Anne Warner.

Sunshine Jane



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"Because there's no place for it to come from," said Jane firmly.

"Unless Matilda – " Susan interposed.

"I believe I'm better at her religion than she is herself," said Lorenzo. "I declare, I believe that there's nothing that I can't get now. I wanted a house, and I worked just as the book said! I saw myself living cosily alone, and in less than a week I was living cosily alone. Now I want Jane with me in the house, and I mean to have her, and I shall have her, and there's no doubt about that; but I do wish – with all my heart – that she could rise to a higher plane."

"If that's all, I know how to manage that easily enough," said Susan. "We could get old Mr. Cattermole in for a week and raise Jane's plane with him, just like she raised mine with Mrs. Croft."

"Oh, she'll rise," said her lover quietly. "We must give her time and help her, that's all."

Jane stood doubting between them. Her aunt regarded her wistfully. "Dear me," she said, "I wonder if I could screw myself up to believing she'll come in for a fortune. I want to help, but I'm a little like her – I can't for the life of me see where it's to come from."

"But that isn't the question at all," said Lorenzo, "the question isn't how – the question is just the faith. Why, it's the corner-stone of the whole thing! It's the moving into God's world where nothing but good can be, and you know you're there because you see only good coming in all directions! Just good – nothing but good! I don't see why Jane holds back so. I know that she can get that money and get every other thing she wants in life, including me, and I'm one of the nicest fellows alive – "

"That's so – " interposed Susan.

"If she'll only put out her hand with confidence. I've studied that book till I'm full of it, and I know that I'm going to have her for my wife, and I know it absolutely, and I want her to know it, too."

Susan began to get back over the fence. "I'm going in about breakfast," she said; "the trouble with us is we all need hot coffee to brace up our souls."

"Keep on declaring the truth," Lorenzo reminded her, as she walked off upon the other side.

"I will. I'll say 'Jane is going to get some money' and 'Matilda doesn't want to come home to live,' alternately."

When she was out of hearing the two young people remained silent for a few seconds. Then the man spoke.

"Dear," his voice was very gentle, "I want to tell you something. I've had a very great experience in the last twenty-four hours. It isn't loving you – it's that I've been allowed to see a little bit of life from God's standpoint. Don't you want to know the real truth about all this?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm going to tell you, because you'll see the lesson and learn it with me. We don't doubt that God knows all that has been or is to be, do we? – or that in our minutes of fiercest pain or trouble He looks calmly to the end beyond?"

She shook her head.

"No, of course not."

"Well, dearest girl, I was allowed last night to put myself in the Deity's place and see one corner of the universe as He must see the whole."

Her eyes grew big. "What do you mean?"

"I mean this. I want you, and I understand perfectly about the money. I sat down last night and I labored with myself until I made myself know that it was yours. I can't tell you just how it came to me, but I knew it. It is yours and yours absolutely, and now I want you to realize it and believe in it without question, before I give it to you. Will you do that? I'm asking of you the faith that Jesus preached. Can you believe?"

Jane looked at him wonderingly. "You mean – "

"I mean just what I say."

"I can't receive money from you."

"It isn't my money."

"I don't understand. I only know that there is no way that I can get the money."

Lorenzo looked at her a minute, and then said slowly and very gently: "I've found Mrs. Croft's will. She left all that she had to whoever took care of her the night she died. It appears that she had a good deal more than any one supposed. It's all yours, dear. Now you see why you should have trusted."

CHAPTER XVIII
IN A PERFECTLY RIGHT WAY

WHEN Susan, looking out of the window, saw the two whom she had left behind coming across the grass, she knew instantly.

"They've settled it somehow," she exclaimed in supremest joy, and whirled to whisk the bacon off the stove.

"Auntie," said Jane, from outside the window, the minute after, "I am just dumb. I don't believe I'll ever be able to lift up my head in life again."

"Auntie," said Lorenzo, over her shoulder, "she's inherited her fortune."

Susan gave a scream. "Oh, good mercy!"

"Yes, dear," said her niece, now in the doorway, "only I can't believe it. I think that it's a dream."

"You see she still isn't able to rise to the proper heights of trust," laughed her lover, also now in the doorway, "but I have hopes of yet teaching her to believe what she believes."

"Come straight in and help me set all this on the table, so that I can listen with a free mind." Susan's appeal was pathetic in the extreme. "Where did she get it, anyhow?"

"Oh, Auntie, it's the most wonderful thing you ever heard of." Jane took up the coffee-pot and led the way.

"I did it all, except I didn't provide the money," said Lorenzo, and the next minute they were all seated, and he could tell the whole story.

Susan didn't scream. She sat still, a bit of toast in her hand, listening breathlessly. When Lorenzo had finished, "Oh, that new religion!" she murmured in an awed voice, and then, "Nothing like this ever happened in this town before, I know."

