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Title: Contrary Mary
Author: Bailey, Temple, -1953
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 "Contrary Mary" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



CONTRARY MARY

by

TEMPLE BAILEY

Author of
Glory of Youth

Illustrations by Charles S. Corson



[Frontispiece: She flashed a quick glance at him.]



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
Copyright
1914 by
The Penn Publishing Company
  First printing, December, 1914
  Second printing, February, 1915
  Third printing, March, 1915
  Fourth printing, March, 1915
  Fifth printing, April, 1915
  Sixth printing, July, 1915
  Seventh printing, November, 1915



To My Sister



Contents


CHAPTER I

In Which Silken Ladies Ascend One Stairway, and a Lonely Wayfarer
Ascends Another and Comes Face to Face with Old Friends.


CHAPTER II

In Which Rose-Leaves and Old Slippers Speed a Happy Pair; and in Which
Sweet and Twenty Speaks a New and Modern Language, and Gives a Reason
for Renting a Gentleman's Library.


CHAPTER III

In Which a Lonely Wayfarer Becomes Monarch of All He Surveys; and in
Which One Who Might Have Been Presented as the Hero of this Tale is
Forced, Through No Fault of His Own, to Take His Chances with the Rest.


CHAPTER IV

In Which a Little Bronze Boy Grins in the Dark; and in Which Mary
Forgets that There is Any One Else in the House.


CHAPTER V

In Which Roger Remembers a Face and Delilah Remembers a Voice; and in
Which a Poem and a Pussy Cat Play an Important Part.


CHAPTER VI

In Which Mary Brings Christmas to the Tower Rooms, and in Which Roger
Declines a Privilege for Which Porter Pleads.


CHAPTER VII

In Which Aunt Frances Speaks of Matrimony as a Fixed Institution and is
Met by Flaming Arguments; and in Which a Strange Voice Sings Upon the
Stairs.


CHAPTER VIII

In Which Little-Lovely Leila Sees a Picture in an Unexpected Place; and
in Which Perfect Faith Speaks Triumphantly Over the Telephone.


CHAPTER IX

In Which Roger Sallies Forth in the Service of a Damsel in Distress;
and in Which He Meets Dragons Along the Way.


CHAPTER X

In Which a Scarlet Flower Blooms in the Garden; and in Which a Light
Flares Later in the Tower.


CHAPTER XI

In Which Roger Writes a Letter; and in Which a Rose Blooms Upon the
Pages of a Book.


CHAPTER XII

In Which Mary and Roger Have Their Hour; and in Which a Tea-Drinking
Ends in What Might Have Been a Tragedy.


CHAPTER XIII

In Which the Whole World is at Sixes and Sevens; and in Which Life is
Looked Upon as a Great Adventure.


CHAPTER XIV

In Which Mary Writes from the Tower Rooms; and in Which Roger Answers
from Among the Pines.


CHAPTER XV

In Which Barry and Leila Go Over the Hills and Far Away; and in Which a
March Moon Becomes a Honeymoon.


CHAPTER XVI

In Which a Long Name is Bestowed Upon a Beautiful Baby; and in Which a
Letter in a Long Envelope Brings Freedom to Mary.


CHAPTER XVII

In Which an Artist Finds What All His Life He Has Been Looking For; and
in Which He Speaks of a Little Saint in Red.


CHAPTER XVIII

In Which Mary Writes of the Workaday World; and in Which Roger Writes
of the Dreams of a Boy.


CHAPTER XIX

In Which Porter Plants an Evil Seed Which Grows and Flourishes, and in
Which Ghosts Rise and Confront Mary.


CHAPTER XX

In Which Mary Faces the Winter of Her Discontent; and in Which Delilah
Sees Things in a Crystal Ball.


CHAPTER XXI

In Which a Little Lady in Black Comes to Washington to Witness the
Swearing-in of a Gentleman and a Scholar.


CHAPTER XXII

In Which the Garden Begins to Bloom; and in Which Roger Dreamt.


CHAPTER XXIII

In Which Little-Lovely Leila Looks Forward to the Month of May; and in
Which Barry Rides Into a Town With Narrow Streets.


CHAPTER XXIV

In Which Roger Comes Once More to the Tower Rooms; and in Which a Duel
is Fought in Modern Fashion.


CHAPTER XXV

In Which Mary Bids Farewell to the Old Life, and in Which She Finds
Happiness on the High Seas.


CHAPTER XXVI

In Which a Strange Craft Anchors in a Sea of Emerald Light; and in
Which Mocking-Birds Sing in the Moonlight.



Illustrations


She flashed a quick glance at him . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"What have I done?"

"You don't know what you are doing."

"Again I question your right."



Contrary Mary


CHAPTER I

_In Which Silken Ladies Ascend One Stairway, and a Lonely Wayfarer
Ascends Another and Comes Face to Face With Old Friends._


The big house, standing on a high hill which overlooked the city,
showed in the moonlight the grotesque outlines of a composite
architecture.  Originally it had been a square substantial edifice of
Colonial simplicity.  A later and less restrained taste had aimed at a
castellated effect, and certain peaks and turrets had been added.
Three of these turrets were excrescences stuck on, evidently, with an
idea of adornment.  The fourth tower, however, rounded out and enlarged
a room on the third floor.  This room was one of a suite, and the rooms
were known as the Tower Rooms, and were held by those who had occupied
them to be the most desirable in the barn-like building.

To-night the house had taken on an unwonted aspect of festivity.  Its
spaciousness was checkered by golden-lighted windows.  Delivery wagons
and automobiles came and went, some discharging loads of deliciousness
at the back door, others discharging loads of loveliness at the front.

Following in the wake of one of the front door loads of fluttering
femininity came a somewhat somber pedestrian.  His steps lagged a
little, so that when the big door opened, he was still at the foot of
the terrace which led up to it.  He waited until the door was shut
before he again advanced.  In the glimpse that he thus had of the
interior, he was aware of a sort of pink effulgence, and in that
shining light, lapped by it, and borne up, as it were, by it toward the
wide stairway, he saw slender girls in faint-hued frocks--a shimmering
celestial company.

As he reached the top of the terrace the door again flew open, and he
gave a somewhat hesitating reason for his intrusion.

"I was told to ask for Miss Ballard--Miss Mary Ballard."

It seemed that he was expected, and that the guardian of the doorway
understood the difference between his business and that of the
celestial beings who had preceded him.

He was shown into a small room at the left of the entrance.  It was
somewhat bare, with a few law books and a big old-fashioned desk.  He
judged that the room might have been put to office uses, but to-night
the desk was heaped with open boxes, and odd pieces of furniture were
crowded together, so that there was left only a small oasis of cleared
space.  On the one chair in this oasis, the somber gentleman seated
himself.

He had a fancy, as he sat there waiting, that neither he nor this room
were in accord with the things that were going on in the big house.
Outside of the closed door the radiant guests were still ascending the
stairway on shining wings of light.  He could hear the music of their
laughter, and the deeper note of men's voices, rising and growing
fainter in a sort of transcendent harmony.

When the door was finally opened, it was done quickly and was shut
quickly, and the girl who had entered laughed breathlessly as she
turned to him.

"Oh, you must forgive me--I've kept you waiting?"

If their meeting had been in Sherwood forest, he would have known her
at once for a good comrade; if he had met her in the Garden of
Biaucaire, he would have known her at once for more than that.  But,
being neither a hero of ballad nor of old romance, he knew only that
here was a girl different from the silken ladies who had ascended the
stairs.  Here was an air almost of frank boyishness, a smile of
pleasant friendliness, with just enough of flushing cheek to show
womanliness and warm blood.

Even her dress was different.  It was simple almost to the point of
plainness.  Its charm lay in its glimmering glistening sheen, like the
inside of a shell.  Its draperies were caught up to show slender feet
in low-heeled slippers.  A quaint cap of silver tissue held closely the
waves of thick fair hair.  Her eyes were like the sea in a storm--deep
gray with a glint of green.

These things did not come to him at once.  He was to observe them as
she made her explanation, and as he followed her to the Tower Rooms.
But first he had to set himself straight with her, so he said: "I was
sorry to interrupt you.  But you said--seven?"

"Yes.  It was the only time that the rooms could be seen.  My sister
and I occupy them--and Constance is to be married--to-night."

This, then, was the reason for the effulgence and the silken ladies.
It was the reason, too, for the loveliness of her dress.

"I am going to take you this way."  She preceded him through a narrow
passage to a flight of steps leading up into the darkness.  "These
stairs are not often used, but we shall escape the crowds in the other
hall."

Her voice was lost as she made an abrupt turn, but, feeling his way, he
followed her.

Up and up until they came to a third-floor landing, where she stopped
him to say, "I must be sure no one is here.  Will you wait until I see?"

She came back, presently, to announce that the coast was clear, and
thus they entered the room which had been enlarged and rounded out by
the fourth tower.

It was a big room, ceiled and finished in dark oak, The furniture was
roomy and comfortable and of worn red leather.  A strong square table
held a copper lamp with a low spreading shade.  There was a fireplace,
and on the mantel above it a bust or two.

But it was not these things which at once caught the attention of Roger
Poole.

Lining the walls were old books in stout binding, new books in cloth
and fine leather--the poets, the philosophers, the seers of all ages.
As his eyes swept the shelves, he knew that here was the living,
breathing collection of a true book-lover--not a musty, fusty
aggregation brought together through mere pride of intellect.  The
owner of this library had counted the heart-beats of the world.

"This is the sitting-room," his guide was telling him, "and the bedroom
and bath open out from it."  She had opened a connecting door.  "This
room is awfully torn up.  But we have just finished dressing Constance.
She is down-stairs now in the Sanctum.  We'll pack her trunks to-morrow
and send them, and then if you should care to take the rooms, we can
put back the bedroom furniture that father had.  He used this suite,
and brought his books up after mother died."

He halted on the threshold of that inner room.  If the old house below
had seemed filled with rosy effulgence, this was the heart of the rose.
Two small white beds were side by side in an alcove.  Their covers were
of pink overlaid with lace, and the chintz of the big couch and chairs
reflected the same enchanting hue.  With all the color, however, there
was the freshness of simplicity.  Two tall glass candlesticks on the
dressing table, a few photographs in silver and ivory frames--these
were the only ornaments.

Yet everywhere was lovely confusion--delicate things were thrown
half-way into open trunks, filmy fabrics floated from unexpected
places, small slippers were held by receptacles never designed for
shoes, radiant hats bloomed in boxes.

On a chair lay a bridesmaid's bunch of roses.  This bunch Mary Ballard
picked up as she passed, and it was over the top of it that she asked,
with some diffidence, "Do you think you'd care to take the rooms?"

Did he?  Did the Peri outside the gates yearn to enter?  Here within
his reach was that from which he had been cut off for five years.  Five
years in boarding-houses and cheap hotels, and now the chance to live
again--as he had once lived!

"I do want them--awfully--but the price named in your letter seems
ridiculously small----"

"But you see it is all I shall need," she was as blissfully
unbusinesslike as he.  "I want to add a certain amount to my income, so
I ask you to pay that," she smiled, and with increasing diffidence
demanded, "Could you make up your mind--now?  It is important that I
should know--to-night."

She saw the question in his eyes and answered it, "You see--my family
have no idea that I am doing this.  If they knew, they wouldn't want me
to rent the rooms--but the house is mine---I shall do as I please."

She seemed to fling it at him, defiantly.

"And you want me to be accessory to your--crime."

She gave him a startled glance.  "Oh, do you look at it--that way?
Please don't.  Not if you like them."

For a moment, only, he wavered.  There was something distinctly unusual
in acquiring a vine and fig tree in this fashion.  But then her
advertisement had been unusual--it was that which had attracted him,
and had piqued his interest so that he had answered it.

And the books!  As he looked back into the big room, the rows of
volumes seemed to smile at him with the faces of old friends.

Lonely, longing for a haven after the storms which had beaten him, what
better could he find than this?

As for the family of Mary Ballard, what had he to do with it?  His
business was with Mary Ballard herself, with her frank laugh and her
friendliness--and her arms full of roses!

"I like them so much that I shall consider myself most fortunate to get
them."

"Oh, really?"  She hesitated and held out her hand to him.  "You don't
know how you have helped me out--you don't know how you have helped
me----"

Again she saw a question in his eyes, but this time she did not answer
it.  She turned and went into the other room, drawing back the curtains
of the deep windows of the round tower.

"I haven't shown you the best of all," she said.  Beneath them lay the
lovely city, starred with its golden lights.  From east to west the
shadowy dimness of the Mall, beyond the shadows, a line of river,
silver under the moonlight.  A clock tower or two showed yellow faces;
the great public buildings were clear-cut like cardboard.

Roger drew a deep breath.  "If there were nothing else," he said, "I
should take the rooms for this."

And now from the lower hall came the clamor of voices.

"_Mary!  Mary!_"

"I must not keep you," he said at once.

"_Mary!_"

Poised for flight, she asked, "Can you find your way down alone?  I'll
go by the front stairs and head them off."

"_Mary----!_"

With a last flashing glance she was gone, and as he groped his way down
through the darkness, it came to him as an amazing revelation that she
had taken his coming as a thing to be thankful for, and it had been so
many years since a door had been flung wide to welcome him.



CHAPTER II

_In Which Rose-Leaves and Old Slippers Speed a Happy Pair; and in Which
Sweet and Twenty Speaks a New and Modern Language, and Gives a Reason for
Renting a Gentleman's Library._


In spite of the fact that Mary Ballard had seemed to Roger Poole like a
white-winged angel, she was not looked upon by the family as a beauty.
It was Constance who was the "pretty one," and tonight as she stood in
her bridal robes, gazing up at her sister who was descending the stairs,
she was more than pretty.  Her tender face was illumined by an inner
radiance.  She was two years older than Mary, but more slender, and her
coloring was more strongly emphasized.  Her eyes were blue and her hair
was gold, as against the gray-green and dull fairness of Mary's hair.
She seemed surrounded, too, by a sort of feminine _aura_, so that one
knew at a glance that here was a woman who would love her home, her
husband, her children; who would lean upon masculine protection, and
suffer from masculine neglect.

Of Mary Ballard these things could not be said at once.  In spite of her
simplicity and frankness, there was about her a baffling atmosphere.  She
was like a still pool with the depths as yet unsounded, an uncharted
sea--with its mystery of undiscovered countries.

The contrast between the sisters had never been more marked than when
Mary, leaning over the stair-rail, answered the breathless, "Dearest,
where have you been?" with her calm:

"There's plenty of time, Constance."

And Constance, soothed as always by her sister's tranquillity, repeated
Mary's words for the benefit of a ponderously anxious Personage in amber
satin.

"There's plenty of time, Aunt Frances."

That Aunt Frances _was_ a Personage was made apparent by certain exterior
evidences.  One knew it by the set of her fine shoulders, the carriage of
her head, by the diamond-studded lorgnette, by the string of pearls about
her neck, by the osprey in her white hair, by the golden buckles on her
shoes.

"It is five minutes to eight," said Aunt Frances, "and Gordon is waiting
down-stairs with his best man, the chorus is freezing on the side porch,
and _everybody_ has arrived.  I don't see _why_ you are waiting----"

"We are waiting for it to be eight o'clock, Aunt Frances," said Mary.
"At just eight, I start down in front of Constance, and if you don't
hurry you and Aunt Isabelle won't be there ahead of me."

The amber train slipped and glimmered down the polished steps, and the
golden buckles gleamed as Mrs. Clendenning, panting a little and with a
sense of outrage that her nervous anxiety of the preceding moment had
been for naught, made her way to the drawing-room, where the guests were
assembled.

Aunt Isabelle followed, gently smiling.  Aunt Isabelle was to Aunt
Frances as moonlight unto sunlight.  Aunt Frances was married, Aunt
Isabelle was single; Aunt Frances wore amber, Aunt Isabelle silver gray;
Aunt Frances held up her head like a queen, Aunt Isabelle dropped hers
deprecatingly; Aunt Frances' quick ears caught the whispers of admiration
that followed her, Aunt Isabelle's ears were closed forever to all the
music of the universe.

No sooner had the two aunts taken their places to the left of a floral
bower than there was heard without the chanted wedding chorus, from a
side door stepped the clergyman and the bridegroom and his best man; then
from the hall came the little procession with Mary in the lead and
Constance leaning on the arm of her brother Barry.

They were much alike, this brother and sister.  More alike than Mary and
Constance.  Barry had the same gold in his hair, and blue in his eyes,
and, while one dared not hint it, in the face of his broad-shouldered
strength, there was an almost feminine charm in the grace of his manner
and the languor of his movements.

There were no bridesmaids, except Mary, but four pretty girls held the
broad white ribbons which marked an aisle down the length of the rooms.
These girls wore pink with close caps of old lace.  Only one of them had
dark hair, and it was the dark-haired one, who, standing very still
throughout the ceremony, with the ribbon caught up to her in lustrous
festoons, never took her eyes from Barry Ballard's face.

And when, after the ceremony, the bride turned to greet her friends, the
dark-haired girl moved forward to where Barry stood, a little apart from
the wedding group.

"Doesn't it seem strange?" she said to him with quick-drawn breath.

He smiled down at her.  "What?"

"That a few words should make such a difference?"

"Yes.  A minute ago she belonged to us.  Now she's Gordon's."

"And he's taking her to England?"

"Yes.  But not for long.  When he gets the branch office started over
there, they'll come back, and he'll take his father's place in the
business here, and let the old man retire."

She was not listening.  "Barry," she interrupted, "what will Mary do?
She can't live here alone--and she'll miss Constance."

"Oh, Aunt Frances has fixed that," easily; "she wants Mary to shut up the
house and spend the winter in Nice with herself and Grace--it's a great
chance for Mary."

"But what about you, Barry?"

"Me?" He shrugged his shoulders and again smiled down at her.  "I'll find
quarters somewhere, and when I get too lonesome, I'll come over and talk
to you, Leila."

The rich color flooded her cheeks.  "Do come," she said, again with
quick-drawn breath, then like a child who has secured its coveted
sugar-plum, she slipped through the crowd, and down into the dining-room,
where she found Mary taking a last survey.

"Hasn't Aunt Frances done things beautifully?" Mary asked; "she insisted
on it, Leila.  We could never have afforded the orchids and the roses;
and the ices are charming--pink hearts with cupids shooting at them with
silver arrows----"

"Oh, Mary," the dark-haired girl laid her flushed cheek against the arm
of her taller friend.  "I think weddings are wonderful."

Mary shook her head.  "I don't," she said after a moment's silence.  "I
think they're horrid.  I like Gordon Richardson well enough, except when
I think that he is stealing Constance, and then I hate him."

But the bride was coming down, with all the murmuring voices behind her,
and now the silken ladies were descending the stairs to the dining-room,
which took up the whole lower west wing of the house and opened out upon
an old-fashioned garden, which to-night, under a chill October moon,
showed its rows of box and of formal cedars like sharp shadows against
the whiteness.

Into this garden came, later, Mary.  And behind her Susan Jenks.

Susan Jenks was a little woman with gray hair and a coffee-colored skin.
Being neither black nor white, she partook somewhat of the nature of both
races.  Back of her African gentleness was an almost Yankee shrewdness,
and the firm will which now and then degenerated into obstinacy.

"There ain't no luck in a wedding without rice, Miss Mary.  These paper
rose-leaf things that you've got in the bags are mighty pretty, but how
are you going to know that they bring good luck?"

"Aunt Frances thought they would be charming and foreign, Susan, and they
look very real, floating off in the air.  You must stand there on the
upper porch, and give the little bags to the guests."

Susan ascended the terrace steps complainingly.  "You go right in out of
the night, Miss Mary," she called back, "an' you with nothin' on your
bare neck!"

Mary, turning, came face to face with Gordon's best man, Porter Bigelow.

"Mary," he said, impetuously, "I've been looking for you everywhere.  I
couldn't keep my eyes off you during the service--you were--heavenly."

"I'm not a bit angelic, Porter," she told him, "and I'm simply freezing
out here.  I had to show Susan about the confetti."

He drew her in and shut the door.  "They sent me to hunt for you," he
said.  "Constance wants you.  She's going up-stairs to change.  But I
heard just now that you are going to Nice.  Leila told me.  Mary--you
can't go--not so far away--from me."

His hand was on her arm.

She shook it off with a little laugh.

"You haven't a thing to do with it, Porter.  And I'm not going--to Nice."

"But Leila said----"

Her head went up.  It was a characteristic gesture.  "It doesn't make any
difference what _any one_ says.  I'm not going to Nice."

Once more in the Tower Rooms, the two sisters were together for the last
time.  Leila was sent down on a hastily contrived errand.  Aunt Frances,
arriving, was urged to go back and look after the guests.  Only Aunt
Isabelle was allowed to remain.  She could be of use, and the things
which were to be said she could not hear.

"Dearest," Constance's voice had a break in it, "dearest, I feel so
selfish--leaving you----"

Mary was kneeling on the floor, unfastening hooks.  "Don't worry, Con.
I'll get along."

"But you'll have to bear--things--all alone.  It isn't as if any one
knew, and you could talk it out."

"I'd rather die than speak of it," fiercely, "and I sha'n't write
anything to you about it, for Gordon will read your letters."

"Oh, Mary, he won't."

"Oh, yes, he will, and you'll want him to--you'll want to turn your heart
inside out for him to read, to say nothing of your letters."

She stood up and put both of her hands on her sister's shoulders.  "But
you mustn't tell him, Con.  No matter how much you want to, it's my
secret and Barry's--promise me, Con----"

"But, Mary, a wife can't."

"Yes, she _can_ have secrets from her husband.  And this belongs to us,
not to him.  You've married him, Con, but we haven't."

Aunt Isabelle, gentle Aunt Isabelle, shut off from the world of sound,
could not hear Con's little cry of protest, but she looked up just in
time to see the shimmering dress drop to the floor, and to see the bride,
sheathed like a lily in whiteness, bury her head on Mary's shoulder.

Aunt Isabelle stumbled forward.  "My dear," she asked, in her thin
troubled voice, "what makes you cry?"

"It's nothing, Aunt Isabelle."  Mary's tone was not loud, but Aunt
Isabelle heard and nodded.

"She's dead tired, poor dear, and wrought up.  I'll run and get the
aromatic spirits."

With Aunt Isabella out of the way, Mary set herself to repair the damage
she had done.  "I've made you cry on your wedding day, Con, and I wanted
you to be so happy.  Oh, tell Gordon, if you must.  But you'll find that
he won't look at it as you and I have looked at it.  He won't make the
excuses."

"Oh, yes he will."  Constance's happiness seemed to come back to her
suddenly in a flood of assurance.  "He's the best man in the world, Mary,
and so kind.  It's because you don't know him that you think as you do."

Mary could not quench the trust in the blue eyes.  "Of course he's good,"
she said, "and you are going to be the happiest ever, Constance."

Then Aunt Isabelle came back and found that the need for the aromatic
spirits was over, and together the loving hands hurried Constance into
her going away gown of dull blue and silver, with its sable trimmed wrap
and hat.

"If it hadn't been for Aunt Frances, how could I have faced Gordon's
friends in London?" said Constance.  "Am I all right now, Mary?"

"Lovely, Con, dear."

But it was Aunt Isabelle's hushed voice which gave the appropriate
phrase.  "She looks like a bluebird--for happiness."

At the foot of the stairway Gordon was waiting for his bride--handsome
and prosperous as a bridegroom should be, with a dark sleek head and
eager eyes, and beside him Porter Bigelow, topping him by a head, and a
red head at that.

As Mary followed Constance, Porter tucked her hand under his arm.


  "Oh, Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
  Your eyes they are so bright,
  That the stars grow pale, as they tell the tale
  To the other stars at night,"

he improvised under his breath.  "Oh, Mary Ballard, do you know that I am
holding on to myself with all my might to keep from shouting to the
crowd, 'Mary isn't going away.  Mary isn't going away.'"

"Silly----"

"You say that, but you don't mean it.  Mary, you can't be hard-hearted on
such a night as this.  Say that I may stay for five minutes--ten--after
the others have gone----"

They were out on the porch now, and he had folded about her the wrap
which she had brought down with her.  "Of course you may stay," she said,
"but much good may it do you.  Aunt Frances is staying and General
Dick--there's to be a family conclave in the Sanctum--but if you want to
listen you may."

And how the rose-leaves began to flutter!  Susan Jenks had handed out the
bags, and secretly, and with much elation had leaned over the rail as
Constance passed down the steps, and had emptied her own little offering
of rice in the middle of the bride's blue hat!

It was Barry, aided and abetted by Leila, who brought out the old
slippers.  There were Constance's dancing slippers, high-heeled and of
delicate hues, Mary's more individual low-heeled ones, Barry's outworn
pumps, decorated hurriedly by Leila for the occasion with lovers' knots
of tissue paper.

And it was just as the bride waved "Good-bye" from Gordon's limousine
that a new slipper followed the old ones, for Leila, carried away by the
excitement, and having at the moment no other missile at hand, reached
down, and plucking off one of her own pink sandals, hurled it with all
her might at the moving car.  It landed on top, and Leila, with a gasp,
realized that it was gone forever.

"It serves you right."  Looking up, she met Barry's laughing eyes.

She sank down on the step.  "And they were a new pair!"

"Lucky that it's your birthday next week," he said.  "Do you want pink
ones?'"

"_Barry!_"

Her delight was overwhelming.  "Heavens, child," he condoned her, "don't
look as if I were the grand Mogul.  Do you know I sometimes think you are
eight instead of eighteen?  And now, if you'll take my arm, you can
hippity-hop into the house.  And I hope that you'll remember this, that
if I give you pink slippers you are not to throw them away."

In the hall they met Leila's father--General Wilfred Dick.  The General
had married, in late bachelorhood, a young wife.  Leila was like her
mother in her dark sparkling beauty and demure sweetness.  But she showed
at times the spirit of her father--the spirit which had carried the
General gallantly through the Civil War, and had led him after the war to
make a success of the practice of law.  He had been for years the
intimate friend and adviser of the Ballards, and it was at Mary's request
that he was to stay to share in the coming conclave.

He told Leila this.  "You'll have to wait, too," he said.  "And now, why
are you hopping on one foot in that absurd fashion?"

"Dad, dear, I lost my shoe----"

"Her very best pink one," Barry explained; "she threw it after the bride,
and now I've got to give her another pair for her birthday."

The General's old eyes brightened as he surveyed the young pair.  This
was as it should be, the son of his old friend and the daughter of his
heart.

He tried to look stern, however.  "Haven't I always kept you supplied
with pink shoes and blue shoes and all the colors of the rainbow shoes!"
he demanded.  "And why should you tax Barry?"

"But, Dad, he wants to."  She looked eagerly at Barry for confirmation.
"He wants to give them to me--for my birthday----"

"Of course I do," said Barry, lightly.  "If I didn't give her slippers, I
should have to give her something else--and far be it from me to know
what--little--lovely--Leila--wants----"

And to the tune of his chant, they hippity-hopped together up the stairs
in a hunt for some stray shoe that should fit little-lovely-Leila's foot!

A little later, the silken ladies having descended the stairway for the
last time, Aunt Frances took her amber satin stateliness to the Sanctum.

Behind her, a silver shadow, came Aunt Isabelle, and bringing up the
rear, General Dick, and the four young people; Leila in a pair of
mismated slippers, hippity-hopping behind with Barry, and Porter assuring
Mary that he knew he "hadn't any business to butt in to a family party,"
but that he was coming anyhow.

The Sanctum was the front room on the second floor.  It had been the
Little Mother's room in the days when she was still with them, and now it
had been turned into a retreat where the young people drifted when they
wanted quiet, or where they met for consultation and advice.  Except that
the walnut bed and bureau had been taken out nothing had been changed,
and their mother's books were still in the low bookcases; religious
books, many of them, reflecting the gentle faith of the owner.  On mantel
and table and walls were photographs of her children in long clothes and
short, and then once more in long ones; there was Barry in wide collars
and knickerbockers, and Constance and Mary in ermine caps and capes;
there was Barry again in the military uniform of his preparatory school;
Constance in her graduation frock, and Mary with her hair up for the
first time.  There was a picture of their father on porcelain in a blue
velvet case, and another picture of him above the mantel in an oval
frame, with one of the Little Mother's, also in an oval frame, to flank
it.  In the fairness of the Little Mother one traced the fairness of
Barry and Constance.  But the fairness and features of the father were
Mary's.

Mary had never looked more like her father than now when, sitting under
his picture, she stated her case.  What she had to say she said simply.
But when she had finished there was the silence of astonishment.

In a day, almost in an hour, little Mary had grown up!  With Constance as
the nominal head of the household, none of them had realized that it was
Mary's mind which had worked out the problems of making ends meet, and
that it was Mary's strength and industry which had supplemented Susan's
waning efforts in the care of the big house.

"I want to keep the house," Mary repeated.  "I had to talk it over
to-night, Aunt Frances, because you go back to New York in the morning,
and I couldn't speak of it before to-night because I was afraid that some
hint of my plan would get to Constance and she would be troubled.  She'll
learn it later, but I didn't want her to have it on her mind now.  I want
to stay here.  I've always lived here, and so has Barry--and while I
appreciate your plans for me to go to Nice, I don't think it would be
fair or right for me to leave Barry."

Barry, a little embarrassed to be brought into it, said, "Oh, you needn't
mind about me----"

"But I do mind."  Mary had risen and was speaking earnestly.  "I am sure
you must see it, Aunt Frances.  If I went with you, Barry would be left
to--drift--and I shouldn't like to think of that.  Mother wouldn't have
liked it, or father."  Her voice touched an almost shrill note of protest.

Porter Bigelow, sitting unobtrusively in the background, was moved by her
earnestness.  "There's something back of it," his quick mind told him;
"she knows about--Barry----"

But Barry, too, was on his feet.  "Oh, look here, Mary," he was
expostulating, "I'm not going to have you stay at home and miss a winter
of good times, just because I'll have to eat a few meals in a
boarding-house.  And I sha'n't have to eat many.  When I get starved for
home cooking, I'll hunt up my friends.  You'll take me in now and then,
for Sunday dinner, won't you, General?--Leila says you will; and it isn't
as if you were never coming back--Mary."

"If we close the house now," Mary said, "it will mean that it won't be
opened again.  You all know that."  Her accusing glance rested on Aunt
Frances and the General.  "You all think it ought to be sold, but if we
sell what will become of Susan Jenks, who nursed us and who nursed
mother, and what shall we do with all the dear old things that were
mother's and father's, and who will live in the dear old rooms?"  She was
struggling for composure.  "Oh, don't you see that I--I can't go?"

It was Aunt Frances' crisp voice which brought her back to calmness.
"But, my dear, you can't afford to keep it open.  Your income with what
Barry earns isn't any more than enough to pay your running expenses;
there's nothing left for taxes or improvements.  I'm perfectly willing to
finance you to the best of my ability, but I think it very foolish to
sink any more money--here----"

"I don't want you to sink it, Aunt Frances.  Constance begged me to use
her little part of our income, but I wouldn't.  We sha'n't need it.  I've
fixed things so that we shall have money for the taxes.  I--I have rented
the Tower Rooms, Aunt Frances!"

They stared at her stunned.  Even Leila tore her adoring eyes from
Barry's face, and fixed them on the girl who made this astounding
statement.

"Mary," Aunt Frances gasped, "do you meant that you are going to
take--lodgers----?"

"Only one, Aunt Frances.  And he's perfectly respectable.  I advertised
and he answered, and he gave me a bank reference."

"_He_.  Mary, is it a man?"

Mary nodded.  "Of course.  I should hate to have a woman fussing around.
And I set the rent for the suite at exactly the amount I shall need to
take me through this year, and he was satisfied."

She turned and picked up a printed slip from the table.

"This is the way I wrote my ad," she said, "and I had twenty-seven
answers.  And this seemed the best----"

"Twenty-seven!"  Aunt Frances held out her hand.  "Will you let me see
what you wrote to get such remarkable results?"

Mary handed it to her, and through the diamond-studded lorgnette Aunt
Frances read:

"To let: Suite of two rooms and bath; with Gentleman's Library.  House on
top of a high hill which overlooks the city.  Exceptional advantages for
a student or scholar."

"I consider," said Mary, as Aunt Frances paused, "that the Gentleman's
Library part was an inspiration.  It was the bait at which they all
nibbled."

The General chuckled, "She'll do.  Let her have her own way, Frances.
She's got a head on her like a man's."

Aunt Frances turned on him.  "Mary speaks what is to me a rather new
language of independence.  And she can't stay here alone.  She _can't_.
It isn't proper--without an older woman in the house."

"But I want an older woman.  Oh, Aunt Frances, please, may I have Aunt
Isabelle?"

She had raised her voice so that Aunt Isabelle caught the name.  "What
does she want, Frances?" asked the deaf woman; "what does she want?"

"She wants you to live with her--here."  Aunt Frances was thinking
rapidly; it wasn't such a bad plan.  It was always a problem to take
Isabelle when she and her daughter traveled.  And if they left her in New
York there was always the haunting fear that she might be ill, or that
they might be criticized for leaving her.

"Mary wants you to live with her," she said, "While we are abroad, would
you like it--a winter in Washington?"

Aunt Isabelle's gentle face was illumined.  "Do you really _want_ me, my
dear?" she asked in her hushed voice.  It had been a long time since Aunt
Isabelle had felt that she was wanted anywhere.  It seemed to her that
since the illness which had sent her into a world of silence, that her
presence had been endured, not coveted.

Mary came over and put her arms about her.  "Will you, Aunt Isabelle?"
she asked.  "I shall miss Constance so, and it would almost be like
having mother to have--you----"

No one knew how madly the hungry heart was beating under the silver-gray
gown.  Aunt Isabella was only forty-eight, twelve years younger than her
sister Frances, but she had faded and drooped, while Frances had stood up
like a strong flower on its stem.  And the little faded drooping lady
yearned for tenderness, was starved for it, and here was Mary in her
youth and beauty, promising it.

"I want you so much, and Barry wants you--and Susan Jenks----"

She was laughing tremulously, and Aunt Isabelle laughed too, holding on
to herself, so that she might not show in face or gesture the wildness of
her joy.

"You won't mind, will you, Frances?" she asked.

Aunt Frances rose and shook out her amber skirts "I shall of course be
much disappointed," she pitched her voice high and spoke with chill
stateliness, "I shall be very much disappointed that neither you nor Mary
will be with us for the winter.  And I shall have to cross alone.  But
Grace can meet me in London.  She's going there to see Constance, and I
shall stay for a while and start the young people socially.  I should
think you'd want to see Constance, Mary."

Mary drew a quick breath.  "I do want to see her--but I have to think
about Barry--and for this winter, at least, my place--is here."

Then from the back of the room spoke Porter Bigelow.

"What's the name of your lodger?"

"Roger Poole."

"There are Pooles in Gramercy Park," said Aunt Frances.  "I wonder if
he's one of them."

Mary shook her head.  "He's from the South."

"I should think," said Porter, slowly, "that you'd want to know something
of him besides his bank reference before you took him into your house."

"Why?" Mary demanded.

"Because he might be--a thief, or a rascal," Porter spoke hotly.

Over the heads of the others their eyes met.  "He is neither," said Mary.
"I know a gentleman when I see one, Porter."

Then the temper of the redhead flamed.  "Oh, do you?  Well, for my part I
wish that you were going to Nice, Mary."



CHAPTER III

_In Which a Lonely Wayfarer Becomes Monarch of All He Surveys; and in
Which One Who Might Have Been Presented as the Hero of This Tale is
Forced, Through No Fault of His Own, to Take His Chances With the Rest._


When Roger Poole came a week later to the big house on the hill, it was
on a rainy day.  He carried his own bag, and was let in at the lower
door by Susan Jenks.

Her smiling brown face gave him at once a sense of homeyness.  She led
the way through the wide hall and up the front stairs, crisp and
competent in her big white apron and black gown.

As he followed her, Roger was aware that the house had lost its
effulgence.  The flowers were gone, and the radiance, and the stairs
that the silken ladies had once ascended showed, at closer range,
certain signs of shabbiness.  The carpet was old and mended.  There was
a chilliness about the atmosphere, as if the fire, too, needed mending.

But when Susan Jenks opened the door of the Tower Room, he was met by
warmth and brightness.  Here was the light of leaping flames and of a
low-shaded lamp.  On the table beside the lamp was a pot of pink
hyacinths, and their fragrance made the air sweet.  The inner room was
no longer a rosy bower, but a man's retreat, with its substantial
furniture, its simplicity, its absence of non-essentials.  In this room
Roger set down his bag, and Susan Jenks, hanging big towels and little
ones in the bathroom, drawing the curtains, and coaxing the fire,
flitted cozily back and forth for a few minutes and then withdrew.

It was then that Roger surveyed his domain.  He was monarch of all of
it.  The big chair was his to rest in, the fire was his, the low lamp,
all the old friends in the bookcases!

He went again into the inner room.  The glass candlesticks were gone
and the photographs in their silver and ivory frames, but over the
mantel there was a Corot print with forest vistas, and another above
his little bedside table.  On the table was a small electric lamp with
a green shade, a new magazine, and a little old bulging Bible with a
limp leather binding.

As he stood looking down at the little table, he was thrilled by the
sense of safety after a storm.  Outside was the world with its harsh
judgments.  Outside was the rain and the beating wind.  Within were
these signs of a heart-warming hospitality.  Here was no bleak
cleanliness, no perfunctory arrangement, but a place prepared as for an
honored guest.

Down-stairs Mary was explaining to Aunt Isabelle.  "I'll have Susan
Jenks take some coffee to him.  He's to get his dinners in town, and
Susan will serve his breakfast in his room.  But I thought the coffee
to-night after the rain--might be comfortable."

The two women were in the dining-room.  The table had been set for
three, but Barry had not come.

The dinner had been a simple affair--an unfashionably nourishing soup,
a broiled fish, a salad and now the coffee.  Thus did Mary and Susan
Jenks make income and expenses meet.  Susan's good cooking,
supplementing Mary's gastronomic discrimination, made a feast of the
simple fare.

"What's his business, my dear?"

"Mr. Poole's?  He's in the Treasury.  But I think he's studying
something.  He seemed to be so eager for the books----"

"Your father's books?"

"Yes.  I left them all up there.  I even left father's old Bible.
Somehow I felt that if any one was tired or lonely that the old Bible
would open at the right page."

"Your father was often lonely?"

"Yes.  After mother's death.  And he worked too hard, and things went
wrong with his business.  I used to slip up to his bedroom sometimes in
the last days, and there he'd be with the old Bible on his knee, and
mother's picture in his hand."  Mary's eyes were wet.

"He loved your mother and missed her."

"It was more than that.  He was afraid of the future for Constance and
me.  He was afraid of the future for--Barry----"

Susan Jenks, carrying a mahogany tray on which was a slender silver
coffee-pot flanked by a dish of cheese and toasted biscuit, asked as
she went through the room: "Shall I save any dinner for Mr. Barry?"

"He'll be here," Mary said.  "Porter Bigelow is taking us to the
theater, and Barry's to make the fourth."

Barry was often late, but to-night it was half-past seven when he came
rushing in.

"I don't want anything to eat," he said, stopping at the door of the
dining-room where Mary and Aunt Isabelle still waited.  "I had tea
down-town with General Dick and Leila's crowd.  And we danced.  There
was a girl from New York, and she was a little queen."

Mary smiled at him.  To Aunt Isabella's quick eyes it seemed to be a
smile of relief.  "Oh, then you were with the General and Leila," she
said.

"Yes.  Where did you think I was?"

"Nowhere," flushing.

He started up-stairs and then came back.  "I wish you'd give me credit
for being able to keep a promise, Mary.  You know what I told Con----"

"It wasn't that I didn't believe----"  Mary crossed the dining-room and
stood in the door.

"Yes, it was.  You thought I was with the old crowd.  I might as well
go with them as to have you always thinking it."

"I'm not always thinking it."

"Yes, you are, too," hotly.

"Barry--please----"

He stood uneasily at the foot of the stairs.  "You can't understand how
I feel.  If you were a boy----"

She caught him up.  "If I were a boy?  Barry, if I were a boy I'd make
the world move.  Oh, you | men, you have things all your own way, and
you let it stand still----"

She had raised her voice, and her words floating up and up reached the
ears of Roger Poole, who appeared at the top of the stairway.

There was a moment's startled silence, then Mary spoke.

"Barry, it is Mr. Poole.  You don't know each other, do you?"

The two men, one going up the stairway, the other coming down, met and
shook hands.  Then Barry muttered something about having to run away
and dress, and Roger and Mary were left alone.

It was the first time that they had seen each other, since the night of
the wedding.  They had arranged everything by telephone, and on the
second short visit that Roger had made to his rooms, Susan Jenks had
looked after him.

It seemed to Roger now that, like the house, Mary had taken on a new
and less radiant aspect.  She looked pale and tired.  Her dress of
white with its narrow edge of dark fur made her taller and older.  Her
fair waved hair was parted at the side and dressed compactly without
ornament or ribbon.  He was again, however, impressed by the almost
frank boyishness of her manner as she said:

"I want you to meet Aunt Isabella.  She can't hear very well, so you'll
have to raise your voice."

As they went in together, Mary was forced to readjust certain opinions
which she had formed of her lodger.  The other night he had been
divorced from the dapper youths of her own set by his lack of
up-to-dateness, his melancholy, his air of mystery.

But to-night he wore a loose coat which she recognized at once as good
style.  His dark hair which had hung in an untidy lock was brushed back
as smoothly and as sleekly as Gordon Richardson's.  His dark eyes had a
waked-up look.  And there was a hint of color in his clean-shaven olive
cheeks.

"I came down," he told her as he walked beside her, "to thank you for
the coffee, for the hyacinths; for the fire, for the--welcome that my
room gave me."

"Oh, did you like it?  We were very busy up there all the morning, Aunt
Isabelle and I and Susan Jenks."

"I felt like thanking Susan Jenks for the big bath towels; they seemed
to add the final perfect touch."

She laughed and repeated his remark to Aunt Isabelle.

"Think of his being grateful for bath towels, Aunt Isabelle."

After his presentation to Aunt Isabelle, he said, smiling:

"And there was another touch--the big gray pussy cat.  She was in the
window-seat, and when I sat down to look at the lights, she tucked her
head under my hand and sang to me."

"_Pittiwitz_?  Oh, Aunt Isabelle, we left Pittiwitz up there.  She
claims your room as hers," she explained to Roger.  "We've had her for
years.  And she was always there with father, and then with Constance
and me.  If she's a bother, just put her on the back stairs and she
will come down."

"But she isn't a bother.  It is very pleasant to have something alive
to bear me company."

The moment that his remark was made he was afraid that she might
interpret it as a plea for companionship.  And he had no right----
What earthly right had he to expect to enter this charmed circle?

Susan Jenks came in with her arms full of wraps.  "Mr. Porter's
coming," she said, "and it's eight o'clock now."

"We are going out----"  Mary was interested to note that her lodger had
taken Aunt Isabelle's wrap, and was putting her into it without
self-consciousness.

Her own wrap was of a shimmering gray-green velvet which matched her
eyes, and there was a collar of dark fur.

"It's a pretty thing," Roger said, as he held it for her.  "It's like
the sea in a mist."

She flashed a quick glance at him.  "I like that," she said in her
straightforward way.  "It is lovely.  Aunt Frances brought it to me
last year from Paris.  Whenever you see me wear anything that is
particularly nice, you'll know that it came from Aunt Frances--Aunt
Isabelle's sister.  She's the rich member of the family.  And all the
rest of us are as poor as poverty."

Outside a motor horn brayed.  Then Porter Bigelow came in--a perfectly
put together young man, groomed, tailored, outfitted according to the
mode.

"Are you ready, Contrary Mary?" he said, then saw Roger and stopped.

Porter was a gentleman, so his manner to Roger Poole showed no hint of
what he thought of lodgers in general, and this one in particular.  He
shook hands and said a few pleasant and perfunctory things.  Personally
he thought the man looked down and out.  But no one could tell what
Mary might think.  Mary's standards were those of the dreamer and the
star gazer.  What she was seeking she would never find in a Mere Man.
The danger lay however, in the fact that she might mistakenly hang her
affections about the neck of some earth-bound Object and call it an
Ideal.

As for himself, in spite of his Buff-Orpington crest, and his
cock-o'-the-walk manner, Porter was, as far Mary was concerned,
saturated with humility.  He knew that his money, his family's social
eminence were as nothing in her eyes.  If underneath the weight of
these things Mary could find enough of a man in him to love that could
be his only hope.  And that hope had held him for years to certain
rather sedate ambitions, and had given him moral standards which had
delighted his mother and had puzzled his father.

"Whatever I am as a man, you've made me," he said to Mary two hours
later, in the intermission between the second and third acts of the
musical comedy, which, for a time, had claimed their attention.  Aunt
Isabelle, in front of the box, was smiling gently, happy in the golden
light and the nearness of the music.  Barry was visiting Leila and the
General who were just below, in orchestra chairs.

"Whatever I am as a man, you've made me," Porter repeated, "and now, if
you'll only let me take care of you----"

Hitherto, Mary had treated his love-making lightly, but to-night she
turned upon him her troubled eyes.  "Porter, you know I can't.  But
there are times when I wish--I could----"

"Then why not?"

She stopped him with a gesture.  "It wouldn't be right.  I'm simply
feeling lonely and lost because Constance is so far away.  But that
isn't any reason for marrying you.  You deserve a woman who cares, who
really cares, heart and soul.  And I can't, dear boy."

"I was a fool to think you might," savagely, "a man with a red head is
always a joke."

"As if that had anything to do with it."

"But it has, Mary.  You know as well as I do that when I was a
youngster I was always Reddy Bigelow to our crowd--Reddy Bigelow with a
carrot-head and freckles.  If I had been poor and common, life wouldn't
have been worth living.  But mother's family and Dad's money fixed that
for me.  And I had an allowance big enough to supply the neighborhood
with sweets.  You were a little thing, but you were sorry for me, and I
didn't have to buy you.  But I'd buy you now--with a house in town and
a country house, and motor cars and lovely clothes--if I thought it
would do any good, Mary."

"You wouldn't want me that way, Porter."

"I want you--any way."

He stopped as the curtain went up, and darkness descended.  But
presently out of the darkness came his whisper, "I want you--any way."


They had supper after the play, Leila and the General joining them at
Porter's compelling invitation.

Pending the serving of the supper, Barry detained Leila for a moment in
a palm-screened corner of the sumptuous corridor.

"That girl from New York, Leila--Miss Jeliffe?  What is her first name?"

"Delilah."

"It isn't."

Leila's light laughter mocked him.  "Yes, it is, Barry.  She calls
herself Lilah and pronounces it as I do mine.  But she signs her
cheques De-lilah."

Barry recovered.  "Where did you meet her?"

"At school.  Her father's in Congress.  They are coming to us
to-morrow.  Dad has asked me to invite them as house guests until they
find an apartment."

"Well, she's dazzling."

Leila flamed.  "I don't see how you can like--her kind----"

"Little lady," he admonished, "you're jealous.  I danced four dances
with her, and only one with your new pink slippers."

She stuck out a small foot.  "They're lovely, Barry," she said,
repentantly, "and I haven't thanked you."

"Why should you?  Just look pleasant, please.  I've had enough scolding
for one day."

"Who scolded?"

"Mary."

Leila glanced into the dining-room, where, in her slim fairness, Mary
was like a pale lily, among all the tulip women, and poppy women, and
orchid women, and night-shade women of the social garden.

"If Mary scolded you, you deserved it," she said, loyally.

"You too?  Leila, if you don't stick to me, I might as well give up."

His face was moody, brooding.  She forgot the Delilah-dancer of the
afternoon, forgot everything except that this wonderful man-creature
was in trouble.

"Barry," she said, simply, like a child, "I'll stick to you until
I--die."

He looked down into the adoring eyes.  "I believe you would, Leila," he
said, with a boyish catch in his voice; "you're the dearest thing on
God's great earth!"

The chilled fruit was already on the table when they went in, and it
was followed by a chafing dish over which the General presided.
Red-faced and rapturous, he seasoned and stirred, and as the result of
his wizardry there was placed before them presently such plates of
Creole crab as could not be equaled north of New Orleans.

"To cook," said the General, settling himself back in his chair and
beaming at Mary who was beside him, "one must be a poet--to me there is
more in that dish than merely something to eat.  There's color--the red
of tomatoes, the green of the peppers, the pale ivory of mushrooms, the
snow white of the crab--there's atmosphere--aroma."

"The difference," Mary told him, smiling, "between your cooking and
Susan Jenks' is the difference between an epic--and a nursery rhyme.
They're both good, but Susan's is unpremeditated art."

"I take off my hat to Susan Jenks," said the General--"when her poetry
expresses itself in waffles and fried chicken."

Mary was devoting herself to the General.  Porter Bigelow who was on
the other side of her, was devoting himself to Aunt Isabelle.

Aunt Isabelle was serenely content in her new office of chaperone.

"I can hear so much better in a crowd." she said, "and then there's so
much to see."

"And this is the time for the celebrities," said Porter, and wrote on
the corner of the supper card the name of a famous Russian countess at
the table next to them.  Beyond was the Speaker of the House; the
British Ambassador with his fair company of ladies; the Spanish
Ambassador at a table of darker beauties.

Mary, listening to Porter's pleasant voice, was constrained to admit
that he could be charming.  As for the freckles and "carrot-head," they
had been succeeded by a fine if somewhat florid complexion, and the
curled thickness of his brilliant crown gave to his head an almost
classic beauty.

As she studied him, his eyes met hers, and he surprised her by a quick
smile of understanding.

"Oh, Contrary Mary," he murmured, so that the rest could not hear,
"what do you think of me?"

She found herself blushing, "_Porter._"

"You were weighing me in the balance?  Red head against my lovely
disposition?"

Before she could answer, he had turned back to Aunt Isabelle, leaving
Mary with her cheeks hot.

