Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin
XXXII. Doors of Daring
Little the Careys suspected how their fortunes were mending, during those last days of June! Had they known, they might almost have been disappointed, for the spur of need was already pricking them, and their valiant young spirits longed to be in the thick of the fray. Plans had been formed for the past week, many of them in secret, and the very next day after the close of the academy, various business projects would burst upon a waiting world. One Sunday night Mother Carey had read to the little group a poem in which there was a verse that struck on their ears with a fine spirit:--
"And all the bars at which we fret, That seem to prison and control, Are but the doors of daring set Ajar before the soul."
They recited it over and over to themselves afterwards, and two or three of them wrote it down and pinned it to the wall, or tucked it in the frame of the looking glass.
Olive Lord knocked at her father's study door the morning of the twenty-first of June. Walking in quietly she said, "Father, yesterday was my seventeenth birthday. Mother left me a letter to read on that day, telling me that I should have fifty dollars a month of my own when I was seventeen, Cyril to have as much when he is the same age."
"If you had waited courteously and patiently for a few days you would have heard this from me," her father answered.
"I couldn't be sure!" Olive replied. "You never did notice a birthday; why should you begin now?"
"I have more important matters to take up my mind than the consideration of trivial dates," her father answered. "You know that very well, and you know too, that notwithstanding my absorbing labors, I have endeavored for the last few months to give more of my time to you and Cyril."
"I realize that, or I should not speak to you at all," said Olive. "It is because you have shown a little interest in us lately that I consult you. I want to go at once to Boston to study painting. I will deny myself everything else, if necessary, but I will go, and I will study! It is the only life I care for, the only life I am likely to have, and I am determined to lead it."
"You must see that you are too young to start out for yourself anywhere; it is simply impossible."
"I shall not be alone. Mrs. Carey will find me a good home in Charlestown, with friends of hers. You trust her judgment, if no one else's."
"If she is charitable enough to conduct your foolish enterprises as well as those of her own children, I have nothing to say. I have talked with her frequently, and she knows that as soon as I have finished my last volume I shall be able to take a more active interest in your affairs and Cyril's."
"Then may I go?"
"When I hear from the person in Charlestown, yes. There is an expedition starting for South America in a few months and I have been asked to accompany the party. If you are determined to leave home I shall be free to accept the invitation. Perhaps Mrs. Carey would allow Cyril to stay with her during my absence."
"I dare say, and I advise you to go to South America by all means; you will be no farther away from your family than you have always been!" With this parting shot Olive Lord closed the study door behind her.
"That girl has the most unpleasant disposition, and the sharpest tongue, I ever met in the course of my life!" said Henry Lord to himself as he turned to his task.
Mother Carey's magic was working very slowly in his blood. It had roused him a little from the bottomless pit of his selfishness, but much mischief had been done on all sides, and it would be a work of time before matters could be materially mended. Olive's nature was already warped and embittered, and it would require a deal of sunshine to make a plant bloom that had been so dwarfed by neglect and indifference.
Nancy's door of daring opened into an editorial office. An hour here, an hour there, when the Yellow House was asleep, had brought about a story that was on its way to a distant city. It was written, with incredible care, on one side of the paper only; it enclosed a fully stamped envelope for a reply or a return of the manuscript, and all day long Nancy, trembling between hope and despair, went about hugging her first secret to her heart.
Gilbert had opened his own particular door, and if it entailed no more daring than that of Nancy's effort, it required twice the amount of self-sacrifice. He was to be, from June twenty-seventh till August twenty-seventh, Bill Harmon's post-office clerk and delivery boy, and the first that the family would know about it would be his arrival at the back door, in a linen jacket, with an order-book in his hand. Bravo, Gilly! One can see your heels disappearing over the top of Shiny Wall!
The door of daring just ready to be opened by Kathleen and Julia was of a truly dramatic and unexpected character.
Printed in plain letters, twenty-five circulars reposed in the folds of Julia's nightdresses in her lower bureau drawer. The last thing to be done at night and the first in the morning was the stealthy, whispered reading of one of these documents, lest even after the hundredth time, something wrong should suddenly appear to the eye or ear. They were addressed, they were stamped, and they would be posted to twenty-five families in the neighborhood on the closing day of the academy.
SUMMER VACATION SCHOOL The Misses Kathleen and Julia Carey announce the opening of classes for private instruction on July 1st, from two to four o'clock daily in the Hamilton Barn. Faculty. Miss Kathleen Carey Reading & Elocution 2 P.M. Miss Julia Carey Dancing, Embroidery 2-30 P.M. Mrs. Peter Carey Vocal Music, Part Singing 3 P.M. Miss Nancy Carey Composition 4 P.M. Mr. Gilbert Carey Wood carving, Jig Sawing, Manual Training from 4 to 5 Fridays only. Terms cash. 25 cents a week. N. B. Children prepared for entrance to the academy at special prices.
Meantime the Honorable Lemuel Hamilton had come to America, and was opening doors of daring at such a rate of speed that he hardly realized the extent of his own courage and what it involved. He accepted an official position of considerable honor and distinction in Washington, rented a house there, and cabled his wife and younger daughter to come over in September. He wrote his elder daughter that she might go with some friends to Honolulu if she would return for Christmas. ("It's eleven years since we had a Christmas tree," he added, "and the first thing you know we shall have lost the habit!")
To his son Jack in Texas he expressed himself as so encouraged by the last business statement, which showed a decided turn for the better, that he was willing to add a thousand dollars to the capital and irrigate some more of the unimproved land on the ranch.
"If Jack has really got hold out there, he can come home every two or three years," he thought. "Well, perhaps I shall succeed in getting part of them together, part of the time, if I work hard enough; all but Tom, whom I care most about! Now that everything is in train I'll take a little vacation myself, and go down to Beulah to make the acquaintance of those Careys. If I had ever contemplated returning to America I suppose I shouldn't have allowed them to settle down in the old house, still, Eleanor would never have been content to pass her summers there, so perhaps it is just as well."
The Peter-bird was too young to greatly dare; still it ought perhaps to be set down that he sold three dozen marbles and a new kite to Billy Harmon that summer, and bought his mother a birthday present with the money. All Peter's "doors of daring" had hitherto opened into places from which he issued weeping, with sprained ankles, bruised hands, skinned knees or burned eyelashes.