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The Bent Twig

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241 pages
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Bent Twig, by Dorothy CanfieldThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: The Bent TwigAuthor: Dorothy CanfieldRelease Date: February 22, 2004 [EBook #11221]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE BENT TWIG ***Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.THE BENT TWIGBYDOROTHY CANFIELD1915CONTENTSBOOK I IN ARCADIACHAPTERI SYLVIA'S HOME II THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS III BROTHER AND SISTER IV EVERY ONE'S OPINION OF EVERY ONE ELSE V SOMETHING ABOUTHUSBANDS VI THE SIGHTS OF LA CHANCE VII "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT …" VIII SABOTAGE IX THE END OF CHILDHOODBOOK II A FALSE START TO ATHENSX SYLVIA'S FIRST GLIMPSE OF MODERN CIVILIZATIONXI ARNOLD'S FUTURE Is CASUALLY DECIDEDXII ONE MAN'S MEATXIII AN INSTRUMENT IN TUNEXIV HIGHER EDUCATIONXV MRS. DRAPER BLOWS THE COALSXVI PLAYING WITH MATCHESXVII MRS. MARSHALL STICKS TO HER PRINCIPLESXVIII SYLVIA SKATES MERRILY ON THIN ICEXIX AS A BIRD OUT OF A SNAREXX "BLOW, WIND; SWELL, BILLOW; AND SWIM, BARK!"XXI SOME YEARS DURING WHICH NOTHING HAPPENSBOOK III IN CAPUA AT LASTXXII A GRATEFUL CARTHAGINIANXXIII MORE TALK BETWEEN YOUNG MODERNSXXIV ANOTHER BRAND OF MODERN TALKXXV NOTHING IN THE ...
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Bent Twig, by Dorothy Canfield This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Bent Twig Author: Dorothy Canfield Release Date: February 22, 2004 [EBook #11221] Language: English *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE BENT TWIG *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. THE BENT TWIG BY DOROTHY CANFIELD 1915 CONTENTS BOOK I IN ARCADIA CHAPTER I SYLVIA'S HOME II THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS III BROTHER AND SISTER IV EVERY ONE'S OPINION OF EVERY ONE ELSE V SOMETHING ABOUT HUSBANDS VI THE SIGHTS OF LA CHANCE VII "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT …" VIII SABOTAGE IX THE END OF CHILDHOOD BOOK II A FALSE START TO ATHENS X SYLVIA'S FIRST GLIMPSE OF MODERN CIVILIZATION XI ARNOLD'S FUTURE Is CASUALLY DECIDED XII ONE MAN'S MEAT XIII AN INSTRUMENT IN TUNE XIV HIGHER EDUCATION XV MRS. DRAPER BLOWS THE COALS XVI PLAYING WITH MATCHES XVII MRS. MARSHALL STICKS TO HER PRINCIPLES XVIII SYLVIA SKATES MERRILY ON THIN ICE XIX AS A BIRD OUT OF A SNARE XX "BLOW, WIND; SWELL, BILLOW; AND SWIM, BARK!" XXI SOME YEARS DURING WHICH NOTHING HAPPENS BOOK III IN CAPUA AT LAST XXII A GRATEFUL CARTHAGINIAN XXIII MORE TALK BETWEEN YOUNG MODERNS XXIV ANOTHER BRAND OF MODERN TALK XXV NOTHING IN THE LEAST MODERN XXVI MOLLY IN HER ELEMENT XXVII BETWEEN WINDWARD AND HEMLOCK MOUNTAINS XXVIII SYLVIA ASKS HERSELF "WHY NOT?" XXIX A HYPOTHETICAL LIVELIHOOD XXX ARNOLD CONTINUES TO DODGE THE RENAISSANCE XXXI SYLVIA MEETS WITH PITY XXXII MUCH ADO XXXIII "WHOM GOD HATH JOINED…" XXXIV SYLVIA TELLS THE TRUTH XXXV "A MILESTONE PASSED, THE ROAD SEEMS CLEAR" XXXVI THE ROAD IS NOT SO CLEAR XXXVII "… His wife and children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, 'Life! Life Eternal!'" XXXVIII SYLVIA COMES TO THE WICKET GATE XXXIX SYLVIA DRIFTS WITH THE MAJORITY BOOK IV THE STRAIT PATH XL A CALL FROM HOME XLI HOME AGAIN XLII "Strange that we creatures of the petty ways, Poor prisoners behind these fleshly bars, Can sometimes think us thoughts with God ablaze, Touching the fringes of the outer stars" XLIII "Call now; is there any that will answer thee?" XLIV "A bruised reed will He not break, and a dimly burning wick will He not quench" XLV "That our soul may swim We sink our heart down, bubbling, under wave" XLVI A LONG TALK WITH ARNOLD XLVII "…AND ALL THE TRUMPETS SOUNDED!" THE BENT TWIG BOOK I IN ARCADIA CHAPTER I SYLVIA'S HOME Like most happy childhoods, Sylvia's early years lay back of her in a long, cheerful procession of featureless days, the outlines of which were blurred into one shimmering glow by the very radiance of their sunshine. Here and there she remembered patches, sensations, pictures, scents: Mother holding baby sister up for her to kiss, and the fragrance of the baby powder—the pine-trees near the house chanting loudly in