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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIII. THE EMPTY HOUSE
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIII. THE EMPTY HOUSE Post by :larry8950 Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :1083

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The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXIII. THE EMPTY HOUSE

BOOK THREE THE BUGLE CALLS - CHAPTER XXIII. THE EMPTY HOUSE

The Bugle Calls

The wooden trumpeters that were carved on the door blew with all their might, so that their cheeks were much larger than before. Yes, they blew "Trutter-a-trutt--trutter-a-trutt--" . . .


THE EMPTY HOUSE

Jean's world was no longer wonderful--not in the sense that it had once been, with all the glamour of girlish dreams and of youthful visions.

She had never thought of life as a thing like this in the days when she had danced down to the confectioner's, intent on good times.

But now, with her father away, with Derry away, with the city frozen and white, and with not enough coal to go around, with many of the rooms in the house shut that fuel might be conserved, with Margaret and the children and Nurse installed as guests at the General's until the weather grew warmer, with Emily transforming her Toy Shop into a surgical dressings station, and with her father-in-law turning over to her incredible amounts of money for the Red Cross and Liberty Bonds and War Stamps, life began to take on new aspects of responsibility and seriousness.

She could never have kept her balance in the midst of it all, if Derry had not written every day. Her father wrote every day, also, but there were long intervals between his letters, and then they were apt to arrive all at once, a great packet of them, to be read and re-read and passed around.

But Derry's letters, brought to her room every morning by Bronson, contained the elixir which sent her to her day's work with shining eyes and flushed cheeks. Sometimes she read bits of them to Bronson. Sometimes, indeed, there were only a few lines for herself, for Derry was being intensively trained in a Southern camp, working like an ant, with innumerable other ants, all in olive-drab, with different colored cords around their hats.

Sometimes she read bits of the letters to Margaret at breakfast, and after breakfast she would go up to the General and read everything to him except the precious words which Derry had meant for her very own self.

And then she and the General would tell each other how really extraordinary Derry was!

It was a never-failing subject, of intense interest to both of them. For there was always this to remember, that if the world was no longer a radiant and shining world, if the day's task was hard, and if now and then in the middle of the night she wept tears of loneliness, if there were heavy things to bear, and hard things and sad things, one fact shone brilliantly above all others, Derry was as wonderful as ever!

"There was never such a boy," the General would chant in his deep bass.

"Never," Jean would pipe in her clear treble.

And when they had chorused thus for a while, the General would dictate a letter to Derry, for his hand was shaky, and Jean would write it out for him, and then she would write a letter of her own, and after that the day was blank, and the night until the next morning when another letter came. So she lived from letter to letter.

"You have never seen Washington like this," she wrote one day in February, "we keep only a little fire in the furnace, and I am wearing flannels for the first time in my life. We dine in sweaters, and the children are round and rosy in the cold. And the food steams in the icy air of the dining room, and you can't imagine how different it all is--with the servants bundled up like the rest of us. We keep your father warm by burning wood in the fireplace of his room, and we have given half the coal in the cellar to people who haven't any."

"I am helping Cook with the conservation menus, and it is funny to see how topsy-turvy everything is. It is perfectly patriotic to eat mushrooms and lobsters and squabs and ducklings, and it is unpatriotic to serve sausages and wheat cakes. And Cook can't get adjusted to it. She will insist upon bacon for breakfast, because well-regulated families since the Flood have eaten bacon--and she feels that in some way we are sacrificing self-respect or our social status when we refrain.

"Your father is such an old dear, Derry. He has war bread and milk for lunch, and I carry it to him myself in the pretty old porcelain bowl that he likes so much.

"It was one day when I brought the milk that he spoke of Hilda. 'Where is she?'

"I told him that she was still in town, and that you had given her a check which would carry her over a year or two, and he said that he was glad--that he should not like to see her suffer. The porcelain bowl had reminded him of her. She had asked him once what it cost, and after she had found out, she had never used it. She evidently stood quite in awe of anything so expensive.

"Your mother and I are getting to be very good friends, dearest. When I am dreadfully homesick for you, I go and sit on the stairs, and she smiles at me. It is terribly cold in the hall, and I wrap myself up in your fur coat, and it is almost like having your arms around me."

