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   Chapter 6 UNEXPECTED.

In the High Valley / Being the fifth and last volume of the Katy Did series By Susan Coolidge Characters: 24456

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


MOGEN'S race-prejudices experienced a weakening after Lionel's return from St. Helen's with the only "slavey" attainable, in the shape of an untidy, middle-aged Irish woman, with red hair, and a hot little spark of temper glowing in either eye. Putting this unpromising female in possession of the fresh, clean kitchen of the cabin was a trial, but it had to be done; and the young mistress, with all the ardor of inexperience, bent herself to the task of reformation and improvement, and teaching Katty Maloney-who was old enough to be her mother-a great many desirable things which she herself did not very well understand. It was thankless work and resulted as such experiments usually do. Katty gave warning at the end of a week, affirming that she wasn't going to be hectored and driven round by a bit of a miss, who didn't well know what she wanted; and that the Valley was that lonesome anyhow that she'd not remain in it; no, not if the Saints themselves came down from glory and kivered up every fut of soil with shining gold, and she a-starving in the mud,-that she wouldn't!

Imogen saw her go with small regret. She had no idea how difficult it might be to find a successor, and it was not till three incompetents of the same nationality had been lured out by the promise of high wages, only to decide that the place was too "lonely" for them and incontinently depart, that she realized how hard was the problem of "help" in such a place. It was her first trial at independent housekeeping, and with her English ideas she had counted on neatness, respectfulness of manner, and a certain amount of training as a matter of course in a servant. One has to learn one's way in a new country by the hardest, and perhaps, the least hard part of Imogen's lesson were the intervals when she and Lionel did the work themselves, with only old José to scrub and wash up; then at least they could be quiet and at peace, without daily controversies. Later, relief and comfort came to them in the shape of a gentle Mongolian named Ah Lee, procured through the good offices of Choo Loo, whom Imogen was only too thankful to accept, pig-tail and all, for his gentleness of manner, general neatness and capacity, and the good taste which he gave to his dishes. In fact, she confessed one day to Lionel, privately in a moment of confidence, that rather than lose him, she would herself carve a joss stick and nail it up in the kitchen; which concession proves the liberalizing and widening effect of necessity upon the human mind. But this is anticipating.

The cabin was a pleasant place enough when once fairly set in order. There was an abundance of sunshine, fire-wood was plenty, and so small a space was easily kept tidy. Imogen, when she reviewed her resources, realized how wise Lionel had been in recommending her to bring more ornamental things and fewer articles of mere use, such as tapes and buttons. Buttons and tapes were easy enough to come by; but things to make the house pretty were difficult to obtain and cost a great deal. She made the most of her few possessions, and supplied what was lacking with wild flowers, which could be had in any quantity for the picking. Lionel had hunted a good deal during his first Colorado years, and possessed quite a good supply of fox, wolf, and bear skins. These did duty for rugs on the floor. Elk and buffalo horns fastened on the walls served as pegs on which to hang whips and hats. Some gay Mexican pots adorned the chimney-piece; it all looked pretty enough and quite comfortable. Imogen would fain have tried her hand at home-made devices of the sort in which the ladies at the lower house excelled, but somehow her attempts turned out failures. She lacked lightness of touch and originality of fancy, and the results were apt to be what Elsie privately stigmatized as "wapses of red flannel and burlaps without form or comeliness," at which Lionel jeered, while visitors discreetly averted their eyes lest they should be forced to express an opinion concerning them.

Imogen's views as to the character and capacities of American women underwent many modifications during that first summer in the Valley. It seemed to her that Mrs. Templestowe and her sister were equal to any emergency however sudden and unexpected. She was filled with daily wonder over their knowledge of practical details, and their extraordinary "handiness." If a herder met with an accident they seemed to know just what to do. If Choo Loo was taken with a cramp or some odd Chinese disease without a name, and laid aside for a day or two, Clover not only nursed him but went into the kitchen as a matter of course, and extemporized a meal which was sufficiently satisfactory for all concerned. If a guest arrived unexpectedly they were not put out; if some article of daily supply failed, they seemed always able to devise a substitute; and through all and every contingency they managed to look pretty and bright and gracious, and make sunshine in the shadiest places.

