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Patten, William / The Junior Classics — Volume 6 Old-Fashioned Tales
Walking home through the pines again, Delight and
Leslie and Dakie Thayne found themselves preceded and followed along
the narrow way. Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman came up and joined them
when the wider openings permitted.

Two persons just in front were commenting upon the sermon.

"Very fair for a country parson," said a tall, elegant-looking man,
whose broad, intellectual brow was touched by dark hair slightly
frosted, and whose lip had the curve that betokens self-reliance and
strong decision,--"very fair. All the better for not flying too high.
Narrow, of course. He seems to think the Almighty has nothing grander
to do than to finger every little cog of the tremendous machinery of
the universe,--that he measures out the ocean of his purposes as we
drop a liquid from a phial. To me it seems belittling the Infinite."

"I don't know whether it is littleness or greatness, Robert, that must
escape minutiae," said his companion, apparently his wife. "If we
could reach to the particles, perhaps we might move the mountains."

"We never agree upon this, Margie. We won't begin again. To my mind,
the grand plan of things was settled ages ago,--the impulses generated
that must needs work on. Foreknowledge and intention, doubtless: in
that sense the hairs _were_ numbered. But that there is a special
direction and interference to-day for you and me--well, we won't
argue, as I said; but I never can conceive it so; and I think a wider
look at the world brings a question to all such primitive faith."

The speakers turned down a side-way with this, leaving the ledge path
and their subject to our friends. Only to their thoughts at first; but
presently Cousin Delight said, in a quiet tone, to Leslie, "That
doesn't account for the steps, does it?"

"I am glad it _can't_," said Leslie.

Dakie Thayne turned a look toward Leslie, as if he would gladly know
of what she spoke,--a look in which a kind of gentle reverence was
strangely mingled with the open friendliness. I cannot easily indicate
to you the sort of feeling with which the boy had come to regard this
young girl, just above him in years and thought and in the attitude
which true womanhood, young or old, takes toward man. He had no
sisters; he had been intimately associated with no girl-companions; he
had lived with his brother and an uncle and a young aunt, Rose. Leslie
Goldthwaite's kindness had drawn him into the sphere of a new and
powerful influence,--something different in thought and purpose from
the apparent unthought about her; and this lifted her up in his regard
and enshrined her with a sort of pure sanctity. He was sometimes
really timid before her, in the midst of his frank chivalry.

"I wish you'd tell me," he said suddenly, falling back with her as the
path narrowed again. "What are the 'steps?'"

"It was a verse we found this morning,--Cousin Delight and I," Leslie
answered; and as she spoke the color came up full in her cheeks, and
her voice was a little shy and tremulous. "'The steps of a good man
are ordered by the Lord.' That one word seemed to make one certain.
'Steps,'--not path, nor the end of it; but all the way." Somehow she
was quite out of breath as she finished.

Meantime Sin Saxon and Frank had got with Miss Goldthwaite, and were
talking too.

"Set spinning," they heard Sin Saxon say, "and then let go. That was
his idea. Well! Only it seems to me there's been especial pains taken
to show us it can't be done. Or else, why don't they find out
perpetual motion? Everything stops after a while, unless--I can't talk
theologically, but I mean all right--you hit it again."

"You've a way of your own of putting things, Asenath," said Frank
Scherman--with a glance that beamed kindly and admiringly upon her and
"her way,"--"but you've put that clear to me as nobody else ever did.
A proof set in the very laws themselves,--momentum that must lessen
and lose itself with the square of the distance. The machinery cavil
won't do."

"Wheels; but a living spirit within the wheels," said Cousin Delight.

"Every instant a fresh impulse; to think of it so makes it real, Miss
Goldthwaite,--and grand and awful." The young man spoke with a
strength in the clear voice that could be so light and gay.

"And tender, too. 'Thou layest Thine hand upon me,'" said Delight
Goldthwaite.

Sin Saxon was quiet; her own thought coming back upon her with a
reflective force, and a thrill at her heart at Frank Scherman's words.
Had these two only planned tableaux and danced Germans together
before?

Dakie Thayne walked on by Leslie Goldthwaite's side, in his happy
content touched with something higher and brighter through that
instant's approach and confidence. If I were to write down his thought
as he walked, it would be with phrase and distinction peculiar to
himself and to the boy-mind,--"It's the real thing with her; it don't
make a fellow squirm like a pin put out at a caterpillar. She's
_good_; but she isn't _pious_!"

