June Comes Back
The Romantic Story of a Mining Magnate and His Pretty Ward
A. C. Allenson
Who ,rofe "The Bb,eua Per Prodigal," "Danton of the Fleet," etc.
"Th;* voice of one who (foe* before to make The path* of June more beautiful "
JUNE the month and June the girl! Everything was June to-day to Jack Beresford. Spring had been late, and the orchard was still in the pink and white beauty of blossoming time, yet the roses had begun to appear on the bush at the corner of the verandah. The sky was a soft, clear, deep, blue. The wind that ruffled freshly the lake’s surface had genial warmth in it.
Indoors the new house had been scrubbed and cleaned and polished until it had almost taken on the appearance of youth’s resentment against all this fussy worship of soap and water. Really, it had been a perfectly wretched time for Jack, its owner, but he bore up heroically, since it was to make the place fit for habitation for little June.
He had come up from his office early, ridiculously early, had shaved and dressed with unusual care, had brought the car round to the door. Fifteen minutes would take him to the station, and the absurd train would not be due for another hour and a quarter. To a man who habitually caught his trains two strides across the platform, and a flying tackle of the rear-end door of the tail-end car, the thing was disconcerting. He reflected on the pity of it that trains did not vary the monotony of lateness by coming in, now and again, ahead of time, thus introducing a speculative element into their proceedings. He rather suspected that the average railway director is an indifferent sportsman. %
Jack had made the life of Mrs. Dodge, his elderly housekeeper, a positive burden to her these last thirty minutes, going into all kinds of details about dinner, when, and how, and what it had to be, and was she quite sure about this, and that, and the other thing? As a rule—so Mrs. Dodge had complained to Eliza the maid—Mr. Beresford didn’t seem to know whether he was eating oyster stew or ice cream; but to-day there was no satisfying him. A dozen times he had pestered her with enquiries regarding the perfect preparedness of Miss June’s room.
“Fidgety and fussy as a green young lad, on his first w’edding day,” she grumbled. not unamiably. “You'd think a duchess was coming, instead of just little Miss June. But there! I’m bad as he, all of an ache for the sight of her pretty face.” %
“A terrible lot he thinks of Miss June,” said the maid. “Couldn’t make any more fuss of her if he was her own real father. Some girls are born lucky—and then again some aint. Guess I turned up on a fast day, and had to go without.”
ON THE verandah, Jack looked at his watch, shook it, listened to it— no, it was going all right. He shoved it back in his pocket doubtfully, as if he suspected it of loafing when out of sight
Then he went over to the machine, stood off to admire, gave a rub to its mirrorlik’e surface, then looked at his watch again. Talk of leaden-footed hours! They were even-time sprinters compared to this train. It must have shackles on and be crossing a molasses swamp. In sheerest desperation he took out pipe and pouch, and flopped into a chair. He filled up, and tamped the tobacco down with nice care, put the pipe in his mouth, struck a match with right hand, pulled out his watch with left, burned his fingers, said something that bristled with inflammatory exclamation points, struck another match, let it go out, and drt>pped off into the realm of dream and fancy as deeply as if a pretty nurse stood by the side of him, while a white coated doctor at his head invited him sociably to take deep, regular breaths, and he’d be “off” in something less than a brace of jiffeys.
Beresford was. an attractive looking man, a little over middle height, trimly and powerfully btfilt, with a general air of all round fitness. He was in the early thirties, prosperous, unmarried. The last of the Bluewater Beresfords, he was remarkable for the striking contrast he furnished to a family whose shiftless "easiness” had become a local byword. There had been a sister, Kate, five years his senior, a delicate, courageous girl. They had been left alone in the world whe» he was thirteen, and had fought a victorious, uphill battle against rooted neglect and debt, that was the wonder of the countryside.
