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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMistress Anne - Chapter 20. In Which A Dresden-China Shepherdess And A Country Mouse Meet...
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Mistress Anne - Chapter 20. In Which A Dresden-China Shepherdess And A Country Mouse Meet... Post by :bishop Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :2723

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Mistress Anne - Chapter 20. In Which A Dresden-China Shepherdess And A Country Mouse Meet...

CHAPTER XX. In Which a Dresden-China Shepherdess and a Country Mouse Meet on Common Ground

MARIE-LOUISE'S room at Rose Acres was all in white with two tall candlesticks to light it, and a silver bowl for flowers. It was by means of the flowers in the bowl that Marie-Louise expressed her moods. There were days when scarlet flowers flamed, and other days when pale roses or violets or lilies suggested a less exotic state of mind.

On the day when Anne Warfield arrived, the flowers in the bowl were yellow. Marie-Louise stayed in bed all of the morning. She had ordered the flowers sent up from the hothouse, and, dragging a length of silken dressing-gown behind her, she had arranged them. Then she had had her breakfast on a tray.

Her hair was nicely combed under a lace cap; the dressing-gown was faint blue. In the center of the big bed she looked very small but very elegant, as if a Dresden-China Shepherdess had been put between the covers.

She had told her maid that when Anne arrived she was to be shown up at once. Austin had suggested that Marie-Louise go down-town to meet her. But Marie-Louise had refused.

"I don't want to see her. Why should I?"

"She is very charming, Marie-Louise."

"Who told you?"

"Dr. Brooks. And I knew her grandmother."

"Will Dr. Dicky meet her?"

"Yes. And bring her out. I have given him the day."

"You might have asked me if I wanted her, Dad. I don't want anybody to look after me. I belong to myself."

"I don't know to whom you belong, Marie-Louise. You're a changeling."

"I'm not. I'm your child. But you don't like my horns and hoofs."

He gazed at her aghast. "My dear child!"

She began to sob. "I am not your dear child. But I am your child, and I shall hate to have somebody tagging around."

"Miss Warfield is not to tag. And you'll like her."

"I shall hate her," said Marie-Louise, between her teeth.

It was because of this hatred that she had filled her bowl with yellow flowers. Yellow meant jealousy. And she had shrewdly analyzed her state of mind. She was jealous of Anne because Dad and Dr. Richard and everybody else thought that Anne was going to set her a good example.

It was early in January that Anne came. The whole thing had been hurried. Austin had been peremptory in his demand that she should not delay. So Nancy, very white but smiling, had packed her off. Sulie had cried over her, and Uncle Rod had wished her "Godspeed."

Richard met her at the station in the midst of a raging blizzard, and in a sort of dream she had been whirled with him through the gray streets shut in by the veil of the falling snow. They had stopped for tea at a big hotel, which had seemed as they entered to swim in a sea of golden light. And now here she was at last in this palace of a house!

Therese led her straight to Marie-Louise.

The Dresden-China Shepherdess in bed looked down the length of the shadowed room to the door. The figure that stood on the threshold was somehow different from what she had expected. Smaller. More girlish. Lovelier.

Anne, making her way across a sea of polished floor, became aware of the Shepherdess in bed.

"Oh," she said, "I am sorry you are ill."

"I am not ill," said Marie-Louise. "I didn't want you to come."

Anne smiled. "Oh, but if you knew how much I _wanted to come."

Marie-Louise sat up. "What made you want to come?"

"Because I am a country mouse, and I wanted to see the world."

"Rose Acres isn't the world."

"New York is. To me. There is so much that I haven't seen. It is going to be a great adventure."

The Dresden-China Shepherdess fell down flat. "So that's what you've come for," she said, dully, "adventures--here."

There was a long silence, out of which Anne asked, "How many miles is it to my room?"

"Miles?"

"Yes. You see, I am not used to such great houses."

"It is down the hall in the west wing."

"If I get lost it will be my first adventure."

Marie-Louise turned and took a good look at this girl who made so much out of nothing. Then she said, "Therese will show you. And you can dress at once for dinner. I am not going down."

"Please do. I shall hate going alone."

"Why?"

