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

   Chapter 16 WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US

A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life. By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 28641

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Saturday was a day of hammering, basting, draping, dressing, rehearsing, running from room to room. Upstairs, in Mrs. Green's garret, Leslie Goldthwaite and Dakie Thayne, with a third party never before introduced upon the stage, had a private practicing; and at tea-time, when the great hall was cleared, they got up there with Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman, locked the doors, and in costume, with regular accompaniment of bell and curtain, the performance was repeated.

Dakie Thayne was stage-manager and curtain-puller; Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman represented the audience, with clapping and stamping, and laughter that suspended both; making as nearly the noise of two hundred as two could: this being an essential part of the rehearsal in respect to the untried nerves of the débutant, which might easily be a little uncertain.

"He stands fire like a Yankee veteran."

"It's inimitable," said Sin Saxon, wiping the moist merriment from her eyes. "And your cap, Leslie! And that bonnet! And this unutterable old oddity of a gown! Who did contrive it all? and where did they come from? You'll carry off the glory of the evening. It ought to be the last."

"No, indeed," said Leslie. "Barbara Frietchie must be last, of course. But I'm so glad you think it will do. I hope they'll be amused."

"Amused! If you could only see your own face!"

"I see Sir Charles's, and that makes mine."

The new performer, you perceive, was an actor with a title.

That night's coach, driving up while the dress-rehearsal of the other tableaux was going on at the hall, brought Cousin Delight to the Green Cottage, and Leslie met her at the door.

Sunday morning was a pause and rest and hush of beauty and joy. They sat-Delight and Leslie-by their open window, where the smell of the lately harvested hay came over from the wide, sunshiny entrance of the great barn, and away beyond stretched the pine woods, and the hills swelled near in dusky evergreen, and indigo shadows, and lessened far down toward Winnipiseogee, to where, faint and tender and blue, the outline of little Ossipee peeped in between great shoulders so modestly,-seen only through the clearest air on days like this. Leslie's little table, with fresh white cover, held a vase of ferns and white convolvulus, and beside this Cousin Delight's two books that came out always from the top of her trunk,-her Bible and her little "Daily Food." To-day the verses from Old and New Testaments were these: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way." "Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time."

They had a talk about the first,-"The steps," the little details; not merely the general trend and final issue; if, indeed, these could be directed without the other.

"You always make me see things, Cousin Delight," Leslie said.

"It is very plain," Delight answered; "if people only would read the Bible as they read even a careless letter from a friend, counting each word of value, and searching for more meaning and fresh inference to draw out the most. One word often answers great doubts and askings that have troubled the world."

Afterward, they walked round by a still wood-path under the Ledge to the North Village, where there was a service. It was a plain little church, with unpainted pews; but the windows looked forth upon a green mountain side, and whispers of oaks and pines and river-music crept in, and the breath of sweet water-lilies, heaped in a great bowl upon the communion table of common stained cherrywood, floated up and filled the place. The minister, a quiet, gray-haired man, stayed his foot an instant at that simple altar, before he went up the few steps to the desk. He had a sermon in his pocket from the text, "The hairs of your heads are all numbered." He changed it at the moment in his mind, and, when presently he rose to preach, gave forth in a tone touched, through the very presence of that reminding beauty, with the very spontaneousness of the Master's own saying, "Consider the lilies." And then he told them of God's momently thought and care.

There were scattered strangers, from various houses, among the simple rural congregation. Walking home through the pines again, Delight and Leslie and Dakie Thayne found themselves preceded and followed along the narrow way. Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman came up and joined them when the wider openings permitted.

Two persons just in front were commenting upon the sermon.

"Very fair for a country parson," said a tall, elegant-looking man, whose broad, intellectual brow was touched by dark hair slightly frosted, and whose lip had the curve that betokens self-reliance and strong decision,-"very fair. All the better for not flying too high. Narrow, of course. He seems to think the Almighty has nothing grander to do than to finger every little cog of the tremendous machinery of the universe,-that he measures out the ocean of his purposes as we drop a liquid from a phial. To me it seems belittling the Infinite."

