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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

"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

"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

[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,

"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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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

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

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

"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

"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

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


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

"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

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

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

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Online LibraryMaria Thompson DaviessPhyllis → online text (page 4 of 11)