VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.fictionstories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Essex Maid







From: Jewel

The rain and wind lasted for three days, clearing at last on an evening
which proved eventful.

Mr. Evringham had taken a long ride into the country roundabout, and
Jewel had been down at the gate to greet his return. He swung her up
into the saddle with him, and in triumph she rode to the barn.

Mrs. Evringham observed this from the window and reported to Eloise.

"I didn't suppose father would be so indulgent to any living thing as
he is to that child," she said rather dejectedly. "Do you know, Eloise,
Mrs. Forbes says that Jewel spends every evening with him in his study."

"Indeed? I'm not surprised. He had to take pity on her since we would
not."

Mrs. Evringham sighed. "I really believe nobody was ever so exasperating
as you are," she returned. "When Jewel first came, if you remember, I
wished to welcome her,--in fact I did,--but you refused to be decently
civil. Now you speak as if we had made a mistake, and that it was my
fault. I wish you would let Dr. Ballard prescribe for you. I don't think
you are well."

"He does prescribe roses and chocolates, and I take them, don't I?"

"Yes, and after this you can have some golf. It will do you good."

To-day was the third during which Eloise had helped her cousin with
the morning lesson and brushed and braided her hair. Jewel had had many
minds about whether to tell Eloise of her escaped secret. An intuition
bade her refrain, but the sense of dishonesty was more than the
child could bear; so that morning, during the hair braiding, she had
confessed. She began thus:--

"I wrote to my father and mother last night how good you were to me."

"Did you tell them how good you were to me?" asked the girl, so kindly
that the child's heart leaped within her and she more than ever wished
that she had nothing to confess.

"I wish I could be, cousin Eloise; I meant to be, but error crept in."
The girl was learning something of the new phraseology, and she smiled
at Jewel in the glass and was surprised to find what troubled eyes met
hers. "I went to sleep that night waiting for grandpa to be through with
his book, and when I waked up he had read my letter."

Eloise's smile faded. "Tell me again what you said in it," she returned.

Jewel's lips quivered. "I said how kind you were, and washed my hair,
and asked me not to tell grandpa--"

"You put that in?" Eloise interrupted eagerly.

The child took courage from her changed tone. "Yes; I said you didn't
want him to know you were kind to me."

The girl smiled slightly and went on with her brushing.

"He wished he hadn't read it when he saw how sorry I was. He asked my
pardon and said he had done bad form. I don't know what that is."

"It's the worst thing that can happen to some people," returned Eloise.
"Good form is said to be the New York conscience."

"Oh," responded Jewel, not understanding, but too relieved and grateful
that her cousin was not unforgiving to press the matter.

Eloise fell into thought. Mr. Evringham had certainly been more genial
at table, conversation had been more general and sustained last evening
than ever before the advent of Jewel, and he had not sneered, either.
Eloise searched her memory for some word or look that might have given
hurt to her self-esteem, but she could find none.

On this evening Mr. Evringham was in unusual spirits at dinner time. He
told of the pleasure of Essex Maid at finding herself free of the stable
again, and of the gallop he had taken among the hills.

The meat course had just been removed when Sarah came in with a troubled
face, saying that Zeke wanted to see Mr. Evringham. Something was the
matter with Essex Maid. She seemed "very bad."

The master's face changed, and he moved back from the table. The
countenances of the others showed consternation. Mrs. Forbes turned
pale. Had Zeke done anything, or left something undone? She dropped her
tray and hastened after Mr. Evringham. Eloise noticed that Jewel's
eyes were closed. In a minute the child pushed back from the table, and
without a word to the others she hurried to the scene of trouble. She
met Mrs. Forbes rushing to the kitchen for hot water.

"Go straight into the house, Jewel," cried the housekeeper with an anger
born of her excitement. "Don't you go near that barn and get in the
way."

The child, scarcely hearing her, fled on. As she entered the barn she
heard her grandfather's voice addressing Zeke, who was flinging a saddle
on Dick.

