Maria Thompson Daviess.

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mentioned Tony's Scout medal, too, for if a Scout medal is not
distinguished, I don't know what is.

And writing about Tony's medal reminded me that I would have to write
something about myself, or seem to be prudish. I left that until
to-night, and I have just finished it. I had to get in two pages about
Miss Priscilla and the Colonel before I began on myself. I defended
her for not marrying him unless she wants to, and I moralized five
sentences on a woman's right not to marry.

Then I thought that when it is published all over the United States,
Mamie Sue might accidentally see a copy and be hurt that she was not
in it, so I put her recipe for fudge in with her name signed to it. I
grouped Pink and Sam and the two Willises and some others as prominent
citizens who were all Father's friends, with just slight mention of
their being his guest on the hay-ride. I left Belle and Helena and the
Petway silk-tie-boy out. I thought it was kindness.

Then when I got to myself I hadn't a word to say because I had used
all the words in the dictionary several times over about the others,
so I just wrote this that I copy down in order to see again how it
looks: "Mr. Forsythe has one child, Phyllis. She is a tall, strong
girl with tan hair, and she shares his friendship for Byrdsville
enthusiastically." Now, if that isn't the truth, I don't know what is,
and what more could I say about myself? That is a very dignified and
correct account of me.

I have only to write the note to Cousin Gilmore to tell him that a
thousand dollars is the price and not to let it come out later than
next Saturday, and tie it up in a box for the express. As I say, I
think just lately I have worked more than twenty-four hours a day.
Good-night!

* * * * *

I am glad that article for the weekly was finished yesterday, and
expressed, for if I hadn't finished it, I might have had to wait some
time. I must study hard now, for examinations begin next week, and I
am so far behind that it is difficult for me to even understand what
they are talking about in class, and I have been able to recite purely
by accident. It is one of the strange and unaccountable things that
happen in a person's life that hard study or the lack of it has no
real influence on the way a girl or boy recites. If I am well prepared
on a lesson, the teacher always asks me something that had slipped my
most diligent hunt, and if I don't know a thing about the lesson she
asks me a question about something I do know about. Such is school
life!

And it is a fortunate thing for me that next week is examination, for
everybody is too worried and busy to notice me and my affairs, and
they don't talk Scouts or parties or anything that I might be
embarrassed about on account of my position. Quadratics are
embarrassing to everybody. I have to study. Good-night.

* * * * *

I did the Idol a dreadful injustice when I felt that he had gone to
work on another of his inventions and had not made a plan for Lovelace
Peyton's eyes. I didn't write down that I had felt hard toward him,
for that would have seemed disloyal, but I did. He wrote right up to
the doctor in Cincinnati and asked him to come on the next train and
the heartless man telegraphed that it would cost a thousand dollars
for him to come and it would have to be guaranteed. No wonder the Idol
was white and still for a whole day. Now he has thought up a plan and
it is a sacrifice, but he and Roxanne are going to do it, if I can't
get the thousand by telegram, as I asked Cousin Gilmore to send it by
Monday morning - which they don't know about yet. I hate to write the
sacrifice down - it seems a desecration! They are going to sell one of
the foundation stones of the Byrd family pride for this vulgar money
they need for the doctor from Cincinnati. I can't bear to think about
it, though I have never seen the ancestral stone, and it is only a few
musty papers, kept in the vault at the Byrdsville County Bank. They
are letters from George Washington and other generals to one of the
Byrd ancestors, written during the Revolution about some of the great
stratagems they wanted him to execute for them with his regiment,
which was a very fine one. They hope that they're worth much more than
any thousand dollars, and they are to be the price of Lovelace
Peyton's eyes. The Idol has written about them and he hopes to get the
money immediately by telegraph, and send for the doctor the first of
next week. That is, if God doesn't let me get my telegram before
theirs. He is going to, my faith makes me believe.

And Oh! I do want my composition to be printed so the world may know
what a good man my father could be, if he would just give up his
thirst for money. It may keep other young men from following in his
footsteps, instead of doing like Judge Luttrell and other Byrdsville
men.

