Tải bản đầy đủ

Old rose and silver

TheProjectGutenbergEBookofOldRoseandSilver,byMyrtleReed#2inour
seriesbyMyrtleReed
Copyrightlawsarechangingallovertheworld.Besuretocheckthecopyright
lawsforyourcountrybeforedownloadingorredistributingthisoranyother
ProjectGutenbergeBook.
ThisheadershouldbethefirstthingseenwhenviewingthisProjectGutenberg
file.Pleasedonotremoveit.Donotchangeoredittheheaderwithoutwritten
permission.
Pleasereadthe"legalsmallprint,"andotherinformationabouttheeBookand
ProjectGutenbergatthebottomofthisfile.Includedisimportantinformation
aboutyourspecificrightsandrestrictionsinhowthefilemaybeused.Youcan
alsofindoutabouthowtomakeadonationtoProjectGutenberg,andhowtoget
involved.
**WelcomeToTheWorldofFreePlainVanillaElectronicTexts**
**eBooksReadableByBothHumansandByComputers,Since1971**
*****TheseeBooksWerePreparedByThousandsofVolunteers!*****
Title:OldRoseandSilver
Author:MyrtleReed
ReleaseDate:April,2004[EBook#5401][Yes,wearemorethanoneyear
aheadofschedule][ThisfilewasfirstpostedonJuly6,2002][Datelast
updated:August16,2005]

Edition:10
Language:English
***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKOLDROSEAND
SILVER***


ProducedbyJulietSutherland,CharlesFranksandtheOnlineDistributed
ProofreadingTeam


OLDROSEANDSILVER
BYMYRTLEREED

Author'sNote
Themusicwhichappearsinthefollowingpagesisfromanunpublishedpiano
arrangement,byGrantWeber,ofWilsonG.Smith's"Entreaty,"publishedbyG.
Schirmer,NewYork.
CONTENTS
IAFALLINGSTAR
IIWELCOMEHOME
IIITHEVOICEOFTHEVIOLIN
IVTHECROSBYTWINS
VANAFTERNOONCALL
VITHELIGHTONTHEALTAR
VIIFATHERANDSON
VIII"THEYEAR'SATTHESPRING"


IXAKNIGHT-ERRANT
X"SWEET-AND-TWENTY"
XIKEEPINGTHEFAITH
XIIANENCHANTEDHOUR
XIIIWHITEGLOVES
XIVTHETHIRTIETHOFJUNE
XV"HOWSHEWILLCOMETOME"
XVIHOWISABELCAME
XVIIPENANCE
XVIII"LESSTHANTHEDUST"
XIXOVERTHEBAR
XXRISENFROMTHEDEAD


XXISAVED—ANDLOST
XXIIABIRTHDAYPARTY
XXIII"TEARS,IDLETEARS"
XXIVTHEHOUSEWHERELOVELIVED


I
AFALLINGSTAR

[Illustration:MusicalNotation]
Thelasthushedchorddiedintosilence,butthewomanlingered,dreamingover
thekeys.Firelightfromtheendoftheroombroughtred-goldgleamsintothe
duskysoftnessofherhairandshadowedherprofileupontheoppositewall.No
answeringflashofjewelsmetthequestioninglight—therewasonlyamellow
glowfromthenecklaceoftourmalines,quaintlyset,thatlayuponthewhitelace
ofhergown.
Sheturnedherfacetowardthefireasaflowerseeksthesun,butherdeepeyes
lookedbeyondit,intothefiresofLifeitself.Ahauntingsenseofunfulfilment
stirredhertovagueresentment,andshesighedassheroseandmovedrestlessly
abouttheroom.Shelightedthetallcandlesthatstooduponthemantel-shelf,
straightenedarug,movedachair,andgatheredupahandfuloffallenrose-petals
onherwaytothewindow.Shewasabouttodrawdowntheshade,but,instead,
herhanddroppedslowlytoherside,herfingersunclasped,andthecrushed
crimsonpetalsflutteredtothefloor.
Outside,thepurpleduskofWintertwilightlaysoftuponthesnow.Throughan
openingintheevergreensthefarhorizon,greyasmother-of-pearl,bentdownto
touchtheplaininamistylinethatwasdefiniteyetnotclear.Attheleftwerethe
mountains,coldandcalm,veiledbydistancesdimwithfrost.
Therewasastepuponthestair,butthestrong,straightfigureinwhitelacedid
notturnawayfromthewindow,evenwhenthedooropened.Thestillnesswas


