Mary Ware In Texas, Chapter 11: Phil Goes To Warwick Hall

MARY WARE IN TEXAS
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Published 1910

Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill

Title Page

 

CHAPTER XI.
PHIL GOES TO WARWICK HALL

HAD it not been for that package of letters read aloud before the fire on that stormy March night, this story might have had a very different ending. But for them Phil never would have known what a winsome, unselfish character the little Vicar had grown up to be. The casual meetings of years could not have revealed her to him as did these intimate glimpses of her daily life and thought, through her letters to Joyce.

They showed her childishly jubilant in her delight when the first month's salary was paid into her hands, and yet practical and woManley in her plans for spending it. Like a child she was, too, in her laments over some of the mistakes which her inexperience led her into with Brud and Sister, yet he could see plainly underneath her whimsical words her deep earnestness of purpose. At last she had recognized that this opportunity to impress them with her high ideals was one of the King's calls. and she was bending every energy to the keeping of that tryst. It was this development of character which interested Phil, even more than the news of the letters. Still there were a number of items which gave him something to think about. Lieutenant Boglin had made a second visit. Once she mentioned a book he had sent her, and another time a rare butterfly to add to the new collection she was starting. Evidently they had found several interests in common.

On his last visit she had taken him to Fern-bank in the boat, and he had captured a fine big hairy tarantula for her from among the roots of a clump of maidenhair ferns. She had been able to enjoy the boat a great deal more since the children had learned the meaning of the word obey. She could take them with her now without fear of their rocking the boat, and in consequence they had had many a delightful hour on the water that had not been possible before.

"Do you know," said Phil, slowly, when he had listened awhile longer, "it doesn't strike me that those are particularly doleful letters; at any rate, anything to send you into an 'orgy of weeps.' I believe it is nothing but the weather which gave you the spell of doldrums that you were in when I came."

"Oh, but you haven't heard the latest ones," Joyce exclaimed.  "Mamma's reports of Jack's condition and Jack's own little pencilled scrawls. I can read between the lines just what a desperate fight he is making, and this last one from Mary simply knocked all the props out from under the hope I had been clinging to."

She picked up the last envelope on the pile, postmarked March first, and turned to the closing pages

"'Jack is so much worse that I can scarcely think of anything else. We are so worried about him. He is in bed all the time now, and is growing so thin and weak. He is very despondent, --- something new for him. It keeps us busy trying to think of things to tempt his appetite or to arouse him out of his listlessness. He has always been so cheerful before --- so full of jokes and so responsive to any attempt to amuse him. But now he doesn't seem to want to talk or to be read to or anything. Once in a while he'll smile a wan little sort of smile when I repeat some of the children's doings, but he isn't like himself any more. Sometimes I believe he's just worn out with the long effort he's made to be brave and keep up for our sake.

"'It is hard for me to keep my interest in the children keyed up to the proper pitch any more, when all the time I am thinking how pitiful and white he looks, lying back on his pillows. I am telling you exactly how things are because I would want you to tell me if I were in your place and you in mine. I can understand how hard it is for you to be so far away where you can't see for yourself how he is, every hour. I'll try to send a note or postal each day.

"'He's talked about you a lot, lately. Says you have the pioneer spirit of all our old Colonial grandmothers, to stick to your post the way you are doing for our sakes. He's constantly referring to things that happened at the Wigwam, and to the people who used to come there, --- Mr. Ellested and the Lees and Phil, --- especially Phil. I wish he could drop in here to see us daily as he used to do in Arizona. Maybe Jack would rouse up and take some interest in him. He doesn't take any now in the people we have met here, although no one could be kinder than the Rochesters and the Barnabys have been to us.'"

