Tải bản đầy đủ

Happy house


TheProjectGutenbergEBookofHappyHouse,byJaneD.Abbott
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith
almostnorestrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor
re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded
withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.net

Title:HappyHouse
Author:JaneD.Abbott
ReleaseDate:April19,2010[EBook#32053]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKHAPPYHOUSE***

ProducedbyAlHaines


HAPPYHOUSE
BY



JANED.ABBOTT

AUTHOROF
"KEINETH"AND"LARKSPUR"

GROSSET&DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS——NEWYORK
MadeintheUnitedStatesofAmerica

COPYRIGHT,1920,BYJ.B.LIPPINCOTTCOMPANY

TOMARTHA
THISBOOKISLOVINGLYDEDICATED


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. THELETTER
II. WEBB
III. HAPPYHOUSE
IV. AUNTMILLY
V. BIRD'S-NEST
VI. INTHEORCHARD
VII. AUNTMILLY'SSTORY
VIII. B'LINDY'STRIUMPH
IX. DAVY'SCLUB
X. THEHIREDMAN
XI. MOONSHINEANDFAIRIES
XII. LIZ
XIII. THEFOURTHOFJULY
XIV. MRS.EATONCALLS
XV. GUNSANDSTRINGBEANS
XVI. PETERLENDSAHAND
XVII. NANCYPLANSAPARTY
XVIII. THEPARTY
XIX. THEMASTER
XX. APICNIC
XXI. DAVY'SGIFT
XXII. REALLEAVITTSANDOTHERS
XXIII. WHATTHECHIMNEYHELD


XXIV. PETER
XXV. NANCY'SCONFESSION
XXVI. EUGENESTANDBRIDGELEAVITT
XXVII. ARCHIEEATONRETURNS
XXVIII. ALETTERFROMTHEMASTER


XXIX. BARRY


HAPPYHOUSE

CHAPTERI
THELETTER
ThroughthestillnessofadrowsyJunedaybroketheintoningofthelibrary
bell,chimingthehour.
Threeheadsliftedquicklytolisten.Threepairsofeyesmet,thesamethought
flashedthroughthreeminds.
"Won't we miss that bell, though? I've seen grads when they've come back
standperfectlystillandlistentoitwiththeireyesallweepylooking.That'sthe
waywe'llfeelbyandby,"oneofthemsaidslowly.
"And the chimes used to make me dreadfully homesick! Don't those frosh
daysseemagesago?"
The third girl slammed the lid of the trunk that occupied the centre of the
disorderedroom.Shecrossedtothewindow.
Overthestretchofgreenbetweenthedormitoryandthecampusmanypeople
wereslowlywalking.Theirfluffydresses,theirgayparasols,theaimlessnessof
theirwanderingstepsmarkedthemasvisitors.Thegirlinthewindowfrowned
asshewatchedthem.
"I always hate it when the campus fills up with gawking, staring people! It
oughttobekept—sacred—justforus!"
Oneofthethreelaughedmerrilyinanswer.
"Howselfishthatsounds,Claire!Haven'tallthosepeoplecometoseeoneof
us graduate? This is their day—ours is past." She stopped short. "Did you see


Thelma King's sister at the class-day exercises? She's a peach! She's going to
enter next fall. She's a leader in everything at the High where she goes. She'll
makeagoodcollegegirl;youcouldseetherightspiritinherface.HowIenvy
her! It's dreadful when you think of new ones—coming—taking our places! I
wish I was just beginning my Freshman year—I'd even be willing to endure
Freshmanmath."
Thethirdofthegroupwhohadbeensittingon,thefloorstaringoutoverthe
tree tops with the dreamy gravity of one who—as long ago as yesterday—
graduatedfromthegreatUniversity,suddenlyinterrupted.
"Deargirls,ceaseyourwhining!Whatdothosepiecesofsheepskinreposing
somewhereinthemessonyonderbureaustandfor?Rememberwhatthatman
said yesterday—how we mustn't think this Commencement is the end of
anything—it'sjustthebeginning.Why,thisnewworldthat'sbeenbornoutofthe
frightful warisfullofwork forour trained mindsand hands!We mustn'tlook
backforaminute—wemustlookahead!"Thrilledbyherownwordssheleveled
areproachfulglanceuponhertwocompanions.
Clairesighed."Inevercouldgettheinspirationfromthingsthatyoualways
seemto,Anne.IguessI'mnotbuiltright!Icouldn'tmakemyselflistentohalf
thatmansaid.Ican'tthinkofanythingrightnowbutwhatajobit'sgoingtobe
gettingeverythingintothattrunk.Motherwasheartlessnottostayoveranddoit
forme!"
"Nevermind,Claire,we'llhelpyou.OfcourseyouandIcan'tseethingsin
the big, grand way that Anne can because she's found herself and we haven't.
Butwhenourworkdoescomewe'lldoit!ItmaynotbeoffinSiberiaorChina
or Africa—like Anne's—but, wherever it is, I guess our Alma Mater won't be
ashamed of us!" The girl's eyes softened with the passionate tenderness of the
newgraduateforherUniversity.
Backinthefreshmandaysacuriouschancehaddrawnthesethreetogether.
Then,forfouryears,yearsofhopefuleffort,aspirationsandyouthfulproblems,
thecurrentsoftheiryoungliveshadintermingledclosely;noweachmustgoits
way.Themomentbroughtthepangthatcomestoyouthatsuchaparting.Their
bondsweresomethingcloserthanfriendship.Behindthemweremonthsofthe
sweetest intimacy that youth can know—ahead were the lives they must live
apartoutinaworldthatcarednothingforcollegeidealsandinspirations,where


