Dorothy's House Partyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“There’s a most remarkable thing about this House Party of ours! Every person invited has come and not one tried to get out of so doing! Three cheers for the Giver of the Party! and three times three for – all of us!” cried happy Seth Winters, from his seat of honor at the end of the great table in the dining-room, on the Saturday evening following.
Lamps and candles shone, silver glittered, flower-bedecked and spotlessly clean, the wide apartment was a fit setting for the crowd of joyous young folk which had gathered in it for supper; and the cheers rang out as heartily as the master of the feast desired.
Then said Alfaretta, triumphantly:
“The Party has begun and I’m to it, I’m in it!”
“So am I, so am I! Though I did have to invite myself!” returned Mr. Winters. “Strange that this little girl of mine should have left me out, that morning when she was inviting everybody, wholesale.”
For to remind her that he “hadn’t been invited” was the “trouble” which he had stooped to whisper in Dorothy’s ear, as she left him at the smithy door. So she had run home and with the aid of her friends already there had concocted a big-worded document, in which they begged his presence at Deerhurst for “A Week of Days,” as they named the coming festivities; and also that he would be “Entertainer in Chief.”
“You see,” confided Dolly, “now that the thing is settled and I’ve asked so many I begin to get a little scared. I’ve never been hostess before – not this way; – and sixteen people – I’m afraid I don’t know enough to keep sixteen girls and boys real happy for a whole week. But dear Mr. Winters knows. Why, I believe that darling man could keep a world full happy, if he’d a mind.”
“Are you sorry you started the affair, Dolly Doodles? ’Cause if you are, you might write notes all round and have it given up. You’d better do that than be unhappy. Society folks would, I reckon,” said Molly, in an effort to comfort her friend’s anxiety. “I’m as bad as you are. It begins to seem as if we’d get dreadful tired before the week is out.”
“I’d be ashamed of myself if I did that, Molly, I’ll go through with it even if none of you will help; though I must say I think it’s – it’s sort of mean for you boys, Jim and Monty, to beg off being ‘committees.’”
“The trouble with me, Dolly, is that my ideas have entirely given out. If you hadn’t lost that hundred dollars I could get up a lot of jolly things. But without a cent in either of our pockets – Hmm,” answered Monty, shrugging his shoulders.
Jim said nothing. He was still a shy lad and while he meant to forget his awkwardness and help all he could he shrank from taking a prominent part in the coming affair.
Alfaretta was the only one who wasn’t dismayed, and her fear that the glorious event might be abandoned was ludicrous.
“Pooh, Dorothy Calvert! I wouldn’t be a ’fraid-cat, I wouldn’t! Not if I was a rich girl like you’ve got to be and had this big house to do it in and folks to do the cookin’ and sweepin’, and – and rooms to sleep ’em in and everything!” she argued, breathlessly.
“You funny, dear Alfaretta! It’s not to be given up and I count on you more than anybody else to keep things going! With you and Mr.
Seth – if he will – the Party cannot fail!” and Alfy’s honest face was alight again.
It had proved that the “Learned Blacksmith” “would” most gladly. At heart he was as young as any of them all and he had his own reasons for wishing to be at Deerhurst for a time. He had been more concerned than Dorothy perceived over the missing one hundred dollars, and he was anxious about the strange guest who had appeared in the night and who was so utterly unable to give an account of herself.
So he had come, as had they all and now assembled for their first meal together, and Dorothy’s hospitable anxiety had wholly vanished. Of course, all would go well. Of course, they would have a jolly time. The only trouble now, she thought, would be to choose among the many pleasures offering.
There had been a new barn built at Deerhurst that summer, and a large one. This Mr. Winters had decreed should be the scene of their gayest hours with the big rooms of the old mansion for quieter ones; and to the barn they went on that first evening together, as soon as supper was over and the dusk fell.
“Oh! how pretty!” cried Helena Montaigne, as she entered the place with her arm about Molly’s waist, for they two had made instant friends. “I saw nothing so charming while I was abroad!”
“Didn’t you?” asked the other, wondering. “But it is pretty!” In secret she feared that Helena would be a trifle “airish,” and she felt that would be a pity.
“Oh! oh! O-H!” almost screamed Dorothy, who had not been permitted to enter the barn for the last two days while, under the farrier’s direction, the boys had had it in charge. Palms had been brought from the greenhouse and arranged “with their best foot forward” as Jim declared. Evergreens deftly placed made charming little nooks of greenery, where camp-chairs and rustic benches made comfortable resting places. Rafters were hung with strings of corn and gay-hued vegetables, while grape-vines with the fruit upon them covered the stalls and stanchions. Wire strung with Chinese lanterns gave all the light was needed and these were all aglow as the wide doors were thrown open and the merry company filed in.
