Authors: Grace Livingston Hill
© 2014 by Grace Livingston Hill
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All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Published by Barbour Books, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
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mory had walked from the station to save the taxi fare, but had she realized the distance, even her courageous heart might have hesitated.
“Third mansion on the right, not the third residence—” the cryptic station agent had advised her tersely, and Amory envisioned a possible row of neat two-story brick homes, with larger houses beyond set in wide lawns. She picked up her suitcase briskly and stepped off down the elm-shaded road. Her trunk would follow later.
The street opened out amply and leisurely with no houses at all for some distance, nothing but green fields edged by neat hedges. Then a large old-fashioned brick house emerged in glimpses through the trees. It was set far back in a well-kept lawn, with a flower garden at one side. She paused and studied it. Was this a residence or a mansion? Had she possibly made a mistake and turned the wrong way at the station? But no, the agent had been watching her. He would surely have told her if she had been wrong.
She gave the brick house another appraising glance and revised her ideas of residences and incidentally of Briarcliffe. If such palaces as this one on her right were mere residences, what would the mansions be? And if she had come to live in a mansion, would the modest wardrobe contained in her small shabby suitcase and her small shabby trunk suffice, even for a social secretary? Somewhat apprehensively she went on and presently passed a big white colonial house enmeshed by a labyrinth of small, box hedges. Two lovely stone houses were next, built long and low like bungalows, with arched lattices covered with roses in bloom. And cozy homelike gardens. Well, at least these were not mansions, but still, they spoke of wealth. Perhaps the agent meant these were not to be counted, and the first two must have been mansions. That was it, probably.
The next place was Norman in architecture. She decided it was the third mansion and walked confidently up the drive and rang the doorbell. But the maid who answered the door answered curtly that the Whitneys did not live there. She did not know where they lived. She was new at the place, and the folks were all out.
Amory went back to the street again and stood, bewildered, but finally decided to go on, as there was no one in sight whom she could ask.
The next house was another colonial, smaller than the first, and she hardly knew whether to class it as a mansion or not. Three more houses she passed doubtfully, and then another large stone house with elaborate awnings and a wide orange and black umbrella spread over a tea table on the lawn.
There were some children playing around a fountain, and a man was cutting the hedge about the terrace. She decided to try again.
The children only stared when she asked them, but the man turned from his work and told her, “It’s some ways up the pike, lady. The third large mansion on yer right—”
“But which is the first mansion?” she asked in despair, setting down the suitcase, which now was making her feel its every pound. “Do you count from here, or where?”
The man looked at her as if she were an ignoramus, but answered good naturedly, “There’s two more ’ouses, lady, beyont this, an’ then ye come to the big hestates. It’s the third one of them, ma’am, the third hestate!”
Amory thanked him and picked up her suitcase, but as she went wearily down the walk, she was possessed by a desire to laugh aloud. So she was going to an “hestate”! What would Aunt Hannah say to that? What would Rayport think if they knew? How Helen and Miriam and Esther would exclaim wistfully! How far removed she felt herself already! Could she stand it, this new world that seemed at just this glimpse like another universe? What part had she in a world like this? Oh, of course she had come to work and not to have part in the life at all, but already the little lonesome part of her that lived and loved felt suddenly appalled at the wide difference there would be between this new life and the precious one she had left behind in the quaint, loving, friendly hometown where she had been brought up by her two dear maiden aunts.
But this would not do. She must not get maudlin before she arrived. She was here to earn good money to help get Aunt Hannah the nurse and the specialist she needed and to provide a lot of necessities to make it easier for frail little Aunt Jocelyn now that Amory was not to be there to save her from the hard knocks of life.
So she was to live in a mansion! Well, she might have known it from the size of the salary the Whitneys were willing to pay. It was nothing short of a miracle that such a salary had fallen to her lot! If it hadn’t been for the minister who used to know Mr. Whitney in college days and happened to meet him on a trip to town and find out he was looking for a social secretary for his wife, she never would have got it, of course. Now the difficulty would be to keep it! And then for the thousandth time she was visited by her fears. Yes, of course, she was good at dictation. Hadn’t she taken the prize in the contest? And of course the Rayport Seminary had had a marvelous advantage over other small-town schools, in having had as principal for five years a woman of national reputation. She had come to Rayport to be near her old mother who was slowly dying of an incurable trouble and could not be moved without great suffering. Well, all of those things would count—she must just do her best.
