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Chapter II
Laura Dearborn's native town was Barrington, in Worcester County,
Massachusetts. Both she and Page had been born there, and there had lived
until the death of their father, at a time when Page was ready for the High
School. The mother, a North Carolina girl, had died long before.
Laura's education had been unusual. After leaving the High School her father
had for four years allowed her a private tutor (an impecunious graduate from the
Harvard Theological School). She was ambitious, a devoted student, and her
instructor's task was rather to guide than to enforce her application. She soon
acquired a reading knowledge of French, and knew her Racine in the original
almost as well as her Shakespeare. Literature became for her an actual passion.
She delved into Tennyson and the Victorian poets, and soon was on terms of
intimacy with the poets and essayists of New England. The novelists of the day
she ignored almost completely, and voluntarily. Only occasionally, and then as a
concession, she permitted herself a reading of Mr. Howells.
Moderately prosperous while he himself was conducting his little mill, Dearborn
had not been able to put by any money to speak of, and when Laura and the
local lawyer had come to close up the business, to dispose of the mill, and to
settle the claims against what the lawyer grandiloquently termed "the estate,"
there was just enough money left to pay for Page's tickets to Chicago and a
course of tuition for her at a seminary.
The Cresslers on the event of Dearborn's death had advised both sisters to come
West, and had pledged themselves to look after Page during the period of her
schooling. Laura had sent the little girl on at once, but delayed taking the step
Fortunately, the two sisters were not obliged to live upon their inheritance.
Dearborn himself had a sister--a twin of Aunt Wess'--who had married a wealthy
woollen merchant of Boston, and this one, long since, had provided for the two
girls. A large sum had been set aside, which was to be made over to them when
the father died. For years now this sum had been accumulating interest. So that
when Laura and Page faced the world, alone, upon the steps of the Barrington
cemetery, they had the assurance that, at least, they were independent.
For two years, in the solidly built colonial dwelling, with its low ceilings and ample
fireplaces, where once the minute-men had swung their kettles, Laura, alone,
thought it all over. Mother and father were dead; even the Boston aunt was dead.
Of all her relations, Aunt Wess' alone remained. Page was at her finishing school
at Geneva Lake, within two hours of Chicago. The Cresslers were the dearest
friends of the orphan girls. Aunt Wess', herself a widow, living also in Chicago,