The Little Colonel Maid of Honor, Chapter 13: Dreams And Warnings

THE LITTLE COLONEL MAID OF HONOR
by Annie Fellows Johnston
(1863-1931)

Published 1906

Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

 

CHAPTER XIII.
DREAMS AND WARNINGS

"IT'S all ovah now!" exclaimed Lloyd, stifling a yawn and looking around the deserted drawing-room, where the candles burned low in their sconces, and the faded roses were dropping their petals on the floor. Mr. Forbes and Doctor Tremont had just driven away to catch the midnight express for New York, and the last guest but Rob had departed.

"It's all over with that gown of yours, too, isn't it?" asked Phil, glancing at the airy pink skirt, down whose entire front breadth ran a wide, zigzag rent. "It's too bad, for it's the most becoming one I've seen you wear yet. I'm sorry it must be retired from public life so early in its career."

Lloyd drew the edges of the largest holes together. " Yes, it's ruined beyond all hope, for I stepped cleah through it when I tripped on the stairs, and it pulled apart in at least a dozen places, just as a thin veil would. But you'll see it again, and on anothah maid of honah. M'haley nevah waited to see if I was hurt, but pounced on it and began to beg for it befoah I got my breath again. She said she could fix it good enough for her to weah to her mammy's wedding. She would 'turn it hine side befo' ' and tie her big blue sash ovah it. Imagine! She'll be heah at the break of day to get it."

"Do you know it is almost that time now?" asked Betty, coming in from the dining-room with seven little heart-shaped boxes. "Here's our cake, and godmother says we'd better take it and go to dreaming on it soon, or the sun will be up before we get started."

"Now remembah," warned Lloyd, as Rob slipped his box into his pocket and began looking around for his hat, "we have all promised to tell our dreams to each othah in the mawning. We'll wait for you, so come ovah early. Come to breakfast."

"Thanks. I'll be on hand all right. I'll probably have to wake the rest of you."

"Don't you do it!" exclaimed Phil. "I'll warn you now, if you're waking, don't call me early, mother, dear. If you do, to-morrow won't be the happiest day of all your glad New Year. I'll promise you that. How about you, Bradford?"

"Oh, I'm thinking of sitting up all night," he answered, laughing, "to escape having any dreams. Miss Mary assures me they will come true, and one might have a nightmare after such a spread as that wedding-supper. I can hardly afford to take such risks."

A moment after, Rob's whistle sounded cheerfully down the avenue and Alec was going around the house, putting out the down-stairs lights. Late as it was, when they reached their room, Joyce stopped to smooth every wrinkle out of her bridesmaid dress, and spread it out carefully in the tray of her trunk.

"It is so beautiful," she said, as she plumped the sleeves into shape with tissue-paper." As long as an accident had to happen to one of us it was lucky that it was Lloyd's dress that was torn. She has so many she wouldn't wear it often anyhow, and this will be my best evening gown all summer. I expect to get lots of good out of it at the seashore."

"I'm glad it wasn't mine that was torn," responded Mary, following Joyce's example and folding hers away also, with many loving pats." Probably there'll be a good many times I can wear it here this summer, but there'll never be a chance on the desert, and I shall have outgrown it by next summer, so when I go home I'm going to lay it away in rose-leaves with these darling little satin slippers, because I've had the best time of my life in them. In the morning Betty and I are going to pick all the faded roses to pieces and save the petals. Eugenia wants to fill a rose-jar with part of them. Betty knows how to make that potpourri that Lloyd's Grandmother Amanthis always kept in the rose-jars in the drawing-room. She's copied the receipt for me.

"I'm not a bit sleepy," she continued. "I've had such a beautiful time I could lie awake all the rest of the night thinking about it. Maybe it's because I drank coffee when I'm not used to it that I'm so wide awake, and I ate --- oh, how I ate!"

One by one the up-stairs lights went out, and a deep silence fell on the old. mansion. The ticking of the great clock on the stairs was the only sound. The serene peace of the starlit night settled over The Locusts like brooding wings. The clock struck one, then two, and the long hand was halfway around its face again before any other sound but the musical chime broke the stillness. Then a succession of strangled moans began to penetrate the consciousness of even the soundest sleeper. Whoever it was that was trying to call for help was evidently terrified, and the terror of the cries sent a cold chill through every one who heard them.