"I don't know whether it is littleness or greatness, Robert, that must escape minutiae," said his companion, apparently his wife. "If we could reach to the particles, perhaps we might move the mountains."

"We never agree upon this, Margie. We won't begin again. To my mind, the grand plan of things was settled ages ago,-the impulses generated that must needs work on. Foreknowledge and intention, doubtless; in that sense the hairs were numbered. But that there is a special direction and interference to-day for you and me-well, we won't argue, as I said; but I never can conceive it so; and I think a wider look at the world brings a question to all such primitive faith."

The speakers turned down a side way with this, leaving the ledge path and their subject to our friends. Only to their thoughts at first; but presently Cousin Delight said, in a quiet tone, to Leslie, "That doesn't account for the steps, does it?"

"I am glad it can't," said Leslie.

Dakie Thayne turned a look toward Leslie, as if he would gladly know of what she spoke,-a look in which a kind of gentle reverence was strangely mingled with the open friendliness. I cannot easily indicate to you the sort of feeling with which the boy had come to regard this young girl, just above him in years and thought and in the attitude which true womanhood, young or old, takes toward man. He had no sisters; he had been intimately associated with no girl-companions; he had lived with his brother and an uncle and a young aunt, Rose. Leslie Goldthwaite's kindness had drawn him into the sphere of a new and powerful influence,-something different in thought and purpose from the apparent unthought of the present little world about her; and this lifted her up in his regard and enshrined her with a sort of pure sanctity. He was sometimes really timid before her, in the midst of his frank chivalry.

"I wish you'd tell me," he said suddenly, falling back with her as the path narrowed again. "What are the 'steps'?"

"It was a verse we found this morning,-Cousin Delight and I," Leslie answered; and as she spoke the color came up full in her cheeks, and her voice was a little shy and tremulous. "'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.' That one word seemed to make one certain. 'Steps,'-not path, nor the end of it; but all the way." Somehow she was quite out of breath as she finished.

Meantime Sin Saxon and Frank had got with Miss Goldthwaite, and were talking too.

"Set spinning," they heard Sin Saxon say, "and then let go. That was his idea. Well! Only it seems to me there's been especial pains taken to show us it can't be done. Or else, why don't they find out perpetual motion? Everything stops after a while, unless-I can't talk theologically, but I mean all right-you hit it again."

"You've a way of your own of putting things, Asenath," said Frank Scherman,-with a glance that beamed kindly and admiringly upon her and "her way,"-"but you've put that clear to me as nobody else ever did. A proof set in the very laws themselves, momentum that must lessen and lose itself with the square of the distance. The machinery cavil won't do."

"Wheels; but a living spirit within the wheels," said Cousin Delight.

"Every instant a fresh impulse; to think of it so makes it real, Miss Goldthwaite,-and grand and awful." The young man spoke with a strength in the clear voice that could be so light and gay.

"And tender, too. 'Thou layest Thine hand upon me,'" said Delight Goldthwaite.

Sin Saxon was quiet; her own thought coming back upon her with a reflective force, and a thrill at her heart at Frank Scherman's words. Had these two only planned tableaux and danced Germans together before?

Dakie Thayne walked on by Leslie Goldthwaite's side, in his happy content touched with something higher and brighter through that instant's approach and confidence. If I were to write down his thought as he walked, it would be with phrase and distinction peculiar to himself and to the boy-mind,-"It's the real thing with her; it don't make a fellow squirm like a pin put out at a caterpillar. She's good; but she isn't pious!"

This was the Sunday that lay between the busy Saturday and Monday. "It is always so wherever Cousin Delight is," Leslie Goldthwaite said to herself, comparing it with other Sundays that had gone. Yet she too, for weeks before, by the truth that had come into her own life and gone out from it, had been helping to make these moments possible. She had been shone upon, and had put forth; henceforth she should scarcely know when the fruit was ripening or sowing itself anew, or the good and gladness of it were at human lips.

