MoboReader> Literature > The Little Colonel's Chum: Mary Ware

   Chapter 4 AYE, THERE'S THE RUB!

The Little Colonel's Chum: Mary Ware By Annie F. Johnston Characters: 29811

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


True to the course she had laid out for herself, Mary was as dumb next morning as if she had really lost the power of speech. Judging from her manner one would have thought that she was alone in the room, and that she was having a beautiful time all by herself. She was waiting for Ethelinda to make the advances this time, and as she did not see fit even to say good-morning, the dressing proceeded in a silence so profound that it could almost be felt.

There was a broad smile on Mary's face most of the time. She was ready to laugh outright over the absurd situation, and from time to time she cast an amused glance at Lloyd's picture, as if her amusement were understood and shared. It was wonderful how that life-like picture seemed to bring Lloyd before her and give her a delightful sense of companionship, and she fell into the way of "thinking to it," as she expressed it. The things she would have said aloud had Lloyd been with her, she said mentally, finding a satisfaction in this silent communion that a less imaginative person could not have experienced.

"I wish you could go down to breakfast with me, Princess," she thought, turning for a last glance when she was dressed, and pausing with her hand on the door-knob. "I dread to go down alone before all those strangers."

Dinner, the night before, had been a very stately affair, with Madam at the head of the table in the long banquet hall, and Hawkins in solemn charge of his corps of waiters. But breakfasts were to be delightfully informal, Mary found a few minutes later, when she paused at the dining room door and saw many small round tables, each cozily set for six: five pupils and a teacher. Betty, presiding at one, looked up and beckoned to her.

"You're a trifle early, but come on in. You're to have a seat here by me, with Elise and A.O. just around the corner. Now tell me what has happened to give you that 'glorious morning face,' as Stevenson puts it. You look as if you had found some rare good fortune."

"I have, but I didn't know I showed it." Mary's hands went up to her face as if she expected to feel the expression that Betty saw. "I am so happy to think that I'm to be at your table. And I'm glad that I can stop playing dumb for awhile. Oh, but it has been funny up in our room this morning. I took your advice, and I want to tell you about it before the other girls come down."

Betty laughed heartily as Mary pictured herself in bed under the umbrella, and smiled understandingly when she told about finding a make-believe chum in Lloyd's picture.

"I know, dear," she answered. "I used to do that way with god-mother's picture when I was a lonely little thing at the Cuckoo's nest. I'd whisper my troubles and show her my treasures, and feel that she kept watch over me while I slept. It comforted me many a time, when there was no one else to go to, and is one of my dearest recollections now of those days when I felt so little and lonesome and uncared for."

"How Jack would laugh at me," exclaimed Mary, presently, "if he knew that one of my air-castles had collapsed. He is always teasing me about building sky-scrapers without any foundation. On my way out here Mrs. Stockton told me a lot of stories about her school days. She roomed with the Judge's sister, and she heard so much about him and he heard so much about her through this sister, that they got to sending messages to each other in her letters. Then they exchanged photographs, and finally they met when he came on the Commencement, and the romance of their lives grew out of it. I kept thinking how romantic it would be to have your brother marry your dearest chum, someone you already loved like a sister-and that if my room-mate turned out to be lovely and sweet and charming, all that I hoped she'd be, how interesting I could make it for Jack. There's no society at all in Lone-Rock, and he never can meet any nice girls as long as he stays there."

"And you don't think he would be interested in Ethelinda?" asked Betty mischievously. "An heiress and a girl with such a distinguished air? She certainly has that even if she doesn't measure up to your standard of beauty. He might be charmed with her. You never can tell what a man is going to like."

"Not that-that-clam!" Mary answered warmly, with an expression of disgust. "I know Jack! You've no idea how she can shut herself up in her shell. She never would fit in our family and I know he'd never-"

The signal announcing breakfast made her stop in the middle of her sentence, for at that same instant the girls began to file in.

"Well, it's good-bye, 'Betty.' I must begin talking to 'Miss Lewis' now." Giving Betty's hand a quick squeeze under the table, she drew herself up sedately.

