Maria Thompson Daviess.

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Stockell can't find him, but they are none of them mad at me about it.
Of course, a load of sympathy can be as heavy to bear as one of
disgrace; and when you have both the two to stagger under, you may
wobble some in your conduct, as I have done these last two days.
First, though my reason is convinced about Father, there is something
in me that just won't believe it, and that keeps making me hope, and
be passive in life, until he comes. I say nothing about it to anybody,
because the proof is too great against him, and I suppose it is really
more daughterly love than hope. Anyway, it is a precious feeling to

But one thing that troubles me is the way one friend's sorrow can
throw its shadow over the lives of many others. It troubles me that
Tony and Roxanne and the Colonel and some of the others are distressed
about me, especially Tony. He came to see me the morning after Belle
had told me all about his scouting out the secret; and if it hadn't
been such an occasion I would have had to laugh at the collapsed way
he looked, like he would fall to pieces if you touched him even very
gently. His grin was so entirely gone that his mouth looked only the
size of an ordinary human being's, and his eyes were shut down so
dolefully that they were funnier than ever.

"Go on, Bubble, and shake me," he said, with a comical sadness that
was hard to bear with proper respect. "Play I'm a doormat if you want
to, but I cross my heart and body I didn't mean to hurt you by letting
my mouth overwork at the wrong time. The Dumpling is just a sponge
that sops up any old thing and lets any old body squeeze it out of
her. Please say you forgive me."

"Why, Tony," I said with difficult but becoming gravity, "don't you
know that I know that you didn't mean to do anything to hurt me?" I
couldn't bring myself to mention Father or the shameful circumstances
and I hoped he wouldn't, either.

Tony is not a mere boy; he is a kind gentleman, also, and he ignored
the subject we were discussing just as carefully as I did.

"Good for you, girliky, and I hope you fully realize that this little
old burg of Byrdsville is all for you and anxious to hop rig-lit into
your pocket," he said most picturesquely, with relief at my not being
hurt at him beginning to pull the corners of his mouth into the grin
that he had put away as not suitable for the occasion.

A person who has the smile habit fixed on his face is a very valuable
friend, and I was glad to see Tony put on his grin again. There were
two or three questions I wanted to ask him when he was in his normal
condition, and I was just going to consult him about whether it
wouldn't be easier for the other girls and boys for me not to go to
school - anyway until they found Father and his innocence, or knew the
worst about the prosecution and other punishments that would be given
him; but before I could get the words arranged in my mind to say just
what I wanted to say, he began on something like the same subject

"See here, Phyllis, Roxy told me that you hadn't been in to jolly the
bug-grubber to-day at all, and the poor little bubble is worried about
what she thinks is going to be a grouch in your system," he said,
looking at me with so much confidence in my good disposition shining
in his face, that it was painful to try to make him understand just
how the pride disease I had caught from the Byrds was affecting me.

"Indeed you know, Tony, that it is not because I don't love Roxanne
and Lovelace Peyton that I haven't been there this morning; but I just
don't think it is right for me to be taking their friendship and love
when everybody thinks my own father has injured them, as he has not.
It is right for me to suffer for what they think he has done, until we
know better, and my pride won't let me take any more of their
affection when I may not deserve it." I looked away while I was
talking to Tony, for I hated to see the shock fade the grin. I also
hated to bring up the subject we were ignoring.

"Oh, fudge and fiddlesticks, Phyllis, don't let any old sour idea like
that ball up your naturally sweet temper. You and Roxy are just women
folks and had better keep out of men's business, like this wrangle
between Doug and Mr. Forsythe. Trot along and do your stocking-darning
and pie-fixing together as per usual schedule. And as to this
mix-up - forget it!"

"I know, Tony, that Roxanne and I are just children - and what is
worse, just girls - but I have to do what I think is honorable under
these circumstances; and taking friendliness from Roxanne now would be
just charity - I can't do it." As I spoke I felt my head straighten
itself after the manner of the grandmother portrait, just as if I had
been born a Byrd.

"Now, who would have thought that you could 'throw a crank' like that,
Phyllis - a girl who could brace another girl as hefty as Roxy upon her
shoulder to save the whole town and Dr. Snakes from being dynamited?
I'm disappointed in you."