"Dr. Busby'll leave anything when he knows it's the Maid." He didn't
need to say "hurry." Zeke was as anxious as his master to get the
veterinary surgeon.

Essex Maid had fallen in her stall and was making her misery apparent,
tossing her head and rolling her eyes. Her master's teeth were set.

"Grandpa, may I try to help?" came Jewel's eager voice.

"Go away, child," sternly. "You'll get hurt."

"But may I treat her?"

"Do anything," brusquely; "but don't come near."

Jewel ran to the back of the barn, dropped on the floor, and buried her
face in her hands.

Five minutes passed, ten, fifteen. Zeke rode up to the barn door, white
and wild-eyed in the twilight.

"Dr. Busby was away!" he gasped. "They tried to get him on the
telephone, and at last did. He'll be here in a few minutes."

"The Maid's better," said Mr. Evringham, wiping his forehead. "There
hasn't been a repetition of the attack." Mrs. Forbes stood by, fanning
herself with her apron. The mare was standing quietly.

"Great Scott, but I'm glad!" replied Zeke devoutly. "I've seen 'em
keel up with that. You can go through me with a fine tooth comb, Mr.
Evringham, and you won't find a thing I've neglected for that mare."
Excitement had placed the young fellow beyond his awe for the master.

"I believe you, boy," returned the broker. In his relief he would have
believed anything.

"See the poor kid," said Zeke, catching sight of the little figure
sitting out of earshot, where the twilight touched her.

Mr. Evringham wheeled and strode back to the child. Her face was still
hidden.

"Don't cry, Jewel," he said kindly, his voice unsteady. "She's better."

The child looked up radiantly. "I knew it!"

The unexpected look and exclamation startled her grandfather. "Zeke says
the doctor can't get here for a little while," he went on, "but the mare
is out of pain."

"It's all right," rejoined the child joyously. "The doctor ought not to
come. We shall do better without him."

The first gleam of her meaning began to shine across the broker's mind.
He stared down at the little figure, uncertain whether to laugh or cry,
sufficiently shaken to do either.

"Why, you midget you," he said, picking the child up in his arms; "have
you been trying your tricks over here in the corner?"

"That isn't the way to talk, grandpa, when God has helped us so,"
returned Jewel earnestly.

Zeke, following his employer, had heard this colloquy, and stared open
mouthed.

When Dr. Busby arrived he was a much injured man. "The mare's perfectly
fit," he grumbled. "You've made me leave an important case."

"Very sorry," returned Mr. Evringham, trying to look so. "The fact is
the Maid has given us a scare in the last hour that I shouldn't like
repeated. Look her over carefully, Busby, carefully."

"I have." The veterinary gave a cross look around the group, his glance
resting a moment on the upturned face of a little flaxen-haired girl who
stood with her hand in Mr. Evringham's.

"He's falling into his dotage, I guess," said the doctor privately to
Zeke, as he prepared to ride away.

"Don't fool yourself," returned the young fellow. "The mare pretty near
scared me into a fit. My knees ain't real steady yet."

He stood watching the disappearing figure of the veterinary. "That kid
believes praying did it," he mused. "I ain't going to believe that, of
course, but the whole thing was the queerest ever."

Mr. Evringham, after one more visit to the stall of Essex Maid, started
back to the house, Jewel skipping beside him.

Mrs. Forbes remained in the barn, one hand still pressed to her ample
bosom, a teakettle in the other.

"What'd you calc'late to do, ma?" inquired her son, approaching her.

"Wring out hot flannels. It's sense to treat colic the same, whether
it's in a horse or a baby."

Zeke laughed. "Essex Maid didn't think so, did she?"

"Wouldn't let us do a thing. I saw the tears drip out of Mr. Evringham's
eyes plain as I see you now. Zeke Forbes, you'll never know what it was
to me to have you come in and speak the way you did. You couldn't have
done it if you'd mistreated the horse any way."

"Thank you," returned the coachman emphatically. "I ain't monkeying with
buzz saws this year."

