Read CHAPTER IV - IN THE HIGH VALLEY. of In the High Valley, free online book, by Susan Coolidge, on

MEANWHILE, as the “Limited” bore the young English travellers on their western way, a good deal of preparation was going on for their benefit in that special nook of the Rocky mountains toward which their course was directed.  It was one of those clear-cut, jewel-like mornings which seem peculiar to Colorado, with dazzling gold sunshine, a cloudless sky of deep sapphire blue, and air which had touched the mountain snows somewhere in its nightly blowing, and still carried on its wings the cool pure zest of the contact.

Hours were generally early in the High Valley, but to-day they were a little earlier than usual, for every one had a sense of much to be done.  Clover Templestowe did not always get up to administer to her husband and brother-in-law their “stirrup-cup” of coffee; but this morning she was prompt at her post, and after watching them ride up the valley, and standing for a moment at the open door for a breath of the scented wind, she seated herself at her sewing-machine.  A steady whirring hum presently filled the room, rising to the floor above and quickening the movements there.  Elsie, running rapidly downstairs half an hour later, found her sister with quite a pile of little cheese-cloth squares and oblongs folded on the table near her.

“Dear me! are those the Youngs’ curtains you are doing?” she asked.  “I fully meant to get down early and finish my half.  That wretched little Phillida elected to wake up and demand ‘’tories’ from one o’clock till a quarter past two.  ‘Hence these tears.’  I overslept myself without knowing it.”

Phillida was Elsie’s little girl, two years and a half old now, and Dr. Carr’s namesake.

“How bad of her!” said Clover, smiling.  “I wish children could be born with a sense of the fitness of times and seasons.  Jeffy is pretty good as to sleeping, but he is dreadful about eating.  Half the time he doesn’t want anything at dinner; and then at half-past three, or a quarter to eight, or ten minutes after twelve, or some such uncanonical hour, he is so ragingly hungry that he can scarcely wait till I fetch him something.  He is so tiresome about his bath too.  Fancy a young semi-Britain objecting to ‘tub.’  I’ve circumvented him to-day, however, for Geoff has promised to wash him while you and I go up to set the new house in order.  Baby is always good with Geoff.”

“So he is,” remarked Elsie as she moved about giving little tidying touches here and there to books and furniture.  “I never knew a father and child who suited each other so perfectly.  Phil flirts with Clarence and he is very proud of her notice, but I think they are mutually rather shy; and he always touches her as though she were a bit of eggshell china, that he was afraid of breaking.”

The room in which the sisters were talking bore little resemblance to the bare ranch-parlor of old days.  It had been enlarged by a semi-circular bay window toward the mountain view, which made it half as long again as it then was; and its ceiling had been raised two feet on the occasion of Clarence’s marriage, when great improvements had been undertaken to fit the “hut” for the occupation of two families.  The solid redwood beams which supported the floor above had been left bare, and lightly oiled to bring out the pale russet-orange color of the wood.  The spaces between the beams were rough-plastered; and on the decoration of this plaster, while in a soft state, a good deal of time had been expended by Geoffrey Templestowe, who had developed a turn for household art, and seemed to enjoy lying for hours on his back on a staging, clad in pajamas and indenting the plaster with rosettes and sunken half-rounds, using a croquet ball and a butter stamp alternately, the whole being subsequently finished by a coat of dull gold paint.  He and Clover had themselves hung the walls with its pale orange-brown paper; a herder with a turn for carpentry had laid the new floor of narrow redwood boards.  Clover had stained the striped pattern along its edges.  In that remote spot, where trained and regular assistance could be had only at great trouble and expense, it was desirable that every one should utilize whatever faculty or accomplishment he or she possessed, and the result was certainly good.  The big, homelike room, with its well-chosen colors and look of taste and individuality, left nothing to be desired in the way of comfort, and was far prettier and more original than if ordered cut-and-dried from some artist in effects, to whom its doing would have been simply a job and not an enjoyment.

