Mary Ware In Texas, Chapter 15: New Trails

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

Published 1910

Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill

Title Page

 

CHAPTER XV.
NEW TRAILS

THE train to Bauer left so early that Mary had to take the first street-car passing the Post, in order to reach the station in time. Gay had announced her intention of going down with her, but did not awaken until Mary, who occupied an adjoining room, was nearly dressed and the maid was bringing up a hastily-prepared breakfast, on a tray. But Mary could not honestly share Gay's regrets at being late. She had dressed noiselessly on purpose not to waken her. She wanted to go alone in order to have those last moments with Phil all to herself, and she was so elated when she finally got away from the house unaccompanied that she could have sung aloud.

Her route took her through Alamo plaza again, and the streets which still bore witness to the presence of the Carnival. All the buildings were still gay with bunting, and flags flapped merrily in the morning sunshine. She wondered which would be first to reach the station, and all the way down, Phil's face was before her. She could see just the way he would look, coming towards her through the crowd, tall and distinguished and with such a jolly twinkle in his handsome eyes. And he would call out, "Hullo, little Vicar; I beat you to it!" or some such friendly greeting as that.

She did not know that she was smiling to herself, but it made no difference. There was no one to see, for the men on the car were all hidden behind their morning papers. When she reached the station only a few people were in sight, and when she climbed into the coach at the end of the long line of freight-cars, there were not more than half a dozen passengers aboard. All of them looked sleepy, and a series of gentle snores attracted her attention to an old countryman, curled up on a back seat with his valise for a pillow.

On her way in she had passed through the waiting-room and given a hasty look around to see if Phil were ahead of her. Glancing up at the clock she found that she had ten minutes to spare. Three of these passed in getting settled and in taking an inventory of her fellow-passengers. Then she began to hang out of the window and anxiously watch the waiting-room door. She was growing uneasy.

Maybe the clerk had forgotten to call him. Maybe he was "slumbering still," as Gay had prophesied. He might have missed the car he should have taken, or there might be a tie-up somewhere along the line.

A colored man hurried into the coach with a chunk of ice for the water cooler. The conductor came down the platform looking at his watch, and signalled something to a brakeman. Mary put her head out of the window again and looked anxiously up and down, whispering in a flutter of nervousness, "Oh, why doesn't he come? Why doesn't he come? There's only a minute or two left and there won't be time for a word."

She would not admit the possibility of his not coming at all, until she heard the warning, "All aboard!" the ringing of the engine bell, and felt the jerk and jar which proclaimed all too plainly that the car was in motion. She was so disappointed that she could hardly keep the tears back. Her last thought before falling asleep the night before and the first one on awakening had been that she was going to see the "Best Man" by himself a few moments, without any talkative Roberta to absorb his attention, or any other people to run away with the conversation.

It was a very disconsolate little face that turned towards the open window to hide its disappointment from possibly curious neighbors. She found it hard to wink the tears back when she was so deeply, grievously disappointed. Her back was turned resolutely towards the aisle and her arms were crossed on the window-sill. In that position she could not see the rear door of the car open and some one come in from the back platform. He stood a moment, his hat in one hand and a suit-case in the other, breathing fast as if he had been running. Then after a searching glance through the car, he went directly down the aisle and stopped beside Mary's seat. Her attitude, even to the droop of her hat-brim, proclaimed her dejection so clearly that a smile twitched the corners of his mouth. Then he said in a deep voice, so deep that it was fairly sepulchral, "I beg pardon, Miss. May I occupy this end of the seat?"

Startled by the strange voice so near, she turned a very sober and unsmiling face to see what manner of person had accosted her. Then she exclaimed, in astonishment, "Why, Phil Tremont! How ever did you get on without my seeing you? I looked and looked and thought you must have gotten left!"

Then realizing that the train was well under way and they had been carried some distance past the station, she cried in alarm, "But you can't get off! They're carrying you away!" She was almost wringing her hands in her excitement.

