Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMistress Anne - Chapter 6. In Which A Gray Plush Pussy Cat Supplies A Theme
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Mistress Anne - Chapter 6. In Which A Gray Plush Pussy Cat Supplies A Theme Post by :kimaiga Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :1927

Click below to download : Mistress Anne - Chapter 6. In Which A Gray Plush Pussy Cat Supplies A Theme (Format : PDF)

Mistress Anne - Chapter 6. In Which A Gray Plush Pussy Cat Supplies A Theme

CHAPTER VI. In Which a Gray Plush Pussy Cat Supplies a Theme

ANNE at the top of the stairs talked to Geoffrey Fox at the foot.

"But you really ought not to stay."

"Why not?"

"Because if you haven't had the measles you might get them, and, besides, poor Mrs. Bower is so busy."

"Why not tell me the truth? You don't want me to stay."

"What difference can it possibly make to me?"

"It may make a great difference," Geoffrey said, quietly, "whether I go or stay, but we won't talk of that. I am here. All my traps, bag and baggage, typewriter and trunks--books and bathrobe--and yet you want to send me away."

"I haven't anything to do with it. But the house is closed to every one."

"And everything smells of antiseptics. I rather like that. I spent six weeks in a hospital once. I had a nervous breakdown, and the quiet was heavenly, and all the nurses were angels."

She would not smile. "Of course if you will stay," she said, "you must take things as they come. Mrs. Bower will send your meals up to you. She won't have time to set a company table."

"I'm not company; let me eat with the rest of you."

She hesitated. "You wouldn't like it. I don't like it. There's no service, you see--we all just help ourselves."

"I can help myself."

She shook her head. "It will be easier for Mrs. Bower to bring it up."

He climbed three steps and stopped. "Are you going to do all the nursing?"

"I shall do some of it. Peggy is really ill. There are complications. And Mrs. Bower and Beulah have so much to do. We shall have to close the school. Dr. Brooks wants to save as many as possible from having it."

"So Brooks is handling Peggy's case."

"Of course. Peter Bower knew his grandfather."

"Well, it is something to have a grandfather. And to follow in his footsteps."

But her mind was not on grandfathers. "Dr. Brooks will be here in an hour and I must get Peggy's room ready. And will you please look after yourself for a little while? Eric will attend to your trunks."

It took Geoffrey all the morning to settle. He heard Richard come and go. At noon Anne brought up his tray.

Opening the door to her knock, he protested. "You shouldn't have done it."

"Why not? It is all in the day's work. And I am not going to be silly about it any more."

"You were never silly about it."

"Yes, I was. But I have worked it all out in my mind. My bringing up the tray to you won't make me any less than I am or any more. It is the way we feel about ourselves that counts--not what other people think of us."

"So you don't care what I think of you?"

"No, not if I am doing the things I think are right."

"And you don't care what Richard Brooks thinks?"

The color mounted. "No," steadily.

"Nor Miss Chesley?"

"Of course not."

"Not of course. You do care. You'd hate it if you thought they'd criticize. And you'd cry after you went to bed."

She felt that such clairvoyance was uncanny. "I wouldn't cry."

"Well, you'd feel like it."

"Please don't talk about me in that way. It really doesn't make any difference how I feel, does it? And your lunch is getting cold."

"What made you bring it? Why didn't you let Mrs. Bower or Beulah?"

"Mrs. Bower is lying down, and Beulah has been ironing all the morning."

"The next time call me, and I'll wait upon myself."

"Perhaps I shall." She surveyed his tray. "I've forgotten the cream for your coffee."

"I don't take cream. Oh, please don't go. I want you to see my books and my other belongings."

He had brought dozens of books, a few pictures, a little gilded Chinese god, a bronze bust of Napoleon.

"Everything has a reason for being dragged around with me. That etching of Helleu's is like my little sister, Mimi, who is at school in a convent, and who constitutes my whole family. The gilded Chinese god is a mascot--the Napoleon intrigues the imagination."

"Do you think so much of Napoleon?" coldly. "He was a little great man. I'd rather talk to my children of George Washington."