She was surely making the best of things, this little Jean, when she found comfort in being mothered by a painted lady on the stairs, and in being embraced by a fur coat which had once been worn by her husband!

She kept Derry's tin soldier, which Drusilla had given him, on her desk. "You shall have him when you go to France, but until then he is a good little comrade, and I say; 'Good-morning' to him and 'Good-night.' Yet I sometimes wonder whether he likes it there on the shelf, and whether he is crying, 'I want to go to the wars--'"

She was very busy every morning in Emily's room, working on the surgical dressings. She hated it all. She hated the oakum and the gauze, the cotton and the compresses, the pneumonia jackets and the split-irrigation pads, the wipes, the triangulars, the many-tailed and the scultetus. Other women might speak lightly of five-yard rolls as dressing for stumps, of paper-backs "used in the treatment of large suppurating wounds." Jean shivered and turned white at these things. Her vivid imagination went beyond the little work-room with its white-veiled women to those hospitals back of the battle line where mutilated men lay waiting for the compresses and the wipes and the bandages, men in awful agony--.

But the lesson she was learning was that of harnessing her emotions to the day's work; and if her world was no longer wonderful in a care-free sense, it was a rather splendid world of unselfishness and self-sacrifice, although she was not conscious of this, but felt it vaguely.

She wore now, most of the time, her nun's frock of gray, which had seemed to foreshadow something of her future on that glorified day when Derry had first come to her. She had laid away many of her lovely things, and one morning Teddy remarked on the change.

"You don't dwess up any more."

Nurse stood back of his chair. "Dress--"

"Dur-wess."

"Don't you like this dress, Teddy?"

"I liked the boo one."

"Blue--"

"Ble-yew, an' the pink one, and all the shiny ones you used to wear at night."

"Blue dresses and pink dresses and shiny dresses cost a lot of money, Teddy, and I shouldn't have any money left for Thrift Stamps."

Thrift stamps were a language understood by Teddy, as he would not have understood the larger transactions of Liberty Bonds. He and the General held long conversations as to the best means of obtaining a large supply of stamps, and the General having listened to Margaret who wanted the boy to work for his offering, suggested an entrancing plan. Teddy was to feed the fishes in the dining-room aquarium, he was to feed Muffin, and he was to feed Polly Ann.

It sounded simple, but there were difficulties. In the first place he had to face Cook, and Cook hated to have children in the kitchen.

"But you'd have to face more than that if you were grown up and in the trenches. And Hodgson is really very kind."

"Well, she doesn't look kind, Mother."

"Why not?"

"Well, she doesn't smile, and her face is wed."

"Red, dear."

"Ur-ed--. And when I ask her for milk for Polly, she says 'Milk for cats,' and when she gets it out, she slams the 'frigerator door."

"Refrigerator, dear."

"Rif-iggerator."

But in the main Teddy went to his task valiantly. He conserved bones for Muffin and left-over corn-meal cakes. Polly Ann dined rather monotonously on fish boiled with war-bread crusts, on the back of Cook's big range. Hodgson was conscientious and salted it and cooled it, and kept it in a little covered granite pail, and it was from this pail that Teddy ladled stew into Polly Ann's blue saucer. "Mother says it is very good of you, Hodgson, to take so much trouble."

Hodgson, whose face was redder than ever, as she broiled mushrooms for lunch, grunted, "I'd rather do it than have other people messin' around."

Teddy surveyed her anxiously. "You don't mind having me here, do you, Hodgson?"

His cheeks were rosy, his bronze hair bright, his sturdy legs planted a trifle apart, Polly's dish in one hand, the big spoon in the other. "No, I don't mind," she admitted, but it was some time before she acknowledged even to herself how glad she was when that bright figure appeared.

Feeding the fishes presented few problems, and gradually thrift stamps filled the little book, and there was a war stamp, and more thrift stamps and more war stamps, and Muffin and Polly Ann waxed fat and friendly, and were a very lion and lamb for lying down together.

Then there came a day when Teddy, feeding the fishes in the aquarium, heard somebody say that Hodgson's son was in the war.

He went at once to the kitchen. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked the cook, standing in front of her where she sat cutting chives and peppers and celery on a little board for salad.