Slowly, for Imogen's mind was not of the quick working order, she took all this in, and her respect for America and Americans rose accordingly. She was forced to own that whatever the rest of womankind in this extraordinary new country might be, these particular specimens were of a sort which any land, even England, might be justly proud to claim.

"And with all they do, they contrive to look so nice," she said to herself. "I can't understand how they manage it. Their gowns fit so well, and they always seem to have just the right kind of thing to put on. It is really wonderful, and it certainly isn't because they think a great deal about it. Before I came over I always imagined that American women spent their time in reading fashion magazines and talking over their clothes. Mrs. Geoff and Mrs. Page certainly don't do that. I don't often hear them speak about dresses, or see them at work at them; and both of them know a great deal more about a house than I do, or any other English girl I ever saw. Mrs. Geoff, and Mrs. Page too, can make all sorts of things,-cakes and puddings and muffins and even bread; and they read a good deal as well. The Americans are certainly a cleverer people than I supposed."

The mile of distance between what Clarence called "the Hut and the Hutlet" counted for little, and a daily intercourse went on, trending chiefly, it must be owned, from the Hut to the Hutlet. Clover was unwearied in small helps and kindnesses. If Imogen were cookless, old José was sure to appear with a loaf of freshly baked bread, or a basket of graham gems; or Geoff with a creel of trout and an urgent invitation to lunch or dinner or both. New books made their appearance from below, newspapers and magazines; and if ever the day came when Imogen felt hopelessly faint-hearted, lonely, and over-worked, she was sure to see the flutter of skirts, and her pretty, cordial neighbors would come riding up the trail to cheer her, and to propose something pleasant or helpful. Sometimes Elsie would have her baby on her knee, trusting to "Summer Savory's" sure-footed steadiness; sometimes little Geoff would be riding beside his mother on a minute burro. Always it seemed as though they brought the sun with them; and she learned to watch for their coming on dull days, as if they were in the secret of her moods and knew just when they were most wanted. But they came so often that these coincidences were not so wonderful, after all.

Imogen did appreciate all this kindness, and was grateful, and, after her manner, responsive; still the process of what Elsie termed "limbering out Miss Young" went on but slowly. The English stock, firm-set and sturdily rooted, does not "limber" readily, and a bent toward prejudice is never easily shaken. Compelled to admit that Clover was worth liking, compelled to own her good nature and friendliness, Imogen yet could not be cordially at ease with her. Always an inward stiffness made itself apparent when they were together, and always Clover was aware of the fact. It made no difference in her acts of good-will, but it made some difference in the pleasure with which she did them,-though on no account would she have confessed it, especially to Elsie, who was so comically ready to fire up and offer battle if she suspected any one of undervaluing her sister. So the month of July went.

It was on the morning of the last day, when the long summer had reached its height of ripeness and completeness, and all things seemed making themselves ready for Rose Red, who was expected in three days more, that Clover, sitting with her work on the shaded western piazza, saw the unwonted spectacle of a carriage slowly mounting the steep road up the Valley. It was so unusual to see any wheeled vehicle there, except their own carryall, that it caused a universal excitement. Elsie ran to the window overhead with Phillida in her arms; little Geoff stood on the porch staring out of a pair of astonished eyes, and Clover came forward to meet the new arrivals with an unmistakable look of surprise in her face. The gentleman who was driving and the lady beside him were quite unknown to her; but from the back part of the carriage a head extended itself,-an elderly head, with a bang of oddly frizzled gray hair and a pair of watery blue eyes, all surmounted by an eccentric shade hat, and all beaming and twittering with recognition and excitement. It took Clover a moment to disentangle her ideas; then she perceived that it was Mrs. Watson, who, when she and Phil first came out to Colorado, years before, came with them, and for a time had been one of the chief trials and perplexities of their life there.

