The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding, Chapter 11: The End Of Several Things

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

Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

Table Of Contents

CHAPTER XI.
THE END OF SEVERAL THINGS

THE old Colonel was in the library, telling for the hundredth time to the small listener an his knee the story of the battle that had taken his right arm. For since Wardo had found that his father's father was in the same wild charge against the Yankees, and had fought like a tiger till a wound in the head and another in the knee sent him to the rear on a stretcher, he could not hear the story often enough. And that led to other tales of things that had happened when the two soldier-friends were schoolboys. It puzzled Wardo to find any resemblance between the mischievous boy whom the Colonel referred to as Cy Bannon, and the dignified judge whose picture hung on the wall of the Colonel's den.

"Oh, his name was Cyrus Edward then, just as yours is now," explained the Colonel when he finally understood the difficulty. "But it was too long a name for such a grasshopper of a lad. He'd have been out of sight before you could say it all. So they cut it down to Cy, just as yours is cut to Wardo."

"Will I be judge Cywus Edwa'd Bannon then when I'm gwoed up?" asked Wardo.

The seriousness of the big innocent eyes fixed on him made the Colonel move uneasily. "Heaven knows," he muttered. "I don't. But it's to be hoped you'll take after him instead of the one next in line of succession."

The question made such a profound impression on him he could not shake it off, and acting on the impulse of the moment he decided to take it to the judge himself for an answer. He would show him the winsome little lad who bore his name. He would demand of him what right he had to withhold from him the protection and shelter that was his heritage. The child's father had been cast off in proud scorn for his profligate ways. Secretly the Colonel had always thought that his old friend had shirked responsibility, and that the open repudiation of him by his family had given Ned his final downward shove.

It made no difference to the Colonel that Ned's name was a forbidden one in the household. He'd tell Cy Bannon a few things. Then his face softened and he smiled a trifle foolishly, muttering something about its being a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The judge might come back at him with the argument that he had been just as harsh with his own child for far less cause; but that would only give him a chance to urge a reconciliation on the ground that he had surrendered gracefully, and had been glad of it ever since. Cy would be a mighty queer sort of man, he concluded, if he could hold out against such a little grandson as Wardo. He was a child to walk into anybody's affections.

Lloyd had left the pair so deeply absorbed in war-stories, that she was surprised on her return to the library a little later, to find no trace of either of them. They'd gone for a trolley ride Walker told her, and expected to be gone most of the morning. So relieved of her responsibility Lloyd made a longer visit in Rollington than usual. The crisis had been passed some time now, and Ida was so much better she was beginning to talk about Wardo's return. She would be able to sit up in a few days. As Lloyd entertained her with accounts of Wardo's sayings and doings she realized more and more what a large place he had come to fill in the household, and how sorely they would all miss him when they had to give him up. Ida's future looked so hopeless. It would be a long time before she would be strong enough to begin sewing again. She talked wearily of the burden she must assume as soon as possible, and Lloyd came away weighed down with a sense of the injustice and wrong in the world and her helplessness to right it.

It was nearly noon when she reached the house. Wardo, who had just come in with her grandfather, rushed down the steps to meet her, his sailor hat on the back of his head, and his arms outstretched to give her glad welcome. He clasped her around the knees, and put up his face to be kissed. His morning's adventures made him feel that he had been away an age. Then his voice trembling with the importance of his news, he announced the three things of his visit which had made the most impression on him.

"I saw the place on my gwan'fahvah's head where the Yankee bullet hit him, wite over his eye! An' the Colonel he shaked his stick at my gwan'fahvah, and got wed in the face when he talked." Then digging down into the mite of a pocket that graced his blouse, he triumphantly brought out the third item, a silver dollar that judge Bannon had given him.

By this time the Colonel had come out, and in answer to Lloyd's excited questions confessed the truth of Wardo's tale. He had shaken his stick at the judge. They had had a stormy interview and he lost his temper. He was sorry at first that he had taken Wardo, the child was so frightened, but it proved a good move, for his appealing little face pleaded his cause better than anything else could have done, and in the end the judge was completely won over by his handsome little namesake.

