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   Chapter 5 ZAIDEE

The Girls at Mount Morris By Amanda M. Douglas Characters: 24830

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


They were the usual lot of girls in a sort of hubbub together. With the exception of the Kirklands they were not taking life seriously as yet. They studied and sang, painted, wrote verses, sometimes were caught on trigonometry and occasionally made awful translations in Latin and French. They changed their ideals, they vowed friendship and fell out with each other, they were spiteful and willful and sweet and penitent, and if "a boy's will's the wind's will," a young girl's will in the unformed years is not much better.

Phillipa Rosewald was a sort of leader. A kind of charming girl with many varieties, fascinating, making you like her when she chose and then giving you pin pricks instead of caresses. Before she put on long dresses boys were quarrelling about her and she seemed to sandwich love affairs in with her lessons; she had fine taste in dressing, she could tie a bow, or trim a hat, or furbish up an evening waist in a manner that filled her comrades with envy, and she was a fairly good scholar as well.

But Zaidee with her graciousness and sweet temper won all hearts. Every one was eager to have some little claim upon her. Her mother's sad accident and her father being one of the survivors of a fierce Indian battle made her a sort of heroine. She was not quite an angel but very human and with the peculiar sweetness that always disarms criticism.

And although it was considered a rather aristocratic school there were the usual feuds and bits of jealousy inseparable from a crowd of girls, the days in the main passed delightfully, and now they were all interested in the rehabilitation of Crawford House, the coming of the young midshipman and the lovely mother who at last had an almost miraculous restoration to health and strength.

Crawford House was full of workmen. Aunt Kate was supervisor. Willard was staying with his parents.

The house stood on a little eminence and had two terraces that were a mass of bloom in the summer. A broad portico ran on two sides and at the end fronting the south there was an imposing tower, many windows. Back of it was a flower garden, a vegetable garden, barns, carriage house and a useful little green-house.

"Dear, I hope the workmen will be through early in December," said Aunt Kate. "Then there is all the furnishing. Only about six weeks. Does school seem natural, Zay? Have the girls gone way ahead of you?"

"I hardly know yet," was the laughing reply. "Mrs. Barrington hasn't really set me at work."

"Are there many new scholars?"

"Not in our department, but it seems nice to be a school girl again and not a globe trotter."

"But you didn't go quite round the world."

"I'm glad there's something left. Look girls, this is my room with the southern and western exposure. I think I'll have it done in pale green and pink, Aunt Kate. That will tone down the summer sunshine. Phil and I have been discussing colors."

"That will be pretty, and you can stand green. It would turn some complexions yellow," returned Aunt Kate.

"How short the days are growing! And it gets dark so soon. Girls, we had better hurry off home."

"Shall I order samples of green, Zaidee?"

"Yes, Aunt Kate, if you please."

It was quite a treat to sit down at the table with a group of girls. Madame Eustice talked to them in French and Zay surprised her with her readiness and improved pronunciations.

"And I am quite a proficient in German as far as talking goes, I've heard so much of it, and it seemed so funny at first. Though a good many of the servants and waiters speak a little English."

Zay glanced down at the other table. She singled out Miss Nevins who had quite a fancy hair dressing and a pink bow. But she saw no one she thought Miss Boyd. Then there was a full hour to the study period.

Lilian and her mother often took this meal which was only a kind of high tea in their room. Mrs. Boyd could not overcome a half fear of Mrs. Dane. Then she read to her mother until it was time to go to the study. Often she left her mother asleep in the big easy chair. Oh, for some one to listen and to respond! But the practice was good for her if no one listened.

Zay kept glancing furtively down at the table of the younger class. Yes, there was Miss Boyd. She went toward a pupil, as a small hand was held up. There was something interesting in the face, and the young student would glance up and smile. Was there any resemblance, she wondered? The hair was darker, but the complexion was certainly fine. Miss Nevins had a peevish look tonight and said something rather cross. Miss Boyd preserved her serenity.

Lilian was having quite a delightful new interest in the Trenhams. Her exercise hour led to a walk down there and an engaging half visionary talk with Claire who had wonderful adventures with a pretty squirrel who ran up and down a tree in range with her window. Or it was some belated bird who had lost his way south and had to hide to keep out of the way of the hunters.

