Chapter XV. Secrets - Just David by Eleanor Porter

David had so much to tell Jack and Jill that he went to see them the very next day after his second visit to Sunnycrest. He carried his violin with him. He found, however, only Jill at home. She was sitting on the veranda steps.

There was not so much embarrassment between them this time, perhaps because they were in the freedom of the wide out-of-doors, and David felt more at ease. He was plainly disappointed, however, that Mr. Jack was not there.

"But I wanted to see him! I wanted to see him 'specially," he lamented.

"You'd better stay, then. He'll be home by and by," comforted Jill. "He's gone pot-boiling."

"Pot-boiling! What's that?"

Jill chuckled.

"Well, you see, really it's this way: he sells something to boil in other people's pots so he can have something to boil in ours, he says. It's stuff from the garden, you know. We raise it to sell. Poor Jack--and he does hate it so!"

David nodded sympathetically.

"I know--and it must be awful, just hoeing and weeding all the time."

"Still, of course he knows he's got to do it, because it's out of doors, and he just has to be out of doors all he can," rejoined the girl. "He's sick, you know, and sometimes he's so unhappy! He doesn't say much. Jack never says much--only with his face. But I know, and it--it just makes me want to cry."

At David's dismayed exclamation Jill jumped to her feet. It owned to her suddenly that she was telling this unknown boy altogether too many of the family secrets. She proposed at once a race to the foot of the hill; and then, to drive David's mind still farther away from the subject under recent consideration, she deliberately lost, and proclaimed him the victor.

Very soon, however, there arose new complications in the shape of a little gate that led to a path which, in its turn, led to a footbridge across the narrow span of the little stream.

Above the trees on the other side peeped the top of Sunnycrest's highest tower.

"To the Lady of the Roses!" cried David eagerly. "I know it goes there. Come, let's see!"

The little girl shook her head.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"Jack won't let me."

"But it goes to a beautiful place; I was there yesterday," argued David. "And I was up in the tower and almost waved to Mr. Jack on the piazza back there. I saw him. And maybe she'd let you and me go up there again to-day."

"But I can't, I say," repeated Jill, a little impatiently. "Jack won't let me even start."

"Why not? Maybe he doesn't know where it goes to."

Jill hung her head. Then she raised it defiantly.

"Oh, yes, he does, 'cause I told him. I used to go when I was littler and he wasn't here. I went once, after he came,--halfway,--and he saw me and called to me. I had got halfway across the bridge, but I had to come back. He was very angry, yet sort of--queer, too. His face was all stern and white, and his lips snapped tight shut after every word. He said never, never, never to let him find me the other side of that gate."

David frowned as they turned to go up the hill. Unhesitatingly he determined to instruct Mr. Jack in this little matter. He would tell him what a beautiful place Sunnycrest was, and he would try to convince him how very desirable it was that he and Jill, and even Mr. Jack himself, should go across the bridge at the very first opportunity that offered.

Mr. Jack came home before long, but David quite forgot to speak of the footbridge just then, chiefly because Mr. Jack got out his violin and asked David to come in and play a duet with him. The duet, however, soon became a solo, for so great was Mr. Jack's delight in David's playing that he placed before the boy one sheet of music after another, begging and still begging for more.

David, nothing loath, played on and on. Most of the music he knew, having already learned it in his mountain home. Like old friends the melodies seemed, and so glad was David to see their notes again that he finished each production with a little improvised cadenza of ecstatic welcome--to Mr. Jack's increasing surprise and delight.

"Great Scott! you're a wonder, David," he exclaimed, at last.

"Pooh! as if that was anything wonderful," laughed the boy. "Why, I knew those ages ago, Mr. Jack. It's only that I'm so glad to see them again--the notes, you know. You see, I haven't any music now. It was all in the bag (what we brought), and we left that on the way."

"You left it!"

"Yes, 't was so, heavy" murmured David abstractedly, his fingers busy with the pile of music before him. "Oh, and here's another one," he cried exultingly. "This is where the wind sighs, 'oou--oou--oou' through the pines. Listen!" And he was away again on the wings of his violin. When he had returned Mr. Jack drew a long breath.

"David, you are a wonder," he declared again. "And that violin of yours is a wonder, too, if I'm not mistaken,--though I don't know enough to tell whether it's really a rare one or not. Was it your father's?"

"Oh, no. He had one, too, and they both are good ones. Father said so. Joe's got father's now."


"Joe Glaspell."

"You don't mean Widow Glaspell's Joe, the blind boy? I didn't know he could play."

"He couldn't till I showed him. But he likes to hear me play. And he understood--right away, I mean."


"What I was playing, you know. And he was almost the first one that did--since father went away. And now I play every time I go there. Joe says he never knew before how trees and grass and sunsets and sunrises and birds and little brooks did look, till I told him with my violin. Now he says he thinks he can see them better than I can, because as long as his outside eyes can't see anything, they can't see those ugly things all around him, and so he can just make his inside eyes see only the beautiful things that he'd like to see. And that's the kind he does see when I play. That's why I said he understood."

