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Title: Little Eve Edgarton
Author: Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell, 1872-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Little Eve Edgarton" ***

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LITTLE EVE EDGARTON


BY

ELEANOR HALLOWELL ABBOTT

Author of "Molly Make Believe," "The White Linen Nurse," etc.


With Illustrations by

R.M. CROSBY


  NEW YORK
  THE CENTURY CO.
  1914



_Published, September, 1914_


[Illustration: "Music! Flowers! Palms! Catering! Everything!"]



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"Music! Flowers! Palms! Catering! Everything!"

"I am riding," she murmured almost inaudibly

"I would therefore respectfully suggest as a special topic of
conversation the consummate cheek of--yours truly, Paul Reymouth
Edgarton!"

"Your PAPER-DOLL BOOK?" stammered Barton

"Don't delay me!" she said, "I've got to make four hundred muffins!"

Suddenly full comprehension broke upon him and he fairly blurted out
his astonishing information

"You're nice," he said. "I like you!"

"Any time that you people want me," suggested Edgarton's icy voice, "I
am standing here--in about the middle of the floor!"



LITTLE EVE EDGARTON



CHAPTER I


"But you live like such a fool--of course you're bored!" drawled the
Older Man, rummaging listlessly through his pockets for the
ever-elusive match.

"Well, I like your nerve!" protested the Younger Man with unmistakable
asperity.

"Do you--really?" mocked the Older Man, still smiling very faintly.

For a few minutes then both men resumed their cigars, staring
blinkishly out all the while from their dark green piazza corner into
the dazzling white tennis courts that gleamed like so many slippery
pine planks in the afternoon glare and heat. The month was August, the
day typically handsome, typically vivid, typically caloric.

It was the Younger Man who recovered his conversational interest
first. "So you think I'm a fool?" he resumed at last quite abruptly.

"Oh, no--no! Not for a minute!" denied the Older Man. "Why, my dear
sir, I never even implied that you were a fool! All I said was that
you--lived like a fool!"

Starting to be angry, the Younger Man laughed instead. "You're
certainly rather an amusing sort of chap," he acknowledged
reluctantly.

A gleam of real pride quickened most ingenuously in the Older Man's
pale blue eyes. "Why, that's just the whole point of my argument," he
beamed. "Now--you look interesting. But you aren't! And I--don't look
interesting. But it seems that I am!"

"You--you've got a nerve!" reverted the Younger Man.

Altogether serenely the Older Man began to rummage again through all
his pockets. "Thank you for your continuous compliments," he mused.
"Thank you, I say. Thank you--very much. Now for the very first time,
sir, it's beginning to dawn on me just why you have honored me with
so much of your company--the past three or four days. I truly believe
that you like me! Eh? But up to last Monday, if I remember correctly,"
he added drily, "it was that showy young Philadelphia crowd that was
absorbing the larger part of your--valuable attention? Eh? Wasn't it?"

"What in thunder are you driving at?" snapped the Younger Man. "What
are you trying to string me about, anyway? What's the harm if I did
say that I wished to glory I'd never come to this blasted hotel? Of
all the stupid people! Of all the stupid places! Of all the
stupid--everything!"

"The mountains here are considered quite remarkable by some,"
suggested the Older Man blandly.

"Mountains?" snarled the Younger Man. "Mountains? Do you think for a
moment that a fellow like me comes to a God-forsaken spot like this
for the sake of mountains?"

A trifle noisily the Older Man jerked his chair around and, slouching
down into his shabby gray clothes, with his hands thrust deep into his
pockets, his feet shoved out before him, sat staring at his companion.
Furrowed abruptly from brow to chin with myriad infinitesimal wrinkles
of perplexity, his lean, droll face looked suddenly almost monkeyish
in its intentness.

"What does a fellow like you come to a place like this for?" he asked
bluntly.

"Why--tennis," conceded the Younger Man. "A little tennis. And golf--a
little golf. And--and--"

"And--girls," asserted the Older Man with precipitous conviction.

Across the Younger Man's splendidly tailored shoulders a little
flicker of self-consciousness went crinkling. "Oh, of course," he
grinned. "Oh, of course I've got a vacationist's usual partiality for
pretty girls. But Great Heavens!" he began, all over again. "Of all
the stupid--!"

"But you live like such a fool--of course you're bored," resumed the
Older Man.

"There you are at it again!" stormed the Younger Man with tempestuous
resentment.

"Why shouldn't I be 'at it again'?" argued the Older Man mildly.
"Always and forever picking out the showiest people that you can
find--and always and forever being bored to death with them
eventually, but never learning anything from it--that's you! Now
wouldn't that just naturally suggest to any observing stranger that
there was something radically idiotic about your method of life?"

"But that Miss Von Eaton looked like such a peach!" protested the
Younger Man worriedly.

"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.

"Why, she's the handsomest girl here!" insisted the Younger Man
arrogantly.

"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.

"And the best dresser!" boasted the Younger Man stubbornly.

"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.

"Why, just that pink paradise hat alone would have knocked almost any
chap silly," grinned the Younger Man a bit sheepishly.

"Humph!" mused the Older Man still droningly. "Humph! When a chap
falls in love with a girl's hat at a summer resort, what he ought to
do is to hike back to town on the first train he can catch--and go
find the milliner who made the hat!"

"Hike back to--town?" gibed the Younger Man. "Ha!" he sneered. "A chap
would have to hike back a good deal farther than 'town' these days to
find a girl that was worth hiking back for! What in thunder's the
matter with all the girls?" he queried petulantly. "They get stupider
and stupider every summer! Why, the peachiest débutante you meet the
whole season can't hold your interest much beyond the stage where you
once begin to call her by her first name!"

Irritably, as he spoke, he reached out for a bright-covered magazine
from the great pile of books and papers that sprawled on the wicker
table close at his elbow. "Where in blazes do the story-book writers
find their girls?" he demanded. Noisily with his knuckles he began to
knock through page after page of the magazine's big-typed
advertisements concerning the year's most popular story-book heroines.
"Why--here are no end of story-book girls," he complained, "that could
keep a fellow guessing till his hair was nine shades of white! Look at
the corking things they say! But what earthly good are any of 'em to
you? They're not real! Why, there was a little girl in a magazine
story last month--! Why, I could have died for her! But confound it, I
say, what's the use? They're none of 'em real! Nothing but moonshine!
Nothing in the world, I tell you, but just plain made-up moonshine!
Absolutely improbable!"

Slowly the Older Man drew in his long, rambling legs and crossed one
knee adroitly over the other.

"Improbable--your grandmother!" said the Older Man. "If there's--one
person on the face of this earth who makes me sick it's the ninny who
calls a thing 'improbable' because it happens to be outside his own
special, puny experience of life."

Tempestuously the Younger Man slammed down his magazine to the floor.

"Great Heavens, man!" he demanded. "Where in thunder would a fellow
like me start out to find a story-book girl? A real girl, I mean!"

"Almost anywhere--outside yourself," murmured the Older Man blandly.

"Eh?" jerked the Younger Man.

"That's what I said," drawled the Older Man with unruffled suavity.
"But what's the use?" he added a trifle more briskly. "Though you
searched a thousand years! A 'real girl'? Bah! You wouldn't know a
'real girl' if you saw her!"

"I tell you I would!" snapped the Younger Man.

"I tell you--you wouldn't!" said the Older Man.

"Prove it!" challenged the Younger Man.

"It's already proved!" confided the Older Man. "Ha! I know your type!"
he persisted frankly. "You're the sort of fellow, at a party, who
just out of sheer fool-instinct will go trampling down every other man
in sight just for the sheer fool-joy of trying to get the first dance
with the most conspicuously showy-looking, most conspicuously
artificial-looking girl in the room--who always and invariably 'bores
you to death' before the evening is over! And while you and the rest
of your kind are battling together--year after year--for this special
privilege of being 'bored to death,' the 'real girl' that you're
asking about, the marvelous girl, the girl with the big, beautiful,
unspoken thoughts in her head, the girl with the big, brave, undone
deeds in her heart, the girl that stories are made of, the girl whom
you call 'improbable'--is moping off alone in some dark, cold
corner--or sitting forlornly partnerless against the bleak wall of the
ballroom--or hiding shyly up in the dressing-room--waiting to be
discovered! Little Miss Still-Waters, deeper than ten thousand seas!
Little Miss Gunpowder, milder than the dusk before the moon ignites
it! Little Miss Sleeping-Beauty, waiting for her Prince!"

"Oh, yes--I suppose so," conceded the Younger Man impatiently. "But
that Miss Von Eaton--"

"Oh, it isn't that I don't know a pretty face--or hat, when I see it,"
interrupted the Older Man nonchalantly. "It's only that I don't put my
trust in 'em." With a quick gesture, half audacious, half apologetic,
he reached forward suddenly and tapped the Younger Man's coat sleeve.
"Oh, I knew just as well as you," he affirmed, "oh, I knew just as
well as you--at my first glance--that your gorgeous young Miss Von
Eaton was excellingly handsome. But I also knew--not later certainly
than my second glance--that she was presumably rather stupid. You
can't be interesting, you know, my young friend, unless you do
interesting things--and handsome creatures are proverbially lazy.
Humph! If Beauty is excuse enough for Being, it sure takes Plainness
then to feel the real necessity for--Doing.

"So, speaking of hats, if it's stimulating conversation that you're
after, if you're looking for something unique, something significant,
something really worth while--what you want to do, my young friend, is
to find a girl with a hat you'd be ashamed to go out with--and stay
home with her! That's where you'll find the brains, the originality,
the vivacity, the sagacity, the real ideas!"

With his first sign of genuine amusement the Younger Man tipped back
his head and laughed right up into the green-lined roof of the piazza.
"Now just whom would you specially recommend for me?" he demanded
mirthfully. "Among all the feminine galaxy of bores and frumps that
seem to be congregated at this particular hotel--just whom would you
specially recommend for me? The stoop-shouldered, school-marmy Botany
dame with her incessant garden gloves? Or?--Or--?" His whole face
brightened suddenly with a rather extraordinary amount of humorous
malice: "Or how about that duddy-looking little Edgarton girl that I
saw you talking with this morning?" he asked delightedly. "Heaven
knows she's colorless enough to suit even you--with her
winter-before-spring-before-summer-before-last clothes and her voice
so meek you'd have to hold her in your lap to hear it. And her--"

"That 'duddy-looking' little Miss Edgarton--meek?" mused the Older Man
in sincere astonishment. "Meek? Why, man alive, she was born in a
snow-shack on the Yukon River! She was at Pekin in the Boxer
Rebellion! She's roped steers in Oklahoma! She's matched her
embroidery silks to all the sunrise tints on the Himalayas! Just why
in creation should she seem meek--do you suppose--to a--to
a--twenty-five-dollar-a-week clerk like yourself?"

"'A twenty-five-dollar-a-week clerk like myself?'" the Younger Man
fairly gasped. "Why--why--I'm the junior partner of the firm of Barton
& Barton, stock-brokers! Why, we're the biggest--"

"Is that so?" quizzed the Older Man with feigned surprise.
"Well--well--well! I beg your pardon. But now doesn't it all go to
prove just exactly what I said in the beginning--that it doesn't
behoove a single one of us to judge too hastily by appearances?"

As if fairly overwhelmed with embarrassment he sat staring silently
off into space for several seconds. Then--"Speaking of this Miss
Edgarton," he resumed genially, "have you ever exactly sought her
out--as it were--and actually tried to get acquainted with her?"

"No," said Barton shortly. "Why, the girl must be thirty years old!"

"S--o?" mused the Older Man. "Just about your age?"

"I'm thirty-two," growled the Younger Man.

"I'm sixty-two, thank God!" acknowledged the Older Man. "And your
gorgeous Miss Von Eaton--who bores you so--all of a sudden--is
about--?"

"Twenty," prompted the Younger Man.

"Poor--senile--babe," ruminated the Older Man soberly.

"Eh?" gasped the Younger Man, edging forward in his chair. "Eh?
'Senile'? Twenty?"

"Sure!" grinned the Older Man. "Twenty is nothing but the 'sere and
yellow leaf' of infantile caprice! But thirty is the jocund youth of
character! On land or sea the Lord Almighty never made anything as
radiantly, divinely young as--thirty! Oh, but thirty's the darling age
in a woman!" he added with sudden exultant positiveness. "Thirty's the
birth of individuality! Thirty's the--"

"Twenty has got quite enough individuality for me, thank you!"
asserted Barton with some curtness.

"But it hasn't!" cried the Older Man hotly. "You've just confessed
that it hasn't!" In an amazing impulse of protest he reached out and
shook his freckled fist right under the Younger Man's nose. "Twenty, I
tell you, hasn't got any individuality at all!" he persisted
vehemently.

"Twenty isn't anything at all except the threadbare cloak of her
father's idiosyncrasies, lined with her mother's made-over tact,
trimmed with her great-aunt somebody's short-lipped smile, shrouding a
brand-new frame of--God knows what!"

"Eh? What?" questioned the Younger Man uneasily.

"When a girl is twenty, I tell you," persisted the Older Man--"there's
not one marrying man among us--Heaven help us!--who can swear whether
her charm is Love's own permanent food or just Nature's temporary
bait! At twenty, I tell you, there's not one man among us who can
prove whether vivacity is temperament or just plain kiddishness;
whether sweetness is real disposition or just coquetry; whether
tenderness is personal discrimination or just sex; whether dumbness is
stupidity or just brain hoarding its immature treasure; whether indeed
coldness is prudery or just conscious passion banking its fires! The
dear daredevil sweetheart whom you worship at eighteen will evolve,
likelier than not, into a mighty sour prig at forty; and the
dove-gray lass who led you to church with her prayer-book ribbons
twice every Sunday will very probably decide to go on the vaudeville
stage--when her children are just in the high school; and the
dull-eyed wallflower whom you dodged at all your college dances will
turn out, ten chances to one, the only really wonderful woman you
know! But at thirty! Oh, ye gods, Barton! If a girl interests you at
thirty you'll be utterly mad about her when she's forty--fifty--sixty!
If she's merry at thirty, if she's ardent, if she's tender, it's her
own established merriment, it's her own irreducible ardor, it's
her--Why, man alive! Why--why--"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake!" gasped Barton. "Whoa there! Go slow! How in
creation do you expect anybody to follow you?"

"Follow me? Follow me?" mused the Older Man perplexedly. Staring very
hard at Barton, he took the opportunity to swallow rather loudly once
or twice.

"Now speaking of Miss Edgarton," he resumed persistently, "now,
speaking of this Miss Edgarton, I don't presume for an instant that
you're looking for a wife on this trip, but are merely hankering a bit
now and then for something rather specially diverting in the line of
feminine companionship?"

"Well, what of it?" conceded the Younger Man.

"This of it," argued the Older Man. "If you are really craving the
interesting why don't you go out and rummage around for it? Rummage
around was what I said! Yes! The real hundred-cent-to-the-dollar
treasures of Life, you know, aren't apt to be found labeled as such
and lying round very loose on the smugly paved general highway! And
astonishingly good looks and astonishingly good clothes are pretty
nearly always equivalent to a sign saying, 'I've already been
discovered, thank you!' But the really big sport of existence, young
man, is to strike out somewhere and discover things for yourself!"

"Is--it?" scoffed Barton.

"It is!" asserted the Older Man. "The woman, I tell you, who fathoms
heroism in the fellow that every one else thought was a knave--she's
got something to brag about! The fellow who's shrewd enough to spy
unutterable lovableness in the woman that no man yet has ever even
remotely suspected of being lovable at all--God! It's like being Adam
with the whole world virgin!"

"Oh, that may be all right in theory," acknowledged the Younger Man,
with some reluctance. "But--"

"Now, speaking of Miss Edgarton," resumed the Older Man monotonously.

"Oh, hang Miss Edgarton!" snapped the Younger Man. "I wouldn't be seen
talking to her! She hasn't any looks! She hasn't any style! She hasn't
any--anything! Of all the hopelessly plain girls! Of all the--!"

"Now see here, my young friend," begged the Older Man blandly. "The
fellow who goes about the world judging women by the sparkle of their
eyes or the pink of their cheeks or the sheen of their hair--runs a
mighty big risk of being rated as just one of two things, a sensualist
or a fool."

"Are you trying to insult me?" demanded the Younger Man furiously.

Freakishly the Older Man twisted his thin-lipped mouth and one
glowering eyebrow into a surprisingly sudden and irresistible smile.

"Why--no," he drawled. "Under all existing circumstances I should
think I was complimenting you pretty considerably by rating you only
as a fool."

"Eh?" jumped Barton again.

"U-m-m," mused the Older Man thoughtfully. "Now believe me, Barton,
once and for all, there 's no such thing as a 'hopelessly plain
woman'! Every woman, I tell you, is beautiful concerning the thing
that she's most interested in! And a man's an everlasting dullard who
can't ferret out what that interest is and summon its illuminating
miracle into an otherwise indifferent face--"

"Is that so?" sniffed Barton.

Lazily the Older Man struggled to his feet and stretched his arms
till his bones began to crack.

"Bah! What's beauty, anyway," he complained, "except just a question
of where Nature has concentrated her supreme forces--in outgrowing
energy, which is beauty; or ingrowing energy, which is brains! Now I
like a little good looks as well as anybody," he confided, still
yawning, "but when I see a woman living altogether on the outside of
her face I don't reckon too positively on there being anything very
exciting going on inside that face. So by the same token, when I see a
woman who isn't squandering any centric fires at all on the contour of
her nose or the arch of her eyebrows or the flesh-tints of her cheeks,
it surely does pique my curiosity to know just what wonderful
consuming energy she is busy about.

"A face isn't meant to be a living-room, anyway, Barton, but just a
piazza where the seething, preoccupied soul can dash out now and then
to bask in the breeze and refreshment of sympathy and appreciation.
Surely then--it's no particular personal glory to you that your friend
Miss Von Eaton's energy cavorts perpetually in the gold of her hair or
the blue of her eyes, because rain or shine, congeniality or
noncongeniality, her energy hasn't any other place to go. But I tell
you it means some compliment to a man when in a bleak, dour, work-worn
personality like the old Botany dame's for instance he finds himself
able to lure out into occasional facial ecstasy the _amazing_ vitality
which has been slaving for Science alone these past fifty years.
Mushrooms are what the old Botany dame is interested in, Barton.
Really, Barton, I think you'd be surprised to see how extraordinarily
beautiful the old Botany dame can be about mushrooms! Gleam of the
first faint streak of dawn, freshness of the wildest woodland dell,
verve of the long day's strenuous effort, flush of sunset and triumph,
zeal of the student's evening lamp, puckering, daredevil smile of
reckless experiment--"

"Say! Are you a preacher?" mocked the Younger Man sarcastically.

"No more than any old man," conceded the Older Man with unruffled
good-nature.

"Old man?" repeated Barton, skeptically. In honest if reluctant
admiration for an instant, he sat appraising his companion's
extraordinary litheness and agility. "Ha!" he laughed. "It would take
a good deal older head than yours to discover what that Miss
Edgarton's beauty is!"

"Or a good deal younger one, perhaps," suggested the Older Man
judicially. "But--but speaking of Miss Edgarton--" he began all over
again.

"Oh--drat Miss Edgarton!" snarled the Younger Man viciously. "You've
got Miss Edgarton on the brain! Miss Edgarton this! Miss Edgarton
that! Miss Edgarton! Who in blazes is Miss Edgarton, anyway?"

"Miss Edgarton? Miss Edgarton?" mused the Older Man thoughtfully. "Who
is she? Miss Edgarton? Why--no one special--except--just my daughter."

Like a fly plunged all unwittingly upon a sheet of sticky paper the
Younger Man's hands and feet seemed to shoot out suddenly in every
direction.

"Good Heavens!" he gasped. "Your daughter?" he mumbled. "Your
daughter?" Every other word or phrase in the English language seemed
to be stricken suddenly from his lips. "Your--your--daughter?" he
began all over again. "Why--I--I--didn't know your name was Edgarton!"
he managed finally to articulate.

An expression of ineffable triumph, and of triumph only, flickered in
the Older Man's face.

"Why, that's just what I've been saying," he reiterated amiably. "You
don't know anything!"

Fatuously the Younger Man rose to his feet, still struggling for
speech--any old speech--a sentence, a word, a cough, anything, in
fact, that would make a noise.

"Well, if little Miss Edgarton is--little Miss Edgarton," he babbled
idiotically, "who in creation--are you?"

