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   Chapter 4 MARMADUKE WHARNE.

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 14338

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Up-up-up,-from glory to glory!

This was what it seemed to Leslie Goldthwaite, riding, that golden June morning, over the road that threaded along, always climbing, the chain of hills that could be climbed, into the nearer and nearer presence of those mountain majesties, penetrating farther and father into the grand solitudes sentineled forever by their inaccessible pride.

Mrs. Linceford had grown impatient; she had declared it impossible, when the splendid sunshine of that next day challenged them forth out of their dull sojourn, to remain there twenty-four hours longer, waiting for anything. Trunks or none, she would go on, and wait at Jefferson, at least, where there was something to console one. All possible precaution was taken; all possible promises were made; the luggage should be sent on next day,-perhaps that very night; wagons were going and returning often now; there would be no further trouble, they might rest assured. The hotel-keeper had a "capital team,"-his very best,-at their instant service, if they chose to go on this morning; it could be at the door in twenty minutes. So it was chartered, and ordered round,-an open mountain wagon, with four horses; their remaining luggage was secured upon it, and they themselves took their seats gayly.

"Who cares for trunks or boxes now?" Leslie cried out in joyousness, catching the first, preparatory glimpse of grandeur, when their road, that wound for a time through the low, wet valley-lands, began to ascend a rugged hillside, whence opened vistas that hinted something of the glory that was to come. All the morning long, there wheeled about them, and smiled out in the sunshine, or changed to grave, grand reticence under the cloud-shadows, those shapes of might and beauty that filled up earth and heaven.

Leslie grew silent, with the hours of over-full delight. Thoughts thronged in upon her. All that had been deepest and strongest in the little of life that she had lived wakened and lifted again in such transcendent presence. Only the high places of spirit can answer to these high places of God in his creation.

Now and then, Jeannie and Elinor fell into their chatter, about their summer plans, and pleasures, and dress; about New York, and the new house Mrs. Linceford had taken in West Twenty-ninth Street, where they were to visit her next winter, and participate for the first time, under her matronizing, in city gayeties. Leslie wondered how they could; she only answered when appealed to; she felt as if people were jogging her elbow, and whispering distractions, in the midst of some noble eloquence.

The woods had a word for her; a question, and their own sweet answer of help. The fair June leafage was out in its young glory of vivid green; it reminded her of her talk with Cousin Delight.

"We do love leaves for their own sake; trees, and vines, and the very green grass, even." So she said to herself, asking still for the perfect parable that should solve and teach all.

It came, with the breath of wild grape vines, hidden somewhere in the wayside thickets. "Under the leaf lies our tiny green blossom," it said; "and its perfume is out on the air. Folded in the grass-blade is a feathery bloom, of seed or grain; and by and by the fields will be all waving with it. Be sure that the blossom is under the leaf."

Elinor Hadden's sweet child-face, always gentle and good-humored, though visited little yet with the deep touch of earnest thought,-smiling upon life as life smiled upon her,-looked lovelier to Leslie as this whisper made itself heard in her heart; and it was with a sweeter patience and a more believing kindliness that she answered, and tried to enter into, her next merry words.

There was something different about Jeannie. She was older; there was a kind of hard determination sometimes with her, in turning from suggestions of graver things; the child-unconsciousness was no longer there; something restless, now and then defiant, had taken its place; she had caught a sound of the deeper voices, but her soul would not yet turn to listen. She felt the blossom of life yearning under the leaf; but she bent the green beauty heedfully above it, and made believe it was not there.

Looking into herself and about her with asking eyes, Leslie had learned something already by which she apprehended these things of others. Heretofore, her two friends had seemed to her alike,-able, both of them, to take life innocently and carelessly as it came; she began now to feel a difference.

Her eyes were bent away off toward the Franconia hills, when Mrs. Linceford leaned round to look in them, and spoke, in the tone her voice had begun to take toward her. She felt one of her strong likings-her immense fancies, as she called them, which were really warm sympathies of the best of her with the best she found in the world-for Leslie Goldthwaite.

