The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding, Chapter 5: A Camera Helps

THE LITTLE COLONEL's KNIGHT COMES RIDING
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)
Published 1907

Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

Table Of Contents

CHAPTER V.
A CAMERA HELPS

SEVERAL days after his return from Lexington, Leland Harcourt sauntered out of the house, after a late breakfast alone. The bored expression on his face showed plainly what he thought of the Valley as a summer resort. His brother and Lucy were off somewhere about the grounds, and for more than an hour the faint sound of Gay's violin had been floating up from the rustic arbour, which she claimed as her private domain.

It was a pleasant little retreat, far back from the road in the dense beech shade, and at such a distance from the house that her energetic practising could disturb no one. Here every morning before the distractions of the day began, she religiously devoted an hour to her music. The time always slipped past that limit if no one came to stop her, for an absorbing devotion to her work made her oblivious to everything else when her beloved violin was once tucked under her chin. Scales and trills and chords, all the finger exercises that kept her touch supple and sure, were gone through with in faithful routine. Then the new music she was mastering had its share of careful attention, and after that she played on and on, as a bird sings, from sheer love of it.

She was improvising when Leland came out on the porch, a light rollicking little tune, to fit a verse from an Uncle Remus song. It was a verse which Alex Shelby had repeated as he escorted them over to The Beeches, the time they spent the night there, the next night after their burglar scare at the Cabin. Lucy had been so frightened that she gladly accepted Mrs. Walton's invitation to stay with her until the men of the family returned.

They had had such a good time. Now the recollection of it was finding voice in the tune which Gay was trying to manufacture for the words which Alex had laughingly sung when Lucy stuck in the barb wire fence on the way over

"Hop light, ladies, Oh, Miss Loo, 
Hit take a heap er scrougin' 
Fer to git you throo.
Hop light, ladies, oh, Miss Loo!"

Gay recalled the straggling little procession through the woods with a smile, as her bow quavered again through the refrain. They must have looked ridiculous. There was Lucy lugging the heavy silver pitcher and Jameson's ladle because she was afraid to leave them behind, and she herself with her violin case, and Alex carrying the Lindsey spoons and forks and the enormous seven-branched silver candle-sticks, because Lucy felt responsible for their safety, since she had rented them with the house. And there was Ranald bringing up the rear with their suit-cases, and Kitty laughing at them all for bringing these household gods. She called Lucy "Ephraim joined to his idols," because she would not put clown the pitcher and ladle even while she crawled through the barb wire fence. They had cut across lots in the twilight, instead of going around by the road, not wanting to be seen with a load which looked so much like burglar's booty.

"If Leland only could have been with us then!" thought Gay regretfully. "And the night before that when we had such a jolly time with the taffy and the duets. He would have been on a real friendly footing with them all by this time. But he's beginning to find it dull. I know he is. He'll be off again before long if we can't get him interested in something."

While she was worrying over his evident restlessness and discontent, the odour of his cigar came floating out to her, and she knew by that token that he had finished breakfast and needed to be amused. Locking her violin in its case, she carried it back to the house, prepared to shoulder her share of this responsibility.

"Good morning, Brer Tarrypin," she called as she came in sight of him lolling in the hammock. "Lounjoun' roun' as usual, I see. Well, the mail train is in, so you can come with me to the post-office as soon as I get my hat."

"Good heavens, Pug!" he groaned. "I vow you're worse than a little volcano --- always in action."

Nevertheless he got up, as she knew he would, and strolled along beside her. The road in front of the post-office was almost blocked with carriages. On summer mornings like this nearly every one in the Valley found some excuse to be at the station when the mail train came in; for while they waited for the delivery window to open, there was time not only to attend to the day's marketing, but to meet all one's friends. At such times the little box of a post-office was the very centre of neighbourhood sociability, and since everybody knew everybody else, the gathering was as informal as a family reunion.

Even Gay felt like an old settler. Her previous visit to the Valley had given her so many acquaintances. As she passed down the straggling line of men and boys who were leaning against the fence or sitting on the top rail while they waited, hats were swept off as if a sudden breeze had scurried along the path. Several of the, old Confederate soldiers spoke her name as they saluted. She had played for them. up at the Home twice on that former visit.

"Oh, the dear little, queer little Valley," she began, but was interrupted by Leland's calling her attention to the Sherman carriage, which was moving in and out at a snail's pace through the blockade of vehicles, stopping repeatedly as greetings were called out to it from the other carriages. Gay's face brightened as she saw Lloyd on the back seat, looking as fresh as a snowdrop in her white linen dress.

