Classic Short Stories
by Loisa May Allcott
HOW THEY WALKED INTO LENNOX'S LIFE.
"COME out for a drive, Harry?"
"Have a game of billiards?"
"Go and call on the Fairchilds?"
"Having an unfortunate prejudice
against country girls, I respectfully decline."
"What will you do then?"
"Nothing, thank you."
And settling himself more luxuriously upon
the couch, Lennox closed his eyes, and appeared to slumber tranquilly. Kate
shook her head, and stood regarding her brother, despondently, till a sudden
idea made her turn toward the window, exclaiming abruptly,
"Scarlet stockings, Harry!"
"Where?" and, as if the words
were a spell to break the deepest day-dream, Lennox hurried to the window, with
an unusual expression of interest in his listless face.
"I thought that would succeed! She
isn't there, but I've got you up, and you are not to go down again,"
laughed Kate, taking possession of the sofa.
"Not a bad manoeuvre. I don't mind;
it's about time for the one interesting event of the day to occur, so I'll watch
for myself, thank you," and Lennox took the easy chair by the window with a
shrug and a yawn.
"I'm glad any thing does interest you,"
said Kate, petulantly, "though I don't think it amounts to much, for,
though you perch yourself at the window every day to see that girl pass, you
don't care enough about it to ask her name."
"I've been waiting to be told."
"It's Belle Morgan, the Doctor's
daughter, and my dearest friend."
"Then, of course, she is a blue-belle?"
"Don't try to be witty or sarcastic
with her, for she will beat you at that."
"Not a dumb-belle then?"
"Quite the reverse; she talks a good
deal, and very well too, when she likes."
"She is very pretty; has anybody the
right to call her 'Ma belle'?"
"Many would be glad to do so, but she
won't have any thing to say to them."
"A Canterbury belle in every sense of
the word then?"
"She might be, for all Canterbury
loves her, but she isn't fashionable, and has more friends among the poor than
among the rich."
"Ah, I see, a diving-bell, who knows
how to go down into a sea of troubles, and bring up the pearls worth having."
"I'll tell her that, it will please
her. You are really waking up, Harry," and Kate smiled approvingly upon him.
"This page of 'Belle's Life' is rather
amusing, so read away," said Lennox, glancing up the street, as if he
awaited the appearance of the next edition with pleasure.
"There isn't much to tell; she is a
nice, bright, energetic, warm-hearted dear; the pride of the Doctor's heart, and
a favorite with every one, though she is odd.
"Does and says what she likes, is very
blunt and honest, has ideas and principles of her own, goes to parties in high
dresses, won't dance round dances, and wears red stockings, though Mrs.
Plantagenet says it's fast."
"Rather a jolly little person, I fancy.
Why haven't we met her at some of the tea-fights and muffin-worries we've been
"It may make you angry, but it will do
you good, so I'll tell. She didn't care enough about seeing the distinguished
stranger to come; that's the truth."
"Sensible girl, to spare herself hours
of mortal dulness, gossip, and dyspepsia," was the placid reply.
"She has seen you, though, at church
and dawdling about town, and she called you 'Sir Charles Coldstream' on the spot.
How does that suit?" asked Kate, maliciously.
"Not bad, I rather like that. Wish
she'd call some day, and stir us up."
"She won't; I asked her, but she said
she was very busy, and told Jessy Tudor, she wasn't fond of peacocks."
"I don't exactly see the connection."
"Stupid boy! she meant you, of course."
"Oh, I'm peacocks, am I?"
"I don't wish to be rude, but I really
do think you are vain of your good looks, elegant accomplishments, and the
impression you make wherever you go. When it's worth while you exert yourself,
and are altogether fascinating, but the 'I come -- see -- and -- conquer' air
you put on, spoils it all for sensible people."
"It strikes me that Miss Morgan has
slightly infected you with her oddity as far as bluntness goes. Fire away, it's
rather amusing to be abused when one is dying of ennui."
"That's grateful and complimentary to
me, when I have devoted myself to you ever since you came. But every thing bores
you, and the only sign of interest you've shown is in those absurd red hose. I
should like to know what the charm is," said Kate, sharply.
"Impossible to say; accept the fact
calmly as I do, and be grateful that there is one glimpse of color, life, and
spirit in this aristocratic tomb of a town."
"You are not obliged to stay in it!"
"Begging your pardon, my dove, but I
am. I promised to give you my enlivening society for a month, and a Lennox keeps
his word, even at the cost of his life."
"I'm sorry I asked such a sacrifice;
but I innocently thought that after being away for five long years, you might
care to see your orphan sister," and the dove produced her handkerchief
with a plaintive sniff.
"Now, my dear creature, don't be
melodramatic, I beg of you," cried her brother, imploringly. "I wished
to come, I pined to embrace you, and I give you my word, I don't blame you for
the stupidity of this confounded place."
"It never was so gay as since you came,
for every one has tried to make it pleasant for you," cried Kate, ruffled
at his indifference to the hospitable efforts of herself and friends. "But
you don't care for any of our simple amusements, because you are spoilt by the
flattery, gayety, and nonsense of foreign society. If I didn't know it was half
affectation, I should be in despair, you are so blase and absurd. It's always
the way with men, if one happens to be handsome, accomplished, and talented, he
puts on as many airs, and is as vain as any silly girl."
