Read CHAPTER XV - LOVERS AND LOVERS of A Little Girl in Old Salem , free online book, by Amanda Minnie Douglas, on ReadCentral.com.

“Take me home with you, Cousin Chilian,” she pleaded, when he came in the next day.

“But I thought” he studied her in surprise.

“I want to go home,” she interrupted, and her under lip had a quiver in it that would have disarmed almost any one, persuaded as well.

“Why, yes.  Didn’t you enjoy the party?” He felt suddenly at loss, he was not used to translating moods with all his knowledge.

“Oh, it was delightful!  And some such pretty girls.  There were new dances.  And Mrs. Stevens is charming.  Anthony came over a little while.”

In spite of inducements held out, she would go.  Cousin Giles was almost cross about it.

“I’m so glad to get back,” she said to Rachel.  “One feels so safe here.”

“Was there any danger?” laughed the elder.

Cynthia’s face was scarlet.  It wasn’t danger exactly, but she felt better under Cousin Chilian’s wing.  And she was her bright gay self all the evening.

But how to get her story told?  For if Mr. Saltonstall came and asked for her company, as they termed it then, and not being warned, he should consent

They sat by the study fire.  It had turned out cold and cloudy, with indications of snow.  He had a lamp near him on the small table, and read and thought, as his glance wandered dreamily over the leaping flashing blue and yellow flames.  If it stormed for one or two days, she could not have come home.

She rose presently and came and stood by him, laid her hand lightly on his shoulder.  She was a young lady now, and it was hardly proper to draw her down on his knee.

“Cousin Chilian;” hesitatingly.

“Well, dear?” in an inquiring tone.

“There is something I ought to tell you, and I want to ask you to to do oh, I hardly know how to say it.  Mr. Saltonstall came down; he and Mrs. Stevens are old friends ”

Ah, he knew now.  This young man had dared to invade the virginal sweetness of her soul, to trouble the quiet stream of girlhood.  He was roused, strangely angry, for all his placid temperament.

“I couldn’t help it just before he went away and I couldn’t have dreamed of such a thing ”

Then she hid her head down on his shoulder and cried.

“Dear my dear little girl oh, yes, it would have to happen sometime.  And he loves you.”

“Oh, that isn’t the worst;” illogically, between her sobs.  “He is coming to ask you if he may and I don’t want him to come that way.  I just want it as it was before.  Polly Upham can’t think or talk of anything but her intended, and it gets tiresome.  He doesn’t seem so very wonderful to me.  And wouldn’t it weary you to hear me praising some one all the time?”

“I think it would,” he answered honestly, yet with some confusion of mind.

“So I don’t want it;” with more courage in her voice.  “I want good times with them all.  And I don’t see how you can come to love any one all in a moment.”

Was he hearing aright?  Didn’t she really want the young man for a lover?  He was unreasonably, fatuously glad, and the pulses, that were chilled a moment ago, seemed to race hot through his body.

“It was not quite marriage?” a little huskily.

“He wanted to ask if he might have the right to come, and he said he loved me, and, oh, I am afraid ”

She was trembling.  He could feel it where she leaned against him.  He took sudden courage.

“And you do not want him to come in that way?  It would most likely lead to an engagement.  And then I should have to listen to his praises continually.  Yes, it would be rather hard on me;” and he laughed with a humorous sound.

It heartened her a good deal.  She was smiling now herself, but there were tears on her cheek.

“And you won’t mind telling him; that is not very much, that ”

“I think you are too young to decide such a grave matter, Cynthia,” he began seriously.  “And you ought to have a glad, sweet youth.  There is no reason why you should rush into marriage.  You have a pleasant home with those that love you ”

“And I don’t want to go away.  I feel as if I would like to live here always.  You are so good and indulgent, and Cousin Eunice is so nice, now that she doesn’t seem afraid of any one.  Were we all afraid of Cousin Elizabeth?  And we have such nice talks.  She tells me about the old times and what queer thoughts people had, and how hard they were.  And about girls whose lovers went away to sea and never came back, and how they watched and waited, and sometimes we cry over them.  And the house is so cheerful, and I can have all the flowers I want, and friends coming in, and, oh, I shall never want to go away, because I shall never love any one as well as you.”

