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   Chapter 7 No.7

The Poor Little Rich Girl By Eleanor Gates Characters: 16858

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Miss Royle looked sober as she sipped her orange-juice. And she cut off the top of her breakfast egg as noiselessly as possible. Her directions to Thomas, she half-whispered, or merely signaled them by a wave of her coffee-spoon. Now and then she glanced across the room to the white-and-gold bed. Then she beamed fondly.

As for Thomas, he fairly stole from tray to table, from table to tray, his face all concern. Occasionally, if his glance followed Miss Royle's, he smiled-a broad, sympathetic smile.

And Jane was subdued and solicitous. She sat beside the bed, holding a small hand-which from time to time she patted encouragingly.

After the storm, calm. The more tempestuous the storm, the more perfect the calm. This was the rule of the nursery. Gwendolyn, lying among the pillows, wished she could always feel weak and listless. It made everyone so kind.

"Thomas," said Miss Royle, as she folded her napkin and rustled to her feet, "you may call up the Riding School and say that Miss Gwendolyn will not ride to-day."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And, Jane, you may go out for the morning. I shall stay here."

"Thanks," acknowledged Jane, in a tone quite unusual for her. She did not rise, however, but waited, striving to catch Thomas's eye.

"And, Thomas," went on the governess, "when would you like an hour?"

Thomas advanced with a bow of appreciation. "If it's all the same to you, Miss Royle," said he, "I'll have a bit of an airin' directly after supper this evenin'."

Jane glared.

"Very well." Miss Royle rustled toward the school-room, taking a survey of herself in the pier-glass as she went. "Jane," she added, "you will be free to go in half an hour." She threw Gwendolyn a loud kiss.

Thomas was directing his attention to the clearing of the breakfast-table. The moment the door closed behind the governess, Jane shot up from her chair and advanced upon him.

"You ain't treatin' me fair," she charged, speaking low, but breathing fast. "You ain't takin' your hours off duty along with me no more. You're givin' me the cold shoulder."

At that, Gwendolyn turned her head to look. Of late, she had heard not a few times of Thomas's cold shoulder-this in heated encounters between him and Jane. She wondered which of his shoulders was the cold one.

Thomas lifted his upper lip in a sneer. "Indeed!" he replied. "I'm not treatin' you fair? Well," (with meaning) "I didn't think you was botherin' your head about anybody-except a certain policeman."

Back jerked Jane's chin. "Can't I have a gentleman friend?" she demanded defensively.

"Ha! ha! Gentleman friend!" Then, addressing no one in particular, "My! but don't a uniform take a woman's eye!"

"Why, Thomas!" It was a sorrowful protest. "You misjudge, you really do."

So far there was no fresh element in the misunderstanding. Thus the two argued time and again. Gwendolyn almost knew their quarrel by heart.

But now Thomas came round upon Jane with a snarl. "You're not foolin' me," he declared. "Don't you think I know that policeman's heels over head?" He shook his crumb-knife at her. "Heels over head!" Then seizing the tray and swinging it up, he stalked out.

Jane fell to pacing the floor. Her reddish eyes roved angrily.

Heels over head! Gwendolyn, pondering, now watched the nurse, now looked across to where, on its shelf, was poised the toy somersault man. If one of the uniformed men she dreaded was heels over head-

"But, Jane."

"Well? Well?"

"I saw the p'liceman walking on his feet yesterday."

"Hush your silly talk!"

Gwendolyn hushed, her gray eyes wistful, her mouth drooping. The morning had been so peaceful. Now Jane had spoken the first rough word.

Peace returned with Miss Royle, who came in with the morning paper, dismissed Jane, and settled down in the upholstered chair, silver-rimmed spectacles on nose.

The brocade hangings of the front window were only partly drawn. Between them, Gwendolyn made out more of those fat sheep straying down the azure field of the sky. She lay very still and counted them; and, counting, slept, but restlessly, with eyes only half-shut and nervous starts.

Awakening at noon the listlessness was gone, and she felt stronger. Her eyes were bright, too. There was a faint color in cheeks and lips.

