A Rose by Another Name
In at the gate walked a tall, bronzed soldier in khaki, who reached forward an authoritative hand, saying calmly to the messenger, "Give it to me--it's mine."
Everything about them seemed suddenly unreal. Mrs. Spooner, catching sight of the newcomer, quietly crumpled down in a dead faint at his feet!
Elizabeth found herself running into the house for a glass of water--moving like a person in a dream, making a desperate amount of effort without advancing an inch. Then, all at once, she was back to find her father kneeling on the gravel beside his wife, resisting Harvey Grannis's efforts to raise her.
"Keep her head low, Harve--never raise a fainting person's head," he cautioned.
The Babe was crying and snuggling in under her father's elbow, Roy had rushed into the house and brought back the afghan from the couch.
"She's all right," said Captain Spooner, confidently. "She's coming round now. What made her faint, do you suppose?"
"O, Father! Because you came back so suddenly," said Ruth.
"We hadn't heard from you in months, you know," Elizabeth added in a low tone. "We've been horribly uneasy, daddy."
The captain turned and kissed his tall girl, then he slipped a careful arm under his wife's shoulders. Ruth and the Babe, pushing for their share of attention, had to be cautioned.
"Quiet, girls!" he warned. "We'll lift mother in to the couch, and then I'll count you chickens and see how you look. Help me, Harve."
Harvey Grannis had been edging away with a very curious expression on his face; now he had no other course left open but to come forward, lift his sister's limp form and assist in carrying her into the house. On the way she regained consciousness enough to protest lovingly, assuring them that she was all right, and ashamed of being so silly as to faint.
"O, Father, why didn't you telegraph, so it wouldn't have scared mother?" the Babe voiced the general wonder.
"I did," said Captain Spooner. "But Mr. Rouse was away on his vacation, and the new man they had in the office sent the telegram out to the ranch, because it was addressed to Silver Spur. You see, I'd got no letters, and didn't know of your moving. The boy had it along with one from Harve to me, re-sent from Havana. I'll read it now." And he tore open the yellow envelope.
"O, Daddy," begged the Babe, frantically trying to smother him. "Don't you ever, ever go to war again--no matter if that's a telegram from the president for you to go back--don't you do it: And what did you bring us from Cuba?"
"Wait and see, you little rascal," laughed her father, lifting her in his arms, and forgetting, for the moment, his telegram. "My! What a big girl you are, to be sure! And how well you are all looking--except mother. We must try and get some roses to grow in her cheeks. Jonah, you old sinner--shake! We'll swap war stories to beat the band, winter evenings out at the ranch. And Harve," slapping Grannis jovially on the shoulder, "glad to see you, too. I'll read your telegram now. Why in the world didn't you let the folks know long ago?"
"I--I was a little delayed," said Harvey nervously. "In fact, I just came over to-day to tell 'em."
"And the interest money? I suppose you got that all right? O, yes--you say so in this telegram. Got it right on the dot. No chance to act the hard-hearted landlord and turn 'em out, hey?" and he laughed genially. The world seemed bigger and warmer and sweeter to the children, now that their father was at home; in the fullness of their joy they had no thought of Harvey Grannis and the wrongs he had caused them to suffer.
Their uncle had been nervously turning his hat in his hand, going to the door and coming back during the greetings between the re-united family. It spoke well for his courage that he had not made his escape unnoticed.
"I--I just wanted a chance to speak about that, John," he began, clearing his throat nervously. "Your check was all right, of course, but I haven't banked it yet. In fact, I just came over this morning to tell the folks, as I said."
Elizabeth realized in a flash that Harvey's telegram announcing Captain Spooner's approaching arrival had come just before he came to order the photographs. He was trying them for some decent way of explaining his conduct. She remembered his peculiar manner, and parted her lips to speak when some impulse of kindness made her close them again. Harvey Grannis had done them all an injury, this was an opportunity for her to forgive an enemy. The next moment she had reason to be glad.
"Then you did get the interest money all right?" the captain persisted.
The red blood flamed in Grannis's tanned and bearded face. His confusion was painful.