Clover’s wedding presents had furnished part of the rugs and etchings and bits of china which ornamented the room, but Elsie’s, who had married into a “present-giving connection,” as her sister Johnnie called it, did even more.  Each sister was supposed to own a private sitting-room, made out of the little sleeping-chambers of what Clarence Page stigmatized as the “beggarly bachelor days,” which were thrown together two in one on either side the common room.  Clover and Elsie had taken pains and pleasure in making these pretty and different from each other, but as a matter of fact the “private” parlors were not private at all; for the two families were such very good friends that they generally preferred to be together.  And the rooms were chiefly of use when the house was full of guests, as in the summer it sometimes was, when Johnnie had a girl or two staying with her, or a young man with a tendency toward corners, or when Dr. Carr wanted to escape from his young people and analyze flowers at leisure or read his newspaper in peace and quiet.

The big room in the middle was used by both families as a dining and sitting place.  Behind it another had been added, which served as a sort of mixed library, office, dispensary, and storage-room, and over the four, extending to the very edge of the wide verandas which flanked the house on three sides, were six large bedrooms.  Of these each family owned three, and they had an equal right as well to the spare rooms in the building which had once been the kitchen.  One of these, called “Phil’s room,” was kept as a matter of course for the use of that young gentleman, who, while nominally studying law in an office at St. Helen’s, contrived to get out to the Valley very frequently.  The interests of the party were so identical that the matter of ownership seldom came up, and signified little.  The sisters divided the house-keeping between them amicably, one supplementing the other; the improvements were paid for out of a common purse; their guests, being equally near and dear, belonged equally to all.  It was an ideal arrangement, which one quick tongue or jealous or hasty temper would have brought to speedy conclusion, but which had now lasted to the satisfaction of all parties concerned for nearly four years.

That Clarence and Elsie should fancy each other had been a secret though unconfessed dream of Clover’s ever since her own engagement, when Clarence had endeared himself by his manly behavior and real unselfishness under trying circumstances.  But these dreams are rarely gratified, and she was not at all prepared to have hers come true with such unexpected ease and rapidity.  It happened on this wise.  Six months after her marriage, when she and Geoff and Clarence, working together, had just got the “hut” into a state to receive visitors, Mr. and Mrs. Dayton, who had never forgotten or lost their interest in their pretty fellow-traveller of two years before, hearing from Mrs. Ashe how desirous Clover was of a visit from her father and sisters, wrote and asked the Carrs to go out with them in car 47 as far as Denver, and be picked up and brought back two months later when the Daytons returned from Alaska.  The girls were wild to go, it seemed an opportunity too good to be lost; so the invitation was accepted, and, as sometimes happens, the kindness shown had an unlooked-for return.  Mr. Dayton was seized with a sudden ill turn on the journey, of a sort to which he was subject, and Dr. Carr was able not only to help him at the moment, but to suggest a regimen and treatment which was of permanent benefit to him.  Doctor and patient grew very fond of each other, and every year since, when car 47 started on its western course, urgent invitations came for any or all of them to take advantage of it and go out to see Clover; whereby that hospitable housekeeper gained many visits which otherwise she would never have had, Colorado journeys being expensive luxuries.

But this is anticipating.  No visit, they all agreed, ever compared with that first one, when they were so charmed to meet, and everything was new and surprising and delightful.  The girls were enchanted with the Valley, the climate, the wild fresh life, the riding, the flowers, with Clover’s little home made pretty and convenient by such simple means, while Dr. Carr revelled in the splendid air, which seemed to lift the burden of years from his shoulders.

And presently began the excitement of watching Clarence Page’s rapid and successful wooing of Elsie.  No grass grew under his feet this time, you may be sure.  He fell in love the very first evening, deeply and heartily, and he lost no opportunity of letting Elsie know his sentiments.  There was no rival in his way at the High Valley or elsewhere, and the result seemed to follow as a matter of course.  They were engaged when the party went back to Burnet, and married the following spring, Mr. Dayton fitting up 47 with all manner of sentimental and delightful appointments, and sending the bride and bridegroom out in it, ­as a wedding present, he said, but in truth the car was a repository of wedding presents, for all the rugs and portieres and silken curtains and brass plaques and pretty pottery with which it was adorned, and the flower-stands and Japanese kakémonos, were to disembark at St. Helen’s and help to decorate Elsie’s new home.  All went as was planned, and Clarence’s life from that day to this had been, as Clover mischievously told him, one pæan of thanksgiving to her for refusing him and opening the way to real happiness.  Elsie suited him to perfection.  Everything she said and did and suggested was exactly to his mind, and as for looks, Clover was dear and nice as could be, of course, and pretty, ­well, yes, people would undoubtedly consider her a pretty little woman; but as for any comparison between the two sisters, it was quite out of the question!  Elsie had so decidedly the advantage in every point, including that most important point of all, that she preferred him to Geoff Templestowe and loved him as heartily as he loved her.  Happiness and satisfied affection had a wonderfully softening influence on Clarence, but it was equally droll and delightful to Clover to see how absolutely Elsie ruled, how the least indication of her least finger availed to mould Clarence to her will, ­Clarence, who had never yielded easily to any one else in the whole course of his life!

