Maria Thompson Daviess.

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