"Tell you what?"

"That your boy was in Fwance."

Hodgson's red face grew redder, and to Teddy's consternation, a tear ran down her cheek.

He stood staring at her, then flew upstairs to his mother. "Cook's cryin'."

"Teddy--"

"She is. Because her son is in Fwance."

After that when he went down to get things for Muffin and Polly Ann, he said how s'prised he was and how nice it was now that he knew, and wasn't she pr-roud? And he fancied that Hodgson was kinder and softer. She told him the name of her son. It was Charley, and she and Teddy talked a great deal about Charley, and Teddy sent him some chocolate, and Hodgson told Margaret. "He's a lovely boy, Mrs. Morgan. May you never raise him to fight."

"I should want him to be as brave as his father, Hodgson."

"Yes. My boy's brave, but it was hard to let him go." Then, struck by the look on Margaret's face, she said, "Forgive me, ma'am; if mine is taken from me, I'd like to feel as you do. You ain't makin' other people unhappy over it."

"I think it is because my husband still lives for me, Hodgson."

Hodgson cried into her apron. "It ain't all of us that has your faith. But if I loses him, I'll do my best."

And so the painted lady on the stairs saw all the sinister things that Hilda had brought into the big house swept out of it. She saw Hodgson the cook trying to be brave, and bringing up Margaret's tea in the afternoons for the sake of the moment when she might speak of her boy to one who would understand; she saw Emily, coming home dead tired after a hard day's work, but with her face illumined. She saw Margaret smiling, with tears in her heart, she saw Jean putting aside childish things to become one of the women that the world needed.

Brave women all of them, women with a vision, women raised to heroic heights by the need of the hour!

The men, too, were heroic. Indeed, the General, trying to control his appetite, was almost pathetically heroic. He had given up sugar, although he hated his coffee without it, and he had a little boy's appetite for pies and cakes.

"When the war is over," he told Teddy, "we will order a cake that's as high as a house, and we will eat it together."

Teddy giggled. "With frostin'?"

"Yes. I remember when Derry was a lad that we used to tell him the story of the people who baked a cake so big that they had to climb ladders to reach the top. Well, that's the kind of cake we'll have."

Yet while he made a joke of it, he confessed to Jean. "It is harder than fighting battles. I'd rather face a gun than deny myself the things that I like to eat and drink."

Bronson was contributing to the Red Cross and buying Liberty Bonds, and that was brave of Bronson. For Bronson was close, and the hardest thing that he had to do was to part with his money, or to take less interest than his rather canny investments had made possible.

And Teddy, the man of his family, came one morning to his mother. "I've just got to do it," he said in a rather shaky voice.

"Do what, dear?"

"Send my books to the soldiers."

She let him do it, although she knew how it tore his heart. You see, there were the Jungle Books, which he knew the soldiers would like, and "Treasure Island," and "The Swiss Family Robinson," and "Huckleberry Finn." He brought his fairy books, too, and laid them on the altar of patriotism, and "Toby Tyler," which had been his father's, and "Under the Lilacs," which he adored because of little brown-faced Ben and his dog, Sancho.

He was rapturously content when his mother decided that the fairy books and Toby and brown-faced Ben might still be his companions. "You see the soldiers are men, dear, and they probably read these when they were little boys."

"But won't I wead them when I grow up, Mother?"

"You may want to read older books."

But Teddy was secretly resolved that age should not wither nor custom stale the charms of the beloved volumes. And that he should love them to the end. His mother thought that he might grow tired of them some day and told him so.

"I can wead them to my little boys," he said, hopefully, "and to their little boys after that," and having thus established a long line of prospective worshippers of his own special gods, he turned to other things.

General Drake, growing gradually better, went now and then in his warm closed car for a ride through the Park. Usually Jean was with him, or Bronson, and now and then Nurse with the children.

It was one morning when the children were with him that he said to Nurse: "Take them into the Lion House for a half hour, I'll drive around and come back for you."

Nurse demurred. "You are sure that you won't mind being left, sir?"

"Why not?" sharply. "I am perfectly able to take care of myself."

He watched them go in, then he gave orders to drive at once to the Connecticut Avenue entrance.

