Little Colonel In Arizona, Chapter 12: Phil Has A Finger In The Pie

THE LITTLE COLONEL IN ARIZONA
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

Published July 1904

 

 

CHAPTER XII.

PHIL HAS A FINGER IN THE PIE

PHIL went up to the Wigwam early next morning. Breakfast was just over, and Joyce had begun painting again. He paused an instant at the front door to watch her brown head bending over the table, and the quick motion of her deft fingers. She was so absorbed in her task that she did not look up, so after a moment he went on around the house to the kitchen.

Mrs.Ware was lifting the dish-pan from its nail to its place on the table, and Lloyd was standing beside her, enveloped in a huge apron, holding a towel in her hands, ready to help. Norman, beside a chair on which a clean napkin had been spread, was filling the salt-cellars. Jack, having carried water to the tents, was busy chopping wood.

"Good mawning!" called Lloyd, waving her towel as Phil appeared in the door. Mrs. Ware turned with such a cordial smile of welcome, that he took it as an invitation to come in, and hung his hat on the post of a chair.

"I want to have a finger in this pie," he announced. "I was told to stay at home yesterday, but I don't intend to be snubbed to-day.

"Wait, Aunt Emily, that kettle is too heavy for you!"

He had called her Aunt Emily since the first time he had heard Lloyd do it. "You don't care, do you?" he had asked. "It makes a fellow feel so forlorn and familyless when he has to mister and madam everybody."  She was sewing a button on his coat for him at the time he asked her, and she gave such a pleased assent that he stooped to leave a light kiss on the smooth forehead where gray hair was beginning to mingle with the brown.

Now he took the kettle from her before she could object, and began pouring the boiling water into the pan. "Let me do this," he insisted. "I haven't had a hand in anything of the sort since I was a little shaver. It makes me think of a time when the servants were all away, and Stuart and I helped Aunt Patricia. She paid us in peppermint sticks and cinnamon drops."

"You'll get no candy here," she answered, laughing. "You might as well go on if that's what you expect." But there was no resisting the coaxing ways of this big handsome boy, who towered above her, and who took possession in such a masterful way of her apron and dish-mop. His coat and cuffs were off the next instant, and he began clattering the china and silverware vigorously through the hot soap-suds.

Mrs. Ware, taking a big yellow bowl in her lap, sat down to pick over some dried beans, and to enjoy the lively conversation which kept pace with the rattle of the dishes. It was interrupted presently by a complaint from Lloyd.

"Aunt Emily, he doesn't wash 'em clean! He's left egg all ovah this spoon. That's the second time I've had to throw it back into the watah."

"Aunt Emily, it isn't so," mocked Phil, in a high falsetto voice, imitating her accent. "It's bettah than she could do huhself. She's no great shakes of a housekeepah."

I'll show you," retorted Lloyd, throwing the spoon back into the pan with a splash. "I'm going to make a pie foh dinnah to-day, and you won't get any."

"Then probably I'll be the only one who escapes alive to tell the tale. Aunt Emily, please invite me to dinner," he begged, "and mayn't I stay out here, and watch her make it?"

"Of co'se I can't help it if she chooses to ask you to dinnah," said Lloyd, loftily, when he had received his invitation, "but I most certainly won't have you standing around in my way, criticizing me when I begin to cook. You can fill the wood-box and brush up the crumbs and hang these towels out on the line, if you want to, then you may go in and watch Joyce paint."

"Oh, thank you!" answered Phil. "Such condescension! Such privileges! Your Royal Highness, I humbly make my bow!"

He bent low in a burlesque obeisance that a star actor might have envied, and, throwing up a saucer and catching it deftly, began to sing:

"The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts, 
     Upon a summer day.
But none could look---that selfish cook 
     Drove every one away. "

It was all the most idle nonsense, and yet, as they worked together in a playful half-quarrel, Lloyd liked him better than she had at any time before. He reminded her of Rob Moore. He was big like Rob, tall and broad-shouldered, but much handsomer. Rob had teased her since babyhood, and, when Phil began his banter in the same blunt, big-brother fashion, it made her feel as if she had known him always. And yet he was more like Malcolm than Rob, in some respects, she thought later. The courteous way he sprang to pick up her handkerchief, the quick turn he gave to some little remark, which made it a graceful compliment, his gentleManley consideration for Mrs. Ware --- all that was like Malcolm.

Phil would not be driven out of the kitchen until he had exacted a promise from Mrs. Ware that he might come the next day, and make the dessert for the morrow's dinner, vowing that, if it were not heels over head better than Lloyd's, he would treat everybody at the Wigwam and on the ranch to a picnic at Hole-in-the-rock.

"Prop the door open, please," called Joyce, as he went into the sitting-room from the kitchen. "I need some of that heat in here. It's chilly this morning when one sits still."

