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At sixteen-forty-five the Waring-Gaunt car was standing at the Melville Station awaiting the arrival of the train which was to bring Jane and her father, but no train was in sight. Larry, after inquiry at the wicket, announced that she was an hour late. How much more the agent, after the exasperating habit of railroad officials, could not say, nor could he assign any reason for the delay.
"Let me talk to him," said Nora impatiently. "I know Mr. Field."
Apparently the official reserve in which Mr. Field had wrapped himself was not proof against the smile which Nora flung at him through the wicket.
"We really cannot say how late she will be, Miss Nora. I may tell you, but we are not saying anything about it, that there has been an accident."
"An accident!" exclaimed Nora. "Why, we are expecting--"
"No, there is no one hurt. A freight has been derailed, and torn up the track a bit. The passenger train is held up just beyond Fairfield. It will be a couple of hours, perhaps three, before she arrives." At this point the telegraph instrument clicked. "Just a minute, Miss Nora, there may be something on the wire." With his fingers on the key he executed some mysterious prestidigitations, wrote down some words, and came to the wicket again. "Funny," he said, "it is a wire for you, Miss Nora."
Nora took the yellow slip and read: "Delayed by derailed freight. Time of arrival uncertain. Very sorry, Jane."
"What do you think of this?" cried Nora, carrying the telegram out to the car. "Isn't it perfectly exasperating? That takes off one of their nights."
"Where is the accident?" inquired Mrs. Waring-Gaunt.
"Just above Fairfield."
"Fairfield! The poor things! Jump in and we will be there in no time. It is not much further to Wolf Willow from Fairfield than from here. Hurry up, we must make time."
"Now, Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, I know your driving. Just remember that I am an only son. I prefer using all four wheels on curves, please."
"Let her go," cried Nora.
And Mrs. Waring-Gaunt "let her go" at such speed that Larry declared he had time for only two perfectly deep breaths, one before they started, the other after they had pulled up beside the Pullman car at the scene of the wreck.
"Jane, Jane, Jane," yelled Larry, waving his hands wildly to a girl who was seen sitting beside a window reading. The girl looked up, sprang from her seat, and in a moment or two appeared on the platform. "Come on," yelled Larry. He climbed over a wire fence, and up the steep grade of the railroad embankment. Down sprang the girl, met him half way up the embankment, and gave him both her hands. "Jane, Jane," exclaimed Larry. "You are looking splendidly. Do you know," he added in a low voice, "I should love to kiss you right here. May I? Look at all the people; they would enjoy it so much."
The girl jerked away her hands, the blood showing dully under her brown skin. "Stop it, you silly boy. Is that Nora? Yes, it is." She waved her hand wildly at Nora, who was struggling frantically with the barbed wire fence. "Wait, I am coming, Nora," cried Jane.
Down the embankment she scrambled and, over the wire, the two girls embraced each other to the delight of the whole body of the passengers gathered at windows and on platforms, and to the especial delight of a handsome young giant, resplendent in a new suit of striped flannels, negligee shirt, blue socks with tie to match, and wearing a straw hat adorned with a band in college colours. With a wide smile upon his face he stood gazing down upon the enthusiastic osculation of the young ladies.
"Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, this is Jane," cried Nora. "Mrs. Waring-Gaunt has come to meet you and take you home," she added to Jane. "You know we have no car of our own."
"How do you do," said Jane, smiling at Mrs. Waring-Gaunt. "I can't get at you very well just now. It was very kind of you to come for us."
"And she has left her brother very sick at home," said Nora in a low voice.
"We won't keep you waiting," said Jane, beginning to scramble up the bank again. "Come, Larry, I shall get father and you shall help with our things."
"Right you are," said Larry.
"Met your friends, I see, Miss Brown," said the handsome giant. "I know it is mean of me, but I am really disgusted. It is bad enough to be held up here for a night, but to lose your company too."