"Don't you think if you took breath,
you'd get on faster, my dear?" asked the imperturbable gentleman, as Kate
paused with a gasp.
"I know it's useless for me to talk,
as you don't care a straw what I say, but it's true, and some day you'll wish
you had done something worth doing all these years. I was so proud of you, so
fond of you, that I can't help being disappointed, to find you with no more
ambition than to kill time comfortably, no interest in any thing but your own
pleasures, and only energy enough to amuse yourself with a pair of scarlet
Pathetic as poor Kate's face and voice were,
it was impossible to help laughing at the comical conclusion of her lament.
Lennox tried to hide the smile on his lips by affecting to curl his moustache
with care, and to gaze pensively out as if touched by her appeal. But he wasn't,
oh, bless you, no! she was only his sister, and, though she might have talked
with the wisdom of Solomon, and the eloquence of Demosthenes, it wouldn't have
done a particle of good. Sisters do very well to work for one, to pet one, and
play confidante when one's love affairs need feminine wit to conduct them, but
when they begin to reprove, or criticise or moralize, it won't do, and can't be
allowed, of course. Lennox never snubbed anybody, but blandly extinguished them
by a polite acquiescence in all their affirmations, for the time being, and then
went on in his own way as if nothing had been said.
"I dare say you are right; I'll go and
think over your very sensible advice," and, as if roused to unwonted
exertion by the stings of an accusing conscience, he left the room abruptly.
"I do believe I've made an impression
at last! He's actually gone out to think over what I've said. Dear Harry, I was
sure he had a heart, if one only knew how to get at it!" and with a sigh of
satisfaction Kate went to the window to behold the "dear Harry" going
briskly down the street after a pair of scarlet stockings. A spark of anger
kindled in her eyes as she watched him, and when he vanished, she still stood
knitting her brows in deep thought, for a grand idea was dawning upon her.
It was a dull town; no one could deny that,
for everybody was so intensely proper and well-born, that nobody dared to be
jolly. All the houses were square, aristocratic mansions with Revolutionary elms
in front and spacious coach-houses behind. The knockers had a supercilious perk
to their bronze or brass noses, the dandelions on the lawns had a highly
connected air, and the very pigs were evidently descended from "our first
families." Stately dinner-parties, decorous dances, moral picnics, and much
tea-pot gossiping were the social resources of the place. Of course, the young
people flirted, for that diversion is apparently irradicable even in the "best
society," but it was done with a propriety which was edifying to behold.
One can easily imagine that such a starched
state of things would not be particularly attractive to a travelled young
gentleman like Lennox, who, as Kate very truly said, had been spoilt by the
flattery, luxury, and gayety of foreign society. He did his best, but by the end
of the first week ennui claimed him for its own, and passive endurance was all
that was left him. From perfect despair he was rescued by the scarlet stockings,
which went tripping by one day as he stood at the window, planning some means of
A brisk, blithe-faced girl passed in a grey
walking suit with a distracting pair of high-heeled boots and glimpses of
scarlet at the ankle. Modest, perfectly so, I assure you, were the glimpses, but
the feet were so decidedly pretty that one forgot to look at the face
appertaining thereunto. It wasn't a remarkably lovely face, but it was a happy,
wholesome one, with all sorts of good little dimples in cheek and chin, sunshiny
twinkles in the black eyes, and a decided, yet lovable look about the mouth that
was quite satisfactory. A busy, bustling little body she seemed to be, for
sack-pockets and muff were full of bundles, and the trim boots tripped briskly
over the ground, as if the girl's heart were as light as her heels. Somehow this
active, pleasant figure seemed to wake up the whole street, and leave a streak
of sunshine behind it, for every one nodded as it passed, and the primmest faces
relaxed into smiles, which lingered when the girl had gone.
"Uncommonly pretty feet -- she walks
well, which American girls seldom do -- all waddle or prance -- nice face, but
the boots are French, and it does my heart good to see 'em."
Lennox made these observations to himself
as the young lady approached, nodded to Kate at another window, gave a quick but
comprehensive glance at himself and trotted round the corner, leaving the
impression on his mind that a whiff of fresh spring air had blown through the
street in spite of the December snow. He didn't trouble himself to ask who it
was, but fell into the way of lounging in the bay-window at about three P. M.,
and watching the grey and scarlet figure pass with its blooming cheeks, bright
eyes, and elastic step. Having nothing else to do, he took to petting this new
whim, and quite depended on the daily stirring-up which the sight of the
energetic damsel gave him. Kate saw it all, but took no notice till the day of
the little tiff above recorded; after that she was as soft as a summer sea, and
by some clever stroke had Belle Morgan to tea that very week.