"O, yes--O, yes, I got that," he admitted with an entreating glance toward his sister. "I--there was something connected with that that I had intended explaining to Jennie. In fact--if you'll let me, I'd like to make you a deed to the ranch."
"Let you?" echoed Captain Spooner, his keen blue eyes on his brother-in-law's face. "Make a deed to the ranch? Why, I only sent you the interest money. The last payment remains to be met."
"Yes, I know," Grannis hurried to say, "but Jennie's my only sister, and we had a little misunderstanding--she'll tell you all about it later, no doubt. I feel myself to blame--that is, I was mistaken. I'd like to make it up to--of course, I know there's some of your family that'll never forgive me."
Then Elizabeth did a beautiful thing, and one which endeared her to all of them. She marched across the room to Grannis, put out a slim hand and said:
"I hope you don't mean me, Uncle Harvey,"--with a very distinct emphasis--"for if I have anything to forgive--it's forgotten."
Harvey took the girl's hand with a fervor that was pathetic.
"We mustn't talk about disagreeable things when John's just got back," said Mrs. Spooner decidedly. "Harvey, you'll stay to dinner. Somebody ought to go for Roy--he went right away, without giving John a chance to meet him--he wanted us to be uninterrupted at our first meeting. I'm sure Mr. Pell will let him off for the rest of the day, if we ask him."
"I'll go for him," offered Harvey, hastily, and before the eyes of the astonished Spooners, he put his hat on his head and walked away in search of Roy--the boy he had insisted upon regarding as a horse-thief!
While he was gone Captain Spooner was put in possession of all the facts. He was inclined to be indignant over his brother-in-law's conduct, but the girls joined their mother in excusing Grannis's behavior, insisting that it came from an excess of zeal for their welfare. When Harvey and Roy returned together, apparently on the best of terms, Captain Spooner was ready to let by-gones be by-gones with his brother-in-law, and to welcome Roy to the family circle with heart-felt cordiality.
"I've heard all about you from mother," he said as he gripped the lad's hand. "Only she says that he never can make me know just what you've been to them all, and how very proud she is of her adopted son."
Roy blushed--praise was sweet, but embarrassing. "I bet they didn't tell you a word about their goodness to me, sir," he returned, "I never could make that up, no matter what I do."
Everything was satisfactorily explained over a good dinner. When you come to think of it, a good dinner makes many things seem more satisfactory. Ruth and Elizabeth cooked this one, the Babe set the table, and all three girls kept jumping up from their places to run around and hug the tall soldier father, to be sure that he was real, and not just a beautiful dream. Mrs. Spooner sat at the head of the table, with a color and radiance in her face that had long been absent. Harvey Grannis talked more than anybody had ever heard him. He made good his promise of the blue-eyed pinto pony to little Harvie--though he offered no further suggestion as to the shooting of Queen Berengaria.
"Pinto's half Arab," he urged, "I broke him myself--wouldn't let the broncho-buster touch him--he's as gentle as a dog."
All the elders at the table knew that Harvey Grannis was an excellent horseman, and kind to animals, whatever he might be to his fellow-men. They regarded the gift as highly as the Babe was certain to do when she had fully made the acquaintance of the spotted pony.
"I'm awfully obliged to you, Uncle Harvey," she said at last. "If you don't mind I'll change his name to Prince--as though he was Queen Berengaria's son, you know. I expect I'll be mighty glad to have him, because he'll be able to carry me to school. I couldn't go when we were at the ranch before, because it was 'most too far for Queen Berengaria to come every day, and she's so slow I'd have been sure to be tardy--I don't like tardy-marks."
When Harvey Grannis said good-bye, it was plain they were entering on a new era of friendship with the lonely man. Apparently he would be willing to benefit his sister's family in the way that pleased them--not insisting that it should be exclusively a way that pleased him.
When Grannis was gone Roy returned to his work at the grocery and the Babe finally quieted down to her lessons. Mrs. Spooner asked Ruth if she would not help her younger sister with them, leaving Elizabeth to have a little talk with her father. The tall eldest girl followed her mother into the other room, and soon found herself seated between the two people who were so dear to her, the only parents she had ever known. Thus she listened to a strange story told Captain Spooner by a soldier of his own regiment--and who had died in Cuba.
