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Title: Flint - His Faults, His Friendships and His Fortunes
Author: Goodwin, Maud Wilder
Language: English
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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.

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                                FLINT

                     HIS FAULTS, HIS FRIENDSHIPS
                           AND HIS FORTUNES



                                FLINT

                     His Faults, His Friendships
                           and His Fortunes



                                  BY

                         MAUD WILDER GOODWIN

               AUTHOR OF "THE HEAD OF A HUNDRED," "WHITE
                 APRONS," "THE COLONIAL CAVALIER," ETC.



                                BOSTON
                       LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY

                                 1897



                         _Published_, _1897_,
                     BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.



                           University Press:
                JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



                         Dedicated to Miriam.



                          TABLE OF CONTENTS.


                        *   *   *   *   *   *


 CHAPTER                                        PAGE

    I. THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS                     1

   II. MINGLED YARN                               11

  III. OLD FRIENDS                                35

   IV. THE DAVITTS                                57

    V. THE OLD SHOP                               71

   VI. THE GLORIOUS FOURTH                        87

  VII. ON THE BEACH                              102

 VIII. THE MARY ANN                              125

   IX. NORA COSTELLO                             139

    X. FLYING POINT                              154

   XI. THE POINT OF VIEW                         174

  XII. "PIPPA PASSES"                            188

 XIII. A SOLDIER                                 205

  XIV. TWO SOUL-SIDES                            218

   XV. A BIRTHDAY                                236

  XVI. YES OR NO                                 252

 XVII. A LITTLE DINNER                           270

XVIII. A MAIDEN'S VOW                            289

  XIX. A SLUM POST                               303

   XX. THE UNFORESEEN                            323

  XXI. GOD'S PUPPETS                             338

 XXII. THE END                                   356



                                Flint:

                   His Faults, His Friendships, and
                             His Fortunes



                              CHAPTER I

                       THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS


               "Say not 'a small event.' Why 'small'?
                Costs it more pain that this ye call
                'A great event' should come to pass
                Than that? Untwine me from the mass
                Of deeds which make up life, one deed
                Power should fall short in, or exceed."



         _The following chapter is an Extract from the Journal
          of Miss Susan Standish, dated Nepaug, July 1, 189-._

We are a house-party.

To be sure we find pinned to our cushions on Saturday nights a grayish
slip of paper, uncertain of size and ragged of edge, stating with
characteristic New England brevity and conciseness the amount of our
indebtedness to our hostess; but what of that? The guests in those
stately villas whose lights twinkle at us on clear evenings from the
point along the coast, have their scores to settle likewise, and
though the account is rendered less regularly, it is settled less
easily and for my part, I prefer our Nepaug plan.

We are congenial.

I don't know why we should be, except that no one expects it of us. We
have no tie, sacred or secular, to bind our hearts in Christian love.
We have in fact few points in common, save good birth, good breeding,
and the ability to pay our board-bills as they fall due; but
nevertheless we coalesce admirably.

We are Bohemian.

That is, our souls are above the standards of fashion, and our incomes
below them, and of such is the kingdom of Bohemia. A life near to
Nature's heart, at eight dollars a week, appeals to us all alike.

We are cross.

Yes, there is no denying it. Not one of us has escaped the irritation
of temper naturally resulting from ten days experience of the fog
which has been clinging with suffocating affection to earth and sea,
putting an end to outdoor sport and indoor comfort, taking the curl
out of hair, the starch out of dresses, the sweetness out of
dispositions, and hanging like a pall over all efforts at jollity.

Irritation shows itself differently in each individual of our
community. As is the temperament, so is the temper.

Master Jimmy Anstice, aged twelve, spends his time in beating a tattoo
on the sofa-legs with the backs of his heels. His father says: "Stop
that!" at regular intervals with much sharpness of manner; but lacks
the persistent vitality to enforce his command.

My nephew, Ben Bradford, permanently a resident of Oldburyport, and
temporarily of Cambridge, sits in a grandfather's chair in the corner,
"Civil Government" in his lap, and "Good-Bye, Sweetheart," in his
hand. Even this profound work cannot wholly absorb his attention; for
he fidgets, and looks up every few minutes as if he expected the
sunshine to walk in, and feared that he might miss its first
appearance.

I, for occupation, have betaken myself to writing in this diary,
having caught myself cheating at solitaire,--a deed I scorn when I am
at my best.

Doctor Cricket, his hands nervously clasped behind him, has been
walking up and down the room, now overlooking my game and
remonstrating against the liberties I was taking with the cards (as if
I had not a right to cheat myself if I like!) and then flying off to
peer through his gold-bowed spectacles at the hygrometer, which will
not budge, though he thrusts out his chin-whisker at it for the
fortieth time.

"The weather is in a nasty, chilly sweat," he says grumpily; "if it
were my patient, I would roll it in a blanket, and put it to bed with
ten grains of quinine."

"Not being your patient, and not being dosed with quinine, it may be
better to-morrow," Ben retorts saucily.

Ordinarily, the Doctor takes Ben's sallies with good-humored contempt.
To-day, he is in other mood. He smiles--always a bad sign with him, as
the natural expression of his truly benignant mood is a fierce little
terrier-like frown.

"My poor boy!" he says sympathetically. "The brain is going fast, I
observe. Steep a love-story, and apply it over the affected part!"

I see Ben wrestling with a retort; but before he has it to his mind,
something happens. The door opens and a girl enters. Ben's face lights
up. The sunshine has come.

There is something more than a suggestion of sunshine about Winifred
Anstice, even to those of us who are neither of the age nor the sex to
fall under the glamour of sentimental illusions. I have often
speculated on the precise nature of her charm, without being able to
satisfy myself. She is not so extraordinarily pretty, though her hair
ripples away from her forehead after the American classic fashion, to
which style also belongs the little nose, straight in itself, but set
on at an angle from the brow, which, to my thinking, forms a pleasing
variation from the heavier, antique type. The classic repose is wholly
lacking. The eyes are arch, bright, and a little daring; the mouth
always on the verge of laughter, which is not quite agreeable, for
sometimes when there is no visible cause for amusement, it gives one
an uncomfortable feeling that perhaps he is being laughed at
unbeknown, and a person need not be very stingy not to relish a joke
at his expense.

Perhaps this sounds as if Winifred were hard, which she is not, and
unsympathetic, which she never could be; but it is not that at all. It
comes, I think, of a kind of bubbling over of the fun and spirits
which belong to perfect physical condition and which few girls have
nowadays. I suppose I ought not to wonder if a little of this vigor
clings to her manner, making it not hoidenish exactly, but different
from the manner of Beacon Street girls, who, after all said and done,
have certainly the best breeding of any girls the world over. Ben
doesn't admire Boston young ladies; but then he hates girls who are
what he calls "stiff," as much as I dislike those whom he commends as
"easy." Of course he gets on admirably with Winifred, who accepts his
adoration as a matter of course, and rewards him with a
semi-occasional smile, or a friendly note in her voice.

After all, Winifred's chief charm lies in her voice. For myself, I
confess to a peculiar sensitiveness in the matter of voices,--an
unfortunate peculiarity for one condemned to spend her life in a
sea-board town of the United States. Like Ulysses, I have endured
greatly, have suffered greatly; but when this girl speaks, I am
repaid. I often lose the sense of what she is saying, in the pure
physical pleasure of listening to her speech. It has in it a
suggestion of joy, and little delicate trills of hidden laughter
which, after all, is not laughter, but rather the mingling of a
reminiscence and an anticipation of mirth. I cannot conceive where she
picked up such a voice, any more than where she came by that carriage
of the head, and that manner, gracious, yet imperative like a young
queen's. Professor Anstice is a worthy man and a learned scholar; but
the grand air is not acquired from books.

"How glum you all look!" Winifred exclaims, as she looks in upon us.

At his daughter's entrance, the face of Professor Anstice relaxes by a
wrinkle or two; but he answers her words as academically as though she
had been one of his class in English.

"_Glum_ is hardly the word, my dear; it conveys the impression of
unamiability."

"Precisely," persists Mistress Winifred, not to be put down, "that is
just the idea you all convey to me."

"Why shouldn't we be unamiable," answers Ben, eager to get into the
conversation, "when there is nothing to amuse us, and you go off
upstairs to write letters?"

"You should follow my example, and _do_ something. When I went
upstairs Miss Standish was in a terrible temper, scowling at the ace
of spades as if it were her natural enemy; but since she has taken to
writing in that little green diary that she never will let me peep
into, she has a positively beatified, not to say sanctified,
expression. And there is Ellen Davitt hard at work too, and as
cheerful as a squirrel--just listen to her!"

With this the girl stands still, and we listen. The waitress in the
next room, apparently in the blithest of spirits, is setting the
tea-table to the accompaniment of her favorite tune, sung in a high,
sharp, nasal voice, and emphasized by the slapping down of plates.

      "Tell me _one_ thing--tell me trooly;
       Tell me _why_ you scorn me so.
       Tell me _why_, when asked the question,
       You will always answer '_No_'--
       No, sir! No, sir! No-o-o, sir--No!"

The voice is lost in the pantry. Smiles dawn upon all our faces.

"A beautiful illustration of the power of imagination!" says Dr.
Cricket. "Ellen is contentedly doing the housework because she fancies
herself an heiress haughtily repulsing a host of suitors. It is the
same spirit which keeps the poet cheerful in his garret, or a young
Napoleon in his cellar, where he dines on a crust and fancies himself
an emperor."

"Steep an illustration and apply it over the affected part!" drawls
Ben.

The Doctor prepares to be angry; but Winifred, scenting the battle and
eager to keep the peace, claps her hands and cries out, "Excellent!"
with that pretty enthusiasm which makes the author of a remark feel
that there must have been more in his observation than he himself had
discovered.

"There, Ben, if you are wise you will act on this clever suggestion of
Dr. Cricket's, and travel off to the land of fancy, where you can make
the weather to suit yourself, where fogs never fall, and fish always
bite, and sails always fill with breezes from the right quarter, and
whiff about at a convenient moment when you want to come home--oh, I
say!" she adds with a joyful upward inflection, "there's the sun, and
I am going for the mail."

"I'll go with you," volunteers Master Ben.

"Thank you, but Mr. Marsden said that I might drive his colt in the
sulky."

"Not the _colt_!" we all cry in chorus.

"The _colt_," she answers with decision.

"Not in the sulky?"

"Yes, in the sulky."

"Surely, Professor Anstice--" I begin; but before I have time for
more, Winifred is out of the room, and reappears, after ten minutes,
strangely transformed by her short corduroy skirt and gaiters, her cap
and gauntleted gloves, to a Lady Gay Spanker. I do not like to see her
so; but then I am fifty years old, and I live in Massachusetts.
Perhaps my aversion to the sporting proclivities of the modern woman
is only an inheritance of the prejudices of my ancestors, who thought
all worldly amusements sinful, and worst of all in a woman. Even the
Mayflower saints and heroes had their cast-iron limitations, and we
can't escape from them, try as we will. We may throw over creed and
catechism; but inherited instinct remains. The shadow of Plymouth Rock
is over us all.

Just here I look up to see Winifred spin along the road before the
house, seated in a yellow-wheeled sulky, behind the most unmanageable
colt on this side of the Mississippi, as I verily believe. Of course
Mr. Marsden is very glad to have the breaking process taken off his
hands; but if I were Professor Anstice I don't think I should like to
have my daughter take up the profession of a jockey. I must admit,
however, that she looks well in that tight-fitting jacket, with the
bit of scarlet at her throat, and her hair rippling up over the edges
of her gray cap.

I wonder why I chronicle all this small beer about Winifred Anstice
and old Marsden's colt. I suppose because nothing really worth noting
has occurred, and it is not for nothing that a diary is called a
commonplace book. I find that if I wait for clever thoughts and
important events, my journal shows portentous gaps at the end of the
week, and I promised myself that I would write something in it every
day while I was at Nepaug. For my part, I enjoy the old-fashioned
diary,--a sort of almanac, confessional, receipt-book, and daily paper
rolled together; so I will just go on in my humdrum way. As it is only
for myself, I need not fear to be as garrulous and egotistical as I
please. Besides, a journal is such a good escape-valve for one's
feelings! Having written them out, one is so much less impelled to
confide them, and confidences are generally a mistake--yes, I am sure
of it. They only intensify feelings, and at my age that is not
desirable. At twenty, we put spurs into our emotions. At fifty, we put
poultices onto them.



                              CHAPTER II

                             MINGLED YARN

  "The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."


The road from the station at South East to Nepaug Beach was long and
dusty, tedious enough to the traveller at any time, but especially on
this July afternoon when the sun beat down pitilessly upon its arid
stretches, and the dust, stirred by passing wheels, rose in choking
masses.

Jonathan Flint, however, surveyed the uninteresting length of highway
with grim satisfaction. It was the inaccessibility and general lack of
popular attractions which had led him to select Nepaug as a summering
place. Mosquitoes and sand-fleas abounded; but one need not say
"good-morning" to mosquitoes and sand-fleas, it is true. The fare at
the inn was poor; but one was spared that exchange of inanities which
makes the average hotel appear a kindergarten for a lunatic asylum;
and, finally, the tediousness of the journey was a safeguard against
the far greater tedium resulting from the companionship of "nauseous
intruders," striding in white duck, or simpering under rose-lined
parasols.

The horse which was drawing the ramshackle carryall in which Flint
sat, toiled on with sweating haunches, switching his tail, impatient
of the flies, and now and then shaking his head deprecatingly, as if
in remonstrance against the fate which destined him to work so hard
for the benefit of a lazy human being reclining at ease behind him.

Flint was, indeed, the image of slothful content, as he sat silent by
the side of old Marsden, who drove like a woman, with a rein in each
hand, twitching them uselessly from time to time, and clucking like a
hen to urge on his horse when the sand grew unusually deep and
discouraging.

Ignoring his companion, or dreading perhaps to let loose the floods of
his garrulity by making any gap in the dam of silence, Flint sat idly
inspecting his fishing-tackle, shutting it up, then drawing it out,
and finally topping it with the last, light, slender tip, quivering
like the outmost delicate twig of an aspen as he shook it over the
side of the carryall. In fancy, he saw it bending beneath the weight
of a black bass such as haunted the translucent depths of a
freshwater pond a mile or two away. In fancy, he could feel the
twitch at the end of the line, then the run, then the steady pull,
growing weaker and weaker as the strength of the fish was exhausted.
Suddenly into the idler's lotus-eating Paradise came a rushing sound.
A sharp swerve of the horse was followed by an exasperating crackle,
and, lo! the beloved fishing-rod was broken,--yes, broken, and that
delicate, quivering, responsive, tapering end lay trailing in the dust
which whirled in eddies around a flying vehicle.

Flint saw flashing past him a racing sulky drawn by a half-tamed colt,
and driven by a girl--if indeed it was a girl and not, as he was at
first inclined to think, a boy in petticoats.

The young woman took the situation jauntily. She reined in the colt,
adjusted her jockey-cap, and pulled her dog-skin gauntlets further
over her sleeves.

"I beg your pardon," she called out as Flint's wagon overtook her.
"I'm awfully sorry to have broken your rod; but I saw that we had room
to pass, and I didn't see the pole hanging out. It never occurred to
me," she added with a dimpling smile, "that any one would be fishing
on the Nepaug road."

Flint had labored hard to subdue the outburst of profanity which was
the first impulse of the natural man, and had almost achieved a
passing civility, but the smile and the jest put his good resolutions
to flight. The milk of human kindness curdled within him.

"You could hardly," he answered, raising his hat, "have been more
surprised than I was to see a horse-race."

A trace of resentment lingered in his tone. The mirth died out of the
girl's eyes. She returned his bow quietly, leaned forward and touched
the colt with the tassel of her whip. The creature reared and plunged.

"Great Heavens!" exclaimed Flint, preparing to jump out and go to her
assistance.

"Let her alone!" said Marsden, with unmoved calmness, shifting the
tobacco from one side of his mouth to the other. "That girl don't need
no guardeen. She's been a-drivin' raound here all summer, and I reckon
she knows more about managin' that there colt'n you do. It's my colt,
and I wouldn't let her drive it ef she didn't."

"I hope to thunder you won't again, at least while I'm about, unless
you intend to pay for damage to life and property," Flint answered
testily.

By this time colt and driver had been whirled away in a cloud,
Elijah-like.

"Nice kind of a girl that!" said Flint to himself with savage,
solitaire sarcasm. He felt that he had appeared like a fool; and it
must be a generous soul which can forgive one who has been both cause
and witness of such humiliation. To conquer his irritation, Flint
proceeded to take his injured rod to pieces, and repack it gloomily in
its bag of green felt. When he looked up again, all petty annoyances
faded out of his mind, for there ahead of him, behind the little patch
of pines, lay the great cool, cobalt stretch of ocean, unfathomably
deep, unutterably blue.

The young man felt a vague awe and exaltation tugging at his heart.
But the only outward expression they gained was a throwing back of the
head, and a deep indrawing of the breath, followed by the quite
uninspired exclamation, "Holloa, there's the ocean!"

"Why shouldn't it be there?" inquired the practical Marsden. "You
didn't think it had got up and moved inland after you left, did you?"

"Well, I didn't know," Flint answered carelessly. "I've seen it come
in a good two hundred feet while I was here, and I couldn't tell how
far it might have been carried, allowing for its swelling emotions
over my departure. But I'm glad to see it at the old stand still; and
there's the pond too, and the cross-roads and the Nepaug Inn. I
declare, Marsden, it is like its owner,--grows better looking as it
gets old and gray."

Marsden's face assumed that grim New England smile which gives notice
that a compliment has been received and its contents noted, but that
the recipient does not commit himself to undue satisfaction therein.

"Yes," he responded, "the old inn weathers the winters down here
pretty middlin' well; but it's gettin' kind o' broken down, and its
doors creak in a storm like bones that's got the rheumatiz. I wish I
could afford to give it a coat o' paint."

"Ah!" said Flint, with a shrug, "I hope, for my part, you never can! I
can see it now as it would be if you had your way--spick and span in
odious, glaring freshness, insulting the gray old ocean. The only
respectable buildings in America are those which the owner is too poor
to improve."

Marsden turned sulky. He did not more than half understand Flint's
remarks; but he had a dim impression that he was being lectured, and
he did not enjoy it; few of us do.

Flint, however, was wholly unconscious of having given offence. It
would have been difficult to make him understand what there was
objectionable in his remark, and indeed the offence lay more in the
tone than in the words. Flint's sympathies were imperfect, and he had
no gift for discerning the sensitiveness which lay outside his sphere
of vision. To all that came within that rather limited range, he was
kind and considerate; beyond, he saw nothing and therefore felt
nothing.

Yet he himself was keenly sensitive, especially to anything
approaching ridicule. He had not yet forgiven his parents, for
instance, for naming him Jonathan Edwards. He was perpetually alive to
the absurdity of the contrast.

"What if the great Jonathan _was_ an ancestor! Why flaunt one's
degeneracy in the face of the public?" As soon as he arrived at years
of discretion, he had proceeded to drop the Jonathan from his name;
but it was continually cropping up in unexpected places to annoy him.
The very trunk strapped onto the back of the carryall, that
sole-leather trunk which had travelled with him ever since he started
off as a freshman for the university, was marked, in odiously
prominent letters, "Jonathan Edwards Flint."

It provoked him now as he reflected that that female Jehu must have
seen it as she drove by. Perhaps that accounted for the suspicion of a
smile on her face. He didn't care a fig what she thought, and he
longed to tell her so.

The most tedious road has an ending, and the Nepaug highway was no
exception, except that instead of a dignified and impressive ending,
it only narrowed to a grass-grown track, and finally pulled up in the
backyard of the Nepaug Inn. The inn had stood in this same spot since
the days of Washington, and there was a tradition that he had spent a
night beneath its roof, though it puzzled even legend-mongers to
invent an errand which could have taken him there, unless he was
seized with a sudden desire for salt-water bathing, and even then it
must have been of a peculiar kind, for the inn stood far back from the
ocean, at the head of a salt-water pond, shadeless and low-banked, a
mere inlet of the sea.

This pond, however, was the great attraction of Nepaug to Flint, for
in one of its coves lay an ungainly boat of which he was the happy
owner. She was a bargain, and, like most bargains, had proved a dear
purchase. True, the hull had cost only five dollars and the sails ten;
but she yawed so badly that a new rudder had become a necessity, and
that article, being imported, cost almost more than hull and sails
together. When all was done, however, and a new coat of paint applied,
Flint vowed she was worth any sixty-dollar boat on the pond. Once
afloat in "The Aquidneck" (for so Flint had christened her, finding
her a veritable "isle of peace" to his tired nerves) he seemed to
become a boy again. The Jonathan in him got the upper hand. All the
super-subtleties of self-analysis which in other conditions paralyzed
his will, and congealed his manner, gave place here to the genial glow
of careless happiness.

It was his fate to be dominated alternately through life by the
differing strains in his blood: one, flowing through the veins of the
old Puritans, chilled by the creed of Calvin; the other, of a more
expansive strain perpetually mocking the strenuousness of its
companion mood. Flint's friends were wont to say, "Flint will do
something some day." His enemies, or rather his indifferents,
scoffingly asked, "What _has_ Flint ever done anyway?" Flint himself
would have answered, "Nothing, my friends, less than nothing; but more
than you, because he is aware that he has done nothing."

The morning after Flint's arrival at Nepaug broke clear and cloudless,
yet he was in no haste to be up and actively enjoying it. Instead, he
lay a-bed, taking an indolent satisfaction in the thought that no
bustling duty beckoned him, and amusing himself by a leisurely survey
of the various corners of his bed-room.

It was scarcely eight feet in height, and the heavy, whitewashed beams
made it look still lower. In the narrow space between the ceiling and
wainscot, the wall was covered with an old-fashioned paper, florid of
design, and musty of odor. On the mantel-shelf stood two brass
candle-sticks with snuffer and extinguisher. As Flint stared idly at
them, wondering what varied scenes their candles had shone upon, his
eyes were drawn above them to a picture which, once having seen, he
wondered that he could ever have overlooked so long. It was a portrait
of great beauty. He propped himself on his elbows to study it more
closely.

"It looks like a Copley," he said to himself, "or perhaps a Gilbert
Stuart. How the devil could such a picture get here, and how could I
have failed to see it last year? I must have it--of course I must! It
is absurd that it should be wasted here! I wonder if Marsden knows
anything of its value?"

Here Flint fell back upon his pillow and found, to his disgust, that
his metaphysical conscience was already at work on the problem of the
equity of a bargain in which the seller is ignorant of facts known to
the buyer, and whether the buyer is in honor bound not to take
advantage of his professional training.

The picture which had given rise to this long and complicated train of
thought was the portrait of a young woman in Quaker dress, her hair
rolled back above a low and subtle brow, her lace kerchief demurely
folded over a white neck. Her head was bent a little to one side, and
rested upon her hand. At her breast sparkled a ruby,--a spot of rich,
luminous flame.

"That is odd," thought Flint. "I fancied Quakers never wore
jewels--conscientiously opposed to them, and all that sort of thing.
Perhaps this damsel was a renegade from the faith, or perhaps this was
some heirloom,--a protest against the colorless limitations of the
creed. Queer thing the human soul. Can't be formulated, not even to
ourselves. Sometimes I've seen people show more of their real selves
to utter strangers at odd moments than their nearest and dearest get
at in a life-time."

This disjointed philosophy beguiled so much time, that Flint was late
to breakfast. His fellow-boarders, a pedler and a fisherman, had gone
about their business, and he sat down alone at the oilcloth-covered
table, and twirled the pewter caster while he waited for his egg to be
boiled. It was one of his beliefs that a merciful Heaven had granted
eggs and oranges to earth for the benefit of fastidious travellers who
could wreak their appetites in comparative security, especially if
they did their own cracking and peeling. At length the breakfast
appeared, and with it the innkeeper, who sat down opposite Flint.

He had many weighty questions to put.

Should oakum or putty be used in the seams of "The Aquidneck"?

Should he pack the dinner-basket with beef or ham sandwiches?

Would Flint take lines for fishing, or a net for crabbing?

When all these were settled, Flint's thoughts drifted back to the
portrait in the bed-room overhead. He began his questioning somewhat
warily. "I suppose you've lived in this house for some time?"

"Wall, ever since I wuz born."

"And your father before you?"

"Yes, and my gran'father before him, and hisn fust."

"Ah, I see--an old homestead; and that portrait in my room is the wife
of 'hisn'?"

"Not exactly--we never had no womenfolks in our family ez looked like
that--stronger built is ourn, with more backbone, and none of that
lackadaisical look raound the eyes."

"Pre-cisely," answered Flint. "And how does it happen that this
lackadaisical-eyed portrait has hung so long without getting packed
off to the garret?"

"Wall, you see," began Marsden, slowly and with evident relish,
"thet's quite a story about thet theer."

"Yes?" said Flint, with a rising inflection which invited further
confidence.

"Yes, indeed," answered Marsden, expanding still further and stroking
his chin-whisker as he proceeded. "You see 't wuz this way--Captain
Wagstaff--he wuz the portrait's uncle--wall, he wuz in command of a
fleet that lay in the harbor up yonder, in the Revolutionary War. When
he wuz ashore, he spent most of his time to this haouse; and when his
sister down to Philadelphy died, leavin' this daughter and no one to
take care on her, he brought her on here to live with him. He'd been
brought up a Quaker,--'Friend,' he called it,--though he did fight for
his country, and right enough, sez I. Wall, this girl,--Ruth, her name
wuz,--she came here and stopped awhile; and then there wuz a fight off
the shore between the Captain's ship and a British cruiser. The
cruiser wuz run down and sunk; but one of the officers they picked up
waounded and brought ashore, to this house, and Miss Ruth she set to
work takin' care on him.