After supper, the young host insisted that Leila and the General should
go home in his limousine with Barry and Aunt Isabelle.

"Mary and I will follow in a taxi," he said in the face of their
protests.

"Young man," demanded the twinkling General, "if I accept, will you
look upon me in the light of an incumbrance or a benefactor?"

"A benefactor, sir," said Porter, promptly, and that settled it.

"And now," said Porter, as, having seen the rest of the party off, he
took his seat beside the slim figure in the green velvet wrap, "now I
am going to have it out with you."

"But--Porter!"

"I've a lot to say.  And we are going to ride around the Speedway while
I say it."

"But--it's raining."

"All the better.  It will be we two and the world away, Mary."

"And there isn't anything to say."

"Oh, yes, there is--_oodles_."

"And Aunt Isabelle will be worried."

He drew the rug up around her and settled back as placidly as if the
hands on the moon face of the clock on the post-office tower were not
pointing to midnight.  "Aunt Isabelle has been told," he informed her,
"that you may be a bit late.  I wrote it on the supper card, and she
read it--and smiled."

He waited in silence until they had left the avenue, and were on the
driveway back of the Treasury which leads toward the river.

"Porter, this is a wild thing to do."

"I'm in a wild mood--a mood that fits in with the rain and wind, Mary.
I'm in such a mood that if the times were different and the age more
romantic, I would pick you up and put you on my champing steed and
carry you off to my castle."

He laughed, and for the moment she was thrilled by his masterfulness.
"But, alas, my steed is a taxi--the age is prosaic--and you--I'm afraid
of you, Contrary Mary."

They were on the Speedway now, faintly illumined, showing a row of
waving willow trees, spectrally outlined against a background of gray
water.

"I'm afraid of you.  I have always been.  Even when you were only ten
and I was fifteen.  I would shake in my shoes when you looked at me,
Mary; you were the only one then--you are the only one--now."

Her hand lay on the outside of the rug.  He put his own over it.

"Ever since you said to-night that you didn't care--there's been
something singing--in my brain, and it has said, 'make her care, make
her care.'  And I'm going to do it.  I'm not going to trouble you or
worry you with it--and I'm going to take my chances with the rest.  But
in the end I'm going to--win."

"There aren't any others."

"If there aren't there will be.  You've kept yourself protected so far
by that little independent manner of yours, which scares men off.  But
some day a man will come who won't be scared--and then it will be a
fight to the finish between him--and me."

"Oh, Porter, I don't want to think of marrying--not for ten million
years."

"And yet," he said prophetically, "if to-morrow you should meet some
man who could make you think he was the Only One, you'd marry him in
the face of all the world."

"No man of that kind will ever come."

"What kind?"

"That will make me willing to lose the world."

The rain was beating against the windows of the cab.

"Porter, please.  We must go home."

"Not unless you'll promise to let me prove it--to let me show that I'm
a man--not a--boy."

"You're the best friend I've ever had.  I wish you wouldn't insist on
being something else."

"But I do insist----"

"And I insist upon going home.  Be good and take me."

It was said with decision, and he gave the order to the driver.  And so
they whirled at last up the avenue of the Presidents and along the
edges of the Park, and arrived at the foot of the terrace of the big
house.

There was a light in the tower window.

"That fellow is up yet," Porter said.  He had an umbrella over her, and
was shielding her as best he could from the rain.  "I don't like to
think of him in the house."

"Why not?"

"Oh, he sees you every day.  Talks to you every day.  And what do you
know of him?  And I who've known you all my life must be content with
scrappy minutes with other people around.  And anyhow--I believe I'd be
jealous of Satan himself, Mary."

They were under the porch now, and she drew away from him a bit,
surveying him with disapproving eyes.

"You aren't like yourself to-night, Porter."

He put one hand on her shoulder and stood looking down at her.  "How
can I be?  What am I going to do when I leave you, Mary, and face the
fact that you don't care--that I'm no more to you--than that fellow up
there in the--tower?"

He straightened himself, then with the madness of his earlier mood upon
him, he said one thing more before he left her:

"Contrary Mary, if I weren't such a coward, and you weren't
so--wonderful--I'd kiss you now--and _make_ you--care----"



CHAPTER IV

_In Which a Little Bronze Boy Grins in the Dark; and in Which Mary
Forgets That There is Any One Else in the House._


Up-stairs among his books Roger Poole heard Mary come in.  With the
curtains drawn behind him to shut out the light, he looked down into
the streaming night, and saw Porter drive away alone.

Then Mary's footstep on the stairs; her raised voice as she greeted
Aunt Isabelle, who had waited up for her.  A door was shut, and again
the house sank into silence.

Roger turned to his books, but not to read.  The old depression was
upon him.  In the glow of his arrival, he had been warmed by the hope
that things could be different; here in this hospitable house he had,
perchance, found a home.  So he had gone down to find that he was an
outsider--an alien--old where they were young, separated from Barry and
Porter and Mary by years of dark experience.

To him, at this moment, Mary Ballard stood for a symbol of the things
which he had lost.  Her youth and light-heartedness, her high courage,
and now, perhaps, her romance.  He knew the look that was in Porter
Bigelow's eyes when they had rested upon her.  The look of a man who
claims--his own.  And behind Bigelow's pleasant and perfunctory
greeting Roger had felt a subtle antagonism.  He smiled bitterly.  No
man need fear him.  He was out of the running.  He was done with love,
with romance, with women, forever.  A woman had spoiled his life.

Yet, if before the other, he had met Mary Ballard?  The possibilities
swept over him.  His life to-day would have been different.  He would
be facing the world, not turning his back to it.

Brooding over the dying fire, his eyes were stern.  If it had been his
fault, he would have taken his punishment without flinching.  But to be
overthrown by an act of chivalry--to be denied the expression of that
which surged within him.  Daily he bent over a desk, doing the work
that any man might do, he who had been carried on the shoulders of his
fellow students, he whose voice had rung with a clarion call!

In the lower hall, a door was again opened, and now there were
footsteps ascending.  Then he heard a little laugh.  "I've found
her--Aunt Isabelle, she insists upon going up."

He clicked off his light and very carefully opened his door.  Mary was
in the lower hall, the heavy gray cat hugged up in her arms.  She wore
a lace boudoir cap, and a pale blue dressing-gown trailed after her.
Seen thus, she was exquisitely feminine.  Faintly through his
consciousness flitted Porter Bigelow's name for her--Contrary Mary.
Why Contrary?  Was there another side which he had not seen?  He had
heard her flaming words to Barry, "If I were a man--I'd make the world
move----" and he had been for the moment repelled.  He had no sympathy
with modern feminine rebellions.  Women were women.  Men were men.  The
things which they had in common were love, and that which followed, the
home, the family.  Beyond these things their lives were divided,
necessarily, properly.

He groped his way back through the darkness to the tower window, opened
it and leaned out.  The rain beat upon his face, the wind blew his hair
back, and fluttered the ends of his loose tie.  Below him lay the
storm-swept city, its lights faint and flickering.  He remembered a
test which he had chosen on a night like this.

"O Lord, Thou art my God.  I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name,
for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thou hast been a strength to the
poor, a strength to the needy in distress . . . a refuge from the
storm----"

How the words came back to him, out of that vivid past.  But
to-night--why, there was no--God!  Was he the fool who had once seen
God--in a storm?

He shut the window, and finding a heavy coat and an old cap put them
on.  Then he made his way, softly, down the tower steps to the side
door.  Mary had pointed out to him that this entrance would make it
possible for him to go and come as he pleased.  To-night it pleased him
to walk in the beating rain.

At the far end of the garden there was an old fountain, in which a
bronze boy rode on a bronze dolphin.  The basin of the fountain was
filled with sodden leaves.  A street lamp at the foot of the terrace
illumined the bronze boy's face so that it seemed to wear a twisted
grin.  It was as if he laughed at the storm and at life, defying the
elements with his sardonic mirth.

Back and forth, restlessly, went the lonely man, hating to enter again
the rooms which only a few hours before had seemed a refuge.  It would
have been better to have stayed in his last cheap boarding-house,
better to have kept away from this place which brought memories--better
never to have seen this group of young folk who were gay as he had once
been gay--better never to have seen--Mary Ballard!

He glanced up at the room beneath his own where her light still burned.
He wondered if she had stayed awake to think of the young Apollo of the
auburn head.  Perhaps he was already her accepted lover.  And why not?

Why should he care who loved Mary Ballard?

He had never believed in love at first sight.  He didn't believe in it
now.  He only knew that he had been thrilled by a look, warmed by a
friendliness, touched by a frankness and sincerity such as he had found
in no other woman.  And because he had been thrilled and warmed and
touched by these things, he was feeling to-night the deadly mockery of
a fate which had brought her too late into his life.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Coming in, shivering and excited after her ride with Porter, Mary had
found evidence of Aunt Isabelle's solicitous care for her.  Her fire
was burning brightly, the covers of her bed were turned down, her blue
dressing-gown and the little blue slippers were warming in front of the
blaze.

"No one ever did such things for me before," Mary said with
appreciation, as the gentle lady came in to kiss her niece good-night.
"Mother wasn't that kind.  We all waited on her.  And Susan Jenks is
too busy; it isn't right to keep her up.  And anyway I've always been
more like a boy, taking care of myself.  Constance was the one we
petted, Con and mother."

"I love to do it," Aunt Isabelle said, eagerly.  "When I am at Frances'
there are so many servants, and I feel pushed out.  There's nothing
that I can do for any one.  Grace and Frances each have a maid.  So I
live my own life, and sometimes it has been--lonely."

"You darling."  Mary laid her cool young lips against the soft cheek.
"I'm dead lonely, too.  That's why I wanted you."

Aunt Isabelle stood for a moment looking into the fire.  "It has been
years since anybody wanted me," she said, finally.

There was no bitterness in her tone; she simply stated a fact.  Yet in
her youth she had been the beauty of the family, and the toast of a
county.

"Aunt Isabelle," Mary said, suddenly, "is marriage the only way out for
a woman?"

"The only way?"

"To freedom.  It seems to me that a single woman always seems to belong
to her family.  Why shouldn't you do as you please?  Why shouldn't I?
And yet you've never lived your own life.  And I sha'n't be able to
live mine except by fighting every inch of the way."

A flush stained Aunt Isabelle's cheeks.  "I have always been poor,
Mary----"

"But that isn't it," fiercely.  "There are poor girls who aren't
tied--I mean by conventions and family traditions.  Why, Aunt Isabelle,
I rented the Tower Rooms not only in defiance of the living--but of the
dead.  I can see mother's face if we had thought of such a thing while
she lived.  Yet we needed the money then.  We needed it to help Dad--to
save him----"  The last words were spoken under her breath, and Aunt
Isabelle did not catch them.

"And now everybody wants me to get married.  Oh, Aunt Isabelle, sit
down and let's talk it out.  I'm not sleepy, are you?"  She drew the
little lady beside her on the high-backed couch which faced the fire.
"Everybody wants me to get married, Aunt Isabelle.  And to-night I had
it out with--Porter."

"You don't love him?"

"Not--that way.  But sometimes--he makes me feel as if I couldn't
escape him--as if he would persist and persist, until he won.  But I
don't want love to come to me that way.  It seems to me that if one
loves, one knows.  One doesn't have to be shown."

"My dear, sometimes it is a tragedy when a woman knows."

"But why?"

"Because men like to conquer.  When they see love in a woman's eyes,
their own love--dies."

"I should hate a man like that," said Mary, frankly.  "If a man only
loves you because of the conquest, what's going to happen when you are
married and the chase is over?  No, Aunt Isabelle, when I fall in love,
it will be with a man who will know that I am the One Woman.  He must
love me because I am Me--Myself.  Not because some one else admires me,
or because I can keep him guessing.  He will know me as I know him--as
his Predestined Mate!"

Thus spoke Sweet and Twenty, glowing.  And Sweet and Forty, meeting
that flame with her banked fires, faltered.  "But, my dear, how can you
know?"

"How did you know?"

The abrupt question drove every drop of blood from Aunt Isabelle's
face.  "Who told you?"

"Mother.  One night when I asked her why you had never married.  You
don't mind, do you?"

Aunt Isabelle shook her head.  "No.  And, Mary, dear, I've faced all
the loneliness, all the dependence, rather than be untrue to that which
he gave me and I gave him.  There was one night, in this old garden.  I
was visiting your mother, and he was in Congress at the time, and the
garden was full of roses--and it was--moonlight.  And we sat by the
fountain, and there was the soft splash of the water, and he said:
'Isabelle, the little bronze boy is throwing kisses at you--do you see
him--smiling?'  And I said, 'I want no kisses but yours'--and that was
the last time.  The next day he was killed--thrown from his horse while
he was riding out here to see--me.

"It was after that I was so ill.  And something teemed to snap in my
head, and one day when I sat beside the fountain I found that I
couldn't hear the splash of the water, and things began to go; the
voices I loved seemed far away, and I could tell that the wind was
blowing only by the movement of the leaves, and the birds rounded out
their little throats--but I heard--no music----"

Her voice trailed away into silence.

"But before the stillness, there were others who--wanted me--for I
hadn't lost my prettiness, and Frances did her best for me.  And she
didn't like it when I said I couldn't marry, Mary.  But now I am glad.
For in the silence, my love and I live, in a world of our own."

"Aunt Isabelle--darling.  How lovely and sweet, and sad----"  Mary was
kneeling beside her aunt, her arm thrown around her, and Aunt Isabelle,
reading her lips, did not need to hear the words.

"If I had been strong, like you, Mary, I could have held my own against
Frances and have made something of myself.  But I'm not strong, and
twenty-five years ago women did not ask for freedom.  They asked
for--love."

"But I want to find freedom in my love.  Not be bound as Porter wants
to bind me.  He'd put me on a pedestal and worship me, and I'd rather
stand shoulder to shoulder with my husband and be his comrade.  I don't
want him to look up too far, or to look down as Gordon looks down on
Constance."

"Looks down?  Why, he adores her, Mary."

"Oh, he loves her.  And he'll do everything for her, but he will do it
as if she were a child.  He won't ask her opinion in any vital matter.
He won't share his big interests with her, and so he'll never discover
the big fine womanliness.  And she'll shrivel to his measure of her."

Aunt Isabelle shook her head, smiling.  "Don't analyze too much, Mary.
Men and women are human--and you may lose yourself in a search for the
Ideal."

"Do you know what Porter calls me, Aunt Isabelle?  Contrary Mary.  He
says I never do things the way the people expect.  Yet I do them the
way that I must.  It is as if some force were inside of me--driving
me--on."

She stood up as she said it, stretching out her arms in an eager
gesture.  "Aunt Isabelle, if I were a man, there'd be something in the
world for me to do.  Yet here I am, making ends meet, holding up my
part of the housekeeping with Susan Jenks, and taking from the hands of
my rich friends such pleasures as I dare accept without return."

Aunt Isabelle pulled her down beside her.  "Rebellious Mary," she said,
"who is going to tame you?"

They laughed a little, clinging to each other, and than Mary said, "You
must go to bed, Aunt Isabelle.  I'm keeping you up shamefully."

They kissed again and separated, and Mary made ready for bed.  She took
off her cap, and all her lovely hair fell about her.  That was another
of her contrary ways.  She and Constance had been taught to braid it
neatly, but from little girlhood Mary had protested, and on going to
bed with two prim pigtails had been known to wake up in the middle of
the night and take them down, only to be discovered in the morning with
all her fair curls in a tangle.  Scolding had not availed.  Once, as
dire punishment, the curls had been cut off.  But Mary had rejoiced.
"It makes me look like a boy," she had told her mother, calmly, "and I
like it."

Another of her little girl fancies had been to say her prayers aloud.
She said them that way to-night, kneeling by her bed with her fair head
on her folded hands.

Then she turned out the light, and drew her curtains back.  As she
looked out at the driving rain, the flare of the street lamp showed a
motionless figure on the terrace.  For a moment she peered,
palpitating, then flew into Aunt Isabelle's room.

"There's some one in the garden."

"Perhaps it's Barry."

"Didn't he come with you?"

"No.  He went on with Leila and the General."

"But it is two o'clock, Aunt Isabelle."

"I didn't know; I thought perhaps he had come."

Going back into her room, Mary threw on her blue dressing-gown and
slippers and opened her door.  The light was still burning in the hall.
Barry always turned it out when he came.  She stood undecided, then
started down the back stairs, but halted as the door opened and a dark
figure appeared.

"Barry----"

Roger Poole looked up at her.  "It isn't your brother," he said.  "I--I
must beg your pardon for disturbing you.  I could not sleep, and I went
out----"  He stopped and stammered.  Poised there above him with all
the wonder of her unbound hair about her, she was like some celestial
vision.

She smiled at him.  "It doesn't matter," she said; "please don't
apologize.  It was foolish of me to be--frightened.  But I had
forgotten that there was any one else in the house."

She was unconscious of the effect of her words.  But his soul shrank
within him.  To her he was the lodger who paid the rent.  To him she
was, well, just now she was, to him, the Blessed Damosel!

Faintly in the distance they heard the closing of a door.  "It's
Barry," Mary said, and suddenly a wave of self-consciousness swept over
her.  What would Barry think to find her at this hour talking to Roger
Poole?  And what would he think of Roger Poole, who walked in the
garden on a rainy night?

Roger saw her confusion.  "I'll turn out this light," he said, "and
wait----"

And she waited, too, in the darkness until Barry was safe in his own
room, then she spoke softly.  "Thank you so much," she said, and was
gone.



CHAPTER V

_In Which Roger Remembers a Face and Delilah Remembers a Voice--and in
Which a Poem and a Pussy Cat Play an Important Part._


Since the night of his arrival, Roger had not intruded upon the family
circle.  He had read hostility in Barry's eyes as the boy had looked up
at him; and Mary, in spite of her friendliness, had forgotten that he was
in the house!  Well, they had set the pace, and he would keep to it.
Here in the tower he could live alone--yet not be lonely, for the books
were there--and they brought forgetfulness.

He took long walks through the city, now awakening to social and
political activities.  Back to town came the folk who had fled from the
summer heat; back came the members of House and of Senate, streaming in
from North, South, East and West for the coming Congress.  Back came the
office-seekers and the pathetic patient group whose claims were waiting
for the passage of some impossible bill.

There came, too, the sightseers and trippers, sweeping from one end of
the town to the other, climbing the dome of the Capitol, walking down the
steps of the Monument, venturing into the White House, piloted through
the Bureau where the money is made, riding on "rubber-neck wagons,"
sailing about in taxis, stampeding Mt. Vernon, bombarding Fort Myer, and
doing it all gloriously under golden November skies.

And because of the sightseers and statesmen, and the folk who had been
away for the summer, the shops began to take on beauty.  Up F Street and
around Fourteenth into H swept the eager procession, and all the windows
were abloom for them.

Roger walked, too, in the country.  In other lands, or at least so their
poets have it, November is the month of chill and dreariness.  But to the
city on the Potomac it comes with soft pink morning mists and toward
sunset, with amethystine vistas.  And if, beyond the city, the fields are
frosted, it is frost of a feathery whiteness which melts in the glory of
a warmer noon.  And if the trees are bare, there is yet pale yellow under
foot and pale rose, where the leaves wait for the winter winds which
shall whirl them later in a mad dance like brown butterflies.  And
there's the green of the pines, and the flaming red of five-fingered
creepers.

It was on a sunny November day, therefore, as he followed Rock Creek
through the Park that Roger came to the old Mill where a little tea room
supplied afternoon refreshment.

As it was far away from car lines, its patronage came largely from those
who arrived in motors or on horseback, and a few courageous pedestrians.

Here Roger sat down to rest, ordering a rather substantial repast, for
the long walk had made him hungry.

It was while he waited that a big car arrived with five passengers.  He
recognized Porter Bigelow at once, and there were besides two older men
and two young women.

The taller of the two young women had eyes that roved.  She had blue
black hair, and she wore black--a small black hat with a thin curved
plume, and a tailored suit cut on lines which accentuated her height and
slenderness.  Her furs were of leopard skins.  Her cheeks were touched
with high color under her veil.

The other girl had also dark hair.  But she was small and bird-like.
From head to foot she was in a deep dark pink that, in the wool of her
coat and the chiffon of her veil, gave back the hue of the rose which was
pinned to her muff.

But it was on the girl in black that Roger fixed his eyes.  Where had he
seen her?

They chose a table near him, and passed within the touch of his hand.
Porter did not recognize him.  The tall man in the old overcoat and soft
hat was not linked in his memory with that moment of meeting in Mary's
dining-room.

"Everybody mixes up our names, Porter," the girl with the rose was saying
as they sat down; "the girls did at school, didn't they, Lilah?"

"Yes," the girl in black did not need many words with her eyes to talk
for her.

"Was it big Lilah and little Leila?" Porter asked.

"No," the dark eyes above the leopard muff widened and held his gaze.
"It was dear Leila, and dreadful Lilah.  I used to shock them, you know."

The three men laughed.  "What did you do?" demanded Porter, leaning
forward a little.

Men always leaned toward Delilah Jeliffe.  She drew them even while she
repelled.

"I smoked cigarettes, for one thing," she said; "everybody does it now.
But then--I came near being expelled for it."

The little rose girl broke in hotly.  "I think it is horrid still,
Lilah," she said.

Lilah smiled and shrugged.  "But that wasn't the worst.  One day--I
eloped."

She was making them all listen.  The old men and the young one, and the
man at the other table.

"I eloped with a boy from Prep.  He was nineteen, and I was two years
younger.  We started by moonlight in Romeo's motor car--it was great fun.
But the clergyman wouldn't marry us.  I think he guessed that we were a
pair of kiddies from school--and he scolded us and sent me back in a
taxi----"

The tall, thin old gentleman was protesting.  "My dear----"

"Oh, you didn't know, Daddy darling," she said.  "I got back before I was
discovered, and let myself in by the door I had unlocked.  But I couldn't
keep it from the girls--it was such fun to make them--shiver."

"And what became of Romeo?" Porter asked.

"He found another Juliet--a lovely little blonde and they are living
happy ever after."

Leila's eyes were round.  "But I don't see," she began.

"Of course you don't, duckie.  To me, the whole thing was an adventure
along the road--to you, it would have been a heart-break."

Her words came clearly to Roger.  That, then, was what love meant to some
women--an adventure along the road.  One man served for pleasuring, until
at some curve in the highway she met another.

Lilah was challenging her audience.  "And now you see why I was dreadful
Lilah.  I fit the name they had for me, don't I?"

Her question was put at Porter, and he answered it.  "It is women who set
the pace for us," he said; "if they adventure, we venture.  If they lead,
we follow."

General Dick broke in.  With his halo of white hair and his pink face, he
looked like an indignant cherub.  "The way you young people treat serious
subjects is appalling;" then he felt his little daughter's hand upon his
arm.

"Lilah is always saying things that she doesn't mean, Dad.  Please don't
take her seriously."

"Nobody takes me seriously," said Lilah, "and that's why nobody knows me
as I really am."

"I know you," said her father, "and you're like a little mare that I used
to drive out on the ranch.  As long as I'd let her have her head, she was
lovely.  But let me try to curb her, and she'd kick over the traces."

They all laughed at that; then their tea came, and a great plate of
toast, and the conversation grew intermittent and less interesting.

Yet the man at the other table had his attention again arrested when
Lilah said to Porter, as she drew on her gloves:

"We are invited to Mary Ballard's for Thanksgiving, and you're to be
there."

"Yes--mother and father are going South, so I can escape the family
feast."

"Mary Ballard is--charming----"  It was said tentatively, with an upward
sweep of her lashes.

But Porter did not answer; and as he stood behind her chair, there was a
deeper flush on his florid cheeks.  Mary's name he held in his heart.  It
was rarely on his lips.


Mary had not wanted Delilah and her father for Thanksgiving.  "But we
can't have Leila and the General without them," she said to Barry, after
a conversation with Leila over the telephone, "and it wouldn't seem like
Thanksgiving without the Dicks."

"Delilah," said Barry, comfortably, "is good fun.  I'm glad she is
coming."

"She may be good fun," said Mary, slowly, "but she isn't--our kind."

"Leila said that to me," Barry told her.  "I don't quite see what you
girls mean."

"Well, you wouldn't," Mary agreed; "men don't see.  But I should think
when you look at Leila you'd know the difference.  Leila is like a little
wild rose, and Delilah Jeliffe is a--tulip."

"I like tulips," murmured Barry, audaciously.

Mary laughed.  What was the use?  Barry was Barry.  And Delilah Jeliffe
would flit in and out of his life as other girls had flitted; but always
there would be for him--Leila.

"If you were a woman," she said, "you'd know by her clothes, and the pink
of her cheeks, and by the way she does her hair--she's just a little too
much of--everything--Barry."

"There's just enough of Delilah Jeliffe," said Barry, "to keep a man
guessing."

"Guessing what?" Mary demanded with a spark in her eyes.

"Oh, just guessing," easily.

"Whether she likes you?"

Barry nodded.

"But why should you want to know, Barry?  You're not in love with her."

His blue eyes danced.  "Love hasn't anything to do with it, little solemn
sister; it's just in the--game."

Later they had a tilt over inviting Mary's lodger.

"It seems so inhospitable to let him spend the day up there alone."

"I don't see how he could possibly expect to dine with us," Barry said,
hotly.  "You don't know anything about him, Mary.  And I agree with
Porter--a man's bank reference isn't sufficient for social recognition.
And anyhow he may not have the right kind of clothes."

"We are to have dinner at three o'clock," she said, "just as mother
always had it on Thanksgiving Day.  If you don't want me to ask Roger
Poole, I won't.  But I think you are an awful snob, Barry."

Her eyes were blazing.

"Now what have I done to deserve that?" her brother demanded.

"You haven't treated him civilly," Mary said.  "In a sense he's a guest
in our house, and you haven't been up to his rooms since he came--and
he's a gentleman."

"How do you know?"

"Because I do."

"Yet the other day you hinted that Delilah Jeliffe wasn't a lady, not in
your sense of the word--and that I couldn't see the difference because
was a man.  I'll let you have your opinion of Delilah Jeliffe if you'll
let me have mine of Roger Poole."

So Mary compromised by having Roger down for the evening.  "We shall be
just a family party for dinner," she said.  "But later, we are asking
some others for candle-lighting time.  We want everybody to come prepared
to tell a story or recite, or to sing, or play--in the dark at first, and
then with the candles."

His pride urged him to refuse--to spurn this offer of hospitality from
the girl who had once forgotten that he was in the house!

But as he stood there on the threshold of the Tower Rooms, her smile
seemed to draw him, her voice called him, and he was young--and
desperately lonely.

So as he dressed carefully on Thanksgiving afternoon, he had a sense of
exhilaration.  For one night he would let himself go.  He would be
himself.  No one should snub him.  Snubs came from self-consciousness--he
who was above them need not see them.

When at last he entered the drawing-room, it was unillumined except for
the flickering flame of a fire of oak logs.  The guests, assembling
wraith-like among the shadows, were given, each, an unlighted candle.

Roger found a place in a big chair beside the piano, and sat there alone,
interested and curious.  And presently Pittiwitz, stealing toward the
hearth, arched her back under his hand, and he reached down and lifted
her to his knee, where she stretched herself, sphinx-like, her amber eyes
shining in the dusk.

With the last guest seated, Barry stood before them, and gave the key to
the situation.

"Everybody is to light a candle with some stunt," he explained.  "You
know the idea.  All of you have some parlor tricks, and you're to show
them off."

There were no immediate volunteers, so Barry pounced on Leila.

"You begin," he said, and drew her into the circle of the firelight.

She looked very childish and sweet as she stood there with her unlighted
candle, and sang a lullaby.  Mary Ballard played her accompaniment
softly, sitting so near to Roger in his dim corner that the folds of her
velvet gown swept his foot.

And when the song was finished, Leila touched a match to her candle and
stood on tiptoe to set it on the corner of the mantel, where it glimmered
bravely.

General Dick and Mr. Jeliffe came next.  Solemnly they placed two
cushions on the hearth-rug, solemnly they knelt thereon, facing each
other.  Then intently and conscientiously they played the old game of
"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold."  The General's fat hands met
Mr. Jeliffe's thin ones alternately and in unison.  Not a mistake did
they make, and, ending out of breath, the General found it hard to rise,
and had to be picked by Porter, like a plump feather pillow.

And now the candles were three!

Then Barry and Delilah danced, a dance which they had practiced together.
It had in it just a hint of wildness, and just a hint of sophistication,
and Delilah in her dress of sapphire chiffon, with its flaring tunic of
silver net, seemed in the nebulous light like some strange bird of the
night.

And now the candles were five!

Following, Leila went to the piano, and Porter and Mary gave a minuet.
They had learned it at dancing-school, and it had been years since they
had danced it.  But they did it very well; Porter's somewhat stiff
bearing accorded with its stateliness, and Mary, having added to her
green velvet gown a little Juliet cap of lace and a lace fan, showed the
radiant, almost boyish beauty which had charmed Roger on the night of the
wedding.

His pulses throbbed as he watched her.  They were a well-matched pair,
this young millionaire and the pretty maid.  And as their orderly steps
went through the dance, so would their orderly lives, if they married,
continue to the end.  But what could Porter Bigelow teach Mary Ballard of
the things which touch the stars?

And now the candles were seven!  And the spirit of the carnival was upon
the company.  Song was followed by story, and story by song--until at
last the room seemed to swim in a golden mist.

And through that mist Mary saw Roger Poole!  He was leaning forward a
little, and there was about him the air of a man who waited.

She spoke impetuously.

"Mr. Poole," she said, "please----"

There was not a trace of awkwardness, not a hint of self-consciousness in
his manner as he answered her.

"May I sit here?" he asked.  "You see, my pussy cat holds me, and as I
shall tell you about a cat, she gives the touch of local color."

And then he began, his right hand resting on the gray cat's head, his
left upon his knee.

He used no gestures, yet as he went on, the room became still with the
stillness of a captured audience.  Here was no stumbling elocution, but a
controlled and perfect method, backed by a voice which soared and sang
and throbbed and thrilled--the voice either of a great orator, or of a
great actor.

The story that he told was of Whittington and his cat.  But it was not
the old nursery rhyme.  He gave it as it is written by one of England's
younger poets.  Since he lacked the time for it all, he sketched the
theme, rounding it out here and there with a verse--and it seemed to Mary
that, as he spoke, all the bells of London boomed!

  "'_Flos Mercatorum_,' moaned the bell of All Hallowes,
  'There was he an orphan, O, a little lad, alone!'
  'Then we all sang,' echoed happy St. Saviour's,
  'Called him and lured him, and made him our own.'"

And now they saw the little lad stealing toward the big city, saw all the
color and glow as he entered upon its enchantment, saw his meeting with
the green-gowned Alice, saw him cold and hungry, faint and footsore, saw
him aswoon on a door-step.

  "'Alice,' roared a voice, and then, O like a lilied angel,
  Leaning from the lighted door, a fair face unafraid,
  Leaning over Red Rose Lane, O, leaning out of Paradise
  Drooped the sudden glory of his green-gowned maid!"

Touching now a lighter note, his voice laughed through the lovely lines;
of the ship which was to sail beyond the world; of how each man staked
such small wealth as he possessed; "for in those days Marchaunt
adventurers shared with their prentices the happy chance of each new
venture."

But Whittington had nothing to give.  "Not a groat," he tells sweet
Alice.  "I staked my last groat in a cat!"

  "'Ay, but we need a cat,'
  The Captain said.  So when the painted ship
  Sailed through a golden sunrise down the Thames,
  A gray tail waved upon the misty poop,
  And Whittington had his venture on the seas!"


The ringing words brought tumultuous applause.  Pittiwitz, startled, sat
up and blinked.  People bent to each other, asking: "Who is this Roger
Poole?"  Under his breath Barry was saying, boyishly, "Gee!"  He might
still wonder about Mary's lodger, he would never again look down on him.
And Delilah Jeliffe sitting next to Barry murmured, "I've heard that
voice before--but where?"

Again the bells boomed as the story swept on to the fortune which came to
the prentice lad--the price paid for his cat in Barbary by a king whose
house was rich in gems but sorely plagued with rats and mice.

Then Whittington's offer of his wealth to Alice, her refusal, and so--to
the end.

  "'I know a way,' said the Bell of St. Martin's.
  'Tell it and be quick,' laughed the prentices below!
  'Whittington shall marry her, marry her, marry her!
  Peal for a wedding,' said the Big Bell of Bow."


Roger stopped there, and with Pittiwitz in his arms, rose to light his
candle.  All about him people were saying things, but their words seemed
to come to him through a beating darkness.  There was only one
face--Mary's, and she was leaning toward him, or was it above him?  "It
was wonderful," she said.

"It is a great poem."

"I don't mean that--it was the way you--gave it."

Outwardly calm, he carried his candle and set it in its place.

Then he came back to Mary--Mary with the shining eyes.  This was his
night!  "You liked it, then?"

For a moment she did not speak, then she said again, "It was wonderful."

There were other people about them now, and Roger met them with the ease
of a man of the world.  Even Barry had to admit that his manners were
irreproachable, and his clothes.  As for his looks, he was not to be
matched with Mary's auburn Apollo--one cannot compare a royal stag and a
tawny-maned lion!

During the rest of the program, Roger sat enthroned at Mary's side, and
listened.  He watched the candles, an increasing row of little pointed
lights.  He went down to supper, and again sat beside Mary--and knew not
what he ate.  He saw Porter's hot eyes upon him.  He knew that to-morrow
he must doff his honors and be as he had been before.  However, "who
knows but the world may end to-night," he told himself, desperately.

Thus he played with Fate, and Fate, turning the tables, brought him at
last to Delilah Jeliffe as the guests were saying "good-bye."

"Somewhere I've heard your voice," she said with the upsweep of her
lashes.  "It isn't the kind that one is likely to forget."

"Yet you have forgotten," he parried.

"I shall remember," she said.  "I want to remember--and I shall want to
hear it again."

He shook his head.  "It was my--swan song----"

"Why?"

He shrugged.  "One isn't always in the mood----"

And now it was she who shook her head.  "It isn't a mood with you, it's
your life."

She had him there, so he carried the conversation lightly to another
topic.  "I had not thought to give Whittington until I saw Pittiwitz."

"And Mary's green gown?"

Again he parried.  "It was dark.  I could not see the color of her gown."

"But 'love has eyes.'"  The words were light and she meant them lightly.
And she went away laughing.

But Roger did not laugh.

And when Mary came to look for him he was gone.

And up-stairs, his evening stripped of its glamour, he told himself that
he had been a fool!  The world would _not_ end to-night.  He had to live
the appointed length of his days, through all the dreary years.



CHAPTER VI

_In Which Mary Brings Christmas to the Tower Rooms; and in Which Roger
Declines a Privilege for Which Porter Pleads._


On Christmas Eve, Mary and Susan Jenks brought up to Roger a little
tree.  It was just a fir plume, but it was gay with tinsel and spicy
with the fragrance of the woods, and it was topped by a wee wax angel.

In vain Mary and Barry and even Aunt Isabelle had urged Roger to join
their merrymaking downstairs.  Aunt Frances, having delayed her trip
abroad until January, was coming; and except for Leila and General Dick
and Porter Bigelow, it was to be strictly a family affair.

But Roger had refused.  "I'm not one of you," he had told Mary.  "I'm a
bee, not a butterfly, and I shouldn't have joined you on Thanksgiving
night.  When you're alone, if I may, I'll come down--but please--not
with your guests."

He had not joined them often, however, and he had never again shown the
mood which had possessed him when his voice had charmed them.  Hence
they grew, as the days went on, to know him as quiet, self-contained
man, whose eyes burned now and then, when some subject was broached
which moved him, but who, for the most part, showed at least an outward
serenity.

They grew to like him, too, and to depend upon him.  Even Aunt Isabelle
went to him for advice.  He had such an attentive manner, and when he
spoke, he gave his opinion with an air of comforting authority.

But always he avoided Porter Bigelow, he avoided Leila, and most of
all, he avoided Delilah Jeliffe, although that persistent young person
would have invaded the Tower Rooms, if Mary had not warned her away.

"He is very busy, Lilah," she said, "and when he isn't, he comes down
here."

"Don't you ever go up?" Delilah's tone was curious.

"No," said Mary, "Why should I?"

Delilah shrugged.  "If a man," she said, "had looked at me as he
looked at you on Thanksgiving night, I should be, to say the
least--interested----"

Mary's head was held high.  "I like Roger Poole," she said, "and he's a
gentleman.  But I'm not thinking about the look in his eyes."

Yet she did think of it, after all, for such seed does the Delilah-type
of woman sow.  She thought of him, but only with a little wonder--for
Mary was as yet unawakened--Porter's passionate pleading, the magic of
Roger Poole's voice--these had not touched the heart which still waited.

"Since Mahomet wouldn't come to the mountain," Mary remarked to her
lodger as Susan deposited her burden, "the mountain had to come to
Mahomet.  And here's a bit of mistletoe for your door, and of holly for
your window."

He took the wreaths from her.  "You are like the spirit of Christmas in
your green gown."

"This?"  She was wearing the green velvet--with a low collar of lace.
"Oh, I've had this for ages, but I like it----"  She broke off to say,
wistfully, "It seems as if you ought to come down--as if up here you'd
be lonely."

Susan Jenks, hanging the mistletoe over the door, was out of range of
their voices.

"I am lonely," Roger said, "but now with my little tree, I shall forget
everything but your kindness."

"Don't you love Christmas?" Mary asked him.  "It's such a friendly
time, with everybody thinking of everybody else.  I had to hunt a lot
before I found the wax angel.  It needed such a little one--but I
always want one on my tree.  When I was a child, mother used to tell me
that the angel was bringing a message of peace and good will to our
house."

"If the little angel brings me your good will, I shall feel that he has
performed his mission."

"Oh, but you have it," brightly.  "We are all so glad you are here.
Even Barry, and Barry hated the idea at first of our having a lodger.
But he likes you."

"And I like Barry," he said.  "He is youth--incarnate."

"He's a dear," she agreed.  Then a shadow came into her eyes.  "But
he's such a boy, and--and he's spoiled.  Everybody's too good to him.
Mother was--and father, though father tried not to be.  And Leila is,
and Constance--and Aunt Isabelle excuses him, and even Susan Jenks."

Susan Jenks, having hung all the wreaths, had departed, and was not
there to hear this mention of her shortcomings.

"I see--and you?" smiling.

She drew a long breath.  "I'm trying to play Big Sister--and sometimes
I'm afraid I'm more like a big brother--I haven't the--patience."

His attentive face invited further confidence.  It was the face of a
man who had listened to many confidences, and instinctively she felt
that others had been helped by him.

"You see I want Barry to pass the Bar examination.  All of the men of
our family have been lawyers, But Barry won't study, and he has taken a
position in the Patent Office.  He's wasting these best years as a
clerk."

Then she remembered, and begged, "Forgive me----"

"There's nothing to forgive," he said.  "I suppose I am wasting my
years as a clerk in the Treasury Department--but there's this
difference, your brother's life is before him--mine is behind me.  His
ambitions are yet to be fulfilled.  I have no--ambitions."

"You don't mean that--you can't mean it?"

"Why not?"

"Because you're a man!  Oh, I should have been the man of our
family--and Barry and Constance should have been the girls."  Her eyes
blazed.

"You think then, as I heard you say the other night on the stairs, that
the world is ours; yet we men let it stand still."

Her head went up.  "Yes.  Perhaps you do have to fight for what you
get.  But I'd rather die fighting than smothered."

He laughed a good boyish laugh.  "Does Barry know that you feel that
way?"

"I'm afraid," penitently, "that I make him feel it, sometimes.  And he
doesn't know that it is because I care so much.  That it is because I
want him to be like--father."

He smiled into her misty eyes.  "Perhaps if you weren't so militant--in
your methods----"

"Oh, that's the trouble with Barry.  Everybody's too good to him.  And
when I try to counteract it, Barry says that I nag.  But he doesn't
understand."

Her voice broke, and by some subtle intuition he was aware that her
burden was heavier than she was willing to admit.

She stood up and held out her hand.  "Thank you so much--for letting me
talk to you."

He took her hand and stood looking down at her.

"Will you remember that always--when you need to talk things out--that
the Tower Room--is waiting?"

And now there were steps dancing up the stairs, and Barry whirled in
with Little-Lovely Leila.

"Mary," he said, "we are ready to light the tree, and Aunt Frances is
having fits because you aren't down.  You know she always has fits when
things are delayed.  Poole, you are a selfish hermit to stay off up
here with a tree of your own."

Roger, who had stepped forward to speak to Leila, shook his head.  "I
don't deserve to be invited.  And you're all too good to me."

"Oh, but we're not," Leila spoke in her pretty childish way; "we'd love
to have you down.  Everybody's just crazy about you, Mr. Poole."

They shouted at that.

"Leila," Barry demanded, "are you crazy about him?  Tell me now and get
the agony over."

Leila, tilting herself on her pink slipper toes almost crowed with
delight at his teasing: "I said, _everybody_----"

Barry advanced to where she stood in the doorway.

"Leila Dick," he announced, "you're under the mistletoe, and you can't
escape, and I'm going to kiss you.  It's my ancient and hereditary
privilege--isn't it, Poole?  It's my ancient and hereditary privilege,"
he repeated, and now he was bending over her.

"Barry," Mary expostulated, "behave yourself."

But it was Leila who stopped him.  Her little hands held him off, her
face was white.  "Barry," she whispered, "Barry--_please_----"

He dropped her hands.

"You blessed baby," he said, with all his laughter gone.  "You're like
a little sweet saint in an altar shrine!"

Then, with another sudden change of mood, he whirled her away as
quickly as he had come, and Mary, following, stopped on the threshold
to say to Roger:

"We shall all be away to-morrow.  We are to dine at General Dick's.
But I am going to church in the morning--the six o'clock service.  It's
lovely with the snow and the stars.  There'll be just Barry and me.
Won't you come?"

He hesitated.  Then, "No," he said, "no," and lest she should think him
unappreciative, he added, "I never go to church."

She came back to him and stood by the fire.  "Don't you believe in it?"
She was plainly troubled for him.  "Don't you believe in the angels and
the shepherds, and the wise men, and the Babe in the Manger?"

"No," he said dully, "I don't believe."

"Oh," it was almost a cry, "then what does Christmas mean to you?  What
can it mean to anybody who doesn't believe in the Babe and the Star in
the East?"

"It means this, Mary Ballard," he said, impetuously, "that out of all
my unbelief--I believe in you--in your friendliness.  And that is my
star shining just now in the darkness."

She would have been less than a woman if she had not been thrilled by
such a tribute.  So she blushed shyly.  "I'm glad," she said and smiled
up at him.

But as she went down-stairs, the smile faded.  It was as if the shadow
of the Tower Rooms were upon her.  As if the loneliness and sadness of
Roger Poole had become hers.  As if his burden was added to her other
burdens.

Aunt Frances, more regal than ever in gold and amethyst brocade, was
presiding over a mountainous pile of white boxes, behind which the
unlighted tree spread its branches.

"My child," she said reprovingly, as Mary entered, "I wonder if you
were ever in time for anything."

And Porter whispered in Mary's ear as he led her to the piano: "Is this
a merry Christmas or a Contrary-Mary Christmas?  You look as if you had
the weight of the world on your shoulders."

She shook her head.  Tears were very near the surface.  He saw it and
was jealously unhappy.  What had brought her in this mood from the
Tower Rooms?

And now Barry turned off the lights, and in the darkness Mary struck
the first chords and began to sing, "Holy Night----"

As her voice throbbed through the stillness, little stars shone out
upon the tree until it was all in shining glory.

Up-stairs, Roger heard Mary singing.  He went to his window and drew
back the curtains.  Outside the world was wrapped in snow.  The lights
from the lower windows shone on the fountain, and showed the little
bronze boy in a winding sheet of white.

But it was not the little bronze boy that Roger Poole saw.  It was
another boy--himself--singing in a dim church in a big city, and his
soul was in the words.  And when he knelt to pray, it seemed to him
that the whole world prayed.  He was bathed in reverence.  In his
boyish soul there was no hint of unbelief--no doubt of the divine
mystery.

He saw himself again in a church.  And now it was he who spoke to the
people of the Shepherds and the Star.  And he knew that he was making
them believe.  That he was bringing to them the assurance which
possessed his own soul--and again there were candles on the altar, and
again he sang, and the choir boys sang, and the song was the one that
Mary Ballard was singing----

He saw himself once more in a church.  But this time there was no
singing.  There were no candles, no light except such as came faintly
through the leaded panes.  He was alone in the dimness, and he stood in
the pulpit and looked around at the empty pews.  Then the light went
out behind the windows, and he knelt in the darkness; but not to pray.
His head was hidden in his arms.  Since then he had never shed a tear,
and he had never gone to church.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Mary's song was followed by carols in which the other voices
joined--Porter's and Barry's and Leila's; General Dick's breathy tenor,
Aunt Isabelle's quaver, Aunt Frances' dominant note--with Susan Jenks
and the colored maid who helped her on such occasions, piping up like
two melodious blackbirds in the hall.

Then General Dick played Santa Claus, handing out the parcels with
felicitous little speeches.

Constance had sent a big box from London.  There were fads and
fripperies from Grace Clendenning in Paris, while Aunt Frances had
evidently raided Fifth Avenue and had brought away its treasures.

"It looks like a French shop," said Leila, happy in her own gifts of
gloves and silk stockings and slipper buckles and beads, and the
crowning bliss of a little pearl heart from Barry.

Porter's offering to Mary was a quaint ring set with rose-cut diamonds
and emeralds.

Aunt Frances, hovering over it, exclaimed at its beauty.  "It's a
genuine antique?"

He admitted that it was, but gave no further explanation.

Later, however, he told Mary, "It was my grandmother's.  She belonged
to an old French family.  My grandfather met her when he was in the
diplomatic service.  He was an Irishman, and it is from him I get my
hair."

"It's a lovely thing.  But--Porter--it mustn't bind me to anything.  I
want to be free."

"You are free.  Do you remember when you were a kiddie that I gave you
a penny ring out of my popcorn bag?  You didn't think that ring tied
you to anything, did you?  Well, this is just another penny prize
package."

So she wore it on her right hand and when he said "Good-night," he
lifted the hand and kissed it.

"Girl, dear, may this be the merriest Christmas ever!"

And now the tears overflowed.  They were alone in the lower hall and
there was no one to see.  "Oh, Porter," she wailed, "I'm missing
Constance dreadfully--it isn't Christmas--without her.  It came over me
all at once--when I was trying to think that I was happy."

"Poor little Contrary Mary--if you'd only let me take care of you."

She shook her head.  "I didn't mean to be--silly, Porter."

"You're not silly."  Then after a silence, "Shall you go to early
service in the morning?"

"Yes."

"May I go?"

"Of course.  Barry's going, too."

"You mean that you won't let me go with you alone."

"I mean nothing of the kind.  Barry always goes.  He used to do it to
please mother, and now he does it--for remembrance."

"I'm so jealous of my moments alone with you.  Why can't Leila stay
with you to-night, then there will be four of us, and I can have you to
myself.  I can bring the car, if you'd rather."

"No, I like to walk.  It's so lovely and solemn."

"Be sure to ask Leila."

She promised, and he went away, having to look in at a dance given by
one of his mother's friends; and Mary, returning to join the others,
pondered, a little wistfully, on the fact that Porter Bigelow should be
so eager for a privilege which Roger Poole had just declined.



CHAPTER VII

_In Which Aunt Frances Speaks of Matrimony as a Fixed Institution and
is Met by Flaming Arguments; and in Which a Strange Voice Sings Upon
the Stairs._


Aunt Frances stayed until after the New Year.  But before she went she
sounded Aunt Isabelle.

"Has Mary said anything to you about Porter Bigelow?"

"About Porter?"

"Yes," impatiently, "about marrying him.  Anybody can see that he's
dead in love with her, Isabelle."

"I don't think Mary wants to marry anybody.  She's an independent
little creature.  She should have been the boy, Frances."

"I wish to heaven she had," Aunt Frances' tone was fervent.  "I can't
see any future for Barry, unless he marries Leila.  If he were not so
irresponsible, I might do something for him.  But Barry is such a
will-o'-the-wisp."

Aunt Isabelle went on with her mending, and Aunt Frances again pounced
upon her.

"And it isn't just that he is irresponsible.  He's----  Did you notice
on Christmas Day, Isabelle--that after dinner he wasn't himself?"

Aunt Isabelle had noticed.  And it was not the first time.  Her quick
eyes had seen things which Mary had thought were hidden.  She had not
needed ears to tell the secret which was being kept from her in that
house.

Yet her sense of loyalty sealed her lips.  She would not tell Frances
anything.  They were dear children.

"He's just a boy, Frances," she said, deprecatingly, "and I am sorry
that General Dick put temptation in his way."

"Don't blame the General.  If Barry's weak, no one can make him strong
but himself.  I wish he had some of Porter Bigelow's steadiness.  Mary
won't look at Porter, and he's dead in love with her."

"Perhaps in time she may."

"Mary's like her father," Aunt Frances said shortly.  "John Ballard
might have been rich when he died, if he hadn't been such a dreamer.
Mary calls herself practical--but her head is full of moonshine."

Aunt Frances made this arraignment with an uncomfortable memory of a
conversation with Mary the day before.  They had been shopping, and had
lunched together at a popular tea room.  It was while they sat in their
secluded corner that Aunt Frances had introduced in a roundabout way
the topic which obsessed her.

"I am glad that Constance is so happy, Mary."

"She ought to be," Mary responded; "it's her honeymoon."

"If you would follow her example and marry Porter Bigelow, my mind
would be at rest."

"But I don't want to marry Porter, Aunt Frances.  I don't want to marry
anybody."

Aunt Frances raised her gold lorgnette, "If you don't marry," she
demanded, "how do you expect to live?"

"I don't understand."