"Who am I?" stammered the Older Man perplexedly. As if the question
really worried him, he sagged back a trifle against the sustaining
wall of the house, and stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets
once more. "Who am I?" he repeated blandly. Again one eyebrow lifted.
Again one side of his thin-lipped mouth twitched ever so slightly to
the right. "Why, I'm just a man, Mr. Barton," he grinned very faintly,
"who travels all over the world for the sake of whatever amusement he
can get out of it. And some afternoons, of course, I get a good deal
more amusement out of it--than I do others. Eh?"

Furiously the red blood mounted into the Young Man's cheeks. "Oh, I
say, Edgarton!" he pleaded. Mirthlessly, wretchedly, a grin began to
spread over his face. "Oh, I say!" he faltered. "I _am_ a fool!"

The Older Man threw back his head and started to laugh.

[Illustration: 'I am riding,' she murmured almost inaudibly]

At the first cackling syllable of the laugh, with appalling
fatefulness Eve Edgarton herself loomed suddenly on the scene, in her
old slouch hat, her gray flannel shirt, her weather-beaten khaki
Norfolk and riding-breeches, looking for all the world like an
extraordinarily slim, extraordinarily shabby little boy just starting
out to play. Up from the top of one riding-boot the butt of a revolver
protruded slightly.

With her heavy black eyelashes shadowing somberly down across her
olive-tinted cheeks, she passed Barton as if she did not even see him
and went directly to her father.

"I am riding," she murmured almost inaudibly.

"In this heat?" groaned her father.

"In this heat," echoed Eve Edgarton.

"There will surely be a thunder-storm," protested her father.

"There will surely be a thunder-storm," acquiesced Eve Edgarton.

Without further parleying she turned and strolled off again.

Just for an instant the Older Man's glance followed her. Just for an
instant with quizzically twisted eyebrows his glance flashed back
sardonically to Barton's suffering face. Then very leisurely he began
to laugh again.

But right in the middle of the laugh--as if something infinitely
funnier than a joke had smitten him suddenly--he stopped short, with
one eyebrow stranded half-way up his forehead.

"Eve!" he called sharply. "Eve! Come back here a minute!"

Very laggingly from around the piazza corner the girl reappeared.

"Eve," said her father quite abruptly, "this is Mr. Barton! Mr.
Barton, this is my daughter!"

Listlessly the girl came forward and proffered her hand to the Younger
Man. It was a very little hand. More than that, it was an exceedingly
cold little hand.

"How do you do, sir?" she murmured almost inaudibly.

With an expression of ineffable joy the Older Man reached out and
tapped his daughter on the shoulder.

"It has just transpired, my dear Eve," he beamed, "that you can do
this young man here an inestimable service--tell him something--teach
him something, I mean--that he very specially needs to know!"

As one fairly teeming with benevolence he stood there smiling blandly
into Barton's astonished face. "Next to the pleasure of bringing
together two people who like each other," he persisted, "I know of
nothing more poignantly diverting than the bringing together of people
who--who--" Mockingly across his daughter's unconscious head,
malevolently through his mask of utter guilelessness and peace, he
challenged Barton's staring helplessness. "So--taken all in all," he
drawled still beamingly, "there's nothing in the world--at this
particular moment, Mr. Barton--that could amuse me more than to have
you join my daughter in her ride this afternoon!"

"Ride with me?" gasped little Eve Edgarton.

"This afternoon?" floundered Barton.

"Oh--why--yes--of course! I'd be delighted! I'd be--be! Only--! Only
I'm afraid that--!"

Deprecatingly with uplifted hand the Older Man refuted every
protest. "No, indeed, Mr. Barton," he insisted. "Oh, no--no indeed--I
assure you it won't inconvenience my daughter in the slightest! My
daughter is very obliging! My daughter, indeed--if I may say so
in all modesty--my daughter indeed is always a good deal of
a--philanthropist!"

Then very grandiloquently, like a man in an old-fashioned picture, he
began to back away from them, bowing low all the time, very, very low,
first to Barton, then to his daughter, then to Barton again.

"I wish you both a very good afternoon!" he said. "Really, I see no
reason why either of you should expect a single dull moment!"

[Illustration: "I would therefore respectfully suggest as a special
topic of conversation the consummate cheek of--yours truly, Paul
Reymouth Edgarton"]

Before the sickly grin on Barton's face his own smile deepened into
actual unctuousness. But before the sudden woodeny set of his
daughter's placid mouth his unctuousness twisted just a little bit
wryly on his lips.

"After all, my dear young people," he asserted hurriedly, "there's
just one thing in the world, you know, that makes two people
congenial, and that is--that they both shall have arrived at exactly
the same conclusion--by two totally different routes. It's got to be
exactly the same conclusion, else there isn't any sympathy in it. But
it's got to be by two totally different routes, you understand, else
there isn't any talky-talk to it!"

Laboriously one eyebrow began to jerk its way up his forehead, and
with a purely mechanical instinct he reached up drolly and pulled it
down again. "So--as the initial test of your mutual congeniality this
afternoon," he resumed, "I would therefore respectfully suggest as a
special topic of conversation the consummate cheek of--yours truly,
Paul Reymouth Edgarton!"

Starting to bow once more, he backed instead into the screen of the
office window. Without even an expletive he turned, pushed in the
screen, clambered adroitly through the aperture, and disappeared
almost instantly from sight.

Very faintly from some far up-stairs region the thin, faint, single
syllable of a laugh came floating down into the piazza corner.

Then just as precipitous as a man steps into any other hole, Barton
stepped into the conversational topic that had just been so aptly
provided for him.

"Is your father something of a--of a practical joker, Miss Edgarton?"
he demanded with the slightest possible tinge of shrillness.

For the first time in Barton's knowledge of little Eve Edgarton she
lifted her eyes to him--great hazel eyes, great bored, dreary, hazel
eyes set broadly in a too narrow olive face.

"My father is generally conceded to be something of a joker, I
believe," she said dully. "But it would never have occurred to me to
call him a particularly practical one. I don't like him," she added
without a flicker of expression.

"I don't either!" snapped Barton.

A trifle uneasily little Eve Edgarton went on. "Why--once when I was a
tiny child--" she droned.

"I don't know anything about when you were a tiny child," affirmed
Barton with some vehemence. "But just this afternoon--!"

In striking contrast to the cool placidity of her face one of Eve
Edgarton's boot-toes began to tap-tap-tap against the piazza floor.
When she lifted her eyes again to Barton their sleepy sullenness was
shot through suddenly with an unmistakable flash of temper.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Mr. Barton!" she cried out. "If you insist
upon riding with me, couldn't you please hurry? The afternoons are so
short!"

"If I 'insist' upon riding with you?" gasped Barton.

Disconcertingly from an upper window the Older Man's face beamed
suddenly down upon him. "Oh, don't mind anything she says," drawled
the Older Man. "It's just her cunning, 'meek' little ways."

Precipitately Barton bolted for his room.

Once safely ensconced behind his closed door a dozen different
decisions, a dozen different indecisions, rioted tempestuously through
his mind. To go was just as awkward as not to go! Not to go was just
as awkward as to go! Over and over and over one silly alternative
chased the other through his addled senses. Then just as precipitately
as he had bolted to his room he began suddenly to hurl himself into
his riding-clothes, yanking out a bureau drawer here, slamming back a
closet door there, rummaging through a box, tipping over a trunk, yet
in all his fuming haste, his raging irritability, showing the same
fastidious choice of shirt, tie, collar, that characterized his every
public appearance.

Immaculate at last as a tailor's equestrian advertisement he came
striding down again into the hotel office, only to plunge most
inopportunely into Miss Von Eaton's languorous presence.

"Why, Jim!" gasped Miss Von Eaton. Exquisitely white and cool and
fluffy and dainty, she glanced up perplexedly at him from her lazy,
deep-seated chair. "Why, Jim!" she repeated, just a little bit edgily.
"Riding? Riding? Well, of all things! You who wouldn't even play
bridge with us this afternoon on account of the heat! Well, who in the
world--who can it be that has cut us all out?"

Teasingly she jumped up and walked to the door with him, and stood
there peering out beyond the cool shadow of his dark-blue shoulder
into the dazzling road where, like so many figures thrust forth all
unwittingly into the merciless flare of a spot-light, little shabby
Eve Edgarton and three sweating horses waited squintingly in the dust.

"Oh!" cried Miss Von Eaton. "W-hy!" stammered Miss Von Eaton. "Good
gracious!" giggled Miss Von Eaton. Then hysterically, with her hand
clapped over her mouth, she turned and fled up the stairs to confide
the absurd news to her mates.

With a face like a graven image Barton went on down the steps into the
road. In one of his thirty-dollar riding-boots a disconcerting
two-cent sort of squeak merely intensified his unhappy sensation of
being motivated purely mechanically like a doll.

Two of the horses that whinnied cordially at his approach were rusty
roans. The third was a chunky gray. Already on one of the roans Eve
Edgarton sat perched with her bridle-rein oddly slashed in two, and
knotted, each raw end to a stirrup, leaving her hands and arms still
perfectly free to hug her mysterious books and papers to her breast.

"Good afternoon again, Miss Edgarton," smiled Barton conscientiously.

"Good afternoon again, Mr. Barton," echoed Eve Edgarton listlessly.

With frank curiosity he nodded toward her armful of papers. "Surely
you're not going to carry--all that stuff with you?" he questioned.

"Yes, I am, Mr. Barton," drawled Eve Edgarton, scarcely above a
whisper.

Worriedly he pointed to her stirrups. "But Great Scott, Miss
Edgarton!" he protested. "Surely you're not reckless enough to ride
like that? Just guiding with your feet?"

"I always--do, Mr. Barton," singsonged the girl monotonously.

"But the extra horse?" cried Barton. With a sudden little chuckle of
relief he pointed to the chunky gray. There was a side-saddle on the
chunky gray. "Who's going with us?"

Almost insolently little Eve Edgarton narrowed her sleepy eyes.

"I always taken an extra horse with me, Mr. Barton--Thank you!" she
yawned, with the very faintest possible tinge of asperity.

"Oh!" stammered Barton quite helplessly. "O--h!" Heavily, as he spoke,
he lifted one foot to his stirrup and swung up into his saddle.
Through all his mental misery, through all his physical discomfort, a
single lovely thought sustained him. There was only one really good
riding road in that vicinity! And it was shady! And, thank Heaven, it
was most inordinately short!

But Eve Edgarton falsified the thought before he was half through
thinking it.

She swung her horse around, reared him to almost a perpendicular
height, merged herself like so much fluid khaki into his great,
towering, threatening neck, reacted almost instantly to her own
balance again, and went plunging off toward the wild, rough,
untraveled foot-hills and--certain destruction, any unbiased onlooker
would have been free to affirm!

Snortingly the chunky gray went tearing after her. A trifle sulkily
Barton's roan took up the chase.

Shade? Oh, ye gods! If Eve Edgarton knew shade when she saw it she
certainly gave no possible sign of such intelligence. Wherever the
galloping, grass-grown road hesitated between green-roofed forest and
devastated wood-lot, she chose the devastated wood-lot! Wherever the
trotting, treacherous pasture faltered between hobbly, rock-strewn
glare and soft, lush-carpeted spots of shade, she chose the hobbly,
rock-strewn glare! On and on and on! Till dust turned sweat! And sweat
turned dust again! On and on and on! With the riderless gray thudding
madly after her! And Barton's sulky roan balking frenziedly at each
new swerve and turn!

It must have been almost three miles before Barton quite overtook her.
Then in the scudding, transitory shadow of a growly thunder-cloud she
reined in suddenly, waited patiently till Barton's panting horse was
nose and nose with hers, and then, pushing her slouch hat back from
her low, curl-fringed forehead, jogged listlessly along beside him
with her pale olive face turned inquiringly to his drenched,
beet-colored visage.

"What was it that you wanted me to do for you, Mr. Barton?" she asked
with a laborious sort of courtesy. "Are you writing a book or
something that you wanted me to help you about? Is that it? Is that
what Father meant?"

"Am I writing a--book?" gasped Barton. Desperately he began to mop his
forehead. "Writing a book? Am--I--writing--a--book? Heaven forbid!"

"What are you doing?" persisted the girl bluntly.

"What am I doing?" repeated Barton. "Why, riding with you! Trying to
ride with you!" he called out grimly as, taking the lead impetuously
again, Eve Edgarton's horse shied off at a rabbit and went sidling
down a sand-bank into a brand-new area of rocks and stubble and
breast-high blueberry bushes.

Barton liked to ride and he rode fairly well, but he was by no means
an equestrian acrobat, and, quite apart from the girl's unquestionably
disconcerting mannerisms, the foolish floppity presence of the
riderless gray rattled him more than he could possibly account for.
Yet to save his life he could not have told which would seem more
childish--to turn back in temper, or to follow on--in the same.

More in helplessness than anything else he decided to follow on.

"On and on and on," would have described it more adequately.

Blacker and blacker the huddling thunder-caps spotted across the
brilliant, sunny sky. Gaspier and gaspier in each lulling tree-top, in
each hushing bird-song, in each drooping grass-blade, the whole torrid
earth seemed to be sucking in its breath as if it meant never, never
to exhale it again.

Once more in the midst of a particularly hideous glare the girl took
occasion to rein in and wait for him, turning once more to his
flushed, miserable countenance a little face inordinately pale and
serene.

"If you're not writing a book, what would you like to talk about, Mr.
Barton?" she asked conscientiously. "Would you like to talk about
peat-bog fossils?"

"What?" gasped Barton.

"Peat-bog fossils," repeated the mild little voice. "Are you
interested in peat-bog fossils? Or would you rather talk about the
Mississippi River pearl fisheries? Or do you care more perhaps for
politics? Would you like to discuss the relative financial conditions
of the South American republics?"

Before the expression of blank despair in Barton's face, her own face
fell a trifle. "No?" she ventured worriedly. "No? Oh, I'm sorry, Mr.
Barton, but you see--you see--I've never been out before with
anybody--my own age. So I don't know at all what you would be
interested in!"

"Never been out before with any one her own age?" gasped Barton to
himself. Merciful Heavens! what was her "own age"? There in her little
khaki Norfolk and old slouch hat she looked about fifteen years
old--and a boy, at that. Altogether wretchedly he turned and grinned
at her.

"Miss Edgarton," he said, "believe me, there's not one thing to-day
under God's heaven that does interest me--except the weather!"

"The weather?" mused little Eve Edgarton thoughtfully. Casually, as
she spoke, she glanced down across the horses' lathered sides and up
into Barton's crimson face. "The weather? Oh!" she hastened anxiously
to affirm. "Oh, yes! The meteorological conditions certainly are
interesting this summer. Do you yourself think that it's a shifting of
the Gulf Stream? Or just a--just a change in the paths of the cyclonic
areas of low pressure?" she persisted drearily.

"Eh?" gasped Barton. "The weather? Heat was what I meant, Miss
Edgarton! Just plain heat!--DAMNED HEAT--was what I meant--if I may be
so explicit, Miss Edgarton."

"It is hot," conceded Eve apologetically.

"In fact," snapped Barton, "I think it's the hottest day I ever knew!"

"Really?" droned Eve Edgarton.

"Really!" snapped Barton.

It must have been almost half an hour before anybody spoke again.
Then, "Pretty hot, isn't it?" Barton began all over again.

"Yes," said Eve Edgarton.

"In fact," hissed Barton through clenched teeth, "in fact I know it's
the hottest day I ever knew!"

"Really?" droned Eve Edgarton.

"Really!" choked Barton.

Creakily under their hot, chafing saddles the sweltering roans lurched
off suddenly through a great snarl of bushes into a fern-shaded
spring-hole and stood ankle-deep in the boggy grass, guzzling noisily
at food and drink, with the chunky gray crowding greedily against
first one rider and then the other.

Quite against all intention Barton groaned aloud. His sun-scorched
eyes seemed fairly shriveling with the glare. His wilted linen collar
slopped like a stale poultice around his tortured neck. In his sticky
fingers the bridle-rein itched like so much poisoned ribbon.

Reaching up one small hand to drag the soft flannel collar of her
shirt a little farther down from her slim throat, Eve Edgarton rested
her chin on her knuckles for an instant and surveyed him plaintively.
"Aren't--we--having--an--awful time?" she whispered.

Even then if she had looked woman-y, girl-y, even remotely, affectedly
feminine, Barton would doubtless have floundered heroically through
some protesting lie. But to the frank, blunt, little-boyishness of her
he succumbed suddenly with a beatific grin of relief. "Yes, we
certainly are!" he acknowledged ruthlessly.

"And what good is it?" questioned the girl most unexpectedly.

"Not any good!" grunted Barton.

"To any one?" persisted the girl.

"Not to any one!" exploded Barton.

With an odd little gasp of joy the girl reached out dartingly and
touched Barton on his sleeve. Her face was suddenly eager, active,
transcendently vital.

"Then oh--won't you please--please--turn round--and go home--and leave
me alone?" she pleaded astonishingly.

"Turn round and go home?" stammered Barton.

The touch on his sleeve quickened a little. "Oh, yes--please, Mr.
Barton!" insisted the tremulous voice.

"You--you mean I'm in your way?" stammered Barton.

Very gravely the girl nodded her head. "Oh, yes, Mr. Barton--you're
terribly in my way," she acknowledged quite frankly.

"Good Heavens," thought Barton, "is there a man in this? Is it a
tryst? Well, of all things!"

Jerkily he began to back his horse out of the spring-hole,
back--back--back through the intricate, overgrown pathway of flapping
leaves and sharp, scratchy twigs.

"I am very sorry, Miss Edgarton, to have forced my presence on you
so!" he murmured ironically.

"Oh, it isn't just you!" said little Eve Edgarton quite frankly. "It's
all Father's friends." Almost threateningly as she spoke she jerked up
her own horse's drizzling mouth and rode right at Barton as if to
force him back even faster through the great snarl of underbrush. "I
hate clever people!" she asserted passionately. "I hate them--hate
them--hate them! I hate all Father's clever friends! I hate--"

"But you see I'm not clever," grinned Barton in spite of himself. "Oh,
not clever at all," he reiterated with some grimness as an alder
branch slapped him stingingly across one eye. "Indeed--" he dodged and
ducked and floundered, still backing, backing, everlastingly
backing--"indeed, your father has spent quite a lot of his valuable
time this afternoon assuring me--and reassuring me--that--that I'm
altogether a fool!"

Unrelentingly little Eve Edgarton's horse kept right on forcing him
back--back--back.

"But if you're not one of Father's clever friends--who are you?" she
demanded perplexedly. "And why did you insist so on riding with me
this afternoon?" she cried accusingly.

"I didn't exactly--insist," grinned Barton with a flush of guilt. The
flush of guilt added to the flush of heat made him look suddenly very
confused.

Across Eve Edgarton's thin little face the flash of temper faded
instantly into mere sulky ennui again.

"Oh, dear--oh, dear," she droned. "You--you didn't want to marry me,
did you?"

Just for one mad, panic-stricken second the whole world seemed to turn
black before Barton's eyes. His heart stopped beating. His ear-drums
cracked. Then suddenly, astonishingly, he found himself grinning into
that honest little face, and answering comfortably:

"Why, no, Miss Edgarton, I hadn't the slightest idea in the world of
wanting to marry you."

"Thank God for that!" gasped little Eve Edgarton. "So many of Father's
friends do want to marry me," she confided plaintively, still driving
Barton back through that horrid scratchy thicket. "I'm so rich, you
see," she confided with equal simplicity, "and I know so
much--there's almost always somebody in Petrozavodsk or Broken Hill
or Bashukulumbwe who wants to marry me."

"In--where?" stammered Barton.

"Why--in Russia!" said little Eve Edgarton with some surprise. "And
Australia! And Africa! Were you never there?"

"I've been in Jersey City," babbled Barton with a desperate attempt at
facetiousness.

"I was never there!" admitted little Eve Edgarton regretfully.

Vehemently with one hand she lunged forward and tried with her tiny
open palm to push Barton's horse a trifle faster back through the
intricate thicket. Then once in the open again she drew herself up
with an absurd air of dignity and finality and bowed him from her
presence.

"Good-by, Mr. Barton," she said. "Good-by, Mr. Barton."

"But Miss Edgarton--" stammered Barton perplexedly. Whatever his own
personal joy and relief might be, the surrounding country
nevertheless was exceedingly wild, and the girl an extravagantly long
distance from home. "But Miss Edgarton--" he began all over again.

"Good-by, Mr. Barton! And thank you for going home!" she added
conscientiously.

"But what will I tell your father?" worried Barton.

"Oh--hang Father," drawled the indifferent little voice.

