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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXV. WHITE VIOLETS
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The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXV. WHITE VIOLETS Post by :imported_n/a Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :April 2012 Read :921

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The Tin Soldier - BOOK THREE _ THE BUGLE CALLS - Chapter XXV. WHITE VIOLETS

BOOK THREE THE BUGLE CALLS - CHAPTER XXV. WHITE VIOLETS

Bruce McKenzie's letter arriving in due time at the Toy Shop, found Emily very busy. There were many women to be instructed how to do things with gauze and muslin and cotton, so she tucked the letter in her apron pocket. But all day her mind went to it, as a feast to be deferred until the time came to enjoy it.

In the afternoon Ulrich Stoelle arrived, bearing the inevitable tissue paper parcel.

"Do you know what day it is?" he asked.

"Thursday."

"There are always Thursdays. But this is a special Thursday."

"Is it?"

"And you ask me like that? It is a Thursday for valentines."

"Of course. But how could you expect me to remember? Nobody ever sends me valentines."

"My father has sent you one." It was a heart-shaped basket of pink roses; "but mine I couldn't bring. You must come and see it. Will you dine with us tonight?"

"Oh, I am so busy."

"You are not too busy for that. Let your little Jean take charge."

Jean, all in white with her white veil and red crosses was more than ever like a little nun. She was remote, too, like a nun, wrapped not in the contemplation of her religion, but of her love.

She still made toys, and the proceeds of the sale of Lovely Dreams had been contributed by herself and Emily for Red Cross purposes. There were rows and rows of the fantastic creatures behind glass doors on the shelves, and for Valentine's Day Jean had carved and painted pale doves which carried in their beaks rosy hearts and golden arrows and whose wings were outspread--.

There were also on the shelves the white plush elephants which Franz Stoelle and his friends had made, and which were, too, being sold to swell the Red Cross fund.

Thus had the Toy Shop come into its own. "I have enough to live on," Emily had said, "at least for a while, and I am taking no more chances for future living, than the men who give up everything to fight."

So enlisted in this cause of mercy as men had enlisted in the cause of war, Miss Emily led where others followed, and the old patriarch of all the white elephants, who had been born in a country of blood and iron, looked down on women working to heal the wounds which his country had made.

"Let your little Jean look after things," Ulrich repeated.

"Do you mind, my dear?"

"Mind what, Emily--?"

"If I go with Mr. Stoelle--to see his father about the--toys."

"Darling--no;" Jean kissed her. "I don't mind in the least, and the ride will do you good."

"But you are not going to see my father about toys," Ulrich told her, twinkling, as he followed her to the back of the shop.

"Do you think I was going to tell her that?"

She put on her coat and hat and off she went with Ulrich, leaving still unread in the pocket of the big apron the letter which Bruce McKenzie had written her.

All the way out Ulrich was rather silent. It was not, however, the silence of moodiness or dullness, it was rather as if he wanted to hear her speak. It was, indeed, a responsive, stimulating silence, and she glowed under his glance.

It seemed to her, as she talked, that these adventures with Ulrich Stoelle were in every way the most splendid thing that had happened to her. They were always unexpected, and they were packed to the brim with pleasure of a rare quality.

When they reached their destination, Ulrich took her at once to the hothouses. As they passed down the fragrant aisles, she found that all the men and gone, their day's work over; only she and Ulrich were under the great glass roof.

"Anton comes back later," Ulrich explained, "but at this hour the houses are empty, and dinner will not be ready for as hour. We have it all to ourselves, Emily."

Her name, spoken with so much ease, without a sign of self-consciousness, startled her. Her inquiring glance showed her that he was utterly unaware that he had spoken it. Her breath came quickly.

The birds sang and the stream sang, and suddenly her heart began to sing.

You see it had been so many years since Emily had known romance;--indeed, she had never known it--there had always been, in her mother's time, her sense of the proper thing, and her sense of duty, and her sense of making the best of things--and now for the first time in her life there was no make-believe. This was a world of realities, with Ulrich leading the way, his hands gathering flowers for her.

