MoboReader> Literature > The Two Vanrevels

   Chapter 15 When June Came

The Two Vanrevels By Booth Tarkington Characters: 17772

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


"Methought I met a Damsel Fair And tears were in her eyes; Her head and arms were bare, I heard her bursting sighs.

"I stopp'd and looked her in the face, 'Twas then she sweetly smiled. Her features shone with mournful grace, Far more than Nature's child.

"With diffident and downcast eye, In modest tones she spoke; She wiped a tear and gave a sigh, And then her silence broke-"

So sang Mrs. Tanberry at the piano, relieving the melancholy which possessed her; but Nelson, pausing in the hail to listen, and exceedingly curious concerning the promised utterance of the Damsel Fair, was to suffer disappointment, as the ballad was broken off abruptly and the songstress closed the piano with a monstrous clatter. Little doubt may be entertained that the noise was designed to disturb Mr. Carewe, who sat upon the veranda consulting a brown Principe, and less that the intended insult was accomplished. For an expression of a vindictive nature was precipitated in that quarter so simultaneously that the bang of the piano-lid and the curse were even as the report of a musket and the immediate cry of the wounded.

Mrs. Tanberry at once debouched upon the piazza, showing a vast, clouded countenance. "And I hope to heaven you already had a headache!" she exclaimed.

"The courtesy of your wish, madam," Carewe replied, with an angry flash of his eye, "is only equaled by the kindness of heaven in answering it. I have, in fact, a headache. I always have, nowadays."

"That's good news," returned the lady heartily.

"I thank you," retorted her host.

"Perhaps if you treated your daughter even a decent Indian's kind of politeness, you'd enjoy better health."

"Ah! And in what failure to perform my duty toward her have I incurred your displeasure?"

"Where is she now?" exclaimed the other excitably. "Where is she now?"

"I cannot say."

"Yes, you can, Robert Carewe!" Mrs. Tanberry retorted, with a wrathful gesture. "You know well enough she's in her own room, and so do I-for I tried to get in to comfort her when I heard her crying. She's in there with the door bolted, where you drove her!"

"I drove her!" he sneered.

"Yes, you did, and I heard you. Do you think I couldn't hear you raging and storming at her like a crazy man? When you get in a temper do you dream there's a soul in the neighborhood who doesn't know it? You're a fool if you do, because they could have heard you swearing down on Main Street, if they'd listened. What are you trying to do to her?-break her spirit?-or what? Because you'll do it, or kill her. I never heard anybody cry so heart-brokenly." Here the good woman's own eyes filled. "What's the use of pretending?" she went on sorrowfully. "You haven't spoken to her kindly since you came home. Do you suppose I'm blind to that? You weren't a bad husband to the poor child's mother; why can't you be a good father to her?"

"Perhaps you might begin by asking her to be a good daughter to me."

"What has she done?"

"The night before I went away she ran to a fire and behaved there like a common street hoyden. The ladies of the Carewe family have not formerly acquired a notoriety of that kind."

"Bah!" said Mrs. Tanberry.

"The next morning, when I taxed her with it, she dutifully defied and insulted me."

"I can imagine the delicacy with which you 'taxed' her. What has that to do with your devilish tantrums of this afternoon, Robert Carewe?"

"I am obliged to you for the expression," he returned. "When I came home, this afternoon, I found her reading that thing." He pointed to many very small fragments of Mr. Cummings's newspaper, which were scattered about the lawn near the veranda. "She was out here, reading an article which I had read downtown and which appeared in a special edition of that rotten sheet, sent out two hours ago."

"Well?"

"Do you know what that article was, madam, do you know what it was?" Although breathing heavily, Mr. Carewe had compelled himself to a certain outward calmness, but now, in the uncontrollable agitation of his anger, he sprang to his feet and struck one of the wooden pillars of the porch a shocking blow with the bare knuckles of his clenched hand. "Do you know what it was? It was a eulogy of that damned Vanrevel! It pretended to be an account of the enrollment of his infernal company, but it was nothing more than a glorification of that nigger-loving hound! His company-a lot of sneaks, who'll run like sheep from the first Greaser-elected him captain yesterday, and today he received an appointment as major! It dries the blood in my veins to think of it!-that black dog a major! Good God! am I never to hear the last of him? Cummings wrote it, the fool, the lying, fawning, slobbering fool; he ought to be shot for it! Neither he nor his paper ever enter my doors again! And I took the dirty sheet from her hands and tore it to pieces-"

"Yes," interposed Mrs. Tanberry, "it looks as if you had done it with your teeth."

"-And stamped it into the ground!"

"Oh, I heard you!" she said.

Carewe came close to her, and gave her a long look from such bitter eyes that her own fell before them. "If you've been treacherous to me, Jane Tanberry," he said, "then God punish you! If they've met-my daughter and that man-while I was away, it is on your head. I don't ask you, because I believe if you knew anything you'd lie for her sake. But I tell you that as she read that paper, she did not hear my step on the walk nor know that I was there until I leaned over her shoulder. And I swear that I suspect her."

He turned and walked to the door, while the indomitable Mrs. Tanberry, silenced for once, sank into the chair he had vacated. Before he disappeared within the house, he paused.

