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

   Chapter 5 HUMMOCKS.

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 13664

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Blown crystal clear by Freedom's northern wind."

Leslie said the last line of Whittier's glorious mountain sonnet, low, to herself, standing on the balcony again that next morning, in the cold, clear breeze; the magnificent lines of the great earth-masses rearing themselves before her sharply against a cloudless morning sky, defining and revealing themselves anew.

"Freedom's northern wind will take all the wave out of your hair, and give you a red nose!" said Jeannie, coming round from her room, and upon Leslie unaware.

Well, Jeannie was a pretty thing to look at, in her delicate blue cambric morning dress, gracefully braided with white, with the fresh rose of recent sleep in her young cheeks, and the gladness of young life in her dark eyes. One might look away from the mountains to look at her; for, after all, the human beauty is the highest. Only, it must express high things, or at last one turns aside.

"And there comes Marmaduke; he's worse than the north wind. I can't stay to be 'blown clear' by him." And Jeannie, in high, merry good-humor, flitted off. It is easy to be merry and good-humored when one's new dress fits exquisitely, and one's hair hasn't been fractious in the doing up.

Leslie had never, apparently to herself, cared less, somehow, for self and little vanities; it seemed as if it were going to be quite easy for her, now and henceforth, to care most for the nobler things of life. The great mountain enthusiasm had seized her for the first time and swept away before it all meaner thought; and, besides, her trunk had been left behind, and she had nothing to put herself into but her plain brown traveling dress.

She let the wind play with the puffs of her hair, and send some little light locks astray about her forehead. She wrapped her shawl around her, and went and sat where she had sat the night before, at the eastern end of the balcony, her face toward the morning hills, as it had been toward the evening radiance and purple shade. Marmaduke Wharne was moving up and down, stopping a little short of her when he turned, keeping his own solitude as she kept hers. Faces and figures glanced out at the hall-door for an instant each, and the keen salute of the north wind sent them invariably in again. Nobody wanted to go with a red nose or tossed hair to the breakfast-table; and breakfast was almost ready. But presently Mrs. Linceford came, and, seeing Mr. Wharne, who always interested and amused her, she ventured forth, bidding him good-morning.

"Good-morning, madam. It is a good morning."

"A little sharp, isn't it?" she said, shrugging her shoulders together, irresolute about further lingering. "Ah, Leslie? Let me introduce you to the Reverend Mr. Wharne. My young friend and traveling companion, Miss Leslie Goldthwaite, Mr. Wharne. Have you two driven everybody else off, or is it the nipping air?"

"I think it is either that they have not said their prayers this morning, or that they don't know their daily bread when they see it. They think it is only saleratus cakes and maple molasses."

"As cross this morning as last night?" the lady questioned playfully.

"Not cross at all, Mrs. Linceford. Only jarred upon continually by these people we have here just now. It was different two years ago. But Jefferson is getting to be too well known. The mountain places are being spoiled, one after another."

"People will come. You can't help that."

"Yes, they will come, and frivel about the gates, without ever once entering in. 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity.'"

Leslie Goldthwaite's face quickened and glowed; they were the psalm lines that had haunted her thought yesterday, among the opening visions of the hill-country. Marmaduke Wharne bent his keen eyes upon her, from under their gray brows, noting her narrowly. She wist not that she was noted, or that her face shone.

"One soul here, at least!" was what the stern old man said to himself in that moment.

He was cynical and intolerant here among the mountains, where he felt the holy places desecrated, and the gift of God unheeded. In the haunts of city misery and vice,-misery and vice shut in upon itself, with no broad outlook to the heavens,-he was tender, with the love of Christ himself.

"'My house shall be called the house of prayer, but these have made it a den of thieves.' It is true not alone of the temples built with hands."

"Is that fair? How do you know, Mr. Wharne?" The sudden, impetuous questions come from Leslie Goldthwaite.

"I see-what I see."

"The whole?" said Leslie, more restrainedly. She remembered her respect for age and office. Yet she felt sorely tempted, shy, proud girl as she was, to take up cudgels for her friends, at least. Mr. Wharne liked her the better for that.

"They turn away from this, with five words,-the toll of custom,-or half a look, when the wind is north; and they go in to what you saw last night."

"After all, isn't it just enjoyment, either way? Mayn't one be as selfish as the other? People were kind, and bright, and pleasant with each other last night. Is that a bad thing?"

"No, little girl, it is not." And Marmaduke Wharne came nearer to Leslie, and looked at her with a gentle look that was wonderfully beautiful upon his stern gray face. "Only, I would have a kindness that should go deep,-coming from a depth. There are two things for live men and women to do: to receive, from God; and to give out, to their fellows. One cannot be done without the other. No fruit, without the drinking of the sunshine. No true tasting of the sunshine that is not gathering itself toward the ripening of fruit."

Here it was again; more teaching to the self-same point,-as we always do get it, with a seeming strangeness, whether it be for mind only, or for soul. You never heard of a new name, or fact in history, that did not come out again presently in some fresh or further mention or allusion. It is the tender training of Him before whom our life is of so great value.

At this moment, the gong sounded again; saleratus cakes and maple molasses were ready, and they all went in.

Leslie saw Imogen Thoresby change seats with her mother, because the draught from the door was less in her place; and take the pale top cake from the plate, leaving a brown one for the mother. Everybody likes brown cakes best; and it was very unbecoming to sit opposite a great, unshaded window, to say nothing of the draught. Surely a little blossom peeped out here from under the leaf. Leslie thought Imogen Thoresby might be forgiven for having done her curls so elaborately, and put on such an elegant wrapper; even for having ventured only a half-look out at the ba

lcony door, when she found the wind was north. The parable was already teaching her both ways.