This was the Sunday that lay between the busy Saturday and Monday. "It
is always so wherever Cousin Delight is," Leslie Goldthwaite said to
herself, comparing it with other Sundays that had gone. Yet she too,
for weeks before, by the truth that had come into her own life and
gone out from it, had been helping to make these moments possible. She
had been shone upon, and had put forth; henceforth she should scarcely
know when the fruit was ripening or sowing itself anew, or the good
and gladness of it were at human lips.

She was in Mrs. Linceford's room on Monday morning, putting high
velvet-covered corks to the heels of her slippers, when Sin Saxon came
over hurriedly, and tapped at the door.

"_Could_ you be _two_ old women?" she asked, the instant Leslie
opened. "Ginevra Thoresby has given out. She says it's her cold,--that
she doesn't feel equal to it; but the amount of it is, she got her
chill with the Shannons going away so suddenly, and the Amy Robsart
and Queen Elizabeth picture being dropped. There was nothing else to
put her in, and so she won't be Barbara."

"Won't be Barbara Frietchie!" cried Leslie, with an astonishment as if
it had been angelhood refused.

"No. Barbara Frietchie is only an old woman in a cap and kerchief, and
she just puts her head out of a window: the _flag_ is the whole of it,
Ginevra Thoresby says."

"_May_ I do it? Do you think I can be different enough in the
two? Will there be time?" Leslie questioned eagerly.

"We'll change the programme, and put 'Taking the Oath' between. The
caps can be different, and you can powder your hair for one,
and--_would_ it do to ask Miss Craydocke for a front for the other?"
Sin Saxon had grown delicate in her feeling for the dear old friend
whose hair had once been golden.

"I'll tell her about it, and ask her to help me contrive. She'll be
sure to think of anything that can be thought of."

"Only there's the dance afterward, and you had so much more costume
for the other," Sin Saxon said, demurringly.

"Never mind. I shall _be_ Barbara; and Barbara wouldn't dance, I
suppose."

"Mother Hubbard would, marvellously."

"Never mind," Leslie answered again, laying down the little slipper,
finished.

"She don't care _what_ she is, so that she helps along," Sin
Saxon said of her, rejoining the others in the hall. "I'm ashamed of
myself and all the rest of you, beside her. Now make yourselves as
fine as you please."

We must pass over the hours as only stories and dreams do, and put
ourselves, at ten of the clock that night, behind the green curtain
and the footlights, in the blaze of the three rows of bright lamps,
that, one above another, poured their illumination from the left upon
the stage, behind the wide picture-frame.

Susan Josselyn and Frank Scherman were just "posed" for "Consolation."
They had given Susan this part, after all, because they wanted Martha
for "Taking the Oath," afterward. Leslie Goldthwaite was giving a
hasty touch to the tent drapery and the gray blanket; Leonard
Brookhouse and Dakie Thayne manned the halyards for raising the
curtain; there was the usual scuttling about the stage for hasty
clearance; and Sin Saxon's hand was on the bell, when Grahame Lowe
sprang hastily in through the dressing-room upon the scene.

"Hold on a minute," he said to Brookhouse. "Miss Saxon, General
Ingleside and party are over at Green's,--been there since nine
o'clock. Oughtn't we to send compliments or something, before we
finish up?"

Then there was a pressing forward and an excitement. The wounded
soldier sprang from his couch; the nun came nearer, with a quick light
in her eye; Leslie Goldthwaite, in her mob cap, quilted petticoat,
big-flowered calico train, and high-heeled shoes; two or three
supernumeraries, in Rebel gray, with bayonets, coming on in "Barbara
Frietchie"; and Sir Charles, bouncing out from somewhere behind, to
the great hazard of the frame of lights,--huddled together upon the
stage and consulted. Dakie Thayne had dropped his cord and almost made
a rush off at the first announcement; but he stood now, with a
repressed eagerness that trembled through every fibre, and waited.

"Would he come?" "Isn't it too late?" "Would it be any compliment?"
"Won't it be rude not to?" "All the patriotic pieces are just coming!"
"Will the audience like to wait?" "Make a speech and tell 'em. You,
Brookhouse." "O, he _must_ come! Barbara Frietchie and the flag! Just
think!" "Isn't it grand?" "O, I'm so frightened!" These were the
hurried sentences that made the buzz behind the scenes; while in front
"all the world wondered." Meanwhile, lamps trembled, the curtain
vibrated, the very framework swayed.

"What is it? Fire?" queried a nervous voice from near the footlights.

