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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XIII. ARE MEN MADE ONLY FOR THIS?
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XIII. ARE MEN MADE ONLY FOR THIS? Post by :giicorp.no Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :2466

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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XIII. ARE MEN MADE ONLY FOR THIS?

BOOK ONE ON THE SHELF - CHAPTER XIII. ARE MEN MADE ONLY FOR THIS?

In the afternoon the lovers made a triumphant pilgrimage to the place where they had first met. All the toys in the little shop stared at them--the clowns and the dancers in pink and yellow and the bisque babies and the glassy-eyed dogs and cats.

The white elephant was again in the window. "He seemed so lonely," Emily explained, "and with Christmas coming I couldn't feel comfortable to think of him away from it all."

Jean showed Derry her midnight camels. "I am going to do peacocks next," she told him. "I am so proud."

He bought all of the camels and a lot of other things. "We'll take them to Margaret Morgan's kiddies tomorrow; I want you to meet her."

Miss Emily found her lavish customer interesting, but demoralizing. "Run away with him, Jean," she said. "I am not used to Croesuses. He won't leave anything to sell, and then what shall I say to the people who want to buy?"

"Shut up your shop and go to tea with us at Chevy Chase," Derry suggested.

Emily smiled at him. "It is good of you to ask me, but I can't. I am not in love, and I have my day's work to do. But I think if you would like to take Jean--"

"Alone?" eagerly. "Do you think I might?"

"Why not?"

"I was almost afraid to suggest it."

"I am not a dragon. And there will never be a day like this for you again."

Jean broke in at that. "Oh, Emily, they will be wonderfuller!"

"But not this day--"

Derry knew what she meant. "How sweet you are."

Miss Emily, flushing, was a transformed Miss Emily. "Well, old people are apt to forget, and I have not forgotten."

"Darling, darling," Jean chanted. "I am going to paint dragons, and they shall all have lovely faces, and I shall call them the Not-Forgetting Dragons."

It was all very superlative. Miss Emily tried to send them away, but they still lingered. Jean set the music boxes going to celebrate the occasion, then stopped them because the only tunes they played were German tunes.

Derry laughed at her, then came to silence before a box of tin soldiers. They were little French soldiers, flat on their backs, bright with paint--

"I wonder how they feel about it?" he asked Jean.

"About what?"

"Shut up in a box, doing nothing--"

As the lovers drove away, Emily stood at the window looking after them. There was one customer in the shop, but Miss Emily had a feeling that he would keep himself amused until she was ready to wait on him. She had intuitions about the people who came to buy, and this tall spare man with the slight droop of his shoulders, his upstanding bush of gray hair, his shell glasses on a black ribbon was, she was aware, having the time of his life. No little boy could have spent more time over the toys. He fingered them lovingly as he peered through his big horn glasses.

He saw Miss Emily looking at him and smiling. "It was the white elephant that brought me in. He was made in Germany?"

"Yes."

"It is not easy to get them any more?"

"No. You see I have a little card on him 'Not for sale.'"

He nodded. "I should like to buy him--"

She shook her head. "I have refused many offers."

"I can understand that. Yet, perhaps if I should tell you?"

There was a slight trace of foreign accent in his speech. She stiffened. She felt that he was capable of calling her "Fraeulein." There was not the least doubt in her mind as to the Teutonic extraction of this gentleman who was shamelessly trying to induce her to sell her elephant.

"I can't imagine any reason that would make me change my mind."

"My father is German; he makes toys."

She showed her surprise. "Makes toys?"

"Yes. He is an old man--eighty-five. He was born in Nuremberg. Until he was twenty-five he made elephants like the one in your window. Now do you see?"

She was not sure that she did see. "Well?"

"I want him for my father's Christmas present."

"Impossible," coldly; "he is not for sale."

He was still patient. "He will make you another--many others."

He had her attention now. "Make--elephants?"

"Yes. He needs only a pattern. There are certain things he has forgotten. I should like to make him happy."

