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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMistress Anne - Chapter 7. In Which Geoffrey Writes Of Soldiers And Their Souls
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Mistress Anne - Chapter 7. In Which Geoffrey Writes Of Soldiers And Their Souls Post by :kimaiga Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :1650

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

CHAPTER VII. In Which Geoffrey Writes of Soldiers and Their Souls

EVE 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 down. Do children in New York ever have the measles? Somehow I never hear of it. It seems to me almost archaic--like mumps. Nobody in society ever has the mumps, or if they do, they keep it a dead secret, like a family skeleton, or a hard-working grandfather.

"Your letters are so short, and they don't tell me what you do with your evenings. Don't you miss us? Don't you miss me? And our good times? And the golden lights of the city? Winifred Ames wants you for a dinner dance on the twentieth. Can't you turn the measley kiddies over to some one else and come? Say 'yes,' Dicky, dear. Oh, you musn't be just a country doctor. You were born for bigger things, and some day you will see it and be sorry."

Richard's letter, dashed off between visits to the "measley kiddies," was as follows:

"There aren't any bigger things, Eve, and I shan't be sorry. I can't get away just now, and to be frank, I don't want to. There is nothing dull about measles. They have aspects of interest unknown to a dinner dance. I am not saying that I don't miss some of the things that I have left behind--my good friends--you and Pip and the Dutton-Ames. But there are compensations. And you should see my horse. He's a heavy fellow like a horse of Flanders; I call him Ben because he is big and gentle. I don't tie up my ears, but I should if I wanted to. And please don't think I am ungrateful because I am not coming to the Dutton-Ames dance. Why don't you and the rest drift down here for a week-end? Next Friday, the Friday after? Let me know. There's good skating now that the snows have stopped."

He signed it and sealed it and on the way to see little Peggy he dropped it into the box. Then he entirely forgot it. It was a wonderful morning, with a sky like sapphire above a white world, the dog Toby racing ahead of him, and big gentle Ben at a trot.

At the innocent word "compensations" Evelyn Chesley pricked up her ears. What compensations? She got Philip Meade on the telephone.

"Richard has asked us for the week-end, Pip. Could we go in your car?"

"Unless it snows again. But why seek such solitudes, Eve?"

"I want to take Richard a fur cap. I am sure he ties up his ears."

"Send it."

"In a cold-blooded parcel post package? I will not. Pip, if you won't go, I'll kidnap Aunt Maude, and carry her off by train."

"And leave me out? Not much. 'Whither thou goest----'"

"Even when I am on the trail of another man? Pip, you are a dear idiot."

"The queen's fool."

So it was decided that on Friday, weather permitting, they should go.

Aunt Maude, protesting, said, "It isn't proper, Eve. Girls in my day didn't go running around after men. They sat at home and waited."

"Why wait, dearest? When I see a good thing I go for it."

"Eve----!"

"And anyhow I am not running after Dicky. I am rescuing him."

"From what?"

"From his mother, dearest, and his own dreams. Their heads are in the clouds, and they don't know it."

"I think myself that Nancy is making a mistake."

"More of a mistake than she understands." The lightness left Eve's voice. She was silent as she ate an orange and drank a cup of clear coffee. Eve's fashionable and adorable thinness was the result of abstinence and of exercise. Facing daily Aunt Maude's plumpness, she had sacrificed ease and appetite on the altar of grace and beauty.

Yet Aunt Maude's plumpness was not the plumpness of inelegance. Nothing about Aunt Maude was inelegant. She was of ancient Knickerbocker stock. She had been petrified by years of social exclusiveness into something less amiable than her curves and dimples promised. Her hair was gray, and not much of it was her own. Her curled bang and high coronet braid were held flatly against her head by a hair net. She wore always certain chains and bracelets which proclaimed the family's past prosperity. Her present prosperity was evidenced by the somewhat severe richness of her attire. Her complexion was delicately yellow and her wrinkles were deep. Her eyes were light blue and coldly staring. In manner she seemed to set herself against any world but her own.

The money on which the two women lived was Aunt Maude's. She expected to make Eve her heir. In the meantime she gave her a generous allowance and indulged most of her whims.

