Mary Ware in Texasскачать книгу бесплатно
SAN JACINTO DAY
It was the twentieth of April when Phil returned to Bauer, and for the second time his visit was cut disappointingly short. The reason was that he had promised Major Melville the night he dined with him, to be back in San Antonio in time for the Carnival. The Major wanted to take him to a Mexican restaurant for a typical Mexican supper the night of the twenty-first. On the twenty-second there would be an entertainment for the Queen of the Carnival at her Court of the Roses; something too unique and beautiful for him to miss, they all said. Then, on the twenty-third, San Jacinto Day, which all loyal Texans keep as a state holiday, the annual Battle of Flowers would take place in the plaza in front of the Alamo, which they call their "Cradle of Liberty."
The Flower Battle was an old institution, the Major explained. But this was only the second year for the Queen's Court, and it was something so surpassingly beautiful that he thought it ought to become a regular feature of every carnival.
Roberta, who was also at the dinner, added her persuasions.
"You'll think you're back in the time 'when knighthood was in flower,'" she insisted. "I wish every Easterner accustomed to poking fun at our state could see it. Nobody knows what I suffered at school from having people talk as if all Texans are 'long-horns.'"
"Roberta was one of the duchesses last year," explained Lieutenant Boglin. "You should have seen her sweep up to the throne when they announced, 'Her Grace, the Lady Roberta of the House of Mayrell!' She certainly looked the real article, and was a far cry from a long-horn then."
"Don't emphasize the then so pointedly, Bogey," ordered Roberta.
When Phil hesitated to accept because his time in Bauer would be shortened so much thereby, Gay insisted that she was going to invite Mary down for the Queen's entertainment and the Flower Battle anyhow, and that if he refused to come Mary would be cut out of the pleasure of coming, for, of course, she couldn't leave a guest behind, under the circumstances.
So presently the Major's programme was arranged to his partial satisfaction. It was not complete, because he could not persuade the old doctor, who intended spending several months in California, to return also.
Gay went up to Bauer that same week, directly after Alex Shelby's departure. She wanted to deliver her invitation in person, and to spend the day with the Ware family. She liked to hear them sing Alex's praises. He was the one who discovered that something could be done for Jack, and he it was who had summoned Doctor Tremont, and every discussion of the subject always brought out the gratifying fact that had it not been for him, Jack would not now be on the high road to recovery. She had found, too, that Mary made a most satisfactory little confidante; much better than Roberta, for she seemed really interested in Alex and all that pertained to him, and never laughed at Gay's rhapsodies and made cynical remarks about "before and after taking" as the worldly-wise Roberta did.
Two thoughts gave Mary the utmost satisfaction in accepting the invitation.
One was, there would be time before San Jacinto Day to make up the white dress for which her mother had embroidered the lovely rosebuds. The other was, that an occasion had come at last when it would be appropriate for her to wear Lloyd's gift, the beautiful chiffon scarf, spangled with the crystal beads which sparkled like dewdrops.
With only a day and a half to spend in Bauer, Phil could do few of the things she had planned for his entertainment. Now that Jack was better, she did not like to take him away from the house long enough to ride out to the Barnaby ranch and pole up to Fernbank, and such things. Instead, all the time was spent so that Jack could have his full share of the visit. She would have been greatly disappointed had she not known she was going to see Phil several times during her visit to Gay.
He went down to the Mexican supper on the twenty-first, and she followed next morning. He was to take luncheon with the Mayrells that day, so she did not see him till night, when they all went in the same party to the entertainment, Phil and Roberta, Gay and Billy Mayrell, Mary and Lieutenant Boglin.
The stage of Beethoven Hall was turned into a bower of roses on this eve of San Jacinto Day, and a great audience, assembling early, awaited the coming of the Queen of the Carnival and her royal court. In the patent of nobility given by her gracious majesty to her attendants, was the command:
"We bid you to join with all of our loyal subjects in the Mirth and Merriment of this Festival of Flowers, which doth commemorate the glorious freedom of this, our Texas, won by the deathless heroism of the defenders of the Alamo, and the Victory of San Jacinto."
This call for Mirth and Merriment struck the keynote of the carnival, and everyone in the great assembly seemed to be responding with the proper festival spirit.
