The older one grows, the less one wonders at the sudden, inconsequent turns which an apparently reasonable person will make in a line of conduct. Still I must say that I was not prepared for what Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson did in about a week after she had declared that her daughter should never marry Harry Liscom: capitulated entirely, and gave her consent.
It was Grandma Cobb who brought us the news, coming in one morning before we had our breakfast dishes washed.
“My daughter told Harriet last night that she had written to her father and he had no objections, and that she would withdraw hers on further consideration,” said Grandma Cobb, with a curious, unconscious imitation of Mrs. Jameson's calm state of manner. Then she at once relapsed into her own. “My daughter says that she is convinced that the young man is worthy, though he is not socially quite what she might desire, and she does not feel it right to part them if they have a true affection for each other,” said Grandma Cobb. Then she added, with a shake of her head and a gleam of malicious truth in her blue eyes: “That is not the whole of it; Robert Browning was the means of bringing it about.”
“Robert Browning!” I repeated. I was bewildered, and Louisa stared at me in a frightened way. She said afterward that she thought for a minute that Grandma Cobb was out of her head.
But Grandma Cobb went on to explain. “Yes, my daughter seems to look upon Robert Browning as if everything he said was written on tables of stone,” said she; “and last night she had a letter from Mrs. Addison Sears, who feels just the same way. My daughter had written her about Harriet's love affair, and this was in answer. Mrs. Sears dwelt a good deal upon Mr. Browning's own happy marriage; and then she quoted passages; and my daughter became convinced that Robert Browning would have been in favor of the match,—and that settled it. My daughter proves things by Browning almost the same way as people do by Scripture, it seems to me sometimes. I am thankful that it has turned out so,” Grandma Cobb went on to say, “for I like the young man myself; and as for Harriet, her mind is set on him, and she's something like me: once get her mind set on anybody, that's the end of it. My daughter has got the same trait, but it works the contrary way: when she once gets her mind set against anybody, that's the end of it unless Robert Browning steps in to turn her.”
Louisa and I were heartily glad to hear of Mr. Browning's unconscious intercession and its effect upon Mrs. Jameson, but we wondered what Caroline Liscom would say.
“It will take more than passages of poetry to move her,” said Louisa when Grandma Cobb had gone.
All we could do was to wait for developments concerning Caroline. Then one day she came in and completely opened her heart to us with that almost alarming frankness which a reserved woman often displays if she does lose her self-restraint.
“I can't have it anyhow,” said Caroline Liscom; and I must say I did pity her, though I had a weakness for little Harriet. “I feel as if it would kill me if Harry marries that girl—and I am afraid he will; but it shall never be with my consent, and he shall never bring her to my house while I am in it.”
Then Caroline went on to make revelations about Harriet which were actually dire accusations from a New England housewife like her.
“It was perfectly awful the way her room looked while she was at my house,” said Caroline; “and she doesn't know how to do one thing about a house. She can't make a loaf of bread to save her life, and she has no more idea how to sweep a room and dust it than a baby. I had it straight from Hannah Bell that she dusted her room and swept it afterward. Think of my boy, brought up the way he has been, everything as neat as wax, if I do say it, and his victuals always cooked nice, and ready when he wanted them, marrying a girl like that. I can't and I won't have it. It's all very well now, he's captivated by a pretty face; but wait a little, and he'll find out there's something else. He'll find out there's comfort to be considered as well as love. And she don't even know how to do plain sewing. Only look at the bottoms of her dresses, with the braid hanging; and I know she never mends her stockings—I had it from the woman who washes them. Only think of my son, who has always had his stockings mended as smooth as satin, either going with holes in them, or else having them gathered up in hard bunches and getting corns. I can't and I won't have it!”
Caroline finished all her remarks with that, setting her mouth hard. It was evident that she was firm in her decision. I suggested mildly that the girl had never been taught, and had always had so much money that she was excusable for not knowing how to do all these little things which the Linnville girls had been forced to do.