The latest whim was the new breakfast room in which they now sat, with the winter sun streaming through the small panes of a wide south window.

For sixty odd years Aunt Maude had eaten her breakfast promptly at eight from a tray in her own room. It had been a hearty breakfast of hot breads and chops. At one she had lunched decently in the long dim dining-room in a mid-Victorian atmosphere of Moquet and marble mantels, carved walnut and plush curtains.

And now back of this sacred dining-room Eve had built out a structure of glass and of stone, looking over a scrap of enclosed city garden, and furnished in black and white, relieved by splashes of brilliant color. Aunt Maude hated the green parrot and the flame-colored fishes in the teakwood aquarium. She thought that Eve looked like an actress in the little jacket with the apple-green ribbons which she wore when she came down at twelve.

"Aren't we ever going to eat any more luncheons?" had been Aunt Maude's plaintive question when she realized that she was in the midst of a gastronomic revolution.

"Nobody does, dearest. If you are really up-to-date you breakfast and dine--the other meals are vague--illusory."

"People in my time----" Aunt Maude had stated.

"People in your time," Evelyn had interrupted flippantly, "were wise and good. Nobody wants to be wise and good in these days. We want to be smart and sophisticated. Your good old stuffy dining-rooms were like your good old stuffy consciences. Now my breakfast room is symbolic--the green and white for the joy of living, and the black for my sins."

She stood up on tiptoe to feed the parrot. "To-morrow," she announced, "I am to have a black cat. I found one at the cat show--with green eyes. And I am going to match his cushion to his eyes."

"I'd like a cat," Aunt Maude said, unexpectedly, "but I can't say that I care for black ones. The grays are the best mousers."

Eve looked at her reproachfully. "Do you think that cats catch mice?" she demanded,--"up-to-date cats? They sit on cushions and add emphasis to the color scheme. Winifred Ames has a yellow one to go with her primrose panels."

The telephone rang. A maid answered it. "It is for you, Miss Evelyn."

"It is Pip," Eve said, as she turned from the telephone; "he's coming up."

Aunt Maude surveyed her. "You're not going to receive him as you are?"

"As I am? Why not?"

"Eve, go to your room and put something _on_," Aunt Maude agonized; "when I was a girl----"

Evelyn dropped a kiss on her cheek. "When you were a girl, Aunt Maude, you were very pretty, and you wore very low necks and short sleeves on the street, and short dresses--and--and----"

Remembering the family album, Aunt Maude stopped her hastily. "It doesn't make any difference what I wore. You are not going to receive any gentleman in that ridiculous jacket."

Eve surveyed herself in an oval mirror set above a console-table. "I think I look rather nice. And Pip would like me in anything. Aunt Maude, it's a queer world for us women. The men that we want don't want us, and the men that we don't want adore us. The emancipation of women will come when they can ask men to marry them."

She was ruffling the feathers on the green parrot's head. He caught her finger carefully in his claw and crooned.

Aunt Maude rose. "I had twenty proposals--your uncle's was the twentieth. I loved him at first sight, and I loved him until he left me."

"Uncle was a dear," Eve agreed, "but suppose he hadn't asked you, Aunt Maude?"

"I should have remained single to the end of my days."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't, Aunt Maude. You would have married the wrong man--that's the way it always ends--if women didn't marry the wrong men half the world would be old maids."

Philip Meade was much in love. He had money, family, good looks and infinite patience. Some day he meant to marry Eve. But he was aware that she was not yet in love with him.

She came down gowned for the street. And thus kept him waiting. "It was Aunt Maude's fault. She made me dress. Pip, where shall we walk?"

He did not care. He cared only to be with her. He told her so, and she smiled up at him wistfully. "You're such a dear--I wish----"

She stopped.

"What do you wish?" he asked eagerly.

"For the--sun. You are the moon. May I call you my moon-man, Pip?"

He knew what she meant "Yes. But you must remember that some day I shall not be content to take second place--I shall fight for the head of your line of lovers."

"Line of lovers--_Pip_. I don't like the sound of it."

"Why not? It's true."