Joyce finished reading, and Phil rose to his feet and began pacing up and down the long room, his hands in his pockets and his eyes fixed on the floor as if he were considering some weighty problem. Finally he stopped, and leaning against the mantel, looked down at her, thoughtfully, saying, "Joyce, I've about thought out a way to manage it --- to take in Bauer on my way to California, I mean. You told me once that Aunt Emily calls me her 'other boy.' Well, you all are my other family, and these glimpses you've given me of it make me homesick to see them. I might be able to help matters some way. I'm almost sure I can arrange to start several days before the rest of the party and go around that way, so if you have any messages or things to send, get them ready."

"Oh, Phil!" she cried, thankfully. "They'll be so glad --- I know it will do them a world of good to see you. Maybe you can cheer Jack up a bit. So much depends on keeping him hopeful." Then she added, wistfully, "I only wish you could put me in your pocket and take me along."

"I wish I could," he answered, cordially. Then more cordially still after a moment's thought, " Why, that's the very thing! Come and go along! Just cut loose for a short visit and let things here go hang! It would mean more to them at home to see you again than the few dollars you could pile up if you stayed on here."

"No," she contradicted, sadly, the light dying out of her eyes, which had brightened at the mere thought of such a visit. "It's too long a trip and too expensive, and---"

"But we can easily arrange all that, "he interrupted, eagerly. "Under the circumstances you ought to let me do for Jack's sister what Jack would gladly do for mine were the circumstances reversed. Please, Joyce."

She shook her head as he urged his plan, but her eyes filled with tears and she said, brokenly, "You are a dear, generous boy to offer it, and I'll remember it always, but Phil --- don't you see --- there's too much at stake. I can't leave now. Not only my work in hand would stop, but I'd lose the orders that are constantly coming in, and I can't afford to miss a penny that would add to Jack's comfort in any way. He may be helpless for years and years, and Mary's salary will stop as soon as the Mallorys leave Bauer this summer."

"Well, think about it, anyway," urged Phil, hopefully. "Maybe you'll see things differently by daylight, and change your mind. I'll ring you up in the morning."

"By the way," he said, a few minutes later, when he was slipping into his overcoat, "don't write to Mary that there is a possibility of my going to Bauer. If I should go I want to surprise her."

"Very well," agreed Joyce. "But I may write about Elsie's wedding and say that you'll all be going West?"

"Oh, yes, she'll probably have cards herself soon, for Elsie has never forgotten her one encounter with the little Vicar, and she wrote for her address some time ago."

It was several days before Joyce saw Phil again. When he did come he was in such a hurry that he did not wait for the elevator, which seemed to be stuck somewhere in the basement. After several impatient rings he started up the stairs, two steps at a time, and had reached the fifth floor before the elevator overtook him. He was slightly out of breath, but so intent on his errand that he never would have thought to step in and ride the rest of the way, had it not stopped on the landing for another passenger, as he was about to pass the cage.

The janitor was cleaning the halls of the top floor apartments, and the door into Joyce's studio being open, Phil walked in without waiting to ring. Joyce was at her easel hard at work. Her face lighted up when she saw his, for it showed so plainly he was the bearer of good news.

"Daddy's going with me," were his first breathless words of greeting."We---" Then he paused as if some sudden recollection warned him to ask,  "What have you heard from home lately?"

She thought the question was prompted by his fear that it might not be convenient for them to have guests in the house if Jack were so ill, so she hastened to reassure him.

"Oh, I had the cheerfulest sort of letter from Mamma this morning, written last Sunday, the very day I was crying my eyes out over them. Isn't that always the way? Here it was so bleak and blustery that I couldn't help imagining that they were as dismal as I. And all the time it was as warm as summer in Bauer, the country a mass of wildflowers, and they were having a perfectly delightful time with Gay Melville. And guess who had gone up with her to spend the day there! Alex Shelby of Kentucky!" she added, without an instant's pause for him to answer.

"Mamma wrote that she didn't know when she had had such an enjoyable day. Dr. Shelby insisted on her going for a little outing with the girls while he and Norman took care of Jack. Mary poled them up to Fern-bank in the boat, and when they got back they found that, in some unaccountable way, Jack had been wonderfully cheered up. He seemed more like himself than he had been for weeks. Mamma was so happy over that, for even if he can never be any better physically it is a lot to be thankful for to have his spirits kept up."

