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Cloudy jewel


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Title:CloudyJewel
Author:GraceLivingstonHill
ReleaseDate:September17,2009[EBook#30006]
Language:English

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CLOUDYJEWEL



CLOUDYJEWEL
BY

GRACELIVINGSTONHILL
AUTHOROF

MARCIASCHUYLER,
THESEARCH,ETC.
emblem

G R O S S E T & D U N L A P
PUBLISHERSNEWYORK
MadeintheUnitedStatesofAmerica


COPYRIGHT,1920,BYTHEGOLDENRULECOMPANY
COPYRIGHT,1920,BYJ.B.LIPPINCOTTCOMPANY


CLOUDYJEWEL


CloudyJewel


CHAPTERI
“Well,allI’vegottosay,then,is,you’reaveryfoolishwoman!”
EllenRobinsonbuttonedherlongcloakforcefully,andarosewithahaughtyair
fromtherocking-chairwhereshehadpointedherremarksforthelasthalf-hour
byswayingnoisilybackandforthandtouchingthetoesofhernewhigh-heeled
shoeswithaclickeachtimetothefloor.
JuliaCloudsaidnothing.Shestoodatthefrontwindow,lookingoutacrossthe
soddenlawntotheroadandthegrayskyinthedistance.Shedidnotturnaround
tofaceherarrogantsister.
“WhatI’dliketoknowiswhatyoudoproposetodo,then,ifyoudon’taccept
ourofferandcometolivewithus?Wereyouexpectingtokeeponlivinginthis
great barn of a house?” Ellen Robinson’s voice was loud and strident with a
crudekindofpain.Shecouldnotunderstandhersister,infact,neverhad.She
had thought her proposition that Julia come to live in her home and earn her
board by looking after the four children and being useful about the house was


mostgenerous.Shehadadmiredtheopen-handednessofHerbert,herhusband,
forsuggestingit.Somehusbandswouldn’thavewantedapoorrelativeabout.Of
8
course Julia always had been a hard worker; and it would relieve Ellen, and
makeitpossibleforhertogoaroundwithherhusbandmore.Itwouldsavethe
wages of a servant, too, for Julia had always been a wonder at economy. It
certainly was vexing to have Julia act in this way, calmly putting aside the
proposition as if it were nothing and saying she hadn’t decided what she was
goingtodoyet,foralltheworldasifshewereamillionaire!
“I don’t know, Ellen. I haven’t had time to think. There have been so many
things to think about since the funeral I haven’t got used yet to the idea that
mother’s really gone.” Julia’s voice was quiet and controlled, in sharp contrast
withEllen’shigh-pitched,nervoustones.
“That’sit!”snappedEllen.“Whenyoudo,you’llgoalltopieces,stayinghere
aloneinthisgreatbarn.That’swhyIwantyoutodecidenow.Ithinkyouought
tolockupandcomehomewithmeto-night.I’vespentjustasmuchtimeaway
from home as I can spare the last three weeks, and I’ve got to get back to my


house.Ican’tstaywithyouanymore.”
“Of course not, Ellen. I quite understand that,” said Julia, turning around
pleasantly. “I hadn’t expected you to stay. It isn’t in the least necessary. You
knowI’mnotatallafraid.”
“Butitisn’tdecenttoleaveyouherealone,whenyou’vegotfolksthatcantake
care of you. What will people think? It places us in an awfully awkward
position.”
“TheywillsimplythinkthatIhavechosentoremaininmyownhouse,Ellen.I
don’tseeanythingstrangeorindecentaboutthat.”
Julia Cloud had turned about, and was facing her sister calmly now. Her quiet
voiceseemedtoirritateEllen.
“Whatnonsense!”shesaidsharply.“Howexceedinglychildish,lettingyourself
beruledbywhims,whencommonsensemustshowyouthatyouarewrong.I
wonderifyouaren’tevergoingtobeawoman.”
Ellensaidthisword“woman”asifhersisterhadalreadypassedintotheantique
class and ought to realize it. It was one of the things that hurt Julia Cloud to
realizethatshewasgrowingoldapparentlywithoutthedignitythatbelongedto
heryears,fortheyalltalkedtoheryetasifshewerealittlechildandneededto
bemanaged.Sheopenedherlipstospeak,butthoughtbetterofit,andshutthem
again,turningbacktothewindowandthegray,soddenlandscape.
“Well,asIsaidbefore,you’reaveryfoolishwoman;andyou’llsoonfinditout.
I shall have to go and leave you to the consequences of your folly. I’m sure I
don’t know what Herbert will say when he finds out how you’ve scorned his
kindness.Itisn’teverybrother-in-lawwouldoffer––yes,offer,Julia,forInever
even suggested it––to take on extra expense in his family. But you won’t see
youringratitudeifIstandhereandtalktilldoomsday;soI’mgoingbacktomy
children. If you come to your senses, you can ride out with Boyce Bains tomorrowafternoon.Good-by,andI’msureIhopeyouwon’tregretthisallyour
life.”
Juliawalkedtothedoorwithhersister,andstoodwatchinghersadlywhileshe
climbed into her smart little Ford and skillfully steered it out of the yard and
down the road. The very set of her shoulders as she sailed away toward home
wasdisapproving.
WithasighofreliefJuliaCloudshutthedoorandwentbacktoherwindowand
the dreary landscape. It was time for a sunset, but the sky was leaden. There