Lennox was one of the best tempered fellows
in the world, but the "peacocks" did rather nettle him because there
was some truth in the insinuation; so he took care to put on no airs or try to
be fascinating in the presence of Miss Belle. In truth he soon forgot himself
entirely, and enjoyed her oddities with a relish, after the prim proprieties of
the other young ladies who had simpered and sighed before him. For the first
time in his life, the "Crusher," as his male friends called him, got
crushed; for Belle, with the subtle skill of a quick-witted, keen-sighted girl,
soon saw and condemned the elegant affectations which others called foreign
polish. A look, a word, a gesture from a pretty woman is often more eloquent and
impressive than moral essays or semi-occasional twinges of conscience, and in
the presence of one satirical little person, Sir Charles Coldstream soon ceased
to deserve the name.
Belle seemed to get over her hurry and to
find time for occasional relaxation, but one never knew in what mood he might
find her, for the weathercock was not more changeable than she. Lennox liked
that, and found the muffin-worries quite endurable with this sauce piquante to
relieve their insipidity. Presently he discovered that he was suffering for
exercise, and formed the wholesome habit of promenading the town about three P.
M.; Kate said, to follow the scarlet stockings.
WHERE THEY LED HIM.
"WHITHER away, Miss Morgan?"
asked Lennox, as he overtook her one bitter cold day.
"I'm taking my constitutional."
"So am I."
"With a difference," and Belle
glanced at the blue-nosed, muffled-up gentleman strolling along beside her with
an occasional shiver and shrug.
"After a winter in the south of France
one don't find arctic weather like this easy to bear," he said, with a
"I like it, and do my five or six
miles a day, which keeps me in what fine ladies call 'rude health,' answered
Belle, walking him on at a pace which soon made his furs a burden.
She was a famous pedestrian, and a little
proud of her powers, but she outdid all former feats that day, and got over the
ground in gallant style. Something in her manner put her escort on his mettle,
and his usual lounge was turned into a brisk march which set his blood dancing,
face glowing, and spirits effervescing as they had not done for many a day.
"There! you look more like your real
self now," said Belle, with the first sign of approval she had ever
vouchsafed him, as he rejoined her after a race to recover her veil, which the
wind whisked away over hedge and ditch.
"Are you sure you know what my real
self is?" he asked, with a touch of the "conquering hero" air.
"Not a doubt of it. I always know a
soldier when I see one," returned Belle, decidedly.
"A soldier! that's the last thing I
should expect to be accused of," and Lennox looked both surprised and
"There's a flash in your eye and a
ring to your voice, occasionally, which made me suspect that you had fire and
energy enough if you only chose to show it, and the spirit with which you have
just executed the 'Morgan Quick step' proves that I was right," returned
"Then I am not altogether a 'peacock?'"
said Lennox, significantly, for during the chat, which had been as brisk as the
walk, Belle had given his besetting sins several sly hits, and he couldn't
resist one return shot, much as her unexpected compliment pleased him.
Poor Belle blushed up to her forehead,
tried to look as if she did not understand, and gladly hid her confusion behind
the recovered veil without a word.
There was a decided display both of the
"flash" and the "ring," as Lennox looked at the suddenly
subdued young lady, and, quite satisfied with his retaliation, gave the order --
"Forward, march!" which brought them to the garden-gate breathless,
but better friends than before.
The next time the young people met, Belle
was in such a hurry that she went round the corner with an abstracted expression
which was quite a triumph of art. Just then, off tumbled the lid of the basket
she carried, and Lennox, rescuing it from a puddle, obligingly helped readjust
it over a funny collection of bottles, dishes, and tidy little rolls of all
"It's very heavy, mayn't I carry it
for you?" he asked, in an insinuating manner.
"No, thank you," was on Belle's
lips, but observing that he was got up with unusual elegance to pay calls, she
couldn't resist the temptation of making a beast of burden of him, and took him
at his word.
"You may, if you like. I've got more
bundles to take from the store, and another pair of hands won't come amiss."
Lennox lifted his eyebrows, also the basket,
and they went on again, Belle very much absorbed in her business, and her escort
wondering where the dickens she was going with all that rubbish. Filling his
unoccupied hand with sundry brown paper parcels, much to the detriment of the
light kid that covered it, Belle paraded him down the main street before the
windows of the most aristocratic mansions, and then dived into a dirty back-lane,
where the want and misery of the town was decorously kept out of sight.
"You don't mind scarlet fever, I
suppose?" observed Belle, as they approached the unsavory residence of
"Well, I'm not exactly partial to it,"
said Lennox, rather taken aback.
"You needn't go in if you are afraid,
or speak to me afterwards, so no harm will be done -- except to your gloves."
"Why do you come here, if I may ask?
It isn't the sort of amusement I should recommend," he began, evidently
disapproving of the step.
"Oh, I'm used to it, and like to play
nurse where father plays doctor. I'm fond of children, and Mrs. O'Brien's are
little dears," returned Belle, briskly, threading her way between ash-heaps
and mud-puddles as if bound to a festive scene.
"Judging from the row in there, I
should infer that Mrs. O'Brien had quite a herd of little dears."
"And all sick?"
"More or less."
"By Jove! it's perfectly heroic in you
to visit this hole in spite of dirt, noise, fragrance, and infection,"
cried Lennox, who devoutly wished that the sense of smell if not of hearing were
temporarily denied him.
"Bless you, it's the sort of thing I
enjoy, for there's no nonsense here; the work you do is pleasant if you do it
heartily, and the thanks you get are worth having, I assure you."