The Old Girls' Welcome to the New was the chief topic of conversation that morning. It was to take place that night, and as the invitations would not be delivered until the opening of the first mail, every Freshman was in a flutter of expectancy, wondering who her escort was to be.

"I hope mine will be either Cornie Dean or Dorene Derwent," confided Mary to Betty in an undertone, "because I know them so well. But if I should have to choose a stranger I'd rather have that quiet girl in gray, over at Miss Chilton's table. She looks like a girl in an English story-book. I mean the one that Ethelinda is talking to now. And I wish you'd notice how she is talking," Mary continued in amazement. "Did you ever see more animation? She's making up for lost time."

"Oh, that's Evelyn Berkeley," answered Betty. "She is English; a distant relative of Madam's with such an interesting history. The year I finished school she came in the middle of the spring term, such a sad-looking creature all in black. Her mother had just died, and her father, who only a short time before had succeeded to the title and estates, sent her over here to be with Madam for awhile. He didn't know what to do with her, as she seemed to be going into a decline. She isn't like the same girl now."

"Oh, is she a real 'My-lady-the-carriage-waits'?" asked Mary, her eyes wide with interest.

"Yes, she belongs to a very ancient and noble family," said Betty, amused at her enthusiasm. "But I thought you were such a little American-revolution patriot that you would not be impressed by anything like that."

"I'm not impressed, exactly," Mary answered stoutly, "but this is the first girl I ever saw who is own daughter to a lord, and it does add a flavour to one's interest in her. Oh, I see, now. That is why Ethelinda is so friendly," she added, with sudden intuition of the truth. "She thinks that Miss Berkeley is somebody worth cultivating, and that I'm not."

"Maybe it's a case of 'birds of a feather,'" said Elise, who had heard part of the conversation. "Ethelinda aspires to a family tree and a coat-of-arms, too. I saw her box of stationery spilled out over your table when I was in your room yesterday, and it had quite an imposing crest on the paper-a unicorn or griffin or something, pawing away at a crown."

Mary pursed her lips together thoughtfully. "That might explain it. Maybe she thinks I'm only a sort of wild North American Indian because our place is named Ware's Wigwam, and that it is beneath her dignity to be intimate with her inferiors. But if that is what is the matter, she's just a snob, and can't be very sure of her own position."

"She is only sixteen," Betty reminded her, "even if she does look so mature and imposing. I have an idea that the way she has been brought up is responsible for her attitude now. It has given her a false standard of values. Now, Mary, here is a chance for you to do some real missionary work, and teach her that 'the rank is but the guinea's stamp,' and that we're all pure gold, 'for a' that and a' that,' no matter if we are not members of the British peerage."

"I wouldn't mind telling her anything if she were a real heathen," was Mary's earnest answer. "But trying to break through her reserve is a harder task than butting a hole through the Chinese wall. You've no idea how haughty she is. Well, I don't care-much."

She cared enough, however, to take a lively interest in her room-mate's pedigree, after seeing the crest on her note paper. Later in the morning when some literature references made it necessary for her to go to the library, she looked around for a certain fat volume she had pored over several times during those idle days before the beginning of school. It was Burke's Peerage. She had looked into it because of the story of Edryn, finding many mottoes as interesting as the one in the great amber window on the stairs. Now she turned to the B's and rapidly scanned the columns till she came to the Berkeleys. For generations there had been an Evelyn in the family. What a long, long time they had had to shape their lives by their motto, and grow worthy of their family traditions! No wonder that Evelyn had that air of gentle breeding and calm poise like Madam Chartley's.

Mary had already on a previous occasion looked in vain for the name of Ware, and when she failed to find it, consoled herself with the thought that for three hundred years it had been handed down with honour in the annals of New England. Staunch patriots the Wares had been in the old colony days, sturdy and stern of conscience, and Mary had been taught to believe that their struggle to wrest a living from the rocky hills while they built up a state was as worthy of honour as any knightly deed of the Round Table. She was prouder of those early ancestors who delved and spun and toiled with their hands at yeoman tasks, than the later ones, who were ministers and judges and college professors.

