Anne Warner.

Sunshine Jane



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"What does that mean?"

"Evolve means to sort of develop out of the world and yourself together at the same time."

"I don't understand."

"Why, if you want anything, you want it because it's there, and you can get it if you've got the strength and perseverance to build a road to it."

"What!"

"I mean just what I say. We can get anything, if we have sufficient will-power to build a way right straight to it."

"Suppose I want to marry a millionaire?"

"It would mean a lot of well-directed effort, and the effort would slowly train you to want something much better than to live rich and idle." Jane paused a minute, and Emily looked at her curiously. "If you want to marry a millionaire bad enough to start in and make yourself all over new, you'll have such control over your future that I think you'll get something much better than a millionaire."

"I never heard any one like you in all my life," said Emily Mead.

"I'd be so glad to help you straight along," Jane said. "I've got two books with me, and you can read one and then the other. Then you'll get where you can get the meaning out of the Bible, and then you'll begin to see the meaning of everything. The world gets so wonderful. You see miracles everywhere. You feel so well. The sun shines so bright. Life becomes so lovely."

Emily looked at her with real wonder.

"How did you happen to come here?" she asked.

"Oh, that came long after all the rest of the story. One day I remembered that my mother had two sisters, and I wrote to them. My letter arrived just as Aunt Matilda's arm began to trouble her, and she asked me if I could come for a visit. You see that was another opportunity I evolved."

Emily seized her hand impulsively. "I'm so glad that you came. I'm going to try, and you'll help me?"

"Yes, indeed, I will. Would you like one of the books right now?"

"Oh, I should."

"I'll get it for you, and then I'll tell you some day about the doctor I met and his Sunshine Order."

They went towards the house. "You mustn't expect to understand everything right off, you know," Jane said to her gently. "You see this is all new to you, and that means that you can't any more understand right off than you could paint a picture right off. You have to learn gradually."

"But I mean to learn," said Emily.

They went in the door, and Jane ran upstairs and fetched the book. "There!" she said, "you read it, and I'll help you all I can. You see the thing is to learn with your whole heart to do God's will, and then, in some strange, subtle way, you get to feel what is coming and to sort of shape all. It's so fascinating and thrilling to realize that what you want is marching towards you as fast as you can march towards it."

"What do you want?" Emily asked.

"I want to do exactly what I'm doing," said Jane, very quietly. "I've passed wanting anything else. I want lots of chances to teach and help, – that's all."

"Don't you want to marry?"

"Oh, no, – I want to be able to teach and help everywhere.

I don't want things for myself, somehow."

"How strange!"

They went into the sitting-room.

"Oh, Jane," Susan cried, "how I have enjoyed hearing about everybody in town! Sister never told me about Eddy King's running off with the store cash or Mrs. Wilton's daughter going to cooking-school, or one thing."

"We must be going," said Mrs. Mead, rising; "we'll come again, though. It's good to see you up, Mrs. Ralston, and I only hope you may stay up. You know Katie Croft's mother-in-law got up just as you have and then had a stroke that night."

"Oh, is old Mrs. Croft dead?"

"No, she isn't," said Mrs. Mead; "if she was, she wouldn't be such a warning as she is."

"Dear, dear," said Susan, "think of all I've missed. Has she got it just in her legs or all over? Matilda never told me."

"Legs," said Mrs. Mead, "and it's affected her temper. Katie has an awful time with her."

"Dear, dear," said Susan again, – "and, oh, Jane, a boy I've known since he was a baby has had his skull japanned and nearly died. Matilda's never told me a thing!"

"Well, she didn't know much, you know," said Mrs. Mead; "she kept herself about as close as she kept you. We were given to understand pretty plainly that we weren't wanted to call."

"Think of that now," said Susan, "and me up-stairs, feeling all my friends had forgot me!"

"Everybody'll come now," said Mrs. Mead; "folks will be glad to see you so well. We were told you never got up and hardly ate enough to keep a cat."

"An ordinary cat," corrected Emily; "Miss Matilda's always told what a lot your cat ate."

"He is an eater," said Susan, crinkling a bit about the eyes; "but I eat, too, now, I can tell you."

After they were gone, Jane came back into the sitting-room. Her aunt was standing by the window. "It's so beautiful to be down-stairs," she said, without turning. "My goodness, and to think that only a week ago I laid up-stairs wanting to die."

"You can thank Aunt Matilda that you didn't die," said Jane, going and putting her arm around her. "If she had kept you thinking of all the illnesses in town, you'd have died long ago. Sick thoughts are more catching than diseases. But we don't need to talk of that now."

"No, indeed we don't," said Susan, "for there's Mr. Rath coming."

Jane gave a little start. "I wonder what for," she said.