"Well, there's your father, you know, and your--mother. And I'm a country mouse."

Their eyes met. Marie-Louise had a sudden feeling that there was no gulf between them of years or of authority.

"What shall I call you?" she asked. "I won't say Miss Warfield."

"Geoffrey Fox calls me Mistress Anne."

"Who is Geoffrey Fox?"

"He writes books, and he is going blind. He wrote 'Three Souls.'"

Marie-Louise stared. "Oh, do you know him? I loved his book."

"Would you like to know how he came to write it?"

"Yes. Tell me."

"Not now. I must go and dress."

Some instinct told Marie-Louise that argument would be useless.

"I'll dress, too, and come down. Is Dr. Dicky going to be at dinner?"

"No. He had to go back at once. He is very busy."

Marie-Louise slipped out of bed. "Therese," she called, "come and dress me, after you have shown Miss Warfield the way."

Anne never forgot the moment of entrance into the great dining-room. There were just four of them. Dr. Austin and his wife, herself and Marie-Louise. But for these four there was a formality transcending anything in Anne's experience. Carved marble, tapestry, liveried servants, a massive table with fruit piled high in a Sheffield basket.

The people were dwarfed by the room. It was as if the house had been built for giants, and had been divorced from its original purpose. Anne, walking with Marie-Louise, wondered whimsically if there were any ceilings or whether the roof touched the stars.

Mrs. Austin was supported by her husband. She was a little woman with gray hair. She wore pearls and silver. Anne was in white. Marie-Louise in a quaint frock of gold brocade. There seemed to be no color in the room except the gold of the fire on the great hearth, the gold of the oranges on the table, and the gold of Marie-Louise's gown.

Mrs. Austin was pale and silent. But she had attentive eyes. Anne was uncomfortably possessed with the idea that the little lady listened and criticized, or at least that she held her opinion in reserve.

Marie-Louise spoke of Geoffrey Fox. "Miss Warfield knows him. She knows how he came to write his book."

Anne told them how he came to write it. Of Peggy ill at Bower's, of the gray plush pussy cat, and of how, coming up the hall with the bowl of soup in her hand, she had found Fox in a despairing mood and had suggested the plot.

Austin, watching her, decided that she was most unusual. She was beautiful, but there was something more than beauty. It was as if she was lighted from within by a fire which gave warmth not only to herself but to those about her.

He was glad that he had brought her here to be with Marie-Louise. For the moment even his wife's pale beauty seemed cold.

"We'll have Fox up," he said, when she finished her story.

Anne was sure that he would be glad to come. She blushed a little as she said it.

Later, when they were having coffee in the little drawing-room, Marie-Louise taxed her with the blush. "Is he in love with you?"

Anne felt it best to be frank. "He thought he was."

"Don't you love him?"

"No, Marie-Louise. And we mustn't talk about it. Love is a sacred thing."

"I like to talk about it. In summer I talk to Pan. But he's out now in the snow and his pipes are frozen."

The little drawing-room seemed to Anne anything but little until she learned that there was a larger one across the hall. Austin and his wife went up-stairs as soon as the coffee had been served, and Marie-Louise led Anne through the shadowy vastness of the great drawing-room to a window which overlooked the river. "You can't see the river, but the light over the doorway shines on my old Pan's head. You can see him grinning out of the snow."

The effect of that white head peering from the blackness was uncanny. The shaft of light struck straight across the peaked chin and twisted mouth. The snow had made him a cap which covered his horns and which gave him the look of a rakish old tipster.

"Oh, Marie-Louise, do you talk to him of love?"

"Yes. Wait till you see him in the spring with the pink roses back of him. He seems to get younger in the spring."

Anne, going to bed that night in a suite of rooms which might have belonged to a princess, wondered if she should wake in the morning and find herself dreaming. To have her own bath, a silk canopy over her head, to know that breakfast would be served when she rang for it, and that her mail and newspapers would be brought--these were unbelievable things. She had a feeling that if she told Uncle Rod he would shake his head over it. He had a theory that luxury tended to cramp the soul.

