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The Girls at Mount Morris By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 20225

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The door of Mrs. Boyd's room stood partly open. Louie Howe gave a light tap and marched in with an air that was rather insolent.

"Oh, Mrs. Boyd, I've given my walking dress such an awful tear! Mrs. Barrington said she was quite sure you could mend it. You see I'm going to a sort of musicale in about an hour and I couldn't take it to the tailors. It's my best suit, too, and-it must be done very neatly."

Mrs. Boyd examined it. "Yes, it's pretty bad, I've done worse though, and part of it will be under the plait. Let me see if I have the right color."

She opened a box of spools and took up several colors to match.

"Oh, yes, here is one," and she gave a smile of gratification.

Louie dropped into a chair. Was she going to wait? Lilian wondered.

"What a pleasant room this is, Mrs. Boyd! But all the rooms are just cozy and nice. Of course Mrs. Barrington can afford to keep it in a lovely fashion for her prices are high and she doesn't care to take any scholars only from the best families. I do wonder how that Nevins girl slipped in? Her father is a first-class banker, I have understood. They have a big house in New York and a summer house at Elberon, and their New York house is rented out for seven thousand dollars; but isn't she a terror? How do you stand her, Miss Boyd?"

"She has had very little training. Her mother has been ill and seems very indulgent," answered Lilian quietly. "Yet she may make a very fair scholar."

"It's funny to hear her talk. Bragging, we call it. Do you suppose the stories are true?"

"Mrs. Barrington would know," was the cautious reply.

"Well, I suppose she must be satisfactory or she wouldn't be here. But there's common blood back of her somewhere. Money doesn't give you the prestige of good birth. That always shows-don't you think so?" with a confident upward glance.

"I have not had experience enough with the world to judge," answered Lilian. "We lived in a factory town-"

"And in such places there are a good many newly rich, and they think they have it all."

Mrs. Boyd had been straightening out the rent and basting it on a piece of stiff paper.

"I wonder if you would mind asking Mrs. Dane if there were irons on the range."

She looked straight at Louie, not at all as if she was asking a favor. Lilian was on her knees straightening and dusting the lower shelf of the book case. She did not even turn her head.

Miss Howe went out with what she thought was a stately step and frowned at the girl on the floor whose business was to wait on her mother. When she was clear out of sight and hearing Lilian sprang up and clasped her arms about her mother.

"Oh, that was just splendid!" she cried, her eyes soft and shining.

"I-I think I meant-either of you!" hesitating.

"It was her business and it won't hurt her to wait on herself. The girls go down to the kitchen and iron out ribbons and things. I'm not their maid, and she had no business to stand here gossipping about Miss Nevins. I'm sorry for her and I don't like her, but there are some girls that are real friendly. There are two girls going to college next year. They have money, too, and they think a degree a great thing, and know of girls who have taught awhile and then taken a year or two and taught again. I was reading such a fine book-this girl and her mother took a cottage and boarded the overflow of girls and had a lovely time, she helping and studying. That's what we will try to do, and this year you will get real well and strong. Oh, isn't it nice not to have any care of things and so much comfort?"

The mother bent over her work turning her head aside so that a tear shouldn't fall on it. Oh, wouldn't the child be better off without her? She was so courageous, so fertile in expedients. Oh, they could not be all day dreams.

The skirt was beautifully darned and pressed and sent to Miss Howe's room by the maid. Then a note came to Mrs. Boyd. "Wouldn't she and Miss Lilian walk home with the Trenhams from church tomorrow morning and dine and meet a delightful young friend who had graduated at a Woman's College. Lilian might like to hear the experiences."

"Oh, that will be just royal!" the girl exclaimed. "Mother you must rest this afternoon. If there is any mending let me do it."

"Nothing is needed. Sometimes I feel as if I did not really earn my salary, and Mrs. Barrington is so kind."

"And now I begin to feel quite at home with some of the young ladies. I am proud of being a good scholar, but I study with all my might and main," laughing. "And next year I may earn a little money."

Sunday was bright but rather blowy. The leaves fell and whirled about like flocks of birds and the sky was like a June day. Miss Benson had come to church, a bright rather pretty woman of five or six and twenty. Her voice was attractive. Lilian had come to remark the differences in voices. Some did repel you; many were indecisive.