Miss Emily, hostilely convinced that it was not her business to contribute to the happiness of any octogenarian Hun, shook her head, "I'm sorry."

"Then you won't sell him?"

"Certainly not."

He still lingered. "You love your toys--I have been here before, and I have watched you. They are not just sawdust and wood and cloth and paint to you--they are real--"

"Yes."

"My father is like that. They are real to him. There's an old wax doll that was my mother's. He loves her and talks to her--. Because she was made in that Germany which is dead--"

The fierceness in his voice, the flash of his eye; the thrust of his hand as if it held a rapier!

"Dead?"

"The Germany he knew died when Prussia throttled her. Her poetry died, her music--there is no echo now from the Rhine but that of--guns."

"You feel--that way--?"

"Yes."

"Then sit down and tell me--tell me--" She was eager.

"Tell you what?"

"About your father, about the toys, about the Germany that is--dead."

He was glad to tell her. It poured forth, with now and then an offending phrase, "Gott in Himmel, do they think we have forgotten? My father came to America because he loved freedom--he fought in the Civil War for freedom--he loves freedom still; and over there they are fighting for slavery. The slavery of the little nations, the slavery of those who love democracy. They want Prussia, and more Prussia, and more Prussia--" He struck his hand on the counter so that all the dolls danced.

"They are fighting to get the whole world under an iron heel--to crush--to grind--to destroy. My father reads it and weeps. He is an old man, Fraeulein, and his mind goes back to the Germany which sang and told fairy tales, and made toys; do you see?

"Yet there are people here who do not understand, who point their fingers at him, at me. Who think because I am Ulrich Stoelle that I am not--American. Yet what am I but that?"

He got up and walked around the room restlessly. "I am an American. If I was not born here, can I help that? But my heart has been moulded here. For me there is no other country. Germany I love--yes, but as one loves a woman who has been led away--because one thinks of the things she might have been, not of the thing she is."

He came back to her. "Will you sell me your elephant, Fraeulein?"

She held out her hand to him. Her eyes were wet. "I will lend him to your father. Indeed, I cannot sell him."

He took her hand in a strong grasp. "I knew you were kind. If you could only see my father."

"Bring him here some day."

"He is too old to be brought. He sticks close to his chair. But if you would come and see him? You and perhaps the young lady who waited on me when I came before, and who was here to-day with the young man whose heart is singing."

"Oh, you saw that?"

"It was there for the whole world to see, was it not? A man in love hides nothing. You will bring them then? We have flowers even in December in our hothouses; you will like that, and you shall see my father. I think you will love my father, Fraeulein."

After he had gone she wondered at herself. She had trusted her precious elephant to a perfect stranger. He might be anything, a spy, a thief, with his "Gotts in Himmel" and his "Fraeuleins"--how Jean would laugh at her for her softheartedness!

Oh, but he wasn't a thief, he wasn't a spy. He was a poet and a gentleman. She made very few mistakes in her estimates of the people who came to her shop. She had made, she was sure, no mistake in trusting Ulrich Stoelle.

Jean and Derry motoring to Chevy Chase were far away from the world of the Toy Shop. As they whirled along the country roads the bare trees seemed to bud and bloom for them, the sky was gold.

The lovely clubhouse as they came into it was gay with big-flowered curtains and warm with its roaring fires.

As they crossed the room together, they attracted much attention. There was about them a fine air of exaltation--.

"Young blood, young blood," said an old gentleman in a corner. "Gad, I envy him. Look at her eyes--!"

But there was more than her eyes to look at. There were her cheeks, and her crinkled copper hair under the little hat, and the flower that she wore, and her white hands as she poured the tea.

They drank unlimited quantities of Orange Pekoe, and ate small mountains of toast. They were healthily happy and quite unexpectedly hungry, and the fact that they were sitting alone at the table gave the whole thing an enchanting atmosphere of domesticity.