Making the farm a success. Jack had looked further afield. When he went forth on his prospecting trips, neighbors
laughed at his ambitious fo ly. When he tore open the rock, and ba ed the veins of silvery asbestos fibre, they said it was wonderful how luck c ime to some folks. You’ll find the same b ‘and of idiots in every community. Then K ate died, just at the moment when from their Pisgah height, they saw fair Cam tan beneath. No ordinary sister and brot 1er had they been. More like lovers, fo ks said, the frail, gol den-hearted girl anc the fighting lad, brimming over with li re ambition. The bitter blow left its rp*rk m Jack. He looked w’iser, deeper, older a terwarda.
But there -had been the child June, whom Kate had brought into their home. She saved the man’s rebe lious heart from utter loneliness, and 1 ;ept it soft amid the hardening influence! of business success. He now recalled the (child's coming. Kate had been away visiting. It was at supper, the evening of per return, that she told him of June. Slje had visited the Children’s Home, and Had seen the destitute, orphaned little ones^ brought out from England’s great cities, to find breathing places and homes jin Canada. It was there she had seen June.
"A wee baby girl, Jack, juI~ five yesrs old, the sweetest, prettiest, 14t1. th1ng~" she had said. "She has fIne iIky brown hair, and pink rose cheeks, ad teeth as white as milk. And the l.ugt4ter of her! It goes to the heart like .4eet, warm sunshine."
She had pauaed, her eyes whining they met his cool, doubting olles.
"And the next part of the rtorvr~ he had laughed.
"I want her. Jack. Oh! I ã~nt her all for my own," she l~ad said4 With a young man's prudent wisdomi that one grows out of later, he had su*ested the customary objections; the po4ible taint of blood, the harsh law of he$edity, Ui~ fear of the "throw-back" t~ evil an cestry. I
“But if you only saw her,] her little cotton frock and fore,”-Kate had pleaded. “Ai a tinychain of gold about white neck, with a locket, such a queer locket to lie on her baby breast. It was there when they found her. Jick! She was in à-room of a London slum, crying by the side of her dead »motler. The home folk think she comes of good stock. There are two picturis in the locket, a man and a woman, and the woman was the baby’s mother.1 ’
“She’ll surely be an awful lot of trouble to vou, Katie,” he had urged.
“Trouble!” She laughed. 4 Shell be just joy. Her name is June—J me Summers. and she is just like it. S wnetimes when you’re away. I’m Iones ime, the old house seems still and sole nn as a church. A home without litti« ones at their play, is no real home, it s only a staying place. I can have her. Jack?"
Óf course she knew she could or anything else she wanted. So J ane had
come to them, and Jack wondered now what the world would have been like had she been out of it. He could not imagine anything so desperately dull; so he rose from his chair, the dream over. To-day June was coming home to stay. She had been away at school, the best school he could find, hence the excitement. Again the watch was tugged out. The laggard hands had actually moved. He went indoors. volleyed another series of instructions to Mrs. Dodge, ran out to the car, cranked up, and sped Statiónwards.
The train was positively on time. A brown-haired, pretty girl, slimly graceful, stood on the platform of the car, a fat Senegambian, carrying her hand baggage, in grinning contrast at her side. Could it really be June? It was only a year since he had seen her. She was then in shortish frocks, and her hair in long braids. Now her skirts reached to her shoe tops, and her hair was coiled about her shapely head. She had gone away a girl-child and had come back a girl-woman. It seemed to Jack all very alarming and very charming. He felt a positive fossil, something at least mid-Victorian, as the novelists say when they fall down on precise description. Yet, despite the feebleness of years he moved with astonishing alacrity towards the car steps.
“Jack, you delightful old dear! I’ve a good mind to hug you,” said June, her hands clasped in his.
“By all means,” he smiled. “That is if you can reconcile your kind heart to driving the men who are looking on to still worse distraction. Never mind. Let them go and acquire pretty daughters of their own. This is mine. It’s mighty good to have you back again, June. I’ve been counting the days and hours, and drivelling slow they have been. Tired?”
