Mary Ware in Texasскачать книгу бесплатно
The scattered violets were all picked up now, but Mary still stood by the table, waiting for her mother's reply.
"It's so long ago I'll have to stop and count up. Let me see. You're twenty-two and Joyce twenty-three – really it's almost a quarter of a century since I've been in a large city, and seen anything like this in the way of illuminations, with music and crowds. Your father took me to New York the winter after we were married. Before that I'd always had my full share. I'd visited a great deal and travelled with Cousin Kate and her father. And I'm sure that no one could want anything brighter and sweeter and more complete than life as I found it as a girl, in 'my old Kentucky home.' As I had so much more than most people the first part of my life I couldn't complain when I had less afterwards. But I certainly do enjoy this," she added earnestly, as the orchestra began the haunting air of the Mexican "Swallow Song," La Golondrina, and the odor of roses stole up from below. The court was filled now with gay little groups of people who had the air of finding life one continual holiday.
The cheeriness of the reply almost brought tears to Mary's eyes, as she realized for the first time how much more than any of them her mother must have suffered from the hardships of their early poverty, because it was in such sharp contrast to what she had known before. To hide the little quiver that wanted to creep into her voice Mary laughed as she joined them, dragging a chair through the French window after her.
"Here you sit like two comfortable cats in the lap of luxury," she said. "You'll begin to purr soon."
"That's exactly what we're doing now," answered Jack. "We're congratulating ourselves on being in this land of summer with every comfort at hand and a free show to entertain us. This is as good as being in a box-party at the opera."
Mary settled herself with her chair tipped back on its rockers, and looked down on the court below. "I wish we could stay at this hotel all winter," she exclaimed. "I wish we could be as rich all the time as I feel to-night. Ever since we started South in Mr. Robeson's car I've felt as opulent and as elegant as if we owned the earth, and I've noticed that you and mamma take to luxury quite as readily as I do – like ducks to water. Norman is learning fast, too, for one of his opportunities. He's having the time of his life now, down in the lobby, just 'seein' things at night.' He asked me for a quarter when I left him, to get some postcards of the Alamo and the plaza to send home."
"Well?" queried Jack as she paused. Mary had had the family finances in hand since his illness, and her economical clutch had earned her the title of "Watch-dog of the Treasury."
"Oh, I gave it to him," she answered. "Gave it with a lordly sweep of the hand, as if bestowing millions were a daily habit of mine. But to-morrow it will be a different story. To-morrow a copper cent may be too great a boon for my family to ask me to part with.
To-morrow we go house-hunting, with the sad realization that we're all as poor as Job's old blue turkey hen."
"What's the odds so long as you're happy," quoted Jack. There was a long pause in which they listened to the music, each enjoying to the fullest the novelty of being in such a place. Then Jack asked, "Didn't you have any adventures down in the dining-room? We rather expected that you'd have a series of them to report."
"Mercy, yes! I've had half a dozen since I saw you last, very mild ones though. I've seen some most interesting people, a major's daughter and a lieutenant from the Post, called Bogey, and I overheard the beginning of a romance, a most sentimental request for an 'adorable little curl,' and I've hooked Mrs. James Barnaby of Bauer, Texas, up in her best black and purple gown, and James himself has invited me to take 'pot luck' with them up at the Barnaby ranch any time I choose to go. He's a dear and so is she, and if you'd only – "
Her chatter was stopped by a sudden exclamation from Jack, and following his gaze into the court below she saw two of the group in which she had been so interested earlier in the evening.
"That's the lieutenant I told you about!" she exclaimed excitedly. "That's Bogey, and the other is the major's daughter. I don't wonder that you're stunned at the sight of a pretty girl like that when it's been such ages since you have seen one."
"I'm stunned because it happens to be a girl I know," exclaimed Jack in a tone almost as excited as her own. "That's Gay Melville, and I met her at The Locusts the night I stopped in Lloydsboro Valley with the Shermans."
"Are you sure?" gasped Mary.
"Dead sure! She played the violin that evening, and you can't take your eyes off her face when she plays, it's so sweet, and you could never forget it after you'd watched her through one performance. Then her hair – there's no mistaking that, and that little trick of lifting her chin. Besides, it's no surprising matter to see her. She lives here and she's a popular girl."
