A Little Girl in Old San Francisco

       Amanda M. Douglas / Young Adult
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A Little Girl in Old San Francisco
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A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO

* * * * *

THE ”LITTLE GIRL” SERIES

A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW YORK HANNAH ANN; A SEQUEL A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BOSTON A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD PHILADELPHIA A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD WASHINGTON A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW ORLEANS A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD DETROIT A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD ST. LOUIS A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD CHICAGO A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD QUEBEC

* * * * *

A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO

LLBY

AMANDA M. DOUGLAS

New YorkDodd, Mead and Company1905

Copyright, 1905By Dodd, Mead & CompanyAll rights reserved

Published September, 1905

TO

MARTHA REDINGTON

To you who have enjoyed the charms and wonders of the newer city, theold and remarkable may have a charm. Half a century is not much inwhich to rear the Queen City of the Western Coast.

With a friend's regard, The Author.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA 1

II OLD SAN FRANCISCO 15

III MAKING A NEW HOME 27

IV A QUEER WINTER 43

V PELAJO 59

VI A DIFFERENT OUTLOOK 79

VII A TASTE OF GAYETY 94

VIII GIRLS AND GIRLS 107

IX A PARTY AND AN ADMIRER 124

X ETHICS AND ETIQUETTE 138

XI IN THE SUNSHINE OF YOUTH 155

XII NEW EXPERIENCES 174

XIII BALDER THE BEAUTIFUL 189

XIV A WEDDING AND A PARTING 205

XV THE ENCHANTMENT OF YOUTH 223

XVI IN THE BALANCE 241

XVII THE DECISION OF FATE 258

XVIII TO SEE YOU ONCE AGAIN 276

XIX THE GUIDING FINGER 292

XX AN ENCHANTED JOURNEY 313

CHAPTER I

FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA

It was a long journey for a little girl, so long indeed that the oldlife had almost faded from her mind, and seemed like something done inanother existence. When she was younger still she had once surprisedher mother by saying, ”Mother, where did I live before I came here?”The pale, care-worn woman had glanced at her in vague surprise andanswered rather fretfully, ”Why, nowhere, child.”

”Oh, but I remember things,” said the little girl with a confidentair, looking out of eyes that seemed to take an added shade from herpresent emotions.

”Nonsense! You can't remember things that never happened. That'simagining them, and it isn't true. If you told them they would befalsehoods. There, go out and get me a basket of chips.”

She was afraid of telling falsehoods, most of those rigid peoplecalled them by their plain name, ”lies,” and whipped their children.So the little girl kept them to herself; she was a very good andupright child as a general thing and knew very little about her trickyfather. But she went on imagining. Especially when she studiedgeography, which she was extravagantly fond of, yet she could neverquite decide which country she had lived in.

Through those months of journeying in the big vessel over strangewaters, for she had been born in an inland hamlet with a great woodsof hemlock, spruce, and fir behind the little cottage, and two orthree small creeks wandering about, she had many strange thoughts.Though at first she was quite ill, but Uncle Jason was the best nursein the world, and presently she began to run about and get acquainted.There were only a few women passengers. One middle-aged, with a sonsixteen, who was working his way; a few wives emigrating with theirhusbands, three women friends who were in the hope of finding aneasier life and perhaps husbands, though they hardly admitted that toeach other.

She often sat in Uncle Jason's lap, hugged up to his breast. Ofcourse, her mother had been his sister, they had settled upon that,and he did not contradict. She was lulled by the motion of the vesseland often fell asleep, but in her waking moments these were thememories that were growing more vague and getting tangled up withvarious things.

Her father had taught school at South Berwick the winter she couldrecall most readily, and came home on Saturday morning, spending mostof the time at the store. Woodville was only a sort of hamlet, thoughit had a church, a school, and a general store. Sometimes he would goback on Sunday, but oftener early Monday morning. Then late in thesummer he was home for a while, and went away after talks with hermother that did not always seem pleasant. He took very little noticeof her, in her secret heart she felt afraid of him, though he wasseldom really cross to her. And then he went away and did not appearagain until the winter, when there seemed a great deal of talking andbusiness, and he brought a boxful of clothes for them, and seemed inexcellent spirits. He was in business in Boston, and would move themall there at once, if grandmother would consent, but she was old, andhad had a stroke, and could not get about without a cane. The oldhouse was hers and she would finish out her days there. Of course,then, her mother could not go. She had a new, warm woollen frock and acloak that was the envy of the other children, and absolute city shoesthat she could only wear on Sunday, and, of course, were presentlyoutgrown.

