|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14||Next|
130. "Have not you any new novels? Send up Scribe and the `Arabian Nights' and `Robinson Crusoe' and the `Three Guardsmen,' and Mrs. Whitney's books. We have Thackeray and Miss Austen."
When he read this, Haliburton felt as if they were not only light-footed but light-headed. And he consulted me quite seriously as to telegraphing to them "Pycroft's Course of Reading." I coaxed him out of that, and he satisfied himself with a serious expostulation with George as to the way in which their young folks would grow up. George replied by telegraphing Brannan's last sermon, I Thessalonians iv. II. The sermon had four heads, must have occupied an hour and a half in delivery, and took five nights to telegraph. I had another engagement, so that Haliburton had to sit it all out with his eye to Shubael, and he has never entered on that line of discussion again. It was as well, perhaps, that he got enough of it.
The women have never had any misunderstandings. When we had received two or three hundred despatches from B. M., Annie Haliburton came to me and said, in that pretty way of hers, that she thought they had a right to their turn again. She said this lore about the Albert Nyanza and the North Pole was all very well, but, for her part, she wanted to know how they lived, what they did, and what they talked about, whether they took summer journeys, and how and what was the form of society where thirty-seven people lived in such close quarters. This about "the form of society" was merely wool pulled over my eyes. So she said she thought her husband and I had better go off to the Biennial Convention at Assampink, as she knew we wanted to do, and she and Bridget and Polly and Cordelia would watch for the signals, and would make the replies. She thought they would get on better if we were out of the way.
So we went to the convention, as she called it, which was really not properly a convention, but the Forty-fifth Biennial General Synod, and we left the girls to their own sweet way.
Shall I confess that they kept no record of their own signals, and did not remember very accurately what they were? "I was not going to keep a string of `says I's' and `says she's,'" said Polly, boldly. "it shall not be written on my tomb that I have left more annals for people to file or study or bind or dust or catalogue." But they told us that they had begun by asking the "bricks" if they remembered what Maria Theresa said to her ladies-in-waiting. Quicker than any signal had ever been answered, George Orcutt's party replied from the Moon, "We hear, and we obey." Then the women-kind had it all to themselves. The brick-women explained at once to our girls that they had sent their men round to the other side to cut ice, and that they were manning the telescope, and running the signals for themselves, and that they could have a nice talk without any bother about the law-books or the magnetic pole. As I say, I do not know what questions Polly and Annie put; but--to give them their due--they had put on paper a coherent record of the results arrived at in the answers; though, what were the numbers of the despatches, or in what order they came, I do not know; for the session of the synod kept us at Assampink for two or three weeks
 Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, Duke of Tuscany, was hanging about loose one day, and the Empress, who had got a little tired, said to the maids of honor, "Girls, whenever you marry, take care and choose a husband who has something to do outside of the house."
Mrs. Brannan was the spokesman. "We tried a good many experiments about day and night. It was very funny at first not to know when it would be light and when dark, for really the names day and night do not express a great deal for us. Of course the pendulum clocks all went wrong till the men got them overhauled, and I think watches and clocks both will soon go out of fashion. But we have settled down on much the old hours, getting up, without reference to daylight, by our great gong, at your eight o'clock. But when the eclipse season comes, we vary from that for signalling.
"We still make separate families, and Alice's is the seventh. We tried hotel life and we liked it, for there has never been the first quarrel here. You can't quarrel here, where you are never sick, never tired, and need not be ever hungry. But we were satisfied that it was nicer for the children and for all round to live separately and come together at parties, to church, at signal time, and so on. We had something to say then, something to teach, and something to learn.
"Since the carices developed so nicely into flax, we have had one great comfort, which we had lost before, in being able to make and use paper. We have had great fun, and we think the children have made great improvement in writing novels for the Union. The Union is the old Union for Christian work that we had in dear old No. 9. We have two serial novels going on, one called `Diana of Carrotook,' and the other called `Ups and Downs'; the first by Levi Ross, and the other by my Blanche. They are really very good, and I wish we could send them to you. But they would not be worth despatching.
"We get up at eight; dress, and fix up at home; a sniff of air, as people choose; breakfast; and then we meet for prayers outside. Where we meet depends on the temperature; for we can choose any temperature we want, from boiling water down, which is convenient. After prayers an hour's talk, lounging, walking, and so on; no flirting, but a favorite time with the young folks.
"Then comes work. Three hours' head-work is the maximum in that line. Of women's work, as in all worlds, there are twenty-four in one of your days, but for my part I like it. Farmers and carpenters have their own laws, as the light serves and the seasons. Dinner is seven hours after breakfast began; always an hour long, as breakfast was. Then every human being sleeps for an hour. Big gong again, and we ride, walk, swim, telegraph, or what not, as the case may be. We have no horses yet, but the Shanghaes are coming up into very good dodos and ostriches, quite big enough for a trot for the children.