"Of course, Phyllis, it is an awful thing to give up a part of your
inheritance like those papers are, but then Lovey's eyes are still
more valuable to the Byrd family," Roxanne said, as we were discussing
the sacrifice. "He is going to be such a great doctor that he will
make history himself and, of course, we will have copies of the
originals; and when people are writing Douglass's and Lovey's
biographies they can go and see the originals. And after the
eye-doctor is paid, we will have a lot left over for this new thing
Douglass is inventing. He just told me about it last night, and I can
tell you now."

"Don't tell me, Roxanne, don't!" I interrupted her quickly. The blood
dyed my face so red that I felt as if I could wipe it off with my
handkerchief, if I tried.

And Roxanne, instead of blushing, got pale and put her arm around my
neck. Real love always has the right thing to say at the right time.

"Phyllis," she whispered in a tickling fashion right against my ear,
"when Douglass told me about it last night he came back in my room to
say, 'Don't tell a single soul but Phyllis.'"

If some accident should happen to make me famous, I wish the person
that writes my biography could put down how I felt when Roxanne
whispered that to me. I choked a little bit and Roxanne hugged the
choke and was just beginning to tell me about the experiment when
Lovelace Peyton called us to come to him.

He is dreadfully spoiled since he has had to keep so still all the
time, but we try to do just as he says. He lies there in bed and
thinks up all the impossible things that might be done and then asks
us to do them. He longed so for "squirms" that Tony got a wooden box
and made little divisions and brings him in a lot of new ones almost
every day. They fill Roxanne's days and nights with terror. And it is
upsetting to see the fishing-worms in the dirt, while the hop-toad
stays out on the bed a good deal of the time; but we have to stand it
and smile at it in our voices while talking to him, even if we have
terror in our faces. Yesterday Uncle Pompey spent most of his time
catching the chickens and bringing them in for him to feel, and
Lovelace Peyton has a box of straw on a chair by the bed, with a hen
tied in it, setting on a dozen eggs.

But a thing that stops my breath with pain is, that I am fraid that
Lovelace Peyton is beginning to think about being blind, and my throat
aches while I write what happened when Roxanne left him with me after
he had called us.

"Do you want me to read the medicine book, now, Lovelace Peyton? Mumps
comes next," I said, as I sat down by the head of the bed, nearer than
I liked to the setting hen.

"No, Phyllie," he answered in a queer, unlifelike way. "Please find
blind eyes and read all about them to me."

"Oh, they are not interesting," I said, and the lump rose so I could
hardly breathe. "Let me read measles, if you don't think you will like
mumps. Do you remember that experiment about cutting away a piece of
the heart itself that the man tried? Let me read that again." I was
pleading with him so that my voice began to tremble.

"Please let me put my hand on your face, Phyllie, so if I kin git you
to tell the truth to me, I kin feel if you cry," he said as he reached
up and put one little hand that is getting white and weak against my
cheek. I forced my eyes to drink up the tears that they had let get as
far as my lashes, and put my arm under his head and cuddled him
against my shoulder, my shoulder that has had to learn to cuddle since
he got hurt.

"Is I going to be blind, Phyllie, and kin they be a blind doctor, if I
am?" he asked, with his baby mouth set with the Byrd family
expression, the first time I had ever seen it on his face.

"Oh, no, Lovelace Peyton, No!" I exclaimed, hugging him up closer. "A
great big doctor is coming on the cars in just a few days to make you
well."

"But _kin_ a doctor be a blind man, Phyllie," he asked again, with
his mouth still set.

"Yes, Lovelace Peyton, if you are the blind man," I answered as
positively as I felt. It is true for if he is blind, then there will
be a blind doctor in the world and a famous one at that.

"Will you always go with me to tell me how the folks and sores and
blood and things look, Phyllie, so I kin give the right medicine?" he
asked, curling his fingers around mine in a still tighter grasp.

"Yes, I will, indeed I will," I answered, with words that pushed their
way from my heart.

And just then Tony came in with Pink, in such a dejected manner that I
hardly knew them. I knew from their looks and my own feelings that it
was the quadratics we were going to have on examination Tuesday, and
my deepest sympathy went out to them.

"Say, Dr. Snakes," said Tony solemnly, as he sat down almost upon the
toad on the bed by Lovey, "I've brought Pink, the Rosebud, to be
operated on at my expense entirely. I have been trying to put algebra
into his head for a solid hour, and now I want it split open so I can
just chuck the book in whole to save my time. Shall I go get the axe?"