So the double life flowed smoothly on in the High Valley, but not quite so happily at Burnet, where Dr. Carr, bereft of four out of his six children, was left to the companionship of the steady Dorry, and what he was pleased to call “a highly precarious tenure of Miss Joanna.”  Miss Joanna was a good deal more attractive than her father desired her to be.  He took gloomy views of the situation, was disposed to snub any young man who seemed to be casting glances toward his last remaining treasure, and finally announced that when Fate dealt her last and final blow and carried off Johnnie, he should give up the practice of medicine in Burnet, and retire to the High Valley to live as physician in ordinary to the community for the rest of his days.  This prospect was so alluring to the married daughters that they turned at once into the veriest match-makers and were disposed to many Johnnie off immediately, ­it didn’t much matter to whom, so long as they could get possession of their father.  Johnnie resented these manoeuvres highly, and obstinately refused to “remove the impediment,” declaring that self-sacrifice was all very well, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t see that it was her duty to go off and be content with a dull anybody, merely for the sake of giving papa up to that greedy Clover and Elsie, who had everything in the world already and yet were not content.  She liked to be at the head of the Burnet house and rule with a rod of iron, and make Dorry mind his p’s and q’s; it was much better fun than marrying any one, and there she was determined to stay, whatever they might say or do.  So matters stood at the present time, and though Clover and Elsie still cherished little private plans of their own, nothing, so far, seemed likely to come of them.

Elsie had time to set the room in beautiful order, and Clover had nearly finished her hemming, before the sound of hoofs announced the return of the two husbands from their early ride.  They came cantering down the side pass, with appetites sharpened by exercise, and quite ready for the breakfast which Choo Loo presently brought in from the new cooking-cabin, set a little one side out of sight, in the shelter of the grove.  Choo Loo was still a fixture in the valley.  He and his methods were a puzzle and somewhat of a distress to the order-loving Clover, who distrusted not a little the ways and means of his mysteriously conducted kitchen; but servants were so hard to come by at the High Valley, and Choo Loo was so steady and faithful and his viands on the whole so good, that she judged it wise to ask no questions and not look too closely into affairs but just take the goods the gods provided, and be thankful that she had any cook at all.  Choo Loo was an amiable heathen also, and very pleased to serve ladies, who appreciated his attempts at decoration, for he had an eye for effect and loved to make things pretty.  Clover understood this and never forgot to notice and praise, which gratified Choo Loo, who had found his bachelor employers in the old days somewhat dull and unobservant in this respect.

“Missie like?” he asked this morning, indicating the wreath of wild cranberry vine round the dish of chicken.  Then he set a mound of white raspberries in the middle of the table, starred with gold-hearted brown coreopsis, and asked again, “Missie like dat?” pleased at Clover’s answering nod and smile.  Noiselessly he came and went in his white-shod feet, fetching in one dish after another, and when all was done, making a sort of dual salaam to the two ladies, and remarking “Allee yeady now,” after which he departed, his pigtail swinging from side to side and his blue cotton garments flapping in the wind as he walked across to the cook-house.

Delicious breaths of roses and mignonette floated in as the party gathered about the breakfast table.  They came from the flower-beds just outside, which Clover sedulously tended, watered, and defended from the roving cattle, which showed a provoking preference for héliotropes over penstamens whenever they had a chance to get at them.  Cows were a great trial, she considered; and yet after all they were the object of their lives in the Valley, their raison d’etre, and must be put up with accordingly.

“Do you suppose the Youngs have landed yet?” asked Elsie as she qualified her husband’s coffee with a dash of thick cream.