"It's burglars," shrieked Lloyd, sitting up in bed. "Papa Jack! They're in Joyce's room! They're trying to strangle her! Papa Jack!"

Lights glimmered in every room, and doors flew open along the hall. A dishevelled little group in bathrobes and pajamas rushed out, Mr. Sherman with a revolver, Miles Bradford with a heavy Indian club, and Phil with his walking-stick with the electric battery in its head. He flashed it like a search-light up and down the hall.

At the first moan, Joyce had wakened, and realizing that it came from Mary's corner of the room, began to grope on the table beside her bed for matches. Her fingers trembled so she could scarcely muster strength to scratch the match when she found it. Then she glanced across the room and began to laugh hysterically.

"It's all right!" she called. "Nobody's killed! Mary's just having a nightmare!"

By this time Mr. Sherman had opened the door, and the blinding glare of Phil's electric light flashed full in Mary's eyes. At the same instant Lloyd opened the door on the other side, between the two rooms, and Betty and Mrs. Sherman followed her in. So when Mary struggled back to wakefulness far enough to sit up and look around in a dazed way, the room seemed full of people and lights and voices, and she tried to ask what had happened. She was still sobbing and trembling.

"What's the matter, Mary?" called Phil from the hall. "Were the Indians after you again?"

"Oh, it was awfuller than Indians," wailed Mary, in a shrill, excited voice. "It was the worst nightmare I ever had! I can't shake it off. I'm scared yet."

"Tell us about it," said Mrs. Sherman, soothingly. "That's the best remedy, for the terror always evaporates in the telling, and makes one wonder how anything foolish could have seemed frightful."

"I --- was being married," wailed Mary, "to a man I couldn't see. And just as soon as it was over he turned from the altar and said, 'Now we'll begin to lead a cat and dog life.' And, oh, it was so awful," she continued, sobbingly, the terror of the dream still holding her," he --- he barked at me! And he showed his teeth, and I had to spit and mew and hump my back whether I wanted to or not."  Her voice grew higher and more excited with every sentence. "And I could feel my claws growing longer and longer, and I knew I'd never have fingers again, only just paws with fur on 'em! Ugh! It made me sick to feel the fur growing over me that way. I cried and cried. Now as I tell about it, it begins to sound silly, but it was awful then, --- so dark, and me hanging by my claws to the edge of the wood-shed roof, ready to drop off. I thought Phil was in the house, and I tried to call him, but I couldn't remember his name. I got mixed up with the Philip on the shilling, and I kept yelling, Shill! Philling! Shilling! and I couldn't make him understand. He wouldn't come!"

As she picked up the corner of the sheet to wipe her eyes Mrs. Sherman and the girls burst out laughing, and there was an echoing peal of amusement in the hall. The affair would not have seemed half so ridiculous in the daylight, but to be called out of bed at that hour to listen to such a dream, told only as Mary Ware could tell it, impressed the entire family as one of the funniest things that had ever happened. They laughed till the tears came.

"I don't see what ever put such a silly thing into my head," said Mary, finally, beginning to feel mortified as she realized what an excitement she had created for nothing.

"It was Rob's talking about people who live a regular cat and dog life," said Betty. "Don't you remember how long we talked about it to-day down in the clover-patch?"

"You mean yesterday," prompted Phil from the hall, "for it's nearly morning now. And, Mary, I'll tell you why you had it. It's a warning! A solemn warning! It means that you must never, never marry."

"That's what I thought, too," quavered Mary, so seriously that they all laughed again.

"I hope everybody will excuse me for waking them up," called Mary, as they began to disperse to their rooms." Oh, dear!" she added to Joyce, as she lay back once more on her pillow. "Why is it that I am always doing such mortifying things! I am so ashamed of myself."

The lights went out again, and after a few final giggles from Lloyd and Betty, silence settled once more over the house. But the terror of the nightmare had taken such hold upon Mary that she could not close her eyes.

