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   Chapter 11 IN THE PINES.

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 27157

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was a glorious July morning, and there was nothing particular on foot. In the afternoon, there would be drives and walks, perhaps; for some hours, now, there would be intensifying heat. The sun had burned away every cloud that had hung rosy about his rising, and the great gray flanks of Washington glared in a pale scorch close up under the sky, whose blue fainted in the flooding presence of the full white light of such unblunted day. Here and there, adown his sides, something flashed out in a clear, intense dazzle, like an enormous crystal cropping from the granite, and blazing with reflected splendor. These were the leaps of water from out dark rifts into the sun.

"Everybody will be in the pines to-day," said Martha Josselyn. "I think it is better when they all go off and leave us."

"We can go up under our rock," said Sue, putting stockings and mending cotton into a large, light basket. "Have you got the chess-board? What should we do without our mending-day?"

These two girls had bought new stockings for all the little feet at home, that the weekly darning might be less for the mother while they were away; and had come with their own patiently cared for old hose, "which they should have nothing else to do but to embroider."

They had made a sort of holiday, in their fashion, of mending-day at home, till it had come to seem like a positive treat and rest; and the habit was so strong upon them that they hailed it even here. They always got out their little chess-board, when they sat down to the big basket together. They could darn, and consider, and move, and darn again; and so could keep it up all day long, as else even they would have found it nearly intolerable to do. So, though they seemed slower at it, they really in the end saved time. Thursday night saw the tedious work all done, and the basket piled with neatly folded pairs, like a heap of fine white rolls. This was a great thing, and "enough for one day," as Mrs. Josselyn said. It was disastrous if they once began to lie over. If they could be disposed of between sun and sun, the girls were welcome to any play they could get out of it.

"There they go, those two together. Always to the pines, and always with a work-basket," said Leslie Goldthwaite, sitting on the piazza step at the Green Cottage, by Mrs. Linceford's feet, the latter lady occupying a Shaker rocking-chair behind. "What nice girls they seem to be,-and nobody appears to know them much, beyond a 'good-morning'!"

"Henny-penny, Goosie-poosie, Turkey-lurky, Ducky-daddles, and Chicken Little!" said Mrs. Linceford, counting up from thumb to little finger. "Dakie Thayne and Miss Craydocke, Marmaduke Wharne and these two,-they just make it out," she continued, counting back again. "Whatever you do, Les, don't make up to Fox Lox at last, for all our sakes!"

Out came Dakie Thayne, at this point, upon them, with his hands full. "Miss Leslie, could you head these needles for me with black wax? I want them for my butterflies, and I've made such a daub and scald of it! I've blistered three fingers, and put lop-sided heads to two miserable pins, and left no end of wax splutters on my table. I haven't but two sticks more, and the deacon don't keep any; I must try to get a dozen pins out of it, at least." He had his sealing-wax and a lighted "homespun candle," as Leslie called the dips of Mrs. Green's manufacture, in one hand, and a pincushion stuck full of needles waiting for tops, in the other.

"I told you so," said Mrs. Linceford to Leslie. "That's it, then?" she asked of Dakie Thayne.

"What, ma'am?"

"Butterflies. I knew you'd some hobby or other,-I said so. I'm glad it's no worse," she answered, in her pleasant, smiling way. Dakie Thayne had a great liking for Mrs. Linceford, but he adored Leslie Goldthwaite.

"I'd like to show them to you, if you'd care," he said. "I've got some splendid ones. One great Turnus, that I brought with me in the chrysalis, that hatched out while I was at Jefferson. I rolled it up in a paper for the journey, and fastened it in the crown of my hat. I've had it ever since last fall. The asterias worms are spinning now,-the early ones. They're out on the carrot-tops in shoals. I'm feeding up a dozen of 'em in a box. They're very handsome,-bright green with black and yellow spots,-and it's the queerest thing to see them stiffen out and change."

"Can you? Do they do it all at once?" asked Etty Thoresby, slipping into the rocking-chair, as Mrs. Linceford, by whom she had come and placed herself within the last minute, rose and went in to follow her laundress, just then going up the stairs with her basket.