"Well, my dear, and I don't wonder that you look astonished, for no one would suppose that after all I went through with I should ever again- This is my daughter, and her husband, you know, and of course their coming made it seem quite- We are staying in the Ute Valley; only five miles over, they said it was, but such miles! I'd rather ride ten on a level, any day, as I told Ellen, and-well, they said you were living up here; and though the road was pretty rough, it was possible to- And if ever there was a man who could drive a buggy up to the moon, as Ellen declares, Henry is the-but really I was hardly prepared for-but any way we started, and here we are! What a wild sort of place it is that you are living in, my dear Miss Carr-not that I ought to call you Miss Carr, for- I got your cards, of course, and I was told then that- And your sister marrying the other young man and coming out to live here too! that must be very- Oh, dear me! is that little boy yours? Well, I never!"

"I am very glad to see you, I am sure," said Clover, taking the first opportunity of a break in the torrent of words, "and Mrs. Phillips too,-this is Mrs. Phillips, is it not? Let me help you out, Mrs. Watson, and Geoffy dear, run round to the other door and ask Euphane to send somebody to take the horses."

"Thank you," said Mrs. Phillips. "Let me introduce my husband, Mrs. Templestowe. We are at the hotel in the Ute Valley for three days, and my mother wished so much to drive over and see you that we have brought her. What a beautiful place your valley is!"

Mrs. Phillips, tall, large-featured, dark and rather angular, with a pleasant, resolute face, and clear-cut, rather incisive way of speaking, offered as complete a contrast to her pale, pudgy, incoherent little mother as could well be imagined. Clover's instant thought was, "Now I know what Mr. Watson must have been like." Mr. Phillips was also tall, with a keen, Roman-nosed face, and eye-glasses. Both had the look of people who knew what was what and had seen the world,-just the sort of persons, it would seem, to whom a parent like Mrs. Watson would be a great trial; and it was the more to their credit that they never seemed in the least impatient, and were evidently devoted to her comfort in all ways. If she fretted them, as she undoubtedly must, they gave no sign of it, and were outwardly all affectionate consideration.

"Why, where is your little boy gone? I wanted to see him," said Mrs. Watson, as soon as she was safely out of the carriage. "He was

here just this moment, and then-I must say you have got a beautiful situation; and if mountains were all that one needed to satisfy-but I recollect how you used to go on about them at St. Helen's- Take care, Ellen, your skirt is caught! Ah, that's right! Miss Carr is always so-but I mustn't call her that, I know, only I never- And now, my dear, I must have a kiss, after climbing up all this way; and there were gopher holes-at least, a man we met said they were that, and I really thought- Tell me how you are, and all about- That's right, Henry, take out the wraps; you never can tell how- Of course Miss Carr's people are all- I keep calling you Miss Carr; I really can't help it. What a beautiful view!"

Clover now led the way in-doors. The central room, large, cool, and flower-scented, was a surprise to the Eastern guests, who were not prepared to find anything so pretty and tasteful in so remote a spot.

"This is really charming!" said Mr. Phillips, glancing from fireplace to wall, and from wall to window; while his wife exclaimed with delight over the Mariposa lilies which filled a glass bowl on the table, and the tall sheaves of scarlet penstamens on either side the hearth. Mrs. Watson blinked about curiously, actually silent for a moment, before her surprise took the form of words.

"Why, how pretty it looks, doesn't it, Ellen? and so large and spacious, and so many- I'm all the more surprised because when we were together before, you wouldn't go to the Shoshone House, you remember, because it was so expensive, and of course I- Well, circumstances do alter; and it is a world of changes, as Dr. Billings said in one of his sermons last spring. And I'm sure I'm glad, only I wasn't prepared to- Ellen! Ellen! look at that etching! It's exactly the same as yours, which Jane Phillips gave you and Henry for your tin wedding. It was very expensive, I know, for I was with her when she got it, and so-at Doll's it was; and his things naturally-but I really think the frame of this is the handsomest! Now, my dear Miss Carr, where did you get that?"

"It was one of our gifts," said Clover, smiling. "There is a double supply of wedding presents in this house, Mrs. Watson, for my sister's are here as well as our own. So we are rather rich in pretty things, as you see, but not in anything else, except cows; of those we have any number. Now, if you will all excuse me for a moment, I will go up and tell Mrs. Page that you are here."

