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Wood-Magic Henry van Dyke

The House on the Main Street

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All the good houses in Scroll-Saw City were different, in the number and shape of the curious pinnacles that rose from their roofs and in the trimmings of their verandas. Yet they were all alike, too, in their general expression of putting their best foot foremost and feeling quite sure that they made a brave show. They had lace curtains in their front parlour windows, and outside of the curtains were large red and yellow pots of artificial flowers and indestructible palms and vulcanised rubber-plants. It was a gay sight.

But by far the bravest of these houses was the residence of Mr. Matthew Wilson, the principal merchant of Scroll-Saw City. It stood on a corner of Main Street, glancing slyly out of the tail of one eye, side-ways down the street, toward the shop and the business, but keeping a bold, complacent front toward the street-cars and the smaller houses across the way. It might well be satisfied with itself, for it had three more pinnacles than any of its neighbours, and the work of the scroll-saw was looped and festooned all around the eaves and porticoes and bay-windows in amazing richness. Moreover, in the front yard were cast-iron images painted white: a stag reposing on a door-mat; Diana properly dressed and returning from the chase; a small iron boy holding over his head a parasol from the ferrule of which a fountain squirted. The paths were of asphalt, gray and gritty in winter, but now, in the summer heat, black and pulpy to the tread.

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There were many feet passing over them this afternoon, for Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Wilson were giving a reception to celebrate the official entrance of their daughter Amanda into a social life which she had permeated unofficially for several years. The house was sizzling full of people. Those who were jammed in the parlour tried to get into the dining-room, and those who were packed in the dining-room struggled to escape, holding plates of stratified cake and liquefied ice-cream high above their neighbours' heads like signals of danger and distress. Everybody was talking at the same time, in a loud, shrill voice, and nobody listened to what anybody else was saying. But it did not matter, for they all said the same things.

"Elegant house for a party, so full of--" "How perfectly lovely Amanda Wilson looks in that--" "Awfully warm day! Were you at the Tompkins' last--" "Wilson's Emporium must be doing good business to keep up all this--" "Hear he's going to enlarge the store and take Luke Woods into the--"

"Shouldn't wonder if there might be a wedding here before next--"

The tide of chatter rose and swelled and ebbed and suddenly sank away. At six o'clock, the minister and two maiden ladies in black silk with lilac ribbons, laid down their last plates of ice-cream and said they thought they must be going. Amanda and her mother preened their dresses and patted their hair. Come into the study," said Mr. Wilson to Luke. "I want to have a talk with you."

The little bookless room, called the study, was the one that kept its eye on the shop and the business, away down the street. You could see the brick front, and the plate-glass windows, and part of the gilt sign.

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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