"You women have a grudge against him because of Josephine."

"Yes. He killed something in himself when he put her from him. And the world knew it, and his downfall began. He forgot that love is the greatest thing in the world."

How lovely she was, all fire and feeling!

"Jove," he said, staring, "if you could write, you'd make people sit up and listen. You've kept your dreams. That's what the world wants--the stuff that dreams are made of. And most of us have lost ours by the time we know how to put things on paper."

* * * * *

For days the sound of Geoffrey's typewriter could be heard in the hall. "Does it disturb Peggy?" he asked Anne late one night as he met her on the stairs.

"No; her room is too far away. You were so good to send her the lovely toys. She adores the plush pussy cat."

"I like cats. They are coy--and caressing. Dogs are too frankly adoring."

"The eternal masculine." She smiled at him. "Is your work coming on?"

"I have a first chapter. May I read it to you?"

"Please--I should love it."

She was glad to sit quietly by the big fireplace. With eyes half-closed, she listened to the opening sentences. But as he proceeded, her listlessness vanished. And when he laid down the manuscript she was leaning forward, her slim hands clasped tensely on her knees, her eyes wide with interest.

"Oh, oh," she told him, "how do you know it all--how can you make them live and breathe--like that?"

For a moment he did not answer, then he said, "I don't know how I do it. No artist knows how he creates. It is like Life and Death--and other miracles. If I could keep to this pace, I'd have a masterpiece. But I shan't keep to it."

"Why not?"

"I never do."

"But this time--with such a beginning."

"Will you be my critic, Mistress Anne? Let me read to you now and then--like this?"

"I am afraid I should spoil you with praise. It all seems so--wonderful."

"You can't spoil me, and I like to be wonderful."

In spite of his egotism, she found herself modifying her first unfavorable estimate of him. His quick eager speech, his mobile mouth, his mop of dark hair, his white restless hands, his long-lashed near-sighted eyes, these contributed a personality which had in it nothing commonplace or conventional.

For three nights he read to her. On the fourth he had nothing to read. "It is the same old story," he burst out passionately. "I see mountain peaks, then, suddenly, darkness falls and my brain is blank."

"Wait a little," she told him; "it will come back."

"But it never comes back. All of my good beginnings flat out toward the end. And that's why I'm pot-boiling, because," bitterly, "I am not big enough for anything else."

"You mustn't say such things. We achieve only as we believe in ourselves. Don't you know that? If you believe that things are going to end badly, they will end badly."

"Oh, wise little school-teacher, how do you know?"

"It is what I teach my children. That they must believe in themselves."

"What else do you teach them?"

"That they must believe in God and love their country, and then nothing can happen to them that they cannot bear. It is only when one loses faith and hope that life doesn't seem worth while."

"And do you believe all that you teach?"

Silence. She was gazing into the fire thoughtfully. "I believe it, but I don't always live up to it. That's the hard part, acting up the things that we believe. I tell my children that, and I tell them, too, that they must always keep on trying."

She was delicious with her theories and her seriousness. And she was charming in the crisp blue gown that had been her uniform since the beginning of Peggy's illness.

He laughed and leaned toward her. "Oh, Mistress Anne, Mistress Anne, how much you have to learn."

She stood up. "Perhaps I know more than you think."

"Are you angry because I said that? But I love your arguments."

His frankness was irresistible; she could not take offense so she sat down again.

"Perhaps," she said, hesitating, "you might understand better how I feel if I told you about my Great-uncle Rodman Warfield. When he was very young he went to Paris to study art, and he attracted much attention. Then after a while he began to find the people interested him more than pictures. You see we come from old Maryland stock. My grandmother, Cynthia Warfield, was one of the proudest women in Carroll. But Uncle Rodman doesn't believe in family pride, not the kind that sticks its nose in the air; and so when he came back to America he resolved to devote his talents to glorifying the humble. He lived among the poor and he painted pictures of them. And then one day there was an accident. He saved a woman from drowning between a ferry-boat and the slip, and he hurt his back. There was a sort of paralysis that affected the nerves of his hand--and he couldn't paint any more. He came to us--when I was a little girl. My father was dead, and mother had a small income. We couldn't afford servants, so mother sewed and Uncle Rod and I did the housework. And it was he who tried to teach me that work is the one royal thing in our lives."