Until now she had never attached any importance to the fact that a branch of her mother's family had been a titled one, because she was such a patriotic little American, and because so many years had elapsed since that particular branch had severed its connection with the family in the old world. But now Mary felt a peculiar thrill of satisfaction when she found the name in the peerage and realized that some of the blue blood which had inspired those great-great-grandfathers to knightly deeds was coursing through her own veins. The crest was a winged spur, with the motto, "Ready, aye ready."

"Maybe that is the reason the 'King's call' has come to me as it did to Edryn," she mused, her chin in her hand and her eyes gazing dreamily out of the window. Then she forgot all about her quest for the literature references, for in her revery she was listening to the Voices again, and seeing herself in a dimly foreshadowed future, the centre of an acclaiming crowd. What great part she was to play she did not know, but when the time should come for the fulfilment of her high destiny, she would rise to meet it like the winged spur, crying "Ready, aye ready," as all those brave ancestors had done. It was in the blood to respond thus.

The hunter's horn on the terrace outside, sounding the call to recreation, roused her from her day-dreams, and she came to herself with a start. But before she hurried away to the office where the mail was being distributed, she made a quick survey of the H's. To her surprise the name of Hurst was not among them. She fairly ran down the stairs to report her discovery to Elise.

When the invitations for the evening were all distributed Mary went up stairs wailing out her consternation to A.O. She was to be escorted by Jane Ridgeway, the most dignified senior in the school.

"She's the kind that knows such an awful lot, and you have to be on your p's and q's with her every single minute. Cornie says her father is in the Cabinet, and her mother is a shining intellectual light. And now that I've been warned beforehand, I'll not be able to utter a syllable of sense; I know that I'll just gibber."

When she went to her room to dress for the occasion that night there was a great hunch of hot-house roses waiting for her with Jane's card. She knew from the other girls' description of this opening festivity that the seniors spared no expense on this occasion, but it rather overawed her to receive such an extravagant offering. She looked across at the modest bunch of white and purple violets which had come from the Warwick Hall conservatory for Ethelinda, and wondered if there had not been some mistake. Then to her surprise, Ethelinda, who had noticed her glance, spoke to her.

"Sweet, aren't they! Miss Berkeley sent them, or rather Lady Evelyn, I should say. She is to be my escort to-night."

It was Mary's besetting sin to put people right whom, she thought were mistaken, so she answered hastily, "Oh, no! You oughtn't to call her Lady Evelyn. She doesn't like it. She wants to be just like the other girls as long as she is in an American school."

Ethelinda drew herself up with a stare, and asked in a patronizing tone that nettled Mary:

"May I ask how you happen to know so much about her?"

Equally lofty in her manner, and in a tone comically like Ethelinda's, Mary answered, "You may. Miss Lewis gave me that bit of information, and for the rest I looked her up in Burke's Peerage. She comes of a very illustrious and noble family, so of course she feels perfectly sure of her position, and doesn't have to draw the lines about herself to preserve her dignity as some people do. Cornie Dean was telling me about a girl who was in the school last year who made such a fuss about her pedigree that she couldn't be friends with more than three of the girls. The rest weren't high enough caste for her. She sported a crest and all that, and they found out that she hadn't a particle of right to it. Her father had struck it rich in some lumber deal, and bought a gallery of ancestral portraits, and paid a man a small fortune to fix him up a coat of arms. She had no end of money, but she wasn't the real thing, and Cornie says that paste diamonds won't go down with this school. They can spot them every time."

Ethelinda made no comment for a moment, but presently asked in a strained tone, "Did you have any doubts of Miss Berkeley's claims? Is that why you looked her up in the peerage?"

"No," said Mary, honestly. "I was looking for my own name. But there wasn't a single Ware in it. And then"-she couldn't resist this thrust, especially as she felt it was a part of the missionary work she had undertaken-"I looked for Hurst, too, as the girls said you had a crest."

"Well?" came the question, a trifle defiantly.

"It's not in the Peerage."

Ethelinda drew herself up haughtily as if she disdained an explanation, yet felt forced to make one. "It is not my father's crest I use," she announced. "It came from back in my mother's family."