"Why, how did you know about that explosion that Lovelace Peyton
almost blew us all into pieces with?" I asked with astonishment.

"Roxy sniffled it all to me this morning when she was pouring out her
trouble because you hadn't been over to cheer up the bugger to-day.
She told Pink and Sam and Belle and the Sponge and me all about it,
and I can tell you we thrilled some. By acclamation we have elected
you to lead the Kitten Patrol of the Campfire that we Scouts have been
talking about helping you bubbles set up for a month. We have already
decided to put you in command of the girls, because we can then expect
some real good stand-bying in case of Scout trouble or excitement. We
meet in the Crotch to-night to decide all the details." Tony's eyes
were shining and flaring and his red hair standing straight up in his
friendly excitement.

Honors are mighty apt to shock a person when they come unexpectedly,
and I don't believe expected ones bring half the joy that the surprise
ones do. I feel humble to think that in less than a year the boys and
girls of a place like Byrdsville have found me worthy of the
leadership of such a sacred thing as a Girl Scout company will be.
For, of course, of all the things that boys ever were in the world,
nothing is so wonderful as being Scouts like so many hundreds and
hundreds have been made all over the United States in the last three
years. And when the Boy Scouts do all the noble things in the noble
way they do, what will be expected of the girls, now that they are
being let Into the organization? The boys have to pledge themselves to
be clean and honorable and kind and just and charitable and brave; so,
of course, the girls will have to be all that and still more. Could I?

I sat still and thought for a long time, and Tony, with his knowledge
of girls, let me do it. Could I? Could a girl with a father that might
have done the thing that my father is suspected of having done to a
fellow-man, promise to be all or any of those things? How would she
know that some little thing in her, like her father, wouldn't come up,
just at the time when she was being depended on, to make her fail?
This distinction was not for me!

"Tony," I said quietly, and I didn't let the tremble in my heart get
into my voice at all, "whatever happens to me in my life I can't ever
forget that you offered to make me the leader of the Campfire, but - I
can't be it. Please don't make me say any more about it. I can't."

Tony understood. "Not a word more on the subject, Bubble; but I do
want to say that you are one fine - "

But just here we were interrupted by Mamie Sue coming lumbering across
the wall from the Byrd cottage, for Tony and I had been sitting on a
bench out under the blooming peach-tree arbor. She sat pretty close to
me and gave me a nice, good, fat-armed hug as she offered me a paper

"Have some fudge, Phyllis," was all she said; but I saw Belle walking
down the street with her head in the air and her skirts switching like
Helena's and I knew that Mamie Sue had come through a hard fight to be
friends with me. I can't say how I appreciated it, and I love Mamie
Sue. Maybe she is not very smart, but a person that always has
sweetness of disposition and in paper bags to offer a friend in
trouble ought to be appreciated. And just as I had got hold of her
nice big right arm to return the hug, around the other side of the
house came Pink and Sam, with Miss Priscilla in between them.

"Phyllis dear," said Miss Prissy, as all of us got up to give her a
seat, though she only took Tony's and part of mine, while the boys sat
on the grass, "the boys are telling me about the Girl Scout ideas. I
think it is naughty of them to say they are going to name you the
Kitten Patrol, especially as your rescue of Lovey Byrd is more than
likely to give you a life-saving medal to start with, as soon as the
Colonel writes to New York about it."

"A medal - a - a medal like Tony's?" I gasped, as my heart stood still
in awe of my own act.

"Why, of course, Bubble, you will get a medal," said Tony, with the
delight that some boys might not have shown at the idea of a girl's
getting up to the same height of distinction that they had attained.
"Now, will you be good and be the leader of the Kittens?"

"Say, Phyllis, when you raised Roxy from the ground, did you use the
other muscles of your body or depend a lot on the shoulder lift?" Sam
is not so big and strong as the other boys and consequently has the
greatest regard for the strength that he hasn't got.

I could only say that I didn't know what I had lifted Roxanne up to
catch the bottle with - except prayers.

And while they all sat there in my garden and talked with Miss
Priscilla about what she should get the Colonel to write to
headquarters about me and about the dynamite and the steel and
everything that was indirectly related to my disgrace, I sat quiet and
prayed for some sort of strength to tell them that I maybe couldn't be
a Scout, and couldn't have a medal and was hoping to move away from
them to some other place to live, just as I had learned to like them
better than I had dreamed one could like friends.