"Joyce," she whispered," do you mind if I come over into your bed? I'm nearly paralyzed, I'm so scared again."

Slipping across the floor as soon as Joyce had given a sleepy consent, Mary crept in beside her sister in the narrow bed, and lay so still she scarcely breathed, for fear of disturbing her. Presently she reached out and gently clasped the end of Joyce's long plait of hair. It was comforting to be so near her. But even that failed to convince her entirely that the dream was a thing of imagination. It seemed so real, that several times before she fell asleep she laid her hands against her face to make sure that her fingers had not developed claws, and that no fur had started to grow on them.

The dreams told around the breakfast-table next morning seemed tame in comparison to Mary's recital the night before. Rob had had none at all, which was interpreted to mean that he would live and die an old bachelor. Miles Bradford had a dim recollection of being in an automobile with a girl who seemed to be a sort of a human kaleidoscope, for her face changed as the dream progressed, until she had looked like every woman he ever knew. They could think of no interpretation for that dream. Lloyd's was fully as indefinite.

"I thought I was making a cake," she said," and there was a big bowl of eggs on the table. But every tune I started to break one Mom Beck would say, 'Don't do that, honey. Don't you see it is somebody's haid?' And suah enough, every egg I took up had somebody's face on it, like those painted Eastah eggs; Rob's, and Phil's, and Malcolm's, and Doctah Bradford's, and evah so many I'd nevah seen befoah."

"A very appropriate dream for a Queen of Hearts," said Phil, "and anybody can see it's only a repetition of Mammy Easter's fortune, the 'row of lovahs in the teacup.' Tell us which one you are going to choose."

"It's Joyce's turn," was the only answer Lloyd would make.

"And my dream was positively brilliant," replied Joyce. "I thought we were all at The Beeches, and Allison, and Kitty, and all of us were making Limericks. Kitty began:

"There was a lieutenant named Logan, 
Who found one day a small brogan.'

Then she stuck, and couldn't get any farther, and Allison had to be smart and pun on my name She made up a line

"'So what will Joyce Ware if she meets a great bear ?'

Nobody could get the last rhyme for awhile, but after floundering around a few minutes I had a sudden inspiration and sprang up and struck an attitude as if I were on the stage, and solemnly thundered out:

"' And how can he shoot him with no gun?'

"In my dream it seemed the most thrilling thing --- I was the heroine of the hour, and Lieutenant Logan took me aside and told me that the question which I had embodied in that last line was the question of the ages. It had staggered the philosophers and scientists of all times. Nobody could answer that question --- 'how can he shoot him with no gun,' and he was a better and a happier man, to think that I had rhymed that ringing query with the proud name of Logan. It's the silliest dream I ever had, but you can't imagine how real it seemed at the time. I was so stuck up over his compliments that I began flouncing around with my head held high, like the picture of 'Oh, fie! you haughty Jane.'"

"Oh, Joyce, what a dream to dream on wedding-cake!" exclaimed Mary, with a long indrawn breath. There was no mistaking her interpretation of it. Everybody laughed, and Joyce hastened to explain," It isn't worth anything, Mary. It'll never come true, for just before I came down-stairs to breakfast I discovered my little box of cake lying on the table under a pile of ribbons. It had been there all night. I had forgotten to put it under my pillow. And," she added, cutting short Mary's exclamation of disappointment, "your box lay beside it. We both were so busy putting away our dresses, and talking over the wedding that we forgot the most important thing of all."

"Well, I'm certainly glad that mine wasn't under my head when I had that dreadful nightmare!" exclaimed Mary, in such a relieved tone that every one laughed again. "I couldn't help taking it as a warning."

"Joyce and I must have changed places in our sleep," said Betty, when her turn came. "She was making verses, and I was trying to draw. But I did my drawing with a thimble. I thought some one said, 'Betty always likes to put her finger in everybody's pie, and now she has a fate thimble to wear on it, she'll mix up things worse than ever.'  And I said, 'No, I'll be very conservative, and only make a diagram of the way the animals should go into the ark, and then let them do as they please about following my diagram. 'So I began to draw with the thimble on my finger, but instead of animals going into the ark they were people going over Tanglewood stile into the churchyard, and then into the church --- a great procession of people in the funniest combinations. There was old Doctor Shelby and the minister's great-aunt, Allison and Lieutenant Stanley, Kitty and Doctor Bradford, Lloyd and Rob, and dozens and dozens besides."