So Lloyd, moving back and forth at her pastry-making, could see their heads bending over the table, and hear snatches of an animated discussion about a design he proposed for her to put on one of the programmes.

"Put a line from 'Call me thine own' on this one," he said, "and have a couple of turtle-doves perched up on the clef, cooing at each other, and make little hearts for the notes."

"How brilliant!" cried Joyce. "Phil, you're a genius. Do think up some more, for I'm nearly at my wits' end, trying to get thirty different designs."

"Don't make them all so fine," he suggested. "Some of those people will get it into their heads that matrimony is all roses."He lifted his voice a little, so that Lloyd could not fail to hear. She was standing before the moulding-board now, her sleeves tucked up, and a look of intense seriousness on her face as she sifted flour, as if pie-making were the most important business in the universe.

"Make the Queen of Hearts with a rolling-pin in her hand and a scowl on her face, as she will look after the ceremony, when she takes it into her head to make some tarts. Put a bar of 'Come, ye disconsolate,' with a row of tiny pies for the notes, and the old king doubled up at the end of it, with the knave running for a doctor."

"You horrid thing!" called Lloyd, wrathfully, from the kitchen. "You sha'n't have a bite of these pies now."

"Nothing personal, I assure you," called Phil, laughing. "I'm only helping the artist." But Joyce said, in a low tone, "It is a little personal, because she used to be called the Queen of Hearts so much. Did you ever see her picture taken in that character, when she was dressed in that costume for a Valentine party? It was years ago. Miss Marks made some coloured photographs of her. You'll find one in that portfolio somewhere, if you'll take the trouble to look through it. She's had so many different nicknames," continued Joyce. Norman was hammering on something in the kitchen now, so there was no need for her to lower her voice.

"She is 'The Little Colonel' to half the Valley, and I suppose always will be to her grandfather's friends. Then when she started to school, about the time that picture was taken, she was such a popular little thing that one of her teachers began calling her Queen of Hearts. Both boys and girls used to fuss for the right to stand beside her in recitations, and march next (to) her at calisthenics, and she was sure to be called first when they chose sides for their games at recess.

"Then, after she was in that play with her dog Hero, that Mary told you about, the girls at boarding-school began calling her the Princess Winsome, and then just Princess. Malcolm McIntyre, who took the part of the knight who rescued her, never calls her anything but that now. There she is, as she looked in the play when she sang the dove song."

Joyce pointed with her brush-handle to another photograph in the pile. It was the same picture that Mary had showed him, the beautiful little medallion of the Princess Winsome, holding the dove to her breast as she sang, "Flutter and fly." The same picture which had swayed on the pendulum in Roney's lonely cabin, repeating, with every tick of the clock, "For love-will find-a way!"

Phil put it beside the other photograph, and studied them both intently as Joyce went on.

"Then the other day, when her father was here, I noticed that he had a new name for her. He called her that several times, and when he went away, he said it in a tone that seemed to mean so much, 'Good-bye, my little Hildegarde!'"

Phil looked from the pictures on the table to the original, standing in the kitchen wielding a rolling-pin under Mrs. Ware's direction. The morning sun, streaming through the window, was making a halo of her hair. Somehow he found this last view the most pleasing. He said nothing, however, only thrummed idly on the table, and hummed an old song that had been running through his head all morning.

"What's that you're humming?" asked Joyce, when she had worked on in silence several minutes.

Phil came to himself with a start. "I'm sure I don't know," he laughed. "I wasn't conscious that I was making even an attempt to sing."

"It went this way," said Joyce, whistling the refrain, softly. "It's so sweet."

"Oh, that," said Phil, recognizing the air. "That's a song that Elsie's old English nurse used to sing her to sleep with.

"'Maid Elsie roams by lane and lea,
Her heart beats low and sad.'

She liked it because it had her name in it, and I liked it because of the jingle of the chorus. It always seemed full of bells to me." He hummed it lightly:

"'Kung, lang ling,
She seems to hear her bride-bells ring, 
Her bonny bride-bells ring.'

It must have been these bridal musicale programmes that brought it up to me, for I haven't thought of it in years."

"And that suggests something to me," answered Joyce. "I haven't used any wedding-bells on these programmes. Now, let me see. How can I put them on?" She sat studying one of the empty cards intently.

"Here! This way!" cried Phil. "I can't draw it as it ought to be, but I can see in my mind's eye what you want. Put a Cupid up in each top corner, with a bunch of five narrow ribbons, strung across from one to the other in narrow, wavy lines, and hang the little bells on them for notes. Then the ends of the ribbons can trail down the sides of the programmes sort of fluttery and graceful. Pshaw! I ran' t make it look like anything, but I can see exactly how it ought to look."