"Well, I don't mind it if you don't," said Phil, sitting down beside her and laughing at her concern. "I'm going along with you. Something Miss Roberta said last night on her way home started me to thinking, and --- the result was, I decided to spend another day and night in Bauer. It's positively my last appearance, however. I'll leave for good in the morning."

What Roberta could have said to make such a change in his plans was more than Mary could imagine. She almost had to bite her tongue to keep from asking, and Phil, knowing that he had aroused her wildest curiosity, laughed again. But he wasted no more time in teasing her.

"No, really," he said, "I was joking. A telegram from my firm routed me out about six o'clock this morning. They want me to go to St. Louis to see some parties before returning to New York. I figured it out that I could double things up there so as to give me one more day here. But it took me so long to figure it, that, by the time I had made up my mind, there was only a moment to stuff. my things into my suit-case and call a taxicab. When I got down to the station I saw I had about three minutes in which to snatch a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the lunch counter; but the coffee was so hot I came near missing my train. Had to run a block and swing up on the rear platform. If it had been the regular express I couldn't have caught it. Luckily it was a freight, so here I am."

He did not add that an unaccountable impulse to go back to Bauer had seized him the night before when he bade her good-night, or that the impulse had been strengthened afterward by a casual remark of Roberta's about Lieutenant Boglin. Roberta thought she saw the first symptoms of a budding romance on Bogey's part.

Not being given to the practice of analyzing his feelings, Phil did not stop to ask himself why it should make any difference to him what the lieutenant thought of little Mary Ware, nor did he realize at the time how much that remark influenced his decision to spend one more day with her. Afterwards he used to say that it was Fate and not himself that was responsible for that journey; that it was destined from the beginning he should chase madly after that freight-train, catch it, and thereby give himself four long uninterrupted hours in which to grow better acquainted with her than he had ever been before.

 At the end of that time he knew why he had been drawn back. It was that her real self, the depth of whose charm he had not even half suspected, should be revealed to him in the intimacy of this conversation. It changed his whole attitude toward her to find how much she had changed herself; how she had grown and developed. In some ways she was still the amusing child whose unexpected sayings had first attracted him. She would always be that, but she was so much more now; and, again, as on the day he met her in the field of blue-bonnets, he found himself watching her, trying to decide just wherein her charm lay, and how it made her different from and other girl he had ever known. Sometimes he would almost lose what she was saying, puzzling over the problem.

At the stone quarry, while they waited a long time for the engine to switch off some empty cars, and pick up some loaded ones, they left the coach and walked up and down beside the track. They were talking about Gay and Alex, and he laughed at her outspoken honesty in expressing her opinion about their delayed wedding.

"I think it's so sensible for them to wait till he's got something saved up for a rainy day, when he's nothing now but his practice. It's like providing a sort of financial umbrella. Really, it is just like starting out without a sign of an umbrella when you know it's going to rain, and trusting to luck to keep you dry, for people to marry with nothing to depend on but an uncertain salary."

Phil laughed, as he answered, "What a little pessimist you are, Mary. It doesn't always rain, and people have married without such a provision who lived happily ever after."

"But it does oftener than it doesn't," she insisted. "Papa and mamma lived happily, and he had only his practice as a young lawyer. But look what we've been through since he died. Things wouldn't have come to such a pass when his health broke down if there had been something laid away for such emergencies. Joyce and I have often talked about it when we've had to pinch and work and economize down to the last cent."

"So you'll never marry a man who has only the shelter of a salary to offer you?" said Phil, teasingly.