"Pretty much; it seems so. The first thing you know they stick themselves up by their tails, and spin a noose to hang back their heads in, and there they are, like a papoose in a basket. Then their skin turns a queer, dead, ashy color, and grows somehow straight and tight, and they only squirm a little in a feeble way now and then, and grow stiffer and stiffer till they can't squirm at all, and then they're mummies, and that's the end of it till the butterflies are born. It's a strange thing to see a live creature go into its own shroud, and hang itself up to turn into a corpse. Sometimes a live one, crawling round to find a place for itself, will touch a mummy accidentally; and then, when they're not quite gone, I've seen 'em give an odd little quiver, under the shell, as if they were almost at peace, and didn't want to be intruded on, or called back to earthly things, and the new comer takes the hint, and respects privacy, and moves himself off to find quarters somewhere else. Miss Leslie, how splendidly you're doing those! What's the difference, I wonder, between girls' fingers and boys'? I couldn't make those atoms of balls so round and perfect, 'if I died and suffered,' as Miss Hoskins says."

"It's only centrifugal force," said Leslie, spinning round between her finger and thumb a needle to whose head she had just touched a globule of the bright black wax. "The world and a pin-head-both made on the same principle."

The Haddens and Imogen Thoresby strolled along together, and added themselves to the group.

"Let's go over to the hotel, Leslie. We've seen nothing of the girls since just after breakfast. They must be up in the hall, arranging about the tableaux."

"I'll come by and by, if you want me; don't wait. I'm going to finish these-properly;" and she dipped and twirled another needle with dainty precision, in the pause between her words.

"Have you got a lot of brothers at home, Miss Leslie?" asked Dakie Thayne.

"Two," replied Leslie; "not at home, though, now; one at Exeter, and the other at Cambridge. Why?"

"I was thinking it would be bad-what do you call it-political economy or something, if you hadn't any, that's all."

"Mamma wants you," said Ginevra Thoresby, looking out at the door to call her sisters. "She's in the Haughtleys' room. They're talking about the wagon for Minster Rock to-night. What do you take up your time with that boy for?" she added, not inaudibly, as she and Imogen turned away together.

"Oh dear!" cried blunt Etty, lingering, "I wonder if she meant me. I want to hear about the caterpillars. Mamma thinks the Haughtleys are such nice people, because they came in their own carriage, and they've got such big trunks, and a saddle-horse, and elegant dressing-cases, and ivory-backed brushes! I wish she didn't care so much about such things."

Mrs. Thoresby would have been shocked to hear her little daughter's arrangement and version of her ideas. She had simply been kind to these strangers on their arrival, in their own comfortable carriage, a few days since; had stepped forward,-as somehow it seemed to devolve upon her, with her dignified air and handsome gray curls, when she chose, to do,-representing by a kind of tacit consent the household in general, as somebody in every such sojourn usually will; had interested herself about their rooms, which were near her own, and had reported of them, privately, among other things noted in these first glimpses, that "they had everything about them in the most perfect style; ivory-backed brushes, and lovely inlaid dressing-cases, Ginevra; the best all through, and no sham!" Yes, indeed, if that could but be said truly, and need not stop at brushes and boxes!

Imogen came back presently, and called to Etty from the stairs, and she was obliged to go. Jeannie Hadden waited till they were fairly off the landing, and then walked away herself, saying nothing, but wearing a slightly displeased air.

Mrs. Thoresby and her elder daughter had taken a sort of dislike to Dakie Thayne. They seemed to think he wanted putting down. Nobody knew anything about him; he was well enough in his place, perhaps; but why should he join himself to their party? The Routh girls had Frank Scherman, and two or three other older attendants; among them he was simply not thought of, often, at all. If it had not been for Leslie and Mrs. Linceford, he would have found himself in Outledge, what boys of his age are apt to find themselves in the world at large,-a sort of odd or stray, not provided for anywhere in the general scheme of society. For this very reason, discerning it quickly, Leslie had been loyal to him; and he, with all his boy-vehemence of admiration and devotion, was loyal to her. She had the feeling, motherly and sisterly in its mingled instinct, by which all true and fine feminine natures are moved, in behalf of the man-nature in its dawn, that so needs sympathy and gentle consideration and provision, and that certain respect which calls forth and fosters self-respect; to be allowed and acknowledged to be somebody, lest for the want of this it should fail, unhappily, ever to be anybody. She was not aware of it; she only followed her kindly instinct. So she was doing, unconsciously, one of the best early bits of her woman-work in the world.

Once in a while it occurred to Leslie Goldthwaite to wonder why it was that she was able to forget-that she found she had forgotten, in a measure-those little self-absorptions that she had been afraid of, and that had puzzled her in her thoughtful moments. She was glad to be "taken up" with something that could please Dakie Thayne; or to go over to the Cliff and see Prissy Hoskins, and tell her a story; or help Dakie to fence in safely her beds of flower-seedlings (she had not let her first visit be her last, in these weeks since her introduction there), or to sit an hour with dear old Miss Craydocke and help her in a bit of charity work, and hear her sweet, simple, genial talk. She had taken up her little opportunities as they came. Was it by instinct only, or through a tender Spirit-leading, that she winnowed them and chose the best, and had so been kept a little out of the drift and hurry that might else have frothed away the hours? "Give us our daily bread," "Lead us not into temptation,"-they have to do with each other, if we "know the daily bread when we see it." But that also is of the grace of God.

