Jane of Lantern Hill-9

37

 Hitherto Jane's career at Lantern Hill had been quite unspectacular.  Even when she was seen barefooted, nailing shingles on a barn roof, it made only a local sensation, and nobody but Mrs Solomon Snowbeam said much about it.  Mrs Snowbeam was shocked. There was nothing, she said again, that child would stick at.

And then, all at once, Jane made the headlines.  The Charlottetown papers gave her the front page for two days, and even the Toronto dailies gave her a column, with a picture of Jane and the lion . . . some lion . . . thrown in.  The sensation at 60 Gay must be imagined.  Grandmother was very bitter . . . "just like a circus girl" . . . and said it was exactly what might have been expected. Mother thought, but did not say, that no one could really have expected to hear of Jane ambling about P. E. Island leading lions by the mane.

There had been rumours about the lion for a couple of days.  A small circus had come to Charlottetown and a whisper got about that their lion had escaped.  Certainly people who went to the circus saw no lion.  There was a good deal of excitement.  Once a monkey had escaped from a circus, but what was that to a lion?  It did not seem certain that any one had actually seen the lion, but several were reported to have seen him . . . here, there and the other place, miles apart.  Calves and young pigs were said to have disappeared.  There was even a yarn that a short-sighted old lady in the Royalty had patted him on the head and said, "Nice dogglums."  But that was never substantiated.  The Royalty people indignantly denied that there were any lions at loose ends.  Such yarns were bad for tourist traffic.

"I've no chance of seeing it," said Mrs Louisa Lyons mournfully. "That's what comes of being bed-rid.  You miss everything."

Mrs Louisa had been an invalid for three years and was reputed not to have put a foot under her without assistance in all that time, but it was not thought she missed much of what went on at the Corners and Queen's Shore and Harbour Head for all that.

"I don't believe there is any lion," said Jane, who had been shopping at the Corners and had dropped in to see Mrs Lyons.  Mrs Lyons was very fond of Jane and had only one grudge against her. She could never pick anything out of her about her father and mother and Lilian Morrow.  And not for any lack of trying.

"Closer than a clam, that girl is when she wants to be," complained Mrs Louisa.

"Then how did such a yarn start?" she demanded of Jane.

"Most people think the circus people never had a lion . . . or it died . . . and they want to cover it up because the people who came to see a lion would be disappointed and mad."

"But they've offered a reward for it."

"They've only offered twenty-five dollars.  If they had really lost a lion, they'd offer more than that."

"But it's been SEEN."

"I think folks just imagined they saw it," said Jane.

"And I can't even imagine it," groaned Mrs Louisa.  "And it's no use to PRETEND I imagined it.  Every one knows a lion wouldn't come upstairs to my room.  If I could see it, I'd likely have my name in the paper.  Martha Tolling has had her name in the paper twice this year.  Some people have all the luck."

"Martha Tolling's sister died in Summerside last week."

"What did I tell you?" said Mrs Louisa in an aggrieved tone.  "Now she'll be wearing mourning.  I never have a chance to wear mourning.  Nobody has died in our family for years.  And black always did become me.  Ah well, Jane, you have to take what you get in this world and that's what I've always said.  Thank you for dropping in.  I've always said to Mattie, 'There's something about Jane Stuart I like, say what you will.  If her father is queer, it isn't her fault.'  Mind that turn of the stairs, Jane.  I haven't been down it for over a year but someone is going to break her neck there sometime."

It happened the next day . . . a golden August afternoon when Jane and Polly and Shingle and Caraway and Punch and Min and Ding-dong and Penny and Young John had gone in a body to pick blueberries in the barrens at Harbour Head and were returning by a short cut across the back pastures of the Corners farms.  In a little wood glen, full of golden-rod, where Martin Robbin's old hay-barn stood, they met the lion face to face.

