Maria Thompson Daviess.

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past. I can't help anxiously wondering what they were talking about.
They stopped, and so did we, and of course Tony's Scout eyes landed
right on those twin pins Roxanne and I were wearing; and before I could
stop her Roxanne had told him about the present-luncheon out on the
flat rock to-morrow, and Snider and how I _had_ to spend money. I
thought Tony was going to laugh and joke about it, as his former
conduct would have been; but he got red in the face, shook as I put his
pin into the lapel of his coat and spoke to me as if I were ill and
needed sympathy, like he has been doing for a week. That was upsetting
enough; but when the Idol looked at me with real affection beaming from
his glorious eyes and said:

"Don't I get a jewel, too, Miss Phyllis?" I almost doubled up into a
heap on the pavement, and it was Roxanne who came to my rescue and
held all of them out for him to take his choice. He took the one I
would rather have him take - a beautiful pearl, like my friendship is
for him, shadowed by the moonstone, which is my unworthiness.

I'll go down early in the morning and get another pin for Pink. I wish
Father was here so I could tell him about Mr. Snider and how glad he
was to get the money. "Tainted money" were the words the magazine
used - wouldn't feeding hungry little children take the taint off the
money and the people who gave it? I believe so. I wish I had all
Father's money to give away and he had to work for all we get, at
something like being a lawyer or a doctor. This had been a lovely day,
and I'm thankful for my happiness. Good-night!

* * * * *

Oh, why aren't people more careful about what they say before
children, who can't always understand all that things mean! I will
never forgive myself for bringing this awful thing down on Roxanne and
her family as long as I live, though Mr. Douglass Byrd says it was not
my fault at all. He was the one that called the present for Belle an
explosion, and so put the idea into Lovelace Peyton's mind. Nobody
knows yet just exactly what did happen or how bad his eyes are hurt,
but the light of all the world is going out for me if Lovelace Peyton
is going blind so he never can be the famous doctor he was born to be.

Old Uncle Pompey has been gasping with asthma in the kitchen since
morning, and all he can tell is that Lovelace Peyton had taken some
kerosene out of the can on the back porch, be thought to just mix with
onions and other things he often uses to make medicines. Suddenly he
heard an explosion in the back yard and ran out to find Lovelace
Peyton's face all burned and him insensible. When Roxanne got to him
he just moaned that he was making an explosion for me, and then the
doctor gave him something to keep him from suffering with the burn
while he dressed it. They can't tell about the eyes as yet.

[Illustration: He just moaned that he was making an explosion]

Miss Prissy is with Roxanne, and they won't let me stay all night, so
I had to come home. Roxanne just won't believe that he won't get all
right, neither will Mr. Douglass Byrd. He was lovelier than ever to
me, but with that same kind of flavor in his kindness that he and Tony
both had yesterday. What can they be pitying me about?

Father has been away a week and I am so sorry. I have just written to
him about the accident, and I know he will be distressed, for he was
as fond of Lovelace as of anybody he knew. I believe he'll come right

How can I go to sleep and wait until morning to know if those lovely,
blue, little-boy eyes will never look up at me again? What can I do to
ease this awful anxiety? As if I didn't know what to do when I have
heard so often about a Person who watches every sparrow's flight.


These few days have been the most wonderful I have ever spent in all
my life, the saddest and the most deeply happy. When a person's
friends are in trouble, it is one time you can let your heart go its
own pace no matter where it carries you, and for once I have had my
way about pouring out my affection on the Byrds.

Lovelace Peyton is not going to die from his dreadful burns, the
doctors say; but as yet they can't tell about his eyes. They don't
dare remove the bandages, and whether or not he can see cannot be
decided for a week or more. He has to stay in a dark room and be very
quiet, and it is like trying to prove that impossible is possible to
persuade him into lying in his bed in Roxanne's room, while we exert
ourselves to the point of desperation to keep him happy and amused.

