The Little Colonel's Hero, Chapter 9: At The Gate Of The Giant Scissors

THE LITTLE COLONEL'S HERO
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Published 1902
Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

 

 

 

CHAPTER IX.
AT THE GATE OF THE GIANT SCISSORS

EACH of the girls answered Joyce's letter, but the Little Colonel's was the first to find its way to the little brown house in Plainsville, Kansas.

"Dear Joyce," she wrote. "We were all dreadfully disappointed yesterday morning when mother and Papa Jack came back from Madame's villa, and told us that she could not let us stay there. She has some English people in the house, and could not give us rooms even for one night. She said that we must be disappointed also about seeing Jules, for his Uncle Martin has taken him to Paris to stay a month. I could have cried, I was so sorry.

"Ever since we left home I have been planning what we should do when we reached the Gate of the Giant Scissors. I wanted to do all the things that you did, as far as possible. I was going to have a barbecue for Jules, down in the garden by the pagoda, and to have some kind of a midsummer fête for the peasant children who came to your Christmas tree.

"Madame was sorry, too, that she couldn't take us, when she found that we were your friends, and she asked mother to bring us all out the next day and have tea in the pagoda. As soon as mother and Papa Jack came back, they took us to see Sister Denisa at the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor. I wish you could have seen her face shine when we told her that we were friends of yours. She said lovely things about you, and the tears came into her eyes when she told us how much she missed your visits, after you went back to America.

"Next day we went to Madame's, and she took us over to the Ciseaux place to see Jules's great-aunt Désirée. She is a beautiful old lady. She talked about you as if you were an angel, or a saint with a halo around your head. She feels that if it hadn't been for you that she might still be only 'Number Thirty-nine' among all those paupers, instead of being the mistress of her brother's comfortable home.

"After we left there, we passed the place where Madame's washerwoman lives. A little girl peeped out at us through the hedge. Madame told her to show the American ladies the doll that she had in her arms. She held it out, and then snatched it back as if she were jealous of our even looking at it. Madame told us that it was the one you gave her at the Noel fête. It is the only doll the child ever had, and she has carried it ever since, even taking it to bed with her. She has named it for you.

"Madame said in her funny broken English, 'Ah, it is a beautiful thing to leave such memories behind one as Mademoiselle Joyce has left.' I would have told her about the Road of the Loving Heart, but it is so hard for her to understand anything I say. I think you began yours over here in France, long before Betty told us of the one in Samoa, or Eugenia gave us the rings to help us remember.

"We took Fidelia Sattawhite with us. She is the girl I wrote to you about who was so rude to me, and who quarrelled so much with her brothers on shipboard. I thought it would spoil everything to have her along, but mother insisted on my im inviting her. She feels sorry for her. Fidelia acted very well until we went over to the Ciseaux place. But when we got to the gate she stood and looked up at the scissors over it, and refused to go in. Madame and mother both coaxed and coaxed her, but she was too queer for anything. She wouldn't move a step. She just stood there in the road, saying, 'No'm, I won't go in. I don't want to. I'll stay out here and wait for you. No'm, nothing anybody can say can make me go in.'

"Down she sat on the grass as flat as Humpty Dumpty when he had his great fall, and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't have made her get up till she was ready. We couldn't understand why she should act so. She told Betty that night that she was afraid to go through the gate She remembered that in the story where the old king and the brothers of Ethelried came riding up to the portal, the scissors leaped from their place and snapped so angrily in their faces that they turned and fled. Only those who belong to the kingdom of loving hearts could enter in.' She told Betty that she knew she didn't belong to that kingdom, for nobody loved her, and often she didn't love anybody for days. She was afraid to go through the gate for fear the scissors would leap down at her, and she would be so ashamed to be driven back before us all. So she thought she would pretend that she didn't want to go in. She had believed every word of that fairy tale.

"We had a beautiful time in the garden. We went down all the winding paths between the high laurel hedges where you used to walk, and almost got lost, they had so many unexpected twists and turns.

The old statues of Adam and Eve, grinning at each other across the fountain, are so funny. We saw the salad beds with the great glass bells over them, and we climbed into the pear-tree and sat looking over the wall, wondering how you could have been homesick in such an interesting place.

"Berthé served tea in the pagoda, and because we asked about Gabriel's music, Madame smiled and sent Berthé away with a message. Pretty soon we heard his old accordeon playing away, out of sight in the coach-house, and then we knew what kind of music you had at the Noel fête. Sort of wheezy, wasn't it? Still it sounded sweet, too, at that distance.

"We took Hero with us, and he was really the guest of honour at the party. When Madame saw the Red Cross on his collar and heard his history, she couldn't do enough for him. She fed him cakes until I thought he purely would be ill. It was a Red Cross nurse who wrote to Madame about her husband. He was wounded in the Franco-Prussian war, too, just as was the Major. Madame went on to get him and bring him home, and she says she never can forget the kindness that was shown to her by every one whom she met when she crossed the lines under the protection of the Red Cross.

"She had met Clara Barton, too, and while we were talking about the good she has done, Madame said, 'The Duchess of Baden may have sent her the Gold Cross of Remembrance, but the grateful hearts of many a French wife and mother will for ever hold the rosary of her beautiful deeds!' Wasn't that a lovely thing to have said about one?

"We start to London Thursday, and I'll write again from there. With much love from us all, Lloyd."

The long letter which Lloyd folded and addressed after a careful re-reading, had not been all written in one day. She had begun it while waiting for the others to finish dressing one morning, had added a few pages that afternoon, and finished it the next evening at bedtime.