Yet her last thought was not of Uncle Rod but of Richard. She had come intending to give him a sharp opinion of his neglect of Nancy. But he had been so glad to see her, and had given her such a good time. Yet she had spoken of Nancy's loneliness.

"I hated to leave her," she said, "but it seemed as if I had to come."

"Of course," he agreed, with his eyes on her glowing face, "and anyhow, she has Sulie."

Marie-Louise, in the days that followed, found interest and occupation in showing the Country Mouse the sights of the city.

"If you want to see such things," she said rather grandly, "I shall be glad to go with you."

Anne insisted that they should not be driven in state and style. "People make pilgrimages on foot," she told Marie-Louise gravely, but with a twinkle in her eye. "I don't want to whirl up to Grant's tomb, or to the door of Trinity. And I like the subway and the elevated and the surface cars."

If now and then they compromised on a taxi, it was because distances were too great at times, and other means of transportation too slow. But in the main they stuck to their original plan, and Marie-Louise entered a new world.

"Oh, I love you for it," she said to Anne one night when they came home from the Battery after a day in which they had gazed down into the pit of the Stock Exchange, had lunched at Faunce's Tavern, had circled the great Aquarium, and ended with a ride on top of a Fifth Avenue 'bus in the twilight.

It was from the top of the 'bus that Anne for the first time since she had come to New York saw Evelyn Chesley.

She was coming out of a shop with Richard. It was a great shop with a world-famous name over the door. One bought furniture there of a rare kind and draperies of a rare kind and now and then a picture.

"They are getting things for their apartment," Marie-Louise explained, and her words struck cold against Anne's heart. "Eve is paying for them with Aunt Maude's money."

"When will they be married?"

"Next October. But Eve is buying things as she sees them. I don't want her to marry Dr. Dicky."

"Why not, Marie-Louise?"

"He isn't her kind. He ought to have fallen in love with you."

"Marie-Louise, I told you not to talk of love."

"I shall talk of anything I please."

"Then you'll talk to the empty air. I won't listen. I'll go up there and sit with that fat man in front."

Marie-Louise laughed. "You're such an old dear. Do you know how nice you look in those furs?"

"I feel so elegant that I am ashamed of myself. I've peeped into every mirror. They cost a whole month's salary, Marie-Louise. I feel horribly extravagant--and happy."

They laughed together, and it was then that Marie-Louise said, "I love it."

"Love what?"

"Going with you and being young."

In the days that followed Anne found herself revelling in the elegances of her life, in the excitements. It was something of an experience to meet Evelyn Chesley on equal grounds in the little drawing-room. Anne always took Mrs. Austin's place when there were gatherings of young folks. Marie-Louise refused to be tied, and came and went as the spirit moved her. So it was Anne who in something shimmering and silken moved among the tea guests, and danced later in slippers as shining as anything Eve had ever worn.

It was on this day that Geoffrey Fox came and met Marie-Louise for the first time.

"I can't dance," he told her; "my eyes are bad, and things seem to whirl."

"If you'll talk," she said, "I'll sit at your feet and listen."

She did it literally, perched on a small gold stool.

"Tell me about your book," she said, looking up at him. "Anne Warfield says that you wrote it at Bower's."

"I wrote it because she helped me to write it. But she did more for me than that." His eyes were following the shining figure.

"What did she do?"

"She gave me a soul. She taught me that there was something in me that was not--the flesh and the--devil."

The girl on the footstool understood. "She believes in things, and makes you believe."

"Yes."

"I hated to have her come," Marie-Louise confessed, "and now I should hate to have her go away. She calls herself a country mouse, and I am showing her the sights--we go to corking places--on pilgrimages. We went to Grant's tomb, and she made me carry a wreath. And we ride in the subway and drink hot chocolate in drug stores.

"She says I haven't learned the big lessons of democracy," Marie-Louise pursued, "that I've looked out over the world, but that I have never been a part of it. That I've sat on a tower in a garden and have peered through a telescope."

She told him of the play that she had written, and of the verses that she had read to the piping Pan.

Later she pointed out Pan to him from the window of the big drawing-room. The snow had melted in the last mild days, and there was an icicle on his nose, and the sun from across the river reddened his cheeks.