Since the accident Roxanne and I have just ignored the Byrd ancestors,
and I bring whatever I choose across the garden into the cottage to
Lovelace Peyton. In the first place, he wouldn't eat without me, and
kept asking for things I had given him to eat; so I had to tell
Roxanne about my dishonesty in feeding him like I had been doing, and
she was so glad that he was fat and in good condition to stand the
strain of his accident that she forgave me with her arms around my

I wish I could put down in black and white between your brown covers,
leather Louise, how happy it makes me to sit by that squirming,
bandaged little boy, and feed him out of one of his thin ancestral
spoons. Not one thing will he eat without me. I believe he knows how
happy it makes me, and frets for me just for that special reason. That
and the fact that he expects things of me made me think up the idea
that has helped us through the awfulness of the days that we had to
keep him quiet.

Lovelace Peyton is not like the little boy to whom you can tell
stories about bears and Little Red Ridinghood and Goldilocks in
ordinary form. He'll listen to it a few minutes, and then when you
come to the point where the grandmother is ill for Little Red
Ridinghood to go and visit, he stops and wants to know exactly what
was the matter with her; and if you say you don't know, he turns over
on his pillow and won't listen to the rest of it.

"Why don't folks write in books what diseases other folks have got,
Phyllie?" he asked fretfully when I told him about Tiny Tim and the
"Christmas Carol." "Do you reckon that little boy had rheumatiz and
didn't know any plaster for it?"

I am really reverently thankful for the idea that popped into my
sorely troubled head at that moment. Roxanne had gone out to walk in
the garden for a little rest, for she has had to talk to him most of
the night and describe over and over what the burn on his arm looked
like when the doctor dressed it. I was with him by myself for a few
minutes when I found the treasure of an idea.

"Lovelace Peyton," I said, with excitement in my voice more than the
doctor would have approved of, "would you like me to get a real
doctor's book and read you about each disease as it comes in the book
and just what the doctors use to cure it with?"

"Phyllie," he said, sitting up in bed and waving the poor bandaged
hand with delight shining from under the bandage above his eyes, "you
go a running and git that book as fast as you kin. I will promise to
lie right still and listen all day and all night forever. Hurry!"

I called Miss Priscilla to come quick as I saw her turning in the
gate, and I took my hat and started down-town for the only bookstore
in Byrdsville, which is kept in the post-office by the post-master. If
I couldn't find a book about diseases there, I was determined to go
and beg or borrow or steal one from the doctor himself. But I found
the very one I wanted. It was called "First Aid in the Family," and it
described more accidents and diseases than it seemed possible for
mortal man to have. It was a large book and I was glad it cost five
dollars. The post-master said a man had left it there for him to sell
six months ago, and that it cost too much for most of the people in
Byrdsville to doctor by. He offered to send it as soon as his boy came
back, but I was in too much of a hurry to get back to Lovelace Peyton
to wait, so I took it in my arms and started home with it.

On the way I met Helena Kirby walking down-town with the Petway boy,
and they looked right into my face and passed me without speaking. It
might have been because I was carrying the big book, but I didn't know
Helena was that proud. It hurts me for people to treat me that way
without any reason but just dislike for me and perhaps because they
think it wicked about Father's money.

Just a little farther along I met Tony, and he took the book to carry
for me, and I told him about Helena and the Petway boy looking at me
and not offering to speak to me. Tony got red up to the roots of his
hair, being mad, and looked like he would just as soon as not eat them
both alive.

"Now, see here, Phyllis," he spluttered, "don't you pay one bit of
attention to what a pair of jolly idiots like those two do or say. You
are all right and we all know it. No matter what happens, we're for
you. See?"

"Thank you, Tony," I said gratefully, but I didn't "see," and I was so
puzzled over that "no matter what happens" that I felt weak in my

In a few minutes still worse happened. Belle and Mamie Sue saw us, and
Belle forcibly crossed Mamie Sue over and went down the side street
just to keep from meeting us - that was as plain as day. Tony got still
redder and talked fast about Lovelace Peyton to keep from seeming to
notice the way the girls had acted toward us. I held up my head and
did likewise.

Something awful has happened to me or about me in this town and I
don't know what; but it is my duty to put it all out of my mind now
and give my thoughts and cheerfulness to Roxanne and Lovelace Peyton,
while they need me so much. I have made up my mind to forget it.

And it was fun to read to the prostrated medicine-man out of that book
as I did all afternoon. I began with abscesses and got almost as far
as aneurism before the sun began to set. I never saw anybody enjoy
anything as much as Lovelace Peyton did each disease as I read about
it; and the more bloodcurdling the description of the suffering and
more awful the treatment, the more it interested him.