“They should have got in last night if the steamer made her usual time.  I dare say we shall find a telegram at St. Helen’s to-morrow if we go in,” answered her brother-in-law.

“Yes, or possibly Phil will ride out and fetch it.  He is always glad of an excuse to come.  I wonder what sort of girl Miss Young is.  You and Clover never have said much about her.”

“There isn’t much to say.  She’s just an ordinary sort of girl, ­nice enough and all that, not pretty.”

“Oh, Geoff, that’s not quite fair.  She’s rather pretty, that is, she would be if she were not stiff and shy and so very badly dressed.  I didn’t get on very much with her at Clovelly, but I dare say we shall like her here; and when she limbers out and becomes used to our ways, she’ll make a nice neighbor.”

“Dear me, I hope so,” remarked Elsie.  “It’s really quite important what sort of a girl Miss Young turns out to be.  A stiff person whom you had to see every day would be horrid and spoil everything.  The only thing we need, the only possible improvement to the High Valley, would be a few more nice people, just two or three, with pretty little houses, you know, dotted here and there in the side canyons, whom we could ride up to visit, and who would come down to see us, and dine and play whist and dance Virginia reels and ‘Sally Waters’ on Christmas Eve.  That would be quite perfect.  But I suppose it won’t happen till nobody knows how long.”

“I suppose so, too,” said Geoff in a tone of well-simulated sympathy.  “Poor Elsie, spoiling for people!  Don’t set your heart on them.  High Valley isn’t at all a likely spot to make a neighborhood of.”

“A neighborhood!  I should think not!  A neighborhood would be horrid.  But if two or three people wanted to come, ­really nice ones, you know, perfect charmers, ­surely you and Clare wouldn’t have the heart to refuse to sell them building lots?”

“We are exactly a whist quartet now,” said Clarence, patting his wife’s shoulder.  “Cheer up, dear.  You shall have your perfect charmers when they apply; but meantime changes are risky, and I am quite content with things as they are, and am ready to dance Sally Waters with you at any time with pleasure.  Might I have the honor now, for instance?”

“Indeed, no!  Clover and I have to work like beavers on the Youngs’ house.  And, Clare, we are quite a complete party in ourselves, as you say; but there are the children to be considered.  Geoffy and Phillida will want to play whist one of these days, and where is their quartet to come from?”

“We shall have to consider that point when they are a little nearer the whist age.  Here they come now.  I hear the nursery door slam.  They don’t look particularly dejected about their future prospects, I must say.”

Four pairs of eyes turned expectantly toward the staircase, down which there presently came the dearest little pair of children that can be imagined.  Clover’s boy of three was as big as most people’s boys of five, a splendid sturdy little Englishman in build, but with his mother’s lovely eyes and skin.  Phillida, whose real name was Philippa, was of a more delicate and slender make, with dark brown eyes and a mane of ruddy gold which repeated something of the tawny tints of her father’s hair and beard.  Down they came hand in hand, little Phil holding tightly to the polished baluster, chattering as they went, like two wood-thrushes.  Neither of them had ever known any other child playmates, and they were devoted to each other and quite happy together.  Little Geoff from the first had adopted a protecting attitude toward his smaller cousin, and had borne himself like a gallant little knight in the one adventure of their lives, when a stray coyote, wandering near the house, showed his teeth to the two babies, whose nurse had left them alone for a moment, and Geoff, only two then, had caught up a bit of a stick and thrown himself in front of Phillida with such a rush and shout that the beast turned and fled, before Roxy and the collies could come to the rescue.  The dogs chased the coyote up the ravine down which he had come, and he showed himself no more; but Clover was so proud of her boy’s prowess that she never forgot the exploit, and it passed into the family annals for all time.

One wonderful stroke of good-luck had befallen the young mothers in their mountain solitude, and that was the possession of Roxy and her mother Euphane.  They were sister and niece to good old Debby, who for so many years had presided over Dr. Carr’s kitchen; and when they arrived one day in Burnet fresh from the Isle of Man, and announced that they had come out for good to better their fortunes, Debby had at once devoted them to the service of Clover and Elsie.  They proved the greatest possible comfort and help to the High Valley household.  The place did not seem lonely to them, used as they were to a still lonelier cabin at the top of a steep moor up which few people ever came.  The Colorado wages seemed riches, the liberal comfortable living luxury to them, and they rooted and established themselves, just as Debby had done, into a position of trusted and affectionate helpfulness, which seemed likely to endure.  Euphane was housemaid, Roxy nurse; it already seemed as though life could never have gone on without them, and Clover was disposed to emulate Dr. Carr in objecting to “followers,” and in resenting any admiring looks cast by herders at Roxy’s rosy English cheeks and pretty blue eyes.