There was the beginning of fruit under the leaf with Leslie Goldthwaite; and the fine life-current was setting itself that way with its best impulse and its rarest particles.

The pincushion was well filled with the delicate, bristling, tiny-headed needles, when Miss Craydocke appeared, walking across, under her great brown sun-umbrella, from the hotel.

"If you've nothing else to do, my dears, suppose we go over to the pines together? Where's Miss Jeannie? Wouldn't she like it? All the breeze there is haunts them always."

"I'm always ready for the pines," said Leslie. "Here, Dakie, I hope you'll catch a butterfly for every pin. Oh, now I think of it, have you found your elephant?"

"Yes, half way up the garret-stairs. I can't feed him comfortably, Miss Leslie. He wants to eat incessantly, and the elm-leaves wilt so quickly, if I bring them in, that the first thing I know, he's out of proper provender and off on a raid. He needs to be on the tree; but then I should lose him."

Leslie thought a minute. "You might tie up a branch with mosquito-netting," she said.

"Isn't that bright? I'll go right and do it,-only I haven't any netting," said he.

"Mrs. Linceford has. I'll go and beg a piece for you. And then, if you'll just sit here a minute, I'll come, Miss Craydocke."

When she came back, she brought Jeannie with her. To use a vulgar proverb, Jeannie's nose was rather out of joint since the Haughtleys had arrived. Ginevra Thoresby was quite engrossed with them, and this often involved Imogen. There was only room for six in Captain Green's wagon, and nothing had been said to Jeannie about the drive to Minster Rock.

Leslie had hanging upon her finger, also, the finest and whitest and most graceful of all possible little splint baskets, only just big enough to carry a bit of such work as was in it now,-a strip of sheer, delicate grass-linen, which needle and thread, with her deft guidance, were turning into a cobweb border, by a weaving of lace-lines, strong, yet light, where the woof of the original material had been drawn out. It was "done for odd-minute work, and was better than anything she could buy." Prettier it certainly was, when, with a finishing of the merest edge of lace, it came to encircle her round, fair arms and shoulders, or to peep out with its dainty revelation among the gathering treasures of the linen-drawer I told you of. She had accomplished yards of it already for her holiday work.

S

he had brought the netting, as she promised, for Dakie Thayne, who received it with thanks, and straightway hastened off to get his "elephant" and a piece of string, and to find a convenient elm-branch which he could convert into a cage-pasture.

"I'll come round to the pines, afterward," he said.

And just then,-Sin Saxon's bright face and pretty figure showing themselves on the hotel piazza, with a seeking look and gesture,-Jeannie and Elinor were drawn off also to ask about the tableaux, and see if they were wanted, with the like promise that "they would come presently." So Miss Craydocke and Leslie walked slowly round, under the sun-umbrella, to the head of the ledge, by themselves.

Up this rocky promontory it was very pretty little climbing, over the irregular turf-covered crags that made the ascent; and once up, it was charming. A natural grove of stately old pine-trees, with their glory of tasseled foliage and their breath of perfume, crowned and sheltered it; and here had been placed at cosy angles, under the deepest shade, long, broad, elastic benches of boards, sprung from rock to rock, and made secure to stakes, or held in place by convenient irregularities of the rock itself. Pine-trunks and granite offered rough support to backs that could so fit themselves; and visitors found out their favorite seats, and spent hours there, with books or work, or looking forth in a luxurious listlessness from out the cool upon the warm, bright valley-picture, and the shining water wandering down from far heights and unknown solitudes to see the world.

"It's better so," said Miss Craydocke, when the others left them. "I had a word I wanted to say to you. What do you suppose those two came up here to the mountains for?" And Miss Craydocke nodded up, indicatively, toward the two girl-figures just visible by their draperies in a nook of rock beyond and above the benches.

"To get the good of them, as we did, I suppose," Leslie answered, wondering a little what Miss Craydocke might exactly mean.

"I suppose so, too," was the reply. "And I suppose-the Lord's love came with them! I suppose He cares whether they get the full of the good. And yet I think He leaves it, like everything else, a little to us."

Leslie's heart beat quicker, hearing these words. It beat quicker always when such thoughts were touched. She was shy of seeking them; she almost tried, in an involuntary way, to escape them at first, when they were openly broached; yet she longed always, at the same time, for a deeper understanding of them. "I should like to know the Miss Josselyns better," she said presently, when Miss Craydocke made no haste to speak again. "I have been thinking so this morning. I have thought so very often. But they seem so quiet, always. One doesn't like to intrude."

"They ought to be more with young people," Miss Craydocke went on. "And they ought to do less ripping and sewing and darning, if it could be managed. They brought three trunks with them. And what do you think the third is full of?"

Leslie had no idea, of course.

"Old winter dresses. To be made over. For the children at home. So that their mother may be coaxed to take her turn and go away upon a visit when they get back, seeing that the fall sewing will be half done! That's a pretty coming to the mountains for two tired-out young things, I think!"

"Oh dear!" cried Leslie pitifully; and then a secret compunction seized her, thinking of her own little elegant, odd-minute work, which was all she had to interfere with mountain pleasure.

"And isn't it some of our business, if we could get at it?" asked Miss Craydocke, concluding.

"Dear Miss Craydocke!" said Leslie, with a warm brightness in her face, as she looked up, "the world is full of business; but so few people find out any but their own! Nobody but you dreamt of this, or of Prissy Hoskins, till you showed us,-or of all the little Wigleys. How do you come to know, when other people go on in their own way, and see nothing,-like the priests and Levites?" This last she added by a sudden occurrence and application, that half answered, beforehand, her own question.

"When we think of people's needs as the Master's!" said Miss Craydocke, evading herself, and never minding her syntax. "When we think what every separate soul is to Him, that He came into the world to care for as God cares for the sparrows! It's my faith that He's never gone away from his work, dear; that his love lies alongside every life, and in all its experience; and that his life is in his love; and that if we want to find Him-there we may! Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.'" She grew eloquent-the plain, simple-speaking woman-when something that was great and living to her would find utterance.

"How do you mean that?" said Leslie, with a sort of abruptness, as of one who must have definiteness, but who hurried with her asking, lest after a minute she might not dare. "That He really knows, and thinks, of every special thing and person,-and cares? Or only would?"

"I take it as He said it," said Miss Craydocke. "'All power is given me in heaven and in earth.' 'And lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!' He put the two together himself, dear!"

A great, warm, instant glow seemed to rush over Leslie inwardly. In the light and quickening of it, other words shone out and declared themselves. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me." And this was the abiding! The sympathy, the interest, that found itself side by side with his! The faith that felt his uniting presence with all!

To this child of sixteen came a moment's glimpse of what might be, truly, that life which is "hid with Christ in God," and which has its blessed work with the Lord in the world,-came, with the word of a plain, old, unconsidered woman, whom heedless girls made daily sport of,-came, bringing with it "old and new," like a householder of the kingdom of heaven; showing how the life and the fruit are inextricably one,-how the growth and the withering are inevitably determined!

They reached the benches now; they saw the Josselyns busy up beyond, with their chess-board between them, and their mending basket at their feet; they would not go now and interrupt their game.

The seat which the sisters had chosen, because it was just a quiet little corner for two, was a nook scooped out, as it were, in a jut of granite; hollowed in behind and perpendicularly to a height above their heads, and embracing a mossy little flat below, so that it seemed like a great solid armchair into which two could get together, and a third could not possibly intrude.

Miss Craydocke and Leslie settled themselves, and both were silent. Presently Leslie spoke again, giving out a fragmentary link of the train of thought that had been going on in her. "If it weren't for just one thing!" she said, and there she stopped.

"What?" asked Miss Craydocke, as not a bit at a loss to made out the unseen connection.

"The old puzzle. We have to think and work a good deal of the time for ourselves. And then we lose sight"-

"Of Him? Why?"

Leslie said no more, but waited. Miss Craydocke's tone was clear, untroubled. The young girl looked, therefore, for this clear confidence to be spoken out.

"Why, since He is close to our life also, and cares tenderly for that?-since, if we let him possess himself of it, it is one of his own channels, by which He still gives himself unto the world? He didn't do it all in one single history of three years, my child, or thirty-three, out there in Judaea. He keeps on,-so I believe,-through every possible way and circumstance of human living now, if only the life is grafted on his. The Vine and the branches, and God tending all. And the fruit is the kingdom of heaven."