"I bet if I ever get a good sharp knife, I could stick it right in the
pain place in Uncle Pompey's heel so it would bleed all the sore
away," he said with keen enjoyment, as I read to him about the lancing
of carbuncles.

"Oh, Lovey, I almost get the diseases while Phyllis reads about them,"
said Roxanne with a shudder. "Do you like to hear about such awful

"Yes, I do," answered Lovelace Peyton decidedly. "And I wisht you
would get every one of the diseases in that book, Rosy, so I could
cure you like Phyllis reads - and Uncle Pompey and Doug, too. Only not
Phyllis, 'cause I need her to read the cure to me, while I do it."

While we were all laughing at Lovelace Peyton and talking about the
operations he is going to perform on the inhabitants of Byrdsville as
soon as he gets grown, and deciding what each one is going to have,
the Idol came in and stayed with us until the soft gray twilight began
to come in the windows. He was so lovely and interesting that it was
quite dark when I remembered that I must go home. Then he walked over
through the garden with me, and out there under the stars he told me
what the doctor had told him in the afternoon. Old Dr. Hughes is
afraid to experiment with Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and says that a
specialist must come from Cincinnati to examine them when they take
off the bandages next week. Mr. Douglass has written to the doctor to
see what it will cost, and he doesn't want Roxanne to know about it
until he hears whether the doctor will come and give him time to pay
for it.

"Oh, I don't believe the bug-hunter is going to have any trouble with
seeing all right again and we'll get the big doctor down here to see
him some way or other. Don't you worry, Miss Phyllis; I just told you
because you are the best friend of all concerned, and I couldn't do
anything without consulting you. See?" he asked, in the same
protecting tone of voice that Tony had used in the afternoon when
Belle and Mamie Sue did me that way.

After I was undressed I felt that I just must go into my mother's room
for a minute; and I begged so hard that the night nurse who is a very
kind lady, let me creep in for just a few seconds. I have got a theory
about Mother and myself. I believe she knows when I am in the room,
even if she can't show it by moving or even opening her eyes, and it
is a comfort to her and me both to have me come and kneel at the foot
of her bed well out of sight. I did get comforted to-night, too, and
the thought that did it was this. If Father and I don't do as well as
other people in the world, and get rich and do things that we ought
not to, we have not had her to direct and control and comfort us like
she would have done if she could; and no wonder we have strayed. A
motherless girl and a wifeless man ought not to be judged in the same
way other people are. I feel better now, and I'm leaving it all to
God, who understands such situations as mine and Father's. Good-night,
leather friend.

* * * * *

Somewhere back on your pages, Louise, I wrote that I was going to be
thankful for the happiness and friends that I had, no matter what
happened, and I am. It has happened. I am the lonely little child that
got a peep through the high, barred gate into the garden where other
children were playing in the sunshine, and then was put out into the
dark street again. I ought not to say that, though, when I have got
Mr. Douglass Byrd for a star in my darkness, as he has made himself by
the way he has treated me.

I am glad I stopped by on my way to school this morning to see Roxanne
and Lovelace Peyton while I was their light-hearted companion still:
now I am a woman of sorrows and disgrace. Also, I am glad, if the blow
had to be dealt me, it was Belle who did it, and not Mamie Sue nor one
of the two Willises, nor anybody else. I have always had a strange
feeling about that bracelet with the red set, anyway, and I am not
surprised that she struck me with it.

"Miss Forsythe," she said, as she held it out to me all wrapped up in
tissue paper and tied with a blood red string, "I will have to return
your present to you, with thanks. I cannot keep a bracelet given me by
a girl whose father would go like a chicken thief and rob a neighbor's
shed of a valuable thing like an invention. Please excuse me!"

For a minute I stood struck dumb, and watched Belle's pink gingham
skirt switch as she walked through the door of the school-room. They
had all the lunch spread on the flat rock, and I thought were waiting
for me while I put my desk in order just after the bell rang. And even
while I watched Belle I was conscious of Mamie Sue's fat expression of
distress as she paused with a biscuit spread with jam half-way to her
mouth. The Willis girls looked struck even dumber than usual, and as
if they didn't know what to do. I didn't give them a chance to decide
on anything. I picked up my hat from the ground and walked out the
gate with my head as high, as if my honor had not been laid low.