He was standing right before them among the golden-rod, in the shadows of the spruces.  For one moment they all stood frozen in their tracks.  Then, with a simultaneous yell of terror . . . Jane yelled with the best of them . . . they dropped their pails, bolted through the golden-rod and into the barn.  The lion ambled after them.  More yells.  No time to close the ramshackle old door.  They flew up a wobbly ladder which collapsed and fell as Young John scrambled to safety beside the others on the crossbeam, too much out of breath to yell again.

The lion came to the door, stood there a minute in the sunshine, slowly switching his tail back and forth.  Jane, recovering her poise, noticed that he was somewhat mangy and lank, but he was imposing enough in the narrow doorway and nobody could reasonably deny that he was a lion.

"He's coming in," groaned Ding-dong.

"Can lions climb?" gasped Shingle.

"I . . . I . . . don't think so," said Polly, through her chattering teeth.

"Cats can . . . and lions are just big cats," said Punch.

"Oh, don't talk," whispered Min.  "It may excite him.  Perhaps if we keep perfectly quiet he will go away."

The lion did not seem to have any intention of going away.  He came in, looked about him and lay down in a patch of sunshine with the air of a lion who had any amount of spare time.

"He don't seem cross," muttered Ding-dong.

"Maybe he isn't hungry," said Young John.

"Don't excite him," implored Min.

"He isn't paying any attention to us," said Jane.  "We needn't have run.  . . .  I don't believe he'd have hurt us."

"You run as fast as us," said Penny Snowbeam.  "I'll bet you was as scared as any of us."

"Of course I was.  It was all so sudden.  Young John, stop shaking like that.  You'll fall off the beam."

"I'm . . .  I'm . . .  scared," blubbered Young John shamelessly.

"You laughed at me last night and said I'd be scared to pass a patch of cabbages," said Caraway venomously.  "Now look at yourself."

"None of your lip.  A lion isn't a cabbage," whimpered Young John.

"Oh, you WILL excite him," wailed Min in despair.

The lion suddenly yawned.  Why, thought Jane, he looks exactly like that jolly old lion in the movie news.  Jane shut her eyes.

"Is she praying?" whispered Ding-dong.

Jane was thinking.  It was absolutely necessary for her to get home soon if she were going to have dad's favourite scalloped potatoes for his supper.  Young John was looking absolutely green.  Suppose he got sick?  She believed the lion was only a tired, harmless old animal.  The circus people had said he was gentle as a lamb.  Jane opened her eyes.

"I am going down to take that lion up to the Corners and shut him up in George Tanner's empty barn," she said.  "That is, unless you'll all come down with me and slip out and shut him up here."

"Oh, Jane . . . you wouldn't . . . you couldn't . . ."

The lion gave a rap or two on the floor with his tail. . . .  The protests died away in strangled yelps.

"I'm going," said Jane.  "I tell you, he's tame as tame.  But you stay here quietly till I get him well away.  And don't yell, any of you."

With bulging eyes and bated breath the whole gang watched Jane slide along the beam to the wall where she climbed nimbly down to the floor.  She marched up to the lion and said, "Come."

The lion came.

Five minutes later Jake MacLean looked out of the door of his blacksmith shop and saw Jane Stuart go past leading a lion by the mane . . . "within spitting distance," as he solemnly averred later.  When Jane and the lion--who seemed to be getting on very well with each other--had disappeared around the back of the shop, Jake sat down on a block and wiped the perspiration from his brow with a bandanna.

"I know I'm not quite sane by times, but I didn't think I was that far gone," he said.

Julius Evans, looking out of his store-window, didn't believe what he saw either.  It couldn't be . . . it simply wasn't happening. He was dreaming . . . or drunk . . . or crazy.  Aye, that was it . . . crazy.  Hadn't there been a year when his father's cousin was in the asylum?  Those things ran in families . . . you couldn't deny it.  Anything was easier than to believe that he had seen Jane Stuart go up the side-lane by his store towing a lion.

Mattie Lyons ran up to her mother's room, uttering piteous little gasps and cries.

"What's the matter?" demanded Mrs Louisa.  "Screeching like you was demented!"

"Oh, ma, ma, Jane Stuart's bringing a lion here!"

