Infomotions, Inc.Phyllis / Daviess, Maria Thompson, 1872-1924



Author: Daviess, Maria Thompson, 1872-1924
Title: Phyllis
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): roxanne; lovelace peyton; lovelace; byrdsville; peyton; tony; mamie sue; phyllis; byrd; mamie; douglass; miss prissy; miss priscilla; douglass byrd; uncle pompey; lovelace peyton's; idol; judge luttrell; sue; tony luttrell; roxanne byrd; colonel; miss phy
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Title: Phyllis

Author: Maria Thompson Daviess

Release Date: February 17, 2005  [eBook #15093]

Language: English

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PHYLLIS

by

MARIA THOMPSON DAVIESS

Author of _The Tinder Box_, _The Melting of Molly_, etc.

With Illustrations by Percy D. Johnson

New York
The Century Co.

1914







[Illustration: Down that garden path I flew]




TO

HELENA RUTH KETCHAM




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Down that garden path I flew (Frontispiece)

Then Roxanne and the bottle and I all collapsed on the grass together

He stood there in the doorway and laughed until his big shoulders shook

I never saw my father's face so lovely

Tony ... nosed almost every inch of the shed

He just moaned he was making an explosion

The Colonel handed me the medal

"You stand right here and tell me how it all looks"





CHAPTER I


The country is so much larger than the city and so empty that you
rattle around in it until you wonder if you are ever going to get
stuck to any place, especially if there isn't a house numbered
anywhere. Our street is named Providence Road and the house Byrd
Mansion and I am afraid I'll never be at home there as long as I live.
But the doctor says Mother has to live in the country for always, and
I'm only glad it isn't any countrier than Byrdsville.

The worst thing about it to me is that this house I live in and the
town I live in are named for the lovely dark-eyed girl who lives down
in the old-fashioned cottage that backs up on our garden. She moved
out for me to move in, just because I am rich and she is poor. I can't
look at her straight, but I love her so that I can hardly stand it.
All the other girls in school love her too, and she is not at all
afraid of the boys, but treats them just as if they were human beings
and could be loved as such. That awful long-legged Tony walks home
with her almost every day and they all laugh and have a good time.

I always wait until everybody has gone down the street with everybody
else so they won't see how lonesome I am. Crowded lonesomeness is the
worst of all. There are many nice boys and girls just about my age
here in Byrdsville; but they can never like me. I'm glad I found it
out before I tried to be friends with any of them. The first day I
came to the Byrd Academy I heard Belle tell Mamie Sue how to treat me,
and that is what settled me into this alone state.

"Of course, be polite to her, Mamie Sue," Belle said, not knowing that
I was behind the hat-rack, pinning on my hat. "But there never was a
millionaire in Byrdsville before, and I don't see how a girl who is
that rich can be really nice. The Bible says that it is harder for a
rich man to get to heaven than for a knitting-needle to stick into a
camel, because he and it are blunt, I suppose; and it must be just the
same with such a rich girl. Poor child, I am so sorry for her; but we
must be very careful."

"Why, Belle," said Mamie Sue, in a voice that is always so comfortable
because she is nice and fat, "Roxy said she was going to like her a
lot, and she's got Roxy's lovely house while Roxy has to live in the
cottage, which is just as bad as moving into a chicken coop after the
Byrd Mansion. If Roxy likes her, it seems to me we might. She didn't
turn us out of house and home, as the almanac says."

"Don't you see that Roxy has to be nice to her, because if she isn't
we will think it is spite about the house? Roxy can't show her
resentment, but her friends can. I'm a friend."

Belle uses words and talks like a grown person in a really wonderful
way. She is the smartest girl in the rhetoric class and, of course,
she knows more than most people, and Mamie Sue realizes that. So do I.
I saw just how they all felt about me, and I don't blame them--but I
just wish every time Roxanne Byrd smiles at me that I didn't have to
make myself stop and remember that she does it because she has to.

"But I believe Phyllis is a nice girl," Mamie Sue said. Mamie Sue
reminds me of a nice, fat molasses drop, with her yellow hair and
always a brown dress on.

"The city is an awful wicked place, Mamie Sue, even if it is only just
a hundred miles away. Let's don't think about the poor thing." Belle
answered positively, and they went out of the door.

I wanted to sit down and cry as I feel sure any girl has a right to
do; only I never have learned how to do it. Crying with only a
governess to listen to and reprove a person is no good at all; only
mothers can make crying any comfort, and mine is too feeble to let me
do anything but tiptoe in and hold her hand while the nurse watches me
and the clock to send me out. Fathers just stiffen girls' backbones
instead of encouraging wet eyelashes--at least that is the way mine
affects me.

No, I didn't sit down and cry when I found out that I wasn't to have
any friends in Byrdsville for the just cause of being too rich, but I
stiffened my mind to bear it as a rich man's daughter ought to bear
her father's mistakes in conduct.

What made me know that the girls had the right view of the question
was what I had found out about it for myself this spring from reading
magazines, and I have been distressed and uneasy about Father ever
since. His own cousin, Gilmore Lewis, who is a fine man, as everybody
knows and as is often published, runs one of the greatest weekly
magazines in New York, and he put a piece in it that would have proved
to a child in the second reader how wicked it is to be millionaire
men. Father's name was not mentioned, but many of his friends' were,
and of course I knew that it was just courtesy of his Cousin Gilmore
to leave it out.

I know it is all wrong, with so many poor people and starvation at
every hand. I see that! But in spite of his terrible habit of making
money I love and trust my father and expect to keep on doing it. He
understands me as well as a man can understand a girl, and he is
regardful for me always. He looked at me for a long time one night a
week before he moved down here in this Harpeth Valley, where the air
is to keep Mother a little longer for us to know she's here even if we
can't always see her every day, and then he said:

"Phil, old girl, I'm not going to take Miss Rogers with us to go on
with your solitary brand of education. There is a little one-horse
school in Byrdsville that they call the Byrd Academy, and I watched a
bunch of real human boys and girls go in the gate the morning I got
there. I think you will have to be one of them. I want to see a few
hayseeds sprinkled over your very polished surface."

I laughed with him. That is the good thing about Father: you can
always laugh with him, even if you are not sure what you are laughing
about. Laughing _at_ a person is just as rude as eating an apple
right in his face. Father always divides his apple. Though rich, he is
a really noble man.

But although I didn't cry when I heard Belle talking a course of
righteous action into fat Mamie Sue about me, I made up my mind that I
would have to have some sort of person to talk to, so I bought this
book. I am going to call it "Louise" and do as good a stunt of
pretending that it has got brown hair and blue eyes and a real heart
as I can. All I have written up to now has just been introducing
myself to Louise. Our real adventures and conversations will come
later.

Before I have gone to bed all this week I have been taking a peep out
of my window down over the back garden to Roxanne Byrd's cottage and
asking her in my heart to forgive me for taking her home, and asking
God to make her love the cottage as I would like to be let to love
her. To think that I have to sleep in her great-grandmother's
four-poster bed that Roxanne has always slept in! I have to pray hard
to be forgiven for it and to be able to endure the doing of it.
Good-night!

This has been a very curious and happy kind of day, Louise, and I feel
excited and queer. I have had a long talk with Roxanne Byrd over our
garden fence, and she is just as wonderful as I thought she was going
to be. A person's dream about another person is so apt to be a kind of
misfit, but Roxanne slipped into mine about her just as if it had been
made for her.

The little Byrd boy is named Lovelace Peyton for his two grandfathers,
and he looks and sounds just like he had come out of a beautiful book;
but he doesn't act accordingly. He is slim and rosy and dimply, with
yellow curls just mopped all over his head, and he has blue eyes the
color that the sky is hardly ever; but from what Roxanne says about
him I hardly see how he will live to grow up. He falls in and sits in
and down and on and breaks and eats things in the most terrible
fashion, and he has all sorts of creeps and crawls in his pocket all
of the time. He pulls bugs and worms apart and tries to put them
together again; and he choked the old rooster nearly to death trying
to poke down his throat some bread and mud made up into pills.

That is what I ran to help Roxanne about, and the poor old chicken was
gaping and gasping terribly. I held him while she made Lovelace Peyton
put his finger down in the bill and pull up the wad he had been trying
to push down.

"That old rooster have got rheumatiz, Roxy, and now he'll die with no
pill for it," said Lovelace, as he worked his dirty little finger down
after the mud and bread; but he got it out and the poor old chicken
hopped off with all his feathers ruffled up and stretching his neck as
if to try it.

"Oh, Lovey, please don't kill the chickens," Roxanne said in a tone of
real pleading.

"I don't never kill nothing, Roxy," he answered indignantly. "If a
thing can't get well from me doctoring it, it dies 'cause it wants to.
Since Uncle Pomp let me put that mixtry of nice mud and brick dust on
his shoe he don't suffer with his frost-bit heel no more. He's going
to stop limping next week if I put it on every day. I'm going to pound
another piece of brick right now," and he went around the house with
the darlingest little lope, because he always rides a stick horse,
which prances most of the time.

"Oh, isn't he awful?" said Roxanne; but there was the kind of pride in
her voice and the kind of look in her eyes that I would have if I had
a little brother like that, even if he was so dirty that he would have
to be handled with tongs.

"He's so awful I wish he was mine," I answered, and then we both
laughed.

I had never thought, leather Louise, that I would have a nice laugh
like that with a girl who was only treating me kindly to keep from the
sin of spite. It was hard to believe that Roxanne didn't really like
me when she went on to tell me some of the dreadful funny things
Lovelace Peyton does almost every hour. I forgot about her feeling for
me and was laughing at her description of how she came home from
school one day and found old Uncle Pompey, who is as black and old as
a human being can be and is all the servant Roxanne has to help her,
cooking dinner with a piece of newspaper pasted in strips all over his
face, which was Lovelace Peyton's remedy for neuralgia.

But just as I was enjoying myself so as to be almost unconscious I saw
Belle and Mamie Sue and Tony Luttrell coming around the corner of the
street past the front gate of Byrd Mansion and down toward the
cottage. Nobody knows how hard it is for me to see every nice body my
own age pass right by my gate in a procession to see Roxanne when I
can't go, too.

Tony didn't see me standing by the garden fence, and he gave the funny
little whistle that he calls the Raccoon whistle for the Palefaces and
which he always whistles when he wants to signal something to one of
the girls. Then suddenly they all saw me, and that politely enduring
look came over all three faces at once, though Mamie Sue's face is so
jolly and round by nature that it is very hard to prim it down
suddenly, and I don't believe she would always trouble to put it on
for me, only Belle seems to demand it of her as an echo of her
sentiments toward me. Some people can't seem to be sure of themselves
unless they can get somebody else to echo them and I think that is why
Belle has to keep poor Mamie Sue at her elbow all the time.

But when I saw the politeness plaster spread itself over all their
faces at the sight of me enjoying myself like any other girl, I just
turned away wearily and started back along my own garden path, back to
my own house which I felt that I ought not to be living in. But
something sweet happened to me before I left that makes me feel nice
and warm even now to think about.

"Please don't go away, Phyllis," said Roxanne, looking right into my
face with such a lovely look in her own eyes that it was almost
impossible, for an instant, for me to believe it was charity.

For a moment I wanted to stay, and almost did; but if she could be
generous, so could I, and I didn't intend to spoil their fun for even
a minute, so I just smiled at her and bowed to them as I walked away.

Nobody knows how it does hurt me to be this kind of an outcast! I have
lived fifteen years with a sick mother, and a governess and trained
nurses, and never a chance of having friends; and now that one is just
at my back door I can't have her because useless wealth is between us.
Is there no way the rich can turn poor without disgrace? But I've got
that smile from Roxanne and I'm going to believe it was meant for the
real me. Good-night!

*       *       *       *       *

I'm so full of happiness and scare and a secret that if I didn't have
this little book to spill some of it out to I don't know what I would
do. A secret sometimes makes a girl feel like she would explode worse
than a bottle of nitroglycerin, though it makes me nervous even to
write the word when I think of what might have happened to Lovelace
Peyton if I hadn't had a father who is cool enough to keep his head at
all times and handed that quality down to me.

Tony Luttrell is the leader of the Raccoon Patrol of the Boy Scouts,
and he has a star for pulling Pink Chadwell out of the swimming-pool
one day last summer when Pink had eaten too many green apples and the
cold water gave him cramps. Tony had to hit him on the head to keep
them both from being drowned. It was a grand thing for him to do, and
everybody in this town looks up to Tony as a hero. Roxanne says the
thing that hurts her most is that she can't tell all the boys and
girls how brave I am because of the secret which I had to find out
when I saved the life of Lovelace Peyton.

"Oh, Phyllis, to think they can't all know what a noble girl you are
to risk your life, when you knew it, to get Lovey out for me," Roxanne
said, after we had locked things up and got Lovelace to promise never
to go near that window again and were sitting on the little back porch
of the cottage trembling with fear and being very happy together.

"I don't care what they think about me, Roxanne, just so you will be
my friend sometimes in private when the others are not around," I
said, in a voice that wanted to tremble, but I wouldn't let it.

"Do you think I would do a thing like that, Phyllis--be a girl's
friend in private?" Roxanne asked, and her head went up into a
stiff-necked pose like that portrait of her great-grandmother Byrd
that looks so haughtily out of place hanging over the fireplace in the
living hall in the little old cottage, in spite of the room full of
old mahogany furniture and silver candlesticks brought from Byrd
Mansion to keep her company. "I'm going to be your friend all the
time, and it is none of the others' business. I have always wanted to
be, but you were so stiff with me; and Belle said she felt that you
had so many friends out in the world, where you have traveled, that
you wouldn't want us."

If I had answered what I wanted to about Belle Kirby, I should have
been very much ashamed by this time. Like a flash it came over me that
it would be a poor way to begin being friends with Roxanne to make her
see what a freak one of her best friends was, so I held the explosion
back.

"She was mistaken, Roxanne," I said; and I couldn't help being a
little sad as I spoke the truth out to her, for I am fifteen years
old, and fifteen are a good many years to live lonely. "I haven't any
friends in all the world. We have traveled everywhere trying to get
mother well, but I've had no chance to make friends. This is the first
time a girl ever talked to me in my life, and I never did talk to a
boy--and I never want to."

"Oh, Phyllis, how dreadful!" said Roxanne; and she gave me such a hug
around the neck that it hurt awfully, only I liked it. It did feel
funny to have somebody sniffing tears of sympathy against your cheek,
and I didn't know exactly what to do. Petting has to be learned by
degrees and you can't come to it suddenly. But I was happy.

And I'm happier to-night than I ever was in my life, only still scared
quite a little, too. I wonder how the boys and girls are going to like
Roxanne's being friends with me. How can they hate me if I haven't
ever done anything to them? It makes me nervous to think about it, and
that combined with the secret and the accident that didn't happen to
Lovelace Peyton make my writing so shaky that I may never be able to
read it.

This is the accident and the secret. Of course, I knew that there
never was such a glorious person born in the world as Roxanne's grown
brother, Mr. Douglass Byrd, but I didn't know what kind of a genius he
was. It was something of a shock to find out, for I felt sure he was a
wonderful poet that the world was waiting to hear sing forth. That is
what he looks like. He's tall and slim except his shoulders, which are
almost as broad as father's, and his eyes are the night-sky kind that
seem to shine because they can't help it. His smile is as sweet as
Roxanne's, only the saddest I ever saw; and his hair mops in curls
like Lovelace Peyton's, only it is black, and he won't let it. This
description could fit a great artist or a novelist or an orator, but
he isn't even any of these; he's an inventor.

The invention has something to do with the pig iron out at the
Cumberland Iron Furnaces that father owns in the Harpeth Valley, and
Mr. Douglass works for him. It turns it into steel sooner than anybody
else has ever discovered how to do it before, and it is such a
wonderful invention that it will make so much money for him and his
family that they won't know what to do with it. Roxanne is going to
tell me more about it to-morrow.

I didn't say anything to keep Roxanne from being happy over her
brother getting all that money, but it made me sad. The more money you
get the less happiness there seems to be on the market to buy. All
Father's dollars couldn't have bought me even one of those hugs around
the neck from Roxanne--I had to risk my life to get them. And that's
where Lovelace Peyton and his badness come in. I'm catching my breath
as I think about it.

Mr. Douglass has a little shed down in the cottage garden boxed off to
make his experiments in. He keeps it locked up with a padlock, and has
commanded that nobody is to go even near the door. There is one big
bottle that has some kind of nitroglycerin mixture in it that is going
to blow the iron into steel while it is hot, he hopes. Roxanne knows
it because he showed it to her, and he told her if the cottage ever
got on fire to run and get it and carry it carefully away first before
it could blow up the town. It must never be jolted in any way. She has
a key to the shed that she guards sacredly.

If there is one thing in the world that Lovelace Peyton wants worse
than any other, it is bottles. He takes every one he can find and just
begs for more. He has a place down by the garden wall, behind a
chicken coop, where he makes his mixtures and keeps all the bottles.
He's going to be a famous surgeon and doctor some day if he lives,
which I now think is doubtful.

I was down in my garden on the other side of the wall from him picking
some leaves off the lavender bushes Roxanne's great-grandmother had
planted in that lovely old garden, which is so full of Roxanne's
ancestral flowers that it grieves me to think I have to own them
instead of her. I haven't been letting myself go down there often,
because I was afraid she would suspect how much I wanted her to come
out and talk to me like she did the day of Lovelace Peyton's rooster
excitement; but sometimes I think my dignity ought to let me go and
pick just a little of the lavender, and I go. I went this afternoon,
and I believe God sent me and so does Roxanne.

Suddenly, as I bent over the bushes picking, I heard a wail in
Roxanne's sweet voice and I looked up quick. There she stood in the
back door, as white as a pocket handkerchief, shuddering and pointing
to me to look down at the end of the garden right near me.

"Oh, Phyllis," she chattered through her shaking teeth just so I could
hear it, "if he drops that big bottle, the whole town will be blown to
pieces. How can we save it and him?"

And when I looked and saw Lovelace Peyton, I began to shudder too. He
was hanging half in and half out of a little window high up in the
shed like a skylight, and the big bottle was slowly slipping as he
tried to wriggle either in or out. There was no ladder in sight, and
neither of us was near tall enough to reach him. He was beginning to
whimper and be scared himself, and I could see the heavy bottle start
to slip faster from his arm. We had less than a second to lose. I
thought and prayed both at the same time, which I find is a good thing
to do in such times of danger. You haven't got time to do them
separately. The idea came! I have had lots of teaching by different
gymnasium teachers wherever we happened to live for a few months, and
I'm as strong as most boys. I know how to do things with myself like
boys do.

"Hold your bottle tight, Lovelace Peyton; don't let it fall; it'll be
good for mixing in and I can get you loose," I called as I scrambled
over the wall and met Roxanne just under the window. I saw him hug it
up tight again as he stopped squirming.

"Quick, Roxanne, step on my shoulder," I told her; and I bent down and
held up my hand to her.

"Oh, can you hold me up, Phyllis?" she gasped; but she put her foot on
my right shoulder and, leaning against the wall, I pulled myself up
little by little, holding her hand while she clung to the wall to
balance herself.

"Keep still, Lovey, just a minute longer," she said shakily. "Just an
inch more, Phyllis," she whispered to me; and, though I was almost
strained to death, I stretched another inch. Then I heard her give a
sob and I knew she had the bottle.

But even if she did have the bottle we had to get it down without a
jar, and I was giving way in every bone in my body. But I thought of
Napoleon Bonaparte and Gen. Robert E. Lee and braced a minute longer
as Roxanne climbed down over me with that horrible bottle in her arms.

[Illustration: Then Roxanne and the bottle and I all collapsed on the
grass together]

Then Roxanne and the bottle and I all collapsed on the grass together;
and if we had known how, I think the poetic thing for us to have done
was to have fainted. But we did know how to giggle and shake at the
same time, and that is what we did until Lovelace Peyton howled so
loud we had to begin to get him down. And the getting him loose took
us a nice long time that was very good for him. We had to get the key
and unlock the shed and get a table and a chair on both the inside and
outside, and Roxanne pushed while I pulled. We tore him and his
clothes both a great deal, but at last we landed him. Then Roxanne put
him to bed to punish him and to mend his dress at the same time. That
was when she told me the great secret that it is hurting me to keep,
because it has got my Father mixed up in it in a sort of conspiracy
like you read about in books. I don't dare write it even to you,
leather Louise.




CHAPTER II


Changing a lifelong principle is almost as difficult as wearing new
shoes that don't exactly fit you, and it makes you feel just as
awkward and limp in mind as the shoes do in feet. Still I believe in
adopting new ideas. I have never liked the appearance of boys, and I
never supposed that when you knew one it would be a pleasant
experience; but in the case of Tony Luttrell it is, and in the case of
Pink Chadwell it is almost so.

I don't know what Roxanne said to them all to explain her relations of
friendship with the heathen--myself--but it was funny to see how they
tried to please her by seeming to like me, only Tony didn't _seem_. He
offered me himself as a friend along with all the bites I cared to
take off the other side of a huge apple he was eating. I took the
bites and Tony at the same time with fear and trembling, but my
confidence in him grows every day. It grows in Pink, also, only much
more slowly.

Tony is long-legged and colty looking, with such a wide mouth and
laughing kind of eyes that the corners of your own mouth go up when
you look at him, and he raises a giggle in your inside by just a funny
kind of flare his eyes have got; but Pink Chadwell is different. Poor
Pink is so handsome that he is pitiful about it. He carries a bottle
of water in his pocket to keep the curl of his front hair sopped out,
but he can't keep his lovely skin from having those pink cheeks. Tony
calls him "Rosebud" when he sees that he has got used to hearing
himself called "Pinkie" and is a little happy.

The surprise to me was that the boys were so much nicer to me than the
girls when Roxanne adopted me; but then it didn't make so much
difference to them. The girls are always together in all of the
important things of their lives, while most of the time the boys just
forget all about us, unless they need us for something or we get ahead
of them in class.

"I'm so glad that you are going to stay and have lunch with us
to-day," Belle said to me the first time I let Roxanne beg me into
bringing my lunch instead of going home for it, as I had been doing
every day to keep from seeming to be so alone, eating all by myself
while they had spread theirs all together out on the side porch or
even out on the big flat stone when it was warm enough. "When Roxy
wanted to invite you, I felt sure you wouldn't come."

Some people have a way of freezing up all the pleasure that they can
get close enough to talk over. Belle is that kind. She made me so
uncomfortable that I was about to do some freezing on my own account
when Mamie Sue lumbered into the conversation in such a nice, friendly
way that I laughed instead.

"I hope you brought a lot of food, for I'm good and hungry to-day,"
she said. "I ate so many biscuits for breakfast that I left myself
only five to bring for lunch. Our cook makes the same number every day
and I just see-saw my lunch and breakfast in a very uncomfortable way.
So many biscuits for breakfast, so few for lunch!" That jolly, plump
laugh of Mamie Sue's is going to save some kind of a serious situation
yet, friend leather Louise.

If you are the kind of person that has dumb love for your friends, you
see more about them than folks who can express themselves on the
sacred subject. That lunch party with those five jolly girls out in
the side yard of the Byrd Academy gave me a funny, uneasy feeling, and
I now know the reason. Roxanne Byrd brought one small apple, two very
thin biscuits, and some cracked hickory nuts. She carefully ate less
than she brought. Something took my appetite when I saw her eat so
little, and there was a quantity of food left for somebody to consume,
and _she_ hungry. I was afraid we'd have to send for a doctor for
Mamie Sue after she had cleared my large napkin we spread to put it
all on. The Jamison biscuits are cut on the same plump pattern that
Mamie Sue is and all my sandwiches were good and thick.

But when Roxanne didn't eat I suffered. One of the most awful
situations in life is to have one of your friends be the sort of girl
that has a town named after her and wonderful family portraits and
such dainty hands and feet that shabby shoes don't even count, and
then to know that she is hungry most of the time from being too poor
to get enough food. For two days I have had to keep my mind off
Roxanne Byrd to make myself swallow one single morsel of anything to
eat. I suspected it at the school lunch but I was certain of it from
the way Lovelace Peyton consumed the first cooky I offered him over
the fence. Thank goodness, he has no family pride located in his
stomach, and when my feelings overcome me he is the outlet. I can feed
him anything at all hours and he is always ready for more. It may be
wrong to keep it from his sister when I know how she feels about it,
but I can't help that. I have to fill him up. His legs look too empty
for me.

But, to do Lovelace Peyton justice, he has got his own kind of pride,
and I understand it better than I do Roxanne's.

"For these nice eatings, I'll cut a cat open for nothing and let you
see inside what makes him go, if you get the cat," he offered, after
he had eaten two slices of buttered bread and the breast of half a
chicken out behind one of the lilac bushes in his ancestral garden
that is now mine.

Now, I call that a fair proposition, considering the circumstances,
and I wish I could make Roxanne be as sensible in spirit. But I can't.
Family pride is a terrible thing, like lunacy or hysterics when a
person gets it bad.

However, I decided to talk to Roxanne about her financial situation,
and I began as far off from the subject as I could, so as to approach
it with caution.

I made a start with a compliment. A sincere compliment is a good way
to start being disagreeable to a person for her own benefit.

"Roxanne," I said, with decided palpitation in my heart that I kept
out of my voice, "you didn't know, did you, that you are one
fifteen-year-old wonder, done up in a feminine edition with curls and
dark eyes? How do you manage it all?"

"I'm not, and I don't," answered Roxanne with a laugh as she drew a
long needle across a mammoth darn she was making on the knee of a
stocking which was quite as small as the darn was large. "I don't
manage at all; everybody will tell you so. Miss Prissy Talbot says she
can't get to sleep at night until twelve o'clock because she has to
pray about so many things that might happen to us poor forlorns if she
didn't. I am mighty thankful to her, for I don't have time to pray
much. I am so tired when I go to bed. I just say 'God, you know,' and
go to sleep. He understands, 'cause Miss Prissy has told him all about
it beforehand."

"I just guess He does--without Miss Talbot's telling Him either," I
answered as I came and sat on the front steps beside Roxanne. "And
another thing, Roxanne--I--er, I don't quite know how to say it--but
you--you talk like you are--that is, you seem to be friends with God
just like you are with Tony Luttrell and Belle and Miss Prissy and the
Colonel--and me," I continued with embarrassment.