eachmustfindher"work"anddoit,sothat"herAlmaMatermightbeproud!"
Statistics,eveninauniversity,wouldbedullif,nowandthen,Fatedidnot
play a trick with them. Upon the roster of the class of Nineteen-nineteen had
beenenteredtwonames:"AnneLeavitt,LosAngeles,California;AnneLeavitt,
NewYorkCity."
When one thinks that in the great world war there was an army of,
approximately,seventy-fivethousandSmithsalone,andawholedivisionofJohn
Smiths, one need not marvel that two Anne Leavitts came that October day to
theoldUniversity.Doubtless,inthosefirsttryingdays,theypassedoneanother
often and did not know, but a week later, when Professor Nevin in First Year
French,readslowlyfromhislittleleatherbook:"MissAnneLeavitt,"twogirls
jumpedtotheirfeetandinastonishment,facedoneanother.
"IamAnneLeavitt!"spokethelargerofthetwo.
"AndIamAnneLeavitt,too!"laughedthesmaller.
Asnickerranaroundtheroom.ProfessorNevinfrownedandstared—firstat
hislittlewornbookandthenatthetwooffendingyoungwomen.Ofcoursehe
was powerless to undo what had been done years before! And as he scowled,
acrosstheclassroomoneAnneLeavittsmiledattheother.Whenthehourended
the recitation they walked away arm in arm, laughing over the ridiculous
situation.
AttheLibrarystepstheywerejoinedbyanothergirlfromtheFrenchclass.
Shehadruninhereagernesstoovertakethem.
"AreyoureallybothAnneLeavitts?"sheaskedbreathlessly.
Theyassuredhersolemnlythattheywereandthattheydidn'tknowjustwhat
todoaboutit—oldProfessorNevinhadbeensofunnyandupset.Theyallthree
laughed again over it all. And there in the golden warmth of that October day
beganthefriendshipofthesethree—forthethirdgirlwasClaireWallace.
The students in the University found countless ways of distinguishing
betweenthetwoAnneLeavitts.Onewastallandgravewithameditativelookin
her deep-set eyes; the other, a head shorter, had a lightness about her like an
Aprilday,reddishcurlyhairandanupturnednose.OneAnneLeavitthadnever


beencalledanythingbutAnne,theother,sinceherbabydays,hadbeenNancy.
The more intimate of the college girls called them Big Anne and Little Anne.
The professors, dignified perforce, read from their rolls, "Miss Anne Leavitt,
California—MissAnneLeavitt,NewYork."
Innameonlywerethetwogirlsalike.Annehadbeenbornwiththelegendary
"silver spoon" and its mythical fortune. When her father and mother died a
friend ofherfather's, asguardian,hadcontinuedthewell-regulatedindulgence
that had marked her childhood. Because she possessed an iron will and early
acquiredaseriousnessanddignitybeyondheryears,shewasalwaysaleaderin
eachoftheboardingschoolstowhichsheprogressed.WhateverAnnewantedto
do she always did, and yet, in spite of it, she had reached her college days
unspoiled, setting her strong will only for the best and obsessed with a
passionatelongingforaservicethatwouldmeanself-sacrifice.
Shethoughtnowshehadfoundit!Twoweeksfromthisverydayshe,would
sailforafar-offvillageinSiberiatoteachthepeasantchildrenthereandbringto
thepitifulcaptivityofRussianignorancetheenlightenmentofAmericanideals.
So big and wonderful seemed the adventure that, girl-like, she had paid little
heedtothesmalldetails.NancyandClaireWallaceworriedmorethanshe!
"You'll never get enough to eat and how will you ever keep your clothes
clean,"sighedClaire,wholovedprettyfrocks.
"Andwecan'tsendyouthings,either,forthey'dneverreachyou—someof
thoseawfulBolshevistswouldbesuretostealthem!"
MadameBreshkovsky,thelittleGrandmotheroftheRussianRevolution,had
made several visits to the University, and Anne, with the others, had listened
over and over to her vivid, heartrending stories of the suffering needs of the
children of the real Russia. It had been after such an evening that Anne had
givenherselftothecause.Sothat,whenNancyandClairefrettedexcitedlyover
thehardshipsanddangersoftheundertaking,shehadonlylookedatthemwith
the question in her grave, dark eyes: "What matters it if perhaps Anne Leavitt
doeslackafewclothesandfoodandsomesillyluxuriesifsheisdoingalittle,
littlebittohelpherfellowmen?"
NancyLeavitt,likethebelovedTopsy,hadjust"growedup."Toherchums,
in her own spirited way, she had once described how: "Ever since I can