Mrs Louisa got out of bed and got to the window just in time to see the lion's tail disappear with a switch around the back porch.

"I've got to see what she's up to!"  Leaving the distracted Mattie wringing her hands by the bed, Mrs Louisa got herself out of the room and down the staircase with its dangerous turn as nimbly as she had ever done in her best days.  Mrs Parker Crosby, who lived next door and had a weak heart, nearly died of shock when she saw Mrs Louisa skipping across her back yard.

Mrs Louisa was just in time to see Jane and the lion ambling up Mr Tanner's pasture on their way to the hay-barn.  She stood there and watched Jane open the door . . . urge the lion in . . . shut it and bolt it.  Then she sat down on the rhubarb patch, and Mattie had to get the neighbours to carry her back to bed.

Jane went into the store on her way back and asked Julius Evans, who was still leaning palely over the collection of fly-spotted jugs on his counter, to call Charlottetown and let the circus people know that their lion was safe in Mr Tanner's barn.  She found her dad in the kitchen at Lantern Hill looking rather strange.

"Jane, it's the wreck of a fine man that you see before you," he said hollowly.

"Dad . . . what is the matter?"

"Matter, says she, with not a quiver in her voice.  You don't know . . . I hope you never will know . . . what it is like to look casually out of a kitchen window, where you are discussing the shamefully low price of eggs with Mrs Davy Gardiner, and see your daughter . . . your only daughter . . . stepping high, wide and handsome through the landscape with a lion.  You think you've suddenly gone mad . . . you wonder what was in that glass of raspberry shrub Mrs Gardiner gave you to drink.  Poor Mrs Davy!  As she remarked pathetically to me, the sight jarred her slats.  She may get over it, Jane, but I fear she will never be the same woman again."

"He was only a tame old lion," said Jane impatiently.  "I don't know why people are making such a fuss over it."

"Jane, my adored Jane, for the sake of your poor father's nerves, don't go leading any more lions about the country, tame or otherwise."

"But it's not a thing that's likely to happen again, dad," said Jane reasonably.

"No, that is so," said dad, in apparent great relief.  "I perceive that it is not likely to become a habit.  Only, Janelet, if you some day take a notion to acquire an ichthyosaurus for a family pet, give me a little warning, Jane.  I'm not as young as I used to be."

Jane couldn't understand the sensation the affair made.  She hadn't the least notion she was a heroine.

"I was frightened of him at first," she told the Jimmy Johns.  "But not after he yawned."

"You'll be too proud to speak to us now, I s'pose," said Caraway Snowbeam wistfully, when Jane's picture came out in the papers. Jane and the barn and the lion had all been photographed . . . separately.  Everybody who had seen them became important.  And Mrs Louisa Lyons was a rapturous woman.  Her picture was in the paper, too, and also a picture of the rhubarb patch.

"Now I can die happy," she told Jane.  "If Mrs Parker Crosby had got her picture in the paper and I hadn't, I couldn't have stood it.  I'm sure I don't know what they did put her picture in for. She didn't see you and the lion . . . she only saw me.  Well, there are some folks who are never contented unless they're in the limelight."

Jane was to go down in Queen's Shore history as the girl who thought nothing of roaming round the country with a lion or two for company.

"A girl absolutely without fear," said Step-a-yard, bragging everywhere of his acquaintance with her.

"I realized the first time I saw her that she was superior," said Uncle Tombstone.  Mrs Snowbeam reminded everybody that she had always said that Jane Stuart was a child who would stick at nothing.  When Ding-dong Bell and Punch Garland would be old men, they would be saying to each other, "Remember the time Jane Stuart and us drove that lion into the Tanner barn?  Didn't we have a nerve?"

 

38

 A letter from Jody, blotted with tears, gave Jane a bad night in late August.  It was to the effect that she was really going to be sent to an orphanage at last.

"Miss West is going to sell her boarding-house in October and retire," wrote Jody.  "I've cried and cried, Jane.  I hate the idea of going into an orfanage and I'll never see you, Jane, and oh, Jane, it isn't fair.  I don't mean Miss West isn't fair but something isn't."

