“Some one has been in the shed, taken samples of all my material, including the steel shavings that came from the last melting, and my notebook is gone. The process is stolen, Roxy, and all the sacrifices gone for nothing. I don’t care for myself—but—you.” His head was up in the same old portrait pose, but his arms trembled as he held them out to Roxanne.
I stood still and cold and never said one word, but a pain hit into my heart that I didn’t know I was strong enough to stand and still live.
“When did you find it out?” I asked; and I was surprised at the cool note that sounded in my voice and made it like Father’s when he talks business.
“Just now,” he answered me over Roxanne’s head that was buried on his shoulder. “I stopped down-town to help Judge Luttrell with a brief that he was writing and came home only a few minutes ago. The thief was in the shed between the time I went on the hay ride and now. I was in the shed just before I started.”
I don’t know how I said good-night to them; but I did the best I could, and came home through the moonlight with a great heaviness of heart and feet. I dreaded to see Father, and yet longed for him in a way I never did before in all my life. If anything awful is true, then he is more mine than ever. But it can’t be! And when I looked for him I found him—in a way I never had before. He was standing at my mother’s door and the great big man was crying just like a girl, with his shoulders shaking and big sobs coming.
“Bess, Bess,” he sobbed Mother’s name under his breath, “she’s going to be a grown woman and I don’t know what to do without you. Ten long years. Oh, Bess!”
Yes, I suppose I’m nearer a grown woman than most girls of my age, and I’m tall enough to take a big man in my arms, which are so long and thin as to be a joke, and hold him close enough to make the sobs stop coming.
“Now, Phil, I leave it to you if you are not enough to upset any man, with your moonlight picnics and folderols,” Father said, in just a few seconds from the time I hugged him up. He was both laughing and sniffling into his handkerchief at the same time, and I had a lovely Lovelace Peyton feeling about him, because he looked so young and ashamed of himself for being caught crying.
“I’m just as much your son as I ever was, Father,” I said with a gulp and a lump in my own throat. “I’m never going to be a daughter, if you don’t want one.”
“I do, Phyllis, I do; but I want the son-girl sometimes, too. You go to bed.” And with a sound hug that nearly broke my ribs, as neither he nor I were used to them, he went into his room and shut his door decidedly.
A serious disposition can make more trouble for itself by its own seriousness than all the misfortunes that come can make for it. If I had just a little touch of Roxanne Byrd’s foamy spirits, I would be a much more comfortable companion for myself. All night I lay awake, anchored in the middle of the huge old Byrd bedstead, and sorrowed over the misfortune that had come to Roxanne and the Idol. Over and over I went in my mind to see where I could clear Mr. Rogers of my suspicions until my thoughts were so pale in color that I could hardly make them out, and at last I fell asleep in despair.