But it was the last of October when Betty reached Boston, convoyed by a very old-time New England woman going on to Newburyport.

"For you know," said Betty, "the French are very particular about a young woman traveling alone, but we did have a hunt to find someone coming to Boston. Otherwise M'sieur Henri-you see how apt I am in French-could not have accompanied me."

M. de la Maur was a very nice-looking young man, not as tall as Cary, but with a graceful and manly figure, soft dark eyes, and hair that just missed being black, a clear complexion and fine color, and a small line of mustache. As to manners he was really charming, and so well-read that Mr. Winthrop Adams took to him at once. He was conversant with Voltaire and Rousseau, the plays of Racine and Molière, and the causes that had led to the French Revolution, and had been in Paris through the famous "Hundred Days." Of course he was bitter against Napoleon.

The inheritance part was soon settled. Doris would have about three thousand dollars. But De la Maur took a great fancy to Boston, and the Royall family approved of him. Mr. and Mrs. Sargent had returned this fall and the old house was a center of attractive gayeties.

"Do you know, I think Cousin Henri is in love with Betty," said Doris, with a feminine habit of guessing at love matters. "But she insists she will never live abroad, and Cousin Henri thinks Paris is the center of the world."

"How will they manage?"

Doris laughed. She did not just see herself.

But Betty's romance came to light presently. It had begun during her winter in New York, but it had not run smoothly. Betty had a rather quick wit and was fond of teasing, and there had been "differences" not easily settled. Mr. Harman Gaynor had risen to the distinction of a partnership in the King firm, and on meeting Betty again, with the young Frenchman at her elbow, had presented his claim in such a way that Betty yielded. When Mr. Gaynor came to Boston to have a conference with Mrs. Leverett-for fathers and mothers still had authority in such matters-Betty's engagement was announced and the marriage set for spring.

Somehow it was a delightful winter. But after a little one person began to feel strangely apprehensive, and this was Cary Adams.

"I suppose Doris and her third- or fourth-cousin will make a match?" Madam Royall said one evening when they had been playing morris and she had won the rubber. "How can you let her go away?"

"She will never leave father," exclaimed Cary confidently.

There was a sudden stricture all over his body. It seemed as if some cold hand had clutched both heart and brain.

He walked home in the bright, fresh air. It was barely ten. He passed De la Maur on the way and they greeted each other. The parlor windows were darkened, his father was alone in the study, and everyone else had gone to bed.

"I wish you had been home," said his father glancing up. "De la Maur has been reciting Racine, and I have never heard anything finer! I wish he could read Shakspere. He certainly is a delightful person, so cultured and appreciative. It makes me feel that we really are a new people."

Could no one see the danger? How happened it his father was so blind? Did Doris really care? She had not loved Captain Hawthorne, a man worthy of any woman's love. Cary had a confident feeling that in five years they would see him again. But he would be too old for Doris-thirteen years between them. Yet his father had been fifteen years older than his mother. Doris was so guileless, so simply honest, and if she loved-how curiously she had kept from friendships or intimacies with young men! Eudora had a train of admirers. So had Helen and Alice in their day.

When he had met Mrs. Sargent he knew it had only been a boyish fancy for Alice Royall, and it had merely shaped and strengthened the ardent desire of youth to go to his country's defense. He was a man now, and capable of loving with supreme tenderness and strength. Yet he had seen no woman to whom he cared to pour out the first sweet draught of a man's regard.

But Doris must not go away, she could not.

Morning, noon, and night he watched her. She prepared his father's toast, she chatted with him and often coaxed him to taste this or that, for his appetite was slender. On sunny mornings they went to drive, or if not she brought her sewing and sat in the study, listened and discussed the subjects he loved, and was enthusiastic about the Boston that was to be, that they both saw with the eye of faith. While he took his siesta she ran up to Sudbury Street, or did an errand. Later in the afternoon there would be calls. There was a sideboard at the end of the hall where a bottle or two of wine were kept, as was the custom then, and a plate of cake.

