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

   Chapter 6 DAKIE THAYNE.

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 27270

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Grimgriffinhoof won't speak to you to-night," said Jeannie Hadden, after tea, upon the balcony.

She was mistaken. There was something different, still, in Leslie Goldthwaite's look, as she came out under the sunset light, from the looks that prevailed in the Thoresby group when they, too, made their appearance. The one moved self-forgetfully,-her consciousness and thought sent forth, not fluttering in her robes and ribbons; with the others there was a little air and bustle, as of people coming into an opera-box in presence of a full house. They said "lovely!" and "splendid!" of course,-their little word of applause for the scenic grandeur of mountain and heaven, and then the half of them turned their backs upon it, and commenced talking together about whether waterfalls were really to be given up or not, and of how people were going to look in high-crowned bonnets.

Mrs. Linceford told the "hummux" story to Marmaduke Wharne. The old man laughed till the Thoresby party turned to see.

"But I like one thing," he said. "The woman was honest. Her 'black alpacky' was most to her, and she owned up to it."

The regular thing being done, outside, the company drifted back, as the shadows fell, to the parlor again. Mrs. Linceford's party moved also, and drifted with the rest. Marmaduke Wharne, quite graciously, walked after. The Lancers was just forming.

"The bear is playing tame and amiable," whispered Jeannie. "But he'll eat you up, for all that. I wouldn't trust him. He's going to watch, to see how wicked you'll be."

"I shall let him see," replied Leslie quietly.

"Miss Goldthwaite, you're for the dance to-night? For the 'bright and kind and pleasant,' eh?" the "bear" said, coming to her side within the room.

"If anybody asks me," answered Leslie, with brave simplicity. "I like dancing-very much."

"I'll find you a partner, then," said Mr. Wharne.

She looked up, surprised; but he was quite in earnest. He walked across the room, and brought back with him a lad of thirteen or so,-well grown for his age, and bright and manly-looking; but only a boy, and a little shy and stiff at first, as boys have to be for a while. Leslie had seen him before, in the afternoon, rolling the balls through a solitary game of croquet; and afterward taking his tea by himself at the lower end of the table. He had seemed to belong to nobody, and as yet hardly to have got the "run" of the place.

"This is Master Thayne, Miss Leslie Goldthwaite, and I think he would like to dance, if you please."

Master Thayne made a proper bow, and glanced up at the young girl with a smile lurking behind the diffidence in his face. Leslie smiled outright, and held out her hand.

It was not a brilliant début, perhaps. The Haddens had been appropriated by a couple of youths in frock coats and orthodox kids, with a suspicion of mustaches; and one of the Thoresbys had a young captain of cavalry, with gold bars on his shoulders. Elinor Hadden raised her pretty eyebrows, and put as much of a mock-miserable look into her happy little face as it could hold, when she found her friend, so paired, at her right hand.

"It's very good of you to stand up with me," said the boy simply. "It's awful slow, not knowing anybody."

"Are you here alone?" asked Leslie.

"Yes; there was nobody to come with me. Oliver-my brother-will come by and by, and perhaps my uncle and the rest of them, to meet me where I'm to be, down among the mountains. We're all broken up this summer, and I'm to take care of myself."

"Then you don't stay here?"

"No; I only came this way to see what it was like. I've got a jolly place engaged for me, at Outledge."

"Outledge? Why, we are going there!"

"Are you? That's-jolly!" repeated the boy, pausing a second for a fresher or politer word, but unable to supply a synonym.

"I'm glad you think so," answered Leslie, with her genuine smile again.

The two had already made up their minds to be friends. In fact, Master Thayne would hardly have acquiesced in being led up for introduction to any other young girl in the room. There had been something in Leslie Goldthwaite's face that had looked kind and sisterly to him. He had no fear of a snub with her; and these things Mr. Wharne had read, in his behalf, as well.