“Not a bit,” she replied. “But the train seemed awfully slow. Still I am here at last. Let’s hurry home, I want to see what you’ve been doing there. Baggage checks? I know I have them somewhere. Wherever can they be?”
SHE rummaged frantically through a ridiculous little handbag, piling the contents into Jack’s hands, handkerchief, purse, collections of pennies, three nickels, vanity box, postage stamps, bits of ribbon, çnd ends of dress goods pieces. There was almost everything but baggage checks. Jack sat down on a trunk in a state of perfect delight. She was a woman all right, and he felt the joys of domesticity creeping over him.
“In the cuff of your sleeve, perhaps,” he suggested. “No? Perhaps in the band of your hat, after the offensive manner some conductors have in their distribution of tickets. Pockets, then. You haven’t any? Well, I didn’t know. Pure ignorance, honey. There’s old Nina, the Italian woman, keeps hers in the recesses of her fourth petticoat. You count ’em, one-twothree, and four. The first is, or once wras, pink, second a subtle kind of glowing ginger, third—well, never mind, if you don’t want to hear, but the pocket is in the fourth. Now. Mrs. Dodge, on the other hand, keeps her money and things valuable in her stocking. You look round the other way, then when you hear the elastic snap, you know everything’s all right” “Don’t be ridiculous, Jack,” said June severely.
“I’m not” he replied. “Only happy. Ah! there they are at last” as June dis-
covered them in an inside pocket of her purse.
“I knew I put them somewhere.’’ she said, triumphantly.
“I was positive you had,” he agreed cheerfully. “Now we’ll be off. Dinner is waiting. I can hear the ghost of the fatted calf enquiring why he was sacrificed if he was to 'be scandalously overdone. Hop into the car, and we’ll be home in no time.”
,“What a beanty it is. Jack,” she said delightedly as they sped smoothly along the road. “You’ll have to teach me to run it, and I’ll come down and rout you out of your old office, and take you for long evening spins, just the two of us.”
“That was my artful object in buying a two-seater,” he explained. “Neighbors not^wanted. Just daughter and daddy. Do you know, June, when I saw you there on the train, I felt a hundred years old.”
“Why?” she laughed.
“The little girl in pigtails who used to fly over the country with me on horseback, was gone. I’ll stop dyeing my hair, resign myself to the inevitable, and settle down to age’s sobriety,” he replied.
“Don’t be silly. You are only thirtyfour. and you haven’t changed one bit If I didn’t know your vanity, I’d say you are growing better looking than ever. Oh, Jack, be careful! You nearly ran over a chicken,” she cried.
“It ought to know better than to cross my path when I’m dazed by flattery. Well, here we are, and there are Mrs. Dodge and Eliza. I’ll run the car round and be back directly.” And he helped her down.
WHEN he entered the dining room he could hear her flying from room to room upstairs, exploring the new house. Presently she came down looking prettier than ever in a dainty white summer dress.
“What a wonderful place you have made of it. Jack! I can’t sit down till you have shown me all over it I’ve coaxed Mrs. Dodge to hold back dinner for half an hour,” she said eagerly.
Away they went together, her hand on his arm. The alterations had been one of the year’s supreme pleasures to him. He had practically rebuilt the'house, only the outer shell of the old place remaining. There was a pretty little suite set apart upstairs for June, a spacious daintily furnished bedroom, with a cosily appointed boudoir connecting with it. Expensive rugs, good pictures, and a case of well chosen books indicated the thought that had been expended to make the rooms just what would give her pleasure; and her delight was his reward. Downstairs there was the new baby grand piano to be tried, books in the snug library to be sampled and admired, wonders of the kitchen to be explored. It was the crowning moment of the great day when he saw her opposite him at dinner, prettily busy with the teacups. The little mistress was back, and the house had become a home. After the leisurely meal, there were barns and stables and the dairy to be visited, then there was a stroll to the lake, and an hour’s delight on the pleasant waters.
“Tired.” he asked her, when again they stood before the house, and looked down on the darkling water. She had been very quiet for some moments.