That was very sweet, but it was a girl’s innocence, and her face did not change color in the admission.

“Well, I will explain the matter to Mr. Saltonstall.  I am glad you told me, otherwise I should hardly have known your wishes on the subject.  And now we will go on having good times together, and count out lovers.”

“Yes, yes.”  She gave his hand a squeeze and was her own happy self, not feeling half as sorry for the man who would come to be denied as he did.

It snowed furiously the next morning, and sullenly the day after.  Then it was cold, and she said half a dozen times a day she was so glad she came home.

She did not see Mr. Saltonstall when he called, and she really did miss him at two little companies.  Then she wondered if she oughtn’t give one, she had gone to so many.

“Why, yes,” Cousin Chilian answered.  She might have turned the house upside down so long as she was going to stay in it.

Then she wondered if she ought to invite him.  Mrs. Lynde and she were very good friends, and she should ask Avis, of course.  They spoke they were not ill friends.

Chilian considered.  “Yes, I think I would,” he made answer.

They had a merry time and danced on the beautiful rugs, and had a fine supper.  And Mr. Saltonstall was glad to be friends.  She was young and presently she might think of lovers.  He would try and keep his chance good.

Anthony came now and then and spent a Sunday with them.  He loved to hear Cousin Chilian read Greek verses, but the pretty love odes seemed to mean Cynthia, and he used to watch her.  Then Ben Upham was a visitor as well, and used to play checkers with her, as that was considered quite a good exercise for one’s brains.

Polly would be married in the spring, Alice Turner in June.  The Turners were always besieging her for a two or three days’ visit, and the Turner young men hovered round her.  She never seemed to do anything, she never demanded attention, but when she glanced up at them, or smiled, they followed her as the children did the Pied Piper.  She might have led them into dangerous places, but she was very simple of heart.  Yet the danger was alluring to them.

Polly came to her for a good deal of counsel.  When there were two patterns of sleeves, which should she take?

“Why, I’d have the India silk made with this and the English gingham with that you see it will iron so much easier.  Miss Grayson does up the puffs on a shirring cord, then you can let them out in the washing.”

“That’s a fine idea.  You do have such splendid ideas, Cynthy.”

“They are mostly Rachel Winn’s,” laughed the young girl.

They had a capable woman in the kitchen now.  Cynthia should have been mastering the high art of housekeeping, people thought, instead of running about so much and driving round in the pony carriage with Miss Winn, or a girl companion.  Of course, there was plenty of money, but one never quite knew what would happen.

John Loring was building his house as people who could did in those days.  They would not be able to finish it all inside, and there was a nook left for an addition when they needed it.  Polly was to have some of grandmother’s furniture, and John’s mother would provide a little.  Corner cupboards were quite a substitute in those days for china closets, and window-seats answered for chairs.  But there was bedding and napery, and no one thought of levying on friends.  Relatives looked over their stock and bestowed a few articles.  Cynthia thought of the stores in the old house and wished she might donate them.  She did pick out some laces from her store, and two pretty scarfs, one of which Polly declared would be just the thing to trim her wedding hat, which was of fine Leghorn.  So she would only have to buy the feather.

They haunted the stores and occasionally picked up a real bargain.  Even at that period shoppers did not throw their money broadcast.

“Cynthia Leverett is the sweetest girl I know,” Polly said daily, and Bentley was of the same opinion.

They were to stand at the wedding.

“And I want you to wear that beautiful frock that you had when Laura Manning was married.  I shall only have two bridesmaids, you and Betty, but I want you to look your sweetest.”

And surely she did.  They had a very nice wedding party and the next day Polly went to her own house and had various small tea-drinkings, and she arranged them for Saturday so Bentley could come up.  They were wonderfully good friends, but Cynthia felt as if she had outgrown him.  In her estimation he was just a big friendly boy that one could talk to familiarly.  Anthony was more backward in the laughter and small-talk.