"He's a queer old fellow, that Mr. Wharne, isn't he?" pursued Master Thayne, after forward and back, as he turned his partner to place. "But he's the only one that's had anything to say to me, and I like him. I've been down to the old mill with him to-day. Those people"-motioning slightly toward the other set, where the Thoresbys were dancing-"were down there, too. You'd ought to have seen them look! Don't they hate him, though?"

"Hate him? Why should they do that?"

"Oh, I don't know. People feel each other out, I suppose. And a word of his is as much as a whole preach of anybody's else. He says a word now and then, and it hits."

"Yes," responded Leslie, laughing.

"What did you do it for?" whispered Elinor, in hands across.

"I like him; he's got something to say," returned Leslie.

"Augusta's looking at you, like a hen after a stray chicken. She's all but clucking now."

"Mr. Wharne will tell her."

But Mr. Wharne was not in the room. He came back just as Leslie was making her way again, after the dance, to Mrs. Linceford.

"Will you do a galop with me presently?-if you don't get a better partner, I mean," said Master Thayne.

"That wouldn't be much of a promise," answered Leslie, smiling. "I will, at any rate; that is, if-after I've spoken to Mrs. Linceford."

Mr. Wharne came up and said something to young Thayne, just then; and the latter turned eagerly to Leslie. "The telescope's fixed, out on the balcony; and you can see Jupiter and three of his moons! We must make haste, before our moon's up."

"Will you go and look, Mrs. Linceford?" asked Mr. Wharne of the lady, as Leslie reached her side.

They went with him, and Master Thayne followed. Jeannie and Elinor and the Miss Thoresbys were doing the inevitable promenade after the dance,-under difficulties.

"Who is your young friend?" inquired Mrs. Linceford, with a shade of doubt in her whisper, as they came out on the balcony.

"Master"-Leslie began to introduce, but stopped. The name, which she had not been quite certain of, escaped her.

"My name is Dakie Thayne," said the boy, with a bow to the matron.

"Now, Mrs. Linceford, if you'll just sit here," said Mr. Wharne, placing a chair. "I suppose I ought to have come to you first; but it's all right," he added, in a low tone, over her shoulder. "He's a nice boy."

And Mrs. Linceford put her eye to the telescope. "Dakie Thayne! It's a queer name; and yet it seems as if I had heard it before," she said, looking away through the mystic tube into space, and seeing Jupiter with his moons, in a fair round picture framed expressly to her eye; yet sending a thought, at the same time, up and down the lists of a mental directory, trying to place Dakie Thayne among people she had heard of.

"I'll be responsible for the name," answered Marmaduke Wharne.

"'Dakie' is a nickname, of course; but they always call me so, and I like it best," the boy was explaining to Leslie, while they waited in the doorway.

Then her turn came. Leslie had never looked through a telescope upon the stars before. She forgot the galop, and the piano tinkled out its gayest notes unheard. "It seems like coming all the way back," she said, when she moved away for Dakie Thayne.

Then they wheeled the telescope upon its pivot eastward, and met our own moon coming up, as if in a grand jealousy, to assert herself within her small domain, and put out faint, far satellites of lordlier planets. They looked upon her mystic, glistening hill-tops, and down her awful craters; and from these they seemed to drop a little, as a bird might, and alight on the earth-mountains looming close at hand, with their huge, rough crests and sides, and sheer escarpments white with nakedness; and so-got home again. Leslie, with her maps and gazetteer, had done no traveling like this.

She would not have cared, if she had known, that Imogen Thoresby was looking for her within, to present, at his own request, the cavalry captain. She did not know in the least, absorbed in her pure enjoyment, that Marmaduke Wharne was deliberately trying her, and confirming his estimate of her, in these very things.

She danced her galop with Dakie Thayne, after she went back. The cavalry captain was introduced, and asked for it. "That was something," as Hans Andersen would say; but "What a goose not to have managed better!" was what Imogen Thoresby thought concerning it, as the gold bars turned themselves away.