He scribbled his pencil across the lines he had attempted to draw, and started to tear the paper in disgust, when she caught it from him.

"I know just what you mean," she cried." And Phil Tremont, you are a genius. This will be the best design in the whole lot" She was outlining it quickly as she spoke. "You ought to be a designer. You'd make your fortune at it, for originality is what counts. Why don't you study it?"

"I did have it in mind for a week or so," answered Phil, "but I wanted most of all to be an architect, or something of the sort. Father wanted me to study medicine, and grandfather thought I'd do better at civil engineering. But I couldn't settle down to anything. I suppose the truth of the matter was I was thinking too much about the good times I was having, and didn't want to buckle down to anything that meant hard digging. So last year father said I wasn't getting any kind of discipline, and that I had to go to a military school for it. That there I would at least learn punctuality and order, and that military training would fit me to be a good citizen just as much as to be a good soldier."

"What does he think about it now?" answered Joyce. "I beg your pardon," she added, hastily. "I had no right to ask such a personal question."

"That's all right," answered Phil. "I don't care a rap if you do talk about it. It's worried me a good deal thinking how cut up the old pater will feel when he finds out about it. He thought he'd left me in such good hands, shut up where I couldn't get out into any trouble, and I hated to write that they'd fired me almost as soon as his back was turned. If I could have talked to him, and explained both sides of it, how unfair the Major was, and all that, and how we, were just out for a lark, with the best intentions in the world, I could have soon convinced him that I meant all right, and he wouldn't have minded so much. But I never was any good at letter-writing, so I kept putting it off the first two weeks I was here. I wrote last week, but it takes a month to send a letter and get an answer, so it'll be some time yet before I hear from him. In the meantime, I'm taking life easy, and worrying as little as possible."

Joyce made no reply when he paused, only bent her head a little lower over her work; but Phil, unusually sensitive to mental influences, felt her disapprobation as keenly as if she had spoken. The silence began to grow uncomfortable, and finally he asked, lightly, toying with a paper-knife while he spoke, " Well, what do you think of the situation?"

"Do you want to know honestly?" asked Joyce, her head bending still lower over her work.

"Yes, honestly."

Her face grew red, but looking up her clear gray eyes met his unflinchingly. "Well, I think you're the very brightest boy that I ever knew, anywhere, and that it would be a very easy thing for you to make your mark in the world in any way you pleased, if you would only make up your mind to do it. But it's lazy of you to loaf around all winter doing nothing, not even studying by yourself, and it's selfish to disappoint your father when he is so ambitious for you, and it's --- yes, it's wicked for you to waste opportunities that some boys would almost give their eyes for. There!"

"Whew!" whistled Phil, getting up to pace the floor, with his hands in his pockets. "That's the worst roast I ever got."

"Well, you asked for it;" said Joyce. "You said for me to tell you honestly what I thought."

"What would you have me to do?" asked Phil, impatiently, anxious to justify himself. "A fellow with any spirit couldn't get down and beg to be taken back to school, when he knew all the time that he was only partly in the wrong, and that it was unjust and arbitrary of the officers to require what they did."

"That isn't the only school in the country," said Joyce, quietly, "and for a fellow six feet tall, and seventeen years old, a regular athlete in appearance, to wait for somebodv to lead him back to his books does seem a little ridiculous, doesn't it?"

"Confound it! " he began, angrily, then stopped, for Joyce was smiling up into his face with a friendliness he could not resist, and there was more than censure in her eyes. There was sincere admiration for the handsome boy whom she found so entertaining and companionable.

"Now don't get uppity," she laughed. "I'm only saying to you what EIsie would say if she were here."

Phil shrugged his shoulders. "Not much!" he exclaimed. "You don't know Elsie. She thinks her big brother is perfection. She has always stood up for me in the fare of everything. Daddy never failed to let me off easy when she patched up the peace between us. She wouldn't rake me over the coals the way you do."

Joyce liked the expression that crossed his face as he spoke of Elsie, and the gentler tone in which he said Daddy.

"All the more reason, then," she answered, "that somebody else should do the raking. I hope I haven't been officious. It's only what I would say to Jack under the same circumstances. I'm so used to preaching to the boys that I couldn't help sailing in when you gave me leave. I won't do it any more, though. See! Here is the design you suggested. I've finished it."

Mollified by her tone and her evident eagerness to leave the subject, he dropped into the chair beside her again, and sat talking until Lloyd called them both out to admire her pies. There were two of them on the table, hot from the oven, so crisp and delicately browned, that Lloyd danced around them, clicking a couple of spoons in each hand like castanets, and calling Mrs. Ware to witness that she had made them entirely by herself.