"Miss Royle!"

"Yes, darling?" The governess leaned forward attentively.

"I can understand why you call Thomas a footman. It's 'cause he runs around so much on his feet-"

"You're better," said Miss Royle. She turned her paper inside out.

"But one day you said he was all ears, and-"

"Gwendolyn!" Miss Royle stared down over her glasses. "Never repeat what you hear me say, love. It's tattling, and tattling is ill-bred. Now, what can I give you?"

Gwendolyn wanted a drink of water.

When Thomas appeared with the dinner-tray, he gave an impressive wag of the head. "What do you think I've got for you?" he asked-while Miss Royle propped Gwendolyn to a sitting position.

Gwendolyn did not try to guess. She was not interested. She had no appetite.

Thomas brought forward a silver dish. "It's a bird!" he announced, and lifted the cover.

Gwendolyn looked.

It was a small bird, richly browned. A tiny sprig of parsley garnished it on either side. A ribbon of bacon lay in crisp flutings across it. Its short round legs were up-thrust. On the end of each was a paper frill.

"Don't it look delicious!" said Thomas warmly. "Don't it tempt!"

But Gwendolyn regarded it without enthusiasm. "What kind of a bird is it?" she asked.

Thomas displayed a second dish-Bermuda potatoes the size of her own small fist. "Who knows?" said he. "It might be a robin, it might be a plover, it might be a quail."

"It might be a-a talking-bird," said Gwendolyn. She poked the bird with a fork.

"Not likely," declared Thomas.

Gwendolyn turned away.

"Ain't it to your likin'?" asked Thomas, surprised. He did not take the plate at once, in his usual fashion.

"I-I don't want anything," she declared.

"Oh, but maybe you'd fancy an egg."

Gwendolyn took a glass of water.

"It's just as well," said Miss Royle. When she resigned her place presently, she talked to Jane in undertones,-so that Gwendolyn could hear only disconnectedly: "...Think it would be the safest thing ... she gets any worse.... Never do, Jane ... find out by themselves.... She won't be home till late to-night ... some grand affair. But he ... though of course I'm sorry to have to."

The moment Miss Royle was well away, Jane had a plan. "I think you're gittin' on so fine that you can hop up and dress," she declared, noting how the gray eyes sparkled, and how pink were the round spots on Gwendolyn's cheeks.

Gwendolyn had nothing to say.

Jane ran to the wardrobe and took out a dress. It was a new one, of cream-white wool; and on a sleeve, as well as on the corners of the sailor collar and the tips of the broad tie, scarlet anchors were embroidered.

Gwendolyn smiled. But it was not the anchors that charmed forth the smile. It was a pocket, set like a shield on the blouse-an adorable patch-pocket!

"Oh!" she cried; "did They make me that pocket? Jane, how sweet!"

"One, two, three," said Jane, briskly, "and we'll have this on! Let's see by the clock how quick you can jump into it!"

The clock was a familiar method of inducing Gwendolyn to do hastily something she had not thought of doing at all. She shook her head.

"Why, it'd do you good, pettie,"-this coaxingly.

"It's too warm to dress," said Gwendolyn.

Jane flung the garment back into the wardrobe without troubling to hang it up, and banged the wardrobe door. But she did not again broach the subject of getting up. A hint of uneasiness betrayed itself in her manner. She took a chair by the bed.

Gwendolyn's whole face was gradually taking on a deep flush, for those flaming spots on her cheeks were spreading to throat and temples-to her very hair. She kept her hands in constant motion. Next, the small tongue began to babble uninterruptedly.

It was the overlively talking that made Jane certain that Gwendolyn was ill. She leaned to feel of the busy hands, the throbbing forehead. Then she hastily telephoned Thomas.

"Have we any more of that quietin' medicine?" she asked as he opened the door.

"It's all gone. Why?"

The two forgot their differences, and bent over Gwendolyn.

She smiled up, and nodded.