She studied up everything she could concerning Boston, but her motherwould not talk about it. In the summer, grandmother had another strokeand then was bedridden. It was a poor little village, and everybodyhad hard work to live, summers were especially busy, and winters werelong and hard. Grandmother was fretful, and wandered a little in hermind. Now and then a neighbor came in to spell Mrs. Westbury, andthere was always some mysterious talking that her mother did not carefor her to hear. Grandmother lived more than a year and was a helplessburden at the last. After she had gone the poor mother sank down,overwhelmed with trouble. David Westbury had persuaded the old lady tosign over the house for a business venture he was to make in Bostonthat would put him on the road to fortune. And now it was found thathe had decamped, that there had been no business but speculating, andshe no longer had a home for herself and her child.

They were very poor. People bore straits bravely in those days andsuffered in silence. The poor mother grew paler and thinner and had ahard cough. In the spring they would be homeless. By spring she wouldbe--and what would happen to the child! A little bound-out girl,perhaps.

Laverne was not taken into these sorrowful confidences. She did not goto school, her mother needed to be waited upon. One bright afternoonshe went out to skate on the creek. The school children joined her,and it was almost dark when they started for home. The little girl'sheart upbraided her, but she had carried in the last armful of wood,and had not told her mother. What would they do to-morrow!

She went in hesitatingly. Oh, how good and warm the room felt and twocandles were burning. A man sat beside the stove with a sort of frank,bright, yet weather-beaten face, a mop of chestnut-colored hair, abeard growing up to his very mouth, but with the brightest blue eyesshe had ever seen, merry blue eyes, too, that looked as if there wasjust a twinkle back of the lashes.

”This is my little girl, Laverne,” said her mother. ”We have alwayscalled her Verne, seeing there were three of the same name. And thisis”--the mother's tone had a curious tremble in it, as if she caughther breath--”this is Uncle Jason.”

The first glance made them friends. They both smiled. She was like hermother in the young days, and had the same dimple in her cheek, andthe one in her chin where the children used to hold a buttercup. Sheput out both hands. They had been so lonely, so poor, and she wasglad all over with a strange feeling, just as if they had come tobetter times.

What a supper they had! She was very hungry. She had been quite usedto eating bread and molasses, or a little moist brown sugar. And herewas a great chunk of butter on the edge of her plate, and the room wasfragrant with the smell of broiled ham.

If she had known anything about fairies she would have believed inenchantment at once. And there was part of a splendid cake, and orangejam, and she could hardly make it real. No neighbor had known alltheir straits, and the little girl had borne them as bravely as hermother. Then, so many people had pinches in the winter, for crops wereoften poor.

She helped her mother with the dishes and then she sat down on a stoolbeside Uncle Jason. Presently, her head sank on his knee and she wentfast asleep. She never heard a word of what her mother and Uncle Jasonwere saying.

At nine o'clock he carried her into the bedroom and laid her on thebed, and she never woke up while her mother undressed her. He wentover to the store where he had bargained for a room. The storekeeper,Mr. Lane, had been as much surprised to see Mr. Chadsey as Mrs.Westbury. He had been born in the old town and his romance hadblossomed and blighted here.

”Now, I tell you,” Seth Lane said to his wife, when the store was shutand they were preparing for bed, ”if that scalawag Westbury was deadthere'd be a weddin' in this town straight away. My, how Chadsey wascut up over hearin' his mean villainy an' gettin' hold of the house!I never b'lieved the old woman knew what she was about. And Chadsey'scome back in the nick o' time, for I don't b'lieve she'll go throughMarch.”

Jason Chadsey planned for their comfort, and went to Boston the nextday, but could find no trace of David Westbury, dead or alive.

As for the little girl, when she woke up in the morning she thoughtshe had had the loveliest dream that could ever haunt one. But whenshe saw the bountiful breakfast she was amazed to the last degree.

”Was Uncle Jason really here?” she asked timidly. She was quite sureher mother had been crying.

”Yes, dear. He has gone to Boston and will be back in a few days. Oh,Laverne, I hope you will learn to love him. Some day, when you areolder, you will understand why he came back, and he will be your bestfriend when”--when I am gone, she was about to say, but checkedherself, and substituted ”all your life. When I was a little girl hewas a kind and generous big boy. Then he went to sea, and was backonly a few times. For years I had heard nothing from him--he has beenround the world, everywhere. And he has a big, tender heart----”

”Oh, I am sure I shall be glad to love him. Why, you seem to go rightto his heart;” and the child's face glowed with enthusiasm.

”Yes, yes.” She began to cough and sat down suddenly, putting herhandkerchief to her mouth.

”The salt, quick, Verne,” she gasped.

She lay on the old wooden settee and stuffed her mouth full of salt.

”Oh, what can I do?” cried the child, in mild alarm.

”Run for Aunt Cynthy Beers. Tell her to come quick.”

The neighbor, who was the village nurse, came back with the child.Then she was despatched for the doctor. He shook his head gravely.