"And," concluded the Colonel triumphantly, "he's promised to take Ned back and give him one more chance. He'll keep the lad and his mother in any event, and he's to send for them just as soon as she's able to be moved."

"Oh, you blessed old peace-makah!" cried Lloyd running up the steps to throw her arms around his neck and give him as rapturous a hug as Wardo had given her. "You're a perfect darling, and you've made me so happy I don't know what to do or say. I believe I'm as happy as Ida will be when she heahs it, and I'm going ovah there the minute I've had lunch, to tell her. You're a public benefactah and everything else in the dictionary that's extra nice and fine."

It was joy to the Colonel to have his praises sung like that, and he went around the rest of the week with a self-satisfied virtuous feeling that kept him beaming benignly on everything and everybody. In such an angelic humour was he, that Walker confided to Mom Beck that he was "right sma'ht worried 'bout ole Marse."

It was a day of surprises for the whole family. On Lloyd's return from her second visit to Rollington, about the middle of the afternoon, she saw Jack Ware an the rear platform of the trolley-car, which passed the carriage when she was nearly home. He had arrived two days sooner than any one expected he could. Taller, broader and browner by far than the slim lad who waved her farewell from the Wigwam, he was unmistakably the same Jack, and she would have recognized him anywhere.

The second glance showed her father standing just behind him. They both leaned out and waved their hats as they passed the carriage. A moment later they were stepping off the car opposite the entrance gate, and waiting for her to come up.

"Anothah knight comes riding," she thought with a smile, wondering what put the whimsical notion in her head, for she did not count Jack in that class. He was simply her good comrade of the plains, nothing picturesque about him.

"I don't suppose there could be about the modern knight," she thought, amused that such fancies should come to her. "His only thought is to 'get there.'  When young Lochinvar comes out of the West now, his ` steed is the best ' from that standpoint, but you can't make the pictuahs and poems out of trolley-cars that you can out of hawses in those old-time fancy trappings."

Stepping out of the carriage, she sent it on ahead and turned to Jack with such a cordial welcome that he reddened with pleasure under the brown of his sunburned cheeks.

"This is my 'Promised Land' as well as Mary's," he said as they walked slowly towards the house, and he paused to look up at the grand old trees arching over them. "You've no idea how I've looked forward to seeing all this. Mother always pictured it as a sort of Beulah land. Then Joyce took up the same tune, and lastly Mary. She's the most enthusiastic of all, and sat up till midnight the day she found I was coming, to make a list of all the things she said I mustn't fail to see or ask about."

Taking a memorandum book from his pocket he opened it and held it out for Lloyd and her father to see. There were three pages whereon Mary had set down instructions for him to follow. Lloyd laughed as she glanced at the head-line.

      

THINGS TO DO WITHOUT FAIL

  1. Make Mr. Rob Moore's acquaintance, and see Oaklea.
  2. See The Beeches and all Mrs. Walton's curios, especially the bells of Luzon and mother-of-pearl fire-screen.
  3. See if Elise Walton is as pretty as she used to be, and notice how she does her hair now.
  4. Ask Lloyd to play on the harp and sing the Dove Song, when the candles are lighted in the drawing-room.

        

The list was such a long one that Lloyd did not read farther, but glanced at the page headed 

      

THINGS NOT SO IMPORTANT, BUT I'D LIKE TO KNOW

  1. Ask about Girlie Dinsmore if you have a chance. Is she as much of a baby as ever?
  2. What has become of that horrid Bernice Howe?
  3. Does Betty still correspond with the "Pilgrim Father?"
  4. Look in the book-case on the north side of the library, and copy the name of that book on Spiders.
  5. Find out all you can about the man Allison is going to marry.

There were a dozen similar items.

"Isn't that characteristic of Mary?" exclaimed Lloyd. "She's such a deah little bunch of curiosity. Maybe I oughtn't to call it that. A live, intense interest in everything and everybody would be moah like it. But only twenty-foah hours to do it all in! How can we manage it?"