"Why do they let them go out and kill the poor birdies?" she asked plaintively. "I should think it would be braver to go to Africa and shoot lions and tigers and those cruel animals that eat up human beings, and the dear pretty little squirrels!"

"Why, indeed?" Lilian had often thought of it herself.

Or it would be a story of a fairy who had a long search for a charmed ring that would bestow a wonderful power over everything in the forest and give the animals the gift of speech. Claire told one, Lilian must take the next.

"Edith comes home so tired sometimes. You are always fresh," the child said.

Then the girl would meet Edith who would turn about and walk with her and listen to the hopes and ambitions and dreams she could tell to no one else. So she had a comforting secret life.

Zaidee Crawford made two or three slight advances, but they were distantly received, and Zay was not used to being rebuffed. She was not much of an analyst and thought Miss Boyd very cold natured. But now and then the enthusiasm of the true student broke out in some class recitation and it transfigured her.

"Our pupil teacher quite distinguished herself today," said Phillipa Rosewald, "though I must say it was in exceedingly bad taste."

"Why bad taste?" asked Zay. "I thought it fine."

"She might have been a little more modest. You see, my dear child, we are not preparing for teachers nor to vulgarly distinguish ourselves. I thought Miss Grayson did not quite like it. Are you really growing fond of your double? But I can't imagine you standing up in that bold fashion."

Zay was silent. It always annoyed her to have Miss Boyd called her double. The figure and manner was so different. Zay was so light and airy, she seemed rather to skim over space than to walk, and every motion was replete with grace, while Miss Boyd was stately, and when critical eyes were upon her, sometimes seemed awkward.

Miss Nevins certainly was improving. Thanks to Mrs. Barrington's regimen her complexion had cleared up, she kept her hair in a tidier fashion. May Gedney had insisted upon her wearing something beside the dismal browns.

"Send this to your dressmaker and have a green suit trimmed with bands of gray fur-if it won't be too extravagant."

"Oh, father will pay the bill. He hasn't much idea of what things cost."

"See here-I know a lovely dressmaker in Livingston. I sometimes go there. Mrs. Barrington would let us go over with Miss Davis, I am sure, and as she keeps samples we could choose, and she could take your measure. I don't believe it would cost half as much, and will be prettier. Your clothes are too old."

"Oh, you are an angel," and May had to submit to an embrace.

Mrs. Barrington agreed. She gave Miss Nevins some money.

"As they are going on your business you must pay their expenses," she said.

Miss Nevins felt really grand. This was a true friend.

One evening she thrust a note in Lilian's hand. She had taken a seat on the other side of the table.

Lilian read it in her room. She smiled, yet she felt a little hurt after all she had done for Alice.

"I hope you won't feel bad because I changed my seat. Some of those hateful girls called us Beauty and the Beast. I know I am not handsome, but then rich people seldom are, and I don't think you are so very. I have a new dear friend who really does care for me and is going to plan about my clothes. Of course you don't know how the real style ought to dress, and I don't think mamma would like me to be intimate with a girl whose mother was caretaker here. It's such a pity she is, for if she wasn't here you wouldn't need to say anything about it and would be more respected. I hope you won't be mad.-Alice."

"I won't be ashamed of her, poor dear mother," Lilian said resolutely. But if she were like Mrs. Trenham, and the change would not be so very great, she mused.

Miss Nevins avoided her for the next few days. Lilian did not seem to notice it.

Mrs. Barrington called the girls together one evening.

"Young ladies," she began, "I have a plan to lay before you. There have always been some Hallowe'en plays and tricks that often seem both childish and reprehensible. I am going to propose you lay aside all these and instead let me give you a party with music, dancing and some refreshments. I will invite the young gentlemen of the neighborhood, many of whom you have met at church and elsewhere. What do you say?"

"Oh, Mrs. Barrington, that is utterly lovely."

Phillipa Rosewald sprang up and clasped both hands. There was a bevy of girls about her and they all talked at once.

"Understand, there are to be no tricks played in each other's rooms. You have been making very good progress so far this year and I am sincerely pleased. As many of you will go away on Saturday there can be no Christmas festivities, but this may be quite as pleasant."

