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the satisfaction afforded by the scratching," but Miss Loring was forced to dissent from the royal opinion.
The shock she experienced in the matter of the "eech" was no greater of its kind, however, than another she received, two or three weeks later, one Sunday morning, as she made the round of the ears, on finding Philip's thoroughly clean inside and out, behind and before. She was at first stricken dumb. Later she found her tongue sufficiently to ask: "What is the matter? How did this happen?"
"Nothing; I just kep' a-digging," was Philip's careless reply.
That night, however, when Ulysses's slaughter of the suitors had been read for the fifth time by unanimous demand, and the pop-corn was all "capped," and every body was undressing, Hen slid noiselessly into Miss Loring's room, mysteriously shutting the door behind him. Not unused to such interruptions, Miss Loring, halfundressed, dived into the closet, and soon emerged in her wrapper. Hen himself was in trousers and undershirt, with dangling galluses. He planted himself on the hearthstone, back to the fire, holding up first one bare foot and then the other to the blaze, and at last spoke in a confidential tone:
"Philip lied to you this morning when he said there was n't nothing the matter. He knows what made him wash his years, and I know."
"What was it?" inquired Miss Loring, drawing up the rocking-chair.
"He's a-courting, that 's what 's the matter with him.”
"Courting!" exclaimed Miss Loring, in amazement.
"Yes, courting, by grab! You know little Dilsey Warrick, that 'ere little towhead girl come in after Christmas from over on Powderhorn?"
Yes, Miss Loring remembered Dilsey well, a demure dove of a child, in a black, homespun dress and red yarn stockings, with large, serious, blue-gray eyes, long, fair hair that hung down her back in two plaits, and the face of an austere little saint. She must have been at least three years older than Hen, who was nine and a half, but it pleased him to speak of the sex in diminutives.
"You know I carry water to the Big
House of a morning before breakfast, continued Hen. "Well, Dilsey she sweeps off the front porch over there then. And Philip he goes round and mends the fence where the hogs breaks in every night."
"Yes, he is place-carpenter," said Miss Loring.
"Well," proceeded Hen, "that's the time he does his courting. That 's as good a chanct as he wants, when t' hain't nobody much around but me. But I keep my eye on him, I can tell you. I walk around the corner of the house right easy, on the ground instid of the walk, and come up on 'em unexpected."
"Oh, but you 're certainly mistaken," Miss Loring insisted. "Why, Philip simply hates girls; he has n't the least bit of use for them. I've often heard him say So."
"Dag gone me! he 's got use enough for little Dilsey, by Ned! Gee! I never see the beat! He sot in a-courting her soon as he got out from the eech, and hain't stopped sence. Dad swinge my hide! if that 'ere boy hain't been a-nailing planks on that front fence with lee-tle-bitty fourpenny nails, so 's the hogs 'll root 'em off sure every night, and he 'll git to work there agin every morning, and talk to Dilsey. I tell you I been a-keepin' my eye peeled for him ever sence that first day I seed him give Dilsey a' apple at recess. knowed then something had happened to him."
Miss Loring sat speechless.