A woman stood by the gate, a tall woman in a long blue cloak and a close blue bonnet. In the clear cold, her coloring showed vivid pink and white. The General spoke through the tube; the chauffeur descended and opened the door.

"If you will get in," the General said to the woman, "you can tell me what you have to say--"

"Perhaps I should not have asked it," Hilda said, hesitating, "but I had seen you riding in the Park, and I thought of this way--I couldn't of course, come to the house."

"No." He had sunk down among his robes. "No."

"I felt that perhaps you had been led to--misunderstand." She came directly to the point. "I wanted to know--what I had done--what had made the difference. I couldn't believe that you had not meant what you said."

He stirred uneasily. "I have been very ill--"

Her long white hands were ungloved, the diamonds that he had given her sparkled as she drew the ring off slowly. "I felt that I ought to give you this--if it was all really over."

"It is all over. But keep it--please."

"I should like to keep it," she admitted frankly, "because, you see, I've never had a ring like this."

It was the Cophetua and Beggar Maid motif but it left him cold. "Hilda," he said, "I saw you that night trying on my wife's jewels. That was my reason."

She was plainly disconcerted. "But that was child's play. I had never had anything--it was like a child--dressing up."

"It was not like that to me. I think I had been a rather fatuous fool--thinking that there might be in me something that you might care for. But I knew then that without my money--you wouldn't care--"

"People's motives are always mixed," she told him. "You know that."

"Yes, I know."

"You liked me because I was young and made you feel young. I liked you because you could give me things."

"Yes. But now the glamour is gone. You make me feel a thousand years old, Hilda."

"Why?" in great surprise.

"Because I know that if I had no wealth to offer you, you would see me for what I am, an aged broken creature for whom you have no tenderness--"

It was time for him to be getting back to the Lion House. They stopped again at the gate. "If you will keep the ring," he said, "I shall be glad to think that you have it. Jean gays Derry gave you a check. If it is not enough to buy pink parasols, will you let me give you another?" He was speaking with the ease of his accustomed manner.

"No; I am not an--adventuress, though you seem to think that I am, and to condemn me for it."

"I condemn you only for one thing--for that flat bottle behind the books."

"But you wanted it."

"For that reason you should have kept it away. You should have obeyed orders."

"You asked me to doff my cap, so I--doffed my discipline." She was standing on the ground, holding the door open as she talked; again he was aware of the charm of her pink and white.

"Good-bye, Hilda." He reached out his hand to her.

She took it. "I am going to France."

"When?"

"As soon as I can." She stepped back and the door was shut between them. As the car turned, Hilda waved her hand, and the General had a sense of sudden keen regret as the tall cloaked figure with its look of youth and resoluteness faded into the distance.

When he reached the Lion House the children were waiting. "Did you hear him roar?" Teddy asked as he climbed in.

"No."

"Well, he did, and we came out 'cause it fwightened Peggy."

"Frightened--" from Nurse.

"Fr-ightened. But I liked the leopards best."

"Why?"

"Because they're pre-itty."

"You can't always trust--pretty things."

"Can't you tre-ust--leopards--General Drake?"

The General was not sure, and presently he fell into silence. His mind was on a pretty woman whom he could not trust.

That night he said to Jean, "Hilda is going to France."

"Oh--how do you know?"

"I met her in the Park."

He was sitting, very tired, in his big chair. Jean's little hand was in his.

"Poor Hilda," he said at last, looking into the fire, as if he saw there the vision of his lost dreams.

"Oh, no--" Jean protested.

"Yes, my dear, there is so much that is good in the worst of us, and so much that is bad in the best--and perhaps she struggles with temptations which never assail you."

Jean's lips were set in an obstinate line. "Daddy was always saying things like that about Hilda."

"Well, we men are apt to be charitable--to beauty in distress." The General was keenly and humorously aware that if Hilda had been ugly, he might not have been so anxious about the pink parasol. He might not, indeed, have pitied her at all!

And now in Jean's heart grew up a sharply defined fear of Hilda. In the old days there had been cordial dislike, jealousy, perhaps, but never anything like this. The question persisted in the back of her mind. If Hilda went to France, would she see Daddy and weave her wicked spells. To find the General melting into pity, in spite of the chaos which Hilda's treachery had created, was to wonder if Daddy, too, might melt.