She put out her hand to relieve him of the
basket, but he gave it an approving little shake, and said briefly --
"Not yet, I'm coming in."
It's all very well to rhapsodize about the
exquisite pleasure of doing good, to give carelessly of one's abundance, and
enjoy the delusion of having remembered the poor. But it is a cheap charity, and
never brings the genuine satisfaction which those know who give their mite with
heart as well as hand, and truly love their neighbor as themselves. Lennox had
seen much fashionable benevolence, and laughed at it even while he imitated it,
giving generously when it wasn't inconvenient. But this was a new sort of thing
entirely, and in spite of the dirt, the noise, and the smells, he forgot the
fever, and was glad he came when poor Mrs. O'Brien turned from her sick babies,
exclaiming, with Irish fervor at sight of Belle,
"The Lord love ye, darlin, for
remimberin us when ivery one, barrin' the doctor, and the praste, turns the
cowld shouldther in our throuble!"
"Now if you really want to help, just
keep this child quiet while I see to the sickest ones," said Belle, dumping
a stout infant on to his knee, thrusting an orange into his hand, and leaving
him aghast, while she unpacked her little messes, and comforted the maternal
With the calmness of desperation, her
aid-de-camp put down his best beaver on the rich soil which covered the floor,
pocketed his Paris kids, and making a bib of his cambric handkerchief, gagged
young Pat deliciously with bits of orange whenever he opened his mouth to roar.
At her first leisure moment, Belle glanced at him to see how he was getting on,
and found him so solemnly absorbed in his task that she went off into a burst of
such infectious merriment that the O'Briens, sick and well, joined in it to a
"Good fun, isn't it?" she asked,
turning down her cuffs when the last spoonful of gruel was administered.
"I've no doubt of it, when one is used
to the thing. It comes a little hard at first, you know," returned Lennox,
wiping his forehead, with a long breath, and seizing his hat as if quite ready
to tear himself away.
"You've done very well for a beginner;
so kiss the baby and come home," said Belle approvingly.
"No, thank you," muttered Lennox,
trying to detach the bedaubed innocent. But little Pat had a grateful heart, and
falling upon his new nurse's neck with a rapturous crow clung there like a burr.
"Take him off! Let me out of this!
He's one too many for me!" cried the wretched young man in comic despair.
Being freed with much laughter, he turned
and fled, followed by a shower of blessings, from Mrs. O'Brien.
As they came up again into the pleasant
highways, Lennox said, awkwardly for him,
"The thanks of the poor are excellent
things to have, but I think I'd rather receive them by proxy. Will you kindly
spend this for me in making that poor soul comfortable?"
But Belle wouldn't take what he offered
her, she put it back, saying earnestly,
"Give it yourself; one can't buy
blessings, they must be earned or they are not worth having. Try it, please, and
if you find it a failure, then I'll gladly be your almoner."
There was a significance in her words which
he could not fail to understand. He neither shrugged, drawled, nor sauntered
now, but gave her a look in which respect and self-reproach were mingled, and
left her, simply saying, "I'll try it, Miss Morgan."
"Now isn't she odd?" whispered
Kate to her brother, as Belle appeared at a little dance at Mrs. Plantagenet's
in a high-necked dress, knitting away on an army-sock, as she greeted the
friends who crowded round her.
"Charmingly so. Why don't you do that
sort of thing when you can?" answered her brother, glancing at her thin,
bare shoulders and hands, rendered nearly useless by the tightness of the
"Gracious, no! It's natural to her to
do so, and she carries it off well; I couldn't, therefore I don't try, though I
admire it in her. Go and ask her to dance, before she is engaged."
"She doesn't dance round dances you
"She is dreadfully prim about some
things and so free and easy about others, I can't understand it, do you?"
"Well, yes, I think I do. Here's
Forbes coming for you, I'll go and entertain Belle by a quarrel."
He found her in a recess out of the way of
the rushing and romping, busy with her work, yet evidently glad to be amused.
"I admire your adherence to
principles, Miss Belle, but don't you find it a little hard to sit still while
your friends are enjoying themselves?" he asked, sinking luxuriously into
the lounging chair beside her.
"Yes, very," answered Belle with
characteristic candor. "But father don't approve of that sort of exercise,
so I console myself with something useful till my chance comes."
"Your work can't exactly be called
ornamental," said Lennox, looking at the big sock.
"Don't laugh at it, sir, it is for the
foot of the brave fellow who is going to fight for me and his country."
"Happy fellow! May I ask who he
is?" and Lennox sat up with an air of interest.
"My substitute; I don't know his name,
for father has not got him yet, but I'm making socks, and towels, and a
comfort-bag for him, so that when found he may be off at once."
"You really mean it?" cried
"O course I do; I can't go myself, but
I can buy a pair of strong arms to fight for me, and I intend to do it. I only
hope he'll have the right sort of courage and be a credit to me."
"What do you call the right sort of
courage?" asked Lennox, soberly.
"That which makes a man ready and glad
to live or die for a principle. There's a chance for heroes now, if there ever
was. When do you join your regiment?" she added abruptly.