Jane, too, felt that something wasn't being fair.  And she felt that 60 Gay without her back yard confabs with Jody would be just a little more intolerable than it ever had been.  But that didn't matter as much as poor Jody's unhappiness.  Jane thought Jody might really have an easier time in an orphanage than she had as the little unpaid drudge at 58 Gay, but still she didn't like the idea any better than Jody did.  She looked so downhearted that Step-a- yard noticed it when he came over with some fresh mackerel for her which he had brought from the harbour.

"Do for your dinner to-morrow, Jane."

"To-morrow is the day for corned beef and cabbage," said Jane in a scandalized voice.  "But we'll have them the day after.  That's Friday anyhow.  Thank you, Step-a-yard."

"Anything troubling you, Miss Lion-tamer?"

Jane opened her heart to him.

"You just don't know what poor Jody's life's been," she concluded.

Step-a-yard nodded.

"Put upon and overworked and knocked about from pillar to post, I reckon.  Poor kid."

"And nobody to love her but me.  If she goes to an orphanage, I'll never see her."

"Well, now."  Step-a-yard scratched his head reflectively.  "We must put our heads together, Jane, and see what can be done about it.  We must think hard, Jane, we must think hard."

Jane thought hard to no effect but Step-a-yard's meditations were more fruitful.

"I've been thinking," he told Jane next day, "what a pity it is the Titus ladies couldn't adopt Jody.  They've been wanting to adopt a child for a year now but they can't agree on what kind of a child they want.  Justina wants a girl and Violet wants a boy, though they'd both prefer twins of any sex.  But suitable twins looking for parents are kind of scarce, so they've given up that idea. Violet wants a dark complected one with brown eyes and Justina wants a fair one with blue eyes.  Violet wants one ten years old and Justina wants one about seven.  How old is Jody?"

"Twelve, like me."

Step-a-yard looked gloomy.

"I dunno.  That sounds too old for them.  But it wouldn't do any harm to put it up to them.  You never can tell what them two girls will do."

"I'll see them to-night right after supper," resolved Jane.

She was so excited that she salted the apple sauce and no one could eat it.  As soon as the supper dishes were out of the way . . . and that night they were not proud of the way they were washed . . . Jane was off.

There was a wonderful sunset over the harbour, and Jane's cheeks were red from the stinging kisses of the wind by the time she reached the narrow perfumed Titus lane where the trees seemed trying to touch you.  Beyond was the kind, old, welcoming house, mellowed in the sunshine of a hundred summers, and the Titus ladies were sitting before a beechwood fire in their kitchen.  Justina was knitting and Violet was clipping creamy bits of toffee from a long, silvery twist, made from a recipe Jane had never yet been able to wheedle out of them.

"Come in, dear.  We are glad to see you," said Justina, kindly and sincerely, though she looked a little apprehensively over Jane's shoulder, as if she feared a lion might be skulking in the shadows. "It was such a cool evening we decided to have a fire.  Sit down, dear.  Violet, give her some toffee.  She is growing very tall, isn't she?"

"And handsome," said Violet.  "I like her eyes, don't you, sister?"

The Titus ladies had a curious habit of talking Jane over before her face as if she wasn't there.  Jane didn't mind . . . though they were sometimes not so complimentary.

"I prefer blue eyes, as you know," said Justina, "but her hair is beautiful."

"Hardly dark enough for my taste," said Violet.  "I have always admired black hair."

"The only kind of hair that is really beautiful is curling, red- gold hair," said Justina.  "Her cheek-bones are rather high but her insteps are admirable."

"She is very brown," sighed Violet.  "But they tell me that is fashionable now.  We were very careful of our complexions when we were girls.  Our mother, you remember, always made us wear sunbonnets when we went out of doors . . . pink sunbonnets."

"Pink sunbonnets!  They were blue," said Justina.

"Pink," said Violet positively.

"Blue," said Justina, just as positively.