Up she went, deliberately till she was out of sight, and then at a swift, light run the rest of the way.

"Elsie dear," she cried, bursting into the nursery, "who do you think is here? Mrs. Watson, our old woman of the Sea, you know. She has her son-in-law and daughter with her, and they look like rather nice people, strange to say. They have driven over from the Ute Valley, and of course they must have some lunch; but as it happens it is the worst day of the whole year for them to choose, for I have sent Choo Loo into St. Helen's to look up a Chinese cook for Imogen Young, and I meant to starve you all on poached eggs and raspberries for lunch. I can't leave them of course, but will you just run down, my darling duck, and see what can be done, and tell Euphane? There are cans of soup, of course, and sardines, and all that, but I fear the bread supply is rather short. I'll take Phillida. She's as neat as a new pin, happily. Ah, here's Geoffy. Come and have your hair brushed, boy."

She went down with one child in her arms and the other holding her hand,-a pretty little picture for those below.

"My sister will come presently," she explained. "This is her little girl. And here is my son, Mrs. Watson."

"Dear me,-I had no idea he was such a big child," said that lady. "Five years old, is he, or six?-only three! Oh, yes, what am I thinking about; of course he-Well, my little man, and how do you like living up here in this lonesome place?"

"Very much," replied little Geoff, backing away from the questioner, as she aimlessly reached out after him.

"He has never lived anywhere else," Clover explained; "so he cannot make comparisons. Ignorance is bliss, we are told, Mrs. Watson."

Euphane, staid and respectable in her spotless apron, now entered with the lunch-cloth, and Clover convoyed her guests upstairs to refresh themselves with cold water after the dust of the drive. By the time they returned the table was set, and presently Elsie appeared, cool and fresh in her pretty pink and white gingham with a knot of rose-colored ribbon in her wavy hair, her cheeks deepened to just the becoming tint, the very picture of a dainty, well-cared-for little lady. No one would have suspected that during the last half-hour she had stirred and baked a pan of brown "gems," mixed a cream mayonnaise for the lettuce, set a glass dish of "junket" to form, and skimmed two pans of cream, beside getting out the soup and sweets for Euphane, and trimming the dishes of fruit with kinnikinick and coreopsis. The little feast seemed to have got itself ready in some mysterious manner, without trouble to any one, which is the last added grace of any feast.

"It is perfectly charming here," said Mrs. Phillips, more and more impressed. "I have seen nothing at all like this at the West."

"No one would have suspected that she had skimmed two pans of cream"-Page 166.

"There isn't any other place exactly like our valley, I really think. Of course there are other natural parks among the ranges of the Rockies, but ours always seems to me quite by itself. You see we lie so as to catch the sun, and it makes a great difference even in the winter. We have done very little to the Valley, beyond just making ourselves comfortable."

"Very comfortable indeed, I should say."

"And so you married the other young man, my dear?" Mrs. Watson was remarking to Elsie. "I remember he used to come in very often to call on your sister, and it was easy enough to see,-people in boarding-houses will notice such things of course, and we all used to think- But there-of course she knew all the time, and it is easy to make mistakes, and I dare say it's all for the best as it is. You look very young indeed to be married. I wonder that your father could make up his mind to let you."

"I am not young at all, I'm nearly twenty-six," replied Elsie, who always resented remarks about her youth. "There are three younger than I am in the family, and they are all grown up."

"Oh, my dear, but you don't look it! You don't seem a day over twenty. Ellen was nearly as old as you are before she ever met Henry, and they were engaged nearly two- But she never did look as young as most of the girls she used to go with, and I suppose that's the reason that now they are all got on a little, she seems younger than- Well, well! we never thought while I was with your sister at St. Helen's, helping to take care of your poor brother, you know, how it would all turn out. There was a young man who used to bring roses,-I forget his name,-and one day Mrs. Gibson said- Her husband had weak lungs and they came out to Colorado on that account, but I believe he- They were talking of building a house, and I meant to ask- But there, I forgot; one does grow so forgetful if one travels much and sees a good many people; but as I was saying-he got well, I think."

"Who, Mr. Gibson?" asked Elsie, quite bewildered.