"Haven't the least idea," and
Lennox subsided again.
"But you intend to do so, of
"Why should I?"
Belle dropped her work. "Why should
you? What a question! Because you have health, and strength, and courage, and
money to help on the good cause, and every man should give his best, and not
dare to stay at home when he is needed."
"You forget that I am an Englishman,
and we rather prefer to be strictly neutral just now."
"You are only half English, and for
your mother's sake you should be proud and glad to fight for the North,"
cried Belle warmly.
"I don't remember my mother -- "
"But I was about to add, I've no
objection to lend a hand if it isn't too much trouble to get off," said
Lennox indifferently, for he liked to see Belle's color rise, and her eyes
kindle while he provoked her.
"Do you expect to go South in a
bandbox? You'd better join one of the kid-glove regiments, they say the dandies
fight well when the time comes."
"I've been away so long, the patriotic
fever hasn't seized me yet, and as the quarrel is none of mine, I think, perhaps
I'd better take care of Kate, and let you fight it out among yourselves. Here's
the Lancers, may I have the honor?"
But Belle, being very angry at this
lukewarmness, answered in her bluntest manner.
"Having reminded me that you are a
'strictly neutral' Englishman, you must excuse me if I decline; I dance only
with loyal Americans," and rolling up her work with a defiant flourish, she
walked away, leaving him to lament his loss and wonder how he could retrieve it.
She did not speak to him again till he stood in the hall waiting for Kate, then
Belle came down in the charming little red hood, and going straight up to him
with her hand out, a repentant look, and a friendly smile, said frankly --
"I was very rude; I want to beg pardon
of the English, and shake hands with the American half."
So peace was declared, and lasted unbroken
for the remaining week of his stay, when he proposed to take Kate to the city
for a little gayety. Miss Morgan openly approved the plan, but secretly felt as
if the town was about to be depopulated, and tried to hide her melancholy in her
substitute's socks. They were not large enough, however, to absorb it all, and
when Lennox went to make his adieu, it was perfectly evident that the Doctor's
Belle was out of tune. The young gentleman basely exulted over this, till she
gave him something else to think about by saying gravely,
"Before you go, I feel as if I ought
to tell you something, since Kate won't. If you are offended about it please
don't blame her; she meant it kindly and so did I." Belle paused as if it
was not an easy thing to tell, and then went on quickly, with her eyes upon her
"Three weeks ago Kate asked me to help
her in a little plot, and I consented, for the fun of the thing. She wanted
something to amuse and stir you up, and finding that my queer ways diverted you,
she begged me to be neighborly and let you do what you liked. I didn't care
particularly about amusing you, but I did think you needed rousing, so for her
sake I tried to do it, and you very good-naturedly bore my lecturing. I don't
like deceit of any kind, so I confess, but I can't say I'm sorry, for I really
think you are none the worse for the teasing and teaching you've had."
Belle didn't see him flush and frown as she
made her confession, and when she looked up he only said, half gratefully, half
"I'm a good deal the better for it, I
dare say, and ought to be very thankful for your friendly exertions. But two
against one was hardly fair, now was it?"
"No, it was sly and sinful in the
highest degree, but we did it for your good, so I know you'll forgive us, and as
a proof of it sing one or two of my favorites for the last time."
"You don't deserve any favor, but I'll
do it to show you how much more magnanimous men are than women."
Not at all loth to improve his advantages,
Lennox warbled his most melting lays con amore, watching, as he sung, for any
sign of sentiment in the girlish face opposite. But Belle wouldn't be
sentimental; and sat rattling her knitting-needles industriously, though
"The Harbor Bar was Moaning," dolefully, though "Douglas"
was touchingly "tender and true," and the "Wind of the Summer
Night" sighed romantically through the sitting-room.
"Much obliged. Must you go?" she
said, without a sign of soft confusion as he rose.
"I must, but I shall come again before
I leave the country. May I?" he asked, holding her hand.
"If you come in a uniform."
"Good night, Belle," tenderly.
"Good-bye, Sir Charles," with a wicked twinkle of the eye, which
lasted till he closed the hall-door, growling irefully,
"I thought I'd had some experience,
but one never can understand these women."
Canterbury did become a desert to Belle
after her dear friend had gone; (of course the dear friend's brother had nothing
to do with the desolation), and as the weeks dragged slowly, Belle took to
reading poetry, practicing plaintive ballads, and dawdling over her work at a
certain window which commanded a view of the railway station and hotel.
"You're dull, my dear, run up to town
with me to-morrow, and see your young man off," said the Doctor, one
evening as Belle sat musing with a half-mended red stocking in her hand.
"My young man?" she ejaculated,
turning with a start and a blush.
"Your substitute, child. Stephens
attended to the business for me, and he's off to-morrow. I began to tell you
about the fellow last week, but you were wool-gathering, so I stopped."
"Yes, I remember, it was all very
nice. Goes to-morrow, does he? I'd like to see him, but do you think we can both
leave home at once? Some one might come you know, and I fancy it's going to
snow," said Belle, putting her face behind the curtain to inspect the
"You'd better go, the trip will do you
good, you can take your things to Tom Jones, and see Kate on the way; she's got
back from Philadelphia."