"Don't they look delicious?" she cried. "Did you evah see moah tempting looking pies in all yoah life? I wish grandfathah could have a slice of that beautiful custa'd with the meringue on top. He'd think Mom Beck made it, and he'd nevah believe, unless he saw it with his own eyes, that I could make such darling cross-bahs as are on that cherry taht."

"I wish you'd listen!" cried Phil. "Don't you know that proverb about letting another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth?"

"I'm not praising me," retorted Lloyd. "I'm just praising my pies, and if they're good, and I know they're good, why shouldn't I say so? They're the first I evah made, and I think I have a right to be proud of their turning out so well. Of co'se they wouldn't have been thus nice if Aunt Emily hadn't showed me what to do."

"Let's sample them now," proposed Jack, who had been called in from the wood-pile to pay his respects to the pastry.

Lloyd threw herself between the table and Jack with a little scream of remonstrance, as he advanced threateningly with a knife.

"I believe Lloyd is prouder of making those old pies than she was of shooting the duck. Confess, now, aren't you?" he insisted.

"Yes, I am," she answered, emphatically.

"You had your picture taken with a duck," suggested Phil. "Suppose you have one now with the pies to add to your collection. Come on and get your camera, and I'll take a companion piece to the hunting-picture. We'll call this the 'Queen of Tarts.' Stand out back of the tent, and hold the custard pie in one hand, and the cherry tart in the other."

With the dimples deepening in her cheeks as the whole family gathered around to watch the performance, Lloyd took her position out-of-doors, with the white tent for a background. Holding her hands stiffly out in front of her, she stood like a statue, while Jack and Joyce each brought out a pie, and balanced them in the middle of her little pink, upturned palms.

"I want to take two shots," said Phil, waiting for them to step out of range. "There are several blank films left on this roll. Now," he ordered, when the shutter clicked after the first exposure, "hold still, we'll try another. Suppose you put the plates up on the tips of your fingers, the way hotel waiters do. They carry things that way with such an easy offhand grace. I always admired it."

"I should say it was offhand!" cried Jack. For Lloyd, obeying orders, clutched frantically after the cherry tart, with a shriek of dismay. It had refused to stay poised on her finger-tips.

Topside down, of co'se," she wailed, as the broken plate fell in one place, and the pastry in another. "And the juice is running all ovah me, and the darling little cross-bahs are all in the sand!"

Phil hastily clicked the shutter again. He was sure that the second snap had caught the tart in the act of falling, and with the third film he wanted to preserve the expression of surprise and dismay that clouded Lloyd's face. It was one of the most ludicrous expressions he had ever seen.

"Pride goeth before destruction," he quoted, laughingly.

"I wish you'd hush up with yoah old proverbs, Phil Tremont," cried Lloyd, half-laughing and half-angry. " It's all yoah fault, anyway. You knew I'd spill that taht if I held it that way, and I just believe you did it on purpose. You knew when you first saw those pies it would be useless for you to try to make any dessert to-morrow that would half-way come up to them, and you deliberately planned to get them out of the way, so you wouldn't have to stand the test. You were afraid you'd have to give the picnic you promised."

"Sputter away, if it will ease your mind any," laughed Phil. "It was worth the picnic to see your frantic grab after that tart. But honestly, Lloyd," he said, growing serious as he saw she really cared, "I'm as sorry as I can be that it happened, and I'll do anything you say to make atonement. I'll withdraw from the contest, award you the laurels, and give the picnic, anyhow."

"There's nothing the matter with the custard pie," piped up Norman, "'cept'n you can see where Joyce's fingers jabbed into the meringue when she caught it from Lloyd. I think it would be safer to eat it now before anything else happens."

"No, we'll set mamma to guard it till the rest of the dinner is ready," said Joyce, leading the way back to the kitchen. " If everybody will fly around and help, we'll have it a little earlier to-day."

It was one of the jolliest meals that Phil had had in the Wigwam "Let's all go to Phoenix this afternoon," proposed Phil, when they had gone back to the sitting-room. "We can take the films in to the photographer, and have them developed. Joyce, you may ride my horse, and I'll get one from Mrs. Lee."

"Oh, thank you!" cried Joyce, looking wistfully through the window. "The outdoors never did look so tempting, it seems to me, and those programmes are getting so monotonous I can hardly make myself go back to them. I wish I could go. But I can't shirk even for a few hours, or they might miss getting there in time."

"Couldn't anything tempt you to go?" urged Phil.

She shook her head resolutely. "'Not all the king's horses and all the king's men' could draw me away from these programmes till they are finished."

"No wonder she preached me such a sermon on loafing, this morning," thought Phil, as he rode away beside Jack, with the roll of films in his pocket. "Anybody with that much energy and perseverance doesn't need to go to the School of the Bees. It makes her all the harder on the drones. And I know that's what she thinks I am."

Chapter 11   Chapter 13 >