"Well, I am awfully glad," said Jane, giving him such a delighted smile that he shook his head disconsolately.
"No need telling me that. Say," he added in an undertone, "that's your friend Nora, ain't it? Stunning girl. Introduce me, won't you?"
"Yes, if you will help me with my things. I am in an awful hurry and don't want to keep them waiting. Larry, this is Mr. Dean Wakeham." The young man shook hands with cordial frankness, Larry with suspicion in his heart.
"Let me have your check, Jane, and I will go and get your trunk," said Larry.
"No, you come with me, Larry," said Jane decidedly. "The trunk is too big for you to handle. Mr. Wakeham, you will get it for me, won't you, please? I will send a porter to help."
"Gladly, Miss Brown. No, I mean with the deepest pain and regret," said Wakeham, going for the trunk while Larry accompanied her in quest of the minor impedimenta that constituted her own and her father's baggage.
"Jane, have you any idea how glad I am to see you?" demanded Larry as they passed into the car.
Jane's radiant smile transformed her face. "Yes, I think so," she said simply. "But we must hurry. Oh, here is Papa."
Dr. Brown hailed Larry with acclaim. "This is very kind of you, my dear boy; you have saved us a tedious wait."
"We must hurry, Papa," said Jane, cutting him short. "Mrs. Waring- Gaunt, who has come for us in her car, has left her brother ill at home." She marshalled them promptly into the car and soon had them in line for the motor, bearing the hand baggage and wraps, the porter following with Jane's own bag. "Thank you, porter," said Jane, giving him a smile that reduced that functionary to the verge of grinning imbecility, and a tip which he received with an air of absent-minded indifference. "Good-bye, porter; you have made us very comfortable," said Jane, shaking hands with him.
"Thank you, Miss; it shuah is a pleasuah to wait on a young lady like you, Miss. It shuah is, Miss. Ah wish you a prospec jounay, Miss, Ah do."
"I wonder what is keeping Mr. Wakeham," said Jane. "I am very sorry to keep you waiting, Mrs. Waring-Gaunt. Larry, would you mind?"
"Certainly not," said Larry, hurrying off toward the baggage car. In a few minutes Mr. Wakeham appeared with the doleful news that the trunk was not in the car and must have been left behind.
"I am quite sure it is there," said Jane, setting off herself for the car, the crestfallen Mr. Wakeham and the porter following behind her.
At the door of the car the baggage man met her with regretful apologies. "The trunk must have been left behind."
He was brusquely informed by Jane that she had seen it put on board.
"Then it must have been put off by mistake at Calgary?" This suggestion was brushed aside as unworthy of consideration. The trunk was here in this car, she was sure. This the baggage man and Mr. Wakeham united in declaring quite impossible. "We have turned the blasted car upside down," said the latter.
"Impossible?" exclaimed Jane, who had been exploring the dark recesses of the car. "Why, here it is, I knew it was here."
"Hurrah," cried Larry, "we have got it anyway."
Mr. Wakeham and the baggage man went to work to extricate the trunk from the lowest tier of boxes. They were wise enough to attempt no excuse or explanation, and in Jane's presence they felt cribbed, cabined and confined in the use of such vocabulary as they were wont to consider appropriate to the circumstances, and in which they prided themselves as being adequately expert. A small triumphal procession convoyed the trunk to the motor, Jane leading as was fitting, Larry and Mr. Wakeham forming the rear guard. The main body consisted of the porter, together with the baggage man, who, under a flagellating sense of his incompetence, was so moved from his wonted attitude of haughty indifference as to the fate of a piece of baggage committed to his care when once he had contemptuously hurled it forth from the open door of his car as to personally aid in conducting by the unusual and humiliating process of actually handling this particular bit of baggage down a steep and gravelly bank and over a wire fence and into a motor car.
"Jane's a wonder," confided Larry to Mr. Wakeham.