"Lloyd and Rob," echoed the Little Colonel, her face dimpling. "Think of that, Bobby! You nevah in yoah wildest dreams thought of that combination, now did you?"

"No, I never did," confessed Rob, with an amused smile. "Betty has just put it into my head. She is like the old woman who told her children not to put beans in their ears while she was gone. They never would have dreamed of doing such a thing if she hadn't suggested it, but, of course, they wanted to see how it would feel, and immediately proceeded to fill their ears with beans as soon as her back was turned."

"You can profit by their example, "laughed Lloyd. "They found that it hurt. It would have been bettah if they had paid no attention to her suggestion."

"Moral," added Rob, "don't do it. Betty, don't you dare put any more dangerous notions in my head."

Phil's turn came next. "My dream is soon told," he said. "I had been sleeping like the dead --- a perfectly dreamless sleep --- till Mary woke us up with her cat-fight. That aroused me so thoroughly that I didn't go to sleep again for more than an hour. Then when I did drop off at nearly morning, I dreamed that there was a spider on my head, and I gave it a tremendous whack to kill it. It was no dream whack, I can tell you, but a real live double-fisted one, that made me see stars. It actually made a dent in my cranium and got me so wide awake that I couldn't drop off, again. I got up and sat by the window till there were faint streaks of light in the sky. I did the rest of my dreaming with my eyes open, so I don't have to tell what it was about."

"I can guess," thought Mary, intercepting the swift glance he stole across the table at something blue. This time it was the ribbon that tied Lloyd's hair, a big bow of turquoise taffeta, knotted becomingly at the back of her neck. Lloyd, unconscious of the glance, had turned to speak to Miles Bradford, to answer his question about Sylvia Gibbs's wedding.

"Yes, it really is to take place to-night in the colohed church. M'haley was heah befoah we were awake, to get the dress and to repeat the invitation for the whole family to attend. There are evah so many white folks invited, M'haley says. All the Waltons and MacIntyres, of co'se, because Miss Allison is their patron saint, and they swear by her," and all the families for whom Sylvia has washed."

"It is extremely fortunate for those of us who are going away so soon that she set the date as early as to-night," said Doctor Bradford." Twenty-four hours later would have cut us out."

Phil interrupted him. "Don't bring up such disagreeable topics at the table, Bradford. It takes my appetite to think that we have only one more day in the Valley --- that it has come down to a matter of a few hours before we must begin our farewells."

"Speaking of farewells," said Rob," who-all's coming down to the station with me to wave good-by to Miss Bonham? She goes back to Lexington this morning."

"We'll all go," answered Lloyd, promptly. "Mothah will be glad to get us out of the way while the servants give the place a grand 'aftah the ball' cleaning, and Joyce wants to see the girls once moah befoah she begins packing, to arrange several things about their journey."

"How does it happen that Logan and Stanley are not going with Miss Bonham?" asked Rob. "Isn't their time up, too, or can't they tear themselves away?"

"I thought you knew," answered Joyce. "Miss Allison arranged it all last night. You know she goes up to Prout's Neck, in Maine, for awhile every summer, and this year Allison and Kitty are going with her. She has offered to take me under her wing all the way, and has arranged her route to go right past the place where the summer art school is, on Cape Cod coast. Lieutenant Logan and Lieutenant Stanley are staying over a day longer than they had intended, in order to go part of the way with us, and Phil and Doctor Bradford are leaving a day earlier to take advantage of such good company all the way home. Won't it be jolly, --- eight of us! Kitty calls it a regular house-party on wheels."

"I certainly envy you," answered Rob. "Miss Allison is the best chaperone that can be imagined, just like a girl herself; and Allison and Kitty are as good as a circus any day. I'll wager it didn't take much persuading to make Stanley stay over.