She was in Mrs. Linceford's room on Monday morning, putting high velvet-covered corks to the heels of her slippers, when Sin Saxon came over hurriedly, and tapped at the door.

"Could you be two old women?" she asked, the instant Leslie opened. "Ginevra Thoresby has given out. She says it's her cold,-that she doesn't feel equal to it; but the amount of it is she got her chill with the Shannons going away so suddenly, and the Amy Robsart and Queen Elizabeth picture being dropped. There was nothing else to put her in, and so she won't be Barbara."

"Won't be Barbara Frietchie!" cried Leslie, with an astonishment as if it had been angelhood refused.

"No. Barbara Frietchie is only an old woman in a cap and kerchief, and she just puts her head out of a window: the flag is the whole of it, Ginevra Thoresby says."

"May I do it? Do you think I can be different enough in the two? Will there be time?" Leslie questioned eagerly.

"We'll change the programme, and put 'Taking the Oath' between. The caps can be different, and you can powder your hair for one, and-would it do to ask Miss Craydocke for a front for the other?" Sin Saxon had grown delicate in her feeling for the dear old friend whose hair had once been golden.

"I'll tell her about it, and ask her to help me contrive. She'll be sure to think of anything that can be thought of."

"Only there's the dance afterward, and you had so much more costume for the other," Sin Saxon said demurringly.

"Never mind. I shall be Barbara; and Barbara wouldn't dance, I suppose."

"Mother Hubbard would, marvelously."

"Never mind," Leslie answered again, laying down the little slipper, finished.

"She don't care what she is, so that she helps along," Sin Saxon said of her, rejoining the others in the hall. "I'm ashamed of myself and all the rest of you, beside her. Now make yourselves as fine as you please."

We must pass over the hours as only stories and dreams do, and put ourselves, at ten of the clock that night, behind the green curtain and the footlights, in the blaze of the three rows of bright lamps, that, one above another, poured their illumination from the left upon the stage, behind the wide picture-frame.

Susan Josselyn and Frank Scherman were just "posed" for "Consolation." They had given Susan this part, after all, because they wanted Martha for "Taking the Oath," afterward. Leslie Goldthwaite was giving a hasty touch to the tent drapery and the gray blanket; Leonard Brookhouse and Dakie Thayne manned the halyards for raising the curtain; there was the usual scuttling about the stage for hasty clearance; and Sin Saxon's hand was on the bell, when Grahame Lowe sprang hastily in through the dressing-room upon the scene.

"Hold on a minute," he said to Brookhouse. "Miss Saxon, General Ingleside and party are over at Green's,-been there since nine o'clock. Oughtn't we to send compliments or something, before we finish up?"

Then there was a pressing forward and an excitement. The wounded soldier sprang from his couch; the nun came nearer, with a quick light in her eye; Leslie Goldthwaite, in her mob cap, quilted petticoat, big-flowered calico train, and high-heeled shoes; two or three supernumeraries, in Rebel gray, with bayonets, coming on in "Barbara Frietchie;" and Sir Charles, bouncing out from somewhere behind, to the great hazard of the frame of lights,-huddled together upon the stage and consulted. Dakie Thayne had dropped his cord and almost made a rush off at the first announcement; but he stood now, with a repressed eagerness that trembled through every fibre, and waited.

"Would he come?" "Isn't it too late?" "Would it be any compliment?" "Won't it be rude not to?" "All the patriotic pieces are just coming!" "Will the audience like to wait?" "Make a speech and tell 'em. You, Brookhouse." "Oh, he must come! Barbara Frietchie and the flag! Just think!" "Isn't it grand?" "Oh, I'm so frightened!" These were the hurried sentences that made the buzz behind the scenes; while in front "all the world wondered." Meanwhile, lamps trembled, the curtain vibrated, the very framework swayed.

"What is it? Fire?" queried a nervous voice from near the footlights.

"This won't do," said Frank Scherman. "Speak to them, Brookhouse. Dakie Thayne, run over to Green's, and say, the ladies' compliments to General Ingleside and friends,-and beg the honor of their presence at the concluding tableaux."

