Mary Ware, The Little Colonel's Chum, Chapter 2: "The King's Call"

by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Published 1908
Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

Table Of Contents



LEFT to herself in the room which she was to occupy for the year, Mary stood looking around with the keen interest of an explorer. It was a pleasant room, with two windows looking out over the river and two over the garden. To an ordinary observer it had no claim to superiority over the other apartments, but to Mary it was a sort of shrine. Here in the low chair by the window her Princess Winsome had sat to read and study and dream all through her school days.

Here was the mirror that had caught her passing reflection so often, that it still seemed to hold a thousand shadowy semblances of her in its shining depths. Only the June before (three short months ago) she had stood in front of it in all the glory of her Commencement gown.

Mary crossed the room on tiptoe, smiling at the recollection of one of her early make-believes. Oh, if it were only true that one could pass through the looking-glass into the wonderland behind it, what a charming picture gallery she would find! All the girls who had occupied the room since Warwick Hall had been a school! Blue eyes and brown, laughing faces and wistful ones, girls in gorgeous full dress, pluming themselves for some evening entertainment, girls in dainty undress and unbound hair, exchanging bed-time confidences as they prepared for the night, ambitious little saints and frivolous little sinners --- they were all there, somewhere in the dim background of the mirror, and because of them there was a subtle charm about the room to Mary, which she would not have felt if she had been its first occupant.

"It's like opening an old drawer to drop in a handful of fresh rose-leaves, and finding it sweet with the roses of a dozen Junes gone by," she said to herself, so pleased with the fancy that she went on elaborating it.

"And Lloyd has been here so lately that her rose-leaves haven't even begun to wither."

There is no loyalty like the loyalty of a little school-girl for the older girl whom she has enshrined in her heart as her ideal; no sentiment like the intense admiration which puts a halo around everything the beloved voice ever praised, or makes sacred everything the beloved fingers have touched. Mary Ware at sixteen had not outgrown any of the ardent admiration for Lloyd Sherman which had seized her when she was only eleven, and now the desire to be like her flared up stronger than ever.

She peered wistfully into the mirror, thinking, "Maybe just being in her old room will help, because I shall be reminded of her at every turn."

For a moment the selfish wish was uppermost that she need not share the room with any one. It seems almost desecration for a person who did not know and love Lloyd to be so intimately associated with her. But Mary's love of companionship was strong. Half the fun of boarding school in her opinion was in having a room-mate, and she could not forego that pleasure even for the sake of a very deep and tender sentiment. But she made the most of her solitude while she had it. From kodak pictures she had seen of the room, she knew at a glance which of the narrow white beds had been Lloyd's, and immediately pre-empted it for herself, staking out her claim by depositing her hat and gloves upon it.

As soon as her trunk was brought up stairs she fell to work unpacking, with an energy in no wisediminished by the fatigue of the tiresome journey. She had been cooped up on the cars so long that she was fairly aching for something to do. In an hour's time all her clothes were neatly folded or hung away, her shoe-pocket tacked inside the closet door, her laundry-bag hung on a convenient nail, her few pictures arranged in a group over her bed, and exactly half of the table laid out with her portfolio, books and work-basket. She had been not only just but generous in the division of property. She had left more than half the drawer space and closet hooks for the use of the unknown Ethelinda; the most comfortable chair, and the best lighted end of the table. That was because she herself had had first choice in the matter of bed and dressing table. and having seized upon the most desirable from her point of view, felt that she owed the other girl some reparation. Because they had been Lloyd's she wanted them so strongly that she was ready to sacrifice everything else in the room for them, or even fight for their possession if necessary.

By the time all was in order, the tall Lombardy poplars were throwing long shadows on the green sward of the terraces, and from the window she could see the garden, lying so sweet and still in the drowse of the late afternoon that she longed to be down in it. She hurried to change the rumpled shirt-waist in which she had finished her journey and done her unpacking, for a fresh white dress. It was proof that the room was exerting some influence to make her like her model, that even in her haste she made a careful toilet.  Remembering how dainty and thorough-going Lloyd always was in her dressing, she scrubbed away until every vestige of travel-stain was gone. All fresh and rosy, down to her immaculate finger-tips, she scanned herself in the mirror, from the carefully tied bow in her hair to the carefully tied bows on her slippers, and nodded approvingly. She could stand inspection now from the whole row of them --- all those girls on the other side of the looking-glass, who somehow seemed so near and real to her.

