Read CHAPTER X - THE RAVINE of Jewel A Chapter In Her Life , free online book, by Clara Louise Burnham, on ReadCentral.com.

Outside the well-kept roads of Bel-Air Park, Nature had been encouraged to work her sweet will. The drive wound along the edge of a picturesque gorge, and it was not long before Jewel found the scene of her father’s favorite stories.

The sides of the ravine were studded with tall trees, and in its depths flowed a brook, unusually full now from the spring rains.

The child lost no time in creeping beneath the slender wire fence at the roadside, and scrambling down the incline. The brook whispered and gurgled, wild flowers sprang amid the ferns in the shelter and moisture. The child was enraptured.

“Oh, Anna Belle!” She exclaimed, hugging the doll for pure joy. “Castle Discord is far away. There’s nobody down here but God!”

For hours she played happily in the enchanting spot, all unconscious of time. Anna Belle lay on a bed of moss, while Jewel became acquainted with her wonderful new playmate, the brook. The only body of water with which she had been familiar hitherto was Lake Michigan. Now she drew stones out of the bank and made dams and waterfalls. She sailed boats of chips and watched them shoot the tiny rapids. She lay down on the bank beside Anna Belle and gazed up through the leafy treetops. Many times this programme had been varied, when at last équipages began to pass on the road above. She could see twinkling wheels and smart liveries.

With a start of recollection, she considered that she might have been a long time in the ravine.

“I wish somebody would let me bring a watch the next time,” she said to her doll, as she took her up. “Haven’t we had a beautiful afternoon, Anna Belle? Let’s call it the Ravine of Happiness, and we’ll come here every day-just every day; but perhaps it’s time for grandpa to be home, dearie, so we must go back to the castle.” She sighed unconsciously as she began climbing up the steep bank and crept under the wire. “I hope we haven’t stayed very long, because the giantess might not like it,” she continued uneasily; but as she set her feet in the homeward road, every sensation of anxiety fled before an approaching vision. She saw a handsome man in riding dress mounted on a shining horse with arched neck, that lifted its feet daintily as it pranced along the tree-lined avenue.

“Grandpa!” ejaculated Jewel, stepping to the roadside and pausing, her hands clasped beneath her chin and her eyes shining with admiration.

Mr. Evringham drew rein, not displeased by the encounter. The child apparently could not speak. She eyed the horse rather than its rider, a fact which the latter observed and enjoyed.

“Remind you of the horse show?” he inquired.

“It is the horse show,” rejoined the child.

“This is Essex Maid, Jewel,” said Mr. Evringham. He patted the mare’s shining neck. “You shall go out to the barn with me some time and visit her.” His eyes wandered over the ruffled hair, the hat on the back of the child’s head, and the wet spots on her dress. “Run home now,” he added. “I heard Mrs. Forbes asking for you as I came out.”

He rode on, and Jewel, her face radiant, followed him with her eyes. In a minute he turned, and she threw rapid kisses after him. He raised his hat, and then a curve in the road hid him from view.

Jewel sighed rapturously and hurried along the road. The giantess had asked for her. Ah, what a happy world it would be if there were nothing at Bel-Air Park but grandpa, his horses, and the ravine!

Mrs. Forbes espied the child in the distance, and was at the door when she came in.

“After this, Julia, you must never go away without telling me where”-she began, when her eyes recognized the condition of the gingham frock, and the child’s feet. “Look at how you’ve drabbled your dress!” she ejaculated.

“It’s clean water,” returned Julia.

“But your feet! Why, Julia Evringham, they are as wet as sop! Where have you been?”

“Playing by the brook in the ravine.”

Mrs. Forbes groaned. “Nothing will satisfy a child but finding the place where they can get the dirtiest and make the most trouble. Why didn’t you wear your rubbers, you naughty girl?”

“Why-why-it wasn’t raining.”

“Raining! Those rubbers are to keep your feet dry. Haven’t you got any sense?”

Jewel looked a little pale. “I didn’t know I should get wet in the brook,” she answered.

“Well, go right upstairs now, up the backstairs, and take off every one of those wet things. Let me feel your petticoat. Yes, that’s wet, too. You undress and get into a hot bath, and then you put on your nightgown and go right to bed.”

“Go to bed!” echoed the child, bewildered.

“Yes, to bed. You won’t come down to dinner. Perhaps that will teach you to wear your rubbers next time and be more careful.”

Jewel found the backstairs and ascended them, her little heart hot within her.

“She’s the impolitest woman in the whole world, Anna Belle!” she whispered. “I’m going to not cry. Mother didn’t know what impoliteness there was at grandpa’s or she wouldn’t have let us come.”

The child’s eyes were bright as she found her room and began undressing. “But you mustn’t be angry, dearie,” she continued excitedly to her doll. “It’s the worst error to be angry, because it means hating. You treat me, Anna Belle, and I’ll treat you,” she went on, unfastening her clothes with unsteady hands.

With many a pause to work at a refractory elastic or button, and many interruptions from catches in her breath, she murmured aloud during the process of her undressing: “Dear Father in Heaven, I seem to feel sorry all over, and full of error. Help me to know that I’m not a mortal mind little girl, hating and angry, but I am Thy child, and the only things I know are good, happy things. Error has no power and Love has all power. I love Mrs. Forbes, and she loves me. Thou art here even in this house, and please help me to know that one of Thy children cannot hurt another.” Here Jewel slipped into the new wrapper her mother had made, and hurried into the white tiled bathroom near by. While she let the water run into the tub she put her hand into her pocket mechanically, in search of a handkerchief, and when she felt the crisp touch of paper she drew it out eagerly. It was covered, and she read the words written in her mother’s distinct hand.