"I'm more bewildered over it's being there for me and my not being able to believe than I am by the money," said Jane. "Oh, Auntie, what a lesson, what a lesson!"

"You would limit yourself, you see," said Lorenzo; "you wouldn't believe."

"How could I ever imagine such a thing?"

"You didn't have to imagine, – you only had to expect."

"You laid limits, you see," said Susan, suddenly beginning to pour out the coffee, and pouring with a glad dash that swept over cup and saucer together. "I expect if God hadn't been patient – like Mr. Rath – He could have very well hid that will forever. There may be a lot of such goings on in the world, for all we know. My goodness, suppose I'd been like Matilda and not have had old Mrs. Croft around for one minute, – it makes me ill to think of it! It's a lesson for me, too."

"Life is all lessons," said Jane. "Dear me, think of Aunt Matilda's surprise!"

"Think of it! Good mercy, how can I wait to tell her!" Susan's whole face beamed. "I don't mind a bit her coming back now. That shows the good of making that declaration about her. Those declarations are a great thing. I've told myself Matilda was coming back in a perfectly right way so many times that now, however she came back, I'd be positive it was perfectly right."

"Ah, Auntie," said Jane, "you've got hold of another great truth. Every one seems quicker than me."

"Well, you started us at it, anyhow," said Susan kindly. "Oh my, but I'm happy! Why, I believe I'm really in a hurry now for Matilda to come back, just so I can tell her. Think of that – me really and truly anxious to see Matilda again! My, you Sunshine Jane, you – what a lot of difference you've made in me."

"When is your aunt coming?" Lorenzo asked Jane.

"She went for three weeks," said Jane; "it will be three weeks next Thursday."

"Goodness, only three weeks, and it seems like three years?" observed Susan. "What a lot has happened! There's Jane – and her religion – and me up and well – and old Mrs. Croft here and gone – and you, Mr. Rath, – and then you and Jane – and now this money."

"I can't believe any of it," said Jane; "I try, but I just can't. I guess I'm hopelessly limited. I'm too bewildered, I – "

"I'll tell you what ails you," said her aunt warmly. "It's that you've spread yourself too much; you've given such a lot away everywhere that you've got to just stop and let the tide run backwards into you yourself for a while. It's nature. Nature and the new religion combined."

"I feel overwhelmed by the coming-back tide then," said Jane; "I don't deserve it all."

Her aunt started to reply, but was stopped by a sudden loud bang outside.

"Goodness, what's that?" she exclaimed.

"Auto tire burst, I think. I'll go and see," said Lorenzo, jumping up and going out.

"Jane," said Susan solemnly, "that's a young man in a million. Think of his finding that will. My, but he'll make a good husband!"

"I just can't realize any of it," said her niece. She seemed to be totally unequal to any other view of her present situation.

"Well, you'd better realize it," said her aunt, "because it's coming right along. What will Mrs. Mead say, I wonder! Dear me, how every one will wish they'd tried to get up a plane or two by having old Mrs. Croft to visit them. If that poor old thing could only come back, the whole town would just adore to have her on a visit now, and every one would sit up all night and listen to Captain Jinks so cheerfully. She used to sing Rally round the flag, boys too, – I forgot that. She used to sing it when she heard the roosters begin to crow. But nobody would have minded, whatever she sang now."

"Oh, there's – " Jane hesitated and blushed.

Lorenzo stood in the door. "It wasn't a burst tire," he explained briefly; "it's a new kind of siren they're using. It's friends from out of town, Mr. and Mrs. Beamer."

"They've got the wrong house," said Susan. "I don't know any Beamers."

"They asked for Mrs. Ralston."

"Then they're selling something, grape-wine or hand-knit lace, or something. I don't want to see 'em."

"I'll go," said Jane. And went at once. In the pretty, changed sitting-room she found the visitors – Mrs. Beamer tall and of large build, with a handsome motor-costume. Mr. Beamer also large, very wiry, and with rampant gray hair. Mrs. Beamer was Matilda.

But what a changed Matilda! "Well, Jane," coming forward and holding out both hands, "did you and Susan feel it?"

Jane staggered and laid hold of a chair. "Feel – " she stammered – "feel what? Oh, Aunt Matilda!"

"Did you feel the good I've been doing you? How's my sister?"

"She – oh, she's all right."

"Up and dressed?"

"Yes."

"There, you see!" Matilda turned to Mr. Beamer, triumph radiating her whole figure. "It worked, – oh, Matthew, it worked." Then she turned back to Jane. "Get up right off, didn't she? Same day I left?"

"Y – yes." Jane clung more tightly to the chair. She began to doubt the ground beneath her feet.

"Perfectly well, strong, able-bodied, – isn't she?"

