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   Chapter 2 A NEW OUTLOOK

The Girls at Mount Morris By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 18816

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Lilian Boyd glanced around the station at Mount Morris with a kind of joyous surprise and wonder. The beautiful town with its straight streets, some of them with a narrow park in the centre, houses that were palatial to her inexperienced eyes, with terraced lawns, wide porches, graceful shrubbery and a profusion of flowers. True, the station was quite at one side and a little farther down the road crossed the river that went meandering along, too winding and shallow for business purposes. Opposite there was a succession of wooded hills with here and there a stately residence.

"How beautiful, mother!" Lilian cried, moved in every pulse of her being, her eyes lustrous with tears, her lips quivering.

The beauty did not so move the mother. She was embarrassed and shrank when the coachman with an authoritative air approached them.

"Mrs. Boyd?" tentatively. There had been but few passengers and they had gone their way.

She glanced timidly at Lilian who answered for her.

"Give me your checks, please, and I will order the trunks sent up."

"There is only one," in a deprecating tone.

Lilian was glad she had insisted on a nice new trunk.

"This way please," and he took the girl's satchel. Mrs. Boyd followed rather than led, but her daughter stood aside so that she should be assisted in first.

"What a beautiful town!" she exclaimed involuntarily. She had a feeling that they were recovering from a reverse of fortune and this was their rightful place. Then she smiled at the absurdity.

Mount Morris Seminary was rather at the lower part of the town, and a long level stretched between that and the river, broken by a few clumps of shrubbery. The house was a handsome old style building, colonial in its aspect with its broad piazza and fluted columns going up to the second story.

There was an imposing entrance, but the porte cochere was at the side where the wide screen door showed a sort of reception hall, furnished with willow and splint belongings, a table with magazines and papers and two great jars of ferns.

A tidy maid received them. "Would they please be seated, Mrs. Barrington would be down in a moment."

Lilian drew a long breath of rapture. To live in a place like this! To wander in the beautiful garden, to work and study in such inspiring environments. Yes, she had come to work as well. She had been too young to discriminate, but in an instant she seemed to realize how bitter the struggle with poverty and discouragement had been, the hurry with hardly an hour's real enjoyment. No wonder it had made her mother worn and hesitating, fearful, and here everything was so leisurely aspected.

She heard the soft trail of a gown over the stairs and rose in eager expectancy.

Mrs. Barrington was a handsome woman at sixty, tall and straight, with a gracious presence. Her hair was snowy white as the girl had hoped and lay in loose waves about her forehead. Her dark eyes were not easily evaded, but her manner of smiling serenity was in itself a welcome.

"I am afraid it has been a long and tiresome journey in this warm weather, but a few days' rest will restore you I hope. You look very delicate, Mrs. Boyd."

She gave the hand a friendly pressure.

"Mother had so much to do before we started," explained Lilian, "and the change-"

"And the parting with old friends," with her sympathetic smile. "I hope you will soon feel at home and like us all. Mrs. Searing gave you both such an excellent recommendation, and I confess I take a warm interest in girls who are eager for advancement. Now allow me to show you to your room and shall I send you up some tea? That is a rather pleasant English fashion, I am glad you came so promptly for my housekeeper has gone on her vacation and we shall have the better chance to get acquainted."

"Oh, thank you," said Lilian warmly.

They followed her up the stairs where a cross hall led to a wing. The room was large with two single beds, the windows in white drapery, a capacious bureau, a dressing table, a washing stand in a recess, a writing desk and some book shelves. It looked so cozy and inviting.

"I will send up the tea, and I think your mother had better take a rest. If you like to come down you will find me in the hall."

"Thank you," she replied. "I shall be glad to come."

She took her mother's bonnet and wrap and placed her in the rocking chair.

"Oh, isn't this a splendid closet? It's like another room. We are going to be so happy here; I feel it in every pulse. Heaven bless Mrs. Searing for finding us this shelter. Now drink this cup of tea. Thank you," to the maid.