"I mean who is going to pay your bills for the rest of your life?
Barry isn't making enough to support you, and I can't imagine that
you'd care to be dependent on Gordon Richardson.  And the house is
rapidly losing its value.  The neighborhood isn't what it was when your
father bought it, and you can't rent rooms when nobody wants to come
out here to live.  And then what?  It's a woman's place to marry when
she meets a man who can take care of her--and you'll find that you
can't pick Porter Bigelows off every bush--not in Washington."

Thus spoke Worldly-Wisdom, not mincing words, and back came Youth and
Romance, passionately.  "Aunt Frances, a woman hasn't any right to
marry just because she thinks it is her best chance.  She hasn't any
right to make a man feel that he's won her when she's just little and
mean and mercenary."

"That sounds all right," said the indignant dame opposite her, "but as
I said before, if you don't marry,--what are you going to do?"

Faced by that cold question, Mary met it defiantly.  "If the worst
comes, I can work.  Other women work."

"You haven't the training or the experience." Aunt Frances told her
coldly; "don't be silly, Mary.  You couldn't earn your shoe-strings."

And thus having said all there was to be said, the two ate their salad
with diminished appetite, and rode home in a taxi in stiff silence.


Aunt Frances' mind roamed back to Aunt Isabelle, and fixed on her as a
scapegoat.  "She's like you, Isabelle," she said, "with just the
difference between the ideals of twenty years ago and to-day.  You
haven't either of you an idea of the world as a real place--you make
romance the rule of your lives--and I'd like to know what you've gotten
out of it, or what she will."

"I'm not afraid for Mary."  There was a defiant ring in Aunt Isabelle's
voice which amazed Aunt Frances.  "She'll make things come right.  She
has what I never had, Frances.  She has strength and courage."

It was this conversation with Aunt Frances which caused Mary, in the
weeks that followed, to bend for hours over a yellow pad on which she
made queer hieroglyphics.  And it was through these hieroglyphics that
she entered upon a new phase of her friendship with Roger Poole.

He had gone to work one morning, haggard after a sleepless night.

As he approached the Treasury, the big building seemed to loom up
before him like a prison.  What, after all, were those thousands who
wended their way every morning to the great beehives of Uncle Sam but
slaves chained to an occupation which was deadening?

He flung the question later at the little stenographer who sat next to
him.  "Miss Terry," he asked, "how long have you been here?"

She looked up at him, brightly.  She was short and thin, with a
sprinkle of gray in her hair.  But she was well-groomed and nicely
dressed in her mannish silk shirt and gray tailored skirt.

"Twenty years," she said, snapping a rubber band about her note-book.

"And always at this desk?"

"Oh, dear, no.  I came in at nine hundred, and now I am getting twelve
hundred."

"But always in this room?"

She nodded.  "Yes.  And it is very nice.  Most of the people have been
here as long as I, and some of them much longer.  There's Major Orr,
for example, he has been here since just after the War."

"Do you ever feel as if you were serving sentence?"

She laughed.  She was not troubled by a vivid imagination.  "It really
isn't bad for a woman.  There aren't many places with as short hours
and as good pay."

For a woman?  But for a man?  He turned back to his desk.  What would
he be after twenty years of this?  He waked every morning with the
day's routine facing him--knowing that not once in the eight hours
would there be a demand upon his mentality, not once would there be the
thrill of real accomplishment.

At noon when he saw Miss Terry strew bird seed on the broad window sill
for the sparrows, he likened it to the diversions of a prisoner in his
cell.  And, when he ate lunch with a group of fellow clerks in a cheap
restaurant across the way, he wondered, as they went back, why they
were spared the lockstep.

In this mood he left the office at half-past four, and passing the
place where he usually ate, inexpensively, he entered a luxurious
up-town hotel.  There he read the papers until half-past six; then
dined in a grill room which permitted informal dress.

Coming out later, he met Barry coming in, linked arm in arm with two
radiant youths of his own kind and class.  Musketeers of modernity,
they found their adventures on the city streets, in cafes and cabarets,
instead of in field and forest and on the battle-field.

Barry, with a flower in his buttonhole, welcomed Roger uproariously.
"Here's Whittington," he said.  "You ought to hear his poem, fellows,
about a little cat.  He had us all hypnotized the other night."

Roger glanced at him sharply.  His exaggerated manner, the looseness of
his phrasing, the flush on his cheeks were in strange contrast to his
usual frank, clean boyishness.

"Come on, Poole," Barry urged, "we'll motor out in Jerry's car to the
Country Club, and you can give it to us out there--about Whittington
and the little cat."

Roger declined, and Barry took quick offense.  "Oh, well, if you don't
want to, you needn't," he said; "four's a crowd, anyhow--come on,
fellows."

Roger, vaguely troubled, watched him until he was lost in the crowd,
then sighed and turned his steps homeward.

As Roger ascended to his Tower, the house seemed strangely silent.
Pittiwitz was asleep beside the pot of pink hyacinths.  She sat up,
yawned, and welcomed him with a little coaxing note.  When he had
settled himself in his big chair, she came and curled in the corner of
his arm, and again went to sleep.

Deep in his reading, he was roused an hour later by a knock at his door.

He opened it, to find Mary on the threshold.

"May I come in?" she asked, and she seemed breathless.  "It is Susan's
night out, and Aunt Isabelle is at the opera with some old friends.
Barry expected to be here with me, but he hasn't come.  And I sat in
the dining-room--and waited," she shivered, "until I couldn't stand it
any more."

She tried to laugh, but he saw that she was very pale.

"Please don't think I'm a coward," she begged.  "I've never been that.
But I seemed suddenly to have a sort of nervous panic, and I thought
perhaps you wouldn't mind if I sat with you--until Barry--came----"

"I'm glad he didn't come, if it is going to give me an evening with
you."  He drew a chair to the fire.

They had talked of many things when she asked, suddenly, "Mr. Poole, I
wonder if you can tell me--about the examinations for stenographers in
the Departments--are they very rigid?"

"Not very.  Of course they require speed and accuracy."

She sighed.  "I'm accurate enough, but I wonder if I can ever acquire
speed."

He stared.  "You----?"

She nodded.  "I haven't mentioned it to any one.  One's family is so
hampering sometimes--they'd all object--except Aunt Isabelle, but I
want to be prepared to work, if I ever need to earn my living."

"May you never need it," he said, fervently, visions rising of little
Miss Terry and her machine-made personality.  What had this girl with
the fair hair and the shining eyes to do with the blank life between
office walls?

"May you never need it," he repeated.  "A woman's place is in the
home--it's a man's place to fight the world."

"But if there isn't a man to fight a woman's battles?"

"There will always be some one to fight yours."

"You mean that I can--marry?  But what if I don't care to marry merely
to be--supported?"

"There would have to be other things, of course," gravely.

"What, for example?"

"Love."

"You mean the 'honor and obey' kind?  But don't want that when I marry.
I want a man to say to me, 'Come, let us fight the battle together.  If
it's defeat, we'll go down together.  If its victory, we'll win.'"

This was to him a strange language, yet there was that about it which
thrilled him.

Yet he insisted, dogmatically, "There are men enough in the world to
take care of the women, and the women should let them."

"No, they should not.  Suppose I should not marry.  Must I let Barry
take care of me, or Constance--and go on as Aunt Isabelle has, eating
the bread of dependence?"

"But you?  Why, one only needs to look at you to know that there'll be
a live-happy-ever-after ending to your romance."

"That's what they thought about Aunt Isabelle.  But she lost her lover,
and she couldn't love again.  And if she had had an absorbing
occupation, she would have been saved so much humiliation, so much
heart-break."

She told him the story with its touching pathos.  "And think of it,"
she ended, "right here in our garden by the fountain, she saw him for
the last time."

Chilled by the ghostly breath of dead romance, they sat for a while in
silence, then Mary said: "So that's why I'm trying to learn
something--that will have an earning value.  I can sing and play a
little, but not enough to make--money."

She sighed, and he set himself to help her.

"The quickest way," he said, "to acquire speed, is to have some one
read to you."

"Aunt Isabelle does sometimes, but it tires her."

"Let me do it.  I should never tire."

"Oh, wouldn't you mind?  Could we practice a little--now?"

And so it began--the friendship in which he served her, and loved the
serving.

He read, slowly, liking to see, when he raised his eyes, the slim white
figure in the big chair, the firelight on the absorbed face.

Thus the time slipped by, until with a start, Mary looked up.

"I don't see what is keeping Barry."

Then Roger told her what he had been reluctant to tell.  "I saw him
down-town.  I think he was on his way to the Country Club.  He had been
dining with some friends."

"Men friends?"

"Yes.  He called one of them Jerry."

He saw the color rise in her face.  "I hate Jerry Tuckerman, and Barry
promised Constance he'd let those boys alone."

Her voice had a sharp note in it, but he saw that she was struggling
with a gripping fear.

This, then, was the burden she was bearing?  And what a brave little
thing she was to face the world with her head up.

"Would you like to have me call the Country Club--I might be able to
get your brother on the wire."

"Oh; if you would."

But he was saved the trouble.  For, even while they spoke of him, Barry
came, and Mary went down to him.

A little later, there were stumbling steps upon the stairs, and a voice
was singing--a strange song, in which each verse ended with a shout.

Roger, stepping out into the dark upper hall, looked down over the
railing.  Mary, a slender shrinking figure; was coming with her brother
up the lower flight.  Barry had his arm around her, but her face was
turned from him, and her head drooped.

Then, still looking down, Roger saw her guide those stumbling steps to
the threshold of the boy's room.  The door opened and shut, and she was
alone, but from within there still came the shouted words of that
strange song.

Mary stood for a moment with her hands clenched at her sides, then
turned and laid her face against the closed door, her eyes hidden by
her upraised arm.



CHAPTER VIII

_In Which Little-Lovely Leila Sees a Picture in an Unexpected Place;
and in Which Perfect Faith Speaks Triumphantly Over the Telephone._


Whatever Delilah Jeliffe might lack, it was not originality.  The
apartment which she chose for her winter in Washington was like any
other apartment when she went into it, but the changes which she
made--the things which she added and the things which she took away,
stamped it at once with her own individuality.

The peacock screen before the fireplace, the cushions of sapphire and
emerald and old gold on the couch, the mantel swept of all ornament
except a seven-branched candlestick; these created the first
impression.  Then one's eyes went to an antique table on which a
crystal ball, upborne by three bronze monkeys, seemed to gather to
itself mysteriously all the glow of firelight and candlelight and rich
color.  At the other end of the table was a low bowl, filled always
with small saffron-hued roses.

In this room, one morning, late in Lent, Leila Dick sat, looking as out
of place as an English daisy in a tropical jungle.

Leila did not like the drawn curtains and the dimness.  Outside the sun
was shining, gloriously, and the sky was a deep and lovely blue.

She was glad when Lilah sent for her.

"You are to come right to her room," the maid announced.

"Heavens, child," said the Delilah-beauty, who was combing her hair, "I
didn't promise to be up with the birds."

"The birds were up long ago," Leila perched herself on an old English
love-seat.  "We're to have lunch before we go to Fort Myer, and it is
almost one now."

Lilah yawned, "Is it?" and went on combing her hair with the air of one
who has hours before her.  She wore a silken négligée of flamingo red
which matched her surroundings, for this room was as flaming as the
other was subdued.  Yet the effect was not that of crude color; it was,
rather, that of color intensified deliberately to produce a contrast.
Delilah's bedroom was high noon under a blazing sun, the sitting-room
was midnight under the stars.

With her black hair at last twisted into wonderful coils, Delilah
surveyed her face reflectively in the mirror, and having decided that
she needed no further aid from the small jars on her dressing table,
she turned to her friend.

"What shall I wear, Leila?"

"If I told you," was the calm response, "you wouldn't wear it."

Delilah laughed.  "No, I wouldn't.  I simply have to think such things
out for myself.  But I meant what kind of clothes--dress up or motor
things?"

"Porter will take us out in his car.  You'll need your heavy coat, and
something good-looking underneath, for lunch, you know."

"Is Mary Ballard going?"

"Of course.  We shouldn't get Porter's car if she weren't."

"Mary wasn't with us the day we had tea with him in the Park."

"No, but she was asked.  Porter never leaves her out."

"Are they engaged?"

"No, Mary won't be."

"She'll never get a better chance," Delilah reflected.  "She isn't
pretty, and she's rather old style."

Leila blazed.  "She's beautiful----"

"To you, duckie, because you love her.  But the average man wouldn't
call Mary Ballard beautiful."

"I don't care--the un-average one would.  And Mary Ballard wouldn't
look at an ordinary man."

"No man is ordinary when he is in love."

"Oh, with you," Leila's tone was scornful, "love's just a game."

Lilah rose, crossed the room with swift steps, and kissed her.  "Don't
let me ruffle your plumage, Jenny Wren," she said; "I'm a screaming
peacock this morning."

"What's the matter?"

"I'm not the perfect success I planned to be.  Oh, I can see it.  I've
been here for three months, and people stare at me, but they don't call
on me--not the ones I want to know.  And it's because I am
too--emphasized.  In New York you have to be emphatic to be anything at
all.  Otherwise you are lost in the crowd.  That's why Fifth Avenue is
full of people in startling clothes.  In the mob you won't be singled
out simply for your pretty face--there are too many pretty faces; so it
is the woman who strikes some high note of conspicuousness who attracts
attention.  But you're like a flock of cooing doves, you Washington
girls.  You're as natural and frank and unaffected as a--a covey of
partridges.  I believe I am almost jealous of your Mary Ballard this
morning."

"Not because of Porter?"

"Not because of any man.  But there are things about her which I can't
acquire.  I've the money and the clothes and the individuality.  But
there's a simplicity about her, a directness, that comes from years of
association with things I haven't had.  Before I came here, I thought
money could buy anything.  But it can't.  Mary Ballard couldn't be
anything else.  And I--I can be anything from a siren to a soubrette,
but I can't be a lady--not the kind that you are--and Mary Ballard."

Saying which, the tropic creature in flamingo red sat down beside the
cooing dove, and continued:

"You were right just now, when you said that the un-average man would
love Mary Ballard.  Porter Bigelow loves her, and he tops all the other
men I've met.  And he'd never love me.  He will laugh with me and joke
with me, and if he wasn't in love with Mary, he might flirt with
me--but I'm not his kind--and he knows it."

She sighed and shrugged her shoulders.  "There are other fish in the
sea, of course, and Porter Bigelow is Mary's.  But I give you my word,
Leila Dick, that when I catch sight of his blessed red head towering
above the others--like a lion-hearted Richard, I can't see anybody
else."

For the first time since she had known her, Leila was drawn to the
other by a feeling of sympathetic understanding.

"Are you in love with him, Lilah?" she asked; timidly.

Lilah stood up, stretching her hands above her head.  "Who knows?
Being in love and loving--perhaps they are different things, duckie."

With which oracular remark she adjourned to her dressing-room, where,
in long rows, her lovely gowns were hung.

Leila, left alone, picked up a magazine on the table beside her glanced
through it and laid it down; picked a bonbon daintily out of a big box
and ate it; picked up a photograph----

"Mousie," said Lilah, coming back, several minutes later, "what makes
you so still?  Did you find a book?"

No, Leila had not found a book, and the photograph was back where she
had first discovered it, face downward under the box of chocolates.
And she was now standing by the window, her veil drawn tightly over her
close little hat, so that one might not read the trouble in her
telltale eyes.  The daisy drooped now, as if withered by the blazing
sun.

But Delilah saw nothing of the change.  She wore a saffron-hued coat,
which matched the roses in the other room, and her leopard skins, with
a small hat of the same fur.

As she surveyed herself finally in the long glass, she flung out the
somewhat caustic remark:

"When I get down-stairs and look at Mary Ballard, I shall feel like a
Beardsley poster propped up beside a Helleu etching."

After lunch, Porter took Aunt Isabelle and Barry and the three girls to
Fort Myer.  The General and Mr. Jeliffe met them at the drill hall, and
as they entered there came to them the fresh fragrance of the tan bark.

As the others filed into their seats, Barry held Leila back.  "We will
sit at the end," he said.  "I want to talk to you."

Through her veil, her eyes reproached him.

"No," she said; "no."

He looked down at her in surprise.  Never before had Little-Lovely
Leila refused the offer of his valuable society.

"You sit beside--Delilah," she said, nervously, "She's really your
guest."

"She is Porter's guest," he declared.  "I don't see why you want to
turn her over to me."  Then as she endeavored to pass him, he caught
her arm.

"What's the matter?" he demanded.

"Nothing," faintly,

"Nothing----" scornfully.  "I can read you like a book.  What's
happened?"

But she merely shook her head and sat down, and then the bugle sounded,
and the band began to play, and in came the cavalry--a gallant company,
through the sun-lighted door, charging in a thundering line toward the
reviewing stand--to stop short in a perfect and sudden salute.

The drill followed, with men riding bareback, men riding four abreast,
men riding in pyramids, men turning somersaults on their trained and
intelligent steeds.

One man slipped, fell from his horse, and lay close in the tan bark,
while the other horses went over him, without a hoof touching, so that
he rose unhurt, and took his place again in the line.

Leila hid her eyes in her muff.  "I don't like it," she said.  "I've
never liked it.  And what if that man had been killed?"

"They don't get killed," said Barry easily.  "The hospital is full of
those who get hurt, but it is good for them; it teaches them to be cool
and competent when real danger comes."

And now came the artillery, streaming through that sun-lighted
entrance, the heavy wagons a featherweight to the strong, galloping
horses.  Breathless Leila watched their manoeuvres, as they wheeled and
circled and crisscrossed in spaces which seemed impossibly
small--horses plunging, gun-wagons rattling, dust flying--faster,
faster----  Again she shut her eyes.

But Mary Ballard, cheeks flushed, eyes dancing, turned to Porter.
"Don't you love it?" she asked.

"I love you----" audaciously.  "Mary, you and I were born in the wrong
age.  We belong to the days of King Arthur.  Then I could have worn a
coat of mail and have stormed your castle, and I shouldn't have cared
if you hurled defiance from the top turret.  I'd have known that, at
last, you'd be forced to let down the drawbridge; and I would have
crossed the moat and taken you prisoner, and you'd have been so
impressed with my strength and prowess that you would----"

"No, I wouldn't," said Mary quickly.

"Wait till I finish," said Porter, coolly.  "I'd have shut you up in a
tower, and every night I'd have come and sung beneath your window, and
at last you'd have dropped a red rose down to me."

They were laughing together now, and Delilah on the other side of
Porter demanded, "What's the joke?"

"There isn't any," said Porter; "it is all deadly earnest--for me, if
not for Mary."

And now a horse was down; there was a quick bugle-note, silence.  Like
clockwork, everything had stopped.

People were asking, "Is anybody hurt?"

Barry looked down at Leila.  Then he leaned toward her father.  "I'm
going to take this child outside," he said; "she's as white as a sheet.
She doesn't like it.  We will meet you all later."

Leila's color came back in the sunshine and air and she insisted that
Barry should return to the hall.

"I don't want you to miss it," she said, "just because I am so silly.
I can stay in Porter's car and wait."

"I don't want to see it--it's an old story to me."

So they walked on toward Arlington, entering at last the gate which
leads into that wonderful city of the nation's Northern dead, which was
once the home of Southern hospitality.  In a sheltered corner they sat
down and Barry smiled at Little-Lovely Leila.

"Are you all right now, kiddie?"

"Yes," but she did not smile.

He bent down and peered through her veil.  "Take it off and let me look
at your eyes."

With trembling hands, she took out a pin or two and let it fall.

"You've been crying."

"Oh, Barry," the words were a cry--the cry of a little wounded bird.

He stopped smiling.  "Blessed one, what is it?"

"I can't tell you."

"You must."

"No."

A low-growing magnolia hid them from the rest of the world; he put
masterful hands on her shoulders and turned her face toward him--her
little unhappy face.

"Now tell me."

She shook herself free.  "Don't, Barry."

He flushed suddenly and sensitively.  "I know I'm not much of a fellow."

She answered with a dignity which seemed to surmount her usual
childishness, "Barry, if a man wants a woman to believe in him, he's
got to make himself worthy of it."

"Well," defiantly, "what have I done?"

[Illustration: "What have I done?"]

"Don't you know?"

"No-o."

"Then I'll tell you.  Yes, I _will_ tell you," with sudden courage.  "I
was at Delilah's this morning, and I saw your picture, and what you had
written on it----"

He stared at her, with a sense of surging relief.  If it was only that
he had to explain about--Lilah.  A smile danced in his eyes.

"Well?"

"I know you like to--play the game--but I didn't think you'd go as far
as that----"

"How far?"

"Oh, you know."

"I don't."

"_Barry!_"

"I don't.  I wish you'd tell me what you mean, Leila."

"I will."  Her eyes were not reproachful now, they were blazing.  She
had risen, and with her hands tucked into her muff, and her veil
blowing about her flushed cheeks, she made her accusation.  "You wrote
on that picture, 'To the One Girl--Forever.'  Is that the way you think
of Delilah, Barry?"

"No.  It is the way I think of you.  And how did that picture happen to
be in Delilah's possession?  I sent it to you."

"To me?"

"Yes, I took it over to you yesterday, and left it with one of the
maids--a new one.  I intended, to go in and give it to you, but when
she said you had callers, I handed her the package----"

"And I thought--oh, Barry, what else could I think?"

She was so little and lovely in her tender contrition, that he flung
discretion to the winds.  "You are to think only one thing," he said,
passionately, "that I love you--not anybody else, not ever anybody
else.  I haven't dared put it into words before.  I haven't dared ask
you to marry me, because I haven't anything to offer you yet.  But I
thought you--knew----"

Her little hand went out to him.  "Oh, Barry," she whispered, "do you
really feel that way about me?"

"Yes.  More than I have said.  More than I can ever say."

He drew her down beside him on the bench.  "Our world won't want us to
get married, Leila; they will say that I am such a boy.  But you will
believe in me, dear one?"

"Always, Barry."

"And you love me?"

"Oh, you know it."

"Yes, I know it," he said, in a moved voice, as he raised her hands and
kissed them, "I know it--thank God."

After the drill, Porter took the whole party back to Delilah's for tea.
And when her guests had gone, and the black-haired beauty went to her
flamingo room to dress for dinner, she found a note on her pincushion.


"I have taken Barry's picture, because he meant it for me; it was a
mistake, your getting it.  He left it with the new maid one day when
you were at our house, and she handed it to you instead of to me--she
mixed up our names, just as the maids used to mix them up at school.
And I know you won't mind my taking it, because with you it is just a
game to play at love--with Barry.  But it is my life, as you said that
day in the Park.  And to-day Barry told me that it is his life, too.
And I am very happy.  But this is our secret, and please let it be your
secret until we let the rest of the world know----"


Delilah, reading the childish scrawl, smiled and shook her head.  Then
she went to the telephone and called up Leila.

"Duckie," she said, "I'll dance at your wedding.  Only don't love him
too much--no man is worth it."

Then, triumphant from the other end of the line, came the voice of
Perfect Faith--"Oh, Barry's worth it.  I've known him all my life,
Lilah, and I've never had a single doubt."



CHAPTER IX

_In Which Roger Sallies Forth in the Service of a Damsel in Distress,
and in Which He Meets Dragons Along the Way._


In the weeks which followed the trip to Fort Myer, Mary found an
astonishing change in her brother.  For the first time in his life he
seemed to be taking things seriously.  He stayed at home at night and
studied.  He gave up Jerry Tuckerman and the other radiant musketeers.
She did not know the reason for the change but it brought her hope and
happiness.

Barry saw Leila often, but, as yet, no one but Delilah Jeliffe knew of
the tie between them.

"I ought to tell Dad," Leila had said, timidly; "he'd be very happy.
It is what he has always wanted, Barry."

"I must prove myself a man first," Barry told her, "I've squandered
some of my opportunities, but now that I have you to work for, I feel
as strong as a lion."

They were alone in the General's library.  "It is because you trust me,
dear one," Barry went on, "that I am strong."

She slipped her little hand into his.  "Barry--it seems so queer to
think that I shall ever be--your wife."

"You had to be.  It was meant from the--beginning."

"Was it, Barry?"

"Yes."

"And it will be to the end.  Oh, I shall always love you, dearly,
dearly----"

It was idyllic, their little love affair--their big love affair, if one
judged by their measure.  It was tender, sweet, and because it was
their secret, because there was no word of doubt or of distrust from
those who were older and wiser, they brought to it all the beauty of
youth and high hope.

Thus the spring came, and the early summer, and Barry passed his
examinations triumphantly, and came home one night and told Mary that
he was going to marry Leila Dick.  As he told her his blue eyes
beseeched her, and loving him, and hating to hurt him, Mary withheld
the expression of her fears, and kissed him and cried a little on his
shoulder, and Barry patted her cheek, and said awkwardly: "I know you
think I'm not worthy of her, Mary.  But she will make a man of me."

Alone, afterward, Mary wondered if she had been wise to acquiesce--yet
surely, surely, love was strong enough to lift a man up to a woman's
ideal--and Leila was such a--darling.

She put the question to Roger Poole that night.  In these warmer days
she and Roger had slipped almost unconsciously into close intimacy.  He
read to her for an hour after dinner, when she had no other
engagements, and often they sat in the old garden, she with her
note-book on the arm of the stone bench--he at the other end of the
bench, under a bush of roses of a hundred leaves.  Sometimes Aunt
Isabelle was with them, with her fancy work, sometimes they were alone;
but always when the hour was over, he would close his book and ascend
to his tower, lest he might meet those who came later.  There were many
nights that he thus escaped Porter Bigelow--nights when in the
moonlight he heard the murmur of voices, mingled with the splash of the
fountain; and there were other nights when gay groups danced upon the
lawn to the music played by Mary just within the open window.

Yet he thanked the gods for the part which he was allowed to play in
her life.  He lived for that one hour out of the twenty-four.  He dared
not think what a day would be if he were deprived of that precious
sixty minutes.

Now and then, when she had been very sure that no one would come, he
had stayed with her in the moonlight, and the little bronze boy had
smiled at him from the fountain, and there had been the fragrance of
the roses, and Mary Ballard in white on the stone bench beside him,
giving him her friendly, girlish confidences; she discussed problems of
genteel poverty, the delightful obstinacies of Susan Jenks, the
dominance of Aunt Frances.  She gave him, too, her opinions--those
startling untried opinions which warred constantly with his prejudices.

And now to-night--his advice.

"Do you think love can change a man's nature?  Make a weak man strong,
I mean?"

He laid down his book.  "You ask that as if I could really answer it."

"I think you can.  You always seem to be able to put yourself in the
other person's place, and it--helps."

"Thank you.  And now in whose place shall put myself?"

"The girl's," promptly.

He considered it.  "I should say that the man should be put to the test
before marriage."

"You mean that she ought to wait until she is sure that he is made
over?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I feel that way.  But what if the girl believes in him?  Doesn't
dream that he is weak--trusts him absolutely, blindly?  Should any one
try to open her eyes?"

"Sometimes it is folly to be wise.  Perhaps for her he will always be
strong."

"Then what's the answer?"

"Only this.  That the man himself should make the test.  He should wait
until he knows that he is worthy of her."

She made a little gesture of hopelessness, just the lifting of her
hands and letting them drop; then she spoke with a rush of feeling.

"Mr. Poole--it is Barry and Leila.  Ought I to let them marry?"

He smiled at her confidence in her ability to rule the destinies of
those about her.

"I fancy that you won't have anything to do with it.  He is of age, and
you are only his sister.  You couldn't forbid the banns, you know."

"But if I could convince him----"

"Of what?" gravely.  "That you think him a boy?  Perhaps that would
tend to weaken his powers."

"Then I must fold my hands?"

"Yes.  As things are now--I should wait."

He did not explain, and she did not ask, for what she should wait.  It
was as if they both realized that the test would come, and that it
would come in time.

And it did come.

It was while Leila was on a trip to the Maine coast with her father.

July was waning, and already an August sultriness was in the air.
Those who were left in town were the workers--every one who could get
away was gone.  Mary, with the care of her house on her hands, refused
Aunt Frances' invitation for a month by the sea, and Aunt Isabelle
declined to leave her.

"I like it better here, even with the heat," she told her niece, "than
running around Bar Harbor with Frances and Grace."

Barry wrote voluminous letters to Leila, and received in return her
dear childish scrawls.  But the strain of her absence began to tell on
him.  He began to feel the pull toward old pleasures and distractions.
Then one day Jerry Tuckerman arrived on the scene.  The next night, he
and Barry and the other radiant musketeers motored over to Baltimore by
moonlight.  Barry did not come home the next day, nor the next, nor the
next.  Mary grew white and tense, and manufactured excuses which did
not deceive Aunt Isabelle.  Neither of the tired pale women spoke to
each other of their vigils.  Neither of them spoke of the anxiety which
consumed them.

Then one night, after a message had come from the office, asking for an
explanation of Barry's absence; after she had called up the Country
Club; after she had called up Jerry Tuckerman and had received an
evasive answer; after she had exhausted all other resources, Mary
climbed the steps to the Tower Rooms.

And there, sitting stiff and straight in a high-backed chair, with her
throat dry, her pulses throbbing, she laid the case before Roger Poole.

"There is no one else--I can speak to--about it.  But Barry's been away
for nearly a week from the office and from home--and nobody knows where
he is.  And it isn't the first time.  It began before father died, and
it nearly broke his heart.  You see, he had a brother--whose life was
ruined because of this.  And Constance and I have done everything.
There will be months when he is all right.  And then there'll be a
week--away.  And after it, he is dreadfully depressed, and I'm afraid."
She was shivering, though the night was hot.

Roger dared not speak his sympathy.  This was not the moment.

So he said, simply, "I'll find him, and when I find him," he went on,
"it may be best not to bring him back at once.  I've had to deal with
such cases before.  We will go into the country for a few days, and
come back when he is completely--himself."

"Oh, can you spare the time?"

"I haven't taken any vacation, and--so there are still thirty days to
my credit.  And I need an outing."

He prepared at once to go, and when he had packed a little bag, he came
down into the garden.  There was moonlight and the fragrance and the
splashing fountain.  Roger was thrilled by the thought of his quest.
It was as if he had laid upon himself some vow which was sending him
forth for the sake of this sweet lady.  As Mary came toward him, he
wished that he might ask for the rose she wore, as his reward.  But he
must not ask.  She gave him her friendship, her confidence, and these
were very precious things.  He must never ask for more--and so he must
not ask for a rose.

And now he was standing just below her on the terrace steps, looking up
at her with his heart in his eyes.

"I'll find him," he said, "don't worry."

She reached out and touched his shoulder with her hand.  "How good you
are," she said, wistfully, "to take all of this trouble for us.  I feel
that I ought not to let you do it--and yet--we are so helpless, Aunt
Isabelle and I."

There was nothing of the boy about her now.  She was all clinging
dependent woman.  And the touch of her hand on his shoulder was the
sword of the queen conferring knighthood.  What cared he now for a rose?

So he left her, standing there in the moonlight, and when he reached
the bottom of the hill, he turned and looked back, and she still stood
above him, and as she saw him turn, she waved her hand.

In days of old, knights fought with dragons and cut off their heads,
only to find that other heads had grown to replace those which had been
destroyed.

And it was such dragons of doubt and despair which Roger Poole fought
in the days after he had found Barry.

The boy had hidden himself in a small hotel in the down-town district
of Baltimore.  Following one clue and then another, Roger had come upon
him.  There had been no explanations.  Barry had seemed to take his
rescue as a matter of course, and to be glad of some one into whose
ears he could pour the litany of his despair.

"It's no use, Poole.  I've fought and fought.  Father helped me.  And I
promised Con.  And I thought that my love for Leila would make me
strong.  But there's no use trying.  I'll be beaten.  It is in the
blood.  I had an uncle who drank himself to death.  And back of him
there was a grandfather."

They had been together for two days.  Barry had agreed to Roger's plans
for a trip to the country, and now they were under the trees on the
banks of one of the little brackish rivers which flow into the
Chesapeake.  They had fished a little in the early morning, then had
brought their boat in, for Barry had grown tired of the sport.  He
wanted to talk about himself.

"It's no use," he said again; "it's in the blood."

Roger was propped against a tree, his hat off, his dark hair blown back
from his fine thin face.

"Our lives," he said, "are our own.  Not what our ancestors make them."

"I don't believe it," Barry said, flatly.  "I've fought a good fight,
no one can say that I haven't.  And I've lost.  After this do you
suppose that Mary will let me marry Leila?  Do you suppose the General
will let me marry her?"

"Will you let yourself marry her?"

Barry's face flamed.  "Then you think I'm not worthy?"

"It is what you think, Ballard, not what I think."

Barry pulled up a handful of grass and threw it away, pulled up another
handful and threw it away.  Then he said, doggedly, "I'm going to marry
her, Poole; no one shall take her away from me."

"And you call that love?"

"Yes.  I can't live without her."

Roger with his eyes on the dark water which slipped by the banks,
taking its shadows from the darkness of the thick branches which bent
above it said quietly, "Love to me has always seemed something bigger
than that--it has seemed as if love--great love took into consideration
first the welfare of the beloved."

There was a long silence, out of which Barry said tempestuously, "It
will break her heart if anything comes between us.  I'm not saying that
because am a conceited donkey.  But she is such a constant little
thing."

Roger nodded.  "That's all the more reason why you've got to pull up
now, Ballard."

"But I've tried."

"I knew a man who tried--and won."

"How?" eagerly.

"I met him in the pine woods of the South.  I was down there to recover
from a cataclysm which had changed--my life.  This man had a little
shack next to mine.  Neither of us had much money.  We lived literally
in the open.  We cooked over fires in front of our doors.  We hunted
and fished.  Now and then we went to town for our supplies, but most of
our things we got from the schooner-men who drove down from the hills.
My neighbor was married.  He had a wife and three children.  But he had
come alone.  And he told me grimly that he should never go back until
he went back a man."

"Did he go back?"

"Yes.  He conquered.  He looked upon his weakness not merely as a moral
disease, but as a physical one.  And it was to be cured like any other
disease by removing the cause.  The first step was to get away from old
associations.  He couldn't resist temptation, so he had come where he
was not tempted.  His occupation in the city had been mental, here it
was largely physical.  He chopped wood, he tramped the forest, he
whipped the streams.  And gradually he built up a self which was
capable of resistance.  When he went back he was a different man, made
over by his different life.  And he has cast out his--devil."

The boy was visibly impressed.

"His way might not be your way," Roger concluded, "but the fact that he
fought a winning battle should give you hope."

The next day they went back.  Mary met them as if nothing had happened.
The basket of fish which they had brought to be cooked by Susan Jenks
furnished an unembarrassing topic of conversation.  Then Barry went to
his room, and Mary was alone with Roger.

She had had a letter from him, and a message by telephone; thus her
anxiety had been stilled.  And she was very grateful--so grateful that
her voice trembled as she held out her hands to him.

"How shall I ever thank you?" she said.

He took her hands in his, and stood looking down at her.

He did not speak at once, yet in those fleeting moments Mary had a
strange sense of a question asked and answered.  It was as if he were
calling upon her for something she was not ready to give--as if he were
drawing from her some subconscious admission, swaying her by a force
that was compelling, to reveal herself to him.

And, as she thought these things, he saw a new look in her eyes, and
her breath quickened.

He dropped her hands.

"Don't thank me," he said.  "Ask me again to do something for you.
That shall be my reward."



CHAPTER X

_In Which a Scarlet Flower Blooms in the Garden; and in Which a Light
Flares Later in the Tower._


In September everybody came back to town, Porter Bigelow among the rest.

He telephoned at once to Mary, "I'm coming up."

She was radiant.  "Constance and Gordon arrived Monday, and I want you
for dinner.  Leila will be here and the General and Aunt Frances and
Grace from New York."

His growl came back to her.  "And that means that I won't have a minute
alone with you."

"Oh, Porter--please.  There are so many other girls in the world--and
you've had the whole summer to find one."

"The summer has been a howling wilderness.  But mother has put me
through my paces at the resorts.  Mary, I've learned such a lot of new
dances to teach you."

"Teach them to Grace."

He groaned.  "You know what I think of Grace Clendenning."

"Porter, she's beautiful.  She wears little black frocks with wide
white collars and cuffs and looks perfectly adorable.  To-night she's
going to wear a black tulle gown and a queer flaring black tulle
head-dress, and with her red hair--you won't be able to drag your eyes
from her."

"I've enough red hair of my own," Porter informed her, "without having
to look at Grace's."

"I'll put you opposite her at dinner.  Come and see, and be conquered."

Roger Poole was also invited to the home-coming dinner.  Mary had asked
nobody's advice this time.  Of late Roger and Barry had been much
together, and it was their friendship which Mary had exploited, when
Constance, somewhat anxiously, had asked, on the day preceding the
dinner, if she thought it was wise to include the lonely dweller in the
Tower Rooms.

"He's really very nice, Constance.  And he has been a great help to
Barry."

It was the first time that they had spoken of their brother.  And now
Constance's words came with something of an effort.  "What of Barry,
Mary?"

"He is more of a man, Con.  He is trying hard for Leila's sake."

"Gordon thinks they really ought not to be engaged."

The sisters were in Mary's room, and Mary at her little desk was
writing out the dinner list for Susan Jenks.  She looked up and laid
down her pen.  "Then you've told Gordon?"

"Yes.  And he says that Barry ought to go away."

"Where?"

"Far enough to give Leila a chance to get over it."

"Do you think she would ever get over it, Con?"

"Gordon thinks she would."

Mary's head went up.  "I am not asking what Gordon thinks.  What do you
think?"

"I think as Gordon does."  Then as Mary made a little impatient
gesture, she added, "Gordon is very wise.  At first it seemed to me
that he was--harsh, in his judgment of Barry.  But he knows so much of
men--and he says that here, in town, among his old associations--Barry
will never be different.  And it isn't fair to Leila."

Mary knew that it was not fair to Leila.  She had always known it.  Yet
she was stubbornly resentful of the fact that Gordon Richardson should
be, as it were, the arbiter of Barry's destiny.

"Oh, it is all such a muddle, Con," she said, and put the question
aside.  "We won't talk about it just now.  There is so much else to
say--and it is lovely to have you back, dearest--and you are so lovely."

Constance was curled up on Mary's couch, resting after her journey.  "I
am so happy, Mary.  No woman knows anything about it, until she has had
it for herself.  A man's strength is so wonderful--and Gordon's care of
me--oh, Mary, if there were only another man in the world for you like
Gordon I should be perfectly content."

It was a fervent gentle echo of Aunt Frances' demand upon her, and Mary
suppressing her raging jealousy of the man who had stolen her sister,
asked somewhat wistfully, "Can you talk about me, for a minute, and
forget that you have a husband?"

"I don't need to forget Gordon," was the serene response.  "I can keep
him in the back of my mind."

Mary picked up her pen, and underscored "_Soup_"; then: "Constance,
darling," she said, "would you feel dreadfully if I went to work?"

"What kind of work, Mary?"

"In one of the departments,--as stenographer."

"But you don't know anything about it."

"Yes, I do, I've been studying ever since you went away."

"But why, Mary?"

"Because--oh, can't you see, Constance?  I can't be sure of--Barry--for
future support.  And I won't go with Aunt Frances.  And this house is
simply eating up the little that father left us.  When you married, I
thought the rental of the Tower Rooms would keep things going, but it
won't.  And I won't sell the house.  I love every old stick and stone
of it.  And anyhow, must I sit and fold my hands all the rest of my
life just because I am a woman?"

"But Mary, dear, you will marry--there's Porter."

"Constance, I couldn't think of marriage that way--as a chance to be
taken care of.  Oh, Con, I want to wait--for love."

"Dearest, of course.  But you can live with us.  Gordon would never
consent to your working--he thinks it is dreadful for a woman to have
to fight the world."

Mary shook her head.  "No, it wouldn't be fair to you.  It is never
fair for an outsider to intrude upon the happiness of a home.  If your
duet is ever to be a trio, it must not be with my big blundering voice,
which could make only a discord, but a little piping one."

She looked up to meet Constance's shy, self-conscious eyes.

Mary flew to her, and knelt beside the couch.  "Darling, darling?"

And now the list was forgotten and Susan Jenks coming up for it was
made a party to that tremulous secret, and the fate of the dinner was
threatened until Mary, coming back to realities, kissed her sister and
went to her desk, and held herself sternly to the five following
courses of the family dinner which was to please the palates of those
fresh from Paris and London and from castles by the sea; and which was
to test to the utmost the measure of Susan's culinary skill.

At dinner the next night, Gordon Richardson looked often and intently
at Roger Poole, and when, under the warmth of the September moon, the
men drifted out into the garden to smoke, he said, "I've just placed
you."

Roger nodded.  "I thought you'd remember.  You were one of the younger
boys at St. Martin's--you haven't changed much, but I couldn't be sure."

Gordon hesitated.  "I thought I heard from someone that you entered the
Church."

"I had a church in the South--for three years."

Gordon tried to keep the curiosity out of his voice.

"And you gave it up?"

"Yes.  I gave it up."

That was all.  Not a word of the explanation for which he knew Gordon
was waiting.  Nothing but the bare statement, "I gave it up."

They talked a little of St. Martin's after that, of their boyish
experiences.  But Roger was conscious that Gordon was weighing him, and
asking of himself, "Why did he give it up?"

The two men were sitting on the stone bench where Roger had so often
sat with Mary.  The garden was showing the first signs of the season's
blight.  Fading leaf and rustling vine had replaced the unspringing
greenness and the fragrant growth of the summer.  There were, to be
sure, dahlias and chrysanthemums and cosmos.  But the glory of the
garden was gone.

Then into the garden came Mary!

She was wrapped in a thin silken, scarlet cloak that belonged to
Constance.  As she passed through the broad band of light made by the
street lamp.  Roger had a sudden memory of the flame-like blossoming of
a certain slender shrub in the spring.  It had been the first of the
flowers to bloom, and Mary had picked a branch for the vase on his
table in the Tower sitting-room.

"Constance wants you, Gordon," Mary said, as she came nearer; "some one
has called up to arrange about a dinner date, and she can't decide
without you."

She sat down on the stone bench, and Roger, who had risen at her
approach, stood under the hundred-leaved bush from which all the roses
were gone.

"Do you know," he said, without warning or preface, "that it seemed to
me that, as you came into the garden, it bloomed again."

Never before had he spoken thus.  And he said it again.  "When you
came, it was as if the garden bloomed."

He sat down beside her.  "Is any one going to claim you right away?
Because if not, I have something I want to say."

"Nobody will claim me.  At least I hope nobody will.  Grace Clendenning
is telling Porter about the art of woman's dress.  She takes clothes so
seriously, you know.  And Porter is interested in spite of himself.
And Barry and Leila are on the terrace steps, looking at the moon over
the river, and Aunt Frances and Aunt Isabelle and General Dick are in
the house because of the night air, so there's really no one in the
garden but you and me."

"Just you--and--me----" he said, and stopped.

She was plainly puzzled by his manner.  But she waited, her arms
wrapped in her red cloak.

At last he said, "Your brother-in-law and I went to school together."

"Gordon?"

"Yes.  St. Martin's.  He was younger than I, and we were not much
together.  But I knew him.  And after he had puzzled over it, he knew
me."

"How interesting."

"And he asked me something about myself, which I have never told you;
which I want to tell you now."

He was finding it hard to tell, with her eyes upon him, bright as stars.

"Your brother said he had heard that I had gone into the Church--that I
had a parish.  And what he had heard was true.  Until five years ago, I
was rector of a church in the South."

"_You_?"  That was all.  Just a little breathed note of incredulity.

"Yes.  I wanted to tell you before he should have a chance to tell, and
to think that I had kept from you something which you should have been
told.  But I am not sure, even now, that it should be told."

"But on Christmas Eve, you said that you did not believe----"

"I do not."

"And was that the reason you gave it up?"

"No.  It is a long story.  And it is not a pleasant one.  Yet it seems
that I must tell it."

The wind had risen and blew a mist from the fountain.  The dead leaves
rustled.

Mary shivered.

"Oh, you are cold," Roger said, "and I am keeping you."

"No," she said, mechanically, "I am not cold.  I have my cloak.  Please
go on."

But he was not to tell his story then, for a shaft of strong light
illumined the roadway, and a big limousine stopped at the foot of the
terrace steps.  They heard Delilah Jeliffe's high laugh; then Porter's
voice in the garden.  "Mary, are you there?"

"Yes."

"Grace Clendenning and her mother are going, and Delilah and Mr.
Jeliffe have motored out to show you their new car."

There was deep disapproval in his voice.  Mary rose reluctantly as he
joined them.  "Oh, Porter, must I listen to Delilah's chatter for the
rest of the evening?"

"You made me listen to Grace's.  This is your punishment."

"I don't want to be punished.  And I am very tired, Porter."

This was a new word in Mary Ballard's vocabulary, and Porter responded
at once to its appeal.

"We will get rid of Delilah presently, and then Gordon and Constance
will go with us for a spin around the Speedway.  That will set you up,
little lady."

Roger stood silent by the fountain.  Through the veil of mist the
little bronze boy seemed to smile maliciously.  During all the years in
which he had ridden the dolphin, he had seen men and women come and go
beneath the hundred-leaved bush.  And he had smiled on all of them, and
by their mood they had interpreted his smiles.

Roger's mood at this moment was one of impotent rebellion at Porter's
air of proprietorship, and it was with this air intensified that, as
Mary shivered again Porter drew her wrap about her shoulders, fastening
the loop over the big button with expert fingers and said, carelessly,
"Are you coming in with us, Poole?"

"No.  Not now."

Above the head of the little bronze boy, level glance met level glance,
as in the moonlight the men surveyed each other.

Then Mary spoke.

"Mr. Poole, I am so sorry not to hear the rest of the--story."

"You shall hear it another time."

She hesitated, looking up at him.  It was as if she wanted to speak but
could not, with Porter there to listen.

So she smiled, with eyes and lips.  Just a flash, but it warmed his
heart.

Yet as she went away with Porter, and passed once more through the
broad band of the street lamp's light which made of her scarlet cloak a
flaming flower, he looked after her wistfully, and wondered if when she
had heard what he had to tell she would ever smile at him like that
again.

Delilah, fresh from a triumphal summer, was in the midst of a laughing
group on the porch.

As Mary came up, she was saying: "And we have taken a dear old home in
Georgetown.  No more glare or glitter.  Everything is to be subdued to
the dullness of a Japanese print--pale gray and dull blue and a splash
of black.  This gown gives the keynote."

She was in gray taffeta, with a girdle of soft old blue, and a string
of black rose-beads.  No color was on her cheeks--there was just the
blackness of her hair and the whiteness of her fine skin.

"It's great," Barry said,

Delilah nodded.  "Yes.  It has taken me several years to find out some
things."  She looked at Grace and smiled.  "It didn't take you years,
did it?"

Grace smiled back.  The two women were as far apart as the poles.
Grace represented the old Knickerbocker stock, Lilah, a later grafting.
Grace studied clothes because it pleased her to make fashions a fine
art.  Delilah studied to impress.  But each one saw in the other some
similarity of taste and of mood, and the smile that they exchanged was
that of comprehension.

Aunt Frances did not approve of Delilah.  She said so to Grace going
home.

"My dear, they live on the West Side--in a big house on the Drive.  My
calling list stops east of the Park."

Grace shrugged.  "Mother," she said, "I learned one thing in
Paris--that the only people worth knowing are the interesting people,
and whether they live on the Drive or in Dakota, I don't care.  And
we've an awful lot of fossils in our set."

Mrs. Clendenning shifted the argument.  "I don't see why General Dick
allows Leila to be so much with Miss Jeliffe."

"They were at school together, and the General and Mr. Jeliffe are old
friends."

Her mother shrugged.  "Well, I hope that if we stay here for the winter
that they won't be forced upon us.  Washington is such a city of
climbers, Grace."

Grace let the matter drop there.  She had learned discretion.  She and
her mother viewed life from different angles.  To attempt to reconcile
these differences would mean, had always meant, strife and controversy,
and in these later years, Grace had steered her course toward serenity.
She had refused to be blown about by the storms of her mother's
prejudices.  In the midst of the conventionality of her own social
training, she had managed to be untrammeled.  In this she was more like
Mary than the others of her generation.  And she loved Mary, and wanted
to see her happy.

"Mother," she asked abruptly, "who is this Roger Poole?"

Mrs. Clendenning told her that he was a lodger in the Tower Rooms--a
treasury clerk--a mere nobody.

Grace challenged the last statement.  "He's a brilliant man," she said.
"I sat next to him at dinner.  There's a mystery somewhere.  He has an
air of authority, the ease of a man of the world."

"He is in love with Mary," said Mrs. Clendenning, "and he oughtn't to
be in the house."

"But Mary isn't in love with him--not yet."

"How do you know?"

In the darkness Grace smiled.  How did she know?  Why, Mary in love
would be lighted up by a lamp within!  It would burn in her cheeks,
flash in her eyes.

"No, Mary's not in love," she said.

"She ought to marry Porter Bigelow."

"She ought not to marry Porter.  Mary should marry a man who would
utilize all that she has to give.  Porter would not utilize it."

"Now what do you mean by that?" said Mrs. Clendenning, impatiently.
"Don't talk nonsense, Grace."

"Mary Ballard," Grace analyzed slowly, "is one of the women who if she
had been born in another generation would have gone singing to the
lions for the sake of an ideal; she would have led an army, or have
loaded guns behind barricades.  She has courage and force, and the need
of some big thing in her life to bring out her best.  And Porter
doesn't need that kind of wife.  He doesn't want it.  He wants to
worship.  To kneel at her feet and look up to her.  He would require
nothing of her.  He would smother her with tenderness.  And she doesn't
want to be smothered.  She wants to lift up her head and face the
beating winds."

Mrs. Clendenning, helpless before this burst of eloquence on the part
of her usually restrained daughter, asked, tartly, "How in the world do
you know what Porter wants or Mary needs?"