“I know all that,” said Caroline; “I am not blaming her so much as I am her mother. She had better have stopped reading Browning and improving her own mind and the village, and improved her own daughter, so she could walk in the way Providence has set for a woman without disgracing herself. But I am looking at her as she is, without any question of blame, for the sake of my son. He shall not marry a girl who don't know how to make his home comfortable any better than she does—not if his mother can save him from it.”
Louisa asked timidly—we were both of us rather timid, Caroline was so fierce—if she did not think she could teach Harriet.
“I don't know whether I can or not!” said Caroline. “Anyway, I am not going to try. What kind of a plan would it be for me to have her in the house teaching her, where Harry could see her every day, and perhaps after all find out that it would not amount to anything. I'd rather try to cure drink than make a good housewife of a girl who hasn't been brought up to it. How do I know it's in her? And there I would have her right under Harry's nose. She shall never marry him; I can't and I won't have it.”
Louisa and I speculated as to whether Caroline would be able to help it, when she had taken her leave after what seemed to us must have been a most unsatisfactory call, with not enough sympathy from us to cheer her.
“Harry Liscom has a will, as well as his mother, and he is a man grown, and running the woollen factory on shares with his father, and able to support a wife. I don't believe he is going to stop, now the girl's mother has consented, because his mother tells him to,” said Louisa; and I thought she was right.
That very evening Harry went past to the Jamesons, in his best suit, carrying a cane, which he swung with the assured air of a young man going courting where he is plainly welcome.
“I am glad for one thing,” said I, “and that is there is no more secret strolling in my grove, but open sitting up in her mother's parlor.”
Louisa looked at me a little uncertainly, and I saw that there was something which she wanted to say and did not quite dare.
“What is it?” said I.
“Well,” said Louisa, hesitatingly, “I was thinking that I supposed—I don't know that it would work at all—maybe her mother wouldn't be willing, and maybe she wouldn't be willing herself—but I was thinking that you were as good a housekeeper as Caroline Liscom, and—you might have the girl in here once in a while and teach her.”
“I will do it,” said I at once,—“if I can, that is.”
I found out that I could. The poor child was only too glad to come to my house and take a few lessons in housekeeping. I waylaid her when she was going past one day, and broached the subject delicately. I said it was a good idea for a young girl to learn as much as she could about keeping a house nice before she had one of her own, and Harriet blushed as red as a rose and thanked me, and arranged to come for her first lesson the very next morning. I got a large gingham apron for her, and we began. I gave her a lesson in bread-making that very day, and found her an apt pupil. I told her that she would make a very good housekeeper—I should not wonder if as good as Mrs. Liscom, who was, I considered, the best in the village; and she blushed again and kissed me.
Louisa and I had been a little worried as to what Mrs. Jameson would say; but we need not have been. Mrs. Jameson was strenuously engaged in uprooting poison-ivy vines, which grew thickly along the walls everywhere in the village. I must say it seemed Scriptural to me, and made me think better in one way of Mrs. Jameson, since it did require considerable heroism.
Luckily, old Martin was one of the few who are exempt from the noxious influence of poison-ivy, and he pulled up the roots with impunity, but I must say without the best success. Poison-ivy is a staunch and persistent thing, and more than a match for Mrs. Jameson. She suffered herself somewhat in the conflict, and went about for some time with her face and hands done up in castor-oil, which we consider a sovereign remedy for poison-ivy. Cobb, too, was more or less a victim to his mother's zeal for uprooting noxious weeds.
It was directly after the poison-ivy that Mrs. Jameson made what may be considered her grand attempt of the season. All at once she discovered what none of the rest of us had thought of—I suppose we must have been lacking in public feeling not to have done so—that our village had been settled exactly one hundred years ago that very August.
Mrs. Jameson came into our house with the news on the twenty-seventh day of July. She had just found it out in an old book which had been left behind and forgotten in the garret of the Wray house.
“We must have a centennial, of course,” said she magisterially.
Louisa and I stared at her. “A centennial!” said I feebly. I think visions of Philadelphia, and exhibits of the products of the whole world in our fields and cow-pastures, floated through my mind. Centennial had a stupendous sound to me, and Louisa said afterward it had to her.
“How would you make it?” asked Louisa vaguely of Mrs. Jameson, as if a centennial were a loaf of gingerbread.
