« AnkstesnisTęsti »
'It's on the twentieth
chuckle, the keenest triumphs their What's on the twentieth?' demand- zest without his pleased smile. Trottie ed Larry, the more irrepressible — if expressed the family sentiment when, there was indeed any choice — of the in the midst of rapidly appropriating twins. 'A funeral, I should judge from father's neglected dessert, she burst father's beamish look.'
into a prolonged wail. 'I'm mizzable! 'It's the Loyal Legion banquet at father don't pay 'tention to me.' the Carlisle House,' mother informed The morning of the twentieth dawnthem, “and your father has promised to ed clear and bright, and father searchmake a speech.'
ed in vain with haggard gaze a cloudThe youthful Hendersons tore them- less sky. It was plain that he had hoped selves from their ice-cream and explod
to the last that some devastating cataed in an amazed chorus. Murray voiced clysm of Nature might prevent the the general sentiment.
evening's horror. Instead, Fate, grim'I did n't know speeches were in ly relentless, was preparing for him father's line,' he said. He had just won another prostrating blow. Mother, to a Sophomore debating medal himself. whom he had clung for mental support
‘They are n’t,' groaned father. ‘You throughout the hideous week; who had don't inherit that from me.' He put his alternately soothed his fears and ener
' gray head down into his hands with a getically prodded his faltering spirit; dejection that no business cares had who had assured him twenty times each ever wrung from him in public. 'I night that it was ridiculous for any man can't see how I ever let myself be per- who had had such unusual experiences suaded into the confounded thing. never to have spoken once at the ban
This from father was the wildest pro- quets; that he would find how simple it fanity, and indicated a serious state of was once he began; that he knew how mind indeed.
much they all thought of him and how From that moment, it seemed, father lenient his audience would be; that he was a changed man. As the days drew had promised and could not disappoint nearer to the twentieth, his mien be
- mother, at the eleventh came more and more that of a con- hour, after battling valiantly all day, demned criminal awaiting execution. succumbed to a neuralgic headache and At table he was for once deaf alike to took to her bed. repartee or to recrimination; all evening It was late in the afternoon when she he sat motionless behind his paper, called Jean to her darkened chamber with troubled eyes and moving lips, and told her that she must go in her evidently in agonized rehearsal of the place. fatal speech.
‘But, mother, I can't,' Jean exposThe extraordinary thing was the ef- tulated aghast. “It's the night of the fect this had upon the family. Father Farley dance and I've promised to go was a darling, of course
there was no
with Harold.' one in the world like him; but in that 'It's too bad,' mother agreed, but vivid, effervescing circle of young life, your father can't go alone to the only each absorbingly intent upon his own speech he's ever made in all his life pleasures and ambitions, father admit- when you know how he's been dreadtedly played a relatively unimportant ing it, too. You'll have to call Harold rôle. It was inexplicable, therefore, up.' how the merriest sallies lost their fla- Jean explained with exemplary pavor without the applause of his silent tience. "But, mother, you don't under
stand. It would be awful to break a herself what had made her behave as date this way at the last moment she had? when it's too late for Harold to get an- * Please tell Murray I'd like to speak other girl. If I had any kind of an ex- to him,' mother was saying wearily. cuse it might be different, but just an ‘And if you're going, Jean, you'd betengagement with one's own father —
ter dress right away.' But mother was impervious to rea- It had evidently been a stormy sessoning. 'It's a very little thing to do sion with Murray, too, from the gloom for your father,' she declared. It's no on his handsome brow when he and use arguing, Jean - if you won't do it, Jean, mutinous young martyrs, presentI'll get up and go myself, sick as I am.' ed themselves coldly to mother for a
"Of course, if you put it that way, still unforgiving farewell kiss. She eyed
', mother, I'll have to go,'Jean said stiff- disapprovingly Jean's simple gown. ly. 'Probably Harold will never for- 'I want you to put on the dress you give me, but I suppose that does n't were going to wear to the dance, demake any difference.'