It was reviving.

Lilian brushed out her dress and smoothed her hair. Her coat had left some wrinkles in her shirtwaist, but she stretched and patted them out. Then when she had seen her mother comfortable on the bed, she came down. Even the little freshening made her look bright and rosy and her eyes were vivid with the light of pleasure.

Mrs. Barrington had a bit of fancy work in her hands which were white and shapely. She studied the young girl. It seemed to call up something from the long past years that eluded and yet piqued her. How different she was from the mother.

"Have you always lived in that western town, Laconia, I believe it is, and was it your mother's birthplace?"

"Yes, I am quite sure. I was away once as a baby. Mother went to her brother's after father died but did not like it, and Laconia is an ugly manufacturing town of smoke and grime, but it is said to have a fine High School. Of course there are some rich manufacturers."

"How long were you in it?"

"Two years, and I was fairly broken hearted at the thought of not completing the course, but mother wasn't strong as she had been, and"-yes, she would be bravely honest-"we were poor, mother's little money was almost spent. Boys supported themselves while they are studying, why shouldn't girls?"

Oh, where had she seen just that proud uplifting look! It puzzled the lady.

"I am always pleased to help an ambitious girl along, and you have a dignity which will be a great aid in teaching. Mrs. Searing said that was your desire."

"I love to study. I think I shall love to teach, and sometime I hope to go to college."

"I think you will work your way there. What branches were you in?"

Lilian was very frank. She showed that she was a thorough student. History was one of her delights. Latin was the only language admitted until the third year, and in mathematics she seemed well grounded.

"I want some one to take charge of a few of the younger classes and be of service in the study hour from eight to nine. I think you will fit in admirably, but do you think your mother is quite strong enough?"-and she paused.

"Oh, she is used to sewing of all kinds. She is very tired now and I think she has been worried all the time lest something should go wrong with this nice offer. You see sewing is not very profitable ordinarily unless you can do high up dressmaking or are forewoman in some factory, and I couldn't sew for a living. It is one thing over and over. You are never learning anything new, broadening out, enjoying the wisdom of the master minds, the beautiful poetry, the grand philosophies. Oh, am I a very romantic or conceited girl?" and she paused with a bright flush.

"You are meant for a scholar."

Just that instant the trunk came and Lilian excused herself and went up with it. Her mother was up and looked rested.

"And please put on that black and white lawn, even if it is a little crumpled, and my white batiste always shakes out. It is nice if it isn't very fine."

The bell sounded and they went down. The table was laid in the pretty little tea room. Lilian ate and drank with a sensation of delight. The china was so delicate, the table so beautifully arranged, the serving so perfect. Often in reading a story Lilian had fancied herself the heroine and enjoyed the feast.

The child has much finer breeding than the mother, Mrs. Barrington mused. She almost fancied she detected something furtive about Mrs. Boyd. Was she being won by the girl's proud face to the detriment of the mother? It seemed to her that Mrs. Boyd stood in awe of her daughter.

Afterward they went to the parlor which was a fine large room splendidly furnished, Lilian thought. There was a grand piano, an organ, two beautiful marbles, vases and pictures. There was a wide hall that was like another room. Here on the west side was the school and recitation rooms, the girl's dining room and a commodious kitchen.

"Will you go up stairs?" asked Mrs. Barrington.

Lilian answered eagerly, Mrs. Boyd followed.

Over this side were the dormitories and baths. Some rooms accommodated two beds, others only one. They were neat and pleasant and had been lately put in order.

"I do not care for more than twenty boarding pupils," explained Mrs. Barrington. "That makes a nice family with sufficient variety of character. I am much interested in the development of girls, and the town has nothing detrimental in it. We have a fine music hall where there are concerts and lectures, occasionally a play, and a nice library. The walks and drives about are beautiful."

The hall was not so wide up here. There were two entrances to the family side, the one to Mrs. Barrington's rooms which was divided by a short hall from those of the assi

stants. Two of the teachers lived at the school, though one of them had a room where she could be in touch with the girls.