"Perhaps," said Grace, slowly, "it is because I am a little like Mary.
But I am older, and I've learned to take what the world gives.  Not
what I want.  But Mary will never be content with compromise, and she
will always go through life with her head up."

Mary's head was up at that very moment, as with cheeks flaming and eyes
bright, she played hostess to her guests, while in the back of her
brain were beating questions about Roger Poole.

Freed from the somewhat hampering presence of Mrs. Clendenning, Delilah
was letting herself go, and she drew even from grave Gordon Richardson
the tribute of laughter.

"It was an artist that I met at Marblehead," she said, "who showed me
the way.  He told me that I was a blot against the sea and the sky,
with my purples and greens and reds and yellows.  I will show you his
sketches of me as I ought to be.  They opened my eyes; and I'll show
you my artist too.  He's coming down to see whether I have caught the
idea."

And now she moved down the steps.  "Father will be furious if I keep
him waiting any longer.  He's crazy over the car, and when he drives,
it is a regular Tam O'Shanter performance.  I won't ask any of you to
risk your necks with him yet, but if you and the General are willing to
try it, Leila, we will take you home."

"I haven't fought in fifty battles to show the white feather now," said
the General, and Leila chirruped, "I'd love it," and presently, with
Barry in devoted attendance, they drove off.

Mary, waiting on the porch for Porter to telephone for his own car,
which was to take them around the Speedway, looked eagerly toward the
fountain.  The moon had gone under a cloud, and while she caught the
gleam of the water, the hundred-leaved bush hid the bench.  Was Roger
Poole there?  Alone?

She heard Porter's voice behind her.  "Mary," he said, "I've brought a
heavy wrap.  And the car will be here in a minute."

Aunt Isabelle had given him the green wrap with the fur.  She slipped
into it silently, and he turned the collar up about her neck.

"I'm not going to have you shivering as you did in that thin red
thing," he said.

She drew away.  It was good of him to take care of her, but she didn't
want his care.  She didn't want that tone, that air of possession.
She was not Porter's.  She belonged to herself.  And to no one else.
She was free.

With the quick proud movement that was characteristic of her, she
lifted her head.  Her eyes went beyond Porter, beyond the porch, to the
Tower Rooms where a light flared, suddenly.  Roger Poole was not in the
garden; he had gone up without saying "Good-night."



CHAPTER XI

_In Which Roger Writes a Letter; and in Which a Rose Blooms Upon the
Pages of a Book._


_In the Tower Rooms, Midnight----_

It is best to write it.  What I might have said to you in the garden
would have been halting at best.  How could I speak it all with your
clear eyes upon me--all the sordid history of those years which are
best buried, but whose ghosts to-night have risen again?

If in these months--this year that I have lived in these rooms, I have
seemed to hide that which you will now know, it was not because I
wanted to set myself before you as something more than I am.  Not that
I wished to deceive.  It was simply that the thought of the old life
brought a surging sense of helplessness, of hopelessness, of rebellion
against fate, Having put it behind me, I have not wished to talk about
it--to think about it--to have it, in all its tarnished tragedy, held
up before your earnest, shining eyes.

For you have never known such things as I have to tell you, Mary
Ballard.  There has been sorrow in your life, and, I have seen of late,
suffering for those you love.  But, as yet, you have not doffed an
ideal.  You have not bowed that brave young head of yours.  You have
never yet turned your back upon the things which might have been.

As I have turned mine.  I wish sometimes that you might have known me
before the happening of these things which I am to tell you.  But I
wish more than all, that I might have known you.  Until I came here, I
did not dream that there was such a woman in the world as you.  I had
thought of women first, as a chivalrous boy thinks, later, as a
disillusioned man.  But of a woman like a young and ardent soldier, on
fire to fight the winning battles of the world--of such a woman I had
never dreamed.

But this year has taught me.  I have seen you pushing away from you the
things which would have charmed most women  I have seen you pushing
away wealth, and love for the mere sake of loving.  I have seen you
willing to work that you might hold undimmed the ideal which you had
set for your womanhood.  Loving and love-worthy, you have not been
willing to receive unless you could give, give from the fulness of that
generous nature of yours.  And out of that generosity, you have given
me your friendship.

And now; as I write the things which your clear eyes are to read, I am
wondering whether that friendship will be withdrawn.  Will you when you
have heard of my losing battle, find anything in me that is
worthy--will there be anything saved out of the wreck of your thought
of me?

Well, here it is, and you shall judge:

I will skip the first years, except to say that my father was one of
the New York Pooles who moved South after the Civil War.  My mother was
from Richmond.  We were prosperous folk, with an unassailable social
position.  My mother, gracious and charming, is little more than a
memory; she died when I was a child.  My father married again, and died
when I was in college.  There were three children by this second
marriage, and when the estate was settled, only a modest sum fell to my
share.

I had been a lonely little boy--at college I was a dreamy, idealistic
chap, with the saving grace of a love of athletics.  Your
brother-in-law will tell you something of my successes on our school
team.  That was my life--the day in the open, the nights among my books.

As time went on, I took prizes in oratory--there was a certain
commencement, when the school went wild about me, and I was carried on
the shoulders of my comrades.

There seemed open to me the Church and the law.  Had I lived in a
different environment, there would have been also the stage.  But I saw
only two outlets for my talents, the Church, toward which my tastes
inclined, and the law, which had been my father's profession.

At last I chose the Church.  I liked the thought of my scholarly
future--of the power which my voice might have to sway audiences and to
move them.

I am putting it all down, all of my boyish optimism, conceit--whatever
you may choose to call it.

Yet I am convinced of this, and my success of a few years proved it,
that had nothing interfered with my future, I should have made an
impression on ever-widening circles.

But something came to interfere.

In my last years at the Seminary, I boarded at a house where I met
daily the daughter of the landlady.  She was a little thing, with
yellow hair and a childish manner.  As I look back, I can't say that I
was ever greatly attracted to her.  But she was a part of my life for
so long that gradually there grew up between us a sort of good
fellowship.  Not friendship in the sense that I have understood it with
you; there was about it nothing of spiritual or of mental congeniality.
But I played the big brother.  I took her to little dances; and to
other college affairs.  I gave both to herself and to her widowed
mother such little pleasures as it is possible for a man to give to two
rather lonely women.  There were other students in the house, and I was
not conscious that I was doing anything more than the rest of them.

Then there came a day when the yellow-haired child---shall I call her
Kathy?--wanted to go to a pageant in a neighboring town.  It was to
last two days, and there was to be a night parade, and floats and a
carnival.  Many of the students were going, and it was planned that
Kathy and I should take a morning train on the first day, so that we
might miss nothing.  Kathy's mother would come on an afternoon train,
and they would spend the night at a certain quiet hotel, while I was to
go with a lot of fellows to another.

Well, when that afternoon train arrived, the mother was not on it.  Nor
did she come.  Without one thought of unconventionality, I procured a
room for Kathy at the place where she and her mother would have
stopped.  Then I left her and went to the other hotel to join my
classmates.  But carnival-mad; they did not come in at all, and went
back on an express which passed through the town in the early morning.

When Kathy and I reached home at noon, we found her mother white and
hysterical.  She would listen to no explanations.  She told me that I
should have brought Kathy back the night before--that she had missed
her train and thus her appointment with us.  And she told me that I was
in honor bound to marry Kathy.

As I write it, it seems such melodrama.  But it was very serious then.
I have never dared analyze the mother's motives.  But to my boyish eyes
her anxiety for her daughter's reputation was sincere, and I accepted
the responsibility she laid upon me.

Well, I married her.  And she put her slender arms about my neck and
cried and thanked me.

She was very sweet and she was my--wife--and when I was given a parish
and had introduced her to my people, they loved her for the white
gentleness which seemed purity, and for acquiescent amiability which
seemed--goodness.

I have myself much to blame in this--that I did not love her.  All
these years I have known it.  But that I was utterly unawakened I did
not know.  Only in the last few months have I learned it.

Perhaps she missed what I should have given her.  God knows.  And He
only knows whether, if I had adored her, worshiped her, things would
have been different.

I was very busy.  She was not strong.  She was left much to herself.
The people did not expect any great efforts on her part--it was enough
that she should look like a saint--that she should lend herself so
perfectly to the ecclesiastical atmosphere.

And now comes the strange, the almost unbelievable part.  One morning
when we had been married two years, I left the house to go to the
office of one of my most intimate friends in the parish--a doctor who
lived near us, who was unmarried, and who had prescribed now and then
for my wife.  As I went out, Kathy asked me to return to him a magazine
which she handed me.  It was wrapped and tied with a string.  I had to
wait in the doctor's office, and I unwrapped the magazine and untied
the string, and between the leaves I found a note to--my friend.

Why do people do things like that?  She might have telephoned what she
had to say; she might have written it, and have sent it through the
mails.  But she chose this way, and let me carry to another man the
message of her love for him.

For that was what the note told.  There was no doubt, and I walked out
of the office and went home.  In other times with other manners, I
might have killed him.  If I had loved her, I might; I cannot tell.
But I went home.

She seemed glad that I knew.  And she begged that I would divorce her
and let her marry him.

Dear Clear Eyes, who read this, what do you think of me?  Of this story?

And what did I think?  I who had dreamed, and studied and preached, and
had never--lived?  I who had hated the sordid?  I who had thought
myself so high?

As I married her, so I gave her a divorce.  And as I would not have her
name and mine smirched, I separated myself from her, and she won her
plea on the ground of desertion.

Do you know what that meant in my life?  It meant that I must give up
my church.  It meant that I must be willing to bear the things which
might be said of me.  Even if the truth had been known, there would
have been little difference, except in the sympathy which would have
been vouchsafed me as the injured party.  And I wanted no man's pity.

And so I went forth, deprived of the right to lift up my voice and
preach--deprived of the right to speak to the thousands who had packed
my church.  And now--what meaning for me had the candles on the altar,
what meaning the voices in the choir?  I had sung too, in the light of
the holy candles, but it was ordained that my voice must be forever
still.

I fought my battle out one night in the darkness of my church.  I
prayed for light and I saw none.  Oh, Clear Eyes, why is light given to
a man whose way is hid?  I went forth from that church convinced that
it was all a sham.  That the lights meant nothing; that the music meant
less, and that what I had preached had been a poetic fallacy.

Some of the people of my church still believe in me.  Others, if you
should meet them, would say that she was a saint, and that I was the
sinner.  Well, if my sin was weakness, I confess it.  I should,
perhaps, never have married her; but having married her, could I have
held her mine against her will?

She married him.  And a year after, she died.  She was a frail little
thing, and I have nothing harsh to say of her.  In a sense she was a
victim, first of her mother's ambition, next of my lack of love, and
last of all, of his pursuit.

Perhaps I should not have told you this.  Except my Bishop, who asked
for the truth, and to whom I gave it, and whose gentleness and kindness
are never-to-be-forgotten things--except for him, you are the only one
I have ever told; the only one I shall ever tell.

But I shall tell you this, and glory in the telling.  That if I had a
life to offer of honor and of achievement, I should offer it now to
you.  That if I had met you as a dreaming boy, I would have tried to
match my dreams to yours.

You may say that with the death of my wife things have changed.  That I
might yet find a place to preach, to teach--to speak to audiences and
to sway them.

But any reëntrance into the world means the bringing up of the old
story--the question--the whispered comment.  I do not think that I am a
coward.  For the sake of a cause, I could face death with courage.  But
I cannot face questioning eyes and whispering lips.

So I am dedicated for all my future to mediocrity.  And what has
mediocrity to do with you, who have "never turned your back, but
marched face forward"?

And so I am going away.  Not so quickly that there will be comment.
But quickly enough to relieve you of future embarrassment in my behalf.

I do not know that you will answer this.  But I know that whatever your
verdict, whether I am still to have the grace of your friendship or to
lose it forever, I am glad to have lived this one year in the Tower
Rooms.  I am glad to have known the one woman who has given me back--my
boyish dreams of all women.

And now a last line.  If ever in all the years to come you should have
need of me, I am at your service.  I shall count nothing too hard that
you may ask.  I am whimsically aware that in the midst of all this
darkness and tragedy my offer is that of the Mouse to the Lion.  But
there came a day when the Mouse paid its debt.  Ask me to pay mine, and
I will come--from the ends of the earth.


This was the letter which Mary found the next morning on her desk in
the little office room into which Roger had been shown on the night of
the wedding.  She recognized his firm script and found herself
trembling as she touched the square white envelope.

But she laid the letter aside until she had given Susan her orders,
until she had given other orders over the telephone, until she had
interviewed the furnace man and the butcher's boy, and had written and
mailed certain checks.

Then she took the letter with her to her own room, locked the door and
read it.

Constance, knocking a little later, was let in, and found her sister
dressed and ready for the street.

"I've a dozen engagements," Mary said.  She was drawing on her gloves
and smiling.  She was, perhaps, a little pale, but that the Mary of
to-day was different from the Mary if yesterday was not visible from
outward signs.

"I am going first to the dressmaker, to see about having that lovely
frock you bought me fitted for Delilah's tea dance; then I'll meet you
at Mrs. Carey's luncheon.  And after that will be our drive with
Porter, and the private view at the Corcoran, then two teas, and later
the dinner at Mrs. Bigelow's.  I'm afraid it will be pretty strenuous
for you, Constance."

"I sha'n't try to take in the teas.  I'll come home and lie down before
I have to dress for dinner."

As she followed out her programme for the day, Mary was conscious that
she was doing it well.  She made conscientious plans with her
dressmaker, she gave herself gayly to the light chatter of the
luncheon; during the drive she matched Porter's exuberant mood with her
own, she viewed the pictures and made intelligent comments.

After the view, Constance went home in Porter's car, and Mary was left
at a house on Dupont Circle.  Porter's eyes had begged that she would
let him come with her, but she had refused to meet his eyes, and had
sent him off.

As she passed through the glimmer of the golden rooms, she bowed and
smiled to the people that she knew, she joked with Jerry Tuckerman, who
insisted on looking after her and getting her an ice.  And then, as
soon as she decently could, she got away, and came out into the open
air, drawing a long breath, as one who has been caged and who makes a
break for freedom.

She did not go to the other tea.  All day she had lived in a dream,
doing that which was required of her and doing it well.  But from now
until the time that she must go home and dress for dinner, she would
give herself up to thoughts of Roger Poole.

She turned down Connecticut Avenue, and walking lightly and quickly
came at last to the old church, where all her life she had worshiped.
At this hour there was no service, and she knelt for a moment, then sat
back in her pew, glad of the sense of absolute immunity from
interruption.

And as she sat there in the stillness, one sentence from his letter
stood out.

"And now what meaning for me had the candles on the altar, what meaning
the voices in the choir?  I had sung, too, in the light of the candles,
but it was ordained that my voice must be forever still."

This to Mary was the great tragedy--his loss of courage, his loss of
faith--his acceptance of a passive future.  Resolutely she had
conquered all the shivering agony which had swept over her as she had
read of that sordid marriage and its sequence.  Resolutely she had
risen above the faintness which threatened to submerge her as the whole
of that unexpected history was presented to her; resolutely she had
fought against a pity which threatened to overwhelm her.

Resolutely she had made herself face with clear eyes the conclusion;
life had been too much for him and he had surrendered to fate.

To say that his letter in its personal relation to herself had not
thrilled her would be to underestimate the warmth of her friendship for
him; if there was more than friendship, she would not admit it.  There
had been a moment when, shaken and stirred by his throbbing words, she
had laid down his letter and had asked herself, palpitating, "has love
come to me--at last?"  But she had not answered it.  She knew that she
would never answer it until Roger Poole found a meaning in life which
was, as yet, hidden from him.

But how could she best help him to find that meaning?  Dimly she felt
that it was to be through her that he would find it.  And he was going
away.  And before he went, she must light for him some little beacon of
hope.

It was dark in the church now except for the candle on the altar.

She knelt once more and hid her face in her hands.  She had the simple
faith of a child, and as a child she had knelt in this same pew and had
asked confidently for the things she desired, and she had believed that
her prayers would be answered.

It was late when she left the church.  And she was late in getting
home.  All the lower part of the house was lighted, but there was no
light in the Tower Rooms.  Roger, who dined down-town, would not come
until they were on their way to Mrs. Bigelow's.

As she passed through the garden, she saw that on a bush near the
fountain bloomed a late rose.  She stooped and picked it, and flitting
in the dusk down the path, she entered the door which led to the Tower
stairway.

And when, an hour later, Roger Poole came into the quiet house, weary
and worn from the strain of a day in which he had tried to read his
letter with Mary's eyes, he found his room dark, except for the flicker
of the fire.

Feeling his way through the dimness, he pulled at last the little chain
of the electric lamp on his table.  The light at once drew a circle of
gold on the dark dull oak.  And within that circle he saw the answer to
his letter.

Wide open and illumined, lay John Ballard's old Bible.  And across the
pages, fresh and fragrant as the friendship which she had given him,
was the late rose which Mary had picked in the garden.



CHAPTER XII

_In Which Mary and Roger Have Their Hour; and in Which a Tea-Drinking
Ends in What Might Have Been a Tragedy._


To Mary, possessed and swayed by the letter which she had received from
Roger, it seemed a strange thing that the rest of the world moved
calmly and unconsciously forward.

The letter had come to her on Saturday.  On Sunday morning everybody
went to church.  Everybody dined afterward, unfashionably, at two
o'clock, and later everybody motored out to the Park.

That is, everybody but Mary!

She declined on the ground of other things to do.

"There'll be five of you anyhow with Aunt Frances and Grace," she said,
"and I'll have tea for you when you come back."

So Constance and Gordon and Aunt Isabelle had gone off, and with Barry
at Leila's, Mary was at last alone.

Alone in the house with Roger Poole!

Her little plans were all made, and she went to work at once to execute
them.

It was a dull afternoon, and the old-fashioned drawing-room, with its
dying fire, and pale carpet, its worn stuffed furniture and pallid
mirrors looked dreary.

Mary had Susan Jenks replenish the fire.  Then she drew up to it one of
the deep stuffed chairs and a lighter one of mahogany, which matched
the low tea-table which was at the left of the fireplace.  She set a
tapestry screen so that it cut off this corner from the rest of the
room and from the door.

Gordon had brought, the night before, a great box of flowers, and there
were valley lilies among them.  Mary put the lilies on the table in a
jar of gray-green pottery.  Then she went up-stairs and changed the
street costume which she had worn to church for her old green velvet
gown.  When she came down, the fire was snapping, and the fragrance of
the lilies made sweet the screened space--Susan had placed on the
little table a red lacquered tray, and an old silver kettle.

Susan had also delivered the note which Mary had given her to the Tower
Rooms.

Until Roger came down Mary readjusted and rearranged everything.  She
felt like a little girl who plays at keeping house.  Some new sense
seemed waked within her, a sense which made her alive to the coziness
and comfort and seclusion of this cut-off corner.  She found herself
trying to see it all through Roger Poole's eyes.

When he came at last around the corner of the screen, she smiled and
gave him her hand.

"This is to be our hour together.  I had to plan for it.  Did you ever
feel that the world was so full of people that there was no corner in
which to be--alone?"

As he sat down in the big chair, and the light shone on his face, she
saw how tired he looked, as if the days and the nights since she had
seen him, had been days and nights of vigil.

She felt a surging sense of sympathy, which set her trembling as she
had trembled when she had touched his letter as it had laid on her
desk, but when she spoke her voice was steady.

"I am going to make you a cup of tea--then we can talk."

He watched her as she made it, her deft hands unadorned, except by the
one quaint ring, the whiteness of her skin set on by her green gown,
the whiteness of her soul symbolized by the lilies.

He leaned forward and spoke suddenly.  "Mary Ballard," he said, "if I
ever reach paradise, I shall pray that it may be like this, with the
golden light and the fragrance, and you in the midst of it."

Earnestly over the lilies, she looked at him.  "Then you believe in
Paradise?"

"I should like to think that in some blessed future state I should come
upon you in a garden of lilies."

"Perhaps you will."  She was smiling, but her hand shook.

She felt shy, almost tongue-tied.  She made him his tea, and gave him a
cup; then she spoke of commonplaces, and the little kettle boiled and
bubbled and sang as if there were no sorrow or sadness in the whole
wide world.

She came at last timidly to the thing she had to say.

"I don't quite know how to begin about your letter.  You see when I
read it, it wasn't easy for me at first to think straight.  I hadn't
thought of you as having any such background to your life.  Somehow the
outlines I had filled in were--different.  I am not quite sure what I
had thought--only it had been nothing like--this."

"I know.  You could not have been expected to imagine such a past."

"Oh, it is not your past which weighs so heavily--on my heart; it is
your future."

Her eyes were full of tears.  She had not meant to say it just that
way.  But it had come--her voice breaking on the last words.

He did not speak at once, and then he said: "I have no right to trouble
you with my future."

"But I want to be troubled."

"I shall not let you.  I shall not ask that of your friendship.  Last
night when I came back to my rooms I found a rose blooming upon the
pages of a book.  It seemed to tell me that I had not lost your
friendship; and you have given me this hour.  This is all I have a
right to ask of your generosity."

She moved the jar of lilies aside, so that there might be nothing
between them.  "If I am your friend, I must help you," she said, "or
what would my friendship be worth?"

"There is no help," he said, hurriedly, "not in the sense that I think
you mean it.  My past has made my future.  I cannot throw myself into
the fight again.  I know that I have been called all sorts of a coward
for not facing life.  But I could face armies, if it were anything
tangible.  I could do battle with a sword or a gun or my fists, if
there were a visible adversary.  But whispers--you can't kill them; and
at last they--kill you."

"I don't want you to fight," she said, and now behind the whiteness of
her skin there was a radiance.  "I don't want you to fight.  I want you
to deliver your message."

"What message?"

"The message that every man who stands in the pulpit must have for the
world, else he has no right to stand there."

"You think then that I had no message?"

"I think," and now her hand went out to him across the table, as if she
would soften the words, "I think that if you had felt yourself called
to do that one thing, that nothing would have swayed you from it--there
are people not in the churches, who never go to church, who want what
you have to give--there are the highways and hedges.  Oh, surely, not
all of the people worth preaching to are the ones in the pews."

She flung the challenge at him directly.

And he flung it back to her, "If I had had such a woman as you in my
life----"

"Oh, don't, _don't_."  The radiance died.  "What has any woman to do
with it?  It is you--yourself, who must stand the test."

After the ringing words there was dead silence.  Roger sat leaning
forward, his eyes not upon her, but upon the fire.  In his white face
there was no hint of weakness; there was, rather, pride, obstinacy, the
ruggedness of inflexible purpose.

"I am afraid," he said at last, "that I have not stood the test."

Her clear eyes met his squarely.  "Then meet it now."

For a moment he blazed.  "I know now what you think of me, that I am a
man who has shirked."

"You know I do not think that."

He surrendered.  "I do know it.  And I need your help."

Shaken by their emotion, they became conscious that this was indeed
their hour.  She told him all that she had dreamed he might do.  Her
color came and went as she drew the picture of his future.  Some of the
advice she gave was girlish, impracticable, but through it all ran the
thread of her faith to him.  She felt that she had the solution.  That
through service he was to find--God.

It was a wonderful hour for Roger Poole.  An hour which was to shine
like a star in his memory.  Mary's mind had a largeness of vision, the
ability to rise above the lesser things in order to reach the greater,
which seemed super-feminine.  It was not until afterward when he
reviewed what they had said, that he was conscious that she had placed
the emphasis on what he was to do.  Not once had she spoken of what had
been done--not once had she spoken of his wife.

"You mustn't bury yourself.  You must find a way to reach first one
group and then another.  And after a time you'll begin to feel that you
can face the world."

He winced.  As she put it into words, he began to see himself as others
must have seen him.  And the review was not a pleasant one.

In a sense that hour with Mary Ballard in the screened space by the
fire was the hour of Roger Poole's spiritual awakening.  He realized
for the first time that he had missed the meaning of the candles on the
altar, the voices in the choir; he had missed the knowledge that one
must spend and be spent in the service of humanity.

"I must think it over," he said.  "You mustn't expect too much of me
all at once."

"I shall expect--everything."

As she spoke and smiled, and it seemed to him that his old garment of
fear slipped from him--as if he were clothed in the shining armor of
her confidence in him.

They had little time to talk after that, for it was not long before
they heard without the bray of a motor horn.

Roger rose at once.

"I must go before they come," he said.

But she laid her hand upon his arm.  "No," she said, "you are not to
go.  You are never going to run away from the world again.  Set aside
the screen, please--and stay."

Porter, picked up on the way, came in with the others, to behold that
glowing corner, and those two together.

With his red crest flaming, he advanced upon them.

"Somebody said 'tea.'  May I have some, Mary?"

"When the kettle boils."  She had risen, and was holding out her hand
to him.

As the two men shook hands, Porter was conscious of some subtle change
in Roger.  What had come over the man--had he dared to make love to
Mary?

And Mary?  He looked at her.

She was serenely filling her tea ball.  She had lighted the lamp
beneath her kettle, and the blue flame seemed to cast her still further
back among the shadows of her corner.

Grace Clendenning and Aunt Frances had come back with the rest for tea.
Grace's head, with Porter's, gave the high lights of the scene.  Barry
had nicknamed them the "red-headed woodpeckers," and the name seemed
justified.

While Porter devoted himself to Grace, however, he was acutely
conscious of every movement of Mary's.  Why had she given up her
afternoon to Roger Poole?  He had asked if he might come, and she had
said, "after four," and now it was after four, and the hour which she
would not give him had been granted to this lodger in the Tower Rooms.

It has been said before that Porter was not a snob, but to him Mary's
attitude of friendliness toward this man, who was not one of them, was
a matter of increasing irritation.  What was there about this tall thin
chap with the tired eyes to attract a woman?  Porter was not conceited,
but he knew that he possessed a certain value.  Of what value in the
eyes of the world was Roger Poole--a government clerk, without
ambition, handsome in his dark way, but pale and surrounded by an air
of gloom?

But to-night it was as if the gloom had lifted.  To-night Roger shone
as he had shone on the night of the Thanksgiving party--he seemed
suddenly young and splendid--the peer of them all.

It came about naturally that, as they drank their tea, some one asked
him to recite.

"Please "--it was Mary who begged.

Porter jealously intercepted the look which flashed between them, but
could make nothing of it.

"The Whittington one is too long," Roger stated, "and I haven't
Pittiwitz for inspiration--but here's another."

Leaning forward with his eyes on the fire, he gave it.

It was a man's poem.  It was in the English of the hearty times of Ben
Jonson and of Kit Marlowe--and every swinging line rang true.

  "What will you say when the world is dying?
  What when the last wild midnight falls,
  Dark, too dark for the bat to be flying
  Round the ruins of old St. Paul's?
  What will be last of the lights to perish?
  What but the little red ring we knew,
  Lighting the hands and the hearts that cherish
  A fire, a fire, and a friend or two!"

  CHORUS:
  "Up now, answer me, tell me true.
  What will be last of the stars to perish?
  --The fire that lighteth a friend or two."


As the last brave verse was ended, Gordon Richardson said, "By Jove,
how it comes back to me--you used to recite Poe's 'Bells' at school."

Roger laughed.  "Yes.  I fancy I made them boom toward the end."

"You used to make me shiver and shake in my shoes."

Aunt Frances' voice broke in crisply, "What do you mean, Gordon; were
you at school with Mr. Poole?"

"Yes.  St. Martin's, Aunt Frances."

The name had a magic effect upon Mrs. Clendenning; the boys of St.
Martin's were of the elect.

"Poole?" she said.  "Are you one of the New York Pooles?"

Roger nodded.  "Yes.  With a Southern grafting--my mother was a Carew."

He was glad now to tell it.  Let them follow what clues they would.  He
was ready for them.  Henceforth nothing was to be hidden.

"I am going down next week," he continued, "to stay for a time with a
cousin of my mother's--Miss Patty Carew.  She lives still in the old
manor house which was my grandfather's--she hadn't much but poverty and
the old house for an inheritance, but it is still a charming place."

Aunt Frances was intent, however, on the New York branch of his family
tree.

"Was your grandfather Angus Poole?"

"Yes."

Grace was wickedly conscious of her mother's state of mind.  No one
could afford to ignore any descendant of Angus Poole.  To be sure, a
second generation had squandered the fortune he had left, but his name
was still one to conjure with.

"I never dreamed----" said Aunt Frances.

"Naturally," said Roger, and there was a twinkle in his eyes.  "I am
afraid I'm not a credit to my hard-headed financier of a grandfather."

It seemed to Mary that for the first time she was seeing him as he
might have been before his trouble came upon him.  And she was swept
forward to the thought of what he might yet be.  She grew warm and rosy
in her delight that he should thus show himself to her people.  She
looked up to find Porter's accusing eyes fixed on her; and in the grip
of a sudden shyness, she gave herself again to her tea-making.

"Surely some of you will have another cup?"

It developed that Aunt Frances would, and that the water was cold, and
that the little lamp was empty of alcohol.

Mary filled it, and, her hand shaking from her inward excitement, let
the alcohol overflow on the tray and on the kettle frame.  She asked
for a match and Gordon gave her one.

Then, nobody knew how it happened!  The flames seemed to sweep up in a
blue sheet toward the lace frills in the front of Mary's gown.  It
leaped toward her face.  Constance screamed.  Then Roger reached her,
and she was in his arms, her face crushed against the thickness of his
coat, his hands snatching at her frills.

It was over in a moment.  The flames were out.  Very gently, he loosed
his arms.  She lay against his shoulder white and still.  Her face was
untouched, but across her throat, which the low collar had left
exposed, was a hot red mark.  And a little lock of hair was singed at
one side, her frills were in ruins.

He put her into a chair, and they gathered around her--a solicitous
group.  Porter knelt beside her.  "Mary, Mary," he kept saying, and she
smiled weakly, as his voice broke on "Contrary Mary."

Gordon had saved the table from destruction.  But the flame had caught
the lilies, crisping them, and leaving them black.  Constance was
shaken by the shock, and Aunt Frances kept asking wildly, "How did it
happen?"

"I spilled the alcohol when I filled it," Mary said.  "It was a silly
thing to do--if I had had on one of my thinner gowns----"  She
shuddered and stopped.

"I shall send you an electric outfit to-morrow," Porter announced.
"Don't fool with that thing again, Mary."

Roger stood behind her chair, with his arms folded on the top and said
nothing.  There was really nothing for him to say, but there were many
things to think.  He had saved that dear face from flame or flaw, the
dear eyes had been hidden against his shoulder--his fingers smarted
where he had clutched at her burning frills.

Porter Bigelow might take possession of her now, he might give her
electric outfits, he might call her by her first name, but it had not
been Porter who had saved her from the flames; it had not been Porter
who had held her in his arms.



CHAPTER XIII

_In Which the Whole World is at Sixes and Sevens, and in Which Life is
Looked Upon as a Great Adventure._


It had been decided that, for a time at least, Gordon and Constance
should stay with Mary.  In the spring they would again go back to
London.  Grace Clendenning and Aunt Frances were already installed for
the winter at their hotel.

The young couple would occupy the Sanctum and the adjoining room, and
Mary was to take on an extra maid to help Susan Jenks.

In all her planning, Mary had a sense of the pervasiveness of Gordon
Richardson.  With masculine confidence in his ability, he took upon
himself not only his wife's problems, but Mary's.  Mary was forced to
admit, even while she rebelled, that his judgments were usually wise.
Yet, she asked herself, what right had an outsider to dictate in
matters which pertained to herself and Barry?  And what right had he to
offer her board for Constance?  Constance, who was her very own?

But when she had indignantly voiced her objection to Gordon, he had
laughed.  "You are like all women, Mary," he had said, "and of course I
appreciate your point of view and your hospitality.  But if you think
that I am going to let my wife stay here and add to your troubles and
expense without giving adequate compensation, you are vastly mistaken.
If you won't let us pay, we won't stay, and that's all there is to it."

Here was masculine firmness against which Mary might rage impotently.
After all, Constance was Gordon's wife, and he could carry her off.

"Of course," she said, yielding stiffly, "you must do as you think
best."

"I shall," he said, easily, "and I will write you a check now, and you
can have it to settle any immediate demands upon your exchequer.  I
shall be away a good deal, and I want Constance to be with you and Aunt
Isabelle.  It is a favor to me, Mary, to have her here.  You mustn't
add to my obligations by making me feel too heavily in your debt."

He smiled as he said it, and Gordon had a nice smile.  And presently
Mary found herself smiling back.

"Gordon," she said, in a half apology, "Porter calls me Contrary Mary.
Maybe I am--but you see, Constance was my sister before she was your
wife."

He leaned back in his chair and looked at her.  "And you've had twenty
years more of her than I--but please God, Mary, I am going to have
twenty beautiful years ahead of me to share with her--I hope it may be
three times twenty."

His voice shook, and in that moment Mary felt nearer to him than ever
before.

"Oh, Gordon," she said, "I'm a horrid little thing.  I've been jealous
because you took Constance away from me.  But now I'm glad you--took
her, and I hope I'll live to dance at your--golden wedding."  And then,
most unexpectedly, she found herself sobbing, and Gordon was patting
her on the back in a big-brotherly way, and saying that he didn't blame
her a bit, and that if anybody wanted to take Constance away from him,
they'd have to do it over his dead body.

Then he wrote the check, and Mary took it, and in the knowledge of his
munificence, felt the relief from certain financial burdens.

Before he left her, Gordon, hesitating, referred gravely to another
subject.

"And it will be better for you to have Constance here if Barry goes
away."

"Barry?" breathlessly.

"Yes.  Don't you think he ought to go, Mary?"

"No," she said, stubbornly; "where could he go?"

"Anywhere away from Leila.  He mustn't marry that child.  Not yet--not
until he has proved himself a man."

The blow hit her heavily.  Yet her sense of justice told her that he
was right.

"I can't talk about it," she said, unsteadily; "Barry is all I have
left."

He rose.  "Poor little girl.  We must see how we can work it out.  But
we've got to work it out.  It mustn't drift."

Left alone, Mary sat down at her desk and faced the future.  With Roger
gone, and Barry going----

And the Tower Rooms empty!

She shivered.  Before her stretched the darkness and storms of a long
winter.  Even Constance's coming would not make up for it.  And yet a
year ago Constance had seemed everything.

She crossed the hall to the dining-room and looked out of the window.
The garden was dead.  The fountain had ceased to play.  But the little
bronze boy still flung his gay defiance to wind and weather.

Pittiwitz, following her, murmured a mewing complaint.  Mary picked her
up; since Roger's going the gray cat had kept away from the emptiness
of the upper rooms.

With the little purring creature hugged close, Mary reviewed her
worries--the world was at sixes and sevens.  Even Porter was proving
difficult.  Since the Sunday when Roger had saved her from the fire,
Porter had adopted an air of possession.  He claimed her at all times
and seasons; she had a sense of being caught in a web woven of kindness
and thoughtfulness and tender care, but none the less a web which held
her fast and against her will.

Whimsically it came to her that the four men in her life were opposed
in groups of two: Gordon and Porter stood arrayed on the side of
logical preferences; Barry and Roger on the side of illogical
sympathies.

Gordon had conveyed to her, in rather subtle fashion, his disapproval
of Roger.  It was only in an occasional phrase, such as "Poor Poole,"
or "if all of his story were known."  But Mary had grasped that, from
the standpoint of her brother-in-law, a man who had failed to fulfil
the promise of his youth might be dismissed as a social derelict.

As for Barry--the situation with regard to him had become acute.  His
first disappearance after the coming of Constance had resulted in
Gordon's assuming the responsibility of the search for him.  He had
found Barry in a little town on the upper Potomac, ostensibly on a
fishing trip, and again there was a need for fighting dragons.

But Gordon did not fight with the same weapons as Roger Poole.  His
arguments had been shrewd, keen, but unsympathetic.  And the result had
been a strained relation between him and Barry.  The boy had felt
himself misunderstood.  Gordon had sat in judgment.  Constance had
tearfully agreed with Gordon, and Mary, torn between her sense of
Gordon's rightness, and her own championship of Barry, had been strung
to the point of breaking.

She turned from the window, and went up-stairs slowly.  In the Sanctum,
Constance and Aunt Isabelle were sewing.  At last Aunt Isabelle had
come into her own.  She spent her days in putting fine stitches into
infinitesimal garments.  There was about her constantly the perfume of
the sachet powder with which she was scenting the fine lawn and lace
which glorified certain baskets and bassinets.  When she was not sewing
she was knitting--little silken socks for a Cupid's foot, little warm
caps, doll's size; puffy wool blankets on big wooden needles.

The Sanctum had taken on the aspect of a bower.  Here Constance sat
enthroned--and in her gentleness reminded Mary more and more of her
mother.  Here was always the sweetness of the flowers with which Gordon
kept his wife supplied; here, too, was an atmosphere of serene waiting
for a supreme event.

Mary, entering with Pittiwitz in her arms, tried to cast away her
worries on the threshold.  She must not be out of tune with this
symphony.  She smiled and sat down beside Constance.  "Such lovely
little things," she said; "what can I do?"

It seemed that there was a debate on, relative to the suitability of
embroidery as against fine tucks.

Mary settled it.  "Let me have it," she said; "I'll put in a few tucks
and a little embroidery--I shall be glad to have my fingers busy."

"You're always so occupied with other things," Constance complained,
gently.  "I don't see half enough of you."

"You have Gordon," Mary remarked.

"You say that as if it really made a difference."

"It does," Mary murmured.  Then, lest she trouble Constance's gentle
soul, she added bravely, "But Gordon's a dear.  And you're a lucky
girl."

"I know I am."  Constance was complacent.  "And I knew you'd recognize
it, when you'd seen more of Gordon."

Mary felt a rising sense of rebellion.  She was not in a mood to hear a
catalogue of Gordon's virtues.  But she smiled, bravely.  "I'll admit
that he is perfect," she said; "we won't quarrel over it, Con, dear."

But to herself she was saying, "Oh, I should hate to marry a perfect
man."

All the morning she sat there, her needle busy, and gradually she was
soothed by the peace of the pleasant room.  The world seemed brighter,
her problems receded.

Just before luncheon was announced came Aunt Frances and Grace.

They brought gifts, wonderful little things, made by the nuns of
France--sheer, exquisite, tied with pale ribbons.

"We are going from here to Leila's," Aunt Frances informed them; "we
ordered some lovely trousseau clothes and they came with these."

Trousseau clothes?  Leila's?  Mary's needle pricked the air for a
moment.

"They haven't set the day, you know, Aunt Frances; it will be a long
engagement."

"I don't believe in long engagements," Aunt Frances' tone was final;
"they are not wise.  Barry ought to settle down."

Nobody answered.  There was nothing to say, but Mary was oppressed by
the grim humor of it all.  Here was Aunt Frances bearing garments for
the bride, while Gordon was planning to steal the bridegroom.

She stood up.  "You better stay to lunch," she said; "it is Susan
Jenks' hot roll day, and you know her rolls."

Aunt Frances peeled off her long gloves.  "I hoped you'd ask us, we are
so tired of hotel fare."

Grace laughed.  "Mother is of old New York," she said, "and better for
her are hot rolls and chops from her own kitchen range, than caviar and
truffles from the hands of a hotel chef--in spite of all of our globe
trotting, she hasn't caught the habit of meals with the mob."

Grace went down with Mary, and the two girls found Susan Jenks with the
rolls all puffy and perfect in their pans.

"There's plenty of them," she said to Mary, "an' if the croquettes give
out, you can fill up on rolls."

"Susan," Grace said, "when Mary gets married will you come and keep
house for me?"

Susan smiled.  "Miss Mary ain't goin' to git married."

"Why not?"

"She ain't that kind.  She's the kind that looks at a man and studies
about him, and then she waves him away and holds up her head, and says,
'I'm sorry, but you won't do.'"

The two girls laughed.  "How did you get that idea of me, Susan?" Mary
asked.

"By studyin' you," said Susan.  "I ain't known you all your life for
nothin'.

"Now Miss Constance," she went on, as she opened the oven and peeped
in, "Miss Constance is just the other way.  'Most any nice man was
bound to git her.  An' it was lucky that Mr. Gordon was the first."

"And what about me?" was Grace's demand.

"Go 'way," said Susan, "you knows yo'se'f, Miss Grace.  You bats your
eyes at everybody, and gives your heart to nobody."

"And so Mary and I are to be old maids--oh, Susan."

"They don't call them old maids any more," Susan said, "and they ain't
old maids, not in the way they once was.  An old maid is a woman who
ain't got any intrus' in life but the man she can't have, and you all
is the kin' that ain't got no intrus' in the men that want you."

They left her, laughing, and when they reached the dining-room they sat
down on the window-seat; where Mary had gazed out upon the dead garden
and the bronze boy.

"And now," said Grace, "tell me about Roger Poole."

"There isn't much to tell.  He's given up his position in the Treasury,
and he's gone down to his cousin's home for a while.  He's going to try
to write for the magazines; he thinks that stories of that section will
take."

"He's in love with you, Mary.  But you're not in love with him--and you
mustn't be."

"Of course not.  I'm not going to marry, Grace."

Grace gave her a little squeeze.  "You don't know what you are going to
do, darling; no woman does.  But I don't want you to fall in love with
anybody yet.  Flit through life with me for a time.  I'll take you to
Paris next summer, and show you my world."

"I couldn't, unless I could pay my own way."

"Oh, Mary, what makes you fight against anybody doing anything for you?"

"Porter says it is my contrariness---but I just can't hold out my hands
and let things drop into them."

"I know--and that's why you won't marry Porter Bigelow."

Mary flashed at her a surprised and grateful glance.  "Grace," she
said, solemnly, "you're the first person who has seemed to understand."

"And I understand," said Grace, "because to me life is a Great
Adventure.  Everything that happens is a hazard on the highway--as yet
I haven't found a man who will travel the road with me; they all want
to open a gate and shut me in and say, 'Stay here.'"

Mary's eyes were shining.  "I feel that, too."

Grace kissed her.  "You'd laugh, Mary, if I told the dream which is at
the end of my journey."

"I sha'n't laugh--tell me."

There was a rich color in Grace's cheeks.  In her modish frock of the
black which she affected, and which was this morning of fine serge set
on by a line of fur at hem and wrist, and topped by a little hat of
black velvet which framed the vividness of her glorious hair, she
looked the woman of the world, so that her words gained strength by
force of contrast.

"Nobody would believe it," she prefaced, "but, Mary Ballard, some day
when I'm tired of dancing through life, when I am weary of the
adventures on the road, I'm going to build a home for little children,
and spend my days with them."

So the two girls dreamed dreams and saw visions of the future.  They
sang and soared, they kissed and confided.

"Whatever comes, life shall never be commonplace," Mary declared, and
as the bell rang and she went to the table, she felt that now nothing
could daunt her--the hard things would be merely a part of a glorious
pilgrimage.

Susan's hot rolls were pronounced perfect, and Susan, serenely
conscious of it, banished the second maid to the kitchen and waited on
the table herself.

Here were five women of one clan.  She understood them all, she loved
them all.  She gave even to Aunt Frances her due.  "They all holds
their heads high," she had confided on one occasion to Roger Poole,
"and Miss Frances holds hers so high that she almost bends back, but
she knows how to treat the people who work for her, and she's always
been mighty good to me."

Mary's mood of exaltation lasted long after her guests had departed.
She found herself singing as she climbed the stairs that night to her
room.  And it was with this mood still upon her that she wrote to Roger
Poole.

Her letter, penned on the full tide of her new emotion, was like wine
to his thirsty soul.  It began and ended formally, but every line
throbbed with hope and courage, and responding to the note which she
had struck, he wrote back to her.



CHAPTER XIV

_In Which Mary Writes From the Tower Rooms; and in Which Roger Answers
From Among the Pines._


_The Tower Rooms._

Dear Mr. Poole:

I have taken your rooms for mine, and this is my first evening in them.
Pittiwitz is curled up under the lamp.  She misses you and so do I.
Even now, it seems as if your books ought to be on the table; and that
I ought to be talking to you instead of writing.

I liked your letter.  It seemed to tell me that you were hopeful and at
home.  You must tell me about the house and your Cousin Patty--about
everything in your life--and you must send me your first story.

Here everything is the same.  Constance will be with me until spring,
and we are to have a quiet Thanksgiving and a quiet Christmas with just
the family, and Leila and the General.  Porter Bigelow goes to Palm
Beach to be with his mother.  I don't know why we always count him in
as one of the family except that he never waits for an invitation, and
of course we're glad to have him.  Mother and father used to feel sorry
for him; he was always a sort of "Poor-little-rich-boy" whose money cut
him out from lots of good times that families have who don't live in
such formal fashion as Mr. and Mrs. Bigelow seem to enjoy.

As soon as Constance leaves, I am going to work.  I haven't told any
one, for when I hinted at it, Constance was terribly upset, and asked
me to live with her and Gordon.  Grace wants me to go to Paris with
her; Barry and Leila have stated that I can have a home with them.

But I don't want a home with anybody.  I want to live my own life, as I
have told you.  I want to try my wings.  I don't believe you quite like
the idea of my working.  Nobody does, not even Grace Clendenning,
although Grace seems to understand me better than any one else.

Grace and I have been talking to-day about life as a great adventure.
And it seems to me that we have the right idea.  So many people go
through life as just something to be endured, but I want to make things
happen, or rather, if big things don't happen, I want to see in the
little things something that is interesting.  I don't believe that any
life need be common-place.  It is just the way we look at it.  I'm
copying these words which I read in one of your books; perhaps you've
seen them, but anyhow it will tell you better than I what I mean.

"But life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear
of living.  There are many forms of success, many forms of triumph.
But there is no other success that in any way approaches that which is
open to most of the many men and women who have the right idea.  These
are the men and the women who see that it is the intimate and homely
things that count most.  They are the men and women who have the
courage to strive for the happiness which comes only with labor and
effort and self-sacrifice, and only to those whose joy in life springs
in part from power of work and sense of duty."

Aren't those words like a strong wind blowing from the sea?  I just
love them.  And I know you will.  I am so glad that I can talk to you
of such things.  Everybody has to have a friend who can understand--and
that's the fine thing about our friendship--that we both have things to
overcome, and that our letters can be reports of progress.

Of course the things which I have to overcome are just little fussy
woman things--but they are big to me because I am breaking away from
family traditions.  All the women our household have followed the
straight and narrow path of conventional living.  Even Grace does it,
although she rebels inwardly--but Aunt Frances keeps her to it.  Once
Grace tried to be an artist, and she worked hard in Paris, until Aunt
Frances swooped down and carried her off--Grace still speaks of that
time in Paris as her year out of prison.  You see she worked hard and
met people who worked, too, and it interested her.  She had a studio
apartment, and was properly chaperoned by a little widow who went with
her and shared her rooms.

But Aunt Frances popped in on them suddenly one day and found a
Bohemian party.  There wasn't anything wrong about it, Grace says, but
you know Aunt Frances!  She has never ceased to talk about the frumpy
crowd she met there.  She hated the students in their velvet coats and
the women with their poor queer clothes.  And Grace loved them.  But
she's given up the idea of ever living there again.  She says you can't
do a thing twice and have it the same.  I don't know.  I only know that
Grace may seem frivolous on the outside, but that underneath she is
different.  She has taken up advanced ideas about women, and she says
that I have them naturally, and that she didn't expect such a thing in
Washington where everybody stops to think what somebody else is going
to say.  But I haven't arrived at the point where I am really
interested in Suffrage and things like that.  Grace says that I must
begin to look beyond my own life, and perhaps when I get some of my own
problems settled, I will.  And then I shall be taking up the problems
of the girls in factories and the girls in laundries and the girls in
the big shops, as Grace is.  She says that she may live like a
bond-slave herself, but she'd like to help other women to be free.

And now I must tell you about Delilah Jeliffe.  She had a house-warming
last week.  The old house in Georgetown is a dream.  Delilah hasn't a
superfluous or gorgeous thing in it.  Everything is keyed to the
old-family note.  Some of the things are even shabby.  She has done
away with flamingo colors, and her monkeys with the crystal ball and
the peacock screen.  She has little stools in her drawing-room with
faded covers of canvas work, and she has samplers and cracked
portraits, and the china doesn't all match.  There isn't a sign of "new
richness" in the place.  She keeps colored servants, and doesn't wear
rings, and her gowns are frilly flowing white things which make her
look like one of those demure grandmotherly young persons of the early
sixties.

Her little artist is a charming blond who doesn't come up to her
shoulders, and Delilah hangs on every word he says.  For the moment he
obscures all the other men on her horizon.  He made sketches of the way
every room in her house ought to look.  And what seems to be the result
of years of formal pleasant living really is the result of the months
of hunting and hard work which he and Delilah have put in.  He even
indicates the flowers she shall wear, and those which are to bloom next
summer in her garden.  She affects heliotrope, and on the night of her
house-warming she carried a tight bunch of it with a few pink rosebuds.

Really, in her new rôle Delilah is superb.  And, people are beginning
to notice her and to call on her.  Even in this short time she has been
invited to some very good houses.  She has a new way with her eyes, and
drops her lashes over them, and is very still and lovely.

Do you remember her leopard skins of last year?  Well, now she wears
moleskins--a queer dolman-shaped wrap of them, and a little hat with a
dull blue feather, and she drapes a black lace veil over the hat and
looks like a duchess.

Grace Clendenning says that Delilah and her artist will achieve a
triumph if they keep on.  They aren't trying to storm society, they are
trying to woo it, and out of it the artist gets the patronage of the
people whom he meets through Delilah.  Perhaps it will end by Delilah's
marrying him.  But Grace says not.  She says that Delilah simply
squeezes people dry, like so many oranges, and when she has what she
wants, she throws them aside.

Yet Grace and Delilah get along very well together.  Grace has always
made a study of clothes, because it is the only way in which she can
find an outlet for her artistic tastes.  And she is interested in
Delilah's methods.   She says that they are masterly.