"Oh, I know it!" exclaimed Mary, "and I've known all the time that her home is in San Antonio. Haven't I heard the Warwick Hall seniors talk of her by the hour? But somehow I never put two and two together and got it through my head that we're in the same town. Really I'd forgotten her in the excitement of our sudden coming. But now it just takes me off my feet to know that we're under the same roof, and to remember that she lived a whole summer in Lloydsboro Valley and is such a dear friend of the Little Colonel and Betty. Why, we're bound to meet her some time this winter. Oh, I know we're going to have a good time here, and I think that San Antonio is just the dearest, most charming old place in the world."
"It is certainly a good place to be to-night," answered Jack, following with intent gaze the vanishing figure of the major's pretty daughter. "And to-morrow – "
He did not finish the sentence, for the violins were throbbing through that last refrain of La Golondrina so softly and sweetly that he did not want to lose a note. When it was done Mary took up his last word, quoting with a dramatic sweep of the hand, "To-morrow do thy worst, for I have lived to-day!"
IN SEARCH OF A HOME
It was with the vision of a charming little bungalow in her mind that Mary started on her search for a house next morning; a little white bungalow half hidden in vines, and set among heuisach and mesquite trees, or maybe in the shelter of one giant pecan. As they had whirled around the city in the touring car the day before, she had seen several of that kind which she thought would suit both their taste and their purse.
She had not yet reached the point of picturing to herself the inside furnishings. They would have to be of the simplest sort, of course. But one picture seemed to rise up of its own accord whenever she thought of the new home. She saw a big living-room, the centre of a cheery hospitality, where girls fluttered in and out at all hours of the day. Bright, fun-loving, interesting girls like Gay Melville and Roberta. Her wistful little face grew very sweet and eager at the mere thought of such companionship, and there was such a dancing light in her gray eyes and such a happy glow of expectancy on her cheeks that more than one passer-by took a second glance and felt the morning brighter because of it.
Mrs. Ware had expected to accompany her, leaving Jack to Norman's care for the morning, but a neuralgic headache, an old enemy of hers, seized her on awakening, and she was obliged to shift the responsibility to Mary's willing shoulders. Although it doubled the car-fare, Mary took Norman with her for company. Armed with a map of the city and a list of houses, clipped from the morning paper, they started gaily out on their quest. It was good just to be alive on such a morning, and out in the brilliant sunshine, with the air so fresh and sweet, and the plaza as green and flowery as if it were mid-summer instead of the week before Thanksgiving.
They walked at first, wanting a closer view than the cars afforded of the fascinating old curio shops. Mexicans were no novelty to them as they were to Northern tourists. They had seen too many in Phoenix and at the mining camp to care for a second look at the tall, peaked hats of the men or the rebosa-draped heads of the women. But the narrow streets of the Mexican quarter with their chili and tamale stands interested them. It was some kind of a f?te day, and flags were flying and a festive spirit was in the air; a spirit that seems to belong peculiarly to this alluring old Spanish city, where f?te days come often and one soon learns to say "ma?ana" with the rest.
Norman, who picked up bits of information here and there as a magnet draws needles and nails, imparted some of it to Mary as he trudged along beside her. Everything was making a deep impression on his mind because this was his first journey of any consequence.
"This is the third oldest city in the United States, the guide book says," he began, then paused before a shop window, attracted by the sign, "Dressed Fleas, 35 cents," to exclaim, scornfully, "Who'd be fool enough to want one of those things, dead or alive!" With a skip or two to catch up with Mary, he continued, "And there's thirteen miles of river twisting in and out among the streets, with seventeen bridges over it."
"It surely is the twistiest, crookedest river that I ever saw on a map," answered Mary, "but that's what makes the town so lovely – all those graceful bends with the green banks and tropical foliage and the little boats tied up here and there to the landings. I wish we could find the kind of a place we want somewhere along the river. Maybe we could manage to get a boat. Anyhow, if we couldn't do any better we could make a raft. I'd love to pole one, and it would be just like doing it in our own back yard if the river ran right behind our place."
"Say! Let's!" exclaimed Norman, explosively. "Mary Ware, you've got a head on you that's worth something! And I'll tell you something else I wish we could manage to do, – that's to get a house out near Brackenridge park. They've got antelope and buffalo and elk, and all sorts of wild animals out there. I'd like to see them often."
"We'd better get down to business, then," said Mary, "instead of loitering along this way. We can look at the shops after we've found a house."