"Wall, what with cossettin' of him, and all sorts of philanderin', she
got kinder soft on him, and one day, fust any one knowed, she'd jest
run off with him."

"And what did the Captain say to that?" asked Flint, more interested
than he was wont to be in Marsden's narratives.

"The Captain? Oh, they say he took on about it like thunder, and swore
he'd never forgive her. But Ruth, she sent him her marriage lines, and
wrote him what a good husband she'd got; and after the war wuz over,
she kep' a-beggin' the Captain to come over and live with them. He
wouldn't go; and I don't know ez I blame him any. Europe is so fur
off, and such a wicked place--seems onsafer ez you get old. New
England's the best place in the world to die in, and so he thought.

"Howsumever, she kep' a-sendin' him money and things; and one day ther
came this here box--I've often heard my gran'mother tell how she
looked on when 't wuz opened, and this picter turned out. Gran'ma wuz
only a little thing, and she didn't know what to make of it all; for
the Cap'n, he cried like a baby when he seen it. He had it taken up
right away to his room (thet's whar you're a-sleepin') and hung over
the mantel jest whar he could see it from his bed. Thar it stayed ez
long ez he stayed on airth, and when he lay a-dyin',--He died, you
know, in that very bed you're a-sleepin' in--only o' course the
mattress is new--the old one wuz a feather-bed. My gran'mother wuz
with him at the end, and she said he stretched out his arms to the
pictur, same ez ef 't ed been his niece herself; and he sort o' cried
out, 'God bless you, Ruth! I wish I'd 'a' understood you better!'
Wuzn't that a queer thing for him to say when he wuz a-dyin'?"

"Poor Ruth!" murmured Flint, with that placid, mild melancholy born of
a sad story heard under comfortable circumstances. His fancy travelled
back to the damsel in her Quaker dress, and he fell to wondering if
the garb had been donned, with innocent hypocrisy, to please her old
uncle, or if she always wore it in her faraway new home.

When he had got so far in his musings, his host recalled him to the
present by continuing, "I dunno ez we've a very good claim to the
pictur; but there ain't no heirs turned up, so ez the Cap'n wuz a
little behind in his board bills, we sort o' kep' it."

Flint sat drumming with his fingers on the table, while his host still
maundered on after the fashion of old age, which has so few topics
that it cannot drop them with the light touch-and-go of youth.

Flint had already firmly determined that he would be the possessor of
that portrait; but he was too shrewd to make any further advances now.

Instead, he turned again to the subject of "The Aquidneck," and,
rising, made his way to the porch, where he almost walked over a
speckled hen so nearly a match for the floor that his near-sighted
eyes failed to perceive her, paying as little heed to her clucking and
fluttering as he bestowed upon the smiles of a girl who stood in the
doorway and moved, with conspicuous civility as he passed. He stalked
around to the corner of the porch where stood his long boots, for
which he exchanged his low ties of russet leather, and, picking up
fishing-tackle and crabbing nets, started off at a brisk pace for the
shore of the pond, leaving Marsden to follow with the pail of dinner.

When all these were stowed away in the locker of "The Aquidneck,"
together with a straw-covered flask and a volume of Omar Khayyam,
Flint bade a cheerful good-bye to Marsden, who stood rolling up his
shirt-sleeves, and giving copious advice. The amateur skipper cast off
from the little dock, lowered the centreboard, and stretched himself
lazily in the stern, with one hand on the tiller. Peace was in his
heart, and a pipe in his mouth--what could man ask more of the gods?

The white sails of "The Aquidneck" fluttered in the light breeze as if
tremulous with the ecstasy of motion. The sea, beyond the low
grass-covered sand-bar which enclosed the pond, lay bright and smooth
to southward, its surface dotted with craft of various sizes. Here
skimmed a white-winged schooner; there panted and puffed a tug
absurdly inadequate to its tow of low-lying coal-barges. Far on the
horizon, a swelling island raised its bulk, purple as Capri, against
the golden haze.

Flint might have been a better sailor had he not been so good a
swimmer; but, having no fear of the consequences of a sudden bath, he
took all risks, sailed into the very apple of the eye of the wind, and
habitually fastened his sheet,--a practice strongly reprehended by old
Marsden.

"There's a new boat on the pond," said Flint to himself, as a
cat-rigged craft, white-hulled with a band of olive, shot out from
behind a point of rock. "Her lines are rather good. A good sailor
aboard too, I should say, for she runs free and yet steady. I'd like
to try a race with the chap some day; maybe it would be hardly fair if
he's a new comer, for I know the pond like--Damn it! what's that?"

_That_ was a sunken rock which Flint, in his self-satisfied musings,
had failed to keep a lookout for. It had struck "The Aquidneck" full
(or _vice versa_, which amounts to the same thing); and here was a
pretty pickle. Navigation is like flirtation: all goes smoothly till
the shock comes, and then everything capsizes, with no chance for
explanation.

"The Aquidneck" began to fill, and then to sink so rapidly that
Flint, not caring to risk entanglement in the sheets, thought it
prudent to jump overboard, and struck out lustily for the shore.
Fortunately for Flint, the shore was near and the water shallow.
Unfortunately, the shore was at the end further from the inn, his
clothes were soaking, and his tobacco and whiskey flask in the locker,
already under water in the midst of mud and eel-grass.

Determined to make the best of a bad situation, Flint swam ashore,
calmly disposed his coat and knickerbockers over the bayberry bushes,
and seated himself, in his dripping under-garments, to dry in the sun
to consider his next move.

"Certainly things couldn't be much nastier," he grumbled. "Yes, they
could too," he added, as he heard a female voice calling from beyond
the screen of bayberry bushes.

"Boat ahoy! What's the matter?"

Flint's first impulse was to hide; but fearing the voice and its owner
might come ashore to investigate the extent of the calamity, he
hastily donned his outer clothing and emerged, like a dripping seal,
from his retreat. "All right!" he called out.

"All wrong! I should say," the voice replied; and in an instant he
knew it for the voice which had called to him from the sulky on the
previous afternoon.

"That girl is a hoodoo!" he muttered.

"Can I do anything for you?" inquired the voice, with that
super-solemnity which results from the effort to conceal amusement,--a
solemnity doubly insulting to its object, implying at once his
absurdity and his vanity.

"Thank you!" answered Flint, stiffly; "if you will be kind enough to
send some one over to give me a lift, I will be greatly obliged."

"Why not get in with us? Luff her in, Jim!" With this the girl and her
companion, a boy of twelve years old, bare of leg and freckled of
face, brought the boat around, and Flint climbed aboard with rather a
bad grace.

To tell the truth, he was in a fit of the sulks. I admit that the
sulks are not heroic; but Homer permitted them to Achilles, and why
should I conceal the fact, unpleasing though it be, about my lesser
hero.

Doubtless his ancestor, Jonathan Edwards, would have felt a like
discomposure, had his pulpit given way under him in the presence of
his congregation; and even that other fiery orator, Patrick The Great,
might have lost his balance had his new peach-colored coat split up
the back, when he was hurling death and destruction upon tyrants and
pleading for liberty or death. To be ridiculous with equanimity is the
crowning achievement of philosophy.

The boy addressed as "Jim" stared at Flint with open-mouthed
enjoyment.

"You didn't fetch where you meant to, did you?"

"Hush, Jim!"

"Why, Fred, what am I saying wrong now? You're always hushing me up. I
didn't mean to guy him, but he did look so jolly glum."

Seeing that intervention was vain in this quarter, his sister essayed
a change of topic, and, womanlike, rushed on to the one she had most
steadfastly promised herself to avoid.

"Were you fishing when the accident happened?" She stopped and colored
nervously.

"No," observed Flint, dryly. (His remarks were the only dry things
about him.) "My fishing-rod happened to be broken. It is of no
consequence however," he hastened to add, seeing her blush deepen
painfully. "The fish about here are not gamey enough to make fishing
an exciting sport. Do you find it so?"

"I never fish."

"Ah, I am surprised."

"I hate to see the poor things suffer--"

"You are too tender-hearted?"

"Say rather too weak-nerved--I should not care if every fish in the
sea died a violent death after prolonged suffering, provided I was not
obliged to watch the process."

Flint smiled.

"But don't you know these cold-blooded creatures can't be made to
suffer? I dare say the keenest enjoyment a fish ever feels is when his
nervous system is gently stimulated by a hook in his mouth."

"Perhaps--I don't know--I tell you it is no question of sympathy. It
is simply physical repulsion; and then I loathe the soft slipperiness
of the bait."

"That's so," put in the boy at the tiller. "Fred groans every time I
put a worm on the hook, and squeals when the fish flop round in the
bottom of the boat, especially if they come anywhere near her skirts."

"Fred," repeated Flint to himself, "I might have known she would have
a boy's name--" Aloud, he said: "I suppose, Master Jim, you have found
all the best fishing-grounds in the pond."

Jim softened visibly at this tribute to his skill.

"Well, I know one good one over at Brightman's, and I'll show it to
you to-morrow, if you like."

His sister shot a warning glance from under her level eyebrows.

"Don't make plans too far ahead, Jim. Sufficient unto the day, you
remember--and unless this gentleman gets dry and warm soon, I am
afraid he will spend some days to come under the doctor's care.
Haven't you some brandy or whiskey?" she asked, turning more fully
toward Flint, and noticing for the first time that his lips were blue
and his teeth chattering in spite of his efforts at unconcerned
conversation.

"Yes," he answered; "a flask full of excellent old whiskey--over
there," and he pointed disconsolately to the line of green water where
the tell-tale fluttered above the wrecks of "The Aquidneck."

The young lady knit her brows in puzzled thought, "What is in our
locker, Jim?"

"Bread and butter, cocoanut balls and ginger-ale."

"Get out the ginger-ale."

"But it is your luncheon," deprecated Flint.

"No, it isn't--it is your medicine. Try it."

Flint pressed the iron spring, and poured down the spluttering liquid,
striving to conceal his wry face.

"Bully, ain't it?" exclaimed Jim, not without a tinge of regret for
lost joys in his tone.

"Excellent!" returned Flint, perjuring himself like a gentleman.

"It is better than nothing," Miss Fred answered judicially. "I will
send Jim up to the inn with some brandy; Marsden's stuff is rank
poison. I had some once this summer when I was ill, and straightway
sent off to town for a private supply. If you feel able to exercise, I
should advise you to let us put you off at this point, and make a run
across country to Marsden's."

"I don't know how to thank you," Flint murmured as Jimmy pulled the
row-boat up, and the young man prepared to climb in after him.

"There is no occasion for thanks. But if you insist on a debit and
credit account, please charge it off against the ruin of your
fishing-rod."

"I am humiliated."

"You?"

"Yes; I must have been a model of incivility."

"No; it was I who was in fault, rushing about the country like a
jockey riding down everything in sight."

"Who except a fool would have had a fishing-rod trailing half-way
across the road?"

"Look here," grumbled Jim, "I can't hold this dory bumping against the
side of the boat forever--"

"Don't be impertinent, Jim. Besides apologies never last long. It is
only explanations which take time--"

Flint jumped from the gunwale of the sail-boat into the dory, and took
the oars. As he headed for shore, he turned his eyes once more to the
sail-boat, and the glimpse that he had of its skipper he carried for
long after--the vision of her standing there in the stern, against the
stretch of blue water, her soft handkerchief of some red stuff knotted
about her throat above the gray jacket, her felt hat thrust up in
front above the waves of her hair, and her eyes smiling with frank
mirthfulness.



                             CHAPTER III

                             OLD FRIENDS

                     "It's an ower-come sooth
                      For age and youth,
                      And it brooks wi' nae denial,
                      That the oldest friends
                      Are the dearest friends,
                      And the new are just on trial."


Flint was glad enough on reaching the inn to creep into bed. In spite
of his cross-country run he was chilled through. Little shivers ran
down his back, and his hands and feet seemed separated by spaces of
numbness from the warmth of his body. The brandy arrived, and he
swallowed some eagerly; but it had little effect on his chilly apathy.
The dinner-bell clanged below. Flint heard it, but he paid no heed to
the summons. He had forgotten what it was to desire food. A blur
before his eyes, and an iron band about his head, occupied his
attention to the exclusion of the outside world.

By three o'clock the headache-fiend had entered into full possession,
had perched itself in the centre of consciousness, and seemed to
Flint's excited nerves to be working its octopus claws in and out
among the folds of his brain.

Waves of pain vibrated outward to his ears and eyes. He watched the
shade against the blindless window flap to and fro. Each streak of
light admitted, struck the sufferer like a blow. He got up, went to
the washbasin and sopped a towel, which he bound about his head and
lay down again--no relief. He could endure it no longer. He dropped
his boots one after the other on the floor, till at length Marsden
heard the signal of distress, came lumbering up the stairs, and
thumped upon his door.

Flint bade him come in and state in the fewest possible words whether
there was any doctor within reach.

"There was."

"How long would it take to fetch him?"

"About half an hour."

"Let it be done."

Again Flint sank into a sort of stupor, from which he was awakened by
a knock, and the entrance of a nervous, little wiry gentleman whose
clothes of rusty black had the effect of having been purchased in a
fit of absence of mind.

The sufferer roused himself as the physician came in.

"The doctor?"

"Yes."

"My name is Flint, and I sent for you to give me a dose of morphine."

"My name, sir, is Cricket, and I'm damned if I do any such thing."

"Why did they send for you then?"

"They sent for me to see what I thought you needed--not to take your
orders for a drug. I am not an apothecary."

"More's the pity!" returned Flint, flouncing across to the inner side
of the bed, and turning his back unceremoniously upon his visitor.

Dr. Cricket received this demonstration with unconcern. He took out
his thermometer and shook it against his wrist. Then resting one knee
on the bed he thrust the thermometer into his recalcitrant patient's
mouth, saying: "Don't crunch on it, unless you want your mouth full of
glass, and your belly full of mercury. Now for the pulse. Ah! too
fast--I expected as much."

He took out the thermometer and held it to the light. "Over one
hundred--see here, young man, it's well you sent for me when you did."

"I wish I hadn't."

"So do I, from a professional point of view. Nothing so good for
doctors' business as delay in sending for us. As it is, I fear I can't
conscientiously make more than two calls, or keep you in bed after
to-morrow."

"But what are you going to do for this accursed pain in the head?"

"Oh, that's of no consequence--only a symptom. It's the fever that
worries me."

"Oh, it is--is it? Well, it is the pain that worries me, and if you
don't do something about it, I'll fire your old bottles out of the
window."

"Very good. Then I will send back to Mrs. White's for more bottles and
a straight-jacket to boot--"

"So you live at Mrs. White's, do you?"

"No, sir, I do not _live_ anywhere in summer--I board."

The doctor chuckled over his little joke as genially as if it had
never seen the light before; but humor does not appeal to a man with a
headache, and antique humor least of all.

"That's where Miss Fred and that freckled-faced brother of hers
stay--isn't it?" Flint continued.

"Ah, do you know the Anstices?"

"Not I--that is, I never saw the young woman till yesterday; but to
the best of my belief she is not human at all, only an evil genius of
the region who goes about with incantations which cause fishing-rods
to break at the end, and boats to run onto rocks."

"So--ho! You were the skipper of 'The Aquidneck,' were you? Well,
well! no wonder you're laid up with a chill. We nearly burst our
blood-vessels, laughing over Miss Fred's account of you, rising up
like a ghost out of the eel-grass, and the topmast of your boat
sticking up out of the water like a dead man's finger."

Dr. Cricket's little black eyes twinkled with enjoyment as he recalled
the scene. The misguided man fancied he was helping to take his
patient's thoughts off himself, and, having measured out his powders
and potions, he took his departure, leaving Flint inwardly raging.

To be made the butt of a boarding-house table! Really it was too much;
and this girl, of whom he had begun to think rather well--this girl
doubtless mimicked his disconsolate tones and his chattering teeth,
and made all manner of fun of his sorry plight.

Folk with a headache see life quite out of focus; and at the moment it
really would have been a comfort to Flint to know that this mocking
maid had been drowned, or struck by lightning, or in any fashion
disabled from repeating the story of his discomfiture. He writhed and
twisted, and at last fell asleep, still alternately vowing never to
forgive, and never to give her another thought.

In the morning when he woke, free from pain and, except for a certain
languor, quite himself again, he wondered at his childishness of the
night before, though in spite of reason a certain sub-conscious
resentment lingered still.

At seven o'clock Matilda Marsden knocked at his door and gave warning
that the breakfast-hour drew near.

"I say," he called in response, "will you please send some one with a
pitcher of hot water? I'll have my breakfast in bed."

Flint knew perfectly well that she would bring the water herself; but
it was necessary to keep up the fiction of intermediate agency in
deference to her position.

From October until June she was "Miss Marsden," in a shop of a small
New England town; and when from June to October she condescended to
become plain "Tilly," and to lend her assistance to her parents at the
Nepaug Inn, she made it distinctly understood that she did so without
prejudice to her social claims.

She waited at the table to be sure; but she shaded her manner with
nice precision to meet the condition of the guest she served. To the
timid pedler, she was encouraging; to the encroaching commercial
traveller, she was haughty, and to Flint gently and insinuatingly
sympathetic.

Flint, on his part, treated her with the deference which he accorded
to all women; but it never occurred to him to consider her as an
individual at all. To him she was simply an agency for procuring food
and towels; and when she lingered on the stairs, or at the doorway,
making little efforts at conversation, he cut her ruthlessly short.

The result of this mingling of courtesy and neglect was of course that
the girl fell promptly and deeply in love with the young man, cut out
from the current magazines every picture which bore the slightest
resemblance to his features, and went about sighing sighs and dreaming
dreams, in a fashion at once pathetic and ridiculous. Flint,
meanwhile, always obtuse on the side of sympathy, went his way wholly
oblivious of her state of mind. How should he know that his rolls were
hotter and his coffee stronger than those of his fellow-boarders, or
that to him alone was accorded the friendly advice as to the
comparative merits of "Injun pudd'n" and huckleberry pie, which
constituted the staple of desserts at the inn?

This morning, as usual, he was wholly unconscious of the effort to
beautify the tray set down outside his door. It meant nothing to him,
that the pitcher holding the hot water was of red and yellow majolica,
that the coarse napkin was embroidered with a wreath of impossible
roses, and the coffee-cup bore the legend "Think of me" in gilt
lettering. In fact the only thing which attracted his attention at all
was a pile of letters on the tray. He glanced hastily over the
envelopes, swallowed his breakfast, and returned to closer inspection
of the correspondence. The first letter which he opened was written by
the editor of an English "Quarterly," informing him that his recent
critique on Balzac had found favor in high places, and that the
"Quarterly" would like to engage a series.

Flint tried not to seem, even to himself, as pleased as he felt.

The next note was of a different tone, a grieved rejoinder from a
young author whose book had been reviewed by Flint with more light
than sweetness. Less stoical to reproaches than to compliment, Flint
kicked vigorously at the bedclothes, as though they had been the
offending note-writer.

"Great Heavens!" he growled. "Does the man think his budding genius
must be fed on sugar-plums? What I said about him and his book was
either true or false; and here he spends his whole sheet prating about
'sensitive feelings,' as if they had anything to do with the matter."

Oh, imperfect sympathies! How large a part you play in the unhappiness
of the world!

The third envelope on the tray was yellow, and contained a large,
careless scrawl on a half-sheet of business paper; but it seemed to
afford Flint unalloyed delight.

"Brady coming to-day!" he almost shouted aloud. "That is what I call
jolly. I would like to see forty Dr. Crickets keep me in bed."

Brady and Flint had been college friends in the old days, at Harvard,
and after that for years had drifted apart. Flint betaking himself to
a German university, and Brady to a business career in Bison, a
flourishing town of the great Northwest, wherein he too had flourished
mightily, and whence he sent imploring messages to Flint, begging him
not to waste his life in the effete civilization of New York, but to
come out and get a view of real folks in the fresh new world of the
West.

To these messages Flint had replied with more candor than courtesy,
that the only fault he had to find with New York was its lack of
civilization, that he was saving every nickel in hopes of getting away
from it to eastward, and that if he were condemned to spend his life
in Bison, or any other prairie town, he would make short work of
matters with a derringer.

This slight difference of opinion had not at all interfered with the
attachment of the two; and few things would have roused Flint to such
enthusiasm as this expectation of a fortnight--a leisurely,
gossiping, garrulous, quarrelsome fortnight--with his old friend. The
prospect of the visit was a better tonic than any contained in the
little doctor's black-box. Indeed it drove all thoughts of doctors and
their medicines so completely out of his head that he was quite
surprised when, having dressed and descended to the ground-floor, he
saw Dr. Cricket standing at the foot of the stairs, wiping the
perspiration off his forehead with a large silk handkerchief.

The Doctor looked fiercely at him from under his shaggy eyebrows.

"Is this Mr. Flint?" he asked, as if unable to believe the testimony
of his eyes.

"It is," Flint answered with unconcern.

"Why did you get up?"

"Because I formed the habit in my youth."

"Didn't I tell you to lie in bed till I came?"

"I don't remember."

The Doctor quivered with rage.

"I am an old man, sir," he said, "and I've walked a mile in the heat
of this devilish sun, and all for a patient who is determined to kill
himself, and such a fool that it doesn't matter much whether he does
or not."

Flint smiled.

"Every man, you know, must be either a fool or a physician when he
reaches maturity. Some may be both. However, since you were kind
enough to come to my assistance last night, I cannot be induced to
quarrel with you this morning, and you ought to be the last man to
find fault with me for feeling the benefit of your medicine sooner
than you expected."

Dr. Cricket was as easy to be placated as to be stirred to anger; and
when Flint urged him to come into the stuffy little office and partake
of a lemonade with the addition of a stronger fluid from a bottle in
Flint's room, he forgot his wrath or drowned it in the cooling drink,
and at length parted in kindliness, only bidding his patient wear
cabbage-leaves in his hat, and be sure to take wraps in case of a
change in the weather, not forgetting to put on his "gums" if he
walked on the wet beach.

When he had gone, Flint found the Doctor's gold-bowed spectacles in a
chair. "Brady and I will walk up with them this evening," he said to
himself. "Perhaps I was not as civil to the old gentleman as I might
have been."

When Marsden learned that Flint was planning an expedition to South
East, he suggested that he would "take it kindly" if Flint could make
it convenient to bring down a few packages of groceries, as some of
the store supplies had run out, and the relays were not expected until
the next day.

Flint reproached himself for weakness in complying, and growled still
further when he saw the length of the list which Marsden handed to him
as he took his seat in the carryall.

"What a cursed fool I am," he muttered as he drove off, "to hire this
man's beast for the privilege of doing his errands!"

The three-o'clock train puffed into the station at South East nearly
an hour behind time. The period of waiting in the intense mid-day heat
had not improved Flint's temper. For all his hearty greeting to Brady,
he could not shake off a sense of irritation, intensified by the fact
that he had no one on whom to wreak it.

Brady's trunk was strapped onto the carryall, the various bottles,
jugs, and packages which Flint, with such unusual urbanity, had
consented to bring down to the Beach for Marsden, were stowed away
under the seat, and nothing remained but the mail. To get this Flint
drew up at the post-office. The postmaster was a grouty old
store-keeper who, through political influence, retained his position
in spite of the efforts of the town's-folk to oust him. This afternoon
a line of wagons stood at the door, and a line of men stood at the
little window within. Seeing his own name in the list of those for
whom there were letters, Flint waited for the window to open, and took
his place in the line. When he reached the window, he asked for his
letter.

"No letter for you," growled the postmaster.

Flint stepped out of line and consulted the list. There was no
mistake. Again he presented himself before the window.

"What cher want?"

"My letter."

"Ain't no letter, I told cher."

"Perhaps you will be kind enough to look at the list."

The postman, in the worst of humors, went to a drawer of his desk,
and, after much hunting about and turning over of parcels, he found a
letter which he threw out at Flint without a remark. Flint took it
also in silence, turned away and resumed his place at the end of the
line. Again he returned to his old post before the little window. This
time the postman grew purple with rage.

"Get out o' this you! What cher want now?"

"I simply wish," answered Flint, in his low, clear, gentlemanly voice,
"to tell you that you have behaved like an insolent blackguard, and
deserve to be removed from office."

Flint's words were the signal for a storm of applause from the
loiterers, and he walked out a hero. He was in a more amiable frame of
mind when he climbed into the carryall. The old horse, feeling his
head turned homeward, needed less urging than usual, and the young men
lolled back, talking busily of old times and new.

Brady was a typical business-man of the West,--cheerful, practical, a
bit boastful, square-shouldered, clear-eyed and ruddy-faced, confident
of himself, proud of his surroundings, sure that there were no
problems of earth or Heaven with which America in general, and Philip
Brady in particular, were not fitted to cope.

Before he had uttered a dozen sentences, Flint began to realize how
far apart they had drifted in the ten years since they had met. He
experienced a vaguely hopeless sense of complexity in the presence of
his friend's bustling frankness. He felt almost a hypocrite, and yet
it seemed to him that any attempt at self-revelation would be useless,
because the relative value, the _chiaro-oscuro_ of life, was so
different to each. He took refuge, as we all do under such
circumstances, in objectivity--asked heartily for the health of each
member of Brady's family, listened with polite interest to the
statistics of the growth of Bison, and then began to wonder what he
should talk about next. As he cast his eye downward, a very practical
subject suggested itself, for he saw with dismay that the cork was
out of the molasses jug, from which the sticky fluid had already oozed
forth, and was rapidly spreading itself over the floor of the
carryall.