"I am," answered Roxanne, with beautiful positiveness. "I decided to
have Him for one of my friends 'most two years ago after Father and
Mother died almost together. When Douglass told me that we would have
to sell Byrd Mansion and move down here in this old cottage that had
been great-grandfather's gardener's house, with only Uncle Pompey to
help me take care of it and him and Lovelace Peyton, he asked me if I
couldn't stand by. I held my head up just as high as great-grandmother
Byrd does in her portrait and said: 'Yes!' 'Then God help you,' he
said, and he hugged me up under his chin. Then we all moved; and God
_has_ helped."

"He must have," I answered devoutly, meaning what I said. And as I
spoke something in me was loosened and I felt a wonderful difference
about God. The God that a governess explains out of a book to you and
the One that really comes down and helps a girl friend so that she can
speak of Him with confidence as a friend, are two distinct people. I
am going to feel about Him as Roxanne does and speak of Him when I
want to and write about Him to you, Louise, just as I do about all of
the other interesting inhabitants of Byrdsville.

"Oh," laughed Roxanne, as she snipped a thread and began to
cross-stitch the mammoth cavern, never dreaming of the momentous
resolve she was interrupting in my heart, "it is not so bad this year,
because Lovey has got so nice and steady on his feet and doesn't put
things in his mouth any more. Now he is so busy hunting and doctoring
his 'squirms' as he calls them, that I have lots of free time to mend
and darn and work. Of course, it is hard to have him keep them in his
apron pocket and always carrying them in his hand when he hasn't a
bottle that smells bad to carry. Just yesterday he brought a queer
kind of--Oh, what do you suppose he has found now?"

And with the fear and trembling that all girls have the right to feel
of "squirms" both Roxanne and I sat petrified while Lovelace Peyton
came around the house at full gallop and drew up in front of us on the
brick walk. His face was streaked with mud, and in one hand he held an
old tomato can and in another a dangerous-looking pointed stick.

Lovelace Peyton is freckled and snub-nosed and patched in various
unexpected places and his eyes were sweet like Roxanne's as they
flared with excitement when he paused for breath before he unfolded
his tale of the adventure from which he had just arrived.

"Guess what crawl I have founded now, Roxy?" he demanded with
confidence that sympathy would be extended him over his good-fortune.

"I can't guess, Lovey, but please don't let it out," answered Roxanne
with the expected sympathy slightly tinged with entreaty in her voice.
I moved down one step so as to be nearer the capture, for Lovelace
Peyton's enthusiasm was contagious.

"It's a chicken sk-snake," he proclaimed proudly; and while both
Roxanne and I tucked our feet up under our skirts and squealed, he
drew with triumph a very fat, red fishing-worm out of the can and
displayed it, hanging across one of his chubby fingers. "It's a lovely
chicken-eating sk-snake," he said with breathless admiration.

"Y-e-s," I said doubtfully. "But it couldn't eat a chicken very well,
could it, Lovelace Peyton?" I asked politely, with my doubts of the
helpless red string hanging on his finger well under control. Roxanne
had gone back to her darning with relief plainly written all over her
face.

"This sk-snake could eat up five chickens or maybe more if you give
him time," defended his captor warmly.

"It--it looks rather small to be so savage, Lovey," argued Roxanne
mildly as she went on darning.

"It's sick some--wait till I put it in pepper tea," said Lovelace
Peyton as he lifted the worm.

"Ask Uncle Pomp what he thinks," advised Roxanne, hoping to get rid of
the squirm.

"I bet Uncle Pomp will be skeered to death of him," answered the proud
hunter as he took his departure around the house.

"Oh," sighed Roxy, "some day he will find a real snake and then what
will I do?"

"That is just what I was talking about, Roxanne," I said, returning to
my subject, which is the way my slow, methodical mind works in direct
contrast to Roxanne's way of forgetting one thing because of
enthusiastic interest in the next. "I don't see how you attend to all
of this, this--" I paused to find a name for Roxanne's tumultuous
household.

"Menagerie," Roxanne suggested, with a laugh that floated out over the
bed of ragged red chrysanthemums as sweet and clear as the note of the
cardinal in the tall elm by the gate.

"It's how you get your lessons and stay high up in your class I don't
understand," I answered, still using my compliment tactics. "I've only
known you less than a month, so it might be just luck that you got
first mention for your character sketch of Hawthorne in the rhetoric
class; but Tony says you always get it. You recite your German poems
like they were English, and you feel them as much as you do
Cassabianca. When do you study?"

"Never," answered Roxy with a ruthful smile; "but, Phyllis, in school
I listen. I have to. Just school hours are all I have; but I learn
lessons while they are being recited, and write exercises and things
in that one free hour I have at ten o'clock. If nothing like mumps or
whooping-cough happens to Lovey this winter or next, I believe I will
be ready to go to college with you and Belle and Mamie Sue and Tony
and Pink. I've asked Miss Prissy to be sure and pray away those mumps
and whooping-cough. I could manage measles."

"But you are just one girl, Roxanne, with the usual number of hands
and feet and eyes and things," I said, with an intention of bringing
things to the point of the embarrassing hunger. But my point was
reached in the conversation by Roxanne herself without my being quite
ready for it.

"Yes, I know that, but for a little while I have got to be several,"
she answered with a laugh. "Douglass has succeeded in the experiments
out there in the back yard, but he can't be certain of the process
until he tries it on a whole oven full of ore some night out at the
furnaces. He just works every minute he can get, all night sometimes,
and that is why I mend and darn and save and save--it costs so much
for him to get the things he needs out in his shop. Of course, I never
let Lovey or Uncle Pomp get really hungry, but Douglass and I do--that
is--" Roxanne stopped, for the pain _would_ come out on my face.
"Oh, Phyllis, not really hungry," she said mercifully, "but just tired
of corn-bread and molasses. Douglass kisses me and I kiss him good-by
in the morning and we pretend it is butter on his bread, like the poet
said. Please don't feel bad about it, Phyllis. It was cruel for me to
tell it when I am as happy as I can be."

"Well, you'll never be hungry again while I have two feet and hands to
'tote' food to you, as Uncle Pompey calls it," I answered with a
masterly control of that troublesome lump in my throat that I had
discovered for the first time since I began to love Roxanne Byrd.

"I couldn't let you do that--bring me food, Phyllis," said Roxanne
gently; and her little head with its raven black, heavy curls again
rose to the stately pose of the Byrd great-grandmother.

"I don't see why not," I answered bluntly.

"Taking food and clothes would be charity, and I couldn't do that. I
couldn't even let Miss Prissy give Lovelace Peyton any aprons, only I
did take some scraps of her pink gingham dress to piece him
with--that's why he looks like such a rainbow with his pink on blue.
Please don't be mad with me, Phyllis. I don't mind at all doing
without grand things to eat, but I can't--can't do without your--your
love," and Roxanne hid her head on my shoulder, much to my surprise.

"You'd better have my cookies and roast chicken," I muttered as I
shook her back into her own place again.

"The taste of love lasts longer than any kind of cake," answered
Roxanne with a comforted laugh. "And truly, Phyllis, it has been a
comfort to tell you all about it. It is hard to have to skimp like I
do and it makes a girl nervous to have to keep looking down at her
feet to be sure that a toe isn't poking out of the shoe since the last
time she looked, also to know that the last inch of hem is let out of
her dress and her legs are growing while she sleeps. I can take
Douglass's old shirts and make shirt waists for me and aprons of the
scraps for Lovey, and lots of things for Lovey out of his old
trousers, only he says that he has to wear them himself until he feels
ashamed of his appearance whenever he meets anybody; but my own skirts
are what seem the last straw, or rather the bricks that I haven't any
straw to make. The last one was made out of some dead Somebody Byrd's
black cashmere shawl, I don't know whose, but I can't see the next
even in the dim future."

"I heard Belle Kirby say that your white linen is the most stylish
dress in Byrdville, and I agreed with her," I said, with the emphasis
that truth always makes possible. "In fact, you always look different
from other people, Roxanne--like--like the town was named for you--as
it is."

"Oh, that linen dress is really a wonder, considering," laughed
Roxanne with pleased delight. "It is made out of a linen sheet that
came off one of my great-grandmother's looms, and I found it in an old
trunk. Miss Prissy embroidered it and helped me make it and a suit for
Lovey and a shirt for Douglass out of the other one of the pair. Uncle
Pompey helps me wash and iron all three of them every Saturday. He has
a necktie off of them, too, and Sunday we all go to church 'of a
piece', he calls it. Douglass says, when the Emperor of Germany
invites the great inventor and his family to come to court to meet the
royal family we are all going to wear our parts of the family sheets,
if only folded in our pockets like handkerchiefs. Sometimes in the
middle of the night, when something goes right in the shop, Douglass
comes in and wakes me up. I dress up in a blanket for a court dress,
and we wake up Lovey and play our royal visit. Do you blame me for not
minding washing and ironing and cooking and toe-poking or
dress-shrinking with a brother who is an idol like that?"

"No, Roxanne, I don't blame you. He--er--Mr. Douglass is worth it
all," I answered with controlled emotion. I thereupon adopted the word
"Idol" to use for him in private between you and me, good Louise. He
deserves it. "He is so perfectly grand that I step on my own toes
whenever I see from a long way off that I must meet him on the
street," I continued. "I turn a corner rather than speak to him. I
never intend to. The sight of him makes me so shy that it is agony." I
didn't in the least mind confessing such a feeling to Roxanne, because
she is the "Idol's"--it looks nice written--sister and will
understand.

"And all the time he is afraid that he will have to back up against a
fence sometime to hide his patches from you," laughed Roxanne in such
merriment that anybody with any sense of pleasant humor would have
joined her at the thought of the Idol and me dancing a minuet to keep
out of each other's way.

The way Roxanne feels about her brother is the way I feel about Father
even after I saw that article in the magazine. He is my father and
nobody is wholly bad. I always will love him devotedly and go to him
with my sorrows.

At night in the study of Roxanne's forefathers, before the log fire
where the fifth old Colonel Byrd used to entertain Andrew Jackson, I
told him all about that terrible starving that is going on down at the
little cottage beyond the garden.

"Well," said Father, in the voice I still think so noble and good and
that still comforts me, "we'll have to see to all that. When I bought
this place from young Byrd, I liked him better than any youngster I
had met in a long time, and I offered him a better place out at the
furnaces than he could fill. I have tried to have him advanced twice,
but the young stiffneck says he won't have more than he earns. Still
he gets a hundred a month and things ought not to be so tight down at
the Byrd nest. Wonder what he does with the money? He's not a gamer, I
take it."

"Oh, Father, no!" I answered, shocked that anybody should think that
of the Idol. "It's for the experiments that all the money goes.
Roxanne's so proud of him for the wonderful thing he has discovered
that she will starve herself to death, and him too, before all the
world hears about it, even the Emperor of Germany."

"Experiments?" Father asked, with a quick look that he has when
business and things interest him very much. "What experiments?"

"I can't tell you that, for you're the very person not to know," I
answered quickly, a little bit scared.

"Then don't," answered Father, looking me square in the face in a way
that I wished that magazine could have seen. "And if you have a secret
of importance, don't ever even hint it, Phil."

"I won't," I answered, glad to see that he wasn't going to ask any
more about it all.

"And, Phil," he continued, speaking slowly and looking at me as
lovingly as any father could look at a daughter, even a poor one, "you
go right ahead filling up the youngster and standing by the Byrds.
That's what I want you to learn--standing-by-ness. Have the other
'poor but prouds' thawed to you to any extent?" I had told Father some
of the ways Belle and the others had treated me, only not so as to
hurt his feelings about his money being the cause of it.

"Some of them have and the others are going to, I think," I said, even
more hopefully than I really felt about it.

"Here's hoping," said Father, and this time he did laugh.

A great resolve has come into my mind since this talk with Father. I
am going to reform him about money-making if it takes me all my life.
He is too good a man for God not to have in heaven. His honor must be
saved. Amen!




CHAPTER III


Miss Priscilla Talbot might by some people be called an old maid, as
she must be either a little before or after fifty years old; but if I
had to invent just one word to describe her darling self it would be
"precious."

Tony Luttrell calls all of the girls collectively and singly
"bubbles," which is both disrespectful and funny at the same time. But
real affection in any disrespect can keep it from being at all
wicked--and Tony's always is affectionate, especially when he insults
Miss Priscilla by calling her Miss Bubbles right to her face. Nobody
else dares to do it, but she likes it. It is a good thing that she is
fifty years young instead of old, for if she wasn't I don't know what
the Palefaces and Scouts would do without her. She lets Tony beg her
into doing everything with us so the grown-up people, like mothers and
fathers, will be deceived into thinking that we are being taken care
of, while the truth is that Miss Prissy is just as much trouble for us
to look after as Lovelace Peyton and we love her in exactly the same
way. We also love the Colonel a great deal for her sake, and to make
up for the way she treats him.

Miss Prissy lives just next to Roxanne, on the other side, and she is
such a comfort to her, though a great added responsibility. She
worries so over everything that Roxanne doesn't have that it gets on
Roxanne's nerves, as the people say when things make them cross. Not
that Roxanne ever is cross with Miss Prissy. But I made up my mind
after that first remonstrance that if Roxanne Byrd had the pluck to
let herself go hungry and cold and ragged for a great proud cause like
an inventor in the family, I was going to let her get all the fun out
of it she could and not mope over it. I still fill up Lovelace Peyton
so regularly that he is getting so fat I am afraid Roxanne will notice
and suspect something. I may have to diet him soon.

Roxanne and I were just talking about Miss Prissy and the poor Colonel
out on the front steps of the cottage when there came one of the proud
moments of my life. It's wonderful how Roxanne's enthusiasm can throw
such a magic over her shabby shoes and the little cottage with the
young green vines running over the eaves and old Uncle Pomp and a
darning bag full of ragged stockings, that you want to stay feeling it
forever and ever. It doesn't even take the rosy hue off the dream to
talk about Lovelace Peyton.

"Oh, Lovey will be a famous surgeon some day, I feel sure," Roxanne
said, as she began on another interminable job of stocking-patching.
"And Douglass is going to be a Supreme Judge of the United States
while I help him. Just as soon as the money comes we shall all go to
college, Lovey, Douglass, Uncle Pomp and I, to get ready for our life
work."

"What course will Uncle Pompey take?" I couldn't help asking, because
Uncle Pompey is so old he couldn't learn to turn one of his own batter
cakes the wrong way around.

"Domestic Science," Roxanne laughed back at her own self; and just
then Tony came in with his pie catastrophe that caused so much
trouble.

"You two hubbies, you had better lay aside the darning-needle and
seize the pie plate," he said, fanning himself with Roxanne's
scissors. "We've just decided in Scout Council to take the Palefaces
out to the Harpeth ridge to hunt spring shoots and roots, and we
always count on you for pies, Roxy, Stocking-darner."

"How lovely, Tony!" exclaimed Roxanne, rising right above the pies
which sank my heart like lead to think of her having to furnish; and
where would she get them? I was so dismayed that I never thought of
being embarrassed about being left out, as I, of course expected to
be; and so it came as a proud surprise when Tony asked me, in the
nicest way a boy could think of, to go with them. That is, he didn't
ask me, but ordered me what to bring like I had been going on the
Raccoon outings since infancy.

"You are to bring a white mountain cake in a cocoanut snowstorm, City
Bubbles," he said, with that funny flare of his eyes that always sets
me laughing inside whether I want to or not. "Belle is brewing
sandwiches and Mamie Sue is croquetting with some chicken. Don't tell
the dumpling, but we are going to rub asafetida on her shoes and leave
her to rest on a stone so as to lose her good and then find her by
smelling her track like true Scouts. Now, don't spoil a single pie,
Roxy; we'll need all six."

"I won't, I won't," answered Roxanne; and I saw that grandmother pose
begin to come to her head and I knew that it meant that she would
shake six pies out of that empty larder like the widow in the Bible
did the meal. "Did you ask Miss Prissy, Tony?" she asked, as if to
change the subject for an instant's relief.

"I did," answered Tony with a laugh; "and Miss Bubbles said she would
go accompanied by a basket of stuffed eggs to return accompanied by a
bunch of stuffed Scouts. We also asked the Colonel, and he made us a
speech of acceptance twenty minutes long, Pink and me. But I must
hurry along and encourage Mamie Sue not to eat all the chicken tasties
as she makes them. Do you two Palefaces promise to rustle around as
soon as I go?"

"We do," we both answered as he went out of the gate. Then we sat
still, paralyzed, instead of the promised rustling. Only I was the
most upset. Roxanne always brings out the rainbow and shakes it when
the clouds get down very low.

"What are you going to do about the pies?" I asked, forgetting my
promise to myself never to force Roxanne to look any kind of problem
in the face as long as she could keep her back to it.

"Well," she answered so placidly that I felt ashamed of myself, "I
have just been thinking those apples up. I can starve Lovey and myself
enough to get the things for the crust, but where are the apples to
come from? Won't it be fun to look back from richness and remember
when an apple looked as big as one of the Harpeth Hills?"

"But, haven't you got any apple plan at all?" I again forgot my
resolve and asked. I'm often ashamed of myself for being so practical
about things, but I can't help it, and I couldn't see those pies
coming down on a rainbow. She had to have the apples to save her
family pride, and apples don't grow on dream trees.

"Not a plan," she answered, snipping a thread with a steady hand. "But
they'll come from some place. Now, I've got to think up stories to
make Lovey forget that he wants anything but some corn-bread and
buttermilk for supper. That'll save the batter-cake flour for the
pie-crust and some of the lard and butter too. If I can amuse him past
breakfast with just corn meal mush, I'll have enough flour for them
all. Uncle Pompey has lots of spice and things, so it'll only be the
apples. Maybe I can--"

"Wait a minute, I've got a plan!" I exclaimed quickly; for being
Roxanne's friend often makes me need to think very quickly indeed.
"You go on believing they'll come, and your believing and my plan will
be almost sure to get them. I'll have to go home right now."

"Your plan won't make me have to--to let anybody give them to me, will
it, Phyllis?" And Roxanne's eyes were so soft with entreaty to spare
that family pride that I had to swallow the inconvenient lump in my
throat again. I wish my eyes knew how to mist with tears like a girl's
ought to do instead of my choking up like a boy. But I had my voice
good and steady by the time I got opposite Father across his office
table.

"And so," he said, as he looked at me with an expression I feel on
myself when I am going to take hold of some of the knots in Roxanne's
affairs, "I am to buy two barrels of apples here in the spring when
they are gold nuggets, and help you pack up ten baskets of them for me
to send to the furnace office force as a seasonable compliment, just
so that stiff-necked young Byrd can carry his family pride along home
in the basket with the apples for the making of six pies. Right
expensive pies, those!"

"Yes, Father, I know they are," I answered firmly but pathetically.
"But I told you Lovelace Peyton and Roxanne are starving to save the
crust; and my friends' troubles are mine. When he gets the chance to
prove that steel explosion thing and people buy the process from him,
they won't need friends, or rather they will need friends more than
they ever did, with all that money, but they won't need apples. I'm
sorry it is being such an expensive thing for me to have a friend, but
I must stand by her now if you will let me."

"Steel!" said Father, and his eyes went into narrow slits in a way I
don't like, because he forgets I'm living. And he was in one of those
spells of turning himself inside himself to think, when I glanced at
Rogers, his foreman at the furnaces, who was going over some papers at
another desk. And as I glanced at him Father came out of his inside
and looked at him too. I never did like Mr. Rogers.

"Rogers," said Father briskly, "go telephone the Hill Grocery Company
to pack up ten large baskets of apples and send them over to the
office. You go over and give them to the boys and cover up Miss
Phyllis's track effectually by a speech of presentation. And remember,
Rogers, that whatever Miss Phyllis says in my office is strictly
business and is to be observed as absolutely confidential."

As Rogers went out of the door I felt my heart sink in a queer way,
and I turned to find Father looking at me sternly.

"Phil," he said, in the tone of voice I feel sure fathers use to their
errant sons, "if you have another person's secret to guard, do it
carefully and do not let the excitement of the moment make you let it
slip."

"Oh, Father," I fairly gasped, "did I tell you anything about Mr.
Douglass's secret that I ought not?"

"You told about all you know, daughter; but fortunately you didn't
know enough to do much damage. I happen to know I can trust Rogers as
myself. Now, go to your pie fixings, for I'm unusually busy."

I turned to the door with a queer sinking feeling coming up in me when
he called me back again.

"Of course, Phil, you know what a pleasure it is to me for you to
shower apples on the Byrds and others, and I want to speak to you
about a little matter that is troubling me and ask your help. We have
got to spend some money in Byrdsville, and you must help me to do it.
I can't get Henri to buy his supplies for the kitchen here, under any
circumstances--he shrugs his French shoulders, gives me two uneatable
meals, and orders from New York as usual. I can't very well wear
Byrdsville clothes myself, and there seems no way to drop cash in the
town unless you can find some way. Buy things at all the stores and
charge them to me. Give away and use what you can, but _buy_. We
owe it to the town and we must do it. Can you promise to take part of
the job for me?"

"I'll try, Father," I answered doubtfully. "I like the kind of clothes
the girls wear, so I will get mine in the stores, and I can give
presents to all who will allow it."

"That's it--presents--presents to your friends," said Father in a
relieved tone of voice, and I could see that he had no idea of the
burden he had put on my shoulders. "Now fade away, and let me work,
kiddie. You are all to the good!"

As I walked along home my heart was so heavy down in my toes that my
feet almost stuck to the pavement--not only about the task of spending
the money, but about the secret. However, I reasoned it up into my
breast again. If my father is one of the men that magazines write
against and say is too rich to be good, he has always told me the
truth; and when he said I hadn't done the great secret any damage I
believed him. If he can trust Rogers as himself, I can, too.

But after this, when I know anything that all the world can't know I'm
going to wear a horsehair ring, like Belle makes Mamie Sue do, to
remind me not to forget and tell. I thought I was stronger-minded than
that, but I see I'm not. You see, leather Louise, I must be more
trustworthy than just any girl; for if I'm untrustworthy, then it will
be a tragedy, because it will prove that I inherited it and so be an
evidence against Father in my own mind and the world's too.

Since I have been with Roxanne so much, and seen so many things which
prove that God is looking directly after her, as my getting the apple
plan shows, I feel so much nearer to Him. I am going to pray to Him to
help me to help Father, and take both our honors in His keeping. Amen!
Goodnight!

Of course, the whole spring keeps springing wonderful days on a
person, each one lovelier than the last; but the one that came down
from over Old Harpeth, as the tallest hump on the ridge is called, was
so lovely that it was hard to believe that I was not just seeing it
with Roxanne's eyes. If it was so beautiful, with its orchard smells
and blooms and buzzing of bees and soft little winds, to me, I wonder
what it did look like to _her_. And to think that Roxanne was
almost in tears before it was nine o'clock.

The interurban that runs by Byrdsville and out over the ridge to the
city has cars only every two hours, so if we didn't catch the
eight-ten one, we couldn't go until the ten-ten, and that would make
it very late for the Scouts to go through all the kinds of drills they
had planned for. Some of us had to sprain ankles and make believe to
step on snakes, and then Mamie Sue had to be lost and traced, only she
didn't know it yet; so Tony said that we would have to start very
early. It was about half past seven when he came for me while all the
rest of them waited at the corner for us. We then trooped down to get
Roxanne and Lovelace Peyton; but disaster met us at the door. It was
Lovelace Peyton dancing and yelling like a wild Indian while Roxanne
tried to quiet him and unbutton his white linen dress-up at the same
time.

"Please everybody go on. We can't come," Roxanne called to us at the
gate. "Lovey sat down on one of the hot pies that Uncle Pomp had just
taken out of the stove for me to put in the basket, and it burned him
through his trousers and blouse and all. Uncle Pomp has got a dreadful
fit of asthma, and the pie is all over everything where Lovey ran
around and around. I've got to scrub him and the whole house. Please
go on and don't be late for the train." And as Roxanne looked out at
us over the dancing Lovelace Peyton that was the first time I had ever
seen her face without its dimple on the left side of her chin, or her
head down out of the rosy cloud.

"It always happens just this way, Roxy," said Belle in a reproving
tone of voice. "You promised to begin to get ready last night, so as
not to delay anything or anybody. We're just not going to wait!"

"I did try, Belle," answered Roxanne, with a little sob coming into
her voice that made both Tony and me so mad at one time that it is a
wonder that we didn't both explode together.

"Here, you bubbles," said Tony, jumping the gate as I went through it,
"get busy with this situation. We've got almost a half-hour, so be
doing something, everybody. Belle, you help Roxy skin that kid and get
him into clean clothes while I swab up and light old Pomp's
jimson-weed pipe for him?" And as Tony spoke he started to the rear of
the house.

"No, no. I'm hurted bad, and I won't let anybody but Phyllis touch me.
I'll out off Belle's arm if she comes nigh me," said Lovelace Peyton
in the rudest voice; but it did me good to get hold of him and begin
to peel him while Roxanne stood petrified at the idea of hurrying all
her calamities onto the car in twenty minutes.

"Oh, I'm not dressed and the pies are not packed and--" began Roxanne,
but the dimple also began to play at the same time.

"I'll help you dress, Roxanne," said Belle meekly; for Belle is more
afraid of Tony's explosions than of anything else on earth, and he had
looked at her with a stern expression as she had fussed at and
threatened to leave Roxanne.

"I'll pack the pies," said Mamie Sue, with plain delight at the
prospect.

"Well, hurry, Dumpling, and don't take a bite out of a stray corner of
more than half those pies," Tony answered her as he rolled up his
shirt sleeves and started toward the kitchen. All the other members of
the Raccoon Patrol were with the other girls at the station, and
nobody could go without Tony, who had bought the combination ticket
for everybody, at a bargain.

It is all very well to say that "haste makes waste," but there is a
kind of hurry that gets things done, and Tony knows how to put that
kind into action. He and Mamie Sue kept to the kitchen as their scene
of operations, and before we knew it old Uncle Pomp was seated humped
over his pipe and beginning to breathe easy. Mamie Sue had hopped
around to keep out of the swirls of Tony's mop while she packed those
ill-fated but precious pies in the basket, and she was breathing
almost as hard as Uncle Pompey.

I did the best I could with Lovelace Peyton, though only the blue
apron with the largest pink patches was whole and clean; so he had to
go that way, which I know hurt Roxanne, for he had been so lovely to
look at in his part of the grandmother's sheet.