“No, I’m just perfectly happy,” she answered, her voice faltering a little
“It is all so wonderful, your thought and
goodness. Jack. If only Katie had lived to enjoy it!”
“I want you always to be perfectly happy, June,” he said gently. “It was what Kate wanted. I think she knows all that this means to us, and is happier because of our gladness.”
THEY went into the library. He had planned this moment before in his quiet hours. There were the keys.to be handed over to her—outward tokens of her headship in the house, the passbook, with her name written in it. and tne cheoue book. She took them with a smiling timidity. They laughed and joked over it, then became very serious, and afterwards laughed again. He explained to her his abdication of the house rulership, her supremacy over Mrs. Dodge, and Eliza, and himself. She listened, keys and books in her hand, and he watched with quiet delight the alternations of gravity and smiles on her upturned face. He could again hear Kate’s pleading voice:
“She has fine silky brown hair, and pink rose cheeks, and teeth as white as milk. And the laughter of her! It goes to the heart like sweet, warm sunshine.” After she had gone to bed, he sat long in deep thought. He had been a successful man, had known his hours of triumph, he was rich at thirty-four, and would be much richer, but never before had the savor of success been so satisfying.
DARKNESS had fallen on the grey autumn day. It had been a day of heavy rains and tempestuous winds, that tore the brilliant foliage from the trees, and beat it into the mire. The clerks had gone away and Beresford was alone in the offices, finishing some delayed work. He was about to call June up and tell her he was leaving for home, when a knock sounded on the door, and, in response to his call, two persons, a man and a woman, entered. They were strangers to him, both elderly, the man short, bearded, dapper, the woman with a pleasant, aristocratic face. Jack rose to meet them. What their errand might be he could not guess, but a vague uneasiness stirred jn him.
“Mr. Beresford, I believe.” And the man extended his hand. Jack judged him to be an Englishman of the superior class.
“My name is Cranston—Sir William Cranston,” he said. “Lady Cranston— Mr. Beresford.” Jack bowed at the introduction, and placed chairs for them.
“We were directed to your residence from the Rectory,” explained Sir William. “We met there your —ward. Miss Summers, and after some conversation with her, decided to call upon you here even at this late hour.”
“I was about to leave for home,” said Reresford. “Won’t you let me drive you there? It will be much more comfortable.” V
“Thank you. I think we can explain our visit more satisfactorily here,” said the visitor. “It is in reference to Miss Summers that we have come.”
"It will help to an understanding of the matter, if we explain at once that June is our granddaughter,” said the lady, speaking for the first time.
Continued on page 90
June Comes Back
Continued from page 16
“Your granddaughter ! ” exclaimed Jack, his face hardening.
“It is a long story, Mr. Beresford,” said Sir William, evidently ill at ease.. “And not a pleasant one for us to relate. June’s mother was our daughter. She married, strongly against our wishes, a Mr. Summers, a young artist. Estrangement followed. I am not seeking to justify the severe view we took of her marriage at the time. It has been a great sorrow to us, and will ever be such. She was proud, deeply attached to her husband, absolutely loyal to him, and when we forbade them the house, she took us at our word. We lost sight of them, and understood they had gone abroad. The time came when we longed for reconciliation—she was our only child—an opportunity to make what amends wre could. Our search failed. Only recently we. discovered the truth, and you may judge its bitterness to us, that she died in want, widowed, and destitute.”
The depth and reality o/ the man’s sorrow softened Beresford’s first judgment. 's
“We learned of the fcaby girl, June, and from the Orphanage officials were enabled to trace her here,” continued the speaker. “We have heard with gratitude we can never adequately express of your goodness to the child.”
“You have told this to June, that she is your granddaughter?” asked Jack.
“Yes, perhaps we ought not to have done so until we had seen you, but it seemed like meeting our own child again The likeness is astonishing, as no doubt you have observed from the portrait in the locket June carries. Perhaps you can understand our impulsiveness,” said Sir William; and Jack nodded.
