Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Can She Do? - Chapter 12. Waiting For Some One To Turn Up
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
What Can She Do? - Chapter 12. Waiting For Some One To Turn Up Post by :tinabarr Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Payson Roe Date :May 2012 Read :2443

Click below to download : What Can She Do? - Chapter 12. Waiting For Some One To Turn Up (Format : PDF)

What Can She Do? - Chapter 12. Waiting For Some One To Turn Up


And so the girls were condemned to idleness and ennui, and they all came to suffer from these as from a dull toothache, especially Laura and Zell. Edith had great hopes from her garden, and saw the snow finally disappear and the mud dry up, as the imprisoned inmates of the ark might have watched the abatement of the waters.

On the afternoon of the council wherein Mrs. Allen had marked out the family policy, Edith and Zell walked to the village, and going to one of the leading stores, made arrangements with the proprietor to have his wagon stop daily at their house for orders. They also asked him to send them a carpenter. They made these requests with the manner of olden time, when money seemed to flow from a full fountain, and the man was very polite, thinking he had gained profitable customers.

While they were absent, Rose stepped in to see if she could be of any further help. Mrs. Allen surmised who she was and resolved to snub her effectually. To Rose's question as to their need of assistance, she replied frigidly, that they had two servants now, and did not wish to employ any more help.

Rose colored, bit her lip, then said with an open smile:

"You are under mistake. I am Miss Lacey, and helped your daughter the first two days after she came."

"Oh! ah! Miss Lacey. I beg your pardon," said Mrs. Allen, still more distantly. "My daughter Edith is out. Did she not pay you?"

Rose's face became scarlet, and rising hastily she said, "Either I misunderstand, or am greatly misunderstood. Good-afternoon."

Mrs. Allen slightly inclined her head, while Laura took no notice of her at all. When she was gone, Mrs. Allen said complacently, "I think we will see no more of that bold-faced fly-away creature. The idea of her thinking that we would live on terms of social equality with them!"

Laura's only reply was a yawn, but at last she got up, put on her hat and shawl and went out to walk a little on the porch. Arden, who was returning home with his team, stopped a moment to inquire if there was anything further that he could do. He hoped the lady he saw on the porch was Edith, and the wish to see her again led him to think of any excuse that would take him to the house.

As Laura turned to come toward him, he surmised that it was another sister, and was disappointed and embarrassed, but it was too late to turn back, though she scarcely appeared to heed him.

"I called to ask Miss Edith if I could do anything more that would be of help to her," he said diffidently.

Giving him a cold, careless glance, Laura said, "I believe my sister wants some work done around the house before long. I will tell her that you were here looking for employment, and I have no doubt she will send for you if she needs your services," and Laura turned her back on him and continued her walk.

He whirled about on his heel as if she had struck him, and when he got home his mother noted that his face looked more black and sullen than she had ever seen it before. Rose was open and strong in her indignation, saying:

"Fine neighbors you have introduced us to! Nice return they make for all our kindness; not that I begrudge it. But I hate to see people get all out of you they can, and then about the same as slap your face and show you the door."

"Did you see Miss Edith?" asked Arden quickly.

"No, I saw the old lady and a proud pale-faced girl who took no more notice of me than if I had come for cold victuals."

"I suppose they have heard," said Arden dejectedly.

"They have heard nothing against me, nor you, nor mother," said Rose hotly. "If I ever see that Miss Edith again, I will give her a piece of my mind."

"You will please do nothing of the kind," said her brother. "She has not turned her back on you. Wait till she does. We are the last people to condemn one for the sake of another."

"I guess they are all alike; but, as you say, it's fair to give her a chance," answered Rose quietly.

With his habit of reticence he said nothing about his own experience. But it was a cruel shock that those connected with the one who was becoming the inspiration of his dreams should be so contemptible, as he regarded them, and as we are all apt to regard those who treat us with contempt. His faith in her was also shaken, and he resolved that she must "send for him," feeling her need, before he would go near her again. But, after all, his ardent fancy began to paint her more gentle and human on the background of the narrow pride shown by the others. He longed for some absolute proof that she was what he believed her, but was too proud to put himself in the way of receiving it.

