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   Chapter 12 CROWDED OUT.

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 28421

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The "by and by" people came at last: Jeannie and Elinor, and Sin Saxon, and the Arnalls, and Josie Scherman. They wanted Leslie,-to tell and ask her half a hundred things about the projected tableaux. If it had only been Miss Craydocke and the Josselyns sitting together, with Dakie Thayne, how would that have concerned them,-the later comers? It would only have been a bit of "the pines" preoccupied: they would have found a place for themselves, and gone on with their own chatter. But Leslie's presence made all the difference. The little group became the nucleus of the enlarging circle. Miss Craydocke had known very well how this would be.

They asked this and that of Leslie which they had come to ask; and she would keep turning to the Josselyns and appealing to them; so they were drawn in. There was a curtain to be made, first of all. Miss Craydocke would undertake that, drafting Leslie and the Miss Josselyns to help her; they should all come to her room early to-morrow, and they would have it ready by ten o'clock. Leslie wondered a little that she found work for them to do: a part of the play she thought would have been better; but Miss Craydocke knew how that must come about. Besides, she had more than one little line to lay and to pull, this serpent-wise old maiden, in behalf of her ultimate designs concerning them.

I can't stay here under the pines and tell you all their talk this summer morning,-how Sin Saxon grew social and saucy with the quiet Miss Josselyns; how she fell upon the mending-basket and their notability, and declared that the most foolish and pernicious proverb in the world was that old thing about a stitch in time saving nine; it might save certain special stitches; but how about the time itself, and other stitches? She didn't believe in it,-running round after a darning-needle and forty other things, the minute a thread broke, and dropping whatever else one had in hand, to let it ravel itself all out again; "she believed in a good big basket, in a dark closet, and laying up there for a rainy day, and being at peace in the pleasant weather. Then, too, there was another thing; she didn't believe in notability itself, at all: the more one was fool enough to know, the more one had to do, all one's life long. Providence always took care of the lame and the lazy; and, besides, those capable people never had contented minds. They couldn't keep servants: their own fingers were always itching to do things better. Her sister Effie was a lamentable instance. She'd married a man,-well, not very rich,-and she had set out to learn and direct everything. The consequence was, she was like Eve after the apple,-she knew good and evil; and wasn't the garden just a wilderness after that? She never thought of it before, but she believed that was exactly what that old poem in Genesis was written for!"

How Miss Craydocke answered, with her gentle, tolerant common-sense, and right thought, and wide-awake brightness; how the Josselyns grew cordial and confident enough to confess that, with five little children in the house, there wasn't a great necessity for laying up against a rainy day, and with stockings at a dollar and a half a pair, one was apt to get the nine stitches, or a pretty comfortable multiple of them, every Wednesday when the wash came in; and how these different kinds of lives, coming together with a friendly friction, found themselves not so uncongenial, or so incomprehensible to each other, after all,-all this, in its detail of bright words, I cannot stop to tell you; it would take a good many summers to go through one like this so fully; but when the big bell rang for dinner, they all came down the ledge together, and Sue and Martha Josselyn, for the first time in four weeks, felt themselves fairly one with the current interest and life of the gay house in which they had been dwellers and yet only lookers-on.

Mrs. Thoresby, coming down to dinner, a few minutes late, with her daughters, and pausing-as people always did at the Green Cottage, without knowing why-to step from the foot of the stairway to the open piazza-door, and glance out before turning toward the dining-room, saw the ledge party just dividing itself into its two little streams, that were to head, respectively, for cottage and hotel.

"It is a wonder to me that Mrs. Linceford allows it!" was her comment. "Just the odds and ends of all the company here. And those girls, who might take whatever stand they pleased."

"Miss Leslie always finds out the nicest people, and the best times, I think," said Etty, who had dragged through but a dull morning behind the blinds of her mother's window, puzzling over crochet,-which she hated, because she said it was like everlastingly poking one's finger after a sliver,-and had caught now and then, over the still air, the laughter and bird-notes that came together from among the pines. One of the Miss Haughtleys had sat with them; but that only "stiffened out the dullness," as Etty had declared, the instant the young lady left them.