"She sure is," said that young man. "You cannot slip anything past her, and she's got even that baggage man tamed and tied and ready to catch peanuts in his mouth. First time I have seen that done."
"You just wait till she smiles her farewell at him," said Larry, hugely enjoying the prospect.
Together they stood awaiting the occurrence of this phenomenon. "Gosh-a-mighty, look at him," murmured Mr. Wakeham. "Takes it like pie. He'd just love to carry that blasted trunk up the grade and back to the car, if she gave him the wink. Say, she ain't much to look at, but somehow she's got me handcuffed and chained to her chariot wheels. Say," he continued with a shyness not usual with him, "would you mind introducing me to the party?"
"Come along," said Larry.
The introduction, however, was performed by Jane, who apparently considered Mr. Wakeham as being under her protection. "Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, this is Mr. Wakeham. Mr. Wakeham is from Chicago, but," she hastened to add, "he knows some friends of ours in Winnipeg."
"So you see I am fairly respectable," said Mr. Wakeham, shaking hand with Mrs. Waring-Gaunt and Nora.
When the laughter had ceased, Mr. Wakeham said, "If your car were only a shade larger I should beg hospitality along with Dr. and Miss Brown."
"Room on the top," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt with a smile, "but it seems the only place left. You are just passing through, Mr. Wakeham?"
"Yes, I am going on to Manor Mine."
"Oh, that's only twenty miles down the line."
"Then may I run up to see you?" eagerly asked Mr. Wakeham.
"Certainly, we shall be delighted to see you," said the lady.
"Count on me, then," said the delighted Mr. Wakeham, lifting his hat in farewell.
Dr. Brown took his place in the front seat beside Mrs. Waring- Gaunt, the three young people occupying the seat in the rear.
"Who is he?" asked Larry when they had finally got under way.
"A friend of the James Murrays in Winnipeg. You remember them, don't you? Ethel Murray was in your year. He is very nice indeed, don't you think so, Papa?" said Jane, appealing to her father.
"Fine young chap," said Dr. Brown with emphasis. "His father is in mines in rather a big way, I believe. Lives in Chicago, has large holdings in Alberta coal mines about here somewhere, I fancy. The young man is a recent graduate from Cornell and is going into his father's business. He strikes me as an exceptionally able young fellow." And for at least five miles of the way Dr. Brown discussed the antecedents, the character, the training, the prospects of the young American till Larry felt qualified to pass a reasonably stiff examination on that young man's history, character and career.
"Now tell me," said Larry to Jane at the first real opening that offered, "what does this talk about a three days' visit to us mean. The idea of coming a thousand miles on your first visit to your friends, some of whom you have not seen for eight years and staying three days!"
"You see Papa is on his way to Banff," explained Jane, "and then he goes to the coast and he only has a short time. So we could plan only for three days here."
"We can plan better than that," said Larry confidently, "but never mind just now. We shall settle that to-morrow."
The journey home was given to the careful recital of news of Winnipeg, of the 'Varsity, and of mutual friends. It was like listening to the reading of a diary to hear Jane bring up to date the doings and goings and happenings in the lives of their mutual friends for the past year. Gossip it was, but of such kindly nature as left no unpleasant taste in the mouth and gave no unpleasant picture of any living soul it touched.
"Oh, who do you think came to see me two weeks ago? An old friend of yours, Hazel Sleighter. Mrs. Phillips she is now. She has two lovely children. Mr. Phillips is in charge of a department in Eaton's store."
"You don't tell me," cried Larry. "How is dear Hazel? How I loved her once! I wonder where her father is and Tom and the little girl. What was her name?"
"Ethel May. Oh, she is married too, in your old home, to Ben-- somebody."
"Ben, big Ben Hopper? Why, think of that kid married."
"She is just my age," said Jane soberly, glad of the dusk of the falling night. She would have hated to have Larry see the quick flush that came to her cheek. Why the reference to Ethel May's marriage should have made her blush she hardly knew, and that itself was enough to annoy her, for Jane always knew exactly why she did things.