"This is what comes of being obliging. Just look at this mess! What in
time are we going to do about it, Brady?"

Brady, being a man of action, wasted no energy in discussion. He
jumped to the ground, pulled out first his overcoat and gripsack,
fortunately unharmed, then the paper parcels of oatmeal and hominy,
sticky and dripping. Swiftly corking the jug, he lifted it out of the
carryall, together with the oilcloth strip, and deftly stood both
against a fence by the roadside. Flint watched him with admiration. He
felt himself supremely helpless in the presence of the direful
calamity. How was he ever to get these bundles into condition to be
put back into the wagon? How cleanse the oilcloth and the fatal jug?

No house was in sight.

Flint stood gloomily gazing down at his boots covered with the oozy
brown fluid. "Jupiter aid us!" he exclaimed; and as if in answer to
his call, "a daughter of the gods, divinely tall," rose on their
sight, coming towards them from over the ridge of the hill. She came
on swiftly, yet without hurry. She walked (a process little understood
by the feminine half of the world, hampered as they are by their stays
and tenpenny heels). This woman neither hobbled, nor waddled, nor
tripped. With the leg swinging out from the hip (no awkward
knee-movement, yet no stride), she swept down the hill as serenely as
though she were indeed a messenger sent by Jupiter to their
assistance. Beside her trotted a large dog who now and again
excursionized in search of tempting adventure, but as constantly
returned to rub his head lovingly against his mistress's skirt, and
lick her hand, as if to assure her that, in spite of his wandering
propensities, his heart remained faithful.

"The hoodoo!" muttered Flint.

"What a pretty girl!" exclaimed Brady.

The object of these widely differing criticisms moved steadily nearer.
She wore a white gown. A basket was on her arm, and her wide-brimmed
straw hat was pulled low over her eyes to shield them from the sun.
She was close upon the scene of accident before she discerned it.
Catching at the same moment a look of annoyance on Flint's face, she
swerved a little, as if with intent to pass by, like the priest and
the Levite, on the other side; then, reassured by Brady's look of
half-comic despair, she set down her basket and paused.

"You have met with an accident, I see," she observed, as casually as
though she had never before heard of any catastrophe in connection
with Flint. "The molasses worked, I suppose. It will, sometimes, if it
is not tightly corked. It was stupid in the grocer not to warn you."

"It is kind of you," said Brady, "to lay the accusation of stupidity
so far off; but, wherever it lies, the results are the same, and we
are in a bad way."

"What can we find to wipe these things off with?" the good Samaritan
asked, making common cause in the misfortune.

"Nothing," answered Flint, with extravagant gloom, striving as he
spoke to cleanse his shoes by rubbing them against the grass-grown
bank.

The girl put her finger to her lips,--a characteristic gesture when
she was puzzled. Then, unfastening her basket with sudden energy, she
exclaimed: "Why won't this do? Here is some sea-moss which I was
taking to an old woman who lives a little further down the road. She
makes some stuff which she calls farina out of it, and grieves
bitterly that she is no longer young and spry enough to gather it for
herself along the shore. My basket is full of this moss, and if we
could wet it in the brook down yonder, we might sponge off the things
with it, and then dry them with big leaves, backed up by those
newspapers which I see you have in your parcel of mail."

"What a clever notion!" Brady said, as he plunged down to the brook,
and came up again with the dripping moss. He and the Samaritan
scrubbed merrily away, while Flint stood by with an uncomfortable
sense that he was out of it all, and that no one but himself knew or
cared.

When comparative cleanliness was restored, and the bundles returned to
the bottom of the wagon, the girl scrambled down to the brook, and,
pushing back her wide cuffs, knelt by the water, where she washed the
traces of sticky substance from her long slender fingers.

"You have relieved us from a very awkward situation," said Flint, as
she rose; "but your basket of moss is spoiled and your long walk
rendered futile. Surely you will permit us at least to drive you
home."

"Thank you, no. Mrs. Davitt will like to talk a while, and to know
that I have not forgotten her and her farina. So I will bid you 'good
afternoon.'"

"That is the most charming girl I ever met," observed Brady, as he
stood watching her disappear around the turn of the road.

"Did you ever meet one who was not?" asked Flint.

"The way she took hold was magnificent," continued Brady, unmoved by
his companion's raillery. "And then when it was all over she was so
unself-conscious; and the best of all was her politeness in never
laughing at us, for really, you know, we must have looked rather
ridiculous, standing gawking there like two escaped imbeciles."

This allusion irritated Flint, as he remembered the last two
occasions, when she had borne herself less seriously. The recollection
colored his first remark, after they had clambered into the carryall,
and persuaded Dobbin to resume his leisurely trot.

"I am afraid myself, inconsistent as it seems, I should have liked her
better if she had not taken hold in such a capable, mannish fashion.
There is a certain appealing dependence which is rather becoming to a
woman--to my thinking, that is--it is an old-fashioned notion, I
admit."

"Well, I must say I don't think an attitude of appealing dependence
would have been very serviceable to us to-day; and as an habitual
state of mind, while it may be very attractive, it seems to imply
having some one at hand to appealingly depend upon. Our sex must have
reciprocal duties; but I don't notice that you have offered yourself
as a support for any of these clinging natures."

"Nevertheless," answered Flint, "if I ever did fall in love, it would
be with a woman of the clinging kind. But don't let us get to talking
like a couple of sentimental schoolgirls! Here we are, anyway, at the
last turn of the road, and there is Nepaug Beach. How does it strike
you?"

"It reminds me," said Brady, smiling, "of the Walrus and the
Carpenter:--

      "'They wept like anything to see
         Such quantities of sand.
       If this were only cleared away
         They said it would be grand.'"

"Brady, you are a sentimentalist! You sigh for brooks and willows and,
for all I know, _people_."

"Flint, you are a misanthrope! You have searched out this God-forsaken
stretch of sand just for the purpose of getting away from your kind.
Now I have hunted you to your lair, and I propose to stay with you for
a fortnight; but I am not to be dragooned into saying that I think
your resort is a scene of beauty, for I don't; but that is a jolly,
old, gray, tumbled-down building over there--a barn, I suppose."

"No, sir; that is the Nepaug Inn. As it has neither porters, waiters,
nor electric bells, you are expected to shoulder your own luggage and
march upstairs--second room to the right. Whoa, there!" he called out
to the old horse a full minute after the animal had come to a dead
halt in front of the inn door. The noise, however, served its purpose
in bringing Marsden to the door, and loading the old inn-keeper with
imprecations for their unlucky experience with the molasses, Flint
left him to struggle with the contents of the wagon, while he himself
escorted Brady up the narrow, sagging stairs, and ensconced him in a
room next his own,--a room whose windows looked out like his over the
purple stretch of ocean, now opalescent with reflection of the clouds.

"Where do you take your bath?" Brady asked, looking round somewhat
helplessly.

"In there, you land-lubber!" answered Flint, pointing out to sea;
"isn't the tub big enough?"

Brady laughed, a hearty, boyish, infectious laugh. "All right," he
said, "only it seems rather odd to come East for pioneering. Did you
know, by the way, that I am to be in New York this winter?"

"No!"

"Yes. Our house is just establishing a branch office there, and I am
to be at the head of it."

Flint chuckled.

"Bison establishing a branch office in New York! The humor of the
thing delights me."

"I don't see anything so very funny about it," answered Brady, rather
testily; "but I have no stomach for a quarrel till I have had some
supper--unless you sup _out there_," he added with a lordly wave of
his hand towards the ocean in imitation of Flint's gesture. "I hope,
at any rate, our evening meal is not to be of farina. The associations
might be a little too strong even for my appetite."



                              CHAPTER IV

                             THE DAVITTS

              "The short and simple annals of the poor."


After taking leave of Flint and his companion in misfortune, Winifred
quickened her pace. The lengthening shadows warned her that if she
intended to return to the White House before supper was over, she had
no time to lose.

"Come, Paddy!" she said, laying her hand with a light, caressing
gesture on the shaggy red-brown head of the Irish setter, which had
kept closer guard than ever since the meeting with the strangers in
the road,--"come, Paddy! we must make a sprint for it."

The dog, glad enough to be allowed the luxury of a gallop, set off
pell-mell, and Winifred followed at a gait which soon brought her,
flushed and out of breath, before the unpainted house where the Davitt
family made their abode. It was not characterized by great order or
tidiness. Clothes-lines, hung with underwear of various shapes and
sizes, decorated the side-yard, and proclaimed Mrs. Davitt's calling.
A whole section of the front fence had taken itself off. The gate
swung aimlessly on one rusty hinge, and a brood of chickens wandered
at will over the unmown grass before the house: yet the place was not
wholly unattractive, for it bore evidences of human love and
happiness; and, after all, these are the objects for which the most
orderly and elegant mansions exist, if indeed they are so fortunate as
to attain them. These are the essence of a home.

An old dory filled with geranium and nasturtium brightened the centre
of the yard. Beneath the wide spreading maples, which lent their
unbought adornment to the shabby old house, hung a child's swing, and
near by stood a rickety express-cart, to which an unlucky goat was
tethered by a multi-colored harness made of rope, tape, and bits of
calico. The driver of this equipage, a tow-headed lad of some five
years old, stood with his thumb in his mouth, gazing with open-eyed
amazement at the young lady who thought it worth while to walk so
fast.

"Good afternoon, John!" said Winifred, when she had regained her
breath. "Is your mother at home?"

The practice of answering questions is an acquired habit, and comes
only after long acquaintance with society. Children left in a state of
nature rarely think it necessary or even safe to commit themselves so
far. John Davitt only pulled his thumb out of his mouth, poked his
pink toes deeper into the grass, and gave a hitch at the single
suspender supporting the ragged knickerbockers which formed two-thirds
of his costume.

"Oh!" continued the visitor, not in the least disconcerted by the lack
of response to her advances, "you don't want to leave your goat long
enough to go and ask about your mother, do you? Well, I should not
like to be asked to leave my colt if I were driving. People should do
their own errands, I think, and not be bothering other folks with
their business. You will not be afraid of my dog if I leave him here
while I go into the house, will you?"

"Whath hith name?" asked John, discovering for the first time that he
had a tongue and knew its use.

"Paddy," answered the visitor.

"I uthed to have a brother Paddy. He died."

"Then you must make friends with the dog for his sake. Would you like
to see how my Paddy can chase a stone?" With this Winifred picked up a
large pebble, and threw it far down the road. Paddy, with a bark of
animated enjoyment, made after it, with wagging tail and ears laid
back against his head. John laughed loud, wrinkled up his little pug
nose and showed his white teeth.

"Now when he brings it back, you throw it again, and I will go in and
try to find your mother; I think I see her now," she added, as she
turned the angle of the house and caught a glimpse of Mrs. Davitt,
seated in the wooden rocking-chair beside the kitchen-table, paring
potatoes.

To the casual glance she was only a homely old Irish woman who might
have been the original of "The shape which shape had none." The only
semblance of waist was the line drawn by her gingham apron-string. Her
form bulged where it should have been straight, and was straight where
it should have curved. Her face, however, had a gentle motherliness,
and still bore traces of the comeliness which had marked it a quarter
of a century earlier, when, as Bridget O'Hara, she had set sail from
"the owld counthry" to try her fortune in the new.

After a few months' experience of city life over here, she had drifted
to South East, where she found employment in a thread factory which
stood on the bank of the tiniest stream that ever, outside of England,
called itself a river. Its current ran swiftly, however; its mimic
falls were forced into the service of trade; and the wheels of the
thread factory whirred busily, except when bad times brought wheels
and bobbins to a standstill.

For three years after her arrival in South East, Bridget O'Hara stood
beside her wheel, and fed her bobbin faithfully. Her blue Irish eyes
were bright in those days, and her cheeks red as the roses of County
Meath, where the thatched homestead of the O'Haras lifted its humble
head. More than one of the men working in the factory took notice of
the blue eyes and the red cheeks, and would have been glad to secure
their owner for a wife; but she was not for any of them. Before she
had been in the village six months, she had given her faithful heart
to Michael Davitt, the young New England fisherman whose boat lay
below the bridge which she crossed every morning on her way to her
work in the factory. Many a time on bright spring mornings she
loitered on the bridge, leaning over its wooden railing to watch
Michael as he washed out his boat, and made ready for the day's sail.
Sometimes the talk grew so absorbing that the factory bell sounded out
its last warning call before Bridget could tear herself away, and
afterward, through the long day, shut up among the whirring wheels, in
the dust and heat of the big dreary room, she kept the vision of the
white flapping sail, and of Michael Davitt standing by the tiller of
the boat under the bridge.

At last the fisherman asked her to marry him, and she accepted him
joyously, undismayed by the diminutive proportions of their united
incomes.

"Sure, Mike dear," Bridget had declared cheerfully, "what's enough for
wan will be enough for two, and you'll never feel the bit I'll be
afther atin'."

This specious theory of political economy has beguiled into matrimony
many a young couple who fail to take account of the important
difference that what is enough for two may not be enough for three,
and still less for three times three. So it fell out with the Davitts.
For the first year of their married life, Bridget went on working in
the factory, and kept her tiny tenement tidy, and Michael mended nets
on the doorstep, and sold fish in summer, and loafed in the winter in
contented assurance that life would continue to treat him well. But
the next year opened less prosperously. Bridget was compelled to give
up her work in the factory, and when, in the middle of a particularly
rigorous winter, a baby was born to the house of Davitt, the outlook
would have appeared discouraging to any one less optimistic than
Bridget. But she found much cause for satisfaction in the thought that
the baby had come at this particular time, when Michael could be at
home to help take care of the house; and above all in the reflection
that the baby was a boy, "who'd not be thrubblin' any wan long, for
before we know it, Mike, me jewel, he'll be lookin' afther you and
me."

Part of her self-congratulation had justified itself, for the baby
Leonard had grown up into one of those helpful, "handy" lads who
sometimes are sent to be the salvation of impecunious households. At
an incredibly early age, he began to feel the responsibilities of the
family on his manly little shoulders, and as the procession of small
Davitts entered the world, he took each one under his protecting care.
Dennis, Ellen, Maggie, Tommy, Katie, and John had found their way into
the family circle, and no one hinted that there was not place and
porridge for the last as well as the first.

As the years went on, Michael Davitt lost whatever alertness of
temperament he might once have possessed. New England seems to endow
some of her children with such a surplus of energy, that she is
compelled to subtract a corresponding amount from the share of others.
Michael Davitt was one of the others. His experiences as a fisherman
had persuaded him that it was useless to put forth effort, unless he
had wind and tide in his favor. Consequently, his life was spent in
waiting for encouragement from the forces of nature,--encouragement
which never came; so that at last he gave up the struggle, and sat by
the chimney-corner all winter, as contentedly as he sat on the stern
of his boat all summer, ready to move if circumstances favored, but
serene under all conditions. His silence was as marked as his
serenity. On occasions, he could be moved to smiles, but seldom to
speech. He sat quiet and unmoved amid the family hubbub, his long
limbs twisted together, his arms folded above his somewhat hollow
chest, and his protruding tusks of teeth firmly fastened over his
nether lip, as if constraining it to silence.

Tommy might lift off the cover of the beehive, and rush into the house
shrieking with wrath and terror over the result; Maggie might upset
the milk, and John drag the kitten about the room by its tail,--no
matter! the father of the family continued to sit unmoved as Brahma.
But when Leonard entered the door, some appearance of life began to
show itself in Michael. He untwisted his legs, moved a little to make
room on the settle, and even went so far as to make an entering wedge
of conversation with a "Well, Leon!"

Leonard Davitt was a boy to warm any father's heart,--stout and
strong, hearty and frank, cheerful as the day was long, with the smile
and jest of his race ready for any chance comer. This light-heartedness
had made him a favorite not only in his own family, but among all the
youth and maidens who dwelt in the outlying farmhouses around South
East; but of late an unaccountable change had come over the lad. This
merry, careless happiness had deserted him. He had taken to going
about with hair unbrushed, and a "dejected 'havior of his visage."

The noisy mirth of his little brothers and sisters irritated him, and
their noisier quarrels exasperated him. He kept away from them as much
as he could, and when he was not off in his boat, he sat on the fence
under the maples as taciturn as Michael himself. The children wondered
at him, and gradually began to draw away at his approach, instead of
rushing toward him as of old. Maggie, who was fifteen now, and worked
in the factory, suspected the cause of his trouble, and once ventured
to rally him on "the girl that was so cool she'd give a man the mitten
in summer;" but her pleasantry was ill-received. Leonard scowled at
her, and stalked away muttering to himself.

His mother saw him from her window, and she too knew what was the
trouble with her boy; but she only dropped a few tears among the
potato-parings, and resolved to make griddle-cakes for supper,--as
though Leonard were still a child whose heart could be cheered
through his stomach. As Mrs. Davitt laid down her knife to wipe her
eyes, she heard the barking of a dog, and then a rapid double knock on
the half-open kitchen-door.

"Come in, Miss," she said, rising and wiping her hands on her gingham
apron. "Come in and take the rocker. Don't be standin' when sittin'
down is chape enough, even for the poor. It's yourself hezn't forgot
me, nor me bit o' farina."

"No, indeed, Mrs. Davitt, I did not forget you: but you won't get your
farina after all; for I met some poor men in distress, and I handed
over all the sea-moss to them."

"Poor craytyurs! Wuz they that hungry they could ate it raw?"

"Hardly," answered Winifred, smiling at her remembrance of the
peculiarly well-fed looking recipients of her bounty, "they were not
hungry at all; but they had come to grief with a molasses jug. The
carriage and everything in it was sticky, and I don't know what they
would have done to get it clean without your moss; but you shall
surely have some more to-morrow, and now tell me how you are feeling."

"Is it meself? Thank ye kindly, me dear. I'm jest accordin' to the
common, save where I'm worse; me legs ache me nights, and I fale the
washin' in me back some days; but if me moind wuz right, it's little
I'd moind the thrubble in me bones."

"Why, what is wrong, Mrs. Davitt?" Winifred asked with sympathy in her
voice. "The children all look well. John's cheeks are red as apples,
and Katie is as round as a butter-ball."

"Oh, the childers is all right," answered Mrs. Davitt, with an air of
mystery, but evidently not unwilling to be pressed further as to the
source of her trouble.

"Surely it is not your husband? He looked better than usual this
morning when he came around to the White House, and he had as fine a
catch of fish as I have seen this summer."

"Yea, himself's all right."

"Then it must be Leonard; but I am sure he is a boy of whom any mother
might be proud."

"Proud? Yea, but many's the proud heart is the sore heart."

"Tell me all about it," said her young visitor, laying her delicate
hand on the red fingers which still clasped the bone-handled steel
knife. Mrs. Davitt looked down for a moment in silence, playing with
the bent joint of her stiff third finger, then she broke out with a
fierceness in curious contrast to her usual gentle speech.

"It's that Tilly Marsden. Bad luck to her for a bowld hussy! She's
put the insult on Leonard."

"The insult?"

"Yea, 'tis the same as an insult for all the neighbors to take notice
of, whin a gurrl ez hez been kapin' company with a man fur goin' on
two years, walks by him now with her nose in the air, lek wan wuz too
good to be shpakin' with the praste himself."

"Don't be too hard on Tilly, Mrs. Davitt," remonstrated Winifred,
soothingly. "Perhaps she is fond of Leonard still, but does not want
him to feel too sure of her. I dare say you were a little like that
yourself, when you were a girl."

"Thrue fer ye, me dear!" Mrs. Davitt answered, with that delightful
Irish readiness to be diverted from her woes to a more cheerful frame
of mind. "Thrue fer ye! I'd never let Michael be sayin' me heart wuz
caught before ever he'd shpread the net."

"Then, depend upon it, Tilly feels the same."

"Mebbe it's the thruth you're afther findin' out; but I misthrust, and
it's meself will never fergive her if she breaks the heart of the best
by in the counthry."

The possibility was too much for the sorrowful mother. She threw her
apron over her head, and abandoned herself once more to despair,
swaying to and fro disconsolately in the black wooden chair from the
back of which the gilt had been half rubbed away by quarter of a
century of rocking.

"Do you think it could possibly do any good for me to talk with
Leonard?" Winifred ventured, quite dubious in her own mind of the
wisdom of the proceeding.

"Ow, if yez would, 'twould like be the savin' o' the by. He'll not
bear any of us to shpake wid him at all at all."

"Very well then, I will try to get him to talk about it. Only don't be
disappointed if I do not succeed! The chances are that he will not
listen to me."

"Not listen to yoursilf, is it!" cried Mrs. Davitt, once more
transported to the heights of hope. "Sure, the saints in Hiven would
lay down their harps to hear your swate vice. Yes, and aven to look at
ye, as ye shtand there, in that white dhress, jist like what wan o'
thimsilves 'ud be wearin'! How becomin' ye are to your clothes!"

Winifred smiled at the subtle flattery; but before she could muster an
appropriate acknowledgment, she caught sight of Leonard loitering at
the gate.

"There is Leon now; I will ask him to walk part way home with me. It
is growing dark, and you know," she added, laughing, "how timid I
am!"

Mrs. Davitt smiled in answer to the laugh, for Winifred's daring was
the talk of the countryside. She dried her eyes, and peered over her
spectacles at her visitor as she picked her way among the chickens,
feathered and human, who thronged about the doorstep, to the spot
where Leonard stood, listlessly hanging over the gate gazing idly up
and down the road.

Mrs. Davitt's heart beat anxiously as she marked the girl stop to
speak to him, and when at last she saw him turn and walk beside her up
the road, followed suspiciously by Paddy with the basket in his mouth,
she burst out into a tearful torrent of joy and thanksgiving.



                              CHAPTER V

                             THE OLD SHOP

      "Ah! poor Real Life, which I love, can I make others share
       the delight I find in thy foolish and insipid face?"


The sun was already low in the west, when Flint and Brady, having
supped heartily on boiled lobster and corn bread, lighted their pipes
and strolled toward the door of the tiny shop which leaned up against
the inn as if for support. A bird, looking down upon it in his flight,
might have mistaken it for some great mud-turtle, so close did it
sprawl along the ground.

For some years it had served as a turkey-house on the farm; but as
Marsden had begun to discover possibilities of profit in a shop which
should both draw custom to the inn, and find customers in the chance
guests of the tavern, he had turned his attention to the work of
transforming the poultry-house into a village store, and had been
surprised to find how well it adapted itself to its new purpose. True,
the beams ran across only a few inches above Marsden's head; but that
was rather an advantage than otherwise, for they thus made an
excellent substitute for counters, and the wares were well displayed
and within easy reach. Along one beam hung a row of boots of every
style and size,--from giant rubbers, reaching to the thighs, in which
the Nepaug farmers went wading for seaweed fertilizer, to the clumsy
baby shoes, jauntily set off with a scarlet tassel at the top, in that
pathetic effort of the poor to express in their children's dress the
poetry so scantily supplied in their own lives. Another beam was hung
with wooden pails, and a third gleamed with the reflections of
bright-new tinware.

On the shelves opposite the door lay bright hued calicoes flanked by
jars of peppermint candies, some of which were rendered doubly
irresistible to youthful customers by being cut in heart-shape and
decorated with sentimental mottoes chiefly in verse.

Marsden fitted his shop so well, that he seemed little more than an
animated bundle of secondhand goods. His cowhide boots were the
fellows of those that dangled from the fourth beam. His gayly checked
flannel shirt harmonized delightfully with the carriage robes in the
corner, and the soft brown-felt hat toned æsthetically with the plug
tobacco in the case behind him.

When Flint and Brady looked in at the door, a girl was standing at the
counter, turning over the pile of calicoes. She had brought with her
a pailful of blueberries which she evidently wished to barter for a
remnant of the prints. She showed much disappointment when Marsden
declined to trade except upon a cash basis.

"What might this be wuth?" she asked at length, pointing to a red and
white calico on the second shelf. Marsden, Yankee-like, answered her
question by another. "What'll ye give fur it? It's the end of the
piece, and I dunno but I'd as lives you'd hev it ez anybody."

"Wall," answered the girl, cautiously, "I wouldn't give no more'n six
cents a yard for it."

"Take it along," said Marsden, wrapping it, as he spoke, in coarse
brown paper. As he handed it to her he said: "I _wuz_ goin' to offer
it to you for five cent."

The girl's face fell.

"You see," whispered Flint to Brady, "there never was a woman who
could really enjoy anything unless she thought she had paid less than
it was worth. It is my own belief that Eve bought the apple from the
Serpent as a bargain, and that Satan assured her that he would not
have sold it to Adam at double the price."

As the maiden withdrew, a buggy rattled up to the door of the little
shop. In the broad strip of light formed by the lamp opposite the
door, the creaking vehicle stopped short. A dumpy female in a
nondescript black garment took the reins, while her male companion
descended heavily, putting both feet upon the step, and cautiously
lowering himself to the ground close beside the spot where Flint and
Brady stood. Once assured that he had reached the ground in safety, he
proceeded to take off his wrinkled duster, fold it tenderly, and lay
it on the seat, from beneath which he pulled out a bulky bundle,
securely tied up in bed-ticking.

Flint watched the rustic with idle curiosity, as the old man entered
the store and deposited his bundle on the counter. Marsden sat on a
chair with no back, nursing his knee and assuming indifference to the
entrance of the new-comer.