At last she passed the next two big houses, and then a great stone wall with immense corner pillars, vine clad and rose capped, announced the beginning of the first “hestate.” Far ahead of her, as if they were miles away, loomed more pillars. When she came to them in her weary plodding, they proved to be furnished with iron grillwork that gave a glimpse of a far white-marble building that fully bore out the name mansion.
Amory put her suitcase down and sat on it for a few minutes to rest in the shadow of this great gateway. She felt like a very little pilgrim indeed as she looked wistfully through the iron gates and studied the beautiful palace in the distance, wondering if the Whitney place would be anything like it.
Suddenly a shining automobile swept toward her, and in a panic she picked up her suitcase and started on again. Suppose it should be her future employer riding in that car! She did not want to be caught like a little tramp sitting on her dusty suitcase by the roadside!
But the car swept in at the drive after a pause for the chauffeur to open the gates, and she caught a glimpse of a proud woman and a girl with bright hair and reddened lips sitting in the backseat.
By this time she was very tired and much disheartened. But there was only one more estate before she came to her destination, so she took courage and plodded on. After all, she wouldn’t have thought this much of a walk if she had been at home. She couldn’t have come more than three miles, and what were three miles, even with a burden to carry? What was a mere little suitcase? She had often carried heavier burdens as far. No, it was her heavy heart that was the matter! She was homesick! Just plain homesick. She wanted to turn tail and run back where she had come from. She wanted to sit down to supper with Aunt Jocelyn and tell her about the journey. She wanted to eat the white raised biscuits and honey and the dainty omelet Aunt Jocelyn would prepare. Oh, she was hungry! Just tired and hungry like a baby! She wanted to go to prayer meeting tonight and see if the boys of her Sunday school class would all be there. She wanted to play the wheezy old piano as she had done ever since she was a little girl; she wanted to hear the minister pray tenderly, as he would tonight she was sure, for “the one who has left us for a little while to do Thy will in other fields”—that would be the way he would put it. How it choked her to think about it all. How dear home seemed! Even the threadbare old red carpet in the prayer meeting room seemed dear, though there had been times in the past when she had hated it and longed to do something about getting a new one.
She wanted to be home and feel she had a right to stay there. Why, even Fred Holley’s freckled face and kindly smile would have been a welcome sight on that road at that minute, and if Fred Holley had only dreamed it possible, he would have been there if he missed a whole day’s work in his garage where he was doing well. Fred Holley had dogged her steps and surrounded her with his unwelcome attentions ever since she was in high school, and he had been the one thing at home from which she was glad to get away.
She was plodding now past a long stretch of towering rhododendron that completely hid the second estate from the view of the road. It seemed endless, but on the other hand, the scene was growing interesting. To the left of the road the land swept away into velvety billows, and she presently became aware that she was passing a most marvelous golf course. Rayport had a golf club, and a fairly good course. She had often played on it with friends who were members, although she could not afford either the time or the money to join the country club herself. But she knew a golf course when she saw it, and by some fine instinct she became aware that this must be the most super golf course that her imagination had ever dreamed of.
A widely spreading, stately edifice presently came to view, nestled far among picturesque foliage, and this, of course, must be the country club. Likely they called it Briarcliff Country Club or else some fantastic more distinctive name. So she whiled away her long pilgrimage with imaginings, and wondered if she would ever have the opportunity to see that beautiful building up close.
Behind and beyond the country club buildings the valley stretched away to far reaches, like an endless golf course, and edging it were lovely hills, blending into blue distances. It was a beautiful place in which she was walking. There was probably a marvelous view from those well-hidden mansions behind the stone walls and thick rhododendron growth. And what would the third mansion be like—the one where she was to live?