Interrupted by Pansy
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[Illustration: Louis and Alice Ansted call on Claire. p. 206]
AUTHOR OF "AN ENDLESS CHAIN," "MRS. SOLOMON SMITH LOOKING ON," "CHRISTIE'S CHRISTMAS," "A HEDGE FENCE," "ESTER RIED YET SPEAKING," "THE HALL IN THE GROVE," "CHAUTAUQUA GIRLS," "RUTH ERSKINE'S CROSSES," "THE MAN OF THE HOUSE," ETC., ETC.
BOSTON LOTHROP PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1885, BY D. LOTHROP AND COMPANY.
_All rights reserved._
PANSY TRADE-MARK REGISTERED JUNE 4, 1895.
CHAPTER I. REACHING INTO TO-MORROW 7
CHAPTER II. WHY? 22
CHAPTER III. OUT IN THE WORLD 36
CHAPTER IV. AN OPEN DOOR 51
CHAPTER V. TRYING TO ENDURE 65
CHAPTER VI. LIFTED UP 79
CHAPTER VII. "OUR CHURCH." 93
CHAPTER VIII. MAKING OPPORTUNITIES 108
CHAPTER IX. OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE 123
CHAPTER X. AN OPEN DOOR 138
CHAPTER XI. A "FANATIC." 153
CHAPTER XII. LOGIC AND LABOR 168
CHAPTER XIII. INNOVATIONS 183
CHAPTER XIV. BLIND 200
STARTING FOR HOME 218
CHAPTER XVI. LOST FRIENDS 235
CHAPTER XVII. SPREADING NETS 254
CHAPTER XVIII. BUD IN SEARCH OF COMFORT 271
CHAPTER XIX. COMFORTED 287
CHAPTER XX. BUD AS A TEACHER 303
CHAPTER XXI. ONE OF THE VICTIMS 318
CHAPTER XXII. NEW LINES OF WORK 332
CHAPTER XXIII. UNPALATABLE TRUTHS 347
CHAPTER XXIV. RECOGNITION 362
CHAPTER XXV. DANGERS SEEN AND UNSEEN 376
CHAPTER XXVI. AN ESCAPED VICTIM 391
CHAPTER XXVII. THE SUMMER'S STORY 408
CHAPTER XXVIII. A FAMILY SECRET 423
REACHING INTO TO-MORROW.
FROM the back parlor there came the sound of fresh young voicesbrimming with energy. Several voices at once, indeed, after thefashion of eager young ladies well acquainted with one another, andhaving important schemes to further. Occasionally there were bursts oflaughter, indicating that freedom of speech and good fellowship reignedamong the workers.
The committee, or the society, or the association, whatever it was, wasbreaking up, for the door was ajar, one young lady standing near it,her hand out as if to open it wider, preparatory to departure, whileshe waited to say another of the many last things. Others were drawingwraps about them, or donning furs and overshoes, and talking as theyworked. Their voices, clear and brisk, sounded distinctly down the longhall.
"And about the Committee on Award; you will attend to that, Claire,will you not?"
"Oh, and what are we to do about Mrs. Stuart?"
"Why, Claire promised to see her. She is just the one to do it. Mrs.Stuart will do anything for her."
"And, Claire, you must be sure to see the Snyders before the judgestarts on his Southern trip! If we don't get his positive promise, wemay have trouble."
"Claire Benedict, you promised to help me with my Turkish costume, youknow. I haven't the least idea how to get it up."
Then a younger voice:
"Miss Claire, you will drill me on my recitation, won't you? Mamma saysyou are just the one to show me how."
"And, oh! Claire, don't forget to see that ponderous Doctor Wheelockand get his subscription. It frightens me to think of going to him."
In the sitting-room opposite stood Claire's younger sister, DoraBenedict. She had just come in from the outer world, and with part ofher wraps still gathered about her, stood watching the falling snow,and listening to the voices in the back parlor. At this point she spoke:
"Mamma, just hear the girls! They are heaping up the work on Claire,giving her the planning and the collecting and the drilling, and thegreater portion of the programme to attend to, and she calmly agrees todo it all."