Belle was buttoning Roxanne's festive white linen up the back as Tony
came down the hall shooing panting Mamie Sue with the basket in front
of him, and collected us all. I grabbed Roxanne's hat from the closet
for her and swung Lovelace Peyton up on Tony's shoulder so he could
run on ahead with him. Belle followed Roxanne, buttoning her up all
the way to the front gate, while Mamie Sue trundled along steadily
with the two baskets.

I've heard about the excitements of the city and the quiet of the
country, but I have the opinion that the terms in this case are mixed.
We all fell aboard the car half dead, but we caught it!

I'm not going to describe this Scout outing in detail to you, my
leather-bound Louise, because it would take all night. I'm so tired
that I doubt if I get up in the morning until it is afternoon, but
there are a few high lights I will mention because I never want to
forget them. A girl wants to keep the details of the first happiest
day of her life always, even if she has many others.

Mamie Sue got lost satisfactorily, but they forgot she had Belle's
basket with her, and when they found her some of the sandwiches were
lost forever; but Mamie Sue was happy. It was wonderful the way Pink
tracked her shoes by the asafetida. That is one of the reasons Scouts
can't smoke: they must keep their sense of smell to track things with.
One of the Willis girls let Sam Hayes treat her for snake-bite by the
rules of the book and never said a word; but then neither one of those
Willis girls ever says anything except what they have to in classroom,
and we like them immensely. They are Tony's first cousins and both are
of the first families of Byrdsville.

But the sensation of the day was when Tony really fell and skinned his
arm bad--and what do you think he did? He let Lovelace Peyton do all
the things to it that he showed him how to do out of the book. I never
saw any human being in my life so happy as that little patched boy
was, and it was marvelous how he understood just what Tony said and
did it quicker than any of us could. His slender little fingers worked
like a grown-up's.

"Oh, if his father, the doctor, could have just seen him," said Miss
Prissy in such a sweetly sympathetic voice that the Colonel blew his
nose. He was Roxanne's father's best friend, and had watched him cut
up what was left of people on the battle-field in the Civil War. He
told us all about it. I feel that we must take better care of Lovelace
Peyton, but I am sorry for Roxanne to have two geniuses in her family
to watch over. It is such a responsibility and requires even more of
my help.

The luncheon was a success. Everybody ate everything, especially the
great surgeon and Mamie Sue. The dried sticks made the sparks on the
leaves for Pink so much to his pride that Tony had to call him Rosebud
to keep him cool, he said, and Sam's kettle hung on the forked sticks
the first time and boiled the best potatoes I ever tasted.

The boys signaled to the Colonel by the Scout language and he got the
signals perfectly. Then he told them war tales until time to start
home. He carried Lovelace Peyton, who had gone to sleep on the car,
home in his arms, while Miss Prissy walked behind him with Roxanne. I
wonder why Miss Prissy doesn't want to marry such a grand man as the
Colonel is?

But a strange thing happened to Tony and me as we came by the side
wall of our garden after we had taken the quiet Willises home and he
was bringing me to my front gate. It makes me nervous to think about
it. That secret about the steel, which is going to keep Roxanne from
living in such poverty, weighs on my mind so that I never forget it.
It is right out there in the little shed and it is both dangerous and
precious.

Suddenly Tony stopped me right opposite the shed and gave the Scout
signal of warning.

"Tip-hist-toe," he said under his breath. "Did you see a shadow dodge
behind Roxy's cottage just a minute ago, Phyllis?" he asked, in a
whisper that was enough to make almost any girl's blood run cold in
her body.

"I did," I answered him in just as blood-curdling a whisper, "but
Uncle Pompey goes out to see after his hens just about this time every
night. I think that was the shadow."

"Of course," Tony laughed in a human voice again. "Say Phyllis, you
are one brick, a yard wide, all wool, and a foot thick. There are not
the usual bubble squeals in you." I never was so confused in all my
life. I don't know how to answer people when they express a liking for
me, because I have never had many compliments passed on me.

"Thank you, Tony," I said, just as humbly as I felt, which was very
humble indeed.

"Now, Phyllis, I wasn't patting any Fido on the head," Tony laughed in
a funny way; for what I said had teased him, though I don't know just
why. "And also I didn't say that to you because you didn't yelp when I
scared up a bogie for you, but because I saw how you came near beating
me to Roxy's catastrophes this morning when Belle wanted to give her
the jolly go-by. Old Roxanny has some rough going at times, and it is
good to know that she has got a bubble next door to stand by her in a
stocking-darning way a fellow can't. Good-night!"

Tony Luttrell is an honorable gentleman, if he is just in short
trousers yet, and I appreciate his friendship.

That shadow _will_ make me uneasy. I feel like that cross, nervous
white hen of Uncle Pompey's, only as if I were sitting on dynamite
bottles instead of eggs. I will and do trust my father, but can I
trust him to trust Rogers? Oh, I wish he was just a lawyer with almost
no practice, like Tony's father, and was sitting in the office all day
long doing nothing, where I knew he was, instead of going back and
forth from the city with other men that have more money than it is
right to have! I'd even be willing to have him keep the grocery store
even if it did mean that he wasn't quite as first-family as Judge
Luttrell and the Byrds.

Oh, I do love my father--I do--I do!




CHAPTER IV


It does seem a pity that a person can't put an Idol on a pedestal and
keep it here without having it come down and bother around the house.
The idea of being introduced to Mr. Douglass Byrd and having to speak
directly to him with my own voice has kept me miserable all this month
in which I have been so perfectly happy being Roxanne's friend and
confidante, but it has happened and I'm glad it's over, though it was
under trying circumstances.

These are they. My fears have come to pass and in this eventful month
Lovelace Peyton has grown from a slender, frail little boy into almost
as much of a roly-poly as Mamie Sue, and looks more like her than he
does like Roxanne. I try not to feed him more than four times a day
extra, but he is stern with me about it. Sometimes he will trade the
cake I give him about four o'clock for a new shaped bottle, but lots
of times he gets the bottle and the cake both away from me. I just
can't be strong-minded with Lovelace Peyton, like I ought to be to
make up for the way Roxanne forgets to see him from the rosy cloud.

"If you'll give me a bottle, I'll give you one mouth-kiss, Phyllis;
but for cake and bottles too, I can maybe make it two," is the way he
bargains with me. Fifteen years is a long time to starve for a little
brother to love, so Lovelace Peyton almost always gets both the cake
and bottles.

But his fat has begun to burst out of all the clothes he has and
somebody has got to get him new ones. Roxanne and I were managing it
when Mr. Douglass interrupted us this morning; and I'm glad a man is
so much stupider than a woman or maybe his feelings would have got
hurt and I'd have had to argue him into my plan like I did Roxanne. I
feel sure I would have failed with him. He is the first Idol I ever
had and I am new at managing either friends or idols. However, I have
got so I can get the best of Roxanne when it is urgently necessary.

"It's the funniest thing to me, Phyllis," Roxanne said the other
afternoon, as I went over to see her about my rhetoric lesson, "but
rich as you are, I don't at all mind your seeing my scrimps like I do
the other girls, even Mamie Sue. You are like finding a grandmother's
thimble that fits you exactly and is pure gold."

Oh, I wish I could learn to be gracious and say lovely things like
Roxanne, but I'm just a corked bottle and I can't get the stopper out.

"What are you doing?" I asked her instead of giving her a squeeze and
saying, "You are the dearest thing on earth to me, Roxanne," which was
what I really felt.

"I'm sitting here before this old dress I found in the trunk in the
attic and trying to think how I could make Lovey wear the flowered
aprons I can make out of it. I almost know he won't, for he has begun
to say what 'looks boy' and what 'looks girl.' I did hope I could keep
him ignorant of the difference this summer at least. Would you ask him
before you make the aprons or trust to his not noticing?"

The old dress was the full skirt of fifty years ago, with huge red
roses on a white-and-green dotted background, and, as aprons, would
have made the snake doctor look like a very young circus. I couldn't
stand the thought and cranked my mind as hard as I could for a half
minute. The idea came, and it is a good thing to be perfectly straight
in the treatment of your friends at all times, so that when a crisis
comes they will depend on you.

"Roxanne," I said, looking determinedly and sternly into her face with
Father's own expression, "have I ever offered you a single thing to
eat except when you were company like the other girls, or anything
else that would hurt the Byrd pride?"

"No, you haven't, Phyllis, and that's why I don't mind telling or
letting you see things. You understand that it is for the cause, and I
don't have to be afraid that you will hurt--hurt my feelings."

I never thought it would be possible for a girl to look at me like
Roxanne Byrd looked at me across the pile of ragged little aprons and
old dresses. I thank God for it!

"Well," I said, "for that dress I want to trade you this blue gingham
I have got on to make the aprons out of. It will make three if the
tucks are ripped out of the skirt. I want the old flowered skirt to
make some cushions for the window seat in the room I sleep in, for it
will be just the thing to go with the old mahogany of your
grandmother's. It is real old-fashioned chintz and is worth just about
ten times as much as this dress I have got on, which you know I bought
at Mr. Hadley's, with the other dozen ones that Miss Green is making
for me, at twenty-five cents a yard. Will you?"

Roxanne doesn't know about that awful spending burden I have had laid
on me and she is just as interested in helping me go and buy myself
Byrdsville clothes as a friend can be in another's pleasure--not
knowing it to be painful responsibility.

I locked the box that came from New York with all my spring and summer
things in it, in a closet the day it came, and while these things are,
of course crude, I like to be in clothes like the other girls. I seem
to fit in better. I spent seventy-five dollars at that store by hard
effort, and I think won Mr. Hadley's good will for life for both
Father and me. Also Miss Green's check was gratifyingly large both to
her and me.

"Will you trade, Roxanne?" I asked again, keeping the eagerness out of
my voice with my father's stern will.

"Oh, I don't think I ought." Roxanne hesitated and then said: "Are you
sure you don't--that is, are you sure?"

"I am," I answered briskly, and in a business like tone. "You can't
say that lovely old stuff won't make the very cushions for that very
room, Roxanne."

"They truly will be lovely, Phyllis, and that gingham will solve the
problem for Lovey's whole summer. To-morrow we will--"

"Not to-morrow; right now, and I'll help you rip and cut out from the
skirt," I said, and began to undo my belt. I knew better than to let
that family pride get to simmering in Roxanne in the wee small hours
of the night. "A trade is a trade, as soon as it is made. Give me my
dress."

"Oh, Phyllis, there never was anybody like you," laughed Roxanne in a
voice that is like music to a person who understands what friendship
really is and hasn't had very much.

We both laughed as I slipped the quaint old dress over my head and
buttoned the low-necked waist, with its short puffy-sleeves, straight
down the front. It had such a style of its own and fitted me so that I
began to prance in front of the long mirror in the living room, which
is gilt, a hundred years old, and belonged to the stiff grandmother
over the mantel who had probably pranced in the same gown in the same
way fifty years ago, if her heart was as young and happy as mine.

And those were the trying circumstances under which I met the Idol. He
stood there in the doorway and laughed until his big shoulders shook,
and his wonderful eyes danced like sparks. I blushed so painfully that
it felt like measles; but when he saw my embarrassment break out on me
like that, a wonderful sad kindness came into his eyes and he stopped
laughing.

"It's Miss Phyllis Forsythe, isn't it, that I have come home to find
masquerading as my own grandmother?" he said, in a warm voice so like
Roxanne's that the scarlatina on my face began to subside and my knees
stopped trembling. "You don't know how indebted to you I am for coming
over to make Roxy take a playtime."

Playtime, with all that pattern and darned aprons and my gingham dress
in a pile on the ancestral sofa in the corner with the scissors and
needle and thread gaping at Roxanne and me from the table! Women ought
to be very thankful at times for men's stupidity.

It was all very well for the red on my face to pale and my breath to
come easier again; but no fifteen-year-old girl has an answer ready
for a remark of a man who is as great and wonderful and famous as Mr.
Douglass Byrd is going to be soon. I was just getting so loose-jointed
from mortification that my mind had fainted away at the very time I
needed it, when Tony and Pink Chadwell came and broke into the
situation with the Raccoon whistle for the palefaces. They also broke
through the side window with their "Tip-hist-toe" signal that always
gives the girls cold creeps even in daytime. Mamie Sue calls it
goose-flesh and Tony reproves Belle for telling her that was what she
had all the time. I don't know what we would do with Belle if it
wasn't for Tony's powerful disposition. And one thing I am sure of,
never were there in this world such grand boys as Anthony Wayne
Luttrell and Matthew Foster Chadwell--that's Pink's whole name--for
they didn't any more notice that old flowered dress than if it had
been the blue gingham, or either Roxanne or me, but they gave the
scout-master salute to Mr. Douglass and began their business right
away.

[Illustration: He stood there in the doorway and laughed until his big
shoulders shook]

"Raccoon Chief," said Tony, "the patrol awaits you in the Crotch, at
your call."

"On my way," answered Mr. Douglass with just as much seriousness as
Tony had in his voice. Tony had told me how Mr. Douglass had organized
the Raccoon Patrol and taught it all it knows and was just the guiding
star of all their young lives, only Tony didn't put it that way; he
called him their "jolly old peace-maker." That means that all the
Raccoons look up to him and adore him and try to be exactly like him.
In the Bible if David had been eight years older than Jonathan, there
would have been the same situation in Jerusalem as in Byrdsville,
Tennessee.

"I wonder what is the matter with the Scouts," said Roxanne, as we
both began to rip on the dress so I could help her cut the aprons.
"Douglass didn't say what he came home for in the middle of the
afternoon and Tony was so serious that I hardly knew him. Pink was
speechless from excitement. They all acted that way when they found
out about the queer man who hung around selling patent medicine,
trying to find out where Miss Prissy kept the Talbot emerald necklace
that came from England before the Revolution."

Because Miss Prissy lives alone it is the duty of all of the Raccoons
to patrol her ever so many times in the day, and Judge Luttrell lets
Tony go out the last thing before he goes to bed and give Miss Prissy
that signal we hear every night about half past nine. Miss Prissy says
it makes her comfortable the whole night, and the Colonel gave the
Raccoons their wireless outfit for being such "Knights of the Round
Miss Prissy" instead of the "Table," Pink said; though the Colonel
never mentioned Miss Prissy in the speech of presentation at all, but
called it Table.

I'm not romantic myself, but I could never treat a man with the lack
of heart with which Miss Prissy treats Colonel Stockell. She makes
herself as beautiful as possible and sits on the front porch with him,
and I would call that an honorable cause for marriage, but Roxanne
says that in Byrdsville no tie binds a lady to marry a gentleman until
after it is done. Such treatment does not look to me like what father
calls a "square deal"; but Miss Priscilla may have some way of
squaring it to her conscience, as she is very religious and
charitable.

"I'm glad Douglass doesn't have to know that we traded dresses,
Phyllis," said Roxanne, as we both snipped away on the long seams,
after he had gone with Tony and Pink. Why it is so much more fun to
rip things than to sew them, is a question I put to you, leather
Louise.

"Just last night," Roxanne continued, "he made me sit out here on the
porch with him and he told me it might be all summer that he will have
to use his wages to get the things for the experiments. Mr. Rogers has
acted queerly and he is afraid to try anything out at these furnaces,
so we have to save up enough for him to go up to Kentucky to some
little furnaces there and make the experiment. It will cost a lot for
the trip and the things, but I think we can do it. This simple life
agrees with us all. Just look how fat Lovey is getting with hardly
anything but buttermilk and corn-bread. It makes me happy to look at
him."

The giggle that I had to smother down in my heart was one of the good
things that come in a person's life and leave a mark on their natures
for always. I think it is a fine plan to save little happinesses and
put them up on a spirit shelf to take down to feed your remembers on
in days when pleasures are scarce. I can't believe that this life of
being with and of other people is going to last for me; so if I have
to go back into loneliness I will have had it to remember.

Any mention of that dynamite secret and Rogers in the same
conversation always makes me uneasy and that is why I had loneliness
thoughts.

"What has Mr. Rogers done to make your brother uneasy about the
secret?" I asked Roxanne in a voice that I could see, myself, was
worried.

"Nothing at all," laughed Roxanne; "but we are all just as
superstitious as old Uncle Pompey, and because Douglass has a
'feeling' about Mr. Rogers, we all have to have it, too. We make it a
point to 'feel' with each other as both Douglass and I did when we
just knew with Uncle Pompey that the white rooster would die from the
lye soap that Lovey made him take in a pill. It took Douglass and me
two whole days to get Lovey to go on his honor about doctoring the
chicken, but he finally agreed, if we would promise to let him do
things to all of us whenever he wanted to. Douglass lets him treat his
head with cold water, which is just hard rubbing that he likes better
than anything, every night before supper. I'm wearing a yarn string
around my ankle now for rheumatism that I haven't got. In fact we are
all 'on honor' with Lovey, to save the 'live stock,' as Uncle Pompey
calls himself and the chickens."

Never having had any experience with little boys, I can't say
positively that Lovelace Peyton is a wonder, but I firmly believe it
and his honor is entirely grown up while he is not quite five. I've
seen it work. If he says he will or he won't, he acts accordingly, no
matter what happens to him or anybody else. But he is careful how he
promises and he leaves himself plenty of room to carry on what he
calls his practice, to the uneasiness of himself and all the
neighbors. It cost Miss Prissy ten bottles, a pint of red paint, and a
package of sulphur to buy the life of her gray cat for this year, but
now she has no uneasiness about Tab at all.

I suppose if Roxanne and I sat down and talked one month straight
through without eating and sleeping we might make up all the time we
have lost out of each other's company, at least just skim the cream
off each other's lives, but we'll never get to it. Too many people
want Roxanne besides me, and I'm grateful to be allowed to be in the
things she is in. I try to keep the other girls from feeling that I am
in the way, and I don't believe they would feel that way at all if
Belle didn't still keep prodding them up with her distrust of my
money. I wish Belle just had a little wealth and would find out that
it isn't anything at all and can be forgotten without the least
trouble.

Mamie Sue wants to like me and the two silent Willises do, also, but
Belle dusts my gold into their eyes so they can just blink at me so
far. But the blinks get friendlier every day and I hope some shock
will make them open their eyes to me like kittens do on the ninth
day--and their hearts, too.

The tallest Willis gave me the first peony that bloomed on their bush
to take to my mother, and I caught a sight of her awkward heart that
did me good. I defied the nurse and told the white, white little thing
on the pillow, that is all the mother I ever had, that one of my
friends sent it to her, and I got a flash of a smile, such as I had
never had before. The nurse said just that little bit of excitement
made her worse, and I've promised never to do anything but take my
daily look at her again--but--she _is_ my mother, even if--

Well, anyway, Louise of leather, just as Roxanne and I had got the
skirt ripped up and the pattern straightened out, we saw all the girls
coming, and from the way they were talking we saw something
interesting was surely happening, had happened, or was going to
happen.

"Hide the gingham, Roxanne, while I slip over the wall and change my
dress," I said quickly. "Our business arrangements are nobody else's
business."

"Will you come right back?" asked Roxanne in a way that made me know
she would worry if I didn't.

I would rather have stayed at home until the girls had had their visit
and gone home, but I have thought out just how I ought to act about
Roxanne and her friends and me. It is only fair to pay no attention to
how they feel, but to do what makes Roxanne happy in case of the
mix-up of us all. My pride and Roxanne's are different. Hers has been
handed down for generations and she can act on it without argument
with herself, but mine is my own kind and only I understand it. It is
new and I have to plan it out by thinking. The girls all think that
because I have finer clothes and travel and am rich, that I think I am
better than they are and am proud of it. Richness is not my fault, any
more than a hunched back would be, and it is my duty to forget it
whether they do or not. I act accordingly.

Another thing: I believe something is making my father see the error
of his ways and I hope that some day I will see him settled into being
a good and great man just like Judge Luttrell and the Colonel are and
Roxanne's father was. He has acted in a peculiar way just lately. Last
night he drew me up close to him and stood by the window a long time
without speaking.

"Phil," he finally said, not in the voice he generally uses as if he
were speaking to his only son--but with a daughter tone in it--"you
have made good in Byrdsville, and I want to tell you that I'm proud of
you. I doubted whether you could do it. A bunch of such youngsters as
you have made friends with would be a test for any man, much less a
young woman. I'm their friend because they are yours, and pretty soon
I am going to prove it--like the sentimental fools that all fathers of
almost-grown daughters get to be. Go to bed, kiddie, and say an extra
one for Father."

Now all this is directly connected with the state I found the girls in
over at the Byrd cottage, when I finally dressed and got back again,
after stopping to bargain with Lovelace Peyton to go without the
four-o'clock cookies for half a tube of perfectly harmless tooth-paste
that he wanted for some kind of plaster to put on Uncle Pompey's heel,
which is always painful enough to occupy most of the snake-doctor's
time.

"No, I don't see why we should always tell Phyllis every interesting
thing that happens to us or is going to happen," Belle was saying in
such a decided tone of voice that it carried through the front door,
across the porch, and halfway down the front walk.

Disagreeability has a kind of force that knocks one down before
pleasantness hardly gets to him. I knew Roxanne said something in
answer to that; in my heart I knew, but I couldn't hear what it was
with my ears.

"Well," came Mamie Sue's voice, muffled through a piece of fudge she
always carries in her pocket, in case she goes a square away from home
and is overtaken by her appetite. She always has enough for everybody
else, too, I must not forget to add. "Well, if it is Miss Prissy's
robber come back, that makes the boys act so, Phyllis might just as
well be scared as the rest of us; and if it is something pleasant,
why, let her have a share of that, too." Some day I'm going-to break
loose from myself and hug Mamie Sue's funny fatness until she squeals.

"I don't believe that if it was just a frolic the boys would have got
Douglass to come away from his work to the Crotch; but maybe he was
going up-town anyway, and they knew that," said Roxanne as I came in
the door and was given welcomes of different degrees. The tall Willis
is getting so that she moves over for me to sit down by her, even if
she is just sitting on one small chair. I wish she could know how that
pleases me.

"Did the boys look to you as if the thing that is making them all act
so important was nice or disagreeable, Phyllis?" asked Roxanne as she
got out the inevitable darning bag.

The short Willis moved nearer and began to help sort and get ready for
patching. I always keep a thimble in Roxanne's darning bag now, but
sometimes the short girl beats me to it. The others never notice that
Roxanne's hands are never empty of patching jobs. Still Mamie Sue does
attentively feed her fudge in hunks while she darns.

"I don't know boys well enough to diagram their expressions," I
answered. "They always look excited and queer to me, and I can't tell
their jokes from their other affairs. What have they been doing?"

"Being as hateful and secret as they know how to be," answered Belle
crossly. "Boys are nothing but rough, rude miseries; and the next time
Tony Luttrell tells me to 'bubble along' as he did Mamie Sue and me,
when Mamie Sue only wanted to stop him to give him a piece of fudge, I
am going to tell him what I think of him."

"Hope I'll be there," said the tall Willis behind my shoulder, and I
never enjoyed a silent remark more. Belle is as afraid of Tony's laugh
as she is of a cow in the lane.

"Now I know that something awful has happened or is coming if Tony
spoke that way," said Roxanne, with such anxiety coming into her face
that the timid Willis dropped her stocking and Mamie Sue gulped down
such a large piece of candy that she almost had to choke. "Oh, girls,
do you suppose that dreadful man has got out of jail in the city and
is coming back to maybe--maybe--?"

But the words were stopped in Roxanne's mouth with a great, pleasant
laugh as the Idol stood in the door. You would know that "Idol" is the
name for him by the way all the girls look awed and afraid of him, but
interested too. Tony and Pink and Sam were in the background like the
angels in the picture of Sir Galahad.

"This is an official committee to invite you to be the guests of Mr.
William Forsythe on a hay-mooning on Friday next, to start from his
home at the hour of seven-thirty, in honor of the birthday of his
daughter, Miss Phyllis, who is quite as surprised as the rest of you.
The rest of this speech will be continued on that evening." And he was
gone before anybody got any breath again.

That's what my father meant by showing my friends that he appreciated
them.

But Belle Kirby's expression would make anybody with a sense of humor
laugh. Can live coals be showered on a person if nobody ever intended
it?




CHAPTER V


The desire to be popular may be one of the unworthy ambitions of a
person's heart, yet there is nothing in the world so delightful as
having it happen to you. And if having almost everybody like you, and
show it by being nice and friendly to you on all occasions, makes you
happy your own self, how much more happy you are when somebody you
love gets a slice of it all along with you!

My father is getting to be one of the beloved men of this town, like
Judge Luttrell and the Colonel. It has been going on gradually for
some time, but I was afraid to notice it for fear I was mistaken. Such
is the result of the sincere prayers of a daughter, and I certainly
was sincere in wanting this reform. And better than even his sitting
and smoking and joking in the Judge's office and walking down the
street in a friendly manner with Mr. Chadwell is the notice that Mr.
Douglass Byrd has been taking of him lately. The Idol has been to see
him twice, in the evening, and both times I have heard my father's
jolly laugh boom out in a way the nurse says will have to stop, for it
made Mother ask to see him and be ill because she couldn't. And just
day before yesterday Father came up the street with the great
inventor, and they both came in and sat with Roxanne and me on the
cottage porch to smoke their cigars. Roxanne was just sweet and good
and easy with Father like she always is. I don't believe that girl was
ever conscious of her feet and hands and blushes In all her life. I
forget mine when I am with her.

Well anyway, Father was delighted with her and showed it plainly. And
if he liked her, he was positively funny when he met Lovelace Peyton.
The snake-doctor came around the house, as usual galloping on the
stick horse, and in one hand he had one of his best bottles full of
something awful to look at and that smelled worse, even through the
cork.

"Mister," he said, looking Father gravely and courteously in the face,
"you got cholera bad and might die to-night if you don't take medicine
quick. It's in this bottle; shake it well." And while the Idol made a
grab for him he put that bottle right in Father's hand and backed off
out of reach.

Roxanne was distressed at Father's having taken that awful smell into
his hands, and Mr. Douglass tried to make him give it back to Lovelace
Peyton; but Father wrapped it in two handkerchiefs and put it, smell
and all, into his pocket.

"Thank you, Doctor Byrd," he said, just as gravely as he talks to the
great surgeons and doctors that come to see Mother. "Shall I report my
condition to you to-morrow?"

"That medicine will work fine," answered Lovelace Peyton; "but if it
kills you, can I cut you open to see how you work inside? When
Douglass dies, I'm going to cut him into little pieces; he's done
promised."

"Oh, Lovey," was all Roxanne could say, while Father and the Idol both
roared.