When Edith heard how the Lacey acquaintance had been nipped in the bud, she said with honest shame, "It's too bad, after all their kindness."

"It was the only thing to be done," said Mrs. Allen. "It is better for such people to talk against you than to be claiming you as neighbors, and all that. It would give us a very bad flavor with the best people of the town."

"I only wish then," said Edith, "that I had never let them do anything for me. I shall hate to meet them again," and she sedulously avoided them.

The next day a carpenter appeared after breakfast, and seemed the most affably suggestive man in the world. "Of course he would carry out Mrs. Allen's wishes immediately," and he showed her several other improvements that might be made at the same time, and which would cost but little more while they were about it.

"But how much _will it cost?" asked Edith directly.

"Oh, well," said the man vaguely, "it's hard to estimate on this kind of jobbing work." Then turning to Mrs. Allen, he said with great deference, "I assure you, madam, I will do it well, and be just as reasonable as possible."

"Certainly, certainly," said Mrs. Allen majestically, pleased with the deference, "I suppose that is all we ought to ask."

"I think there ought to be something more definite as to price and time of completing the work," still urged Edith.

"My dear," said Mrs. Allen with depressing dignity, "pray leave these matters to me. It is not expected that a young lady like yourself should understand them."

Mrs. Allen had become impressed with the idea that if they ever reached the haven of Fifth Avenue again, she must take the helm and steer their storm-tossed bark. As we have seen before, she was capable of no small degree of exertion when the motive was to attain position and supremacy in the fashionable world. She was great in one direction only--the one to which she had been educated, and to which she devoted her energies.

The man chuckled as he went away. "Lucky I had to deal with the old fool rather than that sharp black-eyed girl. By Jove! but they are a handsome lot though; only they look like the houses we build nowadays --more paint and finish than solid timber."

The next day there were three or four mechanics at work, and the job was secured. The day following there were only two, and the next day none. Edith sent word by the grocer, asking what was the matter. The following day one man appeared, and on being questioned, said "the boss was very busy, lots of jobs on hand."

"Why did he take our work then?" asked Edith indignantly.

"Oh, as to that, the boss takes every job he can get," said the man with a grin.

"Well, tell the boss I want to see him," she replied sharply.

The man chuckled and went on with his work in a snail-like manner, as if that were the only job "the boss" had, or was like to have, and he must make the most of it.

The house was hers, and Edith felt anxious about it, and indeed it seemed that they were going to great expense with no certain return in view. That night one corner of the roof was left open and rain came in and did not a little damage.

Loud and bitter were the complaints of the family, but Edith said little. She was too incensed to talk about it. The next day it threatened rain and no mechanics appeared. Donning her waterproof and thick shoes, she was soon in the village, and by inquiry found the man's shop. He saw her coming and dodged out.

"Very well, I will wait," said Edith, sitting down on a box.

The man, finding she would not go away, soon after bustled in, and was about to be very polite, but Edith interrupted him with a question that was like a blow between the eyes:

"What do you mean, sir, by breaking your word?"

"Great press of work just now, Miss Allen--"

"That is not the question," interrupted Edith. "You said you would do our work immediately. You took it with that distinct understanding; and, because you have been false to your word, we have suffered much loss. You knew the roof was not all covered. You knew it when it rained last night, but the rain did not fall on you, so I suppose you did not care. But is a person who breaks his word in that style a gentleman? Is he even a man, when he breaks it to a lady, who has no brother or husband to protect her interests?"

The man became very red. He was accustomed, as his workman said, to secure every job he could, then divide and scatter his men so as to keep everything going, but at a slow, provoking rate, that wore out every one's patience save his own. He was used to the annual fault- finding and grumbling of the busy season, and bore it as he would a northeast storm as a disagreeable necessity, and quite prided himself on the good-natured equanimity with which he could stand his customers' scoldings; and the latter had become so accustomed to being put off that they endured it also as they would a northeaster, and went into improvements and building as they might visit a dentist.

But when Edith turned her scornful face and large indignant eyes full upon him, and asked practically what he meant by lying to her, and said that to treat a woman so proved him less than a man, he saw his habit of "putting off" in a new light. At first he was a little inclined to bluster, but Edith interrupted him sharply:

"I wish to know in a word what you will do. If that roof is not completed and made tight to-day, I will put the matter in a lawyer's hands and make you pay damages."