an autumn wind—her father's alert face, intent on the toy water-wheel he was setting for her in the little creek in their field—the beautiful sheen of the pink silk dress Aunt Victoria had sent her—the look of her mother's steady, grave eyes when she was so sick—the leathery smell of the books in the University Library one day when she followed her father there—the sound of the rain pattering on the low, slanting roof of her bedroom—these were the occasional clearly outlined, bright-colored illuminations wrought on the burnished gold of her sunny little life. But from her seventh birthday her memories began to have perspective, continuity. She remembered an occasional whole scene, a whole afternoon, just as it happened. The first of these must have marked the passing of some unrecognized mental milestone, for there was nothing about it to set it apart from any one of a hundred afternoons. It may have been the first time she looked at what was about her, and saw it. Mother was putting the baby to bed for his nap—not the baby-sister—she was a big girl of five by this time, but another baby, a little year-old brother, with blue eyes and yellow hair, instead of brown eyes and hair like his two sisters'. And when Mother stooped over the little bed, her white fichu fell forward and Sylvia leaned to hold it back from the baby's face, a bit of thoughtfulness which had a rich reward in a smile of thanks from Mother. That was what began the remembered afternoon. Mother's smiles were golden coin, not squandered on every occasion. Then, she and Mother and Judith tiptoed out of the bedroom into Mother's room and there stood Father, with his University clothes on and yet his hair rather rumpled up, as though he had been teaching very hard. He had a pile of papers in his hand and he said, "Barbara, are you awfully busy just now?" Mother said, Oh no, she wasn't at all. (She never was busy when Father asked her to do something, although Sylvia could not remember ever once having seen her sit and do nothing, no, not even for a minute!) Then Father said, "Well, if you could run over these, I'd have time to have some ball with the seminar after they're dismissed. These are the papers the Freshmen handed in for that Economics quiz." Mother said, "Sure she could," or the equivalent of that, and Father thanked her, turned Judith upside-down and right-side-up again so quick that she didn't know what had happened, and left them all laughing as they usually were when Father ran down from the study for something. So Sylvia and Judith, quite used to this procedure, sat down on the floor with a book to keep them quiet until Mother should be through. Neither of them could read, although Sylvia was beginning to learn, but they had been told the stories so many times that they knew them from the pictures. The book they looked at that day had the story of the people who had rowed a great boat across the water to get a gold sheepskin, and Sylvia told it to Judith, word for word, as Father always told it. She glanced up at Mother from time to time to make sure she was getting it right; and ever afterwards the mention of the Argonauts brought up before Sylvia's eyes the picture of her mother that day, sitting very straight, her strong brown fingers making an occasional mark on the papers, as she turned them over with a crisp rustle, her quiet face bent, in a calm fixity of attention, over the pages. Before they knew it, the work was done, Father had come for the papers, and showed Sylvia one more twist in the acrobatic stunt they were learning together. She could already take his hands and run up to his shoulders in one squirrel- like dash; but she was to learn the reverse and come down on the other side, and she still got tangled up with which foot to put first. So they practised whenever they had, as now, a minute or two to spare. Then Judith was set to play with her blocks like the baby she still was, while Sylvia and Mother had a lesson in reading. Sylvia could remember the very sound of Mother's clear voice as she corrected a mistake. They were reading a story about what happened to a drop of water that fell into the brook in their field; how, watering the thirsty cornfields as it flowed, the brook ran down to the river near La Chance, where it worked ever