* * * * *
Almost sunset, the boys climbing up stairs, and Effie bringing a letter? Yes, and from Lavinia Dorman, pages and pages—the dear soul! I must wait for a light. What is this?—she wishes to see me—will make me a long visit—in May—if I like—has no longer the conscience to ask me to leave the twins to come to her—boys of their age need so much care—then something about Josephus! Yes, Sylvia Latham is the daughter of the new house on the Bluffs, etc. You blessed twins! here is another advantage I owe to you—at last a promised visit from Lavinia Dorman!
Ah, as I push my book into the desk the reason for its title turns up before me, worded in Martin Cortright’s precise language:—
“Everything, my dear Barbara, has a precedent in history or the basis of it. It is well known that the Indian tribes have taken their distinctive names chiefly from geographical features, and these often in turn control the pace of the people. The name for the island since called New Amsterdam and York was Mon-ah-tan-uk, a phrase descriptive of the rushing waters of Hell Gate that separated them from their Long Island neighbours, the inhabitants themselves being called by these neighbours Mon-ah-tans, anglice Manhattans, literally, People of the Whirlpool, a title which, even though the termagant humour of the waters be abated, it beseems me as aptly fits them at this day.”
MISS LAVINIA’S LETTERS TO BARBARA
NEW YORK, “GREENWICH VILLAGE,” January 20, 19—.
“So you are glad that I have returned? I wish that I could say so also, in your hearty tone of conviction. Every day of the two years that I have been scattering myself about Europe I have wished myself at home in the house where I was born, and have wandered through the rooms in my dreams; yet now that I am here, I find that I was mixing the past impossibly with the present, in a way common to those over fifty. Yes, you see I no longer pretend, wear unsuitable headgear, and blink obliviously at my age as I did in those trying later forties. I not only face it squarely, but exaggerate it, for it is so much more comfortable to have people say ‘Fifty-five! Is it possible?’
“By the way, do you know that you and I share a distinction in common? We are both living in the houses where we were born, for the reason that we wish to and not because we cannot help ourselves. Since I have been away it appears that every one I know, of my own age, has made a change of some sort, and joined the two streams that are flowing steadily upward, east and west of the Park; while the people who were neither my financial nor social equals thirty years ago are dividing the year into quarters, with a house for each. A few months in town, a few of hotel life for ‘rest’ in the south, then a ‘between-season’ residence near by, seaside next, mountains in early autumn, and the ‘between-season’ again before the winter cruise through the Whirlpool.