"Stop just a minute at the Alamo," begged Norman. "I want to see the place where Travis and Davy Crockett and Bowie put up such a desperate fight against Santa Anna. This is just as interesting a place to me as Bunker Hill or Plymouth Rock would be, and I want to write home to Billy Downs about it."
"But it isn't the exact spot," objected Mary, who wanted to lose no more time and was sometimes provokingly literal. "This is only the little chapel, and the real fight took place in a court that was away over yonder, and the walls were pulled down long ago."
Norman planted himself at the entrance and proceeded to argue the matter. "But the chapel was part of it, and it stands for the whole thing now – a sort of monument, you know, and there's relics inside and – "
"Oh, well, come on, then," said Mary, "if you're that anxious, but just for a minute. You can come here some other time by yourself and prowl around all day."
She followed him into the dim interior, still insisting at every step that they must hurry. It was so early no one but the care-taker was in sight. She knew how Norman liked history, and what enthusiastic admiration he had for the heroes of frontier times, but she was surprised to see how deeply he was impressed by the venerable building. He took off his hat as they entered and walked around as reverently as if they were in a church. As they gazed up at the narrow, iron-barred windows which had witnessed such a desperate struggle for liberty, he said, in an awed tone, which made even Mary feel solemn:
"'Here, for ten days, took place the most memorable, thrilling, tragic, and bloody siege in American history. One hundred and seventy-nine indomitable American frontier riflemen against an army of six thousand brave and disciplined troops led by veteran officers!'"
"Where did you get all that?" demanded Mary, in surprise.
"I saw it in a little pamphlet, in the reading-room last night, and it told about the Comanche Indians that came here about seventy years ago. The fiercest fighting you ever heard of – thirty-two Indian warriors killed right out there in the street that we came across just now, and seven Texans."
"Goodness, Norman!" she answered, with a shrug. "What do you want to resurrect all those old horrors for? It doesn't make the place any more attractive to me to know that its streets once ran red with blood. I'd rather think of them as they will be in the Spring on San Jacinto Day, red with roses after the Battle of Flowers. Think of our being here to see that!" she added, exultingly.
As they emerged from the dimly-lighted chapel into the blinding sunshine of the street, Norman remarked thoughtfully, "Of course I'm sorry that Jack had the rheumatism so badly that he had to get out of Lone Rock, but as long as we did have to leave home, I'm jolly glad it brought us to San Antonio. Think of the times we'll have going out to Fort Sam Houston to guard-mounts and parade. It's something just to be within walking distance of the largest army post of the United States."
"I'm thinking of the public library," was her rejoinder. "Jack can have all the books he wants to read this winter; and I'm thinking of the friends we'll have; the real, satisfying kind, that do things, and go places, and think, and keep you from sinking to the level of a cabbage. I've always wanted to live in the thick of things, and here we are at last!"
They paused on the curb to wait for a long string of vehicles to pass. An army ambulance came first, drawn by sleek mules, driven by a soldier in khaki and carrying several ladies and children from the Post. Close behind it came a riding party, clattering in on horseback from a breakfast at the Country Club. Then followed close on each other's heels, a dilapidated prairie schooner, three boys on a burro, a huckster's wagon, and a carriage with liveried coachman and prancing, thoroughbred horses. The clang of a long line of electric cars whizzing past, the honk of many automobiles, and the warning sound of bicycle bells, as their owners wheeled in and out through the bewildering maze of vehicles and pedestrians, made Norman exclaim, joyfully, "Gee! I'm glad we're out of Lone Rock! There's something to see here every single minute."
Mary signalled a passing car, and as soon as they were seated, drew out her newspaper clippings. "Mrs. Barnaby said for us to go to Laurel Heights first," she remarked, "so I believe we'll find it best to try this one. It sounds all right."
She read the advertisement aloud: "A five-room bungalow, never been occupied, all modern conveniences, one block from car-line, rent reasonable, inquire next door."
Then she unfolded the map and studied it as they whirled along, now and then repeating the name of a street as she came across one which sounded particularly pleasing and story-bookish, as she called it, to Norman: "King William Street, Mistletoe Avenue, Dolorosa and San Pedro."
When a little later they alighted from the car and found the place described in the advertisement, it was almost the bungalow of Mary's dreams. The vines were lacking and the lawn was still strewn with the d?bris of building, but that could soon be remedied.