Leslie Goldthwaite had taken what came to her, and she had had an innocent, merry time; she had been glad to be dressed nicely, and to look her best: but somehow she had not thought of that much, after all; the old uncomfortableness had not troubled her to-night.

"Just to be in better business. That's the whole of it," she thought to herself, with her head upon the pillow. She put it in words, mentally, in the same off-hand fashion in which she would have spoken it to Cousin Delight. "One must look out for that, and keep at it. That's the eye-stone-woman's way; and it's what has kept me from worrying and despising myself to-night. It only happened so, this time; it was Mr. Wharne, not I. But I suppose one can always find something, by trying. And the trying"-The rest wandered off into a happy musing; and the musing merged into a dream.

Object and motive,-the "seeking first;" she had touched upon that, at last, with a little comprehension of its working.

She liked Dakie Thayne. The next day they saw a good deal of him; he joined himself gradually, but not obtrusively, to their party; they included him in their morning game of croquet. This was at her instance; he was standing aside, not expecting to be counted in, though he had broken off his game of solitaire, and driven the balls up to the starting-stake, as they came out upon the ground. The Thoresby set had ignored him, always, being too many already among themselves,-and he was only a boy.

This morning there were only Imogen, and Etty, the youngest; a walking-party had gone off up the Cherry Mountain road, and Ginevra was upstairs, packing; for the Thoresbys had also suddenly decided to leave for Outledge on the morrow. Mrs. Thoresby declared, in confidence, to Mrs. Linceford, that "old Wharne would make any house intolerable; and that Jefferson, at any rate, was no place for more than a week's stay." She "wouldn't have it mentioned in the house, however, that she was going, till the time came,-it made such an ado; and everybody's plans were at loose ends among the mountains, ready to fix themselves to anything at a day's notice; they might have tomorrow's stage loaded to crushing, if they did not take care."

"But I thought Mrs. Devreaux and the Klines were with you," remarked Mrs. Linceford.

"Of our party? Oh, no indeed; we only fell in with them here."

"Fell in" with them; became inseparable for a week; and now were stealing a march,-dodging them,-lest there might be an overcrowding of the stage, and an impossibility of getting outside seats! Mrs. Thoresby was a woman of an imposing elegance and dignity, with her large curls of resplendent gray hair high up on her temples, her severely-handsome dark eyebrows, and her own perfect, white teeth; yet she could do a shabby thing, you see,-a thing made shabby by its motive. The Devreaux and Klines were only "floating people," boarding about,-not permanently valuable as acquaintances; well enough to know when one met them,-that was all. Mrs. Thoresby had daughters; she was obliged to calculate as to what was worth while. Mrs. Linceford had an elegant establishment in New York; she had young sisters to bring out; there was suitability here; and the girls would naturally find themselves happy together.

Dakie Thayne developed brilliantly at croquet. He and Leslie, with Etty Thoresby, against Imogen and the Haddens, swept triumphantly around the course, and came in to the stake, before there had been even a "rover" upon the other side. Except, indeed, as they were sent roving, away off over the bank and down the road, from the sloping, uneven ground,-the most extraordinary field, in truth, on which croquet was ever attempted. But then you cannot expect a level, velvet lawn on the side of a mountain.

"Children always get the best of it at croquet,-when they know anything at all," said Imogen Thoresby discontentedly, throwing down her mallet. "You 'poked' awfully, Etty."

Etty began an indignant denial; unable to endure the double accusation of being a child,-she, a girl in her fourteenth year,-and of "poking." But Imogen walked away quite unconcernedly, and Jeannie Hadden followed her. These two, as nearest in age, were growing intimate. Ginevra was almost too old,-she was twenty.

