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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XII. WHEN THE MORNING STARS SANG
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XII. WHEN THE MORNING STARS SANG Post by :tmd9801627 Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :2596

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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XII. WHEN THE MORNING STARS SANG

BOOK ONE ON THE SHELF - CHAPTER XII. WHEN THE MORNING STARS SANG

Jean was having her breakfast in bed. Emily had slipped downstairs to drink an early cup of coffee with the Doctor and to warn him, "Don't tell her to-day."

"Why not?"

"It will spoil her feast. Derry Drake is coming to dinner."

"The robber--"

"Do you really feel that way about it?"

"I don't know how I feel."

He rose and went to the window. "It's a rotten morning."

"It is Thanksgiving."

"I haven't much to be thankful for," moodily. "I am, you tell me, about to lose my daughter. I am, also, it would seem, to part company with my best nurse."

"Hilda?"

"Yes. I wanted her to take charge of things for me in France. She elects to stay here."

"But why?"

"She's a--woman."

"You don't mean that. And I must say that I am rather glad that she is not going."

It was out at last! She had a feeling as if she had taken a cold plunge and had survived it!

"Glad? What do you mean, Emily?"

"Every time I waked in the night, I thought of Jean and of how she would feel if Hilda went with you. Do you realize that if she goes, there are things that the world will say?"

His face was stern. "You are very brave to tell me that, Emily."

"It had to be said, and last night I shirked it."

"But Hilda is a very good nurse."

"Do you think of her only as a--good nurse?"

He turned that over in his mind. "No. In a sense she's rather attractive. She satisfies a certain side of me--."

"The best side?"

He avoided an answer to that. "When she is away I miss her."

And now Miss Emily, shaking a little, but not showing it, made him face the situation squarely.

"Have you ever thought that, missing her, you might want to marry her?"

"I have thought of it. Why not, Emily?"

"Have you thought that it would make her your Jean's--mother--?"

His startled look met her steadfast one. His mind flew back to Hilda as she had bent down to him the night before, that he might unfasten the necklace. He thought of the evil that her eyes saw in him, and in the rest of the world. He thought of Jean, and of her white young dreams.

"No," he said, as if to himself, "not that--"

She laid her hand on his arm, "Go by yourself--there's a big work over there, and you can do it best--alone."

He looked down at her, smiling a little, but smiling sadly. "If Jean's mother had lived I should not have been such a weathercock. Will you write to me--promise me that you will write."

"Of course," cheerfully. "Oh, by the way, Julia tells me that dinner will be at three, and that two soldier boys are coming. I rather think I shall like that."

He ran his fingers through his crinkled hair. "What a lot you get out of life, Emily."

"What makes you say that?"

"Little things count so much with you. You are like Jean. She is in seventh Heaven over a snowstorm--or a chocolate soda. It's the youth in her--and it's the youth, too, in you--"

She liked that, and flushed a little. "Perhaps it is because there have been so few big things, Bruce, that the little ones look big."

He had a fleeting sense of what Emily would be like with some big thing in her life--how far would it swing her from her sedate course?

"You have done me a lot of good," he said heartily when she left him to go upstairs to Jean.

Jean was still in bed. "I must run down to the shop," Emily informed her. "But I'll be back in plenty of time to dress for dinner."

"Darling--" Jean reminded her, "you must go to church."

"Of course. I shall stop on my way down."

"Pray for me, Emily." She reached out her arms. Emily came to them and they clung together. "I am so happy, darling--" Jean whispered, "but there isn't anything to tell, not really--yet--Emily--"

When Emily had gone, Jean got out her memory books. She had made of breakfast a slight affair. How could one eat in the face of such astounding events. Already this morning flowers had arrived for her, heather and American Beauties. And Derry had written on his card, "The heather because of you--the roses because of the day--"

There were two hours on her hands before church. She could dress in one--the intervening time must be filled.

Her memory books were great fat volumes kept on a shelf by themselves, and forming a record of everything that had happened to her since her first day at boarding school. They were in no sense diaries, nor could they be called scrap-books. They had, rather, been compiled with an eye to certain red-letter events--and their bulkiness had been enhanced by the insertion between the leaves of various objects not intended for such limited space. There was a mask which she had worn at Hallowe'en; the tulle which had tied her roses at graduation; a little silver ring marking a childish romance; a flattened and much-dried chocolate drop with tender associations; dance-favors, clippings, photographs, theater programs, each illumined and emphasized by a line or two of sentiment or of nonsense in Jean's girlish scrawl.

Even now, as she turned the leaves, she found herself laughing over a rhyme which her father had cut from his daily paper, and had sent in response to her wild plea for a box of something good to eat:

"Mary had a little lamb,
A little pork, a little jam,
A little egg on toast,
A little potted roast,
A little stew with dumplings white,
A little shad,
For Mary had,
A little appetite."


The big box had followed--how _dear Daddy had always been--but had she ever wanted to eat like that?

There were letters which her father had written, pasted in, envelopes and all, to be read in certain longing moments when she had missed him and her mother. There were love letters from certain callow college boys--_love_--! She laughed now as she thought of the pale passion they had offered her.

Derry had had no word for her the night before when he had left her at her door. Her father had been with her, so Derry could only press her hand and watch her as she went in. But there had been no need for words. All the evening what they had felt had flamed between them--.