Back in the crowded house in a seat next the aisle and almost at the entrance door, sat Mary Ware, completely entranced by all that was going on about her. Lieutenant Boglin was beside her, and in the chairs directly behind them were Gay and Billy Mayrell. Roberta and Phil were in front of them. They had come early to secure these chairs, and the men had given the girls the end seats in order that they might have unobstructed view of both aisle and stage. They all turned so that conversation was general until the house was nearly filled, then Roberta said something which drew Phil's attention wholly to herself, and he turned his back on the others, beginning to talk exclusively to her.
Gay, who appeared to know at least every fourth person who came down the aisle, sat, like most of the audience, with her head turned expectantly towards the door, and kept up a running comment to Mary on the acquaintances who passed her with nods of recognition or brief words of greeting. The thrum of the orchestra, the sight of so many smiling faces, although they were strange to her, and the blended colors of fashionable evening gowns would have furnished Mary ample entertainment after her dull winter in the country; but it was doubly entertaining with Gay to point out distinguished people and give her bits of information, supplemented by Billy and Bogey about this one from the Post and that one from the town.
She wished that Phil could hear too. She wanted him to know what prominent personages he was in the midst of. Once when some world-known celebrity was escorted up the aisle she leaned over and called his attention to the procession. He looked up with a smile to follow her glance, and made a joking response, but returned so quickly to the fascinating Roberta, that Mary felt that his interest in everything else just then was merely perfunctory.
She remembered what Gay had said about his finding his affinity, and stole a side glance at Roberta to study her in the new light which Phil's interest threw upon her. Now in the days when Phil worshipped at the Little Colonel's shrine, Mary was perfectly content to have it so. She would have walked over hot plowshares to have brought his romance to a happy consummation. It seemed so eminently fitting that the two people in the world whom she had invested with halos, should stand together on the same pedestal in her affections. To her doting eyes, Lloyd was such an angel that she knew Phil must be happy with her, and Phil measured so fully up to the notch on the sterling yard-stick which indicated the inches and ells that a true prince should be, that she was sure no girl who wove her Clotho-web for him could fail to find the happiness that was written for her in the stars.
Mary had grown accustomed to the fact by this time that she had made a mistake in her reading of the stars. Lloyd was destined for someone else. But it had not occurred to her before that maybe Phil was, too. The thought that he would carry a secret sorrow with him to the grave, invested him with a melancholy charm that made him all the more interesting. It was somewhat of a shock to her to see him watch the downward sweep and swift upward glance of Roberta's pretty eyes in such an admiring way, although Mary herself had heretofore found pleasure in watching them. Of course she didn't want him to go on suffering always, still – she didn't want him to forget.
In her passionate loyalty to Lloyd she resented his bestowing a second glance on any girl who was any less of an angel than she; and yet her loyalty to Phil made her want him to have whatever he wanted. Knowing how many men had fallen victims to Roberta's flirtatious little ways, she longed to save Phil from the same fate. The growing alarm with which she watched them was almost comical for one of her years. It was comical because it was so motherly. Not a particle of jealousy or a thought of self entered into it.
A hush fell on the great audience, and the curtain rose on a tableau of surpassing loveliness. The stage seemed to be one mass of American Beauty roses. The walls were festooned and garlanded with them. They covered the high throne in the centre and bordered the steps leading up to it. They hung in long streamers on either side from ceiling to floor. Grouped against this glowing background, stood the noble dukes, the lords-in-waiting and their esquires. The gay-colored satins and brocades of their old-time court costumes, the gleam of jewelled sword-hilts, the shine of powdered perukes, transported one from prosaic times and lands to the old days of chivalry and romance.
The jester shook his bells, the trumpeters in their plumed helmets raised their long, shining trumpets, and sounded the notes that heralded the first approach. Then the Lord Chamberlain stepped forth in a brave array of pink satin, carrying the gold stick that was his insignia of office.
"That's me friend," whispered Gay, "the man who originated this affair. I tell him I think he must be one of the Knights of the Round Table re-incarnated, or else the wizard Merlin come to life again, to bring such a beautiful old court scene into being in the way he has done."
She stopped whispering to hear the impressive announcement he was making, in a voice that rang through the hall:
"Her Grace, Lady Elizabeth, of the House of Lancaster!"