"But the extra horse?" argued Barton with increasing perplexity. "The
gray? If you've got some date up your sleeve, don't you want me to
take the gray home with me, and get him out of your way?"

With sluggish resentment little Eve Edgarton lifted her eyes to his.
"What would the gray go home with you for?" she asked tersely. "Why,
how silly! Why, it's my--mother's horse! That is, we call it my
mother's horse," she hastened to explain. "My mother's dead, you know.
She's almost always been dead, I mean. So Father always makes me buy
an extra place for my mother. It's just a trick of ours, a sort of a
custom. I play around alone so much you know. And we live in such wild
places!"

Casually she bent over and pushed the protruding butt of her revolver
a trifle farther down into her riding boot. "S'long--Mr. Barton!" she
called listlessly over the other, and started on, stumblingly,
clatteringly, up the abruptly steep and precipitous mountain trail--a
little dust-colored gnome on a dust-colored horse, with the dutiful
gray pinking cautiously along behind her.

By some odd twist of his bridle-rein the gray's chunky neck arched
slightly askew, and he pranced now and then from side to side of the
trail as if guided thus by an invisible hand.

With an uncanny pucker along his spine as if he found himself suddenly
deserting two women instead of one, Barton went fumbling and squinting
out through the dusty green shade into the expected glare of the open
pasture, and discovered, to his further disconcerting, that there was
no glare left.

Before his astonished eyes he saw sun-scorched mountain-top,
sun-scorched granite, sun-scorched field stubble turned suddenly to
shade--no cool, translucent miracle of fluctuant greens, but a horrid,
plushy, purple dusk under a horrid, plushy, purple sky, with a rip of
lightning along the horizon, a galloping gasp of furiously oncoming
wind, an almost strangling stench of dust-scented rain.

But before he could whirl his horse about, the storm broke! Heaven
fell! Hell rose! The sides of the earth caved in! Chaos unspeakable
tore north, east, south, west!

Snortingly for one single instant the roan's panic-stricken nostrils
went blooming up into the cloud-burst like two parched scarlet
poinsettias. Then man and beast as one flesh, as one mind, went
bolting back through the rain-drenched, wind-ravished thicket to find
their mates.

Up, up, up, everlastingly up, the mountain trail twisted and scrambled
through the unholy darkness. Now and again a slippery stone tripped
the roan's fumbling feet. Now and again a swaying branch slapped
Barton stingingly across his straining eyes. All around and about them
tortured forest trees moaned and writhed in the gale. Through every
cavernous vista gray sheets of rain went flapping madly by them. The
lightning was incredible. The thunder like the snarl of a glass sky
shivering into inestimable fragments.

With every gasping breath beginning to rip from his poor lungs like a
knifed stitch, the roan still faltered on each new ledge to whinny
desperately to his mate. Equally futilely from time to time, Barton,
with his hands cupped to his mouth, holloed--holloed--holloed--into
the thunderous darkness.

Then at a sharp turn in the trail, magically, in a pale, transient
flicker of light, loomed little Eve Edgarton's boyish figure, drenched
to the skin apparently, wind-driven, rain-battered, but with hands in
her pockets, slouch hat rakishly askew, strolling as nonchalantly down
that ghastly trail as a child might come strolling down a
stained-glassed, Persian-carpeted stairway to meet an expected guest.

In vaguely silhouetted greeting for one fleet instant a little khaki
arm lifted itself full length into the air.

Then more precipitately than any rational thing could happen, more
precipitately than any rational thing could even begin to happen,
could even begin to begin to happen, without shock, without noise,
without pain, without terror or turmoil, or any time at all to fight
or pray--a slice of living flame came scaling through the
darkness--and cut Barton's consciousness clean in two!



CHAPTER II


When Barton recovered the severed parts of his consciousness again and
tried to pull them together, he found that the Present was strangely
missing.

The Past and the Future, however, were perfectly plain to him. He was
a young stock-broker. He remembered that quite distinctly! And just as
soon as the immediate dizzy mystery had been cleared up he would, of
course, be a young stock-broker again! But between this snug
conviction as to the Past, this smug assurance as to the Future, his
mind lay tugging and shivering like a man under a split blanket. Where
in creation was the Present? Alternately he tried to yank both Past
and Future across the chilly interim.

"There was--a--green and white piazza corner," vaguely his memory
reminded him. "Never again!" some latent determination leaped to
mock him. And there had been--some sort of an argument--with a
drollish old man--concerning all homely girls in general and one
very specially homely little girl in particular. And the--very
specially homely little girl in particular had turned out to be the
old man's--daughter!--"Never again!" his original impulse hastened
to reassure him. And there had been a horseback ride--with the girl.
Oh, yes--out of some strained sense of--of parental humor--there had
been a forced horseback ride. And the weather hadbeen--hot--and
black--and then suddenly very yellow. Yellow? Yellow? Dizzily the
world began to whir through his senses--a prism of light, a fume of
sulphur! Yellow? Yellow? What was yellow? What was anything? What
was anything? Yes! That was just it! Where was anything?

Whimperingly, like a dream-dazed dog, the soul of him began to
shiver with fear. Oh, ye gods! If returning consciousness would only
manifest itself first by some one indisputable proof of a still
undisintegrated body, some crisp, reassuring method of outlining
one's corporeal edges, some sensory roll-call, as it were of--head,
hands, feet, sides! But out of oblivion, out of space abysmal, out
of sensory annihilation, to come vaporing back, back, back,--headless,
armless, legless, trunkless, conscious only of consciousness, uncertain
yet whether the full awakening prove itself--this world or the next!
As sacred of Heaven--as--of hell! As--!

Then very, very slowly, with no realization of eyelids, with no
realization of lifting his eyelids, Barton began to see things. And he
thought he was lying on the soft outer edges of a gigantic black
pansy, staring blankly through its glowing golden center into the
droll, sketchy little face of the pansy.

And then suddenly, with a jerk that seemed almost to crack his spine,
he sensed that the blackness wasn't a pansy at all, but just a round,
earthy sort of blackness in which he himself lay mysteriously prone.
And he heard the wind still roaring furiously away off somewhere. And
he heard the rain still drenching and sousing away off somewhere. But
no wind seemed to be tugging directly at him, and no rain seemed to be
splashing directly on him. And instead of the cavernous golden crater
of a supernatural pansy there was just a perfectly tame yellow
farm-lantern balanced adroitly on a low stone in the middle of the
mysterious round blackness.

And in the sallow glow of that pleasant lantern-light little Eve
Edgarton sat cross-legged on the ground with a great pulpy clutter of
rain-soaked magazines spread out all around her like a giant's pack of
cards. And diagonally across her breast from shoulder to waistline her
little gray flannel shirt hung gashed into innumerable ribbons.

To Barton's blinking eyes she looked exceedingly strange and untidy.
But nothing seemed to concern little Eve Edgarton except that
spreading circle of half-drowned papers.

"For Heaven's sake--wha--ght are you--do'?" mumbled Barton.

Out from her flickering aura of yellow lantern-light little Eve
Edgarton peered forth quizzically into Barton's darkness. "Why--I'm
trying to save--my poor dear--books," she drawled.

"Wha--ght?" struggled Barton. The word dragged on his tongue
like a weight of lead. "Wha--ght?" he persisted desperately.
"Wh--ere?--For--Heaven's sake--wha--ght's the matter--with us?"

Solicitously little Eve Edgarton lifted a soggy magazine-page to the
lantern's warm, curving cheek.

"Why--we're in my cave," she confided. "In my very own--cave--you
know--that I was headed for--all the time. We got--sort of--struck by
lightning," she started to explain. "We--"

"Struck by--lightning?" gasped Barton. Mentally he started to jump up.
But physically nothing moved. "My God! I'm paralyzed!" he screamed.

"Oh, no--really--I don't think so," crooned little Eve Edgarton.

With the faintest possible tinge of reluctance she put down her
papers, picked up the lantern, and, crawling over to where Barton
lay, sat down cross-legged again on the ground beside him, and began
with mechanically alternate fist and palm to rubadubdub and
thump-thump-thump and stroke-stroke-stroke his utterly helpless
body.

"Oh--of--course--you've had--an awfully close call!" she drummed
resonantly upon his apathetic chest. "But I've seen--three lightning
people--a lot worse off than you!" she kneaded reassuringly into his
insensate neck-muscles. "And--they--came out of it--all right--after a
few days!" she slapped mercilessly into his faintly conscious sides.

Very slowly, very sluggishly, as his circulation quickened again, a
horrid suspicion began to stir in Barton's mind; but it took him a
long time to voice the suspicion in anything as loud and public as
words.

"Miss--Edgarton!" he plunged at last quite precipitately. "Miss
Edgarton! Do I seem to have--any shirt on?"

"No, you don't seem to, exactly, Mr. Barton," conceded little Eve
Edgarton. "And your skin--"

From head to foot Barton's whole body strained and twisted in a futile
effort to raise himself to at least one elbow. "Why, I'm stripped to
my waist!" he stammered in real horror.

"Why, yes--of course," drawled little Eve Edgarton. "And your skin--"
Imperturbably as she spoke she pushed him down flat on the ground
again and began, with her hands edged vertically like two slim boards,
to slash little blissful gashes of consciousness and pain into his
frigid right arm. "You see--I had to take both your shirts," she
explained, "and what was left of your coat--and all of my coat--to
make a soft, strong rope to tie round under your arms so the horse
could drag you."

"Did the roan drag me--'way up here?" groaned Barton a bit hazily.

With the faintest possible gasp of surprise little Eve Edgarton
stopped slashing his arm and, picking up the lantern, flashed it
disconcertingly across his blinking eyes and naked shoulders. "The
roans are in heaven," she said quite simply. "It was Mother's horse
that dragged you up here." As casually as if he had been a big doll
she reached out one slim brown finger and drew his under lip a little
bit down from his teeth. "My! But you're still blue!" she confided
frankly. "I guess perhaps you'd better have a little more vodka."

Again Barton struggled vainly to raise himself on one elbow. "Vodka?"
he stammered.

Again the lifted lantern light flashed disconcertingly across his face
and shoulders. "Why, don't you remember--anything?" drawled little Eve
Edgarton. "Not anything at all? Why, I must have worked over you two
hours--artificial respiration, you know, and all that sort of
thing--before I even got you up here! My! But you're heavy!" she
reproached him frowningly. "Men ought to stay just as light as they
possibly can, so when they get into trouble and things--it would be
easier for women to help them. Why, last year in the China Sea--with
Father and five of his friends--!"

A trifle shiveringly she shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, well, never mind
about Father and the China Sea," she retracted soberly. "It's only
that I'm so small, you see, and so flexible--I can crawl 'round most
anywhere through port-holes and things--even if they're capsized. So
we only lost one of them--one of Father's friends, I mean; and I never
would have lost him if he hadn't been so heavy."

"Hours?" gasped Barton irrelevantly. With a wry twist of his neck he
peered out through the darkness to where the freshening air, the
steady, monotonous slosh-slosh-slosh of rain, the pale intermittent
flare of stale lightning, proclaimed the opening of the cave.

"For Heaven's sake, wh-at--what time is it?" he faltered.

"Why, I'm sure I don't know," said little Eve Edgarton. "But I should
guess it might be about eight or nine o'clock. Are you hungry?"

With infinite agility she scrambled to her knees and went darting off
on all fours like a squirrel into some mysterious, clattery corner of
the darkness from which she emerged at last with one little gray
flannel arm crooked inclusively around a whole elbowful of treasure.

"There," she drawled. "There. There. There."

Only the soft earthy thud that accompanied each "There" pointed the
slightest significance to the word. The first thud was a slim, queer,
stone flagon of vodka. Wanly, like some far pinnacle on some far
Russian fortress, its grim shape loomed in the sallow lantern light.
The second thud was a dust-colored basket of dates from some
green-spotted Arabian desert. Vaguely its soft curving outline merged
into shadow and turf. The third thud was a battered old
drinking-cup--dully silver, mysteriously Chinese. The fourth thud was
a big glass jar of frankly American beef. Familiarly, reassuringly,
its sleek sides glinted in the flickering flame.

"Supper," announced little Eve Edgarton.

As tomboyishly as a miniature brigand she crawled forward again into
the meager square of lantern-tinted earth and, yanking a revolver out
of one boot-leg and a pair of scissors from the other, settled herself
with unassailable girlishness to jab the delicate scissors-points into
the stubborn tin top of the meat jar.

As though the tin had been his own flesh the act goaded Barton half
upright into the light--a brightly naked young Viking to the waist, a
vaguely shadowed equestrian Fashion Plate to the feet.

"Well--I certainly never saw anybody like you before!" he glowered at
her.

With equal gravity but infinitely more deliberation little Eve
Edgarton returned the stare. "I never saw anybody like you before,
either," she said enigmatically.

Barton winced back into the darkness. "Oh, I say," he stammered. "I
wish I had a coat! I feel like a--like a--"

"Why--why?" droned little Eve Edgarton perplexedly. Out from the
yellow heart of the pansy-blackness her small, grave, gnomish face
peered after him with pristine frankness. "Why--why--I think you
look--nice," said little Eve Edgarton.

With a really desperate effort Barton tried to clothe himself in
facetiousness, if in nothing else. "Oh, very well," he grinned feebly.
"If you don't mind--there's no special reason, I suppose, why I
should."

Vaguely, blurrishly, like a figure on the wrong side of a
stained-glass window, he began to loom up again into the lantern
light. There was no embarrassment certainly about his hunger, nor any
affectation at all connected with his thirst. Chokingly from the
battered silver cup he gulped down the scorching vodka. Ravenously he
attacked the salty meat, the sweet, cloying dates.

Watching him solemn-eyed above her own intermittent nibbles, the girl
spoke out quite simply the thought that was uppermost in her mind.
"This supper'll come in mighty handy, won't it, if we have to be out
here all night, Mr. Barton?"

"If we have to be out here--all night?" faltered Barton.

Oh, ye gods! If just their afternoon ride together had been hotel
talk--as of course it was within five minutes after their
departure--what would their midnight return be? Or rather their
non-return? Already through his addled brain he heard the monotonous
creak-creak of rocking-chair gossip, the sly jest of the smoking-room,
the whispered excitement of the kitchen--all the sophisticated old
worldlings hoping indifferently for the best, all the unsophisticated
old prudes yearning ecstatically for the worst!

"If we have to stay out here all night?" he repeated wildly. "Oh,
what--oh, what will your father say, Miss Edgarton?"

"What will Father say?" drawled little Eve Edgarton. Thuddingly she
set down the empty beef-jar. "Oh, Father'll say: What in creation is
Eve out trying to save to-night? A dog? A cat? A three-legged deer?"

"Well, what do you expect to save?" quizzed Barton a bit tartly.

"Just--you," acknowledged little Eve Edgarton without enthusiasm. "And
isn't it funny," she confided placidly, "that I've never yet succeeded
in saving anything that I could take home with me--and keep! That's
the trouble with boarding!"

In a vague, gold-colored flicker of appeal her lifted face flared out
again into Barton's darkness. Too fugitive to be called a smile, a
tremor of reminiscence went scudding across her mouth before the
brooding shadow of her old slouch hat blotted out her features again.

"In India once," persisted the dreary little voice, "in India once,
when Father and I were going into the mountains for the summer, there
was a--there was a sort of fakir at one of the railway stations doing
tricks with a crippled tiger-cub--a tiger-cub with a shot-off paw. And
when Father wasn't looking I got off the train and went back--and I
followed that fakir two days till he just naturally had to sell me the
tiger-cub; he couldn't exactly have an Englishwoman following him
indefinitely, you know. And I took the tiger-cub back with me to
Father and he was very cunning--but--" Languorously the speech trailed
off into indistinctness. "But the people at the hotel were--were
indifferent to him," she rallied whisperingly. "And I had to let him
go."

"You got off a train? In India? Alone?" snapped Barton. "And went
following a dirty, sneaking fakir for two days? Well, of all the
crazy--indiscreet--"

"Indiscreet?" mused little Eve Edgarton. Again out of the murky
blackness her tilted chin caught up the flare of yellow lantern-light.
"Indiscreet?" she repeated monotonously. "Who? I?"

"Yes--you," grunted Barton. "Traipsing 'round all alone--after--"

"But I never am alone, Mr. Barton," protested the mild little voice.
"You see I always have the extra saddle, the extra railway ticket, the
extra what-ever-it-is. And--and--" Caressingly a little gold-tipped
hand reached out through the shadows and patted something indistinctly
metallic. "My mother's memory? My father's revolver?" she drawled.
"Why, what better company could any girl have? Indiscreet?" Slowly the
tip of her little nose tilted up into the light. "Why, down in the
Transvaal--two years ago," she explained painstakingly, "why, down in
the Transvaal--two years ago--they called me the best-chaperoned girl
in Africa. Indiscreet? Why, Mr. Barton, I never even saw an indiscreet
woman in all my life. Men, of course, are indiscreet sometimes," she
conceded conscientiously. "Down in the Transvaal two years ago, I had
to shoot up a couple of men for being a little bit indiscreet, but--"

In one jerk Barton raised himself to a sitting posture.

"You 'shot up' a couple of men?" he demanded peremptorily.

Through the crook of a mud-smeared elbow shoving back the sodden brim
of her hat, the girl glanced toward him like a vaguely perplexed
little ragamuffin. "It was--messy," she admitted softly. Out from her
snarl of storm-blown hair, tattered, battered by wind and rain, she
peered up suddenly with her first frowning sign of self-consciousness.
"If there's one thing in the world that I regret," she faltered
deprecatingly, "it's a--it's--an untidy fight."

Altogether violently Barton burst out laughing. There was no mirth in
the laugh, but just noise. "Oh, let's go home!" he suggested
hysterically.

"Home?" faltered little Eve Edgarton. With a sluggish sort of defiance
she reached out and gathered the big wet scrap-book to her breast.
"Why, Mr. Barton," she said, "we couldn't get home now in all this
storm and darkness and wash-out--to save our lives. But even if it
were moonlight," she singsonged, "and starlight--and high-noon; even
if there were--chariots--at the door, I'm not going home--now--till
I've finished my scrap-book--if it takes a week."

"Eh?" jerked Barton. "What?" Laboriously he edged himself forward. For
five hours now of reckless riding, of storm and privation, through
death and disaster, the girl had clung tenaciously to her books and
papers. What in creation was in them? "For Heaven's sake--Miss
Edgarton--" he began.

"Oh, don't fuss--so," said little Eve Edgarton. "It's nothing but my
paper-doll book."

"Your PAPER-DOLL BOOK?" stammered Barton. With another racking effort
he edged himself even farther forward. "Miss Edgarton!" he asked quite
frankly, "are you--crazy?"

[Illustration: "Your PAPER-DOLL BOOK?" stammered Barton]

"N--o! But--very determined," drawled little Eve Edgarton. With
unruffled serenity she picked up a pulpy magazine-page from the
ground in front of her and handed it to him. "And it--would greatly
facilitate matters, Mr. Barton," she confided, "if you would kindly
begin drying out some papers against your side of the lantern."

"What?" gasped Barton.

Very gingerly he took the pulpy sheet between his thumb and
forefinger. It was a full-page picture of a big gas-range, and slowly,
as he scanned it for some hidden charm or value, it split in two and
fell soggily back to its mates. Once again for sheer nervous relief he
burst out laughing.

Out of her diminutiveness, out of her leanness, out of her
extraordinary litheness, little Eve Edgarton stared up speculatively
at Barton's great hulking helplessness. Her hat looked humorous. Her
hair looked humorous. Her tattered flannel shirt was distinctly
humorous. But there was nothing humorous about her set little mouth.

"If you--laugh," she threatened, "I'll tip you over backward
again--and--trample on you."

"I believe you would!" said Barton with a sudden sobriety more packed
with mirth than any laugh he had ever laughed.

"Well, I don't care," conceded the girl a bit sheepishly. "Everybody
laughs at my paper-doll book! Father does! Everybody does! When I'm
rearranging their old mummy collections--and cataloguing their old
South American birds--or shining up their old geological
specimens--they think I'm wonderful. But when I try to do the
teeniest--tiniest thing that happens to interest me--they call me
'crazy'! So that's why I come 'way out here to this cave--to play,"
she whispered with a flicker of real shyness. "In all the world," she
confided, "this cave is the only place I've ever found where there
wasn't anybody to laugh at me."

Between her placid brows a vindictive little frown blackened suddenly.
"That's why it wasn't specially convenient, Mr. Barton--to have you
ride with me this afternoon," she affirmed. "That's why it wasn't
specially convenient to--to have you struck by lightning this
afternoon!" Tragically, with one small brown hand, she pointed toward
the great water-soaked mess of magazines that surrounded her. "You
see," she mourned, "I've been saving them up all summer--to cut
out--to-day! And now?--Now--? We're sailing for Melbourne Saturday!"
she added conclusively.