They argued for ten minutes over the colour of the sunbonnets. When Jane saw they were getting rather warm over it, she mentioned that Miranda Garland was going to be married in two weeks' time. The Titus ladies forgot the sunbonnets in their excitement.

"Two weeks?  That's very sudden, isn't it?  Of course, it is to Ned Mitchell.  I heard they were engaged . . . even that seemed to me very precipitate when they had been keeping company only six months . . . but I had no idea they were to be married so soon," said Violet.

"She does not want to take a chance on his falling in love with a thinner girl," said Justina.

"They've hurried up the wedding so that I can be bridesmaid," explained Jane proudly.

"She is only seventeen," said Justina disapprovingly.

"Nineteen, sister," said Violet.

"Seventeen," said Justina.

"Nineteen," said Violet.

Jane cut short what seemed likely to be another ten minutes' argument over Miranda's age by saying she was eighteen.

"Oh, well, it's easy enough to get married," said Justina.  "The trick nowadays seems to be to stay married."

Jane winced.  She knew Justina hadn't meant to hurt her.  But her father and mother hadn't stayed married.

"I think," said Violet, kindling, "that P. E. Island has a very good record in that respect.  Only two divorces since Confederation . . . sixty-five years."

"Only two real ones," conceded Justina.  "But quite a few . . . at least half a dozen . . . imitation ones . . . going to the States and getting a divorce there.  And likely to be more from all accounts."

Violet sent Justina a warning glance which Jane, luckily for her peace of mind, did not intercept.  Jane had come to the conclusion that she must mention the object of her call now if she were ever going to do it.  No use waiting for a chance . . . you just had to make your chance.

"I hear you want to adopt a child," she said, with no beating round the bush.

Again the sisters interchanged glances.

"We've been talking of it off and on for a couple of years," acknowledged Justina.

"We've got along as far as both being willing for a little girl," said Violet with a sigh.  "I would have liked a boy . . . but, as Justina pointed out, neither of us knows anything about dressing a boy.  It would be more fun dressing a little girl."

"A little girl about seven, with blue eyes and fair curling hair and a rosebud mouth," said Justina firmly.

"A little girl of ten with sloe-black hair and eyes and a creamy skin," said Violet with equal firmness.  "I have given in to you about the sex, sister.  It is your turn to give in about the age and the complexion."

"The age possibly, but not the complexion."

"I know the very girl for you," said Jane brazenly.  "She's my chum in Toronto, Jody Turner.  I know you'll love her.  Let me tell you about her."

Jane told them.  She left nothing untold that might incline them in Jody's favour.  When she had said what she wanted to say, she held her tongue.  Jane always knew the right time to be silent.

The Titus ladies were silent also.  Justina went on knitting and Violet, having finished snipping toffee, took up her crocheting. Now and then they lifted their eyes, looked at each other and dropped them again.  The fire crackled companionably.

"Is she pretty?" said Justina at last.  "We wouldn't want an ugly child."

"She will be very handsome when she grows up," said Jane gravely. "She has the loveliest eyes.  Just now she is so thin . . . and never has any nice clothes."

"She hasn't too much bounce, has she?" said Violet.  "I don't like bouncing girls."

"She doesn't bounce at all," said Jane.  But this was a mistake because . . .

"I like a little bounce," said Justina.

"She wouldn't want to wear pants, would she?" said Violet.  "So many girls do nowadays."

"I'm sure Jody wouldn't want to wear anything you didn't like," answered Jane.

"I wouldn't mind girls wearing pants so much if only they didn't call them pants," said Justina.  "But not pyjamas . . . never, never pyjamas."

"Certainly not pyjamas," said Violet.

"Suppose we got her and couldn't love her?" said Justina.

"You couldn't help loving Jody," said Jane warmly.  "She's sweet."

"I suppose," hesitated Justina, "she wouldn't . . . there wouldn't be any danger . . . of there being . . . of her having . . . unpleasant insects about her?"