"What for!" Susan's tone was full of deep meaning; "why, he's fallen dead in love with you, Jane, that's what it means, and I don't wonder, for you're the nicest girl I ever saw."

"Oh, Auntie!" said Jane, quite red. "The very idea!"

CHAPTER VI
LORENZO RATH

IT wasn't to be supposed for a minute that Lorenzo Rath, a real live young man and an artist, shouldn't take first place in the town talk. Jane's remarkable religion might attract the attention of a few who were sufficiently religious themselves to be naturally shocked over the waffles and depressed over the invalid's recovery, but Lorenzo was of interest to every one.

"If he ain't took already, there's a fine chance for Emily," Mr. Cattermole said benevolently to his daughter. Being a man, he naturally supposed that Mrs. Mead would never have come by such an idea if she hadn't had a bright old father to point it out to her.

"Emily doesn't want to marry," said Mrs. Mead, compressing her lips and expanding her dignity simultaneously; "she wouldn't marry an artist, anyway."

"Maybe he ain't much of an artist," said Mr. Cattermole, with a tendency to look on the bright side. "Why don't Emily want to marry? I thought girls always wanted to marry. They did when I was young."

"It's different nowadays," said Mrs. Mead, with condescending reserve. "You don't understand, Father, but nothing is like it used to be. The world is getting all changed. When Emily was an only child, she was looked upon as very odd, but most women have an only child nowadays. Life is quite different."

"I'd like to see Emily married," said Mr. Cattermole, thoughtfully.

"Emily has had plenty of chances," said her mother, waving the brave, tattered mother-lie that seems to cover over such cruel wounds.

"Has she really?" said Mr. Cattermole, in genuine surprise. "I didn't know that. And she wouldn't have 'em! Laws sakes! Who, for instance?"

"No one you knew," said his daughter, telling the truth then.

"Sarah knew 'em, I suppose?" (Sarah was Mrs. Cowmull.)

"No, no one Sarah knew."

"Think of that now! Why, I s'posed there wasn't nothing Sarah didn't know."

In voicing this opinion Mr. Cattermole voiced the town opinion, too. It was popularly supposed that Sarah Cowmull always knew everything. But she didn't know the status of Lorenzo Rath's heart, and Lorenzo Rath himself puzzled her not a little.

Lorenzo puzzled everybody, mainly because he was so open and simple that even a child must have suspected him of keeping something back. Such frankness was unthinkable, such innocence incredible.

"Why, he's gallivanting all over with Madeleine, and yet she's gotten another man's picture on her table!" said Miss Debby to Katie Croft.

"And he's skipping in Mrs. Ralston's gate at all hours," said Katie Croft – "no kind of ceremony to him. The other day he see mother in the window, and he waved his hat at her and give her an awful turn. She don't see well, and thought he threw a stone at her. She ain't used to city ways; she's used to country ways. I had to let her smell camphor for a good hour, and while she was smelling, the kitchen fire went out. I wish he'd keep his hat on his head another time. My life's hard enough without having a artist suddenly set to, to cheer up mother."

"What do you think of Mrs. Ralston's niece? Think she's nice?"

"Nice! With Susan Ralston about as lively as a cricket! I don't think much of such new ways. I don't know whatever Matilda will say. She's just got life all systematized, and now here's Susan up and out of bed. I'm so scared the girl'll come over and go at mother, I don't know what to do."

"My, suppose Mrs. Croft was to be up and about!" said Miss Debby, opening her eyes widely. "Whatever would you do?"

"Do! I know what I'd do." Young Mrs. Croft looked dark and mysterious. "I know just exactly what I'll do. And I'm all ready to do it, and if I'm interfered with, I will do it, – good and quick, too."

"How is old Mrs. Croft now?" Miss Debby asked.

"Oh, she's grabbin' as ever. I never see such a disposition. She's always catching at me or the cat or something. Seems to consider it a way of attracting attention. Crazy folks has such crazy ideas, and she's crazy, – crazy as a loon."

Katie Croft took up her market basket and went on up the street. Miss Debby stayed behind to wait for the noon mail. "Katie's so bitter," she said to herself, shaking her head; "she ought to be more grateful for being supported."

Miss Debby forgot that there are few things so irritating in this world as being supported. It is a situation which has become especially unpopular lately, particularly with women and political motives.

But no old worn-out aphorism held for one minute in the breezy bloom of the House Where Jane Lived.

"Oh, I'm so happy," Susan exclaimed many times daily, "I'm so happy. I never felt nothing like your sunshining in all my life before, you Sunshine Jane, you! I feel like my own cupboards, all unlocked and aired and nice and used again."

Jane stopped caroling as she kneaded bread and laughed – which sounded equally pleasant.

"I'm as happy as you are, Auntie; it's so nice to be in heaven."