This would place the man in an unpleasant business aspect, so he said gruffly:

"I will send some men right up."

"And I will take no action till I see whether they come," said Edith significantly.

They came, and in a few days the work was finished. But a bill double the amount they expected came promptly, also. They paid no attention to it.

In the meantime Edith had asked the village merchant, who supplied them with provisions, and who had also become a sort of agent for them, to send a man to plow the garden. The next day a slouchy old fellow, with two melancholy shacks of horses that might well tremble at the caw of a crow, was scratching the garden with a worn-out plow when she came down to breakfast. He had already made havoc in the flower borders, and Edith was disgusted with the outward aspect of himself and team to begin with. But when in her morning slippers she had picked her way daintily to a point from which she could look into the shallow furrows, her vexation knew no bounds. She had been reading about gardening of late, and she had carefully noted how all the writers insisted on deep plowing and the thorough loosening of the soil. This man's furrows did not average six inches, and with a frowning brow, and dress gathered up, she stood perched on a little stone, like a bird that had just alighted with ruffled plumage, while Zell was on the porch laughing at her. The man with his gaunt team soon came round again opposite her, with slow automatic motion as if the whole thing were one crazy piece of mechanism. The man's head was down, and he paid no heed to Edith. The rim of his old hat flapped over his face, the horses jogged on with dropping head and ears, as if unable to hold them up, and all seemed going down, save the plow. This light affair skimmed and scratched along the ground like the sharpened sticks of oriental tillage.

"Stop!" cried Edith sharply.

"Whoa!" shouted the man, and he turned toward Edith a pair of watery eyes, and a face that suggested nothing but snuff.

"Who sent you here?" asked Edith in the same tone.

"Mr. Hard, mum." (Mr. Hard was the merchant who was acting as their agent.)

"Am I to pay you for this work, or Mr. Hard?"

"I guess you be, mum."

"Who's to be suited with this work, you, Mr. Hard, or I?"

"I hain't thought nothin' about that."

"Do you mean to say that it makes no difference whether I am suited or not?"

"What yer got agin the work?"

"I want my garden plowed, not scratched. You don't plow half deep enough, and you are injuring the shrubs and flowers in the borders."

"I guess I know more about plowin' than you do. Gee up thar!" to the horses, that seemed inclined to be Edith's allies by not moving.

"Stop!" she cried, "I will not pay you a cent for this work, and wish you to leave this garden instantly."

"Mr. Hard told me to plow this garding and I'm a-goin' to plow it. I never seed the day's work I didn't git paid for yit, and you'll pay for this. Git up thar, you cussed old critters," and the man struck the horses sharply with a lump of dirt. Away went the crazy rattling old automaton round and round the garden in spite of all she could do.

She was half beside herself with vexation, which was increased by Zell's convulsed laughter on the porch, but she stormed at the old plowman as vainly as a robin might remonstrate with a windmill.

"Mr. Hard told me to plow it, and I'm a-goin' to plow it," said the human part of the mechanism as it again passed, without stopping, the place where Edith stood.

Utterly baffled, Edith rushed into the house and hastily swallowed a cup of coffee. She was too angry to eat a mouthful.

Zell followed with her hand upon her side, which was aching from laughter, and as soon as she found her voice said:

"It was one of the most touchingly beautiful rural scenes I ever looked upon. I never had so close and inspiring a view of one of the 'sons of the soil' before."

"Yes," snapped Edith, "he is literally a clod."

"I can readily see," continued Zell, in a mock-sentimental tone, "how noble and refining a sphere the 'garding' (as your friend, out there, terms it) must be, even for women. In the first place there are your associates in. labor--"

"Stop!" interrupted Edith sharply. "You all leave everything for me to do, but I won't be teased and tormented in the bargain."

"But really," continued the incorrigible Zell, "I have been so much impressed by the first scene in the creation of your Eden, which I have just witnessed, that I am quite impatient for the second. It may be that our sole acquaintances in this delightful rural retreat, the 'drunken Laceys,' as mother calls them, will soon insist on becoming inspired with the spirit of the corn they raise in our arbor."