Would be nothing but grayness to look at, grayness in front of her, grayness
behindinthedim,silentroom.Itwaslikeherlife,herlong,graylife,behindand
ahead.Allherlifeshehadhadtoserve,andseeothershappy.Firstasachild,the
oldestchild.Therehadbeentheotherchildren,threebrothersandEllen.Shehad
brought them all up, as it were, for the mother had always been delicate and
ailing. She had washed their faces, kissed their bruises, and taken them to
school.Shehadwatchedtheirlove-affairsandsentthemoutintotheworldone
by one. Two of the brothers had come home to die, and she had nursed them
throughlongmonths.ThethirdbrothermarriedawealthygirlinCalifornia,and
nevercamehomeagainexceptonflyingvisits.Hewasdeadnow,too,killedin
actioninFranceduringthefirstyearoftheGreatWar.Thenherfatherhadbeen
thrownfromhishorseandkilled;andshehadbornetheburdenforhermother,
settleduptheestate,andmadebothendsmeetsomehow,takinguponherselfthe
burdenofthemother,nowachronicinvalid.Fromtimetotimeheryoungnieces
and nephews had been thrust upon her to care for in some home stress, and
always she had done her duty by them all through long days of mischief and
long nights of illness. She had done it cheerfully and patiently, and had never
complainedeventoherself.Alwaystherehadbeensomuchtobedonethatthere
hadbeennotimetothinkhowtheyearsweregoingby,heryouthpassingfrom
her forever without even a glimpse of the rose-color that she supposed was
meanttocomeintoeverylifeforatleastalittlewhile.
Shehadn’trealizeditfully,shehadbeensobusy.Butnow,withthelastservice
over,anemptyhouseabouther,anemptyheartwithinher,shewaslookingwith
startledeyesintothefutureandfacingfacts.
ItwasEllen’sattempttosaddleherwithanewresponsibilityandfitheroutto
drudgeontotheendofherdaysthathadsuddenlybroughtthewholethingout
initstruelight.Shewastired.Tootiredtobeginalloveragainandraisethose
childrenforEllen.Theywerenice,healthychildrenandwellbehaved;butthey
were Ellen’s children, and always would be. If she went out to live with the
Robinsons,shewouldbeEllen’shandmaid,atherbeckandcall,alwaysfeeling
thatshemustdowhatevershewasasked,whethershewasableornot,because
shewasadependent.Neveranythingforlove.Oh,Ellenlovedherinaway,of
course, and she loved Ellen; but they had never understood each other, and
Ellen’schildrenhadbeenbroughtuptolaughandjokeatherexpenseasifshe
weresomehowmentallylacking.
“OAuntJulia!”theywouldsayinatoneofpityandscorn,asifsheweretoo
ignoranttounderstandeventheirsneers.


Perhapsitwaspride,butJuliaCloudfeltshewouldratherdiethanfaceafuture
like that. It was respectable, of course, and entirely reliable. She would be fed
andclothed,andnursedwhenshewasill.Shewouldbeburiedrespectablywhen
shedied,andtheneighborswouldsaytheRobinsonshadbeenkindanddonethe
rightthingbyher;butJuliaCloudshudderedasshelookeddownthelong,dull
vistaofthatfuturewhichwasofferedher,anddrewbackforthefirsttimeinher
life.Notthatshehadanythingbetterinview,onlythatsheshrankfromtaking
the step that would bring inevitable and irrevocable grayness to the end of her
days.Shewasnotabovecookingandnursingandtoilingforeveriftherewere
independencetobehad.Shewouldhavegivenherlifeiflovebeckonedher.She
wouldhavegonetoFranceasanurseinamomentifshehadnotbeenneededat
hermother’sbedside.Littlechildrendrewherpowerfully,buttobeadrudgefor
childrenwhodidnotloveher,inahomewherelovewastheonlyconditionthat
wouldmakedependencepossible,lookedintolerable.
JuliaCloudhadlovedeverybodythatwouldlether,andhadreceivedverylittle
loveinreturn.Backintheyearswhenshewastwelveandwenttoschoolaboy
of fifteen or sixteen had been her comrade and companion. They had played
togetherwheneverJuliahadtimetoplay,andhadroamedthewoodsandwaded
the creeks in company. Then his people moved away, and he had kissed her
good-by and told her that some day he was coming back to get her. It was a
childishaffection,butitwastheonlykissofthatkindshehadtoremember.
Theboyhadwrittentoherforawholeyear,whenonedaytherecamealetter
from his grandmother telling how he was drowned in saving the life of a little
child;andJuliaCloudhadputthememoryofthatkissawayastheonlybright
thinginherlifethatbelongedwhollytoherself,andploddedpatientlyon.The
tears that she shed in secret were never allowed to trouble her family, and
gradually the pain had grown into a great calm. No one ever came her way to
touchherheartagain.Onlylittlechildrenbroughtthewistfullooktohereyes,
andawonderwhetherpeoplehaditmadeuptotheminheavenwhentheyhad
failedofthenaturalthingsofthislife.
JuliaCloudwasnotonetopityherself.Shewassane,healthy,andnotnaturally
morbid;butto-night,forsomereason,thegraysky,andthegray,soddenearth,
andthegrayroadofthefuturehadgotherintheirclutches,andshecouldnot
get away from them. With straining eyes she searched the little bit of west
between the orchard tree that always showed a sunset if there was one; but no
streakoforange,rose,orgoldbrokethesullenclouds.
Well, what was she going to do, anyway? Ellen’s question seemed to ring on


