Read CHAPTER IV - UNWELCOME of A Little Girl in Old Salem , free online book, by Amanda Minnie Douglas, on

Miss Winn and her charge went down to the ship the next morning with Chilian Leverett.  Elizabeth inspected the rooms.  She was not meddlesome, nor over-curious generally, but with a feeling of possessorship and responsibility in the house, she wanted to know how far she could trust the newcomers.  The beds were well made, but closets and drawers were rather awry.  She did begrudge the best chamber, and wondered whether it would not be possible to change them about presently.  True, they seldom had guests.

Then a new load of boxes came, with two trunks, and several more pieces of furniture.  The latter were left standing in the hall.  The garret had been a sort of fetich with Elizabeth.  There were dried herbs hanging to the rafters in their muslin bags, so as not to make a litter and mostly for the fragrance.  There was not a cobweb anywhere.  On one side of the sloping roof were ranged their own trunks and chests, two of cedar, in which woollen clothes and blankets passed the summer, securely hidden from moths.  In one gable were miscellaneous household articles, a few chairs good enough to be repaired, a more than century-old cherry table, spinning-wheels, a bedstead piled high with a feather bed, and numberless pillows, for Elizabeth thought it her duty to make a new pair every year, as they kept a flock of geese that spent their days in a small cove on South River.

The interloper boxes could make a row down the cleared side.  That left the centre, the highest part, clear for drying clothes, which probably would not be needed until winter.  But careful Elizabeth planned ahead for every emergency.  True, the emergency did not always fit the plans, but it gave her tense spirit a rest.

The Salem air was fragrant, with all manner of sweet springtime odors the ship was not.  Things that had been stored in the hold came up with a certain old smell and a little mustiness.  First, Cynthia held her nose and made a wry face.  But it was delightful to run about and exchange greetings with the sailors, who seemed merry enough over their work.

“Well, missy,” said the captain, catching her in his arms as she ran, “how do you like living on dry land?  You haven’t lost your sea legs yet, that’s plain.”

“It’s very queer.  There are just tiny leaves coming out on the trees, and a few curious white flowers, little bells, coming up in the garden, and crocus in pretty colors.  But I don’t like it very much.  Miss Eunice is nice and has such a soft voice.  And the houses are so funny and shut up, and there are no servants about, nor any one praying on the corners and holding out a basin for rice; and no piles of fruit for sale.”

“No; this isn’t the time of year for fruit;” and there was a funny twinkle in the captain’s eye.  “Just wait until August and September.”

Cynthia considered.  “That is three and four months away.  Father will be here then;” with a child’s confidence.

“And there are berries earlier, and cherries, and then some sugar pears.  Oh, you will be feasted.  And you’ll like Cousin Leverett, when you come to get acquainted with him.  You will go to school, too, and know lots of little girls.  You won’t want to go back to India.”

“Unless father shouldn’t come.  Oh, he surely will, because, you see, I’m praying ever so many times a day.”

“That’s right;” with a cheerful nod.

“When are you going back?”

“In about a month, I calculate.”

She sighed and looked out over the great stretch of waters.  “What is that long point down there?” she asked suddenly.

“That’s Salem Neck, and there is Winter Island.  They are always building ships down there and turn out some mighty fine ones.  And fishing; there’s a sight of cod, and haddock, and mackerel, and all the other fish in season.  They salt them and take them half over the world.  And there’s a rope-walk you’d enjoy seeing, leastways you would if you were a boy.  And there are some stores.  We have lots of goods consigned to the Merrits.  Salem’s a big place, now I tell you!”

“Bigger than Calcutta?”

“Sho’ now!  Calcutta can’t hold a candle to it.”

The captain’s cabin was being dismantled for repairs and cleaning.  She glanced in it.  How many days she had spent here!  Everything was in disorder, yet there was a certain home remembrance that touched the child’s heart, and brought tears to her eyes.

“Oh, are you here?” It was Chilian Leverett’s voice, and he held out his hand.  She looked so bright now and there was a little color in her cheeks, an eager interest about her.  He was afraid she was going to be a rather dull child.

“Yes; it’s almost like home, you know; only when we lived here it wasn’t so topsy-turvy.”

“Did you feel queer when you woke up this morning?” thinking it his duty to smile.