There was silence for some time. Jack’s mind being bewilderingly busy. “And, hawng seen June, what further do you wisn to say?” he asked, challenge in his voice.
“We should like to have her with us in her mother’s place in our home,” the man answered.
“By what right?” Jack demanded.
“By no right. I acknowledge we have forfeited that,” was the reply.
“You abandoned her mother, your only child, allowed her to sink into abject poverty—death for all I know. Think of a baby, a baby girl; alone, at the mercy of any evil chance in a London slum ! Sometimes, as I have looked upon her, I have trembled to think what her fate might have been, and you come to me to ask me to give to you, who once failed to guard your own, the girl who has come to mean almost everything to us! She is almost a woman now'. Ask her to decide. I know what anrwer she will give to you,” said Jack.
“All you have said is true,” replied Cranston.» “She is deeply attached to you. But we had hoped you might, in her interest, and out of regard for her, see the advantage to her, were she to stand in her mother’s place in our home.”
“And perhaps, if she did not bow to your will, and order her life on the pattern drawn by you for her, be treated as her mother was,” Beresford answered. “What can you do for her that I would not do?” I have worked for her, thought
for her, planned for her, all these years. Money and comfort I can give her, she will be a rich woman, for all I have is hers. There is nothing in this wide world I could do to ensure her happiness that I would omit.”
“And it is because we know that we may appeal to you,” said Lady Cranston. “I know what you have done, others have told it to us, and I have seen and spoken with June. I can imagine the sacrifices you would make for her, since we have seen you. She has been a for túnate girl to have found, in her need, such protectors as you and your sister If this meant her absolute separation from you, I would wish her to stay. But. Mr. Beresford, is there not another side to the matter? There are some things, in spite of your affection, that you cannot give her. She is very beautiful, very charming. Is it not desirable that she should see a wider world, and meet those who belong to the station in life that is hers by every right? Is there any one here to whom you would wish to give her in marriage, when the time comes? You are unmarried, the only women in your house are servants, can she obtain here those advantages that money cannot buy, social relationship with women of her own world? She would wish to stay with you, love and loyalty alike would inspire such a determination, but could you allow her to make the sacrifice?”
Jack was. silent, the appeal was powerful. There was a barb, possibly not intended, in her words, that drove sharply to his heart. He was neither June’s father, nor brother, nor any relative Kate and he had not even formally adopted her. She was a woman now. Marriage had to be thought of. His mind ran over the few men in the hamlet. The idea of June marrying any of them was repulsive to him. He didn’t know why it should bé, they were pretty good, average men, who would be well off one day Then the truth came to him. the idea of any man marrying her would be repugnant to him. The veil fell from his eyes, and he knew what his love for her really was.
“Think the matter over. Mr. Beresford,” said Sir William. “We leave the matter absolutely with you, and will acquiesce in the decision you may make.”
A FTER they had gone. Jack sat long pondering the situation bitterly, resentfully, fearfully. He would not. could not let her go. She would stand with him in all the strength of*her loyal heart. But could he let her make the sacrifice? To her he was the brother, father almost, who had brought her up His love and service through the years barred any other relationship. Her gratitude raised an impassable barrier between them.
She met him at the door when he entered, smiling welcome on her lips. He did not know what they had said to her, but he saw the clear, strong loyalty to him in the eager warmth of her greeting, in a new tenderness.
In the library after dinner she told him of the interview. The Cranstons had been nice and kind to her, she liked Lady Cranston especially. It was pleas-
ant to know her people, perhaps she was a little proud to know that she belonged to so eminent a family, but otherwise they meant little to her. This was her country, her home, her Jack.
He said little. After she had left him, he sat up late,' pondering, reasoning, fighting, yet with a sickening conviction in his heart that he was losing the fight with himself. The following evening he brought the matter up again.
"Sir William and his wife will come for the decision to-morrow,” he said. She looked up at him from the needlework in her hands.