Then there was the college degree.  There was no such great fuss made over commencement then, no grand regattas, no inter-collegiate athletics, for it was a rather serious thing to begin a young man’s life and look forward to marriage.

He went straight to Mr. Chilian.  It was the proper thing to be fortified with the elders’ consent.  Of course, he would not marry in some time yet, but if he could be her “company” and speak presently they had been such friends.

Chilian studied the honest young fellow, whose face was in a glow of hope.  So young to dream of love and plan for the future!

“You are both too young;” and his voice had a bit of sharpness in it.  “Cynthia is not thinking of such things.”

“But one can think of them.  They begin somehow and go into your very life.  I believe I’ve loved her a long while.”

“I think neither of you really know what love is.  No, I cannot consent to it.  I want her to go on having a good free time without any anxiety.  I have some right to her, being her guardian.”

“But I will wait I didn’t mean to ask her immediately.”

“We are going on a journey presently.  I cannot have her disturbed with this.  No, your attention must be devoted to business for the next two years.”

He drew a long breath.  “But you don’t mean I must break off everything?” and there was an unsteadiness in his voice.

“Oh, no.  Not if you can keep to the old friendliness.”

Then Chilian Leverett dropped into his easy-chair and thought.  The child had grown very dear to him, she was a gift from her father.  A tumultuous, uncomprehended pain wrenched his very soul.  To live without her to miss her everywhere!  To have lonely days, longer lonely evenings when the dreariness of winter set in.  And yet she had a right to the sweet, rich draught of love.  But she did not need it amid all the pleasures of youth.  Let her have two or three years, even if it was blissful thoughtlessness.  But he must put her on her guard.  A young fellow soon changed his mind.  The old couplet sang itself in his brain: 

“If she be not fair for me,
What care I how fair she be?”

Did he get over his early love and forget?  We all say, “But ours was different.”

How to find the right moment?  Ben did not come over.  She was very busy with this friend and that, youth finds so many interests.  But one evening, when they were sitting on the porch in the moonlight, the young fellow walked slowly along, glanced at them, halted.

She flew down to the gate.

“Oh, Ben, what has happened?” she cried, the most bewitching anxiety in her face.  “Why, you have not been in for weeks.”

“Not quite two weeks.”  Had it seemed so long to her?  To him it had been months.

“Oh, come in.  Cousin Chilian will be glad to see you.”

The radiant cordiality in her face unnerved him.

“And you?” Yes, he must know.

“Do you have to ask that question?”

The sweet, dangerous eyes said too much, but the smile was that of amusement.

So they walked up the path together.  Mr. Leverett greeted him in a friendly manner.

“I thought I ought to come in and say good-bye.  I’m going off on some business for father, and may not be back for several weeks.”

“That sounds as if you needed an apology for coming at all,” she commented with half-resentful gayety.

He flushed and made no immediate reply.

“And we are going to take a journey as well.  Up somewhere in Maine.  Mr. Giles Leverett insists we shall, for our health, but I think it is our delightful company.  He has to go to look after a large estate where some people think of founding a town.  Isn’t it funny?” and she gave her bewitching laugh that was like the notes of silver bells, soft, yet clear.  “They must go off and build up new places.  And some people are going West, as if there wasn’t room here.  Have you noticed that we are overcrowded?”

“Well, sometimes along the docks it looks that way.”

“I like a good many people.  Often Merrits’ is crowded, and it’s funny to catch bits of sentences.  And at Plummer’s as well.  Did you ever read right across the paper, one line in each column, and notice the odd and twisted-up sense it made?  That’s about the way it sounds.”

How bright and charming she was!  Ben could not keep his eyes from her radiant face.  Was she really a coquette, Chilian wondered.  Yet she was so simple with it all, so seemingly careless of the effect.  That was the danger of it.

He lingered like one entranced.  Poor young lad!  Chilian began to feel sorry for him.

She walked down to the gate with him, and hoped they would have a nice time when autumn came, if he meant to stay in Salem.

A young man not in love would have called her a bright, merry, chatty girl.  He went away with the consciousness that she liked him very much.  Chilian asked her if she did.

She glanced up wonderingly.