"Yes."

"You see? – " to Mr. Beamer. Then, "Oh, it's too splendid! I s'pose the cat's stopped snooping, too, hasn't he?"

"Y – yes."

"House all clean? Garden growing fine?" —

"Yes, indeed."

"And you, Jane, how are you?"

"Oh, I'm all right. I – I've become engaged."

"You hear that, Matthew? And the town?"

"Everybody's well."

"Did you ever in all your life!"

"Oh, old Mrs. Croft died!"

"Did she indeed. Katie happy? – "

"Katie was away. She died here."

"How nice! I expect she enjoyed every minute of it. Oh, Jane, you don't know how happy your every word is making me!"

"Shan't I call auntie?"

"No, we'll go out and have breakfast with you. We had one breakfast so as to make it easy for you to have us have it with you."

"Do come right out to the table." Jane led the way. "I can't think what Aunt Susan will say!"

"Never mind what she says – it'll be just right. Everything always is. Come, Matthew;" then Mrs. Matilda Beamer led off, and Mr. Matthew Beamer followed, smiling cheerfully. He seemed to be a very cheerful man.

"Perhaps I'd better go first and just prepare auntie," Jane suggested hastily.

"No need. She always yelled when she saw me suddenly, and this time it will be for joy. Life is going to be all joy for Susan now."

Jane turned the button of the dining-room door. "Auntie Susan, it's Aunt Matilda and Mr. Beamer."

Susan justified her sister's views by forthwith giving the yell of her whole life. "Ma – tilda! – And Mr. Beamer! – "

Matilda went up to her, seized her, gave her a good hug and a real kiss. "I've made lots of mistakes," she said, with a big tear in each eye, "but somehow it was written that I should be allowed to make them right. Susan, this is Matthew. Sit down, Matthew. Sit down, every one."

Lorenzo hastily pushed up chairs, and they all sat down.

"I'll get some more dishes," Jane exclaimed, hurrying into the pantry.

"Matilda!" Susan looked almost ready to faint. "Are you – are you – "

"I'm married," said Matilda. "I don't know what I've ever done to deserve it, but I'm married. It's the most beautiful romance that ever was in the world, and we've come to tell you all about it."

"Oh, do!" Susan exclaimed. "Jane, come back! Think of another romance, and Matilda, too! Well, what next!"

Matilda smiled quite radiantly. "We met on the train the day I left here," she began; "it was right off. He took me out on the back platform of the car and opened my eyes to life, and we just suited, didn't we, Matthew?"

"Tell it all," said Mr. Beamer; "tell the beginning."

"Yes," said his wife, "I will, I'll tell it all. It's so splendid it would be a pity to skip anything. You see, he looked at me and – well, really, Matthew, I think you'd better tell the first part."

"No, you tell," said Mr. Beamer.

"No, Matthew, you tell it, and I'll help anywhere I can."

"Well," said her husband, "then I'll begin with saying, Sister Susan, Niece Jane, and young man, that I'd better tell you what I am, first of all, because I'm the only one of the kind in the world so far as I know. You see, one of those Bible miracles, that no one can seem to lay hold of any more, got into me, and I'm the result."

"That is all true," interposed Matilda, her plain face quite metamorphosed, as she looked at her husband and then at them. "Every word he says is true, and it's all miracles."

"You see I was just a plain, ordinary man, with a nice business and a good disposition," Mr. Beamer went on, "and I did get so awful tired of things as they were going, and I used to wish everything was different, and then one day, all of a God-blessed sudden, it came over me, with a shock like lightning, that wanting things different is the first step to getting 'em different, and that if you've got the brain to see what's lacking, you've got the body to turn to and help fill up the hole. I didn't get religion out of a book; I got it just like that. I was sitting in a rocking-chair with a palm-leaf fan, and I got up and put the fan on the shelf and knew I was all made new. The very next day I read about a doctor as set up some nurses – "

"Oh, my goodness," Susan cried, "hear that, Jane!"

" – as was to spread sunshine, and I thought that was a good idea, only I couldn't see a place in it for me, 'cause I wasn't young and wasn't no girl to go 'round spreading nothing. I looked upon it that being a man, my business wasn't to spread things – a man's business is to get the stuff to spread; so I figured out that being as I was a man, I could maybe help make the sunshine, and then any one could slather it on that pleased. So I began to look about for some sunshine to make, and the handiest field I see was folks with hard lines around their mouths; there's a powerful lot of them around, you know, – ain't nothin' so hard to break up in life as hard lines around mouths. So I set out to plow fields of hard lines." He paused. It was a picture, a picture painted in heavenly colors to see his face at the moment, full of its own heartfelt, tried, and true enthusiasm, and the faces of those of his four listeners, each touched with the spiritual light shed by recent events over his or her own individual path.