"Oh, Mrs. Barrington, it will be just delightful!" cried Phillipa with enthusiasm. "Thank you a dozen times for thinking of it."

"You have accepted some invitations from outside and it seems the thing to return them. Every girl will be at her liberty to ask one guest and there are several I wish to invite. I hope you will have a happy time."

"Oh, we are sure of that."

"And now I hope your scholarship will be excellent at the winter examinations. It will be the last year for some of you and for your parents' sake I hope you will stand high."

The leisure of the next two days was spent working out lists.

"Oh," declared May Gedney, "I'd like to invite at least four. Ally and Archie Holmes, and the Pridhams. I suppose we can ask a young gentleman?"

"Let us make a list and divide up. Archie Holmes is such a delightful dancer, and Allie is so full of fun, and so many of us were at her birthday party."

"Do you suppose the smaller fry will invite their friends?"

"I think not, though they may be allowed to come in as spectators."

"That Nevins girl is a pretty dancer. What lots of fancy things she knows."

"I don't imagine we will have any high flings," laughing.

"Well, May, you ask Ally, and Nelly White ask Archie. That's the way we must pair off, and divide up the Pridhams. We must only ask one girl in a family. I'm afraid we won't have boys enough to go round."

"Then some of the girls will have to play Knights as we do in the practices."

After much study they presented their list to Mrs. Barrington who thought it very judicious. She said she had several gentlemen to add.

Then there was a time about the frocks. Miss Nevins unpacked two party gowns that had remained in her trunk when it was taken up stairs. A pretty rather simple white cluna silk and a pink satin.

"Oh, the satin is altogether too ornate, too really old," declared Phillipa.

"But it's so much prettier," longingly.

"I don't know about that, and I can tell you Mrs. Barrington will hustle it back in the box mighty quick. The party is for the older girls. You will simply be allowed in to look and partake of the treat if you are well behaved little girls."

Miss Nevins pouted.

Her new winter suit had come home and it was really admirable, making her look like quite a different girl.

"I don't see what that New York dressmaker can be thinking about. She makes a regular guy of her. And since Mrs. Barrington shut down on so much sweet stuff how her complexion h

as improved. But the morning baths are a terror to her. She is sure she can keep clean on a wash once a week."

"And girls, every time her mother wrote she enclosed five dollars. She didn't give any account of that for awhile, and Mrs. Barrington was quite affronted when her mother advised her to go to a restaurant now and then to get a good meal. I must say our living here is of the very best."

There was no dissenting voice.

They were all in a gale about the party. There was always a lawn fete when school closed in June at which the girls invited relatives and friends. Hallowe'en had been devoted to tricks in each other's room, sewing up sheets, sprinkling cayenne pepper and rice, and occasionally putting a toad in the bed if one could be found, or an artificial one would answer the purpose. Mrs. Barrington had made some appeals, but this new plan was a decided success. The girls were gay and eager with delight, and wonder who of the young men of the town would be asked.

Mrs. Barrington called Lilian in her room and spoke of the party, giving her a special invitation.

"It is very kind of you," the girl answered, "and I hope you will not think me ungrateful if I decline. I am not used to gayeties of this kind, and"-with a smile-"I have no party dress."

"That can easily be remedied. I really think you are making a mistake by effacing yourself so readily on all occasions. You are becoming a fine scholar and I am much interested in your welfare. Your hour in the study room is not at all detrimental-"

"There are other things. Oh, Mrs. Barrington let me keep to my own sphere. I have always been poor, I have not been much among what are called better class girls, but I do know they have better advantages and are trained in pretty and attractive society ways. Public schools are more on a level. I am not finding fault. My heart is full of gladness for this lovely offer that came to my mother and me. Some of the young ladies have been very kind. Believe me I am happy, but I should feel out of place in a gay party."

She looked really beautiful standing there, the bright flush coming and going over her face, her mouth with its winsome curves, her eyes so full of gratitude and candor. What was the elusive remembrance?

"You shall do as you like in this matter," returned Mrs. Barrington. "But at the beginning of the new term I propose to have matters on a somewhat different footing. You will end by being my best scholar."

"Oh, thank you a thousand times for taking so much interest in me. I hope I shall be able to repay you."