brokenonlybythecheerfulcrackleofthefireuntilasweetvoiceasked:
"Areyoudreaming,Rose?"
Roseturnedawayfromthewindowthen,withalaugh."Why,Imusthavebeen.
Willyouhavethischair,AuntFrancesca?"
Sheturnedahigh-backedrockertowardthefireandMadameBernardleaned
backluxuriously,stretchinghertinyfeettotheblaze.Sheworegreysatin
slipperswithhighFrenchheelsandsilverbuckles.Abitofgreysilkstocking
wasvisiblebetweenthebuckleandthehemofhergreygown.
Rosesmiledatherinaffectionateappreciation.Thelittleoldladyseemedlikea
bitofDresdenchina;shewassodaintyandsofrail.Herhairwaslustreless,
snowywhite,andbeautifully,thoughsimply,dressedinabygonefashion.Her
blueeyesweresodeepincolourastoseemalmostpurpleincertainlights,and
theyearshadbeenkindtoher,leavingfewlines.Herhands,restingonthearms
ofherchair,hadnotlosttheiryouthfulcontour,butaroundhereyesandthe
cornersofhermouthwerethefaintprintsofmanysmiles.
"Rose,"saidMadameBernard,suddenly,"youareverylovelyto-night."
"Iwasthinkingthesameofyou,"respondedtheyoungerwoman,flushing.
"Shallweorganiseourselvesintoamutualadmirationsociety?"
"Wemightaswell,Ithink.Thereseemstobenobodyelse."
AshadowcrossedRose'sfaceandherbeautytookonanappealingwistfulness.
ShehadbeenshelteredalwaysandshehungeredforLifeastheshelteredoften
do.MadameBernard,forthethousandthtime,lookedathercuriously.Fromthe
shapelyfootthattappedrestlesslyontherugbeneathherwhitelacegown,tothe
crownofduskyhairwithred-goldlightsinit,Rosewasmadeforlove—and
Madamewonderedhowshehadhappenedtomissit.
"AuntFrancesca,"saidRose,withawhimsicalsadness,"doyourealisethatI'm
fortyto-day?"
"That'snothing,"returnedtheother,serenely."Everybodyhasbeenforty,orwill
be,iftheylive."


"Ihaven'tlivedyet,"Roseobjected."I'veonlybeenalive."
"'Whilethere'slifethere'shope,'"quotedMadamelightly."Whatdoyouwant,
dearchild?Battle,murder,andsuddendeath?"
"Idon'tknowwhatIwant."
"Let'stakeaninventoryandseeifwecanfindout.Youhaveonepriceless
blessing—goodhealth.Youhaveconsiderablymorethanyourshareofgood
looks.Likewiseasuitablewardrobe;notmanyclothes,butfew,andthosefew,
good.Clothesaresupposedtopleaseandsatisfywomen.Youhavemusical
talent,aloveofbooksandflowers,afineappreciationofbeauty,ahostof
friends,andthatonesupremegiftofthegods—asenseofhumour.Inadditionto
allthis,youhaveacomfortablehomeandanincomeofyourownthatenables
youtodopracticallyasyouplease.Couldyouaskformore?"
"NotwhileIhaveyou,AuntFrancesca.IsupposeI'mhorrid."
"Youcouldn'tbe,mydear.I'veleftmarriageoutofthequestion,since,ifyou'd
hadanydeeplongingforit,you'dhavechosensomeonefromthehordethathas
infestedmyhouseforfifteenyearsandmore.You'vesurelybeenloved."
Rosesmiledandbitherlip."Ithinkthat'sit,"shemurmured."I'venevercared
foranybody—likethat.Atleast,Idon'tthinkIhave."
"'Whenindoubt,don't,'"resumedtheother,takingrefugeinaplatitude."Isthere
anyoneofthatfaithfulprocessionwhomyouparticularlyregret?"
"No,"answeredRose,truthfully.
"Loveislikeavaccination,"continuedthelittleladyingrey,withseeming
irrelevance."Whenittakes,youdon'thavetobetold."
Hertonewaslight,almostflippant,andRose,inherturn,wonderedatthe
womanandhermarvellousself-control.Attwenty-five,MadameBernard
marriedayoungFrenchsoldier,whohadchosentoservehisadoptedcountryin
theWaroftheRebellion.Inlessthanthreemonths,hergallantCaptainwas
broughthometoher—dead.
Foralongtime,shehovereduncertainlybetweenlifeanddeath.Then,oneday,


shesatupandaskedforamirror.Theghostofherformerselflookedbackat
her,forhercolourwasgone,herhairwasquicklyturninggrey,andthelighthad
vanishedfromhereyes.Yetthevaliantspiritwasnotbroken,andthatday,with
highresolve,shesenthersoulforwarduponthenewway.
"Hewasasoldier,"shesaid,"andI,hiswife,willbeasoldiertoo.Hefaced
DeathbravelyandIshallmeetLifewithasmuchcourageasGodwillgiveme.
Butdonot,oh,donotevenspeakhisnametome,orIshallforgetIamasoldier
andbecomeawomanagain."
So,gradually,itbecameunderstoodthattheyoungsoldier'snamewasnottobe
mentionedtohiswidow.Shetookupherburdenandwenton,devotingherself
tothearmyserviceuntilthewarwasover.Thensheceasedtolabourwithlint
andbandagesandbetookherselftonewsurroundings.Herhusband'sbrother
offeredherahome,butshewasunabletoaccept,forthetwomenlookedso
muchalikethatshecouldnothaveborneit.Sometimes,evennow,sheturned
awayinpainfromRose,whoresembledherfather.
"'Richman,poorman,beggarman,thief,'"MadameBernardwassaying."I
seemtoruntoconversationalantiquestonight.'Doctor,lawyer,merchant,chief
—'whichwillyouhave,Rose?IfIrememberrightly,you'vehadallbutthethief
already.ShallIgetyouaniceembezzler,orwillaplainburglardo?"
"Neither,"laughedRose."I'msafefromembezzlers,Ithink,butIliveinnightly
fearofbeingburgled,asyouwellknow."
"Nonetheless,we'vegottotaketherisk.Isabelwillnotbecontentedwithyou
andme.She'llwantotherhatsontherackbesidestheprehistoricrelicwekeep
thereasawarningtoburglars."
"I'dforgottenIsabel,"answeredRose,withastart."Whatisshedoing?"
"Dressingfordinner.Mydear,thatchildbroughtthreetrunkswithherandI
understandanotheriscoming.Shehasenoughclothestosetupamodestshop,
shouldshedesireto'gointotrade'astheEnglishsay."
"I'dforgottenIsabel,"saidRose,again."Wemustfindsomecallowyouthsto
amuseher.Agirloftwentycan'tappreciatearealman."
"Sometimesagirloffortycan't,either,"laughedMadame,withaslyglanceat