"But what made him wash his years," continued Hen, with carefully lowered voice and another glance at the door"one morning whilst little Dilse was a-sweeping, here come Philip along, a-swinging his hammer, and nail-box. He stepped up on the porch, and put his hand in his pocket and pult out a candy-cane I had seed him a-eating on the night before, and poked it at Dilsey. 'Have some?' he says. 'Eat it all, if you want.' Dilsey she started to take it, and then she looked at it, and then at Philip, and says she 's obleeged, but she don't believe she wants any. Philip he shoved it up ag'in' her face. 'Take it,' he says, 'don't be afeared; I'd ruther you 'd eat it as anybody.' Dilse she said no thanks, she would n't choose any (dag gone if she hain't the ladyest girl ever I heared talk!). And Philip axed her what 's the reason,
any woman!) and he says 'I bet they clean as yourn.' And Dilsey she frowned and spoke up solemn, 'I 'd have you know, Mr. Philip Floyd, my years gits washed every day I live.' Then she started for the front door. 'Hmp!' Philip hollered after her, 'I 'd hate to be that much trouble to myself!' And then he seed me. behind the post and gimme as much candycane as I could bite off not to tell nobody what she said to him. And for two days he sulled, and never come anigh her mornings, and mended the fence back in the
scarcely wait for the morrow to come, so eager was she to see more of the little girl who could work such wonders. She made a visit to the loom-house, where Dilsey worked at the weaving in the afternoons. After some conversation with the quaint, dignified little person at the loom, and an earnest scrutiny of her, she decided that the true secret of Dilsey's power was the appeal she made to one's imagination. She had the look of the ideal woman, suggesting many elusive and beautiful things, appealing to that high sense of romance in the
human heart which seldom finds adequate which had been the utmost formerly beoutward realization. There were lesser stowed. charms, too. Judging by her perfect gentleness and good breeding, she might have been reared in marble halls instead of in a windowless, two-roomed log-house on the head of Powderhorn. She had distinctly the look of race. This, in connection with the name she bore, set up trains of thought leading back through centuries of English history to the stirring vicissitudes of the great house of Warwick. It was not in the least impossible, for instance (stranger things were found to be true in this mountain country), that even the magnificent earl, the
Proud setter-up and puller-down of kings,
might be her ancestor. If so, his enormous pride need suffer no abatement in contemplating this little blossom of his noble tree. Of course Miss Loring did not "let on" to Philip; but she earnestly felicitated herself, folded her hands and sat back to watch developments. One day when Philip came in clamoring for a needle and thread and a patch for his elbow (formerly he would have died rather than sew on a patch) Miss Loring was not astonished afterward to learn from Hen that he had heared Dilsey tell Philip at recess that she did n't like raggedy boys. Another morning when Philip had burst into Miss Loring's room with the demand, "Gimme a latch-pin!" and after a little pondering she had handed him out a safety-pin, with which he proceeded to join together his sundered galluses and trousers, Hen, who was making Miss Loring's bed, contributed: "She tolt him this morning she never had no respects for folks that went about with their clothes a-drapping off of 'em." The next Sunday, when Philip had amazed everybody by his perfect tablemanners, and by taking off his hat to every woman he met during the afternoon walk, Hen accounted for it as follows: "'Lije Munn rid along the road on his paw's nag yestiddy whilst Philip and Dilsey was a-talking, and tuck off his hat to Dilse, and she says: "There goes a nice boy. He's so mannerly, and parts his hair so good. I like manners.' Nor was Miss Loring disappointed after this in her expectation that Philip's hair would receive more than the two licks, one to right, one to left,
Miss Loring was not prepared, however, for his request, early in March, to be transferred to the wash-job. If there was anything on the place he had often expressed utter contempt for, it was the duties of the unfortunate wash-boy, who must rise before day on Saturdays to fill up the big kettles in the yard, build fires under them, and then for nine long hours thereafter toil wearily, carrying water, chopping wood, and otherwise "slaving," as Philip expressed it, for the wash-girls, till, by the time playtime came, he was generally too tired to play; not to mention that every day during the week he must keep up fires in the ironing-stove, in the wash-house, and, deepest indignity of all, even take a hand at the ironing. No job was so consistently avoided by all the boys, while the carpenter- and shop-work, which Philip did exclusively, was considered the most desirable and aristocratic on the place. However, Miss Loring gladly gave Philip the wash-job; and on the Saturday morning afterward the explanation appeared when Dilsey tripped over with the other nine wash-girls, having been shifted from the weaving to the washing department.
After this, Philip basked in the light of Dilsey's presence several hours a day, and, inspired by it, did tremendous deeds with his ax on the woodpile, or cheerfully hung out clothes, or ran nimbly down and up the rocky sides of the well when the chain broke and the bucket fell in, as it was fond of doing, or gave hazardous performances on a horizontal limb of the peach-tree. The taunts and teasings of the girls and boys were powerless to dampen his ardor. Their "Howdy, Mr. Warrick," "Good evening, Mrs. Floyd," were indeed music in his ears. He carried on his siege with characteristic frankness and vigor, leaving nothing undone to win the citadel of Dilsey's difficult and exacting affections, and enduring as best he might the painful moments caused by her too-great particularity in trifles.