“Oh, I didn’t know where I was.  It seemed as if I was being smothered in something.  And it didn’t toss and rock.  Oh, there were some birds singing.”  She laughed gleefully.  “Then I saw Rachel, and it came to me in little bits, but it seems such a long, long while since yesterday morning.”

“Where is Miss Winn?  I want to see her a moment.”

“She has been looking over some things as they came up from the hold,” said the captain.  “Oh, here she is!”

Chilian took her aside for a moment.  It was necessary for him to go in to Boston and he wanted to make a few suggestions, so that any of Elizabeth’s strictures might not offend.  He began to perceive the child and her attendant were not exactly welcome guests.

“How long do you suppose she will stay?” Elizabeth had asked of him rather sharply.  “For, when we are once settled, I do not think there will be any real necessity for keeping Miss Winn.”

She had been considering it at intervals through the night, and was impatient for what she called an understanding.

Chilian had often given in to her on points that did not really affect him.  He hated to bicker with any one, especially women.

“My dear Elizabeth,” he began, “the child has been consigned to my charge until she comes of age.  I should not have chosen the guardianship, but it seems there is no other relative who can attend to all matters as well.  She is to be no dependent, only for whatever love we choose to give her.  Anthony has made an ample allowance for her, indeed such a generous one that it irks me to accept it.  If it makes too much work for you and Eunice, we will have some help.  Miss Winn is to look after her, that was her father’s wish; so there will be no change.  Of course, it alters our quiet mode of living, but perhaps we were getting in too much of a rut and needed some shaking up;” smiling gravely.  “Try and make it as comfortable for them as you can.  There is plenty of room in the house for us all.”

Then there was nothing before them but acceptance.  In a way she had known it, but there was a vague idea seething in her mind that if the maid could be dismissed, she and her sister could train the child in a better manner, and instil some Salem virtues in her that yet held a little of the old Puritanic leaven; like industry, economy, forethought.  She still believed in the strait and narrow pathway.

That Chilian should take the matter so philosophically did surprise her.  To him there seemed something so pitiful in the hope held out to the little girl, yet after all could it have been managed any more wisely?  She would not know what the acute pang of death was.  And her longing would become less, there would be a vagueness in her sorrow that would help to heal it.  This would be her home.  He had been living all these years for himself, was it not time that he espoused some other motive?  That he began to be of real service?

He finished his talk with Miss Winn.  Cynthia was hopping over some coils of cable, and he watched her agile, graceful movements, half smiling.

“Come and tell me good-bye,” he said, holding out his hand.  “I am going in to Boston.”

“In a vessel?”

“No; though I suppose that would be possible.  I am late for the stage, and must go on horseback.”

“Where is Boston?”

“Oh, some eighteen miles rather southerly.  It is a big city, and the capital.”

“When are you coming back?” with a daintily anxious air.

“Oh, by supper-time.”

“Well;” nodding.

“What shall I bring you?”

“Nothing at all.  We have twice too much now, Rachel says.  Only be sure to come back.”

“If I did not, what then?”

“If you did not come back, I should go to India with Captain Corwin.  I like Miss Eunice a little, but your other lady doesn’t want me,” she replied with a frankness that was amusing, it was so free from malice.

“Good-bye until to-night, then.”

She put her hand in his.  Then she reached up tiptoe.  “Kiss me,” she said.  “Father always did and he said, ‘Be a good girl.’”

“Be a good girl.”  Chilian kissed the soft red lips and then went his way.  There was not much caressing in the restrained New England nature of that day, especially among those who had grown up with few family ties.  His mother had died while he was yet quite a boy.

“Let us go back now,” said Rachel presently.  “I believe I have found all our goods.  Miss Leverett will be appalled.”

The child repeated the word.  “What does it mean?” she asked.

“Astonished, surprised.”

“Why, they have a houseful of things;” in protest.

“Then there is the less room for ours.”

“But there is ever so much room in the garret.”

“I almost wish we were going to live by ourselves in a little house, like some we saw yesterday.”

“Who would cook the dinner and wash the dishes?”

“Oh, I could;” laughing.

“Only us two?  It would be lonesome.”

“We are not likely to.”

“Don’t go straight home.  Let us find the market again.  I didn’t half see it last night.”

“It wasn’t night exactly.  Yes we must learn to find our way about, for we cannot stay in all the time.  This is Essex Street.  Let us turn here.”