"This won't do," said Frank Scherman. "Speak to them, Brookhouse.
Dakie Thayne, run over to Green's, and say,--The ladies' compliments
to General Ingleside and friends, and beg the honor of their presence
at the concluding tableaux."

Dakie was off with a glowing face, something like an odd, knowing
smile twinkling out from the glow also, as he looked up at Scherman
and took his orders. All this while he had said nothing.

Leonard Brookhouse made his little speech, received with applause and
a cheer. Then they quieted down behind the scenes, and a rustle and
buzz began in front,--kept up for five minutes or so, in gentle
fashion, till two gentlemen, in plain clothes, walked quietly in at
the open door; at sight of whom, with instinctive certainty, the whole
assembly rose. Leslie Goldthwaite, peeping through the folds of the
curtain, saw a tall, grand-looking man, in what may be called the
youth of middle age, every inch a soldier, bowing as he was ushered
forward to a seat vacated for him, and followed by one younger, who
modestly ignored the notice intended for his chief. Dakie Thayne was
making his way, with eyes alight and excited, down a side passage to
his post.

Then the two actors hurried once more into position; the stage was
cleared by a whispered peremptory order; the bell rung once, the tent
trembling with some one whisking further out of sight behind
it,--twice, and the curtain rose upon "Consolation."

Lovely as the picture is, it was lovelier in the living tableau. There
was something deep and intense in the pale calm of Susan Josselyn's
face, which they had not counted on even when they discovered that
hers was the very face for the "Sister." Something made you thrill at
the thought of what those eyes would show, if the downcast, quiet lids
were raised. The earnest gaze of the dying soldier met more, perhaps,
in its uplifting; for Frank Scherman had a look, in this instant of
enacting, that he had never got before in all his practisings. The
picture was too real for applause,--almost, it suddenly seemed, for
representation.

"Don't I know that face, Noll?" General Ingleside asked, in a low
tone, of his companion.

Instead of answering at once, the younger man bent further forward
toward the stage, and his own very plain, broad, honest face, full
over against the downcast one of the Sister of Mercy, took upon itself
that force of magnetic expression which makes a look felt even across
a crowd of other glances, as if there were but one straight line of
vision, and that between such two. The curtain was going slowly down;
the veiling lids trembled, and the paleness replaced itself with a
slow-mounting flush of color over the features, still held motionless.
They let the cords run more quickly then. She was getting tired, they
said; the curtain had been up too long. Be that as it might, nothing
could persuade Susan Josselyn to sit again, and "Consolation" could
not be repeated.

So then came "Mother Hubbard and her dog,"--the slow old lady and the
knowing beast that was always getting one step ahead of her. The
possibility had occurred to Leslie Goldthwaite as she and Dakie Thayne
amused themselves one day with Captain Green's sagacious Sir Charles
Grandison, a handsome black spaniel, whose trained accomplishment was
to hold himself patiently in any posture in which he might be placed,
until the word of release was given. You might stand him on his hind
legs, with paws folded on his breast; you might extend him on his
back, with helpless legs in air; you might put him in any attitude
possible to be maintained, and maintain it he would, faithfully, until
the signal was made. From this prompting came the Illustration of
Mother Hubbard. Also, Leslie Goldthwaite had seized the hidden
suggestion of application, and hinted it in certain touches of costume
and order of performance. Nobody would think, perhaps, at first, that
the striped scarlet and white petticoat under the tucked-up train, or
the common print apron of dark blue, figured with innumerable little
white stars, meant anything beyond the ordinary adjuncts of a
traditional old woman's dress; but when, in the second scene, the
bonnet went on,--an ancient marvel of exasperated front and crown,
pitched over the forehead like an enormous helmet, and decorated, upon
the side next the audience, with black and white eagle plumes
springing straight up from the fastening of an American shield,--above
all, when the dog himself appeared, "dressed in his clothes" (a cane,
an all-round white collar and a natty little tie, a pair of
three-dollar tasselled kid-gloves dangling from his left paw, and a
small monitor hat with a big spread-eagle stuck above the brim,--the
remaining details of costume being of no consequence),--when he stood
"reading the news" from a huge bulletin,--"LATEST BY CABLE FROM
EUROPE,"--nobody could mistake the personification of Old and Young
America.

