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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XVI. JEAN-JOAN
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XVI. JEAN-JOAN Post by :Nick_Barton Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :3411

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The Tin Soldier - BOOK ONE _ ON THE SHELF - Chapter XVI. JEAN-JOAN


Drusilla Gray's little late suppers were rather famous. It was not that she spent so much money, but that she spent much thought.

Tonight she was giving Captain Hewes a sweet potato pie. "He has never eaten real American things," she said to Jean. "Nice homey-cooked things--"

"No one but Drusilla would ever think of pie at night," said Marion Gray, "but she has set her heart on it."

There were some very special hot oyster sandwiches which preceded the pie--peppery and savory with curls of bacon.

"I hope you are hungry," said Drusilla as her big black cook brought them in. "Aunt Chloe hates to have things go back to the kitchen."

Nothing went back. There was snow without, a white whirl in the air, piling up at street corners, a night for young appetites to be on edge.

"Jove," said the Captain, as he leaned back in his chair, "how I shall miss all this!"

Jean turned her face towards him, startled. "Miss it?"

"Yes. I am going back--got my orders today."

Drusilla was cutting the pie. "Isn't it glorious?"

Jean gazed at her with something like horror. Glorious! How could Drusilla go on, like Werther's Charlotte, _calmly cutting bread and butter_? Captain Hewes loved her, anybody with half an eye could see that--and whether she loved him or not, he was her friend--and she called his going "glorious!"

"I was afraid my wound might put me on the shelf," the Captain said.

"He is ordered straight to the front," Drusilla elucidated. "This is his farewell feast."

After that everything was to Jean funeral baked meats. The pie deep in its crust, rich with eggs and milk, defiant of conservation, was as sawdust to her palate.


Well, she couldn't understand Margaret. She couldn't understand Drusilla. She didn't want to understand them.

"Some day I shall go over," Drusilla was saying. "I shall drive something--it may be a truck and it may be an ambulance. But I can't sit here any longer doing nothing."

"I think you are doing a great deal," said Jean. "Look at the committees you are managing."

"Oh, things like that," said Drusilla contemptuously. "Women's work. I'm not made to knit and keep card indexes. I want a man's job."

There was something almost boyish about her as she said it. She had parted her hair on the side, which heightened the effect. "In the old days," she told Captain Hewes, "I should have worn doublet and hose and have gone as your page."

"Happy old days--."

"And I should have written a ballad about you," said Marion, "and have sung it to the accompaniment of my harp--and my pot-boilers would never have been. And we should all have worn trains and picturesque headdresses instead of shirtwaists and sports hats, and I should have called some man 'my Lord,' and have listened for his footsteps instead of ending my days in single blessedness with a type-writer as my closest companion."

Everybody laughed except Jean. She broke her cheese into small bits with her fork, and stared down at it as if cheese were the most interesting thing in the whole wide world.

It was only two weeks since they had had the news of Margaret's husband--only a month since he had died. And Winston had been Captain Hewes' dear friend; he had been Derry's. Would anybody laugh if Derry had been dead only fourteen days?

She tried, however, to swing herself in line with the others. "Shall you go before Christmas?" she asked the Captain.

"Yes. And Miss Gray had asked me to dine with her. You can see what I am missing--my first American Christmas."

"We are going to have a little tree," said Drusilla, "and ask all of you to come and hang presents on it."

Jean had always had a tree at Christmas time. From the earliest days of her remembrance, there had been set in the window of the little drawing room, a young pine brought from the Doctor's country-place far up in Maryland. On Christmas Eve it had been lighted and the doors thrown open. Jean could see her mother now, shining on one side of it, and herself coming in, in her nurse's arms.

There had been a star at the top, and snow powdered on the branches--and gold and silver balls--and her presents piled beneath--always a doll holding out its arms to her. There had been the first Rosie-Dolly, more beloved than any other; made of painted cloth, with painted yellow curls, and dressed in pink with a white apron. Rosie was a wreck of a doll now, her features blurred and her head bald with the years--but Jean still loved her, with something left over of the adoration of her little girl days. Then there was Maude, named in honor of the lovely lady who had played "Peter Pan," and the last doll that Jean's mother had given her. Maude had an outfit for every character in which Jean had seen her prototype--there were the rowan berries and shawl of "Babbie," the cap and jerkin of "Peter Pan," the feathers and spurs of "Chantecler"--such a trunkful, and her dearest mother had made them all--.

And Daddy! How Daddy had played Santa Claus, in red cloth and fur with a wide belt and big boots, every year, even last year when she was nineteen and ready to make her bow to society. And now he might never play Santa Claus again--for before Christmas had come he would be on the high seas, perhaps on the other side of the seas--at the edge of No Man's Land. And there would be no Star, no dolls, no gold and silver balls--for the nation which had given Santa Claus to the world, had robbed the world of peace and of goodwill. It had robbed the world of Christmas!