"Oh, no! not Mr. Gibson, of course. He died, and Mrs. Gibson married again. Some man she met out at St. Helen's, I believe it was, and I heard that her children didn't like it; but he was rich, I believe and of course- Riches have wings,-you know that proverb of course,-but it makes a good deal of difference whether they fly toward you or away from you."

"Indeed it does," said Elsie, much amused. "But you asked me if somebody got well. Who was it?"

"Why, your brother of course. He didn't die, did he?"

"Oh dear, no! He is living at St. Helen's now, and perfectly well and strong."

"Well, that must be a great comfort to you all. I never did think that he was as ill as your sister fancied he was. Girls will get anxious, and when people haven't had a great deal of experience they- He used to laugh a great deal too, and when people do that it seems to me that their lungs- But of course it was only natural at her age. I used to cheer her up all I could and say- The air is splendid there, of course, and the sun somehow never seems to heat you up as it does at the East, though it is hot, but I think when people have weak chests they'd better- Dr. Hope doesn't think so, I know, but after all there are a great many doctors beside Dr. Hope, and- Ellen quite agrees with me- What was I saying."

Elsie wondered on what fragment of the medley she would fix. She was destined never to know, for just then came the trample of hoofs and the "Boys" rode up to the door.

She went out on the porch to meet them and break the news of the unexpected guests.

"That old thing!" cried Clarence, with unflattering emphasis. "Oh, thunder! I thought we were safe from that sort of bore up here. I shall just cut down to the back and take a bite in the barn."

"Indeed you will do nothing of the sort. Do you suppose I came up to this place, where company only arrives twice a year or so, to be that lonesome thing a cowboy's bride, that you might slip away and take bites in barns? No sir-not at all. You will please go upstairs, make yourself fit to be seen, and come down and be as polite as possible. Do you hear, Clare?"

She hooked one white finger in his buttonhole, and stood looking in his face with a saucy gaze. Clarence yielded at once. His small despot knew very well how to rule him and to put down such short-lived attempts at insubordination as he occasionally indulged in.

"All right, Elsie, I'll go if I must. They're not to stay the night, are they?"

"Heaven forbid! No indeed, they are going back to the Ute Valley."

He vanished, and presently re-appeared to conduct himself with the utmost decorum. He did not even fidget when referred to pointedly as "the other young man," by Mrs. Watson, with an accompaniment of nods and blinks and wreathed smiles which was, to say the least, suggestive. Geoff's manners could be trusted under all circumstances, and the little meal passed off charmingly.

"Good-by," said Mrs. Watson, after she was safely seated in the carriage, as Clover sedulously tucked her wraps about her. "It's really been a treat to see you. We shall talk of it often, and I know Ellen will say- Oh, thank you, Miss Carr, you always were the kindest- Yes, I know it isn't Miss Carr, and I ought to remember, but somehow- Good-by, Mrs. Page. Somehow-it's very pretty up here certainly, and you have every comfort I'm sure, and you seem- But it will be getting dark before long, and I don't like the idea of leaving you young things up here all by yourselves. Don't you ever feel a little afraid in the evenings? I suppose there are not any wild animals-though I remember- But there, I mustn't say anything to discourage you, since you are here, and have got to stay."

"Yes, we have to stay," said Clover, as she shook hands with Mr. Phillips, "and happily it is just what we all like best to do." She watched the carriage for a moment or two as it bumped down the road, its brake grinding sharply against the wheels, then she turned to the others with a look of comically real relief.

"It seems like a bad dream! I had forgotten how Phil and I used to feel when Mrs. Watson went on like that, and she always did go on like that. How did we stand her?"

"Ellen seems nice," remarked Elsie,-"Poor Ellen!"

"Geoff," added Clarence, vindictively, "this must not happen again. You and I must go to work below and shave off the hill and make it twice as steep! It will never do to have the High Valley made easy of access to old ladies from Boston who-"

"Who call you 'the other young man,'" put in naughty Elsie. "Never mind, Clare. I share your feelings, but I don't think there is any risk. There is only one of her, and I am quite certain, from the scared look with which she alluded to our 'wild beasts,' that she never proposes to come again."

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