The Chicago Letter

: Jewel

The mother was still laughing and struggling in the irresistible

embrace when both became aware that a third person was regarding them in

open-mouthed astonishment.

"'Zekiel, let me go!" commanded the scandalized woman, and pushed

herself free from her tormentor, who forthwith returned rather

sheepishly to his buckles.

The young man with trim-pointed beard and mirthful eyes, who stood
br /> in the driveway, had just dismounted from a shining buggy. Doubt and

astonishment were apparently holding him dumb.

The housekeeper, smoothing her disarranged locks and much flushed of

face, returned his gaze, rising from her chair.

"I couldn't believe it was you, Mrs. Forbes!" declared the newcomer.

"Fanshaw isn't--" He looked around vaguely.

"No, he isn't, Dr. Ballard," returned Mrs. Forbes shortly. "He forgot to

rub down Essex Maid one evening when she came in hot, and that finished

him with Mr. Evringham."

The young doctor's lips twitched beneath his mustache as he looked at

'Zekiel, polishing away for dear life.

"You seem to have some one else here--some friend," he remarked


"Friend!" echoed the housekeeper with exasperation, feeling to see just

how much Zeke had rumpled her immaculate collar. "We looked like friends

when you came up, didn't we!"

"Like intimate friends," murmured the doctor, still looking curiously at

the big fair-haired fellow, who was crimson to his temples.

"I don't know how long we shall continue friends if he ever grabs me

again like that just after I've put on a clean collar. He's got beyond

the place where I can correct him. I ought to have done it oftener when

I had the chance. This is my boy 'Zekiel, Dr. Ballard," with a proud

glance in the direction of the youth, who looked up and nodded, then

continued his labors. "Mr. Evringham has engaged him on trial. He's been

with horses a couple of years, and I guess he'll make out all right."

"Glad to know you, 'Zekiel," returned the doctor. "Your mother has been

a good friend of mine half my life, and I've often heard her speak of

you. Look out for my horse, will you? I shall be here half an hour or


When the doctor had moved off toward the house Mrs. Forbes nodded at her

son knowingly.

"Might's well walk Hector into the barn and uncheck him, Zeke," she

said. "They'll keep him more'n a half an hour. That young man, 'Zekiel

Forbes,--that young man's my hope." Mrs. Forbes spoke impressively and

shook her forefinger to emphasize her words.

"What you hoping about him?" asked 'Zekiel, laying down the harness and

proceeding to lead the gray horse up the incline into the barn.

"Shouldn't wonder a mite if he was our deliverer," went on Mrs. Forbes.

"I saw it in Mrs. Evringham's eye that he suited her, the first night

that she met him here at dinner. I like him first-rate, and I don't mean

him any harm; but he's one of these young doctors with plenty of money

at his back, bound to have a fashionable practice and succeed. His face

is in his favor, and I guess he knows as much as any of 'em, and he

can afford the luxury of a wife brought up the way Eloise Evringham has

been. That's right, Zeke. Unfasten the check-rein, though the doctor

don't use a mean one, I must say. I only hope there's a purgatory for

the folks that use too short check-reins on their horses. I hope they'll

have to wear 'em themselves for a thousand years, and have to stand

waiting at folks' doors frothing at the mouth, and the back of their

necks half breaking when the weather's down to zero and up to a hundred.

That's what I hope!"

'Zekiel grinned. "You want 'em to try the cold place and the hot one

too, do you?"

"Yes I do, and to stay in the one that hurts the most. The man that uses

a decent check-rein on his horse," continued Mrs. Forbes, dropping into

a philosophizing tone, "is apt to be as decent to his wife. The doctor

would be a great catch for that girl, and I think," dropping her

voice, "her mother'd be liable to live with 'em."

"You're keeping that dark from the doctor, I s'pose?" remarked 'Zekiel.

"H'm. You needn't think I go chattering around that house the way I do

out here. I've got a great talent, if I do say it, for minding my own


"Good enough," drawled 'Zekiel. "I heard tell once of a firm that made a

great fortune just doing that one thing."

"Don't you be sassy now. I've always waited on Mr. Evringham while he

ate his meals, and that's the time he'd often speak out to me about

things if he felt in the humor, so that in all these years 't isn't any

wonder if I've come to feel that his business is mine too."

"Just so," returned 'Zekiel, with a twinkle in his eye.

"It's been as plain as your nose that the interlopers don't like to have

me there. Not that they have anything special against me, but they'd

like to have someone younger and stylisher to hand them their plates.

I'll never forget one night when they'd been here about a week, and I

think Mr. Evringham had begun to suspect they were fixtures,--I'd felt

it from the first,--Mrs. Evringham said, 'Why father, does Mrs. Forbes

always wait on your table? I had supposed she was temporarily taking the

place of your butler or your waitress.'"