"Well--really!" stammered Barton. "Well--truly!--Well, of all--damned
things! Why--what do you want me to do? Apologize to you for having
been struck by lightning?" His voice was fairly riotous with
astonishment and indignation. Then quite unexpectedly one side of his
mouth began to twist upward in the faintest perceptible sort of a real
grin.

"When you smile like that you're--quite pleasant," murmured little Eve
Edgarton.

"Is that so?" grinned Barton. "Well, it wouldn't hurt you to smile
just a tiny bit now and then!"

"Wouldn't it?" said little Eve Edgarton. Thoughtfully for a moment,
with her scissors poised high in the air, she seemed to be considering
the suggestion. Then quite abruptly again she resumed her task of
prying some pasted object out of her scrap-book. "Oh, no, thank you,
Mr. Barton," she decided. "I'm much too bored--all the while--to do
any smiling."

"Bored?" snapped Barton. Staring perplexedly into her dreary, meek
little face, something deeper, something infinitely subtler than mere
curiosity, wakened precipitately in his consciousness. "For Heaven's
sake, Miss Edgarton!" he stammered. "From the Arctic Ocean to the
South Seas, if you've seen all the things that you must have seen, if
you've done all the things that you must have done--WHY SHOULD YOU
LOOK SO BORED?"

Flutteringly the girl's eyes lifted and fell. "Why, I'm bored, Mr.
Barton," drawled little Eve Edgarton, "I'm bored because--I'm sick to
death--of seeing all the things I've seen. I'm sick to death of--doing
all the things I've done." With little metallic snips of sound she
concentrated herself and her scissors suddenly upon the
mahogany-colored picture of a pianola.

"Well, what do you want?" quizzed Barton.

In a sullen, turgid sort of defiance the girl lifted her somber eyes
to his. "I want to stay home--like other people--and have a house,"
she wailed. "I want a house--and--the things that go with a house: a
cat, and the things that go with a cat; kittens, and the things that
go with kittens; saucers of cream, and the things that go with saucers
of cream; ice-chests, and--and--" Surprisingly into her languid,
sing-song tone broke a sudden note of passion. "Bah!" she snapped.
"Think of going all the way to India just to plunge your arms into the
spooky, foamy Ganges and 'make a wish'! 'What do you wish?' asks
Father, pleased-as a Chessy-puss. Humph! I wish it was the soap-suds
in my own wash-tub!--Or gallivanting down to British Guiana just to
smell the great blowsy water-lilies in the canals! I'd rather smell
burned crackers in my own cook stove!"

"But you'll surely have a house--some time," argued Barton with real
sympathy. Quite against all intention the girl's unexpected emotion
disturbed him a little. "Every girl gets a house--some time!" he
insisted resolutely.

"N--o, I don't--think so," mused Eve Edgarton judicially. "You see,"
she explained with soft, slow deliberation, "you see, Mr. Barton, only
people who live in houses know people who live in houses! If you're a
nomad you meet--only nomads! Campers mate just naturally with campers,
and ocean-travelers with ocean-travelers--and red-velvet
hotel-dwellers with red-velvet hotel-dwellers. Oh, of course, if
Mother had lived it might have been different," she added a trifle
more cheerfully. "For, of course, if Mother had lived I should have
been--pretty," she asserted calmly, "or interesting-looking, anyway.
Mother would surely have managed it--somehow; and I should have had a
lot of beaux--young men beaux I mean, like you. Father's friends are
all so gray!--Oh, of course, I shall marry--some time," she continued
evenly. "Probably I'm going to marry the British consul at Nunko-Nono.
He's a great friend of Father's--and he wants me to help him write a
book on 'The Geologic Relationship of Melanesia to the Australian
Continent'!"

Dully her voice rose to its monotone: "But I don't suppose--we shall
live in a--house," she moaned apathetically. "At the best it will
probably be only a musty room or two up over the consulate--and more
likely than not it won't be anything at all except a nipa hut and a
typewriter-table."

As if some mote of dust disturbed her, suddenly she rubbed the knuckles
of one hand across her eyes. "But maybe we'll have--daughters,"
she persisted undauntedly. "And maybe they'll have houses!"

"Oh, shucks!" said Barton uneasily. "A--a house isn't so much!"

"It--isn't?" asked little Eve Edgarton incredulously. "Why--why--you
don't mean--"

"Don't mean--what?" puzzled Barton.

"Do--you--live--in--a--house?" asked little Eve Edgarton abruptly. Her
hands were suddenly quiet in her lap, her tousled head cocked ever so
slightly to one side, her sluggish eyes incredibly dilated.

"Why, of course I live in a house," laughed Barton.

"O--h," breathed little Eve Edgarton. "Re--ally? It must be
wonderful." Wiltingly her eyes, her hands, drooped back to her
scrap-book again. "In--all--my--life," she resumed monotonously, "I've
never spent a single night--in a real house."

"What?" questioned Barton.

"Oh, of course," explained the girl dully, "of course I've spent no
end of nights in hotels and camps and huts and trains and steamers
and--But--What color is your house?" she asked casually.

"Why, brown, I guess," said Barton.

"Brown, you 'guess'?" whispered the girl pitifully. "Don't you--know?"

"No, I wouldn't exactly like to swear to it," grinned Barton a bit
sheepishly.

Again the girl's eyes lifted just a bit over-intently from the work in
her lap.

"What color is the wall-paper--in your own room?" she asked casually.
"Is it--is it a--dear pinkie-posie sort of effect? Or just
plain--shaded stripes?"

"Why, I'm sure I don't remember," acknowledged Barton worriedly. "Why,
it's just paper, you know--paper," he floundered helplessly. "Red,
green, brown, white--maybe it's white," he asserted experimentally.
"Oh, for goodness' sake--how should I know!" he collapsed at last.
"When my sisters were home from Europe last year, they fixed the whole
blooming place over for--some kind of a party. But I don't know that I
ever specially noticed just what it was that they did to it. Oh, it's
all right, you know!" he attested with some emphasis. "Oh, it's all
right enough--early Jacobean, or something like that--'perfectly
corking,' everybody calls it! But it's so everlasting big, and it
costs so much to run it, and I've lost such a wicked lot of money this
year, that I'm not going to keep it after this autumn--if my sisters
ever send me their Paris address so I'll know what to do with their
things."

Frowningly little Eve Edgarton bent forward.

"'Some kind of a party?'" she repeated in unconscious mimicry. "You
mean you gave a party? A real Christian party? As recently as last
winter? And you can't even remember what kind of a party it was?"
Something in her slender brown throat fluttered ever so slightly.
"Why, I've never even been to a Christian party--in all my life!" she
said. "Though I can dance in every language of Asia!

"And you've got sisters?" she stammered. "Live silk-and-muslin
sisters? And you don't even know where they are? Why, I've never even
had a girl friend in all my life!"

Incredulously she lifted her puzzled eyes to his. "And you've got a
house?" she faltered. "And you're not going to keep it? A real--truly
house? And you don't even know what color it is? You don't even know
what color your own room is? And I know the name of every house-paint
there is in the world," she muttered, "and the name of every
wall-paper there is in the world, and the name of every carpet, and
the name of every curtain, and the name of--everything. And I haven't
got any house at all--"

Then startlingly, without the slightest warning, she pitched forward
suddenly on her face and lay clutching into the turf--a little
dust-colored wisp of a boyish figure sobbing its starved heart out
against a dust-colored earth.

"Why--what's the matter!" gasped Barton. "Why!--Why--Kid!" Very
laboriously with his numbed hands, with his strange, unresponsive
legs, he edged himself forward a little till he could just reach her
shoulder. "Why--Kid!" he patted her rather clumsily. "Why, Kid--do you
mean--"

Slowly through the darkness Eve Edgarton came crawling to his side.
Solemnly she lifted her eyes to Barton's. "I'll tell you something
that Mother told me," she murmured. "This is it: 'Your father is the
most wonderful man that ever lived,' my mother whispered to me quite
distinctly. 'But he'll never make any home for you--except in his
arms; and that is plenty Home-Enough for a wife--but not nearly
Home-Enough for a daughter! And--and--"

"Why, you say it as if you knew it by heart," interrupted Barton.

"Why, of course I know it by heart!" cried little Eve Edgarton almost
eagerly. "My mother whispered it to me, I tell you! The things that
people shout at you--you forget in half a night. But the things that
people whisper to you, you remember to your dying day!"

"If I whisper something to you," said Barton quite impulsively, "will
you promise to remember it to your dying day?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Barton," droned little Eve Edgarton.

Abruptly Barton reached out and tilted her chin up whitely toward him.
"In this light," he whispered, "with your hat pushed back
like--that!--and your hair fluffed up like--that!--and the little
laugh in your eyes!--and the flush!--and the quiver!--you look like
an--elf! A bronze and gold elf! You're wonderful! You're magical! You
ought always to dress like that! Somebody ought to tell you about it!
Woodsy, storm-colored clothes with little quick glints of light in
them! Paquin or some of those people could make you famous!"

As spontaneously as he had touched her he jerked his hand away, and,
snatching up the lantern, flashed it bluntly on her astonished face.

For one brief instant her hand went creeping up to the tip of her
chin. Then very soberly, like a child with a lesson, she began to
repeat Barton's impulsive phrases.

"'In this light,'" she droned, "'with your hat pushed back like
that--and your hair fluffed up like that--and the--the--'" More
unexpectedly then than anything that could possibly have happened she
burst out laughing--a little low, giggly, school-girlish sort of
laugh. "Oh, that's easy to remember!" she announced. Then, all one
narrow black silhouette again, she crouched down into the
semi-darkness.

"For a lady," she resumed listlessly, "who rode side-saddle and really
enjoyed hiking 'round all over the sticky face of the globe, my mother
certainly did guess pretty keenly just how things were going to be
with me. I'll tell you what she said to sustain me," she repeated
dreamily, "'Any foolish woman can keep house, but the woman who
travels with your father has got to be able to keep the whole wide
world for him! It's nations that you'll have to put to bed! And suns
and moons and stars that you'll have to keep scoured and bright! But
with the whole green earth for your carpet, and shining heaven for
your roof-tree, and God Himself for your landlord, now wouldn't you be
a fool, if you weren't quite satisfied?'"

"'If--you--weren't--quite satisfied,'" finished Barton mumblingly.

Little Eve Edgarton lifted her great eyes, soft with sorrow, sharp
with tears, almost defiantly to Barton's.

"That's--what--Mother said," she faltered. "But all the same--I'd
RATHER HAVE A HOUSE!"

"Why, you poor kid!" said Barton. "You ought to have a house! It's a
shame! It's a beastly shame! It's a--"

Very softly in the darkness his hand grazed hers.

"Did you touch my hand on purpose, or just accidentally?" asked Eve
Edgarton, without a flicker of expression on her upturned,
gold-colored face.

"Why, I'm sure I don't know," laughed Barton. "Maybe--maybe it was a
little of each."

With absolute gravity little Eve Edgarton kept right on staring at
him. "I don't know whether I should ever specially like you--or not,
Mr. Barton," she drawled. "But you are certainly very beautiful!"

"Oh, I say!" cried Barton wretchedly. With a really desperate effort
he struggled almost to his feet, tottered for an instant, and then
came sagging down to the soft earth again--a great, sprawling,
spineless heap, at little Eve Edgarton's feet.

Unflinchingly, as if her wrists were built of steel wires, the girl
jumped up and pulled and tugged and yanked his almost dead weight into
a sitting posture again.

"My! But you're chock-full of lightning!" she commiserated with him.

Out of the utter rage and mortification of his helplessness Barton
could almost have cursed her for her sympathy. Then suddenly, without
warning, a little gasp of sheer tenderness escaped him.

"Eve Edgarton," he stammered, "you're--a--brick! You--you must have
been invented just for the sole purpose of saving people's lives. Oh,
you've saved mine all right!" he acknowledged soberly. "And all this
black, blasted night you've nursed me--and fed me--and jollied
me--without a whimper about yourself--without--a--" Impulsively he
reached out his numb-palmed hand to her, and her own hand came so cold
to it that it might have been the caress of one ghost to another. "Eve
Edgarton," he reiterated, "I tell you--you're a brick! And I'm a
fool--and a slob--and a mutt-head--even when I'm not chock-full of
lightning, as you call it! But if there's ever anything I can do for
you!"

"What did you say?" muttered little Eve Edgarton.

"I said you were a brick!" repeated Barton a bit irritably.

"Oh, no, I didn't mean--that," mused the girl. "But what was the--last
thing you said?"

"Oh!" grinned Barton more cheerfully. "I said--if there was ever
anything that I could do for you, anything--"

"Would you rent me your attic?" asked little Eve Edgarton.

"Would I rent you my attic?" stammered Barton. "Why in the world
should you want to hire my attic?"

"So I could buy pretty things in Siam--or Ceylon--or any other queer
country--and have some place to send them," said little Eve Edgarton.
"Oh, I'd pay the express, Mr. Barton," she hastened to assure him.
"Oh, I promise you there never would be any trouble about the express!
Or about the rent!" Expeditiously as she spoke she reached for her hip
pocket and brought out a roll of bills that fairly took Barton's
breath away. "If there's one thing in the world, you know, that I've
got, it's money," she confided perfectly simply. "So you see, Mr.
Barton," she added with sudden wistfulness, "there's almost nothing on
the face of the globe that I couldn't have--if I only had some place
to put it." Without further parleying she proffered the roll of bills
to him.

"Miss Edgarton! Are you crazy?" Barton asked again quite
precipitously.

Again the girl answered his question equally frankly, and without
offense. "Oh, no," she said. "Only very determined."

"Determined about what?" grinned Barton in spite of himself.

"Determined about an attic," drawled little Eve Edgarton.

With an unwonted touch of vivacity she threw out one hand in a little,
sharp gesture of appeal; but not a tone of her voice either quickened
or deepened.

"Why, Mr. Barton," she droned, "I'm thirty years old--and ever since I
was born I've been traveling all over the world--in a steamer trunk.
In a steamer trunk, mind you. With Father always standing over every
packing to make sure that we never carry anything that--isn't
necessary. With Father, I said," she re-emphasized by a sudden
distinctness. "You know Father!" she added significantly.

"Yes--I know 'Father,'" assented Barton with astonishing glibness.

Once again the girl threw out her hand in an incongruous gesture of
appeal.

"The things that Father thinks are necessary!" she exclaimed softly.
Noiselessly as a shadow she edged herself forward into the light till
she faced Barton almost squarely. "Maybe you think it's fun, Mr.
Barton," she whispered. "Maybe you think it's fun--at thirty years of
age--with all your faculties intact--to own nothing in the world
except--except a steamer trunkful of the things that Father thinks are
necessary!"

Very painstakingly on the fingers of one hand she began to enumerate
the articles in question. "Just your riding togs," she said, "and six
suits of underwear--and all the United States consular reports--and
two or three wash dresses and two 'good enough' dresses--and a lot of
quinine--and--a squashed hat--and--and--" Very faintly the ghost of a
smile went flickering over her lips--"and whatever microscopes and
specimen-cases get crowded out of Father's trunk. What's the use, Mr.
Barton," she questioned, "of spending a whole year investigating the
silk industry of China--if you can't take any of the silks home?
What's the use, Mr. Barton, of rolling up your sleeves and working six
months in a heathen porcelain factory--just to study glaze--if you
don't own a china-closet in any city on the face of the earth?
Why--sometimes, Mr. Barton," she confided, "it seems as if I'd die a
horrible death if I couldn't buy things the way other people do--and
send them somewhere--even if it wasn't 'home'! The world is so full of
beautiful things," she mused. "White enamel bath-tubs--and Persian
rugs--and the most ingenious little egg-beaters--and--"

"Eh?" stammered Barton. Quite desperately he rummaged his brain for
some sane-sounding expression of understanding and sympathy.

"You could, I suppose," he ventured, not too intelligently, "buy the
things and give them to other people."

"Oh, yes, of course," conceded little Eve Edgarton without
enthusiasm. "Oh, yes, of course, you can always buy people the things
they want. But understand," she said, "there's very little
satisfaction in buying the things you want to give to people who don't
want them. I tried it once," she confided, "and it didn't work.

"The winter we were in Paraguay," she went on, "in some stale old
English newspaper I saw an advertisement of a white bedroom set. There
were eleven pieces, and it was adorable, and it cost eighty-two
pounds--and I thought after I'd had the fun of unpacking it, I could
give it to a woman I knew who had a tea plantation. But the instant
she got it--she painted it--green! Now when you send to England for
eleven pieces of furniture because they are white," sighed little Eve
Edgarton, "and have them crated--because they're white--and sent to
sea because they're white--and then carried overland--miles and miles
and miles--on Indians' heads--because they're white, you sort of want
'em to stay white. Oh, of course it's all right," she acknowledged
patiently. "The Tea Woman was nice, and the green paint by no
means--altogether bad. Only, looking back now on our winter in
Paraguay, I seem to have missed somehow the particular thrill that I
paid eighty-two pounds and all that freightage for."

"Yes, of course," agreed Barton. He could see that.

"So if you could rent me your attic--" she resumed almost blithely.

"But my dear child," interrupted Barton, "what possible--"

"Why--I'd have a place then to send things to," argued little Eve
Edgarton.

"But you're off on the high seas Saturday, you say," laughed Barton.

"Yes, I know," explained little Eve Edgarton just a bit impatiently.
"But the high seas are so dull, Mr. Barton. And then we sail so long!"
she complained. "And so far!--via this, via that, via every other
stupid old port in the world! Why, it will be months and months before
we ever reach Melbourne! And of course on every steamer," she began
to monotone, "of course on every steamer there'll be some one with a
mixed-up collection of shells or coins--and that will take all my
mornings. And of course on every steamer there'll be somebody
struggling with the Chinese alphabet or the Burmese accents--and that
will take all my afternoons. But in the evenings when people are just
having fun," she kindled again, "and nobody wants me for anything,
why, then you see I could steal 'way up in the bow--where you're not
allowed to go--and think about my beautiful attic. It's pretty
lonesome," she whispered, "all snuggled up there alone with the night,
and the spray and the sailors' shouts, if you haven't got anything at
all to think about except just 'What's ahead?--What's ahead?--What's
ahead?' And even that belongs to God," she sighed a bit ruefully.

With a quick jerk she edged herself even closer to Barton and sat
staring up at him with her tousled head cocked on one side like an
eager terrier.

"So if you just--could, Mr. Barton!" she began all over again. "And
oh, I know it couldn't be any real bother to you!" she hastened to
reassure him. "Because after Saturday, you know, I'll probably
never--never be in America again!"

"Then what satisfaction," laughed Barton, "could you possibly get in
filling up an attic with things that you will never see again?"

"What satisfaction?" repeated little Eve Edgarton perplexedly. "What
satisfaction?" Between her placid brows a very black frown deepened.
"Why, just the satisfaction," she said, "of knowing before you die,
that you had definitely diverted to your own personality that much
specific treasure out of the--out of the--world's chaotic maelstrom of
generalities."

"Eh?" said Barton. "What? For Heaven's sake say it again!"

"Why--just the satisfaction--" began Eve Edgarton. Then abruptly the
sullen lines grayed down again around her mouth.

"It seems funny to me, Mr. Barton," she almost whined, "that anybody
as big as you are--shouldn't be able to understand anybody as little
as--I am. But if I only had an attic!" she cried out with apparent
irrelevance. "Oh, if just once in my whole life I could have even so
much as an atticful of home! Oh, please--please--please, Mr. Barton!"
she pleaded. "Oh, please!"

Precipitously she lifted her small brown face to his, and in her eyes
he saw the strangest little unfinished expression flame up suddenly
and go out again, a little fleeting expression so sweet, so shy, so
transcendently lovely, that if it had ever lived to reach her frowning
brow, her sulky little mouth, her--!

Then startlingly into his stare, into his amazement, broke a great
white glare through the opening of the cave.

"My God!" he winced, with his elbow across his eyes.

"Why, it isn't lightning!" laughed little Eve Edgarton. "It's the
moon!" Quick as a sprite she flashed to her feet and ran out into the
moonlight. "We can go home now!" she called back triumphantly over
her shoulder.

"Oh, we can, can we?" snapped Barton. His nerves were strangely raw.
He struggled to his knees, and tottered there watching the cheeky
little moonbeams lap up the mystery of the cave, and scare the yellow
lantern-flame into a mere sallow glow.