She came back to hear the Captain saying, "I want you to sing for me--Drusilla."

They rose and went into the other room.

"Tired, dearest?" Derry asked, as he found a chair for her and drew his own close to it.

"No, I am not tired," she told him, "but I hate to think that Captain Hewes must go."

"I'd give the world to be going with him."

Her hands were clasped tightly. "Would you give me up?"

"You? I should never have to give you up, thank God. You would never hold me back."

"Shouldn't I, Derry?"

"My precious, don't I know? Better than you know yourself."

Drusilla and the Captain were standing by the wide window which looked out over the city. The snow came down like a curtain, shutting out the sky.

"Do you think she loves him?" Jean asked.

"I hope so," heartily.

"But to send him away so--easily. Oh, Derry, she can't care."

"She is sending him not easily, but bravely. Margaret let her husband go like that."

"Would you want me to let you go like that, Derry?"

"Yes, dear."

"Wouldn't you want me to--cry?"

"Perhaps. Just a little tear. But I should want you to think beyond the tears. I should want you to know that for us there can be no real separation. You are mine to the end of all eternity, Jean."

He believed it. And she believed it. And perhaps, after all, it was true. There must be a very separate and special Heaven for those who love once, and never love again.

Drusilla came away from the window to sing for them--a popular song. But there was much in it to intrigue the imagination--a vision of the heroic Maid--a hint of the Marseillaise--and so the nations were singing it--.

"Jeanne d'Arc, Jeanne d'Arc,
Oh, soldats! entendez vous?
'Allons, enfants de la patrie,'
Jeanne d'Arc, la victoire est pour vous--"

There was a new note in Drusilla's voice. A note of tears as well as of triumph--and at the last word she broke down and covered her face with her hands.

In the sudden stillness, the Captain strode across the room and took her hands away from her face.

"Drusilla," he said before them all, "do you care as much as that?"

She told him the truth in her fine, frank fashion.

"Yes," she said, "I do care, Captain, but I want you to go."

"And oh, Derry, I am so glad she cried," Jean said, when they were driving home through the snow-storm. "It made her seem so--human."

Derry drew her close. "Such a thing couldn't have happened," he said, "at any other time. Do you suppose that a few years ago any of us would have been keyed up to a point where a self-contained Englishman could have asked a girl, in the face of three other people, if she loved him, and have had her answer like that? It was beautiful, beautiful, Jean-Joan--"

She held her breath. "Why do you call me that?"

"She lived for France. You shall live for France--and me."

The snow shut them in. There was the warmth of the car, of the fur rugs and Derry's fur coat, Jean's own velvet wrap of heavenly blue, the fragrance of her violets. Somewhere far away men were fighting--there was the mud and cold of the trenches--somewhere men were suffering.

She tried not to think of them. Her cheek was against Derry's. She was safe--safe.

* * * * * *

Captain Hewes went away that night Drusilla's accepted lover. He put a ring on her finger and kissed her "good-bye," and with his head high faced the months that he must be separated from her.

"I will come back, dear woman."

"I shall see you before that," she told him. "I am coming over."

"I shall hate to have you in it all. But it will be Heaven to see you."

When he had gone, Drusilla went into Marion Gray's study.

Marion looked up from her work. She was correcting manuscript, pages and pages of it. "Well, do you want me to congratulate you, Drusilla?"

Drusilla sat down. "I don't know, Marion. He is the biggest and finest man I have ever met, but--"

"But what?"

"I wanted love to come to me differently, as it has come to Jean and Derry--without any doubts. I wanted to be sure. And I am not sure. I only know that I couldn't let him go without making him happy."

"Then is it--pity?"

"No. He means more to me than that. But I gave way to an impulse--the music, and his sad eyes. And then I cried, and he came up to me--fancy a man coming up before you all like that--"

"It was quite the most dramatic moment," said the lady who wrote. "Quite unbelievable in real life. One finds those things occasionally in fiction."

"It was as if there were just two of us alone in the world," Drusilla confessed, "and I said what I did because I simply couldn't help it. And it was true at the moment; I think it is always going to be true. If I marry him I shall care a great deal. But it has not come to me just as I had--dreamed."

"Nothing is like our dreams," said Marion, and dropped her pen. "That's why I write. I can give my heroine all the bliss for which she yearns."

Drusilla stood up. "You mustn't misunderstand me, Marion. I am very happy in the thought of my good friend, of my great lover. It is only that it hasn't quite measured up to what I expected."

"Nothing measures up to what we expect."

"And now Jean belongs to Derry, and I belong to my gallant and good Captain. I shall thank God before I sleep tonight, Marion."

"And he'll thank God--."

They kissed each other, and Drusilla went to bed, and the next morning she wrote a letter to her Captain, which he carried next to his heart and kissed when he got a chance.

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