"It seems to me you are a stray sunbeam this morning," she said, in her winning way. "What kind of thoughts are going out so far? What is it all about?"

A verse of the Psalms was ringing itself in Leslie's mind; had been there, under all the other vague musings and chance suggestions for many minutes of her silence. But she would not have spoken it-she could not-for all the world. She gave the lady one of the chance suggestions instead. "I have been looking down into that lovely hollow; it seems like a children's party, with all the grave, grown folks looking on."

"Childhood and grown-up-hood; not a bad simile."

It was not, indeed. It was a wild basin, within a group of the lesser hills close by; full of little feathery birches, that twinkled and played in the light breeze and gorgeous sunshine slanting in upon them between the slopes that lay in shadow above,-slopes clothed with ranks of dark pines and cedars and hemlocks, looking down seriously, yet with a sort of protecting tenderness, upon the shimmer and frolic they seemed to have climbed up out of. Those which stood in the half way shadow were gravest. Hoar old stems upon the very tops were touched with the self-same glory that lavished itself below. This also was no less a true similitude.

"Know ye not this parable?" the Master said. "How then shall ye know all parables?" Verily, they lie about us by the wayside, and the whole earth is vocal with the wisdom of the Lord.

I cannot go with our party step by step; I have a summer to spend with them. They came to Jefferson at noon, and sat themselves down in the solemn high court and council of the mountain kings. First, they must have rooms. In the very face of majesty they must settle their traps.

"You are lucky in coming in for one vacancy, made to-day," the proprietor said, throwing open a door that showed them a commodious second-floor corner-room, looking each way with broad windows upon the circle of glory, from Adams to Lafayette. A wide balcony ran along the southern side against the window which gave that aspect. There were two beds here, and two at least of the party must be content to occupy. Mrs. Linceford, of course; and it was settled that Jeannie should share it with her.

Upstairs, again, was c

hoice of two rooms,-one flight, or two. But the first looked out westward, where was comparatively little of what they had come for. Higher up, they could have the same outlook that the others had; a slanting ceiling opened with dormer window full upon the grandeur of Washington, and a second faced southward to where beautiful blue, dreamy Lafayette lay soft against the tender heaven.

"Oh, let us have this!" said Leslie eagerly. "We don't mind stairs." And so it was settled.

"Only two days here?" they began to say, when they gathered in Mrs. Linceford's room at nearly tea-time, after a rest and freshening of their toilets.

"We might stay longer," Mrs. Linceford answered. "But the rooms are taken for us at Outledge, and one can't settle and unpack, when it's only a lingering from day to day. All there is here one sees from the windows. A great deal, to be sure; but it's all there at the first glance. We'll see how we feel on Friday."

"The Thoresbys are here, Augusta. I saw Ginevra on the balcony just now. They seem to have a large party with them. And I'm sure I heard them talk of a hop to-night. If your trunks would only come!"

"They could not in time. They can only come in the train that reaches Littleton at six."

"But you'll go in, won't you? 'T isn't likely they dress much here,-though Ginevra Thoresby always dresses. Elinor and I could just put on our blue grenadines, and you've got plenty of things in your other boxes. One of your shawls is all you want, and we can lend Leslie something."

"I've only my thick traveling boots," said Leslie; "and I shouldn't feel fit without a thorough dressing. It won't matter the first night, will it?"

"Leslie Goldthwaite, you're getting slow! Augusta!"

"As true as I live, there is old Marmaduke Wharne!"

"Let Augusta alone for not noticing a question till she chooses to answer it," said Jeannie Hadden, laughing. "And who, pray, is Marmaduke Wharne? With a name like that, if you didn't say 'old,' I should make up my mind to a real hero, right out of a book."