"Where is he now?"

"When mother died our income was cut off, and--I had to leave him. He could have a home with a cousin of ours and teach her children. I might have stayed with her, but there was nothing for me to do. And we felt that it was best for me to--find myself. So I came here. He writes to me--every day----" She drew a long breath. "I don't think I could live without letters from my Uncle Rod."

"So you are really a princess in disguise, and you would love to stick your nose in the air, but you don't quite dare?"

"I shouldn't love to do anything snobbish."

"There is no use in pretending that you are humble when you are not. And your Great-uncle Rodman is a dreamer. Life is what it is, not what we want it to be."

"I like his dreams," she said, simply, "and I want to be as good as he thinks I am."

"You don't have to be too good. You are too pretty. Do you know that Cynthia Warfield's granddaughter is a great beauty, Mistress Anne?"

"I know that I don't like to have you say such things to me."

"Why not?"

"I am not sure that you mean them."

"But I do mean them," eagerly.

"Perhaps," stiffly, "but we won't talk about it. I must go up to Peggy."

Peter Bower was with Peggy. He was a round and red-faced Peter with the kindest heart in the world. And Peggy was the apple of his eye.

"Do you think she is better, Miss Anne?"

"Indeed I do. And now you go and get some sleep, Mr. Bower. I'll stay with her until four, and then I'll wake Beulah."

He left her with the daily paper and a new magazine, and with the light shaded, Anne sat down to read. Peggy was sleeping soundly with both arms around the plush pussy which Geoffrey had given her. It was a most lifelike pussy, gray-striped with green glass eyes and with a little red mouth that opened and mewed when you pulled a string. Hung by a ribbon around the pussy cat's neck was a little brass bell. As the child stirred in her sleep the little bell tinkled. There was no sound except the sighing of the wind. All the house was still.

The paper was full of news of the great war. Anne read it carefully, and the articles on the same subject in the magazine. She felt that she must know as much as possible, so that she might speak to her children intelligently of the great conflict. Of Belgium and England, of France and Germany. She must be fair, with all those clear eyes focussed upon her. She must, indeed, attempt a sort of neutrality. But how could she be neutral, with her soul burning candles on the altar of the allies?

As she read on and on in the silence of the night, there came to her the thought of the dead on the field of battle. What of those shining souls? What happened after men went out into the Great Beyond? Hun and Norman, Saxon and Slav, among the shadows were they all at Peace?

Again the child stirred and the little bell tinkled. It seemed to Anne that the bell and the staring eyes were symbolic. The gay world played its foolish music and looked with unseeing eyes upon murder and madness. If little Peggy had lain there dead, the little bell would still have tinkled, the wide green eyes would still have stared.

But Peggy, thank God, was alive. Her face, like old ivory against the whiteness of her pillow, showed the ravages of illness, but the doctor had said she was out of danger.

The child stirred and spoke. "Anne," she whispered, "tell me about the bears."

Anne knelt beside the bed. "We must be very quiet," she said. "I don't want to wake Beulah."

So very softly she told the story. Of the Daddy Bear and the Mother Bear and the Baby Bear; of the little House in the Woods; of Goldilocks, the three bowls of soup, the three chairs, the three beds----

In the midst of it all Peggy sat up. "I want a bowl of soup like the little bear."

"But, darling, you've had your lovely supper."

"I don't care." Peggy's lip quivered. "I'm just starved, and I can't wait until I have my breakfast."

"Let me tell you the rest of the story."

"No. I don't want to hear it. I want a bowl of soup like the little bear's."

"Maybe it wasn't nice soup, Peggy."

"But you _said it was. You said that the Mother Bear made it out of the corn from the farmer's field, and the cock that the fox brought, and she seasoned it with herbs that she found at the edge of the forest. You said yourself it was _dee-licious soup, Miss Anne."