"I didn't say that," answered Mary, her face puckered up into a puzzled expression. "I don't want to, and I don't think I would, but, honestly, I don't know what I would do. I'm afraid that if I loved a man as much as you ought to to be his wife that I'd be every bit as foolish as anybody else, and that I'd marry him even if I had to take in back stairs to scrub for a living. But I do hope I'll have more sense, or else he won't be that kind of a man. It isn't that I mind work," she added, "but I'm so tired of doing without and making over, and tugging and pulling to make both ends meet. Do you know what they call me at home? The Watch-dog of the Treasury, and you can guess what I've had to be like to earn such a name. I earned it, too, all right. I fought over every penny, and I'd hate to keep on in the same old rut all the rest of my days. It would be so nice to look forward to a luxurious old age."

She laughed when she had said it, but such a tired little sigh came first, and that wistful look again in her honest, straightforward eyes as she glanced up at him, that he was seized with a sudden desire such as no one else had ever inspired before, to pick her up and carry her away from all her troubles; to surround her with all the girlish pleasures and pretty things she loved, and to humor every whim all the rest of her life. But all he said was:

"And if you were a man I suppose you would feel the same way about it."

"Oh, more so!" she cried. "The more I thought of a girl the surer I'd want to be that she need never face that rainy day unprotected."

She stooped to pick a tiny yellow star from a clump of broom growing alongside the track, and they walked on in silence a moment. Then he said, with an amused side-glance at her:

"You can't imagine how funny it seems to hear such common-sense, practical 'side talks on matrimony' from an eighteen-year-old girl like you. I feel as if I'd had a scolding from my grandmother, and that I'll have to own up that I did it, but I'm sorry and I'll never do it again."

"Did what?" queried Mary in surprise.

"Spent everything as fast as I made it. Had money to burn and burnt it. I don't ask any better salary than I've been receiving for several years. Of course, when I go in by myself, that'll be another matter. But I'll have to own up; out of it all, I've saved practically nothing. I haven't spent it in riotous living, and it doesn't seem that I've been particularly extravagant, but it's gone. It just slipped through my fingers."

"Oh, well, you," began Mary. "That's different."

"In what way is it different?" he persisted, when she did not go on.

"Well, if a man doesn't mind getting wet himself it's nobody's business if he takes chances. It's the man who expects to --- to have some one else to protect --- who ought to be ready for the possible storms."

"But what makes you think that I'll always go it alone?" insisted Phil. "That I'll never have any one to --- protect ? That's what you seem to insinuate."

He was looking directly into her eyes, laughingly, teasingly, and a wave of color swept over her face. Roberta would have evaded the question, and turned it off with a laugh. Mary was too simple and direct. It was the moment she had long felt must confront her some time. Her day of reckoning had come for playing eavesdropper. No matter how hard she fought against doing so, she knew she was going to confess that she had been one, albeit unintentionally.

As he repeated his question with smiling insistence, the words stuck in her throat, but the thought uppermost in her mind called out to him by some strange, telepathic power, and he understood as if she had spoken.

"You think," he said slowly, looking into her eyes as if the written words were actually before him there and he was reading them aloud, "you think that it is on Lloyd's account. How did you know about --- that?"

It startled her so that he should read her thought in such a way that she could only stammer in reply:

"I --- I --- heard you singing to her once at The Locusts, that song you sang last night, 'Till the stars are old,' and I thought if you cared for her as it sounded both times, that there couldn't be anybody else, ever!"

Phil turned partly away from her, and stared off towards the hills a moment, his eyes narrowed into a thoughtful, musing expression. Finally he said, "I thought so, too, Mary, once. I thought it for a number of years. That time will always be one of the sweetest and most sacred of my memories. One's earliest love always is, they say, like the first white violet in the spring."

There was a long pause, then he finished the sentence by turning around to her to say, significantly, "But there's always a summer after every spring, you know. Come on, we'd better be getting aboard again. It looks as if they're about ready to start."

He helped her up the steps and followed her down the aisle. While adjusting the window-shade before she took her seat, he began to talk of other things, and the subject was dropped between them. But it was not dropped in Mary's mind. She had been called on to adjust herself to a new viewpoint of him so quickly that it left her mentally gasping. With his own hand he had ruthlessly swept away one of her dearest illusions. She had always believed that no matter who else might forget, he would always stand as a model of Manley constancy. What surprised her now was not his change of view. It was her own. By that one sentence he had made it perfectly clear to her that it was not reasonable to expect him to go on mourning always for the "first white violet." It was only natural that summer should follow the spring.