"What good, wide porches to hang a hammock on!" exclaimed Norman, as they mounted the steps and walked around, peering through the windows.
"You'll have to say gallery," corrected Mary. "Everybody down here calls a porch a gallery. They won't know what you mean."
They walked all around the house, exclaiming over each attractive feature, as each window revealed a new one. The electric lights, the convenient little bathroom, the open fire-place in the living-room, the built-in china closet. Norman's only complaint was that the house was nowhere near the river. That was a drawback in Mary's eyes also, for ever since they had thought of a boat it had begun to take its place in that mental picture in which those alluring girls were always fluttering in and out.
"Of course we'll look farther," she said. "It wouldn't do to take the first one we came to when there are so many to choose from. I'll just run in next door and inquire the price, and tell them we'll make up our minds later."
But when she had made her inquiries her decision followed immediately. What might seem reasonable rent to the owner and to the people of that neighborhood was entirely out of the reach of the Ware pocket-book. "You won't find anything cheaper in this part of town," the woman assured her, and after several more experiences of the same kind, Mary believed her.
They passed all sorts of beautiful homes in their wanderings; stately Colonial mansions, comfortable wide-spreading houses with broad galleries and hospitable doors, picturesque bungalows in the mission style, little white-winged cottages over-run with tangles of Mar?chal Niel roses, their fragrant buds swinging from the very eaves. The farther they searched the more Mary longed to find a home among them, and it was with a feeling of deep disappointment that she turned back to the hotel for lunch.
Mrs. Ware had spent part of the morning telephoning to different real estate offices recommended by Mr. Barnaby, and had a small list of houses sifted down from those offered her.
"They tell me we are too late to get much of a choice," she reported. "People have been pouring into the city for a month, and the freight stations and ware-houses are piled up with household goods. It is this way every fall, they say. No matter how many homes they build there are always more families clamoring to occupy them than can be accommodated. It would be easier for us to find one if we could afford to pay more, but I had to cut out all the high-priced ones from the lists that they gave me."
Mary took the slip of paper from her mother, saying, "So far the ones we have seen have been too big or too expensive, or else far too small. I wonder what will be the matter with these?"
She began to find out almost as soon as she and Norman resumed their search again after lunch. The lists they had led them into older parts of the town, where the rented houses had seen several generations of transitory occupants. Some of the places they visited made her shrink back in dismay. A long procession of careless tenants had passed through, each leaving some contribution to the evidences of their slack housekeeping. Nearly every family had had its share of disease and death, and Mary hurried away with a wry face and the single exclamation, "germs!" Mrs. Barnaby had spoken of that class of houses. "You want to be careful," she told her. "Even the nicest looking may have had dreadfully sick tenants in them, and although there is a law requiring landlords to fumigate, and all that sort of thing, you can't be sure that it has been done as thoroughly as it should."
"This is getting monotonous," Mary exclaimed, wearily, when they had walked block after block to no purpose, and the end of the day found them with nothing accomplished. The morning freshness of the atmosphere had given place to such enervating heat that she had been carrying her coat on her arm for several hours. The sky was overcast with clouds, when fagged and inwardly cross she climbed on the car that was to take them back to the hotel, vowing that she couldn't drag herself another step.
At the next corner half a dozen people hurried down the street, waving frantically for the car to wait. As they crowded into the aisle, laughing and out of breath, Mary heard a lady exclaim, "We certainly were lucky to catch this car. If we'd had to wait for the next one the 'Norther' surely would have caught us, and this is going to be a nasty, wet one, too."
Even as she spoke there was a sense of sudden chill in the air. A cold gale swept down the street, setting flags and awnings to flapping, and blinding pedestrians with whirling clouds of dust. The conductor hurried to close the car windows, and the passengers began struggling into their wraps.
The sudden freshening of the air had such a bracing effect that Mary straightened up, feeling that after all she might be able to walk the half block from the car to the hotel. When the time came, she found that she could even run the distance, for the few big drops of rain that splashed in her face were the fore-runner of a downpour, and they had no umbrella. Just as they reached the entrance such a mighty deluge began that Mary's disappointment in house-hunting was somewhat softened by the fact that her beloved hat had escaped a wetting which must have ruined it.
"Never mind, little Vicar," said Jack, consolingly, when she had made her report to the assembled family. "The proverbial turn in our fortune is bound to come. It's never failed us yet, you know."скачать книгу бесплатно