She began to cry weakly.

"Dearie, don't. If I go down into the kitchen and warm some broth will you keep very still?"

"Yes. Only I don't want just broth. I want soup like the little bear had."

"Peggy, I am not a fairy godmother. I can't wave my wand and get things in the middle of the night."

"Well, anyhow, you can put it in a blue bowl, you _said the little bear had his in a blue bowl, and you said he had ten crackers in it. I want ten crackers----"

The kitchen was warm and shadowy, with the light of a kerosene lamp above the cook-stove. Anne flitted about noiselessly, finding a little saucepan, finding a little blue bowl, breaking one cracker into ten bits to satisfy the insistent Peggy, stirring the bubbling broth with a spoon as she bent above it.

And as she stirred, she was thinking of Geoffrey Fox, not as she had thought of Richard, with pulses throbbing and heart fluttering, but calmly; of his book and of the little bust of Napoleon, and of the things that she had been reading about the war.

She poured the soup out of the saucepan, and set it steaming on a low tray. Then quietly she ascended the stairs. Geoffrey's door was wide open and his room was empty, but through the dimness of the long hall she discerned his figure, outlined against a wide window at the end. Back of him the world under the light of the waning moon showed black and white like a great wash drawing.

He turned as she came toward him. "I heard you go down," he said. "I've been writing all night--and I've written--perfect rot." His hands went out in a despairing gesture.

Composed and quiet in her crisp linen, she looked up at him. "Write about the war," she said; "take three soldiers,--French, German and English. Make their hearts hot with hatred, and then--let them lie wounded together on the field of battle in the darkness of the night--with death ahead--and let each one tell his story--let them be drawn together by the knowledge of a common lot--a common destiny----"

"What made you think of that?" he demanded.

"Peggy's pussy cat." She told him of the staring eyes and the tinkling bell. "But I mustn't stay. Peggy is waiting for her soup."

He gazed at her with admiration. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Dictate a heaven-born plot to me in one breath, and speak of Peggy's soup in the next. You are like Werther's Charlotte."

"I am like myself. And we mustn't stay here talking. It is time we were both in bed. I am going to wake Beulah when I have fed Peggy."

He made a motion of salute. "The princess serves," he said, laughing.

But as she passed on, calm and cool and collected, carrying the tray before her like the famous Chocolate lady on the backs of magazines, the laugh died on his lips. She was not to be laughed at, this little Anne Warfield, who held her head so high!

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Mistress Anne - Chapter 7. In Which Geoffrey Writes Of Soldiers And Their Souls Mistress Anne - Chapter 7. In Which Geoffrey Writes Of Soldiers And Their Souls

Mistress Anne - Chapter 7. In Which Geoffrey Writes Of Soldiers And Their Souls
CHAPTER VII. In Which Geoffrey Writes of Soldiers and Their SoulsEVE CHESLEY writing from New York was still in a state of rebellion. "And now they all have the _measles_. Richard, it needed only your letter to let me know what you have done to yourself. When I think of you, tearing around the country on your old white horse, with your ears tied up--I am sure you tie up your ears--it is a perfect nightmare. Oh, Dicky Boy, and you might be here specializing on appendicitis or something equally reasonable and modern. I feel as if the world were upside
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Mistress Anne - Chapter 5. In Which Peggy Takes The Center Of The Stage Mistress Anne - Chapter 5. In Which Peggy Takes The Center Of The Stage

Mistress Anne - Chapter 5. In Which Peggy Takes The Center Of The Stage
CHAPTER V. In Which Peggy Takes the Center of the StageTHE bell on the schoolhouse had a challenging note. It seemed to call to the distant hills, and the echo came back in answer. It was the voice of civilization. "I am here that you may learn of other hills and of other valleys, of men who have dreamed and of men who have discovered, of nations which have conquered and of nations which have fallen into decay. I am here that you may learn--_ding dong_--that you may learn, _ding ding_--that you may learn--_ding dong ding_--of Life." As she rang the
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT