She was one of the most violent in her aversion to the newcomer.
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Samuel Slumnus shook his fat finger at his mother-in-law, as the crafty dowager, enjoying the excitement created by her feigned swoon, could see with her eyes half-opened. Such conduct was not to be borne. When a hush fell at last upon the room, he was seen mounting the choir-platform. Snograss," he sputtered.
For a full minute silence [Pg 52] reigned—then came a clangor of tongues. It was said afterward that Mrs. Snograss had put a five-dollar bill in the mission-box as she left the choir-room that morning—a performance not without effect. A few parishioners were even heard to lament the fact that Dr. Slumnus's family was not of the same standing as his wife's.
Miss Georgina declared privately to her sister that any one who went to the Snograss woman's should never darken the door of Goby House again. But when the [Pg 53] day preceding Easter came, and she heard from Julie of the delight the town was taking in the prospect of viewing the much-talked of Snograss interior, one venturesome housekeeper having even asserted that she intended going up to the chambers, Miss Georgina, wild with jealousy, decided to carry the war into the enemy's country.
As the night before that day of days died away and clarion cocks made the young dawn vocal, eager hands drew back the curtains of four-posters. Above the green-gray of spring-time streets and lanes, the sentinel tree-tops pointed to the translucent blue of a smiling [Pg 54] sky. Voices cracked and rusted by sleep echoed the cry in the depths of soft, chintz-bound coverlets.
She let the bolster slip to the floor and precipitated her head against the carved laurel leaves of the top-board, all unconsciously. Bright [Pg 55] were the visions of cherished falafals and gewgaws that came to the members of the Easter Guild as they parted company with Morpheus.
Rumbell, looking from a casement in the rectory, felt the sweetness of the season fall upon her. That patch of fresh sky, suggestive of new life and a swift-footed [Pg 56] May, was more to her than a volley of sermons. The snow still lay on hill and heath. Father Winter, neglectful of one of his worlds, was sporting among the northern mountains.
Oh, the peace of it! Why should she care if the wealthy Mrs. Snograss had come to York with her Trenton innovations? All her past grievances were forgotten. In her blissful state she felt she could even go the length of sewing whalebone in her second-best silk skirt to conform to the ridiculous fashion of stiffened skirts, introduced by that lady.
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Everything was changing! What could she, frail and old, gain by wrestling with the times? Roberta was dead and her home awaited a new tenant. Beyond lay the Bowling Green, the background of her long life—witness to all the parts the stage-master, Fate, had dealt out to her. Joys and sorrows marked its worn paths. The city of her golden time was fading away. No halloos of eager huntsmen, ushering in Aurora, greeted her ears as of yore.
Only a stray thrush, mistaking the season, trilled liquid notes to his lost mates on a hemlock by her chamber. Soon the daylight's eyes were wide open, and the door-knockers, [Pg 58] across the church-yard, began to glow like miniature suns. Festivals and holidays always brought the housekeepers of York to market, followed by their faithful blacks carrying little wicker baskets.
They tripped first to Mrs. Sykes's booth, where one could find all the season's delicacies; then to the wintergreen-berry man, and on through the circle of venders. The mystical joy of Eastertide that flooded the heart of Mrs.
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Rumbell in the dawn swept through the concourse at the market. The perfume of the southern lilies, the merry cries of hucksters, and the shrill calls of gutter-waifs as they tugged at the [Pg 59] skirts of Cock-a-nee-nae Bess were all permeated with it. The prattling groups about Mrs. Sykes ofttimes broke away to take sly looks across the green at the distant Broadway. The blinds of Snograss house were parted; a turbaned negress came out and washed the entry. Once the opening of a door thrilled the curious dames. But the newcomer was waiting to enjoy her full triumph in the afternoon.
No one looked toward the house on Vesey Street. The Knickerbockers [Pg 60] never frequented the market—Jonathan Knickerbocker forbade his family's participation in such vulgar customs.
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Georgina did not descend to her sitting-room in as pleasant a humor as was to have been expected from her waking contemplations. She jangled her keys so ominously as she strutted through the halls and pantries that Julie was afraid to venture out. On the day before Easter the little woman was in the habit of stealing away to a by-lane near the market.