remembertherewerealwaysjustDadandI.Whenhewantedtogoanywherehe
used to pick me up like a piece of baggage and off we went. Half the time I
didn'tgotothesameschooltwoyearsinsuccession.Andheusedtoteachme,
too. Oh, how homesick I was when I came here—without him. We're just like
pals!"
Nancy's physical well-being had been watched over by nurses of almost
everyraceandcolor.SheknewalittleHindooandfromtheoldHindoo"ayah"
she had caught bits of Hindoo mysticism. She had romped and rolled with
Japanese babies; she had lived on a ranch in Mexico until bandits had driven
themaway;shehadtrudgedalongbehindherfatherovermilesoftrailinAlaska.
And the only place she had ever called "home" was a tiny flat in New York,
whereherfatherkepttheprettyfurniturethatNancy'smotherhadboughtwhena
bride.Backtothistheywouldcomeafterlongintervals,foralittlerespitefrom
their wanderings, and for Nancy the homecoming was always an excitingly
happyonefromthemomentsherandowntoMrs.Finnegan'sdoorforthekeyto
theluggingoutagainofthetwolittletrunks,whichmeantasuddendeparturefor
somedistantland.
College had brought a great change into this gypsy life and a grief at the
separationfromher"Dad."Butastheweekshadpassedherletterstohimread
less andless likeawailofhomesickness,andwerefilledmoreand morewith
thecollegehappeningsandwholepassagesdevotedtogirlishdescriptionsofher
newfriends.
For the last two years her father had been overseas as senior newspaper
correspondent with the American Expeditionary Force, and it would be weeks
before he could return. That thought added now to the lonely ache in Nancy's
heartasshestaredatherchumsandwonderedwhatitwouldseemliketolive
dayafterdaywithoutseeingthem!
These three had trod together up the Paths of Learning until they were
passing now the Gateway of Life; and yet, right at that moment, all of them,
evenAnne,feltchildishlylonelyandhomesickfortheshelteroftheUniversity
theywereleaving.
ThatwaswhythechimingoftheLibraryclock,thathadmarkedthepassage
ofhappytimeformorethanonegenerationofyouth,broughtashadowacross
eachofthethreeyoungfaces.


AlittlewistfulnesscreptintoNancy'svoice."Yourlife'sallcutoutforyou,
Anne.It'spositivelythrilling!ThoughI'dmakeanawfulmessoutofanysuch
undertaking.AndClairehasherfamily.I'lljustgotoNewYorkandgetthekey
from Mother Finnegan and work like mad on the 'Child.' I want to finish it
beforeDadcomeshome.Ishallsendit,then,toTheodoreHoffmanhimself—I
mightaswellhitchmywagontothetiptoppeststar—orwhateveritisyoudo!
Ofcourseitisn'tasgrandasgoingtoRussia,butI'mgoingtowork,andsome
day,maybe,I'llbefamousallovertheworld!"
"LittleAnneLeavitt,thegreatdramatist!"murmuredBigAnnefondly.
Claire Wallace, confronting nothing more serious than the squeezing of her
belongingsintothehugetrunk,wasstirredwithenvy.Nancyhadher"Child"—
notayoungsterbutagrowingpileofmanuscript,Annehadher"crusade"among
theunfortunatechildrenofSiberia—shehadnothingaheadbuttojoinherfamily
attheirsummerhome,anestatethatcoveredhundredsofacresonLongIsland.
"Iwishyou'dcomehomewithme,first,Nancy!Youheardmothersayhow
muchshewantedyoutocomeandwewillhaveabeautifultimeandthenyou
canseeBarry."
Nancyfrownedsternly.Shehadseveralreasonsforfrowning—shethought.
Of course she would really like to go to Merrycliffe with Claire; she loved to
frolic, and the last term had been a pretty hard grind, but her whole future
dependeduponherfinishingherplayandClairesimplymustnotcoaxher!Then
the other reason was Barry. Barry was Claire's brother recently returned from
long service in France, decorated by each of the allied countries. Toward him
Nancy and Anne, quite secretly, felt an unreasonable and growing dislike.
Neitherofthemhadeverlaideyesonhimbut,ignoringtheinjustice,basedtheir
antipathysolelyonthefactthat"ClairetalksofnothingbutBarryuntilyoufeel
likeshuttingyourears!"
Nancy had, more than once, declared that "she could just see him strutting
aroundwithallhismedals,lettingeveryonemakealionofhim,andsheloathed
handsomemen,anyway—theylackedcharacter"andAnnesaid"herheartwent
outtothoseboyswhoseeveryminuteinthetrencheshadbeenanunrecognized
and unrecorded act of heroism." Of course they both carefully kept their real
feelingsfromlittleClaire,whowastoodeartothemtoeverhurtinanyway,so
that,whenshetalked"Barry,"iftheywereonlypolitelyattentive,inherproud