"Has she! I'll go, then; it will
please her, and I do need change. You are an old dear, to think of it;" and
giving her father a hasty glimpse of a suddenly excited countenance, Belle
slipped out of the room to prepare her best array with a most reckless disregard
of the impending storm.
It didn't snow on the morrow, and up they
went to see the -- th regiment off. Belle did not see "her young man,"
however, for while her father went to carry him her comforts and a patriotic
nosegay of red and white flowers, tied up with a smart blue ribbon, she called
on Kate. But Miss Lennox was engaged, and sent an urgent request that her friend
would call in the afternoon. Much disappointed and a little hurt, Belle then
devoted herself to the departing regiment, wishing she was going with it, for
she felt in a war-like mood. It was past noon when a burst of martial music, the
measured tramp of many feet, and enthusiastic cheers announced that "the
boys" were coming. From the balcony where she stood with her father, Belle
looked down upon the living stream that flowed by like a broad river with a
steely glitter above the blue. All her petty troubles vanished at the sight, her
heart beat high, her face glowed, her eyes filled, and she waved her hat as
zealously as if she had a dozen friends and lovers in the ranks below.
"Here comes your man; I told him to
stick the posy where it would catch my eye, so I could point him out to you.
Look, it's the tall fellow at the end of the front line," said the Doctor
in an excited tone, as he pointed and beckoned.
Belle looked and gave a little cry, for
there, in a private's uniform, with her nosegay at his buttonhole, and on his
face a smile she never forgot, was Lennox! For an instant she stood staring at
him as pale and startled as if he were a ghost, then the color rushed into her
face, she kissed both hands to him, and cried bravely, "Good-bye, good-bye,
God bless you, Harry!" and immediately laid her head on her father's
shoulder, sobbing as if her heart was broken.
When she looked up, her substitute was lost
in the undulating mass below, and for her the spectacle was over.
"Was it really he? Why wasn't I told?
What does it all mean?" she demanded, looking bewildered, grieved, and
"He's really gone, my dear. It's a
surprise of his, and I was bound over to silence. Here, this will explain the
joke, I suppose," and the Doctor handed her a cocked-hat note, done up like
a military order.
"A Roland for your Oliver,
Mademoiselle! I came home for the express purpose of enlisting, and only delayed
a month on Kate's account. If I ever return, I will receive my bounty at your
hands. Till then please comfort Kate, think as kindly as you can of 'Sir
Charles,' and sometimes pray a little prayer for
Belle looked very pale and meek when she
put her note in her pocket, but she only said, "I must go and comfort
Kate," and the Doctor gladly obeyed, feeling that the joke was more serious
than he had imagined.
The moment her friend appeared, Miss Lennox
turned on her tears, and "played away" pouring forth lamentations,
reproaches, and regrets in a steady stream.
"I hope you are satisfied now, you
cruel girl!" she began, refusing to be kissed. "You've sent him off
with a broken heart to rush into danger and be shot, or get his arms and legs
spoilt. You know he loved you and wanted to tell you so, but you wouldn't let
him, and now you've driven him away, and he's gone as an insignificant private
with his head shaved, and a heavy knapsack breaking his back, and a horrid gun
that will be sure to explode, and he would wear those immense blue socks you
sent, for he adores you, and you only teased and laughed at him, my poor
deluded, deserted brother!" And quite overwhelmed by the afflicting
picture, Kate lifted up her voice and wept again.
"I am satisfied; for he's done what I
hoped he would, and he's none the less a gentleman because he's a private and
wears my socks. I pray they will keep him safe and bring him home to us when he
has done his duty like a man, as I know he will. I'm proud of my brave
substitute, and I'll try to be worthy of him," cried Belle, kindling
beautifully as she looked out into the wintry sunshine with a new softness in
the eyes that still seemed watching that blue-coated figure marching away to
danger, perhaps death.
"It's ill playing with edged tools; we
meant to amuse him and we may have sent him to destruction. I'll never forgive
you for your part, never!" said Kate, with the charming inconsistency of
But Belle turned away her wrath by a soft
answer, as she whispered, with a tender choke in her voice,
"We both loved him, dear; let's
comfort one another."
WHAT BECAME OF THEM.
PRIVATE Lennox certainly had chosen pretty
hard work, for the -- th was not a "kid-glove" regiment by any means;
fighting in mid-winter was not exactly festive, and camps do not abound in beds
of roses even at the best of times. But Belle was right in saying she knew a
soldier when she saw him, for now that he was thoroughly waked up, he proved
that there was plenty of courage, energy, and endurance in him.