creed mother implacably. 'You must 'I hope Harold has a little sense,' look your best to-night for your father's remarked her mother unfeelingly. 'I friends.' think Murray should go, too. Is he ‘But, mother,' Jean protested, in exgoing to take any one to-night?' asperated justification, 'you're always 'He's stagging it,' Jean admitted un- lecturing me to save my clothes, and
' willingly. 'Lucia's out of town, and he surely to-night
‘ won't take any one else. But I know 'To-night of all times,' declared he's looking forward to this dance.' mother. 'Do you realize that your fa
There was still that hurt antagonism ther seldom has a chance to enjoy your in her young voice. It was not as if she pretty clothes - when he has to work would n't be glad to do anything in the so hard to pay for them?' world for father, she told herself with Jean obediently buttoned her best passionate insistence. But she could pink tulle - that cloud of flimsy loven't make his speech for him! And just liness which had been destined to degoing with him surely was n't worth light Harold's adoring eye-over a this terrible sacrifice mother was call- hotly rebellious heart. She swept down ing upon her to make. Of course she the stairs like an outraged young duchcouldn't explain to mother how things ess. Father's tragic gaze lightened for stood, how mean she had been to Har- a moment as it rested on her. old last night; no direct unkindness of ‘My little girl looks very sweet toword or deed that they could thrash out night,' he said; and Jean forgot for a openly afterwards, but little intangible moment her attitude of injured martyrwounds of omission — wounds inflict- dom and gave him an impetuous hug. ed in sheer girlish intoxication of her After all, it was n't father's fault budding power over men. Harold had Bitterness surged over her again, borne them in rigid, bitter silence; all however, as they went down the steps day long she had promised herself to and turned toward the street-car. How atone for them graciously to-night. different an exit from her usual triAnd now he would think her amazing umphant descent to the carriage some message a last unwarrantable stab! He eager admirer had waiting for her each would perhaps never give her a chance evening. For this was in the days to explain - how could she explain when the horse had indeed received his anyway when she did n't understand death-blow, but was not as yet socially
extinct. Romance, even in the opening introduced my little girl'andómy boy.' years of the twentieth century, still Father himself seemed miraculousrode to dances in ‘sea-going hacks,' as ly changed from the quiet figure they Murray elegantly termed them. had always known. The grim shadow
Something of Jean's thought must of the speech had evidently lifted, for have penetrated father's mind, for he a few moments at least. He sparkled turned an anxious eye upon her white suddenly with boyish enthusiasm and coat. 'I ought to have had a carriage eager good-fellowship. It was astonishfor those pretty clothes,' he said. “You ing to see these elderly magnates clapsee, I never dreamed I was to be hon- ping him on the shoulder, calling him ored this way.'
Rolly, bringing up reminiscences of a 'It does n't matter,' Jean assured dashing past which made father's chilhim.
dren open their eyes. Was it possible An uncomfortable little thought had that father had not always been sixty, wedged itself into her mind. There was and merely a lovable background for always an equipage of some sort wait- very remarkable children? ing for her; Murray's carriage-bill roll- It was not until they were fairly seated in each month as regularly as his ed at the long table, resplendent in laundry-bill; but father and mother, floral swords and crossed sabres, that the last few years, went always on foot. the real meaning of the occasion came Was this waiting on the bread-line such with a touch of awe to Jean. She had a joke, perhaps, after all?
known of course that the Loyal Legion It was a silent ride to the hotel. Fath- were officers of the Civil War. All the er was evidently miles away from them, children had been brought up on falocked in a last frenzied struggle with ther's war stories. The twins still vothe speech. Jean and Murray were lost raciously demanded them; but she and
; in bitter dreams of the paradise they Murray had for some time past felt had lost. The last dreg of unkindness that the war was a very remote and seemed added to Jean's cup when she insignificant topic indeed before the surveyed herself in the dressing-room. burning issues of college and social life She had never looked so pretty. And which loomed colossal upon the horionly those old fogies to see me,' she zon. They had tactfully concealed this mourned.
point of view from father. He never The unworthy thought vanished knew that when he began, 'Just before when she saw the light in father's face the battle of Nashville, when we were as she came out into the corridor. All stationed 'she or Murray would sigthat was best in Jean leaped to meet nal silently, 'It's your turn this time to that look. What did one silly little listen,' and slip from the room. dance matter anyway? What differ- But somehow father's reminiscences ence did it make if Harold never spoke had abruptly ceased — also the invito her again, when she had the power tations to the open banquets that he to bring such love and pride into fath- had wistfully tendered them from time er's eyes? In a passion of remorseful to time. They had always been too tenderness she smiled and dimpled her busy to go. To-night, this assemblage winsomest as father's friends bent court- of white-haired, straight-backed officers ly silver heads over her hand and paid - scarred and crippled, some of them her old-fashioned compliments. Even - made startlingly vivid the Great Murray's glumness melted before the Conflict, and dwarfed to pitiful insigtouching pride in father's voice as he nificance her foolish, trivial little round
of pleasures. Why, these men had done only officer here who was present at the great things — offered their lives that storming of Fort Blakely, he has rethe flag against the wall might still be lented and promised to make us — ' theirs. And she and Murray had felt it ‘Not a speech!' father implored a condescension to give up an evening wretchedly. He had been listening to to them!
these encomiums in the frankest misShe slipped her hand into father's ery. “You know you promised I need underneath the table. Father's fingers n't make a speech - just talk.' closed about it convulsively, in a des- 'I stand corrected,' apologized the perate appeal very different from their toast-master, amid laughter. ‘Captain usual comforting strength. He met her Henderson is not going to speak to us startled glance with a brave attempt at - he is merely going to talk to hima smile, but there was no doubt that self — about the storming of Fort father was again in a 'blue funk.' Jean Blakely.' herself felt a sudden tremor of fear. It Father did not attempt to rise. He was all very well to have laughed about leaned forward a little, and in a very the speech in the safe shelter of home; low voice, with his eyes fixed upon his before this august gathering it took on plate, began to speak. Murray's knucknew and hideous proportions. She felt les whitened between his straining fina sudden passionate desire to throw gers; beneath the table Jane clutched her arms around father before them all, father's coat in a convulsive grasp. to cry out to them how dear and splen- This is the first speech I have ever did he was, even if he could not make made,' said father simply, — ‘and the speeches.
last. I am sure you already understand She could see that Murray was share why. But if you want to know about ing her fears.