“My land of love!” cried Alfaretta. “It’s just like a livin’-in-house, ain’t it! There’s even a stove and a chimney! Who ever heard tell of a stove in a barn?”
“You have! And I, too, for the first time,” said Littlejohn Smith at her elbow. “But I ’low it’ll be real handy for the men in the winter time, to warm messes for the cattle and keep themselves from freezin’. Guess I know what it means to do your chores with your hands like chunks of ice! Wish to goodness Pa Smith could see this barn; ’twould make him open his eyes a little!”
“A body could cook on that stove, it’s so nice and flat. Or even pop corn,” returned Alfaretta, practically.
“Bet that’s a notion! Say, Alfy, don’t let on, but I’ll slip home first chance I get and fetch some of that! I’ve got a lot left over from last year, ’t I raised myself. I’ll fetch my popper and if you can get a little butter out the house, some night, we’ll give these folks the treat of their lives. What say?”
Whatever might be the case with others of that famous Party these two old schoolmates were certainly “happy as blackbirds” – the only comparison that the girl found to fully suit their mood.
When the premises had been fully explored and admired, cried Mr. Seth:
“Blind man’s buff! Who betters me?”
“Nobody could – ‘Blind man’s’ it is!” seconded Monty, and gallantly offered: “I’ll blind!”
“Oh! no choosing! Do it the regular way,” said Dolly. “Get in a row, please, all of you, and I’ll begin with Herbert. ‘Intry-mintry-cutry-corn; Apple-seed-and-apple-thorn; Wire-brier-limber-lock; Six-geese-in-a-flock; Sit-and-sing-by-the-spring; O-U-T – OUT!’ Frazer Moore, you’re – IT!”
The bashful lad who was more astonished to find himself where he was than he could well express, and who had really been bullied into accepting Dorothy’s invitation by his chum, Mike Martin, now awkwardly stepped forward from the circle. His face was as red as his hair and he felt as if he were all feet and hands, while it seemed to him that all the eyes in the room were boring into him, so pitilessly they watched him. In reality, if he had looked up, he would have seen that most of the company were only eagerly interested to begin the game, and that the supercilious glances cast his way came from Herbert Montaigne and Mabel Bruce alone.
Another half-moment and awkwardness was forgotten. Dorothy had bandaged the blinder’s eyes with Mr. Seth’s big handkerchief, and in the welcome darkness thus afforded he realized nothing except that invisible hands were touching him, from this side and that, plucking at his jacket, tapping him upon the shoulder, and that he could catch none of them. Finally, a waft of perfume came his way, and the flutter of starched skirts, and with a lunge forward he clasped his arms about the figure of:
“That girl from Baltimore! her turn!” he declared and was for pulling off the handkerchief, but was not allowed.
“Which one? there are two Baltimore girls here, my lad. Which one have you caught?”
Mabel squirmed, and Frazer’s face grew a deeper red. He had been formally introduced, early upon Mabel’s arrival, but had been too confused and self-conscious to understand her name. He was as anxious now to release her as she was to be set free, but his tormentors insisted:
“Her name? her name? Not till you tell her name!”
“I don’t know – I mean – I – ’tain’t our Dolly, it’s t’other one that’s just come and smells like a – a drug store!” he answered, desperately, and loosened his arms.
Mabel was glad enough to escape, blushing furiously at the way he had identified her, yet good-naturedly joining in the laugh of the others. Though she secretly resolved to be more careful in the use of scents of which she was extravagantly fond; and she allowed herself to be blindfolded at once, yet explaining:
“Maybe I shall have to tell who you are by just such ways as he did me. I never was to a House Party before and you’re all strangers, ’cept Dolly C., and anybody’d know her!”
But it wasn’t Dolly she captured. Susceptible Monty beheld in the little Baltimorean a wonderfully attractive vision. She was as short and as plump as he was. Her taste ran riot in colors, as did his own. He was bewildered by the mass of ruffles and frills that one short frock could display and he considered her manner of “doing” her hair as quite “too stylish for words.” It was natural, therefore, that he should deliberately put himself in her way and try his best to be caught, while his observant mates heartlessly laughed at his unsuccessful maneuvers.
But it was handsome Herbert upon whose capture Mabel’s mind was set, and it was a disappointment that, instead of his arm she should clutch that of James Barlow. However, there was no help for it and she was obliged to blindfold in his turn the tall fellow who had to stoop to her shortness, while casting admiring glances upon the other lad.
So the game went on till they were tired, and it was simple Molly Martin who suggested the next amusement.
“My sake! I’m all beat out! I can’t scarcely breathe, I’ve run and laughed so much. I never had so much fun in my life! Let’s all sit down in a row and tell riddles. We’ll get rested that way.”