"Oh, if she'd only ask us up to Locust to spend the morning!" thought Gay so earnestly that it seemed to her that Lloyd must feel the force of the "thought-wave" she was trying to project. "It's high time for her to remember her promise if she expects to accomplish anything."

Lloyd was remembering her promise. It recurred to her the instant that she caught sight of Leland's dark interesting face as he turned the corner. As instantly she had looked away, remembering how pointedly he had ignored her that night at the Cabin. This was the first time she had seen him since. Now Gay's request seemed utterly absurd. The colour surged up in her face as she remembered her high resolve about lighting a vestal fire on the altar of a promise. How ridiculous of her to have worked herself up into such an exalted mood over nothing. A positive dislike for the man who had been the cause of it took possession of her, and she wished heartily that she need never meet him again.

But an encounter could not be avoided long. Gay was pushing eagerly through the crowd towards the carriage. She would call her in a moment, then she would have to turn around and at least be decently polite. Just then a stylish little runabout stopped opposite the carriage, and a lady leaned out to accost Lloyd. Thankful for the opportunity, Lloyd turned her back squarely on the post-office and plunged into an animated conversation. Without glancing in their direction she was conscious that Gay and Mr. Harcourt were on the curbstone directly behind her, and would come up the moment that she stopped talking.

"Yes, of co'se, Miss Jennie," they heard her say. "I'm going to town on the next car, and I'll be glad to get it for you. Yes, we're all going in for a day's shopping. Mothah and Betty are ovah at the trolley station now, waiting for me to get the mail."

Miss Jennie, giving voluble directions, began hunting through her pocketbook for a sample of ribbon which she wanted matched. Gay's hopes fell. She had counted confidently on taking Leland up to the Locusts to spend the morning. But just then Lloyd waved her handkerchief to some one coming down the avenue, and turning, Gay's face brightened. It was Kitty Walton to whom Lloyd had waved. Strolling along under a white parasol, in a pale pink dress and with a great bunch of sweet peas in her hand, she looked so attractive, that Gay felt that Leland would find The Beeches fully as entertaining a loafing-place as The Locusts. She decided to take him up there. Again she was doomed to disappointment, for Kitty's cordial greeting was followed by the almost breathless announcement that she was about to take her departure from the Valley.

"Oh, when?" called Lloyd, turning to the girls with the friendliest of smiles, and acknowledging Mr. Harcourt's greeting with a frosty little bow. "When, where and whyfoah?"

"This evening," answered Kitty, "over to the Martinsville Springs in Indiana, and because mother is firmly convinced that they are the panacea for all the ills that flesh is heir to. Really they do help her wonderfully, and she needs the change, and I like the place myself so I'm not sorry to go for some reasons. But I do hate to take ten whole days out of your visit, Gay."

"You can't hate it half as much as I do," answered Gay gloomily, who had not overlooked Lloyd's cool little bow to Leland. For Lloyd to act snippy and Kitty to be away ten whole days right in the beginning of things was fatal to all her plans.

It was just then that help came from a most unexpected source. Not that she realized then that it was help, but weeks afterward she traced back several important things to that small beginning.

Miss Katherine Marks came out of the post-office with a handful of letters. She was about to pass the group beside the Sherman carriage with only a brief " good morning," when the sight of Kitty's sweet peas made her pause.

"That reminds me, Kitty," she said. "I've finished mounting that garden photograph. You may see it now, whenever you come over."

"I'll come right now, Miss Katherine," was the eager response. "I'm wild to see it, and as we're going to Martinsville this evening this will be my only chance."

Seeing the unspoken wish in Gay's eager eyes, Miss Marks included all of them in the invitation. Lloyd glanced at her watch and excused herself, finding that the car she wanted to take was almost due. She would have to hurry to reach the station she said. But even in her haste she noticed that Leland did not join in the regret which the others expressed, and grown unduly sensitive in regard to his opinion, she fancied that he looked pleased when she refused. He lifted his hat perfunctorily, not even glancing at her as he moved away, seemingly absorbed in adjusting Kitty's parasol, which he had taken possession of, and was holding over her.

Gay walked on with Miss Marks. Kitty had to stop a moment at the Bisbee cottage, to leave the sweet peas with a message from her mother. Leland waited for her at the gate.

"What is this you're getting me into?" he asked, nodding towards Miss Marks and Gay, who were almost out of sight.

