MoboReader> Literature > A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life.


A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 22904

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I have mentioned one little theory, relating solely to domestic thrift, which guided Mrs. Goldthwaite in her arrangements for her daughter. I believe that, with this exception, she brought up her family very nearly without any theory whatever. She did it very much on the taking-for-granted system. She took for granted that her children were born with the same natural perceptions as herself; that they could recognize, little by little, as they grew into it, the principles of the moral world,-reason, right, propriety,-as they recognized, growing into them, the conditions of their outward living. She made her own life a consistent recognition of these, and she lived openly before them. There was never any course pursued with sole calculation as to its effect on the children. Family discussion and deliberation was seldom with closed doors. Questions that came up were considered as they came; and the young members of the household perceived as soon as their elders the "reasons why" of most decisions. They were part and parcel of the whole régime. They learned politeness by being as politely attended to as company. They learned to be reasonable by seeing how the reason compelled father and mother, and not by having their vision stopped short at the arbitrary fact that father and mother compelled them. I think, on the whole, the Goldthwaite no-method turned out as good a method as any. Men have found out lately that even horses may be guided without reins.

It was characteristic, therefore, that Mrs. Goldthwaite-receiving one day a confidential note proposing to her a pleasant plan in behalf of Leslie, and intended to guard against a premature delight and eagerness, and so perhaps an ultimate disappointment for that young lady-should instantly, on reading it, lay it open upon the table before her daughter. "From Mrs. Linceford," she said, "and concerning you."

Leslie took it up, expecting, possibly, an invitation to tea. When she saw what it really was, her dark eyes almost blazed with sudden, joyous excitement.

"Of course, I should be delighted to say yes for you," said Mrs. Goldthwaite, "but there are things to be considered. I can't tell how it will strike your father."

"School," suggested Leslie, the light in her eyes quieting a little.

"Yes, and expense; though I don't think he would refuse on that score. I should have liked"-Mrs. Goldthwaite's tone was only half, and very gently, objecting; there was an inflection of ready self-relinquishment in it, also-"to have had your first journey with me. But you might have waited a long time for that."

If Leslie were disappointed in the end, she would have known that her mother's heart had been with her from the beginning, and grown people seldom realize how this helps even the merest child to bear a denial.

"There is only a month now to vacation," said the young girl.

"What do you think Mr. Waylie would say?"

"I really think," answered Leslie, after a pause, "that he would say it was better than books."

They sat at their sewing together, after this, without speaking very much more, at the present time, about it. Mrs. Goldthwaite was thinking it over in her motherly mind, and in the mind of Leslie thought and hope and anticipation were dancing a reel with each other. It is time to tell the reader of the what and why.

Mrs. Linceford, the elder married daughter of the Hadden family,-many years the elder of her sisters, Jeannie and Elinor,-was about to take them, under her care, to the mountains for the summer, and she kindly proposed joining Leslie Goldthwaite to her charge. "The mountains" in New England means usually, in common speech, the one royal range of the White Hills.

You can think what this opportunity was to a young girl full of fancy, loving to hunt out, even by map and gazetteer, the by-nooks of travel, and wondering already if she should ever really journey otherwise. You can think how she waited, trying to believe she could bear any decision, for the final determination concerning her.

"If it had been to Newport or Saratoga, I should have said no at once," said Mr. Goldthwaite. "Mrs. Linceford is a gay, extravagant woman, and the Haddens' ideas don't precisely suit mine. But the mountains,-she can't get into much harm there."

"I shouldn't have cared for Newport or the Springs, father, truly," said Leslie, with a little hopeful flutter of eagerness in her voice; "but the real mountains,-O father!"

The "O father!" was not without its weight. Also Mr. Waylie, whom Mr. Goldthwaite called on and consulted, threw his opinion into the favoring scale, precisely as Leslie had foreseen. He was a teacher who did not imagine all possible educational advantage to be shut up within the four walls of his or any other schoolroom. "She is just the girl to whom it will do great good," he said. Leslie's last week's lessons were not accomplished the less satisfactorily for this word of his, and the pleasure it opened to her.

There came a few busy days of stitching and starching, and crimping and packing, and then, in the last of June, they would be off. They were to go on Monday. The Haddens came over on Saturday afternoon, just as Leslie had nearly put the last things into her trunk,-a new trunk, quite her own, with her initials in black paint upon the russet leather at each end. On the bed lay her pretty balmoral suit, made purposely for mountain wears and just finished. The young girls got together here, in Leslie's chamber, of course.

"Oh, how pretty! It's perfectly charming,-the loveliest balmoral I ever saw in my life!" cried Jeannie Hadden, seizing upon it instantly as she entered the room. "Why, you'll look like a hamadryad, all in these wood browns!"