"And Mr. and Mrs. Sleighter," said Jane, continuing her narrative, "have gone to Toronto. They have become quite wealthy, Hazel says, and Tom is with his father in some sort of financial business. What is it, Papa?"
Dr. Brown suddenly waked up. "What is what, my dear? You will have to forgive me. This wonderful scenery, these hills here and those mountains are absorbing my whole attention. So wonderful it all is that I hardly feel like apologising to Mrs. Waring-Gaunt for ignoring her."
"Don't think of it," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt.
"Do you know, Jane," continued Dr. Brown, "that at this present moment you are passing through scenery of its kind unsurpassed possibly in the world?"
"I was talking to Larry, Papa," said Jane, and they all laughed at her.
"I was talking to Jane," said Larry.
"But look at this world about you," continued her father, "and look, do look at the moon coming up behind you away at the prairie rim." They all turned about except Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, whose eyes were glued to the two black ruts before her cutting through the grass. "Oh, wonderful, wonderful," breathed Dr. Brown. "Would it be possible to pause, Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, at the top of this rise?"
"No," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, "but at the top of the rise beyond, where you will get the full sweep of the country in both directions."
"Is that where we get your lake, Nora," inquired Jane, "and the valley beyond up to the mountains?"
"How do you know?" said Nora.
"I remember Larry told me once," she said.
"That's the spot," said Nora. "But don't look around now. Wait until you are told."
"Papa," said Jane in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice, "what is it that Tom is doing?" Larry shouted.
"Tom, what Tom? Jane, my dear," said Dr. Brown in a pained voice, "does Tom matter much or any one else in the midst of all this glory?"
"I think so, Papa," said Jane firmly. "You matter, don't you? Everybody matters. Besides, we were told not to look until we reached the top."
"Well, Jane, you are an incorrigible Philistine," said her father, "and I yield. Tom's father is a broker, and Tom is by way of being a broker too, though I doubt if he is broking very much. May I dismiss Tom for a few minutes now?" Again they all laughed.
"I don't see what you are all laughing at," said Jane, and lapsed into silence.
"Now then," cried Nora, "in three minutes."
At the top of the long, gently rising hill the motor pulled up, purring softly. They all stood up and gazed around about them. "Look back," commanded Nora. "It is fifty miles to that prairie rim there." From their feet the prairie spread itself in long softly undulating billows to the eastern horizon, the hollows in shadow, the crests tipped with the silver of the rising moon. Here and there wreaths of mist lay just above the shadow lines, giving a ghostly appearance to the hills. "Now look this way," said Nora, and they turned about. Away to the west in a flood of silvery light the prairie climbed by abrupt steps, mounting ever higher over broken rocky points and rocky ledges, over bluffs of poplar and dark masses of pine and spruce, up to the grey, bare sides of the mighty mountains, up to their snow peaks gleaming elusive, translucent, faintly discernible against the blue of the sky. In the valley immediately at their feet the waters of the little lake gleamed like a polished shield set in a frame of ebony. "That's our lake," said Nora, "with our house just behind it in the woods. And nearer in that little bluff is Mrs. Waring-Gaunts home."
"Papa," said Jane softly, "we must not keep Mrs. Waring-Gaunt."
"Thank you, Jane," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt. "I fear I must go on."
"Don't you love it?" inquired Larry enthusiastically and with a touch of impatience in his voice.
"Oh, yes, it is lovely," said Jane.
"But, Jane, you will not get wild over it," said Larry.
"Get wild? I love it, really I do. But why should I get wild over it. Oh, I know you think, and Papa thinks, that I am awful. He says I have no poetry in me, and perhaps he is right."
In a few minutes the car stopped at the door of Mrs. Waring-Gaunt's house. "I shall just run in for a moment," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt. "Kathleen will want to see you, and perhaps will go home with you. I shall send her out."