enthusiasm,shenevernoticed.
NowNancy,insteadofsayingtruthfullythat"shewasn'tgoingtospendher
summerhelpingmakeaparlorpetoutofthe'lion,'"simplyshookherheadand
frowned.
"Claire,don'tteaseme!OfcourseIknowhowniceitwouldbetoswimand
danceandplaytennisandallsortsofthings,butImustwork!"andshefinished
withthedecidedtonethatwaslikeAnne's.
Claire looked unhappy. "I don't want to go and dance and swim and play
around, though it is nice, but I can't write and I can't go to Russia, so I'll just
havetogoanddowhattheothersinmycrowdalldo,andIsupposeyou'llthink
I'mabutterflywhenI'mreallyperfectlymiserable!"
Nancycontrolledasmile."Blessyou,wewon'tthinkyou'reanythingbutjust
theappleofoureyes.Theworldneedsbutterfliestokeepitbeautifulandgay.
Youradventure,Claire,iswaitingforyou,maybe,aroundthecorner.That'swhat
MotherFinneganisalwayssaying!Andaftermy'Child'isfinishedIpromiseI'll
comeandplaywithyou!"
Clairewasonlyalittlecheered.
"But Barry may not be there, then. Mother says he's dreadfully restless. He
maybegonenow!"
AknockatthedoorsavedNancyfromananswer.
ItwasoldNoah,theporter.Heheldaletterinhishand.
"It'sferMis'AnneLeavittandI'mblessedifIknowwhichoneofyezso,I
sez,I'lljes'takeittothetwoofyezandletyoutossupferit!"
It was not unusual for the two girls to find their mail confused. They
generallydistinguishedbythehandwritingorthepostmarks.Butnowtheyboth
staredatthelettertheytookfromNoah'shand.
Itwasaddressedinafine,old-fashionedhandwriting.
"Ican'trecognizeit,"exclaimedoneAnneLeavitt.


"I'msureIneversawitbefore!"criedtheother.
"Isn'tthisexciting?Letmeseethepostmark.F-r-e-e-d-o-m!"spelledNancy.
"Ineverheardofit,"shedeclared.
"I believe it's mine! I have some relatives—or did have—a great aunt or
something, who lived near a place like that way up on North Hero Island. I'd
forgottenallaboutthem.Openit,Claire,andlet'sseewhatitis."'
"YounevertoldusaboutanyauntonanyNorthHeroIsland!Itsoundslikea
romance, Anne," accused Nancy, who thought she knew everything about her
friend.
Anne laughed. "I don't wonder you think so. I just barely remember father
speakingofher.Readit,Claire!"
Clairehadseizedtheletterandopenedit."Itissigned'Yourlovingaunt.'Isn't
it the most ridiculous mystery? Why couldn't it have been something else
besidesanaunt!"
"Well, I'm awfully afraid it is for me. We never could both have aunts on
NorthHeroIsland.Goon,blessedchild—I'mpreparedfortheworst!"
Clairerosedramatically.

"My dear Niece," she read, adding: "I want you to know, Anne, that she
honorsyoubyspellingthatwithacapital.""Oflateryearsithasbeenamatterof
deep regret to me that though the same blood runs in our veins we are like
strangers, and that you have been allowed to grow to womanhood without
knowingthehomeofyourforefathersonthishistoricisland.Itisforthatreason
thatnow,afterconsiderabledebatewithmyconscience,Iamwritingtoyouat
your college address which I have obtained through a chance article in an
Albany newspaper ('that was the Senior Play write-up,' interrupted Nancy,
excitedly)tourgeyoutoavailyourselfoftheearliestopportunitytovisitmein
theoldhome.
"Ifeeltheburdenandresponsibilityofmyincreasingyears,andIknowthat
soonIwillbecalledtothatlandwhereourforefathershavegonebeforeus.You


are,Ibelieve,mynearestofkin—thefamily,asyoumustknow,isdyingoutand
Iwouldhavepreferredthatyouhadbeenaboy—IwilltellyoufranklythatIam
consideringchangingmywillandthatuponyourvisitdependswhetherornot
you will be my beneficiary. I would wish to leave the home and my worldly
wealth—thewealthofthepastLeavitts,toaLeavitt,butbeforeIcandosotothe
satisfactionofmyownconscience,ImustknowthatyouareaLeavittandthat
youhavebeenbroughtupwithatrueknowledgeand respectforwhatbeinga
Leavittdemandsofyou,
"Iawaityourreplywithanxiety.YourvisitwillgivemepleasureandIassure
youthatyouwilllearntolovethespotonwhich,forsomanygenerations,your
ancestorshavelived."
"YourLovingAunt,
"SABRINALEAVITT."

"Well,I'llbe——"InallhercollegevocabularyAnnecouldnotfindtheword
toexpressherfeelings.
"Isn'tthatrapturous?Agreat-auntandafortune!Andwillyoupleasetellme
whyshehadtodebatewithherconscience?"criedClaire.
NancywasgleefuloverAnne'swrath.
"I'mgladshe'syours,Anniedarling!Dadalwayssaidthewholeworldwas
myonlykin,butIneverranagainstanyonewhowantedtolookmeoverbefore
she left me a fortune! Who ever heard of North Hero Island and where in
goodnessisit?"
"Iremember,now,thathernamewasawfullyqueer—AuntSa-somethingor
other, and North Hero Island isn't utterly unknown, Nancy, to the can't even
remember!IwishithadhappenedtoLakeChamplain.Isawitonceonaroadmap when I was touring last fall with Professor and Mrs. Scott, and Professor
Scottsaiditwasalocalitypicturesquelyhistoric—Iremember."
Claireturnedtheletteroverandover.
"Ithinkit'sallawfullythrilling!Anauntyoucan'tevenremember!Iwishit