"Certainly not," said Jane shocked.  "Why, she lives on Gay Street."  For the first time in her life Jane found herself standing up for Gay Street.  But even Gay Street must have justice. Jane felt sure there were no unpleasant insects on Gay Street.

"If . . . if she had . . . there is such a thing as a fine-tooth comb," said Violet heroically.

Justina drew her black eyebrows together.

"There has never been any necessity for such an article in our family, Violet."

Again they knitted and crocheted and interchanged glances.  Finally Justina said, "No."

"No," said Violet.

"She is too dark," said Justina.

"She is too old," said Violet.

"And now that is settled perhaps Jane would like to have some of that Devonshire cream I made to-day," said Justina.

In spite of the Devonshire cream and the huge bunch of pansies Violet insisted on giving her, Jane went home with a leaden weight of disappointment on her heart.  She was surprised to find that Step-a-yard was quite satisfied.

"If they'd told you they'd take her, you'd likely get word to- morrow that they'd changed their minds.  Now it'll be the other way round."

Still, Jane was very much amazed to get a note from the Titus ladies the next day, telling her that they had, on second thought, decided to adopt Jody and would she come down and help them settle the necessary arrangements.

"We have concluded she is not too old," said Violet.

"Or too dark," said Justina.

"You'll love her I know," said happy Jane.

"We shall endeavour to be to her as the best and kindest of parents," said Justina.  "We must give her music lessons of course. Do you know if she is musical, Jane?"

"Very," said Jane, remembering Jody and the piano at 58.

"Think of filling her stocking at Christmas," said Violet.

"We must get a cow," said Justina.  "She must have a glass of warm milk every night at bedtime."

"We must furnish the little south-west room for her," said Violet. "I think I should like a carpet of pale blue, sister."

"She must not expect to find here the excitements of the mad welter of modern life," said Justina solemnly, "but we shall try to remember that youth requires companionship and wholesome pleasures."

"Won't it be lovely to knit sweaters for her?" said Violet.

"We must get out those little wooden ducks our uncle whittled for us when we were small," said Justina.

"It will be nice to have something young to love," said Violet. "I'm only sorry she isn't twins."

"On mature reflection," said Justina, "I am sure you will agree that it is wise for us to find out how we get along with one child before we embark on twins."

"Will you let her keep a cat?" asked Jane.  "She loves cats."

"I don't suppose we would object to a bachelor cat," said Justina cautiously.

It was eventually arranged that when Jane went back to Toronto she was to find someone coming to the Island who might bring Jody along with her, and Justina solemnly counted out and gave into Jane's keeping enough money for Jody's travelling expenses and clothes suitable for such travelling.

"I'll write to Miss West right away and tell her, but I'll ask her not to say anything about it to Jody till I get back.  I want to tell her . . . I want to see her eyes."

"We are much obliged to you, Jane," said Justina, "you have fulfilled the dream of our lives."

"Completely," said Violet.

 

39

 "If we could only make the summer last longer," sighed Jane.

But that was impossible.  It was September now, and soon she must put off Jane and put on Victoria.  But not before they got Miranda Jimmy John married off.  Jane was so busy helping the Jimmy Johns get ready for the wedding that Lantern Hill hardly knew her except to get a bite for dad.  And as bridesmaid she had a chance to wear the adorable dress of rose-pink organdie with its embroidered blue and white spots which mother had gotten her.  But once the wedding was over, Jane had to say good-bye to Lantern Hill again . . . to the windy silver of the gulf . . . to the pond . . . to Big Donald's wood-lane . . . which, alas, was going to be cut down and ploughed up . . . to her garden which was to her a garden that never knew winter because she saw it only in summer . . . to the wind that sang in the spruces and the gulls that soared whitely over the harbour . . . to Bubbles and Happy and First Peter and Silver Penny.  And dad.  But though she felt sad over it, there was none of the despair that had filled her heart the year before.  She would be back next summer . . . that was an understood thing now. She would be seeing mother again . . . she did not dislike the idea of going back to St Agatha's . . . there was Jody's delight to be looked forward to . . . and dad was going with her as far as Montreal.