Out from the vine-shadowed porch into the white light came Kathleen, stood a moment searching the faces of the party, then moved toward Dr. Brown with her hands eagerly stretched out. "Oh, Dr. Brown," she cried, "it is so good to see you here."
"But my dear girl, my dear girl, how wonderful you look! Why, you have actually grown more beautiful than when we saw you last!"
"Oh, thank you, Dr. Brown. And there is Jane," cried Kathleen, running around to the other side of the car. "It is so lovely to see you and so good of you to come to us," she continued, putting her arms around Jane and kissing her.
"I wanted to come, you know," said Jane.
"Yes, it is Jane's fault entirely," said Dr. Brown. "I confess I hesitated to impose two people upon you this way, willy-nilly. But Jane would have it that you would be glad to have us."
"And as usual Jane was right," said Larry with emphasis.
"Yes," said Kathleen, "Jane was right. Jane is a dear to think that way about us. Dr. Brown," continued Kathleen with a note of anxiety in her voice, "Mrs. Waring-Gaunt wondered if you would mind coming in to see her brother. He was wounded with a gunshot in the arm about ten days ago. Dr. Hudson, who was one of your pupils, I believe, said he would like to have you see him when you came. I wonder if you would mind coming in now." Kathleen's face was flushed and her words flowed in a hurried stream.
"Not at all, not at all," answered the doctor, rising hastily from the motor and going in with Kathleen.
"Oh, Larry," breathed Jane in a rapture of delight, "isn't she lovely, isn't she lovely? I had no idea she was so perfectly lovely." Not the moon, nor the glory of the landscape with all its wonder of plain and valley and mountain peak had been able to awaken Jane to ecstasy, but the rare loveliness of this girl, her beauty, her sweet simplicity, had kindled Jane to enthusiasm.
"Well, Jane, you are funny," said Larry. "You rave and go wild over Kathleen, and yet you keep quite cool over that most wonderful view."
"View!" said Jane contemptuously. "No, wait, Larry, let me explain. I do think it all very wonderful, but I love people. People after all are better than mountains, and they are more wonderful too."
"Are they?" said Larry dubiously. "Not so lovely, sometimes."
"Some people," insisted Jane, "are more wonderful than all the Rocky Mountains together. Look at Kathleen," she cried triumphantly. "You could not love that old mountain there, could you? But, Kathleen--"
"Don't know about that," said Larry. "Dear old thing."
"Tell me how Mr. Romayne was hurt," said Jane, changing the subject.
In graphic language Nora gave her the story of the accident with all the picturesque details, recounting Kathleen's part in it with appropriate emotional thrills. Jane listened with eyes growing wider with each horrifying elaboration.
"Do you think his arm will ever be all right?" she inquired anxiously.
"We do not know yet," said Nora sombrely.
"Nonsense," interrupted Larry sharply. "His arm will be perfectly all right. You people make me tired with your passion for horrors and possible horrors."
Nora was about to make a hot reply when Jane inquired quietly, "What does the doctor say? He ought to know."
"That's just it," said Nora. "He said yesterday he did not like the look of it at all. You know he did, Larry. Mrs. Waring-Gaunt told me so. They are quite anxious about it. But we will hear what Dr. Brown says and then we will know."
But Dr. Brown's report did not quite settle the matter, for after the approved manner of the profession he declined to commit himself to any definite statement except that it was a nasty wound, that it might easily have been worse, and he promised to look in with Dr. Hudson to-morrow. Meantime he expressed the profound hope that Mrs. Waring-Gaunt might get them as speedily as was consistent with safety to their destination, and that supper might not be too long delayed.
"We can trust Mrs. Waring-Gaunt for the first," said Larry with confidence, "and mother for the second." In neither the one nor the other was Larry mistaken, for Mrs. Waring-Gaunt in a very few minutes discharged both passengers and freight at the Gwynnes' door, and supper was waiting.