hadhappenedtome!Itwouldbesomethingsodifferent.It'sjustlikeastory.But
whatalotshedoesthinkofherforefathers!"
"Well,theLeavittsareaveryoldfamilyandtheyareaNewEnglandfamily,
too, although I was born in California," interrupted Anne with a dignity that
wouldhavegladdenedthegreat-aunt'sheart.
Nancywasagainprovokedtomerriment.
"DadalwayssaidthattheonlyotherLeavittheknewwasacow-puncher!He
couldlickanyoneontheplains."
Anneignoredthis.Shewasfrowningindeepthought.
"Thetiresomepartisthat—ifIdon'tgo—ifItellheraboutgoingtoRussia—
shemaywritetomyguardian!"
All three were struck dumb at the thought. Anne had not consulted her
guardian before she had impulsively enlisted her services in Madame
Breshkovsky'scause.Becauseshewasthreemonthspasttwenty-one,legallyhe
could not interfere, but being so newly of age she had not had the courage to
meethisprotest.Soshehadsimplywrittenthatshewasplanningalongtripwith
friendsandwouldtellhimofthedetailswhentheyhadbeencompleted.Aletter
lay now in her desk which she intended to mail the day before she sailed. It
wouldbetoolate,then,forhimtointerfere.Ifherconsciencetroubledheralittle
aboutthisplan,shetoldherselfthatthecausejustifiedheraction.
AndnowthisAuntSa-somethingmightupseteverything!
"I wish I could remember more about those relatives up there—father and
motherusedtolaughwhenevertheymentionedtheoldplace.Ialwaysimagined
theyweredreadfullypoor!Shemustbeaterribleoldlady—youcansortoftell
bythetoneofherletter.Oh,dear!"
"What will you do?" echoed Claire, still thinking it a much more attractive
adventurethanRussia.
"Ihaveit!"criedAnne."Youshallgoinmyplace,Nancy!"
"I!Ishouldsaynot!Areyoustarkcrazy,AnneLeavitt?"


Anne seized her excitedly by the shoulder. "You could do it as easy as
anythingintheworld,Nancy.She'sneverlaideyesonmeandIknowmyfather
neverwrotetoher.You'llonlyhavetogothereforthreeorfourweeks——"
"AndposeasarealLeavittwhenI'maLeavittthatjustbelongstoDad!Well,
Iwon'tdoit!"repliedNancy,stubbornly.
"Nan-cy, please listen! You wouldn't have to do or say a thing—she'd just
takeitforgranted.Andyoucouldalwaysmakesomeexcusetogoawayif——"
"IfitlookedasthoughIwasgoingtobefoundout!Why,it'dbelikelivingon
avolcano.AndI'dbesuretoalwayssaythewrongthing!"
"Butyoucouldtryit,"imploredAnne."Itwouldmakeeverythingsimpleand
you'dbedoingyourbit,then,forMadameBreshkovsky!Thinkofallshetoldus
ofthesufferinginRussia.Surelyyoucoulddoalittlethingnowtohelp!Andif
Auntdidlikeyouandleftmehermoney,itwouldreallybeyouandwe'dgiveit
tothecause!"
"It'dbeactingalie,"brokeinNancy.
"Oh,notexactly,Nancy,foryoureallyareAnneLeavittand,anyway,it'sjust
asthoughyouweremyotherhalf.WaybackIknowwearerelated.Ifyoudon't
love me well enough to help me out now—well, I'm disappointed. I'll never
forgetit!"
PoorNancy,mindfulofthelongseparationthatlaybeforeherandherfriend,
criedoutinprotest.
"Oh,Anne,don'tsaythat!"
Claire,hereyesbrilliantwithexcitement,chimedin:
"Nancy, it's a hope-to-die adventure. Maybe you could make up no end of
storiesandplaysoutofthethingsthathappenupthere!And,anyway,youcan
finishthe'Child'andcometoMerrycliffethatmuchsooner!"
Claire had advanced the most appealing argument. North Hero Island
certainly sounded more inspiring than a stuffy flat in Harlem with six small
Finnegans one floor below. And it was an adventure. Anne hastened to take


advantageoftheyieldingshesawinNancy'sface.
"YoucanstayherewithmeuntilIhavetogotoNewYork,andwecanlook
uptrainsandIcantellyouallaboutmyforefathers,thoughIreallydon'tknowa
singlething.Butshewon'texpectyoutoknow—don'tyouremembershewrote
that she regretted my being brought up without knowing the home of my
forefathers.Andifyoujustactasthoughyouwantedmorethananythingelsein
the world to learn all about the Leavitts, she'll just love it and she'll tell you
everythingyouhavetoknow!"
"It'sthemostthrillingromance,"sighedClaire,enviously.
"Sounds more to me like a conspiracy, and can't they put people in jail for
doingthingslikethat?"demandedNancy.
"Oh,Nancy,you'resoliteral—asifshewould,wayupthereonanislandnext
tonowhere!Andanyway,thinkoftheboyswhoperjuredthemselvestogetinto
theservice.Wasn'tthatjustified?"
Nancy,beinginanunpleasantmood,startedtoaskwhatthathadtodowith
herpretendingtobeanAnneLeavittwhoshewasn't,whenBigAnnewentonin
ahurttone:
"Well,wewon'ttalkaboutitanymore!I'llhavetogiveupgoingtoRussia
and my whole life will be spoiled. And I am disappointed—I thought our
friendshipmeantsomethingtoyou,Nancy."
"Anne!Thereisn'tathingIwouldn'tdoforyou!You'renextdearesttoDad.
ForyouI'llgoto—Freedomoranyoldplace.I'lldomybesttobeyoutothedot
andI'llpayhomagetoyourforefathersandwillasknotapennyofthelegacy—
ifyougetit!Itshallallbeforthecause!"
Annereadnoironyinhertone.Herdignityflown,shecaughtherfriendina
strangling hug. "Oh, Nancy, you darling, will you? I'll never forget it! We'll
write to her right away—or you will. From this very minute you are Anne
Leavitt!"
"IwishIcouldgo,too,"putinClaire."PerhapsIcancoaxBarrytomotorup
thatway."