Rose."Cheerup,mydear—I'mnearingseventy,andIassureyouthatfortyis
reallyveryyoung."
"It'sscarcelyinfantile,butI'lladmitthatI'myoung—comparatively."
"Allthingsarecomparativeinthisworld,andperhapsyouandIsabel,withyour
attendantswains,mayenablemetoforgetthatI'mnolongeryoung,even
comparatively."
Theguestcamein,somewhatshyly.ShewasacousinofRose's,onthemother's
side,andhadarrivedonlythatafternoononavisit.
"Blessus,"saidMadameBernard;"howprettyweare!Isabel,you'reacreditto
theestablishment."
Isabelsmiled—alittle,coolsmile.ShewasalmostastallasRoseandtowered
farabovethelittleladyingreywhoofferedherawelcominghandandinvited
hertositbythefire.Isabel'sgownwasturquoiseblueandverybecoming,asher
hairandeyesweredarkandherskinwasfair.Hereyeswerealmostblackand
verybrilliant;theyliterallysparkledwhensheallowedherselftobecome
interestedinanything.
"I'mnotlate,amI?"sheasked.
"No,"answeredRose,glancingattheclock."It'stenminutestoseven."
"Icouldn'tfindmythings.Itwaslikedressinginadream,when,assoonasyou
findsomethingyouwant,youimmediatelyloseeverythingelse."
"Iknow,"laughedRose."Ihadoccasiontopackasuit-casemyselflastnight,
duringmytroubledslumbers."
Alargeyellowcatappearedmysteriouslyoutoftheshadowsandcame,
yawning,towardthefire.HesatdownontheedgeofMadame'sgreygown,and
blinked.
Isabeldrewherskirtsaway."Idon'tlikecats,"shesaid.
"Therearecatsandcats,"remarkedMadameBernardinatoneofgentlerebuke.
"Mr.Boffinisnotanordinarycat.Heisagentlemanandascholarandhenever


forgetshismanners."
"I'vewondered,sometimes,"saidRose,"whetherhereallyknowseverything,or
onlypretendsthathedoes.Helooksverywise."
"Silenceandreservewillgiveanyoneareputationforwisdom,"Madame
responded.Shebentdowntostroketheyellowhead,but,thoughMr.
Boffingratefullyacceptedthecaress,hedidnotcondescendtopurr.
Presentlyhestalkedawayintotheshadows,wavinghisyellowtail.
"Whatalovelyroomthisis,"observedIsabel,afterapause.
"It'scomfortable,"repliedMadame."Icouldn'tliveinanuglyplace."
Everythingintheroomspokeeloquentlyofgoodtaste,fromthedeep-toned
Easternrugatthehearthtothepicturesuponthegrey-greenwalls.Therewas
notafalsenoteanywhereinthesubtleharmonyofline,colour,andfabric.Itwas
thesortofroomthatonecomesbackto,afterlongabsence,withrenewed
appreciation.
"Iloveoldmahogany,"continuedIsabel."Isupposeyou'vehadthisalong,long
time."
"No,it'snew.Tome—Imean.IhavesomebeautifuloldFrenchmahogany,butI
don'tuseit."
Hervoicewasverylowattheendofthesentence.Shecompressedherlips
tightlyand,leaningforward,vigorouslypokedthefire.Astreamofsparkswent
upthechimneyandquickflamesleapedtofollow.
"Don'tsetthehouseonfire,AuntFrancesca,"cautionedRose."There'sthe
dinnergong."
Thethreewentout,MadameBernardalittleaheadandthetwoyoungerwomen
together.RosesatoppositetheheadofthetableandIsabelwasplacedat
Madame'sright.Inasingleglance,theguestnotedthatthetablewasperfectly
appointed."Areyoumakingcompanyofme?"sheasked.
"Notatall,"smiledMadame."Nonetheless,thereisacleardistinctionbetween
eatinganddiningandweendeavourtodine."


"IfAuntFrancescawereonadesertisland,"saidRose,"Ibelieveshewould
makeagrandaffairofhersolitarydinner,andhavehercoffeeinthemorning
beforesherolledoutofthesand."
Thelittleoldladydimpledwithpleasure."I'dtryto,"shelaughed."IthinkI'd—"
ShewasinterruptedbyalittleexclamationofpleasurefromRose,whohadjust
discoveredasmallwhiteparcelatherplate.Shewasuntyingitwitheager
fingers,whilehercolourcameandwent.Acardflutteredout,faceupward."To
mydearRose,withlovefromAuntFrancesca,"waswritteninasmall,quaint
hand.
Itwasasinglemagnificentrubysetinaringwhichexactlyfitted.
Roseseldomworeringsandwondered,vaguely,howAuntFrancescaknew.
"Ifilledafingerofoneofyourgloves,"saidMadame,asthoughshehadread
thethought,"andhaditfitted.Simple,wasn'tit?"
"Oh,"breathedRose,"it'sbeautifulbeyondwords!HowshallIeverthankyou!"
"Wearit,dear.I'msogladyou'repleased!"
"It'slovely,"saidIsabel,butthetonewascoldandsheseemedtospeakwithan
effort.Withaswiftlittlestabattheheart,Rosesawthatthegirlenviedherthe
gift.
"Itreconcilesmetomyyears,"Rosewenton,quickly."I'mwillingtobeforty,if
Icanhavearinglikethis."
"Why,CousinRose!"criedIsabel,inastonishment."Areyouforty?"
"Yes,dear.Don'tbeconventionalandtellmeIdon'tlookit,forIfeelit—every
year."
"Ishouldneverhavethoughtit,"Isabelmurmured.
Roseturnedtheringslowlyuponherfingerandtherubyyieldedthedeep
crimsonglowofitshearttothecandlelightthatsoftlyfilledtheroom."I'venever
hadaruby,"shesaid,"andyetIfeel,someway,asthoughI'dalwayshadthis.It
seemsasifitbelongedtome."