These boys and girls, including Miss Priscilla, haven't been used to
having things happen to them to distress them, and they are so
warm-hearted and sympathetic that it makes it hard to say a thing to
them that would hurt them. But I couldn't, couldn't go on being a
public and distinguished character, if my father were going to be a
public character of another kind. If people should say, "How his life
must mortify his poor daughter, noble girl, with a medal and friends
and things!" that would just put me on the other side of the fence
from my own parent, who needs me more than ever, if he is sinful. He
isn't, but what right have I to bask in public favor while he is in
outer darkness?

Then just as I was going to decline to be a member of the Campfire and
beg them all not to mention it to me any more, and try not to worry
over me but to just forget about me, something so horrible came over
the wall, in the shape of the news that Mr. Douglass Byrd brought,
that I and they forgot all about the Scouts and Kittens and medals and
all that. The Idol was pale and quiet as he walked up the path to us,
after skimming over the wall with one hand on it in a way that made
Sam gasp with admiration. He looked past Miss Priscilla and the rest
of his old friends of inherited generations in Byrdsville and straight
at me, his new - but adoring - one.

"Miss Phyllis," he said, with such sadness in his voice that Mamie Sue
gulped over a piece of fudge worse than usual, "Dr. Hughes has just
examined Lovey's eyes and it has hurt him very much - also he thinks
the sight has gone. The youngster is crying and fretting for you and
they don't want him to do that under any circumstances. The only hope
for his sight will be for him not to inflame his eyes. Will you come?"

Would I go - would I go across the dead body of my father's honor and
my own and anybody's disgraces and any other old thing? I went so
quickly that I upset Mamie Sue on the one side and Miss Priscilla
almost on the other, and I didn't even wait to answer the Idol in the
reverent and respectful manner that is always his due and that I
always observe. Down that garden path I flew and over that wall I
skimmed, like a bird with wings, or like the Idol himself, and in so
little a time that I didn't even realize the journey, I was in
Roxanne's room with her in one of my arms and Lovelace Peyton squeezed
up in the other.

Roxanne choked her sobs down in my neck and I choked mine down in my
heart as the little doctor kicked one fat little knee out from under
the cover and began to squeal like a queer kind of pig as one of his
arms went around and around.

"That's the way I cried when that old Dr. Hughes hurt my eyes to make
'em well, Phyllie, and you wasn't here to see him do it and tell me
how red they looked and if they had got any blue around the edges like
a carbuncle. Roxy can't tell disease like you kin, and now you was
away from 'em and didn't see the nice ones I have got in both eyes."

The reproach in his voice was so funny and yet so sad that Roxanne and
I both choked still more and held on to each other tight. I just
simply couldn't say a word, and I was again made ashamed by that
unruly lump in my throat that never seems to come unless something is
the matter with the Byrds.

"I'm hungry, too, for some of the nice sweet charlock rookster that
your cook makes me and I eats in the afternoon, right now. I waked up
in the night and wanted it and you, too, Phyllie, and I wouldn't have
old Doug or Roxy, neither. Now, it is always night time and Roxy
wouldn't go and call you. Won't you stay with me always and read me
about smallpox like you promised?

"Always night now!" Again Roxanne and I hugged and choked, but this
time I had to conquer the lump and answer him.

"Indeed, indeed, Lovelace Peyton, I'm never going to leave you any
more, only to go and get the things you want. Can't I go and get the
charlotte russe for you now?"

"No, Phyllie," he exclaimed, grasping with his strong little fingers
my hand that lay on his pillow. "I wants smallpox now worser than I do
charlocks. Then Tony can come and let me tie bandages around his leg
while you go git the rookster and maybe some nice cake and oranges and
candy. No; Dumpie bringed me candy. You git more rags to tie up folks
with. I want to fix Doug's head good 'fore he goes to bed. But read
the smallpoxes right away. Begin where they throws up."

Roxanne got the book while I drew a chair by the bed and sat down to
it, with gratitude drying the tears in my heart, for being forced into
forgetting my pride and coming back to them again. Roxanne sat by me
and held my left hand until we got to the worst part of the smallpox,
and then she got pale around the mouth and went out of the room.