I never saw my father's face so lovely as it was when he looked down
on that little raggedy boy as we left him swinging on the front gate.
His heart is softening away from wealth to his fellow-man, I know.
And, as if it had not made me happy enough to have Father sitting and
smoking with such a great character as Mr. Douglass Byrd, what should
happen but for us to meet Tony at our front gate, coming to see Father
especially? They made me go in and wait on the front steps while they
talked, because they didn't want me to hear; and they both laughed so
that Father tried to get out his handkerchief and succeeded in
dropping the awful bottle Lovelace had given him, while Tony leaned
against the fence and shook with chuckles at Lovey's giving him such
an awful smell. Oh, if they were to elect my father an honorary member
of the Raccoon Patrol like the Colonel and the Idol, I could not stand
the happiness. Tony's friendship for him gives me one of the deepest
joys that ever came to me. Tony's high sense of honor cannot help but
impress Father.

This little town of Byrdsville, that nestles down in a hollow of the
Old Harpeth Hills on the old pioneer road they called the Road to
Providence, when the first settlers traveled it from Virginia to
Tennessee, is the most wonderful place in the world, I think, and I
wish Father could have been born and reared here, for then he wouldn't
have strayed into a career of making money. Nobody in Byrdsville ever
did, and Mr. Douglass Byrd will be the first one. And besides having
the soul of honor and loving-kindness in it, Byrdsville looks like it
might be one of the outposts of heaven, where tired souls can come to
rest before going up the shining ladder.

[Illustration: I never saw my father's face so lovely]

All the houses are old-fashioned, with wide doors for welcoming and
with vines running over the chimneys and up to the eaves, while blooms
and buds tumble over the walls and burst from the gardens into the
street. Yes, I think Byrdsville might be called the smile-place on the
old earth's round face.

But to return to Father and Tony at the front gate; only I didn't.
Father went on down the street and Tony came in to sit on the steps
and talk to me. I wouldn't be so frivolous and growny as to have a boy
come sit on my front steps talking to me like a "suitor," as Belle
thinks it is smart to have; but Tony is different. He's my friend, and
I would almost as soon talk to him as Roxanne.

"Well, I must say, girliky, that it was mighty considerate of you to
be born about the full moon time of the first of May," said Tony, with
one of those funny flares of his eyes. "Suppose you had opened your
peepers along in December; we would have had to have an apple-roasting
to celebrate for you, and I, for one, prefer the hay-lark. Your parent
is one fine old boy, and me for him."

"Oh, Tony, I am so glad you like Father, and it was fine of him to
have the hay ride for me. Do you suppose they will all go?" When I
said "all," I really meant Belle.

I don't know why, but somehow I hoped this hay ride would shake up
Belle's heart into being soft toward me. There are just eleven of us
in the junior class in the Byrd Academy: Tony and Pink and Sam and the
two Logan boys, while Roxanne and Mamie Sue and Belle and the two
Willises, with me, make up the girls. Eleven is a sacred number, and I
don't like for Belle and me to break the link by not being friends.

Tony is such a wise boy that he sometimes knows what a girl is
thinking about when she doesn't tell him. Most of the time he just
grins and leads us all on and we do tell him everything; especially
Mamie Sue, if we don't warn her beforehand and make her wear a
horsehair ring not to forget when he asks her questions. It makes
Belle mad for him to do Mamie Sue that way, and she calls it "prying";
but I think it is just kindness. How can you sympathize with your
friends' affairs if you don't make them tell you all? And sympathy
applied to life is like the gasoline in a motorcar, I think.

"Well, I should say they were all going," answered Tony
enthusiastically. "Even Belle, the beauty, can hardly wait for the
get-away. She is putting buttermilk on her freckles so that the moon
won't see 'em. Miss Prissy is over at Roxanne's now, trying to baste
Roxy together for the frolic."

"I think Roxanne always looks lovelier than anybody," I said quickly;
for I didn't think I could bear to have even Tony, when I know what a
great love he has for her, criticize Roxanne's shabbiness. They don't
any of them know what a heroine she is, and about the great cause.

"Course she looks good, 'cause she is the pretty child; but I always
feel like carrying a needle and thread and a card of pins when Roxy is
along. And let me tell you the bug-doctor is about to burst out into
the cold world from his aprons. I know old Doug makes enough to rag
the family, but Roxy is just behindhand getting rabbit skins to wrap
the buntings in. Lots of girls are poky about doing around."

If Tony Luttrell had known how cruel that sounded, it would have broken
his heart. But I couldn't tell him what a heroine Roxanne is and I just
had to shudder in my soul to see her so misunderstood--Roxanne, whose
every day is just one big patch on life.

"It is lovely of Miss Priscilla to go with us," I said, to change the
subject.

"It would be a dry hay ride if the Miss Bubble wasn't sitting in the
very midst of the crowd and the wagon, with the Colonel prancing along
beside on old White. Your father is going to ride out with the Colonel
and--but that's the surprise. Being with your gingham gang so much, I
am about to get the talks." And Tony put his hand over his mouth and
moved away from me as if I had the scarlet fever.

I laughed at Tony and from sheer happiness at thinking that my father
was going with us in the fine company of the Colonel and Miss
Priscilla. I wonder what we would do, if we had to have somebody go to
places with us who thought they had to chaperon us? Miss Prissy is
just one of us and would go if we had to ask somebody like Belle's
mother, for instance, who is always talking about chaperons, to go
also.

As I have remarked before, Byrdsville is a very different place from
most of the world, and I thank God that he led me to it and "made me
to lie down in its green pastures, beside its still waters." I found
that in the Bible the other night, and it fitted me and Byrdsville.
Good-night, Louise!

Of course when I grow up I shall have many things happen to me, like
graduating from Byrdsville Academy, marrying, and being president of
clubs, and going to balls and theaters in the city, if I have to; but
there will never be a night like this one of my sixteenth birthday,
April twenty-second.

Miss Priscilla Talbot was the first slice out of the happiness
birthday cake when we met down at her house to get into the wagon. I
can never have things here at my home like that, because of the
precious sick thing upstairs that cannot be disturbed, but who is the
core of my heart, anyway, even if she doesn't know it.

But of all astonishing things, this is what Miss Priscilla did as we
were all lined up for Father and the Colonel to help us into the wagon
on the great mound of hay, to the front of which four horses were
hitched.

"And now to start off the birthday we must each give Phyllis a kiss,
as we would do if we were blowing out the candies on the cake that is
packed in the basket; and each one whisper a wish to her, as they give
her a kiss. I will be first and the Colonel next," she said and she
bent down and kissed me and whispered: "A happy sixteenth year."

I never had been kissed--even Father never did it to me, because I
have been more like a son than a daughter, and he hasn't thought of
it. To get a whole wagonload of them at one time, and unaccustomed to
them, was enough to paralyze any girl, and I stood dumb and took
it--them, I mean. The blow-out-the-candle-with-a-kiss-wish is one of
the first family birthday customs in Byrdsville, and I felt that it
was right to subscribe to it. I didn't mind when I saw the boys were
going to refuse firmly to do it and just shake hands instead.

"Bully for you, Bubble, and a pound or two to cover your elbows," Tony
exploded while he nearly pumped my arm out of the socket. Everybody
laughed, because I _am_ getting thin with so much growing.

The Colonel's kiss was a ceremonial, like you have in church or at
graduation day, and his wish took five minutes to say, but the tall
Willis choked up my throat with the lump by whispering a hope for my
mother, which can never be, I know.

Next the Idol kissed my hand with grace like is in a story-book and
which made my whole arm act like a poker. Father hugged me with all
the energy he hadn't been using on me all my life. It hurt me happily.

Roxanne came last and she saved hers until the Colonel had packed us
down together in a nest of hay at Miss Priscilla's feet like two
kittens in a basket, with Lovelace Peyton squirming around as a third.

"You never encouraged me to kiss you before, Phyllis," she whispered,
with her arm around my neck; "but I'm going to whenever I want to
after this, and here's a wish that we will never get separated farther
than kissing distance, now that we have found each other."

Only Lovelace Peyton kept me from crying out loud like a baby from
happiness. He burrowed between Roxanne and me in a search for some
peppermint he smelled in the hay, and stuck one knee right into my
mouth to stop the sob, which was a laugh when I removed the knee for
it to get out. My first hug around Roxanne's waist was mighty awkward,
but I know she understood.

After that the picnic unfolded its minutes in such a cloud of
moonlight and rosy happiness, accompanied by song, that I don't know
very well what really did happen. For once I felt that I was looking
on life from the same exalted point of view that Roxanne always has,
and I hope it will become a habit with me. Only I know it won't.

Tony's surprise, that he had got Father to help him about, was a
hot-air balloon that the Scout book tells them how to make, and they
sent one up from the place we stopped at, out on Providence Road, with
"Phyllis," cut out in great big letters and lighted with a candle
inside, which wobbled and set the whole thing on fire before it got
much higher than the trees. Still, it did go up and it had my name on
it! When I got off the train in Byrdsville two months ago I couldn't
have believed in that balloon, if it had been revealed to me in a
vision. Do I deserve it all?

One of the reasons of my rosy view was that the Idol rode upon the
front seat of the wagon, with the farmer who drove, and smoked one of
Father's cigars and led all the songs in the most marvelously
beautiful voice I ever heard. He was on the Glee Club at Princeton,
and of course to have him come to the party at all was a compliment.
He helped Miss Priscilla and me unpack the suppers out on Tilting
Rock, and acted only a little more grown-up than Tony and Pink, I
don't know whether I quite liked to have him unbend so far as to throw
a biscuit back at Tony. He is too great a man for that, and I was
relieved when he took the Colonel's horse and started back to town,
because he said he had something to attend to. It is more comfortable
for me to have him on the pedestal I keep for him, than down in the
ordinary walks of life with me and the rest of my friends--fine and
unusual people as they all are. Also I am afraid I might betray in
some way my great affection and veneration for him if we got too
familiar over a pickle jar, and he might not like it. How do I know he
wants to be enthroned and "idolized" in my heart?

Yes, I was glad to see him go home early before I got so light-headed
with happiness as to squabble over pie with Pink and put a
lightning-bug into Tony's lemonade glass. Father went with him, and
how good it did seem to see them ride away together through the
moonlight down Providence Road to Byrdsville, which lay in the dim
distance with its lights making it my huge birthday cake, decorated
with all the lilacs and roses and redbud abloom in the Harpeth Valley.
Some people are so accustomed to happiness that they don't even notice
it. I'm glad I haven't had that much.

One of the nice things about Miss Priscilla and the Colonel is that
they go off and sit by themselves and entirely forget to ever say go
home, until we have all had our fill of fun; then they begin to hurry
at a terrible rate that gets up a pleasant excitement. They seem to
know just the minute when we might begin to get tired, and they never
let it come. Some people are geniuses about good times, and the
Colonel and Miss Priscilla are two of that kind.

The ride home was almost the best of all. The boys sang and gave
Raccoon calls and practised different kinds of wood signals and ate
the things we had saved from supper, with Mamie Sue to keep them
company, also Lovelace Peyton, who slept part of the time with his
head on Tony's knees, but waked up if any stray refreshments
threatened to get past him. We all hushed at the edge of town, for the
Colonel said it was after midnight, and he unpacked each one at his or
her own front door so softly that not even a dog barked. He put me out
at the cottage because he didn't want to stop the wagon in front of
our house on account of disturbing Mother, and I went in to unfasten
Roxanne's dress and to get mine done likewise, then I could slip home
through the garden, which is always so lovely with the moonlight
making ghost flowers of Roxanne's ancestral blossoms.

I wish I didn't have to write you, leather Louise, what happened next,
at the same time as the birthday, but I can't sleep unless I do. Would
God be so cruel to me as to let me get just this one little taste of
being happy and then take it away from me? I won't believe it!

This is what happened, set down in black and white, and I can draw no
conclusions from it. I refuse! As Roxanne and I stood in the living
hall, under the stern old Byrd grandmother, giggling and having a
good, girl time like I have just been learning to do, suddenly the
door opened and the Idol stood in the light we had lighted, with his
face so pale I thought he was going to faint.

"Roxy," he said, not seeming to notice me, "you haven't been in my
shed working with my bottles, have you? Or could Lovey have got in? I
have the key and the window is barred, as I always keep it."

"Oh, no, Douglass, I haven't been near the shed this week. My key is
here on the hook in the left-hand bookcase," and she reached behind
her, took it, and showed it to him. "I know Lovey hasn't been there
either, because we can trust him on honor. Oh, what is the matter?" As
Roxanne asked the question she was trembling all over, but not in the
deadly cold way I was, I felt sure. She couldn't have stood it and
lived.

"Some one has been in the shed, taken samples of all my material,
including the steel shavings that came from the last melting, and my
notebook is gone. The process is stolen, Roxy, and all the sacrifices
gone for nothing. I don't care for myself--but--you." His head was up
in the same old portrait pose, but his arms trembled as he held them
out to Roxanne.

I stood still and cold and never said one word, but a pain hit into my
heart that I didn't know I was strong enough to stand and still live.

"When did you find it out?" I asked; and I was surprised at the cool
note that sounded in my voice and made it like Father's when he talks
business.

"Just now," he answered me over Roxanne's head that was buried on his
shoulder. "I stopped down-town to help Judge Luttrell with a brief
that he was writing and came home only a few minutes ago. The thief
was in the shed between the time I went on the hay ride and now. I was
in the shed just before I started."

I don't know how I said good-night to them; but I did the best I
could, and came home through the moonlight with a great heaviness of
heart and feet. I dreaded to see Father, and yet longed for him in a
way I never did before in all my life. If anything awful is true, then
he is more mine than ever. But it can't be! And when I looked for him
I found him--in a way I never had before. He was standing at my
mother's door and the great big man was crying just like a girl, with
his shoulders shaking and big sobs coming.

"Bess, Bess," he sobbed Mother's name under his breath, "she's going
to be a grown woman and I don't know what to do without you. Ten long
years. Oh, Bess!"

Yes, I suppose I'm nearer a grown woman than most girls of my age, and
I'm tall enough to take a big man in my arms, which are so long and
thin as to be a joke, and hold him close enough to make the sobs stop
coming.

"Now, Phil, I leave it to you if you are not enough to upset any man,
with your moonlight picnics and folderols," Father said, in just a few
seconds from the time I hugged him up. He was both laughing and
sniffling into his handkerchief at the same time, and I had a lovely
Lovelace Peyton feeling about him, because he looked so young and
ashamed of himself for being caught crying.

"I'm just as much your son as I ever was, Father," I said with a gulp
and a lump in my own throat. "I'm never going to be a daughter, if you
don't want one."

"I do, Phyllis, I do; but I want the son-girl sometimes, too. You go
to bed." And with a sound hug that nearly broke my ribs, as neither he
nor I were used to them, he went into his room and shut his door
decidedly.




CHAPTER VI


A serious disposition can make more trouble for itself by its own
seriousness than all the misfortunes that come can make for it. If I
had just a little touch of Roxanne Byrd's foamy spirits, I would be a
much more comfortable companion for myself. All night I lay awake,
anchored in the middle of the huge old Byrd bedstead, and sorrowed
over the misfortune that had come to Roxanne and the Idol. Over and
over I went in my mind to see where I could clear Mr. Rogers of my
suspicions until my thoughts were so pale in color that I could hardly
make them out, and at last I fell asleep in despair.

In the morning I dressed so slowly that it was nine o'clock before I
was buttoned into my dress and felt that I could go over and help
Roxanne bear the calamity. It was Saturday, so I knew she would need
help in doing all the things she leaves undone until this blessed day
of relief from school cares and responsibilities comes.

It is strange how ignorant one can be of the disposition of the very
person she loves best on earth. Did I find Roxanne Byrd dissolved in
an indigo sea on the day after she had lost a huge fortune? Not at
all! She was floating still higher on a still more rosy cloud and
eating a large slice of the most delicious nut cake, while Lovelace
Peyton did likewise.

"Oh, Phyllis, I was just going to call you to get a piece of Uncle
Pompey's nut cake before it gets cold. It is famous in Byrdsville, and
I've been dying to have one made to give you ever since you came; only
I couldn't get the materials. It takes every good thing in a grocery,
from ginger to preserved cherries, to go in it, and it is best hot.
Uncle Pompey said for me to wait until the second pan came out of the
stove to call you, because it is always best. He has out the Sheffield
tray with the old point cover on it and one of great-grandmother
Byrd's willow plates to put it on for you. I'll let him bring it to
you and see you taste it. Poor Uncle Pompey is a famous cook, and
economy has been agony to him. I'm going to let him make every good
thing he wants to this week. He has been held down so long." Roxanne
bubbled along like a lovely mountain torrent of cheerfulness, while I
stood rooted to the spot in an astonishment that I could not conceal.

"Oh, Roxanne," I said weakly, as I sank into a chair.

"Yes, Phyllis, I suppose it is funny to see me enjoying the cake like
this after what happened last night; but the Byrds always make other
plans as soon as anything happens to the first one. Douglass and I
decided to rest from the steel invention by having things we want for
two or three months, and then he knows something greater to invent
than steel could ever be. He hasn't told me yet, but I'll tell you
when he does. Oh, there's Uncle Pompey with the cake. It's lovely,
isn't it, Phyllis?"

If a person went to a funeral and met the dead friend at the door
handing her a piece of cake, I suppose she would feel about like I did
when that funny old black man handed me that lovely and elegant tray
with a grin on his face so wide that it is a wonder it didn't meet
itself at the back of his head. I wonder to this moment where I got
the enthusiasm with which I accepted it.

"Eat all you want to, Phyllis, 'cause I've got a good plaster to put
on the place when the ache comes," Lovelace Peyton advised from his
seat on the floor where he was alternately eating his piece of cake
and rolling black pills from the crumbs that he caught in a pasteboard
box.

And as I sat and munched that piece of historic Byrd cookery my brain
turned over in my head and settled itself in a new way. My whole
nature underwent a revolution. I saw that a person can either accept
life as a piece of fluffy cake when it is handed to her or look on it
all as--soggy. I'm going to follow Roxanne's example after this and
see the fluffiness of the cake determinedly.

"And, Phyllis, I'll tell you what else I'm going to do," continued
Roxanne, rocking and nibbling and smiling so that I would like to have
eaten her up, from shabby shoes to the curl down the back of the neck.
"When I went down to the grocery before breakfast to get the things to
console Uncle Pompey after we had told him about the robbery, I saw
the loveliest blue muslin in the window at Mr. Hadley's store, and I
'in going to buy it to-day and make me a dress for commencement. I had
expected to wear the family linen, but Douglass says let's spend all
his salary this month in having things we want; so the blue muslin
will be my part. Do you think blue will be prettier than pink, or
would you have--?"

But just here we were interrupted by Tony's appearance at the door,
and the expression on his face matched the one I had had of condolence
as I came over through the garden; but he has known Roxanne longer
than I have and boys' minds are supposed to be stronger than
girls'--privately I don't think they are--so he accepted the situation
and the cake with more grace than I had.

However he was cruelly insistent about questioning and talking about
the robbery. The Idol had told him about it as Tony walked out to the
furnace with him, which is a Saturday habit with Tony as the Jonathan
to Mr. Douglass. Tony had known all along about the steel, but was
surprised to know that I had been able to keep it to myself. I suppose
it is best never to notice an unconscious insult, and boys are often
that way with girls.

"Doug and I both think that this is not the first time the robber has
been in or around the shed," Tony said thoughtfully. "Do you remember
that shadow we saw dodge through the yard the evening we came from the
Raccoon outing, Phyllis?"

"Yes," I answered; and the uneasy feeling I had about Mr. Rogers that
night so I couldn't sleep slightly tipped the rosy cloud I had decided
to climb upon and stay upon forever. "But it may have been Uncle
Pompey, like I thought it was," I added hopefully.

"Well, Doug told me to come and nose around and see what I could find
in the way of clues. Want to come out and have a look with me? You two
Palefaces might as well learn something about gumshoeing a villain now
as ever."

Lots of boys, and grown-up people for that matter, like to keep
interesting things and doings to themselves; but Tony Luttrell is as
generous in disposition as he is in mouth.

We went out to the shed with him, and Lovelace Peyton went too, but
refused to come in the shed door because he said he was still on honor
to the Idol, no matter what Roxanne said, not to come nearer than one
yard, which was marked with sticks all around the shed. It was funny
to see the snake-doctor lean across the dead-line and crane his sweet
little neck to try to hear and see Tony inside the shed. And after
Tony had squinted at and touched and nosed almost every inch of the
shed, he came out with his hands in his pockets.

"Any clue?" asked Roxanne, as anxiously as Roxanne could ask about
anything from the cloud.

"N--o," he said in a hesitating sort of way that seemed just as
professional as the way the detectives talk in the wonderful stories
in the magazines that my governess always reproved me for reading.
"That was a slick artist who got away on greased heels, but there is
a--smell in there that I've never felt before in the shed. And yet I
have met it somewhere, I feel certain. It seems to my nose somewhat
like the bug-doctor at his worst."

"No, Tony," said Lovelace Peyton, positively but perfectly calmly, "I
ain't been in that shed and my bottles ain't got legs."

We all laughed and came to the house--but I had got a whiff of that
odor and I knew where I had met it before. It was raw onion and tar,
and it was the mixture that Lovelace Peyton had given Father in the
bottle he wrapped in his handkerchief and put in his pocket. I felt
weak all over for a second, but I immediately remembered my duty to
respect my father even in my thoughts. I had decided that in the
watches of last night, after I had found his heart and hugged it up
outside of Mother's door.

In the first place, I had no business to read those magazines that my
governess told me not to, even if she did have so little sense that
her brain must have been made of tatting work originally, which she
was always doing by the yard. And while the explanation of what an
evil it is to get millions and millions of dollars together when the
poor have so little, and that no man who has a human heart in his
breast would want to do it is perfectly true, still that man who wrote
the article might not have known about my father. I can see how a man
might go on for years and do a great wrong to his brother man and
really not realize what a monster it makes of him. I believe my father
is just blind on that side of things like some people are in one eye.
I pray God that he may wake up sometime, and die happy but poor! Of
course, I know he had nothing to do with taking the steel secret, and
I am going to get on the cloud again and not worry over Roxanne's
troubles until she needs something; and then I will come down and get
it for her while she stays in the air,--if I can.

[Illustration: Tony ... nosed almost every inch of the shed]

The really important things in a person's life underlie the daily
occurrence like the sand that is at the bottom of the rose-bushes.
School is the sand-bank of a girl's life, rather heavy, but supporting
the roses of debates and picnics and commencement and expression
impersonations like the one Friday night is to be.

Of course Byrd Academy graduated Judge Luttrell and the Colonel and
Roxanne's Father as well as Miss Prissy, and all the other learned
ladies in the Browning Society; but for all its historical antiquity,
it is one of the most advanced places of learning in the South, and
mostly on account of the progressiveness of the Junior Class, which is
Tony and Roxanne and the rest of us.

The Senior Class this year is a great failure, because all are girls
but the Petway boy, who is terribly feminine, and crochets his own
silk ties, Tony says. I don't approve of the seniors at all, and both
Roxanne and I are worried over the way Helena Kirby, Belle's sister,
will insist on talking to the Idol when we come out of church. We both
know how important it is for a great man to have lady friends that are
great enough to appreciate him. Of course, Helena can only admire his
wonderful eyes, which makes no difference to us at all, for she could
never gauge his high soul and genius. Roxanne says she trusts to the
patches on his trousers to keep him from going to walk with her and
from sitting on her front steps. Oh, if we just can keep him pure from
prosperity in the shape of new clothes until he makes this second
great invention, we will be so thankful, I encourage Roxanne to spend
the money on food and her own clothes, so he will not be able to buy a
new suit. We feel so safe with him mortifyingly shabby.

"Oh, Douglass is never going to be in love or marry anybody," said
Roxanne when we were speculating on why Helena would flirt her eyes so
at him. "I feel perfectly sure we'll have him always."

I felt relieved that Roxanne felt that way, but I had to remind myself
often of her rose-cloud disposition and watch carefully to see that no
troubles that I can avert--like Helena Kirby--shall come to her or the
Idol.

But I started on the subject of the impersonations that the Expression
Class of Juniors is to give the last day of April, before the whole
academy is turned over to the affairs of the Seniors, like graduation
essays being practised from morning to night until you speak each one
in your own dreams. This is the first time they ever had such a thing
in the academy, and the whole town is as excited and interested as it
well can be.

Mr. Douglass Byrd thought it all up a month ago for us Juniors because
of our Senior oppression and after his great loss he went on just the
same helping us practise and seemed to be as interested in us as if we
had been explosives in a bottle or a test-tube or a retort. His great
serenity of soul is a constant lesson to me. Good-night, Louise. You
are a comfort; you settle my thoughts, though just of leather.

This is the night of the impersonations and they are over. It was one
of the greatest triumphs ever experienced at the Byrd Academy. It will
probably be mentioned in the future with the same praise as the
Colonel's valedictory that left not a dry eye in the house, because
they all knew that all the boys in the Senior Class of sixty-one would
go to the war the next week. I choke up whenever I hear the Colonel
tell of it, as I have many times in these last two months of my life
in Byrdsville. Miss Prissy always cries copiously when he gets to the
place where she gave him a flower when he had walked home with
her--she only fourteen years old and in short dresses--and which he
wore in battle in his pocket Bible. What would she do if she should
lose the Colonel by sudden death before she has rewarded his
affections by marrying him? She ought to think of that.

Belle did beautifully, first on the program, dressed up in grown
clothes and having a Byrdsville society conversation over an imaginary
telephone. It sounded just like Helena, and I thought it was not very
nice of her to impersonate her own sister, but it was a comfort to see
how the Idol enjoyed it. If he liked Helena to any extent, he would
have displayed indignation. Instead the corners of his mouth twitched
for minutes afterward. I believe at some time Helena must have
telephoned him.

Mamie Sue did a delicious old lady telling about her grandson to the
two Willises, who were company to tea, that made Hie audience shake
with jollity. There was a perfectly darling trace of Miss Priscilla in
the way she did it, that made the Colonel almost unable to keep his
seat, and Miss Priscilla laughed out loud twice. The affection I bear
Mamie Sue fattens in my heart at the same rate the object does in real
life.

"The way the two Willises impersonated their own silence was a triumph
of art," the Idol said in my ear after it was over. It embarrassed me
greatly to have him be obliged to crowd into a seat with Lovelace
Peyton and me, but it was crowded everywhere else, too. If I had had
my way he would have had the best seat in the house, comfortably
alone.