But the puzzle now was, who was good enough and sweet and high and fine enough to follow Lloyd? Mary was positive that there was nobody. He might hunt the whole world over, but she was sure he would be doomed to disappointment in the end. Her motherly concern over that was almost as great as her sympathy had been when she thought of him as doomed to carry a secret sorrow with him to the grave.

After that the conversation was not so personal. It was nearly noon when they reached Bauer, and in that time they had exchanged views on enough subjects to have filled an encyclopaedia. Twice after that they talked together alone. The first time was when they went out in the boat just before sunset. Mary wanted him to see Fern-bank in all its glory of fresh April greenness, with the little waterfalls splashing their fine mist over the walls of delicate maiden-hair.

She insisted on poling the boat, although he protested that it made him uncomfortable to sit still and see her doing the work. He refused to go at all, until she compromised by saying he might pole on the way back.

"It isn't work," she insisted. "It's one of the greatest pleasures I have, and about the only one I've had in this benighted place."

"You always did love to 'paddle your own canoe' and strike out and do things for yourself," he remarked, as they shot swiftly up the stream. "By the way, what are you going to do next? Will you be starting back to Warwick Hall again in September, now that Jack is sure of taking his old position in the mines then?"

"No," was her decided answer." We've scrapped about that a lot lately. He insists that I must. But it's this way. He's lost a whole year out of his life, and although he's never said so, I know the time is coming when he'll want to settle down and have a home of his own. And he's the kind who'd never ask a girl to marry him until he'd provided for her future in case anything should happen to him. Joyce's plans have been put back a year, too. She has her heart set on going to Paris with Miss Henrietta to study, just as soon as she can afford it. Of course, Jack will pay back his part of what she's spent on us this winter, but it will take a good while for him to do it. I've made up my mind I'm not going to stand in their way. I'll not be a drag on either one of them. There's lots of things that I can do. The summer is already provided for. When Mrs. Mallory found that we are going to stay on here till September, till Jack is strong enough to go back to work, she made up her mind to stay, too no matter how hot it gets, because the children are so happy here. They can't bear the idea of stopping their lessons. They're beginning to learn to read now, and are as wild over that as if it were a new game. Mrs. Rochester says it does get frightfully hot here in the summers, but that we can stand it if we have the lessons in the morning instead of afternoon."

"And then," asked Phil, "after that?"

"After that I don't know, but there'll be something. It's all uncertain, but it's interesting just to wonder what will come next. I'm like the wolf in the last of the Mowgli stories."

She turned to glance over her shoulder as she quoted, laughingly, "'The stars aye thin,' said Gray Brother, sniffing at the dawn wind. 'Where shall we lair to-day? For, from now, we follow new trails.' I  don't know where the new trails will lead, but from all that's happened in the past, I've faith to believe that there'll be 'good hunting' in them."

"There will always be that for you," said Phil, warmly. "You'll never strike one where you'll not find friends and interests and---"

He started to say more, but checked himself, and after an instant's pause, stood up, almost upsetting the boat, and laughingly took the oar away from her, insisting that he couldn't sit still another minute. He had to work off some of his surplus energy.

What he had come near saying when he checked himself was, "And you'll never strike a trail where you won't be the bravest, jolliest, dearest little comrade a man could have; one that he would never tire of, one who could inspire him to do and be his best."

The impulse to say all this came upon him so suddenly that it startled him. Then a sober second thought told him that after all she was scarcely more than a child, that she had always looked upon him as an elderly brother, and that it would be better not to destroy that old intimate relationship until he was sure of being able to establish a new one. A strange feeling of humility took possession of him. It suddenly seemed that he had so little to offer one who could give so much. Even her opinion which he had laughed at at the stone quarry, about providing a financial umbrella, carried weight now, and made him hesitate, no longer confidant of himself.

