« PreviousContinue »
“There !” said the girl, “now we shall do It did n't do any good to try to run from well enough till dinner-time. I 'm going into that sensation. There was nowhere to run the village. Anybody want to come?”
to. It blocked every avenue of thought, a Priscilla jumped up. “I do. Unless Trudy sinister shape of dread. The only help was wants to, more than I do.”
in keeping very, very busy. And even then Gertrude shook her head. “I'm going to you could n't stop your thoughts traveling, put up tomatoes,” she said, “the rest of the traveling, traveling along those fearful paths. ripe ones.”
At last Elliott knew how the others felt "Don't you want help?"
about Pete. She had thought she understood "Not a bit. Tomatoes are no work at all." that and felt it, too, but now she found that
Elliott dashed upstairs. In a whirl of ex- she had n't. It makes all the difference in citement she pinned on her hat and counted the world, she discovered, whether you stand
No matter how much it cost, she inside or out of a trouble. The heart that had meant to say all that she wanted to.
ached so sympathetically for Bruce knew its Her cheeks were pink and her dimples hard first stab of loss and recoiled. The others at work playing hide-and-seek with their recognized the difference; or was it only that own shadows when she cranked the little car. Elliott herself had eyes to
see what she Everything would come right now; it could n't had been blind to before? No one said anyfail to come right. Priscilla hopped into the thing. In little unconscious, lovable ways they seat beside her and they sped away.
made it clear that now she was one with them.
"Perhaps we would better send for them to “I have cabled Father,” Elliott announced come home from Camp Devens," Father Bob at dinner, with the prettiest imaginable little suggested one day. He threw out this remark air of importance and confidence. “I have at the supper-table, which would seem to adcabled Father to find out all he can about Pete dress it to the family at large, but he looked and to let us know at once. Perhaps we shall straight at Elliott. hear something to-morrow."
"Oh no," she cried, “don't send for them !" But the next day passed, and the next, and But she could n't keep a flash of joy out of the day after that, and still no cable reply.
It was very bewildering. At first, Elliott "Sure you 're not getting tired ?" jumped every time the telephone rang and "Certain sure." took down the receiver with quickened pulses. It disappointed her the least little bit that No matter what her brain said, her heart told Uncle Bob let the suggestion drop so readily. her Father would send good news. She could And she was disappointed at her own disapn't associate him with thoughts of ill news. pointment. “Can't you carry on at all?" she
But when long days and longer nights demanded of herself scornfully. "It was all dragged themselves by and no word at all your own doing, you know." But how she did came from overseas, the girl found out what long at times for Aunt Jessica ! a big, empty place the world may become, Of course, Elliott could n't cry, however even while it is chock-full of people, and what much she might wish to, with the family all three thousand miles of water really means. taking their cues from her mood. She said She thought she had known before, but she so fiercely to every lump that rose in her had n't. As long as letters traveled back and throat. She could n't indulge herself at all forth-irregularly timed it might be, but con- adequately in the luxury of being miserable; tinuously—she still kept the familiar sense of she could n't even let herself feel half as Father, out of sight, but there, as he had al- scared as she wanted to, because, if she did, ways been, most dependably there. Now, for just once,-she could n't keep control of herthe first time in her life, she had called to self; and if she lost control of herself, there him and he had not answered. There might was no telling where she might end-certainly be reasons to explain why he had n't an- in no state that would be of any use to the swered-good, reassuring reasons, if you only family. No, for their sake, she must sit tight knew them. He might be temporarily in a on the lid of her grief and fear and anxiety. region out of touch with cables; the service But there were hours when the cover lifted might have dropped a link somewhere--you a little. No girl, not the bravest, could avoid could imagine many explanations. But it was such altogether. Elliott did n't think herself easier to imagine other things. And since he brave, not a bit. She knew merely that the did n't answer, she could n't get away from a thing she had to do could n't be done if there horrible, paralyzing sense that he was n't there. were many such hours.