"Read the sickest part again, Phyllie, and then turn and read the
medicine for it," he had just demanded when she fled.

And for the rest of the afternoon I sat by him and went through all
the different stages of smallpox until, feeling each one acutely as I
did, it is a wonder I was not pock-marked. When he fell asleep at last
he was holding fast to one of my hands for fear I would get away with
the precious book.

When I could slip his fingers from mine, I tried to steal tiptoe
through the hall so as not to wake Roxanne, who was lying asleep, I
hoped, on the sofa in the hall, but she opened her great, troubled,
dark eyes and saw me before I got to the door.

"Oh, Phyllis," she said and held out her arms to me. Somehow it seems
to me I have learned very quickly how to take a person I love in my
arms without awkwardness - that is for a girl who never had anybody to
take before - and I sat down and snuggled Roxanne in a manner
comfortable to us both. "Do you think it is possible that Lovey is
going to be - be blind?" she asked me in a small voice that could
hardly dare utter the horrible words.

"I came in such a hurry when Mr. Douglass Byrd called me that I didn't
quite understand what Dr. Hughes said or found," I answered.

"When he took the bandages off, Lovey didn't seem to see at all, but
the lids are still so swollen that he is not sure they are closed. I
don't believe he knows what to do, Phyllis, and that is what scares
me. But is there any great thing a blind man can do except be a
musician? Lovey can't sing much."

I verily believe that Roxanne Byrd would have gone on and planned some
kind of a career of blind genius for Lovelace Peyton while waiting to
see if he was to lose his eyes, if the Idol hadn't come into the hall
at that moment.

He moved Roxanne over and sat down between us and began to talk
seriously to us, like I was a valued member of the Byrd family.

"I have just had a long talk with Dr. Hughes, and he says that
Lovelace Peyton will have to have a specialist examine his eyes and
direct the treatment, if the sight is to be saved. We will have to
think up a plan to get a great doctor from Cincinnati down to
Byrdsville, Tennessee."

"But it will cost so much and where - ?" Roxanne stopped quickly for
fear of hurting the Idol's feelings and not from my presence. One of
the great things about the Byrds is that they can forget riches in
such a way as not even to know or realize that they haven't them.

"We'll get it," answered the Idol with his heroic look, the like of
which I do not believe a man ever owned before. "Things are going to
go straight, now that Miss Phyllis has got the bugger all happy with
the medical course again. What would all of us do without her?" He
stood up to light his pipe and his fingers trembled.

Anybody else but a great man, born of a great family like the Byrds,
would have hurt my feelings by saying apologetic things about the
tragedy between us, but the Idol just ignored it and I was made one of
them again in their trouble. Suddenly something popped into my mind
that I could do to get the money for them to save Lovelace Peyton's
eyes and not hurt the family pride. There is no doubt about it, when a
girl gets so she can ask God to help her and think at the same time,
she can find an inspiration when she needs it. I may be in trouble and
disgraced, but I've got Him on my side, and I can yet do things when
my friends have such dire needs as a doctor. I am afraid to write it
even to you, leather Louise.

Suddenly I stood up beside Mr. Douglass, and looked down at Roxanne,
and then up at him.

"Do both of you trust me enough to let me try to help if I do it with
my own brains and not - not my father's money?" I asked.

For a moment they both looked at me, and then the Idol took my hand in
his and looked me in the eyes just as square as I looked at him.

"Yes," he said in a voice that grows more wonderful the more you love
and know him, "you are one of us and you can plan with us all you are
able to."

"Yes, Phyllis; you have never offered or asked us to do anything we
ought not to, and if you can think with us I know it will help,"
Roxanne said, looking up at me trustfully.

Again I make record, Louise, that my course with the Byrd family pride
has conquered it, even if I did display symptoms of it myself by
staying away from the cottage so long. I'm in a very queer position. I
have not made everybody understand that I can't be a Girl Scout and I
am a dishonored person in Byrdsville, with all sorts of distinctions
offered me. But this scheme I have thought up to get the doctor here
has made me hold my breath so that I can hardly write, and I can't
worry over honors and medals and things. I will do it! I will!


