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   Chapter 11 BARBARA'S BUZZ.

We Girls: a Home Story By A. D. T. Whitney Characters: 25803

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Leslie Goldthwaite's world of friendship is not a circle. Or if it is, it is the far-off, immeasurable horizon that holds all of life and possibility.

"You must draw the line somewhere," people say. "You cannot be acquainted with everybody."

But Leslie's lines are only radii. They reach out to wherever there is a sympathy; they hold fast wherever they have once been joined. Consequently, she moves to laws that seem erratic to those for whom a pair of compasses can lay down the limit. Consequently, her wedding was "odd."

If Olivia Marchbanks had been going to be married there would have been a "circle" invited. Nobody would have been left out; nobody would have been let in. She had lived in this necromantic ring; she would be married in it; she would die and be buried in it; and of all the wide, rich, beautiful champaign of life beyond,-of all its noble heights, and hidden, tender hollows,-its gracious harvest fields, and its deep, grand, forest glooms,-she would be content, elegantly and exclusively, to know nothing. To her wedding people might come, indeed, from a distance,-geographically; but they would come out of a precisely corresponding little sphere in some other place, and fit right into this one, for the time being, with the most edifying sameness.

From the east and the west, the north and the south, they began to come, days beforehand,-the people who could not let Leslie Goldthwaite be married without being there. There were no proclamation cards issued, bearing in imposing characters the announcement of "Their Daughter's Marriage," by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Goldthwaite, after the like of which one almost looks to see, and somewhat feels the need of, the regular final invocation,-"God save the Commonwealth!"

There had been loving letters sent here and there; old Miss Craydocke, up in the mountains, got one, and came down a month earlier in consequence, and by the way of Boston. She stayed there at Mrs. Frank Scherman's; and Frank and his wife and little Sinsie, the baby,-"she isn't Original Sin, as I was," says her mother,-came up to Z-- together, and stopped at the hotel. Martha Josselyn came from New York, and stayed, of course, with the Inglesides.

Martha is a horrible thing, girls; how do you suppose I dare to put her in here as I do? She is a milliner. And this is how it happens. Her father is a comparatively poor man,-a book-keeper with a salary. There are ever so many little Josselyns; and Martha has always felt bound to help. She is not very likely to marry, and she is not one to take it into her calculation, if she were; but she is of the sort who are said to be "cut out for old maids," and she knows it. She could not teach music, nor keep a school, her own schooling-not her education; God never lets that be cut short-was abridged by the need of her at home. But she could do anything in the world with scissors and needle; and she can make just the loveliest bonnets that ever were put together.

So, as she can help more by making two bonnets in a day, and getting six dollars for them beside the materials, she lets her step-mother put out her impossible sewing, and has turned a little second-story room in her father's house into a private millinery establishment. She will only take the three dollars apiece, beyond the actual cost, for her bonnets, although she might make a fortune if she would be rapacious; for she says that pays her fairly for her time, and she has made up her mind to get through the world fairly, if there is any breathing-space left for fairness in it. If not, she can stop breathing, and go where there is.

She gets as much to do as she can take. "Miss Josselyn" is one of the little unadvertised resources of New York, which it is very knowing, and rather elegant, to know about. But it would not be at all elegant to have her at a party. Hence, Mrs. Van Alstyne, who had a little bonnet, of black lace and nasturtiums, at this very time, that Martha Josselyn had made for her, was astonished to find that she was Mrs. Ingleside's sister and had come on to the marriage.

General and Mrs. Ingleside-Leslie's cousin Delight-had come from their away-off, beautiful Wisconsin home, and brought little three-year-old Rob and Rob's nurse with them. Sam Goldthwaite was at home from Philadelphia, where he is just finishing his medical course,-and Harry was just back again from the Mediterranean; so that Mrs. Goldthwaite's house was full too. Jack could not be here; they all grieved over that. Jack is out in Japan. But there came a wonderful "solid silk" dress, and a lovely inlaid cabinet, for Leslie's wedding present,-the first present that arrived from anybody; sent the day he got the news;-and Leslie cried over them, and kissed them, and put the beautiful silk away, to be made up in the fashion next year, when Jack comes home; and set his picture on the cabinet, and put his letters into it, and says she does not know what other things she shall find quite dear enough to keep them company.