To some there this seemed a very childish suggestion, but not to wise Seth Winters. The very fact that shy Molly Martin had so far forgotten her own self-consciousness as to offer her bit of entertainment argued well for the success of Dorothy’s House Party with its oddly assorted members. But he surprised Helena’s lifted eyebrows and the glance she exchanged with the other Molly, so hastened to endorse the proposition:
“A happy thought, my lass; and as I’m the oldest ‘child’ here I’ll open the game myself with one of the oldest riddles on record. Did anybody ever happen to hear of the Sphinx?”
“Why, of course! Egypt – ” began Monty eagerly, hoping to shine in the coming contest of wits.
Seth Winters shook his head.
“In one sense a correct answer; but, Jamie lad, out with it! I believe you know which Sphinx I mean. All your delving into books – out with it, man!”
“The monster of the ancients, I guess. That had the head of a woman, the body of a dog, the tail of a serpent, the wings of a bird, the paws of a lion, and a human voice;” answered Jim blushing a little thus to be airing his knowledge before so many.
“The very creature! What connection had this beauty with riddles, if you please?”
They were all listening now, and smiling a little over the old farrier’s whimsical manner, as the boy student went on to explain:
“The Sphinx was sent into Thebes by Juno for her private revenge. The fable is that he laid all that country waste by proposing riddles and killing all who could not guess them. The calamity was so great that Creon promised his crown to anyone who could guess one, and the guessing would mean the death of the Sphinx.”
“Why do you stop just there, Jim, in the most interesting part? Please go on and finish – if you can!” cried Dorothy.
Mr. Winters also nodded and the boy added:
“This was the riddle: What animal in the morning walks on four feet, at noon on two, and at evening on three?”
“At it, youngsters, at it! Cudgel your brains for the answer. We don’t want any mixed-anatomy Sphinxes rampaging around here,” urged the farrier.
Many and various were the guesses hazarded but each fell wide of the mark. Helena alone preserved a smiling silence and waited to hear what the others had to say.
“Time’s up! Five minutes to a riddle is more than ample. Helena has it, I see by the twinkle of her eyes. Well, my dear?”
“I can’t call it a real guess, Mr. Winters, for I read it, as James did the story. The answer is —Man. In his babyhood, the morning of life, he crawls or walks on ‘all fours’; in youth and middle age he goes upright on two feet; and at evening, old age, he supplements them by a staff or crutch – his three feet.”
“Oh! how simple! Why couldn’t I guess that!” exclaimed Molly, impatiently. “But who did solve the silly thing, first off?”
“?dipus; and this so angered the Sphinx that he dashed his head against a rock and so died.”
“Umm. I never dreamed there could be riddles like that,” said Molly Martin; “all I thought of was ‘Round as an apple, busy as a bee, The prettiest little thing you ever did see,’ and such. I’d like to learn some others worth while, to tell of winter evenings before we go to bed.”
“I know a good one, please, Mr. Seth. Shall I tell it?” asked Frazer Moore. “Pa found it in a ‘Farmers’ Almanac,’ so maybe the rest have seen it, too.”
“Begin, Frazer. Five minutes per riddle! If anybody knows it ’twon’t take so long,” advised Mr. Seth, whom Dolly had called “the Master of the Feast.”
“What is it men and women all despise,
Yet one and all so highly prize?
Which kings possess not? though full sure am I
That for the luxury they often sigh.
That never was for sale, yet, any day,
The poorest beggar may the best display.
The farmer needs it for his growing corn;
Nor its dear comfort will the rich man scorn;
Fittest for use within a sick friend’s room,
Its coming silent as spring’s early bloom.
A great, soft, yielding thing that no one fears —
A little thing oft wet with mother’s tears.
A thing so hol(e)y that when it we wear
We screen it safely from the world’s rude stare.”
“Hmm. Seems if there were handles enough to that long riddle, but I can’t catch on to any of them. They contradict themselves so,” cried Dorothy, after a long silence had followed Frazer’s recitation.
Handles enough, to be sure; but like Dorothy, nobody could grasp one, and as the five minutes ended the mountain lad had the proud knowledge that he had puzzled them all, and gayly announced:
“That was an easy one! Every word I said fits – AN OLD SHOE!”
“Oh!” “A-ah!” “How stupid I was not to see!” “‘The farmer needs it for his growing corn!’” cried the Master, drawing up his foot and facetiously rubbing his toes. “Even a farmer may raise two kinds of corn,” suggested he and thus solved one line over which Jane Potter was still puzzling.
Thereupon, Monty sprang up and snapped his fingers, schoolroom fashion:
“Master, Master! Me next! Me! I know one good as his and not near so long! My turn, please!”
They all laughed. Laughter came easily now, provoked even by silliness, and again a thankful, happy feeling rose in the young hostess’s heart that her House Party was to be so delightful to everybody. Helena Montaigne now sat resting shoulder to shoulder with proud Alfaretta upon a little divan of straw whose back was a row of grain sheaves; Mabel was radiant amid a trio of admiring lads – Monty, Mike Martin, and Danny Smith; Herbert was eagerly discussing camp-life with shy Melvin, who had warmed to enthusiasm over his Nova Scotian forests; and all the different elements of that young assembly were proving most harmonious, as even smaller parties, arranged by old hostesses, do not always prove.