But I am forgetting to tell you what Delilah said of you.  It was on
the night of her house-warming.  She asked about you, and when I said
that you had gone south to get atmosphere for some stories you were
writing, she said:

"Do you know it came to me yesterday, while I was in church, where I
had seen him.  It was the same text, and that was what brought it back.
He was _preaching_, my dear.  I remember that I sat in the front pew
and looked up at him, and thought that I had never heard such a voice;
and now, tell me why he has given it up, and why he is burying himself
in the South?"

At first I didn't know just what to say, and then I thought it best to
tell the truth.  So I looked straight at her, and said: "He made a most
unhappy marriage, and gave up his life-work.  But now his wife is dead,
and some day he may preach again."  Was it wrong for me to say that?  I
do hope you are going to preach; somehow I feel that you will.  And
anyhow while people need never know the details of your story, they
will have to know the outlines.  It seemed to me that the easiest way
was to tell it and have it over.

Of course Gordon has asked some questions, and I have told what I
thought should be told.  I hope that you won't feel that I have been
unwise.  I thought it best to start straight, and then there would be
nothing to hide.

And now may I tell you a little bit about Barry?  They want him to go
away--back to England with Gordon and Constance.  You see Gordon looks
at it without sentiment.  Gordon's sentiment stops at Constance.  He
thinks that Barry should simply give Leila up, go away, and not come
back until he can show a clear record.

Of course I know that Gordon is right.  But I can't bear it--that's why
I haven't been able to face things with quite the courage that I
thought I could.  But since my talk with Grace, I am going to look at
it differently.  I shall try to feel that Barry's going is best, and
that he must ride away gallantly, and come back with trumpets blowing
and flags flying.

And that's the way you must some day come into your own.--I like to
think about it.  I like to think about victory and conquest, instead of
defeat and failure.  Somehow thinking about a thing seems to bring it,
don't you think?

Oh, but this is such a long letter, and it is gossipy, and scrappy.
But that's the way we used to talk, and you seemed to like it.

And now I'll say "Good-night."  Pittiwitz waked up a moment ago, and
walked across this sheet, and the blot is where she stepped on a word.
So that's her message.  But my message is Psalms 27:14.  You can look
it up in father's Bible--I am so glad you took it with you.  But
perhaps you don't have to look up verses; you probably know everything
by heart.  Do you?

Sincerely ever,

MARY BALLARD.


_Among the Pines._

My good little friend:

I am not going to try to tell you what your letter meant to me.  It was
the bluebird's song in the spring, the cool breeze in the desert,
sunlight after storm--it was everything that stands for satisfaction
after a season of discomfort or of discontent.

Yet, except that I miss the Tower Rooms, and miss, too, the great
happiness I found in pursuing our friendship at close range, I should
have no reason here either for discomfort or lack of content--if I feel
the world somewhat barren, it is not because of what I have found, but
because of what I have brought with me.

I like to think of you in the Tower Rooms.  You always belonged there,
and I felt like a usurper when I came and discovered that all of your
rosy belongings had been moved down-stairs and my staid and stiff
things were in their place.  It is queer, isn't it, the difference in
the atmosphere made by a man and by a woman.  A man dares not surround
himself with pale and pretty colors and delicate and dainty things,
lest he be called effeminate--perhaps that's why men take women into
their lives, so that they may have the things which they crave without
having their masculinity questioned.

Yet the atmosphere which seems to fit you best is not merely one of
rosiness and prettiness; it is rather that of sunshine and
out-of-doors.  When you talk or write to me I have the sensation of
being swept on and on by your enthusiasms--I seem to fly on strong
wings--the quotation which you gave is the utterance of some one else,
but you unerringly selected, and passed it on to me, and so in a sense
made it your own.  I am going to copy it and illumine it, and keep it
where I can see it at all times.

I find that I do not travel as fast as you toward my future.  I have
shut myself up for many years.  I have been so sure that all the wine
of life was spilled, that the path ahead of me was dreary, that I
cannot see myself at all with trumpets blowing, with flags flying and
the rest of it.  Perhaps I shall some day--and at least I shall try,
and in the trying there will be something gained.  Some day, perhaps, I
shall reach the upper air where you soar--perhaps I shall "mount as an
eagle."

Your message----!  Dear child--do you know how sweet you are?  I don't
know all the verses--but that one I do know.  Yet I had let myself
forget, and you brought it back to me with all its strong assurance.

Your decision that it was best to tell what there is to tell, to let
nothing be hidden, is one which I should have made long ago.  Only of
late have I realized that concealment brings in its train a thousand
horrors.  One lives in fear, dreading that which must inevitably come.
Yet I do not think I must be blamed too much.  I was beaten and bruised
by the knowledge of my overthrow.  I only wanted to crawl into a hole
and be forgotten.

Even now, I find myself unfolding slowly.  I have lived so long in the
dark, and the light seems to blind my eyes!

It is strange that I should have remembered Delilah Jeliffe, but not
strange that she should have remembered me; for I stood alone in the
pulpit, but she was one of a crowd.  Since your letter, I have been
thinking back, and I can see her as she sat reading in the front pew,
big and rather fine with her black hair and her bold eyes.  I think
that perhaps the thing which made me remember her was the fleeting
thought that her type stood usually for the material in woman, and I
wondered if in her case outward appearances were as deceptive as they
were in my wife--with her saint's eyes, and her distorted moral vision.
Perhaps I was intuitively right, and that beneath Delilah Jeliffe's
exterior there is a certain fineness, and that these funny fads of
dress and decorations are merely in some way her striving toward the
expression of her real self.

What you tell me of your talk with your cousin Grace interests me very
much.  I fancy she is more womanly than she is willing to admit.  Yet
she should marry.  Every woman should marry, except you--who are going
to be my friend!  There peeps out my selfishness--but I shall let it
stand.

No, I don't like the idea that you must work.  I don't want you to try
your wings.  I want you to sit safe in your nest in the top of the
Tower, and write letters to me!

Labor, office drudgery, are things which sap the color from a woman's
cheeks, and strength from her body.  She grows into a machine, and you
are a bird, to fly and light on the nearest branch and sing!

But now you will want to know something of my life, and of the house
and of Cousin Patty.

The house has suffered from the years of poverty since the War.  Yet it
has still about it something of the dignity of an ancient ruin.  It is
a big frame structure with the Colonial pillars which belong to the
period of its building.  Many of the rooms are closed.  My own suite is
on the second floor--Cousin Patty's opposite, and adjoining her rooms
those of an old aunt who is a pensioner.

There is little of the old mahogany which once made the rooms stately,
and little of the old silver to grace the table.  Cousin Patty's
poverty is combined, happily, with common sense.  She has known the
full value of her antiques, and has preferred good food to family
traditions.  Yet there are the old portraits and in her living-room a
few choice pieces.  Here we have an open fire, and here we sit o'
nights.

Cousin Patty is small, rather white and thin, and she is fifty-five.  I
tell you her age, because in a way it explains many things which would
otherwise puzzle you.  She was born just before the war.  She knew
nothing of the luxury of the days of slavery.  She has twisted and
turned and economized all of her life.  She has struggled with all the
problems which beset the South in Reconstruction times, and she has
come out if it all, sweet and shrewd, and with a point of view about
women which astonishes me, and which gives us a chance for many
sprightly arguments.  Her black hair is untouched with gray, she wears
it parted and in a thick knot high on her head.  Her gowns are
invariably of black silk, well cut and well made.  She makes them
herself, and gets her patterns from New York!  Can you see her now?

Our arguments are usually about women, and their position in the world
to-day.  You know I am conservative, clinging much to old ideals, old
fashions, to the beliefs of gentler times--but Cousin Patty in this
backwater of civilization has gone far ahead of me.  She believes that
the hope of the South is in its women.  "They read more than the men,"
she says, "and they have responded more quickly to the new social
ideals."

But of our arguments more in another letter--this will serve, however,
to introduce you to some of the astonishing mental processes of this
little marooned cousin of mine.

For in a sense she is marooned.  Once upon a time when Cotton was king,
and slave labor made all things possible, there was prosperity here,
but now the land is impoverished.  So Cousin Patty does not depend upon
the land.  She read in some of her magazines of a woman who had made a
fortune in wedding cake.  She resolved that what one woman could do
could be done by another.  Hence she makes and sells wedding cake, and
while she has not made a fortune she has made a living.  She began by
asking friends for orders; she now gets orders from near and far.

So all day there is the good smell of baking in the house, and the
sound of the whisking of eggs.  And every day little boxes have to be
filled.  Will you smile when I tell you that I like the filling of the
little boxes?  And that while we talk o' nights, I busy myself with
this task, while Cousin Patty does things with narrow white ribbon and
bits of artificial orange blossoms, so that the packages which go out
may be as beautiful and bride-y as possible.

It is strange, when one thinks of it, that I came to your house on a
wedding night, and here I live in a perpetual atmosphere of wedding
blisses.

In the morning I write.  In the afternoon I do other things.  The
weather is not cold--it is dry and sunshiny--windless.  I take long
walks over the hills and far away.  Some of it is desolate country
where the boxed pines have fallen, or where an area has been burned but
one comes now and then upon groves of shimmering and shining young
trees,--is there any tree as beautiful as a young pine with the
sunshine on it?

It is rare to find a grove of old pines, yet there are one or two
estates where for years no trees have been cut or burned, and beneath
these tall old singing monarchs I sit on the brown needles, and write
and write--to what end I know not.

I have not one finished story to show you, though the beginnings of
many.  The pen is not my medium.  My thoughts seem to dry up when I try
to put them on paper.  It is when I talk that I grow most eloquent.
Oh, little friend, shall I ever make the world listen again?

I am going to tell you presently of those who have listened, down
here--such an audience--and in such an amphitheater!

My walks take me far afield.  The roads are sandy, and I do not always
follow them, preferring, rather, the dunes which remind me so much of
those by the sea.  Once upon a time this ground was the ocean's bed--I
have the feeling always that just beyond the low hills I shall glimpse
the blue.

Now and then I meet some darkey of the old school with his cheery
greeting; now and then on the highroad a schooner wagon sails by.
These wagons give one the queer feeling of being set back to pioneer
days,--do you remember the Pike's Peak picture at the Capitol with all
the eager faces turned toward the setting sun?

Now and then I run across a hunting party from one of the big hotels
which are getting to be plentiful in this healthy region, but these
people with their sporting clothes and their sophistication always seem
out of place among the pines.

And now, since you have written to me of life as a journey on the
highroad, I will tell you of my first adventure.

There's a schooner-man who comes from the sandhills on his way to the
nearest resort with his chickens and eggs.  It is a three days'
journey, and he camps out at night, sleeping in his wagon, building his
fire in the open.

One day he passed me as I sat tired by the wayside, and offered to give
me a lift toward home.  I accepted, and rode beside him.  And thus
began an acquaintance which interests me, and evidently pleases him.

He is tall and loosely put together, this knight of the Sandy Road, but
with the ease of manner which seems to belong to his kind.  There's
good blood in these sand-hill people, and it shows in a lack of
self-consciousness which makes one feel that they would meet a prince
or an emperor without embarrassment.  Yet there's nothing of
forwardness, nothing of impertinence.  It is a drawing-room manner,
preserved in spite of generations of illiteracy and degeneration.

He is not an unpicturesque object.  Given a plumed hat, a doublet and
hose, and he would look the part, and his manner would fit in with it.
Given good English, his voice would never betray him for what he is.
For another thing that these people have preserved is a softness of
voice and an inflection which is Elizabethan rather than twentieth
century American.

Having grown to know him fairly well, I fished for an invitation to
visit his home.  I wanted to see where this gentlemanly backwoodsman
spent the days which were not lived on the road.

I carried a rug with me, and slept for the first night under the open
sky.  Have you ever seen a southern sky when it was studded with stars?
If not, there's something yet before you.  There's no whiteness or
coldness about these stars, they are pure gold, and warm with light.

My schooner-man slept in his wagon, covered with an old quilt.  His
mules were picketed close by, the dog curled himself beside his master,
each getting warmth from the other.

We cooked supper and breakfast over the coals--chickens broiled for our
evening meal, ham and eggs for the morning.  We gave the dog the bones
and the crusts.  I took bread with me, for Cousin Patty warned me that
I must not depend upon my squire for food.  Cooking among these people
is a lost art.  Cousin Patty believes that the regeneration of the poor
whites of the South will be accomplished through the women.  "When they
learn to cook," she says, "the men won't need whiskey.  When the
whiskey goes, they'll respect the law."

A mile before we reached the end of our journey, we were met by the
children of my schooner-squire.  Five of them--two boys, two girls, and
a baby in the arms of the oldest girl.  They all had the gentle quiet
and ease of the father--but they were unkempt little creatures,
uncombed, unwashed, in sad-colored clothes.  That's the difference
between the negro and the white man of this region.  The negro is
cheerful, debonair, he sings, he dances, and he wears all the colors of
the rainbow.  An old black woman who carries home my wash wore the
other day a purple petticoat with a scarlet skirt looped above it, an
old green sweater, and, tied over her head, a pink wool shawl.  Against
the neutral background of sandy hill she was a delight to the eye.  The
whites on the other hand seem like little animals, who have taken on
the color of the landscape that they may be hidden.

But to go back to my sad children.  It seemed to me that in them I was
seeing the South with new eyes, perhaps because I have been away just
long enough to get the proper perspective.  And my life has been, you
see, lived in the Southern cities, where one touches rarely the
primitive.

The older boys are, perhaps, ten and twelve, blue-eyed and tow-headed.
I saw few signs of affection or intelligence.  They did not kiss their
father when he came, except the small girl, who ran to him and was
hugged; the others seemed to practice a sort of incipient stoicism, as
if they were too old, too settled, for demonstration.

The mother, as we entered, was like her children.  None of them has the
initiative or the energy of the man.  They are subdued by the
changeless conditions of their environment; his one adventure of the
week keeps him alert and alive.

It is a desolate country, charred pines sticking up straight from white
sand.  It might be made beautiful if for every tree that they tapped
for turpentine they would plant a new one.

But they don't know enough to make things beautiful.  The Moses of this
community will be some man who shall find new methods of farming, new
crops for this soil, who will show the people how to live.

And now I come to a strange fairy-tale sort of experience--an
experience with the children who have lived always among these charred
pines.

All that evening as I talked, their eyes were upon me, like the eyes of
little wild creatures of the wood--a blank gaze which seemed to
question.  The next day when I walked, they went with me, and for some
distance I carried the baby, to rest the arms of the big girl, who is
always burdened.

It was in the afternoon that we drifted to a little grove of young
pines, the one bit of pure green against the white and gray and black
of that landscape.  The sky was of sapphire, with a buzzard or two
blotted against the blue.

Here with a circle of the trees surrounding us, the children sat down
with me.  They were not a talkative group, and I was overcome by a
sense of the impossibility of meeting them on any common ground of
conversation.  But they seemed to expect something--they were like a
flock of little hungry birds waiting to be fed--and what do you think I
gave them?  Guess.  But I know you have it wrong.

I recited "Flos Mercatorum," my Whittington poem!

It was done on an impulse, to find if there was anything in them which
would respond to such rhyme and rapture of words.

I gave it in my best manner, standing in the center of the circle.  I
did not expect applause.  But I got more than applause.  I am not going
to try to describe the look that came into the eyes of the oldest
boy--the nearest that I can come to it is to say that it was the look
of a child waked from a deep sleep, and gazing wide-eyed upon a new
world.

He came straight toward me.  "Where--did you--git--them words?" he
asked in a breathless sort of way.

"A man wrote them--a man named Noyes."

"Are they true?"

"Yes."

"Say them again."

It was not a request.  It was a command.  And I did say them, and saw a
soul's awakening.

Oh, there are people who won't believe that it can be done like
that--in a moment.  But that boy was ready.  He had dreamed and until
now no one had ever put the dreams into words for him.  He cannot read,
has probably never heard a fairy tale--the lore of this region is
gruesome and ghostly, rather than lovely and poetic.

Perhaps, 'way back, five, six generations, some ancestor of this lad
may have drifted into London town, perhaps the bells sang to him, and
subconsciously this sand-hill child was illumined by that inherited
memory.  Somewhere in the back of his mind bells have been chiming, and
he has not known enough to call them bells.  However that may be, my
verses revealed to him a new heaven and a new earth.

Without knowing anything, he is ready for everything.  Perhaps there
are others like him.  Cousin Patty says there are girls.  She insists
that the girls need cook-books, not poetry, but I am not sure.

I shall go again to the pines, and teach that boy first by telling him
things, then I shall take books.  I haven't been as interested in
anything for years as I am in that boy.

So, will you think of me as seeing, faintly, the Vision?  Your eyes are
clearer than mine.  You can see farther; and what you see, will you
tell me?

And now about Barry.  I know how hard it is to have him leave you, and
that under all your talk of trumpets blowing and flags flying, there's
the ache and the heart-break.  I cannot see why such things should come
to you.  The rest of us probably deserve what we get.  But you--I
should like to think of you always as in a garden--you have the power
to make things bloom.  You have even quickened the dry dust of my own
dead life, so that now in it there's a little plot of the pansies of my
thoughts of you, and there's rosemary, for remembrance, and there's the
little bed of my interest in that boy--what seeds did you plant for it?

It is raining here to-night.  I wonder it the rain is beating on the
windows of the Tower Rooms, and if you are snug within, with Pittiwitz
purring and the fire snapping, and I wonder if throughout all that rain
you are sending any thought to me.

Perhaps I shouldn't ask it.  But I do ask for another letter.  What the
last was to me I have told you.  I shall live on the hope of the next.

Faithfully and gratefully always,

ROGER POOLE.



CHAPTER XV

_In Which Barry and Leila Go Over the Hills and Far Away; and in Which
a March Moon Becomes a Honeymoon._


The news that Barry must go away had been a blow to Leila's childish
dreams of immediate happiness.  She knew that Barry was bitter, that he
rebelled against the plans which were being made for him, but she did
not know that Gordon had told the General frankly and flatly the reason
for this delay in the matrimonial arrangements.

The General, true to his ancient code, had protested that "a man could
drink like a gentleman," that Barry's good blood would tell.  "His wild
oats aren't very wild--and every boy must have his fling."

Gordon had listened impatiently, as to an ancient and outworn
philosophy.  "The business world doesn't take into account the wild
oats of a man, General," he had said.  "The new game isn't like the old
one,--the convivial spirit is not the popular one among men of affairs.
And that isn't the worst of it, with Barry's temperament there's danger
of a breakdown, moral and physical.  If it were not for that, he could
come into your office and practice law, as you suggest.  But he's got
to get away from Washington.  He's got to get away from old
associations, and you'll pardon me for saying it, he's got to get away
from Leila.  She loves him, and is sorry for him, even though we've
kept from her the knowledge of his fault.  She thinks we are all
against him and her sympathy weakens him.  It was the same with her
mother, Constance tells me.  She wouldn't believe that her boy could be
anything but perfect, and John Ballard wasn't strong enough to
counteract her influence.  Mary was the only one, and now that it has
come to an actual crisis, even Mary blames me for trying to do what I
know is best for Barry.  I want to take him over to the other side, cut
him away from all that hampers him here, and bring him back to you
stronger in fiber and more of a man."

The General shook his head.  "Perhaps," he said, "but I can't bear to
think of the hurt heart of my little Leila."

"They should never have been engaged," Gordon said, "but it won't make
matters any better to let things go on.  If Leila doesn't marry Barry,
she won't have to bear the burdens he will surely bring to her.  She'd
better be unhappy with you to take care of her, than tied to him and
unhappy."

"But I'm an old man, and she is such a child.  Life for me is so short,
and for her so long."

"We must do what seems best for the moment, and let the future take
care of itself.  Barry's only a boy.  They are neither of them ready
for marriage--a few years of waiting won't hurt them."

It was in this strain that Gordon talked to Barry.

"It won't hurt you to wait."

"Wait for what?" Barry flamed; "until Leila wears her heart out?  Until
you teach her that I'm not--fit?  Until somebody else comes along and
steals her, while I'm gone?"

"Is that the opinion you have of her constancy?"

"No," Barry said, huskily, "she's as true as steel.  But I can't see
the use of this, Gordon.  If I marry Leila, she'll make a man of me."

"She hasn't changed you during these last months," Gordon stated,
inexorably, "and you mustn't run the risk of making her unhappy.  It is
a mere business proposition that I am putting before you, Barry.  You
must be able to support a wife before you marry one, and Washington
isn't the place for you to start.  In a business like ours, a man must
be at his best.  You are wasting your time here, and you've acquired
the habit of sociability, which is just a habit, but it grows and will
end by paralyzing your forces.  A man who's always ready to be with the
crowd isn't the man that's ready for work, and he isn't the man who's
usually onto his job.  I am putting this not from any moral or
spiritual ideal, but from the commercial.  The man who wins out isn't
the one with his brain fuddled; he's the one with his brain clear.
Business to-day is too keen a game for any one to play who isn't
willing to be at it all the time."

Thus practical common sense met the boy at every turn.  And he was
forced at last for pride's sake to consent to Gordon's plans for him.
But he had gone to Mary, raging.  "Is he going to run our lives?"

"He is doing it for your good, Barry."

"Why can't I go South with Roger Poole?--if I must go away?  He told me
of a man who stayed in the woods with him."

"That would simply be temporary, and it would delay matters.  Gordon's
idea is that in this way you'll be established in business.  If you
went South you'd be without any remunerative occupation."

"Doesn't Poole make a living down there?"

"He hasn't yet.  He's to try story-writing."

"Are you corresponding with him, Mary?"

Resenting his catechism, she forced herself to say, quietly, "We write
now and then."

"What does Porter think of that?"

"Porter hasn't anything to do with it."

"He has, too.  You know you'll marry him, Mary."

"I shall not.  I haven't the least idea of marrying Porter."

"Then why do you let him hang around you?"

"Barry," she was blazing, "I don't let him hang around.  He comes as he
has always come--to see us all."

"Do you think for a moment that he'd come if it weren't for you?  He
isn't craving my society, or Aunt Isabelle's, or Susan Jenks'."

Barry was glad to blame somebody else for something--he was aware of
himself as the blackest sheep in the fold, but let those who had other
sins hear them.

He flung himself away from her--out of the house.  And for days he did
not come home.  They kept the reason of his absence from Leila, and as
far as they could from Constance.  But Mary went nearly wild with
anxiety, and she found in Gordon a strength and a resourcefulness on
which she leaned.

When Barry came back, he offered no further objections to their plans.
Yet they could see that he was consenting to his exile only because he
had no argument with which to meet theirs.  He refused to resign from
the Patent Office until the last moment, as if hoping for some reprieve
from the sentence which his family had pronounced.  He was moody,
irritable, a changed boy from the one who had hippity-hopped with Leila
on Constance's wedding night.

Even Leila saw the change.  "Barry, dear," she said one evening as she
sat beside him in her father's library, "Barry--is it because you hate
to leave--me?"

He turned to her almost fiercely.  "If I had a penny of my own, Leila,
I'd pick you up, and we'd go to the ends of the earth together."

And she responded breathlessly, "It would be heavenly, Barry."

He dallied with temptation.  "If we were married, no one could take you
away from me."

"No one will ever take me away."

"I know.  But they might try to make you give me up."

"Why should they?"

"They'll say that I'm not worthy--that I'm a poor idiot who can't earn
a living for his wife."

"Oh, Barry," she whispered, "how can any one say such things?"  She
knelt on a little stool beside him, and her brown hair curled madly
about her pink cheeks.  "Oh, Barry," she said again, "why not--why not
get married now, and show them that we can live on what you make, and
then you needn't go--away."

He caught at that hope.  "But, sweetheart, you'd be--poor."

"I'd have you."

"I couldn't take you to our old house.  It--belongs to Mary.  Father
knew that Constance was to be married, so he tried to provide for Mary
until she married; after that the property will be divided between the
two girls.  He felt that I was a man, and he spent what money he had
for me on my education."

"I don't want to live in Mary's house.  We could live with Dad."

"No," sharply.  Barry had been hurt when the General had seemed to
agree so entirely with Gordon.  He had expected the offer of a place in
the General's office, and it had not come.

"If we marry, darling," he said, "we must go it alone.  I won't be
dependent on any one."

"We could have a little apartment," her eyes were shining, "and Dad
would furnish it for us, and Susan Jenks could teach me to cook and she
could tell me your favorite things, and we'd have them, and it would be
like a story book.  Barry, please."

He, too, thought it would be like a story book.  Other people had done
such things and had been happy.  And once at the head of his own
household he would show them that he was a man.

Yet he tried to put her away from him.  "I must not.  It wouldn't be
right."

But as the days went on, and the time before his departure grew short,
he began to ask himself, "Why not?"

And it was thus, with Romance in the lead, with Love urging them on,
and with Ignorance and Innocence and Impetuosity hand in hand, that, at
last, in the madness of a certain March moon, Leila and Barry ran away.

Leila had a friend in Rockville--an old school friend whom she often
visited.  Barry knew Montgomery County from end to end.  He had fished
and hunted in its streams, he had motored over its roads, he had danced
and dined at its country houses, he had golfed at its country clubs, he
had slept at its inns and worshiped in its churches.

So it was to Montgomery County and its county seat that they looked for
their Gretna Green, and one night Leila kissed her father wistfully,
and told him that she was going to see Elizabeth Dean.

"Just for Saturday, Dad.  I'll go Friday night, and come back in time
for dinner Saturday."

"Why not motor out?"

"The train will be easier.  And I'll telephone you when I get there."

She took chances on the telephoning--for had he called her up, he would
have found that she did not reach Rockville on Friday night, nor was
she expected by Elizabeth Dean until Saturday in time for lunch.

There was thus an evening and a night and the morning of the next day
in which Little-Lovely Leila was to be lost to the world.

She took the train for Rockville, but stopped at a station half-way
between that town and Washington, and there Barry met her.  They had
dinner at the little station restaurant--a wonderful dinner of ham and
eggs and boiled potatoes, but the wonderfulness had nothing to do with
the food; it had to do rather with Little-Lovely Leila's shining eyes
and blushes, and Barry's abounding spirits.  He was like a boy out of
school.  He teased Leila and wrote poetry on the fly-specked dinner
card, reading it out loud to her, reveling in her lovely confusion.

When they finished, Leila telephoned to her father that she had arrived
at Rockville and was safe.  If her voice wavered a little as she said
it, if her eyes filled at the trustfulness of his affectionate
response, these things were soon forgotten, as Barry caught up her
little bag, and they left the station, and started over the hills in
search of happiness.

The way was rather long, but they had thought it best to avoid trolley
or train or much-traveled roads, lest they be recognized.  And so it
came about that they crossed fields, and slipped through the edges of
groves, and when the twilight fell Little-Lovely Leila danced along the
way, and Barry danced, too, until the moon came up round and gold above
the blackness of the distant hills.

Once they came to a stream that was like silver, and once they passed
through a ghostly orchard with budding branches, and once they came to
a farmhouse where a dog barked at them, and the dog and the orchard and
the budding trees and the stream all seemed to be saying:

"_You are running away---you are running away._"

And now they had walked a mile, and there was yet another.

"But what's a mile?" said Barry, and Little-Lovely Leila laughed.

She wore a frock of pale yellow, with a thick warm coat of the same
fashionable color.  Her hat was demurely tied under her little chin
with black velvet ribbons.  She was like a primrose of the spring--and
Barry kissed her.

"May I tell Dad, when I get home to-morrow night?" she asked.

"We'll wait until Sunday.  April Fool's Day, Leila.  We'll tell him,
and he will think it's a joke.  And when he sees how happy we are, he
will know we were right."

So like children they refused to let the thought of the future mar the
joy of the present.

Once they rested on a fallen log in a little grove of trees.  The wind
had died down, and the air was warm, with the still warmth of a
Southern spring.  Between the trees they could see a ribbon of white
road which wound up to a shadowy church.

"The minister's house is next to the church," Barry told her; "in a
half hour from now you'll be mine, Leila.  And no one can take you away
from me."

In the wonder of that thought they were silent for a time, then:

"How strange it will seem to be married, Barry."

"It seems the most natural thing in the world to me.  But there will be
those who will say I shouldn't have let you."

"I let myself.  It wasn't you.  Did you want my heart to break at your
going, Barry?"

For a moment he held her in his arms, then he kissed her, gently, and
let her go.  When they came back this way, she would be his wife.

The old minister asked few questions.  He believed in youth and love;
the laws of the state were lenient.  So with the members of his family
for witnesses, he declared in due time that this man and woman were
one, and again they went forth into the moonlight.

And now there was another little journey, up one hill and down another
to a quaint hostelry--almost empty of guests in this early season.

A competent little landlady and an old colored man led them to the
suite for which Barry had telephoned.  The little landlady smiled at
Leila and showed the white roses which Barry had sent for her room, and
the old colored man lighted all the candles.

There was a supper set out on the table in their sitting-room, with
cold roast chicken and hot biscuits, a bottle of light wine, and a
round cake with white frosting.

Leila cut the cake.  "To think that I should have a wedding cake," she
said to Barry.

So they made a feast of it, but Barry did not open the bottle of wine
until their supper was ended.  Then he poured two glasses.

"To you," he whispered, and smiled at his bride.

Then before his lips could touch it, he set the glass down hastily, so
that it struck against the bottle and broke, and the wine stained the
white cloth.

Leila looking up, startled, met a strange look.  "Barry," she
whispered, "Barry, dear boy."

He rose and blew out the candles.

"Let me tell you--in the dark," he said.  "You've got to know, Leila."

And in the moonlight he told her why they had wanted him to go away.

"It is because I've got to fight--devils."

At first she did not understand.  But he made her understand.

She was such a little thing in her yellow gown.  So little and young to
deal with a thing like this.

But in that moment the child became a woman.  She bent over him.

"My husband," she said, "nothing can ever part us now, Barry."

So love taught her what to say, and so she comforted him.


The next morning Elizabeth Dean met Leila Dick at the station.  That
she was really meeting Leila Ballard was a thing, of course, of which
she had no knowledge.  But Leila was acutely conscious of her new
estate.  It seemed to her that the motor horn brayed it, that the birds
sang it, that the cows mooed it, that the dogs barked it, "_Leila
Ballard, Leila Ballard, Leila Ballard, wife of Barry--you're not Leila
Dick, you're not, you're not, you're not._"

"I never knew you to be so quiet," Elizabeth said at last, curiously.
"What's the matter?"

Leila brought herself back with an effort.  "I like to listen," she
said, "but I am usually such a chatterbox that people won't believe it."

Somehow she managed to get through that day.  Somehow she managed to
greet and meet the people who had been invited to the luncheon which
was given in her honor.  But while in body she was with them, in spirit
she was with Barry.  Barry was her husband--her husband who loved her
and needed her in his life.

His confession of the night before had brought with it no deadening
sense of hopelessness.  To her, any future with Barry was rose-colored.

But it had changed her attitude toward him in this, that she no longer
adored him as a strong young god who could stand alone, and whom she
must worship because of his condescension in casting his eyes upon her.

He needed her!  He needed little Leila Dick!  And the thought gave to
her marriage a deeper meaning than that of mere youthful raptures.

He had put her on the train that morning reluctantly, and had promised
to call her up the moment she reached town.

So her journey toward Washington on the evening train was an hour of
anticipation.  To those who rode with her, she seemed a very pretty and
self-contained young person making a perfectly proper and commonplace
trip on the five o'clock express--in her own mind, she was set apart
from all the rest by the fact of her transcendant romance.

Her father met her at the station and put her into a taxi.  All the way
home she sat with her hand in his.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked.

"Heavenly, Dad."

They ate dinner together, and she talked of her day, wishing that there
was nothing to keep from him, wishing that she might whisper it to him
now.  She had no fear of his disapproval.  Dad loved her.

No call had come from Barry.  She finished dinner and wandered
restlessly from room to room.

When nine o'clock struck, she crept into the General's library, and
found him in his big chair reading and smoking.

She sat on a little stool beside him, and laid her head against his
knee.  Presently his hand slipped from his book and touched her curls.
And then both sat looking into the fire.

"If your mother had lived, my darling," the old man said, "she would
have made things easier for you."

"About Barry's going away?"

"Yes."

"It seems silly for him to go, Dad.  Surely there's something here for
him to do."

"Gordon thinks that the trip will bring out his manhood, make him less
of a boy."

"I don't think Gordon understands Barry."

"And you do, baby?  I'm afraid you spoil him."

"Nobody could spoil Barry."

"Don't love him too much."

"As if I could."

"I'm not sure," the old man said, shrewdly, "that you don't.  And no
man's worth it.  Most of us are selfish pigs--we take all we can
get--and what we give is usually less than we ask in return."

But now she was smiling into the fire.  "You gave mother all that you
had to give, Dad, and you made her happy."

"Yes, thank God," and now there were tears on the old cheeks; "for the
short time that I had her--I made her happy."

When Barry came, he found her curled up in her father's arms.  Over her
head the General smiled at this boy who was some day to take her from
him.

But Barry did not smile.  He greeted the General, and when Leila came
to him, tremulously self-conscious, he did not meet her eyes, but he
took her hand in his tightly, while he spoke to her father.

"You won't mind, General, if I carry Leila off to the other room.  I've
a lot of things to say to her."

"Of course not.  I was in love once myself, Barry."

They went into the other room.  It was a long and formal parlor with
crystal chandeliers and rose-colored stuffed furniture and gilt-framed
mirrors.  It had been furnished by the General's mother, and his little
wife had loved it and had kept it unchanged.

It was dimly lighted now, and Leila in her white dinner gown and Barry
tall and slender in his evening black were reflected by the long
mirrors mistily.

Barry took her in his arms, and kissed her.  "My wife, my wife," he
said, again and again, "my wife."

At first she yielded gladly, meeting his rapture with her own.  But
presently she became aware of a wildness in his manner, a broken note
in his whispers.

So she released herself, and stood back a little from him, and asked,
breathing quickly, "Barry, what has happened?"

"Everything.  Since I left you this morning I've lost my place.  I
found the envelope on my desk this morning--telling of my discharge.
They said that I'd been too often away without sufficient excuse, and
so they have dropped me from the rolls.  And you see that what Gordon
said was true.  I can't earn a living for a wife.  Now that I have you,
I can't take care of you--it is not much of a fellow that you've
married, Leila."

Oh, the little white face with the shining eyes!

Then out of the stillness came her cry, like a bird's note, triumphant.
"But I'm your wife now, and nothing can part us, Barry."

He caught up her hands in his.  "Dearest, dearest--don't you see that I
can't ever tell them of our marriage until I can show them----"

"Show them what, Barry?"

"That I can take care of you."

"Do you mean that I mustn't even tell Dad, Barry?"

"You mustn't tell any one, not until I come back."

Every drop of blood was drained from her face.

"Until you come back.  Are you going--away?"

"I promised Gordon to-day that I would."

She swayed a little, and he caught her.  "I had to promise, Leila.
Don't you see?  I haven't a penny, and I can't confess to them that
I've married you.  I wanted to tell him that you were mine--that all
your sweetness and dearness belonged to me.  I wanted to shout it to
the world.  But I haven't a penny, and I'm proud, and I won't let
Gordon think I've been a--fool."

"But Dad would help us."

"Do you think I'd beg him to give me what he hasn't offered, Leila?
I've got to show them that I'm not a boy."

She struggled to bring herself out of the strange numbness which
gripped her.  "If I could only tell Dad."

"Surely it can be our own sweet secret, dearest."

She laid her cheek against his arm, in a dumb gesture of surrender, and
her little bare left hand crept up and rested like a white rose petal
against the blackness of his coat.

He laid his own upon it.  "Poor little hand without a wedding ring," he
said.

And now the numbness seemed to engulf her, to break----

"Hush, Leila, dear one."

But she could not hush.  That very morning they had slipped the wedding
ring over a length of narrow blue ribbon, and Barry had tied it about
her neck.  To-morrow, he had promised, she should wear it for all the
world to see.

But she was not to wear it.  It must be hidden, as she had hidden it
all day above her heart.

"Leila, you are making it hard for me."

It was the man's cry of selfishness, but hearing it, she put her own
trouble aside.  He needed her, and her king could do no wrong.

So she set herself to comfort him.  In the month that was left to them
they would make the most of their happiness.  Then perhaps she could
get Dad to bring her over in the summer, and he should show her London,
and all the lovely places, and there would be the letters; she would
write everything--and he must write.

"You little saint," he said when he left her, "you're too good for me,
but all that's best in me belongs to you--my precious."

She went to the door with him and said "good-night" bravely.

Then she shut the door and shivered.  When at last she made her way
through the hall to the library, she seemed to be pushing against some
barrier, so that her way was slow.

On the threshold of that room she stopped.

"Dad," she said, sharply.

"My darling."

He sprang to his feet just in time and caught her.

She lay against his heart white and still.  The strain of the last two
days had been too great for her, and Little-Lovely Leila had fainted
dead away.



CHAPTER XVI

_In Which a Long Name is Bestowed Upon a Beautiful Baby; and in Which a
Letter in a Long Envelope Brings Freedom to Mary._


The christening of Constance's baby brought together a group of
feminine personalities, which, to one possessed with imagination, might
have stood for the evil and beneficent fairies of the old story books.

The little Mary-Constance Ballard Richardson, in spite of the dignity
of her hyphenated name, was a wee morsel.  Swathed in fine linen, she
showed to the unprejudiced eye no signs of great beauty.  With a
wrinkly-red skin, a funny round nose, a toothless mouth--she was like
every other normal baby of her age, but to her family and friends she
was a rare and unmatched object.

Even Aunt Frances succumbed to her charms.  "I must say," she remarked
to Delilah Jeliffe, as they bent over the bassinet, "that she is
remarkable for her age."

Delilah shrugged.  "I'm not fond of them.  They're so red and squirmy."

Leila protested hotly.  "Delilah, she's lovely--such little perfect
hands."

"Bird's claws!"

Mary took up the chant.  "Her skin's like a rose leaf."

And Grace: "Her hair is going to be gold, like her mother's."

"Hair?"  Delilah's tone was incredulous.  "She hasn't any."

Aunt Frances expertly turned the small morsel on its back.  "What do
you call that?" she demanded, indignantly.

Above the fat crease of the baby's neck stuck out a little feathery
duck's-tail curl--bright as a sunbeam.

"What do you call that?" came the chorus of worshipers.

Delilah gave way to quiet, mocking laughter.  "That isn't hair," she
said; "it is just a sample of yellow silk."

Porter, coming up, was treated to a repetition of this remark.

"Let us thank the Gods that it isn't red," was his fervent response.

Grace's hands went up to her own lovely hair.

"Oh," she reproached him.

Porter apologized.  "I was thinking of my carroty head.  Yours is
glorious."

"Artists paint it," Grace agreed pensively, "and it goes well with the
right kind of clothes."

Delilah looked from one to the other.

"You two would make a beautiful pair of saints on a stained glass
window," she said reflectively, "with a spike of lilies and halos back
of your heads."

"Most women are ready for halos," Porter said, "and wings, but I can't
see myself balancing a spike of lilies."

"Nor I," Grace rippled; "you'd better make it hollyhocks, Delilah--do
you know the old rhyme

  "'A beau never goes
  Where the hollyhock blows'?"


"You've never lacked men in your life," Delilah told her, shrewdly,
"but with that hair you won't be one of the comfortable married
kind--it will be either a _grande passion_ or a career for you.  If you
don't find your Romeo, you'll be Mother Superior in a convent, the head
of a deaconess home, or a nurse on a battle-field."

Grace's eyes sparkled.  "Oh, wise Delilah, you haven't drifted so very
far away from my dreams.  Where did you get your wisdom?"

"I'm learning things from Colin Quale.  We study types together.  It's
great fun for me, but he's perfectly serious."

Colin Quale was Delilah's artist.  "Why didn't you bring him?"
Constance asked.

"Because he doesn't belong in this family group; and anyhow I had
something for him to do.  He's making a sketch of the gown I am to wear
at the White House garden party.  It will keep him busy for the
afternoon."

"Delilah," Leila looked up from her worship of Mary-Constance, "I don't
believe you ever see in people anything but the way they look."

"I don't, duckie.  To me--you are a sort of family art gallery.  I hang
you up in my mind, and you make a rather nice little collection."

Barry, coming in, caught up her words, with something of his old
vivacity.

"The baby belongs to the Dutch school--with that nose."

There was a chorus of protest.

"She looks like you," Delilah told him.  "Except for her nose, she's a
Ballard.  There's nothing of her father in her, except her beautiful
disposition."

She flashed a challenging glance at Gordon.  He stiffened.  Such women
as Delilah Jeliffe might have their place in the eternal scheme of
femininity, but he doubted it.

"She is a Ballard even in that," he said, formally; "it is Constance
whose disposition is beyond criticism, not mine."

"And now that you've carried off Constance, you're going to take
Barry," Delilah reproached him.

Leila dropped the baby's hand.

"Yes," Gordon discussed the subject with evident reluctance, "he's
going over with me, to learn the business--he may never have a better
opportunity."

The light went out of Barry's eyes.  He left the little group, wandered
to the window, and stood looking out.

"Mary will go next," Delilah prophesied.  "With Constance and Barry on
the other side, she won't be able to keep away."

Mary shook her head.  "What would Aunt Isabelle and Susan Jenks and
Pittiwitz do without me?"

"What would I do without you?" Porter demanded, boldly.  "Don't put
such ideas in her head, Delilah; she's remote enough as it is."

But Mary was not listening.  Barry had slipped from the room, and
presently she followed him.  Leila had seen him go, and had looked
after him longingly, but of late she had seemed timid in her public
demonstrations; it was as if she felt when she was under the eye of
others that by some sign or look she might betray her secret.

Mary found Barry down-stairs in the little office, his head in his
hands.

"Dear boy," she said, and touched his bright hair with hesitating
fingers.

He reached up and caught her hand.

"Mary," he said, brokenly, "what's the use?  I began wrong--and I guess
I'll go on wrong to the end."

And now she spoke with earnestness, both hands on his shoulders.

"Oh, Barry, boy--if you fight, fight with all your weapons.  And don't
let the wrong thoughts go on molding you into the wrong thing.  If you
think you are going to fail, you'll fail.  But if you think of yourself
as conquering, triumphant--if you think of yourself as coming back to
Leila, victorious, why you'll come that way; you'll come strong and
radiant, a man among men, Barry."

It was this convincing optimism of Mary Ballard's which brought to
weaker natures a sense of actual achievement.  To hear Mary say, "You
can do it," was to believe in one's own powers.  For the first time in
his life Barry felt it.  Hitherto, Mary had seemed rather worrying when
it came to rules of conduct--rather unreasonable in her demands upon
him.  But now he was caught up on the wings of her belief in him.

"Do you think I can?" a light had leaped into his tired eyes.

"I know you can, dear boy," she bent and kissed him.

"You'll take care of Leila," he begged, and then, very low, "I'm afraid
I've made an awful mess of things, Mary."

"You mustn't think of that--just think, Barry--of the day when you come
back!  How all the wedding bells will ring!"

But he thought of a wedding where there had been no bells.  He thought
of Little-Lovely Leila, in her yellow gown on the night of the mad
March moon.

"You'll take care of her," he said again, and Mary promised.

And now the Bishop arrived, and certain old friends of the family.  As
Barry and Mary made their way up-stairs, they met Susan with the mail.
There was one long letter for Mary, which she tore open with eagerness,
glanced at it, and tucked it into her girdle, then went on with winged
feet.

Porter, glancing at her as she came in, was struck by the radiance of
her aspect.  How lovely she was with that flush on her cheek, and with
her sweet shining eyes!

With due formality and with the proper number of godfathers and
godmothers, little Mary-Constance Ballard Richardson was officially
named.

During the ceremony, Leila sat by her father's side, her hand in his.
In these days the child clung to the strong old soldier.  When she had
come back to consciousness on the night that she had fainted on the
threshold of the library, he had asked, "My darling, what is it?"

And she had cried, "Oh, Dad, Dad," and had wept in his arms.  But she
had not told him that she was Barry's wife.  It was because of Barry's
going, she had admitted; it seemed as if her heart would break.

The General talked the situation over with Mary.  "How will she stand
it, when he is really gone?"

"It will be better when the parting is over, and she settles down to
other things."

Yet that day, after the christening, Mary wondered if what she had said
was true.  What would life hold for Leila when Barry was gone?

Her own life without Roger Poole was blank.  Reluctantly, she was
forced to admit it.  Constance, the baby, Porter, these were the
shadows, Roger was the substance.

The letters which had passed between them had shown her depths in him
which had hitherto been unrevealed.  Comparing him with Porter Bigelow,
she realized that Porter could never say the things which Roger said;
he could not think them.

And while in the eyes of the world Roger was a defeated man, and Porter
a successful one, yet there was this to think of, that Porter's
qualities were negative rather than positive.  With all of his
opportunities, he was narrowing his life to the pursuit of pleasure and
his love for her.  Roger had shirked responsibility toward his fellow
man by withdrawal; Porter was shirking by indifference.

So she found herself, as many another woman has found herself, fighting
the battle of the less fortunate.  Roger wanted her, yet pressed no
claim.  Porter wanted her and meant to have her.

He had shown of late his impatience at the restraint which she had put
upon him.  He had encroached more and more upon her time--demanded more
and more.  He had been kept from saying the things which she did not
want him to say only by the fact that she would not listen.

She knew that he was expecting things which could never be--and that by
her silence she was giving sanction to his expectations.  Yet she found
herself dreading to say the final word which would send him from her.

The friendship between a man and a woman has this poignant quality--it
has no assurance of permanence.  For, if either marries, the other must
suffer loss; if either loves, the other must put away that which may
have become a prized association.  As her friend, Mary valued Porter
highly.  She had known him all her life.  Yet she was aware that she
was taking all and returning nothing; and surely Porter had the right
to ask of life something more than that.

She sighed, and going to her desk, took out of it the letter which she
had received in the morning mail.

She knew that the moment that she announced the contents of that letter
would be a dramatic one.  Even if she did it quietly, it would have the
effect of a bomb thrown into the midst of a peaceful circle.  She had a
fancy that it would be best to tell Porter first.  He was to come back
to dinner, so she dressed and went down early.

He found her in the garden.  There were double rows of hyacinths in the
paths now, with tulips coming up between, and beyond the fountain was
an amethyst sky where the young moon showed.

She rose to greet him, her hands full of fragrant blossoms.

He held her hand tightly.  "How happy you look, Mary."

"I am happy."

"Because I'm here?  If you could only say that once truthfully."

"It is always good to have you,"

"But you won't tell a lie, and say you're happier, because of my
coming?  Oh, Contrary Mary!"

She shook her head.  "If I said nice things to you, you'd
misunderstand."

"Perhaps.  But why this radiance?"

"Good news."

"From whom?"

"A man."

"What man?" with rising jealousy.

"One who has given me the thing I want."

He was plainly puzzled.

"I don't know what you mean."

"A letter came this morning--a lovely letter in a long envelope."

She took a paper out of a magazine which lay on the stone bench by her
side.  "Read that," she said.

He read and his face went perfectly white, so that it showed chalkily
beneath his red hair.

"Mary," he said, "what have you done this for?  You know I'm not going
to let you."

"You haven't anything to do with it."

"But I have.  It is ridiculous.  You don't know what you are doing.
You've never been tied to an office desk--you've never fought and
struggled with the world."

[Illustration: "You don't know what you are doing."]

"Neither have you, Porter."

"Well, if I haven't, is it my fault?" he demanded, "I was born into the
world with this millstone of money around my neck, and a red head.  Dad
sent me to school and to college, and he set me up in business.  There
wasn't anything left for me to do but to keep straight, and I've done
that for you."

"I know," she was very sweet as she leaned toward him, "but, Porter,
sometimes, lately, I've wondered if that's all that is expected of us."

"All?  What do you mean?"

"Aren't we expected to do something for others?"

"What others?"

She wanted to tell him about Roger Poole and the boy in the pines.  Her
eyes glowed.  But her lips were silent.

"What others, Mary?"

"The people who aren't as fortunate as we are."

"What people?"

Mary was somewhat vague.  "The people who need us--to help."

"Marry me, and you can be Lady Bountiful--dispensing charity."

"It isn't exactly charity."  She had again the vision of Roger Poole
and the boy.  "People don't just want our money--they want us
to--understand."

He was not following her.  "To think that you should want to go out in
the world--to work.  Tell me why you are doing it."

"Because I need an outlet for my energies--the girl of limited income
in these days is as ineffective as a jellyfish, if she hasn't some
occupation."

"You could never be a jellyfish.  Mary, listen, listen.  I need you,
dear.  I've kept still for a year--Mary!"

"Porter, I can't."

And now he asked a question which had smouldered long in his breast.

"Is there any one else?"

Was there?  Her thoughts leaped at once to Roger.  What did he mean to
her?  What could he ever mean?  He had said himself that he could
expect nothing.  Perhaps he had meant that she must expect nothing.

"Mary, is it--Roger Poole?"

Her eyes came up to meet his; they were like stars.  "Porter, I
don't--know."

He took the blow in silence.  The shadows were on them now.  In all the
beauty of the May twilight, the little bronze boy grinned at love and
at life.

"Has he asked you, Mary?"

"No.  I'm not sure that he wants to marry me--I'm not sure that I want
to marry him--I only know that he is different."  It was like Mary to
put it thus, frankly.

"No man could know you without wanting to marry you.  But what has he
to offer you--oh, it is preposterous."

She faced him, flaming.  "It isn't preposterous, Porter.  What has any
man to offer any woman except his love?  Oh, I know you men--you think
because you have money--but if--if--both of you loved me--you'd stand
before me on your merits as men--there would be nothing else in it for
me but that."

"I know.  And I'm willing to stand on my merits."  The temper which
belonged to Porter's red head was asserting itself.  "I'm willing to
stand on my merits.  I offer you a past which is clean--a future of
devotion.  It's worth something, Mary--in the years to come when you
know more of men, you'll understand that it is worth something."