I was walking just as fast as I could past the cottage, hoping that
nobody would see me before I got here to my room to realize my agony
myself, when Roxanne ran out of the door to catch me at the gate.

"Oh, Phyllis, don't look like that," she exclaimed as she drew me
through the gate and behind the big lilac bush that is full of purple
blooms. "It doesn't make one bit of difference to me, and I love you
just the same. Who told you?"

"Belle," I answered, trying to keep my face and voice steady. "Who
found it out, Roxanne?"

"Oh, Tony scouted it all out, though he didn't mean to. It was that
awful smelly bottle Lovey gave your father. Tony smelled it talking to
Mr. Forsythe at the gate and then again in the shed. He couldn't
connect them at first; but after a while he remembered, and then he
began to suspect something awful - he oughtn't to have done it, but he
did. He followed your father and Mr. Rogers out to the furnaces one
night and - saw Mr. Rogers explain it to your father. Then Mr. Forsythe
went away the next morning and Douglass began to watch Mr. Rogers, and
just three days after that he found him out at the furnace at night
with a workman getting some of the ovens ready to try the experiments.
He couldn't do a thing, and had to let them take his discovery and do
as they wanted to. Oh, truly Phyllis, it doesn't make a bit of
difference in our love for you."

"How did Belle find it out, and why should they think Father is
dishonest - even if Rogers is?" I asked, still as cold as ice though my
head seemed to be on fire.

"That is what is nearly killing Tony," answered Roxanne, with a sob
beginning to come in her voice; but she still held on to me tight, as
stiff as I was. "He and Douglass have known it for a week, and they
never wanted anybody else to know about it on your account. Douglass
says he would rather give up ten fortunes than hurt such a friend as
you have been to us, but Tony let the secret get out by accident, and
now all the town knows it. Judge Luttrell is getting out an
injunction, even if Douglass won't sign it, and the Colonel is getting
ready to go on the next train to find your father and - and remonstrate
with him, he says."

"Tony didn't tell Belle about it on purpose, did he?" I asked to be
sure. "I couldn't have stood that."

"Oh, no, it was Mamie Sue that found out part, and told Belle, without
knowing she had done it, just yesterday. Mamie Sue says she wishes she
never had any eyes or ears or anything to taste with, then maybe she
would never get into trouble. It is all on account of people thinking
she is more stupid than she is. Tony told Douglass right before her,
on the street while she was giving both of them some of that fudge she
had made to bring Lovelace Peyton, that Mr. Rogers had been in the
telegraph office and had telegraphed your father that the experiment
night before last was a success. Tony is ambitious as a Scout should
always be and has learned to read the ticking of the telegraph.

"'Anyway, Doug, it's a cinch that you have made one of the greatest
practical inventions of the day,' Tony said, forgetting Mamie Sue
entirely and so did Douglass, as he answered:

"'That's true, Raccoon, and if the fortune is another man's by
robbery, the brains are mine. I'll get my share yet. Wait until this
new idea gets into shape.'"

And then Roxanne went on to say that Mamie Sue said they hardly
remembered her enough to politely thank her for the fudge, as they
walked away talking. She went on down to Belle's; and when Belle began
to say that Tony was stupid because he couldn't read his Cicero,
Friday, she tried to defend him by telling how he can read telegraphy
even if he can't read Latin.

Belle was mean enough to get it all from Mamie Sue without Mamie Sue
suspecting that she was telling anything that would hurt me; and Belle
told Helena and Helena told the ladylike Petway, who told his father,
who told Judge Luttrell before night. The Judge sent for the Idol
before breakfast this morning and told him that he was an idiot to let
such a thing be stolen and he is beginning all kinds of prosecutions
and things against Father, though my noble hearted friend won't sign
them on account of his esteem for me. And, of course, the whole town
knows of it and is excited. It is not astonishing that Byrdsville is
wild to find out that it has reared a great inventor, only to have his
first fruits stolen. I feel with Byrdsville, even if they feel against
me. Some of this Roxanne told me and some of it is my own surmise that
came to me as we stood behind that old lilac bush.