Dakie was off with a glowing face. Something like an odd, knowing smile twinkling out from the glow also, as he looked up at Scherman and

took his orders. All this while he had said nothing.

Leonard Brookhouse made his little speech, received with applause and a cheer. Then they quieted down behind the scenes, and a rustle and buzz began in front,-kept up for five minutes or so, in gentle fashion, till two gentlemen, in plain clothes, walked quietly in at the open door; at sight of whom, with instinctive certainty, the whole assembly rose. Leslie Goldthwaite, peeping through the folds of the curtain, saw a tall, grand-looking man, in what may be called the youth of middle age, every inch a soldier, bowing as he was ushered forward to a seat vacated for him, and followed by one younger, who modestly ignored the notice intended for his chief. Dakie Thayne was making his way, with eyes alight and excited, down a side passage to his post.

Then the two actors hurried once more into position; the stage was cleared by a whispered peremptory order; the bell rung once, the tent trembling with some one whisking further out of sight behind it,-twice, and the curtain rose upon "Consolation."

Lovely as the picture is, it was lovelier in the living tableau. There was something deep and intense in the pale calm of Susan Josselyn's face, which they had not counted on even when they discovered that hers was the very face for the "Sister." Something made you thrill at the thought of what those eyes would show, if the downcast, quiet lids were raised. The earnest gaze of the dying soldier met more, perhaps, in its uplifting; for Frank Scherman had a look, in this instant of enacting, that he had never got before in all his practicings. The picture was too real for applause,-almost, it suddenly seemed, for representation.

"Don't I know that face, Noll?" General Ingleside asked, in a low tone, of his companion.

Instead of answering at once, the younger man bent further forward toward the stage, and his own very plain, broad, honest face, full over against the downcast one of the Sister of Mercy, took upon itself that force of magnetic expression which makes a look felt even across a crowd of other glances, as if there were but one straight line of vision, and that between such two. The curtain was going slowly down; the veiling lids trembled, and the paleness replaced itself with a slow-mounting flush of color over the features, still held motionless. They let the cords run more quickly then. She was getting tired, they said; the curtain had been up too long. Be that as it might, nothing could persuade Susan Josselyn to sit again, and "Consolation" could not be repeated.

So then came "Mother Hubbard and her Dog"-the slow old lady and the knowing beast that was always getting one step ahead of her. The possibility had occurred to Leslie Goldthwaite as she and Dakie Thayne amused themselves one day with Captain Green's sagacious Sir Charles Grandison, a handsome black spaniel, whose trained accomplishment was to hold himself patiently in any posture in which he might be placed, until the word of release was given. You might stand him on his hind legs, with paws folded on his breast; you might extend him on his back, with helpless legs in air; you might put him in any attitude possible to be maintained, and maintain it he would, faithfully, until the signal was made. From this prompting came the illustration of Mother Hubbard. Also, Leslie Goldthwaite had seized the hidden suggestion of application, and hinted it in certain touches of costume and order of performance. Nobody would think, perhaps, at first, that the striped scarlet and white petticoat under the tucked-up train, or the common print apron of dark blue, figured with innumerable little white stars, meant anything beyond the ordinary adjuncts of a traditional old woman's dress; but when, in the second scene, the bonnet went on,-an ancient marvel of exasperated front and crown, pitched over the forehead like an enormous helmet, and decorated, upon the side next the audience, with black and white eagle plumes springing straight up from the fastening of an American shield; above all, when the dog himself appeared, "dressed in his clothes" (a cane, an all-round white collar and a natty little tie, a pair of three-dollar tasseled kid gloves dangling from his left paw, and a small monitor hat with a big spread-eagle stuck above the brim,-the remaining details of costume being of no consequence),-when he stood "reading the news" from a huge bulletin,-"LATEST BY CABLE FROM EUROPE,"-nobody could mistake the personification of Old and Young America.