The housekeeper's effort to imitate the airy manner she remembered

caused her son to chuckle as he gathered up the shining harness.

"You should have seen the look Mr. Evringham gave her. Just as if he

didn't see her at all. 'Yes,' he answered, 'I hope Mrs. Forbes will wait

on my table as long as I have one.' And I will if I have my health,"

added the speaker, bridling with renewed pleasure at the memory of that

triumphant moment. "They think I'm a machine without any feelings or

opinions, and that I've been wound up to suit Mr. Evringham and run

his establishment, and that I'm no more to be considered than the big

Westminster clock on the stairs. Mrs. Evringham did try once to get into

my employer's rooms and look after his clothes." Mrs. Forbes shook her

head and tightened her lips at some recollection.

"She bucked up against the machine, did she?" inquired Zeke.

The housekeeper glanced around to see if any one might be approaching.

"I saw her go in there, and I followed her," she continued almost in a

whisper. "She sort of started, but spoke up in her cool way, 'I wish to

look over father's clothes and see if anything needs attention.'

'Thank you, Mrs. Evringham, but everything is in order,' I said, very

respectful. 'Well, leave it for me next time, Mrs. Forbes,' she says.

'I shall take care of him while I am here.' 'Thank you,' says I, 'but

he wouldn't want your visit interfered with by that kind of work.' She

looked at me sort of suspicious and haughty. 'I prefer to do it,' she

answers, trying to look holes in me with her big eyes. 'Then will you

ask him, please,' said I very polite, 'before I give you the keys,

because we've got into habits here. I've taken care of Mr. Evringham's

clothes for fifteen years.' She looked kind of set back. 'Is it so

long?' she asks. 'Well, I will see about it.' But I guess the right time

for seeing about it never came," added the housekeeper knowingly.

"You're still doing business at the old stand, eh?" rejoined Zeke.

"Well, I'm glad you like your job. It's my opinion that the governor's


"Ahem, ahem!" Mrs. Forbes cleared her throat with desperate loudness

and tugged at her son's shirt sleeve with an energy which caused him to


Coming up the sunny driveway was a tall man with short, scrupulously

brushed iron-gray hair, and sweeping mustache. The lines under his eyes

were heavy, his glance was cold. His presence was dignified, commanding,


The housekeeper and coachman both stood at attention, the latter

mechanically pulling down his rolled-up sleeves.

"So you're moving out here, Mrs. Forbes," was the remark with which the

newcomer announced himself.

"Yes, Mr. Evringham. The man has been here to put in the electric bell

you ordered. I shall be as quick to call as if I was still in the house,

sir, and I thank you--'Zekiel and I both do--for consenting to my making

it home-like for him. Perhaps you'd come up and see the rooms, sir?"

"Not just now. Some other time. I hope 'Zekiel is going to prove himself

worth all this trouble."

The new coachman's countenance seemed frozen into a stolidity which did

not alter.

"I'm sure he'll try," replied his mother, "and Fanshaw's livery fits him

to such a turn that it would have been flying in the face of Providence

not to try him. Did you give orders to be met at this train, sir?" Mrs.

Forbes looked anxiously toward the set face of her heir.

"No--I came out unexpectedly. I have received news that is rather


The housekeeper had not studied her employer's moods for years without

understanding when she could be of use.

"I will come to the house right off," was her prompt response. "It's a

pity you didn't know the bell was in, sir."

"No, stay where you are. I see Dr. Ballard is here. We might be

interrupted. You can go, 'Zekiel."

The young fellow needed no second invitation, but turned and mounted the

stairway that led to the chambers above.

Mr. Evringham took from his pocket a bunch of papers, and selecting a

letter handed it to Mrs. Forbes, motioning her to the battered chair,

which was still in evidence. He seated himself on the stool Zeke had

vacated, while his housekeeper opened and read the following letter:--

CHICAGO, April 28, 19--.

DEAR FATHER,--The old story of the Prodigal Son has always plenty

of originality for the Prodigal. I have returned, and thank Heaven

sincerely I do not need to ask you for anything. My blessed girl Julia

has supported herself and little Jewel these years while I've been

feeding on husks. I don't see now how I was willing to be so revoltingly

cruel and cowardly as to leave her in the lurch, but she has made

friends and they have stood by her, and now I've been back since

September, doing all in my power to make up what I can to her and Jewel,

as we call little Julia. They were treasures to return to such as I

deserved to have lost forever; but Julia treats me as if I'd been white

to her right all along. I've lately secured a position that I hope to

keep. My wife has been dressmaking, and this is something in the dry

goods line that I got through her. The firm want us to go to Europe

to do some buying. They will pay the expenses of both; but that leaves

Jewel. I've heard that Lawrence's wife and daughter are living with you.

