Dorothy's House Partyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Even the girls laughed over Monty’s ludicrous attempts, though Mabel entreated him to give up and let somebody else try.
“I – I rather guess not! When I set out to serve a lady I do it or die in the attempt!” returned the perspiring lad, vigorously waving aside the proffered help of his taller mates. “I – I – My heart! Oh! Jiminy! I – I’m stuck!”
He was. One of the newly set uprights had slipped a little and again wedged itself fast; and between this and its neighbor, unfortunate Montmorency hung suspended, the upper half of his body forced inward over the empty “bay” and his fat legs left to wave wildly about in their effort to find a resting place. To add to his predicament, a scream of uncontrollable laughter rose from all the observers, even Mabel, in whose sake he so gallantly suffered, adding her shrill cackle to the others.
All but the Master. Only the fleetest smile crossed his face, then it grew instantly grave as he said:
“We’ve tried our hand at riddles but here’s another, harder than any of the others. Monty is in a fix – how shall we get him out?”
A MORNING CALL
So ended the first “Day” of Dorothy’s famous “Week.”
At sight of the gravity that had fallen upon Seth Winter’s face her own sobered, though she had to turn her eyes away from the absurd appearance of poor Monty’s waving legs. Then the legs ceased to wave and hung limp and inert.
The Master silently pointed toward the door and gathering her girl guests about her the young hostess led them houseward, remarking:
“That looks funnier than it is and dear Mr. Seth wants us out of the way. I reckon they’ll have to cut that post down for I saw that even he and Jim together couldn’t move it. It’s so new and sticky, maybe – I don’t know. Poor Monty!”
“When he kept still, just now, I believe he fainted. I’m terribly frightened,” said Helena Montaigne, laying a trembling hand on Dolly’s shoulder. “It would be so perfectly awful to have your House Party broken up by a tragedy!”
Mabel began to cry, and the two mountain girls, Molly Martin and Jane, slipped their arms about her to comfort her, Jane practically observing:
“It takes a good deal to kill a boy. Ma says they’ve as many lives as a cat, and Ma knows. She brought up seven.”
“She didn’t bring ’em far, then, Jane. They didn’t grow to be more than a dozen years old, ary one of ’em. You’re the last one left and you know it yourself,” corrected the too-exact Alfaretta.
“Pooh, Alfy! Don’t talk solemn talk now. That Monty boy isn’t dead yet and Janie’s a girl. They’ll get him out his fix, course, such a lot of folks around to help. And, Mabel, it wasn’t your fault, anyway. He needn’t have let himself get so fat, then he wouldn’t have had no trouble. I could slip in and out them uprights, easy as fallin’ off a log. He must be an awful eater. Fat folks gen’ally are,” said Molly Martin.
Mabel winced and shook off the comforter’s embrace.
She was “fat” herself and also “an awful eater,” as Dolly could well remember and had been from the days of their earliest childhood. But the regretful girl could not stop crying and bitterly blamed herself for wanting “those horrible grapes. I’ll never eat another grape as long as I live. I shall feel like – like a – ”
“Like a dear sensible girl, Mabel Bruce! And don’t forget you haven’t eaten any grapes yet, here. Of course, it will be all right. Molly Martin is sensible. Let’s just go in and sit awhile in the library, where cook, Aunt Malinda, was going to put some cake and lemonade. There’ll be a basket of fruit there, too; and we can have a little music, waiting for the boys to come in,” said Dorothy, with more confidence in her voice than in her heart. Then when Mabel’s tears had promptly ceased – could it have been at the mention of refreshments? – she added, considerately: “and let’s all resolve not to say a single word about poor Monty’s mishap. He’s more sensitive than he seems and will be mortified enough, remembering how silly he looked, without our reminding him of it.”
“That’s right, Dorothy. I’m glad you spoke of it. I’m sure nobody would wish to hurt his feelings and it was – ridiculous, one way;” added Helena, heartily, and Dorothy smiled gratefully upon her. She well knew that the rich girl’s opinion carried weight with these poorer ones and of Alfaretta’s teasing tongue she had been especially afraid.
Nor was it long before they heard the boys come in, and from the merry voices and even whistling of the irrepressible Danny, they knew that the untoward incident had ended well. Yet when the lads had joined them, as eager for refreshments as Mabel now proved, neither Jim, Mr. Seth, nor Monty was with them; and, to the credit of all it was, that the subject of the misadventure did not come up at all, although inquisitive Alfy had fairly to bite her tongue to keep the questions back.
They ended the evening by an hour in the music room, where gay college songs and a few old-fashioned “rounds” sent them all to bed a care-free, merry company; though Dorothy lingered long enough to write a brief note to Mrs. Calvert and to drop it into the letter-box whence it would find the earliest mail to town.