She wrote to Derry about it.

"I would try and see her if I knew what to say, but when I even think of it I am scared. I never liked her, and I feel now as if I should be glad to pin together the pages of my memory of her, as I pinned together the pages of one of my story books when I was a little girl. There was a shark under water in the picture and two men were trying to get away from him. I hated that picture and shivered every time I looked at it, so I stuck in a pin and shut out the sight of it.

"Your father has had two letters from her since the day when he saw her in the Park. Bronson always brings the mail to me, and you know what a distinctive hand Hilda writes, there is no mistaking it. Your father dropped the letters into the fire, but she ought not to write to him, Derry, and I should like to tell her so.

"But if I told her, she would laugh at me, and that would be the end of it. For you can't rage and tear and rant at a thing that is as cold as stone. Oh, my dearest, I need you so much to tell me what to do, and yet I would not have you here--

"I met Alma Drew the other day, and she said, as lightly as you please, 'Do you know, I can't quite fancy Derry Drake in the trenches.'

"I looked at her for a minute before I could answer, and then I said, 'I can fancy him with his back to the wall, fighting a thousand Huns--!'

"She shrugged her shoulders, 'You're terribly in love.'

"'I am,' I said, and I hope I said it calmly, 'but there's more than love in a woman's belief in her husband's bravery--there's respect. And it's something rather--sacred, Alma.' And then I choked up and couldn't say another word, and she looked at me in a rather stunned fashion for a moment, and then she said, 'Gracious Peter, do you love him like that?' and I said, 'I do,' and she laughed in a funny little way, and said, 'I thought it was his millions.'

"I was perfectly furious. But you can't argue with such people. I know I was as white as a sheet. 'If anything should happen to Derry,' I said, 'do you think that all the money in the world would comfort me?'

"She stopped smiling. 'It would comfort me,' then suddenly she held out her hand. 'But I fancy you're different, and Derry is a lucky fellow.' which was rather nice and human of her, wasn't it?

"Life is growing more complicated than ever here in Washington. The crowds pour in as if the Administration were a sort of Pied Piper and had played a time, and the people who have lived here all their lives are waking to something like activity. Great buildings are going up as if some Aladdin had rubbed a lamp--. None of us are doing the things we used to do. We don't even talk about the things we used to talk about, and we go around in blue gingham and caps, and white linen and veils, and we hand out sandwiches to the soldiers and sailors, and drive perfectly strange men in our cars on Government errands, and make Liberty Bond Speeches from many platforms, and all the old theories of what women should do are forgotten in the rush of the things which must be done by women. It is as if we had all been bewitched and turned into somebody else.

"Well, I wish that Hilda could be turned into somebody else. Into somebody as nice as--Emily--. But she won't be. She hasn't been changed the least bit by the war, and everybody else has, even Alma, or she wouldn't have said that about your being lucky to have me. Are you lucky, Derry?

"And when Hilda sets her mind on a thing--. Oh, I can't seem to talk of anything but Hilda--when she sets her mind on anything, she gets it in one way or another--and that's why I am afraid of her."

Derry wrote back.

"Don't be afraid of anything, Jean-Joan. And it won't do any good to talk to Hilda. I don't want you to talk to her. You are too much of a white angel to contend against the powers of darkness.

"As for my luck in having you, it is something which transcends luck--it just hits the stars, dearest.

"I wonder what the fellows do who haven't any wives to anchor themselves to in a time like this? Through, all the day I have this hour in mind when I can write to you--and I think there are lots of other fellows like that--for I can see them all about me here in the Hut, bending over their letters with a look on their faces which isn't there at any other time.

"By Jove, Jean-Joan, I never knew before what women meant in the lives of men. Here we are marooned, as it were, on an island of masculinity, yet it isn't what the other fellows think of us that counts, it is what you think who are miles away. Always in the back of our minds is the thought of what you expect of us and demand of us, and added to what we demand and expect of ourselves, it sways us level. We don't talk a great deal about you, but now and then some fellow says, 'My wife,' and we all prick up our ears and want to hear the rest of it.