stridentlyinherears;shetriedtofaceitlookingdownthegrayroadintothegray
sky.
Shehadthehouse,butthereweretaxestopay,andtherewouldberepairsevery
littlewhiletoeatuptheinfinitesimalincomewhichwaslefther,whenallthe
expenses of her mother’s long illness and death were paid. They had been
spendingtheirprincipal.Itcouldnothavebeenhelped.Inall,sheknew,shehad
somethingliketwohundreddollarsayearremaining.Notenoughtoboardherif
shetriedtoboardanywhere,tosaynothingofclothing.Allthishadbeenfully
andexhaustivelycommenteduponbyEllenRobinsonduringtheafternoon.
Thehousemightberented,ofcourse––thoughitwastooantiquatedandshabbylookingtobringmuch––ifJuliawasnot“soridiculouslysentimentalaboutit.”
Julia had really very little sentiment connected with the house, but Ellen had
chosentothinkshehad;soitamountedtothesamethingasfarastheargument
went.Juliaknewinherownheartthattheonlythingthatheldhertothedreary
oldhousewithitssadmemoriesanditshauntingemptinesswasthefactthatit
was hers and that here she could be independent and do as she pleased. If she
pleasedtostarve,nooneelseneedknowit.Thebigachethatwasinherheart
wasthefactthattherewasnobodyreallytocareifshedidstarve.EvenEllen’s
solicitationswerelargelyfromdutyandafearofwhattheneighborswouldsay
ifshedidnotlookafterhersister.
Juliawaslonelyandidleforthefirsttimeinherbusy,dulllife,andherhearthad
just discovered its love-hunger, and was crying out in desolation. She wanted
somethingtoloveandbelovedby.Shemissedeventhepeevish,childishinvalid
whose last five years had been little else than a living death, with a mind so
vagueandhazyasseldomtoknowthefaithfuldaughterwhocaredforhernight
and day. She missed the heart and soul out of life, the bit of color that would
glorifyalllivingandmakeitbeautiful.
Well,tocomebacktosordidthings,whatwastherethatshecoulddotoekeout
herpitifullittleliving?Forliveshemust,sinceshewashereinthisbleakworld
and it seemed to be expected of her. Keep boarders? Yes, if there were any to
keep;butinthistowntherewerefewwhoboarded.Therewasnothingtodraw
strangers,andtheoldinhabitantsmostlyownedtheirownhouses.
She could sew, but there were already more sewing women in the community
than could be supported by the work there was to be done, for most of the
womeninSterlingdidtheirownsewing.Thereweretwothingswhichsheknew
shecoulddowell,whicheverybodyknewshecoulddo,andforwhichsheknew


Ellenwasanxioustohaveherservices.Shewasthebestnurseintownandafine
cook.ButagainthewomenofSterling,mostofthem,didtheirowncooking,and
therewascomparativelylittlenursingwhereatrainednursewouldnotbehired.
Inshort,thefewthingsshecoulddowerenotindemandinthisneighborhood.
Nevertheless,sheknewinherheartthatsheintendedtryingtolivebyherown
meagre efforts, going out for a few days nursing, or to care for some children
whiletheirmotherswentouttodinnerortothecity,tothetheatreorshopping.
There would be but little of that, but perhaps by and by she could manage to
makeitthefashion.
Asshelookedintothefuture,shesawherselftrudginggloomilydownthesunset
wayintoaleadensky,caringfortheBrowntwinsalldaywhiletheirmotherwas
shopping;whiletheyslept,mendingstockingsoutofthebigroundbasketthat
Mrs. Brown always kept by her sewing-chair; coming home at night to a
cheerlesshouseandasolitarymealforwhichshehadnoappetite;gettingupin
thenighttogotoGrandmaFergustakendownsuddenlywithoneofherattacks;
helping Mrs. Smith out with her sewing and spring cleaning. Menial,
monotonous tasks many of them. Not that she minded that, if they only got
somewhere and gave her something from life besides the mere fighting for
existence.
She looked clear down to the end of her loveless life, and saw the neighbors
comingvirtuouslytoperformthelastrites,andwonderedwhyitallhadtobe.
Shewasunawareofallheryearsofsacrifice,gloriouspatience,lovingtoil.Her
life seemed to have been so without point, so useless heretofore; and all that
couldyetbe,howuselessanddrearyitlooked!Herspiritwasatitslowestebb.
Hersoulwaswearyuntodeath.Shelookedvainlyforabreakinthatsolidwall
ofcloudattheendoftheroad,andlookedsohardthatthetearscameandfell
plashingonthewindow-seatandonherthin,tiredhands.Itwasbecauseofthe
tears that she did not see the boy on a bicycle coming down the road, until he
vaultedoffatthefrontgate,lefthiswheelbythecurb,andcamewhistlingup
thepath,pullingalittlebookandpenciloutofhispocketinabusiness-likeway.
With a start she brushed the tears away, pushed back the gray hair from her
forehead,andmadereadytogotothedoor.ItwasJohnnyKnox,thelittleboy
fromthetelegraphoffice.Hehadmadeamistake,ofcourse.Therewouldbeno
telegramforher.ItwouldlikelybefortheCramersnextdoor.JohnnyKnoxhad
notbeenlonginthevillage,anddidnotknow.
ButJohnnydidknow.


