« AnkstesnisTęsti »
yet? And are n't you glad now that I made you wait about buying a Panama hat till you reached Kingston?
We are running along here very much as usual without anything exciting to chronicle. You remember little Maybelle Fuller, don't you the chorus girl's daughter whom our doctor does n't like? We have placed her out. I tried to make the woman take Hattie Heaphy instead, -the quiet little one who stole the communion-cup, but no, indeed! Maybelle's eyelashes won the day. After all, as poor Marie says, the chief thing is to be pretty. All else in life depends on that.
When I got home last week, after my dash to New York, I made a brief speech to the children. I told them that I had just been seeing Aunt Judy off on a big ship, and I am embarrassed to have to report that the interest-at least on the part of the boys-immediately abandoned Aunt Judy and centered upon the ship. How many tons of coal did she burn a day? Was she long enough to reach from the carriage-house to the Indian camp? Were there any guns aboard, and if a privateer should attack her, could she hold her own? In case of a mutiny, could the captain shoot down anybody he chose, and would n't he be hanged when he got to shore? I had ignominiously to call upon Sandy to finish my speech. I realize that the best-equipped feminine mind in the world can't cope with the peculiar class of questions that originate in a thirteen-year boy's brain.
As a result of their seafaring interest, the doctor conceived the idea of inviting seven of the oldest and most alert lads to spend the day with him in New York and see with their own eyes an ocean-liner. They rose at five yesterday morning, caught the 7:30 train, and had the most wonderful adventure that has happened in all their seven lives. They visited one of the big liners (Sandy knows the Scotch engineer), and were conducted from the bottom of the hold to the top of the crow'snest, and then had luncheon on board. And after luncheon they visited the aquarium and the top of the Singer
Building, and took the subway up-town to spend an hour with the birds of America in their habitats. Sandy with great difficulty pried them away from the Natural History Museum in time to catch the 6:15 train. Dinner in the dining-car. They inquired with great particularity how much it was costing, and when they heard that it was the same, no matter how much you ate, they drew deep breaths and settled quietly and steadily to the task of not allowing their host to be cheated. The railroad made nothing on that party, and all the tables around stopped eating to stare. One traveler asked the doctor if it was a boarding-school he had in charge; so you can see how the manners and bearing of our lads have picked up. I don't wish to boast, but no one would ever have asked such a question concerning seven of Mrs. Lippett's youngsters. "Are they bound for a reformatory?" would have been the natural question after observing the table manners of her offspring.
My little band tumbled in toward ten o'clock, excitedly babbling a mess of statistics about reciprocating compound engines and water-tight bulkheads, devilfish and sky-scrapers and birds of paradise. I thought I should never get them to bed. And, oh, but they had had a glorious day! I do wish I could manage breaks in the routine oftener. It gives them a new outlook on life and makes them more like normal children. Was n't it really nice of Sandy? But you should have seen that man's behavior when I tried to thank him. He waved me aside in the middle of a sentence, and growlingly asked Miss Snaith if she could n't economize a little on carbolic acid. The house smelt like a hospital.
We have had from the first a long series of misunderstandings and foolish contretemps, but after each one we seemed to reach a solider basis of understanding, until I had thought our friendship was on a pretty firm foundation, capable of withstanding any reasonable shock.
And then came that unfortunate evening last June when you overheard some foolish impolitenesses, which I did not in the slightest degree mean; and from then on you faded into the distance. Really, I have felt terribly bad about it, and have wanted to apologize, but your manner has not been inviting of confidence. It is n't that I have any excuse or explanation to offer; I have n't. You know how foolish and silly I am on occasions, but you will just have to realize that though I'm flippant and foolish and trivial on top, I am pretty solid inside; and you 've got to forgive the silly part. The Pendletons knew that long ago, or they would n't have sent me up here. I have tried hard to pull off an honest job, partly because I wanted to justify their judgment, partly because I was really interested in giving the poor little kiddies their share of happiness, but mostly, I actually believe, because I wanted to show you that your first derogatory opinion of me was ill founded. Won't you please expunge that unfortunate fifteen minutes at the porte-cochère last June, and remember instead the fifteen hours I spent reading the Kallikak Family?
I would like to feel that we 're friends again.