"All the clouds in the sky are filled with wind," she declared; "like automobile tires. Toy-balloons are, I know. Once I put a pin in one, and the wind blew right out. I s'pose the clouds in the South hold the south wind, and the clouds in the North hold the north wind, and the clouds-"

"Jane," said Thomas, "we've got to have a doctor."

Gwendolyn heard. She saw Jane spring to the telephone. The next instant, with a piercing scream that sent her canary fluttering to the top of its cage, she flung herself sidewise.

"Jane! Oh, don't! Jane! He'll kill me! Jane!"

Jane fell back, and caught Gwendolyn in her arms. The little figure was all a-tremble, both small hands were beating the air in wild protest.

"Jane! Oh, I'll be good! I'll be good!" She hid her face against the nurse, shuddering.

"But you're sick, lovie. And a doctor would make you well. There! There! Listen to Jane, dearie."

Thomas laid an anxious hand on the yellow head. "The doctor won't hurt you," he declared. "He only gives bread-pills, anyhow."

"No-o-o!" She flung herself back upon the bed, catching at the pillows as if to hide beneath them, writhing pitifully, moaning, beseeching with terrified eyes.

Jane and Thomas stared helplessly at each other, their faces guilty and frightened.

"Dearie!" cried Jane; "hush and we won't-Oh, Thomas, I'm fairly distracted!-Pettie, we won't have the doctor."

Gradually Gwendolyn quieted. Then carefully, and by degrees, Jane approached the matter of medical aid in a new way.

"We'll just telephone," she declared, "We wont let any old doctor come here-not a bit of it. We'll ask him to send something. Is that all right. Please, darlin'."

Reluctantly, Gwendolyn yielded. "The medicine'll be awful nasty," she faltered.

To that Jane made no reply. Her every freckle was standing out clearly. Her reddish eyes bulged. She hunted a number in the telephone-directory with fumbling fingers. After which she held the receiver to her ear with a shaking hand. "Everything's goin' wrong," she mourned.

Huddled into a little ball, and still as a frightened bird, Gwendolyn listened to the message.

"Hello!... Hello! Is this the Doctor speakin'?... Oh, this is Miss Gwendolyn's nurse, sir.... Yes sir. Well, Miss Gwendolyn's a little nervous to-day, sir. Not sick enough to call you in, sir.... But I was goin' to ask if you couldn't send something soothin'. She's been cryin' like, that's all.... Yes, sir, and wakeful-"

"A little hysterical yesterday," prompted Thomas, in a low voice.

"A little hysterical yesterday," went on Jane. "...Yes, sir, by messenger.... I'll be most careful, sir.... Thank you, sir."

Jane and Thomas combined to make the remainder of the afternoon less dull. One by one the favorite toys came down from the second shelf. And a miniature circus took place on the rug beside the bed-a circus in which each toy played a part. Gwendolyn's fear was charmed away. She laughed, and drank copious draughts of water-delicious bubbling water that Thomas poured from tall bottles.

Jane had her own supper beside the white-and-gold bed-coffee and a sandwich only. Gwendolyn still had no appetite, but seemed almost her usual self once more. So much so that when she asked questions, Jane was cross, and counseled immediate sleep.

"But I'm not a bit sleepy," declared Gwendolyn. "It'll be moonlight after while, Jane. May I look out at the Down-Town roofs?"

"You may stop your botherin'," retorted Jane, "and make up your mind to go to sleep. You've give me a' awful day. Now try just forty winks."

"Why do you always say forty?" inquired Gwendolyn. "Couldn't I take forty-one?"

"Hush!"

After supper came the medicine-a dark liquid. Gwendolyn eyed it anxiously. Thomas was gone. Jane opened the bottle and measured a teaspoonful into a drinking-glass.

"Do I have to take it now?" asked Gwendolyn.

"To-morrow you'll wake up as good as new," asserted Jane. She touched her tongue with the spoon, then smacked her lips. "Why, dearie, it's-"

She was interrupted. From the direction of the side window there came a burst of instrumental music. With it, singing the words of a waltz from a popular opera, blended a thin, cracked voice.