Sam Hayes was "Old Hickory," General Andrew Jackson, the night before
the battle of New Orleans. Mr. Douglass Byrd wrote his piece and Judge
Luttrell, who is the son of one of that famous Tennessee hero's best
friends and staff-officers, was so affected he blew his nose
feelingly.

Pink would be a negro, so as for once to be rid--by the aid of burnt
cork--of the disgrace of his unmasculine beauty, and he was so like
Uncle Pompey that Lovelace Peyton insisted on calling out to him from
the second seat until Pink had to tell him who he was before he could
go on with his hen story, which was one of Uncle Pompey's own, and
which was rib-aching funny.

Tony and Roxanne did the most interesting real Scout adventure,
without words, and the audience sat spellbound while she fainted from
heat prostration, and he put around her head a wet bandage made with
his and her handkerchief, raised a signal for other Scouts to come and
help, and finally took her up on his back and carried her off the
platform behind the curtain. The applause was deafening, though
Lovelace Peyton didn't like the scene one bit, and he kept feeling
Roxanne's head after she came and sat down in front of us in the
audience.

Nobody knew that I was going to be or do a thing, for I had begged
them not to make me, because of the difficulty I have in managing my
feet and elbows on account of their rapid growth right now. But I did!
I think I have caught the family pride habit and that is what made me
do it. This is how I felt. I looked down at the seats of honor
reserved for the Byrdsville distinguished citizens, and saw my father
sitting in one of the high places, as it were, between Judge Luttrell
and Mr. Chadwell, and his face was just beaming with enjoyment of the
way all those other men's sons and daughters were distinguishing
themselves with their beauty and talent. And then out in the audience
Judge Luttrell had Tony's mother, dressed in lovely black silk and
also full of pride, while Mr. Chadwell kept nodding to Pink's mother
at everything that Pink did, like there never had been a negro
minstrel before. I thought of Father being the only lonely one up on
the platform and with only me to be a credit to him--and me not doing
it. I prayed for an immediate plan and as I prayed, as is my custom, I
acted. I asked Mr. Douglass Byrd quick, if there was time for me to do
an impersonation, and he answered with the most wonderfully
encouraging smile:

"Go ahead, Miss Phyllis, and you can heat them all."

Now, the only person in the world I could ever be like is my own self,
or Father himself, and as I sat and looked at him the idea came. Last
year the governess took me to hear Father make a speech when he
presented a library building to the college from which he graduated.
It was such a fine one and full of so much humor and pathos, as all
speeches should be to hold the attention of an audience, that it was
published in all the papers in New York, and I learned it by heart
from pride over it. That was what I impersonated--my own father with
him looking on!

All the others had had costumes and burnt cork and things to help
them; but I had on a pink flowered organdie and pink slippers with a
huge pink bow on my head, and my looks were all dead against my
success. But I did succeed! I knew I would when I took my stand and
looked down into Father's surprised and alarmed face. I shrugged my
shoulders in my dress just as he did in his dress coat, dropped my
head on one side, and pursed my mouth up on the left corner and let my
right eye droop as his does. Then I began--and for that five minutes I
_was_ Father. The speech just rolled off my eloquent tongue and
the people laughed in the right places, just as the people at the
college did, and the Colonel blew his nose like a trumpet when I said
the short sentences about the memorial table to be put in the hallway
to the "fellows who have gone," while the end-up, with its funny
little dedication to the immortals bound in leather that would live on
the library shelf and the ones hound in serge and corduroy that would
sit at the tables in reading-room, brought the storm of applause that
sounded like a tornado.

When I stopped being Father and came to my own self I was sitting
beside the Idol in the audience and watching Judge Luttrell slap
Father on the back and Mr. Chadwell laughing so that he and the
Colonel looked like jolly, bald-headed boys. Mr. Chadwell is as
disgracefully handsome as Pink, and doesn't look much older. And I
never saw my father's face look like it did to-night, and I had never
hoped to see him in a position that fitted him like the one on the
platform with Byrdsville's distinguished citizens. I ought to be a
happy girl, and I am.

Only Tony Luttrell troubles me, he is so quiet for him; and when he
walked home with me, he was as gentle and affectionate to me as if I
had been sick. Could something be the matter with me and I not know
it? I felt like I did when the secret was first stolen two weeks ago,
though Roxanne and the Idol seem to have forgotten all about it and
nobody else knows.

There is such a lovely moon out over the garden that I can't put out
the light and go to bed, though I saw Roxanne put hers out a half-hour
ago. I wonder why I ever started a record of myself and my friends
like I am doing? But I'm glad I did; for as I turn each leaf of you,
leather Louise, things seem to get brighter and happier for me, and as
I look at all these clean sheets in the future I wonder what I can
find to make them as lovely as the happenings on the others have been.
I'm thankful for the air that makes Mother sleep, and for the moral
surroundings for Father, and for the loving-kindness of my
fellow-men--girls and boys--to me. Yes, I realize that being beloved
is a novelty to me, but I know better than to think it will ever wear
off--the pleasures of it, I mean. Good-night!




CHAPTER VII


When you live in the city, or various cities, as I have done, you have
various things that distract your attention from the miracle that is
spreading all over the earth when the spring comes. Do such things
happen every spring, or is it just something that has unblinded my
eyes? Maybe I have really caught that rosy hue habit from Roxanne; but
the apple-trees this week have been almost too much for me. There are
great, gnarly, old apple-trees in every spare corner of Byrdsville,
where you wouldn't even expect a tree to be; and ever since I have
been in this town I have been finding a new one stretching out its
crooked old arms to me as if to welcome me or bar my path. There is
one that grows half in and half out of Judge Luttrell's yard, so the
fence has to consider it a kind of post and stop at it to begin again
on the other side, while three of them are trying to completely close
up the door of the court-house on the Public Square. All the streets
are bordered with them, set along at ragged intervals with the tall
old maples, and all the gardens and yards have regiments of them
camped about the doors and walks.

Three nights ago I went to sleep in a nice orderly old town, and I
awoke the next morning in the middle of a great white and pink and
green bouquet, which must smell up at least to the first of the seven
heavens, and which is buzzing so with bees that it sounds like an
orchestra getting ready to burst out into some kind of a new, great
hymn. And everybody in Byrdsville is buzzing around in a chorus with
the bees, cleaning house and going visiting and shopping at the stores
down on the Square. I am as industriously doing likewise as I can, and
have bought things from almost everybody until my brain is feeble from
trying to think up things to ask for in the different stores. Oh, the
things I could buy if Roxanne would just let me!

One trouble is, there are no really poor people in Byrdsville, and
those on the verge of it are taken care of by the different church
societies, which look after them so carefully that they come very near
stepping on each others' toes. The incident of old Mr. and Mrs.
Satterwhite came near being a case in point. Mr. Satterwhite has
always been a Presbyterian, and Mrs. Satterwhite disagreed with her
husband seriously enough to be a Methodist. They have no children and
have been getting poorer and poorer, though keeping both honest and
good, except for their religious differences. When the cold weather
came this winter, they had no coal to keep their respective
rheumatisms warm and they nearly froze to death arguing about which
one of their respective church societies they should ask help from;
and when they were both chattering cold they compromised on asking
both. Then they got two loads of coal, which was more than they
needed, and which offended both societies, so that when they asked for
some kindling to light the fire with, both societies said let the
other one send it. They had to sit up all night by turn for the rest
of the winter to keep the fire, for fear it would go out while they
were asleep.

Roxanne and I were terribly distressed that such a hard thing as being
night watchman should happen to those old people, but the Idol said it
was just as well that one should sleep while the other watched, so
that they wouldn't have any mutual time to discuss religion. That was
a very practical view for a genius to take of the question and I was
surprised at him.

And while the situation looks very bad for churches to get into, it
has been fortunate for me. I have been able to buy a lot of things at
all the stores for them, because I am an Episcopalian, and just one
girl can't be considered a church society. I'm the only one of my kind
in town. Roxanne has helped me and we have bought with discretion as
well as liberality, I think. After we had bought all the groceries
Uncle Pompey could suggest to us, and in quantities as large as would
go into all the corners of the kitchen of the Satterwhites' little
cottage, we began to make the house as beautiful as we thought those
good old people deserved, never having had anything beautiful in all
their lives before.

First, we put the most expensive paper on all the walls, because we
found that the largest-flowered paper was what we needed, and it
happened to be a special kind that the paper man had to order by
telegram to be sent by express; for neither we, nor those old people
who are approaching the ends of their lives, could afford to wait. It
looked lovely when it was all on and it matched the velvet carpets,
which also had big flowers, good and gay.

Of course, both Roxanne and I know better than to choose plush
furniture, but that was what Mrs. Satterwhite wanted, and they were
going to live in the cottage, not us. Father was pleased when I told
him what a big bill there would be at the furniture man's and said:

"Good for you, Phil. I didn't think you could do so well as that."

It took nearly two weeks of all our spare time, with Mamie Sue, when
she could escape Belle, helping and Tony occasionally, to get the
Satterwhites settled in their luxury; and then I decided to ask them
both seriously and separately if there was another desire of their
hearts left ungratified.

"Well," said Mr. Satterwhite, as he stretched his feet in his new
velvet slippers that matched the carpet in that room, "I'd like a
nice, new Methody hymn-book to be put on the table for the old lady to
read outen on Sunday evenings."

It was a glorious thing to think that Father's money, ill-gotten as it
is, could settle the church society quarrel; and I was so delighted
that I am afraid I showed excitement when I went into the kitchen to
ask Mrs. Satterwhite what she would like best now that the needs were
all satisfied.

"Miss Phyllis, child, there is only one thing on earth I can think
of to want. I would like to have a year's subscription to the
_Presbyterian Observer_ to read to Pa on Sunday nights, like I used
to when we was young and strong and working enough to afford the two
dollars." Remember, leather Louise, he is the Presbyterian and she is
the Methodist, so this was permanent reconciliation.

My emotions are such that I can't write further about this incident,
but I wish I could picture Father's face when I told him about it,
'though still he wasn't satisfied and said spend some more. How could
I in a place where everybody had what they wanted and money is not
needed to make them enjoy life?

My trouble was serious and I have had to confess to Roxanne about it.

"I wish I could give all the girls and boys in the class a nice
present for some reason I haven't got," I said wistfully. "To Belle
especially, for she has been so pleasantly not unpleasant to me for
the last two weeks."

"Yes, it is a pity, if you have to spend all that money in getting
other people what they want, that you can't get Belle's permanent
pleasantness. It is something that would do us all good," answered
Roxanne, with the sympathy that I always find in her.

"Friendship that you have to buy would not be very valuable, generally
speaking," I answered, as I shook my brain for a plan. "But on the
other hand," I continued, "some people can see friendship in the form
of a present when they can't feel it from the heart. Belle is that
kind, and that is not my fault. What I want to find is a 'tie to bind
her'--speaking hymnally."

"Yes, you are right, Phyllis," answered Roxanne thoughtfully, as she
and I both began to sew some little hand-made tucks that are to trim
the waist of the lovely blue muslin that Roxanne bought herself, to
our great joy. "I do wish we could think up something that would make
Belle understand how you appreciate her and--"

But just here the Idol came and stood in the door with Lovelace Peyton
on his shoulder, whom he let slide down him to the floor. Now, a month
ago, I would rather have had anything happen to me than to sit in the
presence of Mr. Douglass Byrd, but all that reverential awe has
gone--changed, the awe gone and only reverence left. As we feared, he
has bought the new spring clothes, but we see no alarming signs of
affection toward Helena Kirby yet developed by them. How magnificent
he is in them, is beyond my pen to describe to you, Louise.

"What has Miss Belle done that needs an expression of appreciation on
just this particular day of May?" he asked, with that delightful
interest he always shows in all of us--Roxanne's friends.

And while it is trying in a way to girls whose dresses are still just
at their shoe tops to be called "Miss," we never resent it from him,
because it denotes real respect and not teasing like it does from some
of our friends and older relations. It is a very thin line that
separates ridicule from affectionate interest in girls of our age, but
he is always on the right side.

"The reason Phyllis wants to do something nice for Belle is that she
has the kind of disposition that requires more to make her a friend
than the rest of us. It has to be something that will shock her into
seeing how fond of her Phyllis is." Roxanne's explanation was so well
expressed that the Idol saw the point and reason immediately.

"You want to throw a kind of bombshell friendship into the camp of her
prejudices, Miss Phyllis," he said with his mouth twitching with a
laugh, as if he didn't know whether we would like it or not.

"Yes, that is just what I want--an explosion, and I can't think of
anything but a gold bracelet or a ring, neither of which is a
skyrocket," I answered with the flow of wit that always comes in the
presence of the Idol, and which, I am sure, is just a reflection of
his genius.

"I know a explode that I can git you, Phyllie," said Lovelace Peyton,
looking up from the bottle he was trying to get into his apron pocket,
his attention having been caught by the word that interested his
scientific mind.

"Not the kind Miss Phyllis wants, bug-doctor," the Idol answered with
a laugh, as he filled his bag with tobacco that he keeps in a queer
old jar which the Douglass grandfathers brought from England before
the Revolution.

"I _kin_ git a 'splode that Phyllie wants," answered Lovelace
Peyton indignantly. "Phyllie always wants what I git her, even
squirms; don't you, Phyllie?"

"Yes, I do," I answered quickly, for I can't even write how precious
to me is the way Lovelace Peyton treats me with confidence. He comes
to me now just as he goes to Roxanne for things he wants, strings or
sympathy, and I keep a supply of both on hand for him. And when he
brings dreadful bugs and things I never let my heart quake--that is,
so he will notice it. A woolly caterpillar was the last test that I
stood for him.

"I think, however," said the Idol as he prepared to go on back to the
office, since he had only come up to the court-house on an errand
about something, "I think if I were you, Miss Phyllis, I would try a
quiet little gold bracelet. Believe me, it will work."

You have to consider the source of advice like you do that of the
water you drink, and then act accordingly. If Mr. Douglass Byrd
advised me to buy one of my friends a gold bracelet, I ought not to
hesitate any longer than it takes to put on a hat and get my
pocketbook. Besides, I hadn't got a single thing from Mr. Snider, who
keeps the jewelry shop and the cigar stand at the same time in the
same shop. He was very cordial and glad to see Roxanne and me, and
tried to stretch out the attractiveness of his few jewels in a most
surprising way. He had two gold bracelets in stock, one plain and the
other with a red set in it that he thought was a ruby, but I knew it
to be a garnet. The plain one was really lovely, but I knew the other
would suit Belle better.

When Roxanne tried on the plain one, her lovely dark eyes just
sparkled, and I could see how she loved it; but I had had my
experience with the Byrds' pride and I didn't even offer it to her. My
self-denial brought its reward. There were two little beauty pins just
alike with small pearls set along the bar. I bought them both. First,
I pinned one in the tie of my middy and then, with stern
determination, I handed one to Roxanne. She looked at me doubtfully,
then blushed and pinned hers in exactly the same spot on the collar of
her middy, which had been made to match mine since the temporary
easing of their financial strain. If she had defied me, I don't know
what I should have done, but I gave her a squeeze that was the most
graceful one I have ever accomplished since I have commenced to
practise demonstrations. No hero or ambassador ever felt so proud of a
decoration on his own chest as I did of that pin on Roxanne's. It is a
triumph for one person to be able to make friends despite another's
haughtiness and I felt that even the old portrait grandmother would
have been glad to have Roxanne make me so happy.

Then I had an addition to my first plan. Ideas have a way of splitting
off and multiplying themselves like jellyfish do in the natural
history, if they are in favorable environment. I asked Mr. Snider to
set all the jewelry trays upon the counter again; and beginning at the
first one, I bought a nice token of my regard for all eleven of my
class at the Byrd Academy.

"Now, Roxanne," I said as I left the store, "I know that this action
of mine looks very vulgarly rich, and if anybody did it to me I would
be as mad as Tony and all the rest will be if I offer them this
jewelry without an explanation. But Mr. Snider and the seven children
he has are enough to excuse any amount of vulgarity. Cigars and
jewelry are very little for that large family to thrive on, and that
was forty-five dollars I spent. I should think my friends would
sympathize with me in having to get rid of this money in a sensible
and charitable way, enough to take the tokens without any indignation
when I explain it to them. Don't you think so?

"Oh, Phyllis," said Roxanne, with the affection in her voice that I
hope I am never going to get accustomed to, "nobody would refuse to do
just like you want them to; and if they thought they could, you would
make them see that it would be mean to do it. They will all be
delighted with the presents. Can't you see Mamie Sue turning that ring
around and around on her finger?"

I had bought a ring with a lovely green set in it for Mamie Sue in
memory of the many horsehair ones she has had to wear to piece out her
memory, which must be fat and lazy like she is herself. I am going to
make my presentation apologies to them all tomorrow while we eat lunch
out on the flat rock in the academy yard. Sometimes we take a double
lunch and invite the boys to come over and share it with us. Roxanne
and I have planned to do this. She is going to let Uncle Pompey make
some one of his favorites for us. She is still indulging him in
cooking materials, but thinks she will have to begin to starve again
on June first. The new invention has got as far as needing some
chemicals already. But it is best to climb away from an evil day upon
the ever convenient rosy cloud and that is what we did as we walked
along toward home.

But a strange thing happened, and funny, too. I'm blushing over my
awkwardness even as I write just to you, leather Louise. But isn't it
enough to make me blush to think of that scarf-pin, with the moonstone
and pearl in it, that I got to give Pink, sticking in the Idol's
necktie, if he hasn't already taken it off to go to bed? This is how it
happened. As we came along the street, almost as far as to Miss
Priscilla's, we met Tony and Mr. Douglass Byrd coming into town. I
never saw two people as much excited as they both were, and when they
saw us they stopped talking and looked at us like we were a surprise to
them. For a minute I was startled, for I thought I heard Mr. Roger's
name spoken excitedly by Tony; and I have never got over the uneasiness
about him, though the great secret robbery is a thing of two weeks
past. I can't help anxiously wondering what they were talking about.
They stopped, and so did we, and of course Tony's Scout eyes landed
right on those twin pins Roxanne and I were wearing; and before I could
stop her Roxanne had told him about the present-luncheon out on the
flat rock to-morrow, and Snider and how I _had_ to spend money. I
thought Tony was going to laugh and joke about it, as his former
conduct would have been; but he got red in the face, shook as I put his
pin into the lapel of his coat and spoke to me as if I were ill and
needed sympathy, like he has been doing for a week. That was upsetting
enough; but when the Idol looked at me with real affection beaming from
his glorious eyes and said:

"Don't I get a jewel, too, Miss Phyllis?" I almost doubled up into a
heap on the pavement, and it was Roxanne who came to my rescue and
held all of them out for him to take his choice. He took the one I
would rather have him take--a beautiful pearl, like my friendship is
for him, shadowed by the moonstone, which is my unworthiness.

I'll go down early in the morning and get another pin for Pink. I wish
Father was here so I could tell him about Mr. Snider and how glad he
was to get the money. "Tainted money" were the words the magazine
used--wouldn't feeding hungry little children take the taint off the
money and the people who gave it? I believe so. I wish I had all
Father's money to give away and he had to work for all we get, at
something like being a lawyer or a doctor. This had been a lovely day,
and I'm thankful for my happiness. Good-night!

*       *       *       *       *

Oh, why aren't people more careful about what they say before
children, who can't always understand all that things mean! I will
never forgive myself for bringing this awful thing down on Roxanne and
her family as long as I live, though Mr. Douglass Byrd says it was not
my fault at all. He was the one that called the present for Belle an
explosion, and so put the idea into Lovelace Peyton's mind. Nobody
knows yet just exactly what did happen or how bad his eyes are hurt,
but the light of all the world is going out for me if Lovelace Peyton
is going blind so he never can be the famous doctor he was born to be.

Old Uncle Pompey has been gasping with asthma in the kitchen since
morning, and all he can tell is that Lovelace Peyton had taken some
kerosene out of the can on the back porch, be thought to just mix with
onions and other things he often uses to make medicines. Suddenly he
heard an explosion in the back yard and ran out to find Lovelace
Peyton's face all burned and him insensible. When Roxanne got to him
he just moaned that he was making an explosion for me, and then the
doctor gave him something to keep him from suffering with the burn
while he dressed it. They can't tell about the eyes as yet.

[Illustration: He just moaned that he was making an explosion]

Miss Prissy is with Roxanne, and they won't let me stay all night, so
I had to come home. Roxanne just won't believe that he won't get all
right, neither will Mr. Douglass Byrd. He was lovelier than ever to
me, but with that same kind of flavor in his kindness that he and Tony
both had yesterday. What can they be pitying me about?

Father has been away a week and I am so sorry. I have just written to
him about the accident, and I know he will be distressed, for he was
as fond of Lovelace as of anybody he knew. I believe he'll come right
home.

How can I go to sleep and wait until morning to know if those lovely,
blue, little-boy eyes will never look up at me again? What can I do to
ease this awful anxiety? As if I didn't know what to do when I have
heard so often about a Person who watches every sparrow's flight.




CHAPTER VIII


These few days have been the most wonderful I have ever spent in all
my life, the saddest and the most deeply happy. When a person's
friends are in trouble, it is one time you can let your heart go its
own pace no matter where it carries you, and for once I have had my
way about pouring out my affection on the Byrds.

Lovelace Peyton is not going to die from his dreadful burns, the
doctors say; but as yet they can't tell about his eyes. They don't
dare remove the bandages, and whether or not he can see cannot be
decided for a week or more. He has to stay in a dark room and be very
quiet, and it is like trying to prove that impossible is possible to
persuade him into lying in his bed in Roxanne's room, while we exert
ourselves to the point of desperation to keep him happy and amused.

Since the accident Roxanne and I have just ignored the Byrd ancestors,
and I bring whatever I choose across the garden into the cottage to
Lovelace Peyton. In the first place, he wouldn't eat without me, and
kept asking for things I had given him to eat; so I had to tell
Roxanne about my dishonesty in feeding him like I had been doing, and
she was so glad that he was fat and in good condition to stand the
strain of his accident that she forgave me with her arms around my
neck.

I wish I could put down in black and white between your brown covers,
leather Louise, how happy it makes me to sit by that squirming,
bandaged little boy, and feed him out of one of his thin ancestral
spoons. Not one thing will he eat without me. I believe he knows how
happy it makes me, and frets for me just for that special reason. That
and the fact that he expects things of me made me think up the idea
that has helped us through the awfulness of the days that we had to
keep him quiet.

Lovelace Peyton is not like the little boy to whom you can tell
stories about bears and Little Red Ridinghood and Goldilocks in
ordinary form. He'll listen to it a few minutes, and then when you
come to the point where the grandmother is ill for Little Red
Ridinghood to go and visit, he stops and wants to know exactly what
was the matter with her; and if you say you don't know, he turns over
on his pillow and won't listen to the rest of it.

"Why don't folks write in books what diseases other folks have got,
Phyllie?" he asked fretfully when I told him about Tiny Tim and the
"Christmas Carol." "Do you reckon that little boy had rheumatiz and
didn't know any plaster for it?"

I am really reverently thankful for the idea that popped into my
sorely troubled head at that moment. Roxanne had gone out to walk in
the garden for a little rest, for she has had to talk to him most of
the night and describe over and over what the burn on his arm looked
like when the doctor dressed it. I was with him by myself for a few
minutes when I found the treasure of an idea.

"Lovelace Peyton," I said, with excitement in my voice more than the
doctor would have approved of, "would you like me to get a real
doctor's book and read you about each disease as it comes in the book
and just what the doctors use to cure it with?"

"Phyllie," he said, sitting up in bed and waving the poor bandaged
hand with delight shining from under the bandage above his eyes, "you
go a running and git that book as fast as you kin. I will promise to
lie right still and listen all day and all night forever. Hurry!"

I called Miss Priscilla to come quick as I saw her turning in the
gate, and I took my hat and started down-town for the only bookstore
in Byrdsville, which is kept in the post-office by the post-master. If
I couldn't find a book about diseases there, I was determined to go
and beg or borrow or steal one from the doctor himself. But I found
the very one I wanted. It was called "First Aid in the Family," and it
described more accidents and diseases than it seemed possible for
mortal man to have. It was a large book and I was glad it cost five
dollars. The post-master said a man had left it there for him to sell
six months ago, and that it cost too much for most of the people in
Byrdsville to doctor by. He offered to send it as soon as his boy came
back, but I was in too much of a hurry to get back to Lovelace Peyton
to wait, so I took it in my arms and started home with it.

On the way I met Helena Kirby walking down-town with the Petway boy,
and they looked right into my face and passed me without speaking. It
might have been because I was carrying the big book, but I didn't know
Helena was that proud. It hurts me for people to treat me that way
without any reason but just dislike for me and perhaps because they
think it wicked about Father's money.

Just a little farther along I met Tony, and he took the book to carry
for me, and I told him about Helena and the Petway boy looking at me
and not offering to speak to me. Tony got red up to the roots of his
hair, being mad, and looked like he would just as soon as not eat them
both alive.

"Now, see here, Phyllis," he spluttered, "don't you pay one bit of
attention to what a pair of jolly idiots like those two do or say. You
are all right and we all know it. No matter what happens, we're for
you. See?"

"Thank you, Tony," I said gratefully, but I didn't "see," and I was so
puzzled over that "no matter what happens" that I felt weak in my
brain.

In a few minutes still worse happened. Belle and Mamie Sue saw us, and
Belle forcibly crossed Mamie Sue over and went down the side street
just to keep from meeting us--that was as plain as day. Tony got still
redder and talked fast about Lovelace Peyton to keep from seeming to
notice the way the girls had acted toward us. I held up my head and
did likewise.

Something awful has happened to me or about me in this town and I
don't know what; but it is my duty to put it all out of my mind now
and give my thoughts and cheerfulness to Roxanne and Lovelace Peyton,
while they need me so much. I have made up my mind to forget it.

And it was fun to read to the prostrated medicine-man out of that book
as I did all afternoon. I began with abscesses and got almost as far
as aneurism before the sun began to set. I never saw anybody enjoy
anything as much as Lovelace Peyton did each disease as I read about
it; and the more bloodcurdling the description of the suffering and
more awful the treatment, the more it interested him.