"Don't you dare!" cried Nancy in consternation. "It would spoil it all. I'll
writetoyoueverydayeverythingthathappens.Goodness,ifI'masscaredwhen
I face your Aunt Sa-something as I am right now when I think about it, she'll
know at a glance that I'm just an everyday Leavitt and not the child of her
forefathers!"
"Hark!"Claireliftedasilencingfinger."Theseniorsaresinging."
Thelinestheyloveddriftedtothem.
"Liftthechorus,speeditonward,
Loudherpraisestell!"

"Let'sjointhem."SuddenlyClairecaughtahandofeach."Girls,thinkofit—
whatitmeans—it'sthelasttime—it'sallover!"Herprettyfacewastragic.
BigAnne,withavisionofRussiainherheart,setherlipsresolutely.
"Don'tlookback—lookahead!"shecried,grandly.
ButinNancy'smindas,herarmslinkedwithherchums',shehurriedoffto
join the other Seniors in their last sing, the troubling question echoed: "To
what?"

CHAPTERII
WEBB
Aclatterofdepartinghoofs,aswirlofdust—andNancywasleftaloneonthe
hot railroad platform of North Hero. Her heart had seemed to fix itself in one
painfullumpinherthroat.Shewassovery,veryclosetofacingheradventure!
"If you please, can you tell me in what way I can reach Freedom?" Her


falteringvoicehaltedthetelegraphoperatorashewasabouttoturnthecornerof
thestation.
"Freedom? Well, now, old Webb had ought 'a been here for the train. Isn't
oftenWebbmissesseein'theenginecomein!Justyougoinandsitdown,Miss,
he'llcomealong,"andscarcelyhadtheencouragingwordspassedtheman'slips
than a rickety, three-seated, canopied-topped wagon, marked "Freedom Stage"
turnedthecorner.
"Hey,Webb,here'saladypassengergoin'alongwithyoutoFreedom!And
didyouthinktheexpresswouldwaitferyou?"
Webb and his dusty, rusty and rickety wagon was a welcome sight to poor
Nancy. It had already seemed to her that her journey was endless and that
Freedommustbeinthefarthestcorneroftheworld.Forthefirstfewhoursshe
hadbeenabsorbedbyhergriefatpartingwithAnne.Butanightinafunnylittle
hotelinBurlingtonhadgivenhertimetoreflectuponherundertakingandithad
assumed terrible proportions in her eyes. The courage and confidence she had
feltwithherchums,backintheroominthedormitory,desertedhernow.
"Goin'toFreedomyousay,Miss?"themanWebbasked,agreatcuriosityin
hiseyes."Wal,youjes'comealongwithme!HadanorderforTobiasesanditset
melate,butwe'llgitthar.Climbuphere,Miss,"andwithaflourishingasideof
hisreinshemaderoomforheronthedustyseatheoccupied.
Nancy handed him her big bag and climbed easily over the wheel into the
seathehadindicated.Thenwithaloud"get-ap"andaflourishofhiswhipthey
rumbledoffonthelastlegofNancy'sjourney.
"Ain'teverbeentoFreedombefore?"heaskedastheyturnedthecornerof
the maple-shaded street of the little town, and the horses settled down into a
steadytrot."ReckonnotoroldWebb'udhaveknownye—ain'tanyfolkscome
andgoonthishereislandthetIdon'tknow,"headdedwithpride,droppinghis
reinsforabetterstudyofhispassenger.
The air was fragrant with spring odors, the great trees met in a quivery
archway overhead, the meadow lands they passed were richly green; Nancy's
failingspiritsbegantosoar!Shethrewalittlesmiletowardtheoldman.
"I'veneverbeeninFreedombefore—thoughI'maLeavitt,"sheventured.


Herwordshadthedesiredeffect.Themanstraightenedwithinterest.
"Wal, bless me, are ye one o' Miss Sabriny's folks? And a-goin' to Happy
Housewhenyeain'teverseenit?"
Nancy nodded. "I'm Anne Leavitt," she answered carefully. "And I have
neverseenmyAuntSabrina.SoIhavecomeupfromcollegeforalittlevisit.
AndIthinkeverythingislovely,"shefinished,drawingalongbreath,"though,
goodnessknows,IthoughtI'dnevergethere!"
She was uncomfortably conscious that the old man was regarding her with
openconcern.
"Funny, no one ain't heard a word about it! So ye're Miss Sabriny's greatnieceanda-comin'toHappyHousefromyourschoolferavisit!"
"Why,yes,whynot?"
"Wal, I was jes' thinkin' you'd never seen Happy House. And I guess most
folks in Freedom's forgotten Miss Sabriny hed any folks much—count of the
trouble!"
"Oh,whattrouble,please,Mr.Webb?"
Theoldmanshookhisreinsvigorouslyagainstthehorses'backs.
"Webb,you'reanoldfool—anold,dodderin'fool!Ofcoursethisheretrouble
wasalongspellago,Miss,anddon'tbelongtoLeavittsyounglikeyou.Is'pose
itwantmuch,anyways,andIguessMissSabrinyherself'sforgottenitelseyou
wouldn'tbeacomin'toHappyHouse!I'manoldman,missy,andtharain'tbeen
muchinFreedomasIdon'tknowabout,butanoldun'dought'aknow'noughto
keephistongueinhishead.Only—youcometoWebbifanythingbothersyou
and you needn't call me Mr. Webb, either, for though I'm one of Freedom's
leadin' cit-zuns and they'd never be a Memorial Day or any kind of Fourth of
Julydoin'sinFreedomwithoutme—nobodycallsmeMisterWebbandyoujus'
cometome——"
Nancy,forgetfulnowofthepleasantthingsabouther,frowned.
"You'reverynicetome,Webb,andI'mgladtohavemadeafriendsosoon!I