"It is a great life, dearest, in spite of the hard work, in spite of the stress and strain. And to me who have known so little of the great human game it is a great revelation.

"In the first place, there has been brought to me the knowledge of the joy of real labor. I shall never again be sorry for the man who toils. You see, I had never toiled, not in the sense that a man does whose labor counts. I was always a rather anxious and lonely little boy, looking after my father and trying to help my mother, and feeling a bit of a mollycoddle because I had a tutor and did not go to school with the other chaps. In the eyes of the world I was looked upon as a lucky fellow, but I know now what I have missed. In these days I am rubbing elbows with fellows who have had to hustle, and I am discovering that life is a great game, and that I have missed the game. If Dad had been different, he might have pushed me into things, as some men with money push their sons, making them stand on their own feet. But Dad liked an easy life, and he was perhaps entitled to ease, for he had struggled in his younger years. But I have never struggled. I have always had somebody to brush my clothes and to bring my breakfast, and I think I have had a sort of hazy idea that life was like that for everybody--or if it wasn't, then the people who couldn't be brushed and breakfasted by others were much to be pitied.

"Oh, I've been a Tin Soldier, Jean-Joan, left out not only of the war but of life. I've been on the shelf all these years in our big house, with the wooden trumpets blowing, 'Trutter-a-trutt' while other men have striven.

"When I first came here I had a sort of detached feeling. I had no experiences to match with the experiences of other men. I had never had to rush in the morning to catch a subway, I had never eaten, to put it poetically, by candlelight, so that I might get to the store by eight. I had never sold papers, or plowed fields, or stood behind a counter. I had never sat at a desk, I had never in fact done anything really useful, I had just been rich, and that isn't much of a background as I am beginning to see it here--.

"I find myself having a rather strange feeling of exaltation as the days go by, because for the first time I am a cog in a great machine, for the first time I am toiling and sweating as I rather think it was intended that men should toil and sweat. And the friends that I am making are the sign and seal of the levelling effects of this great war. Not one of the men of what you might call my own class interests me half as much as Tommy Tracy, who before he entered the service drove the car of one of Dad's business associates. I have often ridden behind Tommy, but he doesn't know it. And I don't intend that he shall. He rather fancies that I am a scholarly chap torn from my books, and he patronizes me on the strength of his knowledge of practical things.

"Tommy likes to eat, and he talks a great deal about his mother's cooking. He says there was always tripe for Sunday mornings, and corned beef and cabbage on Mondays, and Monday was wash-day!

"I wish you could hear him tell what wash-day meant to him. It is a sort of poem, the way he puts it. He doesn't know that it is poetry, though Vachell Lindsay would, or Masters, or some of those fellows.

"It seems that he used to help his mother, because he was a strong little fellow, and could turn the wringer, and they would get up very early because he had to go to school, and in the spring and summer they washed out of doors, under a tree in the yard, and his mother's eyes were bright and her cheeks were red and her arms were white, and she was always laughing. There's a memory for a man on the battlefield, dearest, a healthy, hearty memory of the day's work of a boy, and of a bright-eyed mother, and of a good dinner at the end of hours of toil.

"Perhaps with such a mother it isn't surprising that Tommy has made so much of himself. He has aspirations far beyond driving some other man's car, and if he keeps on he'll have a little flivver of his own before he knows it--when the war ends, and he can strike out, with his energy at the boiling point.

"There are a lot of men who have belonged not to the idle rich, but to the idle poor, and the discipline of this life is just the thing for them as it is for me. It rather contradicts the kindergarten idea of play as a preparation for life. These busy men, forced to be busy, are a thousand times more self-respecting than if left to lead the listless lives that were theirs before their country called them. I wonder if, after all, Kipling isn't right, and that the hump and hoof and haunch of it all isn't obedience? Not slavish obedience, but obedience founded on a knowledge of one's place and value in the pack?"

Jean, striving to follow Derry's point of view, found herself floundering.