As she turned away from the mirror, her glance rested on the little group of home pictures she had put up over her bed. The tents and tiny two-roomed cottage that they called Ware's Wigwam looked small and cramped compared to this great Hall with its wide corridors and spacious rooms. It had always seemed to Mary that she was born to live in kings' houses, she so enjoyed luxurious surroundings, but a homesick pang seized her now, as she looked down on the picture and remembered that she could never go back to it.

"It doesn't seem as if I have any home now," she sighed, "for I didn't stay long enough in the new place at Lone-Rock to get used to it. I know I shall always love the Wigwam best, and when I think of it standing empty or maybe turned over to strangers, it makes me feel as if one of my best friends had died. I'm glad we took so many pictures of it, and that I kept a record of all the good times we had there. Oh, that reminds me! There's one more thing I must do before sundown --- bring my diary up to date. I haven't written a line in it for six weeks."

The out-doors was too alluring to waste another moment in the house; however, so gathering up her diary and fountain-pen, she went down stairs and out into the garden, feeling as the gate swung to behind her that she was stepping into an old, old English garden belonging to some ducal estate. Coming as she did straight from the edge of the desert, with its burning stretches of sand, its cactus and greasewood, its bare red buttes and lank rows of cotton-wood trees, this Eden of green and bloom had a double charm for her.

For a long time she wandered up and down its winding paths, finding many a shady pleasance hidden away among its labyrinths of hedges, where one might be tempted to stop and dream away a whole long summer afternoon. But she did not pause until she came to a sort of court surrounded by rustic arbours, where a fountain splashed in the centre, and an ancient sun-dial marked the hours. With a pleased cry of recognition she ran across the closely clipped turf, to read the motto carved on the dial's face: "I only mark the hours that shine."

"The very words that Betty wrote in my Good Times Book the day she gave it to me," she said, opening her diary to verify the motto on the fly-leaf.

"It was beyond my wildest dreams then that I'd ever be standing here in Warwick Hall garden, reading them for myself! I mustn't wait another minute to make a record of this good time."

Choosing a seat in one of the arbours where a humming bird was darting in and out through a tangle of vines, she opened the thick red book in which she had kept a faithful record of her doings and goings for the last two years, and glanced at the last entry. The date was such an old one that she read the last few pages to refresh her memory.


" THE WIGWAM, Thursday, August 4th.

"Jack came home yesterday to our joyful surprise. Mr. Sherman had telegraphed him to come at once to Kentucky, on a flying trip to consult with the directors of the mine. As he had to pass through Phoenix anyhow, he managed it so that he could stay over night with us. I am so happy over the prospect of his having a chance at last to see our 'Promised Land' that I am fairly beside myself. I sat up half the night making cookies and gingerbread and rolls, and broiling chickens for his lunch. He says he's been hungry for home-cooking so long that it will go away ahead of dining-car fare.

"Everything turned out beautifully, and while I waited for them to bake I wrote a list of the things he must see and questions he must ask at The Locusts; things I've wanted to know ever since I came back from Lloydsboro Valley, and yet you can't very well find out just in letters. He left on this morning's early train. If he finds he can take the time, he's going on to Annapolis for a day, just to get a glimpse of Holland, and then to New York for a day and a half with Joyce. Good old Jack! He's certainly earned his holiday. I can hardly wait for him to come home and tell all about it."

Spreading the book out on her knees, Mary adjusted her pen and began to write rapidly, for words always crowded to her pen-point as they did to her tongue, with a rush.

"WARWICK HALL, September 12.

"Little did I think when I wrote that last line, that six whole weeks would pass before I added another, or that my next entry would be made in this beautiful old garden that I have dreamed of so long. Little did I think I would be sitting here beside the old sun-dial, or that such an hour could shine for me as the happy hour when Jack came back.

"I drove into Phoenix to meet him, and I knew from the way he waved his hat and swung off the steps before the train stopped that he had good news, and it was! Perfectly splendid! They had made him assistant manager of the mines, with a great big salary that would make a change in all our fortunes. I thought it was queer that he should bring a trunk back with him, for he went away with only a suit-case, but I was so busy asking questions about Joyce and Holland and everybody at The Locusts, that there wasn't time or breath to ask about the trunk. We were half way home before he got around to that.

" He said his first thought when they told him of his promotion was, 'Now Mary can have her heart's desire and go away to school.' And on the way to New York he planned it all out, how we'd give up the Wigwam, and take a house in Lone Rock, and he'd get some one to help Mamma with the work, and he'd have Norman under his eye all the time when he was out of school, and keep him out of mischief. He's been wanting to do that ever since he went to the mines, for there never was such a home-body. He can't bear to board.