Please pepper your letters with stamps, inside and out. I have thirty collectors in the family. Since you have taken to travel, every day about post-time an eager group gathers at the gate, waiting to snatch any letters of foreign design, and by the time the letters reach me they are almost in shreds through the tenacity of rival snatchers. Tell Jervis to send us some more of those purple pine-trees from Honduras; likewise some green parrots from Guatemala. I could use a pint of them!
Is n't it wonderful to have got these apathetic little things so enthusiastic? My children are getting to be almost like real children. B dormitory started a pillowfight last night of its own accord; and though it was very wearing to our scant supply of linen, I stood by and beamed, and even tossed a pillow myself.
Last Saturday those two desirable friends of Percy's spent the whole afternoon playing with my boys. They brought up three rifles, and each man took the lead of a camp of Indians, and passed the afternoon in a bottle-shooting contest, with a prize for the winning camp. They brought the prize with them-an atrocious head of an Indian painted on leather.
Dreadful taste; but the men thought it lovely, so I admired it with all the ardor I could assume.
When they had finished, I warmed them up with cookies and hot chocolate, and I really think the men enjoyed it as much as the boys; they undoubtedly enjoyed it more than I did. I could n't help being in a feminine twitter all the time the firing was going on for fear somebody would shoot somebody else. But I know that I can't keep twenty-four Indians tied to my apron-strings, and I never could find in the whole wide world three nicer men to take an interest in them.
Just think of all that healthy, exuberant volunteer service going to waste under the asylum's nose! I suppose the neighborhood is full of plenty more of it, and I am going to make it my business to dig it out.
What I want most are about eight nice, pretty, sensible young women to come up here one night a week, and sit before the fire and tell stories while the chicks pop corn. I do so want to contrive a little individual petting for my babies. You see, Judy, I am remembering your own childhood, and am trying hard to fill in the gaps.
The trustees' meeting last week went beautifully. The new women are most helpful, and only the nice men came. I am happy to announce that the Hon. Cy Wykoff is visiting his married daughter in Scranton. I wish she would invite father to live with her permanently.
I am in the most childish temper with the doctor, and for no very definite reason. He keeps along his even, unemotional way without paying the slightest attention to anything or anybody. I have swallowed more slights during these last few months than in the whole of my life before, and I'm developing the most shockingly revengeful nature. I spend all my spare time planning situations in which he will be terribly hurt and in need of my help, and in which I, with the utmost callousness, will shrug my shoulders and
turn away. I am growing into a person entirely foreign to the sweet, sunny young thing you used to know.
Do you realize that I am an authority on the care of dependent children? Tomorrow I and other authorities visit officially the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society's Orphan Asylum at Pleasantville. (All that 's its name!) It's a terribly difficult and roundabout journey from this point, involving a daybreak start and two trains and an automobile; but if I'm to be an authority, I must live up to the title. I'm keen about looking over other institutions and gleaning as many ideas as possible against our own alterations next year. And this Pleasantville
asylum is an architectural model.
I acknowledge now, upon sober reflection, that we were wise to postpone extensive building operations until next summer. Of course I was disappointed, because it meant that I won't be the center of the ripping-up, and I do so love to be the center of ripping-ups! But, anyway, you'll take my advice, even though I'm no longer an official head? The two building details we did accomplish are very promising. Our new laundry grows better and better; it has removed from us that steamy smell so dear to asylums. The farmer's cottage will finally be ready for occupancy next week. All it now lacks is a coat of paint and some door-knobs.
But, oh dear! oh dear! another bubble has burst! Mrs. Turnfelt, for all her comfortable figure and sunny smile, hates to have children messing about. They make her nervous. And as for Turnfelt himself, though industrious and methodical and an excellent gardener, still, his mental processes are not quite what I had hoped for. When he first came, I made him free of the library. He began at the case nearest the door, which contains thirty-seven volumes of Pansy's works. Finally, after he had spent four months on Pansy, I suggested a change, and sent him home with "Huckleberry Finn." But he brought it back in a few
days, and shook his head. He says that after reading Pansy, anything else seems tame. I am afraid I shall have to look about for some one a little more up-andcoming. But at least, compared with Sterry, Turnfelt is a scholard!
And speaking of Sterry, he paid us a social call a few days ago, in quite a chastened frame of mind. It seems that the "rich city feller" whose estate he has been managing no longer needs his services; and Sterry has graciously consented to return to us and let the children have gardens if they wish. I kindly, but convincingly, declined his offer.