"Oh!" said Mary, with significant emphasis. "I see!" Then she added cheerfully, "I could have one, too, on a count like that, way back among

my great-grandmothers. But I wouldn't have any real right to it. You have to be in the direct line of descent, you know, and it is silly for us Americans to try to hang on by a hair to the main trunk of the family tree, when all the world knows we belong on the outside branches."

There was no answer to this and the dressing proceeded in a silence as profound as the morning's, until Mary saw that Ethelinda was struggling in a frantic effort to free herself from the hooks of her dress which had caught in her hair.

"Wait," she called, hurrying to the rescue. "Let me hook it for you. What a perfect dream of a gown it is!" she added in frank admiration, as she deftly fastened it up the back. "It looks like the kind in the fairy tales that are woven out of moon-beams. Here, let me fix your hair, where the hooks pulled it loose."

She tucked in the straggling locks with a few soft pats and touches which, with the compliment, mollified Ethelinda a trifle, in spite of her resentment over the former speech. But it still rankled, and she could not forbear saying a little spitefully, "Thanks! What a soft, light touch you have. Quite like a maid I had last year. By the way, her name was Mary. And it was awfully funny. It happened at that time that every maid in the house was named that, and whenever mamma called 'Mary' five or six of them would come running. I used to tell my maid that if I had as common a name as that I'd change it."

Something in the way she said it set Mary's teeth on edge. She had never known any one before who purposely said disagreeable things. She often said them herself in her blundering, impetuous way, but was heartily sorry as soon as they were uttered. Now for the first time in her life she wanted to retaliate by saying the meanest thing she could think of. So she answered, hotly, "Oh, I don't know. I'd rather be named Mary than a name that means noble snake, like Ethelinda."

"Who told you it means that?" was Ethelinda's astonished demand. "I don't believe it."

"You've only to consult Webster," was the dignified reply. "I looked your name up in the dictionary the day I first heard it. Ethel means noble, but Ethelinda means noble snake. I suppose nobody ever calls you just Inda," she added meaningly.

Ethelinda's eyes flashed, but she had no answer for this queer girl who seemed to have the Dictionary and the Peerage and no telling how many other sources of information at her tongue's end.

Again the dressing went on in silence. Mary finished first, all but a hook or two which she could not reach, and which she could not muster up courage to ask Ethelinda to do for her. Finally, gathering up her armful of roses, she went across the hall to ask Dorene's assistance.

"Why, of course!" she cried, opening the door wide at Mary's knock. "You poor child! Think of having a room-mate who is such a Queen of Sheba she couldn't do a little thing like that for you!"

"But I didn't ask her," Mary hurried to explain, eager to be perfectly honest. "I had just made such a mean remark to her that I hadn't the courage to ask a favour."

"You!" laughed Cornie. "I can't imagine a good natured little puss like you saying anything very savage to anybody."

"But I did," confessed Mary. "I wanted to hurt her feelings. I fairly ached to do it. I should have said something meaner still if I could have thought of it quick enough. Isn't it awful? Only the second day of the term to have things come to such a pass! Everything we do seems to rub the other's fur up the wrong way."

"I'd ask Madam to change me to some other room," said Dorene, but Mary resented the suggestion.

"No, indeed! I'll not have it said that I was such a fuss-cat as all that. I'll make myself get along with her."

"Well, I don't envy you the task," was Cornie's rejoinder. "I never can resist the temptation to take people down when they get high and mighty. I heard her telling one of the girls at the breakfast table that she'd never ridden on a street-car in all her life till she came to Washington. She made Fanchon take her across the city in one instead of calling a carriage as they always do. They have a garage full of machines at home, and I don't know how many horses. She said it in a way to make people who had always ridden in public conveyances feel mighty plebeian and poor-folksy, although she insisted that street-cars are lots of fun. 'They give you a funny sensation when they stop.' Those were her very words."

"Well, of all things!" cried Mary, then after a moment's silent musing, "It never struck me before, what different worlds we have been brought up in. But if a street-car ride is as much of a novelty to her as an automobile ride would be to me, I don't wonder that she spoke about it. I know I'd talk about my sensations in an auto if I'd ever been in one, and it wouldn't be bragging, either. Maybe all our other experiences have been just as different," she went on, her judicial mind trying to look at life from Ethelinda's view-point, in order to judge her fairly.