Again she was wistful. "I wonder how many of them really--care? Pip, it is the one-proposal girl who is lucky. She has no problems. She simply takes the man she can get!"

They were swinging along Fifth Avenue. He stopped at a flower shop and bought her a tight little knot of yellow roses which matched her hair. She was in brown velvet with brown boots and brown furs. Her skin showed pink and white in the clear cold. She and the big man by her side were a pair good to look upon, and people turned to look.

Coming to a famous jewel shop she turned in. "I am going to have all of Aunt Maude's opals set in platinum to make a long chain. She gave them to me; and there'll be diamonds at intervals. I want to wear smoke-colored tulle at Winifred Ames' dinner dance--and the opals will light it."

Philip Meade's mind was not poetic, yet as his eyes followed Evelyn, he was aware that this was an atmosphere which belonged to her. Her beauty was opulent, needing richness to set it off, needing the shine of jewels, the shimmer of silk----

If he married her he could give her--a tiara of diamonds--a necklace of pearls--a pendant--a ring. His eyes swept the store adorning her.

When they came out he said, "I think I am showing a greatness of mind which should win your admiration."

"Why?"

"In taking you to Crossroads."

"Why?"

"You know why. Shall you write to Brooks that we are coming?"

"No. I want it to be a surprise. That's half the fun."

But there was nothing funny about it, as it proved, for it was on that very Friday morning that Richard had found Peggy much better, and Anne very pale with circles under her eyes.

He went away, and later his mother called Anne up. She asked her to spend the day at Crossroads. Richard would come for her and would bring her home after dinner.

Anne, with a fluttering sense of excitement, packed her ruffled white frock in a little bag, and was ready when Richard arrived.

At the gate they met Geoffrey Fox. The young doctor stopped his horse. "Come and have lunch with us, Fox?"

"I'm sorry. But I must get to work. How long are you going to keep Miss Warfield?"

"As late as we can."

"To-night?"

"Yes."

"I have a chapter ready to read to her, and you ask her to eat with you as if she were any every-day sort of person. Did you know that she is to play Beatrice to my Dante?"

"Don't be silly," Anne said; "you mustn't listen to him, Dr. Brooks."

Richard's eyes went from one to the other. "What do you know of Fox?" he asked, as they drove on.

"Nothing, except that he is writing a book."

"I'll ask Eve about him; she's a lion-hunter and she's in with a lot of literary lights."

Even as he spoke Evelyn was speeding toward him in Philip's car. He had forgotten her and his invitation for the week-end. But she had not forgotten, and she sparkled and glowed as she thought of Richard's royal welcome. For how could she know, as she drew near and nearer, that he was welcoming another guest, taking off the little teacher's old brown coat, noting the flush on her young cheeks, the pretty appeal of her manner to his mother.

"You are sure I won't be in the way, Mrs. Brooks?"

"My dear, my dear, of course not. Richard has been telling me that your grandmother was Cynthia Warfield. Did you know that my father was in love with Cynthia before he married my mother?"

"The letters said so."

"I shall want to see them. And to hear about your Great-uncle Rodman. We thought at one time that he was going to be famous, and then came that dreadful accident."

They had her in a big chair now, with a high back which peaked over her head and Nancy had another high-backed chair, and Richard standing on the hearth-rug surveyed the two of them contentedly.

"Mother, I am going to give myself fifteen minutes right here and a half hour for lunch, and then I'll go out and make calls, and you and Miss Warfield can take a nap and be ready to talk to me to-night."

Anne smiled up at him. "Do you always make everybody mind?"

"I try to boss mother a bit--but I am not sure that I succeed."

Before luncheon was served Cynthia Warfield's picture, which hung in the library, was pointed out to Anne. She was made to stand under it, so that they might see that her hair was the same color--and her eyes. Cynthia was painted in pink silk with a petticoat of fine lace, and with pearls in her hair.

"Some day," Anne said, "when my ship comes in, I am going to wear stiff pink silk and pearls and buckled slippers and yards and yards of old lace."

"No, you're not," Richard told her; "you are going to wear white with more than a million ruffles, and little flat black shoes. Mother, you should have seen her at Beulah Bower's party."