They played a four-ball game then; Leslie and Etty against Elinor and Dakie Thayne. But Elinor declared-laughing, all the same, in her imperturbably good-natured way-that not only Etty's pokes were against her, but that Dakie would not croquet Leslie's ball downhill. Nothing ever really put Elinor Hadden out, the girls said of her, except when her hair wouldn't go up; and then it was funny to see her. It was a sunbeam in a snarl, or a snow flurry out of a blue sky. This in parenthesis, however; it was quite true, as she alleged, that Dakie Thayne had taken up already that chivalrous

attitude toward Leslie Goldthwaite which would not let him act otherwise than as her loyal knight, even though opposed to her at croquet.

"You'll have enough of that boy," said Mrs. Linceford, when Leslie came in, and found her at her window that overlooked the wickets. "There's nothing like a masculine creature of that age for adoring and monopolizing a girl two or three years older. He'll make you mend his gloves, and he'll beg your hair-ribbons for hat-strings; and when you're not dancing or playing croquet with him, he'll be after you with some boy-hobby or other, wanting you to sympathize and help. 'I know their tricks and their manners.'" But she looked amused and kind while she threatened, and Leslie only smiled back and said nothing.

Presently fresh fun gathered in Mrs. Linceford's eyes. "You're making queer friends, child, do you know, at the beginning of your travels? We shall have Cocky-locky, and Turkey-lurky, and Goosie-poosie, and all the rest of them, before we get much farther. Don't breathe a word, girls," she went on, turning toward them all, and brimming over with merriment and mischief;-"but there's the best joke brewing. It's just like a farce. Is the door shut, Elinor? And are the Thoresbys gone upstairs? They're going with us, you know? And there's nothing to be said about it? And it's partly to get away from Marmaduke Wharne? Well, he's going, too. And it's greatly because they're spoiling the place for him here. He thinks he'll try Outledge; and there's nothing to be said about that, either! And I'm the unhappy depositary of all their complaints and secrets. And if nobody's stopped, they'll all be off in the stage with us to-morrow morning! I couldn't help telling you, for it was too good to keep."

The secrets were secrets through the day; and Mrs. Linceford had her quiet fun, and opportunity for her demure teasing.

"How long since Outledge was discovered and settled?-by the moderns, I mean," said Mr. Wharne. "What chance will one really have of quiet there?"

"Well, really, to be honest, Mr. Wharne, I'm afraid Outledge will be just at the rampant stage this summer. It's the second year of anything like general accommodation, and everybody has just heard of it, and it's the knowing and stylish thing to go there. For a week or two it may be quiet; but then there'll be a jam. There'll be hops, and tableaux, and theatricals, of course; interspersed with 'picnicking at the tomb of Jehoshaphat,' or whatever mountain solemnity stands for that. It'll be human nature right over again, be assured, Mr. Wharne."

Yet, somehow, Mr. Wharne would not be frightened from his determination,-until the evening; when plans came out, and good-bys and wonders and lamentations began.

"Yes, we have decided quite suddenly; the girls want to see Outledge, and there's a pleasant party of friends, you know,-one can't always have that. We shall probably fill a stage: so they will take us through, instead of dropping us at the Crawford House." In this manner Mrs. Thoresby explained to her dear friend, Mrs. Devreaux.

"We shall be quite sorry to lose you all. But it would only have been a day or so longer, at any rate. Our rooms are engaged for the fifteenth, at Saratoga; we've very little time left for the mountains, and it wouldn't be worth while to go off the regular track. We shall probably go down to the Profile on Saturday."

And then-da capo-"Jefferson was no place really to stay at; you got the whole in the first minute," etc., etc.

"Good-night, Mrs. Linceford. I'm going up to unpack my valise and make myself comfortable again. All things come round, or go by, I find, if one only keeps one's self quiet. But I shall look in upon you at Outledge yet." These were the stairway words of Marmaduke Wharne to-night.

"'One gets the whole in the first minute'! How can they keep saying that? Look, Elinor, and see if you can tell me where we are?" was Leslie's cry, as, early next morning, she drew up her window-shade, to look forth-on what?