"That'sbecauseitsuitsyou,"noddedMadameBernard."Ihopethatsometime
ourcivilisationmayreachsuchapointofadvancementthateverywomanwill
weartheclothesandjewelsthatsuitherpersonality,andmakeherhomeaproper
settingforherself.Seehowwomenbreaktheirheartsfordiamonds—andnot
onewomaninahundredcanwearthem."
"CouldIweardiamonds?"askedIsabel.Shewasinterestednowandhereyes
sparkled.
MadameBernardstudiedherforamomentbeforereplying."Yes,"sheadmitted,
"youcouldwearthembeautifully,buttheydonotbelongtoRose,ortome."
"WhatelsecouldIwear?"
"Turquoises,iftheyweresetinsilver."
"Ihaveone,"Isabelannouncedwithsatisfaction."Alovelybigturquoisematrix
setindullsilver.ButIhavenodiamonds."
"They'llcome,"Roseassuredher,"ifyouwantthem.Ithinkpeopleusuallyget
thingsiftheywantthembadlyenough."
IsabelturnedtoMadameBernard."Whatstonesdoyouwear?"sheinquired,
politely.
"Onlyamethysts,"shelaughed."Ihaveapearlnecklace,butitdoesn'tquite
'belong,'soIdon'twearit.Iwon'twearanythingthatdoesn't'belong.'"
"Howcanyoutell?"
"Byinstinct.""Icanwalkintoashop,lookaroundforamoment,andsay:
'pleasebringmemyhat.'TheoneIaskforisalwaystherightone.Itis
invariablybecomingandsuitable,andit'sthesamewitheverythingelse."
"It'sawonderfulexperiencetogoshoppingwithAuntFrancesca,"putinRose.
"Sheknowswhatshewantsandgoesstraighttoit,withoutlossoftime.Utterly
regardlessoffashion,foritsownsake,shealwayscontrivestobeinthemode,
thoughIbelievethatifhoopskirtsweresuitedtoher,she'dhavethecourageof
hercrinoline,andwearone."


"Letusbethankfulthey'renot,"remarkedMadame."It'salmostimpossibleto
believeit,buttheymusthavelookedwelluponsomewomen.Everypersonality
makesitsowndemandforharmonyanditisfascinatingtometoobservestrange
peopleandplanforthemtheirhousesandclothesandbelongings.Youcanpick
out,fromacrowd,thewomanwhowouldhaveacrayonportraitofherselfupon
aneaselinherparlour,andquiteproperly,too,sincehernaturedemandsit.After
youareexperienced,youcanidentifythemanwhoeatssugarandvinegaron
lettuce,andgroupthosewhokeepparrots—orarecapableofit."
TheseventyyearssatlightlyuponMadameFrancescanow.Herdeepeyesshone
withinwardamusement,andlittlesmileshoveredunexpectedlyaboutthe
cornersofhermouth.Afaintpinktint,likeafadedrose,bloomeduponher
cheeks.Rosewatchedherwithadoringeyes,andwonderedwhetheranymanin
theworld,afterfifteenyearsofcloseassociation,couldbehalfsodelightful.
Coffeewasbroughtintotheliving-room,whentheywentback,precededbyMr.
Boffin,emanatingthedignifiedsatisfactionofacatwhohassuppeddaintily
uponchickenandcream.Hesatdownbeforethefireandmethodicallywashed
hisface.
"IbelieveIenvyMr.Boffinhisperfectdigestion,"remarkedMadame,asshe
sippedhercoffeefromaRoyalCantoncup.SheandRosestoodforhalfanhour
afterdinner,always.
Isabelfinishedhercoffeeandsetthecupuponthetable.Sheslippedthe
Sheffieldtrayfromundertheembroidereddoilyandtookittothelight,where
sheleanedoverit,studyingthedesign.Rosethoughtthatthelightfromthetray
wasreflecteduponthegirl'sface,shebecameatoncesobrilliant,sosparkling.
"Speakingofharmony—"saidMadameBernard,inalowtone,glancingat
RoseandincliningherheadtowardIsabel.
"Yes,"repliedIsabel,returningthetraytoitsplace;"itisalovelyone,isn'tit?"
Madameturnedtowardthewindowtohideasmile.Rosefollowed,anddrewthe
littlegreyladyintothecircleofherstrongarm.
"DearAuntFrancesca!"shesaidsoftly."Ithankyousomuch!"
Theolderwomanpattedthehandthatworetheruby,thenturnedto


Isabel."Come,"shesaid,"andbegladyou'reindoors."
Thethreewomenstoodatthewidewindow,lookingoutacrossthesnow,lighted
onlybythestarsandaghostlycrescentofmoon.Theevergreenswerehuddled
closelytogetherasthoughtheykepteachotherwarm.Beyond,themountains
broodedintheireternalsleep,whichrivinglightningsandvast,reverberating
thunderswerepowerlesstochange.
Suddenly,acrossthepurpledarknessbetweenthepalestars,flamedameteor—
anunchartedvoyagerthroughinfiniteseasofspace.Itleftatrailoffireacross
theheavens,fadingatlastintoluminousmist,thecolourofthestars.Whenthe
lighthadquitediedout,MadameBernardspoke.
"Apassingsoul,"shesighed.
"Akiss,"breathedRose,dreamily.
"Star-dust!"laughedIsabel.