Bruce heard somebody sobbing one day up A smile curved his firm lips, but the steady in the hay-loft. The sound did n't carry far,- gray eyes were tender. "I should n't call you it was controlled, suppressed,—but Bruce had a coward." gone up the ladder for something or other, She shook herself and stood up. "Bruce, and thinking Priscilla was in trouble, he kept you 're a darling! Now will you please go on. The girl crying, face down, in the hay and see if the coast is clear, so I can slide upwas n't Priscilla. Very softly Bruce started stairs without being seen? I must wash up to tiptoe away, but the rustling of the hay
before supper.” under his feet revealed him.
“I 'd get supper," he said, "if I did n't have "I did n't mean any one should find me.” to milk to-night. I promised Henry." “Shall I go away?"
She shook her head positively. "I 'll let you She shook her head.
do lots of things, Bruce, but I won't let you “I can't stand it,” she wailed. “I simply
get supper for me, not with all the other things can't stand it !” And she sobbed as though her you have to do." heart would break.
"Oh, all right. I dare you to jump off the Bruce sat down beside the girl on the hay hay.” and patted the hand nearest him. He did n't "Down there? Take you !" she cried, and know anything else to do. Her fingers closed with the word sprang into the air. on his convulsively.
Beside her the boy leaped, too. They landed “I 'm an awful old cry-baby,” she choked at lightly on the fragrant mass in the bay of the last. “I'll behave myself—in a minute.” barn.
“No, cry away,” said Bruce. “A girl has to “Oh,” she cried, “it 's like flying, is n't it! cry sometimes."
Why was n't I brought up on a farm ?” After a while the racking sobs spent them- There was a little choke still left in her selves. “There!” she said, sitting up.
voice and her smile was a trifle unsteady, but never thought I'd let a boy see me cry. Now her words were ready enough. In the doorI must go in and help Trudy get supper." way she turned and waved to the boy and then
She dabbed at her eyes with a wet little wad went on, her head held high, slender and of linen.
straight and gallant, into the house. Bruce plucked a clean handkerchief from his pocket and tucked it into her fingers.
CHAPTER XII "Yours does n't seem quite big enough for the job." She took it gratefully.
She had never thought of a boy as a very comforting person, MOTHER JESS and Laura were coming home. but Bruce was. "Oh Bruce, you know.” Perhaps Father Bob had dropped a hint that “Yes, I know.”
their presence was needed in the white house “It 's so-so lonely. Dad 's all I 've got- at the end of the road; perhaps, on the other of my really own—in the world.”
hand, they were just ready to come. Elliott He nodded. “You 're clear grit, all right.” never knew for certain.
“Why, Bruce Fearing ! how can you say Father Bob met the train, while all the that after the way I 've acted ?”
Cameron boys and girls flew around making “That 's why I say it."
ready at home. The plan had developed on “But I 'm scared all the time! If I did the tacit understanding that, since they all what I wanted to, I'd be a perpetual foun- wanted to, it was fairer for none of them tain."
to go to the station. “And you 're not."
Priscilla and Prince were out watching. She stared at him. "Is being scared and “They 're coming!" she squealed, skipping
" trying to cover it up what you call grit?” back into the house. “Trudy, Elliott, every“The grittiest kind of grit.”
body, they're coming!" And she was out For a sophisticated girl she was singularly again, darting in long swallowlike swoops naive, in spots.
down the hill. From every direction came He watched her digest the idea, sitting up Camerons, running; from house, barn, garden, on the hay, her chin cupped in her two hands, young heads moved swiftly toward the little straws in her hair. Her eyes were swollen car chug-chugging up the hill. and her nose red and his handkerchief was They swarmed over it, not giving it time to now almost as wet as her own. “I thought I stop, jumping on the running-board, riding on was an awful coward,” she said.