"Nearly all of that little scrap of a visit he and Joyce had together, those blessed children spent in getting my clothes. Joyce has all my measurements, and they got me three dresses and a hat and a lot of shirt-waists and gloves and fixings, all so beautiful and stylish and New Yorkey, and the fine big trunk to put them in. There was even a new brush and comb and mirror, for she remembered how ratty looking my old things were. And there was a letter portfolio and a silk umbrella and a lot of odds and ends that all school-girls need. I don't believe they overlooked a thing to make my outfit complete, and I know they're as nice as any the others will have, for Joyce has such good taste and always knows just what is fit and proper. I feel so elegant in my pretty blue travelling suit, and I'm just aching for a chance to wear the beautiful little evening dresses they chose, one white pongee, and the other some new sort of goods that looks just like a soft shimmery cloud, a regular picture dress.

"Jack went on to the mines next day, and after that everything was in a whirl till we were moved and settled, for there was so much to do, packing the furniture to be shipped, and after we got to the new house unpacking again and shifting things around till it got all liveable and homelike. By that time it was time for me to get my things together and go down to Phoenix to meet the people who had offered to take me under their wing on their way back East. Judge and Mrs. Stockton brought me. I must remember the date of Mrs. Stockton's birthday, November the fourth, and send her one of those bead purses. She admired the one she saw me making so much that I know she would like it, and she certainly was an angel to me on the trip. It seems to me it's my luck to meet nice people everywhere I go.

"I'm not going to wait till the last Thursday in November for my Thanksgiving Day. I've got seven good reasons for thanksgiving this very minute. First, we got here without a wreck. Second, the ribbon on my hat doesn't show a single spot, after all the hard shower that we got caught in, that I thought had ruined it. Third, I think I impressed Hawkins as I hoped to, even if I was a bit nervous. Fourth, while my introduction to Madam Chartley was horribly mortifying, all's well that ends well, and she didn't lay it up against me. I think she must have taken quite a fancy to me instead or she wouldn't have given me my fifth and greatest reason for thankfulness, the privilege of occupying Lloyd's old room. Maybe I oughtn't to put that as the greatest reason, for of course it's greater just to be here at all, and seventh, I'll never get done being thankful that I've got Jack for a brother. That really is the best of all, and I'm going to make so much out of my opportunities this year, that he'll feel repaid for all he's done for me, and be glad and proud that he could do it."

Filling another page with an account of her journey and her impressions of the place, Mary closed her journal with a sigh of relief that the long-neglected entry had been made. Then she leaned back on the rustic bench and gave herself up to the enjoyment of her surroundings. The fountain splashed softly. A lazy breeze stirred the vines, and fanned her face. Far below, the shining Potomac took its slow way to the sea between its lines of drooping willows. The calm and repose of the stately old place seemed to steal in on her soul not only through eye and ear and sense of touch, but at every pore.

"It's the strangest thing," she mused. "I must be a sort of chameleon, the way I change with my surroundings. It doesn't seem possible that only last week I was scrambling around with my head tied up in a towel, scrubbing and cleaning and dragging furniture around at a break-neck speed. I could almost believe I've never done anything all my life but trail around this garden at my elegant leisure like some fine lady-in-waiting."

There was time for a stroll down to the river before the falling twilight recalled her to the house. As she went down the flight of marble steps it was with the self-conscious feeling that she was a girl in a play, and this was one of the scenes in Act 1. She had seen a setting like this on a stage one time, when a beautiful lady trailed down the steps of a Venetian palace to the gondola waiting in the lagoon below. To be sure Mary's dress did not trail, and she was not tall and willowy outwardly, but it made no difference as long as she could feel that she was. For a long time she walked slowly back and forth along the river path, pausing now and then to look up at the great castle-like building above her. She had never seen one before so suggestive of old-world grandeur. Already it was giving her more than she would find inside in its text-books. Peculiarly susceptible to surroundings, she unconsciously held herself more erect; as if such a stately habitation demanded it of her. And when she climbed the steps again, with it looming up before her in the red afterglow, the dignity and repose of its lines, from its massive portal to its highest turret, awakened a response in her beauty-loving little soul that thrilled her like music.

She went softly through the great door and up the stair-case, pausing for a moment on the landing to look at the coat-of-arms in the stained glass window. It was a copy of the window in the old ancestral castle in England, that belonged to Madam Chartley's family. Mary already knew the story of its traditional founder, the first Edryn who had won his knighthood in valiant deeds for King Arthur. In the dim light the coat-of-arms gleamed like jewels in an amber setting, and the heart in the crest, the heart out of which rose a mailed hand grasping a spear, was like a great ruby.