“TelegramforMissJuliaCloud!”heannouncedsmartly,flourishingtheyellow
envelopeatherandputtingthepencilinherhand.“Sign’ere!”indicatingaline
inthebook.
JuliaCloudlookedhardattheenvelope.Yes,therewashername,thoughitwas
against all reason. She could not think of a disaster in life of which it might
possibly be the forerunner. Telegrams of course meant death or trouble. They
hadneverbroughtanythingelsetoher.
Shesignedhernamewithavaguewonderthattherewasnothingtopay.There
hadbeensomanythingstopayduringthelasttwopainfulweeks,andherlittle
fundswerealmostgone.
Shestoodwiththetelegraminherhand,watchingtheboygowhistlingbackto
hiswheelandridingoffwithacarelesswhirloutintotheevening.Hiswhistle
lingered far behind, and her ears strained to hear it. Now if a whistle like that
were coming home to her! Some one who would be glad to see her and want
somethingshecoulddoforhim!Why,evenlittlesnub-nosed,impudentJohnny
Knoxwouldbeacomfortifhewereallherown.Herarmssuddenlyfeltempty
andherhandsidlebecausetherewasnothingleftforhertodo.Involuntarilyshe
stretchedthemouttothegrayduskwithawistfulmotion.Thensheturned,and
wentbacktothewindowtoreadhertelegram.
“DEARCLOUDYJEWEL:LeslieandIareonourwayEastforavisit,andwillstopoverWednesday
nighttoseeyou.Pleasemakeussomecarawaycookiesifnottoomuchtrouble.
“Yourlovingnephew,

“ALLISONCLOUD.”

A glad smile crept into Julia Cloud’s lonely eyes. Leslie and Allison were her
Californiabrother’schildren,whohadspentthreehappymonthswithherwhen
they were five and seven while their father and mother went abroad. “Cloudy
Jewel”wasthepetnametheyhadmadeupforher.Thatwastwelvelongyears
ago,andtheyhadnotforgotten!Theywerecomingtoseeher,andwantedsome
carawaycookies!Agladlightleapedintoherface,andsheliftedhereyestothe
graydistance.Lo!theleadencloudshadbrokenandastreakofpalegolden-rose
wasglowingthroughthebarsofgray.


CHAPTERII
LeslieandAllison!
Julia Cloud stood gazing out into the west, while the whole sky lightened and
sankawayintoduskwithaburningrubyonitsbreast.Thegloomofherspirit
glowedintobrightness,andjoyfloodedhersoul.
LeslieandAllison!Whatroundlittlewarmbodiestheyhad,andwhatdelicate,
refined faces! They had not seemed like Ellen’s blowsy, obstreperous
youngsters, practical and grasping to the last extreme after the model of their
father. They had starry eyes and hair like tangled sunbeams. Their laughter
rippled like brooks in summer, and their hands were like bands that bound the
heart.Cookiesandstoriesandlongwalksandpicnics!Thosehadmadeupthe
beautiful days that they spent with her, roaming the woods and meadows,
pickingdandelionsandviolets,andplayingfairystories.Ithadbeenlikeabrief
return of her old childish days with her boy comrade. She remembered the
heartacheandtheemptydaysaftertheyhadgonebacktotheirWesternhome,
and the little printed childish letters that came for a few months till she was
forgotten.
Butnotreallyforgotten,afterall.Forsomelinkoftendernessmuststillremain
thattheyshouldthinkofhernowafteralltheseyearsofseparation,andwantto
20
visither.Theyrememberedthecookies!Shesmiledreminiscently.Whatabatch
ofdelectablecookiesshewouldmakeinthemorning!Why,to-morrowwouldbe
Wednesday!Theywouldbehereto-morrownight!Andtherewasagreatdealto
bedone!
She turned from the belated sunset unregretting, and hastened to begin her
preparations. There were the two front rooms up-stairs to be prepared. She
wouldopenthewindowsatonce,andlettheairsweepthroughallnight.They
hadbeenshutupalongtime,forshehadbroughttheinvaliddown-stairstothe
little sitting-room the last few months to save steps and be always within
hearing.ThesecondstoryhadbeenpracticallyunusedexceptwhenEllenorthe


childrenwereoverforadayortwo.
She hurried up-stairs, and lit the gas in the two rooms, throwing wide the
windows,huntingoutfreshsheetsandcounterpanes.Shecoulddustandrunthe
carpet-sweeper over the rooms right away, and have them in order; and that
wouldsavetimeforto-morrow.Oh,itwasgoodtohavesomethingcheerfulto
do once more. Just supposing she had yielded––as once that afternoon she
almosthad––toEllen’spersistenturgings,andhadgonehomewithherto-night!
Why,thetelegrammightnothavereachedhertillafterthechildrenhadcome,
andfoundthehouseempty,andgoneagain!
Juliabustledaroundhappily,puttingtheroomsintocharmingorder,huntingupa
littlepictureofthechildSamuelkneelinginthetemple,thatAllisonusedtolike,
goingtothebottomofanoldhairtrunkfortheragdollshehadmadeforLeslie
tocuddlewhenshewenttosleepatnight.
Mrs. Ambrose Perkins across the way looked uneasily out of her bedroom
windowathalf-pastnine,andsaidtoherhusband:
“Seems like Julia Cloud is staying up awful late to-night. She’s got a light in
bothfrontrooms,too.Therecan’tbecompany.Is’poseEllenandsomeofher
childrenhavestayeddownafterall.PoorEllen!Shetoldmeshesimplycouldn’t
sparethetimeawayfromhomeanylonger,butJuliawassetonstayingthere.I
neverthoughtJuliawasselfish;butIs’poseshedoesn’trealizehowharditisfor
Ellen,livingthatwaybetweentwohouses.Julia’llgotolivewithEllennow,of
course.It’srealgoodofHerbertRobinsontoaskher.Juliaoughttoappreciate
havingrelativeslikethat.”
“Relativesnothing!”saidMr.Ambrose,pullingoffhiscoatandhangingitovera
chair.“She’llbeafoolifshegoes!She’sslavedallherlife,andshedeservesa
little rest now. If she goes out to Herbert Robinson’s, she won’t be allowed to
callhereyelashesherown;youmarkmywords!”
“Well,whatelsecanshedo?”saidhiswife.“Shehasn’tanyhusbandorchildren,
andIthinkshe’llbemightywellofftogetagoodhome.Menareawfulhardon
eachother,Ambrose.Ialwaysknewthat.”
JuliaCloudmeanwhile,withalastlookattheneatrooms,putoutherlights,and
went to bed, but not to sleep. She was so excited that the darkness seemed
luminousabouther.Shewastryingtothinkhowthosetwochildrenwouldlook
grownup.AllisonwasnineteenandLeslienearlyseventeennow.Theirmother
hadbeendeadfiveyears,andtheyhadbeeninboarding-schools.Theirguardian
was anoldgentleman, afriend oftheir mother’s.That was aboutallsheknew