"Be thar any market naow for _quilts_, or _be_ thar?" asked the old
farmer, somewhat anxiously, while untying the knots of his parcel.

"I dunno ez thar be, and I dunno _ez_ thar be," Marsden answered.

Both parties seemed to understand each other perfectly. They
approached as warily as two foxes. When the roll was finally spread
out on the counter, the dim lamplight flickered over a patchwork quilt
of the familiar log-cabin pattern, gay with colors as varied as those
of Joseph's coat.

"What cher s'pose yer could give fur this?" the new-comer asked with
a relapse into unwary eagerness, and an irrepressible pride in this
evidence of the household industry of his women folk.

"Dunno, I'm sure," said Marsden, slowly, shifting his quid of tobacco
and spitting meditatively on the floor. "Shop-keepin' 's all a resk
anyhow. I'll give yer seventy-five cents for it though, jest for a
gamble; but nobody has much use for quilts in this weather, except to
hide their heads under from the skeeters."

"Truth will out," whispered Flint. "Marsden always declares that
mosquitoes are unknown at Nepaug."

The owner of the quilt shook his head dubiously.

"Couldn't you go a dollar on it?" he queried. "It took my wife a month
to make it, sewin' evenin's."

"Did--did it?"

"Yaas, 'n' it's made out of pieces of the children's clothes, and some
on 'em 's dead--and associations ought to caount for somethin'."

"Will it last?" questioned the cautious Marsden, twitching it this way
and that, and testing the material with his thumb-nail, which he kept
long and sharp apparently for the purpose of detecting flaws in
dry-goods.

"Wall," assumed the other, somewhat nettled by the purchaser's
skepticism, "I reckon it'll last ez long ez a dollar will."

"Mebbe," said Marsden, quite impressed by the logic of this last
statement. "Anyhaow I'll give you ninety cents, and that's my last
figger."

The man glanced furtively over his shoulder at the female in the
buggy, who sat twitching the reins impatiently, then he hitched up
closer to Marsden and held out a dime.

"Take it," he whispered, "'n' give me the greenback. I promised I
wouldn't let it go fur less'n a dollar, 'n' I dassent."

The two men winked at each other like brothers in the freemasonry of
married life, and the knight of the duster disappeared in the
gathering dusk. His departure emptied the little shop, and Flint and
Brady entered and seated themselves on a couple of kegs on opposite
sides of the door.

"Ef it's all the same, gentlemen," drawled Marsden. "I'd recommend you
to take another seat with yore pipes, fur one of them kags is filled
with ile, and the other with gun-paowder."

Brady jumped up in haste, and felt of his coat-tails as though they
might even then be on fire.

Even Flint moved with greater alacrity than usual, quite concurring in
the wisdom of seeking another seat, especially as the new one brought
him opposite the low doorway, through which he could see the sky, and
watch the night drawing in over bay and cove.

On the fence-rail opposite, a flock of turkeys had composed themselves
to sleep. The crickets in the corn-field were tuning their wings for
their habitual evening concert. The night-moth flapped heavily against
the small, square window-pane.

It was a scene bare but tranquil; and Flint was possessed by its
dreary charm. The dim quiet of the twilight suited him; and it struck
him jarringly, like a false note in an orchestra, when there fell on
his ear a high, shrill voice, exclaiming,--

"Pa, ma wants to know if the yeast-cakes have come."

Tilly Marsden gave a little start of surprise, as she came down the
steps from the house-door, at the sight of Flint and Brady, who rose
at her entrance, and removed their pipes from their mouths.

"Enter woman--exit comfort," thought Flint.

"I hope you're better, Mr. Flint," said Tilly, edging a little nearer
him while her father searched among the blue boxes for the desired
yeast-cakes.

"Thanks."

"Wasn't the sun awful hot up to town?"

"Quite so."

"But you didn't get sun-struck?"

"No."

"I'm awful glad. I says to ma this morning, 'I do hope,' says I, 'Mr.
Flint has taken Pa's big white umbrella lined with green. You know his
head is so weak.'"

Flint felt Brady's amused glance upon him. "Thank you," he answered
stiffly, "my head is quite well again. Come, Brady," he added, turning
to his friend, "if you are ready, we'll get our stroll before we turn
in."

"Here, Tilly," said Marsden, at the same time, "here's the yeast-cake;
but I don't see what ma wants with it, fur I gev her two this
arfternoon."

Tilly blushed, and looked furtively toward the doorway where the young
men stood. The girl had a kind of flimsy prettiness which suggested a
cotillon favor. Her hair was fluffy, and coquettishly knotted at the
back with blue ribbon. Her freshly ironed white dress set off her
hourglass figure, and the fingers on which she was continually
twisting the rings were white and slender. Her lips were set in a
somewhat simpering smile, and her voice was soft with a view to
effect. Brady watched her artless artfulness with some amusement. When
they had gone out, he hinted something to Flint in regard to the
conquest he appeared to have made; but found him so loftily
unconscious that his jest fell flat, and he dropped the subject to
take up a more serious theme as they strolled along the road, and at
length seated themselves where the turkeys had made their roost, on
the gray rail-fence in the moonlight.

"I wonder, Flint," said Brady, "if we shall be able to take up our old
association where we dropped it."

"Of course not," Flint answered, "don't imagine it for a moment!"

"I don't see why we should not."

"You don't?"

"No, I do not."

"Well, that fact alone is enough to show the gap between us. I can see
it plainly enough. You have spent these last ten years in active,
quick decisions, accumulating energy, push, drive--what you call
hustling; while I have been trying to see into things a little, trying
to find out what is worth hustling for--whether anything is. Now do
you suppose that two people with such opposite training are going to
fit together like a cup and ball, as they used to do when they were
chums in college, and had had no training at all?"

"I don't know," said Brady, more dubiously. Then he went on, with the
air of one who is not to be balked in speaking his mind, "I am not
quite sure that I think your training has improved you."

"Very likely not," said Flint, imperturbably puffing away at his pipe.

"I suppose," continued Brady, "that it is very cultivating, and
philosophical, and up-to-date to lie back like that, and let your soul
expand, to wonder whether anything is worth while, and smile at the
struggle of the dull people around you who are foolish enough to
believe that something is worth while; but I'll be hanged if I like
it. I would rather be the lowest of the warm-blooded animals than the
highest of the cold-blooded. I beg your pardon," he added a little
lamely, "I did not mean to put it quite so strong as that."

"You have made a very clear statement, my dear fellow. Don't weaken it
by apologies. What you say of me is as true as gospel--truer perhaps.
The only mistake you make is in ascribing to training what is really
to be attributed to temperament. What is bred in the bone, you know--
But never mind, I detest talking of myself. Now you have had
experiences worth talking of; let us hear some of your doings out
West, there!"

Long and late that night the two friends sat together. Now that the
first strangeness had worn off, and with it the consciousness of the
divergence of the roads which they had travelled since the old days,
Flint began to find his liking springing up as strong as ever, only
the liking was of a different kind. It was after midnight when he came
into the house, and betook himself to his own room. As he was pulling
off his coat, he suddenly remembered his unopened letter. He smiled
grimly, as it recalled the scene at the post-office, the glowering
official, and the grinning bystanders. He was still smiling as he took
the candle from the mantel-shelf and set it on the bureau, to which he
drew up his one rickety chair. He sat down and scrutinized the letter
again, and more closely.

The envelope was a large, square one, with the editorial address of
the "Transcontinental Magazine" in the left-hand corner. The writing
was in the large, loose scrawl of Brooke, the junior editor. He wrote
in haste as usual. All at the office was going well, new subscriptions
were coming in fast, and if Flint would keep away long enough, the
success of the "Transcontinental" would be secure. The letter which he
enclosed had been opened by mistake, being apparently a business
communication with no other address than "To the Editor;" but finding
it personal in character, he forwarded it unread, and remained as
always, Flint's faithful friend, C. Brooke.

The enclosed letter to which Brooke alluded presented a
curious contrast to his own. The handwriting was firm, but
delicate--distinctively feminine.

"I want to thank you," so the letter began, "not only for accepting my
verses on 'A Thimble,' but also for the words of encouragement with
which you accompany the acceptance. You say that you are especially
glad to print the verses because they suggest a return to the type of
womanhood of an earlier day, for which you retain an old-fashioned
admiration. Now, I scarcely know whether my verses are very deceitful,
or whether it is the realest and truest side of my nature which finds
expression when I take my pen in hand.

"I wonder if a bit of autobiography would bore you. I should feel that
it would most men; but I think of you as a genial, elderly gentleman
with a face like Thackeray's, and with a broad human interest in all
phases of life."

Flint grinned. "So much," he said to himself, "for the intuitions of
woman." Yet he felt a trifle vexed at being set down as elderly, and
secretly elated at the allusion to Thackeray,--as if a wide mouth, a
turned-up nose, and eye-glasses carried with them fee-simple to "Henry
Esmond" and the "Newcomes."

"I am twenty-two years old!" the letter went on. "As a young girl I
knew nothing of city life. My father owned a sheep ranch in the
Northwest, and there I grew up, roaming about as freely as the sheep
themselves. I learned to ride and to shoot. Until I was a woman grown,
I never took a needle in my hand. Perhaps it may seem strange to you,
but out of this aloofness from feminine pursuits there grew up within
me a sort of reverence for the feminine ideal. I felt a vague awe,
such as I imagine strikes a man at sight of a rose-lined parasol, or a
thimble laid on a pile of stitchery. It is this sense of the poetry of
women's occupation which must give what little value they possess to
my verses; and perhaps you will not care for any more now that you
know they are no part of the real _me_, but only an ideal."

The letter was signed "Amy Bell," and the only address given, a New
York post-office box.

"A pretty name," said Flint to himself, as he studied it, "a very
pretty name!" Then he fell to musing on how this girl must look; and
he found himself making a likeness from the picture over the mantel,
only he would have the face a trifle rounder, with a dimple in either
cheek, and a hint more of tenderness in that firm under-lip, whose
smile savored of delicate irony. His thoughts unconsciously reverted
to the reflections of the morning, as he looked at the portrait.

"How shy we all are of self-revelation!" he murmured, as he folded the
letter slowly, and slid it into his vest-pocket; "and then, when we
have gone about for years hedging ourselves in with barriers of ice,
suddenly some emotion thaws them, and out flow all the tides of
feeling which we have been damming up so long." Flint's musings ended
in a determination to answer this letter, and to answer it now while
the genial mood was on him. The writer had taken pains to give little
clue to her identity. Well, he would answer her from behind the same
veil of impersonality. She need never know how widely she had missed
her guess in her picture of him. She might keep her poor little
illusions--yes, "elderly gentleman" and all. He would speak to her, as
one soul might speak to another, unhampered by all the trammels of
outward circumstance. It was his to offer help, sympathy,
encouragement, and he dispensed it in no stinted measure.

As he drew pen and paper towards him, there swept over him a sense of
the oneness of humanity, and a vision of what the world might be, if
man were tenderer, and woman held the wider vision. Such a training as
hers, he wrote to Amy Bell, might give her something of both, might
grant her a standpoint from which she could see clearer than most
women, just because she saw life in larger outlines, undimmed by
detail,--a life as different from that of the average woman as the
sweep of the garments of the Greek caryatides from the fussy,
beruffled gowns of the nineteenth-century women. The question, the
vital pressing question in her case, was how she would use this
freedom. Should it slip into the hardness of the new woman, on the one
hand, or, on the other, allow itself to be fettered to the dulness of
every-day decorum, her opportunity would be lost; but if she could
hold the delicate equilibrium where she stood,--self-poised, and yet
swaying to the influences which must work on every soul for its
highest development, plastic yet firm,--then he believed, firmly
believed, that there might lie in her a power for which the world
would be the better and the richer.

"There!" said he, as he blotted and sealed the letter. "That, I should
say, is as prosy and didactic as a discourse of my venerated ancestor.
I wonder if the tendency to sermonize runs in the blood. I dare say if
I had the good fortune to have any religious convictions, I should
dogmatize over them in the pulpit, and pound the cushions as
vigorously as any itinerant evangelist. Well, well! heredity is a
queer thing. We think we get away from it, but it is always cropping
up in unexpected places. Our ancestors are like _atra cura_, and ride
behind every man's saddle."

The clock struck three as he finished his musings. He pushed away his
chair, and set back the lamp on the mantel. The light, flaring a
little in the draught from the open window, lent a startling look of
life to the portrait above it. Flint seemed almost to hear the voice
of the dying sea-captain whispering: "God bless you, Ruth--I wish I
had understood you better!"

Upon his exalted mood the morning voice of a barnyard cock broke
mockingly.

"Pshaw!" he exclaimed, "what a fool I am!--and at my age, too. I am
ashamed. And, by the way, we never took back Dr. Beetle's--no--Dr.
Cricket's spectacles. Well-to-morrow will answer as well."



                              CHAPTER VI

                         THE GLORIOUS FOURTH


_Extract from the Journal of Miss Susan Standish. Nepaug, July 4, 189-._


A holiday, for some reason or other, is always longer than other days,
even for people like me who live a life of ease and comparative
idleness, and who can make every day a holiday by abstaining from
unnecessary and self-imposed work. It certainly is curious that this
morning we rose an hour later, by way of compliment to our ancestors,
who doubtless rose several hours earlier than usual on the day we
celebrate, and certainly did a hard day's work.

After breakfast Mr. Anstice read the Declaration of Independence
aloud, signatures and all. Then Jimmy recited part of a highly
patriotic address, beginning, "Give up the Union? Never!" He worked
his arm in the gestures with all the grace and agility of a
pump-handle. His voice, to be sure, came out very strong on the
prepositions and conjunctions, and sank to a whisper on the explosive
climaxes; but we all voted it a masterpiece of elocution, and his
father really thought so. When these exercises were over, Dr. Cricket
and I played a game of chess, in which he insisted that I should take
the part of the British, while he represented the Americans.

In spite of a severe struggle with my patriotic emotions, I felt
compelled to do justice to the side thus thrust upon me, and I
conducted my campaign with such vigor, that it was Washington who was
compelled to hand over his sword to Cornwallis, and I swept the last
American pawn triumphantly off the board as the dinner-bell rang.

The afternoon rather dragged. I came to the conclusion that the secret
of the length of a holiday lies in the severity of the effort to enjoy
one's self. At our age the truest happiness lies in absorption in
work,--a kind of active and bustling Nirvana. Having come to this
conclusion, I pulled out the golf-stockings I am knitting for Ben, and
fell to work, with the result that it was tea-time before I knew it.

Winifred made quite a diversion by coming down dressed as Columbia, in
a white muslin with blue sashes and a big bunch of red roses. She had
made a helmet of card-board and covered it with gold paper. In one
hand she held a long lance of the same shiny stuff, and in the other
a big flag. We all laughed and sang and shouted, and had a fine
old-fashioned, emotional Fourth. It did me good.

After tea, I had a surprise in a call from Cousin John's son. In fact,
the call was a surprise on both sides. This is how it came about. The
day before yesterday, Dr. Cricket, who is a good creature, though
self-opinionated and always differing from me, was called to see a
patient over at the inn; and yesterday, making his second call, he
left his gold-bowed glasses, and spent the afternoon bewailing his
loss, for he fancied they had slipped out of his pocket when he sat
down on the beach to rest. The patient, who is a young man (of some
pretensions to gentility, I understand, although a New Yorker),
discovered them in the office (otherwise bar-room) of the inn, and
walked over to bring them this evening. With him was Philip Brady,
whom I have not seen these ten years; but I should have known him in a
moment from his likeness to Cousin John. He is a fine young man, and
does credit to the family. I think Winifred will like him.

Dr. Cricket was on the porch when they came; and when he saw the
glasses, he was ready to fall upon the young men's necks while they
were yet a long way off. He really was quite ridiculous with his
"Bless my soul!" "Very kind upon my honor!" "Now Richard is himself
again!" and I don't know what more, hopping about meanwhile like the
cricket, who was no doubt his ancestor in pre-historic times, and
pulling up chairs for men twenty years younger than himself. I have no
patience with too much vivacity in middle-aged people; when we turn
fifty, dignity is all we have left, and we'd better make the most of
it.

When the Doctor had thanked his visitors five times over for what was
really a small matter for two able-bodied young men, he insisted on
their sitting down, and turned round to me,--I hate being dragged into
a situation,--"Miss Standish," said he, "I want you to know Mr.
um--ah--Flint, I believe? and his friend, Mr. um--ah--What is the
name, may I ask?"

"I can tell you," said I, coming forward and really looking up for the
first time (for I am trying to train myself not to stare and peer as
some of my age do when their sight is failing)--"I can tell you and
save your visitor the trouble. His name is Philip Brady, and his
father is my cousin."

Dr. Cricket looked thoroughly taken aback. This I rather enjoyed, for
he is always prying into affairs and saying, "I rather suspect so and
so," with his nose held out as if he got at his intuitions by the
sense of smell.

"You don't say so," was all he could get out this time; and meanwhile
Philip called out, in his hearty voice, "Holloa, Cousin Susan!" and
kissed me a little louder than I liked; but that is the difference
between Bison and Boston. Perhaps I am hard to suit, for his
companion's manner seemed to me as much too repressed as Philip's was
too exuberant. He had the air of holding his mental hands behind him
and warning off social intruders with a "Let us not enter upon too
familiar a basis of mutual acquaintance," and yet he was not brought
up on Beacon Street, and I was, which makes it all the worse. He is a
handsome man,--that is, his features are regular, his teeth are fine,
and the little tuft of white hair above the temple gives a marked air
of distinction. Altogether, he has a peculiarly well-groomed effect;
but his face is like a mask,--one does not get any inkling of what is
going on behind it. The eye-glasses too seem to take all expression
out of the eyes, and leave them mere inquisitors for discovering the
sentiments revealed by those who don't wear similar shields. I notice
the same thing about Dr. Cricket. I can always get the best of him in
argument unless he has his spectacles on. Then I become confused,
forget my point, and the Doctor comes off triumphant.

Of course, when the Doctor urged the young men to stay, they sat
down, and Philip began at once to ask about the people in Oldburyport,
whom he remembered very well, except their names. Everything was
pleasant until Jimmy Anstice came along, as he always does when not
especially wanted, and began to tease about having the fire-works set
off. Nothing could be allowed to go on until they were brought out. If
he had been my child, he should have been soundly punished and sent to
bed for whining and pulling at his father's coat-tails; but Mr.
Anstice is amiable to the verge of inanity where Jimmy is concerned,
and after saying, "My dear!" and "Yes, in a minute," he allowed
himself to be fairly pulled out of his chair and into the house, from
which he shortly emerged with Jimmy, bearing between them an oblong
pine box filled with packages of every shape and size, and smelling
objectionably of gunpowder.

Of course this put an end to all rational conversation. Philip jumped
up to inspect the crackers and pin-wheels. To my surprise, Mr. Flint
showed no annoyance, but began to poke about among the Roman candles
and rockets, as if he rather liked it. Jimmy has taken a great fancy
to him, it seems. I must admit that it is in a man's favor to be liked
by boys and dogs. So they drove stakes into the grass, and set up
inclined planes for the rockets; and, when it grew dark enough, Jimmy
set off his first pin-wheel, amid a chorus of shouts of that
artificially enthusiastic sort common among older people at a junior
entertainment.

The shouts brought Winifred out to the porch. She had taken off her
helmet, for which I was sorry, as it was very becoming. I introduced
Philip, who said, with a smile, that he thought they had met before;
but Winifred did not seem to remember it. Now, if Winifred has a
failing, it is thinking she knows just how everything ought to be
done; and after fidgeting about in her chair for a minute or two, she
called out: "Why don't you set the rocket against that stone?" and
down she ran to arrange it herself.

The rocket did go better in her way, but she was not satisfied even
then. She must show them how to hold the Roman candles, which was very
imprudent with the loose sleeves of her muslin dress. Mr. Flint called
out: "Hold it out away from you! Further away!" but instead of paying
any heed, she held it straight up in the air. She had forgotten
herself entirely; and we were all watching the little fountain of fire
sending out its red, white, and blue colored balls when, all of a
sudden, I saw a line of fire creeping up Winifred's sleeve. She threw
away the candle, which lay sputtering on the ground; but that line of
fire on her arm seemed to grow and grow, and I watched it in helpless
agitation. I suppose the thing was over in two minutes, though they
seemed hours to me. The instant Flint saw the accident, he stripped
off his coat, and, rushing up to Winifred, bound it tightly about her.
Dr. Cricket brought out his bandages and liniments, and the arm was
bound up and in a sling before the girl really knew what had happened.

She was quite bewildered, and looked about like a little child, from
one to the other. Then she turned to Mr. Flint, with a smile which
seemed to me not so very far from tears, and said:--

"This time, it was your turn."

"This time, it was my fault."

"Your fault?"

"Yes; it was stupid, my letting you hold it so. I knew it was
dangerous."

Winifred shook her head, in a wilful little way of hers which always
reminds me of a Shetland pony.

"Pardon me, but I think I should have done it whether you had let me
or not. I should have had to pay pretty dearly for my venture though,
if you had not been so quick, and as for the poor coat--" Here she
picked it up from the floor where it had fallen. "What a pity it
should have a hole right in front!--but Miss Standish will make it as
good as new, though. You never saw any one who can darn like Miss
Standish" (which is quite true).

"Papa," she added, turning to her father, who had been utterly
unnerved by the accident, and was now walking up and down with a vain
pretence of calmness. "Papa, you can lend Mr. Flint a coat for
to-night, can't you?"

"Oh, certainly, certainly! what will he have--a dressing-gown or a
Tuxedo?"

"Thank you," said Flint, with gravity; "but, if the etiquette of
Nepaug will not be violated by a shirt-sleeve costume, I can go as I
am, though indeed I do not like giving Miss Standish so much trouble,
and the coat is a veteran anyway, only promoted to the Nepaug station
after long service elsewhere."

"Veterans always command my respect," I answered, "and deserve at
least repairs at the hands of their country."

"All very fine," said Dr. Cricket; "but I advise you to wear your coat
home to-night, even if you send it back to-morrow. It is easier to
mend coats than constitutions."

"And cheaper," I suggested.

"I'll tell you," Winifred broke in, seeing Dr. Cricket glowering at
me. "He shall neither risk a cold by going home in this night air
without his coat, nor tear the sleeves out of papa's, which would
surely be half-a-dozen sizes too small. He shall wear my golf cape. Go
up to my closet and get it, Jimmy!--the blue one lined with red."

Jimmy, who having once been relieved of anxiety as to his sister's
life, had spent his time in maligning her as the cause of stopping his
fire-works exhibition, turned somewhat sulkily to obey her command; as
he went he fired a parting shot: "This is what comes of girls meddling
with things they don't understand."

"James!"

When Mr. Anstice says "_James_," he is not to be trifled with; and his
son ventured no further remarks, only emphasized his feelings by a
vicious stamp on each separate stair as he ascended. While he was
prosecuting his search for the cloak, his sister sat in the big chair
by the fireside, her head thrown back a little against the angle
formed by the back and the side, which curves out like a great ear. I
saw Philip and Mr. Flint looking at her as the firelight climbed over
her dress and touched her cheek, and I wondered what they thought of
her.

To me, her face is one of the most interesting I have ever seen. It
evades description, and yet I feel tempted to try to describe it again
and again, and to analyze its charms for myself. It is full of
distinction, though the only really beautiful feature in it is the
brow, broad and low, from which her hair rolls back in that long, full
sweep. About her lips, there is the fulness that Leonardo gave his
Mona Lisa, and the lips have the same subtle curves, with a smile
whose meaning is often of dubious interpretation, and tempts the eyes
of her companion to return to them again and again to confirm his last
impression.

As for her character, I do not yet feel sure of it, though I have
known her for years. Dr. Cricket says he understands her perfectly.
Pshaw!

Ben says he and she agree in everything. Poor boy! The fact is, that
the girl has one of those curious natures, absolutely unmoved and
unmovable at the centre, but on the surface reflecting every one and
everything that comes in her way.

Many men have loved her. I don't think she has ever cared for any one.
The Mona Lisa smile comes over her lips when I question her about this
one or that.

"Tell me now," I said the other day, "did you never love any one?"

"Yes, and I do now."

"Excellent. At last we shall have confidences."

"And you like confidences?"

"I do--but no diversions--who is the youth?"

"I did not say it was a youth."

"Well, it is not a dotard, I trust; but who is the man?"

"I did not say it was a man."

"But you said--"

"I said I loved somebody, and that somebody is you, dear Miss
Standish. Indeed I do, and I am ready to fight a duel, if necessary,
with Dr. Cricket to prove that my affection is deeper and loftier, and
generally better worth having, than his."

What can one do with a girl like that, who winds up with a little
mocking laugh and goes off whistling?

I wish she would not whistle. It is one of those mannish tricks of
hers which give a wrong impression. Her father ought to stop it; but
he is so fond of the girl, and thinks her so altogether perfect and
beyond cavil, that he lets everything go. She needs to have some one
stronger than herself come into her life. I wonder if he ever will.

It took Jimmy Anstice a long while to find that cloak. When he
returned with it, he was still sulky.

"I don't see why I should have to go on Fred's errands, when she
spoiled my fire-works."

"Ah!" said Flint, "it was a pity about those fire-works. Suppose you
bring them down to the inn to-morrow night, and we will set them off
there."

Jimmy brightened up; but his sister rather resented the suggestion.
"You need not be afraid to do it here," she said; "I promise not to
interfere again."

Mr. Flint ought to have said something civil; but he only turned to
Jimmy and proposed that they go out and gather up the rockets before
the dampness spoiled the powder.