"I don't remember him much on the way out, or in camp, except that he was a very tall man, well set up and good-looking--a fine type of Englishman," the Captain said. "He kept himself to himself, the other men said, and although I remembered afterward that he had looked at me curiously once or twice, I couldn't be sure that I'd ever seen him before until he spoke to me one day. You'd sent me a lot of little snap-shots, Elizabeth, and I was showing them to some of the officers and mentioned your name. I saw him turn, and after awhile he came and asked to look at the pictures. I noticed then that he didn't pay much attention to any of them but yours, and when he handed them back he said hastily that he wanted to have a talk with me. He had the reserved English way, but I could see that he was much upset. The next day we had a pretty hot little skirmish, getting some of us for good, and wounding a good many. After the fight was over they sent for me to go to the field hospital, and there he was, wounded badly--knowing he had to die!"
Elizabeth was strangely shaken during this story, and she held fast to her mother's hand, as though to make sure they were not giving her up. Instinct told her of whom Captain Spooner was speaking, and when he went on she needed no further explanation.
"He was an Englishman, sure enough, Elizabeth, of good family, but a younger son, of course, and without any money. It seems he married the daughter of the rector of his parish, and she hadn't anything either. They came over to America--to Texas--thinking to make a fortune, but found hard times and bad luck instead. His young wife died while they were on their way to California, traveling in a wagon, and he was so broken-hearted and helpless that he left his baby girl with--well, he left her with a mighty good woman, and I guess he knew it!"
Captain Spooner glanced at his wife; Elizabeth dropped her head on her mother's slender shoulder and cried softly.
"It makes me feel so sorry," she whispered. "Yet I'm glad too--glad I belong to you, even if my father did desert me!"
"He didn't, Elizabeth. That is, not knowingly," Captain Spooner explained gently. "When he went away from here he had promised to send money for your keep, and he said he would come back for you. He did send some money, then all at once it ceased, and we never heard from him again. It seems he got word that you were dead. Some movers coming through told him of a baby that had died, and they mixed it up some way. He was sick and down on his luck at the time, and failed to write to us, but he never would have done it if he'd known his daughter was living. Philip Maude wasn't that kind of a man. He was a gentleman, born and bred, and a brave man always."
"O, Father--I love to hear you say that!" said Elizabeth. "I'll always be glad to think of him as brave and kind. But I thought--Cousin Hannah said--wasn't the name Mudd?"
"Mudd? No, indeed. His name was Maude--M-a-u-d-e. A very good name, too. What on earth made you think it was Mudd?"
"Cousin Hannah told me so," sobbed Elizabeth. "And O, now I can tell you when it's all over--I've been so bitterly ashamed and miserable to know that I, who used to really fool myself into thinking I was better than other people, was just a miserable mover's child--and that my name was Mudd!"
"Cousin Hannah always did pronounce it that way," said Mrs. Spooner, "she may have thought it was spelled so--it's too bad to think how you suffered for her mistake." The motherly eyes overflowed, realizing how sensitive Elizabeth, who adored pretty names, must have felt at being saddled with such a grotesquely ugly one.
"So Philip Maude thought his daughter was dead till I showed those pictures. He told me that when he saw the little photograph it was like looking at a picture of his dead wife. He saw how much I loved you, and how proud I was of you, and he had a struggle in his mind to know whether he ought to claim you after all these years; but he had decided that he must give you up when the fight came on, and the decision was taken out of his bands. The reason he sent for me at the last was that he had, a few weeks before he enlisted, got notice of a small inheritance that had fallen to him in England. It won't be more than twenty-five thousand dollars--five thousand pounds, he called it--but he made his will, and gave me his papers so that you might prove your right to it, and he said that you might want to go home to your own people in England. He sent you this ring, and this broken watch chain--the watch itself was shattered by the bullet that gave him his death wound."
Elizabeth took the ring and chain he handed her and wept over them. They seemed to bring the father she had never consciously seen very close to her. It was not as though he took this father's place, but rather as if he were some one among her ancestors, far back, almost in another life.
"I hope I may go there some time," she said at last. "But you and mother are the only father and mother I can ever have--and my home must be here with you."