And Lovelace Peyton laughed just as much at Tony as the rest of us
did, though the hen got frightened and began to squawk so that both
Tony and Pink had to work to tie her down tighter. They didn't need me
right then, so I slipped out and went home through the garden.

Oh, that doctor must come down here quick to see about those valuable
eyes! I don't dare think what I will do if the article about Father
fails, but I feel sure it won't. Still my heart beats as if it
couldn't get all the blood it needs - and that reminds me that
physiology comes on Wednesday. I ought to study, but I can't.

And another thing that is worrying me is, that I didn't go to see what
Mrs. Satterwhite wanted when she sent for me, and it might be that I
could have spent some money if I had found out what she would like to
have. I have been so busy and so scared that I haven't been down to
the Public Square this week, and now I will have to go and shop all
morning if I am to keep up the amount of the monthly bills.

I wonder if Miss Priscilla would let me express my admiration for her
by buying her one of those lovely boxes of paper with gold letters on
each piece. I don't know anybody else in Byrdsville that they seem to
match, and they cost five dollars, which the postmaster needs badly
from the looks of his fringed cuffs and collars. Accepting a present
is bestowing affectionate regard on the person that offers it, and I
believe Miss Prissy feels that way about me. She must feel in her
heart that I do not blame her course of conduct to the Colonel like
the rest of Byrdsville does. I am more charitable to faults than
others. I have to be. I believe I will risk the box of paper.

But on the other hand, I am very fond of the Colonel and I feel that I
would like him to know that I think he is very noble not to desert
Miss Priscilla, even if she doesn't want to marry him. He is a
faithful friend. I wonder if he would like that lovely long-stemmed
pipe that is in the drug store? And I feel like I ought to do it, not
to be partial. I won't buy him tobacco, for I feel sure that is a
thing that women ought to fear to do for a man.

This is a very lonely night, and I can't write any more because it
reminds me to be uneasy about the express package in which I sent the
article to Gilmore's Weekly.

I am going down to sit in my mother's room in a dark corner to be
comforted. That is my right and hers, too. I wonder if girls that have
mothers that can be real mothers, tell them all their troubles and
perplexities and anxieties, or do girls that have mothers not have the
other things to tell them?

But one thing before I close the ink-well I must record to my own
satisfaction, though it seems mean to write it down. The Idol has no
idea of paying any kind of attentions to Helena Kirby and it is all
settled that he doesn't like her; or, rather, doesn't know she is
living on the earth, which is still better. His lovely new gray suit
didn't affect him at all in regard to her. Roxanne told me all about
it several days ago.

Of course, everybody in Byrdsville has been very much interested and
sorry over Lovelace Peyton's explosion and his eyes, and they have all
come and said so, and they hardly ever come empty-handed. Roxanne has
got nice and plump eating the things, and so has Uncle Pompey, after
their long cornmeal fast during the time of invention number one.

But Belle's mother, Mrs. Kirby, and Helena hadn't come or done a
single thing, until this occurred day before yesterday. Helena
happened of her own accord to meet the Idol right at the cottage gate
when he came home from the furnace, and she was most untastefully
beautifully dressed. She had a large pink rose in her hand like a girl
in a story-book. She stopped to smile on him with extreme favor and
give him the rose, also out of a book. Roxanne saw and heard it all,
because she couldn't help it, from the window.

"Thank you, Miss Helena," he said with a grand bow. "I know Lovey will
feel complimented at your thinking about him, and the rose will be
lovely for him to smell and feel. He is better to-day, we hope - at
least not so nervous."

Roxanne says Helena's expression was of one completely surprised, and
she went on down the street without any more use of the smile or the
red silk and lace dress. If a man is at all interested in a girl, he
would be sure to get more pleasure and conversation than that out of a
rose, I feel sure. Oh, a genius has to be guarded from so many things!

This is unkindness I've written, but I'm so nervous to-night over the
thousand dollars that might not come for the article that I cannot
control my pen. Good-night again, Louise.




CHAPTER XI


This is Saturday night, or Sunday morning, I am not sure which, as I
have let my clock and watch both run down, for I have not had time to
wind them; but however late it is, I am going to write about all this
remarkableness, to you, leather Louise, so I will never forget how it
all really happened. And writing it may make me believe it is true,
though now it all _will_ seem a dream.