The market was in its glory this morning.  The stalls were ornamented with branches of evergreens, the floors sifted over with sawdust.  There were vegetables and meats, but no great variety.  There was no sunny south, no swift train to send in delicious luxuries.  The cold storage of that day was being buried in pits and being brought out to light as occasion required.

There were other stalls, with various household stores.  Iron-holders, tin kettles, whiskbrooms, pins (which were quite a luxury), crockery ware even.  Wagons had come in from country places and customers were thronging about them.

The people interested Miss Winn, and the chaffering, the beating down in prices, was quite amusing.  Here a woman was measuring some cotton goods from her chin to the ends of her fingers; here sat a cobbler doing odd jobs while some one waited.  Altogether it was very entertaining, and it was dinner-time when they reached home.

“Mr. Leverett has gone to Boston,” announced Miss Leverett.  “We must have our dinner without him.”

“Yes, he was down on the ship,” said Miss Winn.  “Do you often go to Boston?”

“I am much too busy to be gadding about,” returned Elizabeth sharply; “though we have connections there, and I once spent several years in the city.”

“I don’t suppose it is at all like London.  Eastern cities are so different and dirty,” she added.

“Boston is very nice, quite a superior place, but we do not consider it much above Salem,” Miss Elizabeth said, with an air.  “We have nearly all of the East India trade.  To be sure, there is Harvard at Cambridge, and that calls students and professors.  Cousin Chilian is a graduate.  He could have been an accepted professor if he had chosen.”

Then the conversation languished.  They were hardly through dinner when the next relay of goods arrived.

“Cynthia’s desk must go upstairs, I suppose.  Her father had it made for her birthday.  Will Silas unpack again?  There is a small cabinet of teakwood that is beautifully carved.  If you could find room in the parlor for that.  There were many other fine pieces that will no doubt be sold, and it seems a great pity.”

Elizabeth acquiesced rather frigidly, adding, “It is fortunate the house is large, but one seems to accumulate a good deal through generations.”

Cynthia went up in the garret with Miss Winn and was full of interest over the old Leverett treasures.  Here was the cradle in which Leverett babies had been rocked, an old bit of mahogany nearly black with age.

“How funny!” cried Cynthia, springing into it, and making a clatter on the floor.

“Don’t, dear!  Miss Elizabeth may not like it,” said Miss Winn.

“As if I should hurt it!” indignantly.

“It is not ours.”

“But we sit on their chairs, and sleep in their beds, and eat at their table,” returned the child.  “Do you suppose they do not want us?”

“Our coming is Mr. Leverett’s affair, and he is your guardian, so whatever home he provides is right.”

“Well, we can have a home of our own when father comes?”

“Oh, yes; when he comes.”

“Well, then I shall not mind;” decisively.

Still she peered about among the old things.  There were some iron fire-dogs, a much-tarnished frame, with a cracked glass that cut her face in a grotesque fashion, old dishes and kitchen furniture past using, or that had been supplanted by a newer and better kind.

“Oh, dear! this is an undertaking!” declared Miss Winn, with a sigh.  “I do not believe you will ever use half these things; there are stuffs enough to dress a queen.”

It was beginning to grow dusky before she was through, though the sky was overcast, and there would be no fine sunset.  Indeed, the wind blew up stormily.  Cynthia had been viewing the place from the windows in the four gables, though she had to stand on a box.  There were South River and the Neck and the shipping the men, hurrying to and fro, looking so much smaller that it puzzled Cynthia.  And there was North River winding about, and over beyond the great ocean she had crossed.  There was old St. Peter’s Church, the new one was not built until long afterward, and smaller places of worship.  There was the small beginning of things to be famous later on.

The wind began to whistle about and it grew cool, so they were glad to go down to the cheerful sitting-room, where a fire was blazing on the hearth.

“We shall have a storm to-night,” said Miss Eunice, “our three days’ storm that usually makes its appearance about this time.  Didn’t you ’most perish upstairs?  And what did you find to interest you?”

Cynthia had brought a stool and sat close to Miss Eunice, leaning one arm on her knee.

“Oh, so many queer things.  You don’t mind if I call them queer, do you?”