"I bet if I ever get a good sharp knife, I could stick it right in the
pain place in Uncle Pompey's heel so it would bleed all the sore
away," he said with keen enjoyment, as I read to him about the lancing
of carbuncles.

"Oh, Lovey, I almost get the diseases while Phyllis reads about them,"
said Roxanne with a shudder. "Do you like to hear about such awful
things?"

"Yes, I do," answered Lovelace Peyton decidedly. "And I wisht you
would get every one of the diseases in that book, Rosy, so I could
cure you like Phyllis reads--and Uncle Pompey and Doug, too. Only not
Phyllis, 'cause I need her to read the cure to me, while I do it."

While we were all laughing at Lovelace Peyton and talking about the
operations he is going to perform on the inhabitants of Byrdsville as
soon as he gets grown, and deciding what each one is going to have,
the Idol came in and stayed with us until the soft gray twilight began
to come in the windows. He was so lovely and interesting that it was
quite dark when I remembered that I must go home. Then he walked over
through the garden with me, and out there under the stars he told me
what the doctor had told him in the afternoon. Old Dr. Hughes is
afraid to experiment with Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and says that a
specialist must come from Cincinnati to examine them when they take
off the bandages next week. Mr. Douglass has written to the doctor to
see what it will cost, and he doesn't want Roxanne to know about it
until he hears whether the doctor will come and give him time to pay
for it.

"Oh, I don't believe the bug-hunter is going to have any trouble with
seeing all right again and we'll get the big doctor down here to see
him some way or other. Don't you worry, Miss Phyllis; I just told you
because you are the best friend of all concerned, and I couldn't do
anything without consulting you. See?" he asked, in the same
protecting tone of voice that Tony had used in the afternoon when
Belle and Mamie Sue did me that way.

After I was undressed I felt that I just must go into my mother's room
for a minute; and I begged so hard that the night nurse who is a very
kind lady, let me creep in for just a few seconds. I have got a theory
about Mother and myself. I believe she knows when I am in the room,
even if she can't show it by moving or even opening her eyes, and it
is a comfort to her and me both to have me come and kneel at the foot
of her bed well out of sight. I did get comforted to-night, too, and
the thought that did it was this. If Father and I don't do as well as
other people in the world, and get rich and do things that we ought
not to, we have not had her to direct and control and comfort us like
she would have done if she could; and no wonder we have strayed. A
motherless girl and a wifeless man ought not to be judged in the same
way other people are. I feel better now, and I'm leaving it all to
God, who understands such situations as mine and Father's. Good-night,
leather friend.

*       *       *       *       *

Somewhere back on your pages, Louise, I wrote that I was going to be
thankful for the happiness and friends that I had, no matter what
happened, and I am. It has happened. I am the lonely little child that
got a peep through the high, barred gate into the garden where other
children were playing in the sunshine, and then was put out into the
dark street again. I ought not to say that, though, when I have got
Mr. Douglass Byrd for a star in my darkness, as he has made himself by
the way he has treated me.

I am glad I stopped by on my way to school this morning to see Roxanne
and Lovelace Peyton while I was their light-hearted companion still:
now I am a woman of sorrows and disgrace. Also, I am glad, if the blow
had to be dealt me, it was Belle who did it, and not Mamie Sue nor one
of the two Willises, nor anybody else. I have always had a strange
feeling about that bracelet with the red set, anyway, and I am not
surprised that she struck me with it.

"Miss Forsythe," she said, as she held it out to me all wrapped up in
tissue paper and tied with a blood red string, "I will have to return
your present to you, with thanks. I cannot keep a bracelet given me by
a girl whose father would go like a chicken thief and rob a neighbor's
shed of a valuable thing like an invention. Please excuse me!"

For a minute I stood struck dumb, and watched Belle's pink gingham
skirt switch as she walked through the door of the school-room. They
had all the lunch spread on the flat rock, and I thought were waiting
for me while I put my desk in order just after the bell rang. And even
while I watched Belle I was conscious of Mamie Sue's fat expression of
distress as she paused with a biscuit spread with jam half-way to her
mouth. The Willis girls looked struck even dumber than usual, and as
if they didn't know what to do. I didn't give them a chance to decide
on anything. I picked up my hat from the ground and walked out the
gate with my head as high, as if my honor had not been laid low.

I was walking just as fast as I could past the cottage, hoping that
nobody would see me before I got here to my room to realize my agony
myself, when Roxanne ran out of the door to catch me at the gate.

"Oh, Phyllis, don't look like that," she exclaimed as she drew me
through the gate and behind the big lilac bush that is full of purple
blooms. "It doesn't make one bit of difference to me, and I love you
just the same. Who told you?"

"Belle," I answered, trying to keep my face and voice steady. "Who
found it out, Roxanne?"

"Oh, Tony scouted it all out, though he didn't mean to. It was that
awful smelly bottle Lovey gave your father. Tony smelled it talking to
Mr. Forsythe at the gate and then again in the shed. He couldn't
connect them at first; but after a while he remembered, and then he
began to suspect something awful--he oughtn't to have done it, but he
did. He followed your father and Mr. Rogers out to the furnaces one
night and--saw Mr. Rogers explain it to your father. Then Mr. Forsythe
went away the next morning and Douglass began to watch Mr. Rogers, and
just three days after that he found him out at the furnace at night
with a workman getting some of the ovens ready to try the experiments.
He couldn't do a thing, and had to let them take his discovery and do
as they wanted to. Oh, truly Phyllis, it doesn't make a bit of
difference in our love for you."

"How did Belle find it out, and why should they think Father is
dishonest--even if Rogers is?" I asked, still as cold as ice though my
head seemed to be on fire.

"That is what is nearly killing Tony," answered Roxanne, with a sob
beginning to come in her voice; but she still held on to me tight, as
stiff as I was. "He and Douglass have known it for a week, and they
never wanted anybody else to know about it on your account. Douglass
says he would rather give up ten fortunes than hurt such a friend as
you have been to us, but Tony let the secret get out by accident, and
now all the town knows it. Judge Luttrell is getting out an
injunction, even if Douglass won't sign it, and the Colonel is getting
ready to go on the next train to find your father and--and remonstrate
with him, he says."

"Tony didn't tell Belle about it on purpose, did he?" I asked to be
sure. "I couldn't have stood that."

"Oh, no, it was Mamie Sue that found out part, and told Belle, without
knowing she had done it, just yesterday. Mamie Sue says she wishes she
never had any eyes or ears or anything to taste with, then maybe she
would never get into trouble. It is all on account of people thinking
she is more stupid than she is. Tony told Douglass right before her,
on the street while she was giving both of them some of that fudge she
had made to bring Lovelace Peyton, that Mr. Rogers had been in the
telegraph office and had telegraphed your father that the experiment
night before last was a success. Tony is ambitious as a Scout should
always be and has learned to read the ticking of the telegraph.

"'Anyway, Doug, it's a cinch that you have made one of the greatest
practical inventions of the day,' Tony said, forgetting Mamie Sue
entirely and so did Douglass, as he answered:

"'That's true, Raccoon, and if the fortune is another man's by
robbery, the brains are mine. I'll get my share yet. Wait until this
new idea gets into shape.'"

And then Roxanne went on to say that Mamie Sue said they hardly
remembered her enough to politely thank her for the fudge, as they
walked away talking. She went on down to Belle's; and when Belle began
to say that Tony was stupid because he couldn't read his Cicero,
Friday, she tried to defend him by telling how he can read telegraphy
even if he can't read Latin.

Belle was mean enough to get it all from Mamie Sue without Mamie Sue
suspecting that she was telling anything that would hurt me; and Belle
told Helena and Helena told the ladylike Petway, who told his father,
who told Judge Luttrell before night. The Judge sent for the Idol
before breakfast this morning and told him that he was an idiot to let
such a thing be stolen and he is beginning all kinds of prosecutions
and things against Father, though my noble hearted friend won't sign
them on account of his esteem for me. And, of course, the whole town
knows of it and is excited. It is not astonishing that Byrdsville is
wild to find out that it has reared a great inventor, only to have his
first fruits stolen. I feel with Byrdsville, even if they feel against
me. Some of this Roxanne told me and some of it is my own surmise that
came to me as we stood behind that old lilac bush.

"I don't believe it, but if it is true, you won't let your father's
having done my brother that way make any difference in the way you
love us, Lovey and Douglass and me, will you, Phyllis? We just need
you that much more to help us through with the starving and freezing
for the new invention that we are going to take better care of."
Through all my misery I ask myself if any girl in the whole wide world
ever had a friend like Roxanne Byrd?

And as if having Roxanne hold me in both arms and love me beyond my
wildest expectations was not enough, what should happen to me? The
Idol came around the bush full of blooms where we stood, and did
likewise. He put his long arms around Roxanne and me and hugged us
both up like we were not any bigger than Lovelace Peyton.

"You two precious kiddies are not to pay any attention to disagreeable
things that are not any of your business," he said in his wonderful
voice that was as big and booming and comforting as any anthem sung in
church where a sinner goes for help. That's what it sounded like to
me.

"That's what I tell Phyllis, Douglass--she's more valuable than the
loss of any kind of a big fortune, that we really don't need at all to
make us happy, while we do need her." Roxanne was laughing and crying
and hugging me so that she got herself mixed in her words in a
perfectly beautiful and loving way.

I am glad that my affection for these kind friends inspired me so that
I could answer them like I wanted to--at least I tried so hard to say
how I felt that I almost succeeded.

"You are both the best friends that were ever created for a lonely
girl," I answered, drawing out of both pairs of arms, and looking them
both square in the face. "But I am my father's daughter and must
suffer for his sins, if he has them. If he has done this dreadful
thing, which I don't believe, then I don't deserve your friendliness,
and I can't take what it is not right for me to have. I'm going home
and stay there until he comes, and then if he can't explain and has to
pay any penalty I'm going to do it with him."

"Oh, Phyllis, and what will Lovey do without you?" Roxanne begged,
using the strongest thing she could have said to me when I thought of
the little blind boy that wanted and needed me so badly.

"You will punish him and us for something we can't help," the Idol
said to me with reproach in his eyes and voice that nearly killed me.

"You both have had your kind of pride about taking gifts from me ever
since I have known you," I answered, looking them full in the eyes,
"and you have taught me what the word means. I could take things to
eat and wear from you, but my kind of pride won't let me take your
friendship when you think my father has treated you like this.
Good-by! I can't stay any longer to be tortured." And with that I
turned and walked away from them both, forever, I am afraid.

It isn't true, it can't be! But if it is? One thing I have made up my
mind to do: I am going to ask Father, if it is all true, to let me go
away from Byrdsville. I can't stay here; it will be too empty a life
for me to watch them living with me out of it. I hope he will go and
take Mother too. Judge Luttrell may prosecute him so he will have to.

Is this the end of the life that bloomed out in me like the apple
blossoms do on the bare trees, only to be shattered? No! I hope I will
bear fruit from having had so much happiness, like the apple-trees do
from their blooms, and I'm going to try.

*       *       *       *       *

Just here I laid down Louise and went to see what I could see going on
down at the cottage before dark. And there was old Uncle Pompey
hanging over our garden wall smoking his pipe and just crying into his
funny red bandanna handkerchief. Something tells me that he is going
to miss me very much also. I am thankful for the love of this old
negro, which I am sure is just the same quality as if he were white.

I think if I could just steal in for one minute and look at Lovelace
Peyton's little bandaged head it would make the pain in my heart
easier for having to give him up, but even that I can't do. I've found
how strong pride is as well as bitter.




CHAPTER IX


Of course, I know that there are many strange things in life that seem
to contradict each other and themselves in a very puzzling manner, but
my disgrace has turned out in a way that nobody could have made me
believe, if they had told it to me in dictionary words of six
syllables. I am being befriended and honored by the whole of
Byrdsville, and I don't know what to make of it. My mind refuses to
explain it and my heart is just going on rejoicing over it, as I have
not been able to think up any reason why it shouldn't.

Everybody now knows about the steel process that their distinguished
citizen, Mr. Douglass Byrd, invented; and they all believe that Father
has had it stolen and has left Byrdsville for some place where Colonel
Stockell can't find him, but they are none of them mad at me about it.
Of course, a load of sympathy can be as heavy to bear as one of
disgrace; and when you have both the two to stagger under, you may
wobble some in your conduct, as I have done these last two days.
First, though my reason is convinced about Father, there is something
in me that just won't believe it, and that keeps making me hope, and
be passive in life, until he comes. I say nothing about it to anybody,
because the proof is too great against him, and I suppose it is really
more daughterly love than hope. Anyway, it is a precious feeling to
me.

But one thing that troubles me is the way one friend's sorrow can
throw its shadow over the lives of many others. It troubles me that
Tony and Roxanne and the Colonel and some of the others are distressed
about me, especially Tony. He came to see me the morning after Belle
had told me all about his scouting out the secret; and if it hadn't
been such an occasion I would have had to laugh at the collapsed way
he looked, like he would fall to pieces if you touched him even very
gently. His grin was so entirely gone that his mouth looked only the
size of an ordinary human being's, and his eyes were shut down so
dolefully that they were funnier than ever.

"Go on, Bubble, and shake me," he said, with a comical sadness that
was hard to bear with proper respect. "Play I'm a doormat if you want
to, but I cross my heart and body I didn't mean to hurt you by letting
my mouth overwork at the wrong time. The Dumpling is just a sponge
that sops up any old thing and lets any old body squeeze it out of
her. Please say you forgive me."

"Why, Tony," I said with difficult but becoming gravity, "don't you
know that I know that you didn't mean to do anything to hurt me?" I
couldn't bring myself to mention Father or the shameful circumstances
and I hoped he wouldn't, either.

Tony is not a mere boy; he is a kind gentleman, also, and he ignored
the subject we were discussing just as carefully as I did.

"Good for you, girliky, and I hope you fully realize that this little
old burg of Byrdsville is all for you and anxious to hop rig-lit into
your pocket," he said most picturesquely, with relief at my not being
hurt at him beginning to pull the corners of his mouth into the grin
that he had put away as not suitable for the occasion.

A person who has the smile habit fixed on his face is a very valuable
friend, and I was glad to see Tony put on his grin again. There were
two or three questions I wanted to ask him when he was in his normal
condition, and I was just going to consult him about whether it
wouldn't be easier for the other girls and boys for me not to go to
school--anyway until they found Father and his innocence, or knew the
worst about the prosecution and other punishments that would be given
him; but before I could get the words arranged in my mind to say just
what I wanted to say, he began on something like the same subject
himself.

"See here, Phyllis, Roxy told me that you hadn't been in to jolly the
bug-grubber to-day at all, and the poor little bubble is worried about
what she thinks is going to be a grouch in your system," he said,
looking at me with so much confidence in my good disposition shining
in his face, that it was painful to try to make him understand just
how the pride disease I had caught from the Byrds was affecting me.

"Indeed you know, Tony, that it is not because I don't love Roxanne
and Lovelace Peyton that I haven't been there this morning; but I just
don't think it is right for me to be taking their friendship and love
when everybody thinks my own father has injured them, as he has not.
It is right for me to suffer for what they think he has done, until we
know better, and my pride won't let me take any more of their
affection when I may not deserve it." I looked away while I was
talking to Tony, for I hated to see the shock fade the grin. I also
hated to bring up the subject we were ignoring.

"Oh, fudge and fiddlesticks, Phyllis, don't let any old sour idea like
that ball up your naturally sweet temper. You and Roxy are just women
folks and had better keep out of men's business, like this wrangle
between Doug and Mr. Forsythe. Trot along and do your stocking-darning
and pie-fixing together as per usual schedule. And as to this
mix-up--forget it!"

"I know, Tony, that Roxanne and I are just children--and what is
worse, just girls--but I have to do what I think is honorable under
these circumstances; and taking friendliness from Roxanne now would be
just charity--I can't do it." As I spoke I felt my head straighten
itself after the manner of the grandmother portrait, just as if I had
been born a Byrd.

"Now, who would have thought that you could 'throw a crank' like that,
Phyllis--a girl who could brace another girl as hefty as Roxy upon her
shoulder to save the whole town and Dr. Snakes from being dynamited?
I'm disappointed in you."

"Why, how did you know about that explosion that Lovelace Peyton
almost blew us all into pieces with?" I asked with astonishment.

"Roxy sniffled it all to me this morning when she was pouring out her
trouble because you hadn't been over to cheer up the bugger to-day.
She told Pink and Sam and Belle and the Sponge and me all about it,
and I can tell you we thrilled some. By acclamation we have elected
you to lead the Kitten Patrol of the Campfire that we Scouts have been
talking about helping you bubbles set up for a month. We have already
decided to put you in command of the girls, because we can then expect
some real good stand-bying in case of Scout trouble or excitement. We
meet in the Crotch to-night to decide all the details." Tony's eyes
were shining and flaring and his red hair standing straight up in his
friendly excitement.

Honors are mighty apt to shock a person when they come unexpectedly,
and I don't believe expected ones bring half the joy that the surprise
ones do. I feel humble to think that in less than a year the boys and
girls of a place like Byrdsville have found me worthy of the
leadership of such a sacred thing as a Girl Scout company will be.
For, of course, of all the things that boys ever were in the world,
nothing is so wonderful as being Scouts like so many hundreds and
hundreds have been made all over the United States in the last three
years. And when the Boy Scouts do all the noble things in the noble
way they do, what will be expected of the girls, now that they are
being let Into the organization? The boys have to pledge themselves to
be clean and honorable and kind and just and charitable and brave; so,
of course, the girls will have to be all that and still more. Could I?

I sat still and thought for a long time, and Tony, with his knowledge
of girls, let me do it. Could I? Could a girl with a father that might
have done the thing that my father is suspected of having done to a
fellow-man, promise to be all or any of those things? How would she
know that some little thing in her, like her father, wouldn't come up,
just at the time when she was being depended on, to make her fail?
This distinction was not for me!

"Tony," I said quietly, and I didn't let the tremble in my heart get
into my voice at all, "whatever happens to me in my life I can't ever
forget that you offered to make me the leader of the Campfire, but--I
can't be it. Please don't make me say any more about it. I can't."

Tony understood. "Not a word more on the subject, Bubble; but I do
want to say that you are one fine--"

But just here we were interrupted by Mamie Sue coming lumbering across
the wall from the Byrd cottage, for Tony and I had been sitting on a
bench out under the blooming peach-tree arbor. She sat pretty close to
me and gave me a nice, good, fat-armed hug as she offered me a paper
bag.

"Have some fudge, Phyllis," was all she said; but I saw Belle walking
down the street with her head in the air and her skirts switching like
Helena's and I knew that Mamie Sue had come through a hard fight to be
friends with me. I can't say how I appreciated it, and I love Mamie
Sue. Maybe she is not very smart, but a person that always has
sweetness of disposition and in paper bags to offer a friend in
trouble ought to be appreciated. And just as I had got hold of her
nice big right arm to return the hug, around the other side of the
house came Pink and Sam, with Miss Priscilla in between them.

"Phyllis dear," said Miss Prissy, as all of us got up to give her a
seat, though she only took Tony's and part of mine, while the boys sat
on the grass, "the boys are telling me about the Girl Scout ideas. I
think it is naughty of them to say they are going to name you the
Kitten Patrol, especially as your rescue of Lovey Byrd is more than
likely to give you a life-saving medal to start with, as soon as the
Colonel writes to New York about it."

"A medal--a--a medal like Tony's?" I gasped, as my heart stood still
in awe of my own act.

"Why, of course, Bubble, you will get a medal," said Tony, with the
delight that some boys might not have shown at the idea of a girl's
getting up to the same height of distinction that they had attained.
"Now, will you be good and be the leader of the Kittens?"

"Say, Phyllis, when you raised Roxy from the ground, did you use the
other muscles of your body or depend a lot on the shoulder lift?" Sam
is not so big and strong as the other boys and consequently has the
greatest regard for the strength that he hasn't got.

I could only say that I didn't know what I had lifted Roxanne up to
catch the bottle with--except prayers.

And while they all sat there in my garden and talked with Miss
Priscilla about what she should get the Colonel to write to
headquarters about me and about the dynamite and the steel and
everything that was indirectly related to my disgrace, I sat quiet and
prayed for some sort of strength to tell them that I maybe couldn't be
a Scout, and couldn't have a medal and was hoping to move away from
them to some other place to live, just as I had learned to like them
better than I had dreamed one could like friends.

These boys and girls, including Miss Priscilla, haven't been used to
having things happen to them to distress them, and they are so
warm-hearted and sympathetic that it makes it hard to say a thing to
them that would hurt them. But I couldn't, couldn't go on being a
public and distinguished character, if my father were going to be a
public character of another kind. If people should say, "How his life
must mortify his poor daughter, noble girl, with a medal and friends
and things!" that would just put me on the other side of the fence
from my own parent, who needs me more than ever, if he is sinful. He
isn't, but what right have I to bask in public favor while he is in
outer darkness?

Then just as I was going to decline to be a member of the Campfire and
beg them all not to mention it to me any more, and try not to worry
over me but to just forget about me, something so horrible came over
the wall, in the shape of the news that Mr. Douglass Byrd brought,
that I and they forgot all about the Scouts and Kittens and medals and
all that. The Idol was pale and quiet as he walked up the path to us,
after skimming over the wall with one hand on it in a way that made
Sam gasp with admiration. He looked past Miss Priscilla and the rest
of his old friends of inherited generations in Byrdsville and straight
at me, his new--but adoring--one.

"Miss Phyllis," he said, with such sadness in his voice that Mamie Sue
gulped over a piece of fudge worse than usual, "Dr. Hughes has just
examined Lovey's eyes and it has hurt him very much--also he thinks
the sight has gone. The youngster is crying and fretting for you and
they don't want him to do that under any circumstances. The only hope
for his sight will be for him not to inflame his eyes. Will you come?"

Would I go--would I go across the dead body of my father's honor and
my own and anybody's disgraces and any other old thing? I went so
quickly that I upset Mamie Sue on the one side and Miss Priscilla
almost on the other, and I didn't even wait to answer the Idol in the
reverent and respectful manner that is always his due and that I
always observe. Down that garden path I flew and over that wall I
skimmed, like a bird with wings, or like the Idol himself, and in so
little a time that I didn't even realize the journey, I was in
Roxanne's room with her in one of my arms and Lovelace Peyton squeezed
up in the other.

Roxanne choked her sobs down in my neck and I choked mine down in my
heart as the little doctor kicked one fat little knee out from under
the cover and began to squeal like a queer kind of pig as one of his
arms went around and around.

"That's the way I cried when that old Dr. Hughes hurt my eyes to make
'em well, Phyllie, and you wasn't here to see him do it and tell me
how red they looked and if they had got any blue around the edges like
a carbuncle. Roxy can't tell disease like you kin, and now you was
away from 'em and didn't see the nice ones I have got in both eyes."

The reproach in his voice was so funny and yet so sad that Roxanne and
I both choked still more and held on to each other tight. I just
simply couldn't say a word, and I was again made ashamed by that
unruly lump in my throat that never seems to come unless something is
the matter with the Byrds.

"I'm hungry, too, for some of the nice sweet charlock rookster that
your cook makes me and I eats in the afternoon, right now. I waked up
in the night and wanted it and you, too, Phyllie, and I wouldn't have
old Doug or Roxy, neither. Now, it is always night time and Roxy
wouldn't go and call you. Won't you stay with me always and read me
about smallpox like you promised?

"Always night now!" Again Roxanne and I hugged and choked, but this
time I had to conquer the lump and answer him.

"Indeed, indeed, Lovelace Peyton, I'm never going to leave you any
more, only to go and get the things you want. Can't I go and get the
charlotte russe for you now?"

"No, Phyllie," he exclaimed, grasping with his strong little fingers
my hand that lay on his pillow. "I wants smallpox now worser than I do
charlocks. Then Tony can come and let me tie bandages around his leg
while you go git the rookster and maybe some nice cake and oranges and
candy. No; Dumpie bringed me candy. You git more rags to tie up folks
with. I want to fix Doug's head good 'fore he goes to bed. But read
the smallpoxes right away. Begin where they throws up."

Roxanne got the book while I drew a chair by the bed and sat down to
it, with gratitude drying the tears in my heart, for being forced into
forgetting my pride and coming back to them again. Roxanne sat by me
and held my left hand until we got to the worst part of the smallpox,
and then she got pale around the mouth and went out of the room.

"Read the sickest part again, Phyllie, and then turn and read the
medicine for it," he had just demanded when she fled.

And for the rest of the afternoon I sat by him and went through all
the different stages of smallpox until, feeling each one acutely as I
did, it is a wonder I was not pock-marked. When he fell asleep at last
he was holding fast to one of my hands for fear I would get away with
the precious book.

When I could slip his fingers from mine, I tried to steal tiptoe
through the hall so as not to wake Roxanne, who was lying asleep, I
hoped, on the sofa in the hall, but she opened her great, troubled,
dark eyes and saw me before I got to the door.

"Oh, Phyllis," she said and held out her arms to me. Somehow it seems
to me I have learned very quickly how to take a person I love in my
arms without awkwardness--that is for a girl who never had anybody to
take before--and I sat down and snuggled Roxanne in a manner
comfortable to us both. "Do you think it is possible that Lovey is
going to be--be blind?" she asked me in a small voice that could
hardly dare utter the horrible words.

"I came in such a hurry when Mr. Douglass Byrd called me that I didn't
quite understand what Dr. Hughes said or found," I answered.

"When he took the bandages off, Lovey didn't seem to see at all, but
the lids are still so swollen that he is not sure they are closed. I
don't believe he knows what to do, Phyllis, and that is what scares
me. But is there any great thing a blind man can do except be a
musician? Lovey can't sing much."

I verily believe that Roxanne Byrd would have gone on and planned some
kind of a career of blind genius for Lovelace Peyton while waiting to
see if he was to lose his eyes, if the Idol hadn't come into the hall
at that moment.

He moved Roxanne over and sat down between us and began to talk
seriously to us, like I was a valued member of the Byrd family.

"I have just had a long talk with Dr. Hughes, and he says that
Lovelace Peyton will have to have a specialist examine his eyes and
direct the treatment, if the sight is to be saved. We will have to
think up a plan to get a great doctor from Cincinnati down to
Byrdsville, Tennessee."

"But it will cost so much and where--?" Roxanne stopped quickly for
fear of hurting the Idol's feelings and not from my presence. One of
the great things about the Byrds is that they can forget riches in
such a way as not even to know or realize that they haven't them.