concerningthem.Wouldtheyseemlikestrangers,shewondered,orwouldthere
be enough resemblance to recall the dear girl and boy of the years that were
gone?Howsheclungtothosecookieswithhope!Therewassomeremembrance
left,ortheywouldnothaveputcookiesinatelegram.Howimpetuousandjust
likeAllison,theboy,thattelegramhadsounded!
ItwasscarcelydaylightwhenJuliaCloudaroseandwentdowntothekitchento
bakethecookies;andthepreparationsshemadeforbakingpiesanddoughnuts
andothertoothsomedaintieswouldleadonetosupposethatshewasexpecting
tofeedaregimentforaweekatleast.
Shefilledthedaywithhardwork,asshehadbeenwonttodo,andneveronce
thoughtofgraysunsetsordrearyfutures.NoteventhethoughtofhersisterEllen
came to trouble her as she put the house in order, filled her pantry with good
things to eat, and set the table for three with all the best things the house
afforded.
At evening she stood once more beside the front window, looking out
sunsetward.Therewasnothinggrayabouteitherskyorroadorlandscapenow.
There had been brilliant sunshine all day long, and the sky lay mellow and
yellow behind the orchard, with a clear, transparent greenish-blue above and a
hint of rosy light in the long rays that reached their fingers along the ground
between the apple-trees. In a few minutes the evening train would be in, and
there would be rose in the sunset. She knew the signs, and the sky would be
glorious to-night. They would see it as they came from the train. In fifteen
minutesitwouldbetimeforhertoputonherhatandgodowntomeetthem!
Howherheartthrobbedwithanticipation!
Forebodings came to shadow her brightness. Suppose they should not come!
Supposetheyweredelayed,orhadchangedtheirmindsandshouldsendanother
telegram saying so! She drew a deep breath, and tried to brace herself for the
shockofthethought.ShelookedfearfullydowntheroadforapossibleJohnny
Knox speeding along with another telegram, and was relieved to see only
Ambrose Perkins ambling home for supper followed by his tall, smiling
Airedale.
Therewasashadow,too,thatstoodbehindher,thoughsheignoreditutterly;it
wasthethoughtoftheafterwards,whenthetwobright youngthingshadbeen
andgone,andshewouldhavetofacethegrayinherlifeagainwithouttherose.
But that would be afterwards, and this was now! Ten minutes more, and she
wouldgotothestation!


Atthatminuteagreatblueautomobileshotuptothefrontgate,andstopped.A
biglumpflewintoJuliaCloud’sthroat,andherhandwenttoherheart.Hadit
then come, that telegram, saying they had changed their minds? She stood
tremblingbythewindow,unabletomove.
Butoutfromthefrontseatandthebackasifejectedfromacatapultshottwo
figures,andflewtogetherupthefrontwalk,atallboyandalittlegirl,justasthe
sundroppedlowandswungadeepredlightintothesky,floodingthefrontyard
withglory,andstainingtheheavensfarupintotheblue.
Theyhadcome!Theyhadcomebeforeitwasyettrain-time!
JuliaCloudgotherselftoherfrontdoorinatremorofdelight,andinstantlyfour
strongyoungarmsencircledher,andnearlysmotheredthelifeoutofher.
“O you dear Cloudy Jewel! You look just the same. I knew you would. Only
yourhairiswhiteandpretty,”Lesliegurgled.
“Sure,sheisjustthesame!WhatdidItellyou?”criedAllison,liftingthemboth
andcarryingtheminside.
“Now, who on earth can that be?” said Mrs. Ambrose Perkins, flying to her
parlor window at the first sound of the automobile. “It isn’t any of them folks
fromthecitythatwereouttothefuneral,fortherewasn’tacarlikethatthere,
I’mcertain!Imeantorunoverandborrowaspoonfulofsodaprettysoon,just
to find out. It couldn’t be any of Tom’s folks from out West, for they couldn’t
comeallthatwayinacar.Itmustbesomeofherfather’srelationsfromoverin
Maryland, though I never heard they were that well off. A chauffeur in livery!
TheideaofallthatstylecomingtoseeJuliaCloud!”
“No, we didn’t come on the train,” explained Leslie eagerly. “We came in
Allison’snewcar.Mr.Luddington––that’sourguardian––wascomingEast,and
hesaidwemightcomewithhim.We’vebeendyingtocomeforages.Andhe’d
beenpromisingAllisonhemightgetthisnewcar;sowestoppedinthecityand
boughtit,andAllisondroveitdown.OfcourseMr.Luddingtonmadehisman
come along. He wouldn’t let us come alone. He’s gone up to Boston for three
days;and,whenhecomesback,he’scomingdownheretoseeyou.”
Lesliewastalkingasfastasanexpresstrain,andJuliaCloudstoodandadmired
herinwonder.
Shewasslimanddelicatelyprettyasever,withthesamemopofgoldy-brown
curls, done up in a knot now and making her look quaintly like the little fiveyear-oldonahotdaywithhercurlstwistedonthetopofherheadforcomfort.