“Why he is nice, and being Polly’s brother makes it well, more familiar.  Then we can talk about Anthony.  I believe he didn’t like him much at first, but he does now.”

Oh, how could he put her on her guard!  She was not dreaming of love.  Saltonstall’s fancy had died out no doubt this would, too.  Lad’s love.  Was it worth ruffling up the sunny artlessness?  But he would watch the young men closer now that he knew the danger line.

He said simply to himself that he could not give her up to any one else so soon.  There would be a long life of joy and satisfaction to her, and he knew she would not grudge him these few years.  Then, too, he was quite certain she had not even had an imaginary fancy for these two men Ben was nothing but a boy.

Anthony Drayton was to join them.  Miss Winn was to be Cynthia’s companion.  Mrs. Stevens had refused to trust her precious self to any wilds, and bear and wolf hunts, though Mr. Giles declared they were not going to take guns along.  He was not an enthusiastic hunter.  As for Chilian, such sport did not attract him.

The journey was partly by stage, partly on horseback, and one or two days they left the ladies at the tavern where they stopped.  Cynthia was charmed and amused at the uncouthness of the people and their dialect in some places, and positive good breeding in others.  Anthony unearthed a college chum who was tally man at a sawmill.  The new town was really making progress.  A small chapel had been started, a schoolhouse built.  And twenty years later it was a pretty town; in fifty years an enterprising city.

“Anthony’s going to be a first-class fellow.  I should like to have such a son.  Chilian, you and I should have married and have sons and daughters growing up.  But at my time of life I should want them grown up.  And smart, as well.  I always feel sorry for the fathers of dull lads, when they have plenty of means to educate them.  Yes, I should want mine to have a good supply of brains.”

Chilian Leverett enjoyed the change very much and the breath of spruce and pine was invigorating.  But there was a little nervous feeling about Cynthia.  Cousin Giles was somewhat of a lady’s man, and he was on the continual lookout that Cynthia should not tire herself unduly, that she be assisted over the rough places, that she should have the best of everything.  He was almost jealous at times.

But Cynthia moved about gayly, serenely, full of merry little quips, seizing the small ridiculous events with such a sense of amusement that she inspirited them all.  And he could not notice that she paid any more attention to Anthony than either of her seniors.  There was such a genuine frankness in all she said and did, a charm of manner that was just herself, and had none of the arts of society, but came from a heart that overflowed with spontaneous warmth, but was not directed to any particular person.

Cousin Giles declared he was sorry to get back to Boston.  He could not remember when he had enjoyed such a good time.  Then in a business way it had been a success, which added to his satisfaction.

They really had to stay in Boston one night.  They would fain have kept Cynthia for a week, but she said she was tired of just changing from one frock to another, and longed for more variety.

“And I’m so glad to get back home again,” she cried delightedly.  “I’ve had a splendid time, and I like Anthony ever so much.  Cousin Giles was so nice and fatherly.  He ought to adopt Anthony and give him his name, and that would always make me think of father.  But after all, home is best.  Oh, suppose I was a waif, just being handed from one to another!”

She looked frightened with the imaginary lot.  She expressed emotions so easily.

“You couldn’t have been;” hoarsely.

“Cousin Chilian, if you had not been in the world, or if you hadn’t been willing to take me I don’t think father knew much about Cousin Giles why, I must have gone to strangers.”

There were tears in her eyes, and a sweet melancholy in her voice.

She had so much to tell Cousin Eunice that it seemed really as if she had taken the journey with them.  She put on Jane’s faded gingham sunbonnet and gave her voice a queer nasal twang, and talked as some of the women did up there in the wilderness, who thought a city “must be an awfully crowdy place an’ she jes’ didn’t see how people managed to live in it.  An’ as fer the sea, give her dry land every time.”

Then she talked the French-English patois of the emigrants from Canada, and told of their funny attire, and their log huts, sometimes with only one big room, with a stone chimney in the centre, and sawed logs for seats.

“They did that in Salem nigh on to two hundred years ago,” said Cousin Eunice.

“How much people do learn by living,” remarked the little girl sagely.

