Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

At Twilight

From: Jewel

It was Sunday, and Mr. Bonnell was dining at Bel-Air Park. Had Jewel
thought of it, she might have contrasted the expression of Mrs. Forbes's
face as she waited at table this evening with the look it wore on the
day she first arrived; might have noted the cheerful flow of talk which
enlivened the board, in distinction from the stiff silence or bitter
repartee which once chilled her. As she responded to the smiles hovering
now about Eloise's lovely lips, she might have remembered the once
sombre sadness of those eyes. Even Mrs. Evringham had buried
the Macbethian dagger, and wore the meek and patient air of one
misunderstood; but nothing would have amazed the child so much as to be
told that she had had anything to do with this metamorphosis.

Anna Belle,--deserted often now, perforce, on account of the pony,
whose life was a strenuous one, owing to the variety of Jewel's
attentions,--Anna Belle was petted with extra fondness when her turn
came; and she sat at table now in a pleasing trance, her smile an
impartial benediction upon all.

It had been a glorious June day, the park was at its best. After dinner
the family strolled out toward the piazza.

Mrs. Forbes had attended her own Baptist church that morning, and the
familiar Sunday-school tune that the children sang floated through her
mind as she looked after the group.

"When He cometh, when He cometh,
To make up His jewels,
All His pure ones, all His bright ones,
His loved and His own.

"Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own."

"What is Mr. Evringham going to do without that child?" she thought.

The broker was invaded with the same problem as Jewel lingered with
him on the piazza, while the others walked on toward a seat beneath a
spreading maple.

He ensconced himself in his favorite chair. The thrushes were singing
vespers. The pure air was faintly and deliciously scented.

"Grandpa, is it too late to bring Star out for a nibble?" asked the
little girl wistfully.

"No, I guess not," returned the broker as he opened his cigar case.
"Star may have a short life, but he's certainly experiencing a merry
one. There's no moss gathering on that pony."

Jewel had not waited for more than the permission. She was fleeing
toward the barn.

Mr. Evringham lighted his cigar, and then his eye fell upon the doll,
too hastily set down, and fallen at a distressing angle. Her eyes were
closed as if her sensibilities had been shocked overmuch.

"Anna Belle, Anna Belle, has it come to this!" he murmured, picking
up the neglected one, who, with her usual elasticity and exuberance
of spirit, at once opened her eyes and beamed optimistically on her
rescuer. He set her, facing him, on his knee. "Such is youth!" he
sighed. "When she throws you down, I feel that I'm not going to be
so recuperative as you, Anna Belle. I have a plan, however, a plan of
self-defense; but if it weren't for your discretion, I shouldn't tell it
to you, for I'm an old bird, young lady, and can't be caught with chaff.
There are many worthy persons who may rise to lofty heights in eternity,
who nevertheless, meanwhile are not desirable to sit opposite a man at
his breakfast table. A visit, Anna Belle, a short visit from my daughter
Julia is all I shall ask for at first, and I shall test her, test her,
my dear. I'll look at her through a magnifying glass. Of course, if
they'd give me Jewel, it would be all I'd ask for; but they won't. That
is self-evident."

Here the child came around the corner of the house, leading her pet by a
halter, but with her hand in his mane as she pressed close to his side,
caressing and talking to him. In fact it was the harassing problem of
the pony's life to manage to avoid stepping on her. Zeke lounged in the
background on account equally of his orders and his inclination.

Star began cropping the grass, and Mr. Evringham continued his
disquisition to the bright-eyed young person on his knee:--

"My son Harry is turning out a pretty good sort, I fancy. I'm not
particularly shy of giving him a trial, provided he'll do the same by
me; but I suppose he will have to go West at first, anyway. Julia is a
different thing. I can't whistle her on and off with the same frankness;
and I must be careful, Anna Belle. Do you understand? Careful! And I'm
going to be, by Jove, in spite of the way it makes me cringe to think
of this big house, empty as a drum. It wasn't empty before, that's the
mischief of it. What has happened to me? I thought things were well
enough in those days. Nobody whom I knew was particularly happy. Why
should I be?"

The thrushes stopped, for Jewel's childish voice floated out on the
evening air.

Mr. Evringham knew what had happened. He knew that Zeke had asked her to
sing. They two were sitting on the ground, while the pony cropped away
at the sweet grass.

"From tired joy and grief afar,
And nearer Thee,
Father, where Thine own children are
I love to be!"

The broker listened for a minute.

"I'll take Jewel and her mother to the seashore somewhere; for I must
leave the house, if only to let Madge down easily, and too, I wish to
study Julia outside her atmosphere. Poor Madge, she's a light weight,
but I think there are better times coming for her. At View Point she'll
find friends."

Time passed, and at last Mr. Evringham called, "That will do, Jewel."

"Do you want Star to go in?" she returned.

The broker nodded, and the child sprang up and began patting and
smoothing the little horse with energetic affection.

"It's your bedtime, Star," she said, "but morning's coming." She kissed
his sleek shoulder. "We'll have such a good time in the morning. I don't
bounce a bit now, do I, Zeke?" she asked, turning to him.

"Well, I guess not," returned Zeke scornfully. "You ain't the kind that
gets bounced after a fellow knows you," he added, smiling. He took the
pony's halter. "Good-night, Jewel."

"Good-night, Zeke." She ran across the lawn and up the piazza steps.
"How kind of you, grandpa, to amuse Anna Belle!" she exclaimed
gratefully, observing the doll on his knee. At the same time she most
abruptly whisked that patient person into a neighboring chair and
usurped her place. Cuddling down in her grandfather's arms, she nestled
her head against his shoulder and sighed happily.

The light began to fade, the last smoke from the broker's cigar curled
out into the summer air. He tossed it away and pressed the child more
closely to him.

"Sing once again the song you sang for Zeke." he said.

And she began softly in her true, clear voice:--

"From tired joy and grief afar,
And nearer Thee,
Father, where Thine own children are
I love to be!"

"Amen," breathed Mr. Evringham.

Next: Prologue

Previous: A Realized Hope

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 468