His strong, quick sweeps of the oar sent the boat upstream at twice the speed it had been going before, and Mary, from her seat in the stern, called out that it was as good as flying, and that she'd have to acknowledge that she'd never known before how delightful it was to sit still and let somebody else do the paddling. But that was because nobody else had taken her along so fast.

At Fern-bank they did not get out of the boat. Phil took the seat facing her, while they drifted around the deep pool for a little while. It was almost twilight there, for the high bank shut out the glow of the sunset, and it was deliciously cool and green and still. Presently some remark of Phil's made Mary exclaim

"That reminds me, although I don't know why it should, of something I've been intending to tell you, that Joyce wrote recently. You've heard her talk of little Jules Ciseaux, the boy who played such an important part in her winter in France. He lived in the house with the giant scissors on the gables, and over the great gate, you know. Well, he's over here in America now. He's always wanted to come ever since Joyce told him so much about it. His mother was an American and I think he was born in this country. At any rate, he's here now, sightseeing and trying to hunt up his mother's family.

"He's come into quite a large fortune lately, ever so many hundred thousand francs. As he is of age, he can do as he pleases. Joyce says he wants to come out to Lone Rock to see us, because she used to entertain him by the hour with tales of us, and he used to envy us our good times together in the little brown house at Plainsville. He never knew any home life like ours. I'm wild to see him. Joyce says he is charming! Such lovely manners, and such a sensitive, refined face, like one's ideal of a young poet. He's really something of an artist. Joyce says he's done some really creditable work, and all her friends have taken him up and are making it nice for him while he is in New York."

"That is interesting," said Phil. "I'll look him up as soon as I get back. Wouldn't it be romantic if the friendship that started between them as children should grow into something more? All those inherited francs would provide the fine, large umbrella which you seem to think is necessary."

"Oh, it never can be anything but friendship in this case," exclaimed Mary. "Jules is two years younger than Joyce."

"By the same token he is three years older than you. Maybe it's Joyce's little sister he will be taking an interest in."

"Humph! You're as bad as Norman!" replied Mary, calmly. "That's what he said. He thought he had something new to tease me about, but he soon found out that it wouldn't work."

Despite her indifference, Phil thought of the possibility again many times that night before he fell asleep. Knowing the limited space of the cottage, he had taken a room at the Williams House, despite Mrs. Ware's protests, saying he would be over early in the morning for breakfast. But it seemed for awhile that breakfast-time would arrive before he could fall asleep.

Things assume formidable proportions in the darkness and dead quiet of the night that they never have by day. Away after midnight he was still thinking of what Mary had said about the young Frenchman who had lately come into his fortune, and of what Roberta had said about Lieutenant Boglin. The face of the latter rose up before him. Not a particularly good-looking face, he thought, but it was a strong, likable one, and he had a sense of humor which made him good company, and a blarney-stone turn of the tongue that would take with any girl. As for Jules Ciseaux, who had envied the Wares their home life, Phil knew all about the childhood of the lonely little lad left to the mercies of a brutal caretaker. Jules would only need to see Mary once, dear little home-maker that she was, to want to carry her away with him to his chateau beside the Loire.

Before Phil finally fell asleep he had decided just what he would say to Mary next morning, and that he would go early enough to make an opportunity to say it. It was early when he went striding down the road, across the footbridge, and took the short cut through a meadow to the back of the Ware cottage; but the preparations for breakfast were well under way. When he reached the back porch, screened by morning-glory vines, he saw the table set out there, with fresh strawberries at each place, wreathed in their own green leaves.