I got up early on account of the quadratics and had a contest, that
lasted until ten o'clock, between them and a very overburdened mind. I
conquered, but at what cost!

But still, from the fight, one of the gratifications of my life came
to me in the shape of the chance to help Belle. Mamie Sue has given up
the study of algebra forever, and is going to take botany instead, but
Belle is still having dreadful struggles. Mamie Sue told me about
Belle having a wet towel around her head all night and other really
tragic things that made me lose all my hurt at her and filled me with
extreme sympathy. I was over at Roxanne's on my way to read diphtheria
to Lovelace Peyton, and just as Mamie Sue was describing how the poor
girl had to put her feet in hot water to take the chill off of them,
down the street came Belle looking all that Mamie Sue had said of her.
My heart was so wrung that I spoke before I had time to let her manner
daunt me.

"Oh, Belle," I said, with hasty enthusiasm, "I worked a lot this
morning and I can solve them all now in the easiest way. Let me show
you."

"I - I wish you would, Phyllis, and thank you," she answered in a meek
voice that was not hers at all. It had a nice, mournful, friendly tone
to it that I wish it could keep even when the cause for sorrow is
removed, which I succeeded in doing in about another hour of hard
manual labor, if you call pounding manual labor. It is!

Roxanne sat down beside us, and we sent Mamie Sue in to keep Lovelace
Peyton quiet with her company; only to use the fudge from her pocket
in case she couldn't succeed. We found them both later with chocolate
smeared on their faces; but Lovelace Peyton likes Mamie Sue, for her
easy nature is most lovable.

"Thank you, Phyllis," said Belle, when we had figured the last formula
as simply as I had found out how to do it. "I have always thought that
you are as smart as anybody in the class, and I now think - "

I wish Belle had had time to finish that sentence, for I don't believe
she will be in such a nice temper for a long time; but we were
interrupted by Tony and the Colonel and Miss Priscilla coming past my
house and into the cottage front gate. The Colonel was dressed up in
his white vest and Sunday hat, and Miss Priscilla was flying more
ribbons and ruffles than usual, while I never saw Tony's grin quite so
broad and his freckles shone out more than ever, as they always do
when he is excited.

"Miss Phyllis," said the Colonel, in his grand manner that everybody
in Byrdsville tries to copy when there is anything important to be
said, especially in public, like the mayor does in his speeches, "I
have come to announce to you that this morning's mail has brought a
great honor to you, and through you, to Byrdsville. Allow me to hand
you this medal that is given you for the heroic feat of life-saving by
the Girl Scouts of America, called, I believe, the Organization of the
Campfire. I wrote on to inform the authorities of the deed of the
Patrol Leader of the Palefaces, as your Girl Scout band is named, and
this letter, with the accompanying medal, is the result. I am
informally showing you the medal now, but the letter will be read and
the medal presented at the commencement exercises of the Byrd
Academy." And with a low bow that crinkled the stiff white vest, the
Colonel handed me the medal.

I was paralyzed - real paralysis of both mind and body, especially legs
and tongue - and I believe I would have been sitting there on the front
steps of the cottage yet, in a dumb and stupid manner, with them all
looking at me, if Tony Luttrell who, as I have remarked before, is a
very understanding person, though a boy, hadn't flared his eyes and
mewed under his breath. Then we all laughed so loud that it brought
Mamie Sue to the door though Lovelace Peyton called so loudly that
Roxanne had to run to him; and so did Mamie Sue, with the treacherous
chocolate smears on her mouth, after having promised not to give it to
him unless she just had to.

"Phyllis, if Tony says Kitten Patrol to you one single time more,
something will have to be done to him that is serious," said Miss
Priscilla, frowning at Tony with a frown that only seemed to bring out
the dimple in her left cheek. "Now congratulate her nicely, Tony!"

[Illustration: The Colonel handed me the medal]

"Madam," said Tony, straightening up and looking so much like the
Colonel that it was funny (but of course Tony has learned
impersonation), "accept my heartfelt congratulations for thus
achieving a triumph of kittenism. Will that do, Miss Prissy Bubble?"
And again we all laughed, the Colonel the most of all, and even Belle
a little, too.