”Doctor, you must keep me alive a little while longer,” she pleaded.

”Oh, you are good for some time yet, only you must not make theslightest exertion. Cynthy, how long can you stay?”

”Ten days or so. Then I have to go over on the Creek,” she answeredlaconically.

”That will do.” Then he gave sundry charges to Miss Beers, and leftthe remedies she was to use, but that lady knew what was meant.

Mrs. Westbury beckoned the nurse to her when he had gone.

”Don't tell Laverne,” she said. ”Don't say anything about----”

”That's cruel. Why, she ought to know and be prepared.”

”No, no; I will not have a word said. I cannot explain, no one can.And if she took it hard, don't you see, it would drive me wild andshorten my days. I'm all worn out. And she will be provided for.”

Everybody was kind and solicitous, sending in cooked food, offering tosit up at night, but Miss Beers was equal to all demands. The sickwoman really did improve. Laverne hovered about her mother, read toher out of her geography and Peter Parley's history, as well as thesweetest hymns out of the hymn book. Jimmy Cox came over and did thechores, provided the wood, took Verne out on his sled, and the dayspassed along. Jason Chadsey returned. Miss Beers had to go her way,and a neighbor came in to do what was needed. One day, before theminister and the Squire, she gave her child to Jason Chadsey, whopromised to care for her and educate her, and keep her from all harm.

”You both know that I loved her mother and would gladly have marriedher in the old days, but untoward fate intervened. I could find notrace of the child's father. She has no near relatives to care forher, so I shall be father to her, and Heaven may judge me at thelast.”

He was holding the child on his knee that evening, ”You are to be mylittle girl always,” he said, with tender solemnity. ”You shall bemade happy as a little bird. And if you will only love me----”

”Oh, I shall, I do. And will you stay here? Mother will be so glad.She was longing so to have you come back. You will never go awayagain?”

”Never from you, my little girl;” and he kissed the child's trust intoperfect belief.

There were two more alarms, then the frail life went out peacefully.The child was stunned. It had seemed right for grandmother to leave aworld that she was forgetting about, but Laverne could not understandall the mystery. Her mother had always been quiet and reserved, it wasthe fashion in those days, and the child could not miss the things shehad never had. And neither could she ever have understood her sorrowover the great mistake in giving her such a father. But Heaven hadhelped her to make amends, for the child was the embodiment of her ownyouth. It was all she had and she gave it to the man who had loved hersincerely, glad and thankful that she was not to be left to theuncertain charity of the world.

The frightened child clung very closely to him. The worn furniture andbedding were distributed among the neighbors, a few keepsakescollected, a few good-bys said, and good wishes given, and they wentfirst to Boston and then to New York. Then they were to go to thewonderful land of gold and sunshine, California. They found it on themap. And there was the long, long sail, and the little girl was goingfar away from the only sorrow of her life, that was so strangelymingled with the only dear love. For while the other had been hedgedabout with the severe training of the times, afraid of sinfulness inindulging in what was called carnal affections, even in loving achild, now she had the utmost tenderness lavished upon her. She had noone but him, and that was a continual joy and kept his heart at hightide. She was all his.

Later she was to know about the young love between them, and how whenher mother was just fifteen he had shipped for three years aboard amerchantman. They had sailed about the Eastern seas, bought and sold,and at last started for home, to be wrecked, and nearly all hadperished. Of the few saved there were no tidings of Jason Chadsey.Laverne waited and hoped and came to her twentieth birthday. DavidWestbury was considered a smart young man. He had been a clerk in astore, he had worked on a newspaper, and taught school, and couldturn his hand to a good many things. He had a smooth tongue, too, anda certain polish in his manner above the country youths. Grandmotherespoused his cause at once. Jason Chadsey was dead, lovers were not soplentiful in these small places, where the enterprising young men wentaway. It was hard to stand out against one's own mother, and all theyears to come to be taunted as an old maid. And so Laverne marriedDavid Westbury, and when her little girl was a month old he came backnot altogether penniless, but it was too late.

He had roamed about the world a good deal. He had made money, andspent it freely, lost some of it, helped friends in distress. Now, hewas going out to that wonderful land that had been the dream of theSpaniard, and another nation had brought the dream true. He wouldvisit the little old village once more, and see how it had fared withhis early love and his old friends, and then say good-bye forever. Andknowing she was near to death, Laverne Westbury told him her sadstory, and he read between the broken sentences that he had been herearly love, her only love.

So they whiled the time away, the man's dreams growing more vivid, thechild's fading. They passed strange countries, there were seas ofpeerless blue, seas of emerald green, then strange colors commingled.There were cloudless skies and broad sheets of sunshine that seemed toenvelop the whole world in a blaze; there were nights of such glowingstars as one seldom sees on land, there were gray days with sullenwinds, and storms that sent a thrill to the stoutest hearts, when thevessel groaned and creaked and the women cried in terror. But Laverneonly crept closer in Uncle Jason's arms and felt safe.