"Here, are you going without the cloak after all?"

"Oh, thank you!" answered Flint, with sufficient graciousness, as he
took it from Professor Anstice's hand.

To reach the door, he passed near Winifred's chair. As he did so he
bent over and spoke to her. I could not hear what he said; but I saw
an angry color come into her cheeks, and she answered:--

"Yes, as you say, we seem fated to bring each other ill luck. Let us
hope we shall not meet often."

I never heard Winifred make so rude a speech before. But, to my
surprise, it seemed to develop an unsuspected amiability in Mr. Flint.

"That might be the worst luck of all," he answered, still in that
provoking half-tone of his, and, waiting no answer, he followed Jimmy
out of doors. It seemed to me that Philip Brady would have liked to
take advantage of the general stir to get in a word with Winifred; but
I saw that the girl was really suffering with the burn on her arm, so
I told him, without ceremony, that it was time he went home.

Dr. Cricket, who seems to feel personally responsible for these young
men, evidently thought my behavior ungracious and inhospitable. To
make amends, he followed Philip to the door, and called out after him
and Mr. Flint:--

"Oh, by the way, we're going up to Flying Point for a clam-bake some
evening this week. Would you care to go too?"

"By all means, if you will be good enough to take us into the party,"
Philip answered heartily. If his friend said anything, it was lost in
the fog which was rolling in thick from the ocean.

I never take prejudices; but I often have an instinct about people
before I know them, and this instinct tells me that I am not going to
like this Mr. Flint. He is so self-sufficient,--not conceited, but
completely satisfied with his own judgments. When he asks any one's
opinion, he does it as if it were a mere matter of curiosity how such
a person might feel, not with any idea of being influenced. I can
stand this from a person with strong convictions; but this young man
seems to have none. He actually smiled when I quoted Dr. Channing.

"Perhaps you never heard of him," I said, a little irritated by that
supercilious smile of his.

"Oh, yes," he answered; "but he was at such pains to set himself up in
opposition to my ancestors, that family pride compels me to resent it,
though my personal prejudices may be in his favor."

I cannot abide such trifling. It seems to make it ridiculous in any
one to be in earnest.

P. S.--Dr. Cricket asked me to-day if I would marry him. I told him he
was an old fool; but I could not make him believe it.



                             CHAPTER VII

                             ON THE BEACH

             "The curving land, with its cool white sand,
              Lies like a sickle beside the sea."


The next morning dawned cloudless. Nature, radiant in her bountiful
splendor, seemed to give herself to man, who, in response, thrilled
with something of the primal impulse which stirred his pulses in the
golden days before he had separated himself from the beneficent
currents of the Earth Mother's vitality to shut himself up within
brick walls with artificial heat, artificial light, and artificial
stimulants.

On such a day, it is good to be alive. Flint felt the sunshine in his
blood as he stepped out into the fresh, open air. For a while he
hesitated as to the use to which he should put the morning in order to
secure the utmost of its bounty. Then he bethought him of his duty in
returning the blue golf cape which he reproached himself as an idiot
for having taken. Brady had gone crabbing with Marsden, so Flint could
not delegate the duty to him, as he had intended. Accordingly,
slinging the wrap over his shoulder, in the middle of the morning, he
started on the path which ran along among the scrub-oak and blueberry
patches, to lose itself on the curving stretch of beach which lay
between the inn and Captain's Point, where stood the Whites' house
known in the region of Nepaug as "The White-House."

The Point stretched along at the mouth of the little harbor, one side
thrust boldly out cliffwise into the ocean, the other sliding by soft
degrees to the margin of the salt-water lagoon. On the crest of the
cliff, and commanding a fine view of both sea and shore, rose the
White-House, originally owned and built by a sea-captain who could not
live without the sea, even when he had ceased to live on it. For years
the Captain took his daily walk on the little platform railed in from
the slanting roof, and scanned the horizon with his glass, taking note
of every sail, till at length he walked and gazed no more, and his
grave was made in the little hollow that dips behind the house. The
places which had known him knew him no more, and the house was let to
strangers.

The Point, however, retained his name; and the white railing around
the Captain's walk gleamed in the sunlight from the crest of the cliff
as bright as when he leaned upon it to sweep the face of the waters
with his glass.

Flint did the Captain the honor to bestow a passing thought on him
this morning, to be vaguely sorry for him, and to reflect that it was
really a fine thing to be above ground when the sun was shining like
this. To be sure, life had its vexations; but they were so brief, and
there was so much time in which to be dead!

Flint had not gone many paces along the beach before he saw Jimmy
Anstice digging clams out on the oozy flats left bare by the receding
tides, his knickerbockers rolled well up on his legs, and a great pail
set on the mud beside him.

The boy's hat was pushed far back on his head, and the sun fell full
on his face. Even at this distance, the resemblance to his sister was
so marked as to be almost comical. The eyes were the same. The nose,
with its unmistakable upward turn, a burlesque on the short, straight
one which lent piquancy to Winifred's face. The soft, subtle curve of
her cheek developed in Jimmy to a hardened rotundity inevitably
suggesting the desire to pinch it, which one feels toward the tomato
pin-cushions on exhibition at church fairs.

Nevertheless, despite freckles bestowed by nature, and grime
artificially acquired, Jimmy Anstice was a well-looking lad, and added
a distinct note of human interest to the barren flats, as he stood,
spade in hand, staring at Flint.

"Come out here!" he called.

"No, thank you," answered Flint. "Not with my boots on. What are you
about? Clamming, I suppose."

"Oh, no--fishing!" answered Jimmy, with fine sarcasm. "Come and help
me pull in the mackerel, can't you?" Then he turned his back and began
his digging once more. At the same moment Flint caught a glimpse of a
red hat against a seaweed covered rock. Obeying an impulse which was
rather a surprise to himself, he directed his course toward it. He
found, as he surmised, that it belonged to Winifred Anstice, who sat
reading, comfortably ensconced with her back against the low sandbank,
and her feet stretched out in front of her. She looked up at Flint's
approach, but made no change in her attitude as he came and stood over
her. He found it a little harder than he had expected to make a
conversational beginning. After a second's hesitation he asked:

"How is the wrist?"

"Better, thanks! but still in close confinement," Winifred answered,
throwing back her shawl and revealing the bandaged arm.

"You had a narrow escape."

"Very."

"I hope you have not felt the need of the cape you were kind enough to
lend me. I was just on my way to carry it home."

"And, having found the owner, you need not pursue your journey any
further."

Flint felt inwardly chagrined. This, then, was her interpretation of
his stopping to speak to her,--that he might be rid of his trouble.

"Thank you," he said stiffly; "but unless you need it, I prefer to
take it back to the house."

"Very well," said his companion, "as you please." Then, moved
evidently by a prick of conscience, "Perhaps you will rest awhile
before climbing the hill."

As she spoke, she moved a little that he might share the shadow of the
bank.

"Don't move on my account," Flint said.

"Oh," answered Winifred, smiling, "I owe you a decent civility, since
you saved my life last night."

"Don't mention it. Actions should be judged by what they cost, not
what they come to; and mine cost nothing but the hole in my coat,
which I don't doubt is already better than repaired under Miss
Standish's skilful handiwork, so pray dismiss the subject from your
thoughts. There are few, I fancy, who find it so hard as you to accept
anything at the hand of another. It vexes you not to be the one always
to give aid and comfort. If I knew you better, I might venture to
hint that it smacks of spiritual pride."

"You generalize widely after an acquaintance of four days."

"One sees character more clearly sometimes by the flashlight of a
first meeting, than when the perception is blurred by more frequent
opportunities."

Again the smile, inscrutable and mocking; the eyes looked into his
with a gay defiance.

"Perhaps you will be good enough to give me the benefit of these first
impressions of my character. They are as comprehensive, no doubt, as
those of the British traveller in America. Tell on, as the children
say."

"Pardon me, I have said too much already, under the circumstances.
Praise would be impertinence, and criticism insolence."

"You shall have absolution in advance. Begin then!" she added, with a
little nod of command. "What is the most striking trait of my
character on first acquaintance?"

"Well, if you will have it, I should say it was a restlessness which
you probably call energy; but it is a different thing. Energy is
absorbed in the object which it seeks to attain. Restlessness is
absorbed in the attaining."

"Hm! what next?"

"Next? Next, comes a quality almost invariably allied to such
restlessness as yours,--ambition. You may have all sorts of fine
theories about equality and that kind of thing; but you want
power--power over the lives with which you come in contact--power for
good of course; but it must be yours and wielded by you. It is not
enough that things should get along somehow. They must go right in
your way."

Winifred laughed.

"Ah! you say that because I wanted to show you how to set off a rocket
last night."

"I should say you showed us quite satisfactorily how _not_ to set off
a rocket last night."

"Don't let us revert to that episode, about which we shall probably
not agree. But go on. Let me hear more of your impressions. They are
quite diverting."

"No more. I dare not presume further upon my advance absolution.
Rather let me ask you to return candor for candor, and give me your
impressions of me and my character, or lack of it."

"I have formed none."

"Is that quite true?"

"No," said Winifred, looking up, "it is not true at all. I formed
impressions within the first ten minutes after I had seen you, only I
called them, more modestly, prejudices."

"Prejudices? They were unfavorable then. Good! Let us have them!" and
Flint settled himself more comfortably, bracing his head against his
clasped hands; and, leaning back against the bank of sand, he sat
watching the little tufts of coarse grass springing up close beside
him. Still Winifred was silent. At last Flint began himself:--

"You thought me rude and churlish, I suppose?"

"I certainly did not think you were Bayard and Sidney rolled together;
but I admit you had some provocation," she answered lightly, "at least
in our first meeting. When I demolished your new fishing-rod, I think
you might have accepted my apologies more gracefully; and I think you
need not have been so particularly uncivil when Jimmy and I tried to
come to your assistance on the pond. I have not yet recovered from the
reproof conveyed on that occasion by your manner, which plainly
indicated that, in your opinion, it would have been more tactful for
us to sail by, and ignore your disaster, or treat it as an episode
which did not call for explanation or remark. I should have felt duly
humiliated, no doubt; but I have become hardened to rebuffs, since I
have been at Nepaug, for I meet with many, as I go about like a beggar
from door to door in South East."

"Distributing tracts?" Flint asked, with eyebrows raised a little.

"No."

"Collecting statistics, perhaps?"

"Not at all; my errand is neither philanthropic nor scientific."

"Private and personal, that is, and not to be farther pursued by
impertinent inquiry?"

"Oh, I have no objection to telling you, since you are not a native. I
am searching for my great-great-grandmother."

Flint looked at his companion uneasily. She smiled.

"No, I have not lost my senses. Such as they are, I have them all. I
do not expect to find this ancestress of mine in the flesh, nor
sitting in any one of the splint rockers behind the checkered
window-panes of the old South East houses. It is only her portrait for
which I am searching as for hid treasure."

"Ah!"

"Yes, her portrait. I feel certain it is hidden away somewhere in
South East."

"How very odd!"

"Odd? Not at all, as you will say when you come to hear the story of
the original. But perhaps it would bore you to listen?"

"Go on; I am all attention."

"Well, to begin with, my great-great-grandmother was a very pretty
girl."

"I can believe it."

Winifred looked quickly round, but her companion's eyes were fixed
upon the horizon with an abstracted gaze which lent an air of
impersonality to his words. So she began again:

"Yes, she was a young Quakeress, born, I believe, in Philadelphia; but
her father and mother died, and she came to South East, to live with
her uncle, when she was about eighteen. The story of her girlhood is
rather vague; but somehow she fell in love with an English officer,
and made a runaway match which turned out better than such affairs
usually do; for his relatives received her favorably, and she made her
home with them at Temple Court in Yorkshire--doesn't that sound like a
book? Well, her uncle died, and she never came back to this country;
but her grandson came in the early part of the century, and, following
the traditions of his race, fell in love with an American girl. They
were married and settled in Massachusetts. But once, when they were
visiting at the old home, my grandmother saw a portrait of her
husband's grandmother hanging in the great hall at Temple Court. She
was fascinated by its beauty; and when she heard the story of the
runaway bride, who was an American like herself, she determined to
have a copy of the portrait, and talked of engaging one of the London
artists to make it for her. An old servant told my grandfather that
he remembered seeing another, painted at the same time and sent over
to this uncle in America. The man was sure that the address of the
uncle was South East. Many a time I have heard my grandmother tell the
story, which so fired my youthful fancy that I dreamed of it for
years, and at last I persuaded papa to come down here this summer, and
let me hunt for the picture. But I am tiring you, I am afraid."

Flint pulled his hat lower over his eyes.

"Pray go on; I am immensely interested."

"Thank you. Well, the desire for the recovery of the portrait is no
longer a sentiment with me,--it is a passion. My daily occupation now
is driving about and asking for a drink of water, or inquiring about
early vegetables, chickens, goslings,--anything which will afford a
plausible excuse for penetrating into the dark halls or stuffy
fore-rooms. Of course I rule out the modern houses. I have even tried
the tavern here at the beach; but the only decorations of the walls
were 'Wide Awake' and 'Fast Asleep,' and other chromos of the same
pronounced and distressing variety."

Flint took off his eye-glasses, and began to wipe them tenderly with
his delicate handkerchief.

"Perhaps," he began, when he was interrupted by a wild whoop just
above. It was from Jimmy Anstice, who shared the delusion, common to
his age and sex, that nothing is so amusing as a sudden and unexpected
noise.

"Oh, Jimmy!" his sister exclaimed.

"Oh, Jimmy!" mocked the boy. "I am glad to find that you are alive.
I've been watching you two these ten minutes, and you've sat as still
as if Mrs. Jarley hadn't wound you up yet."

"She hasn't," said Winifred, somewhat inconsequently. "Have you
finished digging your clams? What time is it?"

"I've dug all the clams I'm going to; don't intend to get all the food
for the boarding-house," answered Jimmy, somewhat sulkily, leaving
Flint to answer the last question.

"It is ten minutes after twelve," he said, looking at his watch.

"Dear me!" ejaculated Winifred, "I had no idea it was so late. I
promised Dr. Cricket to play chess with him at twelve."

She rose as she spoke, and stretched out her hand for the golf cape;
but Flint kept it quietly, and started on by her side.

"Are you going all the way to the house?" Jimmy asked.

"If your sister permits."

"Oh, then, you might as well take the other handle of this basket."

"Jimmy!" exclaimed Winifred, "I'm ashamed of you."

"Well, you needn't be. You'd better be ashamed of yourself, saying one
thing to a fellow's face, and another behind his back. Sitting there
for an hour talking with Mr. Flint, as if he were your best friend,
when only last night you said--"

"Jim, how near the shore should you say that sloop lay?" Flint
inquired in even tones.

"'T ain't a sloop at all; it's a schooner," returned Jim,
contemptuously.

"Why, to be sure, so it is. How stupid in me! I suppose all my
nautical learning went down in 'The Aquidneck.' By the way, Mr. Brady
and I are talking of going up to the wreck soon to try what can be got
out of her by diving. Wouldn't you like to go along?"

"Wouldn't I!" responded Jimmy, _con brio_. "Don't you forget it!"

His sister gave a dubious glance over the boy's head at Flint; but he
only smiled in return. This smile so transformed his face that the
girl beside him fell secretly to wondering whether her instinct of
character-reading, upon which she prided herself, had not played her
false in the case of this man, and whether she might not be called
upon for a complete reversal of judgment,--so apt we are to mistake
the momentary mood for the index of character.

They walked on in silence along the margin of the bank, Flint with the
cape thrown over one arm, while he and Jimmy carried the basket, heavy
with clams, between them. The blue water shoaled into emerald at their
feet; a single white gull soared and swooped above their heads. The
long sunburned grasses swayed in the summer wind, and the clouds
floated tranquilly over all.

How tiny the three human figures seemed in the wide setting of earth,
sea, and sky!

As they passed the bluff on the other side of the cove from Captain's
Hill, Jimmy suddenly dropped his side of the basket of clams. "Hi!" he
exclaimed. "Why can't we go up into the light-house, now Mr. Flint is
with us?"

"Not to-day," answered his sister, repressively. "Mr. Flint may have
other engagements, and then, you know, Dr. Cricket is waiting for his
game of chess."

"As for me," said Flint, "I was never more at leisure; and as for your
appointment with the Doctor, I advise you to adopt my motto: 'Better
never than late.'"

Winifred hesitated.

"Oh, come on!" persisted her small brother. "Don't be a chump, Fred.
You never used to be."

"Lead on," answered his sister; "rather than be considered anything so
ignominious, I would scale more alarming heights than those of the
light-house, though I confess its winding staircase is not without its
perils."

The path to the light-house led through a patch of bayberry bushes.
Winifred stooped, as she passed, and gathered a handful, which she
crushed in both hands, taking in a deep breath of their spicy aroma.

"Are they so good?" Flint asked, smiling at her childish enjoyment.

"Try and see!" she answered, holding them out to him in the cup of her
joined hands.

Flint bent his face over them for an instant. Then Winifred suddenly
dropped her hands and shook the fragrant leaves to the four winds.
Flint smiled again, for her gesture said as plainly as words: "Here I
am being friendly with this man, to whom I intended to be as frigid as
an iceberg."

Flint responded as if she had spoken.

"Do you never forgive?" he asked.

"No," answered Winifred, impetuously. "I never forgive; but I have a
horrid facility for forgetting."

"Cherish it!" exclaimed her companion. "It is the foundation of many
of the Christian graces."

As they drew nearer the light-house, they felt the salt sea-wind
strong in their faces. The bluff was so gale-swept that the trees,
few, small, and scrubby, had caught a slant to westward, and the
scanty vegetation clung timidly to the ground, like some tiny state
whose existence depends upon its humility. From the edge of the bluff
rose the light-house,--a round stone building, dazzling in its coat of
whitewash. Far up in the air its plate-glass windows gleamed in the
morning sun.

The keeper was standing in the open door, and cheerfully consented to
show the visitors over the premises. Loneliness is a great promoter of
hospitality.

As they peeped into the tiny kitchen, with its shining brasses and its
white deal floor, Winifred exclaimed at the exquisite neatness of the
housekeeping.

"It is a man's, you see," Flint commented with pride. "No doubt we
shall drive you from the domestic field yet."

"I should think the position of light-house-keeper would suit you
excellently," Winifred replied, oblivious of the slant at her sex.
"Your desire for solitude would surely find its full satisfaction
here."

"There might be much worse occupations certainly," Flint began; but he
saw that Winifred's attention had been diverted by the keeper, who had
already begun to mount the stairs, talking, as he moved, with a
fluency which denoted a long restrained flow of sociability. Winifred
was glad to be saved the trouble of replying, for the unceasing
climbing put her out of breath, and she felt that she might have been
dizzy, but for the railing under her left hand.

At last they arrived in the little room with its giant reflectors of
silvered copper, and its great lamp set on a circular table. Outside,
ran a narrow balcony with iron railing. Winifred stepped out onto the
ledge, clinging nervously to Jimmy, who professed a great desire to
sit on the railing. The wind here was so strong that it gave one a
feeling that the building was swaying, though it stood firm as a cliff
of granite.

Flint leaned over the railing. "See!" he said, "there is a great white
gull which has beaten itself to death against the light, and fallen
there, close to that fringy line of mottled seaweed on the beach."

"Don't!" exclaimed Winifred, turning pale, and leaning further back
against the light-house wall.

Flint saw in an instant that she was feeling dizzy, but thought it
best for her to ignore the fact.

"Come," he said, "we must be going down now, unless Dr. Cricket is to
lose his game entirely. You go first, Jim! I will come next."

Jimmy started down, whooping as he went, for the pleasure of hearing
his voice echo and re-echo from the bare walls.

Flint glanced somewhat anxiously at Winifred. He saw her put her foot
upon the first stair and then draw back. At the same instant he caught
the cause of her terror. Her bandaged wrist prevented her grasping the
balustrade, or getting any better support than the smooth wall to
which to cling.

"Put your hand on my shoulder, and count the steps aloud as you go."
He spoke like one who does not question obedience; and, somewhat to
her own surprise, Winifred found herself meekly doing as she was bid.

The last part of his advice was even better than the first, for it
occupied her mind, and also gave her the encouragement of feeling that
at each step she had lessened the distance between her and _terra
firma_ by one.

Flint felt the hand upon his shoulder tremble like a leaf; but he
never turned his head, only moved steadily onward and downward, with a
regularity and solidity which soon told upon Winifred's nervous
dizziness.

When she reached the ground, and stood once more in the sunlight of
the open doorway, she looked at him with a little tremulous smile. "A
hundred and seventeen!" she exclaimed. "I am sure I shall never
forget how many steps there are leading to the Bug Light."

"What a fool you are, Fred!" Jimmy remarked, with family frankness.

"I am," admitted Winifred. "No one knows it better than I, except,
perhaps, Mr. Flint."

"I know nothing of the kind," her companion answered with unwonted
cordiality. "Any one may be subject to a fit of dizziness, and to be
minus an arm under such circumstances makes the situation really
uncomfortable. We must try it again some day, to give you an
opportunity to prove to yourself that it was only an affair of the
moment."

"Dear me!" thought Winifred to herself, "why can't he always be nice
like that! He seems to be a queer kind of stratified rock; you never
know what you are going to strike next."

Aloud, she said, "I fancy, Jim, it must be past the White-House dinner
hour, and papa has grown worried and sent out scouts to look for you
and me. See, here is Ben Bradford!"

Looking down the road, Flint saw approaching them a tall, long-legged
youth whom he dimly remembered among the group on the porch of the
White-House the night before. His hair was parted in the middle, and
thickly pomaded to restrain its natural inclination towards curling.
His ears were large, and set on at right angles to his face. His nose
was Roman, and its prominence had rendered it peculiarly sensitive to
sunburn. His manners were too frank to be polished. As he joined them
now, he succeeded in making it evident at once that Flint's further
presence was entirely superfluous. This juvenile candor would have had
no effect, had not Winifred supplemented it by saying:--

"Mr. Bradford will take charge of me and my cape, Mr. Flint; I really
cannot consent to trouble you further."

Her manner was equivalent to a dismissal. Flint handed over the cape,
as she bade him, to young Bradford's eager grasp, bowed, and turned
his steps homeward. As he strolled along, he felt a curiously sudden
change of mood, from the elation of the morning to a depression half
physical, half mental.

"I wonder," he said to himself, "if this is not another phase of my
inheritance from Dr. Jonathan. I remember the old gentleman used to
complain that his constitution was an unhappy one from birth, attended
with 'flaccid solids, sizy and scarce fluids, and a low tide of
spirits.' The description amused me in my youth; but I begin to have
an uncomfortably sympathetic sense of his state of mind and body. I
wonder, by the way, what _he_ would have done about that portrait. I
never heard that he or any other Puritan gave away his property to
any extent; and this portrait I regard as virtually mine. To be sure,
I have not paid for it; but I had fully determined to purchase it,
and--Yes, to all intents and purposes, it belongs to me. Now, to be
expected to give it up, just because I happen to hear of some one else
who wants it too, is asking a little too much. If I had avoided the
girl, as I intended, I should never have heard of her search for her
beloved great-grandmother. No, my mind is made up; I shall keep that
picture--of course I shall. I am glad I put it into the closet before
Brady came."



                             CHAPTER VIII

                             THE MARY ANN

          "Our deeds are like children that are born to us:
           they live and act apart from one's own will."


The weather of the morning, with its golden clearness, was too
beautiful to last. By noon the gold had paled. The high wind which had
prevailed earlier in the day subsided; but the swelling waves, which
broke with thud after thud upon the shelving beach, gave evidence of a
gale still whirling somewhere off the coast. The clear-cut lines of
the distant cliffs faded to dim, quiet masses. Far out on the horizon
rose a line of phantom hills,--a line which, as night drew in, moved
slowly shoreward, rising as it came, shutting out sail after sail,
point after point, till at last it met the land and shut out the sea
itself. There is something weird and uncanny about the approach of a
fog, stealing thus unperceived out of the heart of sunshine and blue
weather. It has in it a hint of death.

Flint felt the weight of it. His mind was shut in upon its own
resources, and did not find them altogether satisfactory. Brady added
little to the gayety of nations. He came in from his day on the water
sunburned, tired, and as nearly cross as it lay in his genial
disposition to be. He swallowed his supper, and made haste to stow
himself away in bed, leaving Flint to choose between a conversation
with Marsden and the self-communion which was his least congenial
occupation.

For an hour or so, he loitered in the little shop, listening idly to
the yarns which Marsden rolled as sweet morsels under his tongue: of
the whale which the fishermen had caught off the beach, a sea-monster
of untold length, breadth, and thickness, which had been sold for a
thousand dollars; of the marvellous experiences of his father, as
captain of a trading-vessel in the "East Injies;" and finally of the
fire-ship which he himself had seen hanging between sea and sky, out
yonder between the island and the mainland.

"You say you saw it yourself?" Flint asked, partly from listless
curiosity, and partly with an eye to the society of psychical
research.

"True as yo' 're a settin' thar. 'Twas one night nigh onto fifteen
years ago,--good deal such a night as this heer. The old cow wuz sick
that night, and as I wuz out to the barn, puttin' hot cloths on her
till past midnight. Ez I wuz comin' into the house, I looked out, and
there, jest where the mist was breakin' away, hung a ship, lookin'
like a light under a cloud."

"Did you call any one?" queried Flint.

"Call any one? Lord! I was too scared to move hand or foot; I jest
stood gapin' at her till she faded clean out o' sight."