Little Geoff ran to his father’s knee, as a matter of course, on arriving at the bottom of the stairs, while Phillida climbed her mother’s, equally as a matter of course.  Safely established there, she began at once to flirt with Clarence, making wide coquettish eyes at him, smiling, and hiding her face to peep out and smile again.  He seized one of her dimpled hands and kissed it.  She instantly pulled it away, and hid her face again.

“Fair Phillida flouts me,” he said.  “Doesn’t baby like papa a bit?  Ah, well, he is going to cry, then.”

He buried his face in his napkin and sobbed ostentatiously.  Phillida, not at all impressed, tugged bravely at the corner of the handkerchief; but when the sobs continued and grew louder, she began to look troubled, and leaning forward suddenly, threw her arms round her father’s neck and laid her rose-leaf lips on his forehead.  He caught her up rapturously and tossed her high in air, kissing her every time she came down.

“You angel! you little angel! you little dear!” he cried, with a positive dew of pleasure in his eyes.  “Elsie, what have we ever done to deserve such a darling?”

“I really don’t know what you have done,” remarked Elsie, coolly; “but I have done a good deal.  I always was meritorious in my way, and deserve the best that is going, even Phillida.  She is none too good for me.  Come back, baby, to your exemplary parent.”

She rose to recapture the child; but Clarence threw a strong arm about her, still holding Phillida on his shoulder, and the three went waltzing merrily down the room, the little one from her perch accenting the dance time with a series of small shouts.  Little Geoff looked up soberly, with his mouth full of raspberries, and remarked, “Aunty, I didn’t ever know that people danced at breakfast.”

“No more did I,” said Elsie, trying in vain to get away from her pirouetting husband.

“No more does any one outside this extraordinary valley of ours,” laughed Geoff.  “Now, partner, if you have finished your fandango, allow me to remind you that there are a hundred and forty head of cattle waiting to be branded in the upper valley, and that Manuel is to meet us there at ten o’clock.”

“And we have the breakfast things to wash, and a whole world to do at the Youngs’,” declared Elsie, releasing herself with a final twirl.  “Now, Clare dear, order Marigold and Summer-Savory, please, to be brought down in half an hour, and tell old Jose that we want him to help and scrub.  No, young man, not another turn.  These sports are unseemly on such a busy day as this.  ’Dost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not suspect my years?’ as the immortal W. would say.  I am twenty-five, ­nearly twenty-six, ­and am not to be whisked about thus.”

Everybody went everywhere on horseback in the High Valley, and the gingham riding-skirts and wide-brimmed hats hung always on the antlers, ready to hand, beside water-proofs and top-coats.  Before long the sisters were on their way, their saddle-pockets full of little stores, baskets strapped behind them, and the newly made curtains piled on their laps.  The distance was about a mile to the house which Lionel Young and his sister were to inhabit.

It stood in a charming situation on the slope of one of the side canyons, facing the high range and backed by a hillside clothed with pines.  In build it was very much such a cabin as the original hut had been, ­six rooms, all on one floor, the sixth being a kitchen.  It was newly completed, and sawdust and fresh shavings were littered freely about the place.  Clover’s first act was to light a fire in the wide chimney for burning these up.

“It looks bare enough,” she remarked, sweeping away industriously.  “But it will be quite easy to make it pleasant if Imogen Young has any faculty at that sort of thing.  I’m sure it’s a great deal more promising than the Hut was before Clarence and Geoff and I took hold of it.  See, Elsie, ­this room is done.  I think Miss Young will choose it for her bedroom, as it is rather the largest; so you might tack up the dotted curtains here while I sweep the other rooms.  And that convolvulus chintz is to cover her dress-pegs.”