"Don't be pert, Etty. You don't know what you want, or what is for your interest. The Haddens were well enough, by themselves; but when it comes to Tom, Dick, and Harry!"

"I don't believe that's elegant, mamma," said Etty demurely; "and there isn't Tom, Dick, nor Harry; only Dakie Thayne, and that nice, nice Miss Craydocke! And-I hate the Haughtleys!" This with a sudden explosiveness at the last, after the demureness.

"Etty!"-and Mrs. Thoresby intoned an indescribable astonishment of displeasure in her utterance of her daughter's name,-"remember yourself. You are neither to be impertinent to me, nor to speak rudely of persons whom I choose for your acquaintance. When you are older, you will come to understand how these chance meetings may lead to the most valuable friendships, or, on the contrary, to the most mortifying embarrassments. In the mean time, you are to be guided." After which little sententious homily out of the Book of the World, Mrs. Thoresby ruffled herself with dignity, and led her brood away with her.

Next day, Tom, Dick, and Harry-that is to say, Miss Craydocke, Susan and Martha Josselyn, and Leslie Goldthwaite-were gathered in the first-named lady's room, to make the great green curtain. And there Sin Saxon came in upon them,-ostensibly to bring the curtain-rings, and explain how she wanted them put on; but after that she lingered.

"It's like the Tower of Babel upstairs," she said, "and just about as likely ever to get built. I can't bear to stay where I can't hear myself talk. You're nice and cosy here, Miss Craydocke." And with that, she settled herself down on the floor, with all her little ruffles and flounces and billows of muslin heaping and curling themselves about her, till her pretty head and shoulders were like a new and charming sort of floating-island in the midst.

And it came to pass that presently the talk drifted round to vanities and vexations,-on this wise.

"Everybody wants to be everything," said Sin Saxon. "They don't say so, of course. But they keep objecting, and unsettling. Nothing hushes anybody up but proposing them for some especially magnificent part. And you can't hush them all at once in that way. If they'd only say what they want, and be done with it! But they're so dreadfully polite! Only finding out continual reasons why nobody will do for this and that, or have time to dress, or something, and waiting modestly to be suggested and shut up! When I came down they were in full tilt about 'The Lady of Shalott.' It's to be one of the crack scenes, you know,-river of blue cambric, and a real, regular, lovely property-boat. Frank Scherman sent for it, and it came up on the stage yesterday,-drivers swearing all the way. Now they'll go on for half an hour, at least; and at the end of that time I shall walk in, upon the plain of Shinar, with my hair all let down,-it's real, every bit of it, not a tail tied on anywhere,-and tell them I-myself-am to be the Lady of Shalott! I think I shall relish flinging in that little bit of honesty, like a dash of cold water into the middle of a fry. Won't it sizzle?"

She sat twirling the cord upon which the dozens of great brass rings were strung, watching the shining ellipse they made as they revolved,-like a child set down upon the carpet with a plaything,-expecting no answer, only waiting for the next vagrant whimsicality that should come across her brain,-not altogether without method, either,-to give it utterance.

"I don't suppose I could convince you of it," she resumed; "but I do actually have serious thoughts sometimes. I think that very likely some of us-most of us-are going to the dogs. And I wonder what it will be when we get there. Why don't you contradict, or confirm, what I say, Miss Craydocke?"

"You haven't said out, yet, have you?"

Sin Saxon opened wide her great, wondering, saucy blue eyes, and turned them full upon Miss Craydocke's face. "Well, you are a oner! as somebody in Dickens says. There's no such thing as a leading question for you. It's like the rope the dog slipped his head out of, and left the man holding fast at the other end, in touching confidence that he was coming on. I saw that once on Broadway. Now I experience it. I suppose I've got to say more. Well, then, in a general way, do you think living amounts to anything, Miss Craydocke?"

"Whose living?"