Some people are so afflicted with energy that their days are
twenty-five and a half hours long. Mine are twenty-six just now. If it
were not for the fact that several hours each day I am under the
influence of Roxanne's repose, I suspect I would run down like a clock
that has exhausted its mainspring. Mamie Sue says that Belle says
Roxanne is shiftless, but Belle is unable to distinguish shiftlessness
from noble composure under difficulties. I told Mamie Sue that it
would be best for her to forget all that Belle has ever said to her;
and she is trying.

Still, though I understand it perfectly, it is positively queer to
hear Roxanne talk about what the great doctor is going to do for
Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and they haven't done one thing about getting
him here from Cincinnati. The Idol has gone back to the obscurity of
the shed, and I suppose he is making up some plan about the doctor,
while he is working with his furnaces and retorts and things, but he
hasn't told one yet, and it is two whole days. I do hope and pray that
my plan will succeed without his having to bother with a common thing
like money.

I have had to go to school these two days and then I have to study
medicine with Lovelace Peyton almost all of every afternoon, so I
haven't much time; but I think by to-morrow night I will have told
about a thousand dollars' worth of things about my father and I can
send it all off to Cousin Gilmore Lewis. The time the butler in our
North Shore cottage, summer before last, told the newspapers so many
things about the way Father and his family lived, he got three hundred
dollars for it; so it does seem that if his own daughter told almost a
whole small book about Father it would be worth at least a thousand
dollars to a big magazine that prints things about everything in the

I heard Cousin Gilmore tell Father last spring that it wouldn't be
long before he got to him in his magazine, and I have two reasons for
wanting to beat the one who is going to write Father up. One is that I
need the money for Lovelace Peyton's eyes, and the other is that
before all this comes out about Father and the stolen steel patent, I
want to write about him like he might be, and ignore what the world
may consider him. I want to tell about him like I feel toward him and
not like I know people will think he is. If the weekly comes out every
week, they ought to print what I say about a week from Saturday, and
maybe it will take Judge Luttrell that long to get his prosecution
ready. The Judge doesn't work much harder than others in Byrdsville,
and I can trust him to be slow. Of course, I couldn't write a thousand
dollars' worth of things about just Father himself, but I am telling
all about Byrdsville, which is his present home, and how distinguished
and beloved he is in it.

A lot I have written I have just copied down from you, Louise - who are
a better friend than I knew when I bought you - such as the
descriptions of the apple-trees and landscape and Father's charity to
Mr. and Mrs. Satterwhite. It filled up two pages just to mention the
things he gave them, and it was a page more when I told a few of the
grateful things they said to me. I left myself out and had them say
the things right to him. What his generosity in the matter of buying
jewelry from Mr. Snider did for the seven children - with just three of
the names mentioned, because I think Sally Geraldine, Judy Claudia,
and Tom Roderick are interesting as names - made more than a page more.

I wrote until nearly twelve o'clock last night about the Byrds and
their family history and how wonderful it is for Father to have made
such friends as they are. I just described the Idol as he really is
and told what a great inventor he is without dwelling on what he
invented, because that will be published when Judge Luttrell gets out
the injunction.

I mentioned Lovelace Peyton's accident in detail, because some day
when he is a world-famous surgeon a good account of it will be
valuable. That took up fourteen pages. I am going to send that kodak
picture Tony took of Roxanne, with a good description of her to be
printed under it.

Nobody could really give a good history of the Byrd cottage without at
least a half dozen pages of Uncle Pompey and what he cooks. I am going
to get the nutcake recipe and paste it on the margin. All women
readers will like that if they try it once.

And just as I was so tired that I was about to fall into the ink-well
it occurred to me to describe faithfully the great-grandmother Byrd
portrait, especially about her being such a friend of George
Washington's wife and about the English earl who fell in love with
her, but grandfather Byrd was the victor to carry off the prize. It
gave Father credit just to have bought the house they lived in.

I got up early this morning and wrote about what good friends he has
made of Judge Luttrell and Mr. Chadwell, and some of the other
gentlemen. I told what a great lawyer the Judge is and I here

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Online LibraryMaria Thompson DaviessPhyllis → online text (page 8 of 11)