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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


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