"I keep the tryste," whispered Mary, reading the motto of the scroll underneath. " No wonder Madam Chartley grew up to be so patrician. Anybody might with a window like that in the house."

Some one began striking loud full chords on a piano in one of the rooms below; some one with a strong masterful touch. Mary was sure it was a man. By leaning over the banister until she almost lost her balance, she caught a glimpse of a pair of black coat-tails swinging awkwardly over a piano bench. Herr Vogelbaum, the musical director, must have arrived. Probably she would meet him at dinner. That was something to look forward to --- an artist who had played before crowned heads and had been lionized all over Germany. And then the chords rolled into something so beautiful and inspiring that Mary knew that for the first time in her life she was hearing really great music, played by a master. She sat down on the steps to listen.

The self-conscious feeling that she was acting a part in a play came back afresh, and made her hastily pull down her skirts and assume a listening attitude. Thinking how effective she would look on a stage she leaned back against the carved banister, clasping her hands around her knees, and gazing up at the ruby heart in the stained glass window above her. But in a moment both self and pose were forgotten. She had never dreamed that the world held such music as the flood of melody which came rolling up from below. It seemed to lift her out of herself and into another world; a world of nameless longings and exalted ambitions, of burning desire to do great deeds. Something was calling her --- calling and calling with the compelling note of a far-off yet insistent trumpet, and as she gazed at the mailed hand with the spear rising triumphantly out of the ruby heart, she began to understand. A feeling of awe crept over her, that she, little Mary Ware, should be hearing the same call that Edryn heard. Somewhere, some day, some great achievement awaited her. Now she knew that that was why she had been born into the world. That was why, too, that Providence had opened a way for her to come to Warwick Hall, that she might learn what was to be "the North-star of her great ambition." and how "to keep the compass needle of her soul" ever true to it.

Clasping her hands together as reverently and humbly as if she were before an altar, she looked up at the ruby heart, her face all alight, whispering Edryn's answer:

"'Tis the King's call! O list!
O heart and hand of mine keep tryst---
 Keep tryst or die!"

The music stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and all atingle with the exalted mood in which it left her, she ran up to her room and knelt by the window, looking out into the dusk with eager shining eyes. As yet it was all vague and shadowy, that mysterious future which awaited her. With what great duty to the universe she was to keep tryst she did not know; but whatever it was she would do it at any cost. To callow wings no flight is too high to attempt. At sixteen all things are possible.

All girls of Mary's imaginative impulsive temperament have had such moments, under the spell of some unusual inspiration, but their dreams are apt to vanish at contact with the earth again, as suddenly as a bubble breaks when some material object touches it. But with Mary the vision stayed. True, it had to retire into the background when dinner was announced, and her over-weening curiosity brought her down to the consideration of common everyday affairs, but she did not lose the sense of having been set apart in some way by that supreme moment on the stair. To the world she might be only an ordinary little Freshman, but inwardly she knew she was a sort of Joan of Arc, called and consecrated to some high destiny.

She went down to dinner in an uplifted frame of mind that made her passage down the long dining room in the wake of Madam and the few returned teachers a veritable march of triumph. The feeling that the curtain had gone up on an interesting play in which she was chief actor came back stronger than ever when she took her seat in one of the high-backed ebony chairs, with the carved griffins atop, and unfolded her napkin in the gaze of a long line of ancestral portraits.

Madam Chartley, who had been looking forward to the dinner hour with some apprehension on the new pupil's account, knowing she would be obliged to curb the lively little tongue if she talked at the table as she had done in the reception room, was amazed at the change in her. Warwick Hall had done its work. Already the little chameleon had taken on the colour of her surroundings. Hawkins, in all his years of London service, had never served a more demure, self-possessed little English maiden, or one who listened with greater deference to the conversation of her elders.

She spoke only when she was spoken to, but some of her odd, unexpected replies made Herr Vogelbaum look up with an interest he rarely took in anything outside of his music and his dinner. Miss Chilton was so amused at her accounts of Arizona life, that she invited her up to her room, and led her into a conversation that revealed her most original traits.

"She's a bright little thing," Miss Chilton reported to Madam afterward. "The kind of a girl who is bound to be popular in a school, just because she's so different and interesting."

"She is more than that," answered Madam, smiling over the recollection of some of her quaint speeches. "She is lovable. She has 'the divine gift of making friends.'"

Chapter 1   Chapter 3 >