the hood, almost embracing the car itself in
the joy of their welcome. Elliott hung back. impression. Just to see Mother Jess's face in The others had the first right. After their a room, to touch her hand now and then, to turns
hear her voice, merely to know she was in the Without a word Aunt Jessica took the girl house, seemed enough to give it to you. into her arms and held her tight. In that They all had so much to say to one another. strong tender clasp all the stinging ache went The returned travelers must tell of Sidney, out of Elliott's hurt. She was n't frightened and the Camerons who had stayed at home any longer or bewildered or bitter; she did n't had tales of how they had “carried on" in the know why she was n't, but she was n't. She others' absence. Tongues were very busy, but felt just as if somehow or other, however no one forgot those who were n't there, not they might turn out, things were going to be for a minute. The sense of them lived underright.
neath all the confidences. There were confiShe had this feeling so strongly that she dences en masse, so to speak, and confidences forgot all about dreading to meet Laura—for à deux. Priscilla chattered away into her she had dreaded to meet Laura, she was so mother's ear without once stopping to catch sorry for her—and kissed her quite naturally. breath, and Bruce had his own quiet report to Laura kissed Elliott in return and said, "Wait make. Perhaps Bruce and Priscilla and the till I get you upstairs !” as though she meant rest said more than Elliott heard, for when business, and smiled just as usual. Her face Aunt Jessica bade her good night she rested was a trifle pale, but her eyes were bright, a hand lightly on the girl's shoulder. "You and the clear steady glow in them reminded dear, brave little woman!” she said. “All Elliott for the first time of the light in Aunt the soldiers are n’t in camp or over the seas.” Jessica's eyes. She had n't remembered ever Elliott put the words away in her memory. seeing Laura's eyes look just like that. How They made her feel like a man who has just much did Laura kno Elliott wondered ? She been decorated by his general. would n't look so, would she, if she had heard She felt so comforted and quiet, so free about Pete? But strangely enough, Elliott from nervousness, that not even the telephone did n't fear her finding out or feel nervous bell could make her jump. It tinkled almost lest she might have to tell her. And after all, continuously, too. That was because all the as soon as they got upstairs, it came out that next day the neighbors who did n't come in Laura did know about Pete, for she said, “I ’m person were calling up to inquire for the reglad, oh, so glad, that wherever Pete is now, turned travelers. Elliott quite lost the exhe got across and had a chance really to do pectation that every time the telephone buzzed something in this fight! If you had seen what it meant a possible message for her. I have seen this last week, Elliott,”
She had lost it so completely that when, as The shining look in Laura's face fascinated they were on the point of sitting down to supElliott.
per, Laura said, “There 's the 'phone again, All at once she felt her own words come and my hands are full," Elliott remarked, as simply and easily as Laura's. "But will "I 'll see who it is,” and took down the rethat be enough, Laura-always?"
ceiver without the thought of a cable in her “No,” said Laura, “not always. But I shall head. always be proud and glad, even if I do have “This is Elliott Cameron speaking. Yes, to miss him all my life. And, of course, I yes, Elliott Cameron. All ready. Yes—yes. can't help feeling that we may hear good news Elliott Cameron. All ready.” A tremor crept yet. Now-Oh you blessed, blessed girl!” into the girl's voice. “I did n't get that. Just
And the two clung together in a long, close received my message? Yes, go on. Repeat, embrace that said many things to both of please. Wait a minute till I call some one.” them, but not a word out loud.
She wheeled from the instrument, her face How good it seemed to have Mother Jess alight. "Where 's Bruce? Please, somebody, and Laura in the house! Every one went call—Oh, here you are !” She thrust the reabout with a hopeful face, though, after all, ceiver into his hands. “Make them repeat the not an inch had the veil of silence lifted that
message to you. It 's from Father. Pete was hung between the Cameron' Farm and the a prisoner. He's escaped and got back to our world overseas. Every one, Elliott suspected, lines !” shared the feeling she had known—the cer- Then she slipped into Aunt Jessica's waittainty that all would be well now Mother Jess ing arms. was home. It was n't anything in particular Supper? Who cared about supper? The that she said or did that contributed to this Camerons forgot it. When they remembered,
most dangerous stage, and inasmuch as Stannard's was an early train, going to bed was the only sensible thing to do. So they did it.
