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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMistress Anne - Chapter 4. In Which Three Kings Come To Crossroads
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Mistress Anne - Chapter 4. In Which Three Kings Come To Crossroads Post by :kimaiga Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :3751

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Mistress Anne - Chapter 4. In Which Three Kings Come To Crossroads

CHAPTER IV. In Which Three Kings Come to Crossroads

ANNE'S budget of news to her Great-uncle Rod swelled to unusual proportions in the week following the opening of Crossroads. She had so much to say to him, and there was no one else to whom she could speak with such freedom and frankness.

_By the Round Stove.

MY DEAR:

I am sending this as an antidote for my doleful Sunday screed. Now that the Lovely Ladies are gone, I am myself again!

I know that you are saying, "You should never have been anything but yourself." That's all very well for you who know Me-Myself, but these people know only the Outside-Person part of me, and the Outside-Person part is stiff and old-fashioned, and self-conscious. You see it has been so many months since I have hobnobbed with Lilies-of-the-Field and with Solomons-in-all-their-Glory. And even when I did hobnob with them it was for such a little time, and it ended so heart-breakingly. But I am not going to talk of that, or I shall weep and wail again, and that wouldn't be fair to you.

The last Old Gentleman left yesterday in the wake of the Lovely Ladies. Did I tell you that Brinsley Tyson is a cousin of Mrs. Brooks? His twin brother, David, lives up the road. Brinsley is the city mouse and David is the country one. They are as different as you can possibly imagine. Brinsley is fat and round and red, and David is thin and tall and pale. Yet there is the "twin look" in their faces. The high noses and square chins. Neither of them wears a beard. None of the Old Gentlemen does. Why is it? Is hoary-headed age a thing of the dark and distant past? Are you the only one left whose silver banner blows in the breeze? Are the grandfathers all trying to look like boys to match the grandmothers who try to look like girls?

Mrs. Brooks won't be that kind of grandmother. She is gentle and serene, and the years will touch her softly. I shall like her if she will let me. But perhaps little school-teachers won't come within her line of vision. You see I learned my lesson in those short months when I peeped into Paradise.

I wonder how it would seem to be a Lily-of-the-Field. I've never been one, have I? Even when I was a little girl I used to stand on a chair to wipe the dishes while you washed them. I felt very important to be helping mother, and you would talk about the dignity of labor--_you darling_, with the hot water wrinkling and reddening your lovely long fingers, which were made to paint masterpieces.

I am trying to pass on to my school children what you have given to me, and oh, Uncle Rod, when I speak to them I seem to be looking with you, straight through the kitchen window, at the sunset. We never knew that the kitchen sink was there, did we? We saw only the sunsets. And now because you are a darling dear, and because you are always seeing sunsets, I am sending you a verse or two which I have copied from a book which Geoffrey Fox left last night at my door.


"When Salomon sailed from Ophir,
With Olliphants and gold,
The kings went up, the kings went down,
Trying to match King Salomon's crown;
But Salomon sacked the sunset,
Wherever his black ships rolled.
He rolled it up like a crimson cloth,
And crammed it into his hold.

CHORUS: "Salomon sacked the sunset,
Salomon sacked the sunset,
He rolled it up like a crimson cloth,
And crammed it into his hold.

"His masts were Lebanon cedars,
His sheets were singing blue,
But that was never the reason why
He stuffed his hold with the sunset sky!
The kings could cut their cedars,
And sail from Ophir, too;
But Salomon packed his heart with dreams,
_And all the dreams were true_."


Now join in the chorus, you old dear--and I'll think that I am a little girl again--


"The kings could cut their cedars,
Cut their Lebanon cedars;
But Salomon packed his heart with dreams,
_And all_
_the dreams_
_were true_!"

* * * * *

_In the Schoolroom.

I told you that Geoffrey Fox left a book for me to read. I told you that he wore eye-glasses on a black ribbon, that he is writing a novel, and that I don't like him. Well, he went into Baltimore this morning to get his belongings, and when he comes back he will stay until his book is finished. It will be interesting to be under the same roof with a story. All the shadows and corners will seem full of it. The house will speak to him, and the people in it, though none of the rest of us will hear the voices, and the wind will speak and the leaping flames in the fireplace, and the sun and the moon--and when the snow comes it will whisper secrets in his ear and presently it will be snowing all through the pages.

It snowed this morning, and from my desk I can see young Dr. Brooks shoveling a path from his front porch. He and his mother came to Crossroads yesterday, and they have been very busy getting settled. They have a colored maid, Milly, but no man, and young Richard does all of the outside work. I think I shall like him. Don't you remember how as a little girl I always adored the Lion-hearted king? I always think of him when I see Dr. Brooks. He isn't handsome, but he is broad-shouldered and big and blond. I haven't had but one chance to speak to him since he and his mother left Bower's. Perhaps I shan't have many chances to speak to him. But a cat may look at a king!

I am all alone in the schoolroom. The children went an hour ago. Eric and Beulah are to call for me on their way home from town. They took Peggy with them. Did I tell you that Eric is falling in love with Beulah? I am not sure whether it is the best thing for him, but I am sure it is for her. She is very happy, and blushes when he looks at her. He is finer than she, and bigger, mentally and spiritually. He is crude, but he will grow as so many American men do grow--and there are dreams in his clear blue eyes. And, after all, it is the dreams that count--as Salomon discovered.

Yet it may be that Eric will bring Beulah up to his level. She is an honest little thing and good and loving. Her life is narrow, and she thinks narrow thoughts. But he is wise and kind, and already I can see that she is trying to keep step with him--which is as it should be.