“All right, Master Montmorency. Make it easy, please. A diversion not a brain tax,” answered Seth.
“‘If Rider Haggard had been Lew Wallace, what would ‘She’ have been?’”
“‘Ben Hur’!” promptly shouted Frazer, before another had a chance to speak, and Monty sank back with a well-feigned groan. “I read that in the Almanac, too. I’ve read ‘Ben Hur,’ it’s in our school lib’ry, but not ‘She,’ though Pa told me that was another book, wrote by the other feller.”
“I’ll never try again; I never do try to distinguish myself but I make a failure of it!” wailed Monty, jestingly.
“But Herbert hasn’t failed, nor Melvin. Let’s have at least one more wit-sharpener,” coaxed Dorothy.
But Herbert declined, though courteously enough.
“Indeed, Dorothy, I don’t know a single riddle and I never could guess one. Try Melvin, instead, please.”
The English boy flushed, as he always did at finding himself observed, but he remembered that he had heard strangers comment upon the obligingness of the Canadians and he must maintain the honor of his beloved Province. So, after a trifling hesitation, he answered:
“I can think of only one, Dorothy, and it’s rather long, I fancy. My mother made me learn it as a punishment, once, when I was a little tacker, don’t you know, and I never forgot it. The one by Lord Byron. I’ll render that, if you wish.”
“We do wish, we do!” cried Molly, while the Master nodded approvingly.
So without further prelude Melvin recited:
“’Twas whispered in Heaven, ’twas muttered in Hell,
And Echo caught softly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of Earth ’twas permitted to rest,
And the Depths of the ocean its presence confessed.
’Twill be found in the Sphere when ’tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the Lightning and heard in the Thunder.
’Twas allotted to man with his earliest Breath,
Attends at his Birth and awaits him in Death;
It presides o’er his Happiness, Honor, and Health,
Is the prop of his House and the end of his Wealth.
Without it the soldier and seaman may roam,
But woe to the Wretch who expels it from Home.
In the Whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e’en in the Whirlwind of passion be drowned.
’Twill not soften the Heart; and tho’ deaf to the ear
’Twill make it acutely and instantly Hear.
But in Shade, let it rest like a delicate flower —
Oh! Breathe on it softly – it dies in an Hour.”
Several had heard the riddle before and knew its significance; but those who had not found it as difficult to guess as Frazer’s “Old Shoe” had been. So Melvin had to explain that it was a play of words each containing the letter H; and this explanation was no sooner given than a diversion was made by Mabel Bruce’s irrelevant remark:
“I never picked grapes off a vine in my life, never!”
“Hi! Does that mean you want to do so now?” demanded Monty, alert. He, too, had grown tired of a game in which he did not excel, and eagerly followed the direction of her pointing, chubby finger. A finger on which sparkled a diamond ring, more fitting for a matron than a schoolgirl young as she.
Along that side of the barn, rising from the hay strewn floor to the loft above, ran a row of upright posts set a few inches apart and designed to guard a great space beyond. This space was to be filled with the winter’s stock of hay and its cemented bottom was several feet lower than the floor whereon the merry-makers sat. As yet but little hay had been stored there, and the posts which would give needful ventilation as well as keep the hay from falling inward, had been utilized now for decoration.
The boyish decorators had not scrupled to rifle the Deerhurst vineyards of their most attractive vines, and the cluster of fruit on which Mabel had fixed a covetous eye was certainly a tempting one. The rays from two Chinese lanterns, hung near it, brought out its juicy lusciousness with even more than daylight clearness, and Mabel’s mouth fairly watered for these translucent grapes.
“That bunch? Of course you shall have it!” cried Monty, springing up and standing on tiptoe to reach what either Jim or Herbert could have plucked with ease.
Alas! His efforts but hindered himself. The vine was only loosely twined around the upright and, as he grasped it, swung lightly about and the cluster he sought was forced to the inner side of the post, even higher than it had hung before.
“Huh! That’s what my father would call ‘the aggravation of inanimate things’! Those grapes knew that you wanted them, that I wanted to get them for you, and see how they act? But I’ll have them yet. Don’t fear. That old fellow I camped-out with this last summer told me it was a coward who ever gave up ‘discouraged.’ I’ll have that bunch of grapes – or I’ll know the reason why! I almost reached them that time!” cried the struggler, proudly, and leaped again.
By this time all the company was watching his efforts, the lads offering jeering suggestions about “sheets of paper to stand on,” and Danny Smith even inquiring if the other was “practising for a climb on a greased pole, come next Fourth.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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