"If Mr. Vanrevel has met my daughter," he said, in a thick voice, stretching out both hands in a strange, menacing gesture toward the town that lay darkling in the growing dusk, "if he has addressed one word to her, or so much as allowed his eyes to rest on her overlong, let him take care of himself!"

"Oh, Robert, Robert," Mrs. Tanberry cried, in a frightened whisper to herself, "all the fun and brightness went out of the world when you came home!"

For, in truth, the gayety and light-heartedness which, during the great lady's too brief reign, had seemed a vital adjunct of the house to make the place resound with music and laughter, were now departed. No more did Mrs. Tanberry extemporize Dan Tuckers, mazourkas, or quadrilles in the ball-room, nor Blind-Man's Buff in the library; no more did serenaders nightly seek the garden with instrumental plunkings and vocal gifts of harmony. Even the green bronze boy of the fountain seemed to share the timidity of the other youths of the town where Mr. Carewe was concerned, for the goblet he held aloft no longer sent a lively stream leaping into the sunshine in translucent gambols, but dribbled and dripped upon him like a morbid autumn rain. The depression of the place was like a drape of mourning purple; but not that house alone lay glum, and there were other reasons than the return of Robert Carewe why Rouen had lost the joy and mirth that belonged to it. Nay, the merry town had changed beyond all credence; it was hushed like a sick-room, and dolefully murmurous with forebodings of farewell and sorrow.

For all the very flower of Rouen's youth had promised to follow Tom Vanrevel on the long and arduous journey to Mexico, to march burning miles under the tropical sun, to face strange fevers and the guns of Santa Anna.

Few were the houses of the more pretentious sort that did not mourn, in prospect, the going of son, or brother, or close friend; mothers already wept not in secret, fathers talked with husky bravado; and everyone was very kind to those who were to go, speaking to them gently and bringing them little foolish presents. Nor could the hearts of girls now longer mask as blocks of ice to the prospective conquistadores; Eugene Madrillon's young brother, Jean, after a two years' Beatrice-and-Benedict wooing of Trixie Chenoweth (that notable spitfire) announced his engagement upon the day after his enlistment, and recounted to all who would listen how his termagant fell upon his neck in tears when she heard the news. "And now she cries about me all the time," finished the frank Jean blithely.

But there was little spirit for the old merriments: there were no more carpet-dances at the Bareauds', no masquerades at the Madrillons', no picnics in the woods nor excursions on the river; and no more did light feet bear light hearts through the "mazes of the intricate schottische, the subtle mazourka, or the stately quadrille," as Will Cummings remarked in the Journal. Fanchon, Virginia, and five or six others, spent their afternoons mournfully, and yet proudly, sewing and cutting large pieces of colored silk, fashioning a great f

lag for their sweethearts and brothers to bear southward and plant where stood the palace of the Montezumas.

That was sad work for Fanchon, though it was not for her brother's sake that she wept, since, as everyone knew, Jefferson was already so full of malaria and quinine that the fevers of the South and Mexico must find him invulnerable, and even his mother believed he would only thrive and grow hearty on his soldiering. But about Crailey, Fanchon had a presentiment more vivid than any born of the natural fears for his safety; it came to her again and again, reappearing in her dreams; she shivered and started often as she worked on the flag, then bent her fair head low over the gay silks, while the others glanced at her sympathetically. She had come to feel quite sure that Crailey was to be shot.

"But I've dreamed it-dreamed it six!" she cried, when he laughed, at her and tried to cheer her. "And it comes to me in the day-time as though I saw it with my eyes: the picture of you in an officer's uniform, lying on the fresh, green grass, and a red stain just below the throat."

"That shows what dreams are made of, dear lady," he smiled. "We'll find little green grass in Mexico, and I'm only a corporal; so where's the officer's uniform?"

Then Fanchon wept the more, and put her arms about him, while it seemed to her that she must cling to him so forever and thus withhold him from fulfilling her vision, and that the gentle pressure of her arms must somehow preserve him to life and to her. "Ah, you can't go, darling," she sobbed, while he petted her and tried to soothe her. "You can't leave me! You belong to me! They can't, can't, can't take you away from me!"

And when the flag was completed, save for sewing the stars upon the blue ground, she took it away from the others and insisted upon finishing the work herself. To her own room she carried it, and each of the white stars that the young men of Rouen were to follow in the struggle that would add so many others to the constellation, was jewelled with her tears and kissed by her lips as it took its place with its brothers. Never were neater stitches taken, for, with every atom of her body yearning to receive the shot that was destined for Crailey, this quiet sewing was all that she could do! She would have followed him, to hold a parasol over him under the dangerous sun, to cook his meals properly, to watch over him with medicines and blankets and a fan; she would have followed barefoot and bareheaded, and yet, her heart breaking with the crucial yearning to mother him and protect him, this was all that she could for him, this small stitching at the flag he had promised to follow.

