Margaret Wade Campbell Deland.

Mr. Tommy Dove, and other stories online

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Online LibraryMargaret Wade Campbell DelandMr. Tommy Dove, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 15)
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($be fiifcerside $re00, CambnD0e



All riqhts rtstrvtd.

The Rirfrsidf Press. Cnmbriihjf. Miss., l~. S. A.
Electrotyped aud fluted by H. O. Houghton Jt Co.




APRIL It, 1893.










THE apothecary shop in Old Chester stood a
little back from the street. There was a garden
in front of it, but the fence which inclosed it
was broken in places, so that an envious hand,
had any such been known in Old Chester, could
easily have broken off a cluster of cinnamon
roses, or grasped a stately stem of tall white

The shop itself was but the square front room
of Mr. Tommy Dove s old stone house. One
of the windows had been cut down to make a
door, so that customers might not wear out the
white-and-gray oil-cloth in his mother s entry;
and the two front doors, side by side, were per
haps more of a distinguishing feature than the
small pestle and mortar, which, suspended by
wires from an upper window, had long ago given
to the wind and rain whatever gilding they pos

It was since Mrs. Dove s death that the fence


fallen ouo of repair, and wayfarers might
be tempted by the bloom and richness of the
garden ; and since her death, too, the real front
door had not been opened, and gradually the
gray house had lost its individuality as a home
to become merely the apothecary shop.

Yet, in spite of the closed shutters of the up
per rooms and the silent entries, Tommy Dove
still tried to feel that he had a home. He was
glad to close the shop at night, first arranging
the cord of the jangling bell, that he might be
summoned if he were needed, and then going
into the kitchen, to eat, all alone, the somewhat
uncomfortable supper which had been prepared
for him by the woman who took charge of the
house. He would open a book beside his plate,
and eat, and read, and dream, until Mrs. Mc
Donald s heavy step warned him that she was
impatient to put the kitchen to rights for the
night. After she had gone, and everything was
in stiff and uncomfortable order, Tommy would
rub his hands together, and listen to the kettle
singing on the fire, and think how cozy he was,
and how independent. But these moments of
satisfaction held always a strange consciousness
of disappointment in himself, for he was not
mourning for his mother ! Anybody who knew
anything about the late Mrs. Dove would have
said "No wonder!" but her son, who knew


more than any one else, felt only his own loss in
being unable to grieve for her. He did not
understand the pang of regret for an unf elt sor
row, the human claim for the human experience ;
he only knew vaguely that he was missing some
richness in his life, and there was always the
effort to drive his thoughts back to his own lone

"Ah, it s hard on a man to have to make his
own tea and look after his household affairs,"
he would remind himself, ashamed and remorse
ful because of his content.

It pleased the apothecary to say "household
affairs," and it pleased him yet more to meditate
upon them in silence, with no shrill interrup
tions or commands. After long repression and
distrust, it was with a kind of wondering joy
that this obedient son found the keys of the
china-closet and the linen-press in his posses
sion. True, their contents had no especial
value, "An ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine
own." He counted the sheets and pillow-cases,
and laid fresh sprigs of lavender among them
with his own hands, and he cautioned Mrs.
McDonald to be careful in washing the old blue
cups and saucers. He wished that she would
not always reply, "Yes, yes, Mr. Tommy.
Don t fret, dear." She meant it kindly, he
was sure, but it hurt his new-born dignity a


"If mother had only called me Thomas in
stead of Tommy, " he thought, "people would
have treated me with more respect."

But, if a man s own family snub him, he need
not hope for anything more reverent than kind
ness from his immediate world. In a vague way
Mr. Tommy realized this, and accepted the
friendly nickname without a protest.

Part of the joy of being free, of being able to
do as he liked, expressed itself in the apothe
cary s garden. While his mother was alive he
had been obliged to rise early and work hard,
and prune and train his plants according to
Mrs. Dove s ideas. But now he no longer
started at the whir of his alarm clock at four in
the morning, dearly as he loved his garden, and
much as he missed those hours of the misty
dawn among his flowers : the tropaeolums should
trail halfway across the gravel path, if they
wanted to; and the sweet peas might clamber
up into the white rosebush, if it pleased them ;
Tommy would not train them. He sometimes
thought he knew how they had felt in those
days of precise order. The broken fence did
trouble him a little, but that it should not be
mended was his unconscious protest at the past.
Yet he did bestir himself in this matter a
week before the Temples came back to Old
Chester. He was unwilling that Mr. Temple


