“But it seems to set us down; it seems common in us to be so ready to be familiar with common people. More in us, because we do live plainly. If Mrs. Hadden or Mrs. Marchbanks did it, it might seem kind without the common. I think they ought to begin such things.”
“But then if they don’t? Very likely it would be far more inconvenient for them; and not the same good either, because it would be, or seem, a condescension. We are the ‘very next,’ and we must be content to be the step we are.”
“It’s the other thing with us,—con-ascension,—isn’t it, mother? A step up for somebody, and no step down for anybody. Mrs. Ingleside does it,” Ruth added.
“O, Mrs. Ingleside does all sorts of things. She has that sort of position. It’s as independent as the other. High moral and high social can do anything. It’s the betwixt and between that must be careful.”
“What a miserably negative set we are, in such a positive state of the world!” cried Barbara. “Except Ruth’s music, there isn’t a specialty among us; we haven’t any views; we’re on the mean-spirited side of the Woman Question; ‘all woman, and no question,’ as mother says; we shall never preach, nor speech, nor leech; we can’t be magnificent, and we won’t be common! I don’t see what is to become of us, unless—and I wonder if maybe that isn’t it?—we just do two or three rather right things in a no-particular sort of a way.”
“Barbara, how nice you are!” cried Ruth.
“No. I’m a thorn. Don’t touch me.”
“We never have company when we are having sewing done,” said Mrs. Holabird. “We can always manage that.”
“I don’t want to play Box and Cox,” said Rosamond.
“That’s the beauty of you, Rosa Mundi!” said Barbara, warmly. “You don’t want to play anything. That’s where you’ll come out sun-clear and diamond bright!”
THE “BACK YETT AJEE.”
Those who do not like common people need not read this chapter.
We had Delia Waite the next week. It happened well, in a sort of Box-and-Cox fashion; for Mrs. Van Alstyne went off with some friends to the Isles of Shoals, and Alice and Adelaide Marchbanks went with her; so that we knew we should see nothing of the two great families for a good many days; and when Leslie came, or the Haddens, we did not so much mind; besides, they knew that we were busy, and they did not expect any “coil” got up for them. Leslie came right up stairs, when she was alone; if Harry or Mr. Thayne were with her, one of us would take a wristband or a bit of ruffling, and go down. Somehow, if it happened to be Harry, Barbara was always tumultuously busy, and never offered to receive: but it always ended in Rosamond’s making her. It seemed to be one of the things that people wait to be overcome in their objections to.
We always had a snug, cosey time when Delia was with us; we were all simple and busy, and the work was getting on; that was such an under-satisfaction; and Delia was having such a good time. She hardly ever failed to come to us when we wanted her; she could always make some arrangement.