The Story Girl HTML version

A Cup Of Failure
One warm Sunday evening in the moon of golden-rod, we all, grown-ups and children,
were sitting in the orchard by the Pulpit Stone singing sweet old gospel hymns. We could
all sing more or less, except poor Sara Ray, who had once despairingly confided to me
that she didn't know what she'd ever do when she went to heaven, because she couldn't
sing a note.
That whole scene comes out clearly for me in memory--the arc of primrose sky over the
trees behind the old house, the fruit-laden boughs of the orchard, the bank of golden-rod,
like a wave of sunshine, behind the Pulpit Stone, the nameless colour seen on a fir wood
in a ruddy sunset. I can see Uncle Alec's tired, brilliant, blue eyes, Aunt Janet's
wholesome, matronly face, Uncle Roger's sweeping blond beard and red cheeks, and
Aunt Olivia's full-blown beauty. Two voices ring out for me above all others in the music
that echoes through the halls of recollection. Cecily's sweet and silvery, and Uncle Alec's
fine tenor. "If you're a King, you sing," was a Carlisle proverb in those days. Aunt Julia
had been the flower of the flock in that respect and had become a noted concert singer.
The world had never heard of the rest. Their music echoed only along the hidden ways of
life, and served but to lighten the cares of the trivial round and common task.
That evening, after they tired of singing, our grown-ups began talking of their youthful
days and doings.
This was always a keen delight to us small fry. We listened avidly to the tales of our
uncles and aunts in the days when they, too--hard fact to realize--had been children. Good
and proper as they were now, once, so it seemed, they had gotten into mischief and even
had their quarrels and disagreements. On this particular evening Uncle Roger told many
stories of Uncle Edward, and one in which the said Edward had preached sermons at the
mature age of ten from the Pulpit Stone fired, as the sequel will show, the Story Girl's
"Can't I just see him at it now," said Uncle Roger, "leaning over that old boulder, his
cheeks red and his eyes burning with excitement, banging the top of it as he had seen the
ministers do in church. It wasn't cushioned, however, and he always bruised his hands in
his self-forgetful earnestness. We thought him a regular wonder. We loved to hear him
preach, but we didn't like to hear him pray, because he always insisted on praying for
each of us by name, and it made us feel wretchedly uncomfortable, somehow. Alec, do
you remember how furious Julia was because Edward prayed one day that she might be
preserved from vanity and conceit over her singing?"
"I should think I do," laughed Uncle Alec. "She was sitting right there where Cecily is
now, and she got up at once and marched right out of the orchard, but at the gate she
turned to call back indignantly, 'I guess you'd better wait till you've prayed the conceit out
of yourself before you begin on me, Ned King. I never heard such stuck-up sermons as
you preach.' Ned went on praying and never let on he heard her, but at the end of his