"Mirage, I suppose," Flint murmured to himself, "unless the old fellow
is lying out and out, which is not likely." Then, aloud, as he rose,
stretching himself lazily, "If you ever see the fire-ship again, while
I am here, let me know. I have always wanted to see a wreck, and a
phantom wreck is better than none."

"Don't go to talkin' too much about it," said Marsden, mysteriously.
"They say it brings bad luck."

"Apparently it brings bad luck for anybody but you to do the talking.
Well, I think I will leave you before I am tempted to a loquaciousness
which might bring down a curse on the house of Marsden."

Smiling to himself over the old man's superstition, Flint climbed the
stairs to his own room, as softly as possible, lest Brady's wrath at
being waked descend upon him. Having closed his door cautiously, he
sat down by the open window, enjoying the soothing dampness of the fog
as it came rolling in laden with the pungent fragrance of the salt
marshes.

He sat a long while in the darkness. Even the Bug Light, which shone
on ordinary nights from the tip end of Bluff Point, this evening
formed only a paler shade in the universal grayness.

His thoughts turned to the scene of the morning. He remembered the
wide-stretching purple of the sea, the yellow shell-strewn sand, the
patch of coarse grass on the bank against which Winifred Anstice
leaned. He remembered to have noted how perfectly her dun-colored
dress had harmonized with the environment, so much so, that, but for
the patch of red in her hat, he might have passed her as a part of the
inanimate nature of the beach. He remembered, too, the touch of her
hand on his shoulder there in the light-house, and the sound of her
voice as she counted the steps, "One--two--three--four." Then he fell
to thinking more closely than he had yet done of the girl
herself,--that curious blending of subtlety and simplicity, of reserve
and frankness; he had never seen anything quite like it. What a queer
coincidence that she should be a descendant of this Ruth, in the room
behind him! Now she spoke of it, there was a suggestion of
resemblance, faint, but haunting. This must have been the secret of
his desire to study her face again, and yet again, that day on the
pond, to determine the source of the sense of familiarity which even
their first meeting had given him.

How charming her frankness about the portrait had been! Ah, there the
recollection ceased to be altogether agreeable! He twisted a little in
his chair, and screwed the end of his moustache into his mouth, as he
recalled his own lack of response when the portrait was mentioned. Had
he been deceitful? No, certainly not that, for he had conveyed no
false impression by word or gesture. Disingenuous? Perhaps, but after
all he was in nowise pledged to equal frankness, because his companion
chose to be confidential. Suppose, though, Winifred Anstice should
come to the inn; should hear from old Marsden of the portrait; should
learn that it was hanging in his room, and he had made no sign!

The train of thought was perplexing, and not altogether pleasing.
Flint was not sorry to have it interrupted by a call upon his
attention in the appearance of two figures below, looming dim and
ghostlike in the fog. Just beneath his window, they paused in their
walk, and their voices came up to him first indistinctly, then with
more and more clearness. The tones Flint recognized at once as
belonging to Tilly Marsden and to Leonard Davitt, the young fisherman
whose scarlet shirt was often to be seen on the clamming grounds, and
whose rich baritone voice came ringing over the pond as he sat in his
boat hauling in his nets.

To-night, it was subdued, and at first scarcely rose above a murmur;
at length Flint caught the words:--

"I shall never ask you again."

"I hope to goodness you won't!" answered the shriller tones of the
innkeeper's daughter.

"That isn't a very nice way to speak, Tilly."

"Well, it's _my_ way, and my name isn't 'Tilly;' it is Matilda
Marsden, and very polite folks call me 'Miss.'"

"Some day you'll find out that it isn't the politest folks that's the
trustiest, or sticks to you the faithfullest. Don't you remember two
years ago, Tilly, when I was going to the Banks, how you kissed me
good-bye, and how you promised--"

"Never mind what I promised. I was only a child anyway."

"Well, you didn't think so then, and neither did I. Mebbe, the time
will come when you'll think you acted wiser then, than you're a-doin'
now."

"Oh, you needn't take the trouble to warn me, Mr. Leonard, about my
being foolish to give you up. You're not the only man in the world."

"Oh, yes," responded Leonard, nettled at last, "I knew very well that
was the trouble; and I know who the other man is; and all I can say
is--"

"Hush," cried Tilly, with a little turning of her head, and quickly
laying her hand on Leonard's arm. "Don't you say another word, Leonard
Davitt, if you ever want me to speak to you again."

At this, Flint's conscience got the better of him, and he rose and
closed the window noisily enough to startle the speakers below, as he
perceived with some amusement.

"What a little minx that girl is!" he said to himself as he turned to
light the lamps. "I have half a mind to devote myself to convincing
Leonard that she would make his life miserable if she married him, and
that he is worth ten of her; but I don't suppose he could be made to
believe either. Men are such fools when they are in love! By Jove!
that portrait is like Miss Anstice!"

This last ejaculation escaped him as he held the lamp above the mantel
where all his books were piled in heterogeneous confusion. One by one
he scanned their covers, with the half intention of the idler who
reads for pure diversion, and at length he drew out a volume of Dumas.
He set his lamp--a large one with double burners--on the table by the
window; and tilting his chair on the back legs, resting his shoulders
against the wall, he plunged into the mysteries of "The Forty-Five."

In a few minutes he was absorbed, as only Dumas has power to absorb
his readers. The man of action in that great romancer exercised a sort
of hypnotic power over Flint. The robust virility passed into the
sinew of his soul. The romance possessed him utterly, and left him
without even the power to criticise. It was he himself who stood in
Queen Catherine's box, and watched the spouting of Salcide's blood, as
he was drawn by the horses in the arena beneath. He sat secreted
beside Chicot in the great arm-chair in the King's bed-room. He took
part in the serenade beneath the balcony of the mysterious lady in the
Rue des Augustines. He joined the hunting of the wolf in Navarre; and
finally he had plunged into the fight between the French and Flemings,
with such intensity of reality that it scarcely surprised him to hear
the booming of a gun.

"It is those rascally Flemings!" he thought for a moment. "Up and at
them, Joyeuse!" Then suddenly he rubbed his head like one striving to
recall wandering wits. His chair came down with a crash. He took out
his watch. It marked three. Again the gun! He threw up the window. The
fog was breaking fast, and lights were visible too far out for the
the land, too near for a vessel at sea; unless, Great Heavens! it was,
it must be, a ship grounded off the Point. For an instant, the thought
of Marsden's fire-ship flashed across his mind; but his head was too
clear to be fooled in such fashion.

Banging on Brady's door, he shouted:

"A wreck off the Point! I'm going down to the shore!"

"Hold on! Wait for me, can't you?" called Brady, still half asleep.

"No; there's no time to lose. I may be of use. Come on as fast as you
can!"

As Flint rushed downstairs, he met Marsden coming out of his room,
lantern in hand. The old man's face was ashen gray, and his fingers
fumbled at the buttons of his coat.

"Did you hear it?" he said in a trembling, shaken voice. "It's the gun
of a ship in distress. Many's the time I've laid awake a-listenin' for
it when the wind was wild and the sea lashin' up over the rocks; and
now it's come on a night as ca'm as a prayer-meetin'. I told you no
good would come of our talk this evenin'."

"Is there any life-saving station near?" Flint asked, as they stumbled
along the road in the dark.

"No, not near as you might say. Ten miles away is as bad as a
hundred."

Once out of doors, they started on a run down the road which led to
the shore. The booming of the gun grew louder in their ears; and dimly
through the mist they caught sight of a vessel lying keeled over on
her side well in shore. Flint was conscious of a not wholly unpleasing
excitement as he watched her. As yet his mind had found no room for
thoughts of individual suffering. It was a wreck, and he had always
wished to see a wreck.

The thoughts passing through his mind did not delay his footsteps, and
he made such good speed that, half way to the shore, he had left
Marsden far behind, and struggled on alone through the last few rods
of heavy sand.

When he reached the beach, several people were gathered there already:
Ben Bradford and Dr. Cricket, with that dishevelled air which always
marks a midnight alarm; Michael and Leonard Davitt, who slept in their
fisherman's hut by the pond, in order to get an early morning start,
and were therefore first at the scene of excitement.

Michael felt all the importance of his position as first witness, and
with unusual loquacity was giving an account of the catastrophe to the
group around.

"I can't nohow account for it," he said; "that captain must be an
escaped idjit to go on a lee-shore a night like this."

"Had the fog lifted when she struck?" queried Marsden.

"Well, it was jest a-waverin', breakin' up like, and then shuttin'
down agin. The idjit must er thought he was off the Bug Light, where
the water's deep right up close in; but why should he a-thought
so?--that's the question."

"Well, it is a question that can wait, I should think," said Brady,
who had come up panting from his run. "The most important question is,
what are you going to do about it? There's not much danger, I suppose,
as long as the night is as calm as this; though there's such a ground
swell on it looks as if there must have been a big storm at sea. See
how she pounds on the reef out there! She is likely to go to pieces
before many hours, I should say, and if a wind springs up, as it's
pretty sure to do with morning, it would be an ugly lookout."

"Is there a life-boat anywhere?" asked Flint.

"Yes," said Leonard, somewhat scornfully, "in the pond." (He
pronounced it pawnd.)

"They must have boats on the ship," said Marsden; "seems to me I see
'em launchin' one now." At this the men on shore huddled closer
together, as though four could see farther than one.

Yes, there was no doubt of it. The misty dawn showed forms standing on
the slanting deck of the ship, and a boat hoisted, held out, and then
dropped into the waves, which were already rising with the rising
wind.

"They'd best make haste," muttered Michael, uneasily; "if the sea gets
up, they'll go down."

It seemed an age to the little waiting group before the boat put off
from the ship. The wind had begun to blow in cold and strong. Flint
buttoned his coat tight to his chin, and still he shivered. On the
little boat came, now dipping almost out of sight in the hollow of the
big green waves, now rising like a cork upon their crest.

"Hurrah!" cried Brady, "they're almost in."

"Hm!" said Michael, "not yet, by a long sight! The danger comes when
they git into the breakers."

Flint was enough of a sailor to know that the fisherman spoke truth. A
little later, he saw the white, combing foam break over the boat. He
drew his breath quicker, and caught his under-lip between his teeth.

"There's four men in her," said Marsden, making a telescope of his
closed hands.

"Five," said Leonard,--"five, and one of 'em is a woman!"

Flint unbuttoned his coat and threw it off.

"What are you about?" asked Brady. "You'll get your death of cold."

Flint made no answer, but, stooping, unfastened his boots, and kicked
them off. Rapidly as he undressed, he was too slow; for, as the boat
reached the tenth breaker, a great wave struck her a little on the
side, and over she went, spilling out her contents as heedlessly as
though they had been iron or lead in place of flesh and blood. In an
instant, Flint was in the surf, and striking out for the spot where he
had seen a woman's shawl.

"Curse it!" cried Leonard, "why can't I swim, and me a sailor!"

"I'd orter a-learned yer, Leon, and thet's a fact. Look at him! He's
got her. He's a pullin' of her in. Make a line, men! Make a line!
Quick as thunder, and the last man grab 'em when they come within
reach!"

In answer to Michael's words, the men hastily formed in line, and
moved out till Brady stood chest-deep in water. It was a wise
precaution, for Flint, though a good swimmer, found his task too hard
for him. He felt like a man in a nightmare with a weight of lead upon
his chest; and arms that must move, and could not move, and yet must
again.

Dimly, a sense of possible escape for himself came over him. Why
should two drown in place of one? He had but to let go this weight and
strike out. Why not?

Why not indeed? This man held to no altruistic creed. His doctrines,
had he expounded them quite coolly, would have claimed that
self-preservation was the first law of Nature, and that Nature was the
best guide. But now, with no time for reason, by the flashlight of
instinct, intuition, inheritance,--call it what you will,--he found
himself absolutely physically unable to let his load slip. With this
stranger he would live or die, most likely die!

With the last thought, he felt a numbness creep over him. The limbs
refused to obey the will. The will itself was paralyzed. Blank
darkness fell around; the end had come.

He awoke to consciousness with a painful gasp, to find himself
stretched out on the sand, and to hear Dr. Cricket's voice sounding
far away, saying: "He'll be all right soon. Keep on working his arms,
Ben! Here comes Marsden with the brandy and warm blankets." Then
followed a vague sensation of swallowing fire, and a blissful warmth
creeping along his veins as though Nature had taken him to her heart
once more.

Languidly, he unclosed his eyes. What did it all mean: the waves
roaring close at hand; the driftwood fire burning hard by; the circle
of anxious faces? Through his dim senses ran the lines long familiar,
never till now fully realized:

      "The tall masts flickered as they lay afloat
       The crowds, the temples wavered, and the shore."

What made everything wobble about like that? Was he dying? What had
brought him here, anyhow? Then, with a rush, it all came back. Raising
himself on one elbow, he looked about inquiringly. "Where is she?" he
asked, and fell back exhausted by the effort of speech.

"Here and safe," answered a woman's voice which he recognized as that
of Winifred Anstice. "The captain and crew are saved too."

"Could they all swim?" Flint questioned feebly.

"Hold your tongue!" cried Dr. Cricket, with more good sense than good
manners. "Your business now is to save your strength. Leave questions
for later in the day. If that coffee is done, Ben, pass it round. We
will all have a pull at it."

The commonplace of the daily routine is a blessed relief after the
overstrained excitement of a great catastrophe. We eat and drink, and
life seems real once more. Even Dr. Cricket was drawn for a moment
from his patient's side to the circle gathered about Ben Bradford,
who stood with the steaming coffee-pot in one hand, and a tin dipper
in the other. Nectar and ambrosia, served from jewelled plate, could
not have offered more temptation to the appetite of the weary group.
Flint, lying a little apart, was conscious that Leonard Davitt was
standing beside him, staring down into his face. As the young
fisherman turned away, Flint heard him say, below his breath: "Damn
him!"



                              CHAPTER IX

                             NORA COSTELLO

"We pass through life separated from many people as by a wall of glass.
 We see them, we are conscious of their presence; but we never touch."


The evening following the wreck of "The Mary Ann" found the friends in
council, who included most of the summer population of Nepaug,
gathered around the White-House hearth, on which blazed a hospitable
fire, doubly cheering in its radiant contrast to the gathering
darkness without. The wind, which had risen to half a gale, rattled at
the window panes and roared down the chimney. The sound of the booming
surf, as the great waves hurled themselves against the dunes, made
itself heard, even through the heavy pine doors and shutters. The
foam, which yesterday curved in lines of delicate spray below the
headland, was now lashed into a lather of white terror. Above it
through the twilight rose, dim and ghostlike, the masts of the
wrecked vessel.

The dreariness outside lent an added charm to the snug and cheerful
cosiness within the little parlor, the inmates of which drew closer
than usual, as they talked in somewhat subdued voices.

Jimmy Anstice lay on his back upon the hearth-rug, his head pillowed
upon Paddy, and his knees braced one on top of the other. Ben Bradford
sat on a chair tipped back against the wall, with his thumbs thrust
through the armholes of his corduroy vest. Winifred lounged upon the
haircloth sofa with one foot surreptitiously tucked under her. Every
one's attitude suggested a degree of comfort rare in society. A
wonderful sense of intimacy is imparted by perils undergone together,
or profound experiences shared. They seem to sweep away, as with a
whirlwind breath, that thick veil of convention and commonplace which
shroud many acquaintances from beginning to end. At these times the
real nature has shown itself, as it does only in the great crises of
life; and, once revealed, it can never wholly conceal itself again.

At the White-House that evening, the wreck was discussed over and over
from every point of view. Each person wished to describe the moment
when he awoke to the apprehension of the calamity,--what he said and
did, thought and planned. Such conversations lead one to believe that
the chief pleasure of the resurrection will lie in the comparison of
post-mortem experiences on first awakening.

Dr. Cricket said that when he first heard the booming of guns,
half-asleep as he was, he dreamed that the statue of William Penn was
falling off the dome of the Philadelphia city hall.

Miss Standisth said that she was broad awake; but had happened not to
catch any sound till she heard the commotion of people moving about
downstairs. This she took to mean that breakfast-time had arrived, and
that this was destined to be another dark day like the freak of nature
famous in the colonial annals.

"I heard Fred call out--" Jimmy Anstice began; but his sister
interrupted, "Please, Jimmy, leave me out. You know Papa forbade you
to talk about me in company."

"My dear," remonstrated her father, mildly, "don't speak so abruptly
to your little brother."

Thus, in one shape and another, every one said his say.

Flint alone, of the entire group, was silent, almost surly. He
submitted without comment to being ensconced in the great
chintz-covered chair. He even swallowed, under protest, the various
pills and potions which Dr. Cricket presented to him at intervals; but
the most adroit questioning on the part of Miss Standish failed to
elicit any information as to his sensations or emotions, past or
present. Brady, who understood his friend better than all the rest,
strove to shelter him by talking longer and laughing louder than
usual; but this Miss Standish resented as much as Flint's silence, and
set it down to flippancy. Her ethical training impelled her to strive
to improve the occasion to these young people. She shook her gray
curls, and cleared her throat several times before her conversational
opening arrived.

"I hope, Mr. Flint," she said at last, "that you feel as strongly as
that poor girl upstairs, the mercy of the divine Providence which
brought you to the rescue at that critical moment, and enabled you to
save a life."

Something in Miss Standish's tone irritated Flint.

"If, for 'divine Providence,' you will substitute 'lucky accident,' I
will agree to it as heartily as either you or she. If you persist in
dragging in Providence, I must really beg leave to inquire where
Providence was when the ship struck."

The silence which reigned in the room was like the space cleared for a
sparring-match. The old combative instinct of the primitive man arises
in the most civilized, and makes him delight in a fight. Brady looked
amused; Winifred a little apprehensive; Mr. Anstice preserved a
dignified neutrality; and Miss Standish fumbled with her cameo brooch,
and smoothed the folds of her skirt, as if to make sure that all was
in order before entering upon a possibly ruffling contest.

"I suppose--" she began; but old Marsden, who sat on the other side of
the fire, and who was no respecter of persons, broke in: "I've heerd a
deal about how you all felt, and what you all thought; but what I'd
like to know is what really happened. The men at the inn wont talk
without their captain gives them leave; and Dr. Cricket has got him
and his sister shut up in their rooms, to git over the shawk. Now
perhaps the Doctor can tell us how it wuz thet thet air ship went
aground on a sandy coast, in a ca'm night like the last."

"Captain Costello says it was the light in the tavern-window which he
mistook for the Bug Light off the point; but how could that have been,
when it was past two o'clock, and I'll answer for it that no one at
Nepaug was ever found awake after nine?"

Dr. Cricket questioned with the inflection of a man who neither
expects nor desires an answer. Indeed, he had only paused for breath,
when Flint, from his easy chair on the other side of the fireplace,
broke in:--

"So I am to blame for the whole thing."

"You!"

"You don't say so!"

"Was the light yours?"

"What on earth were you doing at that hour?"

"Not quite so many questions at once, friends, if you please. My brain
is still a little waterlogged, and my thoughts work slowly. I only
remember sitting down about ten o'clock to read a novel, and the first
thing that roused me was the gun, which for the moment I took for the
attack of the enemy of whom I was reading. I rushed out, half
expecting to find the tavern surrounded, and to have to risk my life
in its defence, and instead--"

"Instead," put in Winifred Anstice, very quietly, "you risked your
life to save some one else,--Nora Costello, the Captain's sister,
spent the whole morning in tears, because Dr. Cricket would not let
her leave her room to go and tell you how grateful she was."

"Hysterical, I suppose," said Flint.

Winifred, who had opened her lips to say something more, shut them
closely again, and sat back with the air of a person determined to
have no further share in the conversation.

Dr. Cricket hastened to occupy the floor. "A charming girl--upon my
word, a charming girl--if she _is_ a Hallelujah lassie."

"A what?" ejaculated Brady.

"A Hallelujah lassie--Feminine of Salvation Soldier, don't you know!
Why, she had one of the coal-scuttle bonnets hanging by its draggled
strings round her neck when Flint pulled her in, and a number of 'The
War Cry' was in the pocket of her dress, when we stripped it off."

"Oh," said Brady, with a touch of disappointment in his tone, "I took
her for a different sort of a person; she looked quite the lady."

"So she is, young man," answered Dr. Cricket, with his fierce little
frown. "There is no doubt of that. She told me her story this morning.
I wanted her to rest; but the poor thing was so nervous I thought it
would hurt her less to talk than to keep still."

Flint smiled sardonically. The Doctor's little foible of curiosity had
not escaped his observant eye.

"You would have done much better to shut her up; but what did she
say?" queried Miss Standish.

Flint smiled again. But the Doctor began briskly:--

"Why, it seems that the Costellos are the children of a Scotch
minister; though, from his name, I should guess that he had a drop
more or less of Irish blood in his veins, and their looks show it too.
They were brought up in a manse on one of those brown and bare Scotch
moors. The boy was to be educated for the church, like his father;
but when he was seventeen, he grew restive under the strictness of his
training, turned wild, and ran away. For ten years they had no word of
him. The father reproached himself for having been too hard on the
boy; and he never stopped loving and praying for him. On his
death-bed, he charged Nora--that's the girl's name you know--to sell
all the things in the manse, and start out into the world to find her
brother, and never to give up the search as long as she lived."

"That is always the way," said Flint, with a shrug: "the reward of
virtue is to be appointed trustee of vice--no assets--assume all the
liabilities."

"Hm! wide, of the mark this time, Mr. Flint. The very day after her
father's death, Nora Costello received a letter from her brother,
saying that he was ashamed to come home without first securing
forgiveness, and asking his sister to intercede for him, and to meet
him in London with the news of his pardon."

"Exactly," resumed Flint with irritating calmness. "Prodigal son sends
postal card stating that he is prepared to receive overtures looking
to a resumption of family relations. No questions asked."

"He has not seen Captain Costello, has he, Dr. Cricket? or he would
be more sparing of his jibes."

"Never mind, Miss Winifred, Mr. Flint is ashamed of having played the
humanitarian this morning, so he is trying to atone by double cynicism
this evening; but don't let him interrupt my story again, under pain
of being sent back to the tavern, instead of taken care of in Mrs.
White's best bed-room, under the charge of the best doctor (though I
do say it) in Philadelphia.

"Well, as I was about to say, Nora Costello came up to London; and
there she found her brother, a brown and bearded man in command of a
schooner, 'The Mary Ann,' plying between New York and Nova Scotia. He
had been looking forward joyfully to his homecoming; but when he
learned of his father's death, he was all broken up, and talked about
its being a judgment of God on himself."

"Rather severe on his father," grumbled Flint; but no one heeded him,
and the Doctor continued:--

"Costello felt so awfully cut up, that one night he came near drowning
himself; and after that his sister did not dare leave him alone, but
went about everywhere with him; and one night they came upon a
Salvation Army meeting, with drums and torches and things, in the
streets of the East End. General Booth was there; and, my soul! to
hear that girl talk, you would think he was the archangel Gabriel,
with the sword of the Lord in his hand."

"It was Michael who carried the sword," came from Flint's corner,
exasperating even Brady beyond endurance.

"Come, Flint, you're too bad. Hold your tongue, can't you, and let the
rest of us hear the story! That girl is a trump."

"You 're right, sir," echoed the Doctor, cordially, "a trump she was,
and her brother too, for that matter. General Booth preached that day,
as it happened, about remnants, and argued how a man might make the
most of the remnants of a life, as well as of a meal, even if the best
part was gone. Well, the talk sort of heartened up Angus Costello;
and, after the meeting, he and his sister went up to the General, and
Nora asked to be taken into the Army. She went in as a private; and
when Angus came back to Nova Scotia, Nora came with him, and was
assigned to duty, first in Montreal, and then in New York. She has
risen already to be an officer, and, I judge, a valuable one. She was
off this month on sick-leave for her brother's ship, taking a vacation
from overwork, I suspect."

"What is her work?" asked Brady, leaning forward with his square chin
propped on his hands, which, in their turn, were supported by his
knees,--an attitude to which he was prone when self-forgetful.

"Her work? Oh, I don't know! Everything I suppose. Taking care of sick
people in tenements, talking, and singing, and selling copies of the
'War Cry,' in offices and liquor-saloons."

Brady frowned. "I don't like it," he said. "She's too pretty, with
those little curly rings of hair round her pale face, and with those
big blue eyes. Why don't they send some old maid on such errands?"

"Because they want to sell their papers," answered Miss Standish,
dryly.

The talk around the fire had gone on so eagerly that the attention of
the group was utterly absorbed; and every one started as if an
apparition had appeared in their midst, when a slim figure in a dark
dress, against which her face looked doubly white, glided noiselessly
into the room. With eyes fixed in almost trance-like far-sightedness,
she moved towards Brady, and laid her hand upon his sleeve.

"My brother," she said, "it is you have risked your life to save mine.
God gave you back both. What will you be doing with your share?"

"I--I--I'm awfully sorry, don't you know!" stammered Brady, terribly
embarrassed; "but it wasn't I who did it."

"Here is the man, Miss Costello, to whom you owe your life," said the
Doctor, who dearly loved a "situation," turning as he spoke, with a
little flourish, to the place where Flint had stood; but that
gentleman had taken advantage of the mistake to bolt into the bed-room
behind him. He would have bolted into the pond, rather than submit to
be thanked publicly in this fashion.

"He's gone!" exclaimed Dr. Cricket, in disappointment.

"Ah!" said Nora Costello, with a quick, sympathetic smile, "it's verra
natural. He did not wish to be thanked. Perhaps he is right. After
all, it is to the good God himsel' that our thanks are owing."