Poignantly from the forest he heard Eve Edgarton's voice calling out
into the night. "Come--Mother's--horse! Come--Mother's--horse H--o--o,
hoo! Come--come--come!" Softly above the crackle of twigs, the thud of
a hoof, the creak of a saddle, he sensed the long, tremulous,
answering whinny. Then almost like a silver apparition the girl's
figure and the horse's seemed to merge together before him in the
moonlight.

"Well--of--all--things!" stammered Barton.

"Oh, the horse is all right. I thought he'd stay 'round," called the
girl. "But he's wild as a hawk--and it's going to be the dickens of a
job, I'm afraid, to get you up."

Half walking, half crawling, Barton emerged from the cave. "To get me
up?" he scoffed. "Well, what do you think you're going to do?" Limply
as he asked he sank back against the support of a tree.

"Why, I think," drawled Eve Edgarton, "I think--very naturally--that
you're going to ride--and I'm going to walk--back to the hotel."

"Well, I am not!" snapped Barton. "Well, you are not!" he protested
vehemently. "For Heaven's sake, Miss Edgarton, why don't you go
scooting back on the gray and send a wagon or something for me?"

"Why, because it would make--such a fuss," droned little Eve Edgarton
drearily. "Doors would bang--and lights would blaze--and somebody'd
scream--and--and--you make so much fuss when you're born," she said,
"and so much fuss when you die--don't you think it's sort of nice to
keep things as quietly to yourself as you can all the rest of your
days?"

"Yes, of course," acknowledged Barton. "But--"

"But NOTHING!" stamped little Eve Edgarton with sudden
passion. "Oh, Mr. Barton--won't you please hurry! It's almost dawn
now! And the nice hotel cook is very sick in a cot bed. And I promised
her faithfully this noon that I'd make four hundred muffins for
breakfast!"

"Oh, confound it!" said Barton.

Stumblingly he reached the big gray's side.

"But it's miles!" he protested in common decency. "Miles!--and miles!
Rough walking, too, darned rough! And your poor little feet--"

"I don't walk particularly with my 'poor little feet,'" gibed Eve
Edgarton. "Most especially, thank you, Mr. Barton, I walk with my big
wanting-to-walk!"

"Oh," said Barton. "O--h." The bones in his knees began suddenly to
slump like so many knots of tissue-paper. "Oh--all right--Eve!" he
called out a bit hazily.

Then slowly and laboriously, with a very good imitation of meekness,
he allowed himself to be pulled and pushed and jerked to the top of an
old tree-stump, and from there at last, with many tricks and tugs and
subterfuges, to the cramping side-saddle of the restive, rearing gray.
Helplessly in the clear white moonlight he watched the girl's neck
muscles cord and strain. Helplessly in the clear white moonlight he
heard the girl's breath rip and tear like a dry sob out of her gasping
lungs. And then at last, blinded with sweat, dizzy with weakness, as
breathless as herself, as wrenched, as triumphant, he found himself
clinging fast to a worn suede pommel, jogging jerkily down the
mountainside with Eve Edgarton's doll-sized hand dragging hard on the
big gray's curb and her whole tiny weight shoved back aslant and
astrain against the big gray's too eager shoulder--little droll,
colorless, "meek" Eve Edgarton, after her night of stress and terror,
with her precious scrap-book still hugged tight under one arm
striding stanchly home through the rough-footed, woodsy night to "make
four hundred muffins for breakfast!"

At the first crook in the trail she glanced back hastily over her
shoulder into the rustling shadows. "Good-by, Cave!" she called
softly. "Good-by, Cave!" And once when some tiny woods-animal scuttled
out from under her feet she smiled up a bit appealingly at Barton.
Several times they stopped for water at some sudden noisy brook. And
once, or twice, or even three times perhaps, when some blinding daze
of dizziness overwhelmed him, she climbed up with one foot into the
roomy stirrup and steadied his swaying, unfeeling body against her own
little harsh, reassuring, flannel-shirted breast.

Mile after mile through the jet-black lattice-work of the tree-tops
the August moon spotted brightly down on them. Mile after mile through
rolling pastures the moon-plaited stubble crackled and sucked like a
sheet of wet ice under their feet, then roads began--mere molten bogs
of mud and moonlight; and little frail roadside bushes drunk with rain
lay wallowing helplessly in every hollow.

Out of this pristine, uninhabited wilderness the hotel buildings
loomed at last with startling conventionality. Even before their
discreetly shuttered windows Barton winced back again with a sudden
horrid new realization of his half-nakedness.

"For Heaven's sake!" he cried, "let's sneak in the back way somewhere!
Oh Lordy!--what a sight I am to meet your father!"

"What a sight you are to--meet my father?" repeated Eve Edgarton with
astonishment. "Oh, please don't insist on waking up Father," she
begged. "He hates so to be waked up. Oh, of course if I'd been hurt it
would have been courteous of you to tell him," she explained
seriously. "But, oh, I'm sure he wouldn't like your waking him up just
to tell him that you got hurt!"

Softly under her breath she began to whistle toward a shadow in the
stable-yard. "Usually," she whispered, "there's a sleepy stable-boy
lying round here somewhere. Oh--Bob!" she summoned.

Rollingly the shadow named "Bob" struggled to its very real feet.

"Here, Bob!" she ordered. "Come help Mr. Barton. He's pretty badly
off. We got sort of struck by lightning. And two of us--got killed. Go
help him up-stairs. Do anything he wants. But don't make any fuss.
He'll be all right in the morning."

Gravely she put out her hand to Barton, and nodded to the boy.

"Good night!" she said. "And good night, Bob!"

Shrewdly for a moment she stood watching them out of sight, shivered a
little at the clatter of a box kicked over in some remote shed, and
then swinging round quickly, ripped the hot saddle from the big gray's
back, slipped the bit from his tortured tongue, and, turning him loose
with one sharp slap on his gleaming flank, yanked off her own
riding-boots and went scudding off in her stocking-feet through
innumerable doors and else till, reaching the great empty office, she
caromed off suddenly up three flights of stairs to her own apartment.

Once in her room her little traveling-clock told her it was a quarter
of three.

"Whew!" she said. Just "Whew!" Very furiously at the big porcelain
washbowl she began to splash and splash and splash. "If I've got to
make four hundred muffins," she said, "I surely have got to be whiter
than snow!"

Roused by the racket, her father came irritably and stood in the
doorway.

"Oh, my dear Eve!" he complained, "didn't you get wet enough in the
storm? And for mercy's sake where have you been?"

Out of the depths of her dripping hair and her big plushy bath-towel
little Eve Edgarton considered her father only casually.

[Illustration: "Don't delay me!" she said, "I've got to make four
hundred muffins."]

"Don't delay me!" she said, "I've got to make four hundred muffins!
And I'm so late I haven't even time to change my clothes! We got
struck by lightning," she added purely incidentally. "That is--sort of
struck by lightning. That is, Mr. Barton got sort of struck by
lightning. And oh, glory, Father!" her voice kindled a little. "And,
oh, glory, Father, I thought he was gone! Twice in the hours I was
working over him he stopped breathing altogether!"

Palpably the vigor died out of her voice again. "Father," she drawled
mumblingly through intermittent flops of bath-towel; "Father--you said
I could keep the next thing I--saved. Do you think I could--keep him?"



CHAPTER III


"What?" demanded her father.

Altogether unexpectedly little Eve Edgarton threw back her tousled
head and burst out laughing.

"Oh, Father!" she jeered. "Can't you take a joke?"

"I don't know as you ever offered me one before," growled her father a
bit ungraciously.

"All the same," asserted little Eve Edgarton with sudden
seriousness--"all the same, Father, he did stop breathing twice. And I
worked and I worked and I worked over him!" Slowly her great eyes
widened.

"And oh, Father, his skin!" she whispered simply.

"Hush!" snapped her father with a great gust of resentment that he
took to be a gust of propriety. "Hush, I say! I tell you it isn't
delicate for a--for a girl to talk about a man's skin!"

"Oh--but his skin was very delicate," mused little Eve Edgarton
persistently. "There in the lantern light--"

"What lantern light?" demanded her father.

"And the moonlight," murmured little Eve Edgarton.

"What moonlight?" demanded her father. A trifle quizzically he stepped
forward and peered into his daughter's face. "Personally, Eve," he
said, "I don't care for the young man. And I certainly don't wish to
hear anything about his skin. Not anything! Do you understand? I'm
very glad you saved his life," he hastened to affirm. "It was very
commendable of you, I'm sure, and some one, doubtless, will be very
much relieved. But for me personally the incident is closed! Closed, I
said. Do you understand?"

Bruskly he turned back toward his own room, and then swung around
again suddenly in the doorway.

"Eve," he frowned. "That was a joke--wasn't it?--what you said about
wanting to keep that young man?"

"Why, of course!" said little Eve Edgarton.

"Well, I must say--it was an exceedingly clumsy one!" growled her
father irritably.

"Maybe so," droned little Eve Edgarton with unruffled serenity. "It
was the first joke, you see, that I ever made." Slowly again her eyes
began to widen. "All the same, Father," she said, "his--"

"Hush!" he ordered, and slammed the door conclusively behind him.

Very thoughtfully for a moment little Eve Edgarton kept right on
standing there in the middle of the room. In her eyes was just the
faintest possible suggestion of a smile. But there was no smile
whatsoever about her lips. Her lips indeed were quite drawn and most
flagrantly set with the expression of one who, having something
determinate to say, will--yet--say it, somewhere, sometime, somehow,
though the skies fall and all the waters of the earth dry up.

Then like the dart of a bird, she flashed to her father's door and
opened it.

"Father!" she whispered. "Father!"

"Yes," answered the half-muffled, pillowy voice. "What is it?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you something that happened once--down in
Indo-China," whispered little Eve Edgarton. "Once when you were away,"
she confided breathlessly, "I pulled a half-drowned coolie out of a
canal."

"Well, what of it?" asked her father a bit tartly.

"Oh, nothing special," said little Eve Edgarton, "except that his skin
was like yellow parchment! And sand-paper! And old plaster!"

Without further ado then, she turned away, and, except for the single
ecstatic episode of making the four hundred muffins for breakfast,
resumed her pulseless role of being just--little Eve Edgarton.

As for Barton, the subsequent morning hours brought sleep and sleep
only--the sort of sleep that fairly souses the senses in oblivion,
weighing the limbs with lead, the brain with stupor, till the sleeper
rolls out from under the load at last like one half paralyzed with
cramp and helplessness.

Certainly it was long after noon-time before Barton actually rallied
his aching bones, his dizzy head, his refractory inclinations, to meet
the fluctuant sympathy and chaff that awaited him down-stairs in every
nook and corner of the great, idle-minded hotel.

Conscientiously, but without enthusiasm, from the temporary retreat of
the men's writing-room, he sent up his card at last to Mr. Edgarton,
and was duly informed that that gentleman and his daughter were
mountain-climbing. In an absurd flare of disappointment then, he edged
his way out through the prattling piazza groups to the shouting tennis
players, and on from the shouting tennis players to the teasing
golfers, and back from the teasing golfers to the peaceful
writing-room, where in a great, lazy chair by the open window he
settled down once more with unwonted morbidness to brood over the
grimly bizarre happenings of the previous night.

In a soft blur of sound and sense the names of other people came
wafting to him from time to time, and once or twice at least the word
"Barton" shrilled out at him with astonishing poignancy. Still like a
man half drugged he dozed again--and woke in a vague, sweating
terror--and dozed again--and dreamed again--and roused himself at last
with the one violent determination to hook his slipping consciousness,
whether or no, into the nearest conversation that he could reach.

The conversation going on at the moment just outside his window was
not a particularly interesting one to hook one's attention into, but
at least it was fairly distinct. In blissfully rational human voices
two unknown men were discussing the non-domesticity of the modern
woman. It was not an erudite discussion, but just a mere personal
complaint.

"I had a house," wailed one, "the nicest, coziest house you ever saw.
We were two years building it. And there was a garden--a real
jim-dandy flower and vegetable garden--and there were twenty-seven
fruit-trees. But my wife--" the wail deepened--"my wife--she just
would live in a hotel! Couldn't stand the 'strain,' she said, of
'planning food three times a day'! Not--'couldn't stand the strain of
earning meals three times a day'--you understand," the wailing voice
added significantly, "but couldn't stand the strain of ordering 'em.
People all around you, you know, starving to death for just--bread;
but she couldn't stand the strain of having to decide between squab
and tenderloin! Eh?"

"Oh, Lordy! You can't tell me anything!" snapped the other voice more
incisively. "Houses? I've had four! First it was the cellar my wife
wanted to eliminate! Then it was the attic! Then it was--We're living
in an apartment now!" he finished abruptly. "An apartment, mind you!
One of those blankety--blank--blank--blank apartments!"

"Humph!" wailed the first voice again. "There's hardly a woman you
meet these days who hasn't got rouge on her cheeks, but a man's got to
go back--two generations, I guess, if he wants to find one that's got
any flour on her nose!"

"Flour on her nose?" interrupted the sharper voice. "Flour on her
nose? Oh, ye gods! I don't believe there's a woman in this whole hotel
who'd know flour if she saw it! Women don't care any more, I tell you!
They don't care!"

Just as a mere bit of physical stimulus the crescendoish stridency of
the speech roused Barton to a lazy smile. Then, altogether
unexpectedly, across indifference, across drowsiness, across absolute
physical and mental non-concern, the idea behind the speech came
hurtling to him and started him bolt upright in his chair.

"Ha!" he thought. "I know a girl that cares!" From head to foot a
sudden warm sense of satisfaction glowed through him, a throb of
pride, a puffiness of the chest. "Ha!" he gloated. "H--"

Then interruptingly from outside the window he heard the click of
chairs hitching a bit nearer together.

"Sst!" whispered one voice. "Who's the freak in the 1830 clothes?"

"Why, that? Why, that's the little Edgarton girl," piped the other
voice cautiously. "It isn't so much the '1830 clothes' as the 1830
expression that gets me! Where in creation--"

"Oh, upon my soul," groaned the man whose wife "would live in a
hotel." "Oh, upon my soul--if there's one thing that I can't stand
it's a woman who hasn't any style! If I had my way," he threatened
with hissing emphasis, "if I had my way, I tell you, I'd have every
homely looking woman in the world put out of her misery! Put out of my
misery--is what I mean!"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" chuckled the other voice.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" gibed both voices ecstatically together.

With quite unnecessary haste Barton sprang to the window and looked
out.

It was Eve Edgarton! And she did look funny! Not especially funny, but
just plain, every-day little-Eve-Edgarton funny, in a shabby old
English tramping suit, with a knapsack slung askew across one
shoulder, a faded Alpine hat yanked down across her eyes, and one
steel-wristed little hand dragging a mountain laurel bush almost as
big as herself. Close behind her followed her father, equally shabby,
his shapeless pockets fairly bulging with rocks, a battered tin botany
kit in one hand, a dingy black camera-box in the other.

Impulsively Barton started out to meet them, but just a step from the
threshold of the piazza door he sensed for the first time the long
line of smokers watching the two figures grinningly above their puffy
brown pipes and cigars.

"What is it?" called one smoker to another. "Moving Day in Jungle
Town?"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" tittered the whole line of smokers. "Ha!--Ha! Ha!
Ha!--Ha!"

So, because he belonged, not so much to the type of person that can't
stand having its friends laughed at, as to the type that can't stand
having friends who are liable to be laughed at, Barton changed his
mind quite precipitately about identifying himself at that particular
moment with the Edgarton family, and whirled back instead to the
writing-room. There, by the aid of the hotel clerk, and two bell-boys,
and three new blotters, and a different pen, and an entirely fresh
bottle of ink, and just exactly the right-sized, the right-tinted sort
of letter paper, he concocted a perfectly charming note to little Eve
Edgarton--a note full of compliment, of gratitude, of sincere
appreciation, a note reiterating even once more his persistent
intention of rendering her somewhere, sometime, a really significant
service!

Whereupon, thus duly relieved of his truly honest effort at
self-expression, he went back again to his own kind--to the
prattling, the well-groomed, the ultra-fashionables of both mind and
body. And there on the shining tennis-courts and the soft golf greens,
through the late yellow afternoon and the first gray threat of
twilight, the old sickening ennui came creeping back to his senses,
warring chaotically there with the natural nervous reaction of his
recent adventure, till just out of sheer morbid unrest, as soon as the
flower-scented, candle-lighted dinner hour was over, he went stalking
round and round the interminable piazzas, hunting in every dark corner
for Mr. Edgarton and his daughter.

Meeting them abruptly at last in the full glare of the office, he
clutched fatuously at Mr. Edgarton's reluctant attention with some
quick question about the extraordinary moonlight, and stood by,
grinning like any bashful schoolboy, while Mr. Edgarton explained to
him severely, as if it were his fault, just why and to what extent the
radii of mountain moonlight differed from the radii of any other kind
of moonlight, and Eve herself, in absolute spiritual remoteness,
stood patiently shifting her weight from one foot to the other,
staring abstractedly all the time at the floor under her feet.

Right into the midst of this instructive discourse broke one of
Barton's men friends with a sharp jog of his elbow, and a brief,
apologetic nod to the Edgartons.

"Oh, I say, Barton!" cried the newcomer, breathlessly. "That wedding,
you know, over across at the Kentons' to-night, with the Viennese
orchestra--and Heaven knows what from New York? Well, we've shanghaied
the whole business for a dance here to-morrow night! Music! Flowers!
Palms! Catering! Everything! It's going to be the biggest little
dancing party that this slice of North American scenery ever saw!
And--"

Slowly little Eve Edgarton lifted her great solemn eyes to the
newcomer's face.

"A party?" she drawled. "A--a--dancing party--you mean? A
real--Christian--dancing party?"

Dully the big eyes drooped again, and as if in mere casual mannerism
her little brown hands went creeping up to the white breast of her
gown. Then just as startling, just-as unprovable as the flash of a
shooting star, her glance flashed up at Barton.

"O--h!" gasped little Eve Edgarton.

"O--h!" said Barton.

Astoundingly in his ears bells seemed suddenly to be ringing. His head
was awhirl, his pulses fairly pounding with the weird, quixotic
purport of his impulse.

"Miss Edgarton," he began. "Miss--"

Then right behind him two older men joggled him awkwardly in passing.

"--and that Miss Von Eaton," chuckled one man to another. "Lordy!
There'll be more than forty men after her for to-morrow night! Smith!
Arnold! Hudson! Hazeltine! Who are you betting will get her?"

"I'M BETTING THAT I WILL!" crashed every brutally
competitive male instinct in Barton's body. Impetuously he broke
away from the Edgartons and darted off to find Miss Von Eaton before
"Smith--Arnold--Hudson--Hazeltine"--or any other man should find
her!

So he sent little Eve Edgarton a great, gorgeous box of candy instead,
wonderful candy, pounds and pounds of it, fine, fluted chocolates, and
rose-pink bonbons, and fat, sugared violets, and all sorts of
tin-foiled mysteries of fruit and spice.

And when the night of the party came he strutted triumphantly to it
with Helene Von Eaton, who already at twenty was beginning to be just
a little bit bored with parties; and together through all that riot of
music and flowers and rainbow colors and dazzling lights they trotted
and tangoed with monotonous perfection--the envied and admired of all
beholders; two superbly physical young specimens of manhood and
womanhood, desperately condoning each other's dullnesses for the sake
of each other's good looks.

And while Youth and its Laughter--a chaos of color and shrill
crescendos--was surging back and forth across the flower-wreathed
piazzas, and violins were wheedling, and Japanese lanterns drunk with
candle light were bobbing gaily in the balsam-scented breeze, little
Eve Edgarton, up-stairs in her own room, was kneeling crampishly on
the floor by the open window, with her chin on the window-sill,
staring quizzically down--down--down on all that joy and novelty, till
her father called her a trifle impatiently at last from his microscope
table on the other side of the room.

"Eve!" summoned her father. "What an idler you are! Can't you see how
worried I am over this specimen here? My eyes, I tell you, aren't what
they used to be."

Then, patiently, little Eve Edgarton scrambled to her feet and,
crossing over to her father's table, pushed his head mechanically
aside and, bending down, squinted her own eye close to his magnifying
glass.

"Bell-shaped calyx?" she began. "Five petals of the corollary partly
united? Why, it must be some relation to the Mexican rain-tree," she
mumbled without enthusiasm. "Leaves--alternate, bi-pinnate, very
typically--few foliate," she continued. "Why, it's a--a
Pithecolobium."