A satisfactory little epistle to its recipient, though it said only this:
“Our House Party is a success! Dear Mr. Seth is the nicest boy of the lot, and I know you’re as glad as I am that he invited himself. I thank you and I love you, love you, love you! Dolly.”
Next morning, as beautiful a Sunday as ever dawned, came old Dinah to Dorothy with a long face, and the lament:
“I cayn’t fo’ de life make dat li’l creatur’ eat wid a fo’k an’ howcome I erlows he’ to eat to de table alongside you-alls, lak yo’ tole me, Miss Do’thy? I’se done putten it into he’ han’, time an’ time ergin, an’ she jes natchally flings hit undah foot an’ grabs a spoon. An’ she stuffs an’ stuffs, wussen you’ fixin’ er big tu’key. I’se gwine gib up teachin’ he’ mannehs. I sutney is. She ain’ no quality, she ain’.”
“But that’s all right, Dinah. She’s only a child, a little child it seems to me. And whether she’s ‘quality’ or not makes no difference. I’ve talked it all over with Mr. Seth and he says I may do as I like. Whoever she is, she’s somebody! She came uninvited and sometimes it seems as if God sent her. She can’t understand our good times but I want her to share them. So, now that you say she is perfectly well, just let her take the place at table near the door where we settled she should sit. Let Norah wait upon her and I do believe the sight of all of us, so happy, will give some happiness to her. ‘Touched of God,’ some people call these ‘naturals.’ She’s a human being, she was once a girl like me, and she’s simply —not finished! She isn’t a bit repulsive and I’m sure it’s right to have her with us all we can.”
“She’s a ole woman, Miss Do’thy, she ain’ no gal-chile. He’ haid’s whitah nor my Miss Betty’s. I erlow she wouldn’ – ”
“There, there, good Dinah! You and I have threshed this subject threadbare. You are so kind to me, have done and will do so much to make my Party go off all right, that I do hate to go against anything you say. But I can’t give up in this. That poor little wanderer who strayed into Deerhurst grounds, whom nobody comes to claim, shall not be the first to find it inhospitable. I’ve written Aunt Betty all about this ‘Luna’ and I know she’ll approve, just as Mr. Winters does. So don’t try to keep her shut up out of sight, any longer, Dinah dear. It goes to my heart to see her pace, pace around any room you put her in by herself. Like a poor wild animal caged! It fairly made me shiver to see her, yesterday, when you led her into the great storeroom and left her. She followed you to the door and peered, and peered, out after you but didn’t offer to follow. As if she were fastened by invisible chains and couldn’t. Then around and around she went again, playing with those bits of bright rags you found in the pocket of her own dress. I’m so glad she likes that red one of mine and that it fits her so well. So don’t worry, Dinah, over the proprieties of your Miss Betty’s home. There’s something better than propriety – that’s loving kindness!”
Nobody had ever accused old Dinah of want of kindness and Dorothy did not mean to do so now. The faithful woman had been devoted to the unknown visitor, from the moment of discovering her asleep upon the sun-parlor lounge; but she could not make it seem right that such an afflicted creature, and one who was evidently so far along in life, should mix at all familiarly with all those gay young people now staying in the house. But she had never heard her new “li’l Missy” talk at such length before and she was impressed by the multitude of words if not by their meaning. Besides, her quick ear had caught that “Luna,” and she now impatiently demanded:
“Howcome you’ knows he’ name, Miss Do’thy, an’ nebah tole ole Dinah?”
“Oh! I don’t know it, honey. Not her real one. That’s a fancy one I made up. She came to us in the moonlight and Luna stands for moon. So that’s why, and that’s all! So go, good Dinah, and send your charge in with Norah. All the others are down and waiting and, I hope, as hungry for their breakfast as I am!”
Dinah departed, grumbling. In few things would she oppose her “Miss Do’thy” but in the matter of this “unfinished” stranger she felt strongly. However, she objected no more. If Mr. Seth Winters, her Miss Betty’s trusted friend, endorsed such triflin’, ornery gwines-on, she had no more to say. The blame was on his shoulders and not hers!
Since nobody knew a better name for the stranger than “Luna” it was promptly accepted by all as a fitting one. She answered to it just as she answered to anything else – and that was not at all. She allowed herself to be led, fed, and otherwise attended, without resistance, and if she was especially comfortable she wore a happy smile on her small wrinkled face. But she never spoke and to the superstitious servants her silence seemed uncanny:
“I just believe she could talk, if she wanted to, for she certainly hears quick enough. She’s real impish, witch-like, and she fair gives me the creeps,” complained Norah to a stable lad early on that Sunday morning. “And I don’t half like for Miss Dolly to ’point me special nurse to the creatur’. I’d rather by far be left to me bedmakin’ an’ dustin’. She may be one of them ‘little people’ lives at home in old Ireland – that’s the power to work ill charms on a body, if they wish it.”