When they reached her room Mrs. Boyd said-

"If you don't mind I will retire. I am so little used to long journeys that this has fatigued me. No, Lilian you need not stay. I shall not want anything. By morning I shall be rested," and she waved her away.

"Are you quite sure?" asked the girl, "and you will not be lonely?"

"Oh no, I shall enjoy the quiet."

"Are you fond of music?" asked Mrs. Barrington. "Shall I play a little for you?"

"Oh, that would be delightful. I have heard very little that might be called refined music."

Then she knew the difference.

She was charmed, though the hostess played mostly the simpler things. She thought she could have listened all night.

A night's rest refreshed Mrs. Boyd very much and the certainty that Lilian had found a good friend. For she knew she could not stand the struggle much longer. She was really worn out.

Her duties were explained in a very kindly manner. There were the linen closets at hand, the bedding that she was to deal out as it was needed, the table napery. What she did for the girls was quite her own affairs.

"And you must not allow them to impose on you. My rule is that all small bills must be settled once a month. Most of the girls get their allowance then. You will have considerable leisure for yourself. I hope you will soon feel very much at home."

As for Lilian she seemed in an enchanted land. Such stores of splendid reading, such a magnificent out of doors! She and her mother were sent out to drive, and the town was like the places she had read about in books or the higher grade monthly papers. Then Mrs. Dane, the housekeeper, returned and Miss Arran, who was a kind of secretary, took her outing.

Mrs. Dane was a tall, rather severe looking person. All disputes with the servants and any discomforts in the rooms were under her jurisdiction. Why it was like a little kingdom in itself.

"Mrs. Boyd doesn't look very robust and seems rather timid, uncertain, though if she is capable-" Mrs. Dane began rather sharply.

"She has been seamstress to a dressmaker for several years. I fancy she has had it pretty hard for the last year or two, but Miss Lilian is very bright and energetic, only I am afraid she will hold her head rather too high."

"I fancy she will make an excellent teacher. That is her aim."

Mrs. Barrington had looked through the big book of photographs of school girls. Some turns of the head, some glances and a sound in the voice still puzzled her, but it was connected with something in the past. Few young girls made characteristic portraits. Ah, here was one who had just that poise, that eager ambitious expression. A Miss Mortimer who certainly possessed fine abilities, and a resonant voice. She had taken the lead in school entertainments, and then she had joined a theatrical troupe and married a third rate actor, to the lady's great disappointment.

"There is some likeness," she mused, "only the voice is much gentler, more truly musical. It must be that is the elusive suggestion, and Miss Boyd is wild over Shakespeare. It shall be my purpose to prevent her from being an actress, unless she can stand in the front ranks."

Lilian and Miss Arran became friends almost at once. Both were fond of walking, and to Lilian the beautiful aspect of the town, the woods and the picturesque river with its many windings and suggestive nooks where she always found a new touch of beauty stirred her with a vivid and intense delight.

Then the real life began. Girls trouped in, trunks were set down with a thump or oftener carried up on the third floor for unpacking. Girls in the remnant of summer suits, for it was still warm, others in cloth or serge, laughing chatting, running to and fro. How bright and merry it all was!

It took some time to get settled. The first grade girls who were to be the next year graduates, if they chose, were at one table with Mrs. Barrington and Madame Eustis, the French teacher; the other had Miss Arran, Miss Davis, and the new scholars or the second grade old ones. Lilian was at this table, though they could have their meals in their own rooms.

She felt very sorry for her neighbor, Alice Nevins, who was dreadfully homesick and scarcely tasted anything, winking desperately to keep her eyes from overflowing. Some of them looked very bright and jolly.

"Girls," exclaimed Louie Howe, as a group gathered on the lawn, "there's a new pupil teacher, and you know that's one of Mrs. Barrington's fads. Last year's girl wasn't much of a success it seems. I think it's that lanky girl in brown silk who looks half frightened out of her wits, and her mother is the seamstress and caretaker. I wouldn't have put her in brown silk with that dull brown hair and wretched complexion."