"We greatly appreciate your kindness, Mrs. Waring-Gaunt," said Dr. Brown, bowing courteously over her hand. "I shall look in upon your brother to-morrow morning. I hardly think there is any great cause for anxiety."
"Oh, thank you, Dr. Brown, I am glad to hear you say that. It would be very good of you to look in to-morrow."
"Good-night," said Jane, her rare smile illuminating her dark face. "It was so good of you to come for us. It has been a delightful ride. I hope your brother will be better to-morrow."
"Thank you, my dear," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt. "I should be glad to have you come over to us. I am sure my brother would be glad to know you."
"Do you think so," said Jane doubtfully. "You know I am not very clever. I am not like Kathleen or Nora." The deep blue eyes looked wistfully at her out of the plain little face.
"I am perfectly certain he would love to know you, Jane--if I may call you so," said Mrs. Waring-Gaunt, impulsively kissing her.
"Oh, you are so kind," said Jane. "I will come then to-morrow."
The welcome to the Gwynne home was without fuss or effusiveness but had the heart quality that needs no noisy demonstration.
"We are glad to have you with us at Lakeside Farm," said Mr. Gwynne heartily, as he ushered Dr. Brown and Jane into the big living room, where his wife stood waiting.
"You are welcome to us, Dr. Brown," said the little lady. And something in the voice and manner made Dr. Brown know that the years that had passed since his first meeting with her had only deepened the feeling of gratitude and affection in her heart toward him. "We have not forgotten nor shall we ever forget your kindness to us when we were strangers passing through Winnipeg, nor your goodness to Larry and Kathleen while in Winnipeg. They have often told us of your great kindness."
"And you may be quite sure, Mrs. Gwynne," said Dr. Brown heartily, "that Larry brought his welcome with him, and as for Kathleen, we regard her as one of our family."
"And this is Jane," said Mrs. Gwynne. "Dear child, you have grown. But you have not changed. Come away to your room."
Once behind the closed door she put her arms around the girl and kissed her. Then, holding her at arm's length, scrutinised her face with searching eyes. "No," she said again with a little sigh of relief, "you have not changed. You are the same dear, wise girl I learned to love in Winnipeg."
"Oh, I am glad you think I am not changed, Mrs. Gwynne," said Jane, with a glow of light in her dark blue eyes. "I do not like people to change and I would hate to have you think me changed. I know," she added shyly, "I feel just the same toward you and the others here. But oh, how lovely they are, both Kathleen and Nora."
"They are good girls," said Mrs. Gwynne quietly, "and they have proved good girls to me."
"I know, I know," said Jane, with impulsive fervour, "and through those winters and all. Oh, they were so splendid."
"Yes," said the mother, "they never failed, and Larry too."
"Yes, indeed," cried Jane with increasing ardour, her eyes shining, "with his teaching,--going there through the awful cold,--lighting the school fires,--and the way he stuck to his college work. Nora's letters told me all about it. How splendid that was! And you know, Mrs. Gwynne, in the 'Varsity he did so well. I mean besides his standing in the class lists, in the Societies and in all the college life. He was really awfully popular," added Jane with something of a sigh.
"You must tell me, dear, sometime all about it. But now you must be weary and hungry. Come away out if you are ready, and I hope you will feel as if you were just one of ourselves."
"Do you know, that is just the way I feel, Mrs. Gwynne," said Jane, putting the final touch to her toilet. "I seem to know the house, and everything and everybody about it. Nora is such a splendid correspondent, you see."
"Well, dear child, we hope the days you spend here will always be a very bright spot in your life," said Mrs. Gwynne as they entered the living room.
The next few days saw the beginning of the realisation of that hope, for of all the bright spots in Jane's life none shone with a brighter and more certain lustre than the days of her visit to Lakeside Farm.
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