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The Youngest Miss Piper
by [?]

I do not think that any of us who enjoyed the acquaintance of the Piper girls or the hospitality of Judge Piper, their father, ever cared for the youngest sister. Not on account of her extreme youth, for the eldest Miss Piper confessed to twenty-six–and the youth of the youngest sister was established solely, I think, by one big braid down her back. Neither was it because she was the plainest, for the beauty of the Piper girls was a recognized general distinction, and the youngest Miss Piper was not entirely devoid of the family charms. Nor was it from any lack of intelligence, nor from any defective social quality; for her precocity was astounding, and her good-humored frankness alarming. Neither do I think it could be said that a slight deafness, which might impart an embarrassing publicity to any statement–the reverse of our general feeling–that might be confided by any one to her private ear, was a sufficient reason; for it was pointed out that she always understood everything that Tom Sparrell told her in his ordinary tone of voice. Briefly, it was very possible that Delaware–the youngest Miss Piper–did not like us. Yet it was fondly believed by us that the other sisters failed to show that indifference to our existence shown by Miss Delaware, although the heartburnings, misunderstandings, jealousies, hopes and fears, and finally the chivalrous resignation with which we at last accepted the long foregone conclusion that they were not for us, and far beyond our reach, is not a part of this veracious chronicle. Enough that none of the flirtations of her elder sisters affected or were shared by the youngest Miss Piper. She moved in this heart-breaking atmosphere with sublime indifference, treating her sisters’ affairs with what we considered rank simplicity or appalling frankness. Their few admirers who were weak enough to attempt to gain her mediation or confidence had reason to regret it.

“It’s no kind o’ use givin’ me goodies,” she said to a helpless suitor of Louisiana Piper’s who had offered to bring her some sweets, “for I ain’t got no influence with Lu, and if I don’t give ’em up to her when she hears of it, she’ll nag me and hate you like pizen. Unless,” she added thoughtfully, “it was wintergreen lozenges; Lu can’t stand them, or anybody who eats them within a mile.” It is needless to add that the miserable man, thus put upon his gallantry, was obliged in honor to provide Del with the wintergreen lozenges that kept him in disfavor and at a distance. Unfortunately, too, any predilection or pity for any particular suitor of her sister’s was attended by even more disastrous consequences. It was reported that while acting as “gooseberry”–a role usually assigned to her–between Virginia Piper and an exceptionally timid young surveyor, during a ramble she conceived a rare sentiment of humanity towards the unhappy man. After once or twice lingering behind in the ostentatious picking of a wayside flower, or “running on ahead” to look at a mountain view, without any apparent effect on the shy and speechless youth, she decoyed him aside while her elder sister rambled indifferently and somewhat scornfully on. The youngest Miss Piper leaped upon the rail of a fence, and with the stalk of a thimbleberry in her mouth swung her small feet to and fro and surveyed him dispassionately.

“Ye don’t seem to be ketchin’ on?” she said tentatively.

The young man smiled feebly and interrogatively.

“Don’t seem to be either follering suit nor trumpin’,” continued Del bluntly.

“I suppose so–that is, I fear that Miss Virginia”–he stammered.

“Speak up! I’m a little deaf. Say it again!” said Del, screwing up her eyes and eyebrows.

The young man was obliged to admit in stentorian tones that his progress had been scarcely satisfactory.

“You’re goin’ on too slow–that’s it,” said Del critically. “Why, when Captain Savage meandered along here with Jinny” (Virginia) “last week, afore we got as far as this he’d reeled off a heap of Byron and Jamieson” (Tennyson), “and sich; and only yesterday Jinny and Doctor Beveridge was blowin’ thistletops to know which was a flirt all along the trail past the crossroads. Why, ye ain’t picked ez much as a single berry for Jinny, let alone Lad’s Love or Johnny Jumpups and Kissme’s, and ye keep talkin’ across me, you two, till I’m tired. Now look here,” she burst out with sudden decision, “Jinny’s gone on ahead in a kind o’ huff; but I reckon she’s done that afore too, and you’ll find her, jest as Spinner did, on the rise of the hill, sittin’ on a pine stump and lookin’ like this.” (Here the youngest Miss Piper locked her fingers over her left knee, and drew it slightly up,–with a sublime indifference to the exposure of considerable small-ankled red stocking,–and with a far-off, plaintive stare, achieved a colorable imitation of her elder sister’s probable attitude.) “Then you jest go up softly, like as you was a bear, and clap your hands on her eyes, and say in a disguised voice like this” (here Del turned on a high falsetto beyond any masculine compass), “‘Who’s who?’ jest like in forfeits.”