They walked down to Elm place. This was the old end of the street in a row of small detached houses with gardens running back to the next street and a space of six feet or so between. The Trenham's was in very nice tidy order, the windows with neat white drapery.

"Our next door neighbors are considered quite a detriment," explained Edith Trenham. "The woman professes to be a clairvoyant, and there are five children, two very unruly boys. I do hope they will go away in the spring."

Edith ushered her guests into the pretty parlor where the cheerful fire seemed to radiate pleasure as well as heat. In a small wheeling chair sat the invalid, a pale little girl of fifteen, but who looked years younger. She held out her hand to Lilian.

"Oh, what pleasure it is to see you," she cried. "Your color is radiant-like a June rose, isn't it mamma? and such beautiful hair. Edith is always well but she hasn't much color. Oh, if you could have seen our roses in June! They were bewildering. Don't you feel that gorgeous things sometimes are? Then the next door boys came over and stole the roses and broke the bushes. I cried nearly all day. It seemed as if I had been pulled to pieces. The mother said she was sorry but that wouldn't put the roses back."

"Claire you will find is quite a spoiled child," Edith said, stooping to kiss her. She was very pale and the dark hair framing in the little face gave her an almost uncanny look.

When they had laid aside their wraps Claire took possession of Lilian again, and wanted to know about the girls in the Seminary.

"Why, Claire, they are most all young ladies," said Edith.

"Well-are there many pretty ones? and what do they do beside study? They would get tired studying all the time."

Lilian explained that they visited in each others rooms and had calisthenics and danced, and went through some beautiful evolutions with Indian clubs-

"Oh, how funny!" Claire interrupted. "Do they make believe they are Indians?"

"Oh, no," and Lilian explained. They had a bell double quartette and made lovely music by striking some sweet-toned bells with small wands, and they were allowed to go down town. One evening a week there were dances.

"Oh, do you dance? You look that way?"

Lilian colored. "You see I spend a good deal of my time with my mother. Then I have lessons to learn-"

"And I don't study, I read delightful books. For you must know I can never get about or do things like other children. I draw and I paint over pictures, and I have an autoharp, and a beautiful big doll that I make believe is alive and we go traveling. Edith reads about journeys."

Mrs. Trenham had been adding a few last touches to the table which had been mostly prepared in the morning, the real cooking having been done the day before. Claire was lifted out in a cushioned chair and insisted that Lilian should sit next. Miss Benson was on the other side and took a turn with Lilian.

"Yes, she had worked her way through college. She had studied type-writing and done work for the professors and copied essays for the girls and coached backward girls, and trimmed hats, as she had a genius for millinery. Then, in vacation she had been a sort of summer governess when parents wanted to take journeys. It had all been very interesting, too, but it had taken longer, and now she was studying medicine in New York and teaching some hours a day."

"I like to teach but I don't believe I want to be a doctor, I think I should like to go to college."

"It is a fine discipline and broadens out one's mind. It makes excellent teachers, as well, and you do have many happy times. Think of a settlement of hundreds of girls!"

"Mrs. Barrington will only have twenty boarders and there are about twenty day scholars."

"Not a very large family to be sure, but enough to give you some variety. You look as if you might be a good student."

Lilian colored.

Mrs. Trenham was entertaining the mother.

She had been a widow twelve years, but was left with a small competency. Claire had been thrown out of a carriage by a runaway horse when she was barely five and very seriously injured so that for two years she was entirely helpless and now held her life on a very frail tenure, but she was a happy child and they made her life as entertaining as possible.

"You are blest in your daughter," said Mrs. Trenham. "She is so bright and eager and vigorous, and has so much character. Well, I have Edith who has always been a great comfort, and I suppose one gets used to a burden when it is a pleasant one. Claire is very loving and we try to keep all sad things from her."

Lilian thought it a delightful afternoon. These were the kind of people you could get close to. She saw that her mother was enjoying it as well. Wasn't it rather monotonous for her at Mrs. Barrington's? At Laconia there had been neighbors dropping in, some who had known her early life and sympathized with her misfortunes, and here, no one. She was glad to have been taken in this kindly family.

"Oh, won't you come often?" pleaded Claire. "I like you so much, and if you could come some Saturday mamma and Edith might go o

ut together. An old lady does come in when they go to church, but she isn't any real company. She hasn't any ideas. Don't you think old people get sort of stupid?" Lilian laughed.