Edith sprang up from the table and went to her room.

"Shame on you, Zell," said Mrs. Allen sharply, but Laura was too apathetic to scold.

Impulsive Zell soon relented, and when Edith came down a few moments later in walking trim, and with eyes swollen with unshed tears, Zell threw her arms around her neck and said:

"Forgive your naughty little sister."

But Edith repulsed her angrily, and started toward the village.

"I do hate to see people sullenly hoard up things," said Zell snappishly. Then she dawdled about the house, yawning and saying fretfully, "I do wish I knew what to do with myself."

Laura reclined on the sofa with a novel, but Zell was not fond of reading. Her restless nature craved continual activity and excitement, but it was part of Mrs. Allen's policy that they should do nothing.

"Some one may call," she said, "and we must be ready to receive them," but at that season of the year, when roads were muddy, there was but little social visiting in the country.

So, consumed with ennui, Zell listened to the pounding of the carpenters overhead, and watched the dogged old plowman go round the small garden till it was all scratched over, and then the whole crazy mechanism rattled off to parts unknown. The two servants did not leave her even the recourse of housework, of which she was naturally fond.

Edith went straight to Mr. Hard, and was so provoked that she scarcely avoided the puddles in her determined haste.

Mr. Hard looked out upon his customers with, cold, hard little eyes that changed their expression only in growing more cold and hard. The rest of his person seemed all bows, smirks, and smiles, but it was noticed that these latter diminished and his eyes grew harder as he wished to remind some lagging patron that his little account needed settling. This thrifty citizen of Pushton was soon in polite attendance on Edith, but was rather taken back when she asked sharply what he meant by sending such a good-for-nothing man to plow her garden.

"Well, Miss Allen," he said, his eyes growing harder but his manner more polite, "old Gideon does such little jobs around, and I thought he was just the one."

"Does he plow your garden?" asked Edith abruptly.

"I keep a gardener," said Mr. Hard with some dignity.

"I believe it would pay me to do the same," said Edith, "if I could find one on whom I could depend. The man you sent was very impudent. I told him the work didn't suit me--that he didn't plow half deep enough, and that he must leave. But he just kept right on, saying you sent him, and he would plow it, and he injured my flower borders besides. Therefore he must look to you for payment." (Mr. Hard's eyes grew very hard at this.) "Because I am a woman I am not going to be imposed upon. Now do you know of a man who can really plow my garden? If not, I must look elsewhere. I had hoped when you took our business you would have some interest in seeing that we were well served."

Mr. Hard, with eyes like two flint pebbles, made a low bow and said with impressive dignity:

"It is my purpose to do so. There is Mr. Skinner, he does plowing."

"I don't want Mr. Skinner," said Edith impatiently, "I don't like his name in reference to plowing."

"Oh! ah! excellent reason; very good, Miss Allen. Well, there's Mr. McTrump, a Scotchman, who has a small greenhouse and nursery, he looks after gardens for some people."

"I will go and see him," said Edith, taking his address.

As she plodded off to find his place, she sighed, "Oh, dear! it's dreadful to have no men in the family. That Arden Lacey might have helped me so much, if mother was not so particular. I fear we are all on the wrong track, throwing away substantial and present good for uncertainties."

Mr. McTrump was a little man with a heavy sandy beard and such bushy eyebrows and hair that he reminded Edith of a Scotch terrier. But her first glance around convinced her that he was a gardener. Neatness, order, thrift, impressed her the moment she opened his gate, and she perceived that he was already quite advanced in his spring work. Smooth seed-sown beds were emerging from winter's chaos. Crocuses and hyacinths were in bloom, tulips were budding, and on a sunny slope in the distance she saw long green rows of what seemed some growing crop. She determined if possible to make this man her ally, or by stratagem to gain his secret of success.

The little man stood in the door of his greenhouse with a transplanting trowel in his hand. He was dressed in clay-colored nankeen, and could get down in the dirt without seeming to get dirty. His small eyes twinkled shrewdly, but not unkindly, as she advanced toward him. He was fond of flowers, and she looked like one herself that spring morning.

"I was directed to call upon you," she said, with conciliatory politeness, "understanding that you sometimes assist people with their gardens."