“True ye say, Norah girl. ’Twas an’ ill charm, she worked on me not an hour agone. I was in the back porch, slippin’ off me stable jacket ’fore eatin’ my food, an’ Dinah had the creature by the hand scrubbin’ a bit dirt off it. I was takin’ my money out one pocket into another and quick as chain-lightnin’ grabs this queer old woman and hides the money behind her. She may be a fool, indeed, but she knows money when she sees it! and the look on her was like a miser!”
“Did you get it back, lad?”
“’Deed, that did I! If there’s one more’n another this Luny dwarf fears – and likes, too, which is odd! – it’s old black Dinah; and even she had to squeeze the poor little hand tight to make its fingers open and the silver drop out. Then the creature forgot all about it same’s she’d never seen it at all, at all. But Tim’s learned his lesson, and ’tis that there’s nobody in this world so silly ’t he don’t know money when he sees it! ’Twas a she this time, though just as greedy.”
But if Norah dreaded the charge of poor Luna the latter made very little trouble for her attendant. She did not understand the use of knife and fork and all her food had to be cut up, as for a helpless infant; but she fed herself with a spoon neatly enough, though in great haste. Afterwards she leaned back in her chair and stared vacantly at one or another of the young folks gathered around that big table. Finally, her eyes rested upon the gaily bedecked person of Mabel Bruce and a smile settled upon her features; while so unobtrusive was she that her presence was almost forgotten by the other, happy chatterers in the room.
“Who’s for church?” asked Mr. Winters, with a little tap on the table to secure attention. “Hands up, so I can count noses!”
Every hand went up, even Luna following the example of the rest, quite unknowing why. Seeing this, Dorothy must needs leave her seat and run around to the poor thing’s chair and pat her shoulder approvingly.
“The landau will hold four, and it’s four miles to our church. Who is for that?” again demanded the Master.
There was a swift exchange of glances between him and the young hostess as she returned:
“Shall I say?”
“Aye, aye!” shouted Monty, with his ordinary fervor. The considerate silence of his house-mates concerning his mishap in the barn had restored his self-possession, and though he had felt silly and awkward when he had joined them he did not now.
“Very well. Then I nominate Jane, Molly Martin, Alfaretta, and Mabel Bruce, for the state carriage,” said Dorothy.
“Sho! I thought if that was used at all ’twould be Helena and the other ’ristocratics would ride in that,” whispered the delighted Alfy to Jane.
But the young hostess had quickly reflected that landaus and other luxurious equipages were familiar and commonplace to her richer guests but that, probably, none of these others had ever ridden in such state; therefore the greater pleasure to them.
The Master produced a slip of paper and checked off the names:
“Landau, with the bays; and Ephraim and Boots in livery – settled. Next?”
“There’s the pony cart and Portia,” suggested Dolly.
“Helena and Melvin? Jolly Molly, and Jim to drive? Satisfactory all round?” again asked the note-taker; and if this second apportionment was not so at least nobody objected, although poor Jim looked forward to an eight-mile drive beside mischievous Molly Breckenridge with some misgiving.
“Very well. I’ll admit I never tackled such an amiable young crowd. Commonly, in parties as big as this there are just as many different wishes as there are people. I congratulate you, my dears, and may this beatific state of things continue till the end of the chapter!” cried Mr. Seth, really delighted.
“Why, of course, Mr. Winters. How could we do otherwise? In society one never puts one’s own desires in opposition to those of others. That’s what society is for, is what it means, isn’t it? Good breeding means unselfishness;” said Helena, then added, with a little flush of modesty: “Not that I am an oracle, but that’s what I’ve read and – and seen – abroad.”
“Right, Miss Helena, and thank you for the explanation. And apropos of that subject: What’s the oldest, most unalterable book of etiquette we have?”
Nobody answered, apparently nobody knew; till Melvin timidly ventured:
“I fancy it’s the Bible, sir. My mother, don’t you know, often remarks that anybody who makes the Bible a rule of conduct can’t help being a gentleman or gentlewoman. Can’t help it, don’t you know?”
Old Seth beamed upon the lad who had so bravely fought his own shyness, to answer when he could, and so prove himself by that same ancient Book a “gentleman.”
“Thank you, my boy. You’ve a mother to be proud of and she – has a pretty decent sort of son! However, we’ve arranged places for but half our number. As I said the distance is four miles going and it will seem about eight returning – we shall all be so desperately hungry. We might go to some church nearer except that at this distant one there will be to-day a famous preacher whom I would like you all to hear. He is a guest in the neighborhood and that is why we have this one chance. Come, Dolly Doodles. You’re the hostess and must provide for your guests. How shall eight people be conveyed to that far-away church?”