 Judging from the odors wafted through the door, chickens were broiling within to exactly the right degree of delectable crispness, and coffee which would be of amber clearness, was in the making. But the noises within the kitchen were not to be interpreted as easily as the odors. There was a banging and scuffling over the floor, muffled shrieks and broken sentences in high voices, choking with laughter. Not till he reached the open window and looked in could he imagine the cause of the uproar. Norman and Mary were wrestling and romping all over the kitchen, having a tug-of-war over something he was trying to take away from her.

Unconscious of a spectator, they dragged each other around, bumping against walls amid a clatter of falling tinware, stumbling over chairs and coming to a deadlock in each others' arms in a corner, so full of laughter they could scarcely hold their grip.

"Dare me again! will you?" gasped Norman, thinking he had her pinned to the wall. But wrenching one hand free, she began to tickle him until he writhed away from her with a whoop, and dashed out of the door.

"Yah! 'Fraid cat!" she jeered after him. "Afraid of a tickle!"

"You just wait till I get back with the milk," he cried, catching up a shining tin pail that stood on the bench, and starting down the path over which Phil had just come.

"You'll have to hurry," she called after him. "Breakfast is almost ready."

She stooped to open the oven door and peep at the pan of biscuit within, just beginning to turn a delicate brown. Then she looked up and caught sight of Phil. He was leaning against the window looking in, his arms crossed on the sill as if he had been enjoying the spectacle for some time.

"For mercy sakes!" she exclaimed. "How long have you been there?"

The coast was clear. Norman was well on his way to the Metz place, and Mrs. Ware was helping Jack get ready for breakfast. It was as good an opportunity as Phil could have hoped for, to repeat the speech he had rehearsed so many times the night before. And she looked so fresh and wholesome and sweet, standing there in her pink morning dress with the big white apron, that she was more like an apple-blossom than anything else he could think of. He wanted to tell her so; to tell her she had never seemed so dear and desirable as she did at this moment, when he must be going away to leave her.

 Yet how could he tell her, when she was all a-giggle and a-dimple and aglow from her romp with Norman? Clearly she was too far from his state of mind to share it now, or even to understand it. After all, she was only a little girl at heart --- only eighteen. It wasn't fair to her to awaken her quite yet --- to hurry her into giving a promise when she couldn't possibly know her own mind. He would wait---

So he only leaned on the window-sill and laughed at her for having been caught in such an undignified romp, and asked her when she intended to grow up, and if she ever expected to outgrow her propensity for scrapping. But when he had joked thus a few minutes, he said, quite suddenly and seriously, "Mary, I want you to promise me something."

She was taking the chickens from the broiler and did not look at him until they were safely landed in the hot platter awaiting them, but she said lightly, "Yes, your 'ighness. To the 'arf of me kingdom. Wot is it?"

"Well, I'm going away and I may not see you again for a long time. The chief wants me to take a position, engineering the construction of a big dam down in Mexico. It would keep me down there two years, but it would be the biggest thing I've had yet, in every way. Last night I just about made up my mind I'd take it.

"While I'm gone you will be striking out into all sorts of new trails, and I am afraid that on some of them somebody will come along and try to persuade you to join him on his, even if you are such a little girl. Now I want to have a hand in choosing the right man, and I want you to promise me that you won't let anybody persuade you to do that till I come back. Or at least if they do try, that you'll send me word that they're trying, and give me a chance to come back and have a look at the fellow, and see if I think he is good enough to carry you off."

"Why, the idea!" she laughed, a trifle embarrassed, but immensely pleased that he should thinly it possible for her to have numerous suitors or to have them soon, and flattered that he should take enough interest in her future to want to be called back from Mexico to direct her choice.

"But will you promise?" he urged.

"Yes; that is not much to promise."

"And you'll give me your hand on it?" he persisted.

"Yes, and cross my heart and body in the bargain,"she added, lightly, "if that'll please you any better."

For all his gravity, she thought he was jesting until she reached her hand through the window to seal the compact.

"You know," he said, as his warm fingers closed over it, "I've never yet seen anybody whom I considered good enough for little Mary Ware."