Last night had lain there, underneath them, the great basin between Starr King, behind, and the roots of that lesser range, far down, above which the blue Lafayette uprears itself: an enormous valley, filled with evergreen forest, over whose tall pines and cedars one looked, as if they were but juniper and blueberry bushes; far up above whose heads the real average of the vast mountain-country heaped itself in swelling masses,-miles and miles of beetling height and solid breadth. This morning it was gone; only the great peaks showed themselves, as a far-off, cliff-bound shore, or here and there a green island in a vast, vaporous lake. The night-chill had come down among the heights, condensing the warm exhalations of the valley-bosom that had been shone into all day yesterday by the long summer sun; till, when he lifted himself once more out of the east, sending his leaping light from crest to crest, white fallen clouds were tumbling and wreathing themselves about the knees and against the mighty bosoms of the giants, and at their feet the forest was a sea.

"We must dress, and we must look!" exclaimed Leslie, as the early summons came for them. "Oh dear! oh dear! if we were only like the birds! or if all this would wait till we get down!"

"Please drop the shade just a minute, Les. This glass is in such a horrid light! I don't seem to have but half a face, and I can't tell which is the up-side of that! And-oh dear! I've no time to get into a fuss!" Elinor had not disdained the beauty and wonder without; but it was, after all, necessary to be dressed, and in a given time; and a bad light for a looking-glass is such a disastrous thing!

"I've brushed out half my crimps," she said, again; "and my ruffle is basted in wrong side out, and altogether I'm got up à la furieuse!" But she laughed before she had done scolding, catching sight of her own exaggerated little frown in the distorting glass, that was unable, with all its malice, to spoil the bright young face when it came to smiles and dimples.

And then Jeannie came knocking at the door. They had spare minutes, after all, and the mists were yet tossing in the valley when they went down. They were growing filmy, and floating away in shining fragments up over the shoulders of the hills, and the lake was lower and less, and the emerging green was like the "Thousand Islands."

They waited a little there, in the wide, open door together, and looked out upon it; and then the Haddens went round into their sister's room, and Leslie was left alone in the rare, sweet, early air. The secret joy came whispering at her heart again: that there was all this in the world, and that one need not be utterly dull and mean, and dead to it; that something in her answered to the greatness overshadowing her; that it was possible, sometimes, and that people did reach out into a larger life than that of self and every-day. How else did the great mountains draw them to themselves so? But then she would not always be among the mountains.

And so she stood, drinking in at her eyes all the shifting and melting splendors of the marvelous scene, with her thought busy, once more, in its own questioning. She remembered what she had said to Cousin Delight: "It is all outside. Going, and doing, and seeing, and hearing, and having. In myself, am I good for any more, after all? Or only-a green fig-tree in the sunshine?"

Why, with that word, did it all flash together for her, as a connected thing? Her talk that morning, many weeks ago, that had seemed to ramble so from one irrelevant matter to another,-from the parable to her fancy-traveling, the scenes and pleasures she had made for herself, wondering if the real would ever come; to the linen-drawer, representing her little feminine absorptions and interests; and back to the fig-tree again, ending with that word,-"the real living is the urging toward the fruit"? Her day's journey, and the hints of life-narrowed, suffering, working-that had come to her, each with its problem? Marmaduke Wharne's indignant protest against people who "did not know their daily bread," and his insistence upon the two things for human creatures to do: the receiving and the giving; the taking from God, in the sunshine, to grow; the ripening into generous uses for others,-was it all one, and did it define the whole, and was it identical, in the broadest and highest, with that sublime double command whereon "hang the law and the prophets"?

Something like this passed into her mind and soul, brightening there, like the morning. It seemed, in that glimpse, so clear and gracious,-the truth that had been puzzling her.

Easy, beautiful summer work: only to be shone upon; to lift up one's branching life, and be-reverently-glad; to grow sweet and helpful and good-giving, in one's turn,-could she not begin to do that? Perhaps-by ever so little; the fruit might be but a berry, yet it might be fair and full, after its kind; and at least some little bird might be the better for it. All around her, too, the life of the world that had so troubled her,-who could tell, in the tangle of green, where the good and the gift might ripen and fall? Every little fern-frond has its seed.