II
WELCOMEHOME

"Greatnews,mydears,greatnews!"criedMadameBernard,gailywavingan
openletterasshecameintotheroomwhereRosewassewingandIsabel
experimentingwithanewcoiffure."I'llgiveyouthreeguesses!"
"Somebodycomingforavisit?"askedIsabel.
"Wrong!"
"Somebodycoming,butnotforavisit?"queriedRose.
"You'regettingwarmer."
"Howcananybodycome,ifnotforavisit?"inquiredIsabel,mildlyperplexed.
"Thatis,unlessit'samessenger?"
"TheoldKenthouseistobeopened,"saidMadame,"andwe'retoopenit.At
lastweshallhaveneighbours!"
"Howexciting,"Roseanswered.Shedidnotwhollysharetheoldlady's
pleasure,andwonderedwithaguiltyconsciousnessofthelonghoursshespent
athermusic,whetherAuntFrancescahadbeenlonely.
"Listen,girls!"Madame'scheekswerepinkwithexcitementasshesatdown
withtheletter,whichhadbeenwritteninParis.
"MYDEARMADAMEFRANCESCA:


"'Atlastwearecominghome—AllisonandI.TheboyhasafancytoseeSpring
comeagainonhisnativeheath,soweshallsailearlierthanwehadotherwise
planned.
"'Iwonder,mydearfriend,ifIdareaskyoutoopenthehouseforus?Iamso
tiredofhotelsthatIwanttogostraightback.Youhavethekeysandifyouwill
engagethepropernumberofservantsandseethattheplaceismadehabitable,I
shallbemorethaneveryourdebtor.Iwillcableyouwhenwestart.
"'Trustingthatalliswellwithyouandyoursandwithmanythanks,believeme,
mydearMadame,
"'Mostfaithfullyyours,
"'RICHARDKENT.'"

"Howlikeaman,"smiledRose."Thathousehasbeenclosedforovertenyears,
andhethinksthereisnothingtobedonebuttounlockthefrontdoorandengage
twoorthreeservantswhomayormaynotbetrustworthy."
"Whatanimposition!"Isabelsaid."AuntFrancesca,didn'tImeet
AllisonKentwhenIwasherebefore?"
"I'veforgotten."
"Don'tyouremember?MotherbroughtmehereoncewhenIwasalittletot.We
stayedaboutaweekandtheroseswereallinbloom.Icanseethegardennow.
Allisonusedtocomeoversometimesandtellmefairystories.Hetoldmethat
thelong,slendergold-trimmedbottlesfilledwithattarofrosescamefromthe
rootsoftherosebushes—don'tyouremember?AndIpulleduprosebushesall
overthegardentofindout."
"Dearme,yes,"smiledAuntFrancesca."Howtimedoesfly!"
"YouwereverycrosswithAllison—thatis,ascrossasyouevercouldbe.It
seemedsoqueerforyoutobeangryathimandnotatme,forIpulledupthe
bushes."
"Youweresufficientlypunished,Isabel.Ibelievethethornshurtyourlittle
hands,didn'tthey?"


"Theycertainlydid,"respondedthegirl,withalittleshudderattherecollection.
"Ihaveascarstill.Thatwas—letmesee—why,itwasfifteenyearsago!"
"JustbeforeIcametolivewithAuntFrancesca,"saidRose."Youandyour
motherwentawaythesameday."
"Yes,wewentinthemorning,"Isabelcontinued,"andyouweretocomeinthe
afternoon.Irememberpleadingwithmymothertoletmestaylongenoughto
see'CousinWose.'"
"Fifteenyears!"Madamerepeated."Allisonwentabroad,then,tostudythe
violin,andthehousehasbeenopenonlyoncesince.Richardcamebackfora
Summer,toattendtosomebusiness,thenreturnedtoEurope.Howthetimegoes
by!"
TheletterfelltothefloorandFrancescasatdreamingovertheinterludeofyears.
ColonelKenthadbeenherhusband'sbestfriend,andafterthepitilessswordhad
cleavedherlifeasunder,hadbecomehers.AtfortytheColonelhadmarrieda
youngandbeautifulgirl.AyearlaterFrancescahadgonetohimwithstreaming
eyes,carryinghisnew-bornsoninherarms,totellhimthathiswifewasdead.
Drawntogetherbysorrow,thetwohadbeenasdeartoeachotherasfriendsmay
bebutseldomare.Thoughchildlessherself,Francescahadsomeofthegiftsof
motherhood,and,ateverystep,shehadaidedandcounselledtheColonelin
regardtohisson,whohadhismother'seyesandborehismother'sname.
Discerningtheboy'stalent,longbeforehisfathersuspectedit,shehadchosen
theviolinforhimratherthanthepiano,andhadherselfurgedtheColoneltotake
himabroadforstudythoughthethoughtofseparationcausedhermanyapang.
Whenthetwosailedaway,Francescahadfoundherheartstrangelyempty;her
busyhandsstrangelyidle.ButLifehadtaughtheronegreatlesson,andwhen
onedoorofherheartwasclosed,sheopenedanother,asquicklyaspossible.So
shesentforRose,whowasaloneintheworld,and,forfifteenyears,thetwo
womenhadlivedhappilytogether.
Asshesatthere,thinking,someofhergaycouragefailedher.Forthemoment
hermaskwasoff,andinthemercilesssunlight,shelookedoldandworn.Rose,
lookingatherwithtenderpity,marvelledattheignoranceofman,inaskinga
fraillittleoldladytoopenandmakehabitable,inlessthanafortnight,ahouse
offifteenlargerooms.