"Not knowingly you wouldn't. But, child,"--Mrs. Forbes set down the
kettle and pressed the other hand tighter to her bosom as she came
closer to him, "last night you'd been drinking when you came home."

"Ho!" laughed Zeke uncomfortably, "just a smile or two with the boys. By
ginger, you've got a nose on you, mother."

"Can you think of your father and then laugh over it, Zeke? There hasn't
a man ever come to be a sot that didn't laugh about it in the first
place."

"Now, mother, now, now," said the young fellow in half-impatient tones
of consolation, as he took the handkerchief from her apron pocket and
wiped her eyes, where tears began to spring. "You must trust a chap to
do what's right. I ain't a fool. Don't you think about this again. I
can take care of myself. Come now, to change the subject, what's your
opinion of Christian Science as applied to horses with the colic?"

"What do you mean?" returned the housekeeper in an unusually subdued
tone.

"Why, didn't you catch on? The kid was over there in the corner treating
the Maid. That's what they call it, treating 'em. Mr. Evringham laughed
when he found out, and she jumped on him. Yes, she did; came right out
and told him that wasn't the way to show his gratitude, or something
like that. Think of the nerve!"

"I ain't surprised. That child can't surprise me."

"But what do you think of it, ma? I tell you 't was queer, the way that
mare's pain stopped. Of course I ain't going to believe--but," firmly,
"I can't get away from a notion that those Christian Science folks know
something that we don't. Busby was madder'n a hornet. I didn't scarcely
know what to say to him."

"Don't be soft, Zeke," returned his mother, picking up the kettle. "The
time for superstition has gone by."

As Jewel and her grandfather entered the house they heard music.

"That's cousin Eloise playing. Have you heard her grandpa?"

"Yes, when they first came."

"Than you haven't sat with them in the evening for a long time?"
suggested the child.

"No. I--I didn't wish to monopolize their society. I wanted to give Dr.
Ballard a chance. He is a friend of theirs, you know."

"Yes, but I think cousin Eloise would be glad if she thought you liked
her playing. It's very beautiful, isn't it, grandpa?"

"Yes, I dare say. Then, besides, I'm not at all sure that Mrs. Evringham
would permit me to smoke in the drawing-room."

"But wouldn't it be nice to go in there just a few minutes before you go
to your study? I love to hear cousin Eloise play, but I like to be with
you, grandpa."

Mr. Evringham was in a yielding state of mind. He allowed the pressure
of the child's hand on his to lead him to the drawing-room, where his
entrance made a little stir.

Dr. Ballard was sitting near the piano, listening to the music.
Everybody rose as the newcomers entered.

"How are you, Ballard? Jewel wished to hear her cousin's music, and so
behold us. If we bring a reminder of the stable, blame her."

"Oh father, that dear horse is all right, I'm sure," gushed Mrs.
Evringham, "or else you wouldn't be here!"

"What? Something the matter with Essex Maid?" asked Dr. Ballard with
concern.

"Yes." Mr. Evringham seated himself. "A sharp attack, but short. She
was relieved before we could get Busby here." The speaker contracted his
eyebrows and looked at the child, who was still beside him. "The mare
had received mental treatments meanwhile," he added gravely.

Dr. Ballard smiled, and drawing Jewel to him, lifted her upon his knee.
"Look here," he said, "can't you let anything around here be sick in
peace? We doctors shall have to form a union and manage to get you
boycotted."

The child smiled back at him, her head a little on one side, as her
manner was when she was in doubt how to respond.

"What a blessing!" exclaimed Mrs. Evringham vivaciously. "Here, father,
is the best cup of coffee you ever drank, if I did make it myself."

Many weeks had elapsed since the broker had accepted a cup of coffee
from that fair hand, but he rose now to take it with good grace.

"Is there going to be some cambric tea for this baby?" inquired Dr.
Ballard.

"You must be hungry, Jewel; you hadn't finished your dinner," said her
grandfather, but she protested that she was not.

"How is Anna Belle?" asked Dr. Ballard. "It's a long time since I saw
her."