They stopped here and there at a port, places they hunted up on themap, cities that seemed marvels to the little girl, shores with wavingblooming forests and almost steaming fragrance. Strange birds, strangemany-hued fish, darting hither and thither, seaweed that in thesunshine looked like masses of bloom, or living things swimming about.Curious people, too, speaking languages no little girl couldunderstand, then leaving the warmth, and shivering with blasts of coldair, wonderful islands and capes jutting out--some bleak and bare androcky, others shining in verdure and waving smiles of welcome, itseemed; going safely round the Horn with half their journey done andfinding more wonders, great mountain ranges, shores thickly studdedwith islands, natives swimming about like fishes, queer, half ruinousold Spanish towns, and when they stopped at a port, such a clatter oftongues, such a screaming of voices, such a confusion, one was glad toget out of it to lovely, enchanting peace once more.

Warmer grew the air with a languorous, permeating fragrance. Moonlightsilvering the water that leaped softly up and down as if playing hideand seek with the next wave. All the boundless space lighted with it,going round the world, swelling, decreasing, a golden crescent, then apale gibbous thing and afterward darkness when the ship crept softlyalong.

If one came in near the shore it was like the blast of a furnace.Then, passing the equator with the queer ceremony among the sailors,and looking across at the little neck of land joining the twocountries, past Central America, which the little girl insisted madethree Americas. She had listened to the tales of the early explorersand their cruel lust for gold until she had shuddered.

”Uncle Jason, are you going for gold in California, and will thepeople murder whole nations and rob them? I would rather not have thegold.”

”No, my little girl; and the country that has the gold belongs to us.But it has many other delightful things as well. It is not like bleakMaine.”

”What a strange journey it has been, and oh, how beautiful most of thetime. I do not believe I shall ever be afraid of storms again.”

”You have made a most excellent sailor. It will seem queer to be onland again. You will keep your sea legs for some time to come.”

”Sea legs?” She laughed inquiringly.

”The faculty one acquires of walking with the roll of the ship.Sailors always do it on land. And you will see that you have aninclination to go from side to side as if the street was hardly wideenough;” and he looked at her out of humorous eyes.

He had a way of nearly shutting one eye, which gave an absolutelyfunny expression to his face. He had buffeted so many storms andnarrow escapes that he looked fully ten years beyond his age, whichwas but thirty-five. He had a tall, vigorous frame, with a littlestoop in the shoulders and a way of sitting down all in a heap. Thelittle girl told him he made a cave for her to sit in. Every day sheloved him more dearly, and to him she was the one thing thatbrightened his way and gave him new aims. He had been going toCalifornia simply to see a strange and new land. He had not been wonby the wonderful tales of gold, he had cared very little for wealth.But now he would make a fortune for her and have it so safely investedthat she should not come to want if she lived to be old. He couldnever forget the afternoon he had come to Laverne Westbury's home,that she had been warned to leave in the spring, and found her almoston the verge of starvation, too proud to keep asking charity, worn outand disheartened, with only the county house looming before her.Little Verne should never know this, never suffer as her mother haddone.

And this was one reason he led her thoughts away from the old life.She was too young to know that he had loved her mother, she took therelationship for granted. And even on the long voyage there had beenso much to entertain her. The only child on board, and a winsome oneat that, she had been a universal favorite; and Jason Chadsey hardlyless so. The trio, as the three single women had been dubbed, thoughthe married ones often said ”the old maids,” after a little,established very friendly relations with Mr. Chadsey. Miss Holmes waspast thirty, and had worn herself almost out teaching school. A seavoyage had been prescribed to avoid consumption, that scourge of theeastern towns. She had gained in health and strength, and certainly inlooks. When she found the little girl and her uncle poring over theirold map, she brought out some of her school books, to Laverne's greatdelight. Among them was the story of the Argonauts that caught theyoung imagination, and even Dick Folsom became interested in thevarious explorers who had dreamed of gold and of the straight route toChina. Miss Gaines had been a dressmaker until a troublesome pain inher side warned her to seek a different occupation, and Miss Alwoodhad kept house, done nursing, and they had planned to make betterfortunes in the new country, where there were fewer women. Mrs. Dawsonwas going out to meet her husband, who had been among the”Forty-miners,” and now kept a sort of lodging ranch, that with herhelp could be transformed into a regular hotel, much in demand at thattime.

And so they had made quite a little colony on shipboard. Slowly theycame up the Pacific Coast, past the long peninsula of SouthernCalifornia, and there, fairly in sight, was the Golden Gate.


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