When the work was quite finished, she went all over it again with double thread, not facing the superstition of her motive, which was to safeguard her lover: the bullet that was destined for Crailey might, in the myriad chances, strike the flag first and be deflected, though never so slightly, by one of these last stitches, and Crailey's heart thus missed by the same margin. It was at this juncture, when the weeping of women was plentiful, when old men pulled long faces, and the very urchins of the street observed periods of gravity and even silence, that a notion entered the head of Mrs. Tanberry-young Janie Tanberry-to the effect that such things were all wrong. She declared energetically that this was no decent fashion of farewell; that after the soldiers went away there would be time enough to enact the girls they had left behind them; and that, until then, the town should be made enlivening. So she went about preaching a revival of cheerfulness, waving her jewelled hand merrily from the Carewe carriage to the volunteers she saw upon the street, calling out to them with laughter and inspiring quip; everywhere scolding the mourners viciously in her husky voice, and leaving so much of heartening vivacity in her wake that none could fail to be convinced that she was a wise woman.

Nor was her vigor spent in vain. It was decided that a ball should be given to the volunteers of Rouen two nights before their departure for the State rendezvous, and it should be made the noblest festival in Rouen's history; the subscribers took their oath to it. They rented the big dining-room at the Rouen House, covered the floor with smooth cloth, and hung the walls solidly with banners and roses, for June had come. More, they ran a red carpet across the sidewalk (which was perfectly dry and clean) almost to the other side of the street; they imported two extra fiddles and a clarionet to enlarge the orchestra; and they commanded a supper such as a hungry man beholds in a dream.

Miss Betty laid out her prettiest dress that evening, and Mrs. Tanberry came in and worshipped it as it rested, like foam of lavender and white and gray, upon the bed, beside the snowy gloves with their tiny, stiff lace gauntlets, while two small white sandal-slippers, with jeweled buckles where the straps crossed each other, were being fastened upon Miss Betty's silken feet by the vain and gloating Mamie.

"It's a wicked cruelty, Princess!" exclaimed Mrs. Tanberry. "We want cheer the poor fellows and help them to be gay, and here do you deliberately plan to make them sick at the thought of leaving the place that holds you! Or have you discovered that there's one poor vagabond of the band getting off without having his heart broken, and made up your mind to do it for him tonight?"

"Is father to go with us?" asked Betty. It was through Mrs. Tanberry that she now derived all information concerning Mr. Carewe, as he had not directly addressed her since the afternoon when he discovered her reading the Journal's extra.

"No, we are to meet him' there. He seems rather pleasanter than usual this evening," remarked Mrs. Tanberry, hopefully, as she retired.

"Den we mus' git ready to share big trouble tomorrer!" commented the kneeling Mamie, with a giggle.

Alas! poor adoring servitress, she received a share unto herself that very evening, for her young mistress, usually as amiable as a fair summer sky, fidgetted, grumbled, found nothing well done, and was never two minutes in the same mind. After donning the selected dress, she declared it a fright, tried two others, abused each roundly, dismissed her almost weeping handmaiden abruptly, and again put on the first. Sitting down to the mirror, she spent a full hour over the arrangement of her hair, looking attentively at her image, sometimes with the beginning of doubtful approval, often angrily, and, now and then, beseechingly, imploring it to be lovely.

When Mrs. Tanberry came in to tell her that Nelson was at the block with the carriage, Miss Betty did not turn, and the elder lady stopped on the threshold and gave a quick, asthmatic gasp of delight. For the picture she saw was, without a doubt in the world, what she proclaimed it, a moment later, ravishingly pretty: the girlish little pink and white room with all its dainty settings for a background, lit by the dozen candles in their sconces and half as many slender silver candlesticks, and, seated before the twinkling mirror, the beautiful Miss Carewe, in her gown of lace and flounces that were crisp, yet soft, her rope of pearls, her white sandals, and all the glory of her youth. She had wound a wreath of white roses into her hair, her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes warm and glowing, yet inscrutable in their long gaze into the mirror.

"Oh," said Mrs. Tanberry, "you make me want to be a man! I'd pick you up and run to the North Pole, where no one could ever follow. And I can tell you that it hurts not to throw my arms round you and kiss you; but you're so exquisite I don't want to touch you!"

In answer, Miss Betty ran to her and kissed her rapturously on both cheeks. "Am I-after all?" she cried. "Am I? Is it? Will the roses do?" And without heeding her companion's staccatoes of approval she went rapidly to the open bureau, snatched up a double handful of ribbons and furbelows, and dashed out of the room in search of the disgraced Mamie. She found her seated on the kitchen door-step in lonely lamentation, and showered the gifts into her lap, while the vain one shrieked inimitably with pride in the sudden vision of her mistress and joy of the incredible possessions.

"Here, and here, and here!" said Miss Betty in a breath, hurling the fineries upon her. "I'm an evil-tongued shrew, Mamie, and these aren't to make up for the pain I gave you, but just to show that I'd like to if I knew how! Good-by!" And she was off like an April breeze.

"Dance wid the han'somdest," screamed Mamie, pursuing uproariously to see the last of her as she jumped into the carriage, "bow to de wittriest, an' kiss de one you love de bes'!"

"That will be you!" said Miss Betty to Mrs. Tanberry, and kissed the good lady again.

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