“Love to my Jewel. Is she making a stepping-stone of every trial, and learning to think less and less about herself, and more and more about other people? And does she remember that little girls cannot always understand the error that grown-up people have to meet, especially those who have not Science to help them? They must be treated very gently, and I hope my little Jewel will be always kind and patient, and make her new friends glad she is there.”

The child folded the paper and put it carefully back in her pocket. Then she took her bath, and returning to her room undressed her doll in silence. Finally, changing her wrapper for her nightdress, she climbed into bed, where she lay thinking and looking at the sunlight on the wall.

At dinner time the maid Sarah appeared with a tray. “Here’s your dinner, Miss Julia,” she said, looking at the heavy-eyed little girl. “It’s too bad you’re not well.”

“I am well, thank you,” replied Jewel. “I’m sorry you had to carry that heavy tray up so many stairs.”

“Oh, I don’t mind that,” returned the girl good-naturedly. “I’ll set it right here by the bed.”

“Is grandpa down there?” asked Jewel wistfully.

“Yes, Miss Julia. They’re all eating their dinner. I hope you’ll enjoy yours.”

Sarah went away, and the little girl spread some bread and butter and ate it slowly.

Meanwhile, when the family had gathered at the dinner table, Mr. Evringham looked up at his housekeeper.

“Where is Jewel?” he asked shortly. “I object to her being unpunctual.”

“Yes, sir. She is having dinner in her room. She was very naughty and got wet in the brook.”

“Ah, indeed!” Mr. Evringham frowned and looked down. He had been a little disappointed that the bright face was not watching to see him come home from his ride, but of course discipline must be maintained. “I’m sorry to hear this,” he added.

Mrs. Evringham and Eloise found him a shade less taciturn than usual to-night. He felt vaguely that he now had an ally of his own flesh and blood in the house, a spirit sufficiently kindred to prefer his society to theirs, and this made him unusually lenient.

He meant to go upstairs after dinner, and warn Jewel to be more careful in future to conform to all Mrs. Forbes’s rules; but the meal was scarcely over when a friend called to get him to attend some business meeting held that evening in the interests of the town, and he became interested in his statements and went away with him.

“Wasn’t father quite agreeable this evening?” asked Mrs. Evringham of Eloise. “What did I tell you? I could see that he felt relief because that plain little creature was not in evidence. Father always was so fastidious. Of course it is selfish in a way, but it is no use to blame men for caring for beauty. They will do it.”

“It was a shame to make that little girl stay upstairs,” returned Eloise. “I judge she managed to amuse herself this afternoon, and so she gets punished for it. I should like to go up and sit with her.”

“It would not be worth while,” returned Mrs. Evringham quickly. “I’m sure Dr. Ballard will be here soon. You would have to come right down again.”

“That is not the reason I don’t go,” returned the girl. “It is because I am not an Evringham, and I have determined not to arrive at friendly relations with any one of the name. When I once escape from here, they will have seen the last of me.”

“The way of escape lies open,” returned her mother soothingly. “I’m glad you have on that gown. If a man cares for a woman, he always loves to see her in white.”

As soon as dinner was over, Mrs. Forbes ascended the stairs to see her prisoner. Jewel was lying quietly in bed, the tray, apparently untouched, beside her. The latter circumstance Mrs. Forbes observed at once.

“Why haven’t you eaten your dinner, Julia?” she asked. “I hope you are not sulking.”

“No’m. I don’t believe I am. I don’t know what that means.”

“You don’t know what sulky means?” suspiciously. “It is very naughty for a little girl to refuse to eat her dinner because she is angry at being punished for her own good.”

“Did you send me to bed because you loved me?” asked Jewel. Her cheeks were very red, but even the disconcerted housekeeper could see that she was not excited or angry.

“Everybody loves good little girls,” returned Mrs. Forbes. “Now eat your dinner, Julia, so I can carry down the tray.”

“I did eat the bread. It was all I wanted. It was very nice.”

The polite addition made the housekeeper uncertain. While she paused Jewel added, “I wish I could see grandpa.”

“He’s gone out on business. He won’t be back until after you are asleep. And if you were thinking of complaining to him, Julia, I tell you it won’t do any good. He will trust everything to me.”

“Do you think I would trouble grandpa?” returned the child.

The housekeeper looked at her in silent perplexity. The blue eyes were direct and innocent, but there was a heaviness about them that stirred Mrs. Forbes uncomfortably.

“You must have got too tired playing this afternoon, Julia,” she said decisively, “or you would be hungry for your dinner. You took that hot bath I told you to?”

“Yes’m.”

“Where have you put your wet things? Oh, I see, you’ve spread them out very nicely; but those shoes-I shall have to have them cleaned and polished for you. Now go to sleep as quick as you can and have a long night’s rest. I’m sure the next time you go out you won’t be so careless.”

Jewel’s eyes followed the speaker as she bustled about and at last took up the tray.

“Will you kiss me good-night, Mrs. Forbes?” asked the child.

The surprised housekeeper set down her burden, stooped over the bed and kissed her.

“There now, I see you’re sorry,” she said, somewhat touched.

Jewel gave her a little smile. “No’m, I’ve stopped being sorry,” she replied.

“She’d puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer,” soliloquized the housekeeper as she descended the stairs with the tray. “I suppose her mother is uneducated and uses queer English. As the old ones croak, the young ones learn. The child uses words nobody ever heard of, and is ignorant of the commonest ones. I’m glad she’s so fond of me if I’ve got to take care of her.”