"My dear child some of the best things in the world are done without pay. Appreciation is better and you have a great deal of that."

The party was a great success. Several of the older graduates were asked in. There was music, some conversational plays where quick wit was necessary and in this Phillipa excelled. Then the dancing was charming to the young crowd. They were very merry over the refreshments, then dancing again.

"It's been just delightful! I never had such a good time in my life. Oh, Mrs. Barrington, how can we ever thank you," and a dozen other glad acknowledgments. They were all tired enough to tumble into bed, with no thought of tricks to disturb them.

Miss Nevins admitted that she had a first class time. "Only I wish I had been up in more dances. And if they'd had some fancy dances! I do love them so!"

"Hardly at such a party," said Phillipa, dryly. "And the maid of the evening who did not come. Do you suppose she was asked?" inquired Louie Howe.

"Oh, she would have come quick enough if she'd had anything to wear," subjoined Miss Gedney. "Well, I'm glad she didn't or wasn't. It would have been rather embarrassing."

"When I meet her abroad in the capacity of attendant to some charming young lady I should not know her, of course."

There was a laugh at that.

Then began the mouth of real study though there were a few heart burnings that Miss Boyd should come up to the best in some of the classes.

November was unusually beautiful and the week of Indian summer a dream for a poet. Lilian's afternoon hour out of doors was the concentration of delight. The handsome town, the picturesque houses, where late blooming flowers were a delight on many a lawn, the peaceful winding river whose shadows seemed to depict a fascinating underworld, the rising ground beyond with its magnificent trees, its tangled nooks of shrubbery with scarlet berries, so stirred Lilian's fine nature that she felt as if she must burst into poesy.

No, she would never give up the splendid, inspiriting dreams of youth. Ambitious and noble natures are often haunted by romantic ideals and glimpses of the future reaching up to unharmful standards that did seem possible. These dreams were better than the feverish, vitiating novels some of the girls poured over in private.

She was making a warm friend of Edith Trenham, who was often puzzled by her. How did she get this wonderful insight into such a beautiful world full of possible endeavor.

The simple prettiness of the Trenham home was very charming to her. This was what she would make for her mother, only there would be a little more. Portfolios of engravings, a vase from Japan, a curious Indian ornament with ages back of it. Already Barrington House was shaping her taste in many matters.

Then it was a pleasure to talk to the imaginative Claire who reveled in the Knights of Arthur's time, the tastes of Mythology which she twisted about to suit her fancy.

"I like Miss Lilian so much," she would say. "She has traveled in so many countries. She knows all about Eskimo babies and little Chinese girls who can't go anywhere because they have such crooked feet. And we play at going to see them, and they give us such curious things to eat. And there are real little Greek children, who lived in Bible times. Oh, it's just lovely!"

"You make Claire very happy," Edith would say in a fond tone.

"I like to make her happy, and I want to make my mother happy. She has had such a hard life."

"You are a dear daughter."

Was she being a dear daughter to her mother? Mrs. Boyd seemed to grow more distant, more dreary and absent. Sometimes between classes she would run in and take her mother's work, read to her evenings, but then she always fell asleep; but the girl went on. It was more company to read aloud. Just now she was deep in the making of Beautiful Florence. Oh, would she ever get to know all the famous cities of the world?

How the time sped on! There was one snow storm, not a very deep one, but enough to call out the sleighs, and what a fairyland it made of Mount Morris. Saturday all the girls chipped in and hired a big sleigh and a laughing crew of ten had what they thought the merriest time of their lives.

Just as they were getting out Louie Howe caught her skirt on something and there was a tear.

"Oh, girls! My best Sunday skirt! And we-some of us are invited to Mrs. Westlake's to dinner, and she goes away on Monday. Oh, I wonder if Mrs. Boyd can mend it fit to be seen! I can't take it to the tailors now."

"She darns beautifully."

"Well, that's what she's here for; mender in general."

"But it seems dreadful to ask her to do it in the evening, and the daylight is almost gone."

Louie hated to give up whatever her mind was set upon. She hurriedly changed her frock and put on a light evening dress. With her skirt in hand she crossed the hall. The door stood open. The house was always warm. Mrs. Boyd sat in an easy chair. Helen on one of the fancy stools under the gas burner with a book in her hand. Louie swept past her.