"I am glad you like it, but I don't see how you can. And you mustn't say that you've always been a Tin Soldier on a shelf. I won't have it. And you have played the game of life just as bravely as Tommy Tracy, only your problems were different--. And if you can't remember wash days you can remember other days--. But I like to have you tell me about it, because I can see you, listening to Tommy and laughing at him. I adore your laugh, Derry, though I shouldn't be telling you, should I--? I have pasted the picture you sent me of you and Tommy in my memory book and have written under it, 'When you and I were young, Tommy' and I've drawn a cloud of steam above Tommy, with washboilers--and tubs--and cabbages and soap suds, and his mother's face smiling in the midst of it all--. And in your cloud is your mother smiling, too, with her little crown on her head, and gold spoons for a border--and a frosted cake with candles--and a mountain of ice-cream. Perhaps you have other memories, but I had to do the best I could with my poor little rich boy--"

It was about this time that Jean's memory book! became chaotic. Most of the things in it had to do with Derry, a bit of pine from a young plume which Derry had sent her from the south--triangles cut from the letter paper on which he sometimes wrote--post-cards to say "Good-morning," telegrams to say "Good-night"--a service pin with its one sacred star.

There were reminders, too, of the things which were happening across the sea, a cartoon or two, a small reproduction of a terrible Raemaeker print; verse, much of it--

* * * * * *

They have taken your bells, O God,
The bells that hung in your towers,
That cried your grace in a lovely song,
And counted the praying hours!

The little birds flew away!
They will tell the clouds and the wind,
Till the uttermost places know
The sin that the Hun has sinned!

* * * * * *

Jean thought a great deal about the Huns. She always called them that. She hated to think about them, but she had to. She couldn't pin the pages together, as it were, of her thoughts. And the Huns were worse than the sharks that had frightened her in her little girl days. Oh, they were much worse than sharks, for the shark was only following an instinct when it killed, and the Huns had worked out diabolically their murderous, monstrous plan.

In the days when she had argued with Hilda, she had been told of the power and perfection of Prussian rule. "Everything is at loose ends in America," had been Hilda's accusation.

"Well, what if it is?" Jean had flung back at her hotly. "Having things in place isn't the end and aim of happiness. Just because a house is swept and garnished isn't any sign that it is a blissful habitation. When I was a child I used to visit my two great-aunts in Maryland. I loved to go to Aunt Mary's, but I dreaded Aunt Anne's. And the reason was this. Everything in Aunt Anne's house went by clock-work, and everything was polished and scrubbed and dusted within an inch of its life. When we arrived, we scraped our shoes before we kissed Aunt Anne, and when we departed, we felt that she literally swept us out--. We had hours for everything, and nobody thought of doing as she pleased. It was always as Aunt Anne pleased, and the meals were always on time, and nobody was ever expected to be late, and if she was late she was scolded or punished; and nobody ever dared throw a newspaper on the floor, or go out to the kitchen and make fudge, or pop corn by the sitting-room fire. Yet Aunt Anne was so efficient that her house-keeping was the admiration of the whole State.

"But we loved Aunt Mary's. She would come smiling down the stone walk to meet us, and she would leave the morning's work undone to wander with us in the fields or woods. And we had some of our meals under the trees, and some of them in the house, and when we made taffy, and it stuck to things, Aunt Mary smiled some more and said it didn't matter. And we loved the freedom of our life, and we went to Aunt Mary's as often as we could, and stayed away when we could from Aunt Anne's.

"And that's the way with America. It isn't perfect, it isn't efficient, but it is a lovely place to live in, because in a sense we can live as we please.

"Did you ever know a man who wanted to go back to slavery? As a slave he was fed and clothed and kept by his master, with no thought of responsibility--. Yet it was freedom he wanted, even though he had to go hungry now and then for the sake of it--"

"I like law and order," Hilda said. "We don't always have it here."

"I'd rather be a gipsy on the road," had been Jean's passionate declaration, "and free, than a princess with a 'verboten' sign at all the palace gates."

* * * * * *

There were wisps of gauze, too, in her memory book, a red cross, drawings in which were caricatured some of the women who worked in the surgical dressing rooms.

"Emily," Jean asked, as she showed one of the pictures to her friend, "do such women come because it's fashion or because they really feel--?"

"I fancy their motives are mixed," said Emily, "and you mustn't think because they wear high heels and fluff their hair out over their ears that they haven't any hearts."