"Ralph spoiled it the other day," Jean confided, "I had everything ready for you."

"How I hated him when I came in."

"Oh, did you?"

"Of course," and then they both laughed, and the old gentleman in the corner said to the woman who sat with him, "Let's get away. I can't stand it."

"I don't see why."

"You wouldn't see. But there was a time once when I loved a girl like that."

Drusilla and Captain Hewes coming in, after a canter through the Park, broke in upon the Paradise of the young pair.

Drusilla in riding togs still managed to preserve the picturesque quality of her beauty--a cockade in her hat, a red flower in her lapel, a blue tie against her white shirt.

"And she does it so well," Derry said, as the two came towards them. "In most women it would have an air of bad taste, but Drusilla never goes too far--"

Captain Hewes in tow showed himself a captured man. "I didn't know that American women could ride until Miss Gray showed me--today. It was rippin'."

Drusilla laughed. "It is worth more than the ride to have you say 'rippin'' like that."

"She makes fun of me," the Captain complained; "some day I shall take her over to England and show her how our gentle maidens look up to me."

"Your gentle maidens," Drusilla stated, "are driving ambulances or making munitions. When the Tommies come marching home again they will find comrades, not clinging vines."

"And they'll jolly well like it," said the big Englishman; "a man wants a woman who understands--"

This was law and gospel to Derry. "Of course. Jean, dear, may I tell Drusilla?"

"As if you had to tell me," Drusilla scoffed; "it is written all over you."

"Is it?" Derry marvelled.

"It is. The whole room is lighted up with it. You are a lucky man, Derry,"--for a moment her bright eyes were shadowed--"and Jean is a lucky girl." She leaned down and kissed the woman that Derry loved. "Oh, you Babes in the Wood--"

"By Jove," the Captain ejaculated, much taken by the little scene, "do you mean that they are going to be married?"

"Rather," Drusilla mocked him. "But don't shout it from the housetops. Derry is a public personage, and it might get in the papers."

"It is not to get in the papers yet," Derry said. "Dr. McKenzie won't let me tell Dad--he's too ill--but we told you because you are my good friend, Drusilla."

She might have been more than that, but he did not know it. When he went away with Jean, she looked after him wistfully.

"Good-bye, little Galahad," she said.

The Captain stared. "Oh, I say, do you call him that?"

She nodded.

"He's a knight in shining armor--"

"I can't understand why he's not fightin'."

"Nobody understands. There's something back of it, and meantime people are calling him a coward--"

"Doesn't look like a slacker."

"He isn't. I have sometimes thought," said wise Drusilla, "that it might be his father. He's a gay old bird, and Derry has to jack him up."

"Drink?"

"Yes. They say that Derry has followed him night after night--getting him home if he could; if not, staying with him."

"Hard lines--"

"And yet he is asking little Jean to marry him. I wonder if she will keep step with him."

"Why shouldn't she?"

"Because Derry is going to travel far and fast in the next few months," Drusilla prophesied.

Her face settled into tired lines. For the first time the Captain saw her divorced from her radiance. He set himself to cheer her.

"What is troubling you, dear woman?"

She was very frank, and she told him the truth. "I should have been glad to keep step with him myself."

He laid his hand over hers. "If you had, where would I be? From the moment I saw you, you filled my heart."

So, after all, she had been to him from the first, not a type but a woman. It had come to him like that, but not to her. "You're the bravest and best man I have ever met," she told him, "but I don't love you."

"I should be glad to wait," said the poor Captain, "until you could find something in me to like."

"I find a great deal to like," she said, "but it wouldn't be fair to give you anything less than love."

"At least you'll let me have your friendship--to take back with me."

She looked at him, startled. "Oh, you are going back?"

"I may get my orders any day. There are things I can be doing over there."

Some day she was to see him "over there," to see him against a background of fire and flame and smoke, to see him transfigured by heroism, and she was to remember then with an aching heart this moment when he had told her that he loved her.