It was an uncommonly pretty striped petticoat, in two alternating shades of dark and golden brown, with just a hair-line of black defining their edges; and the border was one broad, soft, velvety band of black, and a narrower one following it above and below, easing the contrast and blending the colors. The jacket, or rather shirt, finished at the waist with a bit of a polka frill, was a soft flannel, of the bright brown shade, braided with the darker hue and with black; and two pairs of bright brown raw-silk stockings, marked transversely with mere thread-lines of black, completed the mountain outfit.

"Yes; all I want is"-said Leslie, stopping short as she took up the hat that lay there also,-last summer's hat, a plain black straw, with a slight brim, and ornamented only with a round lace veil and two bits of ostrich feather. "But never mind! It'll do well enough!"

As she laid it down again and ceased speaking, Cousin Delight came in, straight from Boston, where she had been doing two days' shopping; and in her hand she carried a parcel in white paper. I was going to say a round parcel, which it would have been but for something which ran out in a sharp tangent from one side, and pushed the wrappings into an odd angle. This she put into Leslie's hands.

"A fresh-fig-leaf-for you, my dear."

"What does she mean?" cried the Haddens, coming close to see.

"Only a little Paradise fashion of speech between Cousin Del and me," said Leslie, coloring a little and laughing, while she began, somewhat hurriedly, to remove the wrappings.

"What have you done? And how did you come to think?" she exclaimed, as the thing inclosed appeared: a round brown straw turban,-not a staring turban, but one of those that slope with a little graceful downward droop upon the brow,-bound with a pheasant's breast, the wing shooting out jauntily, in the tangent I mentioned, over the right ear; all in bright browns, in lovely harmony with the rest of the hamadryad costume.

"It's no use to begin to thank you, Cousin Del. It's just one of the things you re always doing, and rejoice in doing." The happy face was full of loving thanks, plainer than many words. "Only you're a kind of a sarpent yourself after all, I'm afraid, with your beguilements. I wonder if you thought of that," whispered Leslie merrily, while the others oh-oh'd over the gift. "What else do you think I shall be good for when I get all those on?"

"I'll venture you," said Cousin Delight; and the trifling words conveyed a real, earnest confidence, the best possible antidote to the "beguilement."

"One thing is funny," said Jeannie Hadden suddenly, with an accent of demur. "We're all pheasants. Our new hats are pheasants, too. I don't know what Augusta will think of such a covey of us."

"Oh, it's no matter," said Elinor. "This is a golden pheasant, on brown straw, and ours are purple, on black. Besides, we all look different enough."

"I suppose it doesn't signify," returned Jeannie; "and if Augusta thinks it does, she may just give me that black and white plover of hers I wanted so. I think our complexions are all pretty well suited."

This was true. The fair hair and deep blue eyes of Elinor were as pretty under the purple plumage as Jeannie's darker locks and brilliant bloom; and there was a wonderful bright mingling of color between the golden pheasant's breast and the gleaming chestnut waves it crowned, as Leslie took her hat and tried it on.

This was one of the little touches of perfect taste and adaptation which could sometimes make Leslie Goldthwaite almost beautiful, and was there ever a girl of fifteen who would not like to be beautiful if she could? This wish, and the thought and effort it would induce, were likely to be her great temptation. Passably pretty girls, who may, with care, make themselves often more than passable, have far the hardest of it with their consciences about these things; and Leslie had a conscience, and was reflective for her age,-and we have seen how questions had begun to trouble her.

A Sunday between a packing and a journey is a trying day always. There are the trunks, and it is impossible not to think of the getting up and getting off to-morrow; and one hates so to take out fresh sleeves and collars and pocket-handkerchiefs, and to wear one's nice white skirts. It is a Sunday put off, too probably, with but odds and ends of thought as well as apparel.

Leslie went to church, of course,-the Goldthwaites were always regular in this; and she wore her quiet straw bonnet. Mrs. Goldthwaite had a feeling that hats were rather pert and coquettish for the sanctuary. Nevertheless they met the Haddens in the porch, in the glory of their purple pheasant plumes, whereof the long tail-feathers made great circles in the air as the young heads turned this way and that, in the excitement of a few snatched words before they entered.

The organ was playing; and the low, deep, tremulous rumble that an organ gives sometimes, when it seems to creep under and vibrate all things with a strange, vital thrill, overswept their trivial chat and made Leslie almost shiver. "Oh, I wish they wouldn't do that," she said, turning to go in.

"What?" said Jeannie Hadden, unaware.

"Touch the nerve. The great nerve-of creation."

"What queer things Les' Goldthwaite says sometimes," whispered Elinor; and they passed the inner door.