should notice any disorder about the shop, or
that little Dick Temple should find the garden
such a tangled growth that he could not see the
seeds of the balloon -vine which he used to love
to crack against his rosy cheek; nor could he
bear to have Miss Jane think that he neglected
his plants. So it was really a relief to him,
when he sat down at his tea-table one June
evening, to know that the fence was mended,
and not a single weed was hidden among the
flowers. He seated himself by the open kitchen
window, and, rocking slowly back and forth,
stirred his tea with a small, thin spoon. The
morning-glory leaves outside made a frame for
the distant hills, and for the yellow sunset with
its filmy bars of gray cloud. Tommy was think
ing how long it was since the great house at the
other end of the village had been opened. Yes,
it was surely eight years since the Temples had
been in Old Chester.

He tried to adjust his thought of Dick.
"Why, he must be quite a boy," he said. "And
there was a baby girl, too. I suppose she has
grown a great deal." He felt a kindly, sim
ple interest in all the family ; and then he re
flected that the Temples would sympathize with
him because of his mother s death. That they
knew all about it the apothecary did not doubt.
Was it not the most important event of his life?


He wondered if Miss Jane had changed much;
he even sighed a little as he thought of her.
Miss Jane Temple, living in her brother s rich,
comfortable house, with strong, bright interests
all around her, seemed to this silent and some
what timid man like a being from another world.
Henry Temple s light-hearted indifference to
everything outside of his own life had always
awed the apothecary; but Miss Jane, in spite
of her different world, was not like her brother,
she was kind, Tommy Dove thought, and
gentle ; so that when he saw her alone, on those
rare days when she came to the shop, he was not
at all afraid of her.

u Yes," he said to himself, putting his cup
and saucer down on the window-sill, "I should
n t wonder a bit if she came in to tell me she
sympathized with me, she s so kind."

And he was right in thinking Jane Temple
would condole with him. She heard of Mrs.
Dove s death soon after her return, and, know
ing less of the character of the deceased than
most of Old Chester, she came very soon to the
apothecary shop to say, with tears in her eyes,
that she had heard of Mr. Tommy s loss, and
she was so sorry. She was thinking of her own
mother as she spoke. "It is very sad for you,
Mr. Tommy," she said; "I I know how sad
it is."


She bad walked up the smooth gravel path
with little Effie Temple hanging upon her hand,
and she stood now at the low stone step. Mr.
Tommy, leaning on his half -door and looking
absently at the bloom and tangle of his garden,
had straightened up as he saw her coming, and
hurried out to take the hand she extended, and
to stumble through some sort of greeting.

"And who is this little girl?" he inquired,
buttoning his coat up to his chin with nervous
fingers. The child s calm stare disconcerted
him even more than Miss Jane s presence.

"This is my niece Effie," Miss Jane an
swered, smiling, for the little girl did not speak.
"She was a baby when we left Old Chester."

"Oh, yes, "replied Mr. Tommy, "oh, dear
me, yes, indeed. I remember there was a baby.
Won t you step in, Miss Jane? and perhaps
the little girl will let me make some hollyhock
ladies to amuse her?"

Effie frowned, but looked interested. "What
are hollyhock ladies?" she demanded.

Her aunt did not go into the shop, though Mr.
Tommy held the half -door hospitably open.

"I will just wait here," she said; and so
while Mr. Tommy went over to the row of holly
hocks, and stood bareheaded in the sunshine,
filling his hat with the silky blossoms, white
and buff, rose -color and deep wine -red, she sat


resting on the warm, broad step. She watched
the row of pigeons sunning their white breasts
on the ridgepole of the barn, and listened to
their long, rippling coo. A shadow from the
honeysuckle about the door blew back and forth
across the path, and up from the garden came
the scent of sweet alyssum and mignonette.

When Mr. Tommy came back, Effie, with
her hands behind her, and grave, unresponsive
face, watched him strip off the calyx and bend
back the petals, leaving a puffy yellow ball with
nodding plumes upon a slender neck. The
apothecary s fingers seemed all thumbs under
the calmly critical gaze of the child, but he
managed to tie a blade of grass around the
middle of the folded petals.

"That is a sash, he explained nervously.