Then the olden round began.  Being asked out to tea and inviting in return, sewing bees, quilting parties when some girl was making an outfit.  And though the elders shook their heads at such a waste of time, they went out to walk in the afternoon and stopped in the shops that were making a show on Essex Street and Federal Street.  There was Miss Rust’s pretty millinery parlor it had a sofa in the front room and a table with an embroidered cover that Cynthia had sent her.  They talked of new styles and colors, and were aghast at the thought that royalty sometimes had as many as twenty hats and bonnets.  She made pretty old lady caps as well, and she did love to hear the young girls chatter.  And Molly Saunders was still baking gingerbread, that had delighted them as school children, and no one made such good spruce and sassafras beer.

One evening at a dance she had a great surprise.  Some one said, “Miss Cynthia Leverett, Mr. Marsh.”

A rather tall, ruddy, good-looking fellow, with laughing eyes and an unmistakable sailor air, held her dainty hand and studied her face.

“Oh, you don’t know me!” in the jolliest of tones.  “And I should know you if you had been cast ashore on a rocky island and I were looking at you through a spyglass.  You haven’t changed in the main, only to grow prettier.  You were a poor pale little thing then.”

“Oh, I can’t think!” She flushed and smiled.  Something in the hearty voice won her.

“At Dame Wilby’s school.  And the bad boy who sat behind you Tommy Marsh.”

“Oh! oh!  And that day I sat on the floor!” She laughed gayly.  She did not mind it a bit now.

“Wasn’t it funny?  And the way you just sat still with the school in an uproar.  You standing up there and ‘sassing’ back the old dame!  Such a mite of a thing, too.  My! but you were a plucky one!” in admiration.  “And you never came to school after that.  I ought to get down on my knees and beg your pardon for the sly pinches I gave you, and the times I tweaked your curly hair.  I’ve half a mind to do it.”

“Oh, no!” and she made a funny gesture of alarm, and both laughed.

“And I’ve been over there to India, where you came from, and found some people who knew your father.  I’ve been to sea seven years, three on this last cruise, and when the Vixen is repaired and refitted I’m going out again as first mate.  One of these days I shall be a captain.”

How proud and strong he looked.  Why, one couldn’t help liking him.

“I wonder if I might dance with you?”

“Oh, do you dance?  I thought sailors and there are no girls ” and she blushed at her incoherence.

“I think we do a little.  Where did you get the Sailor’s Hornpipe from?  We’re sorry about not having girls, but we make it answer.  And when you get in the doldrums, or becalmed, it stirs up your blood.  Oh, they are taking their places.”

Ben was in the same quadrille.  Every time he touched her hand he gave it a pressure that made her cheeks rosier.  Altogether it was a delightful evening.

Cousin Chilian came for her.  He had found she preferred it.

“Oh, Cousin Chilian, I’ve had such a funny adventure.  Perhaps you can recall the little boy I really hated that week I went to the dame’s school.  Well, he is a nice big fellow now, and we had a talk, and he has been to Calcutta and seen people who knew father.  I want him to come so we can have a good long talk, and won’t you ask him?  You’ll like him, I know.  I’ll find him and bring him to you, and you can ask him to come while I’m putting on my things.”

She hunted him up and he was very pleased to meet Mr. Leverett.  She gave them quite a while, for she was chatting with the girls about some weddings on the tapis.

She gave Mr. Marsh her hand and a smile that would have set almost any masculine heart beating.  It must have been born with her, though it was pitifully appealing in the childhood days.  Now the true, sweet nature shone through it, lending it a fascinating radiance.

Mr. Leverett said he should be glad to have him call while he was in port, and the young man thanked him and said he should give himself the pleasure.

“And when he does come,” said the little lady in her half-coaxing, half-imperious way, “can’t we have him up in the study?  You see, it does very well for half a dozen of us to be down in the parlor, but it gets kind of stiff and not cheerful with just one.  And you’ll like to talk to him.”

He assented readily.  Ben always came up in the study, though now he would rather have been alone with Cynthia.  There were some things he meant to say, if he ever had a chance, in spite of youth and guardianship.