Aunt Irene came to Lantern Hill the day before Jane left and seemed to want to say something she couldn't quite manage to say.  When she went away, she held Jane's hand and looked at her very significantly.

"If you hear some news before next spring, lovey . . ."

"What news am I likely to hear?" said Jane with the terrible directness which Aunt Irene always found so trying.

"Oh . . . one can never tell . . . who knows what changes may come before then?"

Jane was uncomfortable for a few moments and then shrugged it away. Aunt Irene was always giving mysterious hints about something, throwing out wisps of insinuation that clung like cobwebs.  Jane had learned not to mind Aunt Irene.

"I've never really been able to make as much of that child as I would like," mourned Aunt Irene to a friend.  "She holds you at arms' length somehow.  The Kennedys were all hard . . . her mother now . . . you'd think to look at her she was all rose and cream and sweetness.  But underneath, my dear . . . hard as a rock.  She ruined my brother's life and did everything . . . EVERYTHING, I understand . . . to set his child against him."

"Jane seems very fond of her father now," said the friend.

"Oh, I'm sure she is . . . as fond as she can be of any one.  But Andrew is a very lonely man.  And I don't know if he will ever be anything else.  Lately I've been wondering . . ."

"Wondering if he'll finally work himself up to getting a United States divorce and marrying Lilian Morrow," said the friend bluntly.  She had had much experience in filling up Irene's blanks.

Aunt Irene looked quite shocked at such plain speaking.

"Oh, I wouldn't like to say that. . . .  I don't really know . . . but of course Lilian is the girl he should have married instead of Robin Kennedy.  They have so much in common.  And though I don't approve of divorce ordinarily . . . I think it shocking . . . still . . . there are special circumstances. . . ."

Jane and dad had a delightful trip to Montreal.

"How nice to think we're an hour younger than we were," said dad, as he put his watch back at Campbellton.  He said things like that all along the way about everything.

Jane clung to him very tightly in Montreal station.

"Dad darling . . . but I'll be back next summer, you know."

"Of course," said dad.  Then he added:

"Jane, here's a spot of hard cash for you.  I don't suppose you get a very huge allowance at 60 Gay."

"None at all. . . .  But can you spare this, dad?"  Jane was looking at the bills he had put into her hand.  "Fifty dollars? That's an awful lot of money, dad."

"This has been a good year for me, Jane.  Editors have been kind. And somehow . . . when you're about I write more . . . I've felt some of my old ambition stirring this past year."

Jane, who had spent all her lion-reward money on things for Lantern Hill and treats for the young fry who had been associated with her in the episode, tucked the money away in her bag, reflecting that it would come in handy at Christmas.

"Life, deal gently with her . . . love, never desert her," said Andrew Stuart, looking after the Toronto train as it steamed away.

Jane found that grandmother had had her room done over for her. When she went up to it, she discovered a wonderful splendour of rose and grey, instead of the old gloom.  Silvery carpet . . . shimmering curtains . . . chintz chairs . . . cream-tinted furniture . . . pink silk bedspread.  The old bearskin rug . . . the only thing she had really liked . . . was gone.  So was the cradle.  The big mirror had been replaced by a round rimless one.

"How do you like it?" asked grandmother watchfully.

Jane recalled her little room at Lantern Hill with its bare floor and sheepskin rug and white spool bed covered with its patchwork quilt.

"It is very beautiful, grandmother.  Thank you very much."

"Fortunately," said grandmother, "I did not expect much enthusiasm."

After grandmother had gone out, Jane turned her back on the splendour and went to the window.  The only things of home were the stars.  She wondered if dad were looking at them . . . no, of course he wouldn't be home yet.  But they would all be there in their proper places . . . the North Star over the Watch Tower, Orion sparkling over Big Donald's hill.  And Jane knew that she would never be the least bit afraid of grandmother again.

"Oh, Jane," said Jody.  "Oh, Jane!"