"I know," she said, her hand on his, "it is worth a great deal.  But I
don't want to marry anybody."  It was the old cry reiterated.  "I want
to live the life I have planned for a little while--then if Love claims
me, it must be _love_--not just a comfortable getting a home for myself
along the lines of least resistance.  I want to work and earn, and know
that I can do it.  If I were to marry you, it would be just because I
couldn't see any other way out of my difficulties, and you wouldn't
want me that way, Porter."

He did want her.  But he recognized the futility of wanting her.  For a
little while, at least, he must let her have her way.  Indeed, she
would have it, whether he let her or not.  But Roger Poole should not
have her.  He should not.  All that was primitive in Porter rose to
combat the claims which she made for his rival.

"I knew there'd be trouble when you let the Tower Rooms," he said
heavily at last; "a man like that always appeals to a girl's sense of
romance."

The Tower Rooms!  Mary saw Roger as he had stood in them for the first
time amid all the confusion of Constance's flight from the home nest.
That night he had seemed to her merely a person who would pay the
rent--yet the money which she had received from him had been the
smallest part.

She drifted away on the tide of her dreams, and Porter felt sharply the
sense of her utter detachment from him.

"Mary," he said, tensely, "Mary, oh, my little Contrary Mary--you
aren't going to slip out of my life.  Say that you won't."

"I'm not slipping away from you," she said, "any more than I am
slipping away from my old self.  I don't understand it, Porter.  I only
know that what you call contrariness is a force within me which I can't
control.  I wish that I could do the things which you want me to do, I
wish I could be what Gordon and Constance and Barry and even Aunt
Frances want--but there's something which carries me on and on, and
seems to say, 'There's more than this in the world for you'--and with
that call in my ears, I have to follow."

He rose, and his head was up.  "All my life, I have wanted just one
thing which has been denied me--and that one thing is you.  And no
other man shall take you from me.  I suppose I've got to set myself
another season of patience.  But I can wait, because in the end I shall
get what I want--remember that, Mary."

"Don't be too sure, Porter."

"I am so sure," lifting the hand which was weighted with the heavy
ring, "I am so sure, that I will make a wager with fortune, that the
day will come when this ring shall be our betrothal ring, I'll give you
others, Mary, but this shall be the one which shall bind you to me."

She snatched her hand away.  "You speak as if you were--sure," she said.

"I am.  I'm going to let you work and do as you please for a little
while, if you must.  But in the end I'm going to marry you, Mary."

At dinner Mary announced the contents of her letter in the long
envelope.  "I have received my appointment as stenographer in the
Treasury, and I'm to report for duty on the twentieth."

It was Aunt Frances who recovered first from the shock.  "Well, if you
were my child----"

Grace, with little points of light in her eyes, spoke smoothly, "If
Mary were your child, she would be as dutiful as I am, mother.  But you
see she isn't your child."

Aunt Frances snorted--"Dutiful."

Gordon was glowering.  "It is rank foolishness."

Mary flared.  "That's your point of view, Gordon.  You judge me by
Constance.  But Constance has always been feminine and sweet--and I've
never been particularly feminine, nor particularly sweet."

Barry followed up her defense.  "I guess Mary knows how to take care of
herself, Gordon."

"No woman knows how to take care of herself," Gordon was obstinate,
"when it comes to the fight with economic conditions.  I should hate to
think of Constance trying to earn a living."

"Gordon, dear," Constance's voice appealed, "I couldn't--but Mary
can--only I hate to see her do it."

"I don't," said Grace, stoutly.  "I envy her."

Aunt Frances fixed her daughter with a stern eye.  "Don't encourage her
in her foolishness, Grace," she said; "each of you should marry and
settle down with some nice man."

"But what man, mother?" Grace, leaning forward, put the question, with
an irritating air of doubt.

"There are a half dozen of them waiting."

"Nice boys!  But a man.  Find me one, mother, and I'll marry him."

"The trouble with you and Mary," Porter informed her, "is that you
don't want a man.  You want a hero."

Grace nodded.  "With a helmet and plume, and riding on a steed--that's
my dream--but mother refuses to let me wander in Arcady where such
knights are found."

"I think," Constance remarked happily, "that now and then they are
found in every-day life, only you and Mary won't recognize them."

From the other side her husband smiled at her.  "She thinks I'm one,"
he said, and his fine young face was suffused by faint color.  "She
thinks I'm one.  I hope none of you will ever undeceive her."

Under the table Leila's little hand was slipped into Barry's big one.
She could not proclaim to the world that she had found her knight, and
loved him.

Aunt Frances, very stiff and straight in her jetted dinner gown,
resumed, "I wish it were possible to give girls a dose of common sense,
as you give them cough syrup."

"_Mother!_"

But Aunt Frances, mounted on her grievance, rode it through the salad
course.  She had wanted Grace to marry--her beauty and her family had
entitled her to an excellent match.  But Grace was single still,
holding her own against all her mother's arguments, maintaining in this
one thing her right to independent action.

Isabelle, straining her ears to hear what it was all about, asked Mary,
late that night, "What upset Frances at dinner?"

Mary told her.

"Do you think I'm wrong, Aunt Isabelle?" she asked.

The gentle lady sighed, "If you feel that it is right, it must be right
for you.  But you're trying to be all head, dear child.  And there's
your heart to reckon with."

Mary flushed "I know.  But I don't want my heart to speak--yet."

Aunt Isabelle patted her hand.  "I think it has--spoken," she said
softly.

Mary clung to her.  "How did you know?"

"We who have dull ears have often clear eyes--it is one of our
compensations, Mary."



CHAPTER XVII

_In Which an Artist Finds What All His Life He Has Been Looking For;
and in Which He Speaks of a Little Saint in Red._


It might have been by chance that Delilah Jeliffe driving in her
electric through a broad avenue on the afternoon following the
christening of Constance's baby, met Porter Bigelow, and invited him to
go home with her for a cup of tea.

There were certain things which Delilah wanted of Porter.  Perhaps she
wanted more than she would ever get.  But to-day she had it in her mind
to find out if he would go with her to the White House garden party.

Colin Quale was little and blond.  Because of his genius, his presence
had added distinction to her entrances and exits.  But at the coming
function, she knew that she needed more than the prestige of
genius--among the group of distinguished guests who would attend, the
initial impression would mean much.  Porter's almost stiff stateliness
would match the gown she was to wear.  His position, socially, was
impregnable; he had wealth, and youth, and charm.  He would, in other
words, make a perfectly correct background for the picture which she
designed to make of herself.

The old house at Georgetown, to which they came finally, was set back
among certain blossoming shrubs and bushes.  A row of tulips flamed on
each side of the walk.  Small and formal cedars pointed their spired
heads toward the spring sky.

In the door, as they ascended the steps, appeared Colin Quale.

"Come in," he said, "come in at once.  I want you to see what I have
done for you."

He spoke directly to Delilah.  It was doubtful if he saw Porter.  He
was blind to everything except the fact that his genius had designed
for Delilah Jeliffe a costume which would make her fame and his.

They followed him through the wide hall to the back porch in which he
had set up his easel.  There, where a flowering almond bush flung its
branches against a background of green, he had worked out his idea.

A water-color sketch on the easel showed a girl in white--a girl who
might have been a queen or an empress.  Her gown partook of the
prevailing mode, but not slavishly.  There was distinction in it, and
color here and there, which Colin explained.

"It must be of sheer white, with many flowing flounces, and with faint
pink underneath like the almond bloom.  And there must be a bit of
heavenly blue in the hat, and a knot of green at the girdle--and a veil
flung back--you see?--there'll be sky and field and flowers and a white
cloud--all the delicate color and bloom----"

Still explaining, he was at last induced to leave the picture, and have
tea.  While Delilah poured, Porter watched the two, interested and
diverted by enthusiasms which seemed to him somewhat puerile for a man
who could do real things in the world of art.

Yet he saw that Delilah took the little man very seriously, that she
hung on his words of advice, and that she was obedient to his demands
upon her.

"She'll marry him some day," he said to himself, and Delilah seemed to
divine his thought, for when at last Colin had rushed back to his
sketch, she settled herself in her low chair, and told Porter of their
first meeting.

"I'll begin at the beginning," she said; "it is almost too funny to be
true, and it could not possibly have happened to any one but me and
Colin.

"It was last summer when I was on the North Shore.  Father and I stayed
at a big hotel, but I was crazy to get acquainted with the cottage
colony.

"But somehow I didn't seem to make good--you see that was in my crude
days when I wanted to be a cubist picture instead of a daguerreotype.
I liked to be startling, and thought that to attract attention was to
attract friends--but I found that I did not attract them.

"One night in August there was a big dance on at one of the hotels, and
I wanted a gown which should outshine all the others--the ball was to
be given for the benefit of a local chanty, and all the cottage colony
would attend.  I sent an order for a gown to my dressmaker, and she
shipped out a strange and wonderful creation.  It was an imported
affair--you know the kind--with a bodice of a string of jet and a wisp
of lace--with a tulle tunic, and a skirt of gold brocade that was so
tight about my feet that it had the effect of Turkish trousers.  For my
head she sent a strip of gold gauze which was to be swathed around and
around my hair in a sort of nun's coif, so that only a little knot
could show at the back and practically none in front.  It was the last
cry in fashions.  It made me look like a dream from the Arabian Nights,
and I liked it."

She laughed, and, in spite of himself, Porter laughed with her.

"I wore it to the dance, and it was there that I met Colin Quale.  I
wish I could make you see the scene--the great ballroom, and all the
other women staring at me as I came in--and the men, smiling.

"I was in my element.  I thought, in those days, that the test of charm
was to hold the eyes of the multitude.  To-day I know that it is to
hold the eyes of the elect, and it is Colin who has taught me.

"I had danced with a dozen other men when he came up to claim me.  I
scarcely remembered that I had promised him a dance.  When he was
presented to me I had only been aware of a pale little man with
eye-glasses and nervous hands who had stared at me rather too steadily.

"We danced in silence for several minutes and he danced divinely.

"He stopped suddenly.  'Let's get out of here,' he said.  'I want to
talk to you.'

"I looked at him in amazement.  'But I want to dance.'

"'You can always dance,' he said, quietly, 'but you cannot always talk
to me.'

"There was nothing in his manner to indicate the preliminaries of a
flirtation.  He was perfectly serious and he evidently thought that he
was offering me a privilege.  Curiosity made me follow him, and he led
the way down the hall to a secluded reception room where there was a
long mirror, a little table, and a big bunch of old-fashioned roses in
a bowl.

"On our way we passed a row of chairs, where some one had left a wrap
and a scarf.  Colin snatched up the scarf--it was a long wide one of
white chiffon.  The next morning I returned it to him, and he found the
owner.  I am not sure what explanation he made for his theft, but it
was undoubtedly attributed to the eccentricities of genius!

"Well, when, as I said, we reached the little room, he pulled a chair
forward for me, so that I sat directly in front of the mirror.

"I remember that I surveyed myself complacently.  To my deluded eyes,
my appearance could not be improved.  My head, swathed in its golden
coif, seemed to give the final perfect touch."

She laughed again at the memory, and Porter found himself immensely
amused.  She had such a cool way of turning her mental processes inside
out and holding them up for others to see.

"As I sat there, stealing glances at myself, I became conscious that my
little blond man was studying me.  Other men had looked at me, but
never with such a cold, calculating gaze--and when he spoke to me, I
nearly jumped out of my shoes--his voice was crisp, incisive.

"'Take it off,' he said, and touched the gauze that tied up my head.

"I gasped.  Then I drew myself up in an attempt at haughtiness.  But he
wasn't impressed a bit.

"'I suppose you know that I am an artist, Miss Jeliffe,' he said, 'and
from the moment you came into the room, I haven't had a bit of peace.
You're spoiling your type--and it affects me as a chromo would, or a
crude crayon portrait, or any other dreadful thing.'

"Do you know how it feels to be called a 'dreadful thing' by a man like
that?  Well, it simply made me shrivel up and have shivers down my
spine.

"'But why?' I stammered.

"'Women like you,' he said, 'belong to the stately, the aristocratic
type.  You can be a _grande dame_ or a duchess--and you are making of
yourself--what?  A soubrette, with your tango skirt and your strapped
slippers, and your hideous head-dress--take it off.'

"'But I can't take it off,' I said, almost tearfully; 'my hair
underneath is--awful.'

"'It doesn't make any difference about your hair underneath--it can't
be worse than it is,' he roared.  'I want to see your coloring--take it
off.'

"And I took it off.  My hair was perfectly flat, and as I caught a
glimpse of myself in the mirror, I wanted to laugh, to shriek.  But
Colin Quale was as solemn as an owl.  'Ah,' he said, 'I knew you had a
lot of it!'

"He caught up the scarf which he had borrowed and flung it over my
shoulders.  He gave a flick of his fingers against my forehead and
pulled down a few hairs and parted them.  He whisked a little table in
front of me, and thrust the bunch of roses into my arms.

"'Now look at yourself,' he commanded.

"I looked and looked again.  I had never dreamed that I could be like
that.  The scarf and the table hid every bit of that Paris gown, and
showed just a bit of white throat.  My plain parted hair and the
roses--I looked," and now Delilah was blushing faintly, "I looked as I
had always wanted to look--like the lovely ladies in the old English
portraits.

"'Do you like it?' Colin asked.

"He knew that I liked it from my eyes, and for the first time since I
had met him, he laughed.

"'All my life,' he said, 'I have been looking for just such a woman as
you.  A woman to make over--to develop.  We must be friends, Miss
Jeliffe.  You must let me know where I can see you again.'

"Well, I didn't dance any more that night.  I wrapped the scarf about
my head, and went back to my hotel.  Colin Quale went with me.  All the
way he talked about the sacredness of beauty.  He opened my eyes.  I
began to see that loveliness should be suggested rather than
emphasized.  And I have told you this because I want you to understand
about Colin.  He isn't in love with me.  I rather fancy that back home
in Amesbury or Newburyport, or whatever town it is that he hails from,
there's somebody whom he'll find to marry.  To him I am a statue to be
molded.  I am clay, marble, a tube of paint, a canvas ready for his
brush.  It was the same way with this old house.  He wanted a setting
for me, and he couldn't rest until he had found it.  He has not only
changed my atmosphere, he has changed my manner--I was going to say my
morals--he brings to me portraits of Romney ladies and Gainsborough
ladies--until I seem positively to swim in a sea of stateliness.  And
what I said just now about manners and morals is true.  A woman lives
up to the clothes she wears.  If you think this change is on the
surface, it isn't.  I couldn't talk slang in a Gainsborough hat, and be
in keeping, so I don't talk slang; and a perfect lady in a moleskin
mantle must have morals to match; so in my little mantle I cannot tell
a lie."

To see her with lowered lashes, telling it, was the funniest thing in
the world, and Porter shouted.  Then her lashes were, for a moment,
raised, and the old Delilah peeped out, shrewd, impish.

"He wants me to change my name.  No, don't misunderstand me--not my
last one.  But the first.  He says that Delilah smacks of the
adventuress.  I don't think he is quite sure of the Bible story, but he
gets his impressions from grand opera--and he knows that the Delilah of
the Samson story wasn't nice--not in a lady-like sense.  My middle name
is Anne.  He likes that better."

"Lady Anne?  You'll look the part in that garden party frock he is
designing for you."

And now she had reached the question toward which she had been working.
"Shall you go?"

He shook his head.  "I doubt it.  It isn't a function from which one
will be missed.  And the Ballards won't be there.  Mary is going over
to New York with Constance for a few days before the sailing.  I'm to
join them on the final day."

"And you won't go to the garden party without Mary?"

He found himself moved, suddenly, to speak out to her.

"She wouldn't go if she were here--not with me."

"Contrary Mary?" she drawled the words, giving them piquant suggestion.

"It isn't contrariness.  Her independence is characteristic.  She won't
let me do things because she wants to do them by herself.  But some day
she'll let me do them."

He said it grimly, and Delilah flashed a glance at him, then said
carefully, "It would be a pity if she should fancy--Roger Poole."

"She won't."

"You can't tell--pity leads to the softer feeling, you know."

"Why should she pity him?"

"There's his past."

"His past?  Roger Poole's?  What do you know of it, Delilah?"

As he leaned forward to ask the eager question, he knew that by all the
rules of the game he should not be discussing Mary with any one.  But
he told himself hotly that it was for Mary's good.  If things had been
hidden, they should be revealed--the sooner the better.

Delilah gave him the details dramatically.

"Then his wife is dead?"

"Yes.  But before that the scandal lost him his church.  Nobody seems
to know much of it all, I fancy.  Mary only gave me the outline."

"And she knows?"

"Yes.  Roger told her."

"The chances are that there's--another side."

He knew that it was a small thing to say.  He would not have said it to
any one but Delilah.  She would not think him small.  To her all things
would be fair for a lover.

Before he went, that afternoon, he had promised to go with Delilah to
the White House garden party.


Hence a week later there floated within the vision of the celebrities
and society folk, gathered together on the spacious lawn of the
executive mansion, a lovely lady in faint rose-white, with a touch of
heavenly blue in her wide hat, from which floated a veil which half hid
her down-drooped eyes.

People began at once to ask, "Who is she?"

When it was discovered that her name was Jeliffe, and that she was not
a distinguished personage, it did not matter greatly.  There was about
her an air of distinction--a certain quiet atmosphere of withdrawal
from the common herd which had nothing in it of haughtiness, but which
seemed to set her apart.

Porter, following in her wake as she swept across the green, thought of
the girl in leopard skins, whose unconventionality had shocked him.
Surely in this woman was developed a sense of herself as the center of
a picture which was almost uncanny.  He found himself contrasting
Mary's simplicity and lack of pose.

Mary's presence here to-day would have meant much to a few people who
knew and loved her; it would have meant nothing to the crowd who stared
at Delilah Jeliffe.

Colin Quale was there to enjoy the full triumph of the transformation.
He hovered at a little distance from Delilah, worshiping her for the
genius which met and matched his own.

"I shall paint her in that," he said to Porter.  "It will be my
masterpiece.  And if you could have seen her on the night I met her----"

"She told me."  Porter was smiling.

"It was like one of the old masters daubed by a novice, or like a room
whitewashed over rare carvings--everything was hidden which should have
been shown, and everything was shown which should have been hidden.  It
was monstrous.

"There are few women," he went on, "whom I could make over as I have
made her over.  They have not the adaptability--the temperament.  There
was one whom I could have transformed.  But I was not allowed.  She was
little and blonde and the wife of a clergyman; she looked like a
saint---and she should have worn straight things of clear green or red,
or blue.  But she wore black.  I've sometimes wondered if she was such
a saint as she looked.  There was a divorce afterward, I believe, and
another man.  And she died."

Porter, listening idly, came back.  "What type was she?"

"Fra Angelico--to perfection.  I should have liked to dress her."

"Did you ever tell her that you wanted to do it?"

"Yes.  And she listened.  It was then that I gained my impression--that
she was not a saint.  One night there was a little entertainment at the
parish house and I had my way.  I made of her an angel, in a red robe
with a golden lyre--and I painted her afterward.  She used to come to
my studio, but I'm not sure that Poole liked it."

"Poole?"  Porter was tense.

"Her husband.  He could not make her happy."

"Was she--the one in fault?"

Colin shrugged.  "There are always two stories.  As I have said, she
looked like a saint."

"I should like to see--the picture."  Porter tried to speak lightly.
"May I come up some day to your rooms?"

Colin's face beamed.

"I'm getting into new quarters.  I shall want your opinion--call me up
before you come."

It was Colin who went home with Delilah in Porter's car.  Porter
pleaded important business, and walked for an hour around the Speedway,
his brain in a whirl.

Then Mary knew--Mary _knew_--and it had made no difference in her
thought of Roger Poole!



CHAPTER XVIII

_In Which Mary Writes of the Workaday World, and in Which Roger Writes
of the Dreams of a Boy._


_In the Tower Rooms--June._

I have been working in the office for a week, and it has been the
hardest week of my life.  But please don't think that I have any
regrets--it is only that the world has been so lovely outside, and that
I have been shut in.

I am beginning to understand that the woman in the home has a freedom
which she doesn't sufficiently value.  She can run down-town in the
morning; or slip out in the afternoon, or put off until to-morrow
something which should have been done to-day.  But men can't run out or
slip away or put off--no matter if the sun is shining, or the birds
singing, or the wind calling, or the open road leading to adventure.

Yet there are compensations, and I am trying to see them.  I am trying
to live up to my theories.  And I am sustained by the thought that at
last I am a wage-earner--independent of any one--capable of buying my
own bread and butter, though all masculine help should fail!

Aunt Isabelle is a dear, and so is Susan Jenks.  And that's another
thing to think about.  What will the wage-earning part of the world do,
when there are no home-keepers left?  If it were not for Aunt Isabelle
and Susan, there wouldn't be any one to trail after me with cushions
for my tired back, and cold things for me to drink on hot days, and hot
things to drink on cool days.

I begin to perceive faintly the masculine point of view.  If I were a
man I should want a wife for just that--to toast my slippers before the
fire as they do in the old-fashioned stories, to have my dinner piping
hot, and to smooth the wrinkles out of my forehead.

That's why I'm not sure that I should make a comfortable sort of wife.
I can't quite see myself toasting the slippers.  But I can see
Constance toasting them, or Leila--but Grace and I--you see, after all,
there are home women and the other kind, and I fancy that I'm the other
kind.

This, you'll understand, is a philosophy founded on the vast experience
of a week in the workaday world--I'll let you know later of any further
modification of my theories.

Well, the house seems empty with just the three of us, and Pittiwitz.
I miss Constance beyond words, and the beautiful baby.  Constance
wanted to name her for me, but Gordon insisted that she should be
called after Constance, so they compromised on Mary-Constance, such a
long name for such a mite.

We all went to New York to see them off.  By "all," I mean our
crowd--Aunt Frances and Grace, Leila and the General--oh, poor little
Leila--Delilah and Colin Quale, Aunt Isabelle and I, Susan Jenks with
the baby in her arms until the very last minute--and Porter Bigelow.

At the boat Leila went all to pieces.  I could never have believed that
our gay little Leila would have taken anything so hard--and it was
pitiful to see Barry.  But I can't talk about that--I can't think about
it.

Porter was dear to Leila.  He treated her as if she were his own little
sister, and it was lovely.  He took her right away from the General,
when the ship was leaving the dock.

"Brace up, little girl," he said; "he'll be back before you know it."

He literally carried her to a taxi and put her in, and then began such
a day.  We did all of the delightful things that one can do in New York
on a summer day, beginning with breakfast at a charming inn on Long
Island, and ending with a roof garden at night.  And that night Leila
was so tired that she went to sleep all in a minute, like a child, and
forgot to grieve.

Since we came back to Washington, Porter has kept it up, not letting
Leila miss Barry any more than possible, and playing big brother to
perfection.

It is queer how we misjudge people.  If any one had told me that Porter
could be so sweet and tender to anybody, I wouldn't have believed it.
But perhaps Leila brings out that side of him.  Now I am independent,
and aggressive, and I make Porter furious, and most of the time we
fight.

As I said, the house seems empty--but I am not in it much now.  If I
had not had my work, I think I should have gone crazy.  That's why men
don't get silly and hysterical and morbid like women--they are saved by
the day's work.  I simply have to forget my troubles while I transcribe
my notes on the typewriter.

Of course you know what life in the Departments is without my telling
you.  But to me it isn't monotonous or machine-like.  I am awfully
interested in the people.  Of course my immediate work is with the nice
old Chief.  I'm glad he is old, and gray-haired.  It makes me feel
comfortable and chaperoned.  Do you know that I believe the reason that
most girls hate to go out to work is because of the loss of protection.
You see we home girls are always in the care of somebody.  I've been
more than usually independent, but there has always been some one to
play propriety in the background.  When I was a tiny tot there was my
nurse.  Later at kindergarten I was sent home in a 'bus with all the
other babies, and with a nice teacher to see that we arrived safely.
Then there was mother and father and Barry and Constance, some of them
wherever I went--and finally, Aunt Isabella.

But in the office, I am not Mary Ballard, Daughter of the Home.  I am
Mary Ballard, Independent Wage-Earner--stenographer at a thousand a
year.  There's nobody to stand between me and the people I meet.  No
one to say, "Here is my daughter, a woman of refinement and breeding;
behind her I stand ready to hold you accountable for everything you may
do to offend her."  In the wage-earning world a woman must stand for
what she is--and she must set the pace.  So, in the office I find that
I must have other manners than those in my home.  I can't meet men as
frankly and freely.  I can't laugh with them and talk with them as I
would over a cup of tea at my own little table.  If you and I had met,
for example, in the office, I should have put up a barrier of formality
between us, and I should have said, "Good-morning" when I met you and
"Good-night" when I left you, and it would have taken us months to know
as much about each other as you and I knew after a week in the same
house.

I suppose if I live here for years and years, that I shall grow to look
upon my gray-haired chief as a sort of official grandfather, and my
fellow-clerks will be brothers and sisters by adoption, but that will
take time.

I wonder if I shall work for "years and years"?  I am not sure that I
should like it.  And there you have the woman of it.  A man knows that
his toiling is for life; unless he grows rich and takes to golf.  But a
woman never looks ahead and says, "This thing I must do until I die."
She always has a sense of possible release.

I am not at all sure that I am a logical person.  In one breath I am
telling you that I like my work; and in the next I am saying that I
shouldn't care to do it all my life.  But at least there's this for it,
that just now it is a heavenly diversion from the worries which would
otherwise have weighed.

What did you do about lunches?  Mine are as yet an unsolved problem.  I
like my luncheon nicely set forth on my own mahogany, with the little
scalloped linen doilies that we've always used.  And I want my own tea
and bread and butter and marmalade, and Susan's hot little made-overs.
But here I am expected to rush out with the rest, and feast on
impossible soups and stews and sandwiches in a restaurant across the
way.  The only alternative is to bring my lunch in a box, and eat it on
my desk.  And then I lose the breath of fresh air which I need more
than the food.

Oh, these June days!  Are they hot with you?  Here they are heavenly.
When the windows are open, the sweet warm air blows up from the river
and across the White Lot, and we get a whiff of roses from the gardens
back of the President's house; and when I reach home at night, the
fragrance of the roses in our own garden meets me long before I can see
the house.  We have wonderful roses this year, and the hundred-leaved
bush back of the bench by the fountain is like a rosy cloud.  I made a
crown of them the other day, and put them on the head of the little
bronze boy, and I took a picture which I am sending.  Somehow the boy
of the fountain has always seemed to me to be alive, and to have in him
some human quality, like a faun or a dryad.

Last night I sat very late in the garden, and I thought of what you
said to me that night when you tried to tell me about your life.  Do
you remember what you said--that when I came into it, it seemed to you
that the garden bloomed?  Well, I came across this the other day, in a
volume of Ruskin which father gave me, and which somehow I've never
cared to read--but now it seems quite wonderful:

"You have heard it said that flowers flourish rightly only in the
garden of some one who loves them.  I know you would like that to be
true; you would think it a pleasant magic if you could flush your
flowers into brighter bloom by a kind look upon them; if you could bid
the dew fall upon them in the drought, and say to the south wind, 'Come
thou south wind and breathe upon my garden that the spices of it may
flow forth.'  This you would think a great thing.  And do you not think
it a greater thing that all this you can do for fairer flowers than
these--flowers that have eyes like yours and thoughts like yours, and
lives like yours; which, once saved, you save forever.

"Will you not go down among them--far among the moorlands and the
rocks--far in the darkness of the terrible streets; these feeble
florets are lying with all their fresh leaves torn and their stems
broken--will you never go down to them, not set them in order in their
little fragrant beds, nor fence them in their shuddering from the
fierce wind?"

There's a lot more of it--but perhaps you know it.  I think I have
always done nice little churchly things, and charitable things, but I
haven't thought as much, perhaps, about my fellow man and woman as I
might.  We come to things slowly here in Washington.  We are
conservative, and we have no great industrial problems, no strikes and
unions and things like that.  Grace says that there is plenty here to
reform, but the squalor doesn't stick right out before your eyes as it
does in some of the dreadful tenements in the bigger cities.  So we
forget--and I have forgotten.  Until your letter came about that boy in
the pines.

Everything that you tell me about him is like a fairy tale.  I can shut
my eyes and see you two in that circle of young pines.  I can hear your
voice ringing in the stillness.  You don't tell me of yourself, but I
know this, that in that boy you've found an audience--and he is doing
things for you while you are doing them for him.  You are living once
more, aren't you?

And the little sad children.  I was so glad to pick out the books with
the bright pictures.  Weren't the Cinderella illustrations dear?  With
all the gowns as pink as they could be and the grass as green as green,
and the sky as blue as blue.  And the yellow frogs in "The frog he
would a wooing go," and the Walter Crane illustrations for the little
book of songs.

You must make them sing "Oh, What Have You Got for Dinner, Mrs. Bond?"
and "Oranges and Lemons" and "Lavender's blue, Diddle-Diddle."

Do you know what Aunt Isabelle is making for the little girls?  She is
so interested.  Such rosy little aprons of pink and white checked
gingham--with wide strings to tie behind.  And my contribution is pink
hair ribbons.  Now won't your garden bloom?

You must tell me how their little garden plots come on.  Surely that
was an inspiration.  I told Porter about them the other night, and he
said, "For Heaven's sake, who ever heard of beginning with gardens in
the education of ignorant children?"

But you and I begin and end with gardens, don't we?  Were the seeds all
right, and did the bulbs come up?  Aunt Isabelle almost cried over your
description of the joy on the little faces when the crocuses they had
planted appeared.

I am eager to hear more of them, and of you.  Oh, yes, and of Cousin
Patty.  I simply love her.

There's so much more to say, but I mustn't.  I must go to bed, and be
fresh for my work in the morning.

Ever sincerely,

MARY BALLARD.


_Among the Pines._

I shall have to begin at the last of your letter, and work toward the
beginning, for it is of my sad children that I must speak
first--although my pen is eager to talk about you, and what your letter
has meant to me.

The sad children are no longer sad.  Against the sand-hills they are
like rose petals blown by the wind.  Their pink aprons tied in the back
with great bows, and the pink ribbons have transformed them, so that,
except for their blank eyes, they might be any other little girls in
the world.

I have taught them several of the pretty songs; you should hear their
piping voices--and with their picture books and their gardens, they are
very busy and happy indeed.

Their mother is positively illumined by the change her young folks.
Never in her life has she seen any country but this one of charred
pines and sand.  I find her bending over the Cinderella book, liking
it, and liking the children's little gardens.

"We ain't never had no flower garden," she confided to me.  "Jim he
ain't had time, and I ain't had time, and I ain't never had no luck
nohow."

But the boy still means the most to me.  And you have found the reason.
It isn't what I am doing for him, it is what he is doing for me.  If
you could see his eyes!  They are a boy's eyes now, not those of a
little wild animal.  He is beginning to read the simple books you sent.
We began with "Mother Goose," and I gave him first "The King of France
and Forty Thousand Men."  The "Oranges and Lemons" song carried on the
Dick Whittington atmosphere which he had liked in my poem, with its
bells of Old Bailey and Shoreditch.  He'll know his London before I get
through with him.

But we've struck even a deeper note.  One Sunday I was moved to take
out with me your father's old Bible.  There's a rose between its
leaves, kept for a talisman against the blue devils which sometimes get
me in their grip.  Well, I took the old Bible out to our little
amphitheater in the pines, and read, what do you think?  Not the Old
Testament stories.

I read the Beatitudes, and my boy listened, and when I had finished, he
asked, "What is blessed?  And who said that?"

I told him, and brought back to myself in the telling the vision of
myself as a boy.  Oh, how far I have drifted from the dreams of that
boy!  And if it had not been for you I should never have turned back.
And now this boy in the pines, and the boy who was I are learning
together, step by step.  I am trying to forget the years between.  I am
trying to take up life where it was before I was overthrown.  I can't
quite get hold of things yet as a man, for when I try, I feel a man's
bitterness.  But the boy believes, and I have shut the man in me away,
until the boy grows up.

Does this sound fantastic?  To whom else would I dare write such a
thing, but to you?  But you will understand.  I feel that I need make
no apology.

Coming now to you and your work.  I can bring no optimism to bear, I
suppose I should say that it is well.  But there is in me too much of
the primitive masculine for that.  When a man cares for a woman he
inevitably wants to shield her.  But what would you?  Shall a man let
the thing which he would cherish be buffeted by the winds?

I don't like to think of you in an office, with all your pretty woman
instincts curbed to meet the stern formality of such a life.  I don't
like to think that any chief, however fatherly, shall dictate to you
not only letters but rules of conduct.  I don't like to think of you as
hustled by a crowd at lunch time.  I don't like to think of the great
stone walls which shut you in.  I don't want your wings clipped for
such a cage.

And there is this I must say, that all men do not need wives to toast
their slippers or to serve their meals piping hot, or even to smooth
the wrinkles, although I confess that there's an appeal in this last.
Some of us need wives for inspiration, for spiritual and mental uplift,
for the word of cheer when our hearts are weary--for the strength which
believes in our strength--one doesn't exactly think of Juliet as
toasting slippers, or of Rosalind, or of Portia, yet such women never
for one moment failed their lovers.

My Cousin Patty says that work will do you good, and we have great
arguments.  I have told her of you, not everything, because there are
some things which are sacred.  But I have told her that life for me,
since I have known you, has taken on new meanings.

She glories in your independence and wants to know you.  Some day, it
is written, I am sure, that you two shall meet.  In some things you are
much alike--in others utterly different, with the differences made by
heredity and environment.

My little Cousin Patty is the composite of three generations.  Amid her
sweets and spices, she is as domestic as her grandmother, but her mind
sweeps on to the future of women in a way which makes me gasp.

Politics are the breath of her life.  She comes of a long line of
statesmen, and having no father or brother or husband to uphold the
family traditions of Democracy, she upholds them herself.  She is
intensely interested just now in the party nominations.  A split among
the Republicans gives her hope of the election of the Democratic
candidate.  She's such a feminine little creature with her soft voice
and appealing manner, with her big white aprons covering her up, and
curling wisps of black hair falling over her little ears, that the
contrasts in her life are almost funny.  In our evenings over the
little white boxes, we mix questions of State Rights and Free Trade
with our bridal decorations, and it seems to me that I shall never
again go to a wedding without a vision of my little Cousin Patty among
her orange blossoms, laying down the law on current politics.

The negro question in Cousin Patty's mind is that of the Southerner of
the better class.  It isn't these descendants of old families who hate
the negro.  Such gentlefolk do not, of course, want equality, but they
want fair treatment for the weaker race.  Find me a white man who raves
with rabid prejudice against the black, and I will show you one whose
grandfather belonged not to the planter but to the cracker class, or a
Northerner grafting on Southern Stock.  Even in slave times there was
rancor between the black man and what he called "po' white trash" and
it still continues.

The picture of the little bronze boy with his crown of roses lies on my
desk.  I should like much to sit with you on the bench beneath the
hundred-leaved bush.  What things I should have to say to you!  Things
which I dare not write, lest you never let me write again.

You glean the best from everything.  That you should take my little
talk about gardens, and fit it to what Ruskin has said, is a gracious
act.  You speak of that night in the garden.  Do you remember that you
wore a scarlet wrap of thin silk?  I could think of nothing as you came
toward me, but of some glorious flower of almost supernatural bloom.
All about you the garden was dying.  But you were Life--Life as it
springs up afresh from a world that is dead.

I know how empty the old house seems to you, without Barry, without
Constance, without the beautiful baby whom I have never seen.  To me it
can never seem empty with you in it.  Is the saying of such things
forbidden?  Please believe that I don't mean to force them on you, but
I write as I think.

By this post Cousin Patty is sending a box of her famous cake, for you
and Aunt Isabelle.  There's enough for an army, so I shall think of you
as dispensing tea in the garden, with your friends about you--lucky
friends--and with the little bronze boy looking on and laughing.

To Mary of the Garden, then, this letter goes with all good wishes.

ROGER POOLE.



CHAPTER XIX

_In Which Porter Plants an Evil Seed Which Grows and Flourishes; and in
Which Ghosts Rise and Confront Mary._


As has been said, Porter Bigelow was not a snob, and he was a
gentleman.  But even a gentleman can, when swayed by primal emotions,
convince himself that high motives rule, even while performing acts of
doubtful honor.

It was thus that Porter proved to himself that his interest in Roger
Poole's past was purely that of the protector and friend of Mary
Ballard.  Mary must not throw herself away.  Mary must be guarded
against the tragedy of marriage with a man who was not worthy.  And who
could do this better than he?

In pursuance of his policy of protection he took his way one afternoon
in July to Colin's studio.

"I'm staying in town," Colin told him, "because of Miss Jeliffe.  Her
father is held by the long Session.  I'm painting another picture of
her, and fixing up these rooms in the interim--how do you like them?"

In his furnishing, Colin had broken away from conventional tradition.
Here were no rugs hung from balconies, no rich stuffs and suits of
armor.  It was simply a cool little place, with a big window
overlooking one of the parks.  Its walls were tinted gray, and there
were a few comfortable rattan chairs, with white linen cushions.  A
portrait of Delilah dominated the room.  He had painted her in the
costume which she had worn at the garden party--in all the glory of
cool greens and faint pink, and heavenly blue.

Porter surveying the portrait said, slowly, "You said that you had
painted--other women?"

"Yes--but none so satisfactory as Miss Jeliffe."

"There was the little saint--in red."

"You remember that?  It is just a small canvas."

"You said you'd show it to me."

Colin, rummaging in a second room, called back, "I've found it, and
here's another, of a woman who seemed to fit in with a Botticelli
scheme.  She was the long lank type."

Porter was not interested in the Botticelli woman, nor in Colin's
experiments.  He wanted to see Roger Poole's wife, so he gave scant
attention to Colin's enthusiastic comments on the first canvas which he
displayed.

"She has the long face.  D'you see?  And the thin long body.  But I
couldn't make her a success.  That's the joy of Delilah Jeliffe.  She
has the temperament of an actress and simply lives in her part.  But
this woman couldn't.  And lobster suppers and lovely lank ladies are
not synonymous--so I gave her up."

But Porter was reaching for the other sketch.

With it in his hand, he surveyed the small creature with the angel
face.  In her dress of pure clear red, with the touch of gold in the
halo, and a lyre in her hand, she seemed lighted by divine fire, above
the earth, appealing.

"I fancy it must have been the man's fault if marriage with such a wife
was a failure," he ventured.

Colin shrugged.  "Who can tell?" he said.  "There were moments when she
did not seem a saint."

"What do you mean?"  Porter's voice was almost irritable.

"It is hard to tell," the little artist reflected--"now and then a
glance, a word--seemed to give her away."

"You may have misunderstood."

"Perhaps.  But men who know women rarely misunderstand--that kind."

"Did you ever hear Roger Poole preach?" Porter asked, abruptly.

"Several times.  He promised to be a great man.  It was a pity."

"And you say she married again."

"Yes, and died shortly after."

The subject ended there, and Porter went away with the vision in his
mind of Roger's wife, and of what the picture of the little saint in
red would mean to Mary Ballard if she could see it.

The thought, having lodged like an evil seed, grew and flourished.

Of late he had seen comparatively little of Mary.  He was not sure
whether she planned deliberately to avoid him, or whether her work
really absorbed her.  That she wrote to Roger Poole he knew.  She did
not try to hide the fact, but spoke frankly of Roger's life in the
pines.

The flames of his jealous thought burned high and hot.  He refused to
go with his father and mother to the northern coast, preferring to stay
and swelter in the heat of Washington where he could be near Mary.  He
grew restless and pale, unlike himself.  And he found in Leila a
confidante and friend, for the General, like Mr. Jeliffe, was held in
town by the late Congress.

Little-Lovely Leila was Little-Lonely Leila now.  Yet after her
collapse at the boat, she had shown her courage.  She had put away
childish things and was developing into a steadfast little woman, who
busied herself with making her father happy.  She watched over him and
waited on him.  And he who loved her wondered at her unexpected
strength, not knowing that she was saying to herself, "I am a wife--not
a child.  And I mustn't make it hard for father--I mustn't make it hard
for anybody.  And when Barry comes back I shall be better fitted to
share his life if I have learned to be brave."

She wrote to Barry--such cheerful letters, and one of them sent him to
Gordon.

"It would have been better if I had brought her with me," he said, as
he read extracts; "she's a little thing, Gordon, but she's a wonder.
And she's the prop on which I lean."

"Presently you will be the prop," Gordon responded, "and that's what a
husband should be, Barry, as you'll find out when you're married."

When!--if Gordon had only known how Barry dreamed of Leila--in her
yellow gown, trudging by his side toward the church on the
hill--dancing in the moonlight, a primrose swaying on its stem.  How
unquestioning had been her faith in him!  And he must prove himself
worthy of that faith.

And he did prove it by a steadiness which astonished Gordon, and by an
industry which was almost unnatural, and he wrote to Leila, "I shall
show them, dear heart, and then they'll let me have you."

It was on the night after Leila received this letter that Porter came
to take her for a ride.

"Ask Mary to go with us," he said; "she won't go with me alone."

Leila's glance was sympathetic.  "Did she say she wouldn't?"

"I asked her.  And she said she was--tired.  As if a ride wouldn't rest
her," hotly.

"It would.  You let me try her, Porter."

Leila's voice at the telephone was coaxing.  "I want to go, Mary, dear,
and Dad is busy at the Capitol, and----"

"But I said I wouldn't."

"Porter won't care, just so he gets you.  He's at my elbow now,
listening.  And he says you are to ask Aunt Isabelle, and sit with her
on the back seat if you want to be fussy."

"Leila," Porter was protesting, "I didn't say anything of the kind."

She went on regardless, "Well, if he didn't say it he meant it.  And we
want you, both of us, awfully."

Leila hanging up the receiver shook her head at Porter.  "You don't
know how to manage Mary.  If you'd stay away from her for weeks--and
not try to see her--she'd begin to wonder where you were."

"No she wouldn't."  Porter's tone was weighted with woe.  "She'd simply
be glad, and she'd sit in her Tower Rooms and write letters to Roger
Poole, and forget that I was on the earth."

It was out now--all his flaming jealousy.  Leila stared at him.  "Oh,
Porter," she asked, breathlessly, "do you really think that she cares
for Roger?"

"I know it."

"Has she told you?"

"Not--exactly.  But she hasn't denied it.  And he sha'n't have her.
She belongs to me, Leila."

Leila sighed.  "Oh, why should love affairs always go wrong?"

"Mine shall go right," Porter assured her grimly.  "I'm not in this
fight to give up, Leila."

When they took Mary in and Aunt Isabelle, Mary insisted that Leila
should keep her seat beside Porter.  "I'm dead tired," she said, "and I
don't want to talk."

And now Porter, aiming strategically for Colin Quale's studio, took
them everywhere else but in the direction of his objective point.  But
at last, after a long ride, they crossed the park which was faced by
Colin's rooms.

"Have you seen Delilah's portrait?" Porter asked, casually.

They had not, and he knew it.

"If Colin's in, why not stop?"

They agreed and found Delilah there, and her father.  The night was
very hot, the room was faintly illumined by a hanging silver lamp in an
alcove.  From among the shadows, Delilah rose.  "Colin is telephoning
to the club for lemonades and things," she said; "he'll be back in a
minute."

"We came to see your picture," Mary informed her.

"He is painting me again," Delilah said, "in the moonlight, like this."

She seated herself in the wide window, so that back of her was the
silver haze of the glorious night Her dress of thin fine white was
unrelieved.

Colin, coming in, set down his tray hastily and hastened to change the
pose of her head.  "It will be hard to get just the effect I want," he
told them.  "It must not be hard black and white, but luminous."

"I want them to see the other picture," Porter said.

Colin switched on the lights.  "I'll never do better than this," he
said.

"Do you like it, Mary?" Delilah asked.  "It is the garden party dress."

"I love it," Mary said.  "It isn't just the dress, Delilah.  It's you.
It's so joyous--as if you were expecting much of life."

"I am," Delilah said.  "I'm expecting everything."

"And you'll get it," Colin stated.  "You won't wait for any one to hand
it to you; you'll simply reach out and take it."

Porter's eyes were searching.   "Look here, Quale," he said, at last,
"do you mind letting us see the others?--that Botticelli woman and the
Fra Angelico--they show your versatility."

Colin hesitated.  "They are crude beside this."

But Porter insisted.  "They're charming.  Trot them out, Quale."

So out they came---the picture of the lank lady with the long face, and
the picture of the little saint in red.

It was to the girl in red that they gave the most attention.

"How lovely she is," Mary said, "and how sweet."

But Delilah, observing closely, did not agree with her.  "I'm not sure.
Some women look like that who are little fiends.  You haven't shown me
this before, Colin.  Who was she?"

Colin evaded.  "Some one I knew a long time ago."

Porter was shaken inwardly by the thought that the little blond artist
was proving himself a gentleman.  He would not proclaim to the world
what he had told Porter in confidence.

Porter's instincts, however, were purely primitive.  He wanted to shout
to the housetops, "That's the picture of Roger Poole's wife.  Look at
her and see how sweet she is.  And then decide if she made her own
unhappiness."

But he did not shout.  He kept silent and watched Mary.  She was still
studying the picture attentively.  "I don't see how you can say that
she could be anything but sweet, Delilah.  I think it is the face of a
truthful child."

Porter's heart leaped.  The time would come when he would tell her that
the picture of the little trustful child was the picture of Roger
Poole's wife.  And then----

Colin had turned off the lights again.  They sat now among the shadows
and drank cool things and ate the marvelous little cakes which were a
specialty of the pastry cook around the corner.

"In a week we'll all be away from here," Delilah said.  "I wonder why
we are so foolish.  If it weren't for the fact that we've got the
habit, we'd be just as comfortable at home."

"I shall be at home," Mary said.  "I'm not entitled yet to a vacation."

"Don't you hate it?" Delilah demanded frankly.

Mary hesitated.  "No, I don't.  I can't say that I really like it--but
it gave me quite a wonderful feeling to open my first pay envelope."

"Women have gone mad," Porter said.  "They are deliberately turning
away from womanly things to make machines of themselves."

Delilah, taking up the cudgels for Mary, demanded, "Is Mary turning her
back on womanly things any more than I?  I am making a business of
capturing society--Mary is simply holding down her job until Romance
butts into her life."

Colin stopped her.  "I wish you'd put your twentieth century mind on
your mid-Victorian clothes," he said, "and live up to them--in your
language."

Delilah laughed.  "Well, I told the truth if I didn't do it elegantly.
We are both working for things which we want.  Mary wants Romance and I
want social recognition."

Leila sighed.  "It isn't always what we want that we get, is it?" she
asked, and Porter answered with decision, "It is not.  Life throws us
usually brickbats instead of bouquets."

Colin did not agree.  "Life gives us sometimes more than we deserve.
It has given me that picture of Miss Jeliffe.  And I consider that a
pretty big slice of good fortune."

"You're a nice boy, Colin," Delilah told him, "and I like you--and I
like your philosophy.  I fancy life is giving me as much as I deserve."

The others were silent.  Life was not giving Leila or Porter or Mary at
that moment the things that they wanted.  Porter's demands on destiny
were definite.  He wanted Mary.  Leila wanted Barry.  Mary did not know
what she wanted; she only knew that she was unsatisfied.

Porter took Leila home first, then drove Mary and Aunt Isabelle back
through the park to the old house on the hill.

"I'm coming in," he said, as he helped Mary out of the car.

"But it is so late, Porter."

"I've been here lots of times as late as this.  I won't be sent home,
Mary, not to-night."

Aunt Isabelle, tired and sleepy, went at once up-stairs.  Mary sat on
the porch with Porter.  Below them lay the city in the white moonlight.
For a while they were silent, then Porter said, suddenly:

"Mary, there's something I want to tell you.  You may think that I'm
interfering in your affairs, but I can't help it.  I can't see you
doing things which will make you unhappy."

"I'm not unhappy.  What do you mean, Porter?"

"You will be--if you go on as you are going.  Mary--I took you to
Colin's to-night on purpose, so that you could see the picture of the
little saint in red, the Fra Angelico one."

"Yes."

"You know what you said about her--that she had such a trustful,
childish face?"

"Yes."

"That was the picture of Roger Poole's wife, Mary."

She sat as still in her white dress as a marble statue.

At last she asked, "How do you know?"

"Quale told me.  I fancy he hadn't heard that Poole had lived here, and
that we knew him.  So he let the name drop carelessly."

"Well?"

He turned on her flaming.  "I know what you mean by that tone, Mary.
But you're unjust.  You think I've been meddling.  But I haven't.  It
is only this.  If Poole could break the heart of one woman, he can
break the heart of another--and he sha'n't break yours."

"Who told you that he broke her heart?"

"You've seen the picture.  Could a woman with a face like that do
anything bad enough to wreck a man's life?  I can't believe it, Mary.
There are always two sides of a question."

She did not answer at once.  Then she said, "How did you know
about--Roger?"

"Delilah told me--he couldn't expect to keep it secret."

"He did not expect it; and he had much to bear."

"Then he has told you, and has pleaded with eloquence?  But that
child's face in the picture pleads with me."

It did plead.  Remembering it, Mary was assailed by her first doubts.
It was such a child's face, with saint's eyes.

Porter's voice was proceeding.  "A man can always make out a case for
himself.  And you have only his word for what he did.  Oh, I suppose
you'll think I'm all sorts of a cad to talk this way.  But I can't see
you drifting, drifting toward a danger which may wreck your life."

"Why should it wreck my life?"

"Because Poole, whatever the merits of the case--doesn't seem to me
strong enough to shape his destiny and yours.  Was it strong for him to
let go as he did, just because that woman failed him?  Was it strong
for him to hide himself here--like--like a criminal?  A strong man
would have faced the world.  He would have tried to rise out of his
wreck.  His actions all through spell weakness.  I could bear your not
marrying me, Mary.  But I can't bear to see you marry a man who isn't
worthy of you.  To see you unhappy would be torture for me."

In his earnestness he had struck a genuine note, and she recognized it.

"I know," she said, unsteadily.  "I believe that you think you are
fighting my battle, instead of your own.  But I don't think Roger Poole
would--lie."

"Not consciously.  But he'd create the wrong impression--we can never
see our own faults--and he would blame her, of course.  But the man who
has made one woman unhappy would make another unhappy, Mary."

Mary was shaken.

"Please don't put it so--inevitably.  Roger hasn't any claim on me
whatever."

"Hasn't he?  Oh, Mary, hasn't he?"

There was hope in his voice, and she shrank from it.

"No," she said, gently, "he is just--my friend.  As yet I can't believe
evil of him.  But I don't love him.  I don't love anybody--I don't want
any man in my life."

She thought that she meant it.  She thought it, even while her heart
was crying out in defense of the man he had maligned.

"How can one know the truth of such a thing?" she went on, unsteadily.
"One can only believe in one's friends."

"Mary," eagerly, "you've known Poole only for a few months.  You've
known me always.  I can give you a devotion equal to anybody's.  Why
not drop all this contrariness--and come to me?"

"Why not?" she asked herself.  Roger Poole was obscure, and destined to
be obscure.  More than that, there would always be people like Porter
who would question his past.  "It is the whispers that kill," Roger had
said.  And people would always whisper.

She rose and walked to the end of the porch.  Porter followed her, and
they stood looking down into the garden.  It was in a riot of summer
bloom--and the fragrance rushed up to them.

The garden!  And herself a flower!  It was such things that Roger Poole
could say, and which Porter could never say.  And he could not say them
because he could not think them.  The things that Porter thought were
commonplace, the things which Roger thought were wonderful.  If she
married Porter Bigelow, she would walk always with her feet firmly on
the ground.  If she married Roger Poole they would fly in the upper air
together.

"Mary," Porter was insisting, "dear girl."

She held up her hand.  "I won't listen," she said, almost passionately;
"don't imagine things about me, Porter.  I have my work--and my
freedom--I won't give them up for anybody."

If she said the words with something less than her former confidence he
was not aware of it.  How could he know that she was making a last
desperate stand?

When at last she sent him away, he went with an air of depression which
touched her.

"I've risked being thought a cad," he said, "but I had to do it."

"I know.  I don't blame you, dear boy."

She gave him her hand upon it, and he went away, and she was left alone
in the moonlight.

And when the last echo of his purring car had died away into silence
she went down and sat in the garden on the bench beside the
hundred-leaved bush.  Aunt Isabelle's light was still burning, and
presently she would go up and say "Good-night," but for the moment she
must be alone.  Alone to face the doubts which were facing her.
Suppose, oh, suppose, that the things which Roger had told her about
his marriage had been distorted to make his story sound plausible?
Suppose the little wife had suffered, had been driven from him by
coldness, by cruelty?  One never knew the real inner histories of such
domestic tragedies.  There was Leila, for example, who knew nothing of
Barry's faults, and Barry had not told her.  Might not other men have
faults which they dared not tell?  The world was full of just such
tragedies.

When at last Mary reached the Tower Rooms, she undressed in the dark.
She said her prayers in the dark, out loud, as had been her childish
habit.  And this was what she said: "Oh, Lord, I want to believe in
Roger.  Let me believe--don't let me doubt--let me believe."

When at last she slept, it was to dream and wake and to dream again.
And waking or dreaming, out of the shadows came ghostly creatures, who
whispered, "His little wife was a saint--how could she make him
unhappy?"  And again, "He may have been cruel, how do you know that he
was not cruel?"  And again, "If you were his wife, you would be
thinking always of that other wife--thinking--thinking--thinking."



CHAPTER XX

_In Which Mary Faces the Winter of Her Discontent; and in Which Delilah
Sees Things in a Crystal Ball._


The summer slipped by, monotonously hot, languidly humid.  And it was
on these hot and humid days that Mary felt the grind of her new
occupation.  She grew to dread her entrance into the square close
office room, with its gaunt desks and its unchanging occupants.  She
waxed restless through the hours of confinement, escaping thankfully at
the end of a long day.

She longed for a whiff of the sea, for the deeps of some forest, for
the fields of green which must be somewhere beyond the blue-gray haze
which had settled over the shimmering city.

She began to show the effects of her unaccustomed drudgery.  She grew
pale and thin.  Aunt Isabelle was worried.  The two women sat much by
the fountain.  Mary had begged Aunt Isabelle to go away to some cooler
spot.  But the gentle lady had refused.

"This is home to me, my dear," she had said, "and I don't mind the
heat.  And there's no happiness for me in big hotels."

"There'd be happiness for me anywhere that I could get a breath of
coolness," Mary said, restlessly.  "I can hardly wait for the fall
days."

Yet when the cooler days came, there was the dreariness of rain and of
sighing winds.  And now it was November, and Roger Poole had been away
a year.

The garden was dead, and Mary was glad.  Dead gardens seemed to fit
into her mood better than those which bloomed.  Resolutely she set
herself to be cheerful; conscientiously, she told herself that she must
live up to the theories which she had professed; sternly, she called
herself to account that she did not exult in the freedom which she had
craved.  Constantly her mind warred with her heart, and her heart won;
and she faced the truth that all seasons would be dreary without Roger
Poole.

Her letters to him of late had lacked the spontaneity which had at
first characterized them.  She knew it, and tried to regain her old
sense of ease and intimacy.  But the doubts which Porter had planted
had borne fruit.  Always between her and Roger floated the vision of
the little saint in red.

It was inevitable that Roger's letters should change.  He ceased to
show her the side which for a time he had so surprisingly revealed.
Their correspondence became perfunctory--intermittent.

"It is my own fault," Mary told herself, yet the knowledge did not make
things easier.

And now began the winter of her discontent.  If any one had told her in
her days of buoyant self-confidence that she would ever go to bed weary
and wake up hopeless, she would have scorned the idea; yet the fact
remained that the fruit of her independence was Dead Sea apples.

It was a letter from Barry which again brought her head up, and made
her life march once more to a martial tune.

"I have found the work for which I am fitted," he wrote; "you don't
know how good it seems.  For so many years I went to my desk like a boy
driven to school.  But now--why, I work after hours for the sheer love
of it--and because it seems to bring me nearer to Leila."

This from Barry, the dawdler!  And she who had preached was whimpering
about heat and cold, about long hours and hard work--as if these things
matter!

Why, life was a Great Adventure, and she had forgotten!

And now she began to look about her--to find, if she could, some ray to
illumine her workaday world.

She found it in the friendliness and companionship of her office
comrades--good comrades they were--fighting the battle of drudgery
shoulder to shoulder, sharing the fortunes of the road, needing, some
of them, the uplift of her courage, giving some of them more than they
asked.

As Mary grew into their lives, she grew away somewhat from her old
crowd.  And if, at times, her gallant fight seemed futile--if at times
she could not still the cry of her heart, it was because she was a
woman, made to be loved, fitted for finer things and truer things than
writing cabalistic signs on a tablet and transcribing them, later, on
the typewriter.

Leila had refused to be dropped from Mary's life.  She came, whenever
she could, to walk a part of the way home with her friend, and the two
girls would board a car and ride to the edge of the town, preferring to
tramp along the edges of the Soldiers' Home or through the Park to the
more formal promenade through the city streets.

It was during these little adventures that Mary became conscious of
certain reserves in the younger girl.  She was closely confidential,
yet the open frankness of the old days was gone.

Once Mary spoke of it.  "You've grown up, all in a minute, Leila," she
said.  "You're such a quiet little mouse."

Leila sighed.  "There's so much to think about."

Watching her, Mary decided.  "It is harder for her than for Barry.  He
has his work.  But she just waits and longs for him."

In waiting and longing, Little-Lovely Leila grew more mouse-like than
ever.  And at last Mary spoke to the General.  "She needs a change."

He nodded.  "I know it.  I am thinking of taking her over in the
spring."

"How lovely.  Have you told her?"

"No--I thought it would be a grand surprise."

"Tell her now, dear General.  She needs to look forward."

So the General, who had been kept in the house nearly all winter by his
rheumatism, spoke of certain baths in Germany.

"I thought I'd go over and try them," he informed his small daughter,
on the day after his talk with Mary, "and you could stop and call on
Barry."

"Barry!"  She made a little rush toward him.  "Dad, _Dad_, do you mean
it?"

"Yes."

She tucked her head into his shoulder and cried for happiness.  "Dad,
I've missed him so."

With this hope held out to her, Little-Lovely Leila grew radiant.  Once
more her feet danced along the halls, and the music of her voice
trilled bird-like in the big rooms.

Delilah, discussing it with her artist, said: "Leila makes me believe
in Romance with a big R.  But I couldn't love like that."

Colin smiled.  "You'd love like a lioness.  I've subdued you outwardly,
but within you are still primitive."

"I wonder----" Delilah mused.

"The man for you," Colin turned to her suddenly, "is Porter Bigelow.
Of course I'm taking it from the artist's point of view.  You're made
for each other--a pair of young gods--his red head just topping your
black one--It was that way at the garden party; any one could see it."

Delilah laughed.  "His eyes aren't for me.  With him it is Mary
Ballard.  If I were in love with him, I should hate Mary.  But I don't;
I love her.  And she's in love with Roger Poole."

Colin looked up from the samples from which he and Delilah were
choosing her spring wardrobe.

"Poole?  I knew his wife," he said abruptly; "it was her picture that I
showed you the other night--the little saint in the Fra Angelico
pose--it didn't come to me until afterward that he might be the same
Poole of whom I had heard you speak."

Delilah swept across the room, and turned the canvas outward.  "Roger
Poole's wife," she said, "of all things!"  Then she stood staring
silently.

"You didn't tell us who she was."

"No," he was weighing mentally Porter's attitude in the matter, "no one
knew but Bigelow."

"And he showed this to Mary?"  They looked at each other, and laughed.
"Perhaps all's fair in love," Delilah murmured, at last, "but I
wouldn't have believed it of him."

As she turned the picture toward the wall, Delilah decided, "Mary
Ballard is worth a hundred of such women as this."

"A woman like you is worth a hundred of them," Colin stated
deliberately.

Delilah flushed faintly.  Colin Quale was giving to her something which
no other man had given.  And she liked it.

"Do you know what you are doing to me?" she said, as she sat down by
the window.  "You are making me think that I am like the pictures you
paint of me."

"You are," was the quiet response; "it's just a matter of getting
beneath the surface."

There was a pause during which his fingers and eyes were busy with the
shining samples--then Delilah said: "If Leila and her father go to
Germany in May, I'm going to get Dad to go too.  I don't suppose you'd
care to join us?  You'll want to get back to that girl in Amesbury or
Newburyport, or whatever it is."

"What girl?"

"The one you are going to marry."

"There is no girl," said Colin quietly, "in Amesbury or Newburyport;
there never has been and there never will be."  Coming close, he held
against her cheek a sample of soft pale yellow.  "Leila Dick wears that
a lot, but it's not for you."  He stood back and gazed at her
meditatively.

"Colin," she protested, "when you look at me that way, I feel like a
wooden model."

He smiled, "That's what you have come to mean to me," he said; "I don't
want to think of you as a woman."

"Why not?" asked daring Delilah.

"Because it is, to say the least, disturbing."

He occupied himself with his samples, shaking his head over them.

"None of these will do for the Secretary's dinner.  You must have lace
with many flounces caught up in the new fashion.  And I shall want your
hair different.  Take it down."

She was used to him now, and presently it fell about her in all its
shining sable beauty; and as he separated the strands, it was like a
thing alive under his hands.

He crowned her head with the braids in a sort of old-fashioned coronet.
And so arranged, the old fashion became a new fashion, and Delilah was
like a queen.

"You see--with the lace and your pearl ornaments.  There is nothing
startling; but no one will be like you."

And there was no one like her.  And because of the dress, which Colin
had planned, and because of the way which he had taught her to do her
hair, Delilah annexed to her train of admirers on the night of the
Secretary's dinner a distinguished titled gentleman, who was looking
for a wife to grace his ancestral halls--and who was impressed mightily
by the fact that Delilah looked the part to perfection.

He proposed to her in three weeks, and was so sure of his ability to
get what he wanted that he was stunned by her answer:

"Perhaps I'll make up my mind to it.  I'll give you your answer when I
come over in the spring."

"But I want my answer now."

"I'm sorry.  But I can't."

When she told Colin of her abrupt dismissal of the discomfited
gentleman, she asked, almost plaintively, "Why couldn't I say 'yes' at
once?  It is the thing I've always wanted."

"Have you really wanted it?"

"Of course."

"Not of course.  You want other things more."

"What for example?"

"I think you know."

She did know, and she drew a quick breath.  Then laughed.

"You're trying to teach me to understand my--emotions, Colin, as you
have taught me to understand my clothes."

"You're an apt pupil."

Tea came in, just then, and she poured for him, telling his fortune
afterward in his teacup.

"Are you superstitious?" she asked him, having worked out a future of
conventional happiness and success.

"Not enough to believe what you have told me."  He was flickering his
pale lashes and smiling.  "Life shall bring me what I want because I
shall make it come."

"Oh, you think that?"

"Yes.  All things are possible to those of us who believe they are
possible."

"Perhaps to a man.  But--to a woman.  There's Leila, for example.  I'm
afraid----"

"You mustn't be.  Life will come right for her."

"How do you know?"

"It comes right for all of us, in one way or another.  You'll find it
works out.  You're afraid for your little friend because of
Ballard--he's pretty gay, eh?"

"Yes.  More, I think, than she understands.  But everybody else knows
that they sent him away for that.  And I can't see any way out.  If he
marries her he'll break her heart; if he doesn't marry her he'll break
it--and there you have it."

"You must not put these 'ifs' in their way.  There'll be some way out."

She rose and went to a table to a little cabinet which she unlocked.

"You wouldn't let me have my crystal ball in evidence," she said,
"because it doesn't fit in with the rest of my new furnishings--but it
tells things."

"What things?"

"I'll show you."  She set it on the table between them.  "Put your hand
on each side of it."

He grasped it with his flexible fingers.  "Don't invent----" he warned.

She began to speak slowly, and she was still at it when Porter's big
car drove up to the door, and he came in with Mary and Leila.

"I picked up these two on their way home," Porter explained; "it is
raining pitchforks, and I'm in my open car.  And so, kind lady, dear
lady, will you give us tea?"

Colin and Delilah, each a little pale, breathing quickly, rose to greet
their guests.

"She's been telling my fortune," Colin informed them, while Delilah
gave orders for more hot water and cups.  "It's a queer business."

Porter scoffed.  "A fake, if there ever was one."

Colin mused.  "Perhaps.  But she has the air of a seeress when she says
it all--and she has me slated for a--masterpiece--and marriage."

Leila, standing by the table, touched the crystal globe with doubtful
fingers.  "Do you really see things, Delilah?"

"Sit down, and I'll prove it."

Leila shrank.  "Oh, no."

But Porter insisted.  "Be a sport, Leila."

So she settled herself in the chair which Colin had occupied, her curly
locks half hiding her expectant eyes.

And now Delilah looked, bending over the ball.

There was a long silence.  Then Delilah seemed to shake herself, as one
shakes off a trance.  She pushed the ball away from her with a sudden
gesture.  "There's nothing," she said, in a stifled voice; "there's
really nothing to tell, Leila."

"I knew that you'd back out with all of us here to listen," Porter
triumphed.

But Colin saw more than that.

"I think we want our tea," he said, "while it is hot," and he handed
Delilah the cups, and busied himself to help her with the sugar and
lemon, and to pass the little cakes, and all the time he talked in his
pleasant half-cynical, half-earnest fashion, until their minds were
carried on to other things.

When at last they had gone, he came back to her quickly.

"What was it?" he asked.  "What did you see in the ball?"

She shivered.  "It was Barry.  Oh, Colin, I don't really believe in
it--perhaps it was just my imagination because I am worried about
Leila, but I saw Barry looking at me with such a white strange face out
of the dark."



CHAPTER XXI

_In Which a Little Lady in Black Comes to Washington to Witness the
Swearing-in of a Gentleman and a Scholar._


It was in February that Roger wrote somewhat formally to ask if his
Cousin Patty might have a room in Mary's big house during the coming
inauguration.

"She is supremely happy over the Democratic victory, but in spite of
her advanced ideas, she is a timid little thing, and she has no
knowledge of big cities.  I feel that many difficulties would be
avoided if you could take her in.  I want her, too, to know you.  I had
thought at first that I might come with her.  But I think not.  I am
needed here."

He did not say why he was needed.  He said little of himself and of his
work.  And Mary wondered.  Had his enthusiasm waned?  Was he, after
all, swayed by impulse, easily discouraged?  Was Porter right, and was
Roger's failure in life due not to outside forces, but to weakness
within himself?

She wrote him that she should be glad to have Cousin Patty, and it was
on the first of March that Cousin Patty came.

Once in four years the capital city takes on a supreme holiday aspect.
In other years there may be parades, in other years there may be
pageants--it is an every-day affair, indeed, to hear up and down the
Avenue the beat of music, and the tramp of many feet.  There are
funerals of great men, with gun carriages draped with the flag, and
with the Marine Band playing the "Dead March."  There are gay
cavalcades rushing in from Fort Myer, to escort some celebrity; there
are pathetic files of black folk, gorgeous in the insignia of some
society which gives to its dead members the tribute of a
conspicuousness which they have never known in life.  There are circus
parades, and suffrage parades, minstrel parades and parades of the boys
from the high schools--all the display of military and motley by which
men advertise their importance and their wares.

But the Inauguration is the one great and grand effort.  All work stops
for it; all traffic stops for it; all of the policemen in the town
patrol it; half the detectives in the country are imported to protect
it.  All of fashion views it from the stands up-town; all of the
underworld gazes at it from the south side of the street down-town.
Packed trains bring the people.  And the people are crowded into hotels
and boarding-houses, and into houses where thresholds are never crossed
at any other time by paying guests.

To the inauguration of 1913 was added another element of interest--the
parade of the women, on the day preceding the changing of presidents.
Hence the red and white and blue of former decorations were enlivened
by the yellow and white and purple of the Suffrage colors.

Cousin Patty wore a little knot of yellow ribbon when Porter met her at
the station.

Porter was not inclined to welcome any cousin of Roger Poole's with
open arms.  But he knew his duty to Mary's guests.  He had offered his
car, and had insisted that Mary should make use of it.

"For Heaven's sake, don't make me utterly miserable by refusing to let
me do anything for you, Mary," he had said, when she had protested.
"It is the only pleasure I have."

Cousin Patty, in spite of Porter's preconceived prejudices, made at
once a place for herself.  She gave him her little bag, and with a sigh
of such infinite relief, her eyes like a confiding child's, that he
laughed and bent down to her.

"Mary Ballard is in my car outside.  I didn't want her to get into this
crowd."

Cousin Patty shuddered.  "Crowd!  I've never seen anything like--the
people.  I didn't know there were so many in the world.  You see, I've
never been far away from home.  And they kept pouring in from all the
stations, and when I reached here and stood on the steps of the
Pullman, and saw the masses streaming in ail directions, I felt
faint--but the conductor pointed out the way to go, and then I saw
your--lovely head."

She said it so sincerely that Porter laughed.

"Miss Carew," he said, "I believe you mean it."

"Mean what?"

"That it's a lovely head."

"It is."  The dark eyes were shining.  "You were so tall that I could
see you above the people, and Roger had described how you would look.
Mary Ballard had said you would surely be here to meet me, and now--oh,
I'm really in Washington!"

If she had said, "I'm really in Paradise," it could not have expressed
more supreme bliss.

"I never expected to be here," Cousin Patty went on to explain, as they
crossed the concourse, and Porter guided her through the crowd.  "I
never expected it.  And now Roger's beautiful Mary Ballard has promised
to show me everything."

Roger's beautiful Mary Ballard, indeed!

"Miss Ballard," he said, stiffly, "is taking a week off from her work.
And she is going to devote it to sightseeing with you."

"Yes, Roger told me.  Is that Mary smiling from that big car?  Oh, Mary
Ballard, I knew you'd be just--like this."

Well, nobody could resist Cousin Patty.  There was that in her charming
voice, in her vivid personality which set her apart from other
middle-aged and well-bred women of her type.

Porter made a wide sweep to take in the Capitol and the Library; then
he flew up the Avenue, disfigured now by the stands from which people
were to view the parade.

But Cousin Patty's eyes went beyond the stand to the tall straight
shaft of the Monument in the distance, and when they passed the White
House, she simply settled back in her seat and sighed.

"To think that, after all these years, there'll be a gentleman and a
scholar to live there."

"There have been other scholars--and gentlemen," Mary reminded her.

"Of course, my dear.  But this is different.  You see, in our section
of the country a Republican is just a--Republican.  And a Democrat is
a--gentleman."

Mary's eyes were dancing.  "Cousin Patty," she said, "may I call you
Cousin Patty?  What will you do when women vote?  Will the women who
are Republicans be ladies?"

"Oh, now you are laughing at me," Cousin Patty said, helplessly.

Mary gave Cousin Patty the suite next to Aunt Isabelle's, and the two
gentle ladies smiled and kissed in the fashion of their time, and
became friends at once.

When Cousin Patty had unpacked her bag, and had put all of her nice
little belongings away, she tripped across the threshold of the door
between the two rooms, to talk to Aunt Isabelle.

"Mary said that we should be going to the theater to-night with Mr.
Bigelow.  You must tell me what to wear, please.  You see I've been out
of the world so long."

"But you are more of it than I," Aunt Isabelle reminded her.

Cousin Patty, in her pretty wrapper, sat down in a rocking-chair
comfortably to discuss it.  "What do you mean?"

"Mary has been telling me how far ahead of me your thoughts have flown.
You're taking up all the new questions, and you're a successful woman
of business.  I have envied you ever since I heard about the wedding
cake."

"It's a good business," said Cousin Patty, "and I can do it at home.  I
couldn't have gone out in the world to make my fight for a living.  I
can defy men in theory; but I'm really Southern and feminine--if you
know what that means," she laughed happily.  "Of course I never let
them know it, not even Roger."

And now Mary came in, lovely in her white dinner gown.

"Oh," she accused them, "you aren't ready."

Cousin Patty rose.  "I wanted to know what to wear, and we've talked an
hour, and haven't said a word about it."

"Don't bother," Mary said; "there'll be just four of us."

"But I want to bother.  Roger helped me to plan my things.  He
remembered every single dress you wore while he was here."

"Really?"  The look which Roger had loved was creeping into Mary's
clear eyes.  "Really, Cousin Patty?"

"Yes.  He drew a sketch of your velvet wrap with the fur, and I made
mine like it, only I put a frill in place of the fur."  She trotted
into her room and brought it back for Mary's inspection.  "Is it all
right?" she asked, anxiously, as she slipped it on, and craned her neck
in front of Aunt Isabelle's long mirror to see the sweep of the folds.

"It is perfect; and to think he should remember."

Cousin Patty gave her a swift glance.  "That isn't all he has
remembered," she said, succinctly.

It developed when they went down for dinner that Roger had ordered a
box of flowers for them--purple violets for Aunt Isabelle and Cousin
Patty, white violets for Mary.

"How lovely," Mary said, bending over the box of sweetness.  "I am
perfectly sure no one ever sent me white violets before."

There were other flowers--orchids from Porter.

"And now--which will you wear?" demanded sprightly Cousin Patty, an
undercurrent of anxiety in her tone.

Mary wore the violets, and Porter gloomed all through the play.

"So my orchids weren't good enough," he said, as she sat beside him on
their way to the hotel where they were to have supper.

"They were lovely, Porter."

"But you liked the violets better?  Who sent them, Mary?"

"Don't ask in that tone."

"You don't want to tell me."

"It isn't that--it's your manner."  She broke off to say pleadingly,
"Don't let us quarrel over it.  Let me forget for to-night that there's
any discord in the world--any work--any worry.  Let me be Contrary
Mary--happy, care-free, until it all begins over again in the morning."

Very softly she said it, and there were tears in her voice.  He glanced
down at her in surprise.  "Is that the way life looks to you--you poor
little thing?"

"Yes, and when you are cross, you make it harder."

Thus, woman-like, she put him in the wrong, and the question of violets
vs. orchids was shelved.

Presently, in the great red dining-room, Porter was ordering things for
Cousin Patty's delectation of which she had never heard.  Her enjoyment
of the novelty of it all was refreshing.  She tasted and ate and looked
about her as frankly as a happy child, yet never, with it all, lost her
little air of serene dignity, which set her apart from the flaming,
flaring type of femininity which abounds in such places.

The great spectacle of the crowded rooms made a deep impression on
Cousin Patty.  To her this was no gathering of people who were eating
too much and drinking too much, and who were taking from the night the
hours which should have been given to sleep.  To her it
was--fairy-land; all of the women were lovely, all of the men
celebrities--and the gold of the lights, the pink of the azaleas which
were everywhere in pots, the murmur of voices, the sweet insistence of
the music in the balcony, the trail of laughter over it all--these were
magical things, which might disappear at any moment, and leave her
among her boxes of wedding cake, after the clock struck twelve.

But it did not disappear, and she went home happy and too tired to talk.

At breakfast the next morning, Mary announced their programme for the
day.

"Delilah has telephoned that she wants us to have lunch with her at the
Capitol.  Her father is in Congress, Cousin Patty, and they will show
us everything worth seeing.  Then we'll go for a ride and have tea
somewhere, and the General and Leila have asked us for dinner.  Shall
you be too tired?"

"Tired?"  Cousin Patty's laugh trilled like the song of a bird.  "I
feel as if I were on wings."

Cousin Patty trod the steps of the historic Capitol with awe.  To her
these halls of legislation were sacred to the memory of Henry Clay and
of Daniel Webster.  Every congressman was a Personage--and many a
simple man, torn between his desire to serve his constituents, and his
need to placate the big interests of his state, would have been touched
by the faith of this little Southern lady in his integrity.

"A man couldn't walk through here, with the statues of great men
confronting him, and the pictures of other great men looking down on
him, and the shades of those who have gone before him haunting the
shadows and whispering from the galleries, without feeling that he was
uplifted by their influence," she whispered to Mary, as from the
Member's Gallery she gazed down at the languid gentlemen who lounged in
their seats and listened with blank faces to one of their number who
was speaking against time.

Colin Quale, who lunched with them, was delighted with her.

"She is an example of what I've been trying to show you," he said to
Delilah.  "She is so well bred that she absolutely lacks
self-consciousness, and she is so clear-minded that you can't muddy her
thoughts with scandals of this naughty world.  She is a type worthy of
your study."

"Colin," Delilah questioned, with a funny little smile, "is this a
'back to grandma' movement that you are planning for me?"

The pale little man flickered his blond lashes, but his face was grave.

"No," he said, "but I want you to be abreast of the times.  There's
going to be a reaction from this reign of the bizarre.  We've gone long
enough to harems and odalisques for our styles and our manners and
presently we are going to see the blossoming of old-fashioned beauty."

"And do you think the old manners and morals will come?"

He shrugged.  "Who knows?  We can only hope."

It was to Colin that Cousin Patty spoke confidingly of her admiration
of Delilah.  "She's beautiful," she said.  "Mary says that you plan her
dresses.  I never thought that a man could do such things until Roger
took such an interest."

"Men of to-day take an interest," Colin said.  "Woman's dress is one
branch of art.  It is worthy of a man's best powers because it adds to
the beauty of the world."

"That's the funny part of it," Cousin Patty ventured; "women are taking
up men's work, and men are taking up women's--it is all topsy turvy."

The little artist pondered.  "Perhaps in the end they'll understand
each other better."

"Do you think they will?"

"Yes.  The woman who does a man's work learns to know what fighting
means.  The man who makes a study of feminine things begins to see back
of what has seemed mere frivolity and love of admiration a desire for
harmony and beauty, and self-expression.  Some day women will come back
to simplicity and to the home, because they will have learned things
from men and will have taught things to men, and by mutual
understanding each will choose the best."

Cousin Patty was inspired by the thought.  "I never heard any one put
it that way before."

"Perhaps not--but I have seen much of the world--and of men--and of
women."

"Yet all women are not alike."

"No."  His eyes swept the table.  "You three--Miss Ballard, Miss
Jeliffe--how far apart--yet you're all women--all, I may say, awakened
women--refusing to follow the straight and narrow path of the old
ideal.  Isn't it so?"

"Yes.  I'm in business--none of our women has ever been in business.
Mary won't marry for a home--yet all of her women have, consciously or
unconsciously, married for a home.  And Miss Jeliffe I don't know well
enough to judge.  But I fancy she'll blaze a way for herself."

His eyes rested on Delilah.  "She has blazed a way," he said, slowly;
"she's a most remarkable woman."

Delilah, looking up, caught his glance and smiled.

"Are they in love with each other?" Cousin Patty asked Mary that night.

Mary laughed.  "Delilah's a will-o'-the-wisp; who knows?"

With their days filled, there was little time for intimacy or
confidential talks between Mary and Cousin Patty.  And since Mary would
not ask questions about Roger, and since Cousin Patty seemed to have
certain reserves in his direction, it was only meager information which
trickled out; and with this Mary was forced to be content.

Grace marched in the Suffrage Parade, and they applauded her from their
seats on the Treasury stand.  Aunt Frances, who sat with them, was
filled with indignation.

"To think that _my_ daughter----"

Cousin Patty threw down the gauntlet: "Why not your daughter, Mrs.
Clendenning?"

"Because the women of our family have always been--different."

"So have the women of my family," calmly, "but that's no reason why we
should expect to stand still.  None of the women of my family ever made
wedding cake for a living.  But that isn't any reason why I should
starve, is it?"

Aunt Frances shifted the argument.  "But to march--on the street."

"That's their way of expressing themselves.  Men march--and have
marched since the beginning.  Sometimes their marching doesn't mean
anything, and sometimes it does.  And I'm inclined," said Cousin Patty
with an emphatic nod of her head, "to think that this marching means a
great deal."

On and on they came, these women who marched for a Cause, heads up,
eyes shining.  There had been something to bear at the other end of the
line where the crowd had pressed in upon them, and there had been no
adequate police protection, but they were ready for martyrdom, if need
be, perhaps, some of them would even welcome it.

But Grace was no fanatic.  She met them afterward, and told of her
experience gleefully.

"You should have been with me, Mary," she said.

Porter rose in his wrath.  "What has bewitched you women?" he demanded.
"Do you all believe in it?"

And now Leila piped, "I don't want to march.  I don't want to do the
things that men do.  I want to have a nice little house, and cook and
sew, and take care of somebody."

They all laughed.  But Porter surveyed Leila with satisfaction.

"Barry's a lucky fellow," he said.

"Oh, Porter," Mary reproached him, as he helped her down from her high
seat on the stand.

"Well, he is.  Leila couldn't keep her nice little house any better
than you, Mary.  But the thing is that she _wants_ to keep it for
Barry.  And you--you want to march on the street--and laugh--at love."

She surveyed him coldly.  "That shows just how much you understand me,"
she said, and turned her back on him and accepted an invitation to ride
home in the Jeliffes' car.

On the day of the Inauguration, the same party had seats on the stand
opposite the one in front of the White House from which the President
reviewed the troops.

And it was upon the President that Cousin Patty riveted her attention.
To be sure her little feet beat time to the music, and she flushed and
glowed as the soldiers swept by, and the horses danced, and the people
cheered.  But above and beyond all these things was the sight of the
man, who in her eyes represented the resurrection of the South--the man
who should sway it back to its old level in the affairs of the nation.

"I couldn't have dreamed," she emphasized, as she talked it over that
night with Mary, "of anything so satisfying as his smile.  I shall
always think of him as smiling out in that quiet way of his at the
people."

Mary had a vision of another Inauguration and of another President who
had smiled--a President who had captured the hearts of his countrymen
as perhaps this scholar never would.  It was at the shrine of that
strenuous and smiling President that Mary still worshiped.  But they
were both great men--it was for the future to tell which would live
longest in the hearts of the people.

The two women were in Cousin Patty's room.  They were too excited to
sleep, for the events of the day had been stimulating.  Cousin Patty
had suggested that Mary should get into something comfortable, and come
back and talk.  And Mary had come, in a flowing blue gown with her fair
hair in shining braids.  They were alone together for the first time
since Cousin Patty's arrival.  It was a moment for which Mary had
waited eagerly, yet now that it had come to her, she hardly knew how to
begin.

But when she spoke, it was with an impulsive reaching out of her hands
to the older woman.

"Cousin Patty, tell me about Roger Poole."

Cousin Patty hesitated, then asked a question, almost sharply, "My
dear, why did you fail him?"

The color flooded Mary's face.  "Fail him?" she faltered.

"Yes.  When he first came to me, there were your letters.  He used to
read bits of them aloud, and I could see inspiration in them for him.
Then he stopped reading them to me, and they seemed to bring heaviness
with them--I can't tell you how unhappy he was until he began to make
his work fill his life.  Do you mind telling me what made the change in
you, my dear?"

Mary gazed into the fire, the blood still in her face.

"Cousin Patty, did you know his wife?"

"Yes.  Is it because of her, Mary?"

"Yes.  After Roger went away, I saw her picture.  Colin had painted it.
And, Cousin Patty, it seemed the face of such a little--saint."

"Yet Roger told you his story?"

"Yes."

"And you didn't believe him?"

"Oh, I don't know what to believe."

"I see," but Cousin Patty's manner was remote.

Mary slipped down to the stool at Cousin Patty's feet, and brought her
clear eyes to the level of the little lady's.  "Dear Cousin Patty," she
implored, "if you only know how I _want_ to believe in Roger Poole."

Cousin Patty melted.  "My dear," she said with decision, "I'm going to
tell you everything."

And now woman's heart spoke to woman's heart.  "I visited them in the
first year of their marriage.  I wanted to love his wife, and at first
she seemed charming.  But I hadn't been there a week before I was
puzzling over her.  She was made of different clay from Roger.  In the
intimacy of that home I discovered that she wasn't--a lady--not in our
nice old-fashioned sense of good manners, and good morals.  She said
things that you and I couldn't say, and she did things.  I felt the
catastrophe in the air long before it came.  But I couldn't warn Roger.
I just had to let him find out.  I wasn't there when the blow fell; but
I'll tell you this, that Roger may have been a quixotic idiot in the
eyes of the world, but if he failed it was because he was a dreamer,
and an idealist, not a coward and a shirk."  Her eyes were blazing.
"Oh, if you could hear what some people said of him, Mary."

Mary could fancy what they had said.

"Oh, Cousin Patty, Cousin Patty," she cried, "Do you think he will ever
forgive me?  I have let such people talk to me, and I have listened!"



CHAPTER XXII

_In Which the Garden Begins to Bloom; and in Which Roger Dreams._


March, which brings to the North sharp winds and gray days, brings to
the sand-hill country its season of greatest beauty.

Straight up from the unpromising soil springs the green--the pines bud
and blossom, everywhere there is the delicate tracery of pale leafage,
there is the white of dogwood, the pink of peach trees and of apple
bloom, and again the white of cherry trees and of bridal bush.  There
are amethystine vistas, and emerald vistas, and vistas of rose and
saffron--the cardinals burn with a red flame in the magnolias, the
mocking-birds sing in the moonlight.

It was through the awakened world that Roger drove one Sunday to preach
to his people.

He did not call it preaching.  As yet his humility gave it no such
important name.  He simply went into the sand-hills and talked to those
who were eager to hear.  Beginning with the boy, he had found that
these thirsty souls drank at any spring.  The boys listened breathless
to his tales of chivalry, the men to his tales of what other men had
achieved, the women were reached by stories of what their children
might be, and the children rose to his bait of fairy books and of
colored pictures.

Gradually he had gone beyond the tales of chivalry and the achievements
of men.  Gradually he had brought them up and up.  Other men had
preached to them, but their preaching had not been linked with lessons
of living.  Others had cried, "Repent," but not one of them had laid
emphasis on the fact that repentance was evidenced by the life which
followed.

But Roger stood among them, his young face grave, his wonderful voice
persuasive, and told them what it meant to be--saved.  Planting hope
first in their hearts, he led them toward the Christ-ideal.  Manhood,
he said, at its best was godlike; one must have purity, energy,
education, growth.

And they, who listened, began to see that it was a spiritual as well as
practical thing to set their houses in order, to plant and to till and
to make the soil produce.  They saw in the future a community which was
orderly and law-abiding, they saw their children brought out of the
bondage of ignorance and into the freedom of knowledge.  And they saw
more than that--they saw the Vision, faintly at first, but with
ever-increasing clearness.

It was a wonderful task which Roger had set for himself, and he threw
himself into his work with flaming energy.  He hired a buggy and a
little fat horse, and spent some of his nights _en route_ in the houses
of his friends along the way; other nights--and these were the ones he
liked best--he slept under the pines.  With John Ballard's old Bible
under his arm, and his prayer-book in his pocket, he went forth each
week, and always he found a congregation ready and waiting.

Over the stretches of that barren country they came to hear him,
sailing in their schooner-wagons toward the harbor of the hope which he
brought to them.

When he had preached from his pulpit, he had talked to men and women of
culture and he had spent much of his time in polishing a phrase, or in
rounding out a sentence.  But now he spent his time in search of the
clear words which would carry his--message.

For Mary had said that every man who preached must have a message.

Mary!

How far she had receded from him.  When he thought of her now it was
with a sense of overwhelming loss.  She had chosen to withdraw herself
from him.  In every letter he had seen signs of it--and he could not
protest.  No man in his position could say to a woman, "I will not let
you go."  He had nothing to offer her but his life in the pines, a life
that could not mean much to such a woman.

But it meant much to himself.  Gradually he had come to see that love
alone could never have brought to him what his work was bringing.  He
had a sense of freedom such as one must have whose shackles have been
struck off.  He began to know now what Mary had meant when she had
said, "I feel as if I were flying through the world on strong wings."
He, too, felt as if he were flying, and as it his wings were carrying
him up and up beyond any heights to which he had hitherto soared.

He slept that night in one of the rare groves of old pines.  He made a
couch of the brown needles and threw a rug over them.  The air was soft
and heavy with resinous perfume.  As he lay there in the stillness, the
pines stretched above him like the arches of some great cathedral.  His
text came to him, "Come thou south wind and blow upon my garden."  It
was a simple people to whom he would talk on the morrow, but these
things they could understand--the winds of heaven, and the stars, and
the little foxes that could spoil the grapes.

When he woke there was a mocking-bird singing.  He had gone to sleep
obsessed by his sermon, uplifted.  He woke with a sense of
loneliness--a great longing for human help and understanding--a longing
to look once more into Mary Ballard's clear eyes and to draw strength
from the source which had once inspired him.

John Ballard's Bible lay on the rug beside him.  He opened it, and the
leaves fell apart at a page where a rose had once been pressed.  The
rose was dead now, and had been laid away carefully, lest it should be
lost.  But the impress was still there, as the memory of Mary's frank
friendliness was still in his mind.

It was a long time before he closed the book.  But at last he sighed
and rose from his couch.  It was inevitable, this drifting apart.  Fate
would hold for Mary some brilliant future.  As for him, he must go on
with his work alone.

Yet he realized, even in that moment of renunciation, that it was a
wonderful thing that he could at last go on alone.  A year ago he had
needed all of Mary's strength to spur him to the effort, all of her
belief in him.  Now with his heart still crying out for her, needing
her, he could still go on alone!

He drew a long breath, and looked up through the singing tree-tops to
the bit of sky above.  He stood there for a long time, silent, looking
up into the shining sky.

At ten o'clock when he entered the circle of young pines, his
congregation was ready for him, sitting on the rough seats which the
men had fashioned, their eager faces welcoming him, their eyes lighted.

The children whom he had taught led in the singing of the simple old
hymns, and Roger read a prayer.

Then he talked.  He withheld nothing of the poetry of his subject; and
they rose to his eloquence.  And when light began to fill a man's eyes
or tears to fill a woman's--Roger knew that the work of the soul was
well begun.

Afterward he went among them, becoming one of them in friendliness and
sympathy, but set apart and consecrated by the wisdom which made him
their leader.

Among a group of men he spoke of politics.  "There's the new
President," he said; "it has been a great week in Washington.  His
administration ought to mean great things for you people down here."

Thus he roused their interest; thus he led them to ask questions; thus
he drew them into eager controversy; thus he waked their minds into
activity; thus he roused their sluggish souls.

But he found his keenest delight in the children's gardens.

They were such lovely little gardens now--with violets blooming in
their borders, with daffodils and jonquils and hyacinths.  Every bit of
bloom spoke to him of Mary.  Not for one moment had she lost her
interest in the children's gardens, although she had ceased, it seemed,
to have interest in any other of his affairs.

Before he went, the children had to have their fairy tale.  But
to-night he would not tell them Cinderella or Red Riding Hood.  The day
seemed to demand something more than that, so he told them the story of
the ninety and nine, and of the sheep that was lost.

He made much of the story of the sheep, showing to these children, who
knew little of shepherds and little of mountains, a picture which held
them breathless.  For far back, perhaps, the ancestors of these
sand-hill folk had herded sheep on the hills of Scotland.

Then he sang the song, and so well did he tell the story and so well
did he sing the song that they rejoiced with him over the sheep that
was found--for he had made it a little lamb--helpless and bleating, and
wanting very much its mother.

The song, borne on the wings of the wind, reached the ears of a man
with a worn face, who slouched in the shadow of the pines.

Later he spoke to Roger Poole.  "I reckon I'm that lost sheep," he
said, soberly, "an' nobody ain't gone out to find me--yit."

"Find yourself," said Roger.

The man stared.

"Find yourself," Roger said; "look at those little gardens over there
that the children have made.  Can you match them?"

"I reckon I've got somethin' else to do beside make gardens," drawled
the man.

"What have you got to do that's better?" Roger demanded.

The man hesitated and Roger pressed his point.  "Flowers for the
children--crops for men--I'll wager you've a lot of land and don't know
what to do with it.  Let's try to make things grow."

"Us?  You mean you and me, parson?"

"Yes.  And while we plant and sow, we'll talk about the state of your
soul."  Roger reached out his hand to the lean and lank sinner.

And the lean and lank sinner took it, with something beginning to glow
in the back of his eyes.

"I reckon I ain't got on to your scheme of salvation," he remarked
shrewdly, "but somehow I have a feelin' that I ain't goin' to git
through those days of plantin' crops with you without your plantin'
somethin' in me that's bound to grow."

In such ways did Roger meet men, women and children, reaching out from
his loneliness to their need, giving much and receiving more.

It was on Tuesday morning that he came back finally to the house which
seemed empty because of Cousin Patty's absence.  The little lady was
still in Washington, whence she had written hurried notes, promising
more when the rush was over.

At the gate he met the rural carrier, who gave him the letters.  There
was one on top from Mary Ballard.

Roger tore it open and read it, as he walked toward the house.  It
contained only a scribbled line--but it set his pulses bounding.


"DEAR ROGER POOLE:

"I want to be friends again.  Such friends as we were in the Tower
Rooms.  I know I don't deserve it--but--please.

"MARY BALLARD."


It seemed to him, as he finished it that all the world was singing, not
merely the mocking-birds in the magnolias, but the whole incomparable
chorus of the universe.  It seemed an astounding thing that she should
have written thus to him.  He had so adjusted himself to the fact of
repeated disappointment, repeated failure, that he found it hard to
believe that such happiness could be his.  Yet she had written it; that
she wanted to be--his friend.

At first his thoughts did not fly beyond friendship.  But as he sat
down on the porch steps to think it over he began, for the first time
since he had known her, to dream of a life in which she should be more
to him than friend.

And why not?  Why shouldn't he dream?  Mary was not like other women.
She looked above and beyond the little things.  Might not a man offer
her that which was finer than gold, greater than material success?
Might not a man offer her a life which had to do with life and
love--might he not share with her this opportunity to make this garden
in the sand-hills bloom?

And now, while the mocking-birds sang madly, Roger Poole saw Mary--here
beside him on the porch on a morning like this, with the lilacs waving
perfumed plumes of mauve and white, with the birds flashing in blue and
scarlet and gold from pine to magnolia, and from magnolia back to
pine--with the sky unclouded, the air fresh and sweet.

He saw her as she might travel with him comfortably toward the
sand-hills, in a schooner-wagon made for her use, fitted with certain
luxuries of cushions and rugs.  He saw her with him in deep still
groves, coming at last to that circle of young pines where he preached,
meeting his people, supplementing his labor with her loveliness.  He
saw--oh, dream of dreams--he saw a little white church among the
sand-hills, a little church with a bell, such a bell as the boy had not
heard before Whittington rang them all for him.  Later, perhaps, there
might be a rectory near the church, a rectory with a garden--and Mary
in the garden.

So, tired after his journey, he sat with unseeing eyes, needing rest,
needing food, yet feeling no fatigue as his soul leaped over time and
space toward the goal of happiness.

He was aroused by the appearance of Aunt Chloe, the cook.

"I'se jus' been lookin' fo' you, Mr. Roger," she said.  "A telegraf
done come, yestiddy, and I ain't knowed what to do wid it."

She handed it to him, and watched him anxiously as he opened it.

It was from Cousin Patty.

"Mary has had sad news of Barry.  We need you.  Can you come?"



CHAPTER XXIII

_In Which Little-Lovely Leila Looks Forward to the Month of May; and in
Which Barry Rides Into a Town With Narrow Streets._


It was when Little-Lovely Leila was choosing certain gowns for her trip
abroad that she had almost given away her secret to Delilah.

"I want a yellow one," she had remarked, "with a primrose hat, like I
wore when Barry and I----"  She stopped, blushing furiously.

"When you and Barry what?" demanded Delilah.

Leila having started to say, "When Barry and I ran away to be married,"
stumbled over a substitute, "Well, I wore a yellow gown--when--when----"

"Not when he proposed, duckie.  That was the day at Fort Myer.  I knew
it the minute I came out and saw your face; and then that telephone
message about the picture.  Were you really jealous when you found it
on my table?"

"Dreadfully."  Leila breathed freely once more.  The subject of the
primrose gown was shelved safely.

"You needn't have been.  All the world knew that Barry was yours."

"And he's mine now," Leila laughed; "and I am to see him in--May."

In the days which followed she was a very busy little Leila.  On every
pretty garment that she made or bought, she embroidered in fine silk a
wreath of primroses.  It was her own delicious secret, this adopting of
her bridal color.  Other brides might be married in white, but she had
been different--her gown had been the color of the great gold moon that
had lighted their way.  What a wedding journey it had been--and how she
and Barry would laugh over it in the years to come!

For the tragedy which had weighed so heavily began now to seem like a
happy comedy.  In a few weeks she would see Barry, in a few weeks all
the world would know that she was his wife!

So she packed her fragrant boxes--so she embroidered, and sang, and
dreamed.

Barry had written that he was "making good"; and that when she came he
would tell Gordon.  And the General should go on to Germany, and he and
Leila would have their honeymoon trip.

"You must decide where we shall go," he had said, and Leila had planned
joyously.

"Dad and I motored once into Scotland, and we stopped at a little town
for tea.  Such a queer little story-book town, Barry, with funny houses
and with the streets so narrow that the people leaned out of their
windows and gossiped over our heads, and I am sure they could have
shaken hands across.  There wasn't even room for our car to turn
around, and we had to go on and on until we came to the edge of the
town, and there was the dearest inn.  We stopped and stayed that
night--and the linen all smelled of lavender, and there was a sweet
dumpling of a landlady, and old-fashioned flowers in a trim little
garden--and all the hills beyond and a lake.  Let's go there, Barry; it
will be beautiful."

They planned, too, to go into lodgings afterward in London.

The thought of lodgings gave Leila a thrill.  She hunted out her fat
little volume of Martin Chuzzlewit and gloated over Ruth Pinch and her
beef-steak pie.  She added two or three captivating aprons to the
contents of the fragrant boxes.  She even bought a cook-book, and it
was with a sigh that she laid the cook-book away when Barry wrote that
in such lodgings as he would choose the landlady would serve their
meals in the sitting-room.  And this plan would give Leila more time to
see the sights of London!

But what cared Little-Lovely Leila for seeing sights?  Anybody could
see sights--any dreary and dried-up fossil, any crabbed and cranky old
maid--the Tower and Westminster Abbey were for those who had nothing
better to do.  As for herself, her horizon just now was bounded by
primrose wreaths and fragrant boxes, and the promise of seeing Barry in
May!

But fate, which has strange things in store for all of us, had this in
store for little Leila, that she was not to see Barry in May, and the
reason that she was not to see him was Jerry Tuckerman.

Meeting Mary in the street one day early in February, Jerry had said,
"I am going to run over to London this week.  Shall I take your best to
Barry?"

Mary's eyes had met his squarely.  "Be sure you take _your_ best,
Jerry," she had said.

He had laughed his defiance.  "Barry's all right--but you've got to
give him a little rope, Mary."

When he had left her, Mary had walked on slowly, her heart filled with
foreboding.  Barry was not like Jerry.  Jerry, coarse of fiber, lacking
temperament, would probably come to middle age safely--he would never
be called upon to pay the piper as Barry would for dancing to the tune
of the follies of youth.

She wrote to Gordon, warning him.  "Keep Barry busy," she said.  "Jerry
told me that he intended to have 'the time of his young life'--and he
will want Barry to share it."

Gordon smiled over the letter.  "Poor Mary," he told Constance; "she
has carried Barry for so long on her shoulders, and she can't realize
that he is at last learning to stand alone."

But Constance did not smile.  "We never could bear Jerry Tuckerman; he
always made Barry do things."

"Nobody can make me do things when I don't want to do them," said
Gordon comfortably and priggishly, "and Barry must learn that he can't
put the blame on anybody's shoulders but his own."

Constance sighed.  She did not quite share Gordon's sense of security.
Barry was different.  He was a dear, and trying so hard; but Jerry had
always had some power to sway him from his best, a sinister
inexplicable influence.

Jerry, arriving, hung around Barry for several days, tempting him, like
the villain in the play.

But Barry refused to be tempted.  He was busy--and he had just had a
letter from Leila.

"I simply can't run around town with you, Tuckerman," he explained.
"Holding down a job in an office like this isn't like holding down a
government job."

"So they've put your nose to the grindstone?" Jerry grinned as he said
it, and Barry flushed.  "I like it, Tuckerman; there's something ahead,
and Gordon has me slated for a promotion."

But what did a promotion mean to Jerry's millions?  And Barry was good
company, and anyhow--oh, he couldn't see Ballard doing a steady stunt
like this.

"Motor into Scotland with me next week," he insisted; "get a week off,
and I'll pick up a gay party.  It's a bit early, but we'll stop in the
big towns."

Barry shook his head.

"Leila and the General are coming over in May--she wants to take that
trip--and, anyhow, I can't get away."

"Oh, well, wait and take your nice little ride with Leila," Jerry said,
good-naturedly enough, "but don't tie yourself too soon to a woman's
apron string, Ballard--wait till you've had your fling."

But Barry didn't want a fling.  He, too, was dreaming.  On
half-holidays and Sundays he haunted neighborhoods where there were
rooms to let.  And when one day he chanced on a sunshiny suite where a
pot of primroses bloomed in the window, he lingered and looked.

"If they're empty a month from now I'll take them," he said.

"A guinea down and I'll keep them for you," was the smiling response of
the pleasant landlady.

So Barry blushingly paid the guinea, and began to buy little things to
make the rooms beautiful--a bamboo basket for flowers--a Sheffield
tray--a quaint tea-caddy--an antique footstool for Leila's little feet.

Yet there were moments in the midst of his elation when some chill
breath of fear touched him, and it was in one of these moods that he
wrote out of his heart to his little bride.

"Sometimes, when I think of you, sweetheart, I realize how little there
is in me which is deserving of that which you are giving me.  When your
letters come, I read them and think and think about them.  And the
thing I think is this: Am I going to be able all my life to live up to
your expectations?  Don't expect too much, dear heart.  I wonder if I
am more cowardly about facing life than other men.  Now and then things
seem to loom up in front of me--great shadows which block my way--and I
grow afraid that I can't push them out of your path and mine.  And if I
should not push them, what then?  Would they engulf you, and should I
be to blame?"

Mary found Leila puzzling over this letter.  "It doesn't sound like
Barry," she said, in a little frightened voice.  "May I read it to you,
Mary?"

Mary had stopped in for tea on her way home from the office.  But the
tea waited.

"Barry is usually so--hopeful," Leila said, when she had finished;
"somehow I can't help--worrying."

Mary was worried.  She knew these moods.  Barry had them when he was
fighting "blue devils."  She was afraid--haunted by the thought of
Jerry.  She tried to speak cheerfully.

"You'll be going over soon," she said, "and then all the world will be
bright to him."

Leila hesitated.  "I wish," she faltered, "that I could be with him now
to help him--fight."

Mary gave her a startled glance.  Their eyes met.

"Leila," Mary said, with a little gasp, "who told you?"

"Barry"--the tea was forgotten--"before--before he went away."  The
vision was upon her of that moment when he had knelt at her feet on
their bridal night.

Haltingly, she spoke of her lover's weakness.  "I've wanted to ask you,
Mary, and when this letter came, I just had to ask.  If you think it
would be better--if we were married, if I could make a home for him."

"It wouldn't be better for you."

"I don't want to think about myself," Leila said, passionately;
"everybody thinks about me.  It is Barry I want to think of, Mary."

Mary patted the flushed cheek.  "Barry is a fortunate boy," she said.
Then, with hesitation, "Leila, when you knew, did it make a difference?"

"Difference?"

"In your feeling for Barry?"

And now the child eyes were woman eyes.  "Yes," she said, "it made a
difference.  But the difference was this--that I loved him more.  I
don't know whether I can explain it so that you will understand, Mary.
But then you aren't like me.  You've always been so wonderful, like
Barry.  But you see I've never been wonderful.  I've always been just a
little silly thing, pretty enough for people to like, and childish
enough for everybody to pet, and because I was pretty and little and
childish, nobody seemed to think that I could be anything else.  And
for a long time I didn't dream that Barry was in love with me.  I just
knew that I--cared.  But it was the kind of caring that didn't expect
much in return.  And when Barry said that I was the only woman in the
world for him--I had the feeling that it was a pleasant dream, and
that--that some day I'd wake up and find that he had made a mistake and
that he should have chosen a princess instead of just a little
goosie-girl.  But when I knew that Barry had to fight, everything
changed.  I knew that I could really help.  More than the princess,
perhaps, because you see she might not have cared to bother--and she
might not have loved him enough to--overlook."

"You blessed child," Mary said with a catch in her voice, "you mustn't
be so humble--it's enough to spoil any man."

"Not Barry," Leila said; "he loves me because I am so loving."

Oh, wisdom of the little heart.  There might be men who could love for
the sake of conquest; there might be men who could meet coldness with
ardor, and affection with indifference.  Barry was not one of these.
The sacred fire which burned in the heart of his sweet mistress had
lighted the flame in his own.  It was Leila's love as well as Leila
that he wanted.  And she knew and treasured the knowledge.

It was when Mary left that she said, with forced lightness, "You'll be
going soon, and what a summer you will have together."

It was on Leila's lips to cry, "But I want our life together to begin
now.  What's one summer in a whole life of love?"

But she did not voice her cry.  She kissed Mary and smiled wistfully,
and went back into the dusky room to dream of Barry--Barry her young
husband, with whom she had walked in her little yellow gown over the
hills and far away.

And while she dreamed, Barry, in Jerry Tuckerman's big blue car, was
flying over other hills, and farther away from Leila than he had ever
been in his life.

It was as Mary had feared.  Barry's strength in his first resistance of
Jerry's importunities had made him over-confident, so that when, at the
end of the month, Jerry had returned and had pressed his claim, Barry
had consented to lunch with him.

At luncheon they met Jerry's crowd and Barry drank just one glass of
golden sparkling stuff.

But the one glass was enough to fire his blood--enough to change the
aspect of the world--enough to make him reckless, boisterous--enough to
make him consent to join at once Jerry's party in a motor trip to
Scotland.

In that moment the world of work receded, the world of which Leila was
the center receded--the life which had to do with lodgings and
primroses and Sheffield trays was faint and blurred to his mental
vision.  But this life, which had to do with laughter and care-free
joyousness and forgetfulness, this was the life for a man who was a man.

Jerry was saying, "There will be the three of us and the chauffeur--and
we will take things in hampers and things in boxes, and things in
bottles."

Barry laughed.  It was not a loud laugh, just a light boyish chuckle,
and as he rose and stood with his hand resting on the table, many eyes
were turned upon him.  He was a handsome young American, his beautiful
blond head held high.  "You mustn't expect," he said, still with that
light laughter, "that I am going to bring any bottles.  Only thing I've
got is a tea-caddy.  Honest--a tea-caddy, and a Sheffield tray."

Then some memory assailing him, he faltered, "And a little foolish
footstool."

"Sit down," Jerry said.  There was something strangely appealing in
that gay young figure with the shining eyes.  In spite of himself,
Jerry felt uncomfortable.  "Sit down," he said.

So Barry sat down, and laughed at nothing, and talked about nothing,
and found it all very enchanting.

He packed his bag and left a note for Gordon and when he piled finally
with the others into Jerry's car, he was ready to shout with them that
it was a long lane which had no turning, and that work was a bore and
would always be.

And so the ride which Leila had planned for herself and her young
husband became a wild ride, in which these young knights of the road
pursued fantastic adventures, with memories blank, and with consciences
soothed.

For days they rode, stopping at various inns along the way, startling
the staid folk of the villages by their laughter late into the night;
making boon companions in an hour, and leaving them with tears, to
forget them at the first turn of the corner.

Written as old romance, such things seem of the golden age; looked upon
in the light of Barry's future and of Leila's, they were tragedy
unspeakable.

And now the car went up and up, to come down again to some stretch of
sand, with the mountains looming black against one horizon, the sea a
band of sapphire against another.

And so, fate drawing them nearer and nearer, they came at last to the
little town which Leila had described in her letter.

Going in, some one spoke the name, and Barry had a stab of memory.  Who
had talked of narrow streets, across which people gossiped--and shook
hands?--who had spoken of having tea in that little shop?

He asked the question of his companions, "Who called this a story-book
town?"

They laughed at him.  "You dreamed it."

Steadily his mind began to work.  He fumbled in his pocket, and found
Leila's letter.

Searching through it, he discovered the name of the little place.  "I
didn't dream it," he announced triumphantly; "my wife told me."

"Wake up," Jerry said, "and thank the gods that you are single."

But Barry stood swaying.  "My little wife told me--_Leila_!"

With a sudden cry, he lurched forward.  His arm struck the arm of the
driver beside him.  The car gave a sudden turn.  The streets were
narrow--so narrow that one might almost shake hands across them!

And there was a crash!

Jerry was not hurt, nor the other adventurers.  The chauffeur was
stunned.  But Barry was crumpled up against the stone steps of one of
the funny little houses, and lay there with Leila's letter all red
under him.


It was Porter and Mary who told Leila.  The General had begged them to
do it.  "I can't," he had said, pitifully.  "I've faced guns, but I
can't face the hurt in my darling's eyes."

So Mary's arms were around her when she whispered to the child-wife
that Barry was--dead.

Porter had faltered first something about an accident--that the doctors
were--afraid.

Leila, shaking, had looked from one to the other.  "I must go to him,"
she had cried.  "You see, I am his wife.  I have a right to go."

"_His wife_?"  Of all things they had not expected this.

"Yes, we have been married a year--we ran away."

"When, dear?"

"Last March--to Rockville--and--and we were going to tell everybody the
next day--and then Barry lost his place--and we couldn't."

Oh, poor little widow, poor little child!  Mary drew her close.
"Leila, Leila," she whispered, "dear little sister, dear little girl,
we must love and comfort each other."

And then Leila knew.

But they did not tell her how it had happened.  The details of that
last ride the woman who loved him need never know.  Barry was to be her
hero always.



CHAPTER XXIV

_In Which Roger Comes Once More to the Tower Rooms; and in Which a Duel
is Fought in Modern Fashion._


It was Cousin Patty who had suggested sending for Roger.  "He can look
after me, Mary.  If you won't let me go home, I don't want you to have
the thought of me to burden you."

"You couldn't be a burden.  And I don't know what Aunt Isabelle and I
should have done without you."

She began to cry weakly, and Cousin Patty, comforting her, said in her
heart, "There is no one but Roger who can say the right things to her."

As yet no one had said the right things.  It seemed to Mary that she
carried a wound too deep for healing.  Gordon had softened the truth as
much as possible, but he could not hide it from her.  She knew that
Barry, her boy Barry, had gone out of the world defeated.

It was Roger who helped her.

He came first upon her as she sat alone in the garden by the fountain.
It was a sultry spring day, and heavy clouds hung low on the horizon.
Thin and frail in her black frock, she rose to meet him, the ghost of
the girl who had once bloomed like a flower in her scarlet wrap.

Roger took her hands in his.

"You poor little child," he said; "you poor little child."

She did not cry.  She simply looked up at him, frozen-white.  "Oh, it
wasn't fair for him to go--that way.  He tried so hard.  He tried so
hard."

"I know.  And it was a great fight he put up, you must remember that."

"But to fail--at the last."

"You mustn't think of that.  Somehow I can see Barry still fighting,
and winning.  One of a glorious company."

"A glorious company--Barry?"

"Yes.  Why not?  We are judged by the fight we make, not by our
victory."

She drew a long breath.  "Everybody else has been sorry.   Nobody else
could seem to understand."

"Perhaps I understand," he said, "because I know what it is to
fight--and fail."

"But you are winning now."  The color swept into her pale cheeks.
"Cousin Patty told me."

"Yes.  You showed me the way--I have tried to follow it."

"Oh, how ignorant I was," she cried, tempestuously, "when I talked to
you of life.  I thought I knew everything."

"You knew enough to help me.  If I can help you a little now it will be
only a fair exchange."

It helped her merely to have him there.  "You spoke of Barry's still
fighting and winning.  Do you think that one goes on fighting?"

"Why not?  It would seem only just that he should conquer.  There are
men who are not tempted, whose goodness is negative.  Character is made
by resistance against evil, not by lack of knowledge of it.  And the
judgments of men are not those which count in the final verdict."

He said more than this, breaking the bonds of her despair.  Others had
pitied Barry.  Roger defended him.  She began to think of her brother,
not as her imagination had pictured him, flung into utter darkness, but
with his head up--his beautiful fair head, a shining sword in his hand,
fighting against the powers of evil--stumbling, falling, rising again.

He saw her relax as she listened, and his love for her taught him what
to say.

And as he talked, her eyes noted the change in him.

This was not the Roger Poole of the Tower Rooms.  This was a Roger
Poole who had found himself.  She could see it in his manner--she could
hear it in his voice, it shone from his eyes.  Here was a man who
feared nothing, not even the whispers that had once had power to hurt.

The clouds were sweeping toward them, hiding the blue; the wind whirled
the dead leaves from the paths, and stirred the budding branches of the
hundred-leaved bush--touched with its first hint of tender green.  The
mist from the fountain was like a veil which hid the mocking face of
the bronze boy.

But Mary and Roger had no eyes for these warnings; each was famished
for the other, and this meeting gave to Mary, at least, a sense of
renewed life.

She spoke of her future.  "Constance and Gordon want me to come to
them.  But I hate to give up my work.  I don't want to be discontented.
Yet I dread the loneliness here.  Did you ever think I should be such a
coward?"

"You are not a coward--you are a woman--wanting the things that belong
to you."

She sat very still.  "I wonder--what are the things which belong to a
woman?"

"Love--a home--happiness."

"And you think I want these things?"

"I know it."

"How do you know?"

"Because you have tried work--and it has failed.  You have tried
independence--and it has failed.  You have tried freedom, and have
found it bondage."

He was once more in the grip of the dream which he had dreamed as he
had sat with Mary's letter in his hand on Cousin Patty's porch.  If she
would come to him there would be no more loneliness.  His love should
fill her life, and there would be, too, the love of his people.  She
should win hearts while he won souls.  If only she would care enough to
come.

It was the fear that she might not care which suddenly gripped him.
Surely this was not the moment to press his demands upon her--when
sorrow lay so heavily on her heart.

So blind, and cruel in his blindness, he held back the words which rose
to his lips.

"Some day life will bring the things which belong to you," he said at
last.  "I pray God that it may bring them to you some day."

A line of Browning's came into her mind, and rang like a knell--"Some
day, meaning no day."

She shivered and rose.  "We must go in; there's rain in those clouds,
and wind."

He rose also and stood looking down at her.  Her eyes came up to his,
her clear eyes, shadowed now by pain.  What he might have said to her
in another moment would have saved both of them much weariness and
heartache.  But he was not to say it, for the storm was upon them
driving them before it, slamming doors, banging shutters in the big
house as they came to it--a miniature cyclone, in its swift descent.

And as if he had ridden in on the wings of the storm came Porter
Bigelow, his red mane blown like a flame back from his face, his long
coat flapping.

He stopped short at the sight of Roger.

"Hello, Poole," he said; "when did you arrive?"

"This morning."

They shook hands, but there was no sign of a welcome in Porter's face.

"Pretty stiff storm," he remarked, as the three of them stood by the
drawing-room window, looking out.

The rain came in shining sheets--the lightning blazed--the thunder
boomed.

"It is the first thunder-storm of the season," Mary said.  "It will
wake up the world."

"In the South," Roger said, "the world is awake.  You should see our
gardens."

"I wish I could; Cousin Patty asked me to come."

"Will you?" eagerly.

"There's my work."

"Take a holiday, and let me show you the pines."

Porter broke in impatiently, almost insolently.

"Mary needs companionship, not pines.  I think she should go to
Constance.  Leila and the General will go over as they planned in May,
and the Jeliffes----"

"There's more than a month before May--which she could spend with us."

Porter stared.  This was a new Roger, an insistent, demanding Roger.
He spoke coldly.  "Constance wants Mary at once.  I don't think we
should say anything to dissuade her.  Aunt Isabelle and I can take her
over."

And now Mary's head went up.

"I haven't decided, Porter."  She was fighting for freedom.

"But Constance needs you, Mary--and you need her."

"Oh, no," Mary said, brokenly, "Constance doesn't need me.  She has
Gordon and the baby.  Nobody needs me--now."

Roger saw the quick blood flame in Porter's face.  He felt it flame in
his own.  And just for one fleeting moment, over the bowed head of the
girl, the challenging eyes of the two men met.

Aunt Frances, who came over with Grace in the afternoon, went home in a
high state of indignation.

"Why Patty Carew and Roger Poole should take possession of Mary in that
fashion," she said to her daughter at dinner, "is beyond me.  They
don't belong there, and it would have been in better taste to leave at
such a time."

"Mary begged Cousin Patty to stay," Grace said, "and as for Roger
Poole, he has simply made Mary over.  She has been like a stone image
until to-day."

"I don't see any difference," Aunt Frances said.  "What do you mean,
Grace?"

"Oh, her eyes and the color in her cheeks, and the way she does her
hair."

"The way she does her hair?"  Aunt Frances laid down her fork and
stared.

"Yes.  Since the awful news came, Mary has seemed to lose interest in
everything.  She adored Barry, and she's never going to get over
it--not entirely.  I miss the old Mary."  Grace stopped to steady her
voice.  "But when I went up with her to her room to talk to her while
she dressed for dinner, she put up her hair in that pretty boyish way
that she used to wear it, and it was all for Roger Poole."

"Why not for Porter?"

"Because she hasn't cared how she looked, and Porter has been there
every day.  He has been there too often."

"Do you think Roger will try to get her to marry him?"

"Who knows?  He's dead in love with her.  But he looks upon her as too
rare for the life he leads.  That's the trouble with men.  They are
afraid they can't make the right woman happy, so they ask the wrong
one.  Now if we women could do the proposing----"

"Grace!"

"Don't look at me in that shocked way, mother.  I am just voicing what
every woman knows--that the men who ask her aren't the ones she would
have picked out if she had had the choice.  And Mary will wait and
weary, and Roger will worship and hang back, and in the meantime Porter
will demand and demand and demand--and in the end he'll probably get
what he wants."

Aunt Frances beamed.  "I hope so."

"But Mary will be miserable."

"Then she'll be very silly."

Grace sighed.  "No woman is silly who asks for the best.  Mother, I'd
love to marry a man with a mission--I'd like to go to the South Sea
Islands and teach the natives, or to Darkest Africa--or to China, or
India, anywhere away from a life in which there's nothing but bridge,
and shopping, and deadly dullness."

She was in earnest now, and her mother saw it.

"I don't see how you can say such things," she quavered.  "I don't see
how you can talk of going to such impossible places--away from me."

Grace cut short the plaintive wail.

"Of course I have no idea of going," she said, "but such a life would
furnish its own adventures; I wouldn't have to manufacture them."

It was with the wish to make life something more than it was that Grace
asked Roger the next day, "Is there any work here in town like yours
for the boy--you see Mary has told me about him."

He smiled.  "Everywhere there are boys and girls, unawakened--if only
people would look for them; and with your knowledge of languages you
could do great things with the little foreigners--turn a bunch of them
into good citizens, for example."

"How?"

"Reach them first through pictures and music--then through their
patriotism.  Don't let them learn politics and plunder on the streets;
let them find their place in this land from you, and let them hear from
you of the God of our fathers."

Grace felt his magnetism.  "I wish you could go through the streets of
New York saying such things."

He shook his head.  "I shall not come to the city.  My place is found,
and I shall stay there; but I have faith to believe that there will yet
be a Voice to speak, to which the world shall listen."

"Soon?"

"Everything points to an awakening.  People are beginning to say, 'Tell
us,' where a few years ago they said, 'There is nothing to tell.'"

"I see--it will be wonderful when it comes--I'm going to try to do my
little bit, and be ready, and when Mary comes back, she shall help me."

His eyes went to where Mary sat between Porter and Aunt Frances.

"She may never come back."

"She must be made to come."

"Who could make her?"

"The man she loves."

She flashed a sparkling glance at him, and rose.

"Come, mother," she said, "it is time to go."  Then, as she gave Roger
her hand, she smiled.  "Faint heart," she murmured, "don't you know
that a man like you, if he tries, can conquer the--world?"

She left Roger with his pulses beating madly.  What did she mean?  Did
she think that--Mary----?  He went up to the Tower Rooms to dress for
dinner, with his mind in a whirl.  The windows were open and the warm
air blew in.  Looking out, he could see in the distance the shining
river--like a silver ribbon, and the white shaft of the Monument, which
seemed to touch the sky.  But he saw more than that; he saw his future
and Mary's; again he dreamed his dreams.

If he had hoped for a moment alone that night with the lady of his
heart, he was doomed to disappointment, for Leila and her father came
to dinner.  Leila was very still and sweet in her widow's black, the
General brooding over her.  And again Roger had the sense that in this
house of sorrow there was no place for love-making.  For the joy that
might be his--he must wait; even though he wearied in the waiting.

And it was while he waited that he lunched one day with Porter Bigelow.
The invitation had surprised him, and he had felt vaguely troubled and
oppressed by the thought that back of it might be some motive as yet
unrevealed.  But there had been nothing to do but accept, and at one
o'clock he was at the University Club.

For a time they spoke of indifferent things, then Porter said, bluntly,
"I am not going to beat about the bush, Poole.  I've asked you here to
talk about Mary Ballard."

"Yes?"

"You're in love with her?"

"Yes--but I question your right to play inquisitor."

"I haven't any right, except my interest in Mary.  But I claim that my
interest justifies the inquisition."

"Perhaps."

"You want to marry her?"

Roger shifted his position, and leaned forward, meeting Porter's stormy
eyes squarely.  "Again I question your right, Bigelow."

[Illustration: "Again I question your right."]

"It isn't a question of right now, Poole, and you know it.  You're in
love with her, I'm in love with her.  We both want her.  In days past
men settled such things with swords or pistols.  You and I are
civilized and modern; but it's got to be settled just the same."

"Miss Ballard will have to settle it--not you or I."

"She can't settle it.  Mary is a dreamer.  You capture her with your
imagination--with your talk of your work--and your people and the
little gardens, and all that.  And she sees it as you want her to see
it, not as it really is.  But I know the deadly dullness, the
awfulness.  Why, man, I spent a winter down there, at one of the
resorts and now and then we rode through the country.  It was a desert,
I tell you, Poole, a desert; it is no place for a woman."

"You saw nothing but the charred pines and the sand.  I could show you
other things."

"What, for example?"

"I could show you an awakened people.  I could show you a community
throwing off the shackles of idleness and ignorance.  I could show you
men once tied to old traditions, meeting with eagerness the new ideals.
There is nothing in the world more wonderful than such an awakening,
Bigelow.  But one must have the Vision to grasp it.  And faith to
believe it.  It is the dreamers, thank God, who see beyond to-day into
to-morrow.  I haven't wealth or position to offer Mary, but I can offer
her a world which needs her.  And if I know her, as I think I do, she
will care more for my world than for yours."

He did not raise his voice, but Porter felt the force of his restrained
eloquence, as he knew Mary would feel it if it were applied to her.

And now he shot his poisoned dart.

"At first, perhaps.  But when it came to building a home, there'd be
always the stigma of your past, and she's a proud little thing, Poole."

Roger winced.  "My past is buried.  It is my future of which we must
speak."

"You can't bury a past.  You haven't even a pulpit to preach from."

Roger pushed back his chair.  "I am tempted to wish," his voice was
grim, "that we were not quite so civilized, not quite so modern.
Pistols or swords would seem an easier way than this."

"I'm fighting for Mary.  You've got to let go.  None of her friends
want it--Gordon would never consent."

It seemed to Roger that all the whispers which had assailed him in the
days of long ago were rushing back upon him in a roaring wave of sound.

He rose, white and shaken.  "Do you call it victory when one man stabs
another through the heart?  Well, if this is your victory, Bigelow--you
are welcome to it."



CHAPTER XXV

_In Which Mary Bids Farewell to the Old Life; and in Which She Finds
Happiness on the High Seas._


Contrary Mary was Contrary Mary no longer.  Since Roger had gone,
taking Cousin Patty with him--gone without the word to her for which
she had waited, she had submitted to Gordon's plans for her, and to
Aunt Frances' and Porter's execution of them.

Only to Grace did she show any signs of her old rebellion.

"Did you ever think that I should be beaten, Grace?" she said,
pitifully.  "Is that the way with all women?  Do we reach out for so
much, and then take what we can get?"

Grace pondered.  "Things tie us down, but we don't have to stay
tied--and I am beginning to see a way out for myself, Mary."

She told of her talk with Roger and of her own strenuous desire to
help; but she did not tell what she had said to him at the last.  There
was something here which she could not understand.  Mary persistently
refused to talk about him.  Even now she shifted the topic.

"I don't want to strive," she said, "not even for the sake of others.
I want to rest for a thousand years--and sleep for the next thousand."

And this from Mary, buoyant, vivid Mary, with her almost boyish
strength and energy.

The big house was to be closed.  Aunt Isabelle would go with Mary.
Susan Jenks and Pittiwitz would be domiciled in the kitchen wing, with
a friend of Susan's to keep them company.

Mary, wandering on the last day through the Tower Rooms, thought of the
night when Roger Poole had first come to them.  And now he would never
come again.

She had not been able to understand his abrupt departure.  Yet there
had been nothing to resent--he had been infinitely kind, sympathetic,
strong, helpful.  If she missed something from his manner which had
been there on the day of his arrival, she told herself that perhaps it
had not been there, that her own joy in seeing him had made her imagine
a like joy in his attitude toward her.

Cousin Patty had cried over her, kissed her, and protested that she
could not bear to go.

"But Roger thinks it is best, my dear.  He is needed at home."

It seemed plausible that he might be needed, yet in the back of Mary's
mind was a doubt.  What had sent him away?  She was haunted by the
feeling that some sinister influence had separated them.

A pitiful little figure in black, she made the tour of the empty rooms
with Pittiwitz mewing plaintively at her heels.  The little cat, with
the instinct of her kind, felt the atmosphere of change.  Old rugs on
which she had sprawled were rolled up and reeking with moth balls.  The
little white bed, on which she had napped unlawfully, was stripped to
the mattress.  The cushions on which she had curled were packed
away--the fire was out--the hearth desolate.

Susan Jenks, coming up, found Mary with the little cat in her lap.

"Oh, honey child, don't cry like that."

"Oh, Susan, Susan, it will never be the same again, never the same."

And now once more in the garden, the roses bloomed on the
hundred-leaved bush, once more the fountain sang, and the little bronze
boy laughed through a veil of mist--but there were no gay voices in the
garden, no lovers on the stone seat.  Susan Jenks kept the paths trim
and watered the flowers, and Pittiwitz chased butterflies or stretched
herself in the sun, lazily content, forgetting, gradually, those who
had for a time made up her world.

But Mary, on the high seas, could not forget what she had left behind.
It was not Susan Jenks, it was not Pittiwitz, it was not the garden
which called her back, although these had their part in her regrets--it
was the old life, the life which had belonged to her childhood and her
girlhood the life which had been lived with her mother and father and
Constance--and Barry.

As she lay listless in her deck chair, she could see nothing in her
future which would match the happiness of the past.  The days lived in
the old house had never been days of great prosperity; her father had,
indeed, often been weighed down with care--there had been times of
heavy anxieties--but, there had been between them all the bond of deep
affection, of mutual dependence.

In Gordon's home there would be splendors far beyond any she had known,
there would be ease and luxury, and these would be shared with her
freely and ungrudgingly, yet to a nature like Mary Ballard's such
things meant little.  The real things in life to her were love and
achievement; all else seemed stale and unprofitable.

Of course there would be Constance and the baby.  On the hope of seeing
them she lived.  Yet in a sense Gordon and the baby stood between
herself and Constance--they absorbed her sister, satisfied her, so that
Mary's love was only one drop added to a full cup.

It was while she pondered over her future that Mary was moved to write
to Roger Poole.  The mere putting of her thoughts on paper would ease
her loneliness.  She would say what she felt, frankly, freely, and when
the little letters were finished, if her mood changed she need not send
them.

So she began to scribble, setting down each day the thoughts which
clamored for expression.

Porter complained that now she was always writing.

"I'd rather write than talk," Mary said, wearily; and at last he let
the matter drop.


_In Mid-Sea._

DEAR FRIEND O' MINE:

You asked me to write, and you will think that I have more than kept my
promise when you get this journal of our days at sea.  But it has
seemed to me that you might enjoy it all, just as if you were with us,
instead of down among your sand-hills, with your sad children (are they
really sad now?) and Cousin Patty's wedding cakes.

There's quite a party of us.  Leila and her father and the Jeliffes and
Colin kept to their original plan of coming in May, and we decided it
would be best to cross at the same time, so there's Aunt Frances and
Grace and Aunt Isabelle, and Porter--and me--ten of us.  If you and
Cousin Patty were here, you'd round out a dozen.  I wish you were here.
How Cousin Patty would enjoy it--with her lovely enthusiasms, and her
interest in everything.  Do give her much love.  I shall write to her
when I reach London, for I know she will be traveling with us in
spirit; she said she was going to live in England by proxy this summer,
and I shall help her all I can by sending pictures, and you must tell
her the books to read.

To think that I am on my way to the London of your Dick Whittington!  I
call him yours because you made me really see him for the first time.

"_There was he an orphan, O, a little lad alone._"

And I am to hear all the bells, and to see the things I have always
longed to see!  Yet--and I haven't told this to any one but you, Roger
Poole, the thought doesn't bring one little bit of gladness--it isn't
London that I want, or England.  I want my garden and my old big house,
and things as they used to be.

But I am sailing fast away from it--the old life into the new!

So far we have had fair weather.  It is always best to speak of the
weather first, isn't it?--so that we can have our minds free for other
things.  It hasn't been at all rough; even Leila, who isn't a good
sailor, has been able to stay on deck and people are so much interested
in her.  She seems such a child for her widow's black.  Oh, what
children they were, my boy Barry and his little wife, and yet they were
man and woman, too.  Leila has been letting me see some of his letters;
he showed her a side which he never revealed to me, but I am not
jealous.  I am only glad that, for her, my boy Barry became a man.

But I am going to try to keep the sadness out of my scribbles to you,
only now and then it will creep in, and you must forgive it, because
you see it isn't easy to think that we are all here who loved him, and
he, who loved so much to be with us, is somewhere--oh, where is he,
Roger Poole, in that vast infinity which stretches out and out, beyond
the sea, beyond the sky, into eternity?

All day I have been lying in my deck chair, and have let the world go
by.  It is clear and cool, and the sea rises up like a wall of
sapphire.  Last night we seemed to plough through a field of gold.  The
world is really a lovely place, the big outside world, but it isn't the
outside world which makes our happiness, it is the world within us, and
when the heart is tired----

But now I must talk of some one else besides my self.

Shall I tell you of Delilah?  She attracts much attention, with her
gracious manner and her wonderful clothes.  All the people are crazy
about her.  They think she is English, and a duchess at least.  Colin
is as pleased as Punch at the success he has made of her, and he just
stands aside and watches her, and flickers his pale lashes and smiles.
Last night she danced some of the new dances, and her tango is as
stately as a minuet.  She and Porter danced together--and everybody
stopped to look at them.  The gossip is going the rounds that they are
engaged.  Oh, I wish they were--I wish they were!  It would be good for
him to meet his match.  Delilah could hold her own; she wouldn't let
him insist and manage until she was positively mesmerized, as I am.
Delilah has such a queenly way of ruling her world.  All the men on
board trail after her.  But she makes most of them worship from afar.
As for the women, she picks the best, instinctively, and the ice which
seems congealed around the heart of the average Britisher melts before
her charm, so that already she is playing bridge with the proper
people, and having tea with the inner circle.  Even with these she
seems to assume an air of remoteness, which seems to set her apart--and
it is this air, Grace says, which conquers.

When people aren't coupling Porter's name with Delilah's, they are
coupling it with Grace's.  You should see our "red-headed woodpeckers,"
as poor Barry used to call them.  When they promenade, Grace wears a
bit of a black hat that shows all of her glorious hair, and Porter's
cap can't hide his crown of glory.  At first people thought they were
brother and sister, but since it is known that they aren't I can see
that everybody is puzzled.

It is all like a play passing in front of me.  There are charming
English people--charming Americans and some uncharming ones.  Oh, why
don't we, who began in such simplicity, try to remain a simple people?
It just seems to me sometimes as if everybody on board is trying to
show off.  The rich ones are trying to display their money, and the
intellectual ones their brains.  Is there any real difference between
the new-rich and the new-cultured, Roger Poole?  One tells about her
three motor cars, and the other tells about her three degrees.  It is
all tiresome.  The world is a place to have things and to know things,
but if the having them and knowing them makes them so important that
you have to talk about them all the time there's something wrong.

That's the charm of Grace.  She has money and position--and I've told
you how she simply carried off all the honors at college; she paints
wonderfully, and her opinions are all worth listening to.  But she
doesn't throw her knowledge at you.  She is interested in people, and
puts books where they belong.  She is really the only one whom I
welcome without any misgivings, except darling Aunt Isabelle.  The
others when they come to talk to me, are either too sad or too
energetic.

Doesn't all that sound as if I were a selfish little pig?  Well, some
day I shall enjoy them all--but now--my heart is crying--and Leila,
with her little white face, hurts.  Mrs. Barry Ballard!  Shall I ever
get used to hearing her called that?  It seems to set her apart from
little Leila Dick, so that when I hear people speak to her, I am always
startled and surprised.

And now--what are you doing?  Are you still planting little gardens,
and talking to your boy--talking to your sad people?  Cousin Patty has
told me of your letter to your bishop, who was so kind during
your--trouble--and of his answer--and of your hope that some day you
may have a little church in the sand-hills, and preach instead of teach.

Surely that would make all of your dreams come true, all of _our_
dreams, for I have dreamed too--that this might come.

Sometimes as I lie here, I shut my eyes, and I seem to see you in that
circle of young pines, and I pretend that I am listening; that you are
saying things to me, as you say them to those poor people in the
pines--and now and then I can make myself believe that you have really
spoken, that your voice has reached across the miles.  And so I have
your little sermons all to myself--out here at sea, with all the blue
distance between us--but I listen, listen--just the same.


_In the Fog._

Out of the sunshine of yesterday came the heavy mists of to-day.  The
sea slips under us in silver swells.  Everybody is wrapped to the chin,
and Porter has just stopped to ask me if I want something hot sent up.
I told him "no," and sent him on to Leila.  I like this still world,
and the gray ghosts about the deck.  Delilah has just sailed by in a
beautiful smoke-colored costume--with her inevitable knot of
heliotrope--a phantom lady, like a lovely dream.

Did I tell you that a very distinguished and much titled gentleman
wants to marry Delilah, and that he is waiting now for her answer?
Porter thinks she will say "yes."  But Leila and I don't.  We are sure
that she will find her fate in Colin.  He dominates her; he dives
beneath the surface and brings up the real Delilah, not the cool,
calculating Delilah that we once knew, but the lovely, gracious lady
that she now is.  It is as if he had put a new soul inside of the
worldly shell that was once Delilah.  Yet there is never a sign between
them of anything but good comradeship.  Grace says that Colin is
following the fashionable policy of watchful waiting--but I'm not sure.
I fancy that they will both wake up suddenly to what they feel, and
then it will be quite wonderful to see them.

Porter doesn't believe in the waking-up process.  He says that love is
a growth.  That people must know each other for years and years, so
that each can understand the faults and virtues of the other.  But to
me it seems that love is a flame, illumining everything in a moment.

Porter came while I was writing that--and made me walk with him up and
down, up and down.  He was afraid I might get chilled.  Of course he
means to be kind, but I don't like to have him tell me that I must
"make an effort"--it gives me a sort of Mrs. Dombey feeling.  I don't
wonder that she just curled up and died to get rid of the trouble of
living.

I knew while I walked with Porter that people were wondering who I
was--in my long black coat, with my hair all blown about.  I fancy that
they won't link my name, sentimentally, with the Knight of the Auburn
Crest.  Beside Grace and Delilah I look like a little country girl.
But I don't care--my thick coat is comfortable, and my little soft hat
stays on my head, which is all one needs, isn't it?  But as I write
this I wonder where the girl is who used to like pretty clothes.  Do
you remember the dress I wore at Constance's wedding?  I was thinking
to-day of it--and of Leila hippity-hopping up the stairs in her one
pink slipper.  Oh, how far away those days seem--and how strong I
felt--and how ready I was to face the world, and now I just want to
crawl into a corner and watch other people live.

Leila is much braver than I.  She takes a little walk every morning
with her father, and another walk every afternoon with Porter--and she
is always talking to lonesome people and sick people; and all the while
she wears a little faint shining smile, like an angel's.  Yet I used to
be quite scornful of Leila, even while I loved her.  I thought she was
so sweetly and weakly feminine; yet she is steering her little ship
through stormy waters, while I have lost my rudder and compass, and all
the other things that a mariner needs in a time of storm.


_Before the storm._

The fog still hangs over us, and we seem to ride on the surface of a
dead sea.  Last night there was no moon and to-day Aunt Frances has not
appeared.  Even Delilah seems to feel depressed by the silence and the
stillness--not a sound but the beat of the engines and the hoarse hoot
of the horns.  This paper is damp as I write upon it, and blots the
ink, but--I sha'n't rewrite it, because the blots will make you see me
sitting here, with drops of moisture clinging to my coat and to my
little hat, and making my hair curl up in a way that it never does in
dry weather.

I wonder, if you were here, if you would seem a ghost like all the
others.  Nothing is real but my thoughts of the things that used to be.
I can't believe that I am on my way to London, and that I am going to
live with Constance, and go sightseeing with Aunt Frances and Grace,
and give up my plans for the--Great Adventure.  Aunt Isabelle sat
beside me this morning, and we talked about it.  She will stay with
Aunt Frances and Grace, and we shall see each other every day.  I
couldn't quite get along at all if it were not for Aunt Isabelle--she
is such a mother-person, and she doesn't make me feel, as the rest of
them do, that I must be brave and courageous.  She just pats my hand
and says, "It's going to be all right, Mary dear--it is going to be all
right," and presently I begin to feel that it is; she has such a
fashion of ignoring the troublesome things of this world, and simply
looking ahead to the next.  She told me once that heaven would mean to
her, first of all, a place of beautiful sounds--and second it would
mean freedom.  You see she has always been dominated by Aunt Frances,
poor thing.

Do you remember how I used to talk of freedom?  But now I'm to be a
bird in a cage.  It will be a gilded cage, of course.  Even Grace says
that Constance's home is charming--great lovely rooms and massive
furniture; and when we begin to go again into society, I am to be
introduced to lots of grand folk, and perhaps presented.

And I am to forget that I ever worked in a grubby government
office--indeed I am to forget that I ever worked at all.

And I am to forget all of my dreams.  I am to change from the Mary
Ballard who wanted to do things to the Mary Ballard who wants them done
for her.  Perhaps when you see me again I shall be nice and clinging
and as sweetly feminine as you used to want me to be--Roger Poole.

The mists have cleared, and there's a cloud on the horizon--I can hear
people saying that it means a storm.  Shall I be afraid?  I wonder.  Do
you remember the storm that came that day in the garden and drove us
in?  I wonder if we shall ever be together again in the dear old garden?


_After the storm._

Last night the storm waked us.  It was a dreadful storm, with the wind
booming, and the sea all whipped up into a whirlpool.

But I wasn't frightened, although everybody was awake, and there was a
feeling that something might happen.  I asked Porter to take me on
deck, but he said that no one was allowed, and so we just curled up on
chairs and sofas and waited either for the storm to end or for the ship
to sink.  If you've ever been in a storm at sea, you know the
feeling--that the next minute may bring calm and safety, or terror and
death.

Porter had tucked a rug around me, and I lay there, looking at the
others, wondering whether if an accident happened Delilah would face
death as gracefully as she faces everything else.  Leila was very white
and shivery and clung to her father; it is at such times that she seems
such a child.

Aunt Frances was fussy and blamed everybody from the captain down to
Aunt Isabelle--as if they could control the warring elements.  Surely
it is a case of the "ruling passion."

But while I am writing these things, I am putting off, and putting off
and putting off the story of what happened after the storm--not because
I dread to tell it, but because I don't know quite how to tell it.  It
involves such intimate things--yet it makes all things clear, it makes
everything so beautifully clear, Roger Poole.

It was after the wind died down a bit that I made Porter take me up on
deck.  The moon was flying through the ragged clouds, and the water was
a wild sweep of black and white.  It was all quite spectral and
terrifying and I shivered.  And then Porter said; "Mary, we'd better go
down."

And I said, "It wasn't fear that made me shiver, Porter.  It was just
the thought that living is worse than dying."

He dropped my arm and looked down at me.

"Mary," he said, "what's the matter with you?"

"I don't know," I said.  "It is just that my courage is all gone--I
can't face things."

"Why not?"

"I don't know--I've lost my grip, Porter."

And then he asked a question.  "Is it because of Barry, Mary?"

"Some of it."

"And the rest?"

"I can't tell you."

We walked for a long time after that, and I was holding all the time
tight to his arm--for it wasn't easy to walk with that sea on--when
suddenly he laid his hand over mine.

"Mary," he said, "I've got to tell you.  I can't keep it back and
feel--honest.  I don't know whether you want Roger Poole in your
life--I don't know whether you care.  But I want you to be happy.  And
it was I who sent him away from you."

And now, Roger Poole, what can I say?  What can _any_ woman say?  I
only know this, that as I write this the sun shines over a blue sea,
and that the world is--different.  There are still things in my heart
which hurt--but there are things, too, which make it sing!

MARY.


When Mary Ballard came on deck on the morning after the storm,
everybody stared.  Where was the girl of yesterday--the frail white
girl who had moped so listlessly in her chair, scribbling on little
bits of paper?  Here was a fair young beauty, with her head up, a clear
light shining in her gray eyes--a faint flush on her cheeks.

Colin Quale, meeting her, flickered his lashes and smiled: "Is this
what the storm did to you?"

"What?"

"This and this."  He touched his cheeks and his eyes.  "To-day, if I
painted you, I should have to put pink on my palette--yesterday I
should have needed only black and white."

Mary smiled back at him.  "Do you interpret things always through the
medium of your brush?"

"Why not?  Life is just that--a little color more or less, and it all
depends on the hand of the artist."

"What a wonderful palette He has!"  Her eyes swept the sea and the sky.
"This morning the world is all gold and blue."

"And yesterday it was gray."

Mary flashed a glance at him.  His voice had changed.  Delilah was
coming toward them.  "There's material I like to work with," he said,
"there's something more than paint or canvas--living, breathing beauty."

"He's saying things about you," Mary said, as Delilah joined them.

Delilah, coloring faintly, cast down her eyes.  "I'm afraid of him,
Mary," she said.

Colin laughed.  "You're not afraid of any one."

"Yes, I am.  You analyze my mental processes in such a weird fashion.
You are always reading me like a book."

"A most interesting book," Colin's lashes quivered, "with lovely
illustrations."

They laughed, and swept away into a brisk walk, followed by curious
eyes.

If to others Mary's radiance seemed a miracle of returning health, to
Porter Bigelow it was no miracle.  Nothing could have more completely
rung the knell of his hopes than this radiance.

Her attitude toward him was irreproachable.  She was kinder, indeed,
than she had been in the days when he had tried to force his claims
upon her.  She seemed to be trying by her friendliness to make up for
something which she had withdrawn from him, and he knew that nothing
could ever make up.

So it came about that he spent less and less of his time with her, and
more and more with Leila--Leila who needed comforting, and who welcomed
him with such sweet and clinging dependence--Leila who hung upon his
advice, Leila who, divining his hurt, strove by her sweet sympathy to
help him.

Thus they came in due time to London.  And when Leila and her father
left for the German baths, Porter went with them.

It was when he said "Good-bye" to Mary that his voice broke.

"Dear Contrary Mary," he said, "the old name still fits you.  You never
could, and you never would, and now you never will."


Followed for Mary quiet days with Constance and the beautiful baby,
days in which the sisters were knit together by the bonds of mutual
grief.  The little Mary-Constance was a wonderful comfort to both of
them; unconscious of sadness, she gurgled and crowed and beamed,
winning them from sorrowful thoughts by her blandishments, making
herself the center of things, so that, at last, all their little world
seemed to revolve about her.

And always in these quiet days, Mary looked for a letter from across
the high seas, and at last it came in a blue envelope.

It arrived one morning when she was at breakfast with Constance and
Gordon.  Handed to her with other letters, she left it unopened and
laid it beside her plate.

Gordon finished his breakfast, kissed his wife, and went away.
Constance, looking over her mail, read bits of news to Mary.  Mary, in
return, read bits of news to Constance.  But the blue envelope by her
plate lay untouched, until, catching her sister's eye, she flushed.

"Constance," she said, "it is from Roger Poole."

"Oh, Mary, and was that why Porter went away?"

"Yes."  It came almost defiantly.

For a moment the young matron hesitated, then she held out her arms.
"Dearest girl," she said, "we want you to be happy."

Mary, with eyes shining, came straight to that loving embrace.

"I am going to be happy," she said, almost breathlessly, "and perhaps
my way of being happy won't be yours, Con, darling.  But what
difference does it make, so long as we are both--happy?"

The letter, read at last in the shelter of her own room, was not long.


_Among the Pines._

Even now I can't quite believe that your letter is true--I have read it
and reread it--again and again, reading into it each time new meanings,
new hope.  And to-night it lies on my desk, a precious document,
tempting me to say things which perhaps I should not say--tempting me
to plead for that which perhaps I should not ask.

Dear woman--what have I to offer you?  Just a home down here among the
sand-hills--a little church that will soon stand in a circle of young
pines, a life of work in a little rectory near the little church--for
your dreams and mine are to come true, and the little church will be
built within a year.

Yet, I have a garden.  A garden of souls.  Will you come into it?  And
make it bloom, as you have made my life bloom?  All that I am you have
made me.  When I sat in the Tower Rooms hopeless, you gave me hope.
When I lost faith in myself, it shone in your eyes.  When I saw your
brave young courage, my courage came back to me.  It was you who told
me that I had a message to deliver.

And I am delivering the message--and somehow I cannot feel that it is a
little thing to offer, when I ask you to share in this, my work.

Other men can offer you a castle--other men can give to you a life of
ease.  I can bring to you a life in which we shall give ourselves to
each other and to the world.  I can give you love that is equal to any
man's.  I can give you a future which will make you forget the past.

Not to every woman would I dare offer what I have to give---but you are
different from other women.  From the night when you first met me
frankly with your brave young head up and your eyes shining, I have
known that you were different from the rest--a woman braver and
stronger, a woman asking more of life than softness.

And now, will you fight with me, shoulder to shoulder?  And win?

Somehow I feel that you will say "Yes."  Is that the right attitude for
a lover?  But surely I can see a little way into your heart.  Your
letter let me see.

If I seem over-confident, forgive me.  But I know what I want for
myself.  I know what I want for you.  I am not the Roger Poole of the
Tower Rooms, beaten and broken.  I am Roger Poole of the Garden,
marching triumphantly in tune with the universe.

As I write, I have a vision upon me of a little white house not far
from the little white church in the circle of young pines--a house with
orchards sweeping up all pink behind it in April, and with violets in
the borders of the walk in January, and with roses from May until
December.

And I can see you in that little house.  I shall see you in it until
you say something which will destroy that vision.  But you won't
destroy it.  Surely some day you will hear the mocking-birds sing in
the moonlight--as I am hearing them, alone, to-night.

I need you, I want you, and I hope that it is not a selfish cry.  For
your letter has told me that you, too, are wanting--what?  Is it Love,
Mary dear, and Life?

ROGER.



CHAPTER XXVI

_In Which a Strange Craft Anchors in a Sea of Emerald Light; and in
Which Mocking-Birds Sing in the Moonlight._


Sweeping through a country of white sand and of charred trees run hard
clay highways.  When motor cars from the cities and health resorts
began to invade the pines, it was found that the old wagon trails were
inadequate; hence there followed experiments which resulted in
intersecting orange-colored roads, throughout the desert-like expanse.

It was on a day in April that over the road which led up toward the
hills there sailed the snowy-white canopy of one of the strange
land-craft of that region--a schooner-wagon drawn by two fat mules who
walked at a leisurely but steady pace, seemingly without guidance from
any hand.

Yet that, beneath the hooded cover, there was a directing power, was
demonstrated, as the mules turned suddenly from the hot road to a wagon
path beneath the shelter of the pines.

It was strewn thick with brown needles, and the sharp hoofs of the
little animals made no sound.  Deeper and deeper they went into the
wood, until the swinging craft and its clumsy steeds seemed to swim in
a sea of emerald light.

On and on breasting waves of golden gloom, where the sunlight sifted
in, to anchor at last in a still space where the great trees sang
overhead.

Then from beneath the canopy emerged a man in khaki.

He took off his hat, and stood for a moment looking up at the great
trees, then he called softly, "Mary."

She came to the back of the wagon and he lifted her down.

"This is my cathedral," he said; "it is the place of the biggest pines."

She leaned against him and looked up.  His arm was about her.  She wore
a thin silk blouse and a white skirt.  Her soft fair hair was blown
against his cheek.

"Roger," she said, "was there ever such a honeymoon?"

"Was there ever such a woman--such a wife?"

After that they were silent.  There was no need for words.  But
presently he spread a rug for her, and built their fire, and they had
their lunch.  The mules ate comfortably in the shade, and rested
throughout the long hot hours of the afternoon.

Then once more the strange craft sailed on.  On and on over miles of
orange roadway, passing now and then an orchard, flaunting the
rose-color of its peach trees against the dun background of sand;
passing again between drifts of dogwood, which shone like snow beneath
the slanting rays of the sun--sailing on and on until the sun went
down.  Then came the shadowy twilight, with the stars coming out in the
warm dusk--then the moonlight--and the mocking-birds singing.





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