It had cost much pains and many dainty morsels, to drill Sir Charles,
with all the aid of his excellent fundamental education; and the great
fear had been that he might fail them at the last. But the scenes were
rapid, in consideration of canine infirmity. If the cupboard was
empty, Mother Hubbard's basket behind was not; he got his morsels
duly; and the audience was "requested to refrain from applause until
the end." Refrain from laughter they could not, as the idea dawned
upon them and developed; but Sir Charles was used to that in the
execution of his ordinary tricks; he could hardly have done without it
better than any other old actor. A dog knows when he is having his
day, to say nothing of doing his duty; and these things are as
sustaining to him as to anybody. This state of his mind, manifest in
his air, helped also to complete the Young America expression. Mother
Hubbard's mingled consternation and pride at each successive
achievement of her astonishing puppy were inimitable. Each separate
illustration made its point. Patriotism, especially, came in when the
undertaker, bearing the pall with red-lettered border,--Rebellion,--finds
the dog, with upturned, knowing eye, and parted jaws, suggestive as
much of a good grip as of laughter, half risen upon fore-paws, as far
from "dead" as ever, mounting guard over the old bone "Constitution."

The curtain fell at last, amid peals of applause and calls for the
actors.

Dakie Thayne had accompanied with the reading of the ballad, slightly
transposed and adapted. As Leslie led Sir Charles before the curtain,
in response to the continued demand, he added the concluding stanza,--

"The dame made a courtesy,
The dog made a bow;
The dame said, 'Your servant,'
The dog said, 'Bow-wow.'"

Which, with a suppressed "Speak, sir!" from Frank Scherman, was
brought properly to pass. Done with cleverness and quickness from
beginning to end, and taking the audience utterly by surprise,
Leslie's little combination of wit and sagacity had been throughout a
signal success. The actors crowded round her. "We'd no idea of it!"
"Capital!" "A great hit!" they exclaimed. "Mother Hubbard is the star
of the evening," said Leonard Brookhouse. "No, indeed," returned
Leslie, patting Sir Charles's head,--"this is the dog-star." "Rather
a Sirius reflection upon the rest of us," rejoined Brookhouse,
shrugging his shoulders, as he walked off to take his place in the
"Oath," and Leslie disappeared to make ready for "Barbara Frietchie."

Several persons, before and behind the curtain, were making up their
minds, just now, to a fresh opinion. There was nothing so very slow or
tame, after all, about Leslie Goldthwaite. Several others had known
that long ago.

"Taking the Oath" was piquant and spirited. The touch of restive scorn
that could come out on Martha Josselyn's face just suited her part;
and Leonard Brookhouse was very cool and courteous, and handsome and
gentlemanly-triumphant as the Union officer.

"Barbara Frietchie" was grand. Grahame Lowe played Stonewall Jackson.
They had improvised a pretty bit of scenery at the back, with a few
sticks, some paint, brown carpet-paper, and a couple of mosquito-bars;--a
Dutch gable with a lattice window, vines trained up over it, and
bushes below. It was a moving tableau, enacted to the reading of
Whittier's glorious ballad. "Only an old woman in a cap and kerchief,
putting her head out at a garret window,"--that was all; but the fire
was in the young eyes under the painted wrinkles and the snowy hair;
the arm stretched itself out quick and bravely at the very instant of
the pistol-shot that startled timid ears; one skilful movement
detached and seized the staff in its apparent fall, and the
liberty-colors flashed full in Rebel faces, as the broken lower
fragment went clattering to the stage. All depended on the one instant
action and expression. These were perfect. The very spirit of Barbara
stirred her representative. The curtain began to descend slowly, and
the applause broke forth before the reading ended. But a hand, held
up, hushed it till the concluding lines were given in thrilling tones,
as the tableau was covered from sight.

"Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

"Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.

"Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

"Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;

"And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!"

Then one great cheer broke forth, and was prolonged to three.

"Not be Barbara Frietchie!" Leslie would not have missed that thrill
for the finest beauty-part of all. For the applause--that was for the
flag, of course, as Ginevra Thoresby said.

The benches were slid out at a window upon a lower roof, the curtain
was looped up, and the footlights carried away; the "music" came up,
and took possession of the stage; and the audience hall resolved
itself into a ballroom. Under the chandelier, in the middle, a tableau
not set forth in the programme was rehearsed and added a few minutes
after.

Mrs. Thoresby, of course, had been introduced to the general; Mrs.
Thoresby, with her bright, full, gray curls and her handsome figure,
stood holding him in conversation between introductions, graciously
waiving her privilege as new-comers claimed their modest word. Mrs.
Thoresby took possession; had praised the tableaux, as "quite
creditable, really, considering the resources we had," and was
following a slight lead into a long talk, of information and advice on
her part, about Dixville Notch.



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