‘‘Decision, Jack? It has already been made.” Then as she noted the cloud on his face, she put aside her work.
“I wish they had never come,” she said, j “They seem like interlopers sent to mar our happiness. If you look so awfully grumpy, Jack, I shall begin to think you doubt me. I don’t want to go away. I won’t go away. This is the place to which I belong, my home. Now drive that awful frown away. Come into the drawing room, I’ll play and sing to you, to send away the evil spirit.”
"I don’t feel like music to-night,” he smiled. “Let us talk, June, like the sensible folk we are. Do you know, honey,” —the old, endearing name slmped out un; a wares—“I have thought thaS perhaps we ought to consider the matter more carefully. It was startling, just at first, and rather upsetting, but when looked at broadly, there is another side to it”
There wras utter bewilderment in her face, her lips trembled, her clasped hands clenched tightly.
“I believe I frightened you,” he smiled. “You know, June, how I’d hate you to go * away, as I used to hate you leaving me for school. I was like a bear with a sore head for a month afterwards. But you had to go to school—for a time. Perhaps this is j the same—for a time. I have been thinkj ing quite a lot about it to-day, and I tell you, honey, it made me feel pretty cheap.
I asked myself what business I had to i keep you here, boxed up in a lone country wilderness, with an old lumberjack pitman like myself, just because I love to have you here. It made me feel mean, selfish, greedy. And the wonderful house here, it began to look to me like a beautiful cage I’d gilded with costly gold just to help to keep you.”
“You are just the best, most generous—
I don’t know what name to call you.” She began stormily, but sunshine swiftly followed tempest. “I don’t know why you say all these things. Jack, they hurt terribly. you are so good to me that you have to be hard with yourself.”
“There is winter coming, a long, dull time. I may have to be away on long business trips. It would be fearfully dull for you, June. You should be where you would have lots of friends, girls of your own age, and lots of gaiety and sunshine. Parties, you know, and dances, and theatres. It is all as necessary as school was. You should learn the sweetness and brightness of life, and not be mooning alone through a bitter, lonely. Northern winter. It would not mean good-bye for ever, but—just for a time. You could write and tell me all^bout it, the plays, and the books, and the nice people, and the grand times you are having, and I’d sit here at’night and read the letj ters and have a fine time, too, knowing you are having such fun. And you’ll have lots , of admirers with their pleasant speeches
and compliments. It will be just great for you. Why June, little June! You are crying. What have I said?” He went over and patted her shoulder gently.
“You want me to go, Jack!” it was not a question, but a wondering. She looked up as if she could not believe it.
“Is it because—because—you are going to get married, Jack?”
He burst into a roar of laughter that did both good.
“Married! Blessings on the girl. Having brought up one family, do you think I am going to plunge into trouble again?” She came across and pulled his ears for laughing at her, but her face was very sunny. “I am never going to get married, June, honey, I am too comfortable as I am. You see I want you to go just'as I wanted you to go to school. It hurt dreadfully, but suppose I had been selfishly weak, and kept you here, what an injustice it would have been to you! I shall come over to see you sometimes, the old home daddy or brother, and you’ll always be June, my June, the baby I used to play with, the tomboy who galloped over the country with me, the little housekeeper.”
“Then you mean that you really wish me to go?” It was a decisive question this time. Her eyes rested searchingly on his. It was the most tremendous ordeal of his life. A word—and she would come to his arms, to rest there for ever.
“Yes, June, honey, I want you to go,” he answered. “Why, it is no more than just going visiting, and we are making as much fuss about it as if we should never see each other again. You will have the grandest time, and will see all the famous places we have read about and promised ourselves we would see together some day.”
“I’d rather be here on the hillside, in this dear house, with my keys and account books, and cheque book, than them all, without you. Jack,” she said sadly.
“That.shows how wretchedly I’ve monopolized you,” he answered. “I’ll take the housekeeping books and put them away— just for the time. Nobody else will have them, and the position will be left vacant.”