Mr. Marsh did not lose much time considering.  The very next week he called.

They found him a nice, agreeable, well-informed young man, a true sailor lad, and like many a Yankee boy, he kept adding to his stock of knowledge where-ever he went.  He had drawn some useful charts of seaports and islands he knew about, their products and climates, and really his descriptions were as good as a geography.

“There’s no doubt Salem has the lead in the foreign trade, but we’re going to be pushed hard the next few years.  Other cities have found out the profit in it.  But we’ve some of the best captains, and that’s what I mean to be myself.”

At Calcutta they still held a warm remembrance of Captain Anthony Leverett.  And Marsh thought it quite a wonderful thing that the little girl had gone back and forth and braved all the perils.  He told them of a pirate ship they had once battled with and the rich stores they had taken from her.  The prisoners had been left on an island.

“But how would they get to their homes?” she asked.

“Oh, that wasn’t our lookout.  They’d have done the same thing to us if they could, maybe worse.  Occasionally vessels are wrecked, and sometimes it is months before a ship goes that way and sees their signal.”

Yes, she was glad nothing of the kind had happened to her.  And Chilian, watching the little shiver, gave thanks also.

Thomas Marsh enjoyed these evenings wonderfully.  He was always glancing at Cynthia to see if what he said met with her approval.  It seemed so strangely sweet to be thrilled at the tones of her voice and the touch of her hand.  And when she looked up and smiled, the blood surged to his brain.  He was quite a favorite with the girls, but no other one had that power over him.

Of course, they met here and there at the different companies he never went unless she was sure to be there, and if he asked she answered frankly.  Cousin Chilian took her down to see the Vixen, which was nearly ready for her new cruise.  He was very proud of her, so was Captain Langfelt, and they had some tea in the cabin.  But some sudden knowledge came to Chilian Leverett, and he was sincerely glad the young man was going away.

The evening Thomas Marsh came in to say good-bye, she was alone.

“You’ll find Miss Cynthia up in the study,” said Jane, and thither he went two steps at a time.  She had on a soft gown, and he thought she looked like some lovely flower as she rose to greet him.

“I believe we are to sail to-morrow.  Stores and cargo are all in, and now the captain is in haste to be off.  Come down about eleven in the morning and wish me God-speed, a safe journey, and a happy return.”

“Yes.  We were talking of it to-day.  Oh, I hope you will have all, though a great many things happen in three years.”  Neither of them, indeed no one, could have predicted what was to happen in those eventful three years.

They discussed the pleasant times, the girls and boys who had grown up and married during the whole seven years of his absence.  Oh, how sweet and pretty she was!  He envied the boys like Bentley Upham and two or three others who had business at home but no, he never could have been anything but a sailor.

Then he rose to go.  He stood holding her hand and the red and white kept flitting over her face, her eyes were so soft and dark.  They would haunt him many a night on the deck.

“It’s best that I am going so soon,” he began in a rather tremulous voice.  “Do you remember what your uncle was reading the other day about the man who wanted to be lashed to the mast when they passed the Syrens?  It would be that way with me if I staid much longer.  I I wouldn’t be able to help loving you, and I doubt whether it would be a good thing for either of us.  I’ve tried all along to keep it to a plain, honest like, but I know now it is more than that.  I shall take away with me the remembrance of the sweetest girl in all the world, and I have no right to spoil her life.  But sometimes maybe you’ll think of a far-away lad, who sends you his love and the best wishes for your happiness with the man you will love best of all.”

Then he pressed her hand to his lips and went slowly down the stairs.  She heard the door shut.  And, foolish girl, she sat down and cried, and there Cousin Chilian found her, and had to listen and absolve.

“No,” he said, “it would not do for you to have a sailor lad.  Your tender heart would break with the anxiety.  He’s a nice, upright fellow, and he will never shirk a duty.  But you ” What should he say to her?

“I want to stay here.  Oh, I wonder if you will like me when I get as old as Cousin Eunice, and the world will change and improve and I shall be queer and old-fashioned?”

He held her in his arms, but he was shocked to find what was in his own heart.