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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 29. Melissa And Margaret
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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 29. Melissa And Margaret Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :John Fox Date :May 2012 Read :2726

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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 29. Melissa And Margaret

The early spring sunshine lay like a benediction over the Dean household, for Margaret and her mother were home from exile. On the corner of the veranda sat Mrs. Dean, where she always sat, knitting. Under the big weeping willow in the garden was her husband's grave. When she was not seated near it, she was there in the porch, and to it her eyes seemed always to stray when she lifted them from her work.

The mail had just come and Margaret was reading a letter from Dan, and, as she read, her cheeks flushed.

"He took me into his own tent, mother, and put his own clothes on me and nursed me like a brother. And now he is going to take me to you and Margaret, he says, and I shall be strong enough, I hope, to start in a week. I shall be his friend for life."

Neither mother nor daughter spoke when the girl ceased reading. Only Margaret rose soon and walked down the gravelled walk to the stile.

Beneath the hill, the creek sparkled. She could see the very pool where her brothers and the queer little stranger from the mountains were fishing the day he came into her life. She remembered the indignant heart-beat with which she had heard him call her "little gal," and she smiled now, but she could recall the very tone of his voice and the steady look in his clear eyes when he offered her the perch he had caught. Even then his spirit appealed unconsciously to her, when he sturdily refused to go up to the house because her brother was "feelin' hard towards him." How strange and far away all that seemed now! Up the creek and around the woods she strolled, deep in memories. For a long while she sat on a stone wall in the sunshine--thinking and dreaming, and it was growing late when she started back to the house. At the stile, she turned for a moment to look at the old Buford home across the fields. As she looked, she saw the pike-gate open and a woman's figure enter, and she kept her eyes idly upon it as she walked on toward the house. The woman came slowly and hesitatingly toward the yard. When she drew nearer, Margaret could see that she wore homespun, home-made shoes, and a poke-bonnet. On her hands were yarn half-mits, and, as she walked, she pushed her bonnet from her eyes with one hand, first to one side, then to the other--looking at the locusts planted along the avenue, the cedars in the yard, the sweep of lawn overspread with springing bluegrass. At the yard gate she stopped, leaning over it--her eyes fixed on the stately white house, with its mighty pillars. Margaret was standing on the steps now, motionless and waiting, and, knowing that she was seen, the woman opened the gate and walked up the gravelled path--never taking her eyes from the figure on the porch. Straight she walked to the foot of the steps, and there she stopped, and, pushing her bonnet back, she said, simply:

"Are you Mar-ga-ret?" pronouncing the name slowly and with great distinctness.

Margaret started.

"Yes," she said.

The girl merely looked at her--long and hard. Once her lips moved:

"Mar-ga-ret," and still she looked. "Do you know whar Chad is?"

Margaret flushed.

"Who are you?"

"Melissy."

Melissa! The two girls looked deep into each other's eyes and, for one flashing moment, each saw the other's heart--bared and beating--and Margaret saw, too, a strange light ebb slowly from the other's face and a strange shadow follow slowly after.

"You mean Major Buford?"

"I mean Chad. Is he dead?"

"No, he is bringing my brother home."

"Harry?"

"No--Dan."

"Dan--here?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"As soon as my brother gets well enough to travel. He is wounded."

Melissa turned her face then. Her mouth twitched and her clasped hands were working in and out. Then she turned again.

"I come up here from the mountains, afoot jus' to tell ye--to tell YOU that Chad ain't no"--she stopped suddenly, seeing Margaret's quick flush--"CHAD'S MOTHER WAS MARRIED. I jus' found it out last week. He ain't no--"--she started fiercely again and stopped again. "But I come here fer HIM--not fer YOU. YOU oughtn't to 'a' keered. Hit wouldn't 'a' been his fault. He never was the same after he come back from here. Hit worried him most to death, an' I know hit was you--YOU he was always thinkin' about. He didn't keer 'cept fer you." Again that shadow came and deepened. "An' you oughtn't to 'a' keered what he was--and that's why I hate you," she said, calmly--"fer worryin' him an' bein' so high-heeled that you was willin' to let him mighty nigh bust his heart about somethin' that wasn't his fault. I come fer him--you understand--fer HIM. I hate YOU!"

She turned without another word, walked slowly back down the walk and through the gate. Margaret stood dazed, helpless, almost frightened. She heard the girl cough and saw now that she walked as if weak and ill. As she turned into the road, Margaret ran down the steps and across the fields to the turnpike. When she reached the road-fence the girl was coming around the bend her eyes on the ground, and every now and then she would cough and put her hand to her breast. She looked up quickly, hearing the noise ahead of her, and stopped as Margaret climbed the low stone wall and sprang down.

"Melissa, Melissa! You mustn't hate me. You mustn't hate ME." Margaret's eyes were streaming and her voice trembled with kindness. She walked up to the girl and put one hand on her shoulder. "You are sick. I know you are, and you must come back to the house."

Melissa gave way then, and breaking from the girl's clasp she leaned against the stone wall and sobbed, while Margaret put her arms about her and waited silently.

"Come now," she said, "let me help you over. There now. You must come back and get something to eat and lie down." And Margaret led Melissa back across the fields.

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