"Only two persons of a family take tea at home. The rest always go out to tea without invitation. At 8 P. M. big gong again, and we meet in `Grace,' which is the prettiest hall, church, concert-room, that you ever saw. We have singing, lectures, theatre, dancing, talk, or what the mistress of the night determines, till the curfew sounds at ten, and then we all go home. Evening prayers are in the separate households, and every one is in bed by midnight. The only law on the statute-book is that every one shall sleep nine hours out of every twenty-four.
"Only one thing interrupts this general order. Three taps on the gong means `telegraph,' and then, I tell you, we are all on hand.
"You cannot think how quickly the days and years go by!"
Of course, however, as I said, this could not last. We could not subdue our world and be spending all our time in telegraphing our dear B. M. Could it be possible--perhaps it was possible--that they there had something else to think of and to do besides attending to our affairs? Certainly their indifference to Grant's fourth Proclamation, and to Mr. Fish's celebrated protocol in the Tahiti business, looked that way. Could it be that that little witch of a Belle Brannan really cared more for their performance of "Midsummer Night's Dream," or her father's birthday, than she cared for that pleasant little account I telegraphed up to all the children, of the way we went to muster when we were boys together? Ah well! I ought not to have supposed that all worlds were like this old world. Indeed, I often say this is the queerest world I ever knew. Perhaps theirs is not so queer, and it is I who am the oddity.
Of course it could not last. We just arranged correspondence days, when we would send to them, and they to us. I was meanwhile turned out from my place at Tamworth Observatory. Not but I did my work well, and Polly hers. The observer's room was a miracle of neatness. The children were kept in the basement. Visitors were received with great courtesy; and all the fees were sent to the treasurer; he got three dollars and eleven cents one summer,--that was the year General Grant came there; and that was the largest amount that they ever received from any source but begging. I was not unfaithful to my trust. Nor was it for such infidelity that I was removed. No! But it was discovered that I was a Sandemanian; a Glassite, as in derision I was called. The annual meeting of the trustees came round. There was a large Mechanics' Fair in Tamworth at the time, and an Agricultural Convention. There was no horse-race at the convention, but there were two competitive examinations in which running horses competed with each other, and trotting horses competed with each other, and five thousand dollars was given to the best runner and the best trotter. These causes drew all the trustees together. The Rev. Cephas Philpotts presided. His doctrines with regard to free agency were considered much more sound than mine. He took the chair,--in that pretty observatory parlor, which Polly had made so bright with smilax and ivy. Of course I took no chair; I waited, as a janitor should, at the door. Then a brief address. Dr. Philpotts trusted that the observatory might always be administered in the interests of science, of true science; of that science which rightly distinguishes between unlicensed liberty and true freedom; between the unrestrained volition and the freedom of the will. He became eloquent, he became noisy. He sat down. Then three other men spoke, on similar subjects. Then the executive committee which had appointed me was dismissed with thanks. Then a new executive committee was chosen, with Dr. Philpotts at the head. The next day I was discharged. And the next week the Philpotts family moved into the observatory, and their second girl now takes care of the instruments.
I returned to the cure of souls and to healing the hurt of my people. On observation days somebody runs down to No. 9, and by means of Shubael communicates with B. M. We love them, and they love us all the same.
Nor do we grieve for them as we did. Coming home from Pigeon Cove in October with those nice Wadsworth people, we fell to talking as to the why and wherefore of the summer life we had led. How was it that it was so charming? And why were we a little loath to come back to more comfortable surroundings? "I hate the school," said George Wadsworth. "I hate the making calls," said his mother. "I hate the office hour," said her poor husband; "if there were only a dozen I would not mind, but seventeen hundred thousand in sixty minutes is too many." So that led to asking how many of us there had been at Pigeon Cove. The children counted up all the six families,--the Haliburtons, the Wadsworths, the Pontefracts, the Midges, the Hayeses, and the Inghams, and the two good-natured girls, thirty-seven in all,--and the two babies born this summer. "Really," said Mrs. Wadsworth, "I have not spoken to a human being besides these since June; and what is more, Mrs. Ingham, I have not wanted to. We have really lived in a little world of our own."
"World of our own!" Polly fairly jumped from her seat, to Mrs. Wadsworth's wonder. So we had--lived in a world of our own. Polly reads no newspaper since the "Sandemanian" was merged. She has a letter or two tumble in sometimes, but not many; and the truth was that she had been more secluded from General Grant and Mr. Gladstone and the Khedive, and the rest of the important people, than had Brannan or Ross or any of them!
And it had been the happiest summer she had ever known.
Can it be possible that all human sympathies can thrive, and all human powers be exercised, and all human joys increase, if we live with all our might with the thirty or forty people next to us, telegraphing kindly to all other people, to be sure? Can it be possible that our passion for large cities, and large parties, and large theatres, and large churches, develops no faith nor hope nor love which would not find aliment and exercise in a little "world of our own"?
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14||Next|
The Brick Moon and Other Stories -by- Edward Everett Hale