"We'll get it," answered the Idol with his heroic look, the like of
which I do not believe a man ever owned before. "Things are going to
go straight, now that Miss Phyllis has got the bugger all happy with
the medical course again. What would all of us do without her?" He
stood up to light his pipe and his fingers trembled.

Anybody else but a great man, born of a great family like the Byrds,
would have hurt my feelings by saying apologetic things about the
tragedy between us, but the Idol just ignored it and I was made one of
them again in their trouble. Suddenly something popped into my mind
that I could do to get the money for them to save Lovelace Peyton's
eyes and not hurt the family pride. There is no doubt about it, when a
girl gets so she can ask God to help her and think at the same time,
she can find an inspiration when she needs it. I may be in trouble and
disgraced, but I've got Him on my side, and I can yet do things when
my friends have such dire needs as a doctor. I am afraid to write it
even to you, leather Louise.

Suddenly I stood up beside Mr. Douglass, and looked down at Roxanne,
and then up at him.

"Do both of you trust me enough to let me try to help if I do it with
my own brains and not--not my father's money?" I asked.

For a moment they both looked at me, and then the Idol took my hand in
his and looked me in the eyes just as square as I looked at him.

"Yes," he said in a voice that grows more wonderful the more you love
and know him, "you are one of us and you can plan with us all you are
able to."

"Yes, Phyllis; you have never offered or asked us to do anything we
ought not to, and if you can think with us I know it will help,"
Roxanne said, looking up at me trustfully.

Again I make record, Louise, that my course with the Byrd family pride
has conquered it, even if I did display symptoms of it myself by
staying away from the cottage so long. I'm in a very queer position. I
have not made everybody understand that I can't be a Girl Scout and I
am a dishonored person in Byrdsville, with all sorts of distinctions
offered me. But this scheme I have thought up to get the doctor here
has made me hold my breath so that I can hardly write, and I can't
worry over honors and medals and things. I will do it! I will!
Good-night!




CHAPTER X


Some people are so afflicted with energy that their days are
twenty-five and a half hours long. Mine are twenty-six just now. If it
were not for the fact that several hours each day I am under the
influence of Roxanne's repose, I suspect I would run down like a clock
that has exhausted its mainspring. Mamie Sue says that Belle says
Roxanne is shiftless, but Belle is unable to distinguish shiftlessness
from noble composure under difficulties. I told Mamie Sue that it
would be best for her to forget all that Belle has ever said to her;
and she is trying.

Still, though I understand it perfectly, it is positively queer to
hear Roxanne talk about what the great doctor is going to do for
Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and they haven't done one thing about getting
him here from Cincinnati. The Idol has gone back to the obscurity of
the shed, and I suppose he is making up some plan about the doctor,
while he is working with his furnaces and retorts and things, but he
hasn't told one yet, and it is two whole days. I do hope and pray that
my plan will succeed without his having to bother with a common thing
like money.

I have had to go to school these two days and then I have to study
medicine with Lovelace Peyton almost all of every afternoon, so I
haven't much time; but I think by to-morrow night I will have told
about a thousand dollars' worth of things about my father and I can
send it all off to Cousin Gilmore Lewis. The time the butler in our
North Shore cottage, summer before last, told the newspapers so many
things about the way Father and his family lived, he got three hundred
dollars for it; so it does seem that if his own daughter told almost a
whole small book about Father it would be worth at least a thousand
dollars to a big magazine that prints things about everything in the
world.

I heard Cousin Gilmore tell Father last spring that it wouldn't be
long before he got to him in his magazine, and I have two reasons for
wanting to beat the one who is going to write Father up. One is that I
need the money for Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and the other is that
before all this comes out about Father and the stolen steel patent, I
want to write about him like he might be, and ignore what the world
may consider him. I want to tell about him like I feel toward him and
not like I know people will think he is. If the weekly comes out every
week, they ought to print what I say about a week from Saturday, and
maybe it will take Judge Luttrell that long to get his prosecution
ready. The Judge doesn't work much harder than others in Byrdsville,
and I can trust him to be slow. Of course, I couldn't write a thousand
dollars' worth of things about just Father himself, but I am telling
all about Byrdsville, which is his present home, and how distinguished
and beloved he is in it.

A lot I have written I have just copied down from you, Louise--who are
a better friend than I knew when I bought you--such as the
descriptions of the apple-trees and landscape and Father's charity to
Mr. and Mrs. Satterwhite. It filled up two pages just to mention the
things he gave them, and it was a page more when I told a few of the
grateful things they said to me. I left myself out and had them say
the things right to him. What his generosity in the matter of buying
jewelry from Mr. Snider did for the seven children--with just three of
the names mentioned, because I think Sally Geraldine, Judy Claudia,
and Tom Roderick are interesting as names--made more than a page more.

I wrote until nearly twelve o'clock last night about the Byrds and
their family history and how wonderful it is for Father to have made
such friends as they are. I just described the Idol as he really is
and told what a great inventor he is without dwelling on what he
invented, because that will be published when Judge Luttrell gets out
the injunction.

I mentioned Lovelace Peyton's accident in detail, because some day
when he is a world-famous surgeon a good account of it will be
valuable. That took up fourteen pages. I am going to send that kodak
picture Tony took of Roxanne, with a good description of her to be
printed under it.

Nobody could really give a good history of the Byrd cottage without at
least a half dozen pages of Uncle Pompey and what he cooks. I am going
to get the nutcake recipe and paste it on the margin. All women
readers will like that if they try it once.

And just as I was so tired that I was about to fall into the ink-well
it occurred to me to describe faithfully the great-grandmother Byrd
portrait, especially about her being such a friend of George
Washington's wife and about the English earl who fell in love with
her, but grandfather Byrd was the victor to carry off the prize. It
gave Father credit just to have bought the house they lived in.

I got up early this morning and wrote about what good friends he has
made of Judge Luttrell and Mr. Chadwell, and some of the other
gentlemen. I told what a great lawyer the Judge is and I here
mentioned Tony's Scout medal, too, for if a Scout medal is not
distinguished, I don't know what is.

And writing about Tony's medal reminded me that I would have to write
something about myself, or seem to be prudish. I left that until
to-night, and I have just finished it. I had to get in two pages about
Miss Priscilla and the Colonel before I began on myself. I defended
her for not marrying him unless she wants to, and I moralized five
sentences on a woman's right not to marry.

Then I thought that when it is published all over the United States,
Mamie Sue might accidentally see a copy and be hurt that she was not
in it, so I put her recipe for fudge in with her name signed to it. I
grouped Pink and Sam and the two Willises and some others as prominent
citizens who were all Father's friends, with just slight mention of
their being his guest on the hay-ride. I left Belle and Helena and the
Petway silk-tie-boy out. I thought it was kindness.

Then when I got to myself I hadn't a word to say because I had used
all the words in the dictionary several times over about the others,
so I just wrote this that I copy down in order to see again how it
looks: "Mr. Forsythe has one child, Phyllis. She is a tall, strong
girl with tan hair, and she shares his friendship for Byrdsville
enthusiastically." Now, if that isn't the truth, I don't know what is,
and what more could I say about myself? That is a very dignified and
correct account of me.

I have only to write the note to Cousin Gilmore to tell him that a
thousand dollars is the price and not to let it come out later than
next Saturday, and tie it up in a box for the express. As I say, I
think just lately I have worked more than twenty-four hours a day.
Good-night!

*       *       *       *       *

I am glad that article for the weekly was finished yesterday, and
expressed, for if I hadn't finished it, I might have had to wait some
time. I must study hard now, for examinations begin next week, and I
am so far behind that it is difficult for me to even understand what
they are talking about in class, and I have been able to recite purely
by accident. It is one of the strange and unaccountable things that
happen in a person's life that hard study or the lack of it has no
real influence on the way a girl or boy recites. If I am well prepared
on a lesson, the teacher always asks me something that had slipped my
most diligent hunt, and if I don't know a thing about the lesson she
asks me a question about something I do know about. Such is school
life!

And it is a fortunate thing for me that next week is examination, for
everybody is too worried and busy to notice me and my affairs, and
they don't talk Scouts or parties or anything that I might be
embarrassed about on account of my position. Quadratics are
embarrassing to everybody. I have to study. Good-night.

*       *       *       *       *

I did the Idol a dreadful injustice when I felt that he had gone to
work on another of his inventions and had not made a plan for Lovelace
Peyton's eyes. I didn't write down that I had felt hard toward him,
for that would have seemed disloyal, but I did. He wrote right up to
the doctor in Cincinnati and asked him to come on the next train and
the heartless man telegraphed that it would cost a thousand dollars
for him to come and it would have to be guaranteed. No wonder the Idol
was white and still for a whole day. Now he has thought up a plan and
it is a sacrifice, but he and Roxanne are going to do it, if I can't
get the thousand by telegram, as I asked Cousin Gilmore to send it by
Monday morning--which they don't know about yet. I hate to write the
sacrifice down--it seems a desecration! They are going to sell one of
the foundation stones of the Byrd family pride for this vulgar money
they need for the doctor from Cincinnati. I can't bear to think about
it, though I have never seen the ancestral stone, and it is only a few
musty papers, kept in the vault at the Byrdsville County Bank. They
are letters from George Washington and other generals to one of the
Byrd ancestors, written during the Revolution about some of the great
stratagems they wanted him to execute for them with his regiment,
which was a very fine one. They hope that they're worth much more than
any thousand dollars, and they are to be the price of Lovelace
Peyton's eyes. The Idol has written about them and he hopes to get the
money immediately by telegraph, and send for the doctor the first of
next week. That is, if God doesn't let me get my telegram before
theirs. He is going to, my faith makes me believe.

And Oh! I do want my composition to be printed so the world may know
what a good man my father could be, if he would just give up his
thirst for money. It may keep other young men from following in his
footsteps, instead of doing like Judge Luttrell and other Byrdsville
men.

"Of course, Phyllis, it is an awful thing to give up a part of your
inheritance like those papers are, but then Lovey's eyes are still
more valuable to the Byrd family," Roxanne said, as we were discussing
the sacrifice. "He is going to be such a great doctor that he will
make history himself and, of course, we will have copies of the
originals; and when people are writing Douglass's and Lovey's
biographies they can go and see the originals. And after the
eye-doctor is paid, we will have a lot left over for this new thing
Douglass is inventing. He just told me about it last night, and I can
tell you now."

"Don't tell me, Roxanne, don't!" I interrupted her quickly. The blood
dyed my face so red that I felt as if I could wipe it off with my
handkerchief, if I tried.

And Roxanne, instead of blushing, got pale and put her arm around my
neck. Real love always has the right thing to say at the right time.

"Phyllis," she whispered in a tickling fashion right against my ear,
"when Douglass told me about it last night he came back in my room to
say, 'Don't tell a single soul but Phyllis.'"

If some accident should happen to make me famous, I wish the person
that writes my biography could put down how I felt when Roxanne
whispered that to me. I choked a little bit and Roxanne hugged the
choke and was just beginning to tell me about the experiment when
Lovelace Peyton called us to come to him.

He is dreadfully spoiled since he has had to keep so still all the
time, but we try to do just as he says. He lies there in bed and
thinks up all the impossible things that might be done and then asks
us to do them. He longed so for "squirms" that Tony got a wooden box
and made little divisions and brings him in a lot of new ones almost
every day. They fill Roxanne's days and nights with terror. And it is
upsetting to see the fishing-worms in the dirt, while the hop-toad
stays out on the bed a good deal of the time; but we have to stand it
and smile at it in our voices while talking to him, even if we have
terror in our faces. Yesterday Uncle Pompey spent most of his time
catching the chickens and bringing them in for him to feel, and
Lovelace Peyton has a box of straw on a chair by the bed, with a hen
tied in it, setting on a dozen eggs.

But a thing that stops my breath with pain is, that I am fraid that
Lovelace Peyton is beginning to think about being blind, and my throat
aches while I write what happened when Roxanne left him with me after
he had called us.

"Do you want me to read the medicine book, now, Lovelace Peyton? Mumps
comes next," I said, as I sat down by the head of the bed, nearer than
I liked to the setting hen.

"No, Phyllie," he answered in a queer, unlifelike way. "Please find
blind eyes and read all about them to me."

"Oh, they are not interesting," I said, and the lump rose so I could
hardly breathe. "Let me read measles, if you don't think you will like
mumps. Do you remember that experiment about cutting away a piece of
the heart itself that the man tried? Let me read that again." I was
pleading with him so that my voice began to tremble.

"Please let me put my hand on your face, Phyllie, so if I kin git you
to tell the truth to me, I kin feel if you cry," he said as he reached
up and put one little hand that is getting white and weak against my
cheek. I forced my eyes to drink up the tears that they had let get as
far as my lashes, and put my arm under his head and cuddled him
against my shoulder, my shoulder that has had to learn to cuddle since
he got hurt.

"Is I going to be blind, Phyllie, and kin they be a blind doctor, if I
am?" he asked, with his baby mouth set with the Byrd family
expression, the first time I had ever seen it on his face.

"Oh, no, Lovelace Peyton, No!" I exclaimed, hugging him up closer. "A
great big doctor is coming on the cars in just a few days to make you
well."

"But _kin_ a doctor be a blind man, Phyllie," he asked again, with
his mouth still set.

"Yes, Lovelace Peyton, if you are the blind man," I answered as
positively as I felt. It is true for if he is blind, then there will
be a blind doctor in the world and a famous one at that.

"Will you always go with me to tell me how the folks and sores and
blood and things look, Phyllie, so I kin give the right medicine?" he
asked, curling his fingers around mine in a still tighter grasp.

"Yes, I will, indeed I will," I answered, with words that pushed their
way from my heart.

And just then Tony came in with Pink, in such a dejected manner that I
hardly knew them. I knew from their looks and my own feelings that it
was the quadratics we were going to have on examination Tuesday, and
my deepest sympathy went out to them.

"Say, Dr. Snakes," said Tony solemnly, as he sat down almost upon the
toad on the bed by Lovey, "I've brought Pink, the Rosebud, to be
operated on at my expense entirely. I have been trying to put algebra
into his head for a solid hour, and now I want it split open so I can
just chuck the book in whole to save my time. Shall I go get the axe?"

And Lovelace Peyton laughed just as much at Tony as the rest of us
did, though the hen got frightened and began to squawk so that both
Tony and Pink had to work to tie her down tighter. They didn't need me
right then, so I slipped out and went home through the garden.

Oh, that doctor must come down here quick to see about those valuable
eyes! I don't dare think what I will do if the article about Father
fails, but I feel sure it won't. Still my heart beats as if it
couldn't get all the blood it needs--and that reminds me that
physiology comes on Wednesday. I ought to study, but I can't.

And another thing that is worrying me is, that I didn't go to see what
Mrs. Satterwhite wanted when she sent for me, and it might be that I
could have spent some money if I had found out what she would like to
have. I have been so busy and so scared that I haven't been down to
the Public Square this week, and now I will have to go and shop all
morning if I am to keep up the amount of the monthly bills.

I wonder if Miss Priscilla would let me express my admiration for her
by buying her one of those lovely boxes of paper with gold letters on
each piece. I don't know anybody else in Byrdsville that they seem to
match, and they cost five dollars, which the postmaster needs badly
from the looks of his fringed cuffs and collars. Accepting a present
is bestowing affectionate regard on the person that offers it, and I
believe Miss Prissy feels that way about me. She must feel in her
heart that I do not blame her course of conduct to the Colonel like
the rest of Byrdsville does. I am more charitable to faults than
others. I have to be. I believe I will risk the box of paper.

But on the other hand, I am very fond of the Colonel and I feel that I
would like him to know that I think he is very noble not to desert
Miss Priscilla, even if she doesn't want to marry him. He is a
faithful friend. I wonder if he would like that lovely long-stemmed
pipe that is in the drug store? And I feel like I ought to do it, not
to be partial. I won't buy him tobacco, for I feel sure that is a
thing that women ought to fear to do for a man.

This is a very lonely night, and I can't write any more because it
reminds me to be uneasy about the express package in which I sent the
article to Gilmore's Weekly.

I am going down to sit in my mother's room in a dark corner to be
comforted. That is my right and hers, too. I wonder if girls that have
mothers that can be real mothers, tell them all their troubles and
perplexities and anxieties, or do girls that have mothers not have the
other things to tell them?

But one thing before I close the ink-well I must record to my own
satisfaction, though it seems mean to write it down. The Idol has no
idea of paying any kind of attentions to Helena Kirby and it is all
settled that he doesn't like her; or, rather, doesn't know she is
living on the earth, which is still better. His lovely new gray suit
didn't affect him at all in regard to her. Roxanne told me all about
it several days ago.

Of course, everybody in Byrdsville has been very much interested and
sorry over Lovelace Peyton's explosion and his eyes, and they have all
come and said so, and they hardly ever come empty-handed. Roxanne has
got nice and plump eating the things, and so has Uncle Pompey, after
their long cornmeal fast during the time of invention number one.

But Belle's mother, Mrs. Kirby, and Helena hadn't come or done a
single thing, until this occurred day before yesterday. Helena
happened of her own accord to meet the Idol right at the cottage gate
when he came home from the furnace, and she was most untastefully
beautifully dressed. She had a large pink rose in her hand like a girl
in a story-book. She stopped to smile on him with extreme favor and
give him the rose, also out of a book. Roxanne saw and heard it all,
because she couldn't help it, from the window.

"Thank you, Miss Helena," he said with a grand bow. "I know Lovey will
feel complimented at your thinking about him, and the rose will be
lovely for him to smell and feel. He is better to-day, we hope--at
least not so nervous."

Roxanne says Helena's expression was of one completely surprised, and
she went on down the street without any more use of the smile or the
red silk and lace dress. If a man is at all interested in a girl, he
would be sure to get more pleasure and conversation than that out of a
rose, I feel sure. Oh, a genius has to be guarded from so many things!

This is unkindness I've written, but I'm so nervous to-night over the
thousand dollars that might not come for the article that I cannot
control my pen. Good-night again, Louise.




CHAPTER XI


This is Saturday night, or Sunday morning, I am not sure which, as I
have let my clock and watch both run down, for I have not had time to
wind them; but however late it is, I am going to write about all this
remarkableness, to you, leather Louise, so I will never forget how it
all really happened. And writing it may make me believe it is true,
though now it all _will_ seem a dream.

I got up early on account of the quadratics and had a contest, that
lasted until ten o'clock, between them and a very overburdened mind. I
conquered, but at what cost!

But still, from the fight, one of the gratifications of my life came
to me in the shape of the chance to help Belle. Mamie Sue has given up
the study of algebra forever, and is going to take botany instead, but
Belle is still having dreadful struggles. Mamie Sue told me about
Belle having a wet towel around her head all night and other really
tragic things that made me lose all my hurt at her and filled me with
extreme sympathy. I was over at Roxanne's on my way to read diphtheria
to Lovelace Peyton, and just as Mamie Sue was describing how the poor
girl had to put her feet in hot water to take the chill off of them,
down the street came Belle looking all that Mamie Sue had said of her.
My heart was so wrung that I spoke before I had time to let her manner
daunt me.

"Oh, Belle," I said, with hasty enthusiasm, "I worked a lot this
morning and I can solve them all now in the easiest way. Let me show
you."

"I--I wish you would, Phyllis, and thank you," she answered in a meek
voice that was not hers at all. It had a nice, mournful, friendly tone
to it that I wish it could keep even when the cause for sorrow is
removed, which I succeeded in doing in about another hour of hard
manual labor, if you call pounding manual labor. It is!

Roxanne sat down beside us, and we sent Mamie Sue in to keep Lovelace
Peyton quiet with her company; only to use the fudge from her pocket
in case she couldn't succeed. We found them both later with chocolate
smeared on their faces; but Lovelace Peyton likes Mamie Sue, for her
easy nature is most lovable.

"Thank you, Phyllis," said Belle, when we had figured the last formula
as simply as I had found out how to do it. "I have always thought that
you are as smart as anybody in the class, and I now think--"

I wish Belle had had time to finish that sentence, for I don't believe
she will be in such a nice temper for a long time; but we were
interrupted by Tony and the Colonel and Miss Priscilla coming past my
house and into the cottage front gate. The Colonel was dressed up in
his white vest and Sunday hat, and Miss Priscilla was flying more
ribbons and ruffles than usual, while I never saw Tony's grin quite so
broad and his freckles shone out more than ever, as they always do
when he is excited.

"Miss Phyllis," said the Colonel, in his grand manner that everybody
in Byrdsville tries to copy when there is anything important to be
said, especially in public, like the mayor does in his speeches, "I
have come to announce to you that this morning's mail has brought a
great honor to you, and through you, to Byrdsville. Allow me to hand
you this medal that is given you for the heroic feat of life-saving by
the Girl Scouts of America, called, I believe, the Organization of the
Campfire. I wrote on to inform the authorities of the deed of the
Patrol Leader of the Palefaces, as your Girl Scout band is named, and
this letter, with the accompanying medal, is the result. I am
informally showing you the medal now, but the letter will be read and
the medal presented at the commencement exercises of the Byrd
Academy." And with a low bow that crinkled the stiff white vest, the
Colonel handed me the medal.

I was paralyzed--real paralysis of both mind and body, especially legs
and tongue--and I believe I would have been sitting there on the front
steps of the cottage yet, in a dumb and stupid manner, with them all
looking at me, if Tony Luttrell who, as I have remarked before, is a
very understanding person, though a boy, hadn't flared his eyes and
mewed under his breath. Then we all laughed so loud that it brought
Mamie Sue to the door though Lovelace Peyton called so loudly that
Roxanne had to run to him; and so did Mamie Sue, with the treacherous
chocolate smears on her mouth, after having promised not to give it to
him unless she just had to.

"Phyllis, if Tony says Kitten Patrol to you one single time more,
something will have to be done to him that is serious," said Miss
Priscilla, frowning at Tony with a frown that only seemed to bring out
the dimple in her left cheek. "Now congratulate her nicely, Tony!"

[Illustration: The Colonel handed me the medal]

"Madam," said Tony, straightening up and looking so much like the
Colonel that it was funny (but of course Tony has learned
impersonation), "accept my heartfelt congratulations for thus
achieving a triumph of kittenism. Will that do, Miss Prissy Bubble?"
And again we all laughed, the Colonel the most of all, and even Belle
a little, too.

"Phyllis, you are one perfectly good brick," Tony said suddenly,
dropping the teasing of Miss Priscilla from his voice; and he looked
at me with just as affectionate an expression in his squinty eyes as
when he looks at Pink Chadwell. It is a great thing for a girl to feel
that a fine boy likes her as much as he does his most chosen boy
comrade. I felt that keenly.

"Thanks, everybody," I managed to say in an awkward way that mortified
me into being unable to patch it up with any kind of brilliant remark
following.

One of the things that had struck me so dumb was that I thought I had
refused to be the Girl Scout Leader because of my disgrace, and nobody
had paid any attention to my refusal. Thus it is, a person cannot
escape either fame or disgrace because other people take more interest
in both than you do yourself, and do not let you forget.

"And now that the Colonel has made you his speech, Phyllis," said Miss
Priscilla, "I want you to come down to the Presbyterian Church parlors
with me to a joint meeting of our Relief Society with the Methodist
Relief. They want to make you an honorary member of both on account of
the way you have dealt with the Satterwhites, who have for years been
one of the greatest troubles to all of us. Of course this is not a
medal, but it is an expression of hearty esteem, and I hope they will
get the meeting over nicely without any discussion or argument coming
up from either side on the charity question."

By that time I was so numb from having shocks that I let her and the
Colonel lead me down the street, while Tony went in to keep Lovelace
Peyton from fretting for the diphtheria lesson until I could come
back.

Mrs. Luttrell made me the Methodist speech and Mrs. Willis the
Presbyterian one, and they said so much that I felt sure they were
glad that I was only expected to say "Thank you!" and then sit down
while they all offered different resolutions about different things
that were never exactly decided but voted on, nevertheless.

When we came out of the church, I told Miss Priscilla about the box of
paper in such a determined tone of voice that she didn't refuse it at
all, and went with me to buy the pipe for the Colonel, which I know
will make it very valuable to him when I tell him who helped select
it. It is a very interesting thing to be neighbor and friend to a
mysterious love affair that is one of the traditions of Byrdsville. I
believe I have solved the why of the failure of their marriage to come
off, but until I am certain I won't even write it to you, Louise.

On my way home, I am glad to record, I took time to do a little
shopping. I bought some buckets we didn't need from one of the
littlest shops in town, some more groceries for the Satterwhites, a
bolt of gingham to make Sallie Geraldine and Judy Claudia some aprons,
then hurried back on the wings of anxiety to the bedside of Lovelace
Peyton, to get the diphtheria started. As I ran I could just feel him
thrashing around in the bed and persecuting Roxanne and Mamie Sue, if
she had not already escaped for her life.

But as fast as I tried to go, I met an interruption on the way up
Providence Road, that was agreeable although detaining from duty. Tony
and Pink and Sam stopped me and told me that they were just on their
way to bring me to the Crotch, and that I would be the first strange
person that had ever seen it, since they had fixed it up in the
Luttrell barn loft to have Scout meetings in. Mr. Douglass had planned
and helped them with it, and they said there never was such a place of
interest in Byrdsville. The reason they were going to show me was that
I must get the empty room over the garage Father has turned the old
family stable of the Byrds into, to make a wigwam for the Paleface
Patrol to have meetings and keep things in. They had asked Mamie Sue
to go with me because it would take two girls to remember all they
saw, and that would be the last time we could come there, though they
would come often to the Wigwam if we wanted them to show us how to be
as scouty as possible.

Just then Mamie Sue came up, and she either snorted with indignation
or choked with candy, I cannot tell which; but because we had to, we
accepted their kind invitation with gratitude. We stopped at the house
first and told Mrs. Luttrell we were going to the barn with the boys,
and she said not to get hurt or fall, and gave us a tea-cake all
around. Mamie Sue held the plate and happened to get two, not at all
by intention, for they were stuck together.

Tony swung up from the horse trough to the loft by a pole, while Sam
and Pink stayed to push us up. I went up just as easily as Tony did,
before they had time to push me one inch, but poor Mamie Sue stuck
halfway through the trap-door and we thought we would never be able to
get her either up or down without calling out the fire-company, as Sam
suggested; but she kept astonishingly cool herself and wiggled in just
the way Tony told her to, and at last got up. She said she knew that
she could fall down all right, when the time came to go, so for us not
to worry about that, and we proceeded to enjoy the Crotch.