"Not even that," answered Mr. Sherman, "for part of it must be spent with the stock-holders."

"And you couldn't stay longah?" began Lloyd.

"No, I'm due back at the mines very shortly, and I want to make a flying visit to Joyce in New York before I return, and stop over at Annapolis for a glimpse of Holland. You know I've never been East before, and I want to make the most of it."

"Well," said Lloyd, planning rapidly as they walked on. "We'll crowd just as much as possible into this one evening. There'll be time for a drive befoah dinnah, that will give you a bird's-eye view of the Valley, and a short call at Oaklea and The Beeches. We can ansah Mary's questions as we drive along. Befoah we start I'll telephone in to town and ask Rob to come ovah and take dinnah with you to-night, and we'll ask the Waltons to come ovah--- "

She would have paused just there even if they had not reached the house and her sentence been interrupted by Jack's introduction to her mother and Betty, for as she mentioned telephoning it flashed across her what Leland had telephoned her, not to make any engagement for that evening, that he wanted to see her alone.

"But suahly," she thought, "he'll undahstand that that is impossible undah the circumstances --- the only night Jack will be heah."

The next few hours flew by as if winged. They caught Lloyd up out of the dream-world in which she had been living and thoroughly wakened her. It was such a busy, breezy world from Jack's outlook, so much to do and see and conquer. As she listened to his description of the little mining camp that had grown into a town in the short time he had been there, and then to the enthusiastic plans he unfolded to her father of what the mine owners might do to develop and civilize it, she found herself regarding this young Aladdin of the West with growing consideration.

He and Rob found mutual interests from the moment of meeting. She noted with surprise how oddly alike they were in their views. She hadn't known before that Rob was interested in so many things that she knew nothing about, political situations and juvenile Court reforms, and trusts and unions and all those things. But then she had scarcely seen him since he had taken a man's place in the world. Good old Rob! She was proud of the way he was discussing these things with Jack and her father and the Colonel. There was a note of authority in what he said that the older men respected. But it did seem so funny for him to be talking of anything weightier than tennis and skating and his Latin exams or college scrapes. He talked almost as well as Leland Harcourt she admitted.

After dinner Jack took out his memorandum and crossed off all the items that had been attended to. While they were laughing over Mary's questions and dictating answers for him to write lest he forget them, the Waltons arrived with Gay, who had been spending the day with them. A little later Alex Shelby followed. He was on Mary's list, and had a number of messages to send to the little girl who had amused him so greatly at Eugenia's wedding with her quaint speeches and unexpected questions.

From the sound of voices and the number of people in the drawing-room, one might have imagined that a reception was in full swing when Leland Harcourt came up on the porch. Lloyd, recognizing his step, hurried out to meet him and explain why she had been unable to grant his request. She ushered him into the drawing-roam to meet their guest, anxious that they should be favourably impressed with each other. One could always count on Leland for doing the graceful thing socially she thought complacently, but this one time he failed her.

He had been at the house so constantly all summer that she did not think it necessary to make any special effort for his entertainment now, other than to draw him into the conversation with Jack and Rob. They were the comparative strangers and she was giving them the most of her attention. Rob had been at the house only twice that summer. He was as interested as she in hearing about Joyce and Mary, so when she found that Leland did not seem to care to talk, she went back to their former conversation, recalling the duck hunt, the picnic at Hole-in-the-rock, and their dinner at "Coffe Al's" with Phil Tremont.

Everybody else was talking. Everybody else seemed in good spirits but Leland Harcourt. Lloyd could almost feel his silence it became so marked.

"He's sulky," she thought. "It's just his horrid jealousy cropping out like his brothah Jameson's. He doesn't want me to be nice to my oldest and deahest friends. I wish he wouldn't act that way."

Then she sang, since it was next in order on Mary's memorandum, and while she sang, although she did not once look at him directly, she was uncomfortably conscious that his eyes were fixed on her with the determined gaze which they always wore when he had some resolve which he intended to carry out at all hazards.