It's my private opinion that he might now
and then have slightly regretted the step he had taken, had it not been for
certain recollections of a sarcastic tongue and a pair of keen eyes, not to
mention the influence of one of the most potent rulers of the human heart,
namely, the desire to prove himself worthy of the respect, if nothing more, of
somebody at home. Belle's socks did seem to keep him safe, and lead him straight
in the narrow path of duty. Belle's comfort-bag was such in very truth, for not
one of the stout needles on the tricolored cushion but what seemed to wink its
eye approvingly at him; not one of the tidy balls of thread that did not remind
him of the little hand he coveted, and the impracticable scissors, were
cherished as a good omen, though he felt that the sharpest steel that ever came
from Sheffield couldn't cut his love in twain. And Belle's lessons, short as
they had been, were not forgotten, but seemed to have been taken up by a sterner
mistress, whose rewards were greater if not so sweet as those the girl could
give. There was plenty of exercise now-a-days of hard work that left many a
tired head asleep forever under the snow. There were many opportunities for
diving "into the depths and bringing up pearls worth having" by acts
of kindness among the weak, the wicked, and the suffering all about him. He
learned now how to earn, not buy, the thanks of the poor, and unconsciously
proved in the truest way that a private could be a gentleman. But best of all
was the steadfast purpose "to live and die for a principle," which
grew and strengthened with each month of bitter hardship, bloody strife, and
dearly-bought success. Life grew earnest to him, time seemed precious, self was
forgotten, and all that was best and bravest rallied round the flag on which his
heart inscribed the motto, "Love and Liberty."
Praise and honor he could not fail to win,
and had he never gone back to claim his bounty he would have earned the great
"Well done," for he kept his oath loyally, did his duty manfully, and
loved his lady faithfully, like a knight of the chivalrous times. He knew
nothing of her secret, but wore her blue ribbon like an order, never went into
battle without first, like many another poor fellow, kissing something which he
carried next his heart, and with each day of absence felt himself a better man,
and braver soldier, for the fondly foolish romance he had woven about the
Belle and Kate did comfort one another, not
only with tears and kisses, but with womanly work which kept hearts happy and
hands busy. How Belle bribed her to silence will always remain the ninth wonder
of the world, but though reams of paper passed between brother and sister during
those twelve months not a hint was dropped on one side in reply to artful
inquiries from the other. Belle never told her love in words, but she stowed
away an unlimited quantity of the article in the big boxes that went to gladden
the eyes and -- alas for romance! -- the stomach of Private Lennox. If pickles
could typify passion, cigars prove constancy, and gingerbread reveal the
longings of the soul, then would the above-mentioned gentleman have been the
happiest of lovers. But camp-life had doubtless dulled his finer intuitions, for
he failed to understand the new language of love, and gave away these tender
tokens with lavish prodigality. Concealment preyed a trifle on Belle's damask
cheek it must be confessed, and the keen eyes grew softer with the secret tears
that sometimes dimmed them; the sharp tongue seldom did mischief now, but
uttered kindly words to every one as if doing penance for the past, and a sweet
seriousness toned down the lively spirit which was learning many things in the
sleepless nights that followed when the "little prayer" for the
beloved substitute was done.
"I'll wait and see if he is all I hope
he will be, before I let him know. I shall read the truth the instant I see him,
and if he has stood the test I'll run into his arms and tell him
everything," she said to herself with delicious thrills at the idea; but
you may be sure she did nothing of the sort when the time came.
A rumor flew through the town one day that
Lennox had arrived; upon receipt of which joyful tidings Belle had a panic and
hid herself in the garret. But when she had quaked, and cried, and peeped, and
listened for an hour or two, finding that no one came to hunt her up, she
composed her nerves and descended to pass the afternoon in the parlor and a high
state of dignity. All sorts of reports reached her -- he was mortally wounded,
he had been made a major or a colonel, or a general, no one knew exactly which;
he was dead, was going to be married, and hadn't come at all. Belle fully
expiated all her small sins by the agonies of suspense she suffered that day,
and when at last a note came from Kate begging her "to drop over to see
Harry," she put her pride in her pocket and went at once.
The drawing-room was empty and in
confusion, there was a murmur of voices up-stairs, a smell of camphor in the
air, and an empty wine-glass on the table where a military cap was lying.
Belle's heart sunk, and she covertly kissed the faded blue coat as she stood
waiting breathlessly, wondering if Harry had any arms for her to run into. She
heard the chuckling Biddy lumber up and announce her, then a laugh and a half
fond, half exulting -- "Ah, ha, I thought she'd come!"
That spoilt it all; Belle took out her
pride instanter, set her teeth, rubbed a quick color into her white cheeks, and
snatching up a newspaper, sat herself down with as expressionless a face as it
was possible for an excited young woman to possess. Lennox came running down --
"Thank heaven, his legs are safe!" sighed Belle, with her eyes glued
to the price of beef. He entered with both hands extended, which relieved her
mind upon another point, and he beamed upon her, looking so vigorous, manly, and
martial that she cried within herself, "My beautiful brown soldier!"
even while she greeted him with an unnecessarily brief "How do you do, Mr.
The sudden eclipse which passed over his
joyful countenance would have been ludicrous if it hadn't been pathetic; but he
was used to hard knocks now, and bore this, his hardest, like a man. He shook
hands heartily, and as Belle sat down again (not to betray that she was
trembling a good deal), he stood at ease before her, talking in a way which soon
satisfied her that he had borne the test, and that bliss was waiting for her
round the corner. But she had made it such a very sharp corner she couldn't turn
it gracefully, and while she pondered how to do so he helped her with a cough.
She looked up quickly, discovering all at once that he was very thin, rather
pale in spite of the nice tan, and breathed hurriedly as he stood with one hand
in his breast.