* * * * *
The Spooners stayed on in the old adobe through the winter. There was little to do at the ranch, and they were really more comfortable where they were. The first installment of Elizabeth's income arrived from England about holiday time, and made things most wonderfully joyous in the Spooner family. It was comical to see how the new state of affairs impressed Maudie Pratt. Grandmother's diamond ring became a small matter indeed compared to the small packet of really excellent old jewelry that was forwarded to Elizabeth. The fact that she added Maude to her name, simply calling herself Elizabeth Maude Spooner, was rather a disappointment. Maudie Pratt, under similar circumstances, would have promptly dropped the Spooner altogether.
The wise little mother looked on and breathed many a sigh of thankfulness that Elizabeth's good fortune had not come to her before she was tried and proven. When she saw her daughter choose wisely, and behave modestly, and carry her new honors with simple graciousness, she was aware that the year of discipline which had preceded the reward, had made it a reward indeed.
When they all went out again to the ranch, Elizabeth insisted on investing some of her money in making the home beautiful and comfortable for them all. Harvey Grannis admired her greatly for doing so, yet he was in some sense jealous, and being a man of means he attempted, with a simplicity that sometimes made them all laugh, to match any act of generosity on Elizabeth's part with one of his own. There was soon a commodious, well-built house, a beautiful and properly irrigated lawn, with beds of brilliant flowers where once only the cactus could be coaxed to bloom. These out-door luxuries were made possible by that almost unattainable thing in such a country--plenty of water, for Harvey Grannis made his namesake a deed to the pasture containing the big water-hole. More land was bought and added to the ranch, as Captain Spooner prospered, and with the luck of 'him that hath,' money came in until the Spooner brand was perhaps the best in the country, and of such fine quality that it was the pride of old Jonah's heart.
The question of education was one of the first things to come up in the affairs of these young people, and Elizabeth declared that her income was to be used for schooling the whole bunch--and in the bunch she included Roy Lambert. That independent young man, however, preferred to work his way, as many an independent American boy has done before him. He chose an agricultural college, for he believed that the cattle business would gradually diminish, and that all of the ranches would be forced into more or less farming as the years went on. His ideas have proved correct, and as he is a skilled and educated farmer, and a natural manager, Captain Spooner has never seen the time when he was willing to give up the claim they had on him at the time that Mrs. Spooner called him her adopted son.
Most laughable of all, Harvey Grannis takes a great pride and personal satisfaction in Roy's success. To hear him talk about it one would think he had brought the boy west and placed him in his sister's home--as indeed he did, though quite unwittingly. With the lapse of years Harvey has become gentler in his dealings with people, and more amenable. If he ever quarrels--and being Harvey Grannis, of course he does sometimes--the Babe immediately acts as peacemaker, and he declares that his nieces are the finest girls in the state of Texas, and that the Babe is to inherit every acre and hoof of his possessions!
These greater advantages came to the Babe earlier than to the other girls, and she was the only one of the three who cared to go to an eastern college and take a degree. She was preparing herself for her chosen career as a writer of stories for children, finding in that work free vent for her exuberant fancy.
The year Ruth was nineteen she visited Mary in Oklahoma, and came back engaged to her brother-in-law's brother, a young ranchman of good looks and qualities, and fairly prosperous. She now lives on a ranch of her own, and, with Mary, makes frequent visits to the home folks, where the circle is still unbroken, even old Jonah still being spry and happy, and delighting in relating his wonderful war stories as of old.
When Elizabeth finally left for England, partly to see her people--who consisted of somewhat distant relatives, and partly for a course of study, Roy felt that he would not be honorable in asking her to consent to an engagement. He told her that he was sure she would find her ideals changing very much when she was among her own people, in such surroundings as were really befitting to her.
But she came back to Silver Spur, a well-trained and popular painter of miniatures, having chosen this for her profession. She came back to Roy, and to the dear parents who were, after all, more her own people than those she had left behind her in England.
And it turned out that Elizabeth's real profession is not art but home-making. She and Roy are married and live still at Silver Spur, perfectly happy with each other, and radiating happiness about them by the love and forethought of beautiful, unselfish natures.