From a discreet distance she directed her purchases. Children would run for her oranges, the cock-a-nee-nae necessary to her happiness, the boxes of Poppleton [Pg 61] sweets and foreign nuts. When they were very swift she would reward them with as much as a dime apiece, so great was the delight she felt in providing a secret store of goodies.
To-day there was no escaping. The market was sold out and the booths carried away before she finished helping her sister tie up the Easter presents. It was a custom among the ladies of York to exchange chaste and useful gifts of their own handiwork. Worsted hat-bag covers and silk mittens were the favorites. Rumbell was the one exception to the rule. She still cut up her father's brocade vests into small squares, which [Pg 62] she filled with dried rose-geranium leaves and distributed among her acquaintance. Three generations had received these fragrant marks of her regard, and the wits accused her relative of having been a Hollander, addicted to the habit of swarthing himself in superfluous garments.
Members of the Scruggins set went further, and hinted maliciously that he was a dealer in old clothes. Miss Georgina preferred silk mittens, and gave and received no less than a dozen pairs a season.
If the ones sent to her were of a color she did not like, she kept them for a year or two, and then packed them off again. This was [Pg 63] quite permissible in York. On one occasion Georgina's own mittens were returned to her, but far from being angry, she smiled a grim welcome at them, and remarked to her household that she was glad to see them back for they were at least fashioned of pure silk, and that was more than she could say of many pairs that had been sent to her.
Quaint little ladies of Gothamtown—quaint little old-time figures! Only one or two remember you. The walks you trod are vanishing, the [Pg 64] water-front gardens where you smiled and languished at sedate gentlemen are mostly hidden 'neath bricks and mortar, and the very buildings you were born in, that stood so long impervious to the rude hands of progress, are being demolished. Those musty garments of Juma's "ole Miss," the friend of Mrs. Rumbell, are now folded in some attic trunk with your own pet vanities. What would the haughty Miss Georgina have said if she could have gazed through the door of the future and seen a Scruggins brat grown into a leader of fashion and carrying her own tortoise fan—sold with other Knickerbocker effects at the last vendue?
If one had loitered in Vesey Street that afternoon before Easter so many years past, one would, no doubt, have joined the stragglers about the gates of Snograss House, and watched the members of St. The Flying Swan from Elizabethtown was due at four o'clock, and those timid ladies of the long ago knew that the swaying, swaggering bedlam of a coach would enjoy spattering them as it rattled up to the City Hotel.
Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination
On the porch of that fine hostelry, where Mr. Clarke once wooed his muse and scores of thirsty throats the wine-cup, stood the host, Davy Juniper, whose very name was synonymous with cheer. Through the half-opened door came loud gusts of unceremonious laughter as the portly innkeeper, curveting on tiptoe, swung his garland of [Pg 67] Easter green over the sign-board.
Davy's eyes were riveted on the flashing colors of feminine gear across the street. Now Mrs. Rumbell tottered by and bobbed to him; now a bevy of the Scruggins set passed the house opposite, and gazed in, like forbidden Peris at the door of Paradise.
source Sometimes the street was covered with pedestrians. The quality abroad affected the good man's spirits.
He began to pipe some merry verses from a tap-room ditty:. The night was creeping on, clear and cold, and there would be full settles about his waggish fires. In the sky, puffs of fleecy clouds were hurrying away like sheep eager to reach the fold of mother-dusk. Off in the west, where twilight parted her curtains, glowed faint streaks of yellow and rose color, promises of daffodil meadows and flower-strewn lands to come.
He was turning for a parting survey of the street when his ears caught the tremulous motion of [Pg 69] some vehicle. Dashing out of Vesey Street came the Knickerbocker chariot, creaking protestations as it swung up to the Snograss stile. Out popped Miss Georgina, followed by her sister. Never had Miss Georgina seemed so like a man-of-war's man in a flounce. Miss Julie shrunk into insignificance beside her. Tavern maids, attracted by the noise and heedless of the cold, poked their heads out of dormer windows.
The passengers on the Flying Swan just turning the pike slipped cautiously from the seats behind the guard to find out the cause of the excitement. Juma, hurrying home to [Pg 70] the mansion, paused for a moment to see the sisters of his master step down. Juniper, as he flung a last defiant "tol, de rol," at the gaping street.
The door of the tavern had no more than swung to when that of Snograss House opened.