"I don't believe it, but if it is true, you won't let your father's
having done my brother that way make any difference in the way you
love us, Lovey and Douglass and me, will you, Phyllis? We just need
you that much more to help us through with the starving and freezing
for the new invention that we are going to take better care of."
Through all my misery I ask myself if any girl in the whole wide world
ever had a friend like Roxanne Byrd?

And as if having Roxanne hold me in both arms and love me beyond my
wildest expectations was not enough, what should happen to me? The
Idol came around the bush full of blooms where we stood, and did
likewise. He put his long arms around Roxanne and me and hugged us
both up like we were not any bigger than Lovelace Peyton.

"You two precious kiddies are not to pay any attention to disagreeable
things that are not any of your business," he said in his wonderful
voice that was as big and booming and comforting as any anthem sung in
church where a sinner goes for help. That's what it sounded like to

"That's what I tell Phyllis, Douglass - she's more valuable than the
loss of any kind of a big fortune, that we really don't need at all to
make us happy, while we do need her." Roxanne was laughing and crying
and hugging me so that she got herself mixed in her words in a
perfectly beautiful and loving way.

I am glad that my affection for these kind friends inspired me so that
I could answer them like I wanted to - at least I tried so hard to say
how I felt that I almost succeeded.

"You are both the best friends that were ever created for a lonely
girl," I answered, drawing out of both pairs of arms, and looking them
both square in the face. "But I am my father's daughter and must
suffer for his sins, if he has them. If he has done this dreadful
thing, which I don't believe, then I don't deserve your friendliness,
and I can't take what it is not right for me to have. I'm going home
and stay there until he comes, and then if he can't explain and has to
pay any penalty I'm going to do it with him."

"Oh, Phyllis, and what will Lovey do without you?" Roxanne begged,
using the strongest thing she could have said to me when I thought of
the little blind boy that wanted and needed me so badly.

"You will punish him and us for something we can't help," the Idol
said to me with reproach in his eyes and voice that nearly killed me.

"You both have had your kind of pride about taking gifts from me ever
since I have known you," I answered, looking them full in the eyes,
"and you have taught me what the word means. I could take things to
eat and wear from you, but my kind of pride won't let me take your
friendship when you think my father has treated you like this.
Good-by! I can't stay any longer to be tortured." And with that I
turned and walked away from them both, forever, I am afraid.

It isn't true, it can't be! But if it is? One thing I have made up my
mind to do: I am going to ask Father, if it is all true, to let me go
away from Byrdsville. I can't stay here; it will be too empty a life
for me to watch them living with me out of it. I hope he will go and
take Mother too. Judge Luttrell may prosecute him so he will have to.

Is this the end of the life that bloomed out in me like the apple
blossoms do on the bare trees, only to be shattered? No! I hope I will
bear fruit from having had so much happiness, like the apple-trees do
from their blooms, and I'm going to try.

* * * * *

Just here I laid down Louise and went to see what I could see going on
down at the cottage before dark. And there was old Uncle Pompey
hanging over our garden wall smoking his pipe and just crying into his
funny red bandanna handkerchief. Something tells me that he is going
to miss me very much also. I am thankful for the love of this old
negro, which I am sure is just the same quality as if he were white.

I think if I could just steal in for one minute and look at Lovelace
Peyton's little bandaged head it would make the pain in my heart
easier for having to give him up, but even that I can't do. I've found
how strong pride is as well as bitter.


Of course, I know that there are many strange things in life that seem
to contradict each other and themselves in a very puzzling manner, but
my disgrace has turned out in a way that nobody could have made me
believe, if they had told it to me in dictionary words of six
syllables. I am being befriended and honored by the whole of
Byrdsville, and I don't know what to make of it. My mind refuses to
explain it and my heart is just going on rejoicing over it, as I have
not been able to think up any reason why it shouldn't.

Everybody now knows about the steel process that their distinguished
citizen, Mr. Douglass Byrd, invented; and they all believe that Father
has had it stolen and has left Byrdsville for some place where Colonel

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Online LibraryMaria Thompson DaviessPhyllis → online text (page 7 of 11)