"White is always nice for a young girl," said pleasant Nancy Brooks.

The dining-room looked out upon the river, with an old-fashioned bay window curving out. The table was placed near the window. Anne's eyes brightened as she looked at the table. It was just as she had pictured it, all twinkling glass and silver, and with Richard at the head of it. But what she had not pictured was the moment in which he stood to say the simple and beautiful grace which his grandfather had said years before in that room of many memories.

The act seemed to set him apart from other men. It added dignity and strength to his youth and radiance. He was master of a house, and he felt that his house should have a soul!

Anne, writing of it the next night to her Uncle Rod, spoke of that simple grace:

"Uncle Rod, it seemed to me that while most of the world was forgetting God, he was remembering Him. Nobody says grace at Bower's--and sometimes I don't even say it in my heart. He looked like a saint as he stood there with the window behind him. Wasn't there a soldier saint--St. Michael?

"Could you imagine Jimmie Ford saying grace? Could you imagine him even at the head of his own table? When I used to think of marrying him, I had a vision of eternal motor riding in his long blue car--with the world rushing by in a green streak.

"But I am not wanting much to talk of Jimmie Ford. Though perhaps before I finish this I shall whisper what I thought of the things you had to say of him in your letter.

"Well, after lunch I had a nap, and then there was dinner with David Tyson in an old-fashioned dress-suit, and Mrs. Nancy in thin black with pearls, and St. Michael groomed and shining.

"It was all quite like a slice of Heaven after my hard days nursing Peggy. We had coffee in the library, and then Dr. Richard and I went into the music-room and I played for him. I sang the song that you like about the 'Lady of the West Country':


"'I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes, beauty passes,
However rare, rare it be;
And when I crumble who shall remember
That Lady of the West Country?'


"He liked it and made me sing it twice, and then a dreadful thing happened. A motor stopped at the door and some one ran up the steps. We heard voices and turned around, and there were the Lovely Ladies back again with the two men, and a chauffeur in the background with the bags!

"It seems that they had motored down at Dr. Richard's invitation for a week-end, and that he had forgotten it!

"Of course you are asking, 'Why was it a dreadful thing, my dear?' Uncle Rod, I stood there smiling a welcome at them all, and Dr. Richard said: 'You know Miss Warfield, Eve,' and then she said, 'Oh, yes,' in a frigid fashion, and I knew by her manner that back in her mind she was remembering that I was the girl who had waited on the table!

"Oh, you needn't tell me that I mustn't feel that way, Uncle Rod. I feel it, and feel it, and _feel it. How can I help feeling it when I know that if I had Evelyn Chesley's friends and Evelyn's fortune, people would look on Me-Myself in quite a different way. You see, they would judge me by the Outside-Person part of me, which would be soft and silky and secure, and not dowdy and diffident.

"Oh, Uncle Rod, is Geoffrey Fox right? And have you and I been dreaming all these years? The rest of the world doesn't dream; it makes money and spends it, and makes money and spends it, and makes money and spends it. Only you and I are still old-fashioned enough to want sunsets; the rest of them want motor cars and yachts and trips to Europe. That was what Jimmie Ford wanted, and that was why he didn't want me.

"There, I have said it, Uncle Rod. Your letter made me know it. Perhaps I have hoped and hoped a little that he might come back to me. I have made up scenes in my mind of how I would scorn him and send him away, and indeed I would send him away, for there isn't any love left--only a lot of hurt pride.

"To think that he saw you and spoke to you and didn't say one word about me. And just a year ago at Christmas time, do you remember, Uncle Rod? The flowers he sent, and the pearl ring--and now the flowers are dead, and the ring went back to him.

"Oh, I can't talk about it even to you!

"Well, all the evening Eve Chesley held the center of the stage. And the funny part of it was that I found myself much interested in the things she had to tell. Her life is a sort of Arabian Nights' existence. She lives with her Aunt Maude in a big house east of Central Park, and she told about the green parrot for her new black and white breakfast room, and the flame-colored fishes in an aquarium--and she is having her opals set in platinum to go with a silver gown that she is to wear at the Dutton-Ames dance.