"Sharp-as a knife that's just cut through a lemon! Ours, then, if you please; us girls', for instance."

"You haven't done much of your living yet, my dear." The tone was gentle, as of one who looked down from such a height of years that she felt tenderly the climbing that had been, for those who had it yet to do.

"We're as busy at it, too, as we can be. But sometimes I've mistrusted something like what I discovered very indignantly one day when I was four years old, and fancied I was making a petticoat, sewing through and through a bit of flannel. The thread hadn't any knot in it!"

"That was very well, too, until you knew just where to put the stitches that should stay."

"Which brings us to our subject of the morning, as the sermons say sometimes, when they're half through, or ought to be. There are all kinds of stitches,-embroidery, and plain over-and-over, and whippings, and darns! When are we to make our knot and begin? and which kind are we to do?"

"Most lives find occasion, more or less, for each. Practiced fingers will know how to manage all."

"But-it's-the-proportion!" cried Sin, in a crescendo that ended with an emphasis that was nearly a little scream.

"I think that, when one looks to what is really needed most and first, will arrange itself," said Miss Craydocke. "Something gets crowded out, with us all. It depends upon what, and how, and with what willingness we let it go."

"Now we come to the superlative sort of people,-the extra good ones, who let everything go that isn't solid duty; all the ornament of life,-good looks,-tidiness even,-and everything that's the least bit jolly, and that don't keep your high-mindedness on the strain. I want to be low-minded-weak-minded at least-now and then. I can't bear ferociously elevated people, who won't say a word that don't count; people that talk about their time being interrupted (as if their time wasn't everybody else's time, too), because somebody comes in once in a while for a friendly call; and who go about the streets as if they were so intent upon some tremendous good work, or big thinking, that it would be dangerous even to bow to a common sinner, for fear of being waylaid and hindered. I know people like that; and all I've to say is that, if they're to make up the heavenly circles, I'd full as lief go down lower, where they're kind of social!"

There can scarcely be a subject touched, in ever so light a way,-especially a moral or a spiritual subject,-in however small a company of persons, that shall not set in motion varied and intense currents of thought; bear diverse and searching application to consciousness and experience. The Josselyns sat silent with the long breadths of green cambric over their laps, listening with an amusement that freshened into their habitual work-day mood like a willful little summer breeze born out of blue morning skies, unconscious of clouds, to the oddities of Sin Saxon; but the drift of her sayings, the meaning she actually had under them, bore down upon their different knowledge with a significance whose sharpness she had no dream of. "Plain over-and-over,"-how well it illustrated what their young days and the disposal of them had been. Miss Craydocke thought of the darns; her story cannot be told here; but she knew what it meant to have the darns of life fall to one's share,-to have the filling up to do, with dexterousness and pains and sacrifice, of holes that other people make!

For Leslie Goldthwaite, she got the next word of the lesson she was learning,-"It depends on what one is willing to let get crowded out."

Sin Saxon went on again.

"I've had a special disgust given me to superiority. I wouldn't be superior for all the world. We had a superior specimen come among us at Highslope last year. She's there yet, it's commonly believed; but nobody takes the trouble to be positive of it. Reason why, she took up immediately such a position of mental and moral altitude above our heads, and became so sublimely unconscious of all beneath, that all beneath wasn't going to strain its neck to look after her, much less provide itself with telescopes. We're pretty nice people, we think, but we're not particularly curious in astronomy. We heard great things of her, beforehand; and we were all ready to make much of her. We asked her to our parties. She came, with a look upon her as if some unpleasant duty had forced her temporarily into purgatory. She shied round like a cat in a strange garret, as if all she wanted was to get out. She wouldn't dance; she wouldn't talk; she went home early,-to her studies, I suppose, and her plans for next day's unmitigated usefulness. She took it for granted we had nothing in us but dance, and so, as Artemus Ward says, 'If the American Eag

le could solace itself in that way, we let it went!' She might have done some good to us,-we needed to be done to, I don't doubt,-but it's all over now. That light is under a bushel, and that city's hid, so far as Highslope is concerned. And we've pretty much made up our minds, among us, to be bad and jolly. Only sometimes I get thinking,-that's all."