"AuntFrancesca,"shesaid,"letmeopenthehouse.Tellmewhatyouwantdone,
andIsabelandIwillseetoit."
"Certainly,"agreedIsabelwithoutenthusiasm."We'lldoit."
"No,"Madamerepliedstubbornly."Heaskedmetodoit."
"Heonlymeantforyoutodirect,"saidRose."Yousurelydon'tthinkhemeant
youtodothescrubbing?"
Madamesmiledatthat,andyieldedgracefully."Theremustbeinfinite
scrubbing,afteralltheseyears.IbelieveI'llsuperintendoperationsfromhere.
Then,whenit'salldone,I'llgooverandwelcomethemhome."
"Thatisasitshouldbe.IsabelandIwillgooverthisafternoon,andwhenwe
comeback,wecantellyouallaboutit."
"You'dbetterdrive—I'msurethepathsaren'tbroken."
So,afterluncheon,thetwostartedoutwiththekeys,Madamewavingthema
cheerygood-byefromthewindow.
"Everythingaboutthisplaceseemsqueertome,"saidIsabel."It'sthesame,and
yetnotthesame."
"Iknow,"Roseanswered."Thingsaremuchsmaller,aren'tthey?"
"Yes.Theroomsusedtobevastandtheceilingsveryfaraway.Now,they're
merelylargeroomswiththeceilingscomfortablyhigh.Thegardenusedtoseem
likeahugepark,butnowit'sonlyalargegarden.Thereusedtobeagreatmany
stepsinthestairway,andhighonesatthat.Nowit'snothingcomparedwithother
flights.OnlyAuntFrancescaremainsthesame.Shehasn'tchangedatall."
"She'sasaint,"saidRosewithdeepconviction,asthecarriageturnedintothe
driveway.
Thehouse,setfarbackfromthestreet,wasofthetrueColonialtype,with
statelywhitepillarsatthedignifiedentrance.Thegardenwasatangledmassof
undergrowth—inspiteofthesnowonecouldseethat—butthehouse,being
substantiallybuilt,hadchangedscarcelyatall.


"Anewcoatofpaintwillfreshenitupamazingly,"saidRose,astheywentup
thesteps.Shewasthrilledwithamysterioussenseofadventurewhichthe
youngerwomandidnotshare."Ifeellikeaburglar,"shecontinued,puttingthe
keyintotherustylock.
"Ifeelcold,"remarkedIsabel,shiveringinherfurs.
Atlastthewidedoorswungonitscreakinghingesandtheywentintothe
lonelinessandmiseryofanemptyhouse.Thedustofageshadsettledupon
everythingandpenetratedeverynookandcranny.Thefloorsgroaneddismally,
andthescurryingfeetofmiceechoedthroughthewalls.Cobwebsdrapedthe
windows,wherethesecretspinnershadheldhighcarnival,undisturbed.An
indescribablemustyodouralmoststifledthemandthechilldampnesscarried
withitasenseofgloomandforeboding.
"Mygoodness!"Isabelexclaimed."Nobodycaneverlivehereagain."
"Don'tbediscouraged,"laughedRose."Soap,water,sunshine,andfirecan
accomplishmiracles."
Attheendofthehallablack,emptyfireplaceyawnedcavernously.Therewas
anotherintheliving-roomandstillanotherinthelibrarybackofit.Isabel
openedthedoorontheleft."Why,there'sanotherfireplaceinthedining-room,"
shesaid."Doyousupposetheyhaveoneinthekitchen,too?"
"Goinandsee,ifyoulike."
"I'mafraidtogoalone.Youcome,too."
Therewasnofireplaceinthekitchen,buttherustyrangewassadlyinneedof
repair.
"I'mgoingdowncellar,"Rosesaid."Areyoucoming?"
"Ishouldsaynot.Hurryback,won'tyou?"
Rosewentcautiouslydownthedark,narrowstairway.Thelightwasdiminthe
basementbutshecouldseethattherewasnocoal.Shewentbackandforth
severaltimesfrombintowindow,makingnotesinasmallmemorandumbook.
ShewasquitedeterminedthatAuntFrancescashouldbeabletofindnofault