Her eyes fell before the seriousness of his steady glance, and she turned away all in a flutter of pleasure that the "Best Man" should have said such a lovely thing about her. It was the very thing she had always thought about him.

Mrs. Ware came out just then, wheeling Jack in his chair, and soon after Norman was back with the milk, and breakfast was served out on the porch among the morning-glories. "A perfect breakfast and a perfect morning," Phil said. The 'bus which was to call for him came while they were still lingering around the table, and there was only time for a hasty good-by all around.

"Come and walk out to the gate with me, Mary, and give me a good send-off," he said, hurriedly snatching up his suit-case.

Now in this last moment, when there was much to say, neither had a word, and they walked along in silence until they reached the gate. There he turned for one more hand-clasp.

"Remember your promise," he said, gravely, as his fingers closed warmly over hers. "I meant every word I said."

"I'll remember," she answered, dimpling again as if he had reminded her of a good joke; "and I'll keep my word. Honest, I will!"

With that he went away, carrying with him a picture which he recalled a thousand times in the months that followed; Mary, standing at the gate in the pink and white dress that had the freshness of a spring blossom, with her sweet, sincere eyes and her dear little mouth saying, "I'll keep my word! Honest, I will!"

It was a long, long, hot summer that followed. The drought dried up the creek so that the boat lay idle on the bank. The dust grew deeper and deeper in the roads and lay thick on the wayside weeds. Even the trees were powdered with it; all the green of the landscape took on an ashen grayness. Meadows lay parched and sere. Walking ceased to be a pleasure, and as they gasped through the tropical heat of the endless afternoons, they longed for the dense shade of the pines at Lone Rock, and counted the days till they could go back.

But as soon as the sun dropped behind the hills each day, and the breeze started up from the faraway Gulf, their discomfort was forgotten. In the wonderful brilliance of the starry nights when there was no moon, or in the times when one hung like a luminous pearl above a silver world, the air grew fresh and cool, and they sat late in the open, making the most of every minute. In the early mornings there was that same crisp freshness of the hills again, so one could endure the merciless, yellow glare and the panting heat of the afternoons, for the sake of the nights and dawns.

Even without that, however, they would have been content to stay on, enduring it gladly, for Jack was daily growing stronger; and to see him moving about the house on his own feet, no matter how falteringly at first, was a cause for hourly rejoicing.

Mary still played the part of Baloo with Brud and Sister, starting early in the morning and taking them over to the old mill-dam, in the shade of some big cypress and sycamore trees. She was teaching them to read and write, but there was little poring over books for them. They built their letters out of stones, and fashioned whole sentences of twigs; wrote them in the sand and modelled them in mud, scratched them on rocks with bits of flint, as Indians do their picture language, and pricked them in the broad sycamore leaves with thorns. By the end of the summer they had enough of a vocabulary to write a brief letter to their father, and their pride knew no bounds when each had achieved one entirely alone, from date to stamp, and dropped it into the box at the post-office. His pride in them was equally great, and the letter that he sent Mary with her final check was one of the few things which she carried away from Texas as a cherished memento.

She did not write often in her Good Times book. There was so little to chronicle. An occasional visit from the Barnaby's, a call at the rectory, a few minutes spent in neighborly gossip in the Metz garden; never once in the whole summer a happening more exciting than that, except when the troops from Fort Sam Houston were ordered out on their annual "hike" and passed through Bauer in July. Each of the different divisions camped a day and a night in the grove back of the cottage, near enough for the Wares to watch every manoeuvre. The Artillery band played at sunset when it was in camp, and gave a concert that night in the plaza. When the Cavalry passed through, Lieutenant Boglin came to supper and spent the evening. Gay was up for a day twice, and Mary went once to San Antonio. That was all. Yet stupid as it was for a girl of her age, and much as she missed young companionship, Mary managed to get through the summer very happily. All its unpleasantness was atoned for one day in early September, when she looked out to see Jack going down the road, straight and strong, pushing his own wheeled chair in front of him. He was taking it down to Doctor Mackay's office to leave "for the first poor devil who needs it," he said.