She wore a simple little straight frock of some dark silk stuff, with beaded
pocketsandmarvellouspleatsandbeltsandstrapsinunexpectedplaces,suchas
oneseesinfashion-books,butnotonyounggirlsinthetownofSterling;andher
hatwasaqueerlittlecapwithaknobofbrightbeads,wonderfullybecoming,but
quite different from anything that Julia Cloud had ever seen before. Her
movements were darting and quick like a humming-bird’s; and she wore long
soft suède gloves and tiny high suède boots. The older woman watched her,
fascinated.
“Andyou’resurewe’renotbeinganinconvenience,droppingdownuponyouin
this unexpected way?” asked Allison in a quite grown-up man’s voice, and
looking so tall and handsome and responsible that Julia Cloud wanted to take
himinherarmsandhughimtomakesurehewasthesamelittleboysheusedto
tuckintobedatnight.
“So soon after Grandma’s death, too,” put in Allison. “We didn’t know, of
course,tillwegotaboutamilefromSterlingandstoppedtoaskthewaytothe
house,andamantoldusaboutthefuneralbeingMonday.Weweren’tsurethen
but it would be an intrusion. You see we left California about two weeks ago,
and none of our mail has reached us yet; so we hadn’t heard. You’re sure we
won’tbotheryouabit,youdear?”
Theirauntassuredthemrapturouslythattheircomingwasthemostblessedthing
thatcouldhavebeenjustatthistime.
“Oh!thenI’mrelieved,”saidLeslie,throwingoffherhatanddroppingintothe
nearest chair. “Allison, tell that man to put the car somewhere in a garage and
getbacktothecity.Theysaidtherewasatrainbackaboutthistime.Theman
whodirectedustoldusso.No,dear,hedoesn’tneedanydinner.He’snotusedto
it till seven, and he’ll be in the city by that time. He’s in a hurry to get back.
Cookies?Well,yes,youmightgivehimacookyortwoifyou’resurethere’llbe
enough left for us. I’ve just dreamed of those cookies all these years. I’m so
anxioustoseeifthey’lltasteastheydidwhenIwasachild.MayIcomewith
youandseeifIrememberwherethecooky-jaris?Oh,joy,Allison!Justlook!A
wholecrockandaplatterfull!Isn’tthispeachy?Allison,dohustleupandget
thatmanoffsowecanbeginourvisit!”
Itwaslikehavingacoupleofdollssuddenlycomealiveandbegintotalk.
TheytalkedsofastandtheytookeverythingsodelightfullyforgrantedthatJulia
Cloudwasinatrembleofjoy.Itseemedthemostbeautifulthingintheworld
that these two strong, handsome, vivid young things should have dropped into


herlifeandtakenherintotheirheartsinthiswayasifshereallybelonged,asif
they loved her! She was too excited to talk. She hardly knew what to do first.
Buttheydidnotwaitforherinitiative.Allisonwasoffwithhiscarandhisman,
munchingcookiesashewent,andpromisingtoreturninfifteenminuteshungry
asabear.
“Now let’s go up-stairs, you dear Cloudy Jewel, and I’ll smooth my hair for
dinner.I’mcrazytoseeifIrememberthings.TherewasalittleredchairthatI
usedtositin–––”
“It’s here, in your room, dear, and the old rag doll, Betsey; do you remember
her?”
“Well,IshouldsayIdid!IsBetseyaliveyet?DearoldBetsey!Howduckyof
youtohavekeptherformealltheseyears!Oh,isn’titperfectlypeachythatwe
couldcome?Thatwe’rereallyhereatlast,andyouwantus?Youdo,don’tyou,
Cloudy, dear? You’re sure you do?” Lesley’s tone was anxious, and her bright
browneyesstudiedtheolderwoman’sfaceeagerly;butwhatshesawtherewas
fully satisfactory, for she smiled, and rattled joyfully on in the old babblingbrookvoicethatremindedonesoofyearsago.
“I’mnottotellyouwhatwe’vereallycomefortillAllisoncomes,becauseI’ve
promised;andanywayhe’stheman,andhewantstotellyouhimself;butit’sthe
dandiestreason,perfectlypeachy!It’sreallyaplan.Andsay,Cloudy,dear,won’t
youpromisemerighthereandnowthatyouwillsay‘Yes’towhatheasksyouif
youpossibly,possiblycan?”
JuliaCloudpromisedinamazeofdelight.
Shestoodinhoveringwonder,andwatchedthemassofcurlscomedownandgo
up again with the swift manipulation of the slim white fingers, remembering
how she used to comb those tangled curls with the plump little body leaning
sturdilyagainstherknee.Itseemedtobethefirsttimesinceshewasachildthat
youthandbeautyhadcometolingerbeforeher.Allherexperiencehadbeenof
sicknessandsufferinganddeath,notlifeandhappiness.
Therewasstewedchickenandlittlebiscuitswithgravyforsupper.Itwasadish
thechildrenusedtolove.ItwasalldishedupandeverythingreadywhenAllison
cameback.Hereportedthatthecarwashousedbutablockaway,andtheman
hadgonetohistrain,tickledtodeathwithhiscookies.Allisonwassogladtobe
backthathehadtotakehisauntinhisarmsagainandgiveheraregularbearhug till she pleaded for mercy, but there was a happy light in her eyes and a
bright color in her cheeks when he released her that made her a very good-