"Weel, noo and then I do, but I canna give mooch time with a' my ain work."

"But you would help a lady who has no one else to help her, wouldn't you?" said Edith sweetly.

Old Malcom was not to be caught with a sugar-plum, so he said with a little Scotch caution:

"I canna vera weel say till I hear mair aboot it."

Edith told him how she was situated, and in view of her perplexity and trouble, her voice had a little appealing pathos in it. Malcom's eyes twinkled more and more kindly, and as he explained afterward to his wife, "Her face was sae like a pink hyacinth beent doon by the storm and a wantin' proppin' oop," that by the time she was done he was ready to accede to her wishes.

"Weel," said he, "I canna refuse a blithe young leddy like yoursel, but ye must let me have my ain way."

Edith was inclined to demur at this, for she had been reading up and had many plans and theories to carry out. But she concluded to accept the condition, thinking that with her feminine tact she would have her own way after all. She did not realize that she was dealing with a Scotchman.

"I'll send ye a mon as will plow the garden, and not scratch it, the morrow, God willin'," for Mr. McTrump was a very pious man, his only fault being that he would take a drop too much occasionally.

"May I stay here a while and watch you work, and look at things?" asked Edith. "I don't want to go back till that hateful old fellow has done his mischief and is gone."

"Why not?" said Malcom, "an ye don't tech anything. The woman folk from the village as come here do pick and pull much awry."

"I promise you I will be good," said Edith eagerly.

"That's mair than ony on us can say of oursel," said Malcom, showing the doctrinal bias of his mind, "but I ken fra' yer bonnie face ye mean weel."

"Oh, Mr. McTrump, that is the first compliment I have received in Pushton," laughed Edith.

"I'm a thinkin' it'll not be the last. But I hope ye mind the Scripter where it says, 'We do all fade as a flower,' and ye will not be puffed oop."

But Edith, far more intent on horticultural than on scriptural knowledge, asked quickly:

"What were you going to set out with that trowel?"

"A new strawberry-bed. I ha' more plants the spring than I can sell, sae I thought to put oot a new bed, though I ha' a good mony."

"I am so glad. I wish to set out a large bed and can get the plants of you."

"How mony do ye want?" said Malcom, with a quick eye to business.

"I shall leave that to you when you see my ground. Now see how I trust you, Mr. McTrump."

"An' ye'll not lose by it, though I would na like a' my coostomers to put me sae strictly on my honesty."

Edith spent the next hour in looking around the garden and greenhouses and watching the old man put out his plants.

"These plants are to be cooltivated after the hill seestem," he said. "They are to stand one foot apart in the row, and the rows two feet apart, and not a rooner or weed to grow on or near them, and it would do your bright eyes good to see the great red berries they'll bear."

"Shall I raise mine that way?" said Edith.

"Weel, ye might soom, but the narrow row coolture will be best for ye, I'm thinkin'."

"What's that?"

"Weel, just let the plants run togither and make a thick close row a foot wide, an' two feet between the rows. That'll be the easiest for ye, but I'll show ye."

"I'm so glad I found you out!" said Edith, heartily; "and if you will let me, I want to come here often and see how you do everything, for to tell you the truth, between ourselves, we are poor, and may have to earn our living out of the garden, or some other way, and I would rather do it out of the garden."

"Weel, noo, ye're a canny lass to coom and filch all old Malcom's secrets to set oop opposition to him. But then sin' ye do it sae openly I'll tell ye all I know. The big wourld ought to be wide enough for a bonnie lassie like yoursel to ha' a chance in it, and though I'm a little mon, I would na be sae mean a one as to hinder ye. Mairover the gardener's craft be a gentle one, and I see na reason why, if a white lily like yoursel must toil and spin, it should na be oot in God's sunshine, where the flowers bloom, instead o' pricking the bluid oot o' yer body, and the hope oot o' yer heart, wi' the needle's point, as I ha' seen sae mony o' my ain coontry lassies do. Gude-by, and may the roses in yer cheeks bloom a' the year round."

Edith felt as if his last words were a blessing, and started with her heart cheered and hopeful; and yet beyond her garden, with its spring promise, its summer and autumn possibilities, there was little inspiring or hopeful in her new home.