The Goldthwaites sat two pews behind the Haddens. Leslie could not help thinking how elegant Mrs. Linceford was, as she swept in, in her rich black silk, and real lace shawl, and delicate, costly bonnet; and the perfectly gloved hand that upheld a bit of extravagance in Valenciennes lace

and cambric made devotion seem-what? The more graceful and touching in one who had all this world's luxuries, or-almost a mockery?

The pheasant-plumed hats went decorously down in prayer-time, but the tail-feathers ran up perker than ever, from the posture; Leslie saw this, because she had lifted her own head and unclosed her eyes in a self-indignant honesty, when she found on what her secret thoughts were running. Were other people so much better than she? And could they do both things? How much was right in all this that was outwardly so beguiling, and where did the "serving Mammon" begin?

Was everything so much intenser and more absorbing with her than with the Haddens? Why could she not take things as they came, as these girls did, or seemed to do?-be glad of her pretty things, her pretty looks even, her coming pleasures, with no misgivings or self-searchings, and then turn round and say her prayers properly?

Wasn't beauty put into the world for the sake of beauty? And wasn't it right to love it, and make much of it, and multiply it? What were arts and human ingenuities for, and the things given to work with? All this grave weighing of a great moral question was in the mind of the young girl of fifteen again this Sunday morning. Such doubts and balancings begin far earlier, often, than we are apt to think.

The minister shook hands cordially and respectfully with Mrs. Linceford after church. He had no hesitation at her stylishness and fineries. Everybody took everybody else for granted; and it was all right, Leslie Goldthwaite supposed, except in her own foolish, unregulated thoughts. Everybody else had done their Sunday duty, and it was enough; only she had been all wrong and astray, and in confusion. There was a time for everything, only her times and thoughts would mix themselves up and interfere. Perhaps she was very weak-minded, and the only way for her would be to give it all up, and wear drab, or whatever else might be most unbecoming, and be fiercely severe, mortifying the flesh. She got over that-her young nature reacting-as they all walked up the street together, while the sun shone down smilingly upon the world in Sunday best, and the flowers were gay in the door-yards, and Miss Milliken's shop was reverential with the green shutters before the windows that had been gorgeous yesterday with bright ribbons and fresh fashions; and there was something thankful in her feeling of the pleasantness that was about her, and a certainty that she should only grow morose if she took to resisting it all. She would be as good as she could, and let the pleasantness and the prettiness come "by the way." Yes, that was just what Cousin Delight had said. "All these things shall be added,"-was not that the Gospel word? So her troubling thought was laid for the hour; but it should come up again. It was in the "seeking first" that the question lay. By and by she would go back of the other to this, and see clearer,-in the light, perhaps, of something that had been already given her, and which, as she lived on toward a fuller readiness for it, should be "brought to her remembrance."

Monday brought the perfection of a traveler's morning. There had been a shower during the night, and the highways lay cool, moist, and dark brown between the green of the fields and the clean-washed, red-brick pavements of the town. There would be no dust even on the railroad, and the air was an impalpable draught of delight. To the three young girls, standing there under the station portico,-for they chose the smell of the morning rather than the odors of apples and cakes and indescribables which go to make up the distinctive atmosphere of a railway waiting-room,-there was but one thing to be done to-day in the world; one thing for which the sun rose, and wheeled himself toward that point in the heavens which would make eight o'clock down below. Of all the ships that might sail this day out of harbors, or the trains that might steam out of cities across States, they recked nothing but of this that was to take them toward the hills. There were unfortunates, doubtless, bound elsewhere, by peremptory necessity; there were people who were going nowhere but about their daily work and errands; all these were simply to be pitied, or wondered at, as to how they could feel not to be going upon a mountain journey. It is queer to think, on a last Thursday in November, or on a Fourth of July, of States where there may not be a Thanksgiving, or of far-off lands that have no Independence day. It was just as strange, somehow, to imagine how this day, that was to them the culminating point of so much happy anticipation, the beginning of so much certain joy, could be otherwise, and yet be anything to the supernumerary people who filled up around them the life that centred in just this to them. Yet in truth it was, to most folks, simply a fair Monday morning, and an excellent "drying day."

They bounded off along the iron track,-the great steam pulse throbbed no faster than in time to their bright young eagerness. It had been a momentous matter to decide upon their seats, of which there had been opportunity for choice when they entered the car; at last they had been happily settled, face to face, by the good-natured removal of a couple of young farmers, who saw that the four ladies wished to be seated together. Their hand-bags were hung up, their rolls of shawls disposed beneath their feet, and Mrs. Linceford had taken out her novel. The Haddens had each a book also in her bag, to be perfectly according to rule in their equipment; but they were not old travelers enough to care to begin upon them yet. As to Leslie Goldthwaite, her book lay ready open before her, for long, contented reading, in two chapters, both visible at once-the broad, open country, with its shifting pictures and suggestions of life and pleasantness; and the carriage interior, with its dissimilar human freight, and its yet more varied hints of history and character and purpose.