Mrs. Jameson had formed her plans with the rapidity of a great general on the eve of a forced battle. “We will take the oldest house in town,” said she promptly. “I think that it is nearly as old as the village, and we will fit it up as nearly as possible like a house of one hundred years ago, and we will hold our celebration there.”
“Let me see, the oldest house is the Shaw house,” said I.
“Why, Emily Shaw is living there,” said Louisa in wonder.
“We shall make arrangements with her,” returned Mrs. Jameson, with confidence. She looked around our sitting-room, and eyed our old-fashioned highboy, of which we are very proud, and an old-fashioned table which becomes a chair when properly manipulated. “Those will be just the things to go in one of the rooms,” said she, without so much as asking our leave.
“Emily Shaw's furniture will have to be put somewhere if so many other things are to be moved in,” suggested Louisa timidly; but Mrs. Jameson dismissed that consideration with merely a wave of her hand.
“I think that Mrs. Simeon White has a swell-front bureau and an old looking-glass which will do very well for one of the chambers,” she went on to say, “and Miss Clark has a mahogany table.” Mrs. Jameson went on calmly enumerating articles of old-fashioned furniture which she had seen in our village houses which she considered suitable to be used in the Shaw house for the centennial.
“I don't see how Emily Shaw is going to live there while all this is going on,” remarked Louisa in her usual deprecatory tone when addressing Mrs. Jameson.
“I think we may be able to leave her one room,” said Mrs. Jameson; and Louisa and I fairly gasped when we reflected that Emily Shaw had not yet heard a word of the plan.
“I don't know but Emily Shaw will put up with it, for she is pretty meek,” said Louisa when Mrs. Jameson had gone hurrying down the street to impart her scheme to others; “but it is lucky for Mrs. Jameson that Flora Clark hasn't the oldest house in town.”
I said I doubted if Flora would even consent to let her furniture be displayed in the centennial; but she did. Everybody consented to everything. I don't know whether Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson had really any hypnotic influence over us, or whether we had a desire for the celebration, but the whole village marshalled and marched to her orders with the greatest docility. All our cherished pieces of old furniture were loaded into carts and conveyed to the old Shaw house.
The centennial was to be held the tenth day of August, and there was necessarily quick work. The whole village was in an uproar; none of us who had old-fashioned possessions fairly knew where we were living, so many of them were in the Shaw house; we were short of dishes and bureau drawers, and counterpanes and curtains. Mrs. Jameson never asked for any of these things; she simply took them as by right of war, and nobody gainsaid her, not even Flora Clark. However, poor Emily Shaw was the one who displayed the greatest meekness under provocation. The whole affair must have seemed revolutionary to her. She was a quiet, delicate little woman, no longer young. She did not go out much, not even to the sewing circle or the literary society, and seemed as fond of her home as an animal of its shell—as if it were a part of her. Old as her house was, she had it fitted up in a modern, and, to our village ideas, a very pretty fashion. Emily was quite well-to-do. There were nice tapestry carpets on all the downstairs floors, lace curtains at the windows, and furniture covered with red velvet in the parlor. She had also had the old fireplaces covered up and marble slabs set. There was handsome carved black walnut furniture in the chambers; and taken altogether, the old Shaw house was regarded as one of the best furnished in the village. Mrs. Sim White said she didn't know as she wondered that Emily didn't like to go away from such nice things.
Now every one of these nice things was hustled out of sight to make room for the pieces of old-fashioned furniture. The tapestry carpets were taken up and stowed away in the garrets, the lace curtains were pulled down. In their stead were the old sanded bare floors and curtains of homespun linen trimmed with hand-knitted lace. Emily's nice Marseilles counterpanes were laid aside for the old blue-and-white ones which our grandmothers spun and wove, and her fine oil paintings gave way to old engravings of Webster death-bed scenes and portraits of the Presidents, and samplers. Emily was left one room to herself—a little back chamber over the kitchen—and she took her meals at Flora Clark's, next door. She was obliged to do that, for her kitchen range had been taken down, and there was only the old fireplace furnished with kettles and crane to cook in.