"Sure enough," said Edgarton. "That's what I thought all the time."

As one eminently relieved of all future worry in the matter, he jumped
up, pushed away his microscopic work, and, grabbing up the biggest
book on the table, bolted unceremoniously for an easy chair.

Indifferently for a moment little Eve Edgarton stood watching him.
Then heavily, like a sleepy, insistent puppy dog, she shambled across
the room and, climbing up into her father's lap, shoved aside her
father's book, and burrowed her head triumphantly back into the lean,
bony curve of his shoulder, her whole yawning interest centered
apparently in the toes of her father's slippers.

Then so quietly that it scarcely seemed abrupt, "Father," she asked,
"was my mother--beautiful?"

"What?" gasped Edgarton. "What?"

Bristling with a grave sort of astonishment he reached up nervously
and stroked his daughter's hair. "Your mother," he winced. "Your
mother was--to me--the most beautiful woman that ever lived! Such
expression!" he glowed. "Such fire! But of such a spiritual modesty!
Of such a physical delicacy! Like a rose," he mused, "like a
rose--that should refuse to bloom for any but the hand that gathered
it."

Languorously from some good practical pocket little Eve Edgarton
extracted a much be-frilled chocolate bonbon and sat there munching it
with extreme thoughtfulness. Then, "Father," she whispered, "I wish I
was like--Mother."

"Why?" asked Edgarton, wincing.

"Because Mother's--dead," she answered simply.

Noisily, like an over conscious throat, the tiny traveling-clock on
the mantelpiece began to swallow its moments. One moment--two
moments--three--four--five--six moments--seven moments--on, on, on,
gutturally, laboriously--thirteen--fourteen--fifteen--even twenty;
with the girl still nibbling at her chocolate, and the man still
staring off into space with that strange little whimper of pain
between his pale, shrewd eyes.

It was the man who broke the silence first. Precipitately he shifted
his knees and jostled his daughter to her feet.

"Eve," he said, "you're awfully spleeny to-night! I'm going to bed."
And he stalked off into his own room, slamming the door behind him.

Once again from the middle of the floor little Eve Edgarton stood
staring blankly after her father. Then she dawdled across the room and
opened his door just wide enough to compass the corners of her mouth.

"Father," she whispered, "did Mother know that she was a rose--before
you were clever enough to find her?"

"N--o," faltered her father's husky voice. "That was the miracle of
it. She never even dreamed--that she was a rose--until I found her."

Very quietly little Eve Edgarton shut the door again and came back
into the middle of her room and stood there hesitatingly for an
instant.

Then quite abruptly she crossed to her bureau and pushing aside the
old ivory toilet articles, began to jerk her tously hair first one way
and then another across her worried forehead.

"But if you knew you were a rose?" she mused perplexedly to herself.
"That is--if you felt almost sure that you were," she added with
sudden humility. "That is--" she corrected herself--"that is--if you
felt almost sure that you could be a rose--if anybody wanted you to be
one?"

In impulsive experimentation she gave another tweak to her hair, and
pinched a poor bruised-looking little blush into the hollow of one
thin little cheek. "But suppose it was the--the people--going by," she
faltered, "who never even dreamed that you were a rose? Suppose it was
the--Suppose it was--Suppose--"

Dejection unspeakable settled suddenly upon her--an agonizing sense of
youth's futility. Rackingly above the crash and lilt of music, the
quick, wild thud of dancing feet, the sharp, staccato notes of
laughter--she heard the dull, heavy, unrhythmical tread of the
oncoming years--gray years, limping eternally from to-morrow on,
through unloved lands, on unloved errands.

"This is the end of youth. It is--it is--it is," whimpered her heart.

"It ISN'T!" something suddenly poignant and determinate shrilled
startlingly in her brain. "I'll have one more peep at youth, anyway!"
threatened the brain.

"If we only could!" yearned the discouraged heart.

Speculatively for one brief instant the girl stood cocking her head
toward the door of her father's room. Then, expeditiously, if not
fashionably, she began at once to rearrange her tousled hair, and
after one single pat to her gown--surely the quickest toilet-making of
that festive evening--snatched up a slipper in each hand, crept safely
past her father's door, crept safely out at last through her own door
into the hall, and still carrying a slipper in each hand, had reached
the head of the stairs before a new complexity assailed her.

"Why--why, I've never yet--been anywhere--alone--without my mother's
memory!" she faltered, aghast.

Then impetuously, with a little frown of material inconvenience, but
no flicker whatsoever in the fixed spiritual habit of her life, she
dropped her slippers on the floor, sped back to her room, hesitated on
the threshold a moment with real perplexity, darted softly to her
trunk, rummaged as noiselessly through it as a kitten's paws,
discovered at last the special object of her quest--a filmy square of
old linen and lace--thrust it into her belt with her own handkerchief,
and went creeping back again to her slippers at the head of the
stairs.

As if to add fresh nervousness to the situation, one of the slippers
lay pointing quite boldly down-stairs. But the other slipper--true as
a compass to the north--toed with unmistakable severity toward the
bedroom.

Tentatively little Eve Edgarton inserted one foot in the timid
slipper. The path back to her room was certainly the simplest path
that she knew--and the dullest. Equally tentatively she withdrew from
the timid slipper and tried the adventurous one. "O-u-c-h!" she cried
out loud. The sole of the second slipper seemed fairly sizzling with
excitement.

With a slight gasp of impatience, then, she reached out and pulled the
timid slipper back into line, stepped firmly into it, pointed both
slipper-toes unswervingly southward, and proceeded on down-stairs to
investigate the "Christian Dance."

At the first turn of the lower landing she stopped short, with every
ennui-darkened sense in her body "jacked" like a wild deer's senses
before the sudden dazzle of sight, sound, scent that awaited her
below. Before her blinking eyes she saw even the empty, humdrum hotel
office turned into a blazing bower of palms and roses and electric
lights. Beyond this bower a corridor opened out--more dense, more
sweet, more sparkling. And across this corridor the echo of the unseen
ball came diffusing through the palms--the plaintive cry of a violin,
the rippling laugh of a piano, the swarming hum of human voices, the
swish of skirts, the agitant thud-thud-thud of dancing feet, the
throb, almost, of young hearts--a thousand commonplace, every-day
sounds merged here and now into one magic harmony that thrilled little
Eve Edgarton as nothing on God's big earth had ever thrilled her
before.

Hurriedly she darted down the last flight of steps and sped across the
bright office to the dark veranda, consumed by one fuming, passionate,
utterly uncontrollable curiosity to see with her own eyes just what
all that wonderful sound looked like!

Once outside in the darkness her confusion cleared a little. It was
late, she reasoned--very, very late, long after midnight probably; for
of all the shadowy, flickering line of evening smokers that usually
crowded that particular stretch of veranda only a single distant glow
or two remained. Yet even now in the almost complete isolation of her
surroundings the old inherent bashfulness swept over her again and
warred chaotically with her insistent purpose. As stealthily as
possible she crept along the dark wall to the one bright spot that
flared forth like a lantern lens from the gay ballroom--crept
along--crept along--a plain little girl in a plain little dress,
yearning like all the other plain little girls of the world, in all
the other plain little dresses of the world, to press her wistful
little nose just once against some dazzling toy-shop window.

With her fingers groping at last into the actual shutters of that
coveted ballroom window, she scrunched her eyes up perfectly tight for
an instant and then opened them, staring wide at the entrancing scene
before her.

"O--h!" said little Eve Edgarton. "O--h!"

The scene was certainly the scene of a most madcap summer carnival.
Palms of the far December desert were there! And roses from the near,
familiar August gardens! The swirl of chiffon and lace and silk was
like a rainbow-tinted breeze! The music crashed on the senses like
blows that wasted no breath in subtler argument! Naked shoulders
gleamed at every turn beneath their diamonds! Silk stockings bared
their sheen at each new rompish step! And through the dizzy mystery of
it all--the haze, the maze, the vague, audacious unreality,--grimly
conventional, blatantly tangible white shirt-fronts surrounded by
great black blots of men went slapping by--each with its share of
fairyland in its arms!

"Why! They're not dancing!" gasped little Eve Edgarton. "They're just
prancing!"

Even so, her own feet began to prance. And very faintly across her
cheek-bones a little flicker of pink began to glow.

Then very startlingly behind her a man's shadow darkened suddenly,
and, sensing instantly that this newcomer also was interested in the
view through the window, she drew aside courteously to give him his
share of the pleasure. In her briefest glance she saw that he was no
one whom she knew, but in the throbbing witchery of the moment he
seemed to her suddenly like her only friend in the world.

"It's pretty, isn't it?" she nodded toward the ballroom.

Casually the man bent down to look until his smoke-scented cheek
almost grazed hers. "It certainly is!" he conceded amiably.

Without further speech for a moment they both stood there peering into
the wonderful picture. Then altogether abruptly, and with no excuse
whatsoever, little Eve Edgarton's heart gave a great, big lurch, and,
wringing her small brown hands together so that by no grave mischance
should she reach out and touch the stranger's sleeve as she peered up
at him, "I--can dance," drawled little Eve Edgarton.

Shrewdly the man's glance flashed down at her. Quite plainly he
recognized her now. She was that "funny little Edgarton girl." That's
exactly who she was! In the simple, old-fashioned arrangement of her
hair, in the personal neatness but total indifference to fashion of
her prim, high-throated gown, she represented--frankly--everything
that he thought he most approved in woman. But nothing under the
starry heavens at that moment could have forced him to lead her as a
partner into that dazzling maelstrom of Mode and Modernity, because
she looked "so horridly eccentric and conspicuous"--compared to the
girls that he thought he didn't approve of at all!

"Why, of course you can dance! I only wish I could!" he lied
gallantly. And stole away as soon as he reasonably could to find
another partner, trusting devoutly that the darkness had not divulged
his actual features.

Five minutes later, through the window-frame of her magic picture,
little Eve Edgarton saw him pass, swinging his share of fairyland in
his arms.

And close behind him followed Barton, swinging his share of fairyland
in his arms! Barton the wonderful--at his best! Barton the
wonderful--with his best, the blonde, blonde girl of the marvelous
gowns and hats. There was absolutely no doubt whatsoever about them.
They were the handsomest couple in the room!

Furtively from her hidden corner little Eve Edgarton stood and
watched them. To her appraising eyes there were at least two other
girls almost as beautiful as Barton's partner. But no other man in the
room compared with Barton. Of that she was perfectly sure! His brow,
his eyes, his chin, the way he held his head upon his wonderful
shoulders, the way he stood upon his feet, his smile, his laugh, the
very gesture of his hands!

Over and over again as she watched, these two perfect partners came
circling through her vision, solemnly graceful or rhythmically
hoydenish--two fortune-favored youngsters born into exactly the same
sphere, trained to do exactly the same things in exactly the same way,
so that even now, with twelve years' difference in age between them,
every conscious vibration of their beings seemed to be tuned
instinctively to the same key.

Bluntly little Eve Edgarton looked back upon the odd, haphazard
training of her own life. Was there any one in this world whose
training had been exactly like hers? Then suddenly her elbow went
crooking up across her eyes to remember how Barton had looked in the
stormy woods that night--lying half naked--and almost wholly dead--at
her feet. Except for her odd, haphazard training, he would have been
dead! Barton, the beautiful--dead? And worse than dead--buried? And
worse than--

Out of her lips a little gasp of sound rang agonizingly.

And in that instant, by some trick-fashion of the dance, the
rollicking music stopped right off short in the middle of a note, the
lights went out, the dancers fled precipitously to their seats, and
out of the arbored gallery of the orchestra a single swarthy-faced
male singer stepped forth into the wan wake of an artificial moon, and
lifted up a marvelous tenor voice in one of those weird folk-songs of
the far-away that fairly tear the listener's heart out of his body--a
song as sinisterly metallic as the hum of hate along a dagger-blade; a
song as rapturously surprised at its own divinity as the first trill
of a nightingale; a song of purling brooks and grim, gray mountain
fortresses; a song of quick, sharp lights and long, low, lazy
cadences; a song of love and hate; a song of all joys and all
sorrows--and then death; the song of Sex as Nature sings it--the
plaintive, wheedling, passionate song of Sex as Nature sings it
yet--in the far-away places of the earth.

To no one else in that company probably did a single word penetrate.
Merely stricken dumb by the vibrant power of the voice, vaguely
uneasy, vaguely saddened, group after group of hoydenish youngsters
huddled in speechless fascination around the dark edges of the hall.

But to little Eve Edgarton's cosmopolitan ears each familiar gipsyish
word thus strangely transplanted into that alien room was like a call
to the wild--from the wild.

So--as to all repressed natures the moment of full self-expression
comes once, without warning, without preparation, without even
conscious acquiescence sometimes--the moment came to little Eve
Edgarton. Impishly first, more as a dare to herself than as anything
else, she began to hum the melody and sway her body softly to and fro
to the rhythm.

Then suddenly her breath began to quicken, and as one half hypnotized
she went clambering through the window into the ballroom, stood for an
instant like a gray-white phantom in the outer shadows, then, with a
laugh as foreign to her own ears as to another's, snatched up a great,
square, shimmering silver scarf that gleamed across a deserted chair,
stretched it taut by its corners across her hair and eyes, and with a
queer little cry--half defiance, half appeal--a quick dart, a long,
undulating glide--merged herself into the dagger-blade, the
nightingale, the grim mountain fortress, the gay mocking brook, all
the love, all the rapture, all the ghastly fatalism of that
heartbreaking song.

Bent as a bow her lithe figure curved now right, now left, to the
lilting cadence. Supple as a silken tube her slender body seemed to
drink up the fluid sound. No one could have sworn in that vague light
that her feet even so much as touched the ground. She was a wraith! A
phantasy! A fluctuant miracle of sound and sense!

Tremulously the singer's voice faltered in his throat to watch his
song come gray-ghost-true before his staring eyes. With scant
restraint the crowd along the walls pressed forward, half
pleasure-mad, to solve the mystery of the apparition. Abruptly the
song stopped! The dancer faltered! Lights blazed! A veritable shriek
of applause went roaring to the roof-tops!

And little Eve Edgarton in one wild panic-stricken surge of terror
went tearing off through a blind alley of palms, dodging a cafe table,
jumping an improvised trellis--a hundred pursuing voices yelling:
"Where is she? Where is she?"--the telltale tinsel scarf flapping
frenziedly behind her, flapping--flapping--till at last, between one
high, garnished shelf and another it twined its vampirish chiffon
around the delicate fronds of a huge potted fern! There was a
jerk,--a blur,--a blow, the sickening crash of fallen pottery--And
little Eve Edgarton crumpled up on the floor, no longer "colorless"
among the pale, dry, rainbow tints and shrill metallic glints of that
most wondrous scene.

Under her crimson mask, when the rescuers finally reached her, she lay
as perfectly disguised as even her most bashful mood could have
wished.

All around her--kneeling, crowding, meddling, interfering--frightened
people queried: "Who is she? Who is she?" Now and again from out of
the medley some one offered a half-articulate suggestion. It was the
hotel proprietor who moved first. Clumsily but kindly, with a fat hand
thrust under her shoulders, he tried to raise her head from the floor.
Barton himself, as the most recently returned from the "Dark Valley,"
moved next. Futilely, with a tiny wisp of linen and lace that he found
at the girl's belt, he tried to wipe the blood from her lips.

"Who is she? Who is she?" the conglomerate hum of inquiry rose and
fell like a moan.

Beneath the crimson stain on the little lace handkerchief a trace of
indelible ink showed faintly. Scowlingly Barton bent to decipher it.
"Mother's Little Handkerchief," the marking read. "'Mother's?'" Barton
repeated blankly. Then suddenly full comprehension broke upon him,
and, horridly startled and shocked with a brand-new realization of the
tragedy, he fairly blurted out his astonishing information.

"Why--why, it's the--little Edgarton girl!" he hurled like a bombshell
into the surrounding company.

Instantly, with the mystery once removed, a dozen hysterical people
seemed startled into normal activity. No one knew exactly what to do,
but some ran for water and towels, and some ran for the doctor, and
one young woman with astonishing acumen slipped out of her white silk
petticoat and bound it, blue ribbons and all, as best she could,
around Eve Edgarton's poor little gashed head.

[Illustration: Suddenly full comprehension broke upon him and he
fairly blurted out his astonishing information]

"We must carry her up-stairs!" asserted the hotel proprietor.

"I'll carry her!" said Barton quite definitely.

Fantastically the procession started upward--little Eve Edgarton white
as a ghost now in Barton's arms, except for that one persistent
trickle of red from under the loosening edge of her huge Oriental-like
turban of ribbon and petticoat; the hotel proprietor still worrying
eternally how to explain everything; two or three well-intentioned
women babbling inconsequently of other broken heads.

In astonishingly slow response to as violent a knock as they thought
they gave, Eve Edgarton's father came shuffling at last to the door to
greet them. Like one half paralyzed with sleep and perplexity, he
stood staring blankly at them as they filed into his rooms with their
burden.

"Your daughter seems to have bumped her head!" the hotel proprietor
began with professional tact.

In one gasping breath the women started to explain their version of
the accident.

Barton, as dumb as the father, carried the girl directly to the bed
and put her down softly, half lying, half sitting, among the great
pile of night-crumpled pillows. Some one threw a blanket over her. And
above the top edge of that blanket nothing of her showed except the
grotesquely twisted turban, the whole of one white eyelid, the half of
the other, and just that single persistent trickle of red. Raspishly
at that moment the clock on the mantelpiece choked out the hour of
three. Already Dawn was more than half a hint in the sky, and in the
ghastly mixture of real and artificial light the girl's doom looked
already sealed.

Then very suddenly she opened her eyes and stared around.

"Eve!" gasped her father, "what have you been doing?"

Vaguely the troubled eyes closed, and then opened again. "I
was--trying--to show people--that I was a--rose," mumbled little Eve
Edgarton.

Swiftly her father came running to her side. He thought it was her
deathbed statement. "But Eve?" he pleaded. "Why, my own little girl.
Why, my--"

Laboriously the big eyes lifted to his. "Mother was a rose," persisted
the stricken lips desperately.

"Yes, I know," sobbed her father. "But--but--"

"But--nothing," mumbled little Eve Edgarton. With an almost superhuman
effort she pushed her sharp little chin across the confining edge of
the blanket. Vaguely, unrecognizingly then, for the first time, her
heavy eyes sensed the hotel proprietor's presence and worried their
way across the tearful ladies to Barton's harrowed face.

"Mother--was a rose," she began all over again. "Mother--was a rose.
Mother--was--a rose," she persisted babblingly. "And Father--g-guessed
it--from the very first! But as for me--?" Weakly she began to claw at
her incongruous bandage. "But--as--for me," she gasped, "the way I'm
fixed!--I have to--announce it!"



CHAPTER IV


The Edgartons did not start for Melbourne the following day! Nor the
next--nor the next--nor even the next.

In a head-bandage much more scientific than a blue-ribboned petticoat,
but infinitely less decorative, little Eve Edgarton lay imprisoned
among her hotel pillows.

Twice a day, and oftener if he could justify it, the village doctor
came to investigate pulse and temperature. Never before in all his
humdrum winter experience, or occasional summer-tourist vagary, had he
ever met any people who prated of camels instead of motor-cars, or
deprecated the dust of Abyssinia on their Piccadilly shoes, or sighed
indiscriminately for the snow-tinted breezes of the Klondike and
Ceylon. Never, either, in all his full round of experience had the
village doctor had a surgical patient as serenely complacent as little
Eve Edgarton, or any anxious relative as madly restive as little Eve
Edgarton's father.

For the first twenty-four hours, of course, Mr. Edgarton was much too
worried over the accident to his daughter to think for a moment of the
accident to his railway and steamship tickets. For the second
twenty-four hours he was very naturally so much concerned with the
readjustment of his railway and steamship tickets that he never
concerned himself at all with the accident to his plans. But by the
end of the third twenty-four hours, with his first two worries
reasonably eliminated, it was the accident to his plans that smote
upon him with the fiercest poignancy. Let a man's clothes and togs
vacillate as they will between his trunk and his bureau--once that
man's spirit is packed for a journey nothing but journey's end can
ever unpack it again!

With his own heart tuned already to the heart-throb of an engine, his
pale eyes focused squintingly toward expected novelties, his thin
nostrils half a-sniff with the first salty scent of the Far-Away, Mr.
Edgarton, whatever his intentions, was not the most ideal of sick-room
companions. Too conscientious to leave his daughter, too unhappy to
stay with her, he spent the larger part of his days and nights pacing
up and down like a caged beast between the two bedrooms.