Immediately every eye turned from the stage to look at the rose-trimmed entrance door. The orchestra struck into an inspiring march and the stately beauty, first to arrive at the Court of Roses, began her triumphal entry up the long aisle. She passed so near to Mary that the tulle bow on the directoire stick she carried almost touched her cheek with its long floating ends, light as gossamer web. And Mary, clasping her hands together in an ecstasy of admiration, noted every detail of the beautiful costume in its slow passing.
"It's like the Princess Olga's," she thought, recalling the old fairy-tale of the enchanted necklace. "Whiter than the whiteness of the fairest lily, fine, like the finest lace that the frost-elves weave, and softer than the softest ermine of the snow."
The long court train that swept behind her was all aglisten, as if embroidered with dewdrops and pearls. Mary watched her, scarcely breathing till she had ascended the steps to the stage. Then her appointed duke came forward to meet her and led her to the steps of the throne.
The music stopped. Again the heralds sounded their trumpets and the Lord Chamberlain announced the next duchess.
"You see," explained Gay, hastily, as all necks craned toward the door again, "each girl is duchess of some rose or other, like Killarney or Malmaison or Mar?chal Niel."
One after another they passed by to take their places beside the throne, all in such exquisitely beautiful costumes that Mary thought that each one must be indelibly photographed on her memory. But when they had passed, all she could remember of so many was a spangled procession of court trains, covered with cascades of crystal and silver and pearls and strung jewels.
Each time a new duchess swept slowly and majestically by, Mary turned a quick glance toward Phil to see if he were properly impressed; but when the Queen was announced, she had no eyes for anything but the regal figure proceeding slowly up the aisle, amid the admiring applause which almost drowned the music of the march.
It was at this juncture that Phil glanced back at Mary. Her face so plainly showed the admiration which filled her that he continued to watch her with an amused smile, saying to Roberta in an undertone:
"Look at Mary's rapt expression! She's always adored queens and such things, and now she feels that she's up against the real article."
"I don't wonder," answered Roberta, herself so interested that she turned her back on Phil until the royal party had passed by. Two little pages in costumes of white and gold, with plumed hats and spangled capes, bore the royal train, and Roberta tried to upset the dignity of one of them, who was a little friend of hers, by whispering, "Hello, Gerald, where did you get that feather?"
In Mary's estimation it was not the diamond crown that marked the Queen as especially regal, not the jewelled sceptre nor the white satin gown, heavily embroidered in gold roses and gleaming with brilliants; it was the fact that the long train borne by the little pages was of cloth-of-gold. To Mary, cloth-of-gold was more royal than ermine or purple velvet, and lovingly associated in her thought with the white samite of Tennyson's idyls. It was cloth-of-gold that the Lily Maid of Astolat had worn to her burying, and the only piece that Mary had ever seen was the drapery over the bier of the fair Elaine, when Lloyd took the part of the Lily Maid, in the tableaux at The Beeches. When she caught sight of it she clasped her hands still tighter, and never took her eyes from it until the Queen was seated on her throne, and the long, shining folds swept down beside her, the full length of the steps.
The presentation scene followed. In the name of The Order of the Alamo, the Queen was given a magnificent necklace, with a jewelled pendant. After that the visiting duchesses were received, representing many towns of Texas, from El Paso to the gulf. They came with their maids of honor, and when they had been met by their lords-in-waiting and their esquires, the entertainment for the Queen began.
Grecian maidens bearing garlands of roses danced before her. The second group was of seven little barefoot girls, carrying golden lyres, and forming a rainbow background for another small maid who gave a cymbal dance. The Grecian dances were followed by a gavotte of the time of Louis XIII, in which all the dukes and duchesses took part.
"They danced the minuet last year," commented Gay. "This is the end of the performance, but we'll wait to watch them go out, on their way to the Queen's ball. I went to that too, last year. These are good seats; we catch them coming and going."
The audience remaining seated until all the members of the Court had passed out two by two, had ample time for comment and observation. Bogey, who, seeing Mary's absorbing interest in the scene, had considerately left her undisturbed most of the time, now leaned over and began to talk. As Gay had once said, "When it comes to giving a girl a good time, Bogey is quite the nicest officer in the bunch," and Phil, overhearing scraps of their conversation, concluded that Mary was finding her escort as entertaining as the pageant. A backward glance now and then showed that she was not watching the recessional as closely as she was listening to him.