He stopped at last at the entrance of a sort of grotto where great ferns towered--at their feet was a bed of white violets.

"You see," he said, "I could not bring it. I came here this morning to pick the violets--for you--to let them say, 'I love you'--"

Even the birds seemed silent, and the little stream!

"And suddenly they spoke to me, 'Let her see us here, where you have so often thought of her. Tell her here that you love her--'

"How much I love you," and now she found her hands in his, "I cannot tell you. It seems to me that the thought of you as my wife is so exquisite that I cannot believe it will ever come to pass. And I have so little to offer you. Even my name is hated because it is a German name, and my old house is German, and my father--

"But my heart's blood is for America. You know that, and so I have dared to ask it, not that you will love me now, but that you may come to think of loving me, so that some day you will care a little."

The birds were singing madly, the streams were shouting--Emily was trembling. Nobody had ever wanted her like this--nobody had ever made her feel so young and lovely and--wanted--. She had had a proposal or two, but there had been always the sense that she had been chosen for certain staid and sensible qualities; there had been nothing in it of red blood and rapture.

"If you should come to us, to me and my father, you would be a queen on a throne. If you could love me just a little in return--"

She could not answer, she just stood looking up at him, and suddenly his arms went around her. "Tell me, beloved."

* * * * * *

An hour later they went in to his father, and after that Emily was lifted up on the wings of an enthusiasm which left her breathless, but beatified. "I knew when I first saw you what we desired," said the old man, "and my son knew. All that I have is yours both now and afterwards--"

Dinner was a candle-lighted feast, with heart-shaped ices at the end.

"How sure you were," Emily told her lover, smiling.

"I was not sure. But I set the stage for success. It was only thus that I kept up my courage. There were so many chances that the curtain might drop on darkness--," his hand went over hers. "If it had been that way, I should have let the ices melt and the violets die--."

After dinner they went over the house. "Why should we wait," Ulrich had said, "you and I? There is nothing to wait for. Tell me what you want changed in this old house, and then come to it, and to my heart."

It was, she found, such a funny old place. It had been furnished by men, and by German men at that. There was heaviness and stuffiness, and all the bric-a-brac was fat and puffy, and all the pictures were highly-colored, with the women in them blonde and buxom, and the men blond and bold--.

But Ulrich's room was not stuffy or heavy. The windows were wide open, and the walls were white, and the cover on the canopy bed was white, and there were two pictures, one of Lincoln and one of Washington, and that was all.

"And when I have your picture, it will be perfect," he told her. "Where I can see you when I wake, and pray to you before I go to sleep."

"But why," she probed daringly, "do you want my picture?"

"Because you are so--beautiful--"

It was not to be wondered that such worship went to Miss Emily's head. She slipped out of the dried sheath of the years which had saddened and aged her, and emerged lovely as a flower over which the winter has passed and which blooms again.

"I don't want to change anything," Emily told her lover as they went downstairs, "at least not very much. I shall keep all of the lovely old carved things--with the fat cupids."

As she lay awake that night, reviewing it all, she thought suddenly of Bruce McKenzie's letter in her apron pocket. The apron was in the Toy Shop, and it was not therefore until the next morning that she read the letter.

In it Dr. McKenzie asked her to marry him.

"I should like to think that when I come back, you will be waiting for me, Emily. I am a very lonely man. I want someone who will sympathize and understand. I want someone who will love Jean, and who will hold me to the best that is in me, and you can do that, Emily; you have always done it."

It was a rather touching letter, and she felt its appeal strongly. Indeed, so stern was her sense of self-sacrifice, that she had an almost guilty feeling when she thought of Ulrich. If he had not come into her life at the psychological moment, she might have given herself to Bruce McKenzie.

But the letter had come too late. Oh, how glad she was that she had left it in her apron pocket!