It was dark when Derry brought Jean home. There had been a sunset and an afterglow, and a twilight, and an evening star to ravish them as they rode, to say nothing of the moon--they came to the Doctor's door quite dizzy with the joy of it.

Derry was loath to leave. "Can't we all go to a play tonight?" he asked Jean's father. "You and Miss Bridges and the two of us?"

"Certainly not. Jean has done enough to-day. She isn't made of iron."

"She is made of fire and dew," Derry flung at him, lightly.

"Heavens, has it come to that? Well, she is still my daughter. I won't have her ill on my hands."

"But, Daddy!"

"You are to have a quiet dinner with me, my dear, and go to bed--and young Lochinvar may call for you in the morning--"

Young Lochinvar was repentant. "I didn't think it would tire her."

"Henceforth you will have to think."

"I know, sir."

He was so meek that the Doctor melted. "Run along and say 'Good-bye' to her. I'll give you ten minutes."

They wanted ten eternities. But there was, of course, tomorrow. They comforted themselves with that.

At dinner, the Doctor spoke of Derry's father. "All real danger is past, but he will have to be careful."

"When is Hilda coming back?"

"She told me last night that she'd rather stay until there was no further need for a nurse. The General hates a change, and he has asked her to stay."

"Does she like it?"

"She is very comfortable."

"Derry says that his father is an old dear."

"He would think so, naturally."

There were things about the General's case which were troubling Dr. McKenzie, and of which he could not speak. The old man had, undoubtedly been given something to drink on Thanksgiving Day.

Hilda had had strict orders, and the day nurse, and the only other person who had had access to the General's room was Bronson. He had made up his mind to speak to Derry about Bronson.

The meal progressed rather silently. The Doctor was preoccupied, taciturn. Miss Emily made futile efforts at conversation. Jean dallied with her dinner.

"My dear," the Doctor commented as she pushed away her salad, "you can't live on love."

"I'm not hungry. We had tea at the Club. Drusilla was there--and--we told her."

"Told her what?"

Blushing furiously, "That Derry and I are going to be--married."

"But you are not. Not for months. If that cub thinks he can carry you off from under my eyes he is mistaken. You've got to get acquainted with each other--I have seen too many unhappy marriages."

"But we are not going to be unhappy, Daddy."

"How do you know?"

Her cheeks were blazing. Miss Emily interposed. "Don't tease her, she's too tired."

"If he is teasing, I don't care," Jean said, "but it always sounds as if he meant it."

After dinner, the Doctor laid his hand on his daughter's shoulder. "I want to talk to you, daughter."

"Is it about Derry, Daddy?"

"About myself."

Emily, understanding, left them alone. Jean sat in her low chair in front of the fire, her earnest eyes on her father. "Well, Daddy."

He patted her hand. It was hard for him to speak.

She saw his emotion. "Is--is it because I am going to marry Derry?"

"That, and more than that. Jean, dear, I must go to France--"

"To France?"

"Yes. They want me to head a hospital. I don't see how I can refuse, and keep my self-respect. But it means--leaving you."

"Leaving me--"

"My little girl--don't look like that." He reached out his arms to her.

She came, and clung to him. "How soon?"

"As soon as I can wind things up here."

"It--it seems as if I couldn't let you."

"Then you'll miss me, dearest?"

"You know I will, Daddy."

"But you will have your Derry." His jealousy forced that.

"As if it makes any difference about--you."

She hid her face against his coat. She felt suddenly that the war was assuming a new and very personal aspect. Of course men had to go. But she and her father had never been separated--not for more than a day or week, or a month when she was at the shore.

"How long, Daddy?"

"God knows, dearest. Until I am not needed."

"But--" her lip trembled.

"You are going to be my brave little girl."

"I'll try--" the tears were running down her cheeks.

"You wouldn't have me not go, would you?"