so many mills and factories and things. Then on through bigger and bigger rivers until it reached the Mississippi, where boats rode on its back; and so on down to the ocean. And there, after resting a while, it was pumped up by the sun and made into a cloud, and the wind blew it back over the land and to their field again, where it fell into the brook and said, "Why, how-de-do, Sylvia—you still here?" Father had written the story, and Mother had copied it out on the typewriter so it would be easy for Sylvia to read. After they had finished she remembered looking out of the window and watching the big white clouds drift across the pale bright April sky. They were full of hundreds of drops of water, she thought, that were going to fall into hundreds of other brooks, and then travel and work till they reached the sea, and then rest for a while and begin all over again. Her dark eyes grew very wide as she watched the endless procession of white mountains move across the great arch of the sky. Her imagination was stirred almost painfully, her mind expanding with the effort to take in the new conception of size, of great numbers, of the small place of her own brook, her own field in the hugeness of the world. And yet it was an ordered hugeness full of comforting similarity! Now, no matter where she might go, or what brooks she might see, she would know that they were all of one family, that the same things happened to them all, that every one ended in the ocean. Something she had read on a piece of paper made her see the familiar home field with the yellow water of the little creek, as a part of the whole world. It was very strange. She tried to tell Mother something of what was in her mind, but, though Mother listened in a sympathetic silence, it was evident that she could make nothing out of the incoherent account. Sylvia thought that she would try to tell Father, the next chance she had. Even at seven, although she loved her mother passionately and jealously, she was aware that her father's mind was more like her own. He understood some things that Mother didn't, although Mother was always, always right, and Father wasn't. She fell into silence again, standing by her mother's knee, staring out of the window and watching the clouds move steadily across the sky doing their share of the world's work for all they looked so soft and lazy. Her mother did not break in on this meditative contemplation. She took up her sewing- basket and began busily to sew buttons on a small pair of half-finished night-drawers. The sobered child beside her, gazing up at the blue-and-white infinity of the sky, heard faintly and distantly, for the first time in her life, the whirring reverberations of the great mystic wheel of change and motion and life. Then, all at once, there was a scraping of chairs overhead in Father's study, a clattering on the stairs, and the sound of a great many voices. The Saturday seminar was over. The door below opened, and the students came out, Father at the head, very tall, very straight, his ruddy hair shining in the late afternoon sun, his shirt-sleeves rolled up over his arms, and a baseball in his hand. "Come on, folks," Sylvia heard him call, as he had so many times before. "Let's have a couple of innings before you go!" Sylvia must have seen the picture a hundred times before, but that was the first time it impressed itself on her, the close-cut grass of their yard as lustrous as enamel, the big pine-trees standing high, the scattered players, laughing and running about, the young men casting off their coats and hats, the detached fielders running long- legged to their places. At the first sound of the voices, Judith, always alert, never wasting time in reveries, had scampered down the stairs and out in the midst of the stir-about. Judith was sure to be in the middle of whatever was going on. She had attached herself to young Professor Saunders, a special favorite of the children, and now was dragging him from the field to play horse with her. Father looked up to the window where Sylvia and Mother sat, and called: "Come on, Barbara! Come on and amuse Judith. She won't let Saunders pitch." Mother nodded, ran downstairs, coaxed Judith over beyond first base to play catch with a soft rubber ball; and Sylvia, carried away