"I don t think," Effie observed slowly, "that
anybody would know they were intended for

"Oh, Effie, dear!" said Miss Jane plead

But Tommy hastened to agree with the child.
"Oh, no," he said. "Oh, dear me, of course
not. They don t look at all like ladies. But
when I was a little boy I used to think they
did, and I made whole families of them when
the hollyhocks were in blossom; they were my
dolls, you know."


"I didn t know boys played with dolls,"
Effie answered.

Miss Jane looked distressed and apologetic ;
and it was perhaps because she feared Mr.
Tommy s feelings had been hurt that she went
through the shop into the small sitting-room be
yond, and listened while he told her of his mo
ther s sickness and death. But Effie s presence
embarrassed him so much that, with a nervous
desire to propitiate her, he opened the door of a
corner-closet and took out a cup and saucer of
thin, fine china. There were little faded lavender
flowers scattered over it, and the gilt upon the
handle was somewhat worn, but it was delicate
and pretty, and Tommy, standing in a streak
of sunshine, with one lean hand upon the door of
the closet, looked with wistful blue eyes at Effie.

"Perhaps," he said, "the little girl will take
this little gift. I should be pleased if she would
accept it."

"Oh, it is so pretty, Mr. Tommy," said Miss
Jane. It would not be kind to decline it, she
thought, since Effie had been so naughty. "Say
thank you, Effie," she instructed her niece,
who was holding the cup in silence; "Indeed,
you are too good, Mr. Tommy; it s very pret
ty!" she ended, with nervous emphasis. And,
in her mild way, as they walked home, she
reproved the child because she had not seemed


But Effie was never known to hesitate for an

"Well, but, aunty," she explained, "why
should that man give me a cup and saucer?
Haven t we hundreds of cups and saucers?
And he kept calling me little girl, and his
ridiculous old hollyhock ladies ! "


This little visit of Miss Jane s gave Tommy
Dove much to reflect upon.

How gentle she was, how low her voice, how
condescending her manner ! Mr. Tommy knew
no better than to call Miss Jane s timidity con
descension, but that did not make him less
happy. There was no one in Old Chester in the
least like her, he thought; and then he fell to
meditating upon his loneliness. He wondered
how life would have seemed if his mother had
not hated Mary Ellen Boyce, and the one dawn
of love in all his cramped years had been allowed
to brighten into day. Yet, curiously enough,
he found himself regretting his mother s stern
ness less than he had ever done before.

He thought of his talk with Miss Jane so often
that week that, without quite knowing why, he
found himself, at the close of the Wednesday
evening lecture, waiting outside the church door.


Miss Jane, stopping to speak to old friends, was
so long in coming out that when she reached the
steps most of the congregation had dispersed ;
so Tommy, quite naturally, began to walk beside
her as he said, "Good-evening," and hoped that
she "found herself very well."

Miss Jane answered with a gentle cordiality
which the apothecary thought beautiful, but she
stopped, and glanced back at the church, and
then looked anxiously up the moonlit road, which
wound like a white ribbon back among the hills.
"I asked Dick to meet me," she explained, "but
very likely he has forgotten it. He is such a
good boy, Dick is, but sometimes he forgets."
Miss Jane s love was not of the fibre which de
mands the best in its beloved.

"If," said Mr. Tommy eagerly, "if you
will allow me to walk along with you, ma am "

"Oh, no, indeed, Mr. Tommy," she answered,
quite fluttered and hesitating. " The lane is as
quiet as can be, and the moon has made it as
light as day."

But the apothecary urged her again with re
spectful anxiety. "You ought not to be alone,
if you 11 allow me to say so, Miss Jane." And
so he went to the very door of Henry Temple s
house. Miss Jane had so many questions to ask
about Old Chester, and he had so much to tell
her, that the walk was a pleasant one to them


both; and, with a friendly impulse, as she said
good-night and thanked him for his kindness,
she asked him if he would not come in.

It was with a strange sensation that, standing
in the shadows at the foot of the white steps,
Tommy Dove declined what he had never
dreamed would be offered to him. But he did
decline it, and then went back to his shop, and,
sitting down behind the counter, leaned his head
on his hands and thought it all over. He hoped
that he had expressed himself well in talking
to Miss Jane; " elegantly " was the word in
Tommy s mind. He felt sure that his conver
sation about his books had been genteel, but
he doubted a little if it had not been vulgar to
speak of such things as the snails and rose -bugs
in his garden. This troubled him, and he was
not quite happy when he lighted his candle and
went upstairs to his bedroom under the eaves.