Last of all, the very day before the wedding, came old Mr. Marmaduke Wharne. And of all things in the world, he brought her a telescope. "To look out at creation with, and keep her soul wide," he says, and "to put her in mind of that night when he first found her out, among the Hivites and the Hittites and the Amalekites, up in Jefferson, and took her away among the planets, out of the snarl."

Miss Craydocke has been all summer making a fernery for Leslie; and she took two tickets in the cars, and brought it down beside her, on the seat, all the way from Plymouth, and so out here. How they could get it to wherever they are going we all wondered, but Dr. Hautayne said it should go; he would have it most curiously packed, in a box on rollers, and marked,-"Dr. J. Hautayne, U.S. Army. Valuable scientific preparations; by no means to be turned or shaken." But he did say, with a gentle prudence,-"If somebody should give you an observatory, or a greenhouse, I think we might have to stop at that, dear."

Nobody did, however. There was only one more big present, and that did not come. Dakie Thayne knew better. He gave her a magnificent copy of the Sistine Madonna, which his father had bought in Italy, and he wrote her that it was to be boxed and sent after her to her home. He did not say that it was magnificent; Leslie wrote that to us afterward, herself. She said it made it seem as if one side of her little home had been broken through and let in heaven.

We were all sorry that Dakie could not be here. They waited till September for Harry; "but who," wrote Dakie, "could expect a military engagement to wait till all the stragglers could come up? I have given my consent and my blessing; all I ask is that you will stop at West Point on your way." And that was what they were going to do.

Arabel Waite and Delia made all the wedding dresses. But Mrs. Goldthwaite had her own carefully perfected patterns, adjusted to a line in every part. Arabel meekly followed these, and saved her whole, fresh soul to pour out upon the flutings and finishing.

It was a morning wedding, and a pearl of days. The summer had not gone from a single leaf. Only the parch and the blaze were over, and beautiful dews had cooled away their fever. The day-lilies were white among their broad, tender green leaves, and the tube-roses had come in blossom. There were beds of red and white carnations, heavy with perfume. The wide garden porch, into which double doors opened from the summer-room where they were married, showed these, among the grass-walks of the shady, secluded place, through its own splendid vista of trumpet-hung bignonia vines.

Everybody wanted to help at this wedding who could help. Arabel Waite asked to be allowed to pour out coffee, or something. So in a black silk gown, and a new white cap, she took charge of the little room up stairs, where were coffee and cakes and sandwiches for the friends who came from a distance by the train, and might be glad of something to eat at twelve o'clock. Delia offered, "if she only might," to assist in the dining-room, where the real wedding collation stood ready. And even our Arctura came and asked if she might be "lent," to "open doors, or anything." The regular maids of the house found labor so divided that it was a festival day all through.

Arctura looked as pretty a little waiting-damsel as might be seen, in her brown, two-skirted, best delaine dress, and her white, ruffled, muslin bib-apron, her nicely arranged hair, braided up high around her head and frizzed a little, gently, at the front,-since why shouldn't she, too, have a bit of the fashion?-and tied round with a soft, simple white ribbon. Delia had on a violet-and-white striped pique, quite new, with a ruffled apron also; and her ribbon was white, too, and she had a bunch of violets and green leaves upon her bosom. We cared as much about their dress as they did about ours. Barbara herself had pinched Arctura's crimps, and tied the little white bow among-them.

Every room in the house was attended.

"There never was such pretty serving," said Mrs. Van Alstyne, afterward. "Where did they get such people?-And beautiful serving," she went on, reverting to her favorite axiom, "is, after all, the very soul of living!"

"Yes, ma'am," said Barbara, gravely. "I think we shall find that true always."

Opposite the door into the garden porch were corresponding ones into the hall, and directly down to these reached the last flight of the staircase, that skirted the walls at the back with its steps and landings. We could see Leslie all the way, as she came down, with her hand in her father's arm.

She descended beside him like a softly accompanying white cloud; her dress was of tulle, without a hitch or a puff or a festoon about it. It had two skirts, I believe, but they were plain-hemmed, and fell like a mist about her figure. Underneath was no rustling silk, or shining satin; only more mist, of finest, sheerest quaker-muslin; you could not tell where the cloud met the opaque of soft, unstarched cambric below it all. And from her head to her feet floated the shimmering veil, fastened to her hair with only two or three tube-rose blooms and the green leaves and white stars of the larger myrtle. There was a cluster of them upon her bosom, and she held some in her left hand.