I like to think that father and mother kept step through all the years. She was his equal, his comrade; she marched by his side with her head up fitting her two short steps to his long stride.

King Richard has just waved to me. I stood up to see the sunset--a band of gold with black above, and he waved, and started to run across the road. Then somebody called him from the house. Perhaps it was the telephone and his first patient. If I am ever ill, I should like to have a Lion-hearted Doctor--wouldn't you?

* * * * *

_At the Sign of the Lantern.

I am with Diogenes in the stable, with the lantern making deep shadows, and the loft steps for a desk. Eric and Beulah came for me before I had asked a question--an important question--so I am finishing my letter here, while Eric puts Daisy in her stall, and then he will post it for me.

Diogenes has had his corn, and is as happy as Brinsley Tyson after a good dinner. Oh, such eating and drinking! How these old men love it! And you with your bread and milk and your book propped up against the lamp, or your handful of raisins and your book under a tree!

But I must scribble fast and ask my question. It isn't easy to ask. So I'll put it in sections:


Do you
ever
see
Jimmie--Ford?

That is the first time that I have written his name since I came here. I had made up my mind that I wouldn't write it. But somehow the rose-colored atmosphere of the other night, and these men of his kind have brought it back--all those whirling weeks when you warned me and I wouldn't listen. Uncle Rod, if a woman hadn't an ounce of pride she might meet such things. If I had not had a grandmother as good as Jimmie's and better--I might have felt less--stricken. Geoffrey Fox spoke to me on Saturday in a way which--hurt. Perhaps I am too sensitive--but I haven't quite learned to--hold up my head.

You mustn't think that I am unhappy. Indeed, I am not, except that I cannot be with you. But it is good to know that you are comfortable, and that Cousin Margaret is making it seem like home. Some day we are to have a home, you and I, when our ship comes in "with the sunset packed in the hold." But now it is well that I have work to do. I know that this is my opportunity, and that I must make the most of it. There's that proverb of yours, "The Lord sends us quail, but he doesn't send them roasted." I have written it out, and have tucked it into my mirror frame. I shall have to roast my own quail. I only hope that I may prove a competent cook!

Eric is here, and I must say "Good-bye." Diogenes sends love, and a little feather that dropped from his wing. Some day he will send a big one for you to make a pen and write letters to me. I love your letters, and I love you. And oh, you know that you have all the heart's best of your own

ANNE.

* * * * *

_The Morning After the Magi Came.

I am up early to tell you about it. But I must go back a little because I have had so much else to talk about that I haven't spoken of the Twelfth Night play.

It seems that years ago, when old Dr. Brooks first built the schoolhouse, the children used his stable on Twelfth Night for a spectacle representing the coming of the Wise Men.

Mr. David had told me of it, and I had planned to revive the old custom this year, and had rehearsed the children. I thought when I heard that the house was to be occupied that I might have to give it up. But Peggy and I plucked up our courage and asked King Richard, and he graciously gave permission.

It was a heavenly night. Snow on the ground and all the stars out. The children met in the schoolhouse and we started in a procession. They all wore simple little costumes, just some bit of bright color draped to give them a quaint picturesqueness. One of the boys led a cow, and there was an old ewe. Then riding on a donkey, borrowed by Mr. David, came the oldest Mary in our school. I chose her because I wanted her to understand the sacred significance of her name, and our only little Joseph walked by her side. The children followed and their parents, with the wise men quite in the rear, so that they might enter after the others.

When we reached the stable, I grouped Joseph and Mary in one of the old mangers, where the Babe lay, and he was a dear, real, baby brother of Mary. I hid a light behind the straw, so that the place was illumined. And then my little wise men came in; and the children, who with their parents were seated on the hay back in the shadows, sang, "We Three Kings" and other carols. The gifts which the Magi brought were the children's own pennies which they are giving to the other little children across the sea who are fatherless because of the war.

It was quite wonderful to hear their sweet little voices, and to see their rapt faces and to know that, however sordid their lives might be, here was Dream, founded on the Greatest Truth, which would lift them above the sordidness.

Dr. Brooks and his mother and Mr. David were not far from me, and Dr. Brooks leaned over and asked if he might speak to the children. I said I should be glad, so he stood up and told them in such simple, fine fashion that he wanted to be to them all that his grandfather had been to their parents and grandparents. He wanted them to feel that his life and service belonged to them. He wanted them to know how pleased he was with the Twelfth Night spectacle, and that he wanted it to become an annual custom.

Then in his mother's name, he asked them to come up to the house--all of them--and we were shown into the Garden Room which opens out upon what was once a terraced garden, and there was a great cake with candles, and sandwiches, and coffee for the grown-ups and hot chocolate for the kiddies.

Wasn't that dear? I had little Francois thank them, and he did it so well. Why is it that these small foreigners lack the self-consciousness of our own boys and girls? He had been one of the wise men in the spectacle, and he still wore his white beard and turban and his long blue and red robes. Yet he wasn't in the least fussed; he simply made a bow, said what he had to say, made another bow, with never a blush or a quaver or giggle. His mother was there, and she was so happy--she is a widow, and sews in the neighborhood, plain sewing, and they are very poor.

I rode home with the Bowers, and as we drove along, I heard the children singing. I am sure they will never forget the night under the winter stars, nor the scene in the stable with the cow and the little donkey and the old ewe, and the Light that illumined the manger. I want them always to remember, Uncle Rod, and I want to remember. It is only when I forget that I lose faith and hope.

Blessed dear, good-night.

YOUR ANNE.

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