lookingauntindeedtositdownatthetablewithtwosuchhandsomechildren.
JustatthatmomentEllenRobinsoninherownhomewaspouringherhusband’s
secondcupofcoffee.
“Don’tyouthinkI’dbettertakethecarandrundownforJuliabeforedark?”she
said. “I think she’ll be about ready to come back with me by this time, and I
needherearlyinthemorningifI’mgoingtobegincleaninghouse.”
“Better wait one more night,” said Herbert stolidly. “Let her get her fill of
stayingalonenights.It’lldohergood.Wedon’twanthertobehighandmighty
when she gets here. I’m boss here, and she’s got to understand that. She’s so
mightyindependent,youknow,it’simportantsheshouldfindthatoutrightatthe
start.I’mnotgoingtohavehergetbossywiththesechildren,either.Theyaren’t
herchildren.”
Four pairs of keen little Robinson eyes took in this saying with quick
intelligence, and four stolid sets of shoulders straightened up importantly with
four uplifted saucy chins. They would store these remarks away for future
referencewhentheauntinquestionarrivedonthescene.Theywouldcomein
well,theyknew,fortheyhadhadexperiencewithherintimespast.
“AuntJuleain’tgoin’tobossme,”swaggeredtheyoungest.
“Nerme,neither!”
“Nerme!”
“Iguessshewouldn’tdasttryitonme!”boastedtheeldest.


CHAPTERIII
“You haven’t asked us what we came for,” opened up Allison as soon as
everybodywasservedwithchicken,mashedpotato,succotash,stewedtomatoes,
biscuits,pickles,andapple-sauce.
“Ithoughtyoucameforcookies,”saidJuliaCloud,withamischievoustwinkle
inhergrayeyes.
“Hung one on me, didn’t you?” said Allison, laughing. “But that wasn’t all.
Guessagain.”
“Perhapsyoucametoseeme,”shesuggestedshyly.
“Rightyouare!Butthat’snotall,either.Thatwouldn’tlastmuchlongerthanthe
cookies.Guessagain.”
“Oh,Icouldn’t!”saidJuliaCloud,growingsuddenlystrickenwiththethought
oftheirgoing.“Igiveitup.”
“Well, then I’ll tell you. You see we’ve come East to college, both of us. Of
course I’ve had my freshman year, but the Kid’s just entering. We haven’t
decided which college it’s to be yet, but it’s to be co-ed, we know that much,
becausewe’retiredofbeingseparated.Whenonehasn’tbuttwointhefamily
andhasbeenapartforfiveyears,oneappreciatesahome,Itellyouthat.Andso
we’vedecidedwewantahome.We’renotjustgoingtocollegetolivetherein
theusualway;we’regoingtotakeahouse,livelikerealfolks,andgotoschool
everyday.Wewantafireplaceandacooky-jarofourown;aplacetobringour
31
friendsandhavegoodtimes.Butmostofallwewantamother,andwe’vecome
allthiswaytocoaxyoutocomeandlivewithus,playhouse,youknow,asyou
used to do down on the mossy rocks with broken bits of china for dishes and
acorns for cups and saucers. Play house and you be mother. Will you do it,
Cloudy Jewel? It means a whole lot to us, and we’ll try to play fair and make
youhaveagoodtime.”
JuliaCloudputherhandonherheart,andliftedherbewilderedeyestotheboy’s


eagerface.
“Me!”shesaidwonderingly.“Youwantme!”
“Wesuredo!”saidAllison.
“Indeed we do, Cloudy, dear! That’s just what we do want!” cried Leslie,
jumping up and running around to her aunt’s chair to embrace her excitedly.
“And you promised, you know, that you would do what we wanted if you
possibly,possiblycould.”
“Yousee,weputituptoourguardianaboutthehouse,”wentonAllison,“and
he said the difficulty would be to get the right kind of a housekeeper that he
couldtrustuswith.Ofcoursehe’swayoffinCalifornia,andhehastobefussy.
He’sbuiltthatway.Butwetoldhimwedidn’twantanyhousekeeperatall,we
wantedamother.Hesaidyoucouldn’tpickmothersofftrees,butwetoldhim
weknewwheretherewasoneifwecouldonlygether.Soheletuscomeand
ask;and,ifyousayyou’lldoit,he’scomingdowntoseeyouandfixitupabout
the money part. He said you’d have to have a regular salary or he wouldn’t
consider it, because there were things he’d have to insist upon that he had
promised mother; and, if there wasn’t a business arrangement about it, he
wouldn’tknowwhattodo.Besides,hesaiditwasworthalottorunacoupleof
rough-necks like Les and me, and he’d make the salary all right so you could
affordtoleavewhateveryouweredoingandjustgiveyourtimetomotheringus.
Nowit’suptoyou,CloudyJewel,tohelpusoutwithourpropositionorspoil
everything, because we simply won’t have a housekeeper, and we don’t know
anotherrealmotherinthewholeworldthathasn’tafamilyofherown.”
Theybothlefttheirdeliciousdinner,andgotaroundher,coaxingandwheedling
exactly as if she had already declined, when the truth was she was too dazed
withjoytoopenherlips,eveniftheyhadgivenheropportunitytospeak.
Itwassometimebeforetheexcitementquieteddownandtheygaveherachance
tosayshewouldgo.Eventhenshespokethewordswithfearandtremblingas
onemightstepoffacommonplacethresholdintoafairypalace,notsurebutit
mightbesteppingintospace.
Outsidetheskywasstillfloodedwithafter-sunsetglory,buttherewassomuch
gloryintheheartsofthethreeinsidethedining-roomthattheynevernoticedit
at all. It might have been raining or hailing, and they would not have known,
theyweresohappy.
Both the guests donned long gingham aprons and wiped the dishes when the