“I suppose my forefathers used to get all their meals there,” said poor Emily Shaw, who has at all times a gentle, sad way of speaking, and then seemed on the verge of uncomplaining tears, “but I don't quite feel competent to undertake it now. It looks to me as if the kettles might be hard to lift.” Emily glanced at her hands and wrists as she spoke. Emily's hands and arms are very small and bony, as she is in her general construction, though she is tall.
The little chamber which she inhabited during the preparation for the centennial was very hot in those midsummer days, and her face was always suffused with a damp pink when she came out of it; but she uttered no word of complaint, not even when they took down her marble slabs and exposed the yawning mouths of the old fireplaces again. All she said was once in a deprecatory whisper to me, to the effect that she was a little sorry to have strangers see her house looking so, but she supposed it was interesting.
We expected a number of strangers. Mrs. Sim White's brother, who had gone to Boston when he was a young man and turned out so smart, being the head of a large dry-goods firm, was coming, and was to make a speech; and Mr. Elijah M. Mills, whose mother's people came from Linnville, was to be there, as having a hereditary interest in the village. Of course, everybody knows Elijah M. Mills. He was to make a speech. Mrs. Lucy Beers Wright, whose aunt on her father's side, Miss Jane Beers, used to live in Linnville before she died, was to come and read some selections from her own works. Mrs. Lucy Beers Wright writes quite celebrated stories, and reads them almost better than she writes them. She has enormous prices, too, but she promised to come to the centennial and read for nothing; she used to visit her aunt in Linnville when she was a girl, and wrote that she had a sincere love for the dear old place. Mrs. Jameson said that we were very fortunate to get her.
Mrs. Jameson did not stop, however, at celebrities of local traditions; she flew higher still. She wrote the Governor of the State, inviting him to be present, and some of us were never quite certain that she did not invite the President of the United States. However, if she had done so, it seemed incredible that since he was bidden by Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson he neither came nor wrote a letter. The Governor of the State did not come, but he wrote a very handsome letter, expressing the most heartfelt disappointment that he was unable to be present on such an occasion; and we all felt very sorry for him when we heard it read. Mrs. Sim White said that a governor's life must be a hard one, he must have to deny himself many pleasures. Our minister, the Rev. Henry P. Jacobs, wrote a long poem to be read on the occasion; it was in blank verse like Young's “Night Thoughts,” and some thought he had imitated it; but it was generally considered very fine, though we had not the pleasure of hearing it at the centennial—why, I will explain later.
There was to be a grand procession, of course, illustrative of the arts, trades, and professions in our village a hundred years ago and at the present time, and Mrs. Jameson engineered that. I never saw a woman work as she did. Louisa and I agreed that she could not be so very delicate after all. She had a finger in everything except the cooking; that she left mostly to the rest of us, though she did break over in one instance to our sorrow. We made pound-cake, and cupcake, and Indian puddings, and pies, and we baked beans enough for a standing army. Of course, the dinner was to be after the fashion of one of a hundred years ago. The old oven in the Shaw kitchen was to be heated, and Indian puddings and pies baked in it; but that would not hold enough for such a multitude as we expected, so we all baked at home—that is, all except Caroline Liscom. She would not bake a thing because Mrs. Jameson got up the centennial, and she declared that she would not go. However, she changed her mind, which was fortunate enough as matters afterward transpired.
The tenth of August, which was the one hundredth anniversary of the settlement of our village, dawned bright and clear, for which we were thankful, though it was very hot. The exercises were to begin at eleven o'clock in the morning with the procession. We were to assemble at the old Shaw house at half-past twelve; the dinner was to be at half-past one, after an hour of social intercourse which would afford people an opportunity of viewing the house, and a few of us an opportunity of preparing the dinner. After dinner were to be the speeches and readings, which must be concluded in season for the out-of-town celebrities to take the Grover stage-coach to connect with the railroad train.