Doris brought in a fashion of offering tea or sometimes mulled cider on a cold day. But Miss Recompense made delicious tea, and some of the gentlemen took it just to see Doris drop in the lump of sugar so daintily.

If they were at home there was always company in the evening, unless the night was very stormy. De la Maur generally made one of the guests. If they were alone they had a charming evening in the study.

The young Frenchman was most punctilious. He might take a few cousinly freedoms, but he never offered any that were lover-like. So it was the more easy for Doris to persuade herself that it was merely relationship. Occasionally the eloquence of his eyes quite unnerved her. She cunningly sheltered herself beside Eudora when it was possible.

But De la Maur's regard grew apace. It would not be honorable to come without declaring his intentions. And the American fashion of being engaged was extremely fascinating to him. He wanted the more than cousinly privileges.

So it happened one night Betty and Warren came over with a piece of music Mrs. King had sent, a song by Moore, the Irish poet. Doris went to the parlor to try it. That was De la Maur's golden opportunity, and he could not allow it to slip. In a most deferential manner he laid his case before her relative and guardian and begged permission to address Miss Doris.

Winthrop Adams was utterly amazed at the first moment. Then he recovered himself. Doris was a young lady. One friend and another was being given in marriage, and Doris naturally would have lovers. There was one that he had hoped-but he had never seen any real indication.

"It is true that I like my own Paris best, but if Miss Doris longed to stay here a few years, I would make myself content. But you will understand-I could not come any longer without explaining; and this time you allow young people-betrothment-looks so attractive. May I ask and learn her sentiments, since young ladies choose for themselves?"

What could he do but consent? If Doris should not love him--

"Good-night Uncle Win," cried Betty from the hall. "Good-night, M. De la Maur."

Doris was replacing some music in the portfolio. Cousin Henri crossed the room and she saw a mysterious sweetness in his face as he took her hand.

"Ma chère amie Cousin Doris, I have just explained to your uncle my sentiments concerning you, and have his permission to ask for your regard. I love you very dearly. Will you be my wife?"

Doris drew her hand away and was pale and red by turns, while her throat constricted and her breath came in great bounds.

"I am so sorry. I tried not to be-I did not want anything like this to happen-but sometimes I felt afraid," she stammered in her embarrassment. "I like you very much. But I do not want to marry or to be engaged. I shall stay with my uncle. I shall never go away from the country of my adoption."

"But if I were willing to remain a while-so long as your uncle lived? I do not wonder you love him very much. He is a charming gentleman. I have no parents to bid me stay at home, I need consult only you and myself."

"Oh, no, no! Do not compel me to pain you by continued refusals. I cannot consent. I will always be friend and cousin-I do not love anyone--"

"Then if you do not love anyone this friendship might ripen into a sweet regard. Oh, Doris, I had hardly thought so deep a love possible."

His imploring tone touched her. But she drew back farther and said in a more decisive tone: "Oh, no, no! I cannot promise."

He was too gentlemanly to persist in his pleading. But he was confident he had Mr. Adams on his side. And at home the desires of parents and guardians counted for a great deal.

"My dear cousin, will you talk this matter over with your uncle? You may look at it in a different light. And I shall remain your ardent admirer until I am convinced. Since you have no lover--"

Doris Adams suddenly straightened her pliant young figure. Some dignity was born in her face and in the clear eyes she raised, too pure to doubt anything or to fear anything, sure for a moment that she possessed every pulse and thought and knowledge of her own soul, then beset by a strange shadowy misgiving that she had reached a curious crisis in her life that she did not know of an instant ago.

But she said bravely, though there was a quiver in her breath that she tried to keep from her voice:

"Let us remain cousins merely. My duty is here. My love is here also-to the best of fathers, the tenderest of friends. I cannot share it with anyone."

De la Maur bowed and went slowly out of the apartment.

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