meal was over, both talking with all their might, recalling the days of their
childhood when they had had towels pinned around them andbeenallowedto
dry the cups and pans; then suddenly jumping ahead and planning what they
would do in the dear new home of the future. They were all three as excited
aboutitasiftheyhadbeenabridalcoupleplanningfortheirhoneymoon.
“Weshallwantfivebedrooms,”saidLesliedecidedly.“I’vethoughtthatallout,
oneforeachofusandtwoguest-rooms,sowecanhaveaboyandagirlhome
for overnight with us as often as we want to. And there simply must be a
fireplace,orwewon’ttakethehouse.Ifthereisn’ttherightkindofahousein
town,we’llchoosesomeothercollege.Thereareplentyofcolleges,butyoucan
haveonlyonehome,anditmustbetherightkind.Thenofcoursewewantabig
kitchenwherewecanmakefudgeasoftenaswechooseintheevenings,anda
dining-room with a bay-window, with seats and flowers and a canary. Cloudy
Jewel, you don’t mind cats, do you? I want two at least. I’ve been crazy for a
kittenallthetimeIwasinschool,andAlwantsabigcollie.Youwon’tmind,
willyou?”
SuddenlyJuliaClouddiscoveredthatlatentinherheartalltheseyearstherehad
alsolainadesireforacatandadog;andsheliftedguiltyeyes,andconfessedit.
Shefeltapangofremembranceassherecalledhowhermotherusedsooftento
tellhershewasnothingbutan“oldchild.”
“Perhapsyourguardianwillnotthinkmeaproperpersontochaperonyou,”she
suggestedinsuddenalarm.
“Well, he’d just better not!” declared Allison, bristling up. “I’d like to know
wherehecouldfindabetter.”
“I’veneverbeeninsociety,”saidJuliaCloudthoughtfully.“Idon’tknowsocial
ways much, and I’ve never been considered to have any dignity or good
judgment.”
“That’sjustwhywelikeyou,”chorusedthechildren.“You’venevergrownup
andgotdullandstiffandpokylikemostgrownfolks.”
“Weweresoafraid,”beganLeslie,puttingalovingarmaboutheraunt’swaist,
“thatyouwouldhavechangedsincewewerechildren.Wetalkeditalloveron
thewayhere.Wehadakindofeyebrowcodebywhichwecouldleteachother
know what we thought about it without your seeing us. We were to lift one
eyebrow,therightone,ifwewerefavorablyimpressed,anddrawdowntheleft
ifweweredisappointed.Butincaseweweresurebotheyebrowsweretogoup.
Andofcourseweweresureyouwerejustthesamedeartheminutewelaideyes


on you, and all four of our eyebrows went high as they’d go the first instant.
Didn’t you notice Allison? His eyebrows were almost up to his hair, and they
pulledhiseyessowideopentheywereperfectlyroundlikesaucers.AsformeI
thinkminewentwayupundermyhair.I’mnotsureifthey’vegotbacktotheir
natural place even yet!” And Leslie laid a rosy finger over her brow, and felt
anxiouslyalongthedelicatevelvetyline.
“IshallgooutandtelegraphMr.Luddingtonthatyouarewilling,”announced
Allison as he hung up the dish-towel. “He’ll get it in the morning when he
reachesBoston,andthenheneedn’tfussandfumeanylongeraboutwhathe’s
goingtodowithus.Besides,Iliketohavethebargainclinchedsomehow,anda
telegram will do it.” Allison slammed out of the house noisily to the extreme
confusion of Mrs. Ambrose Perkins, who hadn’t been able to eat her supper
properlyforwatchingthehousetoseewhatwouldhappennext.Whocouldthat
youngmanbe?
Shesimplycouldn’tgetaclew;for,whenshewentoverforthesoda,thoughshe
knocked several times, and heard voices up-stairs, and altogether unseemly
laughterforahousewheretherehadjustbeenafuneral,notasoulcametothe
door!CoulditbethatJuliaCloudheardherandstayedup-stairsonpurpose?She
feltthatasthenearestneighborandagreatfriend,ofEllen’sitwouldberather
expected of her to find out what was going on. She resolutely refrained from
lighting the parlor lamp, and took up her station at the dark window to watch;
but,althoughshesatthereuntilafterteno’clock,shewasutterlyunabletofind
out anything except that the household across the way stayed up very late and
therewerelightsinbothfrontroomsagain.Shefeltthatifnothingdevelopedby
morning she would just have to get Ambrose to hitch, up and drive out to
Ellen’s.Ellenoughttoknow.
ButJuliaCloudwasserenelyunconsciousofthisespionage.Shehadenteredan
Edenofbliss,andwastoohappytocareaboutanythingelse.
Seated on the big old couch in the parlor with a child on either side of her, a
handineachofhers,oftenaheadoneachshouldernestlingdown,theytalked.
Planned and talked. Now the brother would break in with some tale of his
school-days;nowthesisterwouldaddabitofreminiscence,justasiftheyhad
been storingitallup totell her.Thejoyoushappinessof themallseemedlike
heaven dropped down to earth. It was as she had sometimes dreamed mothers
mighttalkwiththeirownchildren.AndGodhadgrantedthisunspeakablegiftto
her! Was it real? Would it last? Or was she only dreaming? Once it vaguely
passedthroughhermindthatshewouldnotbesureoftherealityofthewhole


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