It is never too late, and never impossible, for a human face to look beautiful. In the soft light and shadow of the stirring pines, with the moving from within of that which at once illumined and veiled, with an exultation and an awe, there came a glory over the homely and faded features which they could neither bar nor dim. And the thought took possession of the word and tone, and made them simply grand and heavenly musical.

After that they sat still again,-it matters not how many minutes. The crisp green spines rustled dreamily over their heads; the wild birds called to each other, far back in the closer lying woods; the water glanced on, millions of new drops every instant making the self-same circles and gushes and falls, and the wealth of summer sunshine holding and vivifying all. Leslie had word and scene stamped together on her spirit and memory in those moments. There was a Presence in the hush and beauty. Two souls were here met together in the name of the living Christ. And for that there is the promise.

Martha Josselyn and her sister sat and played and mended on.

By and by Dakie Thayne came; said a bright word or two; glanced round, in restless boy-fashion, as if taking in the elements of the situation, and considering what was to be made out of it; perceived the pair at chess; and presently, with his mountain stick, went springing away from point to point, up and around the piles and masses of rock and mound that made up the broadening ascent of the ledge.

"Check to your queen," said Sue.

Martha put her elbow upon her knee, and held her needle suspended by its thread. Sue darned away, and got a great hole laid lengthwise with smooth lines, before her threatening move had been provided for. Then a red knight came with gallant leap, right down in the midst of the white forces, menacing in his turn right and left; and Martha drew a long sigh, and sat back, and poised her needle-lance again, and went to work; and it was Sue's turn to lean over the board with knit brows and holden breath.

Something peered over the rock above them at this moment. A boy's head, from which the cap had been removed.

"If only they'll play now, and not chatter!" thought Dakie Thayne, lying prone along the cliff above, and putting up his elbows to rest his head between his hands. "This'll be jolly, if it don't turn to eavesdropping. Poor old Noll! I haven't had a game since I played with him!"

Sue would not withdraw her attack. She planted a bishop so that, if the knight should move, it would open a course straight down toward a weak point beside the red king.

"She means to 'fight it out on that line, if it takes all summer,'" Dakie went on within himself, having grasped, during the long pause before Sue's move, the whole position. "They're no fools at it, to have got it into a shape like that! I'd just like Noll to see it!"

Martha looked, and drew a thread or two into her stocking, and looked again. Then she stabbed her cotton-ball with her needle, and put up both hands-one with the white stocking-foot still drawn over it-beside her temples. At last she castled.

Sue was as calm as the morning. She always grew calm and strong as the game drew near the end. She had even let her thoughts go off to other things while Martha pondered and she wove in the cross-threads of her darn.

"I wonder, Martha," she said now, suddenly, before attending to the new aspect of the board, "if I couldn't do without that muslin skirt I made to wear under my pi?a, and turn it into a couple of white waists to carry home to mother? If she goes away, you know"-

"Aigh!"

It was a short, sharp, unspellable sound that came from above. Sue started, and a red piece rolled from the board. Then there was a rustling and a crashing and a leaping, and by a much shorter and more hazardous way than he had climbed, Dakie Thayne came down and stood before them. "I had to let you know! I couldn't listen. I was in hopes you wouldn't talk. Don't move, please! I'll find the man. I do beg your pardon,-I had no business,-but I so like chess,-when it's any sort of a game!"

While he spoke, he was looking about the base of the rock, and by good fortune spied and pounced upon the bit of bright-colored ivory, which had rolled and rested itself against a hummock of sod.

"May I see it out?" he begged, approaching, and putting the piece upon the board. "You must have played a good deal," looking at Sue.

"We play often at home, my sister and I; and I had some good practice in"-There she stopped.

"In the hospital," said Martha, with the sharp little way she took up sometimes. "Why shouldn't you tell of it?"

"Has Miss Josselyn been in the hospitals?" asked Dakie Thayne, with a certain quick change in his tone.

"For the best of two years," Martha answered.

At this moment, seeing how Dakie was breaking the ice for them, up came Miss Craydocke and Leslie Goldthwaite.

"Miss Leslie! Miss Craydocke! This lady has been away among our soldiers, in the hospitals, half through the war! Perhaps-did you ever"-But with that he broke off. There was a great flush on his face, and his eyes glowed with boy-enthusiasm lit at the thought of the war, and of brave men, and of noble, ministering women, of whom he suddenly found himself face to face with one.

The game of chess got swept together. "It was as good as over," Martha Josselyn said. And these five sat down together among the rocks, and in half an hour, after weeks of mere "good-mornings," they had grown to be old friends. But Dakie Thayne-he best knew why-left his fragment of a question unfinished.

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