We Girls: a Home Story - novelonlinefull.com
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Then Mrs. Holabird walked away again.
The next day--_that_ day, after our eleven o'clock breakfast--Harry came back, and was at Westover all day long.
Barbara got up into mother's room at evening, alone with her. She brought a cricket, and came and sat down beside her, and put her cheek upon her knee.
"Mother," she said, softly, "I don't see but you'll have to get me ready, and let me go."
"My dear child! When? What do you mean?"
"Right off. Harry is under orders, you know. And they may hardly ever be so nice again. And--if we _are_ going through the world together--mightn't we as well begin to go?"
"Why, Barbara, you take my breath away! But then you always do! What is it?"
"It's the Katahdin, fitting out at New York to join the European squadron. Commander Shapleigh is a great friend of Harry's; his wife and daughter are in New York, going out, by Southampton steamer, when the frigate leaves, to meet him there. They would take me, he says; and--that's what Harry wants, mother. There'll be a little while first,--as much, perhaps, as we should ever have."
"Barbara, my darling! But you've nothing ready!"
"No, I suppose not. I never do have. Everything is an emergency with me; but I always emerge! I can get things in London," she added.
The end of it was that Mrs. Holabird had to catch her breath again, as mothers do; and that Barbara is getting ready to be married just as she does everything else.
Rose has some nice things--laid away, new; she always has; and mother has unsuspected treasures; and we all had new silk dresses for Leslie's wedding, and Ruth had a bright idea about that.
"I'm as tall as either of you, now," she said; "and we girls are all of a size, as near as can be, mother and all; and we'll just wear the dresses once more, you see, and then put them right into Barbara's trunk. They'll be all the bonnier and luckier for her, I know. We can get others any time."
We laughed at her at first; but we came round afterward to think that it was a good plan. Rosamond's silk was a lovely violet, and Ruth's was blue; Barbara's own was pearly gray; we were glad, now, that no two of us had dressed alike. The violet and the gray had been chosen because of our having worn quiet black-and-white all summer for grandfather. We had never worn c.r.a.pe; or what is called "deep"
mourning. "You shall never do that," said mother, "till the deep mourning comes. Then you will choose for yourselves."
We have had more time than we expected. There has been some beautiful delay or other about machinery,--the Katahdin's, that is; and Commander Shapleigh has been ever so kind. Harry has been back and forth to New York two or three times. Once he took Stephen with him; Steve stayed at Uncle John's; but he was down at the yard, and on board ships, and got acquainted with some midshipmen; and he has quite made up his mind to try to get in at the Naval Academy as soon as he is old enough, and to be a navy officer himself.
We are comfortable at home; not hurried after all. We are determined not to be; last days are too precious,
"Don't let's be all taken up with 'things,'" says Barbara. "I can _buy_ 'things' any time. But now,--I want you!"
Aunt Roderick's present helped wonderfully. It was magnanimous of her; it was coals of fire. We should have believed she was inspired,--or possessed,--but that Ruth went down to Boston with her.
There came home, in a box, two days after, from Jordan and Marsh's, the loveliest "suit," all made and finished, of brown poplin. To think of Aunt Roderick's getting anything _made_, at an "establishment"! But Ruth says she put her principles into her unpickable pocket, and just took her porte-monnaie in her hand.
Bracelets and pocket-handkerchiefs have come from New York; all the "girls" here in Westover have given presents of ornaments, or little things to wear; they know there is no housekeeping to provide for.
Barbara says her trousseau "flies together"; she just has to sit and look at it.
She has begged that old garnet and white silk, though, at last, from mother. Ruth saw her fold it up and put it, the very first thing, into the bottom of her new trunk. She patted it down gently, and gave it a little stroke, just as she pats and strokes mother herself sometimes.
"_All_ new things are only dreary," she says. "I must have some of the old."
"I should just like to know one thing,--if I might," said Rosamond, deferentially, after we had begun to go to bed one evening. She was sitting in her white night-dress, on the box-sofa, with her shoe in her hand. "I should just like to know what made you behave so beforehand, Barbara?"
"I was in a buzz," said Barbara. "And it _was_ beforehand. I suppose I knew it was coming,--like a thunderstorm."
"You came pretty near securing that it _shouldn't_ come," said Rosamond, "after all."
"I couldn't help that; it wasn't my part of the affair."
"You might have just kept quiet, as you were before," said Rose.
"Wait and see," said Barbara, concisely. "People shouldn't come bringing things in their hands. It's just like going down stairs to get these presents. The very minute I see a corner of one of those white paper parcels, don't I begin to look every way, and say all sorts of things in a hurry? Wouldn't I like to turn my back and run off if I could? Why don't they put them under the sofa, or behind the door, I wonder?"
"After all--" began Rosamond, still with the questioning inflection.
"After all--" said Barbara, "there was the fire. That, luckily, was something else!"
"Does there always have to be a fire?" asked Ruth, laughing.
"Wait and see," repeated Barbara. "Perhaps you'll have an earthquake."
We have time for talks. We take up every little c.h.i.n.k of time to have each other in. We want each other in all sorts of ways; we never wanted each other so, or _had_ each other so, before.
Delia Waite is here, and there is some needful st.i.tching going on; but the minutes are alongside the st.i.tches, they are not eaten up; there are minutes everywhere. We have got a great deal of life into a little while; and--we have finished up our Home Story, to the very present instant.
Who finishes it? Who tells it?
Well,--"the kettle began it." Mrs. Peerybingle--pretty much--finished it. That is, the story began itself, then Ruth discovered that it was beginning, and began, first, to put it down. Then Ruth grew busy, and she wouldn't always have told quite enough of the Ruthy part; and Mrs.
Holabird got hold of it, as she gets hold of everything, and she would not let it suffer a "solution of continuity." Then, partly, she observed; and partly we told tales, and recollected and reminded; and partly, here and there, we rushed in,--especially I, Barbara,--and did little bits ourselves; and so it came to be a "Song o' Sixpence," and at least four Holabirds were "singing in the pie."
Do you think it is--sarcastically--a "pretty dish to set before the king"? Have we shown up our friends and neighbors too plainly? There is one comfort; n.o.body knows exactly where "Z----" is; and there are friends and neighbors everywhere.
I am sure n.o.body can complain, if I don't. This last part--the Barbarous part--is a continual breach of confidence. I have a great mind, now, not to respect anything myself; not even that cadet b.u.t.ton, made into a pin, which Ruth wears so shyly. To be sure, Mrs. Hautayne has one too; she and Ruth are the only two girls whom Dakie Thayne considers _worth_ a b.u.t.ton; but Leslie is an old, old friend; older than Dakie in years, so that it could never have been like Ruth with her; and she never was a bit shy about it either. Besides--
Well, you cannot have any more than there is. The story is told as far as we--or anybody--has gone. You must let the world go round the sun again, a time or two; everything has not come to pa.s.s yet--even with "We Girls."