In accordance with their mother's policy, they were waiting for something to turn up--waiting, in utter uncertainty, and with dubious prospects, to achieve by marriage the security and competence which they must not work for, or they would utterly lose caste in the old social world in which they had lived.

Be not too hasty in condemning Mrs. Allen, my reader, for you may, at the same time, condemn yourself. Have you no part in sustaining that public sentiment which turns the cold shoulder of society toward the woman who works? Many are growing rich every year, but more are growing poor. What does the "best society," in the world's estimation, say to the daughters in these families?

"Keep your little hands white, my dears, as long as you can, because as soon as the traces of toil are seen on them you become a working- woman, and our daughters can't associate with you, and our sons can't think of you, that is for wives. No other than little and white hands can enter our heaven."

So multitudes struggle to keep their hands white, though thereby the risk that their souls will become stained and black increases daily. A host of fair girls find their way every year to darker stains than ever labor left, because they know how coldly society will ignore them the moment they enlist in the army of honest workers. But you, respectable men and women in your safe pleasant homes, to the extent that you hold and sustain this false sentiment, to the extent that you make the paths of labor hard and thorny, and darken them from the approving smile of the world, you are guilty of these girls' ruin.

Christian matron, with your husband one of the pillars of church and state, do you shrink with disgust from that poor creature who comes flaunting down Broadway? None but the white-handed enter your parlors, and the men (?) who are hunting such poor girls to perdition will sit on the sofa with your daughters this evening. Be not too confident. Your child, or one in whom your blood flows at a little later remove, may stand just where honor to toil would save, but the practical dishonoring of it, which you sustain, eventually blot out the light of earth and heaven.

Mrs. Allen knew that even if her daughters commenced teaching, which, with all the thousands spent on their education, they were incapable of doing, their old sphere on Fifth Avenue would be as unapproachable as the pearly gates, between which and the lost a "great gulf is fixed."

But Mrs. Allen knew also of a very respectable way, having the full approval of society, by which they might regain their place in the heaven from which they had fallen. Besides it was such a simple way, requiring no labor whatever, though a little scheming perhaps, no amount of brains or culture worth mentioning, no heart or love, and least of all a noble nature. A woman may sell herself, or if of a waxy disposition, having little force, may be sold at the altar to a man who will give wealth and luxury in return. This, society, in full dress, smiles upon, and civil law and sacred ceremony sanction.

With the forefinger of her right hand resting impressively on the palm of her left, Mrs. Allen had indicated this back door into the paradise, the gates of which were guarded against poor working-women by the flaming sword of public opinion, turning every way.

And the girls were waiting yawningly, wearily, as the long unoccupied days passed. Laura's cheek grew paler than even her delicate style of beauty demanded. She seemed not only a hot-house plant, but a sickly one. The light was fading from her eye as well as the color from her cheek, and all vigor vanishing from her languid soul and body. The resemblance to her mother grew more striking daily. She was a melancholy result of that artificial luxurious life by which the whole nature is so enervated that there seems no stamina left to resist the first cold blast of adversity. Instead of being like a well-rooted hardy native of the soil she seemed a tender exotic that would wither even in the honest sunlight. As a gardener would say, she needed "hardening off." This would require the bracing of principle and the development of work. But Mrs. Allen could not lead the way to the former, and the latter she forbade, so poor Laura grew more sickly and morbid every day of her weary idle waiting.

Mrs. Allen's policy bore even more heavily on Zell. We have all thought something perhaps of the cruelty of imprisoning a vigorous young person, abounding in animal life and spirits, in a narrow cell, which forbids all action and stifles hope. It gives the unhappy victim the sensation of being buried alive. There comes at last to be one passionate desire to get out and away. Impulsive, restless, excitable Zell, with every vein filled with hot young blood, was shut out from what seemed to her the world, and no other world of activity was shown to her. Her hands were tied by her mother's policy, and she sat moping and chafing like a chained captive, waiting till Mr. Van Dam should come and deliver her from as vile durance as was ever suffered in the moss-grown castles of the old world. The hope of his coming was all that sustained her. Her sad situation was the result of acting on a false view of life from beginning to end. Any true parent would have shuddered at the thought of a daughter marrying such a man as Van Dam, but Zell was forbidden to do one useful thing, lest it should mar her chance of union with this resume of all vice and uncleanness; and though she had heard the many reports of his evil life, her moral sense was so perverted that he seemed a lion rather than a reptile to her. It is true, she looked upon him only in the light of her future husband, but that she did not shrink from any relationship with such a man shows how false and defective her education had been.