"I used to think maybe I'd die suddenly and find myself there some day," said Susan. "I'm glad I didn't."

"It's better to live suddenly than to die suddenly," said Jane, merrily; "when people are awfully bothered sometimes, I've heard their friends say: 'But if you died suddenly, it would work out somehow,' and I wanted to say: 'Why not live suddenly instead of dying suddenly, and then everything's bound to come out splendidly.'"

"Oh, Jane, what a grand idea, – to live suddenly! That's what I've done, surely."

"Yes," said Jane, "that's what I did, too. Instead of fading out of life, we just bloomed into life. It's just as easy, and a million times more fun."

"And it's all so awfully agreeable," said Susan. "My things look so nice, all set different, and it's so pleasant having folks coming in, and I like it all, and we haven't to fuss with the garden."

"I attend to the garden!" cried a voice outside, and a mysterious hand shoved a basket of peas over the window-ledge.

"I know who that is," said Susan; "it's that boy, and he's smelt cinnamon rolls and come to lunch. How do you do?"

Lorenzo, brown and merry, was getting in at the window.

"Why, you've really been weeding!" exclaimed Susan.

"Of course! I've tended the garden ever since you gave it up."

"I declare! Well, I never. Jane, we must give him a bite of something."

"Yes, that's what I came for," said Lorenzo, cheerfully, "cookies, jelly-roll, – anything simple and handy. Madeleine and I were out walking, discussing our affairs, and when I stopped for the garden, she went on for her mail. I'm awfully hungry."

"People say you're engaged to her," said Susan. Jane turned to get the tin of cookies.

"Yes, naturally. People say so much. She is a pretty girl, isn't she? – but then there's Emily Mead. I must look at myself on all sides and consider carefully. Old Mr. Cattermole took me to drive yesterday and told me that he was healthy and his dead wife was healthy and that, except for what killed him, Mr. Mead was healthy, too; and there was Emily, perfectly healthy and the only grandchild, and why didn't I come over often, – it wasn't but a step."

"Well, you do beat all," said Susan. Jane offered the tin of cookies. Lorenzo took six. They were all laughing.

Later, when he'd gone away, Susan said, almost shyly this time: "Jane, I don't want to interfere, but he is in love."

"With Madeleine?"

"With you."

"Auntie," Jane came to her side, "you mustn't speak in that way about me. I can't marry, – not possibly. I'm a Sunshine Nurse, and I shall be a Sunshine Nurse till I die. I'll make homes happy, but I shall never have one of my own."

Susan looked frightened and timid. "But why?"

"For many reasons. And all good ones."

There was that in the young girl's tone that ended the subject for the time being.

But Susan thought of it a great deal, and alone in her room that night, Jane thought, too. She had made herself ready for bed, and then sat down by the window, clasping her hands on the sill. Lorenzo Rath was buoyantly dear and jolly, and she realized that he was the nicest man that she had ever met. It had all been fun, great fun, and she had enjoyed it mightily. But with all her learning Jane was not so very much farther along the Highway to Happiness than some others. In many cases she was only a holder of keys as yet – the distinct knowledge to be gained by unlocking secrets with their aid was as yet not hers. To hold the keys and look at the doors is to realize what power means, – but to unlock is to use it. Jane was still a novice; she left the doors locked and was content to hold the keys, and no more.

The next night Lorenzo appeared again. "I'm half-dead," he said. "I've tramped twelve miles, sketching."

"Dear, dear," said Susan, "seems like nobody in this world ever wants what's close to."

"Sometimes it's no use to want what's close to," said Lorenzo, "or else what's close to is like Emily Mead, and you just ache to run."

"Emily Mead is a very nice girl," said Jane, in a tone clearly reproachful.

Lorenzo just laughed. But then Susan made some excuse to slip away. "I wonder if you'd help me a little," he said then, hesitating a bit.

"Is it something that I can do? Of course I'll help you if I can."

"It's something very necessary."

"Necessary?"

"To my welfare and happiness."

"What is it?"

"I think – I'm – falling in love."

"Oh, dear," Jane was carefully tranquil.

"I've never really been in love in my life, so I can't be sure. But I think it's that."

Jane said nothing. The room was getting dark.

"I've never seen any one so pretty in all my life as Miss Mar," said the young artist, slowly. "You know we're old friends."

"Oh, she's lovely," said Jane, with sudden fervor.

"I thought that we might make up little picnics and walks and things?" hesitated the young man.

"Of course," said Jane, heartily. "And you can come here all you like. Auntie likes you both so much."

Lorenzo Rath stood by the door. "Were you ever in love?" he asked bluntly.

"No," said Jane. "I've never had the least little touch of it."

"Haven't you ever thought about it?"

"No, I've never had time. I've never seen any man that I could or would marry."