"Is that all?" asked Phil, when she paused at last.

"Yes. Why? Isn't that enough?"

"I only wanted to find out how much you knew before I broke my news. Now, listen to this! Alex Shelby wrote to Daddy that same night. You know they met at Eugenia's wedding, and Shelby, who was just beginning to practise medicine then seemed to develop a case of hero-worship for father. Shelby has taken a great interest in Jack's case ever since he heard of the accident, and the reason he sent Aunt Emily out that afternoon was that he might have a chance to examine Jack without her knowing it. He didn't want to raise anybody's hopes if nothing can be done. He thinks that the first operation did not go quite far enough. There is still a pressure on the spinal cord which may be removed by a very delicate bit of surgery. I don't understand his technical terms, but it's one of the most difficult things known to the medical profession.

"Daddy says there are very few cases on record of its having been done successfully, although it has been attempted several times. Personally he knows of two cases. One was a football player in this country who had his back broken, and one was a man in Germany who was injured in exactly the same vertebrae where Jack's trouble lies. And --- mark this now --- Daddy helped with that operation. The surgeon who performed it was a friend of his, and called him in because it was such a rare and peculiar case."

Joyce was scarcely breathing now, as she listened. She was white to the lips in her intense excitement.

"Oh, go on!" she exclaimed, unable to endure the suspense when he paused. "Doctor Tremont thinks he can cure him?"

"No---" was the guarded response. "He is not sure. He doesn't say that. But there is a chance, just one chance, and he is going to take it. We're leaving in a few hours, so I haven't another moment to stay!"

Joyce, who had risen in her first excitement, dropped back on her stool again, limp and trembling. She had thought so long of Jack's illness as being hopeless that the possibility of a cure almost unnerved her with the great joy of it. Phil went on, rapidly:

"Shelby told Jack of his hope, but evidently he said nothing to the rest of the family, or they would have known the reason for Jack's return to cheerfulness. Now, don't go to getting upset like that," he added, holding out his hands for a cordial leave-taking. "I don't want to get your hopes up too high, but I've always felt that Daddy could come as near to working miracles as anyone living, and you just remember this --- he's going to work one this time, if mortal man can do it! You see, he knows what the Wares were to me that year on the desert. He hasn't forgotten how you all saved his motherless boy for him. That's the way he puts it. Saved me from my besetting temptation and sent me away to make a man of myself. If he can put Jack on his feet again he will feel that he is only paying back a small part of his obligation to you all --- to say nothing of my debt. Lord! I can't even talk about that now! It's too big for me ever to tackle myself. But I just wanted you to know how we both feel about it---"

He did not attempt to finish, but with a final strong handclasp he was gone before Joyce could find her voice for more than a faltering good-by.

For a little while after he left she sat before her easel, gazing vacantly at the canvas with eyes which saw nothing. She could not settle down to work again with so many exciting mental pictures rising up before her: Jack, undergoing the operation at home. The awful suspense and tension of that time of waiting until they could know the result, and then --- Jack, strong and well and swinging along with the vigorous stride she remembered so well. Or would it be --- She shut her eyes and shuddered, putting away from her with an exclamation of horror the other scene that persisted in presenting itself. She had never forgotten the tramp of feet across the threshold of the little brown house in Plainsville the day they carried her father away.

Presently she could bear it no longer, and pushing back her easel she slipped off her apron and called to Mrs. Boyd that she was going out for awhile. In her present tremor of nervousness she could not trust herself to stop and explain. She felt that she could not bear to listen to the little woman's platitudes, no matter how sympathetic they might be.