Edith had employment for mind and hand, therefore she was happier and safer than either of her sisters. Malcom had her garden thoroughly plowed, and helped her plant it. He gave her many flower roots and sold others at very low prices. In the lower part of the garden, where the ground was rather heavy and moist, he put out a large number of raspberries; and along a stone fence, where weeds and bushes had been usurping the ground, he planted two or three varieties of blackcaps. He also lined another fence with Kittatinny blackberries. There were already many currants and gooseberries on the place. These he trimmed, and put in cuttings for new bushes. He pruned the grapevines also somewhat, but not to any great extent, on account of the lateness of the season, meaning to get them into shape by summer cutting. The orchard also was made to look clean and trim, with the dead wood and interfering branches cut away. Edith watched these operations with the deepest interest, and when she could, without danger of being observed from the road, assisted, though in a very dainty, amateur way. But Malcom did not aim to put in as many hours as possible, but seemed to do everything with a sleight of hand that made his visits appear too brief, even though she had to pay for them. As a refuge from long idle hours, she would often go up to Malcom's little place, and watch him and his assistant as they deftly dealt with nature in accordance with her moods, making the most of the soil, sunlight, and rain. Thus Malcom came to take a great interest in her, and shrewd Edith was not slow in fostering so useful a friendship. But in spite of all this, there were many rainy idle days that hung like lead upon her hands, and upon these especially, it seemed impossible to carry out her purpose to be gentle and forbearing, and it often occurred that the dull apathy of the household was changed into positive pain by sharp words and angry retorts that should never have been spoken.

About the last Sabbath of April, Mrs. Allen sent for a carriage and was driven with her daughters to the most fashionable church of Pushton. Marshalled by the sexton, they rustled in toilets more suitable for one of the gorgeous temples of Fifth Avenue than for even the most ambitious of country churches. Mrs. Allen hoped to make a profound impression on the country people, and by this one dress parade to secure standing and cordial recognition among the foremost families. But she overshot the mark. The failure of Mr. Allen was known. The costly mourning suits and the little house did not accord, the solid, sensible people were unfavorably impressed, and those of fashionable and aristocratic tendencies felt that investigation was needed before the strangers could be admitted within their exclusive circles. So, though it was not a Methodist church that they attended, the Allens were put on longer probation by all classes, when if they had appeared in a simple unassuming manner, rating themselves at their true worth and position, many would have been inclined to take them by the hand.

If you like this book please share to your friends :

What Can She Do? - Chapter 13. They Turn Up What Can She Do? - Chapter 13. They Turn Up

What Can She Do? - Chapter 13. They Turn Up
CHAPTER XIII. THEY TURN UPOne morning, a month after the Allens had gone into poverty's exile, Gus Elliot lounged into Mr. Van Dam's luxurious apartments. There was everything around him to gratify the eye of sense, that is, such sense as Gus Elliot had cultivated, though an angel might have hidden his face. We will not describe these rooms--we had better not. It is sufficient to say that in their decorations, pictures, bacchanalian ornaments, and general suggestion, they were a reflex of Mr. Van Dam's character, in the more refined and aesthetic phase which he presented to society. Indeed, in the

What Can She Do? - Chapter 11. Mrs. Allen's Policy What Can She Do? - Chapter 11. Mrs. Allen's Policy

What Can She Do? - Chapter 11. Mrs. Allen's Policy
CHAPTER XI. MRS. ALLEN'S POLICYTrue to her promise, Rose helped Edith all the next day, and while she worked, the frank-hearted girl poured out the story of her troubles, and Edith came to have a greater respect and sympathy for her "kind and humble neighbors" as she characterized them in her own mind. Still with her familiarity with the farming class, kept up since her summer in the country as a child, she made a broad distinction between them and the mere laborer. Moreover, the practical girl wished to conciliate the Laceys and every one else she could, for she had