“What fun a house is!” observed Elsie a moment or two later, between her hammer strokes.  “People who can get a carpenter or upholsterer to help them at any minute really lose a great deal of pleasure.  I always adored baby-houses when I was little, and this is the same thing grown up.”

“I don’t know,” replied Clover, abstractedly, as she threw a last dustpanful of chips into the fire.  “It is good fun, certainly; but out here one has so much of it that sometimes it comes under the suspicion of being hard work.  Now, when Jose has the kitchen windows washed it will all be pretty decent.  We can’t undertake much beyond making the first day or two more comfortable.  Miss Young will prefer to make her own plans and arrangements; and I don’t fancy she’s the sort of girl who will enjoy being too much helped.”

“Somehow I don’t get quite an agreeable idea of Miss Young from what you and Geoffrey say of her.  I do hope she isn’t going to make herself disagreeable.”

“Oh, I’m sure she won’t do that; but there is a wide distance between not being disagreeable and being agreeable.  I didn’t mean to give you an unpleasant impression of her.  In fact, my recollections about her are rather indistinct.  We didn’t see a great deal of her when we were at Clovelly, or perhaps it was that Isabel and I were out so much and there was so much coming and going.”

“But are not she and Isabel very intimate?”

“I think so; but they are not a bit alike.  Isabel is delightful.  I wish it were she who was coming out.  You would love her.  Now, my child, we must begin on the kitchen tins.”

It was an all-day piece of work which they had undertaken, and they had ordered dinner late accordingly, and provided themselves with a basket of sandwiches.  By half-past five all was fairly in order, ­the windows washed, the curtains up, kitchen utensils and china unpacked and arranged, and the somewhat scanty supply of furniture placed to the best advantage.

“There!  Robinson Crusoe would consider himself in clover; and even Miss Young can exist for a couple of days, I should think,” said Elsie, standing back to note the effect of the last curtain.  “Lionel will have to go in to St. Helen’s and get a lot of things out before it will be really comfortable, though.  There come the boys now to ride home with us.  No, there is only one horse.  Why, it is Phil!”

Phil indeed it was, but such a different Phil from the delicate boy whom Clover had taken out to Colorado six years before.  He was now a broad-shouldered, muscular, athletic young fellow, full of life and energy, and showing no trace of the illness which at that time seemed so menacing.  He gave a shout when he caught sight of his sisters, and pushed his broncho to a gallop, waving a handful of envelopes high in air.

“This despatch came last night for Geoff,” he explained, dismounting, “and there were a lot of letters besides, so I thought I’d better bring them out.  I left the newspapers and the rest at the house, and fetched your share on.  Euphane told me where you two were.  So this is where the young Youngs are going to live, is it?”

He stepped in at the door and took a critical survey of the interior, while Clover and Elsie examined their letters.

“This telegram is for Geoff,” explained Clover.  “The Youngs are here,” and she read: ­

Safely landed.  We reach Denver Thursday morning‚

“So they will get here on Thursday afternoon.  It’s lucky we came up to-day.  My letters are from Johnnie and Cecy Slack.  Johnnie says ­”

She was interrupted by a joyful shriek from Clover, who had torn open her letter and was eagerly reading it.

“Oh, Elsie, Elsie, what do you think is going to happen?  The most enchanting thing!  Rose Red is coming out here in August!  She and Mr. Browne and Roeslein!  Was there ever anything so nice in this world!  Just hear what she says:” ­

BOSTON, June 30.

MY DUCKY-DADDLES AND MY DEAR ELSIE GIRL, ­I have something so wonderful to tell that I can scarcely find words in which to tell it.  A kind Providence and the A. T. and S. F. R. R. have just decided that Deniston must go to New Mexico early in August.  This would not have been at all delightful under ordinary circumstances, for it would only have meant perspiration on his part and widowhood on mine, but most fortunately, some angels with a private car of their own have turned up, and have asked all three of us to go out with them as far as Santa Fe.  What do you think of that?  It is not the Daytons, who seem only to exist to carry you to and fro from Burnet to Colorado free of expense, this time, but another batch of angels who have to do with the road, ­name of Hopkinson.  I never set eyes on them, but they appear to my imagination equipped with the largest kind of wings, and nimbuses round their heads as big as shade-hats.