"Thank fortune she isn't at our table!"

"Oh, Mrs. Barrington wouldn't put such a looking object with us. She really doesn't know enough to last over night. There are eight new scholars, three with us come for finishing touches, five in the second grade."

"There's a girl I'd like to know with that splendid light hair, just the least bit wavy. She sat opposite Miss Arran, and had a blue lawn frock with the baby waist and lace yoke. She is fine looking; a little too grave to be handsome, but her complexion is lovely. She's a princess in disguise, I can tell by the way she holds her head. I shall throw myself at her feet when I get a chance. It is a case of love at first sight. There she is with that brown girl. I'd go over but I am afraid of being snubbed. I do wonder who she can be, and there she's taking that Elma Ransom under her wing. It will take the child five years to get up to our first division." "That brown girl as you call her is a Miss Nevins. Her parents have gone abroad, I've learned that much, and they are well to do. That is the golden mean between comparative and great wealth. Miss Vincent introduced her to me, and then she turned her to that rather striking looking girl."

"And which do you suppose is Miss Boyd? Or has she run back to mamma's sheltering wing?"

"I think she has discreetly retired. We must make some excuse to get in to our lady of the needle. I'm sorry Miss Nevins isn't better looking if she has plenty of money."

"Well, the gods were just this time. She will need the money to illumine her pathway. Just see that girl in the blue frock. Why, they are thronging about her."

Louie Howe went over and caught little Elma Ransome by the arms. She was short and rather plump with an infantile face that made her look younger than her years.

"Why Elly, I'm glad to see you back. Now this year you must study hard and fill up some of the vacancies we graduates make." Then she glanced around the group.

Elma flushed and then said a little awkwardly-"This is Miss Boyd, and this Miss Nevins, and-I don't know all the names yet."

"You have more new scholars than we." Then she made a stiff little bow and turned away to her own group.

"Girls, what do you think? Why, I nearly fainted with surprise. 'Looks is often deceiving.' That girl I thought a princess in disguise is Miss Boyd. Why she has airs and graces enough to amaze you. If her mother is like that, will we ever dare to ask her to darn our stockings?"

"Miss Boyd!" exclaimed a chorus of voices.

"Well, it's good we have learned the fact at once so we shall not make any blunders. She'll be a sort of charity scholar working for her board and training. Of course we shan't have anything to do with her as she isn't in our set. Though it wouldn't be so bad but for the mother."

"That's real snobbish, Louie," said a girl.

"Well, I don't know, you have a right to choose your friends, and I heard Mrs. Dane say something about their being very poor."

"Well, she's stylish and she has an air, and Mrs. Barrington wouldn't take in any one objectionable. If my father should die I might be glad to have some one take me in, and I expect to teach when I am through. You see father has four more to educate."

"Well, Mattie Vincent, you can make a bosom friend of her for all that I care."

"Oh girls, don't let's quarrel about her when we have just come and are glad to see each other. I dare say Miss Boyd wont trouble us."

"She'll be pushing, and aspiring to the best-you'll see! One can tell by the way she holds her head, and she could stare you out of countenance with those bold black eyes. I shall keep on my guard. You'll see me take her down if she presumes."

But Lilian Boyd did not presume. She went to church with her mother on Sunday in a simple white pique frock, and spent the evening on the back porch with Miss Arran, not even going in the parlor for the singing, and on Monday school duties began. The classes received considerable accessions from the day scholars. Lilian had two of the younger classes and she found a real pleasure in the teaching. Then she was in the Latin class and proved herself an excellent scholar.

The evening hour was sometimes rather trying. Some of the girls asked foolish questions just to perplex her. Occasionally she suggested they should ask Miss Davis. The younger ones were quite tractable, though now and then a spirit of fun broke out, set a-foot generally by the larger girls.

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