“I’ve been thinking, Master. There’s the big open wagon, used for hauling stuff. It has a lot of seats belonging though only one is often used. So Ephy told me once. We could have the seats put in and the rest of us ride in that.”
“Good enough. The rest of us are wholly willing to be ‘hauled’ to please our southern hostess. The rest of us are – let’s see.”
“You, Mr. Seth; Littlejohn and Danny; Mike and Frazer; Luna and me. Coming home, if we wish, some of us could change places. Well, Mabel? What is it? Don’t you like the arrangement?”
“Ye-es, I suppose so. Only – you’ve put four girls in our carriage and four boys in your own. That isn’t dividing even; and if it’s such an awful long way hadn’t we – shouldn’t – shan’t we be terrible late to dinner?”
Poor Mabel! Nature would out. That mountain air was famous for sharpening every newcomer’s appetite and it had made hers perfectly ravenous. It seemed to her that she had never tasted such delicious food as Aunt Malinda prepared and that she should never be able to get enough. A shout of laughter greeted her question but did not dismay her, for the matter was too serious; and she was greatly relieved when the Master returned, kindly and with entire gravity:
“Little Mabel is right. We shall all be glad of a ‘snack’ when service is over and before we start back. Dolly, please see that a basket of sandwiches is put up and carried along. Also a basket of grapes. Some of us are fond of grapes!” he finished, significantly, and that was the only reference made to the episode of the night before.
But there was one more objector and that outspoken Alfy, who begged of Dorothy, in a sibilant whisper:
“Do you mean it? Are you really goin’ to take that loony Luna to meeting?”
“I certainly am. She is not to be hidden, nor deprived of any pleasure my other guests enjoy. Besides, somebody who knows her may see and claim her. Poor thing! It’s terrible that she can’t tell us who she is nor where she belongs!”
“Hmm. I’m glad she ain’t goin’ to ride alongside of me, then. Folks will stare so, on the road, at that old woman rigged out like a girl.”
“Never mind, Alfy dear. Let them stare. She’s delighted with the red frock and hat, and it’s something to have made her happy even that much. Remember how she clung to those bits of gay rags Dinah found on her? She certainly knows enough to love color, and I shall keep her close to me. I’d be afraid if I didn’t her feelings might be hurt by – by somebody’s thoughtlessness.”
“Mine, I s’pose you mean, Dorothy C. But – my stars and garters! Look a-there! Look round, I tell you, quick!”
Dolly looked and her own eyes opened in amazement. Framed in the long window that reached to the piazza floor stood a curiously garbed old man holding firmly before him two tiny children. He wore an old black skull cap and a ragged cassock, and he announced in a croaking voice:
“I pass these children on to you. I go to deliver the message upon which I am sent;” and having said this, before anyone could protest or interfere, he was disappearing down the driveway at an astonishing pace, as if his “message” abided not the slightest delay.
A MEMORABLE CHURCH GOING
“Of all things! If that don’t beat the Dutch!” cried Alfaretta, and at sound of her voice the others rallied from their amazement, while Mr. Winters begged:
“Run, lads, some of you and stop that man. Owen Bryan spoke of a half-crazy fanatic, a self-ordained exhorter, who had lately come to the mountain and lived somewhere about, in hiding as it were. An escaped convict, he’d heard. Run. He mustn’t leave those children here.”
Jim and Frazer were already on the way, obedient to the Master’s first words, without tarrying to hear the conclusion of his speech. But they were not quick enough. They caught one glimpse of a ragged, flying cassock and no more. The man had vanished from sight, and though they lingered to search the low-growing evergreens, and every hidden nook bordering the drive, they could not find him. So they returned to report and were just in time to hear Dorothy and Molly questioning the babies, for they were little more than that.
They were clad exactly alike, in little denim overalls, faded by many washings and stiff with starch. Their feet were bare as were their heads, and clinging to one another they stared with round-eyed curiosity into the great room.
“Oh! aren’t they cute! They’re too funny for words. What’s your name, little boy? If you are a boy!” demanded Molly.
The little one shook her too familiar hand from his small shoulder and answered with a solemnity and distinctness that was amazing, when one anticipated an infantile lisp:
“A-n an, a ana, n-i ni, anani, a-s as, Ananias.”
Monty Stark rolled over backward on the floor and fairly yelled in laughter, while the laughter of the others echoed his, but nothing perturbed by this reception of his, to him, commonplace statement, master Ananias looked about in cherubic satisfaction.
Then again demanded Molly of the other midget.
“What’s yours, twinsy? For twins you must be!”
Evidently tutored as to what would be expected of her the other child replied in exact imitation of her mate and with equal clearness:
“S-a-p sap, p-h-i phi, sapphi, r-a ra, Sapphira.”
Utter silence greeted this absurd reply, then another noisy burst of laughter in which even the really disturbed Master joined.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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