Dr. Hautayne looked nobly handsome, as he came forward to her side in his military dress; but I think we all had another picture of him in our minds,-dusty, and battle-stained, bareheaded, in his shirt-sleeves, as he rode across the fire to save men's lives. When a man has once looked like that, it does not matter how he ever merely looks again.

Marmaduke Wharne stood close by Ruth, during the service. She saw his gray, shaggy brows knit themselves into a low, earnest frown, as he fixedly watched and listened; but there was a shining underneath, as still water-drops shine under the gray moss of some old, cleft rock; and a pleasure upon the lines of the rough-cast face, that was like the tender glimmering of a sunbeam.

When Marmaduke Wharne first saw John Hautayne, he put his hand upon his shoulder, and held him so, while he looked him hardly in the face.

"Do you think you deserve her, John?" the old man said. And John looked him back, and answered straightly, "No!" It was not mere apt and effective reply; there was an honest heartful on the lips and in the eyes; and Leslie's old friend let his hand slip down along the strong, young arm, until it grasped the answering hand, and said again,-

"Perhaps, then, John,-you'll do!"

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" That is what the church asks, in her service, though nobody asked it here to-day. But we all felt we had a share to give of what we loved so much. Her father and her mother gave; her girl friends gave; Miss Trixie Spring, Arabel Waite, Delia, little Arctura, the home-servants, gathered in the door-way, all gave; Miss Craydocke, crying, and disdaining her pocket-handkerchief till the tears trickled off her chin, because she was smiling also and would not cover that up,-gave; and nobody gave with a more loving wrench out of a deep heart, than bluff old frowning Marmaduke Wharne.

* * *

Nobody knows the comfort that we Holabirds took, though, in those autumn days, after all this was over, in our home; feeling every bright, comfortable minute, that our home was our own. "It is so nice to have it to love grandfather by," said Ruth, like a little child.

"Everything is so pleasant," said Barbara, one sumptuous morning. "I've so many nice things that I can choose among to do. I feel like a bee in a barrel of sugar. I don't know where to begin." Barbara had a new dress to make; she had also a piece of worsted work to begin; she had also two new books to read aloud, that Mrs. Scherman had bro

ught up from Boston.

We felt rich in much prospectively; we could afford things better now; we had proposed and arranged a book-club; Miss Pennington and we were to manage it; Mrs. Scherman was to purchase for us. Ruth was to have plenty of music. Life was full and bright to us, this golden autumn-time, as it had never been before. The time itself was radiant; and the winter was stored beforehand with pleasures; Arctura was as glad as anybody; she hears our readings in the afternoons, when she can come up stairs, and sit mending stockings or hemming aprons.

We knew, almost for the first time, what it was to be without any pressure of anxiety. We dared to look round the house and see what was wearing out. We could replace things-some, at any rate-as well as not; so we had the delight of choosing, and the delight of putting by; it was a delicious perplexity. We all felt like Barbara's bee; and when she said that once she said it for every day, all through the new and happy time.

It was wonderful how little there was, after all, that we did want in any hurry. We thought it over. We did not care to carpet the dining-room; we liked the drugget and the dark wood-margins better. It came down pretty nearly, at last, so far as household improvements were concerned, to a new broadcloth cover for the great family table in the brown-room.

Barbara's bee-havior, however, had its own queer fluctuations at this time, it must be confessed. Whatever the reason was, it was not altogether to be depended on. It had its alternations of humming content with a good deal of whimsical bouncing and buzzing and the most unpredictable flights. To use a phrase of Aunt Trixie's applied to her childhood, but coming into new appropriateness now, Barbara "acted like a witch."

She began at the wedding. Only a minute or two before Leslie came down, Harry Goldthwaite moved over to where she stood just a little apart from the rest of us, by the porch door, and placed himself beside her, with some little commonplace word in a low tone, as befitted the hushed expectancy of the moment.

All at once, with an "O, I forgot!" she started away from him in the abruptest fashion, and glanced off across the room, and over into a little side parlor beyond the hall, into which she certainly had not been before that day. She could have "forgotten" nothing there; but she doubtless had just enough presence of mind not to rush up the staircase toward the dressing-rooms, at the risk of colliding with the bridal party. When Leslie an instant later came in at the double doors, Mrs. Holabird caught sight of Barbara again just sliding into the far, lower corner of the room by the forward entrance, where she stood looking out meekly between the shoulders and the floating cap-ribbons of Aunt Trixie Spring and Miss Arabel Waite during the whole ceremony.