By eight o'clock people began to arrive from other villages, and to gather on the street corners to view the procession. It was the very first procession ever organized in our village, and we were very proud of it. For the first time Mrs. Jameson began to be regarded with real gratitude and veneration as a local benefactress. We told all the visitors that Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson got up the centennial, and we were proud that she was one of us when we saw her driving past in the procession. We thought it exceedingly appropriate that the Jamesons—Mr. Jameson had come on from New York for the occasion—should ride in the procession with the minister and the lawyer in a barouche from Grover. Barouches seemed that day to be illustrative of extremest progress in carriages, in contrast with the old Linnville and Wardville stage-coaches, and the old chaise and doctor's sulky, all of which had needed to be repaired with infinite care, and were driven with gingerly foresight, lest they fall to pieces on the line of march. We really pitied the village doctor in the aged sulky, for it seemed as if he might have to set a bone for himself by reason of the sudden and total collapse of his vehicle. Mrs. Jameson had decreed that he should ride in it, however, and there was no evading her mandate.
Mrs. Jameson looked very imposing in her barouche, and we were glad that she wore one of her handsome black silks instead of her sensible short costume. There was a good deal of jet about the waist, and her bonnet was all made of jet, with a beautiful tuft of pink roses on the front, and she glittered resplendently as she rode past, sitting up very straight, as befitted the dignity of the occasion.
“That is Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson,” said we, and we mentioned incidentally that the gentleman beside her was Mr. Jameson. We were not as proud of him, since all that he had done which we knew of was to lose all his money and have his friends get him a place in the custom-house; he was merely a satellite of his wife, who had gotten up our centennial.
Words could not express the admiration which we all felt for the procession. It was really accomplished in a masterly manner, especially taking into consideration the shortness of the time for preparation; but that paled beside the wonders of the old Shaw house. I was obliged to be in the kitchen all during that hour of inspection and social intercourse, but I could hear the loud bursts of admiration. The house seemed full of exclamation-points. Flora Clark said for her part she could not see why folks could not look at a thing and think it was pretty without screaming; but she was tired, and probably a little vexed at herself for working so hard when Mrs. Jameson had gotten up the centennial. It was very warm in the kitchen, too, for Mrs. Jameson had herself started the hearth fire in order to exemplify to the utmost the old custom. The kettles on the crane were all steaming. Flora Clark said it was nonsense to have a hearth-fire on such a hot day because our grandmothers were obliged to, but she was in the minority. Most of the ladies were inclined to follow Mrs. Jameson's lead unquestionably on that occasion. They even exclaimed admiringly over two chicken pies which she brought, and which I must say had a singular appearance. The pastry looked very hard and of a curious leaden color. Mrs. Jameson said that she made them herself out of whole wheat, without shortening, and she evidently regarded them as triumphs of wholesomeness and culinary skill. She furthermore stated that she had remained up all night to bake them, which we did not doubt, as Hannah Bell, her help, had been employed steadily in the old Shaw house. Mrs. Jameson had cut the pies before bringing them, which Flora Clark whispered was necessary. “I know that she had to cut them with a hatchet and a hammer,” whispered she; and really when we came to try them later it did not seem so unlikely. I never saw such pastry, anything like the toughness and cohesiveness of it; the chicken was not seasoned well, either. We could eat very little; with a few exceptions, we could do no more than taste of it, which was fortunate.
I may as well mention here that the few greedy individuals, who I fancy frequent all social functions with an undercurrent of gastronomical desire for their chief incentive, came to grief by reason of Mrs. Jameson's chicken pies. She baked them without that opening in the upper crust which, as every good housewife knows, is essential, and there were dire reports of sufferings in consequence. The village doctor, after his precarious drive in the ancient sulky, had a night of toil. Caleb—commonly called Kellup—Bates, and his son Thomas, were the principal sufferers, they being notorious eaters and the terrors of sewing-circle suppers. Flora Clark confessed to me that she was relieved when she saw them out again, since she had passed the pies to them three times, thinking that such devourers would stop at nothing and she might as well save the delicacies for the more temperate.
We were so thankful that none of the out-of-town celebrities ate Mrs. Jameson's chicken pies, since they had a rather unfortunate experience as it was. The dinner was a very great success, and Flora Clark said to me that if people a hundred years ago ate those hearty, nourishing victuals as these people did, she didn't wonder that the men had strength to found a Republic, but she did wonder how the women folks who had to cook for them had time and strength to live.