think the trouble has been forgotten. Anyway, I'm only going to stay a little
while."
"Andagoodthingit'llbefurMissMilly,too."
"MissMilly——"askedNancy.
"It ain't no easy life fur her livin' with Miss Sabriny holdin' the sword of
wrathoverherpoorhead,andthere'slotsoffolksthinkMissMilly'dbeaheap
happierintheoldgraveyardthaninHappyHouse,'lowin'ashowbothfeetarein
thegraveanyway.Butthisain'tnocheerfultalktohandouttoyou,Miss,onlyI
cal'lateyou'llmakeMissMillyaheaphappier—shutupthewaysheis."
"HowfararewefromFreedom?"askedNancy,abruptly,thinkingasshedid
so that, if they were a very long way, she would have an opportunity to learn
fromhergarrulousfriendallsheneededtoknow!
"Twomilefromtheturnyonderbytheoak,"theoldmananswered.
Forafewmomentsbothmaintainedadeepsilence.Nancy,herthoughtsina
tumult, was wondering what question she would ask first—there was so much
she wanted to know—the "trouble," "Miss Milly and the sword of wrath" or
whathemeantby"HappyHouse."Thelastpoststirredhercuriosity;then,too,it
didnotseemjustnicetopryfromthisoldman.
"WhydotheycalltheLeavittplace'HappyHouse'?"
"Wal,Iguessitain'tbecauseit'sexactlyhappy,andsomesezmebbeashow
it's been a curse! Folks comes here to Freedom and looks at the old place and
there'ssomethin'printedaboutitinalittlebooktheysellupatTobiasesinNor'
Hero,onlyIain'tmuchonthereadin'.B'lindyGuestknowsthestorybyheart,
andshecantellyoumore'nIcan."
"Oh, please, Webb, I can't make head or tail out of what you are saying,"
laughedNancypleadingly."WhocalleditHappyHousefirst?"
"B'lindysezthebooksezthatitwasthefirstAnneLeavittascometoNor'
HerocalleditHappyHouseandtheyhedoneoftheseheremantelsmadeouto'
marble over in London and fetched across with the letters right in it spellin'
HappyHouse!Andshehelpedfixitupwithherownhandsshe'dkindo'setsuch


storebytheidee,righttharinthesettin'roomandtheverynextdaysheslipped
off sudden like and died like a poor little flower. And there ain't been much
happinessinHappyHousefromthemdayssince!B'lindyknowsthehulstory;
jes''sitswritten."
"Oh, how thrilling!" cried Nancy, breathing very fast. She had an
uncontrollable desire to halt Webb and the Freedom stage right on the spot in
ordertowritetoClaireWallace.Butatthatmoment,aroundtheturnbytheold
oakgallopedahorseandrider.BecauseitwasthefirstlivingcreatureNancyhad
seensinceleavingNorthHero,shewasstartled.
"Heythere,Webb,"theridercried,whirlingoutofthepathoftheoldwagon.
AndWebbcalledbackincheerygreeting:"Hey,Pete!"
Through the cloud of dust Nancy had caught a glimpse of a pair of merry
eyes set deep in a face as brown as the dark shirt the man wore. Turning
impulsivelyinherseatshenoticed,withanunexplainablesenseofpleasure,that
thebareheadoftheriderwasexceptionallywellshapedandcoveredwithshort
curly hair. Then, to her sudden discomfiture, the rider wheeled directly in the
roadandpulledhishorseupshort.
Itwas,ofcourse,becausehewasthefirstrealpersonshehadseenonthisbig
lonelyIslandthatpromptedhertonodeversoslightlyinresponsetohisfriendly
wave!ThensheturneddiscreetlybacktoWebb.
"Whoishe?"sheasked,inwhatshetriedtomakeanindifferenttone.
"PeterHydean'asniceayoungfellarasevercometoFreedom!Ain'tbeen
here much more'n a week and knows everybody. He's old man Judson's hired
manandhe'sgoin'tomakesomethin'ofthatten-acrestripofJudson'ssomeday
ormynameain'tCyrenusWebb!"
"Judson'shiredman!"criedNancy,chagrined.WhatwouldAnnethinkofher
—to have recognized, even in the slightest degree, the impertinence of this
fellow!Herfaceburnedatthethought.
"Seems to have a lot of learnin' but he's awful simple like and a hustler.
Nobody knows whereabouts he come from—jes' dropped by out of some
advertisementoldJudsonputinthepapersupBurlingtonway."