What was more remarkable, the last sleepy Cameron straggled down to the breakfasttable before the little car ran up to the door to take Stannard away. They were really
the steaming-hot creamed potatoes were cold and the salad was wilted, but that made no difference. They were too excited to know what they were eating.
To make assurance trebly sure, there were more messages. Bob cabled of Pete's escape through the Hun lines and the Government wired from Washington... The
Camerons' happiness spilled over. into blithe exuberance. They laughed and danced and sang for very joy. Priscilla jigged all
the house like an excited brown leaf in a breeze. Not one of them, unless it were Father Bob, Mother Jess and Laura, could keep still. Laura went about like a person in a trance, with a strange, happy quietness in her ordinarily energetic movements and a brightness that dazzled you in her
16665 face. There was boisterousness in any one's rejoicing, only a gentleness of gaiety that was very wonderful to see and feel.
As for Elliott, she felt as though she had come out from underneath a great dark cloud into a place where she could never be anything but good and happy forever. She had been coming out ever since Aunt Jessica reached home, but she had n't come out the
she went in. The Elliott Aunt Jessica and Laura had left in charge when they went to Camp Devens seemed very, very far away from the Elliott whose joy was like wings that fairly lifted her feet off the ground.
"I suppose," Mother Jess said at last, "we shall have to go to bed, if we are to get Stannard off in the morning."
Going to bed is n't a very exciting thing to do when you are so happy you feel as though you might burst with joy, but by that time the Camerons had managed to work out of the
sorry to see him go, and he acted as though he were just as sorry, which would seem to indicate that he, too, had changed in the course of the summer. He looked much like the long, lazy Stannard who had rebelled against a vạcation on a farm, but his carriage was better. and his figure sturdier and his hands were n't half so white and gentlemanlike. Underneath his lazy ease was a hint of something to depend on in an emergency. Perhaps even his laziness was n't so ingrained as it used to be.
They all went out on the veranda, and waved good-by as long as the car was in sight.
“Are n't you sorry you 're not going too?" side the gate a young maple burned like a Bruce asked Elliott.
shaft of flame. True, Bruce was only going "Oh, no. I would n't go for anything !" ,
to school now, but there was France in the “For a girl who did n't want to come up background, a beckoning possibility, with all here at all," he said softly, "you're doing that it meant of triumph and heroisin and pain. pretty well. Decided to make the best of us, That idea of France and the fiery splendor of did n't you?"
the hills seemed to invest Bruce's strong young She looked at him indignantly. "Indeed, I figure with a kind of glory that tightened the did n't. I would n't do such a thing! Why, girl's throat as she waved good-by from the I just love it here!"
veranda. She was glad Bruce was going, Then she saw the twinkle in his eye. "You even if her throat did ache. Aches like that old tease!” she said.
seemed far less important than they used to. "I'm going away myself, next week, S. A. She waved with a thrill of mingled pride and T.C. I can't get any nearer France than that, joy—a shy, eager sense of how big and wonit seems, just yet. Father Bob says he can derful and happy a thing it was to be a girl. manage all right this winter, and he has a With a last wave to Bruce turning the curve notion of something new that may turn up next of the road, Mother Jess stepped back into spring. He said, 'Go,' and so does Mother the house. "Come girls,” she said. “I feel Jess. So—I 'm going."
like getting very busy, don't you?" Elliott stole a quick glance at the firm, clear- Elliott followed her contentedly. People cut face chiseled already in lines of purpose might go, but she did n't wish to, not while
Father was on the other side of the ocean. "I 'ın glad,” she said, "but we shall-miss It made her laugh to think that she had ever you."
wanted to. That laugh of pure mirth and "Shall you miss me?"
happiness proved the completeness of Elliott “Yes.”
Cameron's change of heart. "I'd hate to think that you would n't.” "What is the joke?” Laura asked, smiling at
Elliott always remembered the morning the radiant charm of the dainty figure envelopthree days later when Bruce went away. How ing itself in a blue apron. blue the sky was, how clear the sunshine, how "Oh," said Elliott lightly, "I was thinking glorious the autumn pageant of the hills! Be- that I used to be a queer girl.”