It was not till she was on the car, half-way out to Central Park, that she remembered she had not told Phil of one other item of news in her mother's letter. She wondered if he knew that Gay and Alex Shelby were engaged. The reason that they had gone to Bauer was to announce it themselves to the only people in that part of the world who knew and loved Lloydsboro Valley. It was in that happy valley that their romance had begun, and they both knew that Mrs. Ware had spent her girlhood there, that Mary regarded it as her "Promised Land," and that Jack, although his visit there had been limited to one day, had seen the rose-covered cabin where Gay and her Knight of the Looking-glass had first caught sight of each other, and where their married life was to begin.

It was several hours before Joyce got back to the studio. The long car-ride and the brisk walk in the park had helped her to regain her usual outward composure, but she was far from being as calm as she seemed. Alternate moods of hopefulness and foreboding kept her swinging like a pendulum from exhilaration to a sickening sense of fear. She could hardly fix her mind on her work, although her hands moved feverishly.

Before starting back to work she hunted up one of Henrietta's railroad time-tables, and fastened it to a corner of her canvas, so that she could follow the course of the Texas-bound travellers. At intervals she glanced from the clock to the card, thinking, "Now they are just leaving the New York station," or, "Now they are pulling into Washington." Later she found the time when they would be going aboard the New Orleans sleeper, and from then on a thousand times her thoughts ran on ahead to picture their reception in Bauer, and the events that would follow there in quick succession. Her waking hours were filled with only one thought till Phil's first telegram announced their arrival. Then she scarcely ate or slept, so great was her anxiety as she waited his second message.

As Doctor Tremont and Phil pushed through the crowds at the New York station, hurrying to reach the Washington-bound train, steaming on the track, Phil recalled the last time he had passed through. It was in March of the previous year, but later in the month, that he had come down with Joyce to put Mary and Betty aboard the train, the morning after they had heard about Jack's accident. It was at that stand that he bought the fruit for them, here he had snatched up the magazines, and there was where he had stood while the train pulled out, waiting for the last glimpse of the little Vicar's face at the window, bravely smiling in her efforts to "keep inflexible" for Joyce's sake.

The scene had been impressed vividly upon his memory, because of the way the whole affair had touched his sympathies, and now he found himself, after a year, recalling things that at the time he had barely noticed. It was like taking a second look at a snapshot picture, and finding details in the back ground to which he had paid no attention when first focussing the camera. There was that wistful look in Betty's brown eyes, for instance. They had been almost as full of trouble as Mary's. Their appealing sadness came back to him now quite as forcibly as Mary's tearful good-by smile.

He remembered the protecting way she had put her arm around her little pupil. They had been such good comrades all through the vacation pleasures which they had shared, that Christmas and Easter. He remembered now how far back Betty's friendship with Joyce dated. Suddenly it occurred to him that Betty, of all people, would be most interested in what was about to occur in the Ware family. Whatever followed the operation, whether it were grief or joy, she would share with them.

Doctor Tremont had some business to attend to which would keep him busy during the few hours they were obliged to stop over in Washington, and, after a few moments' deliberation, Phil decided to go out to Warwick Hall while he waited, instead of spending his time looking up an old acquaintance, as he had intended doing.

There was another reason for calling on Betty, which he did not acknowledge to himself as a reason, but it carried weight in helping him to make a decision. That was the knowledge that she would have the latest news of Lloyd Sherman. He had had six months in which to grow accustomed to the idea that the little unset turquoise he had once given her could never stand for anything more between them than the " true-blue friendship stone." He had been so determined to make it more, that his whole world seemed jolted out of its orbit when he heard of her engagement to Rob Moore. He could not talk of it at first. Lately, however, he had come to take a more philosophical view of the situation.

Several hours later, when Phil found himself in front of Warwick Hall, the great castle-like building and beautifully kept grounds seemed as familiar as if he had visited it before. The Lloydsboro valley girls had sung its praises ever since he had known them. Lloyd herself had talked much of it in the days when every subject she mentioned was interesting, simply because she chose to talk about it. Mary Ware had pictured it to him as a veritable paradise, and he had been pressed to admire so many photographs of it on so many occasions that it was no wonder it had a familiar look, every way he turned.