Fort Blakely, — why, I was there, I wish I'd gone over it with you, and this is what happened.' father,' he said remorsefully; 'I could He went on huskily, with an occahave helped you perhaps — and then signal falter or clearing of his throat, to I could have prompted you if you got describe the lay of the country, the arstuck!'
rangement of the troops, the imporThe speaking began. One glib- tance of the assault. Jean, listening in voiced orator after another got up, an agony of pity and tenderness, swept rolled out polished, graceful sentences, the table with defiant, hostile glances. sat down. Jean hated them all with If they dared to be laughing at father! fierce intensity. And now the terrible If they dared to notice how his dear moment had come. It was father's hand shook as he lifted a glass of water turn.
to his lips! Something in the kindly inWe have among us to-night,' the tent faces reassured her, lifted that intoast-master was saying, ‘one known tolerable ache of impotent sympathy. to you all as the bravest of soldiers, Why, they loved father - these men! the most efficient of officers, the best It would n't make any difference what of comrades. No one present has seen his speech was like they would unmore active or unusual service than derstand. Captain Henderson. Unfortunately his Perhaps father, too, dimly felt this modesty equals his valor, and we have as he went on. His voice grew clearer, never been able to persuade him to re- his look less haggard. His head was up late at our banquets any of his experi- and he was speaking, still very quietly, ences. To-night, however, as he is the but so that all the room could hear, VOL. 121 - NO, 1
when he brought them to the begin- It was far from a silent ride homening of the charge
ward. Father was inclined to treat And then one could see that father humorously both his earlier fears and completely forgot his speech; forgot his his success, but his children would have circle of motionless listeners; he was a
none of this. boy of twenty, riding headlong into a 'It was a bully speech, father-a horror of blood and fire and almost cer- wonderful speech, Murray told him tain death, holding in his young hand earnestly for the tenth time. 'And me the responsibility of a hundred lives with the nerve to think I could have and the welfare of a nation. This was helped you with it! And, father, why no 'Speech'indeed, but a flaming page did n't you tell us those things about torn from history.
yourself? You always just talked about They were very silent for a moment the regiment! I just burst with pridewhen he ended then the room broke those things they said about you into a thunder of applause. There could Father, visibly embarrassed, protestbe no doubt as to the success of father's ed that every one was like that in the speech. The toast-master had to fight war; but the eager young voice swept on. for silence.
‘And, father, I can join next year, “There are a few words I should like can't I? You told me I could when I to add to Captain Henderson's graphic was twenty-one — I want to belong — account,' he said. “I am sorry to state
and go to those meetings with you.' that he has not been wholly accurate in “Why, my boy!' said father; and to some details. He entirely neglected to Murray's astonishment turned his back mention that he led that famous charge upon him and looked steadfastly out of himself, was the first man over the para- the car-window. 'I've dreamed of that pet, and was promoted in consequence since you were a little shaver. The first for conspicuous gallantry on the field hour they put you in my arms I began of action.'
planning – 'Father's voice broke and How they did cheer father then! he was silent. There were tears in Jean's eyes, and Jean was silent, too, studying with Murray was openly swelling with pride wide-eyed intentness a topsy-turvy like a young turkey-cock. Father him- world. One short evening had swept self looked abjectly miserable, as if he father from the obscure niche he had had been caught red-handed in a crime. occupied by virtue of being Murray's
At the close of the evening they stood and her parent into a figure suddenly and, in accordance with the beautiful towering, magnificent. And it was not old custom, joined hands in a circle and wholly because of splendid charges and sang 'Auld Lang Syne.' It held a heart- parapets stormed that she saw with breaking significance for that gray- new vision: there was the quiet heroism haired band, where each year gaps were of father's daily life, its selflessness, its made as one gallant officer after anoth- constant thought for others, its burer was called to obey his last orders. dens so gallantly and cheerily borne. Murray and Jean, fresh links in the As they went up the steps, she flung her chain to hand down the hero blood, arms around him in a storm of emotion. sang lustily and happily. This time it 'It's nothing,' she choked at father's was they, who, standing very close to alarmed insistence. 'I was just thinkfather, holding his hands very tightly, ing, what if anything had happened sent down the table glances of proud to you in that dreadful war - and I possession.
could n't have had you for my father!'