"I wonder what sort of a girl I would have been, if instead of always having the Wolf at the door, we'd have had bronze lions guarding the portals, and all the money that heart could wish."

"Money!" sniffed Cornie. "It isn't that that makes the difference in Ethelinda. Look at Alta Westman, a million in her own right. There isn't a sweeter, jollier, friendlier girl in the school."

"Any way," continued Mary, "I'd like to be able to put myself in Ethelinda's place for about an hour, and see how things look to her-especially how I look to her. I'm glad I thought about that. It will make it easier for me to get along with her, for it will help me to make allowances for lots of things."

The door stood ajar, and catching sight of Jane Ridgeway coming up the hall, Mary started to meet her.

"Remember," called Cornie after her. "We've taken you under our wing, and claim you for our sorority. We're not going to have any of the Lloydsboro Valley girls imposed on, and if she gets too uppity she'll find herself boycotted."

As the door closed behind her Dorene remarked, "She's a dear little thing. I'm going to see that she has so much attention to-night that Ethelinda will wake up to the fact that she's worth having for a friend. I'm going to ask Evelyn Berkeley to make a special point of being nice to her."

The thought that Cornie considered her one of the Lloydsboro girls sent Mary away with a pleasurable thrill that made her cheeks glow all evening. There was something in the donning of party clothes that always loosened her tongue, and conscious of looking her best she plunged into the festivity of the hour with such evident enjoyment that others naturally gravitated towards her to share it.

"Congratulations!" whispered Betty, happening to pass her towards the close of the evening. "You're quite one of the belles of the ball."

"Isn't it simply perfect?" sighed Mary, her face beaming.

Herr Vogelbaum had just come in and was settling himself at the piano, in place of the musicians who had been performing. This was an especial treat not on the programme, and all that was needed in Mary's opinion to complete a heavenly evening. He played the same improvisation that had caught her up in its magic spell the day of her arrival, and she went to her room in the uplifted frame of mind which finds everything perfection. Even her strained relations with Ethelinda seemed a trifle, the tiniest thorn in a world full of roses. Her last waking thought was a resolution to be so good and patient that even that thorn should disappear in time.

Mary's popularity was not without its effect upon Ethelinda, especially the Lady Evelyn's evident interest in her. It argued that she was worth knowing. Then, too, it would have been a hard heart which could have steeled itself against Mary's persistent efforts to be friendly. It was a tactful effort also, making her daily put herself in Ethelinda's place and consider everything from her view-point before speaking. Many a time it helped her curb her active little tongue, and many a time it helped her to condone the one fault which particularly irritated her.

"Of course it is hard for her to keep her half of the room in order," she would say to herself. "She's always had a maid to wait on her, and has never been obliged to pick up even her own stockings. She doesn't know how to be neat, and probably I shouldn't, either, if I hadn't been so carefully trained."

Then she would hang the rumpled skirts back in the wardrobe where they belonged, rescue her overturned work-basket from some garment that Ethelinda had carelessly thrown across it, and patiently straighten out the confusion of books and papers on the table they shared in common. Although there were no more frozen silences between them their conversations were far from satisfactory. They were totally uncongenial. But after the first week, that part of their relationship did not affect Mary materially. She was too happily absorbed in the work and play of school life, throwing herself into every recitation, every excursion and every experience with a zest that left no time for mourning over what might have been. At bed-time there was always her shadow-chum to share the recollections of the day. One of her letters to Joyce gave a description of the state of resignation to which she finally attained.

"Think of it!" she wrote. "Me with my Puritan conscience and big bump of order, and my r.m. calmly embroidering this Sabbath afternoon! Her dressing table, her bed and the chairs look like rubbish heaps. Her bed-room slippers in the middle of the floor this time of day make me want to gnash my teeth. Really it is a disaster to live with some one who scrambles her things in with yours all the time. The disorder gets on my nerves some days till I want to scream. There are times when I think I shall be obliged to rise up in my wrath like old Samson, and smite her 'hip and thigh with a great slaughter.'