It had cost much pains and many dainty morsels to drill Sir Charles, with all the aid of his excellent fundamental education; and the great fear had been that he might fail them at the last. But the scenes were rapid, in consideration of canine infirmity. If the cupboard was empty, Mother Hubbard's basket behind was not; he got his morsels duly; and the audience was "requested to refrain from applause until the end." Refrain from laughter they could not, as the idea dawned upon them and developed; but Sir Charles was used to that in the execution of his ordinary tricks; he could hardly have done without it better than any other old actor. A dog knows when he is having his day, to say nothing of doing his duty; and these things are as sustaining to him as to anybody. This state of his mind, manifest in his air, helped also to complete the Young America expression. Mother Hubbard's mingled consternation and pride at each successive achievement of her astonishing puppy were inimitable. Each separate illustration made its point. Patriotism, especially, came in when the undertaker, bearing the pall with red-lettered border,-Rebellion,-finds the dog, with upturned, knowing eye, and parted jaws, suggestive as much of a good grip as of laughter, half risen upon fore-paws, as far from "dead" as ever, mounting guard over the old bone "Constitution."

The curtain fell at last amid peals of applause and calls for the actors.

Dakie Thayne had accompanied with the reading of the ballad, slightly transposed and adapted. As Leslie led Sir Charles before the curtain, in response to the continued demand, he added the concluding stanza,-

"The dame made a courtesy,

The dog made a bow;

The dame said, 'Your servant,'

The dog said, 'Bow-wow.'"

Which, with a suppressed "Speak, sir!" from Frank Scherman, was brought properly to pass. Done with cleverness and quickness from beginning to end, and taking the audience utterly by surprise, Leslie's little combination of wit and sagacity had been throughout a signal success. The actors crowded round her. "We'd no idea of it!" "Capital!" "A great hit!" they exclaimed. "Mother Hubbard is the star of the evening," said Leonard Brookhouse. "No, indeed," returned Leslie, patting Sir Charles's head,-"this is the dog-star." "Rather a Sirius reflection upon the rest of us," rejoined Brookhouse, shrugging his shoulders, as he walked off to take his place in the "Oath," and Leslie disappeared to make ready for "Barbara Frietchie."

Several persons, before and behind the curtain, were making up their minds, just now, to a fresh opinion. There was nothing so very slow or tame, after all, about Leslie Goldthwaite. Several others had known that long ago.

"Taking the Oath" was piquant and spirited. The touch of restive scorn that could come out on Martha Josselyn's face just suited her part; and Leonard Brookhouse was very cool and courteous, and handsome and gentlemanly-triumphant as the Union officer.

"Barbara Frietchie" was grand. Grahame Lowe played Stonewall Jackson. They had improvised a pretty bit of scenery at the back, with a few sticks, some paint, brown carpet-paper, and a couple of mosquito bars; a Dutch gable with a lattice window, vines trained up over it, and bushes below. It was a moving tableau, enacted to the reading of Whittier's glorious ballad. "Only an old woman in a cap and kerchief, putting her head out at a garret window,"-that was all; but the fire was in the young eyes under the painted wrinkles and the snowy hair; the arm stretched itself out quick and bravely at the very instant of the pistol-shot that startled timid ears; one skillful movement detached and seized the staff in its apparent fall, and the liberty-colors flashed full in Rebel faces, as the broken lower fragment went clattering to the stage. All depended on the one instant action and expression. These were perfect. The very spirit of Barbara stirred her representative. The curtain began to descend slowly, and the applause broke forth before the reading ended. But a hand, held up, hushed it till the concluding lines were given in thrilling tones, as the tableau was covered from sight.

"Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,

And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

"Honor to her! and let a tear

Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.

"Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,

Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

"Peace and order and beauty draw

Round thy symbol of light and law;

"And ever the stars above look down

On thy stars below in Frederick town!"

Then one great cheer broke forth, and was prolonged to three.

"Not be Barbara Frietchie!" Leslie would not have missed that thrill for the finest beauty-part of all. For the applause-that was for the flag, of course, as Ginevra Thoresby said.

The benches were slid out at a window upon a lower roof, the curtain was looped up, and the footlights carried away; the "music" came up, and took possession of the stage; and the audience hall resolved itself into a ball-room. Under the chandelier, in the middle, a tableau not set forth in the programme was rehearsed and added a few minutes after.