For a moment there was silence. In Mr. Jack's eyes there was an odd look as they rested on David's face. Then, abruptly, he spoke.

"David, I wish I had money. I'd put you then where you belonged," he sighed.

"Do you mean--where I'd find my work to do?" asked the boy softly.

"Well--yes; you might say it that way," smiled the man, after a moment's hesitation--not yet was Mr. Jack quite used to this boy who was at times so very un-boylike.

"Father told me 't was waiting for me--somewhere."

Mr. Jack frowned thoughtfully.

"And he was right, David. The only trouble is, we like to pick it out for ourselves, pretty well,--too well, as we find out sometimes, when we're called off--for another job."

"I know, Mr. Jack, I know," breathed David. And the man, looking into the glowing dark eyes, wondered at what he found there. It was almost as if the boy really understood about his own life's disappointment--and cared; though that, of course, could not be!

"And it's all the harder to keep ourselves in tune then, too, is n't it?" went on David, a little wistfully.

"In tune?"

"With the rest of the Orchestra."

"Oh!" And Mr. Jack, who had already heard about the "Orchestra of Life," smiled a bit sadly. "That's just it, my boy. And if we're handed another instrument to play on than the one we want to play on, we're apt to--to let fly a discord. Anyhow, I am. But"--he went on more lightly--"now, in your case, David, little as I know about the violin, I know enough to understand that you ought to be where you can take up your study of it again; where you can hear good music, and where you can be among those who know enough to appreciate what you do."

David's eyes sparkled.

"And where there wouldn't be any pulling weeds or hoeing dirt?"

"Well, I hadn't thought of including either of those pastimes."

"My, but I would like that, Mr. Jack!--but that wouldn't be work, so that couldn't be what father meant." David's face fell.

"Hm-m; well, I wouldn't worry about the 'work' part," laughed Mr. Jack, "particularly as you aren't going to do it just now. There's the money, you know,--and we haven't got that."

"And it takes money?"

"Well--yes. You can't get those things here in Hinsdale, you know; and it takes money, to get away, and to live away after you get there."

A sudden light transfigured David's face.

"Mr. Jack, would gold do it?--lots of little round gold-pieces?"

"I think it would, David, if there were enough of them."

"Many as a hundred?"

"Sure--if they were big enough. Anyway, David, they'd start you, and I'm thinking you wouldn't need but a start before you'd be coining gold-pieces of your own out of that violin of yours. But why? Anybody you know got as 'many as a hundred' gold-pieces he wants to get rid of?"

For a moment David, his delighted thoughts flying to the gold-pieces in the chimney cupboard of his room, was tempted to tell his secret. Then he remembered the woman with the bread and the pail of milk, and decided not to. He would wait. When he knew Mr. Jack better--perhaps then he would tell; but not now. Now Mr. Jack might think he was a thief, and that he could not bear. So he took up his violin and began to play; and in the charm of the music Mr. Jack seemed to forget the gold-pieces--which was exactly what David had intended should happen.

Not until David had said good-bye some time later, did he remember the purpose--the special purpose--for which he had come. He turned back with a radiant face.

"Oh, and Mr. Jack, I 'most forgot," he cried. "I was going to tell you. I saw you yesterday--I did, and I almost waved to you."

"Did you? Where were you?"

"Over there in the window--the tower window" he crowed jubilantly.

"Oh, you went again, then, I suppose, to see Miss Holbrook."

The man's voice sounded so oddly cold and distant that David noticed it at once. He was reminded suddenly of the gate and the footbridge which Jill was forbidden to cross; but he dared not speak of it then--not when Mr. Jack looked like that. He did say, however:--

"Oh, but, Mr. Jack, it's such a beautiful place! You don't know what a beautiful place it is."

"Is it? Then, you like it so much?"

"Oh, so much! But--didn't you ever--see it?"

"Why, yes, I believe I did, David, long ago," murmured Mr. Jack with what seemed to David amazing indifference.

"And did you see her--my Lady of the Roses?"

"Why, y--yes--I believe so."

"And is that all you remember about it?" resented David, highly offended.

The man gave a laugh--a little short, hard laugh that David did not like.

"But, let me see; you said you almost waved, didn't you? Why did n't you, quite?" asked the man.

David drew himself suddenly erect. Instinctively he felt that his Lady of the Roses needed defense.

"Because she didn't want me to; so I didn't, of course," he rejoined with dignity. "She took away my handkerchief."

"I'll warrant she did," muttered the man, behind his teeth. Aloud he only laughed again, as he turned away.

David went on down the steps, dissatisfied vaguely with himself, with Mr. Jack, and even with the Lady of the Roses.