He hasn't eyes for anything or anybody but Allison."

"He had eyes for Bernice Howe the night of Katie Mallard's musicale," said Betty. "He scarcely left her."

"Do you know why?" asked Rob in an aside. They were rising from the table now, strolling out to the chairs and hammocks on the shady porch. He spoke in a low tone as he walked along beside her.

"It is very ungallant for me to say such a thing, but between you and me and the gate-post, Betty, he was roped into being so attentive. Bernice Howe beats any girl I ever saw for making dates with fellows, and handling her cards so as to make it seem she is immensely popular. It is an old trick of hers, and that night it was very apparent what she was trying to do. Alex Shelby was there, you remember, and when she saw him talking to Lloyd every chance he got, she didn't want it to appear that she was being neglected by the man who had brought her, and with a little skilful manoeuvring she managed to bag the lieutenant's attention. I've been wanting to ask you for some time, why is it that she seems so down on the Little Colonel?"

"She isn't!" declared Betty, much surprised.

"You must be letting your imagination run away with you, Rob. There isn't a girl in the Valley friendlier and sweeter to Lloyd than Bernice Howe. You watch them next time they are together, and see. They've been good friends for years."

"Then all I can say is that some girls have a queer idea of friendship. It's downright catty the way they purr and rub around to your face, and then show their spiteful little claws when your back is turned. That's what I've noticed Bernice doing lately. She calls her all the sugary names in the dictionary when she's with her, but when her back is turned-well, it's just a shrug of the shoulders or a lift of the eyebrows or a little twist of the mouth maybe, but they insinuate volumes. What makes girls do that way, Betty? Boys don't. If they have any grievance they fight it out and then let each other alone."

"I'm sure I don't know why," answered Betty. "I'll be honest with you and confess that you are right. Half the girls at school were that way. They might be fair and high-minded about everything else, but when it came to that one thing they were --- well, as you say, regular cats. They didn't have the faintest conception of what a David and Jonathan friendship could be like. Even theordinary kind didn't seem to bind them in any way, or impose any obligation on them when their own interests were concerned."

"Deliver me from such friends!" ejaculated Rob. "I'd rather have a sworn enemy. He wouldn't do me half the harm." Then after a pause, "I suppose, if you haven't noticed it, then Lloyd hasn't either, that Bernice is bitterly jealous of her."

"No, I am sure she has not."

"Then I wish you'd drop her a hint. I couldn't mention the subject to her, because it is an old fight of ours. You know how we've squabbled for hours over it --- the difference between the codes of honor in a girl's friendships and boys'. No matter how carefully I made the distinction that I meant the average girl, and not all of them, she always flared into a temper, and in order to be loyal to her entire sex, took up arms against me in a regular pitched battle. She's ordered me off the place more than once, and yet in her soul I believe she agrees with me."

"But, Rob, if that is a pet theory of yours that you go around applying in a wholesale way, isn't it barely possible that you've made a mistake this time and imagined that Bernice is two-faced in her friendship?"

Rob shook his head." She'll be at the station this morning. You can see for yourself, if you keep your eyes open."

"Now, to be explicit, just what is it I shall see?" retorted Betty. But Phil interrupted their tête-à-tête at that point, and when they started to the station an hour later, her question was still unanswered. Bernice Howe was there, as Rob had predicted, and Katie Mallard and several other of the Valley girls who had enjoyed the hospitality of The Beeches during Miss Bonham's visit.

"It looks quite like a garden-party," said Miles Bradford to Miss Allison, watching the pretty girls, in their light summer costumes, flutter around the waiting-room. "I don't know whether to compare them to a flock of butterflies or a bouquet of sweet peas. I am glad we are going to take some of them with us to-morrow, and wish---"

Betty, who had turned to listen, because his smiling glance seemed to include her in the conversation, failed to hear what it was he wished. Bernice Howe, who was standing with her back to her, took occasion just then to draw Miss Bonham aside, and her voice, although pitched in a low key, was unusually penetrating. At the same moment the entire party shifted positions to make room for some new arrivals in the waiting-room, and Betty was jostled so that she was obliged to dodge a corpulent woman with a carpet-bag and a lunch-basket. When she recovered her balance she found herself out of range of Doctor Bradford's voice, but almost touching elbows with Bernice. She was saying:

"We're going to miss you dreadfully, Miss Bonham. I always do miss Allison's guests and Kitty's nearly as much as my own. They're so dear about sharing them with me. Now some girls are so stingy, they fairly keep their visitors under lock and key --- that is, if they are men. They wouldn't dream of taking them to call on another girl. Afraid to, I suppose. Afraid of losing their own laurels. There's one of the kind."