After dinner the speechifying began. The Rev. Henry P. Jacobs made the opening address; we had agreed that he should be invited to do so, since he was the minister. He asked the blessing before we began to eat, and made the opening address afterward. Mr. Jacobs is considered a fine speaker, and he is never at a loss for ideas. We all felt proud of him as he stood up and began to speak of the state of the Linnville church a hundred years ago, and contrasted those days of fireless meeting-houses with the comforts of the sanctuary at the present time. He also had a long list of statistics. I began at last to feel a little uneasy lest he might read his poem, and so rob the guests who were to speak of their quotas of time. Louisa said she thought he was intending to, but she saw Mrs. Jameson whisper to her husband, who immediately tiptoed around to him with a scared and important look, and said something in a low voice. Then the minister, with a somewhat crestfallen air, curtailed his remarks, saying something about his hoping to read a poem a little later on that auspicious occasion, but that he would now introduce Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson, to whom they were all so much indebted.
Mrs. Jameson arose and bowed to the company, and adjusted her eyeglasses. Her jets glittered, her eyes shone with a commanding brightness, and she really looked very imposing. After a few words, which even Flora Clark acknowledged were very well chosen, she read the Governor's letter with great impressiveness. Then she went on to read other letters from people who were noteworthy in some way and had some association with the village. Flora Clark said that she believed that Mrs. Jameson had written to every celebrity whose grandfather ever drove through Linnville. She did have a great many letters from people who we were surprised to hear had ever heard of us, and they were very interesting. Still it did take time to read them; and after she had finished them all, Mrs. Jameson commenced to speak on her own account. She had some notes which she consulted unobtrusively from time to time. She dwelt mainly upon the vast improvement for the better in our condition during the last hundred years. She mentioned in this connection Robert Browning, the benefit of whose teaching was denied our ancestors of a hundred years ago. She also mentioned hygienic bread as a contrast to the heavy, indigestible masses of corn-meal concoctions and the hurtful richness of pound-cake. Mrs. Jameson galloped with mild state all her little hobbies for our delectation, and the time went on. We had sat very long at dinner; it was later than we had planned when the speechifying began. Mrs. Jameson did not seem to be in the least aware of the flight of time as she peacefully proceeded; nor did she see how we were all fidgeting. Still, nobody spoke to her; nobody quite dared, and then we thought every sentence would be her last.
The upshot of it was that the Grover stage-coach arrived, and Mrs. Sim White's brother, Elijah M. Mills, and Mrs. Lucy Beers Wright, besides a number of others of lesser fame, were obliged to leave without raising their voices, or lose their trains, which for such busy people was not to be thought of. There was much subdued indignation and discomfiture among us, and I dare say among the guests themselves. Mrs. Lucy Beers Wright was particularly haughty, even to Mrs. Sim White, who did her best to express her regret without blaming Mrs. Jameson. As for Elijah M. Mills, Louisa said she heard him say something which she would not repeat, when he was putting on his hat. He is a fine speaker, and noted for the witty stories which he tells; we felt that we had missed a great deal. I must say, to do her justice, that Mrs. Jameson seemed somewhat perturbed, and disposed to be conciliating when she bade the guests good-by; she was even apologetic in her calmly superior way.
However, the guests had not been gone long before something happened to put it all out of our minds for the time. The Rev. Henry P. Jacobs had just stood up again, with a somewhat crestfallen air, to read his poem—I suppose he was disappointed to lose the more important part of his audience—when there was a little scream, and poor Harriet Jameson was all in a blaze. She wore a white muslin dress, and somehow it had caught—I suppose from a spark; she had been sitting near the hearth, though we had thought the fire was out. Harry Liscom made one spring for her when he saw what had happened; but he had not been very near her, and a woman was before him. She caught up the braided rug from the floor, and in a second Harriet was borne down under it, and then Harry was there with his coat, and Sim White, and the fire was out. Poor Harriet was not much hurt, only a few trifling burns; but if it had not been for the woman she might easily have gotten her death, and our centennial ended in a tragedy.
