Maria Thompson Daviess.

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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

"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

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.


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.


"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

"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

"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

"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

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Online LibraryMaria Thompson DaviessPhyllis → online text (page 10 of 11)