Miss Benson expressed a good deal of pleasure at meeting such an ambitious girl and hoped to keep in touch with her for sometime; she might be able to counsel her or perhaps direct her on her way.

"It has been just delightful," she said when they reached their own rooms.

She did not go in to sing but read to her mother. Yes, she would try in the future to share more of her life with the colorless one. She had resolved to make the great sacrifice when she found she could not go on with school, and lo, this had been the outcome. They were delightfully sheltered, there were no hardships, only pin pricks and she would be silly to mind those. There was a sudden commotion through the place on Monday morning. Such glad bursts of welcome, such joyous laughter and absolute peans of delight.

For Zaidee Crawford had come. She, Lilian, was not in it and she wondered if at any time or in any place there would be such unalloyed gladness at her coming.

A girl of fifteen, bewilderingly pretty in the changes that passed over her mobile face. A complexion that was pink and pearl, golden hair that was a mass of waves and shining rings that seemed to ray off sunshine with every movement of the head that had a bird-like poise; a low broad Clytie brow and eyes that were the loveliest violet color, sometimes blue, sometimes the tenderest, most appealing gray. Her smile was captivating, disarming. It played about her lips that shut with dimples in the corners, it quivered in her eyes and made the whole face radiant.

Why Zaidee Crawford wasn't spoiled by the indulgence and adulation was quite a mystery. She had been longed for before her birth-one brother was seven the other nine years older. Major Crawford thought the tie between father and daughter was one of the choicest of heaven's blessings. He was proud of his sons whose straightforward, honorable careers in the lines they had chosen, to his great satisfaction, gave him profound happiness. Connected with Zaidee's birth had been the great sorrow of their lives that had cost Mrs. Crawford years of excruciating suffering and at first it seemed hopeless invalidism. In one of the Indian skirmishes the Major had been severely wounded in the leg that had left it lame and rather stiff. He resigned from the army to devote himself to his wife and the old residence that had been in his family for generations. And at this period a relative died and left him a large fortune. Beyond improving his estate and having the best medical attendance for his wife there was no real change in their living. They were both too sensible not to know how easily boys might be led astray by unwise indulgence in money. They were both high minded with a fine sense of right and justice. Both had gone down the dark valley and looked death in the face and thereafter walked humbly before God.

Zaidee Crawford had been a day scholar except at intervals when her mother had been taken away for medical treatment. Oddly enough, Mrs. Crawford as a girl, had been educated by Mrs. Barrington, then a young and childless widow, with an ardent desire for some useful aim in life, and they had remained the warmest of friends. Mrs. Barrington's comfort and faith had cheered many an hour of despondency.

But the Major had once said-"Margaret, while you can endure the suffering, always think that I would much rather have you as you are than to have lost you in that terrible time, and God has spared us our two fine sons and our sweet daughter."

Yes, there was much joy still left to life.

Zay went to her classes as a visitor this morning. There were many smiles of welcome. After all, she had not fallen so far behind, but her brother had been coaching her. There were four new scholars in the Latin class. The Kirklands, Louie Howe, who had been promoted, and a Miss Boyd, who roused a peculiar interest; but then her rendering in the translation was exceedingly fine.

"Who is that tall girl with the bronzy gold hair? And isn't she a fine reader?" exclaimed Zaidee.

They were in a little group of old friends. Louie Howe laughed. Phillipa made a funny face.

"Well?" and flushing a little she glanced up, inquiringly.

"The caretaker's daughter. We are democratic this year," announced May Gedney.

"The caretaker-"

"A Mrs. Boyd, a pale little nonentity, but she darns in the most elegant fashion you ever saw. She had to bring her daughter you see, and the daughter is to be a teacher-is a sort of charity scholar, looks after the laggards in the evening, but she keeps her place pretty well. Of course she lives over on that side," nodding her head.

"See here," began Phillipa, "that girl has puzzled me with an elusive resemblance to somebody, Zay, it really is you. Her hair and eyes are darker, she's larger every way, she is not such a peerless maid-"

"I shouldn't feel complimented by that! Oh the idea! A girl from-well somewhere from the wild and woolly west-"

Much as Phillipa Rosewald loved her friends and she confessed to adoring Zaidee, she never stopped at a little fling.