Miss Jane had enjoyed the walk home, but
she was a little relieved that Mr. Tommy had
not accepted her invitation. "There are no
lights in the parlor," she said to herself, "and
I couldn t have taken him into the library."

When she opened the library door, her sweet
face, no longer young, glowing a little from the
cool air, and her eyes dazzled by the light,
Henry Temple glanced up at her over his glasses
long enough to say, "Well, Janey?" and then


settled back into his newspaper; but Dick
sprang up from his seat beside his mother s
sofa with a conscience-stricken look.

"Oh, aunty," he exclaimed, "what a lout I
am ! I forgot all about your prayer-meeting !"

"Why, Richard! " said his mother in dismay,
and Mr. Temple put down his paper to say,
"Were you to go for your aunt? I m ashamed
of you, sir! "

"Oh, it is no matter, dear brother," protested
Miss Jane, her face shining with affection.
"Never mind, Dick. As though one couldn t
come home alone in Old Chester ! though,
really, I did n t come home alone. Mr. Dove
walked back with me."

"Dove?" said Henry Temple. "Oh, Mr.
Tommy? Yes. Well, that was very nice in
the little man. Did n t his mother die last
winter ? Dick, you cub, have you apologized to
your aunt? Janey, while I think of it, just see
that my gun-case is mended, will you? The
baize is torn at one end."

"And, aunty," Dick said penitently, "if
you 11 forgive me this time, I 11 go with you,
as well as for you, next week. It s this beastly
translation; just look at that stuff! Findi-
tur nodus cordis

Miss Jane took off her bonnet, and leaned
over Dick s shoulder. Ever since the days in


which she taught him his A B C s, she had been
impressed by her nephew s learning; but she
did not comment upon it now.

"Yes, she died in January," she said slowly.
"He must be very lonely."

No one answered her; each member of the
family had his or her occupations and interests,
and Miss Jane s pity was as unnoticed as the
fall of a rose-leaf outside in the tranquil night.

The library was such a pleasant room, though
it was dim with cigar smoke that evening, that
it was easy to shut out other people s affairs
and be simply comfortable. The window on
the south side had a broad, leather-cushioned
seat, where Erne Temple was curled up reading
by the light of a hanging lamp. The windows
were open, and the soft June air and the climb
ing roses came in together from the moonlit
night. The walls were lined with books, and in
the corners were racks for fishing-rods; a pair
of spurs had been thrown down upon a table
littered with papers and letters and bits of
unfinished fancy-work. A liver-colored pointer
had fallen asleep beside Mrs. Temple s sofa,
her delicate hand resting lovingly on his sleek
head, and a collie was stretched at the feet of
the master of the house.

Miss Jane felt, vaguely, that this careless
comfort was the reason of the indifference to the


outside world. Mr. Tommy s sorrow could not
touch any one here, and for that reason, per
haps, she kept it in her own heart; and, possj-
bly because the interests of her life were not
her own but other people s, Miss Jane s heart
had room for Mr. Tommy s griefs.

"Really," said Mrs. Temple that night to
her husband, after she had eaten the bowl of
delicate gruel her sister-in-law had brought her,
"really, Janey is a great help; you have no
idea how much, in a small way, she relieves me."

"I ve not a doubt of it," responded Henry
Temple, pausing with his bootjack in one plump
white hand. "Janey hasn t any mind, particu
larly, but she is a very good sort of person to
depend upon. It s lucky she never married."

"Well," said Mrs. Temple doubtfully, "it is
fortunate for us, Henry but perhaps don t
you think that for Janey it is not so pleasant?-
I am almost sorry for Janey. Not but what
she is contented, in your household, she could
not be anything else, but a woman is happier
to be married, my dear."

She smiled at him adoringly. Possibly her
sister-in-law s usefulness had contributed to
Euphemia Temple s view of the happiness of
matrimony ; it had certainly protected her ideal
of her husband, and kept her blind to certain
facts of temper and selfishness, which, if the


housekeeping machinery had not run smoothly,
or his comfort had been interfered with, she
must have learned. "No unmarried woman
knows what happiness is ! " she declared. Her
husband laughed, Mr. Temple s laugh was so
frequent and so cordial that people said he was
the most good-natured fellow in the world.