As she turned from the harp he was the first to rise and place a chair for her. Bending over her he said, under cover of the applause, "I'll not be put off any longer. You must let me see you a few minutes just as soon as I can make an opportunity for you to slip out of the room."

Low as his voice was, Rob, who was sitting just behind him, heard what he said, and then something else that he added in Spanish. Just a word, but it seemed to carry some potent appeal, for with a slight flush she rose. Leland made the opportunity he wished, by saying to Jack that one of the pleasures not to be missed was hearing Gay play the violin. Of course Jack immediately asked for the nocturne which he suggested, and Gay, always obliging, at once complied.

Under cover of the music Leland stepped into the hall, holding the portiere aside with a bow for Lloyd to pass through. Rob's glance followed them across the hall, across the moonlighted porch to the avenue, where the locust shadows fell dense and black. Then he turned his attention resolutely to the music, listening as if in rapt enjoyment, but in reality never hearing a note.

The nocturne came to an end, and there was an encore and still another before Lloyd came back into the room. She was alone, and Rob, in one quick glance, saw that all the bright colour had left her face. She was gripping her little lace fan nervously, and her hazel eyes had deepened almost to black as they always did under the strain of unusual excitement or emotion. He was sure that she was very near tears, and with his usual impulse to shield her from all that was unpleasant, he moved his chair so that no one else saw her agitation and began talking volubly about the first thing he could think of. It happened to be Mary Ware's method of getting rid of an unwelcome guest by playing Fox and Stork, and as she listened to the lengthy story he purposely made of it, she had time to regain her composure before any one else came up.

Afterwards he heard her explaining to Mrs. Walton, "Mistah Harcourt had to leave early, and didn't want to break up the pah'ty by coming in to say good night."

When Rob heard next day that Leland was leaving the Valley at once for a trip to South America, he thought he understood the cause of Lloyd's agitation. It distressed her to have him go so far away. He had been positive for some time that there was some understanding between them. Now this confirmed his suspicions.

Lloyd was grieved over the parting, but not to the extent Rob imagined. Many a night after, she sat curled up on the window-seat in her room, looking down through the trees to the place where she had stood with Leland the night she bade him good-bye. She had not dreamed of such a stormy interview as that, she had not imagined any wooing could be so impassioned, reaching to such heights and depths. He hadn't paid the slightest attention when she tried to stop him, but had asserted triumphantly that he always got what he started out to win, and that this was a matter of life and death, and he'd win her love or die in the attempt. Sometimes, in thinkng it over, she was afraid he would make his threats true, and then sometimes she thought with a quick indrawn breath, remembering how his wild protestations had thrilled her, that it would have been sweet to listen if she could only have been sure that it was right. He vowed he would came back when he could prove to her that he had won the accolade which she seemed to think was so essential, but she did not look for him. In her heart she said that the one real romance of her life was at an end.

Everything seemed to come to an end just then. Jack left the next morning, and before the close of the week Wardo was taken away. Ida was able to be moved to the old Bannon homestead near Anchorage. Although it was the one great thing Lloyd had wished for, she missed her little charge at every turn, and the days stretched out ahead of her long and empty.

The first of September Betty went away with Elise Walton under her wing, happy in the fact that she was to enter Freshman at Warwick Hall, where the older girls had had such glorious times. The next day the Harcourts closed the Cabin and went back to San Antonio. Gay spent her last night in the Valley at The Locusts, and there were more bedtime confidences before they fell asleep, long after midnight.

"Seems as if the end of the summah brings the end of everything," sighed Lloyd regretfully.

"It's more like the beginning of everything for you," contradicted Gay. "You'll be beginning your shopping soon, and your trips to the tailor and the dressmaker and the milliner, and you know you'll enjoy getting all the lovely clothes you're to have as a debutante. It'll be as much fun as planning a trousseau. Then there'll be your debut party in your Aunt Jane's lovely big town house, and all the rest that's to follow. It'll be just grand! A regular procession of social successes and triumphs. 