So with the desire to preserve a record of these marvellous moments which were crowding into her life, she chose a perfectly new book to be devoted to Derry. And on the first page she pasted, not the faded violet from the basket which had come to her yesterday--oh, day of days!--not the dance program on which Derry's name was most magically scrawled, nor the spring of heather, nor a handful of rose leaves from the offering of the morning--no, the very first thing that went into Jean's memory book was a frayed silken tassel that had been cut from a rose-colored curtain! She had carried down her little scissors the night before, and had snipped it, and here it was--an omen for her own rose-colored future!

Starry-eyed she lay back among her pillows.

"Oh, Polly-Ann, Polly-Ann," she said tensely, to the small cat on the cushions, "if I should ever wake up and find that it wasn't true--"

Polly-Ann stared at her with mystical green orbs. She could offer no help, but she served as a peg upon which Jean could hang her eloquence. She stretched herself luxuriously and purred.

"But it is true, Polly-Ann," Jean said, "and I am going to church with him--wasn't it beautiful that he should think of going to church with me on Thanksgiving morning, Polly-Ann?"

She dressed herself presently, making a sort of sacred rite of it--because of Derry. She was glad that she was pretty--because of Derry. Glad that her gray fur coat was becoming--glad of the red rose against it.

He came in his car, but they decided to walk.

"I always walk to church," said Jean.

"There's sleet falling," said Derry.

"I don't care," said Jean.

"Nor I," said Derry.

And so they started out together!

It was a dismal day, but they did not know it. They knelt together in the old church. They prayed together. And when at last the benediction had been said and they stood together for a moment alone in the pew, Derry looked down at her and said, "Beloved," and the morning stars sang--!

When they went out, the sleet was coming thick and fast, and Derry's car was waiting. And when they were safe inside, he turned to her and his voice exulted, "I haven't even told you that I love you--I haven't asked you to marry me--I haven't done any of the conventional things--it hasn't needed words, and that's the wonder of it."

"Yes."

"But you knew."

"Yes."

"From the first?"

"I think it was from the first--"

"In the Toy Shop?"

"Yes."

"And you thought I was poor--and I thought you were just the girl in the shop?"

"Isn't it wonderful?"

It was more wonderful than they knew.

"Do you know that my money has always been more important to some people than I have been? I have thought they cared for me because of it."

"Ralph said last night that I cared--for the money."

She would not tell him of the other things that Ralph had said. And even as she thought of him, across the path of her rapture fell the shadow of Ralph's scorn of Derry.

He bent down to her. "Jean, if I had been that shabby boy that you first saw in the shop would you have been happy with me, in a plain little house? Would you?"

Up the streets came the people from the churches--the crowds of people who had thanked the Lord soberly, feeling meantime a bit bewildered as to the workings of His Providence. Most of them were going home to somewhat modified feasts. Many of them were having a soldier or two to dine with them. And presently these soldiers whom they feasted would be crossing the sea to that dread land of death and desolation.

Should they thank the Lord for that?

Some of the clergymen, craving light, had sought it in the Old Testament. But one, more inspired than the rest, had found it in the New.

"And there was war in Heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. And prevailed not--neither was their place found any more in Heaven."

Those who came from that church spoke of a Holy War, and were thankful that there were men in America going forth to fight the Dragon.

The two soldiers who were to dine at Dr. McKenzie's were plain young fellows from an upper county in Maryland. They were waiting somewhat awkwardly in the drawing-room when Jean arrived. She took them at once to the less formal library, left Derry with them and went upstairs to dress.

As she came into the fresh and frilly room so identified with her child life and her girl life, she stopped on the threshold.

Oh, little room, little room, the child that once lived here will never come again!

She knelt beside the bed, her face buried in her hands. No words came, but in her heart she was saying, "My beloved is mine--and I am his--"

When she went down, Dr. McKenzie was there, and Emily, and the two young soldiers had lost their awkwardness. When they found out afterwards that the young Drake who talked to them so simply and unaffectedly was DeRhymer Drake, the multi-millionaire, they refused to believe it. "He was a mighty nice chap. He didn't put on a bit of side, and the dinner was some feast."

And how could they know that Derry was envying them their cavalry yellow and their olive drab?

As for Jean, throughout the afternoon they gazed upon her as upon an enchanting vision. When they told her "Good-bye" it was the boldest who asked, with a flush on his hard cheek, if he might have a bit of the heather which she wore. "I am Scotch myself, and my mother was, and it would seem a sort of mascot."

If she hesitated for a moment it was only Derry who noticed it. And he helped her out. "It will be a proud day for the heather."

So she gave away a part of his gift, and thanked him with her eyes.

It was after the boys had gone that Derry had a talk alone with Dr. McKenzie.

"But you haven't known her a month--"

"I have wanted her all my life."

"I see--how old are you?"

"Thirty-one."

"You don't look it."

"No. And I don't feel it. Not to-day."

"And you think that she cares?"

"What do you think, sir?"

The Doctor threw up his hands. "Oh, lad, lad, there's all the wonder of it in her eyes when she looks at you."

When Derry went at last to find Jean, she was not in the library. He crossed the hall to the little drawing-room. His love sat by the fire alone.

"My darling--"

Thus she came to his arms. But even then he held her gently, worshipping her innocence and respecting it.

The next morning he brought her a ring. It was such a wonderful ring that she held her breath. She sat on the rose-colored davenport while he put it on her finger.

"If I had been the girl in the Toy Shop," she told him, "and you had been the shabby boy, you would have given me a gold band with three little stones--and I should have liked that, too."

"You shall have the gold ring some day, and it won't have stones in it--and it will be a wedding ring."

"Oh--"

"And when yon wear it I shall call you--Friend Wife--"

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