She shook her head and sobbed on his shoulder. He soothed her and presently she sat up. Quite gallantly she agreed that she would stay with Emily. If he thought she was too young to marry Derry now, she would wait. If Derry went into it, it might be easier to let him go as a lover than as a husband--she thought it might be easier. Yes, she would try to sleep when she went upstairs--and she would remember that her old Daddy loved her, loved her, and she was to ask God to bless him--and keep him--when they were absent one from the other--.

She kissed him and clung to him and then went upstairs. She undressed and said her prayers, put Polly-Ann on her cushion, turned off the light, and got into bed.

Then she lay in the dark, facing it squarely.

The things she had said to her father were not true. She didn't want him to go to France. She didn't want Derry to go. She was glad that Derry's mother had made him promise. She didn't care who called him a coward. She cared only to keep her own.

There wasn't any sense in it, anyhow. Why should Daddy and Derry be blown to pieces--or made blind--or not come back at all? Just because a barbarian had brought his hordes into Belgium? Well, let Belgium take care of herself--and France.

She shuddered deeper down into the bed. She wasn't heroic. Hilda had been right about that. She was willing to knit miles and miles of wool, to go without meat, to go without wheat, to wear old clothes, to let the furnace go out and sit shivering in one room by a wood fire, she was willing to freeze and to starve, but she was not willing to send her men to France.

She found herself shaking, sobbing--.

Hitherto war had seemed a glorious thing, an inspiring thing. She had thrilled to think that she was living in a time which matched the days of Caesar and Alexander and of Napoleon, of that first Richard of England, of Charlemagne, of Nelson and of Francis Drake, of Grant and Lee and Lincoln.

Even in fiction there had been Ivanhoe and--and Alan Breck--and even poor Rawdon Crawley at Waterloo--fighters all, even the poorest of them, exalted in her eyes by their courage and the clash of arms.

But there wasn't any glory, any romance in this war. It was machine guns and bombs and dirt, and cold and mud; and base hospitals, and men screaming with awful wounds--and gas, and horrors, and nerve-shock and--frightfulness. She had read it all in the papers and in the magazines. And it had not meant anything to her, it had been just words and phrases, and now it was more than words and phrases--.

When the hordes of people had swept into Washington, changing it from its gracious calm into a seething and unsettling center of activities, she had been borne along on the wings of enthusiasm and of high endeavor. She had scolded women who would not work, she had scorned mothers and wives who had sighed and sobbed because their men must go. She had talked of patriotism!

Well, she wasn't patriotic. Derry would probably hate her when she told him. But she was going to tell him. She wouldn't have him blown to pieces or made blind or not come back at all. And in the morning, she would beg Daddy--she would beg and beg!

As she sat up in bed and looked wildly about her, it seemed as if all the corners of the little room were haunted by specters. A long time ago she had seen Maude Adams in "L'Aiglon." She remembered now those wailing voices of the dead at Wagram. And in this war millions of men had died. It seemed to her that their souls must be pressing against the wall which divided them from the living--that their voices must penetrate the stillness which had always shut them out. "How dare you go on with it? Are men made only for this?"

She remembered now the thing that her father had said on the night after "Cinderella."

"If I had my way, it should be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. For every man that they have tortured, we must torture one of theirs. For every child mutilated, we must mutilate a child--for every woman--"

Her Daddy had said that. Her kind and tender Daddy. Was that what the war made of men? Would Daddy and Derry, when they went over, do that? Torture and mutilate? Would they, would they? And would they come back after that and expect her to love them and live with them?

Well, she wouldn't. She would _not_. She would be afraid of them--of both of them.

If they loved her, they would stay with her. They wouldn't go away and leave her to be afraid--alone and crying in the dark, with all of those dead voices.

* * * * * *

Emily tapped at the door. Came in. "My dear, my dear--. Oh, my poor little Jean."

* * * * * *

After a long time her father was there, and he was giving her a white tablet and a drink of water.

"It will quiet her nerves, Emily. I didn't dream that she would take it like this."

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