I came back from Pleasantville last night with a heart full of envy. Please, Mr. President, I want some gray stucco cottages, with Luca della Robbia figures baked into the front. They have nearly 700 children there, and all sizable youngsters. Of course that makes a very different problem from my hundred and seven, ranging from babyhood up. But I borrowed from their superintendent several very fancy ideas. I'm dividing my chicks. into big and little sisters and brothers, each big one to have a little one to love and help and fight for. Big sister Sadie Kate has to see that little sister Gladiola always has her hair neatly combed and her stockings pulled up and knows her lessons and gets a touch of petting and her share of candy-very pleasant for Gladiola, but especially developing for Sadie Kate.
Also I am going to start among our older children a limited form of self-government such as we had in college. That will help fit them to go out into the world and govern themselves when they get there. This shoving children into the world at the age of sixteen seems terribly merciless. Five of my children are ready to be shoved, but I can't bring myself to do it. I keep remembering my own irresponsible silly young self, and wondering what would have happened to me had I been turned out to work at the age of sixteen!
I must leave you now to write an interesting letter to my politician in Washington, and it 's hard work. What have I to say that will interest a politician? I can't do anything any more but babble about babies, and he would n't care if every baby was swept from the face of the earth. Oh, yes, he would, too! I'm afraid I'm slandering him. Babies-at least boy babies-grow into voters. Good-by.
If you expect a cheerful letter from me the day, don't read this. The life of man is a wintry road. Fog, snow, rain, slush, drizzle, cold-such weather! such weather! And you in dear Jamaica with the sunshine and the orange-blossoms!
We 've got whooping-cough, and you can hear us whoop when you get off the train two miles away. We don't know how we got it-just one of the pleasures of institution life. Cook has left,—in the night,-what the Scotch call a "moonlicht flitting." I don't know how she got her trunk away, but it 's gone. The kitchen fire went with her. The pipes are frozen. The plumbers are here, and the kitchen floor is all ripped up. One of our horses has the spavin. And, to crown all, our cheery, resourceful Percy is down, down, down in the depths of despair. We have not been quite certain for three days past whether we could keep him from suicide. The girl in Detroit,-I knew she was a heartless little minx,without so much as going through the formality of sending back his ring, has gone and married herself to a man and a couple of automobiles and a yacht. It is the best thing that could ever have happened to Percy, but it will be a long, long time before he realizes it.
We have our twenty-four Indians back in the house with us. I was sorry to have to bring them in, but the shacks were scarcely planned for winter quarters. I have stowed them away very comfortably, however, thanks to the spacious iron verandas surrounding our new fire-escape. It was a happy idea of Jervis's having
them glassed in for sleeping-porches. The babies' sun-parlor is a wonderful addition to our nursery. We can fairly see the little tots bloom under the influence of that extra air and sunshine.
With the return of the Indians to civilized life, Percy's occupation was ended, and he was supposed to remove himself to the hotel. But he did n't want to remove himself. He has got used to orphans, he says, and he would miss not seeing them about. I think the truth is that he is feeling so miserable over his wrecked engagement that he is afraid to be alone; he needs something to occupy every waking moment out of banking hours. And goodness knows we 're glad enough to keep him! He has been wonderful with those youngsters, and they need a man's influence. But what on earth to do with the man? As you discovered last summer, this spacious château does not contain a superabundance of guest-rooms. He has finally fitted himself into the doctor's laboratory, and the medicines have moved themselves to a closet down the hall. He and the doctor fixed it up between them, and if they are willing to be mutually inconvenienced, I have no fault. to find.
Mercy! I've just looked at the calendar, and it's the eighteenth, with Christmas only a week away. However shall we finish all our plans in a week? The chicks are making presents for one another, and something like a thousand secrets have been whispered in my ear.
Snow last night. The boys have spent. the morning in the woods, gathering evergreens and drawing them home on sleds; and twenty girls are spending the afternoon in the laundry, winding wreaths for the windows. I don't know how we are going to do our washing this week. We were planning to keep the Christmas-tree a secret, but fully fifty children have been boosted up to the carriage-house window. to take a peep at it, and I am afraid the news has spread among the remaining fifty-seven.
At your insistence, we have sedulously fostered the Santa Claus myth, but it does