Whether it was that she felt there was something dangerous in the air, or that Harry Goldthwaite had some new awfulness in her eyes from being actually a commissioned officer,-Ensign Goldthwaite, now, (Rose had borrowed from the future, for the sake of euphony and effect, when she had so retorted feet and dignities upon her last year,)-we could not guess; but his name or presence seemed all at once a centre of electrical disturbances in which her whisks and whirls were simply to be wondered at.

"I don't see why he should tell me things," was what she said to Rosamond one day, when she took her to task after Harry had gone, for making off almost before he had done speaking, when he had been telling us of the finishing of some business that Mr. Goldthwaite had managed for him in Newburyport. It was the sale of a piece of property that he had there, from his father, of houses and building-lots that had been unprofitable to hold, because of uncertain tenants and high taxes, but which were turned now into a comfortable round sum of money.

"I shall not be so poor now, as if I had only my pay," said Harry. At which Barbara had disappeared.

"Why, you were both there!" said Barbara.

"Well, yes; we were there in a fashion. He was sitting by you, though, and he looked up at you, just then. It did not seem very friendly."

"I'm sure I didn't notice; I don't see why he should tell me things," said whimsical Barbara.

"Well, perhaps he will stop," said Rose, quietly, and walked away.

It seemed, after a while, as if he would. He could not understand Barbara in these days. All her nice, cordial, honest ways were gone. She was always shying at something. Twice he was here, when she did not come into the room until tea-time.

"There are so many people," she said, in her unreasonable manner. "They make me nervous, looking and listening."

We had Miss Craydocke and Mrs. Scherman with us then. We had asked them to come and spend a week with us before they left Z--.

Miss Craydocke had found Barbara one evening, in the twilight, standing alone in one of the brown-room windows. She had come up, in her gentle, old-friendly way, and stood beside her.

"My dear," she said, with the twilight impulse of nearness,-"I am an old woman. Aren't you pushing something away from you, dear?"

"Ow!" said Barbara, as if Miss Craydocke had pinched her. And poor Miss Craydocke could only walk away again.

When it came to Aunt Roderick, though, it was too much. Aunt Roderick came over a good deal now. She had quite taken us into unqualified approval again, since we had got the house. She approved herself also. As if it was she who had died and left us something, and looked back upon it now with satisfaction. At least, as if she had been the September Gale, and had taken care of that paper for us.

Aunt Roderick has very good practical eyes; but no sentiment whatever. "It seems to me, Barbara, that you are throwing away your opportunities," she said, plainly.

Barbara looked up with a face of bold unconsciousness. She was brought to bay, now; Aunt Roderick could exasperate her, but she could not touch the nerve, as dear Miss Craydocke could.

"I always am throwing them away," said Barbara. "It's my fashion. I never could save corners. I always put my pattern right into the middle of my piece, and the other half never comes out, you see. What have I done, now? Or what do you think I might do, just at present?"

"I think you might save yourself from being sorry by and by," said Aunt Roderick.

"I'm ever so much obliged to you," said Barbara, collectedly. "Just as much as if I could understand. But perhaps there'll be some light given. I'll turn it over in my mind. In the mean while, Aunt Roderick, I just begin to see one very queer thing in the world. You've lived longer than I have; I wish you could explain it. There are some things that everybody is very delicate about, and there are some that they take right hold of. People might have pocket-perplexities for years and years, and no created being would dare to hint or ask a question; but the minute it is a case of heart or soul,-or they think it is,-they 'rush right in where angels fear to tread.' What do you suppose makes the difference?"

After that, we all let her alone, behave as she might. We saw that there could be no meddling without marring. She had been too conscious of us all, before anybody spoke. We could only hope there was no real mischief done, already.

"It's all of them, every one!" she repeated, half hysterically, that day, after her shell had exploded, and Aunt Roderick had retreated, really with great forbearance. "Miss Craydocke began, and I had to scream at her; even Sin Scherman made a little moral speech about her own wild ways, and set that baby crowing over me! And once Aunt Trixie 'vummed' at me. And I'm sure I ain't doing a single thing!" She whimpered and laughed, like a little naughty boy, called to account for mischief, and pretending surprised innocence, yet secretly at once enjoying and repenting his own badness; and so we had to let her alone.