"The compliment, of course, is to Miss Boyd. She has a temper of her own, you can catch a flash of it in her eyes, and I dare say her iron rule is what makes her mother so meek. She pets up that Nevins girl who is a-well they are called Beauty and the Beast. How she managed to slip in here puzzles me."

"That girl is my horrid familiar, my bete noire. She has the room next to mine and you ought to see it. Miss Davis marked her down for untidyness, and Mrs. Barrington put her on a diet, her complexion was so horrid, but she manages to get a lot of sweets and chocolates. And the way she dresses! A modiste in New York sends her clothes and told her the color of one's frocks must match the hair or the eyes, and no one could match those gray blue green eyes, so it has to be the hair."

"I wouldn't want that dull brown hair. I don't suppose she ever brushes it. At home the maid looked after her. The mother is traveling for her health, and they are very rich."

"Oh, is she making a confidante of you, too?" laughed May Gedney. "I thought it rather funny at first, I didn't believe half she said, but her father is quite an important man in banking circles it seems, and there are diamonds galore, but he wouldn't let her wear only that diamond birthday ring at school. She was wildly in love with Miss Boyd but the girl was too hard hearted to return it. She is a regular icicle and stony hearted and all that! Yes, her heart is irretrievably gone about the girl. They did have a kissing match one night but they don't do it any more in public! I don't know what they do in private, but the Boyd shut down on gifts which almost broke her heart, and she had spent two dollars for two orchids."

"That certainly speaks well for Miss Boyd," Zay exclaimed.

May flushed. Lately she had been the recipient of some gifts.

"Of course she is here to train the younger minds in the paths of knowledge while her mother mends their clothes."

"Well, is that to be despised?" asked Zay with spirit.

"Why, no, but of course you don't associate with your dressmaker's daughter, nor the store clerks though they are nice enough for the places they have to fill in life. If it wasn't for the mother she might pass muster, and you know this is the most select of schools. That is one reason mother sent me here there was no chance of making undesirable acquaintances. For one thing, the terms are too high," and Louie Howe bridled.

"Is this Miss Nevins at the highwater mark?" and there was a touch of sarcasm in Zay's tone.

"Oh let's quit the higher criticism," said another. "I want to hear Zay talk, and you've been to Berlin and that picturesque Dresden. Did you see the shepherdesses with their crooks, and Corydon making love to them, and Holland-that funny place of canals and windmills and stumpy dutchmen."

"And, oh, did you see the Kaiser?"

Zay laughed. "Yes, mounted on a fine horse, and the Empress and her pretty daughter in a state carriage. And Willard went to some sort of review with the Ambassador and was presented to the Kaiser who asked him about Annapolis, and some of the training. He thought the great Emperor very affable. Father has been at a few of the functions and seen the royal ladies in their state dresses. Then, there are some splendid professors and scientists-"

"But you didn't go to Paris?"

"No. Father and Willard spent ten days there while Aunt Kate and I staid with mother. Then she could cross the room without a cane, even. Now she can walk some distance. Oh, girls, its splendid not to have her go on crutches! And she thinks in two years or so we may go to Paris for quite a stay. You know real young girls don't understand fine pictures and all that! Willard begins his three-years cruise early in January, and in the summer Vincent will graduate and perhaps be sent off somewhere. The doctors wanted her to spend the whole winter about the Mediterranean, but she thought it would be so lovely to have our Christmas together."

"Oh, Zaidee Crawford, you're a girl to be envied! None but the rich, etc.," with sundry upturnings of the chin.

"Well, I hope I'll be able to go abroad on a wedding tour. Otherwise I won't have him!" announced Phillipa with great solemnity at which they all laughed.

"Young ladies do you know it is time to go out for exercise," said Miss Arran.

"Oh, let us go over to Crawford House," cried Zay. "Why, you will hardly know it. The two parlors are to be thrown into one-a regular drawing room, and I'm to have the prettiest study off of my bedroom. I have to decide what color I shall have them done in."

"We'll all help you."

"I just can't have blue and I like it so, but it is the one idea of blondes, therefore I avoid it."

"It seems Miss Boyd's favorite color," said Louie. "And she's not so very blondy, either."

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