withherhousekeeping.
Whenshewentback,therewerenosignsofIsabel.Shewentfromroomto
room,calling,thenconcludedthatshehadgonebacktothecarriage,whichwas
waitingoutside.
Rosetookmeasurementsfornewcurtainsinalltheroomsonthelowerfloor,
thenclimbedthecreakingstairway.ShecameuponIsabelinthesitting-room,
upstairs,standingabsorbedbeforeanopendesk.Inherhandsheheldsomething
whichgleamedbrightly,eveninthegatheringshadow.
"Isabel!"shecried,inastonishment.
Thegirlturnedandcameforward.Hereyesweresparkling."Look!There'sa
secretdrawerinthedeskandIfoundthisinit.Ilovesecretdrawers,don'tyou?"
"Ineverhavelookedfortheminotherpeople'shouses,"Roseanswered,coldly.
"Ineverhaveeither,"retortedIsabel,"exceptwhenI'vebeeninvitedtoclean
otherpeople'shouses."
TherewassomethingsoincongruousintheideaofIsabelcleaningahousethat
Roselaughedandtheawkwardmomentquicklypassed.
"Look,"saidIsabel,again.
Rosetookitfromherhand—alovelyminiatureframedinbrilliants.Asweet,
old-fashionedfacewaspicturedupontheivoryindelicatecolours—thatofagirl
inherearlytwenties,withhersmooth,darkhairdrawnbackoverherears.A
scarfofreallacewasexquisitelypainteduponthedarkbackgroundofhergown.
ThelongingeyesheldRosetransfixedforaninstantbeforeshenotedthewistful,
childishdroopofthemouth.Thegirlwhohadposedfortheminiature,ifshehad
beentruthfullyportrayed,hadnothadallthatsheaskedfromlife.
"Lookatthis,"Isabelcontinued.
SheofferedRoseabitofknittingwork,fromwhichthedustofyearsfelllightly.
Ithadoncebeenwhite,andtheneedleswerestillthere,greyandspottedwith
rust.Roseguessedthatthebithadbeenintendedforababy'sshoe,butnever
finished.Thelittleshoehadwaited,allthoseyears,forhandsthatnevercame


backfromtheagonyinwhichtheywrungthemselvestodeathintheroom
beyond.
TheinfinitepityofitstirredRosetoquicktears,butIsabelwasunmoved.
"Here'ssomethingelse,"shesaid.
Sheshookthedustfromanold-fashioneddaguerreotypecase,thenopenedit.On
theleftsidewasayoungsoldierinuniform,fulllength—adashing,handsome
figurewithonehanduponadrawnsword.Printedinfadedgiltuponthedusty
redsatinthatmadeuptheotherhalfofthecase,thewordswerestilldistinct:"To
ColonelRichardKent,fromhisfriend,JeanBernard."
"JeanBernard!"Isabelrepeated,curiously."Whowashe?"
"AuntFrancesca'shusband,"answeredRose,withalittlecatchinhervoice,"and
myuncle.HediedintheWar."
"Oh,"saidIsabel,unmoved."Hewasnicelooking,wasn'the?Shallwetakethis
toAuntFrancesca?"
"Youforgetthatitisn'tourstotake,"Roseremindedher."And,bytheway,
Isabel,youmustneverspeaktoAuntFrancescaofherhusband.Shecannotbear
it."
"Allright,"assentedthegirl."Whatisthis?"
Fromthebackofthedrawershetookoutabronzemedal,withafadedribbonof
red,white,andblueattachedtoit.Shetookittothelight,rubbeditwithher
handkerchief,andslowlymadeoutthewords:"AwardedtoColonelRichard
Kent,forconspicuousbraveryinactionatGettysburg."
"Putthethingsback,"Rosesuggested,gently.Thistiny,secretdrawer,Colonel
Kent'sholyofholies,symbolisedandepitomisedthebestofaman'slife.The
medalformilitaryservice,theminiatureofhiswife,thepictureofhisfriend,
andthebitofknittingworkthatcomprehendedaworldofloveandanguishand
bereavement—thesewerethehiddenchambersofhisheart.
Isabeltookuptheminiatureagainbeforesheclosedthedrawer."Doyou
supposethosearediamonds?"


"No;onlybrilliants."
"Ithoughtso.Ifthey'dbeendiamonds,hewouldneverhaveleftthemhere."
"Onthecontrary,"answeredRose,"I'mverysurehewould."Shehadmet
ColonelKentonlyafewtimes,yearsago,duringtheSummerhehadspentat
homewhileAllisonwasstillabroad,butsheknewhimnow,nevertheless.
Theywentonthroughthehouse,makingnotesofwhatwasneeded,whiletheir
footstepsechoedandre-echoedthroughtheemptyrooms."I'mgladthereareno
carpets,exceptonthestairs,"saidRose,"forrugsaremucheasiertoclean.It
resolvesitselfsimplyintothreeC's—coal,curtains,andcleaning.Itwon'ttake
long,ifwecangetenoughpeopletoworkatit."
Itwasalmostduskwhentheywentdownstairs,butthecoldslantingsunbeams
ofaWinterafternooncamethroughthegrimywindowsandilluminedthe
gloomydepthsoftheopenfireplaceinthehall.Motesdancedinthebeam,and
thehousesomehowseemedlessdespairing,lessalone.AportraitofColonel
Kent,inuniform,hungabovethegreatmantel.Rosesmiledatitwith
comprehension,butthepaintedlipsdidnotanswer,northeunseeingeyes
swervefromtheirsteadysearchingofBeyond.
"Howwasit?"askedMadame,whentheyreachedhome."Dirtyandbad?"
"Rathersoiled,"admittedRose.
"AndcolderthanGreenland,"Isabelcontinued,warmingherhandsattheopen
fire.
"We'llsoonchangeallthat,"Madamesaid."I'veorderedcoalandengaged
peopletodothecleaningsinceyou'vebeengone,andIhavemyeyeupontwo
permanentretainers,providedtheirreferencesaresatisfactory."
"I'vemeasuredforallthecurtains,"Rosewenton."Shallwemakethemorbuy
them?"
"We'llmakethem.Ifwehavehelpenoughwecangetthemdoneintime."
Thefollowingdayasmallarmy,withRoseattheheadofit,tookpossessionof
thehouse.Everynightshecamehomeexhausted,notfromactualtoil,butfrom