"Oh, Mrs. Boyd. I want you to mend my skirt. I've given it a dreadful tear. I can't take it to the tailors and four of us are invited out to dinner after church, so I must have it."

Mrs. Boyd rose and examined it. "It is a bad tear, but if you must have it-"

"Yes, I surely must. O, I think you can do it. There's the whole evening."

Then she turned away. Lilian's temper flared up at white heat.

"Oh, mother, why didn't you tell her you could not? She has other dresses to wear. Let me take it back to her-"

"No, dear, I'll do it. Light the lamp for me. Why you know that's part of my business," and Mrs. Boyd gave a tremulous little laugh.

"I think Mrs. Barrington would not have such a thing done on Saturday night," was her resolute reply, but she lighted the lamp and brought her mother's work table with its handy cabinet.

"You see a good part of it will go under this plait. Oh Lilian, do not mind such little things."

The insolent manner had hurt the girl keenly. Louie was on the promotion list and would graduate in June. She held her head very high. Her father had promised her a handsome watch with a beautiful neck chain that could be detached when required and she felt sure of it now.

Mrs. Boyd basted the tear on a piece of cloth and began her work.

"Lilian," she said, "will you go and see if there is an iron on the range, and ask cook if I can come down by and by."

Then she began her work. The underneath part at first, but somehow her hand trembled. Lilian watched with an indignant, aching heart. After awhile her mother leaned back with a sigh.

"I believe I shall have to get glasses," she said wearily. "I cannot do fine work in the evening. I am afraid I shall spoil it, and I've always been such a neat worker."

"Let me finish," said the girl. Every inch of her protested, but it was for her mother's sake. Lately she had done several things to ease her.

"Yes, let me," she went on, taking the work from her mother's hands. "You know I can darn nicely."

Lilian took infinite pains. It was slow work, but at last it was accomplished.

"You are such a dear, good daughter, and it is said booky people are never anything with a needle, but you could get your living with it."

Then she took her work down stairs and came back flushed and smiling.

"Look, Lilian," in a tone of pride, "it hardly shows! Cook said she never saw more beautiful darning and that in a big city I could make a fortune at lace mending. Will you take it to Miss Howe?"

"No, mother," and Lilian spoke in a dignified but not unkindly manner. "We are not here to run and wait on the girl. Let Miss Howe come for it."

Mrs. Boyd felt disappointed. She wanted some one beside cook to praise her handiwork.

Louie fidgeted about her skirt. She and Zay were in Phil's room talking over the coming Christmas and Mrs. Crawford's return.

"I wonder why that girl doesn't bring my skirt. Maybe they've spoiled it."

"Have you sent a maid?"

"Why no. I meant Miss Boyd. She oughtn't be above such things."

"Still, she isn't here to run on errands. I think Mrs. Barrington treats her quite as if she were a scholar, and she's a fine one, too."

"Some day she'll brag of having been educated here, though Mount Morris doesn't set out to furnish teachers, but the training of young ladies. Mother likes it because there was no opportunity of making undesirable acquaintances," and Louie gave her head a toss.

"Is Miss Nevins so very desirable?" asked Zay with a flash of mirth in her eye.

"Still, if you met her abroad as a rich banker's daughter or heard of her being presented to the Queen-"

"Girls, don't quarrel about either one of them. Alice Nevins is a fool and always will be. Lilian Boyd is smart and ambitious but there is the bar sinister. Her mother isn't the sort of person to come up in the world and when Miss Lilian gets there she'll ship off her old mother, put her in an Old Woman's Home. I despise that toss of her head, just as if she was up to the highest mark already; but they are not worth disputing about."

Zaidee Crawford drew a long breath. She had almost courage enough to stand up for her, then she remembered some one had said you were never sure that some disgraceful thing might come out. Who knew anything about her father? There was a good deal of pride of birth at Mount Morris as is apt to be the case where well to do people have lived for a century or so.

Louie sent a maid for her skirt and admitted that a tailor couldn't have done it better.

"Only a week" the girls said with their good night to each other.

Not that they were so tired of school, but Christmas was a joyous occasion, and going home a treat.

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