"I like the Dutton-Ames. He is dark and massive--a splendid foil for his wife's slenderness and fairness. They are much in love with each other. He always sits beside her if he can, and she looks up at him and smiles, and last night I saw him take her hand where it hung among the folds of her gown, and he held it after that--and it made me think of father and mother--and of the way they cared. Jimmie Ford could never care like that--but Dr. Richard could. He cares that way for his mother--he could care for the woman he loved.

"He took me home in Mr. Meade's limousine. It was moonlight, and he told the chauffeur to drive the long way by the river road.

"I like him very much. He believes in things, and--and I rather think, that _his ship is packed with dreams--but I am not sure, Uncle Rod."

* * * * *

It was when Anne had come in from her moonlight ride with Richard, shutting the door carefully behind her, that she found Geoffrey Fox waiting for her in the big front room.

"Oh," she stammered.

"And you really have the grace to blush? Do you know what time it is?"

"No."

"Twelve! Midnight! And you have been riding with only the chauffeur for chaperone."

"Well?"

"And you have kept me waiting. That's the worst of it. You may break all of the conventional commandments if you wish. But you mustn't keep me waiting."

His laugh rang high, his cheeks were flushed. Anne had never seen him in a mood like this. In his loose coat with a flowing black tie and with his ruffled hair curling close about his ears, he looked boyish and handsome like the pictures she had seen of Byron in an old book.

"Sit down, sit down," he was insisting; "now that you are here, you must listen."

"It is too late," she demurred, "and we'll wake everybody up."

"No, we shan't. The doors are shut. I saw to that. We are as much alone as if we were in a desert. And I can't sleep until I have read that chapter to you--please----"

Reluctantly, with her wraps on, she sat down.

"Take off your hat."

He stood over her while she removed it, and helped her out of her coat "Look at me," he said, peremptorily. "I hate to read to wandering eyes."

He threw himself into a chair and began:

"_So they marched away--young Franz from Nuremberg and young George from London, and Michel straight from the vineyards on the coast of France._"

That was the beginning of Geoffrey Fox's famous story: "The Three Souls," the story which was to bring him something of fortune as well as of fame, the story which had been suggested to Anne Warfield by the staring eyes of Peggy's pussy cat.

As she listened, Anne saw three youths starting out from home, marching gaily through the cities and steadily along the roads--marching, marching--Franz from Nuremburg, young George from London, and Michel from his sunlighted vineyards, drawing close and closer, unconscious of the fate that was bringing them together, thinking of the glory of battle, and of the honor of Kaiser and King and of the Republic.

The shadow of the great conflict falls gradually upon them. They meet the wounded, the refugees, they hear the roar of the guns, they listen to the tales of those who have been in the thick of it.

Then come privations, suffering, winter in the trenches--Franz on one side, young George on the other, and Michel; then fighting--fear----

Geoffrey stopped there. "Shall I have them afraid?"

"I think they would be afraid. But they would keep on fighting, and that would be heroic."

She added, "How well you do it!"

"This part is easy. It will be the last of it that I shall find hard--when I deal with their souls."

"Oh, you must show at the last that it is because of their souls that they are brothers. Each man has had a home, he has had love, each of them has had his hopes and dreams for the future, for his middle-age and his old age, and now there is to be no middle-age, no old age--and in their knowledge of their common lot their hatred dies."

"I am afraid I can't do it," he said, moodily. "I should have to swing myself out into an atmosphere which I have never breathed."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, I am of the earth--earthy. I have sold my birthright, I have yearned for the flesh-pots, I have fed among--swine. I have done all of the other things which haven't Biblical sanction. And now you expect me to write of souls."

"I expect you to give to the world your best. You speak of your talent as if it were a little thing. And it is not a little thing."

"Do you mean that----?"

"I mean that it is--God given."

Out of a long silence he said: "I thank you for saying that. Nobody has ever said such a thing to me before."

He let her go then. And as she stood before her door a little later and whispered, "Good-night," he caught her hand and held it. "Mistress Anne--will you remember me--now and then--in your little white prayers?"

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