It was not till the fifth day, however, that his impatience actually
burst the bounds he had set for it. Somewhere between his maple bureau
and Eve's mahogany bed the actual explosion took place, and in that
explosion every single infinitesimal wrinkle of brow, cheek, chin,
nose, was called into play, as if here at last was a man who intended
once and for all time to wring his face perfectly dry of all human
expression.

"Eve!" hissed her father. "I hate this place! I loathe this place! I
abominate it! I despise it! The flora is--execrable! The fauna? Nil!
And as to the coffee--the breakfast coffee? Oh, ye gods! Eve, if we're
delayed here another week--I shall die! Die, mind you, at sixty-two!
With my life-work just begun, Eve! I hate this place! I abominate it!
I de--"

"Really?" mused little Eve Edgarton from her white pillows. "Why--I
think it's lovely."

"Eh?" demanded her father. "What? Eh?"

"It's so social," said little Eve Edgarton.

"Social?" choked her father.

As bereft of expression as if robbed of both inner and outer vision,
little Eve Edgarton lifted her eyes to his. "Why--two of the hotel
ladies have almost been to see me," she confided listlessly. "And the
chambermaid brought me the picture of her beau. And the hotel
proprietor lent me a story-book. And Mr.--"

"Social?" snapped her father.

"Oh, of course--if you got killed in a fire or anything, saving
people's lives, you'd sort of expect them to--send you candy--or make
you some sort of a memorial," conceded little Eve Edgarton
unemotionally. "But when you break your head--just amusing yourself?
Why, I thought it was nice for the hotel ladies to almost come to see
me," she finished, without even so much as a flicker of the eyelids.

Disgustedly her father started for his own room, then whirled abruptly
in his tracks and glanced back at that imperturbable little figure in
the big white bed. Except for the scarcely perceptible hound-like
flicker of his nostrils, his own face held not a whit more expression
than the girl's.

"Eve," he asked casually, "Eve, you're not changing your mind, are
you, about Nunko-Nono? And John Ellbertson? Good old John Ellbertson,"
he repeated feelingly. "Eve!" he quickened with sudden sharpness.
"Surely nothing has happened to make you change your mind about
Nunko-Nono? And good old John Ellbertson?"

"Oh--no--Father," said little Eve Edgarton. Indolently she withdrew
her eyes from her father's and stared off Nunko-Nonoward--in a hazy,
geographical sort of a dream. "Good old John Ellbertson--good old John
Ellbertson," she began to croon very softly to herself. "Good old
John Ellbertson. How I do love his kind brown eyes--how I do--"

"Brown eyes?" snapped her father. "Brown? John Ellbertson's got the
grayest eyes that I ever saw in my life!"

Without the slightest ruffle of composure little Eve Edgarton accepted
the correction. "Oh, has he?" she conceded amiably. "Well, then, good
old John Ellbertson--good old John Ellbertson--how I do love his
kind--gray eyes," she began all over again.

Palpably Edgarton shifted his standing weight from one foot to the
other. "I understood--your mother," he asserted a bit defiantly.

"Did you, dear? I wonder?" mused little Eve Edgarton.

"Eh?" jerked her father.

Still with the vague geographical dream in her eyes, little Eve
Edgarton pointed off suddenly toward the open lid of her steamer
trunk.

"Oh--my manuscript notes, Father, please!" she ordered almost
peremptorily, "John's notes, you know? I might as well be working on
them while I'm lying here."

Obediently from the tousled top of the steamer trunk her father
returned with the great batch of rough manuscript. "And my pencil,
please," persisted little Eve Edgarton. "And my eraser. And my
writing-board. And my ruler. And my--"

Absent-mindedly, one by one, Edgarton handed the articles to her, and
then sank down on the foot of her bed with his thin-lipped mouth
contorted into a rather mirthless grin. "Don't care much for your old
father, do you?" he asked trenchantly.

Gravely for a moment the girl sat studying her father's weather-beaten
features, the thin hair, the pale, shrewd eyes, the gaunt cheeks, the
indomitable old-young mouth. Then a little shy smile flickered across
her face and was gone again.

"As a parent, dear," she drawled, "I love you to distraction! But as a
daily companion?" Vaguely her eyebrows lifted. "As a real playmate?"
Against the starch-white of her pillows the sudden flutter of her
small brown throat showed with almost startling distinctness. "But as
a real playmate," she persisted evenly, "you are so--intelligent--and
you travel so fast--it tires me."

"Whom do you like?" asked her father sharply.

The girl's eyes were suddenly sullen again--bored, distrait,
inestimably dreary. "That's the whole trouble," she said. "You've
never given me time--to like anybody."

"Oh, but--Eve," pleaded her father. Awkward as any schoolboy, he sat
there, fuming and twisting before this absurd little bunch of nerve
and nerves that he himself had begotten. "Oh, but Eve," he deprecated
helplessly, "it's the deuce of a job for a--for a man to be left all
alone in the world with a--with a daughter! Really it is!"

Already the sweat had started on his forehead, and across one cheek
the old gray fretwork of wrinkles began to shadow suddenly. "I've
done my best!" he pleaded. "I swear I have! Only I've never known how!
With a mother, now," he stammered, "with a wife, with a sister, with
your best friend's sister, you know just what to do! It's a definite
relation! Prescribed by a definite emotion! But a daughter? Oh, ye
gods! Your whole sexual angle of vision changed! A creature neither
fish, flesh, nor fowl! Non-superior, non-contemporaneous,
non-subservient! Just a lady! A strange lady! Yes, that's exactly it,
Eve--a strange lady--growing eternally just a little bit more
strange--just a little bit more remote--every minute of her life! Yet
it's so--damned intimate all the time!" he blurted out passionately.
"All the time she's rowing you about your manners and your morals, all
the time she's laying down the law to you about the tariff or the
turnips, you're remembering--how you used to--scrub her--in her first
little blue-lined tin bath-tub!"

Once again the flickering smile flared up in little Eve Edgarton's
eyes and was gone again. A trifle self-consciously she burrowed back
into her pillows. When she spoke her voice was scarcely audible. "Oh,
I know I'm funny," she admitted conscientiously.

"You're not funny!" snapped her father.

"Yes, I am," whispered the girl.

"No, you're not!" reasserted her father with increasing vehemence.
"You're not! It's I who am funny! It's I who--" In a chaos of emotion
he slid along the edge of the bed and clasped her in his arms. Just
for an instant his wet cheek grazed hers, then: "All the same, you
know," he insisted awkwardly, "I hate this place!"

Surprisingly little Eve Edgarton reached up and kissed him full on the
mouth. They were both very much embarrassed.

"Why--why, Eve!" stammered her father. "Why, my little--little girl!
Why, you haven't kissed me--before--since you were a baby!"

"Yes, I have!" nodded little Eve Edgarton.

"No, you haven't!" snapped her father.

"Yes, I have!" insisted Eve.

Tighter and tighter their arms clasped round each other. "You're all
I've got," faltered the man brokenly.

"You're all I've ever had," whispered little Eve Edgarton.

Silently for a moment each according to his thoughts sat staring off
into far places. Then without any warning whatsoever, the man reached
out suddenly and tipped his daughter's face up abruptly into the
light.

"Eve!" he demanded. "Surely you're not blaming me any in your heart
because I want to see you safely married and settled with--with John
Ellbertson?"

Vaguely, like a child repeating a dimly understood lesson, little Eve
Edgarton repeated the phrases after him. "Oh, no, Father," she said,
"I surely am not blaming you--in my heart--for wanting to see me
married and settled with--John Ellbertson. Good old John Ellbertson,"
she corrected painstakingly.

With his hand still holding her little chin like a vise, the man's
eyes narrowed to his further probing. "Eve," he frowned, "I'm not as
well as I used to be! I've got pains in my arms! And they're not good
pains! I shall live to be a thousand! But I--I might not! It's
a--rotten world, Eve," he brooded, "and quite unnecessarily
crowded--it seems to me--with essentially rotten people. Toward the
starving and the crippled and the hideously distorted, the world,
having no envy of them, shows always an amazing mercy; and Beauty,
whatever its sorrows, can always retreat to the thick protecting wall
of its own conceit. But as for the rest of us?" he grinned with a
sudden convulsive twist of the eyebrow, "God help the unduly
prosperous--and the merely plain! From the former--always, Envy, like
a wolf, shall tear down every fresh talent, every fresh treasure, they
lift to their aching backs. And from the latter--Brutal Neglect shall
ravage away even the charm that they thought they had!

"It's a--a rotten world, Eve, I tell you," he began all over again, a
bit plaintively. "A rotten world! And the pains in my arms, I tell
you, are not--nice! Distinctly not nice! Sometimes, Eve, you think I'm
making faces at you! But, believe me, it isn't faces that I'm making!
It's my--heart that I'm making at you! And believe me, the pain is
not--nice!"

Before the sudden wince in his daughter's eyes he reverted instantly
to an air of semi-jocosity. "So, under all existing circumstances,
little girl," he hastened to affirm, "you can hardly blame a crusty
old codger of a father for preferring to leave his daughter in the
hands of a man whom he positively knows to be good, than in the hands
of some casual stranger who, just in a negative way, he merely can't
prove isn't good? Oh, Eve--Eve," he pleaded sharply, "you'll be so
much better off--out of the world! You've got infinitely too much
money and infinitely too little--self-conceit--to be happy here! They
would break your heart in a year! But at Nunko-Nono!" he cried
eagerly. "Oh, Eve! Think of the peace of it! Just white beach, and a
blue sea, and the long, low, endless horizon. And John will make you a
garden! And women--I have often heard--are very happy in a garden!
And--"

Slowly little Eve Edgarton lifted her eyes again to his. "Has John got
a beard?" she asked.

"Why--why, I'm sure I don't remember," stammered her father. "Why,
yes, I think so--why, yes, indeed--I dare say!"

"Is it a grayish beard?" asked little Eve Edgarton.

"Why--why, yes--I shouldn't wonder," admitted her father.

"And reddish?" persisted little Eve Edgarton. "And longish? As long
as--?" Illustratively with her hands she stretched to her full arm's
length.

"Yes, I think perhaps it is reddish," conceded her father. "But why?"

"Oh--nothing," mused little Eve Edgarton. "Only sometimes at night I
dream about you and me landing at Nunko-Nono. And John in a great big,
long, reddish-gray beard always comes crunching down at full speed
across the hermit-crabs to meet us. And always just before he reaches
us, he--he trips on his beard--and falls headlong into the ocean--and
is--drowned."

"Why--what an awful dream!" deprecated her father.

"Awful?" queried little Eve Edgarton. "Ha! It makes me--laugh. All the
same," she affirmed definitely, "good old John Ellbertson will have to
have his beard cut." Quizzically for an instant she stared off into
space, then quite abruptly she gave a quick, funny little sniff.
"Anyway, I'll have a garden, won't I?" she said. "And always, of
course, there will be--Henrietta."

"Henrietta?" frowned her father.

"My daughter!" explained little Eve Edgarton with dignity.

"Your daughter?" snapped Edgarton.

"Oh, of course there may be several," conceded little Eve Edgarton.
"But Henrietta, I'm almost positive, will be the best one!"

So jerkily she thrust her slender throat forward with the speech, her
whole facial expression seemed suddenly to have undercut and stunned
her father's.

"Always, Father," she attested grimly, "with your horrid old books and
specimens you have crowded my dolls out of my steamer trunk. But never
once--" her tightening lips hastened to assure him, "have you ever
succeeded in crowding--Henrietta--and the others out of my mind!"

Quite incongruously, then, with a soft little hand in which there
lurked no animosity whatsoever, she reached up suddenly and smoothed
the astonishment out of her father's mouth-lines.

"After all, Father," she asked, "now that we're really talking so
intimately, after all--there isn't so specially much to life anyway,
is there, except just the satisfaction of making the complete round of
human experience--once for yourself--and then once again--to show
another person? Just that double chance, Father, of getting two
original glimpses at happiness? One through your own eyes, and
one--just a little bit dimmer--through the eyes of another?"

With mercilessly appraising vision the starving Youth that was in her
glared up at the satiate Age in him.

"You've had your complete round of human experience, Father!" she
cried. "Your first--full--untrammeled glimpse of all your Heart's
Desires. More of a glimpse, perhaps, than most people get. From your
tiniest boyhood, Father, everything just as you wanted it! Just the
tutors you chose in just the subjects you chose! Everything then that
American colleges could give you! Everything later that European
universities could offer you! And then Travel! And more Travel! And
more! And more! And then--Love! And then Fame! 'Love, Fame, and Far
Lands!' Yes, that's it exactly! Everything just as you chose it! So
your only tragedy, Father, lies--as far as I can see--in just
little--me! Because I don't happen to like the things that you like,
the things that you already have had the first full joy of
liking,--you've got to miss altogether your dimmer, second-hand
glimpse of happiness! Oh, I'm sorry, Father! Truly I am! Already I
sense the hurt of these latter years--the shattered expectations, the
incessant disappointments! You who have stared unblinkingly into the
face of the sun, robbed in your twilight of even a candle-flame. But,
Father?"

Grimly, despairingly, but with unfaltering persistence--Youth fighting
with its last gasp for the rights of its Youth--she lifted her haggard
little face to his. "But, Father!--my tragedy lies in the fact--that
at thirty--I've never yet had even my first-hand glimpse of happiness!
And now apparently, unless I'm willing to relinquish all hope of ever
having it, and consent to 'settle down,' as you call it, with 'good
old John Ellbertson'--I'll never even get a gamble--probably--at
sighting Happiness second-hand through another person's eyes!"

"Oh, but Eve!" protested her father. Nervously he jumped up and began
to pace the room. One side of his face was quite grotesquely
distorted, and his lean fingers, thrust precipitously into his
pockets, were digging frenziedly into their own palms. "Oh, but Eve!"
he reiterated sharply, "you will be happy with John! I know you will!
John is a--John is a--Underneath all that slowness, that ponderous
slowness--that--that--Underneath that--"

"That longish--reddish--grayish beard?" interpolated little Eve
Edgarton.

Glaringly for an instant the old eyes and the young eyes challenged
each other, and then the dark eyes retreated suddenly before--not the
strength but the weakness of their opponents.

"Oh, very well, Father," assented little Eve Edgarton. "Only--"
ruggedly the soft little chin thrust itself forth into stubborn
outline again. "Only, Father," she articulated with inordinate
distinctness, "you might just as well understand here and now, I
won't budge one inch toward Nunko-Nono--not one single solitary little
inch toward Nunko-Nono--unless at London, or Lisbon, or Odessa, or
somewhere, you let me fill up all the trunks I want to--with just
plain pretties--to take to Nunko-Nono! It isn't exactly, you know,
like a bride moving fifty miles out from town somewhere," she
explained painstakingly. "When a bride goes out to a place like
Nunko-Nono, it isn't enough, you understand, that she takes just the
things she needs. What she's got to take, you see, is everything under
the sun--that she ever may need!"

With a little soft sigh of finality she sank back into her pillows,
and then struggled up for one brief instant again to add a postscript,
as it were, to her ultimatum. "If my day is over--without ever having
been begun," she said, "why, it's over--without ever having been
begun! And that's all there is to it! But when it comes to Henrietta,"
she mused, "Henrietta's going to have five-inch hair-ribbons--and
everything else--from the very start!"

"Eh?" frowned Edgarton, and started for the door.

"And oh, Father!" called Eve, just as his hand touched the door-knob.
"There's something I want to ask you for Henrietta's sake. It's rather
a delicate question, but after I'm married I suppose I shall have to
save all my delicate questions to--ask John; and John, somehow, has
never seemed to me particularly canny about anything except--geology.
Father!" she asked, "just what is it--that you consider so
particularly obnoxious in--in--young men? Is it their sins?"

"Sins!" jerked her father. "Bah! It's their traits!"

"So?" questioned little Eve Edgarton from her pillows. "So? Such
as--what?"

"Such as the pursuit of woman!" snapped her father. "The love--not of
woman, but of the pursuit of woman! On all sides you see it to-day! On
all sides you hear it--sense it--suffer it! The young man's eternally
jocose sexual appraisement of woman! 'Is she young? Is she pretty?'
And always, eternally, 'Is there any one younger? Is there any one
prettier?' Sins, you ask?" Suddenly now he seemed perfectly willing,
even anxious, to linger and talk. "A sin is nothing, oftener than not,
but a mere accidental, non-considered act! A yellow streak quite as
exterior as the scorch of a sunbeam. And there is no sin existent that
a man may not repent of! And there is no honest repentance, Eve, that
a wise woman cannot make over into a basic foundation for happiness!
But a trait? A congenital tendency? A yellow streak bred in the bone?
Why, Eve! If a man loves, I tell you, not woman, but the pursuit of
woman? So that--wherever he wins--he wastes again? So that indeed at
last, he wins only to waste? Moving eternally--on--on--on from one
ravaged lure to another? Eve! Would I deliver over you--your mother's
reincarnated body--to--to such as that?"

"O--h," said little Eve Edgarton. Her eyes were quite wide with
horror. "How careful I shall have to be with Henrietta."

"Eh?" snapped her father.

Ting-a-ling--ling--ling--ling! trilled the telephone from the farther
side of the room.

Impatiently Edgarton came back and lifted the receiver from its hook.
"Hello?" he growled. "Who? What? Eh?"

With quite unnecessary vehemence he rammed the palm of his hand
against the mouth-piece and glared back over his shoulder at his
daughter. "It's that--that Barton!" he said. "The impudence of him! He
wants to know if you are receiving visitors to-day! He wants to know
if he can come up! The--"

"Yes--isn't it--awful?" stammered little Eve Edgarton.

Imperiously her father turned back to the telephone.
Ting-a-ling--ling--ling--ling, chirped the bell right in his face. As
if he were fairly trying to bite the transmitter, he thrust his lips
and teeth into the mouth-piece.

"My daughter," he enunciated with extreme distinctness, "is feeling
quite exhausted--exhausted--this afternoon. We appreciate, of course
Mr. Barton, your--What? Hello there!" he interrupted himself sharply.
"Mr. Barton? Barton? Now what in the deuce?" he called back
appealingly toward the bed. "Why, he's rung off! The fool!" Quite
accidentally then his glance lighted on his daughter. "Why, what are
you smoothing your hair for?" he called out accusingly.

"Oh, just to put it on," acknowledged little Eve Edgarton.

"But what in creation are you putting on your coat for?" he demanded
tartly.

"Oh, just to smooth it," acknowledged little Eve Edgarton.

With a sniff of disgust Edgarton turned on his heel and strode off
into his own room.

For five minutes by the little traveling-clock, she heard him pacing
monotonously up and down--up and down. Then very softly at last she
summoned him back to her.

"Father," she whispered, "I think there's some one knocking at the
outside door."

"What?" called Edgarton. Incredulously he came back through his
daughter's room and, crossing over to the hall door, yanked it open
abruptly on the intruder.

"Why--good afternoon!" grinned Barton above the extravagantly large
and languorous bunch of pale lavender orchids that he clutched in his
hand.

"Good afternoon!" said Edgarton without enthusiasm.

"Er--orchids!" persisted Barton still grinningly. Across the
unfriendly hunch of the older man's shoulder he caught a disquieting
glimpse of a girl's unduly speculative eyes. In sudden impulsive
league with her against this, their apparent common enemy, Age, he
thrust the orchids into the older man's astonished hands.

"For me?" questioned Edgarton icily.

"Why, yes--certainly!" beamed Barton. "Orchids, you know! Hothouse
orchids!" he explained painstakingly.

"So I--judged," admitted Edgarton. With extreme distaste he began to
untie the soft flimsy lavender ribbon that encompassed them. "In their
native state, you know," he confided, "one very seldom finds them
growing with--sashes on them." From her nest of cushions across the
room little Eve Edgarton loomed up suddenly into definite prominence.

"What did you bring me, Mr. Barton?" she asked.

"Why, Eve!" cried her father. "Why, Eve, you astonish me! Why, I'm
surprised at you! Why--what do you mean?"

The girl sagged back into her cushions. "Oh, Father," she faltered,
"don't you know--anything? That was just 'small talk.'"

With perfunctory courtesy Edgarton turned to young Barton. "Pray be
seated," he said; "take--take a chair."

It was the chair closest to little Eve Edgarton that Barton took.
"How do you do, Miss Edgarton?" he ventured.

"How do you do, Mr. Barton?" said little Eve Edgarton.

From the splashy wash-stand somewhere beyond them, they heard Edgarton
fussing with the orchids and mumbling vague Latin imprecations--or
endearments--over them. A trifle surreptitiously Barton smiled at Eve.
A trifle surreptitiously Eve smiled back at Barton.

In this perfectly amiable exchange of smiles the girl reached up
suddenly to the sides of her head. "Is my--is my bandage on straight?"
she asked worriedly.

"Why, no," admitted Barton; "it ought not to be, ought it?"

Again for no special reason whatsoever they both smiled.

"Oh, I say," stammered Barton. "How you can dance!"

Across the girl's olive cheeks her heavy eyelashes shadowed down like
a fringe of black ferns. "Yes--how I can dance," she murmured almost
inaudibly.

"Why didn't you let anybody know?" demanded Barton.

"Yes--why didn't I let anybody know?" repeated the girl in an utter
panic of bashfulness.

"Oh, I say," whispered Barton, "won't you even look at me?"

Mechanically the girl opened her eyes and stared at him fixedly until
his own eyes fell.

"Eve!" called her father sharply from the next room, "where in
creation is my data concerning North American orchids?"

"In my steamer-trunk," began the girl. "On the left hand side. Tucked
in between your riding-boots and my best hat."

"O--h," called her father.

Barton edged forward in his chair and touched the girl's brown, boyish
little hand.

"Really, Miss Eve," he stammered, "I'm awfully sorry you got hurt!
Truly I am! Truly it made me feel awfully squeamish! Really I've been
thinking a lot about you these last few days! Honestly I have! Never
in all my life did I ever carry any one as little and hurt as you
were! It sort of haunts me, I tell you. Isn't there something I could
do for you?"

"Something you could do for me?" said little Eve Edgarton, staring.
Then again the heavy lashes came shadowing down across her cheeks.

"I haven't had any very great luck," she said, "in finding you ready
to do things for me."

"What?" gasped Barton.

The big eyes lifted and fell again. "There was the attic," she
whispered a bit huskily. "You wouldn't rent me your attic!"

"Oh, but--I say!" grinned Barton. "Some real thing, I mean! Couldn't
I--couldn't I--read aloud to you?" he articulated quite distinctly, as
Edgarton came rustling back into the room with his arms full of
papers.

"Read aloud?" gibed Edgarton across the top of his spectacles. "It's a
daring man, in this unexpurgated day and generation, who offers to
read aloud to a lady."

"He might read me my geology notes," suggested little Eve Edgarton
blandly.

"Your geology notes?" hooted her father. "What's this? Some more of
your new-fangled 'small talk'? Your geology notes?" Still chuckling
mirthlessly, he strode over to the big table by the window and,
spreading out his orchid data over every conceivable inch of space,
settled himself down serenely to compare one "flower of mystery" with
another.

Furtively for a moment Barton sat studying the gaunt, graceful figure.
Then quite impulsively he turned back to little Eve Edgarton's
scowling face.

"Nevertheless, Miss Eve," he grinned, "I should be perfectly delighted
to read your geology notes to you. Where are they?"

"Here," droned little Eve Edgarton, slapping listlessly at the loose
pile of pages beside her.

Conscientiously Barton reached out and gathered the flimsy papers into
one trim handful. "Where shall I begin?" he asked.

"It doesn't matter," murmured little Eve Edgarton.

"What?" said Barton. Nervously he began to fumble through the pages.
"Isn't there any beginning?" he demanded.

"No," moped little Eve Edgarton.

"Nor any end?" he insisted. "Nor any middle?"

"N--o," sighed little Eve Edgarton.

Helplessly Barton plunged into the unhappy task before him. On page
nine there were perhaps the fewest blots. He decided to begin there.

     "Paleontologically,"

the first sentence smote him--

     "Paleontologically the periods are characterized by absence of
     the large marine saurians, Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs--"

"eh?" gasped Barton.

"Why, of course!" called Edgarton, a bit impatiently, from the window.

Laboriously Barton went back and reread the phrase to himself.
"Oh--oh, yes," he conceded lamely.

     "Paleontologically,"

he began all over again. "Oh, dear, no!" he interrupted himself. "I
was farther along than that!--Absence of marine saurians? Oh, yes!

     "Absence of marine saurians,"

he resumed glibly,

     "Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs--so abundant in the--in the
     Cretaceous--of Ammonites and Belemnites,"

he persisted--heroically. Hesitatingly, stumblingly, without a glimmer
of understanding, his bewildered mind worried on and on, its entire
mental energy concentrated on the single purpose of trying to
pronounce the awful words.

     "Of Rudistes, Inocerami--Tri--Trigonias,"

the horrible paragraph tortured on ...

     "By the marked reduction in the--Brachiopods compared
     with the now richly developed Gasteropods and--and
     sinupalliate--Lamellibranchs,"--

it writhed and twisted before his dizzy eyes.

Every sentence was a struggle; more than one of the words he was
forced to spell aloud just out of sheer self-defense; and always
against Eve Edgarton's little intermittent nod of encouragement was
balanced that hateful sniffing sound of surprise and contempt from the
orchid table in the window.

Despairingly he skipped a few lines to the next unfamiliar words that
met his eye.

     "The Neozoic flora,"

he read,

     "consists mainly of--of Angio--Angiosper--"

Still smiling, but distinctly wan around the edges of the smile, he
slammed the handful of papers down on his knee. "If it really doesn't
make any difference where we begin, Miss Eve," he said, "for Heaven's
sake--let's begin somewhere else!"

"Oh--all right," crooned little Eve Edgarton.

Expeditiously Barton turned to another page, and another, and
another. Wryly he tasted strange sentence after strange sentence. Then
suddenly his whole wonderful face wreathed itself in smiles again.

     "Three superfamilies of turtles,"

he began joyously. "Turtles! Ha!--I know turtles!" he proceeded with
real triumph. "Why, that's the first word I've recognized in all
this--this--er--this what I've been reading! Sure I know turtles!" he
reiterated with increasing conviction. "Why, sure! Those--those
slow-crawling, box-like affairs that--live in the mud and are used for
soup and--er--combs," he continued blithely.

"The--very--same," nodded little Eve Edgarton soberly.

"Oh--Lordy!" groaned her father from the window.

"Oh, this is going to be lots better!" beamed Barton. "Now that I know
what it's all about--"

"For goodness' sake," growled Edgarton from his table, "how do you
people think I'm going to do any work with all this jabbering going
on!"

Hesitatingly for a moment Barton glanced back over his shoulder at
Edgarton, and then turned round again to probe Eve's preferences in
the matter. As sluggishly determinate as two black turtles trailing
along a white sand beach, her great dark eyes in her little pale face
seemed headed suddenly toward some Far-Away Idea.

"Oh--go right on reading, Mr. Barton," nodded little Eve Edgarton.

     "Three superfamilies of turtles,"

began Barton all over again.

     "Three superfamilies of turtles--the--the Amphichelydia, the
     Cryptodira, and the Tri--the--Tri--the
     T-r-i-o-n-y-c-h-o-i-d-e-a,"

he spelled out laboriously.

With a vicious jerk of his chair Edgarton snatched up his papers and
his orchids and started for the door.

[Illustration: "You're nice," he said. "I like you!"]

"When you people get all through this nonsense," he announced,
"maybe you'll be kind enough to let me know! I shall be in the
writing-room!" With satirical courtesy he bowed first to Eve, then to
Barton, dallied an instant on the threshold to repeat both bows, and
went out, slamming the door behind him.

"A nervous man, isn't he?" suggested Barton.

Gravely little Eve Edgarton considered the thought. "Trionychoidea,"
she prompted quite irrelevantly.

"Oh, yes--of course," conceded Barton. "But do you mind if I smoke?"

"No, I don't mind if you smoke," singsonged the girl.

With a palpable sigh of relief Barton lighted a cigarette. "You're
nice," he said. "I like you!" Conscientiously then he resumed his
reading.

     "No--Pleurodira--have yet been found,"

he began.

"Yes--isn't that too bad?" sighed little Eve Edgarton.

"It doesn't matter personally to me," admitted Barton. Hastily he
moved on to the next sentence.

     "The Amphichelydia--are known there by only the genus Baena,"

he read.

     "Two described species: B. undata and B. arenosa, to which was
     added B. hebraica and B. ponderosa--"

Petulantly he slammed the whole handful of papers to the floor.

"Eve!" he stammered. "I can't stand it! I tell you--I just can't stand
it! Take my attic if you want to! Or my cellar! Or my garage! Or
anything else of mine in the world that you have any fancy for! But
for Heaven's sake--"

With extraordinarily dilated eyes Eve Edgarton stared out at him from
her white pillows.

"Why--why, if it makes you feel like that--just to read it," she
reproached him mournfully, "how do you suppose it makes me feel to
have to write it? All you have to do--is to read it," she said. "But
I? I have to write it!"

"But--why do you have to write it?" gasped Barton.

Languidly her heavy lashes shadowed down across her cheeks again.
"It's for the British consul at Nunko-Nono," she said. "It's some
notes he asked me to make for him in London this last spring."

"But for mercy's sake--do you like to write things like that?"
insisted Barton.

"Oh, no," drawled little Eve Edgarton. "But of course--if I marry
him," she confided without the slightest flicker of emotion, "it's
what I'll have to write--all the rest of my life."

"But--" stammered Barton. "For mercy's sake, do you want to marry
him?" he asked quite bluntly.

"Oh, no," drawled little Eve Edgarton.

Impatiently Barton threw away his half-smoked cigarette and lighted a
fresh one. "Then why?" he demanded.

"Oh, it's something Father invented," said little Eve Edgarton.

Altogether emphatically Barton pushed back his chair. "Well, I call
it a shame!" he said. "For a nice live little girl like you to be
packed off like so much baggage--to marry some great gray-bearded
clout who hasn't got an idea in his head except--except--"
squintingly he stared down at the scattered sheets on the
floor--"except--'Amphichelydia,'" he asserted with some feeling.

"Yes--isn't it?" sighed little Eve Edgarton.

"For Heaven's sake!" said Barton. "Where is Nunko-Nono?"

"Nunko-Nono?" whispered little Eve Edgarton. "Where is it? Why, it's
an island! In an ocean, you know! Rather a hot--green island! In
rather a hot--blue-green ocean! Lots of green palms, you know, and
rank, rough, green grass--and green bugs--and green butterflies--and
green snakes. And a great crawling, crunching collar of white sand and
hermit-crabs all around it. And then just a long, unbroken line of
turquoise-colored waves. And then more turquoise-colored waves. And
then more turquoise-colored waves. And then more turquoise-colored
waves. And then--and then--"

"And then what?" worried Barton.

With a vaguely astonished lift of the eyebrows little Eve Edgarton met
both question and questioner perfectly squarely. "Why--then--more
turquoise-colored waves, of course," chanted little Eve Edgarton.

"It sounds rotten to me," confided Barton.

"It is," said little Eve Edgarton. "And, oh, I forgot to tell you:
John Ellbertson is--sort of green, too. Geologists are apt to be,
don't you think so?"

"I never saw one," admitted Barton without shame.

"If you'd like me to," said Eve, "I'll show you how the
turquoise-colored waves sound--when they strike the hermit-crabs."

"Do!" urged Barton.

Listlessly the girl pushed back into her pillows, slid down a little
farther into her blankets, and closed her eyes.

"Mmmmmmmmm," she began, "Mmm-mmmmmmm--Mmmmm--Mmmmmmm, W-h-i-s-h-h-h!
Mmmmmmmmm--Mmmmmmmm--Mmmmmmmm--Mmmmmm--W-h-i-s-h-h-h!--Mmmmmmmm--Mmmmmmm--"

"After a while, of course, I think you might stop," suggested Barton a
bit creepishly.

Again the big eyes opened at him with distinct surprise. "Why--why?"
said Eve Edgarton. "It--never stops!"

"Oh, I say," frowned Barton, "I do feel awfully badly about your going
away off to a place like that to live! Really!" he stammered.

"We're going--Thursday," said little Eve Edgarton.

"THURSDAY?" cried Barton. For some inexplainable reason the whole idea
struck him suddenly as offensive, distinctly offensive, as if Fate,
the impatient waiter, had snatched away a yet untasted plate.
"Why--why, Eve!" he protested, "why, we're only just beginning to get
acquainted."

"Yes, I know it," mused little Eve Edgarton.

"Why--if we'd have had half a chance--" began Barton, and then didn't
know at all how to finish it. "Why, you're so plucky--and so odd--and
so interesting!" he began all over again. "Oh, of course, I'm an awful
duffer and all that! But if we'd had half a chance, I say, you and I
would have been great pals in another fortnight!"

"Even so," murmured little Eve Edgarton, "there are yet--fifty-two
hours before I go."

"What are fifty-two hours?" laughed Barton.

Listlessly like a wilting flower little Eve Edgarton slid down a
trifle farther into her pillows. "If you'd have an early supper," she
whispered, "and then come right up here afterward, why, there would be
two or three hours. And then to-morrow if you got up quite early,
there would be a long, long morning, and--we--could get
acquainted--some," she insisted.

"Why, Eve!" said Barton, "do you really mean that you would like to
be friends with me?"

"Yes--I do," nodded the crown of the white-bandaged head.

"But I'm so stupid," confided Barton, with astonishing humility. "All
these botany things--and geology--and--"

"Yes, I know it," mumbled little Eve Edgarton. "That's what makes you
so restful."

"What?" queried Barton a bit sharply. Then very absent-mindedly for a
moment he sat staring off into space through a gray, pungent haze of
cigarette smoke.

"Eve," he ventured at last.

"What?" mumbled little Eve Edgarton.

"Nothing," said Barton.

"Mr. Jim Barton," ventured Eve.

"What?" asked Barton.

"Nothing," mumbled little Eve Edgarton.

Out of some emotional or purely social tensities of life it seems
rather that Time strikes the clock than that anything so small as a
clock should dare strike the Time. One--two--three--four--five! winced
the poor little frightened traveling-clock on the mantelpiece.

Then quite abruptly little Eve Edgarton emerged from her cozy
cushions, sitting bolt upright like a doughty little warrior.

"Mr. Jim Barton!" said little Eve Edgarton. "If I stayed here two
weeks longer--I know you'd like me! I know it! I just know it!"
Quizzically for an instant, as if to accumulate further courage, she
cocked her little head on one side and stared blankly into Barton's
astonished eyes. "But you see I'm not going to be here two weeks!" she
resumed hurriedly. Again the little head cocked appealingly to one
side. "You--you wouldn't be willing to take my word for it, would you?
And like me--now?"

"Why--why, what do you mean?" stammered Barton.

"What do I mean?" quizzed little Eve Edgarton. "Why, I mean--that just
once before I go off to Nunko-Nono--I'd like to be--attractive!"

"Attractive?" stammered Barton helplessly.

With all the desperate, indomitable frankness of a child, the girl's
chin thrust itself forward.

"I could be attractive!" she said. "I could! I know I could! If I'd
ever let go just the teeniest--tiniest bit--I could have--beaux!" she
asserted triumphantly. "A thousand beaux!" she added more explicitly.
"Only--"

"Only what?" laughed Barton.

"Only one doesn't let go," said little Eve Edgarton.

"Why not?" persisted Barton.

"Why, you just--couldn't--with strangers," said little Eve Edgarton.
"That's the bewitchment of it."

"The bewitchment?" puzzled Barton.

Nervously the girl crossed her hands in her lap. She suddenly didn't
look like a doughty little soldier any more, but just like a worried
little girl.

"Did you ever read any fairy stories?" she asked with apparent
irrelevance.

"Why, of course," said Barton. "Millions of them when I was a kid."

"I read one--once," said little Eve Edgarton. "It was about a person,
a sleeping person, a lady, I mean, who couldn't wake up until a prince
kissed her. Well, that was all right, of course," conceded little Eve
Edgarton, "because, of course, any prince would have been willing to
kiss the lady just as a mere matter of accommodation. But suppose,"
fretted little Eve Edgarton, "suppose the bewitchment also ran that no
prince would kiss the lady until she had waked up? Now there!" said
little Eve Edgarton, "is a situation that I should call completely
stalled."

"But what's all this got to do with you?" grinned Barton.

"Nothing at all to do with me!" said little Eve Edgarton. "It is me!
That's just exactly the way I'm fixed. I can't be attractive--out
loud--until some one likes me! But no one, of course, will ever like
me until I am already attractive--out loud! So that's why I wondered,"
she said, "if just as a mere matter of accommodation, you wouldn't be
willing to be friends with me now? So that for at least the fifty-two
hours that remain, I could be released--from my most unhappy
enchantment."

Astonishingly across that frank, perfectly outspoken little face, the
frightened eyelashes came flickering suddenly down. "Because,"
whispered little Eve Edgarton, "because--you see--I happen to like you
already."

"Oh, fine!" smiled Barton. "Fine! Fine! Fi--" Abruptly the word broke
in his throat. "What?" he cried. His hand--the steadiest hand among
all his chums--began to shake like an aspen. "WHAT?" he cried. His
heart, the steadiest heart among all his chums, began to pitch and
lurch in his breast. "Why, Eve! Eve!" he stammered. "You don't mean
you like me--like that?"

"Yes--I do," nodded the little white-capped head. There was much
shyness of flesh in the statement, but not a flicker of spiritual
self-consciousness or fear.

"But--Eve!" protested Barton. Already he felt the goose-flesh rising
on his arms. Once before a girl had told him that she--liked him. In
the middle of a silly summer flirtation it had been, and the scene had
been mawkish, awful, a mess of tears and kisses and endless
recriminations. But this girl? Before the utter simplicity of this
girl's statement, the unruffled dignity, the mere acknowledgment, as
it were, of an interesting historical fact, all his trifling,
preconceived ideas went tumbling down before his eyes like a flimsy
house of cards. Pang after pang of regret for the girl, of regret for
himself, went surging hotly through him. "Oh, but--Eve!" he began all
over again. His voice was raw with misery.

"Why, there's nothing to make a fuss about," drawled little Eve
Edgarton. "You've probably liked a thousand people, but I--you
see?--I've never had the fun of liking--any one--before!"

"Fun?" tortured Barton. "Yes, that's just it! If you'd ever had the
fun of liking anything it wouldn't seem half so brutal--now!"

"Brutal?" mused little Eve Edgarton. "Oh, really, Mr. Jim Barton, I
assure you," she said, "there's nothing brutal at all in my
liking--for you."

With a gasp of despair Barton stumbled across the rug to the bed, and
with a shaky hand thrust under Eve Edgarton's chin, turned her little
face bluntly up to him to tell her--how proud he felt, but--to tell
her how sorry he was, but--

[Illustration: "Any time that you people want me," suggested
Edgarton's icy voice, "I am standing here--in about the middle of the
floor!"]

And as he turned that little face up to
his,--inconceivably--incomprehensively--to his utter consternation and
rout--he saw that it was a stranger's little face that he held. Gone
was the sullen frown, the indifferent glance, the bitter smile, and in
that sudden, amazing, wild, sweet transfiguration of brow, eyes,
mouth, that met his astonished eyes, he felt his whole mean,
supercilious world slip out from under his feet! And just as
precipitously, just as inexplainably, as ten days before he had seen a
Great Light that had knocked all consciousness out of him, he
experienced now a second Great Light that knocked him back into the
first full consciousness that he had ever known!

"Why, Eve!" he stammered. "Why, you--mischief! Why, you little--cheeky
darling! Why, my own--darned little Story Book Girl!" And gathered her
into his arms.

From the farther side of the room the sound of a creaking board smote
almost instantly upon their ears.

"Any time that you people want me," suggested Edgarton's icy voice, "I
am standing here--in about the middle of the floor!"

With a jerk of dismay Barton wheeled around to face him. But it was
little Eve Edgarton herself who found her tongue first.

"Oh, Father dear--I have been perfectly wise!" she hastened to assure
him. "Almost at once, Father, I told him that I liked him, so that if
he really were the dreadful kind of young man you were warning me
about, he would eliminate himself from my horizon--immediately--in his
wicked pursuit of--some other lady! Oh, he did run, Father!" she
confessed in the first red blush of her life. "Oh, he did--run,
Father, but it was--almost directly--toward me!"

"Eh?" snapped Edgarton.

Then in a divine effrontery, half impudence and half humility, Barton
stepped out into the middle of the room, and proffered his strong,
firm young hand to the older man.

"You told me," he grinned, "to rummage around until I discovered a
Real Treasure? Well, I didn't have to do it! It was the Treasure, it
seems, who discovered me!"

Then suddenly into his fine young eyes flared up the first glint of
his new-born soul.

"Your daughter, sir," said Barton, "is the most beautiful woman in the
world! As you suggested to me, I have found out what she is interested
in--She is interested in--ME!"





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