She knelt on the rug, as simply as she would have taken an offered
chair, and spoke to some invisible presence, as naturally as she would
have spoken to any of those in the room. Brady was shocked at first,
at the conversational tone. It was so realistic that he opened his
eyes, half expecting to see the Someone--the Something--so evidently
apparent to the girl herself.

Having once opened his eyes, he forgot to close them again. The actual
so pursued him, that he ceased to seek the spiritual presence. The
firelight, playing over the girl's face, threw strange lights, and
shadows half unearthly. She seemed a spirit, of whom no ordinary
restraints of the familiar social life were to be expected.

When her prayer was finished, she rose as simply as she had knelt,
though now two large tears stood on the long fringe of her eyes.

"Good-night, friends!" she said with a confiding glance around. "I
think I shall be able to get the sleep now. God bless you all!"

When she was gone, the hush was unbroken for several minutes. At last
Winifred spoke.

"I don't know how the rest of you feel, but somehow I have a sensation
of being a lay figure in the shop-window of life, and having all of a
sudden seen a real woman go by."

"Jove! what eyes she has!" said Brady, continuing thoughts of his own,
rather than answering Winifred's speech.

"Really," said Ben Bradford, "it wasn't unpleasant at all."

"Unpleasant!" exclaimed his aunt. "Well, I should say not, unless
heaven is unpleasant, and angels, and the Judgment Day, which I
daresay it will be for you, Ben Bradford, unless you mend your ways.
Good-night! I'm going up to see that the child has a hot-water bag to
her feet, and a mustard plaster on her chest. The Salvation Army needs
an efficient ambulance corps."

"Hm!" said Dr. Cricket, as Miss Standish disappeared. "Mary may have
chosen the better part; but I pity the household that's all Marys.
Give me a Martha in mine every time!

"That reminds me," he added briskly, "that I must look after my
patient, and not let him pitch himself into that bed, which has not
been aired for a week; and nobody in this house knows the difference
between damp sheets and dry ones. Do you know, Mr. Brady," he
continued, as he rose from his chair with a little rheumatic hitch, "I
have taken a great shine to that queer friend of yours. I don't know
how it is, but I suspect it is because he is such a contrast to most
folks. It's a comfort to meet a man who keeps his best foot back."

"Oh, Flint is a brick!" said Brady, with enthusiasm. "I have known him
to do the nicest things. There was a fellow once in college--he was
rather pushing socially, and nobody liked him--but he was 'a dig,'"
and he got sick from studying too much. None of the rest of us ever
fell ill of that trouble; but he did, and he was so poor he didn't
want to let any one know about it, for fear he would be obliged to
send for a doctor. It was found out though; and one day a doctor and
nurse turned up at the fellow's room,--said they'd been asked not to
say who sent them; but they stayed and pulled him through. He never
knew who his benefactor was; but I did, and you may judge of my
surprise, when the fellow got about, to see Flint cut him on the
street.

"'What in thunder did you do that for?' I asked, for I was dumfounded
to see him do it.

"'Because the fellow is a cad, and would be taking all sorts of
advantages. Better ignore the acquaintance at the start.'

"'Then why did you do what you did for him?'

"'I don't know, I'm sure!' Flint answered.

"That's just the sort of fellow Flint is. He may seem crusty, but in
any emergency he is a man to tie to."

"If life were a series of emergencies," said Winifred, reflectively,
"Mr. Flint would be invaluable; but in every-day existence, one does
not quite know what to do with him."

"I can put up with a great deal," said Ben Bradford, "from a chap like
that, who shows real sand and pluck when a crisis comes. I mean to
tell Mr. Flint to-morrow that I think he's a daisy, and go down on my
marrow bones for the things I have thought and said about him before."

"I wouldn't, if I were you, Ben," observed Winifred, with an amused
smile; "for I doubt if Mr. Flint has ever had the dimmest idea that
you have not been thinking well of him all along."



                              CHAPTER X

                             FLYING POINT

              "We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more."


Far up the pond, at no great distance from the spot where "The
Aquidneck" had met her untimely and ignominious end, Flying Point
thrust out its tongue of land into the rippling water, which stole in
and out between its tiny coves so gently that scarcely a murmur could
be heard, except when a northeaster lashed the pond into a mimic sea;
and then the teapot tempest was so outdone by the giant waves outside
the bar, that it passed unnoticed, like the fury of a child beside the
rage of a grown man.

The Point took its name from the flights of ducks which passed over it
in vast numbers in the spring and autumn, their dark, irregular
squadrons black against the intense blue of sea and sky. Its low bluff
of gleaming sand was crowned by a grove of tall pines, through which
purled a tiny brook perpetually prattling to the sea of its little
inland life. Below the bank, stretched out a rod or more of level
beach where fires might be lighted and cloths spread by those who
wished to return to the gypsy habits of their forebears and sit down
as Nature's guests, to simple fare of their own cooking and serving.

A midsummer pilgrimage to Flying Point was a regular feature of the
season with the dwellers at the White-House; and it was a point of
honor for the old-timers to declare that last year's expedition was in
every way more successful than that of the present season. Newcomers
endured this superiority in silence, consoled by the prospect of
enjoying the same triumph themselves next summer.

Several times the date of this year's expedition had been set, and as
often changed. The last date had been fixed for the eighth of July;
but the excitement of the wreck, and the reaction of lassitude which
followed that catastrophe, put to flight, for a time, all thoughts of
amusement, and a fortnight elapsed without an apparent ripple on the
calm of existence at Nepaug.

On the second day after the wreck, Angus Costello and his sister took
their departure for New York,--he to collect the insurance on the
ill-fated "Mary Ann," she to report again for duty in the Army. With
the going of the Costellos, quiet settled down once more; but the
dwellers on the Point found themselves impatient of the very repose
for which they had sought Nepaug. Rest had turned to inanimation,
quiet to dulness, peace to stagnation.

Flint, usually unaffected by environment, found himself incapable of
any intellectual or physical exertion. He could not work. He could not
even loaf alone. Brady was an indifferent companion, subject to fits
of absence of mind,--more unsocial than absence of body.

There was only one resource left; the young men betook themselves to
the White-House. Life there could not be wholly dull, while a
perpetual sparring match was going on between Miss Standish and Dr.
Cricket, while Professor Anstice smoked his pipe serenely on the
corner of the piazza, and Ben Bradford openly adored Winifred,
heedless of outside observation or amusement.

Ben himself was an endless source of entertainment to Flint, so
vividly did his demeanor recall the rapidly receding days of his own
youth, when he too had felt the constraint which is born of the
assurance that all the world is fixing its gaze upon us and our
actions.

Ben never dreamed that he could be taken humorously. He regarded
himself with a deep seriousness, and planned innocent little
hypocrisies with a view to their effect on the public. He was anxious
to be supposed to handle a large correspondence, and took pains to
sort his mail in public, fingering a number of letters in his leather
case with a reflective air, as if he were considering what replies
they demanded, although their worn envelopes revealed them to the most
casual observation as at least a fortnight old.

He had the sensitiveness of youth, and spent much useless effort in
the endeavor to discover what people meant by their words and deeds;
when, nine times out of ten, they meant nothing at all, but were only
striving to fill up the gaps of life with idle observations or
diversions. He himself was fond of side remarks, intended to be
satirical, but falling rather flat, if dragged out into the prosaic
light of general conversation, as sometimes happened when Miss
Standish caught a word or two and exclaimed aloud: "What was that,
Ben? Won't you give us all the benefit of that last observation?"

Ben loved his aunt; but he did not like her.

She interfered sadly with his pose as a man of the world, by relating
anecdotes of his infancy, and stating the precise number of years
which had elapsed since the occurrence.

On the occasion of one of the daily visits of Flint and Brady, they
were made aware of unmistakable signs of a domestic unpleasantness.
They were no sooner seated, than Ben picked up again the grievance
which their arrival had compelled him to drop.

"You have told that story four times already this summer, Aunt Susan,"
he remarked truculently; "and I don't think it is of great interest to
the public at any time to know that I took a bite out of each one of
the Thanksgiving pies when I was five years old."

"I have _not_ told it before, and you were _six_ when it happened,
which was fourteen years ago next November," Miss Standish answered.

Winifred Anstice, foreseeing a battle, made haste to the rescue. She
called out from her hammock:--

"When are we going to Flying Point? I think we all need change of air
for our--ahem!--nerves."

Woe to the person who undertakes to divert the lightning from meeting
thunder-clouds; unless he be well insulated, he is sure to fall victim
to his own well meant efforts.

"Winifred, my dear," sniffed Miss Standish, "you may remember that it
was only this morning when _I_ asked when we were going to Flying
Point that you answered, 'Never, I hope--I detest picnics.'"

"Did I?" laughed Winifred; "well, it's true, and I cannot deny it."

"I must agree with you there," said Ben. "A picnic is an occasion
when all the food is picked and all the china nicked."

"A picnic," said Winifred, "is a place where you can accumulate an
indigestion without incurring an obligation. In this, it is an advance
upon a tea-party."

"Picnicking with people you know is a bore, Picnicking with people you
don't know is a feat of endurance," echoed Flint.

"Professionally, I am in favor of them," threw in Dr. Cricket. "I
often feel like saying, with the old Roman, 'This day's work shall
breed prescriptions.'"

"Oh, come now!" said Brady, "you're all trying to be clever. This is
only talk. I think a picnic is great fun, especially a tea-picnic,
where you boil coffee, and light a camp-fire, and perch about on the
rocks over the water. You would appreciate that last privilege, if you
lived out on the prairies, where there is no water, and the rocks are
all imported."

"Bully for you!" shouted Jimmy Anstice, who had been sitting by with
his hands clasped over the knees of his stockings to conceal the holes
from his sister's observant eye, but none the less eagerly following
the conversation. "You're a peach; and why can't we go to-night?"

"That boy is all right," said Brady, smiling. "He knows enough to
take the current when it serves. Off with you, Jim, while the tide is
out, and dig your basket of clams! Come on, Flint, and we will join
them at the Point! How will you go, and when?"

"I think we'd better go up in the Whites' sail-boat. There'll be room
for one of you," said Miss Standish, looking meaningly at her nephew,
for she had not yet forgiven Flint's indifference.

"That's good," Flint said cheerfully. "You take Brady. He's better
ballast; and I'll row up in my dory."

"A good excuse for coming late and leaving early," said Winifred,
mockingly.

Flint bowed and smiled imperturbably, without troubling himself to
offer a contradiction.

Miss Standish swept past him with her Plymouth Rock manner. "I will go
and look after the supper," she remarked, and added, as she reached
the door, "however much people may sniff, there's nobody, so far as I
know, who is superior to food."

Nepaug picnic suppers had been reduced to scientific principles under
Miss Standish's rule. There was a picnic coffee-pot and a
picnic-dipper, a set of wooden plates and a pile of Japanese paper
napkins. All these went into one basket, together with cups and
glasses and knives and forks. Another, still more capacious, held the
sandwiches and biscuit, the cake and coffee, the pepper and salt,
beside the jar of orange marmalade, and the pies surreptitiously
borrowed from the pantry, where they were reposing upon the larder
shelf, tranquilly awaiting the morrow's dessert. Everything was neatly
stowed away,--no crowding, no crumbling. Miss Standish was willing to
take any amount of trouble; all she asked was to be appreciated.

Flint certainly did not appreciate her. Her particularity he found
"fussiness," her energy annoyed him, and her well-meant interest in
others appeared to him insufferable busy-bodyism. More than once that
afternoon he remembered her with a sense of irritation. "A confounded
old maid," he called her to himself as he pushed off his dory from the
beach below the inn.

But no matter how irritable the frame of mind in which he started, he
could not help being soothed by the tranquillity of the scene around
him as he went on. The west was one sheet of orange. The brilliancy of
the sunset had faded to a tenderer tone. The spikes of the pointed
firs on the mainland stood dark against it. Over in the east, the moon
was rising, pale and spectral, with all her ribs showing like a
skeleton leaf. Jupiter shone out more clearly as the darkness
deepened and the shadows fell more heavily along the strip of shore.

      "The gray sea and the long black land;
       And the yellow half-moon, large and low,"

Flint quoted to himself. "What is it that comes
next? Something about

       "'A mile of warm sea-scented beach.'

Must have been curiously like this. Where is Flying Point anyhow? Oh,
yes; there's the camp-fire."

"Here comes Flint," cried Brady, as he heard the grating of the prow
of the dory on the gravel.

"I should think it was time," grumbled Miss Standish, who had been
making great sacrifices to keep the coffee hot. For some inscrutable
reason, all the people with whom Flint came in contact felt impelled
to do their best for him, let their opinion of him be what it would.

"Well, we thought you must be lost!" called Brady from the height of
the rocks. "We have all had supper; but we have kept some for you."

"Thanks," answered Flint, from below, "I am sorry you had the trouble,
for I took mine at the tavern before I started."

This was more than the descendant of Miles Standish could bear. With
a bang, she emptied the coffee-pot and knocked out the grounds, as her
ancestor had shaken the arrows out of the snake-skin to replace them
with bullets. Henceforth, she was implacable; and yet Flint never
dreamed that he had given offence. Imperfect sympathies again!

Winifred Anstice, whose misfortune it was to be peculiarly sensitive
to disturbances in the atmosphere, jumped up from under the pine where
she had been sitting with Brady. "Come," she said, "let's all sit down
around the fire. I want Leonard to recite for us. Will you, Leon?"

Flattered, yet embarrassed, the young fisherman rose from his
occupation of tying up the baskets, and drew nearer. As he stood in
front of the fire, Flint looked at him with a thrill of æsthetic
admiration. His red shirt, open at the throat, showed a splendid chest
and a neck on which his head was firmly and strongly poised. His hair,
curling tightly, revealed the well-shaped outline of the skull, and
the profile was classic in its regularity. "And that little fool
doesn't know enough to fall in love with him!" thought Flint.

"What'll you have, Miss Fred?" asked Leonard.

"Whatever you like."

"Wal, then, ef you'd jes ez lief, I'll say 'Marmion.' I was learned
it at school." Throwing off his cap and striking a dramatic pose, he
began:--

      "The Douglas round him drew his cloak."

It is marvellous, the power of strong feeling to communicate itself
through all barriers. True emotion is the X-ray which can penetrate
all matter,--yes, and all spirit too.

The hackneyed words burned again with the freshness of their primal
enthusiasm. Again Douglas spurned, and Marmion flung him back scorn
for scorn. It was not acting. Leonard Davitt could never have thrown
fire into a rôle which did not appeal to him; but this lived. He put
his soul into it, and he drew out the soul from his audience.

"I must go now," he said, when he had finished, having ducked his head
shyly in response to the applause, and picked up his cap. "I'm goin'
off at sunrise."

"Where are you going, Leon?" queried Winifred Anstice, coming up to
him where he stood not far off from the spot where Flint, in dead
shadow, leaned against the trunk of a giant pine.

"Goin' off bars-fishin' for a week with the men from the Pint,"
Leonard answered, and then added in a lower tone, "you won't forget
your promise, Miss Fred."

"No, I will not forget; but you must try not to cherish hard feeling."

"Oh, I don't say it's his fault. Mebbe it's hers."

"Perhaps it's nobody's, and perhaps there's no harm done after
all,--at any rate, none that can't be undone."

"Yes, there is," Leonard answered gloomily. "The past can't never come
back, and things won't never be the same."

"Oh, cheer up!" Winifred answered more hopefully. "Your going away is
the best thing under the circumstances, and I'll do what I can for
you; but I wish it were anything else."

"Thank you, marm, and good-bye!" With another shy duck, Leonard let
himself down over the rocks and sculled out into the strip of rippling
moonlight which stretched across the bay.

The moonlight fell also upon Winifred Anstice's face as she stood
looking after him, and showed a pathetic little quiver about the
mouth. An instant later, she dashed the back of her hand across her
eyes, and exclaimed, half aloud, "It's too bad; I've no patience with
him."

"What a clear night it is!" said Flint, stepping out from the shadows.

Winifred started a little. "I thought you were sitting by the fire,"
she said rather abruptly.

"Indeed," Flint answered. It was one of his peculiarities never to be
drawn on to the explanations to which most people are driven by the
mere necessity of saying something. After all, he had as good a right
to the place where he was as Miss Anstice herself. Miss Anstice
perhaps was thinking the same thought, for she made no response, only
stood twisting and untwisting a bit of lawn handkerchief which bade
fair to be worn out before it reached home. At length, with the air of
one nerving herself to a difficult task, she turned about and faced
Flint. Lifting her clear gray eyes full to his, she began
hesitatingly:--

"Mr. Flint."

"Yes, Miss Anstice."

"Will you do me a favor?"

"Assuredly."

"No, not an 'assuredly' favor, but a real favor."

"If I can."

"Will you do it blindly?"

"No, I will do it with my eyes open."

"You cannot."

"Try me!"

The girl shifted her eyes from his face to the path of moon beams in
which Leonard's boat floated far off like a dark speck against the
ripples of light. When she went on, it was in a lower tone, with a
note in her voice which Flint had never heard there before,--the note
of appeal.

"I am going to ask you a very strange thing," she said; "I would not
ask it if I could see any other way."

"Surely, Miss Anstice, you cannot doubt my willingness to oblige you
in any way. You have only to command me."

"But it is not to oblige me. It is--oh, dear! I can't explain, but I
want you to go away."

Flint rose instantly.

"No, no, not away from this spot, but from Nepaug. That's it," she
went on insistently; "I want you to leave Nepaug."

Flint stared at her for a moment, as if in doubt whether to question
her sanity or her seriousness. The latter he could not doubt, as he
looked at her eager attitude, her hands tightly interlaced, her head
bent a little forward, and a spot of deep red sharply outlined on
either cheek. Suddenly the meaning of her conversation with Leonard
flashed across his mind; but it brought only further puzzlement. He
motioned Winifred to sit down upon the great tree which lay its length
on the earth, overthrown by the last storm, and with stones and
upturned dirt still clinging to its branching roots.

"Are you sure," he said gravely, as he took a seat beside her,--"are
you sure that you are doing right to keep me in the dark?"

"I think so; I hope so."

"Of course I know you would not ask such a thing if there were not
something serious back of it all; and since it so nearly concerns me,
it seems to me I have a right to know it."

Dead silence reigned for some minutes. Then Winifred said, speaking
low and hurriedly:

"Yes, you are right; I ought to tell you,--I know I ought; but it is
so hard. Why isn't it Mr. Brady! He would understand."

"Perhaps if you would explain," Flint began with unusual patience.

"Well, then, it is about Tilly Marsden, who has been engaged these two
years to Leonard Davitt; and now she refuses to marry him, and he
thinks it is because she is in love with someone else. _Surely_ you
understand _now_."

"No, upon my soul, I don't. You can't mean that the little
shop-girl--the maid-of-all-work at the inn--is--thinks she is in love
with--"

"With you; exactly."

"But I have hardly spoken to her."

The silence which followed implied that the situation was none the
less likely on that account. The implication tinged Flint's manner
with irritation.

"I suppose I am very dull; but I confess I don't understand these
people."

"Have you ever tried to understand them?" returned Winifred, with a
sudden outburst of the indignation which had long been gathering in
her heart against the man before her.

"Haven't you always thought of them only as they ministered to your
comfort, like the other farm animals? Is it really anything to you
that this narrow-minded girl has conceived a very silly, but none the
less unhappy, sentiment for you?"

"I--" began Flint, but the flood would have its way.

"Oh, yes, it annoys you, I dare say. You feel your dignity a little
touched by it; but does it move your pity, your chivalry? If it
does--Oh, go away!"

Flint would have given much to feel a fever heat of anger, to flame
out against the audacity of the girl with an indignation overtopping
her own; but he only felt himself growing more cold and rigid. He told
himself that she had misunderstood him hopelessly, utterly. There was
a certain aggrieved satisfaction in the thought. He had risen, and
stood leaning against a tree. Winifred wondered at her own courage, as
she saw him standing there stiff and haughty.

"I shall go, of course," he said at length. "My absence seems to be
the only sure method of producing universal content. But let me ask
you one question before I go. Do you consider me to blame in this
unlucky business?"

Winifred parried the question by another.

"Why should I tell you, when you don't care in the least what I
think?"

"If I did not, I should not ask you, and I think I have a right to
demand an answer."

"I can hardly answer you fairly. Is ice to blame for being ice and not
sun? We cannot say. We only know that we are chilled. I always have
the feeling that with those you consider your equals, you might be
genial and responsive; but the joys and sorrows of the great world of
uninteresting, commonplace people about you have no power to touch
your sympathies. Of course, in a way, it is not your fault that you
never noticed Tilly Marsden's manner--"

"I am not a cad who goes about investigating the sentiments of--of
women like that. But you have your impressions of my character fully
formed, and I shall not be guilty of the folly of trying to change
them. To-morrow, I shall relieve Nepaug of my objectionable presence,
and, I hope, you will cease to fear me as a disturbing element when I
am far away at my office-desk."

"You are going back to New York?" echoed Winifred, uncertainly,
realizing all of a sudden what it was that she was sending him away
from, and to what she was consigning him.

"Yes, of course," Flint answered a little impatiently.

"I am sorry," the girl began lamely. It was just dawning upon her that
it was not so easy to control the destinies of other people, as she
had fancied.

"Oh, that is all right!" her companion responded more cheerfully; "New
York in summer is not half so bad as you people who never stay there
probably imagine."

"I don't know," said Winifred; "to me it seems dreadful to be shut up
inside brick walls, or walking on hot paving-stones, when one might be
sitting under green trees, or by rolling waves, breathing in the fresh
country air. But I suppose I feel so because while I was growing up I
never lived in a large city."

"Indeed! How was that? I should think your father's profession would
have kept him in the city."

"Oh, it does now, of course; but for years after my mother's death he
was so broken down that he could not bear to mix with people at all,
and he chose to bury himself out on a Western ranch, and there I grew
up with no more training than the little Indian girls who used to come
to the house with beads and things to sell. It was a queer life for a
girl; but it was great sport."

Winifred had almost forgotten her companion for the moment in her
thoughts of the past; but as he rubbed his hand across his forehead in
the effort to recall something, she mistook the gesture for a sign of
weariness, and reproached herself for her egotistical garrulity.

"I do wish," she said hastily, "that there were some way out of this
unlucky matter,--some way which would not send you back so
unseasonably."

"Never mind that," Flint answered; "my vacation was almost at an end,
anyway. I am really needed now at the office of the 'Trans-Continental.'"

"The 'Trans-Continental'?" echoed Winifred. "Do you work on that
magazine?"

"Yes, I do a little writing for it occasionally."

"Then perhaps you know the editor--the chief editor, I mean."

"Yes, he is a friend of mine."

"I envy you the privilege of calling such a man your friend. Oh, you
may smile if you choose, but perhaps, after all, you do not know him
as well as I do. I have never seen him, I don't even know his name,
and yet I have a clear picture of him in my mind. And he has been so
kind--so good to me. His letters have helped me more than he will ever
know." Here a sudden thought seemed to strike the girl, and she
lifted beseeching eyes to his face.

"You won't try to make him dislike me, will you? I know you never did
like me. I saw it the first time we met, when I was driving that
wretched colt, and we ran over your fishing-rod, and then, the next
day on the pond, and ever since, things have steadily kept going wrong
between us. So, of course, it would be quite natural for you to talk
about it all to him; and then he would never like me any more, and I
do want him to."

For an instant Flint felt a mad desire to keep up the illusion; but he
himself was too much shaken to have played his part if he would.

"Miss Anstice," he said, "_I_ am the editor of the
'Trans-Continental.'"

Without another word, he swung himself down by the pine-bough to the
gravelly beach, and, pushing off the dory, slipped out over the same
moonlit course which Leonard had travelled. Winifred watched him till
his boat had rounded the Point; then she turned back to the camp-fire
in a daze. Do what she would, she could not shake off the spell of
those last words: "_I_ am the editor of the 'Trans-Continental.'"



                              CHAPTER XI

                          THE POINT OF VIEW


_Extract from the Journal of Miss Susan Standish. Nepaug, August First._

            [_From which it will appear that contemporary
                journals are not always trustworthy._]


This August weather is really unbearable. Nobody but flies can be
happy in it, and they are part of the general misery. I sleep with a
handkerchief over my face to keep off the pests; but I invariably wake
to find one perching on every unprotected spot, and the others buzzing
about my ears, and making such a noise that I can't sleep a wink after
five o'clock.

It is a very long time between five o'clock and breakfast. It would be
a sufficient incentive to a blameless life, to know beforehand that
you were to be condemned to think over your past for three mortal
hours every morning.

This is what I do; and though I suppose I have been as respectable as
most people, I find cold shivers running down my back when I remember
some things, and the blushes of a girl of sixteen mounting to my
wrinkled forehead, when I think of others. On the whole, the silly
things are the worst. I think at the Judgment Day I would rather
answer up to my sins than my sillinesses--especially if my relatives
were waiting round. The only way I can turn my thoughts out of the
uncomfortable reminiscent channel which they make for themselves at
five o'clock in the morning, is to think as hard as I can about
somebody else. Lately, I don't find this so difficult; for our
household here at Nepaug includes some interesting people, and,
moreover, some very queer things have happened lately, I thank Heaven,
I have none of Dr. Cricket's curiosity; but I should be ashamed if I
were so indifferent to those about me as not to take an interest in
their concerns. This interest has led me of late to ponder on recent
events, and speculate as to their causes.

When I asked some very simple and natural questions of Winifred
Anstice, she snapped at me like a snapping-turtle; but I did not
discontinue my investigation on that account. On the contrary, I
resolved to be all the more watchful; and when it comes to putting two
and two together, there are few who have a more mathematical mind than
Susan Standish.

