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An Unwilling Maid By Jeanie Gould Lincoln Characters: 14424

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

"Oh, Betty, Betty," cried Miss Moppet, as the pair gained the more frequented road and cantered briskly on their homeward way, "what an adventure we have had! Aunt Euphemia will no doubt bestow a sound rating on me, for, alas!"-with a doleful glance downward-"see the draggled condition of my habit."

"Never mind your habit, Moppet," said Betty. "Thank Heaven instead that you are not lying stiff and cold at the bottom of the pond. You can never know the agony I suffered when I saw you fall; I should have plunged in after you in another second."

"Dearest Betty," said the child, looking lovingly at her, "I know you can swim, but you never could have held me up as that stranger did. Oh!" with sudden recollection, "we did not ask his name! Did you forget?"

"No," said Betty, "but when I told him ours and he did not give his name in return, I thought perhaps he did not care to be known, and of course forbore to press him."

"How handsome he was," said Moppet; "did you see his hair? And how tightly it curled, wet as it was? And his eyes-surely you noted his eyes, Betty?"

"Yes," replied Betty, blushing with remembrance of the parting glance the hazel eyes had bestowed upon her; "he is a personable fellow enough."

"Far handsomer than Josiah Huntington," said Moppet mischievously, "or even Francis Plunkett."

"What does a little maid like you know of looks?" said Betty reprovingly, "and what would Aunt Euphemia say to such comments, I wonder?"

"You'll never tell tales of me," said Moppet, with the easy confidence of a spoiled child. "Do you think he was a soldier-perhaps an officer from Fort Trumbull, like the one Oliver brought home last April?"

"Very likely," said Betty. "Are you cold, Moppet? I am so afraid you may suffer; stop talking so fast and muffle yourself more closely in the cape. We must be hastening home," and giving her horse the whip, they rode rapidly down hill.

Wolcott Manor, the house of which Betty spoke, was a fine, spacious house situated on top of the hills, where run a broad plateau which later in its history developed into a long and broad street, on either side of which were erected dwellings which have since been interwoven with the stateliest names in old Connecticut. The house was double, built in the style of the day, with a hall running through it, and large rooms on either side, the kitchen, bakery, and well-house all at the back, and forming with the buttery a sort of L, near but not connecting the different outhouses. It was shingled from top to bottom, and the dormer windows, with their quaint panes, rendered it both stately and picturesque. As the girls drew rein at the small porch, on the south side of the mansion, a tall, fine-looking woman of middle age, her gray gown tucked neatly up, and a snowy white apron tied around her shapely waist, appeared at the threshold of the door.

"Why, Betty," she said in a surprised voice, "you have been absent so long that I was about to send Reuben in search of you. The boxes are undone, and we need your help; Moppet-why, what ails the child?" and Miss Euphemia Wolcott paused in dismay us she surveyed Miss Moppet's still damp habit and disheveled hair.

"I've been at the very bottom of Great Pond." announced the child, enjoying the situation with true dramatic instinct, "and Betty has all the herbs for Chloe safe in her basket."

"What does the child mean" asked her bewildered aunt, unfastening the heavy cloth cape from the small shoulders, and perceiving that she had had a thorough wetting.

"It is true, Aunt Euphemia," said Betty, springing off her mare and throwing the reins to Reuben as he came slowly around the house. "We were on one of the hillocks overlooking the pond, and somehow-it all happened so swiftly that I cannot tell how-but Moppet must have ventured too near the edge, for the treacherous soil gave way, and down she pitched into the water before I could put out hand to stay her. I think I screamed, and then I was pulling off my habit-skirt to plunge after her when a young man ran hastily along the below and cried out to me, 'Courage!' and he threw off his coat and dived down, down,"-Betty shuddered and turned pale,-"and then he caught Moppet's skirt and held her up until he swam safely to shore with her. She was quite unconscious, but by chafing her hands and giving her some spirits (which the young stranger had in his flask) we recovered her, and, indeed, I think she is none the worse for her experience," and Betty put both arms around her little sister and hugged her warmly, bursting into tears, which until now had been so carefully restrained.

"Thank Heaven!" cried Miss Euphemia, kissing them both. "You could never have rescued her alone, Betty; perhaps you might both have drowned. Where is the brave young man who came to your aid? I trust you gave him clear directions how to reach the house."

"He would not come," answered Betty simply; "he said he was traveling westward, and I thought he seemed anxious to be off."

"But we pressed him, Aunt Euphemia," put in Moppet, "and I told him my pony could carry double. And I do not know how we will return his cape; do you?"

"You must come indoors at once and get dry clothing," said her aunt, "and I will tell Chloe to make you a hot posset lest you get a chill; run quickly, Moppet, and do not stand a moment longer in those wet clothes. Now, Betty," as the child disappeared inside, "have you any idea who this stranger can be, or whence he came?"

"I have not," said Betty, blushing rosy red (though she could not have told why) under her aunt's clone scrutiny.

"What did he look like?" questioned Miss Euphemia.

"Like a young man of spirit," said Betty, mischief getting the better of her, "and he had a soldierly air to boot and spoke with command."

"I trust with all due respect as well," said Miss Euphemia gravely.

"Truly, he both spoke and behaved as a gentleman should."

"Do you think it could be Oliver's friend, young Otis from Boston?" said Miss Euphemia. "He was to arrive in these parts this week."

"It may be he," said Betty, "ask Pamela, she has met him;" and as she turned to enter she almost fell into the arms of a tall, slender girl who was hurrying forth to meet her.

At first glance there was enough of likeness between the girls to say that they might be sisters, but the next made the resemblance less, and their dissimilarity of expression and coloring increased with acquaintance. Both had the same slender, graceful figure, but while Betty was of medium height, Pamela was distinctly taller than her sister, and her pretty head was covered with golden hair, while Betty's luxuriant locks were that peculiar shade which is neither auburn nor golden, but a combination of both, and her eyes were hazel-gray, with long lashes much darker than her hair. Both girls wore their hair piled on top of the head, as was the fashion of the time, and both were guiltless of powder, but Pamela's rebellious waves were trained to lie as close as she could make them, while Betty's would crop out into little dainty saucy curls over her forehead and down the nape of her slender neck in a most bewildering fashio

n. Their complexions, like Miss Moppet's, were exquisitely satin-like in texture, but there was no break in Pamela's smooth cheeks, whereas Betty's dimples lurked not only around her willful mouth, but perched high in her right cheek, and you found yourself unconsciously watching to see them come and go at the tricksy maid's changing will. There was but little more than a year's difference in their ages, yet Betty seemed almost a child beside Pamela's gracious stateliness.

"What is it all about?" asked the bewildered Pamela, catching hold of Betty. "Moppet dashes into the kitchen, damp and moist, and says she has been at the bottom of the pond, and orders hot posset, and you, Betty, have an air of fright"-

"I should think she might well," interrupted Miss Euphemia; "I will tell you, Pamela-Betty, go upstairs and change your habit for a gown, and then come down to assist me. We are about to mould the bullets."

"Oh, Aunt Euphemia!" cried Betty, interrupting in her turn, "I beg your pardon, but did those huge boxes contain the leaden statue of King George, as my father's letter advised us?"

"It was cut in pieces, Betty," said Pamela demurely.

"As if I didn't know that," flashed out Betty; "and that it disappeared after the patriots hauled it down in Bowling Green, and that General Washington recommended it should be used for the cause of Freedom, and that we are all to help transform it into bullets far our soldiers,-truly, Pamela, I have not forgot my father's account of it," and Betty vanished inside the door with a rebellious toss of her head, resenting the implied air of older sister which Pamela sometimes indulged in.

"Our little Moppet has come perilously near death," said Miss Euphemia, following Pamela into the house. "She has been rescued from drowning in Great Pond by a gentleman whom Betty had never seen before. She describes him as a fine personable youth, and I think it maybe Oliver's friend, young Otis, who in expected at the Tracys' on a visit from Boston."

"It can hardly be he, aunt," said Pamela, "for Sally Tracy has just told me that he will not arrive for two days, and moreover he comes with Mrs. Footer and Patty Warren, who are glad to take him as escort in these troublous times, I will run up to Moppet, for the girls are waiting for you; the lead got somewhat overheated, and they want your advice as to using it."

Miss Euphemia went slowly down the hall and through the large dining-room, pausing as she passed to knock at a small door opening off the hall into a sitting-room.

"Are you there, Miss Bidwell?" she said, as a small elderly woman, with bent figure and pleasant, shrewd face, rose from her chair in response. "Will you kindly go up and see that Miss Moppet be properly rubbed and made dry, and let her take her hot posset, and then, if not too tired, she may come to me in the kitchen."

Miss Bidwell, who was at once house-keeper, manager, and confidential servant to the Wolcott household, gave a cheerful affirmative; and as she laid down the stocking she was carefully darning, and prepared to leave the room, Miss Euphemia resumed her interrupted walk toward the kitchen.

Standing and sitting around the great kitchen fireplace were a group of young people, whose voices rose in a lively chorus as she entered. Over the fire, on a crane, hung a large kettle, from the top of which issued sounds of spluttering and boiling, and a young man was in the act of endeavoring to lift it amid cries of remonstrance.

"Have a care, Francis," cried a pretty, roguish-looking girl in a gray homespun gown, brandishing a wet towel as she spoke; "hot lead will be your portion if you dare trifle with that boiling pot. What are we to do with it, Miss Euphemia?" as that lady came forward in haste; "a few drops of water flirted out of my towel and must have fallen inside, for 't is spluttering in terrific fashion."

"Shall I lift it off the fire?" asked the young man, whose name was Francis Plunkett.

"Certainly," said Miss Euphemia, inspecting the now tranquil kettle; "here are the moulds all greased; gently, now," as she put a small ladle inside the pot; "now move it slowly, and put the pot here beside me on the table."

"Will they really turn out bullets?" asked another girl in a whisper, as Sally Tracy moved a second big pot with the intention of hanging it on the fire, but was prevented by a tall, silent young man, who stopped his occupation of sorting out bits of lead to assist her.

"Thank you, Josiah," said Sally. "Turn out bullets, Dolly?-why, of course, when they come out of the moulds. What did you suppose we were all about?"

Dolly Trumbull (who was on a visit to the Wolcotts') looked shy and somewhat distressed, and promptly retired into a corner, where she resumed her conversation with her cousin, Josiah Huntington; and presently Betty came flying into the kitchen, her gown tucked up ready for work, and full of apologies for her tardy appearance. Sally Tracy, who was Betty's sworn friend and companion in all her fun and frolics, pounced upon her at once; but Miss Euphemia called them both to assist her with the moulds, Betty had to reserve the story of her adventure until a more propitious moment.

"Has there been any news from Oliver when he set forth on this last expedition?" asked Dolly.

"It is too soon yet to hear," said Josiah, "though possibly by to-morrow some intelligence may reach us. Francis and I did not reach here from New Haven for four days, and we return there on Saturday. As it was, I left only in obedience to my father's command, and brought news of Lyon's ravaging the city to General Wolcott, dodging Hessians and outlying marauders by the way. Do you stop here long, Dolly, or will you have my escort back to Lebanon?"

"I came for a month," answered Dolly; "I was ill of spring fever, and since then my mother thinks this mountain air benefits me. But you go back to your duties at Yale College, though it's early yet for them."

"My students and I have spent our vacation handling cartridges," said Josiah grimly, for he was a tutor at Yale, and had done yeoman service in the defense of New Haven. "'Tis a sorry sight to see our beautiful city now laid waste; but that our faith is strong in the Continental Congress and General Washington, I know not how heart could bear it."

"Who speaks of faith?" said Pamela's gentle voice, as she slipped into a chair on Dolly's right. "I think hope is ever a better watchword."

"Aye," murmured Huntington, as Dolly summoned courage to cross the room, "it is one I will carry ever with me, Pamela, if you bid me do so."

"I did not mean," faltered Pamela, casting down her dove-like eyes, but not so quickly that she did not see the ardent glance of her lover, "I-that is-oh yes, Aunt Euphemia," with sudden change of tone, "it is growing somewhat dark, and we had better leave the moulds to harden. Shall I tell Miss Bidwell that you are ready for supper?"

To which Miss Euphemia returned an affirmative, and the whole party trooped back to the dining-room, Pamela leading the way, and Huntington following her with a half-mischievous smile curving his usually grave mouth.

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