As they all started out of the hall together, moving slowly along with the crowd, barely an inch at a time, they talked over arrangements for the next day. Lieutenant Boglin could not be counted in. He had to ride in the procession with the rest of the troops from the Post who were to take part in the parade. Billy Mayrell had another engagement, so Phil proposed to take all three of the girls under his wing. It was too late to secure seats in the plaza from which to watch the flower battle. The Major had been able to get only two. So Phil said the Major and his wife should occupy those. He would come around for the girls in an automobile and they could watch the parade seated in that.
There was a blockade near the door, but as soon as they could get through it, they all walked up the street to a building in which the Major had secured the use of a second-story window, from which they could watch the parade of the Queen and her court on their way to the ball. The time spent in waiting was well worth while, when it finally appeared. The horses of the chariots were led by Nubian servants, and each chariot represented a rose, wherein sat the duchess who had made it her choice.
The Queen's chariot was surmounted by a mammoth American Beauty rose, and as she smiled out from the midst of its petals, Mary had one more entrancing view of the royal robes. This time they were lit up by the red gleam of torches, for eight torch-bearers, four on a side, accompanied each chariot, and added their light to the brilliant illuminations of the streets.
"You must see the river," said Billy Mayrell, after the procession had passed by. "Nobody can describe it, with the lights strung across it from shore to shore all down its winding course. It makes you think of Venice."
He led them to a place where they could look across a bend and see one of the bridges. It was strung so thickly with red lights which outlined every part, that it seemed to be made of glowing rubies, and its reflection in the water made another shining ruby bridge below, wavering on the dark current.
Mary leaned over the rail watching the shimmering lights, and feeling dreamily that this City of the Alamo was an enchanted city; that the buildings looming up on every side were not for the purpose of barter and trade. They were thrown up simply as backgrounds for the dazzling illuminations which outlined them against the night sky. The horns of the revellers answering each other down every street, the music of distant bands, the laughter of the jostling throngs, all deepened the illusion.
It did not seem possible that this could be the city through which she had once tramped in the rain, discouraged and forlorn, in search of a home. It was a realm given over utterly to "Mirth and Merriment," where a gracious young queen held sway, where illness and trouble and grief had no part.
"I don't wonder that the Major wants everybody not already a loyal Texan to see this," she said to the Lieutenant. "It's enough to make one want to live here always."
She made the same remark to Gay next afternoon, as she sat beside her on the back seat of the automobile. Roberta was on the front seat with Phil. He had ordered a machine which he could drive himself, and they had taken a run through the principal streets to see all the decorations, before coming to a standstill to wait for the procession. It was an inspiring scene, the grandstand packed with applauding spectators, the plaza crowded from park to curbstone. Shops and offices had closed for the day, schools were dismissed and all work abandoned as far as possible, in order that everyone might share in the Carnival play-time. The wise old town knows the full worth of holidays, and makes the most of each one.
The chariots Mary had seen in the brilliantly-lighted streets the night before, lost some of their glamour seen by day; but the duchesses and their ladies-in-waiting were dressed now in the colors of their chosen roses instead of the court-robes, and there were many new features in this parade; floats and handsomely decorated carriages, and a long line of troops from the post with the famous military bands. It was hard to sit still when they played so inspiringly.
Back and forth in front of the Alamo went the two divisions of the parade, meeting and passing and turning to meet and pass again, all the while pelting each other with flowers, till the plaza where they rode was covered deep with them. And the bands played and the people cheered, till the smallest schoolboy in their midst felt a thrill of gratitude to the heroes whose deeds they were commemorating. He might miss the deeper meaning of it all, but he grasped one fact clearly enough: that had it not been for the grim battle which those brave fellows fought to the death, there would have been no San Jacinto Day for him. No pageant-filled holiday to make one feel that it is a great and glorious thing to be a son of the Lone Star State.
Phil dined at the Major's again that night, and Roberta was the only other guest beside Mary. Gay had objected when her father proposed others, saying that they intended to devote the entire evening to music. Since they had discovered what a magnificent voice Mr. Tremont had, and he had discovered what proficient accompanists she and Roberta were, they had decided to treat themselves to a musicale given by the three, with only Mary for audience. The family could listen, of course, but with the understanding that there was to be no conversation. As the Major had an engagement which took him out immediately after dinner and Mrs. Melville had some friends drop in to call soon after, it happened that their audience was limited to one.скачать книгу бесплатно
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