He would have been highly amused could he have known what a sensation he was creating in the school, as he stood on the highest terrace, looking down the flight of stately marble steps that led to the river. In the first place, the sight of such an unusually attractive man, young, handsome, and with an air of distinction, was a rarity in those parts. That he should loiter down the walk instead of striding straight up to the massive portal, aroused the curiosity of every girl who happened to be near a window, and why he should pluck a leaf from the Abbotsford ivy, overhanging the pergola, and then walk along the hedge of the wonderful old garden until he could lean over and read the motto on the ancient sun-dial, was more than any of them could fathom. There was a flutter among those who had seen him, when presently the great knocker, echoing through the hall, announced that he was ready to enter.

The pompous butler opened the door, and for the second time in his history nearly fell backward, for the dignified young stranger who stood there with the easy grace of at least a viscount, called out as if he had known him always, " Oh, it's Hawkins."

When Phil raised his hand to the knocker he was smiling over Mary's account of her first entrance through that door. He had teased her unmercifully when he heard of her rehearsals for the purpose of impressing the butler, and when the man instantly appeared just as Mary had pictured him, he was so much like a stiff old portrait bowing from the frame of the doorway, that the exclamation slipped from Phil in surprise. Then he smiled again, thinking how inadvertently he had copied Mary. ,

At first glance Hawkins thought he must be one of Madam Chartley's relatives from England, and bowed again, obsequiously this time. But the card laid on his silver tray was not for Madam. It was for Miss Elizabeth Lewis, the youngest and most popular teacher in the Hall.

It was after recitation hours and Betty was not in her room, but she came in presently from a walk, looking as girlish and rosy as the little freshman who had been her companion. The March winds had given her color, and blown her brown hair about her face in soft little curls. Phil could see her through the curtained arch as she came into the hall and took the card Hawkins presented on his tray. Her face lighted up with pleasure, and she gave an exclamation of surprise, both of which items Hawkins noticed. When she hurried into the reception-room he cast a look of discreet curiosity after her. Then he turned away with a wise wag of the head. Of course, one knew what to expect when the young stranger called her by her first name in such a joyful tone as that, and she responded cordially that it was such a lovely surprise to see "the Best Man!"

All the wedding party had called Phil the Best Man, ever since Mary had emphasized the name by her comically reverent use of it, and it seemed quite natural that the next remark should be about her. Phil thought to surprise Betty by saying, casually, "I've just stopped by to ask if you want to send any message to Mary Ware. I'm on my own way to Bauer now."

But he was the one to be surprised, for her face paled and she exclaimed, in a voice tense with suppressed excitement, " Oh, is your father going, too? Has he really consented to attempt the operation?"

Then, in answer to his exclamation of astonishment that she should know anything about it, she explained, while the color returned in a rush. She had had a note from Jack that morning, just a scribbled line, telling what Alex Shelby had written to Doctor Tremont, and what they hoped would be the answer.

"He hasn't told the family yet," she explained, seeing from Phil's face that he thought it queer she should know of it. "He didn't want them to suffer the cruel disappointment it would be should they discover they had been cherishing a false hope. But he just had to tell somebody, and he knew I'd understand how much recovery would mean to him, for he used to write me so fully of his plans and ambitions before he was hurt."

She closed her hands so tightly that the pink nails pressed into the tender palms. " Oh, I hope Alex hasn't been mistaken," she exclaimed. "I can't think of anything so cruel as to hold out the heaven of such a hope to him, only to have it dashed away."

"Daddy says there is one chance," answered Phil, "and he is going to take it. " Then, with a sudden understanding of the situation as he watched her face, he began to comfort her with the same words he had spoken to Joyce. "Daddy can come as near to working miracles as any man living, and you just remember this, little girl. He's going to work one this time if mortal man can do it!"

The ring of certainty in his voice made her look up at him with a smile that was like an April day, such joy shone through the brown eyes, which a moment before had been misty with tears. She did not know how much she had revealed, but as she turned away Phil said to himself, "So that's the way the land lies! I must give Daddy a hint of how much is at stake. If he saves Jack it won't be for the Ware family alone."