Before Jane could put out a restraining hand, Gwendolyn bounced to her knees. "Oh, it's the old hand-organ man!" she cried. "It's the old hand-organ man! Oh, where's some money? I want to give him some money!"

Jane threw up both hands wildly. "Oh, did I ever have such luck!" she exclaimed. Then, between her teeth, and pressing Gwendolyn back upon the pillows, "You lay down or I'll shake you!"

"Oh, please let him stay just this time!" begged Gwendolyn; "I like him, Jane!"

"I'll stay him!" promised Jane, grimly. She marched to the side window, threw up the sash and leaned out. "Here, you!" she called down roughly. "You git!"

"Oh, Jane!" plead Gwendolyn.

The thin, cracked voice fell silent. The waltz slowed its tempo, then came to a gasping stop.

"How's a body to git a child asleep with that old wheeze of yours goin'?" demanded Jane. "We don't want you here. Move along!"

"He could play me to sleep," protested Gwendolyn.

A reply to Jane's order was shrilled up-something defiant.

"He'd only excite you, darlin'," declared Jane. She was on her knees at the window, and turned her head to speak. "I can't have that rumpus in the street with you so nervous."

Gwendolyn sighed.

"Take your medicine, dearie," went on Jane. She stayed where she was.

Promptly, Gwendolyn sat up and reached for the glass. To hold it, to shake it about and potter in the strange liquid with a spoon, would be some compensation for having to drink it.

"If that mean old creature didn't make faces!" grumbled Jane. She was leaning forward to look out.

"How did he make faces, Jane?" asked Gwendolyn. "Were they nice ones?" She lifted the glass to take a whiff of its contents. "I'd like to see him make faces."

She put the spoon into Jane's half-empty coffee-cup; then let the medicine run up the side of the glass until it was almost to her lips. She tasted it. It tasted good! She hesitated a second; then drained the glass.

The street was quiet. Jane rose to her feet and came over. "Did you do as I said?" she asked.

"Yes, Jane."

"Now, did you?" Jane picked up the glass, looked into it, then at Gwendolyn. "Honest?"

"Yes,-every sip."

"Gwendolyn?" Jane held her with doubting eyes. "I don't believe it!"

"But I did!"

Jane bent down to the cup, sniffed it, then smelled of the glass.

"Gwendolyn," she said solemnly, "I know you did not take your medicine. You poured it into this cup."

"But I didn't!"

"I seen." Jane pointed an accusing finger.

"How could you?" demanded Gwendolyn. "You were looking at the brick house."

"I've got eyes in the back of my head. And I seen you plain when I was lookin' straight the other way."

"A-a-aw!" laughed Gwendolyn, skeptically.

"They're hid by my braids," went on Jane, "but they're there. And I seen you throw away that medicine, you bad girl!" Again she leaned to examine the coffee-cup.

"Miss Royle said you had two faces," admitted Gwendolyn. She stared hard at the coiled braids on the back of Jane's head. The braids were pinned close together. No pair of eyes was visible.

Jane straightened resolutely, seized the medicine-bottle and the spoon, poured out a second dose, and proffered it. "Come, now!" she said firmly. "You ain't a-goin' to git ahead of me with your cuteness. Take this, and go to sleep."

"Bu-but-"

That moment a shrill whistle sounded from the street.

"There now!" cried Jane, triumphantly. "The policeman's right here. I can call him up whenever I like."

Gwendolyn drank.

Jane tossed the spoon aside, corked the bottle and went back to the open window. "You go to sleep," she commanded.

Gwendolyn, lying flat, was murmuring to herself. "Oo-oo! How funny!" she said, "Oo-oo!"

"Now, don't let me hear another word out of you!" warned Jane.

Gwendolyn turned her head slowly from side to side. A great light of some kind was flaming against her eyes-a light shot through and through with black, whirling balls. Where did it come from?

It stayed. And grew. Her eyes widened with wonderment. A smile curved her lips.

Then suddenly she rose to a sitting posture, threw out both arms, and gave a little choking cry.

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