She got up, giving the string of rings a final whirl, and tossing them into Leslie Goldthwaite's lap. "Good-by," she said, shaking down her flounces. "It's time for me to go and assert myself at Shinar. 'L'empire, c'est moi!' Napoleon was great when he said that. A great deal greater than if he'd pretended to be meek, and want nothing but the public good!"

"What gets crowded out?" Day by day that is the great test of our life.

Just now, everything seemed likely to get crowded out with the young folks at Outledge but dresses, characters, and rehearsals. The swivel the earth turned on at this moment was the coming Tuesday evening and its performance. And the central axis of that, to nearly every individual interest, was what such particular individual was to "be."

They had asked Leslie to take the part of Zorayda in the "Three Moorish Princesses of the Alhambra." Jeannie and Elinor were to be Zayda and Zorahayda. As for Leslie, she liked well enough, as we know, to look pretty; it was, or had been, till other thoughts of late had begun to "crowd it out," something like a besetting weakness; she had only lately-to tell the whole truth as it seldom is told-begun to be ashamed, before her higher self, to turn, the first thing in the morning, with a certain half-mechanical anxiety toward her glass, to see how she was looking. Without studying into separate causes of complexion and so forth, as older women given to these things come to do, she knew that somehow there was often a difference; and beside the standing question in her mind as to whether there were a chance of her growing up to anything like positive beauty or not, there was apt often to be a reason why she would like to-day, if possible, to be in particular good looks. When she got an invitation, or an excursion was planned, the first thing that came into her head was naturally what she should wear; and a good deal of the pleasure would depend on that. A party without an especially pretty dress didn't amount to much; she couldn't help that; it did count with everybody, and it made a difference. She would like, undoubtedly, a "pretty part" in these tableaux; but there was more in Leslie Goldthwaite, even without touching upon the deep things, than all this. Only a pretty part did not quite satisfy: she had capacity for something more. In spite of the lovely Moorish costume to be contrived out of blue silk and white muslin, and to contrast so picturesquely with Jeannie's crimson, and the soft, snowy drapery of Elinor, she would have been half willing to be the "discreet Kadiga" instead; for the old woman had really to look something as well as somehow, and there was a spirit and a fun in that.

The pros and cons and possibilities were working themselves gradually clear to her thoughts, as she sat and listened, with external attention in the beginning, to Sin Saxon's chatter. Ideas about the adaptation of her dress-material, and the character she could bring out of, or get into, her part, mingled themselves together; and Irving's delicious old legend that she had read hundreds of times, entranced, as a child, repeated itself in snatches to her recollection. Jeannie must be stately; that would quite suit her. Elinor-must just be Elinor. Then the airs and graces remained for herself. She thought she could illustrate with some spirit the latent coquetry of the imprisoned beauty; she believed, notwithstanding the fashion in which the story measured out their speech in rations,-always an appropriate bit, and just so much of it to each,-that the gay Zorayda must have had the principal hand in their affairs; must have put the others up to mischief, and coaxed most winningly the discreet Kadiga. She could make something out of it: it shouldn't be mere flat prettiness. She began to congratulate herself upon the character. And then her ingenious fancy flew off to something else that had occurred to her, and that she had only secretly proposed to Sin Saxon; an illustration of a certain ancient nursery ballad, to vary by contrast the pathetic representations of "Auld Robin Gray" and "The Lady of Shalott." It was a bright plan, and she was nearly sure she could carry it out; but it was not a "pretty part," and Sin Saxon had thought it fair she should have one; therefore Zorayda. All this was reason why Leslie's brain was busy, like her fingers, as she sat and sewed on the green curtain, and let Sin Saxon talk. Till Miss Craydocke said that "something always gets crowded out," and so those words came to her in the midst of all.

The Josselyns went away to their own room when the last rings had been sewn on; and the curtain was ready, as had been promised, at ten o'clock. Leslie stayed, waiting for Dakie Thayne to come and fetch it. While she sat there, silent, by the window, Miss Craydocke brought out a new armful of something from a drawer, and came and placed her Shaker rocking-chair beside her. Leslie looked around, and saw her lap full of two little bright plaid dresses.

"It's only the buttonholes," said Miss Craydocke. "I'm going to make them now, before they find me out."

Leslie looked very uncomprehending.

"You didn't suppose I let those girls come in here and spend their morning on that nonsense for nothing, did you? This is some of their work, the work that's crowding all the frolic out of their lives. I've found out where they keep it, and I've stolen some. I'm Scotch, you know, and I believe in brownies. They're good to believe in. Old fables are generally all but true. You've only to 'put in one to make it so,' as children say in 'odd and even.'" And Miss Craydocke overcasted her first buttonhole energetically.

Leslie Goldthwaite saw through the whole now, in a minute. "You did it on purpose, for an excuse!" she said; and there was a ring of applauding delight in her voice which a note of admiration poorly marks.

"Well, you must begin somehow," said Miss Craydocke. "And after you've once begun, you can keep on." Which, as a generality, was not so glittering, perhaps, as might be; but Leslie could imagine, with a warm heart-throb, what, in this case, Miss Craydocke's "keeping on" would be.

"I found them out by degrees," said Miss Craydocke. "They've been overhead here, this month nearly, and if you don't listen nor look more than is lady-like, you can't help scraps enough to piece something out of by that time. They sit by their window, and I sit by mine. I cough, and sneeze, and sing, as much as I find comfortable, and they can't help knowing where their neighbors are; and after that, it's their lookout, of course. I lent them some books one Sunday, and so we got on a sort of visiting terms, and lately I've gone in, sometimes, and sat down awhile when I've had an errand, and they've been here; the amount of it is, they're two young things that'll grow old before they know they've ever been young, if somebody don't take hold. They've only got just so much time to stay; and if we don't contrive a holiday for them before it's over, why,-there's the 'Inasmuch,'-that's all."

Dakie Thayne came to the door to fetch Leslie and the curtain.

"It's all ready, Dakie,-here; but I can't go just now,-not unless they want me very much, and then you'll come, please, won't you, and let me know again?" said Leslie, bundling up the mass of cambric, and piling it upon Dakie's arms.

Dakie looked disappointed, but promised, and departed. They were finding him useful upstairs, and Leslie had begged him to help.

"Now give me that other dress," she said, turning to Miss Craydocke. "And you,-couldn't you go and steal something else?" She spoke impetuously, and her eyes shone with eagerness, and more.

"I've had to lay a plan," resumed Miss Craydocke, as Leslie took the measure of a buttonhole and began. "Change of work is as good as a rest. So I've had them down here on the curtain among the girls. Next, I'm going to have a bee. I've got some things to finish up for Prissy Hoskins, and they're likely to be wanted in something of a hurry. She's got another aunt in Portsmouth, and if she can only be provided with proper things to wear, she can go down there, Aunt Hoskins says, and stay all winter, get some schooling, and see a city doctor. The man here tells them that something might be done for her hearing by a person skilled in such things, and Miss Hoskins says 'there's a little money of the child's own, from the vandoo when her father died,' that would pay for traveling and advice, and 'ef the right sort ain't to be had in Portsmouth, when she once gets started, she shall go whuzzever't is, if she has to have a vandoo herself!' It's a whole human life of comfort and usefulness, Leslie Goldthwaite, may be, that depends!-Well, I'll have a bee, and get Prissy fixed out. Her Portsmouth aunt is coming up, and will take her back. She'll give her a welcome, but she's poor herself, and can't afford much more. And then the Josselyns are to have a bee. Not everybody; but you and me, and we'll see by that time who else. It's to begin as if we meant to have them all round, for the frolic and the sociability; and besides that, we'll steal all we can. For your part, you must get intimate. Nobody can do anything, except as a friend. And the last week they're here is the very week I'm going everywhere in! I'm going to charter the little red, and have parties of my own. We'll have a picnic at the Cliff, and Prissy will wait on us with raspberries and cream. We'll walk up Feather-Cap, and ride up Giant's Cairn, and we'll have a sunset at Minster Rock. And it's going to be pleasant weather every day!"