Betty saw her nod with a meaning smile toward Lloyd, and caught another sentence or two in which the words, "Queen of Hearts, tied to her apron-string," gave her the drift of the remarks.

"She's plainly trying to give Miss Bonham an unpleasant impression of Lloyd to carry away with her, "thought Betty." She's hurt because she wasn't invited to the coon hunt, and the other little affairs we had for the bridal party. She never took it into consideration that what would have been perfectly convenient at another time was out of the question when the house was so full of guests and all torn up with preparations for the wedding. Lloyd had all she could do then to think of the guests in the house, without considering those outside. It certainly is a flimsy sort of a friendship that can't overlook a seeming neglect like that or make due allowances. Besides, if she feels slighted, why doesn't she keep it to herself, and not try to get even by giving Miss Bonham a false impression of her? Rob is right. Boys don't stoop to such mean little things. In the first place they don't magnify trifles into big grievances, and go around feeling slighted and hurt over nothing."

"Here comes the train!" called Ranald, seizing Miss Bonham's suit-case and leading the way to the door. There was a moment of hurried good-byes, a fluttering of handkerchiefs, a waving of hats. Then the train passed on, leaving the group gazing after it.

"What are we going to do now?" asked Rob. "Will you all come over to the store and have some peanuts?"

"No, you're all coming tip home with me," said Lloyd, "Miss Allison and everybody. I saw Alec carrying some watahmelons into the ice-house, and they'll be good and cold by this time. We'll cut them out on the lawn."

Ranald excused himself, saying he had promised to take his Aunt Allison to the dressmaker's in the pony-cart, but Allison and Kitty promptly accepted the invitation for themselves and the two lieutenants. Katie Mallard walked on with one and Joyce the other, Rob and Betty bringing up the rear. Lloyd still waited.

"Come on, Bernice," she urged. "The watahmelons are mighty fine, and we'd love to have you come."

"No, dearie," was the reply. "I've a lot of things to do to-day, but I'll see you to-night at the darky wedding."

"I'm mighty sorry you can't come," called Lloyd, then hurried on to catch tip with the others. As she joined Rob and Betty she felt intuitively they had changed their subject of conversation at her approach. She had caught the question, "Then are you going to warn her?" and Betty's reply, "What's the use? It would only make her feel bad."

"What's that about warnings?" asked Lloyd, catching Betty's hand and swinging it as she walked along beside her.

"Something that Betty doesn't believe in, "began Rob, "just as I don't believe in dreams. Why wouldn't Bernice come with you?"

"She said she had so much to do. Mistah Shelby is coming out latah. He is going to take her to Sylvia's wedding to-night."

"Speaking of warnings," burst out Rob, impulsively, "I'm going to give you one, Lloyd, whether you like it or not. Don't be too smiling and gracious when you meet Alex Shelby, or Bernice will be assaulting you for poaching on her preserves. You must keep out of her bailiwick if you want to keep her friendship. It's the kind that won't stand much of a strain."

"What do you mean, Rob Moore?" demanded Lloyd, hesitating between a laugh and the old feeling of anger that always flashed up when he referred to girls' friendships in that superior tone.

"I am devoted to Bernice and she is to me. If you are trying to pick a quarrel you may as well go along home, for I'm positively not going to fuss with you about anything whatsoevah until aftah all the company is gone."

"No'm! I don't want to quarrel," responded Rob, with exaggerated meekness. "I was merely giving you a warning --- sort of playing Banshee for your benefit, but you don't seem to appreciate my efforts. Let's talk about watermelons."

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