Betty had been called aside a moment to speak to a visiting parent, and when she came back to Phil, had fully recovered her composure.

"Come on," she said, gaily. "There are a few things I must show you. It will never do for anybody to confess to Mary Ware that he has been to Warwick Hall and missed seeing the things that she particularly adores."

It was a short pilgrimage she led him on; to meet Madam Chartley first, then to see the great stained-glass window where the motto of Edryn, "I keep tryste," flaunted itself in letters of light above the ruby heart and the mailed hand, clasping the spear. Then outdoors they went, past the peacocks on the terraces, down the marble steps to the river, where pretty girls were walking arm in arm, and Phil was conscious of many curious glances cast in his direction. Then they strolled through the garden, where the crocuses and early March flowers were making a brave showing, and out towards the golf links a little way. Betty's cheeks were almost as red as the bright Tam O'Shanter cap she wore, and her eyes shone with a happy, tender light as she talked of Mary and what the school had meant to her. The pilgrimage, like the bundle of letters which Joyce had read, was eloquent with suggestions of Mary at every turn. He understood now as he had not before how much she had renounced when she left without finishing the year. He began to appreciate the greatness of her sacrifice, and, guided by Betty at his elbow, he began to perceive what an influence such a place, with its ideals and its refined, old-world fashion of living might exert on a girl like Mary Ware.

There was not much opportunity to lead the conversation towards Lloyd, with Betty constantly breaking off to say, " Oh, don't forget to mention this to Mary," or, "Tell her you saw this and that." He learned very little about her, save that she was well and happy. Betty had always known, she said, that Rob was the one written in the stars for the Princess Winsome. They knew each other so thoroughly and had such a happy childhood in common, and in her opinion they had always been meant for each other from the beginning.

It was growing late when they came back to the front door, but Betty insisted on his coming in for a moment for a cup of tea, "Served from an ancestral teacup," she insisted, "so that you can brag to Mary of it." While they waited for it to be brought, Betty hastily summoned several of the girls whom she wanted him to meet.

"You'll never remember their names," she said, laughingly, "and Mary will make your life a burden with questions if you can't answer. Give me a pencil and I'll scribble them down for you. Elise Walton, you'll remember, of course, for she was the pretty child with the long, dark curls, whom you used to meet so many times at The Beeches, the summer Eugenia was married, You'llquite fall in love with her, I am sure, for she is getting prettier every day, and you'll not need any memorandum to keep her ire mind when you've once heard her talk. A. O. Miggs will be the little roly-poly dumpling of a girl, and Dorene Derwent, the one who giggles so gurglingly. Cornie Dean you'll remember for the elaborate way she does her hair, and the coy way she has of casting melting side-glances. That's a habit she has acquired just in this last year, so you might mention it to Mary. She'll be immensely interested in hearing it. See, I have made marginal notes for each one, if you can understand my abbreviations."

As she handed him the slip of paper the girls came in, all pleased to meet "such a fascinating, Lord-Lochinvar looking man," as A. O. described him afterward, and all overjoyed to find that he would be the bearer of messages to Mary Ware. They sent so many that he laughingly disclaimed all responsibility in case he should get them mixed in transit. He had an odd feeling that he was on exhibition to these girls as Mary's friend, and that he must do her credit. The few moments he stayed with them he used to such advantage that he was straightway written down in their opinion as the most fascinating man they had ever met.  When he took his leave it was with a flattering regret that made each girl feel that she was the one who inspired it, and they went back to their rooms to compare notes and to "rave over him," as Dorene expressed it, for days.

The twilight was falling when he started back to the station. Betty walked part of the way with him. Only once they referred to Jack again, and that was not till they reached the bend in the driveway, where Betty turned back. She put out her hand with wishes for a safe journey, and he held it an instant to say, "I'm sure it's all going to end happily, and you shall have the first telegram."

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