If he had asked the question of Gay she would have explained eagerly that they were on their way to Clovercroft, to see a collection of amateur photographs which had taken prizes and gold medals all over the country, and among them were three at least, that she knew he would want so desperately, that he would fall all over himself trying to get them. But it would be of no use to try. He could neither beg, borrow, buy nor steal them. He might thank his lucky stars that he was permitted just to stand afar off and gaze at them in hopeless admiration.

But Kitty, instead of enlightening him in any such way turned the talk into channels of more personal interest, and made the short stroll so agreeable that it came to an end entirely too soon. He followed her through the gate wishing that he could invent some excuse whereby to prolong the pleasure of making her blush and seeing her dark eyes look up laughingly at him from under the white parasol. At the same time he wanted to escape the bore of being expected to grow enthusiastic over some amateur collection in which he felt no interest.

Something of this he expressed in an undertone to Kitty as they stepped up on to the porch.

"Don't flatter yourself," she advised him, dropping into a seat, "that you'll be allowed a peep into Miss Katherine's studio. Strangers never get any farther than the Court of the Gentiles."

"Gay has gone in," he answered, "and her introduction antedates mine not more than two seconds. Why shouldn't I?"

"Gay is one of the elect. She has the artist soul herself, and Miss Katherine recognizes the earmarks."

"You insinuate that I haven't them?"

Kitty smiled tantalizingly, and swung her parasol back and forth by its ivory crook. "No, indeed. I'm not insinuating anything. I'm simply stating a broad truth. You can't get in. She'll bring out dozens of pictures for your inspection, but she'll not invite you inside that studio. Very few people are so favoured."

Up to that moment he had not had the faintest wish to set foot inside the studio, but her provoking assertions suddenly seemed to make it the one desirable spot for him to enter. "I'll show you," he declared rashly. "I'll see it before we leave here. I always get what I want. Now watch me."

Miss Marks came out with a large photograph exquisitely tinted. So artistic it was, both in colouring and composition, that Leland's admiration was as great as his surprise. He had expected to see some little snap shots such as he had made himself when he had the kodak fever, the kind that are interesting only to those who take them and those who are taken. This was so beautiful that no sooner was it in his hands than he was fired with a desire to possess it. It was the picture of a rose garden, every bush a glory of bloom, and in the path, her pink dress caught by a clinging brier, was Kitty herself like another rose, looking down over her shoulder at the bramble which held her a prisoner in its thorny clasp.

"It is to illustrate a fairy-tale," explained Miss Marks. "When naughty Esmerelda runs away from the good prince, everything in the garden is in league to help him, and Brier Rose catches at her skirts as she hurries by, and holds her fast."

"Isn't it lovely?" cried Gay, flashing out of the studio with an armful which Miss Marks had given her permission to show. "Here's Betty taken as a nun --- Sister Doloroso --- and Lloyd as an Easterangel. It's perfectly fascinating to hear Miss Marks tell how she got that effect of flying. Arranged the draperies with Lloyd lying on the floor, and photographed her from a trap door above. Tell him how you added the doves' wings please."

Much to her surprise Miss Marks found herself telling things to this young man that she would not have dreamed of telling to another stranger; some of the remarkable makeshifts she had used in costumes and backgrounds. His flattering air of interest drew these confidences from her as irresistibly as a magnet draws steel.

"You ought to do a series of these garden pictures," he declared, "and call them 'Garden Fancies' after that poem of Browning's. By the way, there is a couplet in that which would lend itself charmingly to illustration, and I saw the very garden that you should use for it, while I was out driving yesterday. It was one of those straight walk prim bordered affairs that go with old English cottages."

He could have found no surer path to Miss Marks's good graces. Gay, not knowing that he had a purpose to gain by it, listened in amazement as he proceeded to outline picture after picture for the series of Garden Fancies, even planning costumes and suggesting clever means by which various obstacles might be overcome. Her astonishment showed itself in her face, when he even consented to pose himself, as a Spanish troubadour in a moonlit garden with a guitar.

Kitty, who knew the object of this sudden interest in photography, laughed outright, but nobody noticed her irrelevant mirth. Miss Marks was too interested in the new plan, and Gay was too puzzled over his rapidly growing enthusiasm. Presently, darting a triumphant look at Kitty, from the corner of his eye, he rose to follow Miss Marks. She was actually taking him into her inner courts. Kitty made a little grimace behind his back. She resented his I-told-you-so air, but she could not help admiring the masterful way in which he had gained his end.

One hasty glance around the studio changed his assumed interest into real. Impressed by the wonderful results Miss Marks had obtained by the combination of brush and camera, he was seized by a wish to do something in the same line himself. Accustomed to the impulsiveness of his enthusiasms, Gay was not surprised when he began to persuade Miss Marks to start to work on the Garden Fancies then and there.