theefforttoinstilltheprideofgoodserviceintounwillingworkerswhoseemed
torejoiceinignorance.
"I'mtired,"Roseremarked,onenight."I'vecerebratedalldayforsevenbodies
besidesmyownandIfinditwearing."
"Idon'twonder,"answeredMadame."I'llgooverto-morrowandletyourest."
"Indeedyouwon't,"declaredRose,withemphasis."I'vebegunitandI'mgoing
tofinishitunlesstheSevenWearyWorkersfailmeabsolutely."
Atlastthetaskwascompleted,andevenRosecouldfindnospeckofdustinthe
entireestablishment.Thehousewasfreshwiththesmellofsoap-sudsandfloor
waxandsowarmthatseveralwindowshadtobekeptopen.Thecablegramhad
comewhilethecurtainswerebeingmade,buteverythingwasreadytwodays
beforethewayfarerscouldpossiblyreachhome.
Ontheappointedday,RoseandIsabelwerealmostasexcitedasMadame
Bernardherself.ShehadchosentogooveralonetogreettheColonelandhis
son.Theywereexpectedtoarriveaboutfourintheafternoon.
Atthree,Madamesetforthinhercarriage.Sheworeherbestgown,oflavender
crepe,trimmedwithreallace,andabunchofheliotropeatherbelt.Rosehad
twinedafewspraysofheliotropeintohersnowyhairandalargeamethystcross
hungfromherneckbyaslendersilverchain.Sheworenootherjewelsexcept
herweddingring.
Firesblazedcheerilyineveryfireplaceonthelowerfloor,andtherewasanother
inthesitting-roomupstairs.ShehadfilledthehousewiththeflowersofSpring
—violets,daffodils,andliliesofthevalley.Asilvertea-kettlewithalampunder
itwaitedonthelibrarytable.
Whensheheardthewheelscreakinginthesnowyroad,Madamelightedthe
lampunderthekettlewithherownhands,thenopenedthedoorwide.Followed
bytheirbaggage,thetwomencameupthewalk—fatherandson.
TheColonelwasalittleolder,possibly,butstillstraightandtall—almostastall
asthesonwhowalkedbesidehim,carryingaviolincaseunderhisarm.Hewore
thefamiliarslouchhat,thesamelooseovercoat,andthesamesilverygoatee,
trimmedmostcarefully.Hisblueeyeslightedupwarmlyatthesightofthe


figureinthedoorway.
"Welcomehome!"criedMadameFrancesca,stretchingahandtowardeach.
"Welcomehome!"
Allisononlysmiled,takingthelittlehandinhisstrongyoungclasp,buthis
fatherbent,hatinhand,tokisstheonesheofferedhim.
"Oh,"criedMadame,"I'msogladtoseeyouboth.Comein!"
Theyenteredtheirownhospitablehouse,wherefiresblazedandthekettlesang.
"Say,"saidAllison,"isn'tthisgreat!Whydidweeverleaveit?Isn'titfine,
Father?"
But"father"stillhadhiseyesuponthedaintylittleladywhohadbroughtforth
themiracleofhomefromawildernessofdustandashes.Hebentagainoverthe
small,whitehand.
"Awoman,afire,andasingingkettle,"hesaid."Allthedear,familiarspiritsof
thehousetowelcomeushome."


III
THEVOICEOFTHEVIOLIN

MadameBernardandIsabelhadnotyetcomedownwhenRoseenteredthe
living-room,halfanhourbeforedinner.Thecandleswerelighted,andinthesoft
glowofthereadinglampwasavaseofpinkroses,sentbyColonelKenttohis
oldfriend.Thedelicatesweetnessfilledtheroomandmingledwiththefaint
scentofattarofrosesanddriedrosepetalswhich,asalways,hungaboutthe
womanwhostoodbythetable,idlyrearrangingtheflowers.
Therubyringcaughtthelightandsenttinycrimsongleamsdancingintothefar
shadows.Hercrepegownwasalmostthecolouroftheruby;warmandbloodred.Itwascutlowatthethroat,andanoldOrientalnecklaceofwonderfully
wroughtgoldwastheonlyornamentshewore,asidefromthering.Thelowlight
gavethecolourofthegownbacktoherface,beautifulasalways,andinher
duskyhairshehadasinglecrimsonrose.
AuntFrancescahadsaidthattheColonelwasverymuchpleasedwiththehouse
andgladtobeathomeagain.Shehadsentoverherowncooktopreparetheir
firstdinner,which,however,shehaddeclinedtoshare,contentingherselfwith
orderingafeastsuitedtotheColonel'staste.To-night,theyweretodinewithher
andmeettheothermembersofherhousehold.
Madamecameingownedinlustrelesswhite,withheliotropeatherbeltandin
herhair.Sheworeaquaintlywroughtnecklaceofamethystssetinsilver,and
silverbuckles,setwithamethysts,onherwhiteshoes.MorethanonceRosehad
laughinglyaccusedherofbeingvainofherfeet.


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×