"Your sister has a great amount of executive ability, my dear, andis always to be depended on. Such people are sure to have plenty ofburdens to carry."
Mrs. Benedict said this in a gently modulated, satisfied voice, andleaned back in her easy chair and smiled as she spoke. She delayed astitch in her crimson tidy, while she listened a moment to the sound ofClaire's voice, calmly and assuringly shouldering the burdens of work;promising here, offering there, until the listeners in the sitting-roomwere prepared to sympathize with the words spoken in the parlor in arelieved tone of voice:
"I declare, Claire Benedict, you are a host in yourself! What we shoulddo without you is more than I can imagine."
"I should think as much!" This from the girl in the brown-plumed hat,who listened in the next room. "You couldn't do without her! that isjust all there would be about it! Two thirds of your nice plans, for
which you get so much credit, would fall through. Mamma, do you thinkClaire ought to attempt so much?"
"Well, I don't know," responded the gentle-faced woman thus appealedto, pausing again in her fancy work to consider the question. "Clairehas remarkable talent, you know, in all these directions. She is a bornorganizer and leader, and the girls are willing to follow her lead. Idon't know but she works too hard. It is difficult to avoid that, withso many people depending on her I don't myself see how they wouldmanage without her. You know Doctor Ellis feels much the same. He wastelling your father, only last night, that there was not another younglady in the church on whom he could depend as he did on her. Yourfather was amused at his earnestness. He said he should almost feellike giving up his pastorate here, if he should lose her. Claire iscertainly a power in the church, and the society generally. I shouldfeel sorry for them if they were to lose her."
The mother spoke this sentence quietly, with the unruffled look ofpeace and satisfaction on her face. No foreboding of loss came to her.She thought, it is true, of the barely possible time when her eldestdaughter might go out from this home into some other, and have othercares and responsibilities, but the day seemed very remote. Claire wasyoung, and was absorbed in her church and home work.
Apparently, even the _suggestion_ of another home had not come to her.It might never come. She might live always in the dear home nest,sheltered, and sheltering, in her turn, others less favored. Or in theevent of a change, some time in the future, it might be, possibly, justfrom one street in the same city to another, and much of the old lifego on still; and in any event the mother could say "their loss," notmine; for the sense of possible separation had not come near enough toshadow the mother's heart as yet; she lived in the dreamland of beliefthat a married daughter would be as near to the mother and the homeas an unmarried one. Therefore her face was placid, and she sewed hercrimson threads and talked placidly of what might have been, but wasnot; the future looked secure and smiling.
"You see," she continued to the young and but half-satisfied daughter,"it is an unusual combination of things that makes your sister soimportant to this society. There are not many girls in it who havewealth and leisure, and the peculiar talents required for leadership.Run over the list in your mind, and you will notice that those who haveplenty of time would not know what to do with it unless Claire werehere to tell them, and those who have plenty of money would fritter itall away, without her to guide, and set a grand example for them."
"I am not questioning her ability, mamma," the daughter said, with alittle laugh, "that is, her mental ability; but it seems to me theyought to remember that she has a body, as well as the others. Still,she will always work at something, I suppose; she is made in that mold.Mamma, what do you suppose Claire would do if she were poor?"
"I haven't the least idea, daughter. I hope she would do the best shecould; but I think I feel grateful that there seems little probabilityof our discovering by experience."
"Still, one can never tell what may happen."
"Oh, no, that is true; I was speaking of probabilities."
Still the mother's face was placid. She called them probabilities,but when she thought of her husband's wealth and position in themercantile world, they really seemed to her very much like certainties.
And now the little coterie in the back parlor broke up in earnest, and,exclaiming over the lateness of the hour, made haste into the snowyworld outside.
Claire followed the last one to th