"Never?"

"Never."

"That's too bad," said Lorenzo Rath slowly. "Seems to me you'd make such a splendid wife."

She laughed a little. Then she had to wink quickly to drive back tears which leapt suddenly.

"I won't say any more," said Lorenzo. She thought that he did not care to speak of Madeleine to her.

Then she went. And later she found herself sitting in her own room again, sitting by the same window, thinking. "Poor Emily Mead and her illusory millionaire! I'm about as silly as she is," thought Jane. "And yet I know it's higher and more beautiful to make life lovely for others than to make it lovely for one's self." She sighed because the reflection – all altruistic as it was – was not quite the truth, and she was true enough herself to feel jarred by the slightest cross-shadow of falsehood. Truth plays as widely and freely as the sunbeams themselves and goes as straight to the heart of each and all.

Finally she opened a little book and read aloud a few pages to herself in a low tone. "I know I'm on the right path," she said, when she had closed the book; "the thing is to stick resolutely to keeping on straight ahead. And I must be absolutely content with all that comes. You have to be content if you're going to grow in goodness, for you have to know that you've been trying and been successful." She sat still a while longer and then rose with a deep, long breath. "Well, to-day's been something, and to-morrow I'll be something better, I know."

The truth did shine then, and she went to bed calmed, but was hardly stretched down between the cool sheets when Susan rapped at the door.

"Come in."

"Oh, Jane, I can't sleep. I've got to thinking of when Matilda comes back, and I'm scared blue."

CHAPTER VII
A NEW OUTLOOK ON MATILDA

THE next morning Susan looked half-sheepish and half-anxious. "I just couldn't help it, Jane. I laid in bed so long, thinking, and then it come over me what life was going to be when she was back and you gone and – well – I just couldn't help coming. I felt awful."

Jane was busy with breakfast. "I know, Auntie, I know. I ought to have thought of Aunt Matilda sooner. Half her stay is over."

"Oh, my, I should say it was," wailed Susan; "that's what scares me so. We're so happy, and the time is going so fast. It's about the most awful thing I ever knew."

Jane began beating eggs for an omelette.

"We never were one bit alike," Susan intoned mournfully; "we were always so different, and then when husband died, there was just nothing to do but for us to live together. She's my only sister, and it's right that I should humor her, but, oh my, what a scratch-about life she has led me. I was getting to feel more like a mouse than a woman – soon as I got a bite, I'd begin to tremble and to listen and then how I did run!"

"But it will be all so different when she comes back," Jane said cheerily. "She'll be very different, and so will you. It'll be just like I told you last night."

"I know, – I know. But somehow I can't see it as you do. I'm all upset. And I'm so happy without her. We're so happy. The house looks beautiful. You've just made everything over. I declare, Jane, I never saw anything like you. All my old things have turned new, and so pretty. I feel like a bride. That is, I feel like a bride when I ain't thinking of Matilda."

"It looks very nice, surely," said Jane, smiling. "Your things were so pretty, anyhow. But what I was gladdest about was to really get it all opened up and fresh. I didn't want any one to come while it was so gloomy. The whole town may call now."

"They do, too," said Susan, diverted for the minute; "they certainly do. Oh, it is so nice, I so adore to hear all about things again. Matilda just shut everybody out. She didn't like company."

"She was pretty busy, you know."

"She hadn't any more to do than you have. She hadn't so much to do as you have, because she didn't do a thing you do."

"But you were ill. She was always up and down stairs – "

"No, she wasn't, Jane. No, she wasn't."

"Well, she had your meals to carry upstairs."

"I don't call it meals to run with a teacup. Meals! Such meals! It's a wonder I didn't die. She'd turn anything upside down on a plate and something else upside down on that, and call it a meal for me. I was about sick, just from how she fed me. If I said something was cooked too dry, she emptied the tea-kettle into it next time; and if I said anything was too wet, she put on fresh coal and left it in the oven over night. If I said the room was too light, she shut it up as dark as a pickpocket; and if I said it was too dark, she turned the sun into my eyes. She's my only sister and I must humor her, but I've had a very hard time, Jane, and I don't blame myself for waking up with my teeth all of a chatter over the thought of living with her again."

Jane had their breakfast ready now on the table by the window. "Come and sit down," she said; "we'll talk while we eat. It's like I told you last night, – there must be a hitch somewhere. Of course, God has a good reason for you and Aunt Matilda living together. He doesn't allow accidents in His world."

"Perhaps He wasn't thinking. I can't believe that anybody would deliberately put anybody in the house with Matilda – not if they knew Matilda. I didn't know what she'd grown into myself when she first came to take care of me, because I was a little poorly. It was to save spending on a nurse, you know. They're such trying, prying things, nurses are."

"I'm a nurse, you know."



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