Jeannie came behind her again, and called her back to the contradictory phase of self that, with us all, is almost ready, like Peter, to deny the true. "What are you deep in now, Les?"

"Nothing. Only-we go down from here, don't we, Jeannie?"

"Yes. And a very good thing for you, too. You've been in the clouds long enough. I shall be glad to get you to the common level again."

"You've no need to be anxious. I can come down as fast as anybody. That isn't the hard thing to do. Let's go in, and get salt-fish and cream for our breakfast."

The Haddens were new to mountain travel; the Thoresbys, literally, were "old stagers;" they were up in the stable-yard before Mrs. Linceford's party came out from the breakfast-room. Dakie Thayne was there, too; but that was quite natural for a boy.

They got their outside seats by it, scrambling up before the horses were put to, and sitting there while the hostlers smiled at each other over their work. There was room for two more, and Dakie Thayne took a place; but the young ladies looked askance, for Ginevra had been detained by her mother, and Imogen had hoped to keep a seat for Jeannie, without drawing the whole party after her, and running aground upon politeness. So they drove round to the door.

"First come, first served," cried Imogen, beckoning Jeannie, who happened to be there, looking for her friend. "I've saved a place for you,"-and Jeannie Hadden, nothing loath, as a man placed the mounting board, sprang up and took it.

Then the others came out. Mrs. Thoresby and Mrs. Linceford got inside the vehicle at once, securing comfortable back corner-seats. Ginevra, with Leslie and Elinor, and one or two others too late for their own interest, but quite comprehending the thing to be preferred, lingered while the last trunks went on, hoping for room to be made somehow.

"It's so gay on the top, going down into the villages. There's no fun inside," said Imogen complacently, settling herself upon her perch.

"Won't there be another stage?"

"Only half way. This one goes through."

"I'll go half way on the other, then," said Ginevra.

"This is the best team, and goes on ahead," was the reply.

"You'll be left behind," cried Mrs. Thoresby. "Don't think of it, Ginevra!"

"Can't that boy sit back, on the roof?" asked the young lady.

"That boy" quite ignored the allusion; but presently, as Ginevra moved toward the coach-window to speak with her mother, he leaned down to Leslie Goldthwaite. "I'll make room for you," he said.

But Leslie had decided. She could not, with effrontery of selfishness, take the last possible place,-a place already asked for by another. She thanked Dakie Thayne, and, with just one little secret sigh, got into the interior, placing herself by the farther door.

At that moment she missed something. "I've left my brown veil in your room, Mrs. Linceford,"-and she was about to alight again to go for it.

"I'll fetch it," cried Dakie Thayne from overhead, and, as he spoke, came down on her side by the wheel, and, springing around to the house entrance, disappeared up the stairs.

"Ginevra!" Then there came a laugh and a shout and some crinoline against the forward open corner of the coach, and Ginevra Thoresby was by the driver's side. A little ashamed, in spite of herself, though it was done under cover of a joke; but "All's fair among the mountains," somebody said, and "Possession's nine points," said another, and the laugh was with her, seemingly.

Dakie Thayne flushed up, hot, without a word, when he came out, an instant after.

"I'm so sorry!" said Leslie, with real regret, accented with honest indignation.

"It's your place," called out a rough man, who made the third upon the coach-box. "Why don't you stick up for it?"

The color went down slowly in the boy's face, and a pride came up in his eye. He put his hand to his cap, with a little irony of deference, and lifted it off with the grace of a grown man. "I know it's my place. But the young lady may keep it-now. I'd rather be a gentleman!" said Dakie Thayne.

"You've got the best of it!" This came from Marmaduke Wharne, as the door closed upon the boy, and the stage rolled down the road toward Cherry Mountain.

There is a "best" to be got out of everything; but it is neither the best of place or possession, nor the chuckle of the last word.

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