“Oh, no; they are queer.  And when we are dead and gone some one will call ours queer, no doubt.  But we haven’t many.  When father died we were on a farm just out of Marblehead.  Things were mostly sold at a vendue, for the two boys were going in the army.  That was back in ’78.  Mother and we two girls went to her mother’s at Danvers.  Elizabeth took up sewing, but there were hard times, for the war stretched out so long, and it did seem as if the Colonies would never gain their cause.  But they did.  Brother Linus was killed, and later on I had a dear friend lost at sea.  Mother died, and we were sort of scattered about till we came here.  Cousin Chilian was very good to us.  So you see we haven’t much to leave, but then we haven’t any descendant;” and she gave a soft little laugh.  “Elizabeth has mother’s gold comb, set with amethysts, and a brooch, and I have the string of gold beads and some rings.  A cousin in London sent them to grandmother.”

“Eunice, you might set the table,” said Elizabeth, rather sharply.  “I’m making some fritters.  They will taste good this cold night.”

“Couldn’t I help?” asked Rachel.

“Oh, you must be tired enough without doing any more.  It’s a good thing you have all your belongings housed.  The garret doesn’t leak.”

“Yes, I am thankful.  I really did not think there was so much.”

There was a savory fragrance in the sitting-room.  Chilian came in, looking weary with his long ride.

“It is almost wintry cold,” he said, holding his hands to the fire.  “Have you had a nice day, little girl?”

“Yes;” glancing up with a smile.

They did justice to Bessy’s nice supper.  Chilian had seen Cousin Giles, who sent remembrances to them all, and was coming up some day to see Letty Orne’s little girl.  Chilian found there was a good deal of business to do.  For a while his days of leisure and ease would be over.

Then he brought out a Boston paper and read them some of the news.  Miss Eunice went on with her fringe.  Elizabeth was knitting a sock for Chilian out of fine linen yarn, spun by herself, and she put pretty open-work stitches all up the instep.  For imported articles were still dear, and there was a pride in the women to do all for themselves that they could.  Cynthia leaned her head on Rachel’s lap and went asleep.

“Do hear that rain!  The storm has begun in good earnest.”

It was rushing like a tramp of soldiers, flinging great sheets against the closed shutters, and the wind roared in the chimney like some prisoned spirit.

“Wake up, Cynthia, and say good-night.”

Elizabeth watched the child.  Her theory was that children should be put to bed early and not allowed to lie around on any one’s lap.  There was always a tussle of wills when you roused them.  She drew herself up with a kind of severe mental bracing and awaited the result, glad Chilian was there.

Rachel toyed with the hair, patted the soft flushed cheek, and took the hands in hers.

“Cynthia,” she said gently, “Cynthia, dear, wake up.”

The child roused, opened her eyes.  “I’m so tired,” she murmured.  “Will we never be done crossing the wide, wide ocean?  And where is Salem?”

“We are there, dear, safe and housed from the storm.  You have been asleep on my knee.  Come to bed now.  Say good-night.”

She stood the little girl up on her feet and put one arm around her.

It was against Elizabeth Leverett’s theories that any child should go off peaceably, with no snarling protest.  Chilian raised his book a little, hoping in the depths of his soul there would be no scene.

“Say good-night.”

No child of Puritan training, with the fear of the rod before her eyes, could have done better.  She said good-night in a very sleepy tone, and slipped her arm about Rachel’s waist as they left the room together.

No one made any comment at first.  Then Eunice said, in what she made a casual tone: 

“She seems a very tractable child.”

“You can’t tell by one instance.  Children of that age are always self-willed.  And allowing a child to lie around one’s lap, when she should have said her prayers and gone to bed at the proper hour, is a most reprehensible habit.  And I don’t suppose she ever says a prayer.”

Eunice thought of the daily prayers for her father’s safe journey.  Would that be set down as a sort of idolatry?

Chilian picked up his papers; he had grown fastidious, and rarely left his belongings about to annoy Elizabeth.  Eunice rolled up her work and dropped it in the bag that hung on the post of her chair, straightened up a few things, stood the logs in the corner and put up the wire fender, so there should be no danger of fire; while Elizabeth set all things straight in the kitchen.

Cynthia meanwhile was undressed and mounted the steps to the high bed.  Then she flung her arms about Rachel’s neck.

“Oh, come and sleep in my bed to-night!” she cried pleadingly.  “It’s so big and lonesome, that I am afraid.  I wish it was like your little bed.  They were so cunning on the ship.  I don’t like this one, where you have to go upstairs to get in it.  Oh, do come!”

And Elizabeth Leverett would have been shocked if she could have seen the child cuddled up in her attendant’s arms.  Theoretically, she believed Holy Writ “He hath made of one blood all nations.”  Practically she made many exceptions.