"No, I suppose not," Jean admitted, "but I wonder what they think the veils are for when they fluff out their hair.

"And their rings," she went on. "You see, when they all have on white aprons and veils you can't tell whether they are Judy O'Grady or the Colonel's lady--so they load their hands with diamonds. As if the hands wouldn't tell the tale themselves. Why, Emily, if you and Hilda were hidden, all but your hands, the people would know the Colonel's lady from Judy O'Grady."

Emily smiled abstractedly, she was counting compresses. She stopped long enough to ask, "Is Hilda still in town?"

"Yes. I saw her yesterday on the other side of the street. I didn't speak, but some day when I get a good opportunity I am going to tell her what I think of her."

But when the opportunity came she did not say all that she had meant to say!

She went over one morning to her father's house to get some papers which he had left in his desk. The house had been closed for weeks and the hall, as she entered it, was cold with a chill that reached the marrow of her bones--it was dim with the half-gloom of drawn curtains and closed doors. Even the rose-colored drawing-room as she stood on the threshold held no radiance--it had the stiff and frozen look of a soulless body. Yet she remembered how it had throbbed and thrilled on the night that Derry had come to her. The golden air had washed in waves over her.

She shivered and went over to the window. She pulled up a curtain and looked out upon the grayness of the street. The clouds were low, and a strong wind was blowing. Those who passed, bent to the wind. She was slightly above the level of the street, and nobody looked up at her. She might have been a ghost in the ghostly house.

Well, she had to get the papers. She turned to face the gloom, and as she turned she heard a sound in the room above her.

It was the rather startling sound of muffled steps. She dared not go into the hall. She felt comparatively safe by the window--. If--anything came, she could open the window and call.

But she did not call, for it was Hilda who came presently on rubber-heels and stood in the door.

"I thought I heard some one," she said, calmly.

"How did you get in?" was Jean's abrupt demand.

"I had my key. I have never given it up."

"But this is no longer your home."

"It was never home," said Hilda, darkly. "It was never home. I lived here with you and your father, but it was never home."

Jean, more than ever afraid of this woman, had a sudden sense of something tragic in the fact of Hilda's homelessness.

"I don't quite see what you mean," she said, slowly.

"You couldn't see," Hilda told her, "and you will never see. Women like you don't."

"We didn't get on very well together," Jean said, almost timidly, "but that was because we were different."

"It wasn't because we were different that we didn't get on," Hilda said. "It was because you were afraid of me. You knew your father liked me."

With her usual frankness she spoke the truth as she saw it.

"I was not afraid," Jean faltered.

"You were. But we needn't talk about that. I am going to France."

"When?"

"As soon as I can get there. That's why I came here. To take away some things I wanted."

"Oh--"

"And one of the things I wanted was the picture of your father which hung in your room. I have taken that. You can get more of them. I can't. So I have taken it."

They faced each other, this shining child and this dark woman.

"But--but it is mine--Hilda."

"It is mine now, and if I were you, I shouldn't make a fuss about it."

"Hilda, how dare you!" Jean began in the old indignant way, and stopped. There was something so sinister about it all. She hated the thought that she and Hilda were alone in the empty house--

"Hilda, if you go to France, shall you see Daddy?"

"I shall try. I had a letter from him the other day. He told me not to come. But I am going. There is work to do, and I am going."

Jean had a stunned feeling, as if there was nothing left to say, as if Hilda were indeed a rock, and words would rebound from her hard surface.

"But after all, you didn't really care for Daddy--"

"What makes you say that?"

"You were going to marry the General."

"Well, I wanted a home. I wanted some of the things you had always had. I'm not old, and I am tired of being a machine."

For just one moment her anger blazed, then she laughed with something of toleration.

"Oh, you'd never understand if I talked a year. So what's the use of wasting breath?"

She said "Good-bye" after that, and Jean watched her go, hearing the padded steps--until the front door shut and there was silence.

After that, with almost a sense of panic, she sped through the empty rooms, finding the papers after a frantic search, and gaining the street with a sense of escape.

Yet even then, it was sometime before her heart beat normally, and always after that when she thought of Hilda, it was against the chill and gloom of the empty house, with that look upon her face of dark resentment.

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