“Till I come back?” she answered.
“Yes. till you come back,” he promised smilingly.
A FEW days served to complete the enquiries Jack had instituted, and a week later he stood on the dock and watched the liner melt away in the distant haze.
Then he turned and went back to the lonely house on the hillside. The dream had died away. The castle, built with infinite toil and pains, had vanished like some splendidly iridescent bubble at the touch. That day the,first heavy snow of the season fell. Winter came over the land, summer was but a fair, fragrant memory.-
When spring approached again, Jack Beresford too was across the Atlantic, with the Canadian Contingent, helping to bar the road to the Channel against the Hun.
"D ERESFORD’S first thought was that he had been sleeping, dreaming. Slowly the world of fancy faded, like the trailing mists of darkness at the coming of dawn. He seemed like a spent swim-
mer whom a dark ocean has engulfed. The noise, as of waters, was still in his ;*ars. He remembered the sensation, sinking down, and still deeper down, without pain or struggle, into the soft blackness that folded round him like a robe. How long, ages or moments, he did not know, for time was dead too. Then he had been raised to the surface, still cradled in the arms of night, washed up by gently lapoing waves, and laid on the shores of time ind consciousness again. The spell was I -till upon him, the mystery of the veiled second room of existence, beyond the curtain he had half lifted.
With the dream’s fading, he felt cold. As he moved stiffly, there came a sharp sensation of pain. He wondered if he would ever have courage again to lift his head, that crowded world of aches and pains. His shoulder, as he twitched it, i responded with a stinging stab. The rest of his body—he didn’t know anything about it, save its weariness, pain, sense of brokenness. To ease the intolerable ¡.throbbing he lay quite still. The sky into which he gazed was a deep, violet, starry sea, stormless, benign. In a clump of i shattered and ragged trees a nightingale ; sang and, listening to its ecstacy, the i wounded man for the moment, lost sense of pain. And out of the velvet darkness I came the face and form of the girlj woman. He closed his eyes that he might more perfectly behold the vision of June. For never battle yet, but over the field, when the fight was done, came the seeking woman on her errand of love and consolation, and none see her, save the man she seeks. How far away, and yet how near the old life seemed ! He felt, as souls must, when after the voyaging through the night, they stand on the sunlit shores of the Paradise of God. And with him was June, to make heaven more perfect by reason of its sweet kinship with earth.
AND again she came, stealing into the ward of the London Hospital, fair and sweet, her face paler, nobler, more , tender. He felt the soft lips on his fore! head, as in healing benediction, and the tear that plashed in his cheek'.
“You can’t say I’m handsomer than ever now, June, honey,” he laughed, recalling the evening of her return from school.
“You were never so handsome and fine, Jack,” she smiled, holding his hand. “Oh, Jack! How proud I am of you. I tried to read about it in the newspapers, but I couldn’t, for the tears blinded my eyes. When I read that first awful word ‘missing,’ I don’t think I wanted to live any more. And then came the healing news. They say you are to have the Cross, Jack. Oh, it is good to have you back. We are going to take you down to the Towers as soon as you can travel, and I shall nurse you. Most of the house has been turned into a hospital, and I have been nursing ever since I came from home.”
“Home?” he laughed quietly.
“Yes, it will always, be home,” she answered.
“You are not sorry now you came, honey?” he asked.
“No, I think not,” she replied.
“They are all kind and good to you?” "They are the best and dearest people in the world, Jack, except you,” she answered with simple earnestness. “They are wonderfully kind, but it is not the same. Sometimes I get dreadfully homesick. at sugaring time, and when I know the maples must be crimsoning. And
when the fog and rains come I long for the clear, blue skies and the sweet cold winds of the home country.”
LATER they took him to the Cranstons’ county seat to be nursed back to health and vigor. There were long delicious days with June, and the fatherly and motherly love of his host and hostess helped to restore him. Men and women came and went, people of the Cranstons’ world, well-born, with the social hallmark that aristocratic lineage, and great, honorable tradition, writes subtly upon them. Among them June moved as with those of her own class and station.^ Jack’s keen eyes noted the admiration her beauty and frank fineness attracted. One day she would marry, probably into spine famous family, in comparison with whom the few Beresford generations at Bluewater were but of yesterday. It were better so, if the man were worthy of her. What could the hillside mining settlement give to her ? What was he? Successful, yes, in the matter of money, but money was only one of many desirable things in life, and had its strict limitations. Besides, he himself would never again be the man he had been. He would never don uniform again. The few minutes in the hot corner of the splintered wood outside Ypres, had taken full toll of him. He would always be lame, scarred. Things were much better as they were. Life could not rob him of the joys he had known.
THEN one day he went up to Town There was a ship sailing in a few days. Just before it left he mailed the long letter to June, asking a forgiveness for going without saying farewell. He j was hungry for hortie, and the wonderful j house, and the early summer beauty of the lakeside. Much more he said, and still I more was in it, unwritten, but plainly per I ceptible to the eyes of love. He was re j treating, but as splendidly and valiantly ; as when he won his decoration charging j the machine guns in the deadly wood.
And so he came back to the quiet house, with the locked little suite upstairs, and the calm, evenly ordered life. The mines were increasingly prosperous, war had doubled their wealth, their management i was in capable hands.
During these days he turned more to the old pastoral life, the sheep and cattle, the fields, and waters, and woods. After the scorched hell of the battle lines, the meadows and rivers, and forests were indescribably soothing and beautiful. He now tired easily, and lay long hours in the chair couch on the verandah, often with closed eyes, for thus he could see and hear better what he desired to see and hear. Sometimes her voice in song came to him from the rooms above, he could hear the soft swish of her dress, the light fall of her feet, the rippling music of her laughter. The orchard was still in the pink and white beauty of blossoming time, and there were roses again on the bush by the verandah. The winds were warm and fresh. ' The sky a soft, clear, deep blue. ...
... He heard the whistle of the distant train. It brought back memory of the evening June returned from school. He fell again into a long, deep, reverie How long it lasted, seconds or hours, he did not know. Then he heard her step again, the rustle of her dress. He waited, with closed eyes, as if expecting her to bid him come to supper. A soft pair of
hands were laid over his eyes, there was a kiss that fluttered like the fall of a rose petal on his brow, the fragrance of her went to his head like wine.
"June!” he whispered, scarce believing. Then his eyes opened. He stood up, as he had stood to receive his Cross. The roses in her cheeks took on a richer, duskier hiie, her eyes were dewy, her lips trembled faintly.
“I had to come back, Jack. And you won’t scold me, dear. I just had to. You know what you said, ‘for a time,’ and the tíme is over now.” She spoke swiftly, in soft, low tones. “And I knew you wanted me. Jack, more than anyone else in the world wants ne, and I wanted you.” “Wanted y fro!” he said. “As the world wants the sunlight.”
“I am glad I went away, Jack. Things cleared before my eyes,” she continued. “I came to understand myself, and you, and oh! lots of things about us. Sometimes you laughed and called me ‘daughter’ and sometimes ‘sister,’ but I know now it was all make-believe. The name JI liked best was ‘honey.’ And while I was away I found out that I was just June Summers and you, Jack Beresford. And after that discovery—well—I had to come back. I couldn’t help it, you see.”
“June! Little June! It is too wonderful to believe, but you wouldn’t mock me, would you, honey?” he said.
“Mock you!” she laughed, holding out her hands to him. “I want the keys back again, Jack, and the account books, and the cheque and pass books.”
“I am afraid you can’t have them,” he replied. “The housekeeper’s position has been abolished. But, we will row over to the Rectory, and when w’e return, I’ll hand them over to my wife, njy June bride.”
And so, as the moonlight silvered the lake, they returned to the wonderful house on the hillside, and June came back a second time, this time really to stay.