"In most things I have been able to 'compromise.' Margaret Elwood, one of the Juniors, taught me that. She tried it with one of her room-mates, now happily a back number. Margaret said this girl loved cheap perfumes, for instance, and she herself loathed them. So she filled all the drawers and wardrobes with those nasty camphor moth-balls, which the r.m. couldn't endure, and when she protested, Margaret offered a compromise. She would cut out the moth-balls, even at the expense of having her clothes ruined, if the r.m. would swear off on musk and the like.

"I tried that plan to break E. of keeping the light on when I was sleepy. One night I lay awake until I couldn't stand it any longer, and then began to hum in a low, droning chant, sort of under my breath, like an exasperating mosquito: 'Laugh-ing wa-ter! Big chief's daugh-ter!' till I nearly drove my own self distracted. I could see her frown and change her position as if she were terribly annoyed, and after I had hummed it about a thousand times she asked, 'For heaven's sake, Mary, is there anything that will induce you to stop singing that thing? I can't read a word.'

"'Why, yes,' I answered sweetly. 'Does it annoy you? I was only singing to pass the time till you turn off the light. I can't sleep a wink. We'll just compromise.'

"She turned it out in a jiffy and didn't say a word, but I notice that she pays attention to the signals now, and does her reading before they sound 'taps.' All this is teaching yours truly a wonderful amount of self control, and I have come to the conclusion that everything at Warwick Hall, disagreeables and all, are working together for my good."

So matters went on for several weeks. Mary meekly hung up Ethelinda's dresses and put the room in order whenever it was disarranged, and Ethelinda, always accustomed to being waited upon, took it as a service due her from one whom necessity had placed in a position always to serve. If she had accepted it silently Mary might have gone on to the end of the term making excuses for her, and making good her neglect; but Ethelinda remarked one day to one of the Sophomores that if Mary Ware ever wanted a recommendation as lady's maid she would gladly give it. She seemed naturally cut out for that.

The remark was repeated without loss of time, and in the same patronizing tone in which it was made. Mary's boasted self-control flew to the four winds. She was half way down the stairs when she heard it, but turning abruptly she marched back to her room, her cheeks red and her eyes blazing. Throwing open the door she gave one glance around the room. The disorder happened to be a little worse than usual. A wet umbrella leaned against her bed, and Ethelinda's damp coat lay across the white counterpane, for she had been walking in the rain, and had thrown them down in the most convenient spot on entering. Other articles were scattered about promiscuously, but Mary made no attempt as usual to put them in place.

"INSTEAD, IT SEEMED AS IF A SMALL CYCLONE SWEPT THROUGH THE ROOM."

Instead, it seemed as if a small cyclone swept through the room. The wet umbrella was sent flying across to Ethelinda's bed. Gloves, coat, and handsome plumed hat followed, regardless of where they lit, or in what condition. Half a dozen books went next, tumbling pell mell into a corner. Then Ethelinda's bed-room slippers, over which Mary was always stumbling, hurtled through the air, and an ivory hair-brush that had been left on her dressing-table. They whizzed perilously near Ethelinda's head.

"There!" exclaimed Mary, choking back the angry tremble in her voice. "I'm worn out trying to keep this room in order for order's sake! The next time I find your things on my side of the room I'll pitch them out of the window! It's no excuse at all to say that you've always had somebody to wait on you. You've always had your two hands, too. A lady is supposed to have some sense of her own obligations and of other people's rights. Now don't you dare get on my side again!"

With her knees trembling under her till she could scarcely move, Mary ran out of the room, so frightened by what she had done that she did not venture back till bedtime. Ethelinda refused to speak to her for several days, but the outburst of temper had two good results. One was that there was no need for its repetition, and Ethelinda treated her with more respect from then on.

It had come to her with a shock, that Mary was looking down on her, Ethelinda Hurst, pitying her for some things and despising her for others; and though she shrugged her shoulders at first and was angry at the thought, she found herself many a time trying to measure up to Mary's standards. She couldn't bear for those keen gray eyes to look her through, as if they were weighing her in the balance and finding her wanting.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares