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   Chapter 3 AUNT HENDERSON.

Faith Gartney's Girlhood By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 9005

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"I never met a manner more entirely without frill."

Sydney Smith.

Late into the morning of the New Year, Faith slept. Through her half consciousness crept, at last, a feeling of music that had been wandering in faint echoes among the chambers of her brain all those hours of her suspended life.

Light, and music, and a sense of an unexamined, half-remembered joy, filled her being and embraced her at her waking on this New Year's Day. A moment she lay in a passive, unthinking delight; and then her first, full, and distinct thought shaped itself, as from a sweet and solemn memory:

"Rouse to some high and holy work of love,

And thou an angel's happiness shalt know."

An impulse of lofty feeling held her in its ecstasy; a noble longing and determination shaped itself, though vaguely, within her. For a little, she was touched in her deepest and truest nature; she was uplifted to the threshold of a great resolve. But generalities are so grand-details so commonplace and unsatisfying. What should she do? What "high and holy work" lay waiting for her?

And, breaking in upon her reverie-bringing her down with its rough and common call to common duty-the second bell for breakfast rang.

"Oh, dear! It is no use! Who'll know what great things I've been wishing and planning, when I've nothing to show for it but just being late to breakfast? And father hates it so-and New Year's morning, too!"

Hurrying her toilet, she repaired, with all the haste possible, to the breakfast room, where her consciousness of shortcoming was in nowise lessened when she saw who occupied the seat at her father's right hand-Aunt Henderson!

Aunt Faith Henderson, who had reached her nephew's house last evening just after the young Faith, her namesake, had gone joyously off to "dance the Old Year out and the New Year in." Old-fashioned Aunt Faith-who believed most devoutly that "early to bed and early to rise" was the only way to be "healthy, wealthy, or wise!" Aunt Faith, who had never quite forgiven our young heroine for having said, at the discreet and positive age of nine, that "she didn't see what her father and mother had called her such an ugly name for. It was a real old maid's name!" Whereupon, having asked the child what she would have preferred as a substitute, and being answered, "Well-Clotilda, I guess; or Cleopatra," Miss Henderson had told her that she was quite welcome to change it for any heathen woman's that she pleased, and the worse behaved perhaps the better. She wouldn't be so likely to do it any discredit!

Aunt Henderson had a downright and rather extreme fashion of putting things; nevertheless, in her heart she was not unkindly.

So when Faithie, with her fair, fresh face-a little apprehensive trouble in it for her tardiness-came in, there was a grim bending of the old lady's brows; but, below, a half-belying twinkle in the eye, that, long as it had looked out sharply and keenly on the things and people of this mixed-up world, found yet a pleasure in anything so young and bright.

"Why, auntie! How do you do?" cried Faith, cunning culprit that she was, taking the "bull by the horns," and holding out her hand. "I wish you a Happy New Year! Good morning, father, and mother! A Happy New Year! I'm sorry I'm so late."

"Wish you a great many," responded the great-aunt, in stereotyped phrase. "It seems to me, though, you've lost the beginning of this one."

"Oh, no!" replied Faithie, gayly. "I had that at the party. We danced the New Year in."

"Humph!" said Aunt Henderson.

Breakfast over, and Mr. Gartney gone to his counting room, the parlor girl made her appearance with her mop and tub of hot water, to wash up the silver and china.

"Give me that," said Aunt Henderson, taking a large towel from the girl's arm as she set down her tub upon the sideboard. "You go and find something else to do."

Wherever she might be-to be sure, her round of visiting was not a large one-Aunt Henderson never let anyone else wash up breakfast cups.

This quiet arming of herself, with mop and towel, stirred up everybody else to duty. Her niece-in-law laughed, withdrew her feet from the comfortable fender, and departed to the kitchen to give her household orders for the day. Faith removed cups, glasses, forks, and spoons from the table to the sideboard, while the maid, returning with a tray, carried off to the lower regions the larger dishes.

"I haven't told you yet, Elizabeth, what I came to town for," said Aunt F

aith, when Mrs. Gartney came back into the breakfast room. "I'm going to hunt up a girl."

"A girl, aunt! Why, what has become of Prudence?"

"Mrs. Pelatiah Trowe. That's what's become of her. More fool she."

"But why in the world do you come to the city for a servant? It's the worst possible place. Nineteen out of twenty are utterly good for nothing."

"I'm going to look out for the twentieth."

"But aren't there girls enough in Kinnicutt who would be glad to step in Prue's place?"

"Of course there are. But they're all well enough off where they are. When I have a chance to give away, I want to give it to somebody that needs it."

"I'm afraid you'll hardly find any efficient girl who will appreciate the chance of going twenty miles into the country."

"I don't want an efficient girl. I'm efficient myself, and that's enough."

"Going to train another, at your time of life, aunt?" asked Mrs. Gartney, in surprise.

"I suppose I must either train a girl, or let her train me; and, at my time of life, I don't feel to stand in need of that."

"How shall I go to work to inquire?" resumed Aunt Henderson, after a pause.

"Well, there are the Homes, and the Offices, and the Ministers at Large. At a Home, they would probably recommend you somebody they've made up their minds to put out to service, and she might or might not be such as would suit you. Then at the Offices, you'll see all sorts, and mostly poor ones."

"I'll try an Office, first," interrupted Miss Henderson. "I want to see all sorts. Faith, you'll go with me, by and by, won't you, and help me find the way?"

Faith, seated at a little writing table at the farther end of the room, busied in copying into her album, in a clear, neat, but rather stiff schoolgirl's hand, the oracle of the night before, did not at once notice that she was addressed.

"Faith, child! don't you hear?"

"Oh, yes, aunt. What is it?"

"I want you to go to a what-d'ye-call-it office with me, to-day."

"An intelligence office," explained her mother. "Aunt Faith wants to find a girl."

"'Lucus a non lucendo,'" quoted Faith, rather wittily, from her little stock of Latin. "Stupidity offices, I should call them, from the specimens they send out."

"Hold your tongue, chit! Don't talk Latin to me!" growled Aunt Henderson.

"What are you writing?" she asked, shortly after, when Mrs. Gartney had again left her and Faith to each other. "Letters, or Latin?"

Faith colored, and laughed.

"Only a fortune that was told me last night," she replied.

"Oh! 'A little husband,' I suppose, 'no bigger than my thumb; put him in a pint pot, and there bid him drum.'"

"No," said Faith, half seriously, and half teased out of her seriousness. "It's nothing of that sort. At least," she added, glancing over the lines again, "I don't think it means anything like that."

And Faith laid down the book, and went upstairs for a word with her mother.

Aunt Henderson, who had been brought up in times when all the doings of young girls were strictly supervised, and who had no high-flown scruples, because she had no mean motives, deliberately walked over and fetched the elegant little volume from the table, reseated herself in her armchair-felt for her glasses, and set them carefully upon her nose-and, as her grandniece returned, was just finishing her perusal of the freshly inscribed lines.

"Humph! A good fortune. Only you've got to earn it."

"Yes," said Faith, quite gravely. "And I don't see how. There doesn't seem to be much that I can do."

"Just take hold of the first thing that comes in your way. If the Lord's got anything bigger to give you, he'll see to it. There's your mother's mending basket brimful of stockings."

Faith couldn't help laughing. Presently she grew grave again.

"Aunt Henderson," said she, abruptly, "I wish something would happen to me. I get tired of living sometimes. Things don't seem worth while."

Aunt Henderson bent her head slightly, and opened her eyes wide over the tops of her glasses.

"Don't say that again," said she. "Things happen fast enough. Don't you dare to tempt Providence."

"Providence won't be tempted, nor misunderstand," replied Faith, an undertone of reverence qualifying her girlish repartee. "He knows just what I mean."

"She's a queer child," said Aunt Faith to herself, afterwards, thinking over the brief conversation. "She'll be something or nothing, I always said. I used to think 'twould be nothing."

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