She made a story in her own mind, half unconsciously, of every one about her. Of the pretty girl alone, with no elaborate traveling arrangements, going only, it was evident, from one way-station to another, perhaps to spend a summer day with a friend. Of the stout old country grandmamma, with a basket full of doughnuts and early apples, that made a spiciness and orchard fragrance all about her, and that she surely never meant to eat herself, seeing, first, that she had not a tooth in her head, and also that she made repeated anxious requests of the conductor, catching him by the coat-skirts as he passed, to "let her know in season when they began to get into Bartley;" who asked, confidentially, of her next neighbor, a well-dressed elderly gentleman, if "he didn't think it was about as cheap comin' by the cars as it would ha' ben to hire a passage any other way?" and innocently endured the smile that her query called forth on half a dozen faces about her. The gentleman, without a smile, courteously lowered his newspaper to reply that "he always thought it better to avail one's self of established conveniences rather than to waste time in independent contrivances;" and the old lady sat back,-as far back as she dared, considering her momentary apprehension of Bartley,-quite happily complacent in the confirmation of her own wisdom.

There was a trig, not to say prim, spinster, without a vestige of comeliness in her face, save the comeliness of a clear, clean, energetic expression,-such as a new broom or a bright tea-kettle might have, suggesting capacity for house thrift and hearth comfort,-who wore a gray straw bonnet, clean and neat as if it had not lasted for six years at least, which its fashion evidenced, and which, having a bright green tuft of artificial grass stuck arbitrarily upon its brim by way of modern adornment, put Leslie mischievously in mind of a roof so old that blades had sprouted in the eaves. She was glad afterwards that she had not spoken her mischief.

What made life beautiful to all these people? These farmers, who put on at daybreak their coarse homespun, for long hours of rough labor? These homely, home-bred women, who knew nothing of graceful fashions; who had always too much to do to think of elegance in doing? Perhaps that was just it; they had always something to do, something outside of themselves,-in their honest, earnest lives there was little to tempt them to a frivolous self-engrossment. Leslie touched close upon the very help and solution she wanted, as she thought these thoughts.

Opposite to her there sat a poor man, to whom there had happened a great misfortune. One eye was lost, and the cheek was drawn and marked by some great scar of wound or burn. One half his face was a fearful blot. How did people bear such things as these,-to go through the world knowing that it could never be pleasant to any human being to look upon them? that an instinct of pity and courtesy would even turn every casual glance away? There was a strange, sorrowful pleading in the one expressive side of the man's countenance, and a singularly untoward incident presently called it forth, and made it almost ludicrously pitiful. A bustling fellow entered at a way-station, his arms full of a great frame that he carried. As he blundered along the passage, looking for a seat, a jolt of the car, in starting, pitched him suddenly into the vacant place beside this man; and the open expanse of the large looking-glass-for it was that which the frame held-was fairly smitten, like an insult of fate, into the very face of the unfortunate.

"Beg pardon," the new comer said, in an off-hand way, as he settled himself, holding the glass full before the other while he righted it; and then, for the first time, giving a quick glance toward him. The astonishment, the intuitive repulsion, the consciousness of what he had done, betokened by the instant look of the one man, and the helpless, mute "How could you?" that seemed spoken in the strange, uprolled, one-sided expression of the other,-these involuntarily-met regards made a brief concurrence at once sad and irresistibly funny, as so many things in this strange life are.

The man of the mirror inclined his burden quietly the other way; and now it reflected the bright faces opposite, under the pheasant plumes. Was it any delight to Leslie to see her own face so? What was the use of being-what right had she to wish to be-pretty and pleasant to look at, when there were such utter lifelong loss and disfigurement in the world for others? Why should it not as well happen to her? And how did the world seem to such a person, and where was the worth while of it? This was the question which lingered last in her mind, and to which all else reverted. To be able to bear-perhaps this was it; and this was greater, indeed, than any outer grace.

Such as these were the wayside meanings that came to Leslie Goldthwaite that morning in the first few hours of her journey. Meanwhile, Jeannie and Elinor Hadden had begun to be tired; and Mrs. Linceford, not much entertained with her novel, held it half closed over her finger, drew her brown veil closely, and sat with her eyes shut, compensating herself with a doze for her early rising. Had the same things come to these? Not precisely; something else, perhaps. In all things, one is still taken and another left. I can only follow, minutely, one.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top