The English garden was too far away for them to attempt that morning, but Miss Marks finally agreed that the moonlight scene might be managed. It was just the right time of day to take a moonlight picture, while the sunshine was so direct that it would cast the blackest of shadows. She could retouch the plate to give it the right effect, and paint in a moon.

"You'll have to hurry if I'm to be in it," ordered Kitty, "for Mother is waiting for me this blessed minute. I've a world of things to do in the next few hours."

"Give us just a quarter of one of them," begged Leland. "I'll attend to the balcony part if Miss Marks will look after the costumes and tell me where to find a step-ladder."

"Leland has plenty to amuse him now," thought Gay happily, as she watched him giving directions to Frazer, the coloured man, who came in answer to Miss Marks's call. "His foot is on his native heath and his name's 'McGregor ' when it comes to a thing of this sort."

Ten minutes later Kitty found herself looking out of an improvised balcony, a charming affair outwardly, but most laughable within. A tall stepladder had been dragged into the bay window of the music room, and the upper sash of the middle window pushed down from the top. The thick vines that grew over it were pulled back to leave an oval opening. It was out of this leafy oval she leaned from her seat on the top of the ladder, to smile down on the troubadour below. There was a rose in her dark hair, a half-furled fan in her hand, and a coquettish glance in her laughing black eyes.

Leland's costume had been hastily constructed from scraps of stage property kept for such occasions. It took but a moment to drape a long cape over one shoulder in graceful. folds, twist a piece of velvet into a little cap and pin a white plume on one side. A row of potted plants laboriously put in place by Frazer hid the fact that he wore modern trousers instead of the more picturesque knee breeches which such a costume demanded.

"Fire away," he ordered, adjusting the guitar to a more comfortable position.

"Suppose you sing a verse of a real serenade," suggested Miss Marks, "so as to get into the proper spirit of the thing. Then just as you finish, while you're looking soulfully into each other's eyes, I'll squeeze the bulb."

Kitty, seeing the seamy side of his improvised cap, and feeling the absurdity of her position on the top of the step-ladder, could only giggle when she tried to look soulful. But Leland had taken part in too many private theatricals to be disconcerted now. With as impassioned a gaze as any Romeo ever fixed on his Juliet, he struck the soft chords of a Spanish serenade, and began to sing so meaningly that Kitty's giggle was silenced, and she looked down with a conscious blush

"Thine eyes are stars of morning, 
Thy lips are crimson flowers. 
Good night, good night, beloved, 
While I count the weary hours."

"There! That ought to be perfect," cried Miss Marks, emerging from under the black cloth which covered the camera. "Mr. Harcourt, you're the most satisfactory man I've ever had pose for me. It's easy enough to get a score of pretty girls any time I need them, but it isn't once in a decade one finds such an altogether desirable model of a man. You seem to know by intuition exactly the right positions to fall into. I'm sure the series will be a success now."

Leland bowed his appreciation of the compliment, and Gay, knowing his vulnerable spot and how secretly pleased he was, could have danced a breakdown in her delight.

As they were all eager to see the result, Miss Marks took herself at once to the dark room with the plate, promising they should have a proof before time for the Martinsville train. Then Gay and Leland walked home with Kitty, and stayed talking awhile on the shady porch.

"It's been a very decent sort of morning," Leland admitted on his way home to lunch. A siesta in the hammock shortened the afternoon. He was in a most agreeable mood when they drove over to the station to see the Waltons off on their train.

Better than her promise, Miss Marks had sent a finished picture instead of a proof. It was fully as good as the one of Brier Rose and Esmerelda, and Leland was enthusiastic in his admiration of the balcony he had improvised, and the Spanish beauty within it. When it had passed around the circle he coolly took possession of it, although Kitty claimed it, as Frazer had brought it up to The Beeches.

"I'll keep it till your return, Miss Kitty," he said. "You have your mirror, so you don't need this. It may inspire me to run over to the Springs myself a few days to see the original if you stay away too long."

Something in the light tone made Gay glance up quickly. She groaned as she caw the admiration his expressive eyes showed so plainly.

"Now he's gone and done it!" she thought in dismay. "He's taken a fancy to Kitty instead of Lloyd, when I've set my heart on saving Kitty for Frank Percival. May blessings light on those old Martinsville Springs for taking her out of the way for awhile! Maybe I can get him switched off on the other track before she comes back."

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