The June sun, lighting up the yard of the big white house, lights up a pretty scene. To begin with, the yard is pretty in itself, with its stretch of emerald lawn, its trim gravel sweep, its linden tree, in which the bees are humming, its fragrant masses of purple lilac; but though one feels all these things, one looks at the people in the yard. Two ladies, in light summer dresses, sitting on the steps by the kitchen door; two children, riding a pony by turns, shrieking with glee. Both ladies are good to look at: one, she in the pale green muslin, is so lovely that it takes one's breath; like a dark lily, with her pale clear skin, her shadowy hair and eyes, her bending grace and languor. The other contrasts with her prettily enough: a tall, powerful young creature, vigor in every line of her, color flashing in her red-gold hair, in her dark blue eyes, in the shell-pink of her cheeks. She is in white, as befits her; this type should wear white always. A white dimity gown, made with absolute simplicity, this again contrasting with the green muslin, which is flounced and ruffled and lace-trimmed, as if the lily had clad herself in [pg 2] fronds of the lady fern. The two are talking earnestly together, their eyes on the shouting children.
"No, Eleanor! no! you are wrong. Kitty shall know nothing, if I can help it, but what is lovely. Think of St. Paul: 'Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.' My Kitty shall think on these things, and on nothing else."
"Very well, my dear! but that will never do for my Tom. He must worship the God of things as they are. The public school for Tommy, the very minute he strikes six! He must rub shoulders with the ashman's children, the washerwoman's, the——"
"Eleanor! Kitty shall never know that the washerwoman has any children! She shall not touch, if I can help it, anything that is rude or squalid or ugly. No, no! My little flower shall be 'a gentlewoman of high quality'! And she shall marry the Duke of Lee, and go to the King's levee, or at least to the President's. I don't dare to say, you fierce republican, that I wish we had a King! Come here, Kitty my Pretty, and dance the 'Duke of Lee' with Tommy! He shall be the duke—you'd love to be a duke, wouldn't you, Tommy? See! now Kitty is a gentlewoman of high quality, and she picks up her petticoats—pick them up, Kitty!—and you make a low bow, so! left hand on your heart, Tom, right hand on your sword—so! Now dance, while I sing!"
The boy is perhaps eight years old, the girl six. Here, too, is contrast; Tommy Lee, a sturdy, square-shouldered, [pg 3] rosy urchin, Kitty Ross a slender windflower of a child, with all her mother's lissome grace, but with the fair hair and steady gray eyes of her father. They are both on the pony digging their heels into his side and shouting to him to "Go on! go won, Rosy Nanty!" Rosinante meanwhile, standing firm, revolving in his mind whether to rub them off gently against the fence, or to lie down and make believe go to sleep. They are his second generation of children; he knows all about them.
At the call, they slide down and come running. Everybody does what Mary Ross bids. Readily enough they take place opposite each other: they often dance together. Tom is a bit clumsy, but Kitty has grace enough for two, her mother thinks; indeed, so does Tom's mother. Now Mary Ross, leaning forward, claps her hands, and begins to sing:
"When the Duke of Lee would marriéd be To a gentlewoman of high quality, How happy would that gentlewoman be When she's blest with the duke's good company! Marry oo diddy glu, diddy glu glu glu, Diddy oo oo oo, diddy goo goo goo, Marry oo diddy goo, diddy oo oo oo, Marry oo, diddy glu, diddy glu! "And she shall have silks and satins for to wear; And a coach and six for to take the air; And she shall ride in St. James's Square; And no lady in the city shall with her compare! Marry oo, etc. [pg 4] "And she shall go to the king's levee, And dance a minuet with his majestie; And she shall the very finest be Of all the great nobility! Marry oo," etc. 1
1 - Republished by permission of The Page Company from "The Wooing of Calvin Parks" and "Up to Calvin's," by Laura E. Richards. Copyright, 1908 and 1910, respectively, by The Page Company.
"Oh! Eleanor, aren't they darlings? Aren't they darlings? They simply are the Duke and the Gentlewoman! What if—oh, Eleanor, dear!"
The little creatures dance sedately, tiptoeing here, pirouetting there. The young mothers clap their hands in time to the quaint, old-world tune. The pony stamps and whinnies, rather vexed at being left out of the fun after all. The June sun, shining through the linden branches, thinks, perhaps, that he has seen nothing prettier that day, nor for many days.
Dance, little Duke! Dance, fairy Duchess! Sing and clap your hands, sweet, dark lily-lady! It is June, in the world and in your hearts; dance and sing while yet you may!