I never dreamed boys could get together so many remarkable things and
make it so interesting to tell about them. The big kettle to boil
water and the poles and the sticks and the blankets and tin cups and
plates were in one corner and a shelf held the knapsacks with the
"first aid" things in the opposite corner. All of Sam's bird-eggs, the
collection of which he had seen the error of, and had to give up when
he became a Scout, was on a table by the window, and his butterflies
were pinned on large pieces of brown paper on the wall and looked like
a beautiful decoration.

And while we looked at the things it had taken the boys so long to
collect, I rejoiced that I could manage to spend a lot of money to fix
up the Wigwam, and told them about each thing that I could buy, as I
thought it up, from seeing something that they had.

"Say, Bubble, is the long pole for exercise going to be braced so the
Dumpling can go over without danger?" said Tony, in the teasing voice
he uses to girls, that doesn't make them mad.

"I think we ought to have every single thing that girls can use to
make them as strong as boys," I answered. "When girls are strong
enough not to be any burden, the boys will take them everywhere they
go and everybody will have just twice as much fun."

"I suppose you would like to make the boys learn to do tatting and
sewing to let them in on that sort of kitten gatherings," said Sam,
with a laugh that was not so nice as Tony's.

"We would, if it wasn't for the fact that Petway does the knitting act
so well that he is a perfect lady. We never could equal him," answered
Tony, with jolly good humor to save our feelings from being hurt by
Sam.

"Well, I don't believe it will hurt--" I was just going to say, when
we heard Uncle Pompey, calling down in the barn for me to please come
quick before Lovelace Peyton killed them all dead.

We all slid down, including Mamie Sue, with astonishing grace, and I
promised to begin to fix the Wigwam next week. I promised, but a pain
hit my heart. Did I know that I would be in Byrdsville next week or
ever again? What would Father do when that prosecution found him? For
ten days I had not been letting myself think about the future, but it
seems that every minute I live in Byrdsville, my heart winds around my
friends and theirs around mine. To take me away now would be to tear
me--but where was Father, and why didn't I hear what he is going to do
and have done to him?

As I once more hurried down the street to the diphtheria lesson, it
seemed to me that Byrdsville broke on me all suddenly as a lovely and
maybe to-be-lost vision. All the leaves have come out on the trees and
vines now, and everybody's yard is in bloom and is full of sweet
odors. Doors and windows stand wide open and people sit on their front
porches and visit back and forth like every evening was a great big
party. And amid it all I have felt like I belonged to something for
the first time in my life.

Then suddenly it came true that now I do belong. This is how it
happened! Just as I had got to Lovelace Peyton and soothed him by a
few lines of the symptoms of fever and nausea and headache that come
first in diphtheria, Roxanne stood at the door with a telegram in her
hand for me, and my heart stopped beating while it took leaps all over
my body, about fifty to the second. I promised Lovelace Peyton a half
dozen rolls of antiseptic bandages and a paper of sticking-plaster and
a June-bug, if I could find one, to let me into the living-hall to
read it. I felt that if it said, "No," about the secret article I
couldn't trust myself not to let him know that something was the
matter.

It didn't say "No!" Wait, I'll copy it, Louise!

    A payment of one thousand dollars for articles from you will
    be in Byrdsville on Saturday. Letter follows.

    COUSIN GILMORE.

My knees shook under me, and my eyes couldn't take in the letters
well, but I asked Roxanne, who was standing waiting to hear what the
telegram could be about, just as a friend should feel over a telegram,
to run out to the shed and get our Idol quick, and I would tell them
all about it together. He came in looking perfectly beautiful with his
coat off and a big apron on him. His eyes were just as excited as mine
felt, now that the mist had cleared, and it seemed to me even in that
moment that no other thousand dollars in the world could have brought
so much suspense and excitement as this one had.

But I knew that I might have a battle to fight in which I must win,
and I steadied my nerves and made myself feel like Father looks when
he reads important letters and begins to dictate answers in telegrams.

"Mr. Douglass Byrd," I said, perfectly coolly over my own inward
volcano, "you remember you promised me that if I could use my own
brains on a plan to get the doctor here for Lovelace Peyton's eyes,
you would let me do it?"

"Yes, I said just about that," he answered me, and he looked in my
eyes in a depending way that was so like Lovelace Peyton used to do
that again the mist came over my eyes. I am getting to have that
proper mist now instead of the choke, and I am glad, because it can be
hid better than a choke.

"Well, I found the plan and worked it for us, and I will have the
thousand dollars by night-time, and we can get the doctor from
Cincinnati by to-morrow, and have it all over before the algebra
examination on Monday," I answered.

Then, in very many less words than I have used to tell about it to
you, Louise, I told him what I had done, with Roxanne standing with
her arm across my shoulders, that trembled with excitement. To cap off
the climax of the story in proper fashion, as we are taught in the
rhetoric to do, I handed him the telegram--and I felt like the Colonel
looks when I did it. He stood for what seemed hours, with the telegram
in his hand, and something makes me suspect that he was having the
same hard time as I was having with a choke, only this was the first
time and it came very near resulting in weeping, which I had never
done up to that time.

"It is a wonderful thing for you to have done, dear," he said at last,
with a look that got down to the core of my inexperienced heart and
made it thump uncomfortably. "And if there were no other way to get
the doctor for the kiddy's eyes I would accept this loan gladly, but I
have heard in the morning mail, that I can sell the Washington letters
and I am going immediately to arrange about it that way. You know,
though, how great it was of you to do this, and how it makes us all
love you. We don't have to tell--"

But here he was interrupted by an avalanche of words that must have
been dammed up in me for all the fifteen years of my life for that
special occasion, and I delivered them with an eloquence that must
have equaled that famous valedictory of Colonel Stockell's at the Byrd
Academy, the year he left for the war. I told him just what a lonely
life had been broken into by the sunshine of Roxanne's and Lovelace
Peyton's and his family affection for me, and now they were just the
core of my heart, which he was wounding. I described in detail how I
had suffered when Roxanne and Lovelace Peyton had been hungry, and had
been brought to the dishonesty of feeding him in private, with never a
word of my suffering to hurt that Byrd family pride that they are
turning as a weapon on me. I even mentioned the patches on his
trousers and the break in Roxanne's shoes that had been patches and
rents in my own heart. I tried to make them see how hard it had been
when I have been commanded to buy things for people that I didn't care
about hardly at all, except as fellow-beings, when I was hungry to
give what was needed to my most beloved. By this time I had got to the
point of exaltation, and Roxanne had hid her head on my shoulder,
while that Idol's eyes were so wide with astonishment that I thought
he would never be able to get them to normal size again. "And after
Lovelace Peyton has hurt himself in my cause, as he did from hearing
that I wanted an explosion," I still ruthlessly continued, "you want
to deny me the happiness of getting his eyes saved by my own unaided
efforts. When I was disgraced and humiliated, I put that kind of pride
I had aside and came to you when you called me because you needed me,
trusting in your friendship for me and love of me, but now that the
time has come for you to yield just a little bit of your pride, you
won't do it for me."

Here I paused, and a thought of explanation for their cruelty came
over me. "Because I am my father's daughter, do you think this money I
have made is tainted, too? And is that the reason why you don't want
to use it?"

"Oh, Phyllis!" Roxanne gasped under my chin, and the Idol got as white
as a sheet and his eyes looked like I had struck him a blow.

"You can't get the money from the telegraph office and give it to me
quick enough, kiddie," he said, with the choke coming out clear in his
voice. "Forgive me! The youngster's eyes will be twice the value saved
in such a way," and he took my hand and held it in both of his against
his heart, in a manner to make me feel that never again would I have
to struggle with that Byrd pride.

"Please forgive me for fighting you like that," I said with a horrible
blush of memory coming over me as I thought of all I had said, about
the patches on the trousers especially. "You made me do it and--"

But here we were interrupted as an apparition stood in the door and
regarded the sad and joyful tableau we made with its head on one side,
right corner of the mouth up, and left eyelid drooped. It was Father,
and I had never seen him look so grand or with such a noble expression
on his face! And as he stood still and looked at us, I held my breath
far longer than it is safe to do. And as Father looked, the Idol drew
himself up and his head took on the pose of the feminine Byrd
portrait, but he still held my hand in both of his as he looked Father
steadily in the face. I was scared and so was Roxanne as we hugged
each other as women always do from fright.

Then, without a word, Father walked right up under the portrait and
took the Idol by both shoulders and gave him one good shake that
tottered us all.

"You young idiot, you! You young idiot!" he said in a tone of such
affection that it was unbelievable to my ears. And as I heard it, I
knew that all my trials and disgraces and puzzlings were over, and I
turned my head upon Roxanne's back hair and wept tears, the first time
in my life--and I hope not the last.




CHAPTER XII


"Now, see here, Phil, don't give out on the situation like that," said
Father, as he slapped me on the back to still the tears while Roxanne
hugged me and the Idol still held my hand.

"Please go on and tell what you did or didn't do to the 'secret,'" I
sobbed, but I stood on my own feet again and was using both my natural
hands to wipe my eyes.

The Idol had been for minutes standing and looking at Father like a
child that has just awakened and doesn't know whether the awful thing
that was pursuing him was a dream or a real bear. Roxanne was the
first one to speak, and as usual she had seen the rosy side of
something, even if it was not the real thing.

"You didn't really steal the secret at all, did you, Mr. Forsythe?"
she asked, with her lovely and engaging enthusiasm. "I just knew it,
all the time."

"Yes, I did 'steal the secret'--if that is the way you put it--_pro
tem_, which means 'for the time being.' You are a nest of very
young idiots, and I trusted to that; but you opened your puppy eyes at
the time I hadn't counted on, with the help of Luttrell's scouting
nose." He paused, as if not right sure that he was going to tell about
everything, and as he looked at us we did look like a basket of little
silly puppies with mouths and eyes wide open--the Idol most of all.

"And now first, young man," said Father, turning to Mr. Douglass, left
eyelid drooping lower than usual, "I just want to say to you what I
think of you for leaving not only all the traces of such a valuable
discovery unprotected in a shed, but leaving your notebook and
drawings, too. Any other man but a Byrd of Byrdsville, would not have
trusted the book off his person a half minute, and would have
destroyed the traces of each experiment the minute it was done. Those
steel shavings were the most idiotic-looking things I ever saw, and
when I emptied the box it was with a groan at your foolishness. Just
the looks of 'em kept me from trusting you with my intentions. I
couldn't afford to run the risk of your carelessness, so I took the
whole thing and decamped with it."

"Oh, Father!" I gasped, beginning to get the untrustful feeling again.

"Hush, Phyllis," said the Idol, looking at Father like he was Jack,
the Giant-Killer, and just about as much interested as if it was not
his own tremendous fortune Father was telling about taking off with
him.

"I had been down in the garden to the garage to give the new car a
looking over, and I saw Rogers go into that shed and knew, from having
been told by Phyllis accidentally of the steel experiments, what was
happening. I followed him a little later, and saw your trustful
layout, exposed to the world as is the human nature of all Byrdsville.
Rogers is an expert and would run through your notebook and get the
whole thing in a few seconds. I knew that he would watch his time, try
out the experiments at the furnace, and get the patent while you were
deliberating about proceeding in a Chesterfieldian manner with an
injunction drawn slowly and literarily by your friend, Judge Luttrell.
Rogers was fully equipped by his association with me to do you
and--quick. I took no such chances as having you and the Judge's
Byrdsvillianism mixed up in the affair. I stole your secret that had
been stolen, left for a Pennsylvania furnace the next morning, had
experimental furnaces built, tried out the experiments before the
company, keeping dust in Rogers's eyes by demanding to be in on his
robbery, patented it by push-legislation in Washington, and am back
with an offer of fifty thousand dollars down and a royalty to be
decided upon in a ten-year contract. I have a great mind to put it in
trust for you, idiotic dreamer that you are--and perhaps the most
noted man in the field of commercial invention for this year at any
rate! How did you come to think out that process of a disturbance of
atomic arrangement at that temperature?"

"Why, you see, Mr. Forsythe, in the laboratory at Princeton, just
before I left, I had begun some atomic experiments, and out at the
furnace it struck me all of a heap, what it would do if we could treat
the ore at some ascertained temperature in the way I have found. Now,
in another case that I am working on, I may be able even to make the
process--"

"Help!" said Father. "Let's get down to business on this proposition
before we get to the other one."

And we all laughed, for it was funny to see the Idol with patches on
his trousers and hardly a day's living ahead, pass right over the
fifty thousand dollars, with more in the contract, and all the
sensation it had made, to begin to explain about what was out in the
shed now. He looked pained at our interruption and tried to begin
again, but Father interrupted him.

"Well, have you told this one to these 'bubbles,' as my young friend
Luttrell so appropriately calls them? By the way, the economical
Rogers had on the coat that Dr. Byrd had doctored for the cholera,
which I had asked him to destroy for me, and the Scout Leader was
right in his nose clue. I suppose that was what led him to suspect me
and shadow Rogers to the telegraph office. Great boy, that Luttrell!
But to return to the girls: If you have told Phyllis, I shall have to
keep her in solitary confinement until it is finished. Miss Roxanne, I
know, can be trusted at large."

I knew Father was just joking, by the eyelid and the corner of his
mouth, but the Idol drew himself up according to the old portrait
again before he spoke.

"Mr. Forsythe" he said, "I haven't any secret that Phyllis can't know.
If she accidentally gave this one away to Rogers--she can the next,
_and_ the next." He took my hand again and drew me close to him.
To think that that wonderful Idol should feel like that about
insignificant me!

And father looked as impressed as he ought to have been, and begged my
pardon in the proper manner; only I saw the bat in his eyes that
showed how amused he was.

"Well," he said slowly, "Phyllis is a dangerous person to tell secrets
to, or even to live an ordinary life before. Her penetration is so
keen that she sees a man in his true character--and gets a thousand
dollars from him for her estimate of his personality. I am glad to buy
the opinion of me that you sent your cousin Gilmore at a thousand
dollars, Phyllis,--it is worth more than that to me--from you!" His
eyes were very tender to me though then, laughing: "Want to see
yourself as she sees you in this thousand-dollar book I'm going to
have printed, Byrd?" he asked teasingly.

"Oh, no!" I gasped; "I hoped he would never see that! Don't give him
one, if you bought it. Don't even talk about it!" Let's go telegraph
the doctor--we have forgotten the eyes too long now."

"That will not be necessary," said Father, with the lovely look that
comes into his face when Lovelace Peyton is even mentioned. "When I
read your letter to Gilmore, I hunted around immediately and brought
the best man in New York with me to see to those eyes. He is over at
the house getting rested and ready, and will have to make his
examination in less than an hour now, so you two had better hustle to
get Dr. Byrd ready for him. Everything must be antiseptic."

Antiseptic, with those fishing worms and the hen and the pet toad and
the June bugs in his bed! Roxanne fled, calling Uncle Pompey on her
way.

"Then my thousand dollars won't--won't be needed?" I asked with a
contemptible feeling of disappointment that the Byrds had got so rich
before I had been able to do this one thing for them. I looked up at
old Grandmother Byrd over the mantelpiece and said in my heart: "You
have won."

But what happened then? The Idol, with the comprehension which is one
of the symptoms of all genius, turned to me quickly and put his arm
across my shoulder.

"Phyllis," he said, with his most wonderful eyes shining down into
mine, "that check is going to the doctor just as soon as your Father
gives it to you. I told you that Lovey's eyes would be more valuable
if saved by you--and--and I meant it."

I didn't have to say anything, and I couldn't--he understood! I just
clung!

"Young idiots, both of you," said Father; but he blew his nose
violently, and I knew from experience how the lump in his throat felt.
"Now take me in to see Dr. Byrd."

"Howdy," said Lovey, as Father shook hands with him and the toad at
the same time. "Did you get any more cholera? Did the medicine work?"

"Yes, the medicine worked--more ways than one," answered Father with a
pleased laugh. And he talked to Lovelace Peyton all the time about a
man who got blown up in a mine that he saw in Pennsylvania, so that he
made no objections while Uncle Pompey took out all his "live stock."

While the Idol and Roxanne and I did up the room, with his own hands
Father bathed Lovelace Peyton and put on his clean, patched little
night-clothes; and I saw one big tear, that came from the very bottom
of the big man's heart, I know, splash on the biggest patch, as he was
guiding the little groping hands into the armhole.

Then while I was buttoning Roxanne into a clean dress and the Idol was
carrying out the last mop, the doctor came in the front door. I was so
dirty with the cleaning that I retired to the kitchen and helped the
Idol into his collar and coat and to get his hands clean so he could
hurry on in to help. Uncle Pompey had got his usual violent spell of
asthma and I had just lighted his pipe for him when the Idol came back
to the door of the kitchen.

"You'll have to come, Phyllis," he said, with a smile that took the
anxiety off his face for an instant. "Lovey refuses to let the doctor
touch him without you. Come quick! The doctor says the light is
beginning to go."

I went, soiled dress and crying eyes and hair all rumpled and mussed
with the excitement.

"Phyllie," said Lovelace Peyton, who was sitting up in bed defying
them all, "I ain't a-going to let that doctor touch me 'thout you
stand right here and tell me how it all looks just as he does it.
Don't leave out any bleed that comes, or any blue flesh or nerves or
nothing. You know how, 'cause I have teached you. Neither Doug or Roxy
ain't no good with symptoms."

"I will, Lovelace Peyton, I will," I answered; but I shuddered, for
how could I stand to see him tortured, as I felt he was going to be?

[Illustration: "You stand right here and tell me how it all looks"]

But I did--and it makes me weak to think about it now so that I shake
all over. As the instruments pried and pulled and injected the aseptic
solutions I held his hand tight and talked as hard as I could. At the
worst places I told the most awful lies about how horrible it looked
and placed all the frightful symptoms of every disease I had read to
him, right in his eyes. It sounded dreadful but I knew that it
interested him and helped in a way nothing else could.

"Go on, Phyllie, tell more," he would groan as I stopped for
breath--and on I would go piling inflammation on suppuration.

Finally, after what seemed an age, the doctor drew a long sigh and
looked up at me with a kindly expression that I knew meant "saved."
For a minute I reeled, and I do believe I would have learned what
fainting meant the same day I learned crying, if those little fingers
hadn't held on to me tight while the doctor gave just a whiff of
chloroform to ease the twitching nerves. He had been obliged to do the
operation without it, but risked just the whiff.

"Don't the chloroform smell good, Phyllie?" Lovelace Peyton whispered
up to me as he floated off and his hands relaxed.

"That was the most remarkable performance I ever participated in,"
said the doctor out in the hall after he had finished telling us how
near the sight of both eyes had come to being destroyed from not being
kept drained. "And the two youngsters are the most remarkable I have
yet encountered. Miss Phyllis, let me congratulate you on a nerve and
a talent for imaginative description the like of which I have never
met before. But please somebody explain that boy to me before I catch
the train."

I was glad Roxanne was the one to begin on the subject of Lovelace
Peyton, for only she had enough rosy words to describe him. She did
better than I ever heard her before, and I could see how Father and
the doctor both enjoyed it.

"We will take him right away to college where he can learn to read and
write for himself, in just a few months, and then to operate in some
big hospital before he comes down South to cure hookworm and pellagra
and all the other things other doctors haven't found out about. What
medical college would you advise, Doctor?" she ended by asking, and
her face was so lovely and enthusiastic that it looked almost
inspired. There is no telling where Roxanne's dreams will land the
family now that they will have the money to start on them.

"Well, Miss Byrd," answered the doctor in a tone of voice, that made
me know that he appreciated Roxanne at her true worth, "right now, for
about ten years, I would keep the small doctor in Byrdsville, mostly
out grubbing for experiments and 'squirms,' as he calls them. Then
when the time comes we shall see--we shall see."

"Yes," answered Father, dropping his head with the corner of his mouth
screwed up. "Yes, we shall see!"

And as he said it, somehow I felt that the Byrd family would never any
more be unlooked after, and that it was good to have such a man as
Father for a father and a neighbor. And, Oh, I felt--I can't write it,
I am so tired I will have to go to sleep with a "Thank God," as big as
can come from a heart the size mine is--which feels bigger to-night
than it ever did before. Good-night, Louise of leather!

*       *       *       *       *

The quadratics were awful! I got ninety-five by a lot of it being luck
that I knew the questions, and Tony got eighty by the same process, he
says; but Belle and Pink just squeezed through by the skin of their
teeth. Sam didn't pass and neither did the tallest Willis. The other
one got seventy and the right to take another examination. Cruelty to
children like that kind of examination ought to be stopped by law.

And that is the reason I haven't written in this leather confidante
after that Saturday, into which at least four years of my life were
crowded. By the calendar I am still just sixteen, but I am twenty by
actual count.

First--Father is a Raccoon in full standing, and is going to be Scout
Master for a little troop just the minute Lovelace Peyton gets old
enough to organize one. And other honors have come to him like--but I
must put things down in an orderly fashion for Father as he has bought
you on a book, Louise.

Miss Priscilla is going to marry the Colonel. The secret of the why of
her not doing it before is out. I have always felt that Miss Priscilla
was honorable and not cruel. The Colonel had never asked her before,
and it seems that the Stockell pride is very like the Byrd pride. He
lost his fortune during the war and she is rich. His honor forbade!
But Father has got him to go on a board of directors of the Cumberland
Coal and Iron Company. Father says to give tone to directors'
meetings, but that reason is not to be mentioned. He gets a salary of
fifteen hundred dollars and is willing to marry on that, as Miss
Priscilla insists on it. He told me all about it and so did she.

Tony, also, was in the confidence of both for these last few days
which was a great comfort, as he is always so full of plans to
accomplish things. In fact, it was Tony that made Miss Priscilla send
for the Colonel with determination and it was I who got the salary
fixed with Father and urged the Colonel to respond to her summons.
They are as happy as "Love's young dream continued into maturity." I
quote the Colonel exactly, as I think it is a literary gem.

Being the best-man at the wedding is one of the honors that has come
to Father. I reminded him that the Colonel is not only a Stockell but
he is a Confederate hero. Father said that he appreciated all that and
that was what the salary was for.

"Bubble," said Tony, as he sat on the bench in our garden and fanned
himself with his hat, "now that you have got the old town geared up
and jogging along smoothly with your almost boylike energy, let's
forget all about 'em and get ready a really humming Scout-Campfire
ceremonial for the second night of commencement. I have got one
gruesome idea I will be ready to tell you about to-morrow. We needn't
let in Roxy or the Dumpling or the other Kittens until it is all
fixed, for they will be frozen with fear at the very idea of what will
be a Scout initiation, all right enough. But they'll do as you say
when the time comes, for the whole bubble bunch, including Belle,
since her algebra get-away, fall at any word you dope out to 'em from
now on. Well done for you! You are not only a brick, Phyllis, but a
whole wall of them that can be depended upon to line up to the mark."

I wrote that down not to be conceited, but I want to preserve that
opinion of me in you, Louise, because it means that I have, in a
little way, deserved the happiness that has come to me.

I came to this town a sad and lonely girl, with a great sorrow that
had kept me from being like other people and with a great distrust of
my father, who had had to be both Father and Mother to me. I have
found friends and interests and excitement and adventure and sympathy
and encouragement out here under that Old Harpeth Hill and I am always
going to keep them. I hope I never will go one step out of Byrdsville
as long as I live, though Roxanne has planned trips to every corner of
the world for us as soon as the Idol has finished this next invention.

The Byrds have to stay in the cottage until Father can build another
house for us to move into. Of course they will go back to Byrd Mansion
and reign in it as they have always done. But I smile to myself that
one person got ahead of that stiff-necked old portrait--I did, and
once she even seemed to smile down on me.

This was the time she seemed to do it. We had all been talking about
the plans for the new house down in the orchard, for Father and me,
when Roxanne had to fly to Lovelace Peyton and Father tiptoed after
her just to peep at him a second. That left the Idol and me alone for
a few minutes. How I would have shuddered at the mere thought of such
a thing happening to me a few months ago, but now it just seemed
agreeable happiness. Through suffering I have grown bold, in my
adoration of him.

"Let him build his old house, Phyllis," he said with first a glance up
at the old Grandmother Byrd and then one at me that was as bashful as
I began all suddenly to feel again, when he took my hand in his. "He
won't--won't keep you--that is, not many years--will he?"

"Why,--what do you--" I began to ask him, when Father came back into
the room and I don't know to this day what the Idol meant to say, nor
do I yet know what he meant by drawing himself up to his full Byrd
pride height, while he looked Father straight in the eye, both of them
alarmingly serious, until Father's eyes began to smile with what
seemed to be warm confidence. At which the Idol let go my hand and
began to talk about steel. Oh, I am so glad, glad I am here to help
Roxanne to cherish such a genius as he is and that I know now for our
whole lives no pride or anything cruel can come between him and me any
more! I can keep him perpetually safe on the pedestal of my love and I
feel that it will be my right to help feed and patch him--only now he
can always buy new trousers.

And for all time I have found Father!

That night when I went in to commune with Mother like I do now more
and more, I found him in my chair in the corner but out of her sight,
and he drew me down on his knee for the first time in all my life. We
sat quiet awhile and then he came into my room with me and we stood at
the window and looked out over the Harpeth Valley, where Providence
Road lay like a silver ribbon as it wound its way over Providence
Knob. He had his arm around me, and as I have learned to do, I put my
head down on his shoulder.

"Phil," he said with such sadness in his voice that the new-learned
tears started, "this is all we will ever have of Bess. The doctor says
she has begun to drift faster now, and it will not be long. What would
I have done if I had lost even what she had been to me these sad
years--before I found you to help me?"

Then, after the first time I had ever cried on my father's breast, he
told me all about himself, and the money and how he came to make it,
and how it was all wrong, but it has never been his personal dishonor
that was involved. This invention of the Idol gives him more power
than ever, and he is going to use it to reorganize things so that
everybody will make more for their work and belong in the business. He
has appointed Judge Luttrell one of the lawyers and Mr. Chadwell one
of the directors--and he is going to try to stay in Byrdsville most of
the time and I am to help him arrange about keeping out of the
temptation of riches.

"And I'll try not to develop Byrdsville anymore than I can help,
Phil," he said as he wiped my eyes on his handkerchief and then his
own.

No, I hope Byrdsville will stay just as it is, and I hope that any one
who needs friends like I did will find Byrdsville, Tennessee, on the
map. Good-night and good-by, leather Louise!



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