^"Nonsense," he said, " Jane s happy enough.
What could she want better? A good home, a
chance to travel sometimes, and I m sure we
are all fond of Janey. No, no, she s happy
enough. Besides, she might not have found a
good husband."

And Mrs. Temple assented, with a sigh of
thankfulness for her own blessings.


Miss Jane thought very often of Mr. Tom
my s sorrow. She saw him once or twice in the
village after that walk home from prayer-meet
ing, and she met him again in the west pasture,
where she had gone to look for wild strawberries
for her sister-in-law, a task which could not be
entrusted to the dull eyes of servants, and
Dick was too busy, and Effie did not like the
July sun even as late as five o clock.

Miss Jane had stopped in the pasture to rest
upon a ledge of rock, which, breaking through


the hillside grass and ferns, was grasped by the
roots of a walnut-tree, wrinkled like fingers of
a sinewy hand. She liked to hear the rustle
of the wind in the sage -bush at her side, and
the shrill cry of the crickets. She took off her
hat and smoothed back a lock of her pale brown
hair; then she watched a wandering butterfly
light upon a swinging stalk of mullein, and open
and close his velvety wings. She was wonder
ing, her eyes fixed absently upon the butterfly,
if it would be very long before her brother
opened the old house again, or whether she could
not persuade her sister-in-law to persuade him
to come next summer, this country life was
very dear to Jane Temple, so she did not hear
Mr. Tommy s step, and his voice startled her
when he said timidly, "Good-evening, ma am."
But she was distinctly glad to see him. He
was part of Old Chester to Jane Temple. The
apothecary s arms were full of pennyroyal, and
as he talked he buried his face in it once or
twice, as though its fragrance delighted him,
though really it was only to hide his embar
rassed joy.

"I ve been picking pennyroyal," he said, as
if its aromatic perfume needed any explana
tion; "it grows very thickly on the Common."
Then, a little awkwardly, he pulled out half a
dozen sprays from his bunch, and offered them
to Miss Jane. "Some like it," he observed.


"I do," she answered; and from that it was
easy enough to fall to talking of his garden, and
how dear Old Chester was to Miss Jane, and
how sorry she should be when November came,
and she must leave it "And it may be very
long before we come back again," she ended,
with a sigh.

They were both so interested that they had
not noticed how the shadows had lengthened,
and then faded into the gray, warm dusk; but
when they did, Miss Jane rose nervously.

"Dear me," she said, "how late it is ! I
must make haste."

Tommy stumbled along at her side over the
uneven ground, trying to see the path through
his great bunch of pennyroyal. "Miss Jane,"
he said, a little breathless as he tried to keep
pace with her, "if if you 11 let me, I 11 bring
you a bunch of those gillyflowers I told you

"Why, indeed, I shall be very glad to have
them," she answered. "You are so kind. But
I m afraid it will be a trouble, Mr. Dove."

These little talks with the apothecary had
lent him a new dignity in Miss Jane s eves,
and she no longer called him "Mr. Tommy."

"Why," he protested, "why, it will be the
greatest pleasure in the world, the greatest
pleasure in the world ! "


He walked to Henry Temple s gate with her,
and then stood peering between the iron bars at
her small figure hurrying along the driveway
under the overhanging trees.

Miss Jane was late, and she came breathlessly
into the dining-room, to find the family at tea.

"Well, Janey," said her brother, "we began
to think you were going to spend the night in
the fields ! "

"I am so sorry," she answered, with anxious
contrition. "I really didn t know how late it
was. Have you tried to make the tea, dear
sister? Do let me take your place. I m sure
you are tired, and I m so sorry ! "

"But what happened to you, Janey?" Mr.
Temple asked good-naturedly; he had finished
his curry, and could afford to be interested in
small matters. "I suppose you have brought
home a bushel of strawberries? "

"No, she hasn t ! " cried Effie shrilly, from
her perch on Dick s knee. "She hasn t been
picking strawberries all this time. I went out
to meet her, so I did, an I got to the pasture
bars, an then I did n t go any farther, cause
I saw aunty sitting under the big walnut with
Mr. Tommy Dove, an I don t like that Mr.
Tommy Dove."

"What?" exclaimed Henry Temple, his eyes
full of amusement. "Does the apothecary go

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Online LibraryMargaret Wade Campbell DelandMr. Tommy Dove, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 15)