One Saturday toward supper-time, after the arduous labors of the day, and two or three hours of play, Philip was sitting on the back cottage steps eating a huge chunk of "sugar-tree sugar" he had bought down in the village. The other boys, who had
been engaged in "marvles," gathered about him like flies when they saw him draw forth the great, sticky lump, though with but faint hope in their eyes. Sure enough, he made no motion to break it up or pass it around. Taulbee, with whom he usually shared, was at home for the week-end; so Philip sat and licked and crunched in solitary state. At this juncture, four of the wash-girls, including Dilsey, suddenly appeared round the corner of the cottage on some unexpected errand. Dilsey stopped still, and took in the situation. Then walking calmly on, she remarked casually to the peach-tree, "I'd sooner die as to marry a greedy man."
Flushed and angry, Philip sprang to his feet. "You need n't talk, missy; I give you more 'n I kep'-more 'n you could eat."
"Yes, and I give very near all of mine to the girls. But you hain't never give them 'ere boys nary grain of yourn, that I can see."
'Cause I hain't had time yet. I was just a-fixing to break it up with this here hatchet and give 'em some.'
"Well, I would, if I was you," murmured Dilsey, with decision.
As Philip smashed away angrily with the hatchet, Miss Loring wondered at the vast power in women's hands, and wished that there were more Dilseys with the courage to use it.
On Easter Sunday, Philip was a living monument to the transforming effects of love. Very clean, very much combed and brushed and collared and tied, with a large handkerchief, soaked in Miss Loring's cologne, held prominently in one hand, and an expression on his face as decorous and pious as any Geordie Yonts had ever achieved, he sat in church the very picture of elegance. The real direction of his thoughts was indicated by an occasional ardent glance across the aisle where Dilsey, fairer, more saintlike than ever, in her new white dress and hat, kept serious eyes on the preacher, but could not altogether control the delicate flushing of her cheek as she felt Philip's gaze and reflected what she had made of him.
That afternoon, however, came the grand climax. After the dish-washing (at which the boys assisted on Sundays), all the cottage boys and the ten wash-girls came quietly over to the cottage back yard,
and seated themselves on steps and walk. As Hen ran through the cottage to join the others, Miss Loring called him to her door. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Philip he's aiming to give a treat, and done axed all us boys and wash-girls to it," he replied in a breathless, astonished voice, hurrying on. A little later, Miss Loring stepped to the open window and looked out upon the scene. Philip, as suave, knightly, and beautiful as his famous namesake could ever have been in the days when he sighed for Stella, and all other women for him, was ceremoniously passing around a huge poke of crackers, and one almost as large of brown-sugar (sugarand-crackers being the greatest luxury known to mountain children), saying, with graceful flourishes of his hands, and most insistent politeness: "Eat all you can, now, everybody! I got more still when you git through this. There, Jason, wait till the girls all gets helped. Ladies first, son; ain't you got no manners? Take some, Nancy; eat a plenty now, Narcissa; don't hold back, Angeline; here's a good lump, Dilsey. Now, come along, boys. Iry, Hen, Jason, you little fellows, pitch in and git all you want. The big boys waits till after you; I don't aim to see none of you run over. Don't be afeared; take all you need. Now, Nucky, Hose, Keats, Geordie-everybody, dive in! Just eat all you can hold, and fill up your b-stummicks! I love to see folks eat and enjoy theirselves. No, thank you, I don't want none myself; 'd ruther see the rest eat. I spent thirty cents on them crackers, and thirty-five on that 'ere sugar. gone! I reckon a man t' works hard for his money 's got a right to spend it to suit him! Some folks hain't fitten to live; wants to eat up all they git theirselves; hain't got even the feelings of a hog: but I like to pass around mine, I do. It makes me happy. What 's the use of living if you can't make other folks see a good time? Gee-oh! I aim to make a big lot of money this summer, so 's I can give a treat onct a month, come next year; and I want every man-jack of you, and ladies too, to come every time. Dad burn ole Heck! generous never ruint nobody!"
And Miss Loring, almost unable to believe her eyes and ears, murmured amazedly to herself, "And they say the day of miracles is past!"