"TellmemoreaboutFreedom,"brokeinNancywithdignity."Isitaveryold
place?"
"Wal, it's jest as old as this Island, though I ain't much on readin' or dates.
FolksonNor'Hero'sprettyproudofthehulIslandandB'lindysezashowit's
printedthatfolkssettledherelong'foreanyone,exceptin'theIndians,everheard
ofManhattanIslandwharNewYorkis.UsedtobeFrenchfirstroundherebut
theydidn'tstaylong,andthentheEnglishcomedown'foretheRevolutionand
theLeavittswiththem,I guess.ThishereIsland's named furEthanAllen, you
know,andfolkssezoldJonathan,thetworksupatHappyHouse,isaconnection
ofhis.Allthefolksroundhere'srelatedsomewayorothertothempi'neersandI
guess if we hed to put up a fight now we'd do it jest as brave as them Green
MountainBoys!Theoldsmithy'sbeenstandin'onthefourcornersfornighonto
one hundred years and the meetin' house facin' the commons, B'lindy sez, is
older than the smithy. And up the Leavitt road thar's a tablet these here
Daughters of somethin' or other from Montpelier put up for some pi'neers that
died fightin' the Indians while their women folks set off in boats for the
mainland.IheardB'lindytellthatatthelastsocialdownatthemeetin'house.I
cal'latesomeofthempi'neerswereLeavitts,atthat,furitwantlongbeforethat
theprettyladycamewhohedthenamebuiltinthemantel.B'lindyknows—she
cantelljes'whatdaytheprettyladycomeandtheveryroomshediedin.B'lindy
was born in the old house and she and Miss Sabriny growed up like sisters
thoughB'lindy'sagoodsightyoungerandspryerlikethanMissSabriny!"
From the warmth of his tone Nancy guessed that there was a weak spot in
Webb'sheartforB'lindy.
"TellmemoreaboutB'lindy,"sheasked,softly.
"Wal, if you jus' take a bit of advice from an old man you be purty nice to
B'lindy!FolkssezthatMissSabriny'shighandmightierthantheworstLeavitt,
andthey'reamightyproudlot,butIjus'gotanotionthattheonlypersonwho
runsMissSabrinyisB'lindyandIsorto'thinksherunsthehulofHappyHouse!
AndnowhereIamagossipin'sowithaprettypassengerthatIcleanfurgotto
leaveoffthatchickenwireforJenkins.Whoa,there,whoa,Isay!"
Nancy guessed that the cluster of housetops she glimpsed ahead, almost
hidden by the great elms and maples, was Freedom. She stared at them
reflectively.ThroughWebbsheseemedsuddenlytofeelthatshehadknownthe


littletragediesandjoysofFreedomallherlife.Shewasnotabitafraidnowto
meetAuntSabrinaorthisMissMillyorB'lindy.Andshewaseagertoseethe
old,oldhouseandthespotwhereLeavittshadbeenmassacredastheyprotected
theirwomen!Afterall,itwasgoingtobeverypleasant—thisplayingatbeing
oneoftheoldLeavitts!ShewishedWebbwouldhurry.
When Farmer Jenkins followed Webb to the wheel of the wagon, Nancy
knew that Webb had lingered to tell of her coming. She met the farmer's open
stare with a pleasant little smile so that, an hour later, he "opined" to the thin,
bent-shoulderedwomanwhosharedhisnameandlabors,that"ifthatyounggal
wouldn'tsetthingsstirrin'prettylivelyupatHappyHouse,he'dmisshisguess!"
As they approached the outlying houses of the village Webb assumed an
importantair."Thishere'sFreedom,Missy,andI'mproudtodothehonorsfor
MissSabriny'sniece!It'snotbigasplacesgobutitsrecordcan'tbebeatsence
EthanAllen'sday.Webbknows,ferImarchedawaywiththeboysinblueback
in'61,thoughIwasabare-footedyoungster,long'boutfourteen,andcouldn'tdo
nothin' more useful than beat a drum. And thar's our service flag, Missy, and
every last one of the six of 'em's come through hul—thanks be to God! And
thar's the hotel by the post-office and cross here's the school house which I
helpedbuildthewintertheywa'n'tnocallfurthestage.ThisistheCommonand
thet'sthemeetin'house,asanyonecouldsee,furitain'talinedifferentfromthe
meetin'housesoveratBendandCliffsdaleandNor'HeroandalloverVermont,
I guess. Funny how they never wanted only one kind o' meetin' houses! And
here's the old smithy lookin' like it was older than B'lindy 'lowed, and here's
whar we turn to go up the Leavitt road. Seein' how you're sort of a special
passengerI'llgorightalonguptoHappyHouse,thoughitain'tmycustum!"
Nancywastremendouslyexcited.Shestaredtorightandleftatthelittleold
frameandstonehousessetsquarelyingrass-grownyardsflankedbyflowerbeds,
allabloom,andeachwearing,becauseoftightlyclosedblinds,anappearanceof
utter desertion. On the wooden "stoop" of the place Webb had dignified by
callinga"hotel"wereloungingafewmenwhohadscarcelystirredwhenWebb
insalutationhadflourishedhiswhipatthem.TheCommons,hotintheJunesun,
was deserted save for a few chickens pecking around in the long grass. The
green shutters of the meeting house were tightly closed, too. From the gaping
door of the smithy came not a sound. Even the great branches of the trees
scarcelystirred.Overeverythingbroodedapeacefulquiet.


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×