She answered it that night.

"I am going to be very frank with you, Bruce, because in being frank with you I shall be frank with myself. If Ulrich Stoelle had not come into my life, I should probably have thought I cared for you. Even now when I am saying 'no,' I realize that your charm has always held me, and that the prospect of a future by your pleasant fireside holds many attractions. But since you left Washington, something has happened which I never expected, and all of my preconceived ideas of myself have been overturned. Bruce, I am no longer the Emily you have known--a little staid, gray-haired, with pretty hands, but with nothing else very pretty about her; a lady who would, perhaps, fill gracefully, a position for which her aristocratic nose fits her. I am no longer the Emily of the Toy Shop, wearing spectacles on a black ribbon, eating her lunches wherever she can get them. No, I am an Emily who is young and beautiful, a sort of fairy-tale Princess, an Emily who, if she wishes, shall sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam, but who doesn't wish it because she hates to sew, and would much rather work in her silver-bell-and-cockle shell garden--oh, such a wonderful garden as it is!

"And I am all this, Bruce, I am young and beautiful and all the rest, because I am seeing myself through the eyes of my lover.

"He is Ulrich Stoelle, as I have said, and you mustn't think because his name is German that he is to be cast into outer darkness. He is as American as you with your Scotch blood, or as I with my English blood. And he is as loyal as any of us. He is too old to be accepted for service, but he is giving time and money to the cause.

"And he loves me rapturously, radiantly, romantically. He doesn't want me as a cushion for his tired head, he doesn't want me because he thinks it would be an act of altruism to provide a haven for me in my old age, he wants me because he thinks I am the most remarkable woman in the whole wide world, and that he is the most fortunate man to have won me.

"And you don't feel that way about it, Bruce. You know that I am not beautiful, there is no glamour in your love for me. You know that I am not wonderful, or a fairy Princess--. And you are right and he is wrong. But it is his wrongness which makes me love him. Because every woman wants to be beautiful to her lover, and to feel that she is much desired.

"You will ask why I am telling you all this. Well, there was one sentence in your letter which called it forth. You say that you want me because I will hold you to the best that is in you.

"Oh, Bruce, what would you gain if I held you? Wouldn't there be moments when in spite of me you would swing back to women like Hilda? You are big and fine, but you are spoiled by feminine worship--it is a temptation which assails clergymen and doctors--who have, as it were, many women at their feet.

"Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it that way. I only want you to come into your own. And if you ever marry I want you to find some woman you can love as you loved your wife, someone who will touch your imagination, set you on fire with dreams, and I could never do it.

"Yet even as I finish this letter, I am tempted to tear it up and tell you only of my real appreciation of the honor you have conferred upon me in asking me to be your wife. I know that you are offering me more in many ways than Ulrich Stoelle. I don't like his name, because something rises up in me against Teuton blood and Teuton nomenclature. But he loves me, and you do not, and because of his love for me and mine for him, everything else seems too small to consider.

"Oh, you'd laugh at his house, Bruce, but I love even the fat angels that are carved on everything from the mahogany chests to the soup tureens. It is all like some old fairy-tale. I shall make few changes; it seems such a perfect setting for Ulrich and his busy old gnome of a father.

"When you get this, pray for my happiness. Oh, I do want to be happy. I have made the best of things, but there has been much more of gray than rose-color, and now as I turn my face to the setting sun, I am seeing---loveliness and light--"

She read it over and sealed it and sent it away. It was several weeks before it reached Doctor McKenzie. He was very busy, for the spring drive of the Germans had begun, and shattered men were coming to him faster than he could handle them. But he found time at last to read it, and when he laid it down he sat quite still from the shock of it.

And the next time he saw Drusilla he said to her, "Emily Bridges is going to be married, and she is not going to marry me."

"I am glad of it," Drusilla told him.

"My dear girl, why?"

"Because you don't love her, and you never did."

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