"Heah is my lettah to Joyce, mothah," she said, as she kissed her good night. " Won't you look ovah it, please, and see if all the words are spelled right? I want to send it in the mawnin."

Mrs. Sherman laid the letter aside to attend to later, and forgot it until long after Lloyd was asleep, and Mr. Sherman had come up-stairs. Then, seeing it on the table, she glanced rapidly over the neatly written pages. '

"I want you to look at this, Jack," she said, presently, handing him the letter. "It is one of the results of the house party for which I am most thankful. You remember what a task it always was for Lloyd to write a letter. She groaned for days whenever she received one, because it had to be answered. But when Joyce went away she said, 'Now, Lloyd, I know I shall be homesick for Locust, and I want to hear every single thing that happens. Don't you dare send me a stingy two-page letter, half of it apologising for not writing sooner, and half of it promising to do better next time.

"I Just prop my picture up in front of you and look me in the eyes and begin to talk. Tell me all the little things that most people leave out; what he said and she said on the way to the picnic, and how Betty looked in her daffodil dress, with the sun shining on her brown curls. Write as if you were making pictures for me, so that when I read I can see everything you are doing.'

"It was excellent advice, and as Joyce's letters were written in that way, Lloyd had a good model to copy. Joyce, being an artist, naturally makes pictures even of her letters. When Betty went away and began sending home such well-written accounts of her journey, I found that Lloyd's style improved constantly. She wrote a dear little letter to the Major, last week, telling all about Hero. I was surprised to see how prettily she expressed her appreciation of his gift."

Mr. Sherman took the letter and began to read. In two places he corrected a misspelled word, and here and there supplied missing commas and quotation marks. There was a gratified smile on his face when he finished. "That is certainly a lengthy letter for a twelve-year-old girl to write," he said, in a pleased tone, "and cannot fail to be interesting to Joyce. The letters she wrote me from the Cuckoo's Nest were stiff, short scrawls compared to this. I must tell my Little Colonel how proud I am of her improvement."

His words of praise were not spoken, however. He expressed his appreciation, later, by leaving on her table a box of foreign correspondence paper. It was of the best quality he could find in Tours, and to Lloyd's delight the monogram engraved on it was even prettier than Eugenia's.

"Why did Papa Jack write this on the first sheet in the box, mothah?" she asked, coming to her with a sentence written in her father's big, businesslike hand: 'There is no surer way to build a Road of the Loving Heart in the memory of absent friends, than to bridge the space between with the cheer and sympathy and good-will of friendly letters.'
Why did Papa Jack write that?" she repeated.

"Because he saw your last letter to Joyce, and was so pleased with the improvement you have made," answered Mrs. Sherman. "He has given you a good text for your writing-desk."

"I'll paste it in the top," said Lloyd. "Then I can't lose it."  "'There is no surer way,'" she repeated to herself as she carried the box back to her room, "'to bridge the space between . . . with the cheer and sympathy and good-will."'

There flashed across her mind the thought of some one who needed cheer and sympathy far more than Joyce did, and who would welcome a friendly letter from her with its foreign stamp, as eagerly as if it were some real treasure. Jessie Nolan was the girl she thought of, an invalid with a crippled spine, to whom the dull days in her wheeled chair by the window seemed endless, and who had so little to brighten her monotonous life.

"I'll write her a note this minute," thought Lloyd, with a warm glow in her heart. "I'll describe some of the sights we have seen, and send her that fo' leafed clovah that I found at the chateau yestahday, undah a window of the great hall where Anne of Brittany was married ovah fo' hundred yeahs ago. I don't suppose Jessie gets a lettah once a yeah."

When that note was written, Lloyd thought of Mom Beck and the pride that would shine in the face of her old black nurse if she should receive a letter from Europe, and how proudly it would be carried around and displayed to all the coloured people in the Valley. So with the kindly impulse of her father's text still upon her, she dashed off a note to her, telling her of some of her visits to the palaces of bygone kings and queens.

Eugenia came in as she finished, but before she closed her desk she jotted two names on a slip of paper. Mrs. Waters's was one. She was a little old Englishwoman, who did fine laundry work in the Valley, and who was always talking about the 'awthorne 'edges in her old English home.

"I'll write to her from London," Lloyd thought. "If we should get a sight of any of the royal family, how tickled she would be to hear it."

The other name was Janet McDonald. She was a sad, sweet-faced young teacher whom Miss Allison always called her "Scotch lassie Jane."   "I don't suppose she'd care to get a letter from a little girl like me," thought Lloyd' "but I know she'd love to have a piece of heather from the hills near her home. I'll send her a piece when we get up in Scotland."

The letter that Eugenia sent to Joyce was only a short outline of her plans. She knew that the other girls had sent long accounts of their trip through Touraine, so hers was much shorter than usual.

"Papa has decided to send me to a school just outside of Paris this year," she wrote, "instead of the one in New York, so it will be a long time before I see my native land again. He will have to be over here several months, and can spend Christmas and Easter with me, so I can see him fully as often as I used to at home.

"It is a very select school. Madame recommends it highly, and I am simply delighted. A New York girl whom I know very well is to be there too, and we are looking forward to all sorts of larks. Thursday we are to start to London for a short tour of England and Scotland. Then the others are going home and papa and I shall go by Chester for my maid. Poor old Eliot has had a glorious vacation home, she writes. She is to stay at the school with me. We shall be so busy until I get settled that I shall not have time to write soon; but no matter how far my letters may be apart, I am always your devoted 
EUGENIA."

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