I have always longed to get out somehow to your Enchanted Valley, and see all your mysterious husbands and babies, and find out for myself what the charm is that makes you so wonderfully contented there, so far from West Cedar Street and the other centres of light and culture, but I never supposed I could come unless I walked.  But now I am coming!  I do hope none of you have the small-pox, or pleuro-pneumonia, or the “foot-and-mouth disease” (whatever that is), or any other of the ills to which men and cattle are subject, and which will stand in the way of the visit.  Deniston, of course, will be forced to go right through to Santa Fe, but Roeslein and I are at your service if you like to have us.  We don’t care for scenery, we don’t want to see Mexico or the Pacific coast, or the buried cities of Central America, or the Zuni corn dance, ­if there is such a thing, ­or any alkaline plains, or pueblos, or buttes, or buffalo wallows; we only want to see you, individually and collectively, and the High Valley.  May we come and stay a fortnight?  Deniston thinks he shall be gone at least as long as that.  We expect to leave Boston on the 31st of July.  You will know what time we ought to get to St. Helen’s, ­I don’t, and I don’t care, so only we get there and find you at the station.  Oh, my dear Clovy, isn’t it fun?

I have seen several of our old school-set lately, Esther Dearborn for one.  She is Mrs. Joseph P. Allen now, as you know, and has come to live at Chestnut Hill, quite close by.  I had never seen her since her marriage, nearly five years since, till the other day, when she asked me out to lunch, and introduced me to Mr. Joseph P., who seems a very nice man, and also ­now don’t faint utterly, but you will! to their seven children!  He had two of his own when they married, and they have had two pairs of twins since, and “a singleton,” as they say in whist.  Such a houseful you never did see; but the twins are lovely, and Esther looks very fat and happy and well-to-do, and says she doesn’t mind it a bit, and sees more clearly every day that the thing she was born for was to take the charge of a large family.  Her Joseph P. is very well off, too.  I should judge that they “could have cranberry sauce every day and never feel the difference,” which an old cousin of my mother’s, whom I dimly remember as a part of my childhood, used to regard as representing the high-water mark of wealth.

Mary Strothers has been in town lately, too.  She has only one child, a little girl, which seems miserably few compared with Esther, but on the other hand she has never been without neuralgia in the face for one moment since she went to live in the Hoosac Tunnel, she told me, so there are compensations.  She seems happy for all that, poor dear Mary.  Ellen Gray never has married at all, you know.  She goes into good works instead, girls’ Friendlies and all sorts of usefulnesses.  I do admire her so much, she is a standing reproach and example to me.  “Wish I were a better boy,” as your brother Dorry said in his journal.

Mother is well and my father, but the house seems empty and lonely now.  We can never get used to dear grandmamma’s loss, and Sylvia is gone too.  She and Tom sailed for Europe in April, and it makes a great difference having them away, even for a summer.  My brother-in-law is such a nice fellow, I hope you will know him some day.

And all this time I have forgotten to tell you the chief news of all, which is that I have seen Katy.  Deniston and I spent Sunday before last with her at the Torpedo station.  She has a cosey, funny little house, one of a row of five or six, built on the spine, so to speak, of a narrow, steep island, with a beautiful view of Newport just across the water.  It was a superb day, all shimmery blue and gold, and we spent most of our time sitting in a shady corner of the piazza, and talking of the old times and of all of you.  I didn’t know then of this enchanting Western plan, or we should have had a great deal more to talk about.  The dear Katy looks very well and handsome, and was perfectly dear, as she always is, and she says the Newport climate suits her to perfection.  Your brother-in-law is a stunner!  I asked Katy if she wasn’t going out to see you soon, and she said not till Ned went to sea next spring, then she should go for a long visit.

Write at once if we may come.  I won’t begin on the subject of Roeslein, whom you will never know, she has grown so.  She goes about saying rapturously, “I shall see little Geoff!  I shall see Phillida!  I shall see Aunt Clovy!  Perhaps I shall ride on a horse!” You’ll never have the heart to disappoint her.  My “milk teeth are chattering with fright” at the idea of so much railroad, as one of her books says, but for all that we are coming, if you let us.  Do let us!


“Let them!  I should think so,” cried Clover, with a little skip of rapture.  “Dear, dear Rose!  Elsie, the nicest sort of things do happen out here, don’t they?”