"And as for Leland," she continued, mentioning him for the first time since his departure. "You needn't worry about that. Of course we knew what had happened just as soon as he bounced in looking like a thunder-cloud, and announced his intention of leaving next morning. We'd seen it coming on all summer. Jameson is tickled to death over it, for this trip to South America is one he has been wanting him to take for a long time. They have some property there that needs looking after, and he thinks now that his ambition is roused he'll take some interest in things."

"But no mattah what he does," said Lloyd firmly, " I'll nevah change my mind. I don't want to get married, Gay," she added almost tearfully. "I read a story the othah day, the diary of a young girl that made me think of myself. She said, 'I don't want to be married. Just to be loved and adored and written to and crowned Queen of Somebody's heart.' Of co'se any girl wants that."

"That's just the way I feel," confided Gay after a moment's pause. Then, "You've been so busy this summer with your own affairs I don't suppose you've noticed what's been going on around you, but I'm afraid I've got myself into a pickle. You see I've already invited Kitty down to San Antonio to spend Lent with me, and I've written to Frank Percival about her, and told her about him and got them interested in each other. You know ever since I've been so intimate with Kitty I've wanted her to marry Frank, so that she'd always live near me. And now --- now I'm not so sure that I'm going to live there myself:"

"You dreadful little match-makah," laughed Lloyd, so amused by Gay's confession that she never thought to inquire what had caused her change of mind about her own residence. "You oughtn't to meddle in such things. Just look what a pickle you got me into. If you hadn't made me promise what you did about being nice to Mistah Harcourt, and told him the things you did about me, we'd nevah have had the scene we did, and would have been good friends always. But look what you've done. Sent him on a hopeless chase aftah a shadow, for he says he'll nevah change his mind, and I know I won't change mine."

Gay giggled. "When an irresistible force meets an immovable body, what does happen? I've always wondered."

"Just what will happen when Mistah Harcourt comes back," was Lloyd's dignified answer. "I'll not be moved."

"And he's not to be resisted," said Gay. "So there we go in the same old circle. But I'm glad for some reasons that you're so determined, for if I should make up my mind to live in the Valley then I'd be glad you were here instead of in San Antonio."

"Oh, are you all going to buy the Cabin?" exclaimed Lloyd, sitting up in bed in her eagerness. "How lovely."

" No, 'we all' are not," confessed Gay. "I knew you didn't have any idea of what was going on this summer. But --- well, you know who my first 'Knight of the Looking-glass' was. He says the Scripture says that 'the first shall be last,' and he insists he is both. He wants to buy the Cabin some day, so that my little mirror can hang there always, up among the roses where he first saw me. It would be sweet and romantic, wouldn't it? But it doesn't seem exactly fair to Kitty to get her tied up down there and then skip out and leave her."

"Kitty isn't tied up yet, by a long shot," laughed Lloyd, who found it hard to take Gay's shy confession seriously. "But I can't get used to this lightning change in you. You were so suah you'd not have any Darby and Joan emotions in yours while 'Life is May.' You've talked all summah against early marriages."

"I'm not an 'immovable body' like you. And I would be a little nearer gray hairs if we waited for two years as we'd certainly have to do, but even if we didn't wait it wouldn't be the same as it is with Lucy and Jameson, and some other young married people I know. Alex is so different. Well, he is," she insisted indignantly. "What are you laughing at? You know he's different."

"Yes, I do know it," answered Lloyd, instantly sobered by her realization of the fact that Gay was no longer joking, but was laying bare her heart's dearest secret. "He's a deah, good fellow, and he'll be just as loving and true and sweet to you always as the old Doctah is to Aunt Alicia. Nobody could want moah than that I'm suah. So heah's my blessing and the hope that you'll live to keep yoah Golden Wedding as happily as they are going to do." She leaned over and kissed her tenderly.

They talked so late that night that Gay almost missed her train next morning, but as she scrambled breathlessly on to the rear platform she called back happily, "What's the odds, even if it did make me late? It was such a nice wind-up to such a glorious summer."

Chapter 10   Chapter 12 >