In the last few weeks he had discovered what he had not known before, that the town was full of invalids in quest of health, attracted from all over the country by the life-giving air of its hills. He had made the acquaintance of a number of them since he had been able to ride around with the doctor. Now, as he went off down the road with the chair, with all of the family at the window to see the happy sight, Mrs. Ware repeated to Mary what the doctor had said about Jack's effect on his other patients, and what the rector had told her of the regard all the villagers had for Jack.

"The dear boy's year of suffering has done one thing for the world," she added. "It has given it another Aldebaran. Don't you remember in The Jester's Sword ---" She quoted it readily, because ever since she had first seen it she had always read Jack's name in place of Aldebaran's

"'It came to bass whenever he went by, men felt a strange, strength-giving influence radiating from his presence, a sense of hope. One could not say exactly what it was, it was so fleeting, so intangible, like warmth that circles front a brazier, or perfume that is wafted from an unseen rose.' That's what one feels whenever Jack comes near."

"Yes, I know," assented Mary. "Even old Mr. Metz tried to say as much to me about him. He didn't choose those words, of course, but in his own broken way he meant the same thing."

When the day came to leave, there was no one to go with them to the station. The Rochesters were away on their vacation, and it was too early in the morning for the Barnabys to come in from the ranch. They had bidden each other good-by the day before, with deep regrets on both sides. It seemed so good to both Mary and her mother to see Jack attending to the tickets and the trunks in his old way, so quick and capable. While he was getting the checks, Mary walked down the track a little piece to a place where she could look back at the town for one more picture to carry away in her memory.

 How friendly and homelike and dear it seemed now. Between the belfry of St. Peter's and the gray tower of Holy Angels, rose the smoke from many breakfast fires, and the windmills twirled merrily in the morning sun. For all its dreariness she was carrying away the recollection of a score of happy times.

Over there was the free camp-yard, where their little Christmas tree had spread such cheer. Further on shone the spire of St. Boniface. She would always think of it as she saw it Easter morning, its casement windows set wide, and its altar white with the snowy beauty of the rain lilies. There was the meadow through which she had gone in bluebonnet time, to find Phil waiting under the huisache tree, and there the creek, running on to Fernbank. Nearer by she could see the windmill tower she had so often climbed, sticking up over the roof that had sheltered them during the ten months they had been in Bauer. "Dear little old Bauer," she thought, gratefully. She wouldn't have believed it in the beginning if anyone had told her, that there would be any regrets in her leave-taking when the time came to go. How wonderfully it had all turned out. The crooked had been made straight, and the rough places smooth. She could face the future gladly, buoyantly, now, no matter what it held, since Jack was well again.

"Come on, Mary, it's time to go aboard!" called Norman.

"You go on in, and save me a seat," she called back. "Here come the children. I must wait to speak to them."

She had bidden them good-by the night before, and had not expected to see them again. They came running, out of breath. Sister had a little bag of animal crackers she had brought as a farewell offering, and Brud proffered a companion-piece, a sack of sticky red cinnamon drops. They had cried the night before, and they were close to tears now, realizing that something very rare and precious was passing out of their lives. She took their offerings with thanks that brought smiles to their dejected little faces, then once more stooped to kiss them good-by.

"From now, it's new trails for all of us," she said, lightly, "and you'll write and tell me what you find in yours, and I'll write and tell you about mine."

On the platform of the car she turned for a last look at the three disconsolate little figures, waiting to watch her start off towards those new trails. There were three, for Uncle August had joined them now, squatting mournfully beside them as if he, too, were losing his best playfellow. The train began to move slowly out. As she clung to the railing to wave to them one more time, a mournful little pipe followed her shrilly down the track. It was Brud's voice:

"Good hunting, Miss Mayry! Good hunting!"

THE END.

Chapter 14