"Phyllis, you are one perfectly good brick," Tony said suddenly,
dropping the teasing of Miss Priscilla from his voice; and he looked
at me with just as affectionate an expression in his squinty eyes as
when he looks at Pink Chadwell. It is a great thing for a girl to feel
that a fine boy likes her as much as he does his most chosen boy
comrade. I felt that keenly.

"Thanks, everybody," I managed to say in an awkward way that mortified
me into being unable to patch it up with any kind of brilliant remark
following.

One of the things that had struck me so dumb was that I thought I had
refused to be the Girl Scout Leader because of my disgrace, and nobody
had paid any attention to my refusal. Thus it is, a person cannot
escape either fame or disgrace because other people take more interest
in both than you do yourself, and do not let you forget.

"And now that the Colonel has made you his speech, Phyllis," said Miss
Priscilla, "I want you to come down to the Presbyterian Church parlors
with me to a joint meeting of our Relief Society with the Methodist
Relief. They want to make you an honorary member of both on account of
the way you have dealt with the Satterwhites, who have for years been
one of the greatest troubles to all of us. Of course this is not a
medal, but it is an expression of hearty esteem, and I hope they will
get the meeting over nicely without any discussion or argument coming
up from either side on the charity question."

By that time I was so numb from having shocks that I let her and the
Colonel lead me down the street, while Tony went in to keep Lovelace
Peyton from fretting for the diphtheria lesson until I could come
back.

Mrs. Luttrell made me the Methodist speech and Mrs. Willis the
Presbyterian one, and they said so much that I felt sure they were
glad that I was only expected to say "Thank you!" and then sit down
while they all offered different resolutions about different things
that were never exactly decided but voted on, nevertheless.

When we came out of the church, I told Miss Priscilla about the box of
paper in such a determined tone of voice that she didn't refuse it at
all, and went with me to buy the pipe for the Colonel, which I know
will make it very valuable to him when I tell him who helped select
it. It is a very interesting thing to be neighbor and friend to a
mysterious love affair that is one of the traditions of Byrdsville. I
believe I have solved the why of the failure of their marriage to come
off, but until I am certain I won't even write it to you, Louise.

On my way home, I am glad to record, I took time to do a little
shopping. I bought some buckets we didn't need from one of the
littlest shops in town, some more groceries for the Satterwhites, a
bolt of gingham to make Sallie Geraldine and Judy Claudia some aprons,
then hurried back on the wings of anxiety to the bedside of Lovelace
Peyton, to get the diphtheria started. As I ran I could just feel him
thrashing around in the bed and persecuting Roxanne and Mamie Sue, if
she had not already escaped for her life.

But as fast as I tried to go, I met an interruption on the way up
Providence Road, that was agreeable although detaining from duty. Tony
and Pink and Sam stopped me and told me that they were just on their
way to bring me to the Crotch, and that I would be the first strange
person that had ever seen it, since they had fixed it up in the
Luttrell barn loft to have Scout meetings in. Mr. Douglass had planned
and helped them with it, and they said there never was such a place of
interest in Byrdsville. The reason they were going to show me was that
I must get the empty room over the garage Father has turned the old
family stable of the Byrds into, to make a wigwam for the Paleface
Patrol to have meetings and keep things in. They had asked Mamie Sue
to go with me because it would take two girls to remember all they
saw, and that would be the last time we could come there, though they
would come often to the Wigwam if we wanted them to show us how to be
as scouty as possible.

Just then Mamie Sue came up, and she either snorted with indignation
or choked with candy, I cannot tell which; but because we had to, we
accepted their kind invitation with gratitude. We stopped at the house
first and told Mrs. Luttrell we were going to the barn with the boys,
and she said not to get hurt or fall, and gave us a tea-cake all
around. Mamie Sue held the plate and happened to get two, not at all
by intention, for they were stuck together.

Tony swung up from the horse trough to the loft by a pole, while Sam
and Pink stayed to push us up. I went up just as easily as Tony did,
before they had time to push me one inch, but poor Mamie Sue stuck
halfway through the trap-door and we thought we would never be able to
get her either up or down without calling out the fire-company, as Sam
suggested; but she kept astonishingly cool herself and wiggled in just


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Online LibraryMaria Thompson DaviessPhyllis → online text (page 9 of 11)