They stitched away, then, dropping their talk. Miss Craydocke was out of breath; and Leslie measured her even loops with eyes that glittered more and more.

The half-dozen buttonholes apiece were completed; and then Miss Craydocke trotted off with the two little frocks upon her arm. She came back, bringing some two or three pairs of cotton-flannel drawers.

"I took them up, just as they lay, cut out and ready, on the bed. I wouldn't have a word. I told them I'd nothing to do, and so I haven't. My hurry is coming on all of a sudden when I have my bee. Now I've done it once, I can do it again. They'll find out it's my way, and when you've once set up a way, people always turn out for it."

Miss Craydocke was in high glee.

Leslie stitched up three little legs before Dakie came again, and said they must have her upstairs.

One thing occurred to her, as they ran along the winding passages, up and down, and up again, to the new hall in the far-off L.

The Moorish dress would take so long to arrange. Wouldn't Imogen Thoresby like the part? She was only in the "Three Fishers." Imogen and Jeannie met her as she came in.

"It is just you I wanted to find," cried Leslie, sealing her warm impulse with immediate act. "Will you be Zorayda, Imogen,-with Jeannie and Elinor, you know? I've got so much to do without. Sin Saxon understands; it's a bit of a secret as yet. I shall be so obliged!"

Imogen's blue eyes sparkled and widened. It was just what she had been secretly longing for. But why in the world should Leslie Goldthwaite want to give it up?

It had got crowded out, that was all.

Another thing kept coming into Leslie's head that day,-the yards of delicate grass-linen that she had hemstitched, and knotted into bands that summer,-just for idle work, when plain bindings and simple ruffling would have done as well,-and all for her accumulating treasure of reserved robings, while here were these two girls darning stockings, and sewing over heavy woollen stuffs, that actual, inevitable work might be dispatched in these bright, warm hours that had been meant for holiday. It troubled her to think of it, seeing that the time was gone, and nothing now but these threads and holes remained of it to her share.

Martha Josselyn had asked her yesterday about the stitch,-some little baby-daintiness she had thought of for the mother who couldn't afford embroideries and thread-laces for her youngest and least of so many. Leslie would go and show her, and, as Miss Craydocke said, get intimate. It was true there were certain little things one could not do, except as a friend.

Meanwhile, Martha Josselyn must be the Sister of Charity in that lovely tableau of Consolation.

It does not take long for two young girls to grow intimate over tableau plans and fancy stitches. Two days after this, Leslie Goldthwaite was as cosily established in the Josselyns' room as if she had been there every day all summer. Some people are like drops of quicksilver, as Martha Josselyn had declared, only one can't tell how that is till one gets out of the bottle.

"Thank you," she said to Leslie, as she mastered the little intricacy of the work upon the experimental scrap of cambric she had drawn. "I understand it now, I think, and I shall find time, somehow, after I get home, for what I want to do." With that, she laid it in a corner of her basket, and took up cotton-flannel again.

Leslie put something, twisted lightly in soft paper, beside it. "I want you to keep that, please, for a pattern, and to remember me," she said. "I've made yards more than I really want. It's nothing," she added, hastily interrupting the surprised and remonstrating thanks of the other. "And now we must see about that scapulary thing, or whatever it is, for your nun's dress."

And there was no more about it, only an unusual feeling in Martha Josselyn's heart, that came up warm long after, and by and by a little difference among Leslie Goldthwaite's pretty garnishings, where something had got crowded out.

This is the way, from small to great, things sort themselves.

"No man can serve two masters," is as full and true and strong upon the side of encouragement as of rebuke.

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