But after a while Harry Goldthwaite stayed away four whole days, and then he only came in to say that he was going to Washington to be gone a week. It was October, now, and his orders might come any day. Then we might not see him again for three years, perhaps.

On the Thursday of that next week, Barbara said she would go down and see Mrs. Goldthwaite.

"I think it quite time you should," said Mrs. Holabird. Barbara had not been down there once since the wedding-day.

She put her crochet in her pocket, and we thought of course she would stay to tea. It was four in the afternoon when she went away.

About an hour later Olivia Marchbanks called.

It came out that Olivia had a move to make. In fact, that she wanted to set us all to making moves. She proposed a chess-club, for the winter, to bring us together regularly; to include half a dozen families, and meet by turn at the different houses.

"I dare say Miss Pennington will have her neighborhood parties again," she said; "they are nice, but rather exhausting; we want something quiet, to come in between. Something a little more among ourselves, you know. Maria Hendee is a splendid chess-player, and so is Mark. Maud plays with her father, and Adelaide and I are learning. I know you play, Rosamond, and Barbara,-doesn't she? Nobody can complain of a chess-club, you see; and we can have a table at whist for the elders who like it, and almost always a round game for the odds and ends. After supper, we can dance, or anything. Don't you think it would do?"

"I think it would do nicely for one thing," said Rose, thoughtfully. "But don't let us allow it to be the whole of our winter."

Olivia Marchbanks's face clouded. She had put forward a little pawn of compliment toward us, as towards a good point, perhaps, for tempting a break in the game. And behold! Rosamond's knight only leaped right over it, facing honestly and alertly both ways.

"Chess would be good for nothing less than once a week," said Olivia. "I came to you almost the very first, out of the family," she added, with a little height in her manner. "I hope you won't break it up."

"Break it up! No, indeed! We were all getting just nicely joined together," replied Rosamond, ladylike with perfect temper. "I think last winter was so really good," she went on; "I should be sorry to break up what that did; that is all."

"I'm willing enough to help in those ways," said Olivia, condescendingly; "but I think we might have our own things, too."

"I don't know, Olivia," said Rosamond, slowly, "about these 'own things.' They are just what begin to puzzle me."

It was the bravest thing our elegant Rosamond had ever done. Olivia Marchbanks was angry. She all but took back her invitation.

"Never mind," she said, getting up to take leave. "It must be some time yet; I only mentioned it. Perhaps we had better not try to go beyond ourselves, after all. Such things are sure to be stupid unless everybody is really interested."

Rosamond stood in the hall-door, as she went down the steps and away. At the same moment, Barbara, flushed with an evidently hurried walk, came in. "Why! what makes you so red, Rose?" she said.

"Somebody has been snubbing somebody," replied Rose, holding her royal color, like her namesake, in the midst of a cool repose. "And I don't quite know whether it is Olivia Marchbanks or I."

"A color-question between Rose and Barberry!" said Ruth. "What have you been doing, Barbie? Why didn't you stay to tea?"

"I? I've been walking, of course.-That boy has got home again," she added, half aloud, to Rosamond, as they went up stairs.

We knew very well that she must have been queer to Harry again. He would have been certain to walk home with her, if she would have let him. But-"all through the town, and up the hill, in the daylight! Or-stay to tea with him there, and make him come, in the dark!-And if he imagined that I knew!" We were as sure as if she had said it, that these were the things that were in her mind, and that these were what she had run away from. How she had done it we did not know; we had no doubt it had been something awful.

The next morning nobody called. Father came home to dinner and said Mr. Goldthwaite had told him that Harry was under orders,-to the "Katahdin."

In the afternoon Barbara went out and nailed up the woodbines. Then she put on her hat, and took a great bundle that had been waiting for a week for somebody to carry, and said she would go round to South Hollow with it, to Mrs. Dockery.

"You will be tired to death. You are tired already, hammering at those vines," said mother, anxiously. Mothers cannot help daughters much in these buzzes.

"I want the exercise," said Barbara, turning away her face that was at once red and pale. "Pounding and stamping are good for me." Then she came back in a hurry, and kissed mother, and then she went away.

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