"Are you ill, wounded, in pain?"
she asked, forgetting herself entirely.
"Yes, all three," he answered,
after a curious look at her changing color and anxious eyes.
"Sit down -- tell me about it -- can I
do any thing?" and Belle began to plump up the pillows on the couch with
"Thank you, I'm past help," was
the mournful reply, accompanied by a hollow cough which made her shiver.
"Oh, don't say so! Let me bring
father; he is very skilful. Shall I call Kate?"
"He can do nothing; Kate doesn't know
this, and I beg you won't tell her. I got a shot in the breast and made light of
it, but it will finish me sooner or later. I don't mind telling you, for you are
one of the strong, cool sort, you know, and are not affected by such things. But
Kate is so fond of me, I don't want to shock and trouble her yet awhile. Let her
enjoy my little visit, and after I'm gone you can tell her the truth."
Belle had sat like a statue while he spoke
with frequent pauses and an involuntary clutch or two at the suffering breast.
As he stopped and passed his hand over his eyes, she said slowly, as if her
white lips were stiff,
"Back to my place. I'd rather die
fighting than fussed and wailed over by a parcel of women. I expected to stay a
week or so, but a battle is coming off sooner than we imagined, so I'm away
again to-morrow. As I'm not likely ever to come back, I just wanted to ask you
to stand by poor Kate when I'm finished, and to say good-bye to you, Belle,
before I go." He put out his hand, but holding it fast in both her own, she
laid her tearful face down on it, whispering imploringly,
"Oh, Harry, stay!"
Never mind what happened for the next ten
minutes; suffice it to say that the enemy having surrendered, the victor took
possession with great jubilation and showed no quarter.
"Bang the field piece, toot the fife,
and beat the rolling drum, for ruse number three has succeeded! Come down, Kate,
and give us your blessing," called Lennox, taking pity on his sister, who
was anxiously awaiting the denouement on the stairs.
In she rushed, and the young ladies laughed
and cried, kissed and talked tumultuously, while their idol benignantly looked
on, vainly endeavoring to repress all vestiges of unmanly emotion.
"And you are not dying, really,
truly?" cried Belle, when fair weather set in after the flurry.
"Bless your dear heart, no! I'm as
sound as a nut, and haven't a wound to boast of, except this ugly slash on the
"It's a splendid wound, and I'm proud
of it," and Belle set a rosy little seal on the scar which quite reconciled
her lover to the disfigurement of his handsome forehead. "You've learned to
fib in the army, and I'm disappointed in you," she added, trying to look
reproachful and failing entirely.
"No, only the art of strategy. You
quenched me by your frosty reception, and I thought it was all up till you put
the idea of playing invalid into my head. It succeeded so well that I piled on
the agony, resolving to fight it out on that line, and if I failed again to make
a masterly retreat. You gave me a lesson in deceit once, so don't complain if I
turned the tables and made your heart ache for a minute, as you've made mine for
Belle's spirit was rapidly coming back, so
she gave him a capital imitation of his French shrug, and drawled out in his old
"I have my doubts about that, mon
"What do you say to this -- and this
-- and this?" he retorted, pulling out and laying before her with a
triumphant flourish, a faded blue ribbon, a fat pincushion with a hole through
it, and a dainty-painted little picture of a pretty girl in scarlet stockings.
"There, I've carried those treasures
in my breast-pocket for a year, and I'm firmly convinced that they have all done
their part toward keeping me safe. The blue ribbon bound me fast to you, Belle;
the funny cushion caught the bullet that otherwise might have finished me, and
the blessed little picture was my comfort during those dreadful marches, my
companion on picket-duty with treachery and danger all about me, and my
inspiration when the word 'Charge!' went down the line, for in the thickest of
the fight I always saw the little grey figure beckoning me on to my duty."
"Oh, Harry, you won't go back to all
those horrors, will you? I'm sure you've done enough, and may rest now and enjoy
your reward," said Kate, trying not to feel that "two is company and
three is none."
"I've enlisted for the war, and shall
not rest till either it or I come to an end. As for my reward, I had it when
Belle kissed me."
"You are right, I'll wait for you, and
love you all the better for the sacrifice," whispered Belle. "I only
wish I could share your hardships, dear, for while you fight and suffer I can
only love and pray."
"Waiting is harder than working to
such as you, so be contented with your share, for the thought of you will
glorify the world generally for me. I'll tell you what you can do while I'm
away; it's both useful and amusing, so it will occupy and cheer you capitally.
Just knit lots of red hose, because I don't intend you to wear any others
hereafter, Mrs. Lennox."
"Mine are not worn out yet,"
laughed Belle, getting merry at the thought.
"No matter for that, those are sacred
articles, and henceforth must be treasured as memorials of our love. Frame and
hang 'em up; or, if the prejudices of society forbid that flight of romance, lay
them carefully away where moths can't devour nor thieves steal 'em, so that
years hence, when my descendants praise me for any virtues I may possess, any
good I may have done, or any honor I may have earned, I can point to those
precious relics and say proudly,
"My children, for all that I am, or
hope to be, you must thank your honored mother's scarlet stockings."