Mrs. Thoresby, of course, had been introduced to the General; Mrs. Thoresby, with her bright, full, gray curls and her handsome figure, stood holding him in conversation between introductions, graciously waiving her privilege as new comers claimed their modest word. Mrs. Thoresby took possession; had praised the tableaux, as "quite creditable, really, considering the resources we had," and was following a slight lead into a long talk, of information and advice on her part, about Dixville Notch. The General thought he should go there, after a day or two at Outledge.

Just here came up Dakie Thayne. The actors, in costume, were gradually mingling among the audience, and Barbara Frietchie, in white hair, from which there was not time to remove the powder, plain cap and kerchief, and brown woolen gown, with her silken flag yet in her hand, came with him. This boy, who "was always everywhere," made no hesitation, but walked straight up to the central group, taking Leslie by the hand. Close to the General, he waited courteously for a long sentence of Mrs. Thoresby's to be ended, and then said, simply, "Uncle James, this is my friend Miss Leslie Goldthwaite. My brother, Dr. Ingleside-why, where is Noll?"

Dr. Oliver Ingleside had stepped out of the circle in the last half of the long sentence. The Sister of Mercy-no longer in costume, however-had come down the little flight of steps that led from the stage to the floor. At their foot the young army surgeon was shaking hands with Susan Josselyn. These two had had the chess-practice together-and other practice-down there among the Southern hospitals.

Mrs. Thoresby's face was very like some fabric subjected to chemical experiment, from which one color and aspect has been suddenly and utterly discharged to make room for something different and new. Between the first and last there waits a blank. With this blank full upon her, she stood there for one brief, unprecedented instant in her life, a figure without presence or effect. I have seen a daguerreotype in which were cap, hair, and collar, quite correct,-what should have been a face rubbed out. Mrs. Thoresby rubbed herself out, and so performed her involuntary tableau.

"Of course I might have guessed. I wonder it never occurred to me," Mrs. Linceford was replying presently, to her vacuous inquiry. "The name seemed familiar, too; only he called himself 'Dakie.' I remember perfectly now. Old Jacob Thayne, the Chicago millionaire. He married pretty little Mrs. Ingleside, the Illinois Representative's widow, that first winter I was in Washington. Why, Dakie must be a dollar prince!"

He was just Dakie Thayne, though, for all that. He and Leslie and Cousin Delight, the Josselyns and the Inglesides, dear Miss Craydocke hurrying up to congratulate, Marmaduke Wharne looking on without a shade of cynicism in the gladness of his face, and Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman flitting up in the pauses of dance and promenade,-well, after all, these were the central group that night. The pivot of the little solar system was changed; but the chief planets made but slight account of that; they just felt that it had grown very warm and bright.

"Oh, Chicken Little!" Mrs. Linceford cried to Leslie Goldthwaite, giving her a small shake with her good-night kiss at her door. "How did you know the sky was going to fall? And how have you led us all this chase to cheat Fox Lox at last?"

But that wasn't the way Chicken Little looked at it. She didn't care much for the bit of dramatic dénouement that had come about by accident,-like a story, Elinor said,-or the touch of poetic justice that tickled Mrs. Linceford's world-instructed sense of fun. Dakie Thayne wasn't a sum that needed proving. It was very nice that this famous general should be his uncle,-but not at all strange: they were just the sort of people he must belong to. And it was nicest of all that Dr. Ingleside and Susan Josselyn should have known each other,-"in the glory of their lives," she phrased it to herself, with a little flash of girl enthusiasm and a vague suggestion of romance.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Mrs. Linceford said to Dakie Thayne next morning. "Everybody would have"-She stopped. She could not tell this boy to his frank face that everybody would have thought more and made more of him because his uncle had got brave stars on his shoulders, and his father had died leaving two millions or so of dollars.

"I know they would have," said Dakie Thayne. "That was just it. What is the use of telling things? I'll wait till I've done something that tells itself."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top