"I know you'll be happy with the Titus ladies, Jody.  They're a little old-fashioned but they're so kind . . . and they have the loveliest garden.  You won't have to make a garden by sticking faded flowers in a plot any more.  You'll see the famous cherry walk in bloom . . . I've never seen that."

"It's like a beautiful dream," said Jody.  "But oh, Jane, I hate to leave you."

"We'll be together in the summers instead of in the winters.  That will be the only difference, Jody.  And it will be ever so much nicer.  We'll swim . . . I'll teach you the crawl.  Mother says her friend, Mrs Newton, will take you as far as Sackville, and Miss Justina Titus will meet you there.  And mother is going to get your clothes."

"I wonder if it will be like this when I go to heaven," said Jody breathlessly.

Jane missed Jody when she went, but life was growing full.  She loved St Agatha's now.  She liked Phyllis quite well and Aunt Sylvia said she had really never seen a child blossom out socially as Victoria had done.  Uncle William couldn't floor her when he asked about capitals now.  Uncle William was beginning to think that Victoria had something in her, and Jane was finding that she liked Uncle William reasonably well.  As for grandmother . . . well, Mary told Frank it did her heart good to see Miss Victoria standing up to the old lady.

"Not that stands up is just the right word either.  But the madam can't put it over her like she used to.  Nothing she says seems to get under Miss Victoria's skin any more.  And does that make her mad!  I've seen her turn white with rage when she'd said something real venomous and Miss Victoria just answering in that respectful tone of hers that's just as good as telling her she doesn't care a hoot about what any Kennedy of them all says any more."

"I wish Miss Robin would learn that trick," said Frank.

Mary shook her head.

"It's too late for her.  She's been under the old lady's thumb too long.  Never went against her in her life except for one thing and lived to repent that, so they say.  And anyhow she's a cat of a different breed from Miss Victoria."

One November evening mother went again to Lakeside Gardens to see her friend and took Jane with her.  Jane welcomed the chance to see her house again.  Would it be sold?  Unbelievably it wasn't. Jane's heart gave a bound of relief.  She was so afraid it would be.  She couldn't understand how it wasn't, it seemed so entirely desirable to her.  She did not know that the builder had decided that he had made a mistake when he built a little house in Lakeside Gardens.  People who could live in Lakeside Gardens wanted bigger houses.

Though Jane was glad to her toes that her house hadn't been sold, she was inconsistently resentful that it was unlighted and unwarmed.  She hated the oncoming winter because of the house.  Its heart must ache with the cold then.  She sat on the steps and watched the lights blooming out along the Gardens and wished there was one in her house.  How the dead brown leaves still clinging to the oaks rustled in the windy night!  How the lights along the lake shore twinkled through the trees of the ravine!  And how she hated, yes, positively hated, the man who would buy this house!

"It just isn't fair," said Jane.  "Nobody will ever love it as I do.  It really belongs to me."

The week before Christmas Jane bought the materials for a fruit- cake out of the money dad had given her and compounded it in the kitchen.  Then she expressed it to dad.  She did not ask any one's permission for all this . . . just went ahead and did it.  Mary held her tongue and grandmother knew nothing about it.  But Jane would have sent it just the same if she had.

One thing made Christmas Day memorable for Jane that year.  Just after breakfast Frank came in to say that long distance was calling Miss Victoria.  Jane went to the hall with a puzzled look . . . who on earth could be calling her on long distance?  She lifted the receiver to her ear.

"Lantern Hill calling Superior Jane!  Merry Christmas and thanks for that cake," said dad's voice as distinctly as if he were in the same room.

"Dad!" Jane gasped.  "Where are you?"

"Here at Lantern Hill.  This is my Christmas present to you, Janelet.  Three minutes over a thousand miles."

Probably no two people ever crammed more into three minutes.  When Jane went back to the dining-room, her cheeks were crimson and her eyes glowed like jewels.

"Who was calling you, Victoria?" asked grandmother.

"Dad," said Jane.

Mother gave a little choked cry.  Grandmother wheeled on her furiously.

"Perhaps," she said icily, "you think he should have called you."

"He should," said Jane.

 


                                       

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