"He's an original. And-yes-he is a hero,-out of a book, too, in his way. I met him at Catskill last summer. He stayed there the whole season, till they shut the house up and drove him down the mountain. Other people came and went, took a look, and ran away; but he was a fixture. He says he always does so,-goes off somewhere and 'finds an Ararat,' and there drifts up and sticks fast. In the winter he's in New York; but that's a needle in a haystack. I never heard of him till I found him at Catskill. He's an English-man, and they say had more to his name once. It was Wharnecliffe, or Wharneleigh, or something, and there's a baronetcy in the family. I don't doubt, myself, that it's his, and that a part of his oddity has been to drop it. He was a poor preacher, years ago; and then, of a sudden, he went out to England, and came back with plenty of money, and since then he's been an apostle and missionary among the poor. That's his winter work; the summers, as I said, he spends in the hills. Most people are half afraid of him; for he's one you'll get the blunt truth from, if you never got it before. But come, there's the gong,-ugh! how they batter it! and we must get through tea and out upon the balcony, to see the sunset and the 'purple light.' There's no time now, girls, for blue grenadines; and it's always vulgar to come out in a hurry with dress in a strange place." And Mrs. Linceford gave a last touch to her hair, straightened the things on her dressing-table, shut down the lid of a box, and led the way from the room.

Out upon the balcony they watched the long, golden going down of the sun, and the creeping shadows, and the purple half-light, and the after-smile upon the crests. And then the heaven gathered itself in its night stillness, and the mountains were grand in the soft gloom, until the full moon came up over Washington.

There had been a few words of recognition with the Thoresby party, and then our little group had betaken itself to the eastern end of the piazza. After a while, one by one, the others strayed away, and they were left almost alone. There was a gathering and a sound of voices about the drawing-room, and presently came the tones of the piano, struck merrily. They jarred, somehow, too; for the ringing, thrilling notes of a horn, blown below, had just gone down the diminishing echoes from cliff to cliff, and died into a listening silence, away over, one could not tell where, beyond the mysterious ramparts.

"It's getting cold," said Jeannie impatiently. "I think we've stayed here long enough. Augusta, don't you mean to get a proper shawl, and put some sort of lace thing on your head, and come in with us for a look, at least, at the hop? Come, Nell; come, Leslie; you might as well be at home as in a place like this, if you're only going to mope."

"It seems to me," said Leslie, more to herself than to Jeannie, looking over upon the curves and ridges and ravines of Mount Washington, showing vast and solemn under the climbing moon, "as if we had got into a cathedral!"

"And the 'great nerve' was being touched! Well,-that don't make me shiver. Besides, I didn't come here to shiver. I've come to have a right good time; and to look at the mountains-as much as is reasonable."

It was a pretty good definition of what Jeannie Hadden thought she had come into the world for. There was subtle indication in it, also, that the shadow of some doubt had not failed to touch her either, and that this with her was less a careless instinct than a resolved conclusion.

Elinor, in her happy good-humor, was ready for either thing: to stay in the night splendor longer, or to go in. It ended in their going in. Outside, the moon wheeled on in her long southerly circuit, the stars trembled in their infinite depths, and the mountains abided in awful might. Within was a piano tinkle of gay music, and demi-toilette, and demi-festival,-the poor, abridged reproduction of city revelry in the inadequate parlor of an unpretending mountain-house, on a three-ply carpet.

Marmaduke Wharne came and looked in at the doorway. Mrs. Linceford rose from her seat upon the sofa close by, and gave him courteous greeting. "The season has begun early, and you seem likely to have a pleasant summer here," she said, with the half-considered meaning of a common fashion of speech.

"No, madam!" answered Marmaduke Wharne, out of his real thought, with a blunt emphasis.

"You think not?" said Mrs. Linceford suavely, in a quiet amusement. "It looks rather like it to-night."

"This?-It's no use for people to bring their bodies to the mountains, if they can't bring souls in them!" And Marmaduke Wharne turned on his heel, and, without further courtesy, strode away.

"What an old Grimgriffinhoof!" cried Jeannie under her breath; and Elinor laughed her little musical laugh of fun.

Mrs. Linceford drew up her shawl, and sat down again, the remnant of a well-bred smile upon her face. Leslie Goldthwaite rather wished old Marmaduke Wharne would come back again and say more. But this first glimpse of him was all they got to-night.

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