by the cheerful excitement, hopped about everywhere at once, screaming encouragement to the base runners, picking up foul balls, and sending them with proud importance back to the pitcher. So they all played and shouted and ran and laughed, while the long, pale-golden spring afternoon stood still, until Mother held up her finger and stopped the game. "The baby's awake!" she said, and Father went bounding off. When he came back with the downy pink morsel, everybody gathered around to see it and exclaim over the tiny fat hands and hungry little rosebud mouth. "He's starved!" said Mother. "He wants his supper, poor little Buddy! He doesn't want a lot of people staring at him, do you, Buddy-baby?" She snatched him out of Father's arms and went off with him, holding him high over her shoulders so that the sunshine shone on his yellow hair, and made a circle of gold around his flushed, sleepy face. Then everybody picked up books and wraps and note-books and said, "Good-by, 'Perfessor!'" and went off. Father and Sylvia and Judith went out in the garden to the hotbed to pick the lettuce for supper and then back in the kitchen to get things ready. When Mother was through giving Buddy his supper and came hurrying in to help, Sylvia was proud that they had nearly everything done—all but the omelet. Father had made cocoa and creamed potatoes—nobody in the world could make creamed potatoes as good as his—and Sylvia and Judith had between them, somewhat wranglingly, made the toast and set the table. Sylvia was sure that Judith was really too little to be allowed to help, but Father insisted that she should try, for he said, with a turn in his voice that made Sylvia aware he was laughing at her, "You only learned through trying, all those many years ago when you were Judith's age!" Mother put on one of her big gingham aprons and made the omelet, and they sat down to the table out on the veranda as they always did in warm weather. In La Chance it begins to be warm enough for outdoor life in April. Although it was still bright daylight for ever so long after the sun had set, the moon came and looked at them palely over the tops of the trees. After supper they jumped up to "race through the dishes," as the family catchword ran. They tried to beat their record every evening and it was always a lively occasion, with Mother washing like lightning, and Father hurrying to keep up, Sylvia running back and forth to put things away, and Judith bothering 'round, handing out dry dish-towels, and putting away the silver. She was allowed to handle that because she couldn't break it. Mother and Judith worked in a swift silence, but a great deal of talking and laughing went on between Sylvia and her father, while Buddy, from his high-chair where he was watching the others, occasionally broke out in a loud, high crow of delight. They did it all, even to washing and hanging out the dish-towels, in eleven and a half minutes that evening, Sylvia remembered. Then she and Judith went to sit on the porch on the little bench Mother had made them. They tried to see who could catch the first glimpse of the evening star every evening. Mother was putting Buddy to bed and Father was starting the breakfast cereal cooking on the stove. After a while he went into the living-room and began to play something on the piano, something full of deep, swaying chords that lifted Sylvia's heart up and down as though she were floating on the water. The air was full of the moist fragrance of spring. When the music held its breath for a moment you could hear the bedtime note of sleepy birds in the oaks. Judith, who did not care much for music, began to get sleepy and leaned all her soft, warm weight against her big sister. Sylvia for the first time in her life was consciously aware of being very happy. When, some time later, the evening star shone out through the trees, she drew a long breath. "See, Judith," she cried softly and began to recite, "Star-light, star-bright, First star I've seen tonight—" She stopped short—it was Aunt Victoria who had taught her that poem, the last time she had come to see them, a year ago, the time when she had brought Sylvia the pink silk dress, the only dress-up dress with lace and ribbons on it Sylvia
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