"Would you like to?" asked Jewel doubtfully.

"Why--of--course!--if she's still up. Don't have her dress on my
account."

"She doesn't go to bed till I do," responded the child. "I know
she'd love to come down!" In a flash she had bounded to the door and
disappeared.

Eloise was still sitting on the piano stool, facing the room.
"Grandfather," she said, leaning slightly forward in her earnestness,
"did Jewel really treat Essex Maid?"

The broker shrugged his shoulders and smiled as he stirred his coffee.

"I believe she did."

"And do you think it did the horse any good?"

"Don't be absurd!" cried her mother laughingly, on nettles lest the girl
displease the young doctor.

"Don't crowd me, Eloise, don't crowd me," responded Mr. Evringham. "I'd
rather have something a little more substantial doing for a sick horse
than the prayers of an infant; eh, Ballard?"

"I've been reading Jewel's Christian Science book a great deal the last
few days," said Eloise. "If it's the truth, then she helped Essex Maid."

Mrs. Evringham was dismayed. "What a very large if, my dear," she
returned lightly.

"She's a bright little girl," said Dr. Ballard, and as he spoke Jewel
came back.

She brought her doll straight to him, and he took both child and doll on
his lap.

"Dear fellow," thought Mrs. Evringham, "how fond he is of children! I'd
like to put Eloise in a strait-jacket. Do play some more, dear, won't
you?" she said aloud, eager to return to safe ground.

"Oh yes, cousin Eloise," added Jewel ardently.

"If you will sing afterward. Will you?" asked the girl.

"Can you sing, Jewel?" asked Mr. Evringham.

"No, grandpa, nothing but the tunes in church."

"Well," he responded, half smiling again, "I don't know that a hymn
would be so out of place to-night."

"Do play the lovely running thing about spring, cousin Eloise," begged
the child.

The girl turned back to the piano. "Jewel is so modern that she doesn't
know the Mendelssohn 'Spring Song,'" she said, and forthwith she began
it.

Jewel's head lay back against Dr. Ballard's shoulder, and her eyes never
swerved from the white-robed musician.

When the player had finished and been thanked, the child and the doctor
exchanged a look of appreciation. "That sounds the way it does in the
Ravine of Happiness," said Jewel.

"Where is that?"

"Where the brook is."

"Oh!" Dr. Ballard had unpleasant associations with the brook. "I
understand you are fond of horses," he added irrelevantly.

"Oh yes."

"Do you want to go driving with me to-morrow morning?"

Jewel's face grew radiant.

"Oh yes!" She looked across at her grandfather.

"I promised to take you driving, didn't I, Jewel? Well, the pleasant
weather has come. I guess she'll go with me to-morrow, Ballard."

"Guess again, Mr. Evringham," retorted the doctor gayly. "She has
accepted my invitation."

Mrs. Evringham looked on and wondered. "What is it about that child that
takes them all?" she soliloquized. "She reminds me of that dreadfully
plain Madam what's-her-name, who was so fascinating to everybody at the
French court."

Eloise was smiling. "Now it's your turn, Jewel," she said.

The child looked from one to another. "I never sang for anybody," she
returned doubtfully.

"Yes indeed, for Anna Belle. I've heard you," said Eloise.

"Oh, she was singing with me."

"Very well. Let her sing with you now."

"What one?"

"The one I heard,--'Father, where Thine own children are I love to be.'"

"Oh, you mean. 'O'er waiting harpstrings.' All right," and the child,
sitting where she was, sang the well-loved hymn to a touched audience.

"Upon my word, Jewel," said her grandfather when she had finished. "Your
music isn't all in your soul." His eyes were glistening.

"Those are beautiful words," said Dr. Ballard. "I don't remember any
such hymn."

"Mrs. Eddy wrote it," returned the child.



"It wasn't Castle Discord to-night," she said later to Anna Belle, while
they were going to bed. "Didn't you notice how much differently people
loved one another?"





Next: A Morning Drive

Previous: Jewel's Correspondence



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 454