I do not mean to preach upon every page. I have begun by trying to tell you how a great influencing thought was given into Leslie Goldthwaite's life, and began to unravel for her perplexing questions that had troubled her,-questions that come, I think, to many a young girl just entering upon the world, as they came to her; how, in the simple history of her summer among the mountains, a great deal solved itself and grew clear. I would like to succeed in making you divine this, as you follow out the simple history itself.

"Just in time!" cried Jeannie Hadden, running up into Leslie's room at mid-afternoon that day. "There's a stage over from Littleton, and your trunk is being brought up this minute."

"And the hair-trunk and the mail-bag came on, too, after all, and the queerest people with them!" added Elinor, entering behind her.

They both stood back and were silent, as a man came heavily along the passage with the trunk upon his shoulder. He set it down and unfastened the straps, and in a minute more was gone, and Leslie had the lid open. All there, just as it had been in her own room at home three days ago. Her face brightened, seeing her little treasures again. She had borne it well; she had been able to enjoy without them; but she was very glad that they were come.

"It's nice that dinner is at lunch-time here, and that nobody dresses until now. Make haste, and get on something pretty. Augusta won't let us get out organdies, but we're determined on the blue grenadines. It's awfully hot,-hot enough for anything. Do your hair over the high rats, just for once."

"I always get into such a fuss with them, and I can't bear to waste the time. How will this do?" Leslie unpinned from its cambric cover a gray iron barége, with a narrow puffing round the hem of the full skirt and the little pointed bertha cape. With it lay bright cherry ribbons for the neck and hair.

"Lovely! Make haste and come down to our room." And having to dress herself, Jeannie ran off again, and Elinor shut the door.

It was nice to have on everything fresh; to have got her feet into rosetted slippers instead of heavy balmoral boots; to feel the lightness and grace of her own movement as she went downstairs and along the halls in floating folds of delicate barége, after wearing the close, uncomfortable traveling-dress, with the sense of dust and fatigue that clung about it; to have a little flutter of bright ribbon in her hair, that she knew was, as Elinor said, "the prettiest part of her." It was pleasant to see Mrs. Linceford looked pleased, as she opened her door to her, and to have her say, "You always do get on exactly the right thing!" There was a fresh feeling of pleasure even in looking over at Washington, sun-lighted and shadowed in his miles of heights and depths, as she sat by the cool east window, feeling quite her dainty self again. Dress is but the outside thing, as beauty is but "skin deep;" but there is a deal of inevitable skin-sensation, pleasurable or uncomfortable, and Leslie had a good right to be thoroughly comfortable now.

The blinds to the balcony window were closed; that led to a funny little episode presently,-an odd commentary on the soul-and-body question, as it had come up to them in graver fashion.

Outside, to two chairs just under the window, came a couple newly arrived,-the identical proprietors of the exchanged luggage. It was an elderly countryman, and his home-bred, matter-of-fact wife. They, too, had had their privations and anxieties, and the outset of their evidently unusual travels had been marred in its pleasure. In plain truth, the good woman was manifestly soured by her experience.

Right square before the blinds she turned her back, unconscious of the audience within, lifted her elbows, like clothes-poles, to raise her draperies, and settled herself with a dissatisfied flounce, that expressed beforehand what she was about to put in words. "For my part," she announced deliberately, "I think the White Mountains is a clear-hummux!"

"Good large hummocks, anyway," returned her companion.

"You know what I mean. 'T ain't worth comin' for. Losin' baggage, an' everything. We'd enough sight better ha' stayed at Plymouth. An' if it hadn't 'a' ben for your dunderheadedness, givin' up the checks an' never stoppin' to see what was comin' of 'em, trunks or hencoops, we might. There's somethin' to see, there. That little bridge leadin' over to the swings and seats across the river was real pretty and pleasant. And the cars comin' in an' startin' off, right at the back door, made it lively. I alwers did like to see passin.'"

The attitudes inside the blinds were something, at this moment. Mrs. Linceford, in a spasm of suppressed laughter herself, held her handkerchief to her lips with one hand, and motioned peremptory silence to the girls with the other. Jeannie was noiselessly clapping her hands, and dancing from one toe to the other with delight. Leslie and Elinor squeezed each other's fingers lightly, and leaned forward together, their faces brimming over with fun; and the former whispered with emphatic pantomime to Mrs. Linceford, "If Mr. Wharne were only here!"

"You've ben worried," said the man. "And you've ben comin' up to 'em gradooal. You don't take 'em in. If one of these 'ere hills was set out in our fields to home, you'd think it was something more than a hummock, I guess."

"Well, why ain't they, then? It's the best way to put things where you can see 'em to an advantage. They're all in the way of each other here, and don't show for nothing to speak of. Worried! I guess I hev ben! I shan't git over it till I've got home an' ben settled down a week. It's a mercy I've ever laid eyes agin on that bran'-new black alpacky!"

"Well, p'r'aps the folks felt wuss that lost them stylish-lookin' trunks. I'll bet they had something more in 'em than black alpackys."

"That don't comfort me none. I've had my tribulation."

"Well, come, don't be grouty, Hannah. We've got through the wust of it, and if you ain't satisfied, why, we'll go back to Plymouth again. I can stand it awhile, I guess, if 't is four dollars a day."

He had evidently sat still a good while for him, honest man; and he got up with this, and began to pace up and down, looking at the "hummocks," which signified greater meanings to him than to his wife.

Mrs. Linceford came over and put the window down. It was absolutely necessary to laugh now, however much of further entertainment might be cut off.

Hannah jumped up, electrified, as the sash went down behind her.

"John! John! There's folks in there!"

"S'pose likely," said John, with quiet relish of amends. "What's good for me 'ill do for them!"

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