"And there, everlastingly, he makes music," Geoffrey said, "'on the reed which he tore from the river.'"


"'Yes, half a beast is the great god, Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man.
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain,
For the reed that grows nevermore again,
As a reed with the reeds in the river.'"


His voice died away into silence. "That is the price which the writer pays. He is separated, as it were, from his kind."

"Oh, no," Marie-Louise breathed, "oh, no. Not you. Your writings bring you--close. Your book made me--cry."

She was such a child as she stood there, yet with something in her, too, of womanliness.

"When your three soldiers died," she said, "it made me believe something that I hadn't believed before--about souls marching toward a great--light."

Geoffrey found himself confiding in her. "I don't know whether you will understand. But ever since I wrote that book I have felt that I must live up to it. That I must be worthy of the thing I had written."

Richard, dancing in the music room with Anne, found himself saying, "How different it all is."

"From Bower's?"

"Yes."

"Do you like it?"

"Sometimes. And then sometimes it all seems so big--and useless."

The music stopped, and they made their way back to the little drawing-room.

"Won't you sit here and talk to me?" Richard said. "Somehow we never seem to find time to talk."

She smiled. "There is always so much to do."

But she knew that it was not the things to be done which had kept her from him. It was rather a sense that safety lay in seeing as little of him as possible. And so, throughout the winter she had built about herself barriers of reserve. Yet there had never been a moment when he had dined with them, or when he had danced, or when he had shared their box at the opera, that she had not been keenly conscious of his presence.

"And so you think it is all so big--and useless?" He picked up the conversation where they had dropped it when the dance stopped.

She nodded. "A house like this isn't a home. I told Marie-Louise the other day that a home was a place where there was a little fire, with somebody on each side of it, and where there was a little table with two people smiling across it, and with a pot boiling and a woman to stir it, and with a light in the window and a man coming home."

"And what did Marie-Louise say to that?"

"She wrote a poem about it. A nice healthy sane little poem--not one of those dreadful things about the ashes of dead women which I found her doing when I came."

"How did you cure her?"

"I am giving her real things to think of. When she gets in a morbid mood I whisk her off to the gardener's cottage, and we wash and dress the baby and take him for an airing."

Richard gave a big laugh. "With your head in the stars, you have your feet always firmly on the ground."

"I try to, but I like to know that there are always--stars."

"No one could be near you and not know that," he told her gravely.

It was a danger signal. She rose. "I have a feeling that you are neglecting somebody. You haven't danced yet with Miss Chesley."

"Oh, Eve's all right," easily; "sit down."

But she would not. She sent him from her. His place was by Eve's side. He was going to marry Eve.

* * * * *

It was late that night when Marie-Louise came into Anne's room. "Are you asleep?" she asked, with the door at a crack.

"No."

"Will you mind--if I talk?"

"No."

Anne was in front of her open fire, writing to Uncle Rod. The fire was another of the luxuries in which she revelled. It was such a wonder of a fireplace, with its twinkling brasses, and its purring logs. She remembered the little round stove in her room at Bower's.

Marie-Louise had come to talk of Geoffrey Fox.

"I adore his eye-glasses."

"Oh, Marie-Louise--his poor eyes."

"He isn't poor," the child said, passionately, "not even his eyes. Milton was blind--and--and there was his poetry."

"Dr. Dicky hopes his eyes are getting better."

"He says they are. That he sees things now through a sort of silver rain. He has to have some one write for him. His little sister Mimi has been doing it, but she is going to be married."

"Mimi?"

"Yes. He found out that she had a lover, and so he has insisted. And then he will be left alone."

She sat gazing into the fire, a small humped-up figure in a gorgeous dressing-gown. At last she said, "Why didn't you love him?"

"There was some one else, Marie-Louise."

Marie-Louise drew close and laid her red head on Anne's knee. "Some one that you are going to marry?"

Anne shook her head. "Some one whom I shall never marry. He loves--another girl, Marie-Louise."

"Oh!" There was a long silence, as the two of them gazed into the fire. Then Marie-Louise reached up a thin little hand to Anne's warm clasp. "That's always the way, isn't it? It is a sort of game, with Love always flitting away to--another girl."

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