I wondered if you'd let us bring Jewel as far as New York and drop her

with you for the six weeks that we shall be gone. If we had a little

more ahead we'd take the child with us. She is eight years old and

wouldn't be any trouble, but cash is scarce, and although we could board

her here with some friend, I'd like to have her become acquainted with

her grandfather, and I thought as Madge and Eloise were with you, they

would look after her if Mrs. Forbes is no longer there. This has all

come about very suddenly, and we sail next Wednesday on the Scythia, so

I'll be much obliged if you will wire me. I shall be glad to shake your

hand again.

Your repentant son,


Mrs. Forbes looked up from the letter to find her employer's eyes upon

her. Her lips were set in a tight line.

"Well?" he asked.

"I'd like to ask first, sir, what you think of it?"

"It strikes me as very cool. Harry knows my habits."

The housekeeper loosened the reins of her indignation.

"The idea of your having a child here to clatter up and down the stairs

at the very time you want to take a nap!" she burst forth. "You've had

enough to bear already."

"A deal of company in the house as it is, eh?" he rejoined. It was the

first reference he had ever made to his permanent guests.

"It's what I was thinking, sir."

"You're not for it, then, Mrs. Forbes?"

"So far as taking care of the child goes, I should do my duty. I don't

think Mrs. Evringham or her daughter would wish to be bothered; but I

know very little about children, except that your house is no place for

them to be racing in. One young one brings others. You would be annoyed,

sir. Some folks can always ask favors." The housekeeper's cheeks were

flushed with the strength of her repugnance, and her bias relieved Mr.

Evringham's indecision.

"I agree with you," he returned, rising. "Tell 'Zekiel to saddle the

Maid. After dinner I will let him take a telegram to the office."

He returned to the house without further words, and Mrs. Forbes called

to her son in a voice that had a wrathful quaver.

"What you got your back up about?" inquired Zeke softly, after a careful

look to see that his august master had departed.

"Never you mind. Mr. Evringham wants you should saddle his horse and

bring her round. I want he should see you can do it lively."

"Ain't she a beaut'!" exclaimed Zeke as he led out the mare. "She'd

ought to be shown, she had."

"Shown! Better not expose your ignorance where Mr. Evringham can hear

you. That mare's taken two blue ribbons already."

"Showed they knew their business," returned Zeke imperturbably. "I

s'pose the old gent don't care any more for her than he does for his


"I guess he loves her the best of anything in this world."

"Love! The governor love anything or anybody! That's good," remarked

the young fellow, while Essex Maid watched his movements about her with

gentle, curious eyes.

"I do believe she misses Fanshaw and notices the difference," remarked

Mrs. Forbes.

"Glad to, too. Ain't you, my beauty? She's going to be stuck on me

before we get through. She don't want any Britishers fooling around


"You've certainly made her look fine, Zeke. I know Mr. Evringham will be

pleased. She just shines from her pretty little ears to her hoofs. Take

her around and then come back. I want to talk to you."

"If I don't come back," returned the boy, "you'll know the governor's

looked at me a little too hard and I've been struck so."

"Don't be any foolisher than you can help," returned Mrs. Forbes, "and


On 'Zekiel's return to the barn he saw that his mother's face was

portentous. "Lawrence was at least handsome like his father," she began

without preamble, looking over Zeke's shoulder, "but Harry was as homely

as he was no account. I should think that man had enough of his sons'

belongings hanging on him already. What do you think, 'Zekiel Forbes?

Mr. Evringham's youngest son Harry has turned up again!"

"I should think it was the old Harry by your tone," rejoined Zeke


"He and his wife, poor as church mice, are getting their expenses paid

to Europe on business, and they have the nerve--yes, the cheek--to ask

Mr. Evringham to let them leave their young one, a girl eight years old,

with him while they're gone."

"I hope it's a real courageous youngster," remarked Zeke.

"A child! A wild Western dressmaker's young one in Mr. Evringham's

elegant house!"

"Is the old Harry a dressmaker?" asked Zeke mildly.

"No, his wife is. His Julia! They've named this girl for her, and I

suppose they called her Jule, and then twisted it around to Jewel.


"When is she coming?" asked Zeke, seeing that he was expected to say


"Coming? She isn't coming," cried his mother irefully. "Not while Mr.

Evringham has his wits. They haven't a particle of right to ask him.

Harry has worried him to distraction already. The child would be sure to

torment him."

"He'd devour her the second day, then," returned Zeke calmly. "It would

be soon over."