It had all been done so quickly that we had not fairly seen who the woman who snatched up the rug was, but when the fire was out we knew: Caroline Liscom. She was somewhat burned herself, too, but she did not seem to mind that at all. She was, to our utter surprise—for we all knew how she had felt about Harry's marrying Harriet—cuddling the girl in her motherly arms, the sleeves of her best black grenadine being all scorched, too, and telling her that she must not be frightened, the fire was all out, and calling her my dear child, and kissing her. I, for one, never knew that Caroline Liscom could display so much warmth of love and pity, and that toward a girl whom she was determined her son should not marry, and before so many. I suppose when she saw the poor child all in a blaze, and thought she would be burned to death, her heart smote her, and she felt that she would do anything in the world if she only lived.
Harry Liscom was as white as a sheet. Once or twice he tried to push his mother away, as if he wished to do the comforting and cuddling himself; but she would not have it. “Poor child! poor child!” she kept repeating; “it's all over, don't be frightened,” as if Harriet had been a baby.
Then Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson came close to Caroline Liscom, and tears were running down her cheeks quite openly. She did not even have out her handkerchief, and she threw her arms right around the other woman who had saved her daughter. “God bless you! Oh, God bless you!” she said; then her voice broke and she sobbed out loud. I think a good many of us joined her. As for Caroline Liscom, she sort of pushed Harriet toward her son, and then she threw her poor, scorched arms around Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson and kissed her. “Oh, let us both thank God!” sobbed Caroline.
As soon as we got calm enough we took Harriet upstairs; her pretty muslin was fluttering around her in yellow rags, and the slight burns needed attention; she was also exhausted with the nervous shock, and was trembling like a leaf, her cheeks white and her eyes big with terror. Caroline Liscom and her mother came too, and Caroline concealed her burns until Harriet's were dressed. Luckily, the doctor was there. Then Harriet was induced to lie down on the north chamber bed on the old blue-and-white counterpane that Mrs. Sim White's mother spun and wove.
Rev. Henry P. Jacobs did not read his poem; we were too much perturbed to listen to it, and nobody mentioned it to him. Flora Clark whispered to me that if he began she should go home; for her part, she felt as if she had gone through enough that day without poetry. The poem was delivered by special request at our next sewing circle, but I think the minister was always disappointed, though he strove to bear it with Christian grace. However, within three months he had to console him a larger wedding fee than often falls to a minister in Linnville.
The centennial dissolved soon after the burning accident. There was nothing more to do but to put the Shaw house to rights again and restore the various articles to their owners, which, of course, could not be done that day, nor for many days to come. I think I never worked harder in my life than I did setting things to rights after our centennial; but I had one consolation through it, and that was the happiness of the two young things, who had had indirectly their love tangle smoothed out by it.
Caroline Liscom and Mrs. Jameson were on the very best of terms, and Harriet was running over to Caroline's house to take lessons in housekeeping, instead of to mine, before the week was out.
There was a beautiful wedding the last of October, and young Mrs. Harry Liscom has lived in our midst ever since, being considered one of the most notable housekeepers in the village for her age. She and her husband live with Caroline Liscom, and Louisa says sometimes that she believes Caroline loves the girl better than she does her own son, and that she fairly took her into her heart when she saved her life.
“Some women can't love anybody except their own very much unless they can do something for them,” says Louisa; and I don't know but she is right.
The Jamesons are still with us every summer—even Grandma Cobb, who does not seem to grow feeble at all. Sarah is growing to be quite a pretty girl, and there is a rumor that Charlie White is attentive to her, though they are both almost too young to think of such things. Cobb is a very nice boy, and people say they had as soon have him come in and sit a while and talk, as a girl. As for Mrs. Jameson, she still tries to improve us at times, not always with our full concurrence, and her ways are still not altogether our ways, provoking mirth, or calling for charity. Yet I must say we have nowadays a better understanding of her good motives, having had possibly our spheres enlarged a little by her, after all, and having gained broader views from the points of view of people outside our narrow lives. I think we most of us are really fond of Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson, and are very glad that the Jamesons came to our village.