"Do go on," Jane whispered softly.

"Well, whenever I'd see a hard man sitting alone, I'd go up to him and hold out my hand and say, 'Well, I ain't laid eyes on you, I don't know when!' That wasn't no lie, and 'most always we'd get a-talking. Then I'd say, 'I'm a harmless crank that likes to go round making friends, and I took a fancy to you right off.' It was wonderful all I come up against. Why, the hardest folks was just aching to sit down and explain that they wasn't hard at all. It was the most interesting thing I ever got hold of. I got arrested once for a gold-brick man, and it give me a fine chance at the jailers and some of the men in prison. Pretty soon everything that turned up seemed to just come along to give me a chance to make a little sunshine. Pretty soon life was all nothing but sunshine chances. I got hold of some books that showed me that lots of others were trying some similar games, and all working hard, and I picked out one book that 'most anybody could understand, and I used to carry it to read from. Would you believe that I wore out that book about a hundred times and sold it more'n five hundred times and give it away 'most a thousand times. I got where hard lines was just play to me. I've now got where they're flowers in my garden. I just fly at 'em. If they don't give up to one course, they do to another. I travel about looking for 'em. I was on my last trip when I see Matilda sittin' across the aisle from me, and I said to myself right off, 'What fine lines!' So I went right over and shook hands with her – "

"He said he feared maybe he'd made a mistake," interrupted his wife, "and I said – God forgive me! – 'If you speak to me again, I'll call out to the conductors!'"

"And I said: 'Madam, excuse me, I'm only a harmless crank as is trying to help folks as is sick or in trouble, and you look like a woman as could tell me of some I could help, maybe!'"

"Then I thought of you, Susan," said the sister; "you see, I'd been looking out of the window, and the view was so pretty, and it kind of come over me how awful hard it was to lie in bed – and – and I felt kind of bad, and his face looked kind, and I said: 'Well, sit down. I do know somebody sick.'"

"So I set down," went on Mr. Beamer, "and in just a little while she let up like everybody does and told me the whole story, and then I took her out on the back platform and we was swinging 'round curves of mighty lovely scenery, and I got out my book and I begin to read aloud to her."

"And I got hold of the idea like mad," said Matilda. "I said right off: 'Then Susan's really all well now?' an' he said: 'She's been well always,' and I says: 'And my arm's well,' and he said: 'Nothin' ain't ever ailed your arm except your own innard feelings, and they're gone now,' and then I just put my hands over my face and says: 'Oh, God, forgive me for lots and lots and lots of things.'"

There was another little pause, and then Susan said very low: "And God did it."

"And then," said Mr. Beamer, "I says to her: 'Now, if you want to see how true everything I've been saying is, we'll just put this to a practical proof.' I'd noticed a woman with lines back there in the car slapping two sleepy children, and I told Matilda we'd each take a child for an hour and give her lines a chance to smooth out a little, and then we'd come back on the platform and talk it over."

"So we did it," said Matilda, "and when I took the baby back to the woman, she burst out crying and said she'd tried to hold in all day and just couldn't any longer, cause her mother was sick and had been sick so long, and she couldn't leave the children to go to her 'cause the children was the neighbor's and left with her to board, and she'd never liked children and only took 'em 'cause her mother needed the money."

"Showing," interrupted Mr. Beamer, "how we'd misjudged her and her hard lines, which is another feature of my crusade, as lots don't think enough about."

"But what come next was just like a story, too," Matilda said. "When I got to Mrs. Camp's at last, I found Mrs. Camp so changed that if I hadn't met Matthew on the train and got something to hold on to, I couldn't have stayed in the house an hour."

"Why, what was the matter with Mrs. Camp?" Susan asked anxiously.

"Why, all Mrs. Camp's family is married now, and it seems she was so lonely she's turned into a social settler or some such thing, and her nice, quiet house where I'd looked to rest was one swarm of Italians learning English and girls learning sewing and women asking advice and such a chaos of Bedlam you never dreamed. If it hadn't been for my just having got religion that way, I'd have turned around and come straight back home. But as it was, I didn't have time to do anything but get into my blue print and take hold right with her and get some order into things in general."

"Oh, Aunt Matilda!" Jane's face was radiant.

"Afternoons Matthew came with an auto, and he'd take me off with the back seat full of children, and we'd hunt hard lines anywhere they looked likely."

"And then, of course, we soon got married," said Mr. Beamer.

"Yes, and that's all," said Matilda. "Now did you ever?"

There was a sudden hush, until finally Susan said, through tears: "Oh, Matilda, – it's like something in heaven's got loose and fell right down over us, isn't it?"

"I think it's all too wonderful," said Jane.

"Of course there really is something out of heaven spread over earth every day," said Lorenzo, low, and very reverently; "only people don't see it."



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