On Friday evening, we had a picnic supper at Eagle Rock.

Mr. Flint (superior as usual) preferred to go in the only society
which interests him, and therefore set off _alone_ in his dory. His
absence did not have any visibly depressing effect on the party in the
sail-boat. Winifred was at her very best; and Philip Brady seemed to
appreciate her. If I were a matchmaker, I should have tried to throw
them together, for they do seem just cut out for each other; in spite
of all my efforts to give them opportunities of making each other's
acquaintance on intimate terms, they never appeared to take advantage
of them. But on Friday it was different. In the first place, anything
more warm-blooded than an oyster must have fallen in love with
Winifred at first sight on that evening. She wore a white flannel
yachting-dress, and a red-felt hat cocked up on one side, and as she
stood against the sail in the sunset, she was--Well, I'm too old to be
silly; but really that girl is something worth looking at when she is
nice. To-day, she looked like a frump, and talked like a fury.

The wind on Friday died out soon after we started; and at one time I
was afraid Mr. Flint would have the satisfaction of getting to the
Point before us; but, providentially, it sprang up again and, indeed,
I need not have worried, for it seemed he was afraid of being bored,
and did not start till six o'clock. Brady says he was always like
that, even in college; that when they were invited anywhere, Flint
would always put off the start, and would say, "Your coming away
depends on your hostess; but your going depends upon yourself."

"If it had been _my_ house," said I, "his _staying_ away would have
depended on his hostess. I have no patience with a rude man."

"Flint rude?" said Philip.

"Most decidedly rude, I should say."

"Oh, but he is not rude. He is only indifferent."

"Indifference is rudeness."

"Then I'm afraid, Miss Standish," broke in Winifred, "we must all be
rude to most of the world. That is, unless we belong to the Salvation
Army, like Nora Costello, and take an interest in everybody or rather
every soul."

"Very remarkable girl, that Nora Costello," said Philip. "I don't
quite know what it was that made her so interesting."

"_I_ know," answered Winifred, with a little laugh; "it was her
looks."

"Or her manner," suggested Philip.

"Oh, her manner without her looks would not have carried at all.
Manners are only thunder. It is looks that strike."

"You should know," Philip said quite low. Just at this moment Jimmy
Anstice, with that exasperatingly inopportune way of his, called
out:--

"Look, Fred! Did you see that fish jump? Gracious! He must have gone
up two feet! What makes a fish jump? Papa, Papa, do you hear me? What
makes a fish jump?"

"I don't know, my dear; I suppose to get food, or because he wants
air."

"Then why doesn't he jump oftener?"

It has always been one of Professor Anstice's pet theories that a
child's mental development is promoted by the stimulation of
intellectual curiosity. As a result, Jimmy has been encouraged to ask
questions to an extent which the world at large finds somewhat
tiresome. For my part, I think one of the most useful accomplishments
connected with the tongue is the art of holding it; and I believe in
its early acquirement by the young.

After Jimmy's curiosity in regard to the habits of fish had expended
itself, there was no more _tête-à-tête_. Everybody was shouting this
way and that; and then the boat brought up at the rocks, and those of
us who could jump, jumped out, and those who couldn't, clambered out;
and Jimmy Anstice flopped into the water above his knees, as usual,
and had to sit by the fire getting dry, when he should have been
running errands and making himself useful. Small boys, being neither
ornamental nor interesting, should be either useful or absent.

Winifred and Brady started off after driftwood. I invited Ben to help
me with the coffee; but he said, "Presently," and made off after the
other two. Really, that boy may come to something if he selects his
profession with care. He can't see when he's not wanted, which may
make him a success in the ministry.

Well, at last, we got our two fires started, and the tablecloth
spread; and the coffee tasted so good I just hoped Mr. Flint would
come to have some, because he made some disagreeable remarks in the
morning on the subject of picnics. Some people are never satisfied
unless they can spoil the enjoyment of others.

While we were eating, everybody was jolly and all went well, except
that Philip would tell stories,--Western stories about "commercial
gents" and "drummer hotels" and such things. He tells a story very
well; but he also tells it very long. With the tact upon which I
justly pride myself, I tried to shut him up or draw him off; but each
time Winifred would bring him right back, with "What was it you were
just going to tell, Mr. Brady?" or "As you were saying when Miss
Standish began," I was a good deal annoyed, for I couldn't quite make
out whether she was really interested, or whether she was making fun
of us both. Now I have a very keen sense of humor; but I don't like a
joke at my expense. At last Philip offered to give us a comic poem
from the "Bison Spike;" but _that_ I _couldn't_ stand; and I pretended
that the coffee was boiling over, and Winifred jumped up to attend to
it. Philip, of course, went to her assistance, and afterward, as he
stood before the fire with Winifred beside him, I could not help
thinking what a fine looking couple they would make. His golf suit
brought out the fine proportions of his stalwart figure. The firelight
played over his firm chin, his broad, square forehead, and his frank,
kind eyes. He would make a good husband for any girl; and a judicious
wife could soon break him of his habit of telling stories.

I dare say they would have had an interesting talk, if Ben Bradford
had not come up with his hands full of stone chips, which he calls
arrowheads. That ridiculous boy walks the furrows of old Marsden's
potato-fields for hours together, with the sun blistering the back of
his neck, quite contented if he brings home a dirty bit of stone,
which his imagination fits out with points and grooves. At Flying
Point, he had apparently reaped a rich harvest of these treasures. His
companions inspected them with civil but languid curiosity. While they
were turning them this way and that, and striving hard to be
convinced that the bulkiest had undoubtedly been employed by the
Indians as a pestle for corn-grinding, we heard the grating of a boat
on the beach. Of course it was Mr. Flint.

Ben called out to him to hurry up and have some coffee before it was
cold; to which he coolly answered that he had had supper before he
started; and there I had put off ours half an hour for him, and then
kept the coffee boiling another half hour! I would have liked to shake
him.

Winifred saw that I was justly indignant; and though she can be as
peppery as anybody over her own quarrels, she is always bent on
smoothing down other people; so she called out:--

"Well, fortunately, Mr. Flint, you are not too late for 'the feast of
reason and the flow of soul;' and I am sure you did not get that all
alone there at the inn." I wondered if he appreciated that rather neat
little stab. Winifred does those things well, with a demure manner
which leaves people in doubt whether her remarks are vicious or simply
blundering. "Come, Leon," she added, turning to young Davitt, "you
know you promised to recite something for us."

Leonard stood up like a boy at school, and recited the speech from
"Marmion" where he and Douglas give it to each other like Dr. Cricket
and a hom[oe]opathic physician. Then he bobbed his head, just like a
schoolboy again, and said he must go. Winifred followed him, and
spoke to him, almost in a whisper. What they were talking about I
could not catch; but I heard her say, "I will do it for you, Leon; but
I wish to goodness it were anything else." Then Leonard answered, just
as if she had given him some great thing: "Oh, thank you, thank you!"
and then he disappeared. At the same moment Mr. Flint took his place
by her side.

Instead of joining us all, and making a jolly party, what does he do
but stand in the shadow of the three big pines talking to Winifred in
that insultingly low voice which seems to imply that people are
listening. I did, however, catch one or two things. I distinctly heard
Winifred say: "Oh, do go away!" and I heard him say: "I hope you will
cease to fear me when--" There I lost it again; but what could it
mean? Winifred _fear_ him!--fear _him_! She, who never feared the face
of clay! There is only one explanation, and yet that is too wildly
improbable!

I never saw any one more unlikely to inspire an affection. Flint by
name and Flint by nature,--cold and hard as rock itself; and for a
girl like Winifred! It never could be!--and yet, I confess, I don't
know what to think.

After they had talked together for some time, he swung himself down
the bank, pushed off the dory, and we saw him pulling rapidly into the
middle of the bay.

"Well, if that doesn't beat the Dutch!" said Dr. Cricket.

"Hi, there!" cried Ben; and Brady, standing up, waved his hat, and
hallooed through his hand with a volume of voice that could be heard
all the way to Nepaug. But though Flint hallooed in return, he never
changed his course, nor slackened his speed.

When Winifred came back to us, a color like flame burned in her
cheeks, and her eyes were bright with unshed tears. No one but me
noticed it. Every one fell upon her with questions.

"What's the matter?"

"Why did he leave so suddenly?"

"Why did he come at all?"

"What did he have to say for himself?"

"Was this rude, or only indifferent?"

"Don't bury me under such an avalanche of inquiry," said Winifred,
with a little artificial laugh. "There really is nothing very
mysterious about Mr. Flint's departure. He is not a flying Dutchman. I
don't think he wanted to come at all; but he was afraid we might
think something had happened if he failed to appear. Ben, the fire
needs another log. Mr. Brady, did you bring your banjo, as you
promised?"

This was a master-stroke,--divert and conquer,--presto, Ben was off
after wood, and Philip tuning up for alleged "melodies;" but I was not
so easily put off the track.

"It took him some time to make his excuses," I said to her aside. She
looked up quickly.

"You are too shrewd to be put off like the others, Miss Standish; but
don't say anything more,--I'm so awfully tired."

The poor girl did look used up, and I knew she was longing to get
home, so I coughed violently, and asked Dr. Cricket for my shawl.

"You are taking cold," said he.

"Oh, don't mention it," I answered.

"But I will mention it," persisted the dear old goose. "You mustn't
stay out in this damp air."

"Don't let me break up the party."

"The party is all ready to break up, and it's time it did."

"Oh, yes," added Winifred in a tone of relief. "Do let us be going."

So that was the end of our Flying Point expedition. I might have
forgotten the episode in the shadow of the three pines, or at any rate
have come to the conclusion that I had failed to catch the true
meaning of the words I heard; but for the sequel.

The next morning Mr. Flint appeared on the porch as usual, but instead
of the cap and flannel shirt, the knickerbockers and canvas shoes
which formed his familiar Nepaug costume, he was attired in ordinary
citizen's dress. I must admit that the straw hat, linen collar, and
close-fitting blue suit were decidedly becoming; and, bitter as I felt
against him on Winifred's account (she came down to breakfast
confessing that she had not slept a wink), I was forced to admit that
Mr. Flint was a gentleman,--even a gentleman with a certain
distinction.

"Yes," he answered to the chorus of questions which met him, "I am
going back to town to-day. Yes, as you say, Mr. Anstice, quite
unexpected; but business men can't expect the vacations that fall to
the lot of college professors. Dr. Cricket, I believe you said you
were going on to New York to-night. I shall be glad if you will drop
in and have breakfast with me to-morrow morning at 'The Chancellor.'
That will give me the latest budget of news from Nepaug. Have you any
commissions, Miss Standish? What, none? I assure you, my eye for
matching silks is quite trustworthy. Now you, Jim, have more
confidence in me,--what can I send you from town?"

"A fishing-rod."

Flint and Winifred Anstice turned and looked at each other. What it
meant, I don't know; but I saw her color up to her hair. The others
had turned away for a moment to watch a schooner which had just come
in sight round the Point. Flint went up close to Winifred and said:
"And you--what will you have?"

"Your pardon."

"That you cannot have, for you don't need it. Will you take my thanks
instead?"

"You are too generous."

"With thanks?--that is easy. They are 'the exchequer of the poor.'"

"I trust, Mr. Flint," said Professor Anstice, who, having withdrawn
his attention from the schooner, could now bring it to bear nearer
home,--"I trust we may not altogether lose sight of you after these
pleasant days together, I shall be glad--"

"Papa!"

"Yes, my dear, I know you should be included. My daughter and I will
be glad to see you at our house on Stuyvesant Square." With this he
pulled out a card, but, discovering in time that it contained the
address of his typewriter, he returned it to his pocket and
substituted his own.

"I thank you," said Flint, with more of human heartiness in his voice
than I had ever heard before,--"I thank you, and I shall not fail to
avail myself of the privilege. Here comes the carryall! Good-bye!"

A moment later he was gone. Dr. Cricket goes by the night boat this
evening, and Philip Brady leaves on Monday. How dull we shall be!



                             CHAPTER XII

                            "PIPPA PASSES"


The train for New York came along duly, and Flint clambered into it as
quickly as the impediment of his luggage permitted. He stowed away his
belongings in the car-rack,--his bag, umbrella, and the overcoat which
seemed a sarcasm upon the torrid heat of the car. A flat, square
package which formed part of his luggage he treated with more
respectful courtesy, giving it the window-seat, and watching with care
lest it slip from the position in which he had propped it.

When the engine ceased to puff, and the bell to ring, when the wheels
began to revolve and the landscape to move slowly out of sight, Flint
leaned out of the window for one more glance at the dull little
cluster of houses, beautiful only for what it connoted; then he drew
in his head, and settled himself against the cushions of wool plush to
which railroad companies treat their passengers in August.

He was not in an enviable frame of mind. He felt like a fool who had
been masquerading as a martyr. He had given up two weeks of vacation,
of rest and comfort and health-giving breezes fresh from the
uncontaminable ocean, to go back to the noisy pavements, the clanging
car-bells, the noisome odors of the city,--and all for what? Simply
because a jealous fisherman and a hysterically sympathetic young woman
chose to foist it upon him as his duty.

Duty? Why was it his duty? What was duty after all? Did it not include
doing to yourself as others would have you do unto them? Decidedly, he
had been a fool. As for Tilly Marsden--here a vague and--shall I
confess it?--not wholly uncomplacent pang smote him, as he remembered
her red eyes, and the trembling of her hand as she set the doughnuts
before him this morning. There was one who would for a day or two, at
least, genuinely regret his departure. Let that be set off against the
aggressive benevolence of Miss Standish's parting, indicating, as it
did, unalloyed satisfaction.

From Miss Standish, his thoughts wandered to the other inmates of the
White-House. Ben Bradford at this hour would be lounging over the golf
field, driver in hand, making himself believe that he was taking
exercise. Dr. Cricket, no doubt, was playing chess with Miss Standish
(beating her, he hoped); and Winifred Anstice--what was she doing?
Leaning back, perhaps, in the hammock, as he had seen her so often
lately, with one arm thrown over her head, pillowed against the mass
of cardinal cushions. Was she feeling a little remorseful, and
bestowing a regretful thought upon the man whom she was driving away
from all the coolness and comfort which she was experiencing? If he
could be sure of that, he could forgive her; but, as likely as not,
she was driving cheerfully about the country behind Marsden's colt,
smiling, perhaps, as she recalled the series of misadventures which
had marked her acquaintance with the supercilious stranger whose
civility she and her colt had put to rout.

Flint's morbid musings had taken more time than he realized, for at
this point, to his surprise, the conductor thrust his head in at the
door shouting, _New_ London, as if the passengers were likely to
mistake it for the older city on the other Thames. Here a boy came
aboard the train with a basket laden with oranges, scalloped
gingerbread, and papers of popcorn labelled, "Take some home."

The misguided youth tried to insinuate a package into Flint's lap, but
was met with an abrupt demand to remove it with haste. His successor,
bearing a load of New York afternoon papers, fared better. Flint
selected an "Evening Post," and, leaning back in his corner, strove
to find oblivion from the wriggling of the small child in front, and
the wailing of the infant in the rear of the car.

Hotter and hotter, the blistering sun beat upon the station; and, as
though the misery were not already great enough, an engine, panting
apparently with the heat, must needs draw up close beside Flint's
window.

In vain did he try to concentrate his attention upon the Condition of
the Finances, the Great Strike in Pittsburg, or the Latest Dynamite
Plot in Russia. Between him and the printed page rose the vision of
cool, translucent waves crawling up the long reach of damp sand to
break at last upon the little shelf of slippery stones. Could it be
that only yesterday he was tumbling about in that surf, and to-day
_here_? He thought vaguely what a good moral the contrast would have
pointed to the sixteenthly of one of his great ancestor's sermons;
then he fell to wondering if the old gentleman's theology would have
stood the strain of an experience like this. Fancy even this carful
doomed to an eternal August journey! Ah, the car is moving again!
Thank Heaven for that! Purgatory after Hell approaches Paradise.

On and on the train jogs, over flat marshes, past white-spired
churches, and factory chimneys belching forth their quota of heat and
smoke. The twin rocks, which guard New Haven, loom in view at last;
and Flint feels that he is drawing towards home. If it were not for
the square, flat package, he would get out and stretch his legs by a
walk on the platform. As it is, he picks up the package tenderly, and
transports it to the smoking-car. The air here, although filled with
smoke, seems more bearable. The leather seats, too, are more
tolerable, as his hand falls on them, and, best of all, he can light
his pipe here. With the first puff dawns a serenity with which neither
faith nor philosophy had been able to endue the journey hitherto.

After all, what are two weeks?--a mere trifle; and he can make it up
by a run down to the Virginia Springs in October. This will give a
good quiet time too, for the foreign "Review" critiques. The libraries
are empty at this time of year, and he can study in peace. Of course
there will be a pile of letters waiting for him.

With that reflection, came, irresistibly, the thought of Winifred
Anstice, and their curious, mutually deceptive correspondence. In the
swiftly thronging events of the last twenty-four hours, he had
scarcely had time to let his mind dwell upon that strange clearing up
between them last night. He smiled, unconsciously, as he remembered
the look of utter bewilderment in those great eyes of hers.

"Candy, sir, peanuts, oranges, and gingerbread! Popcorn in papers!
Take some home?" With this the train-boy, quite oblivious that this
was the same person who had met his advances so cavalierly in the
other car, again held out an olive branch, this time a cornucopia
marked "Ridley, best broken candy."

To his own surprise, Flint felt himself fingering in his pocket for a
dime, and heard himself say, "That's all right, I don't want the
stuff. Take it in to that little chap in a striped suit, in the next
car,--dirty little beggar, wriggled like an eel all day. This will
probably make him wriggle all night. Never mind, serves him right."

The boy grinned.

A passenger in the next seat turned round.

"It is pleasant," he said with a smile, "to see such kindness of heart
survive on a day like this."

"Sir," answered Flint, "don't mistake me for a philanthropist. I make
a small, but honest livelihood at a different calling."

The man's smile died out in a little disappointment; and he turned
again to his paper. Imperfect sympathies! Flint took up his paper
also, and read until the sudden shutting off of light warned him that
the train had entered the tunnel. Through the checkered darkness, he
made his way back; his flat, square package under his arm, to the
other car, where all was in the confusion of preparation for arrival.
The pale little mother of the wriggling boy looked up, as he entered.

"Thank you, sir," she began; "it was very kind in you--"

"Not at all, madam; the boy would have been much better without it,"
Flint answered. The art of being thanked gracefully is a difficult
one, and Flint had never acquired it.

The train came to a standstill with a jerk which, but for Flint's hand
put out to steady her, would have thrown the pale little woman to the
floor. He stopped at the car-steps, lifted her and her bundles, her
boy and her bird-cage, to the platform, then, touching his hat
hurriedly, as if in nervous fear of being thanked again, he made off
at full speed to the outlet, where his ears were greeted with the
familiar sounds of--

"Cab, sir? Cab? Cab? Have a cab?" which sounded like the chorus of a
Chinese opera. "No, I won't have a cab, unless you intend to treat me
to a free ride," Flint remarked, ironically, to the nearest applicant,
and then swung himself aboard the yellow car at the corner.

As it made its way downtown, he was struck with the strangeness which
the city had assumed, after so short an absence. It did not look like
New York at all; and he could not remember noticing before how large
a part of the population lived on the street. It reminded him of
Naples. He was forced to admit, too, that it had a certain charm of
its own,--a charm which deepened as he reached "The Chancellor," the
bachelor apartment-house which did duty for a home to a score of
unmarried men. He was met by the janitor with a cordiality born of the
remembrance of many past gratuities. Yes, his telegram ("wire," the
man in uniform called it) had been received, and his rooms were in
order. He pulled out his latch-key and turned it in the lock. The door
opened on an interior pleasantly familiar, yet piquantly removed from
the dulness of every-day acquaintance. The matting was agreeable to
his foot. The green bronze Narcissus in the corner beckoned
invitingly; above all, the porcelain tub in the bath-room beyond, with
its unlimited supply of water, and sybaritic variety of towels,
appealed to him irresistibly. Into it he plunged with all despatch,
and emerged more cheerful, as well as less begrimed.

An hour later, clad in fresh linen, white vest, and thin summer suit,
he sallied forth in search of dinner. He felt that he had earned a
good one, and did not intend to scrimp himself. After a moment's
deliberation, he turned into Fifth Avenue, and, at Twenty-sixth
Street, made his way through the open door of Delmonico's. He saw
with pleasure that his favorite table (the second from the corner on
the street, not too conspicuous, and yet commanding the avenue) was
vacant. He slipped into the chair which the waiter drew out for him,
and took up the bill of fare. With the sight of the menu, he felt his
flickering appetite revive; but it was still capricious, and would not
brook the thought of meat. Little-Neck clams, of course. They seemed
to convey a delicate intimation to the waiting stomach of favors to
come. Soup? No, too hot for soup. Frogs' legs à la McVickar? Yes, he
would have those, though he did not exactly know what "à la McVickar"
indicated, and felt that he should lose caste with the waiter by
inquiring. When that functionary recommended a bite of broiled
tenderloin, prepared with Madeira sauce, and the addition of fresh
mushrooms and a small sweetbread, he allowed himself to be persuaded.
An English snipe, with chicory salad and some cheese, with coffee,
completed his order. Oh, and a pint of Rudesheimer with it!

The waiter departed; and Flint, not hungry enough to be impatient,
settled back in his chair with the damp evening paper unopened beside
him. The sigh he gave was one of satisfaction, rather than regret. His
gastronomic taste was to some extent feminine. He cared as much for
the service as for the thing served, and found a carnal gratification
in the shining glass and the table linen, smoothed to the verge of
slipperiness. Really, he wondered how he could have endured the Nepaug
Inn so long.

A hand laid upon his shoulder caused him to turn his head quickly.

"Halloa, Graham! You here?"

"Yes, we sail on the 'Etruria' to-morrow,--only in town over night.
Beastly hot, isn't it? My wife is here. Come over, won't you, and let
me present you?"

Now Mr. Jonas Harrington Graham, though one of the most fashionable,
was by no means the best beloved of Flint's acquaintance; and it was
with an inward conviction of perjury that he murmured, "Most happy,
I'm sure," and made his way to the table by the centre window which
the Grahams had selected. The lady already seated there was sleek and
well appointed. Flint noticed that the people at the other tables did
her the honor to prolong their casual glance to an instant's critical
inspection. The women studied her costume of black with white lace as
if wondering whether the confection of a Parisian artist might not be
successfully duplicated by a domestic dressmaker (as it never can,
ladies). The men's gaze generalized more, but had in it a hint of
approbation which Flint found offensive. He did not relish the idea
of making one of a restaurant party which challenged observation; but
he perceived at once that it was unavoidable. Mrs. Graham was very
gracious, and insisted, with much emphasis, that he should take his
dinner with them.

"You _must_ come and dine with us at our table. You look _so_ lonely
over there," she remarked. "I have some sympathy with bachelors. My
husband was one once."

"Yes," answered Flint; "I knew him in those pre-madamite days."

This allusion was too occult for Mrs. Graham. She smiled the smile of
assent without apprehension, and asked if Flint had been at Bar Harbor
this summer. He should have been; it was _so_ pleasant. The young man
felt a wild desire to set forth the rival charms of Nepaug, and urge
her to try it next season. The thought of her and her husband settled
at the inn made him smile as he saw her lift a roll in her delicately
ringed fingers, and smooth back the lace of her cuffs. What would
happen, he wondered, if she were seated before a Nepaug dinner, with a
Nepaug tablecloth and napkin?

"I have not been so far afield as Mount Desert," he answered, with an
irrepressible smile at his own thoughts. "I stayed in town till July,
and then I went to Nepaug. Perhaps you never heard of that delightful
summer resort?"

"Nepaug? Nepaug?" repeated Mrs. Graham, with as near an approach to
reflection as she ever permitted herself. "Why, that's where Winifred
Anstice was going! Do you know Winifred Anstice?"

"Do _you_ know her?" Flint questioned in his turn, in some surprise.

"Oh, dear, yes; we met her one summer when we were travelling in the
West. We were visiting on the same ranch. Mr. Graham quite lost his
head over her; didn't you, dear?"

"Well, I was a little touched. She showed up uncommonly well out
there,--rode a broncho, and beat all the men firing a pistol."

"Yes," his wife added, "and then so clever--so _frightfully_ clever.
Why, I've seen her _reading_ before breakfast, and not a novel either.
You and she must have enjoyed each other; for Mr. Graham tells me you
are--"

"Frightfully clever, too? Don't believe any such slander, I beg of
you, Mrs. Graham! It is not fair to blast a man's reputation like that
at the very outset. What chance would there be for me in society, if
such a rumor got abroad?"

"Well," responded Mrs. Graham, "there's a great deal of truth in what
you say. It's very nice of course to be lively and good company, and
all that; but when it comes to right down cleverness, and particularly
bookish cleverness, it does stand in a man's way socially. At the
smartest houses, they don't want to be talked down, and still less to
be written up afterward. I don't feel so myself. I just _dote_ on
literary people; but then I am called positively blue."

"What was there to do at Nepaug?" asked Mr. Graham, who had not
followed the intricacies of his wife's remarks. "Any good shooting?"

"I'm afraid not, unless you rode a cow and shot at a goat," Flint
answered, and was rather relieved to have the conversation drift away
on to the comparative merits, as hunting-grounds, of the different
sections of the country. The subject was not specially exciting to
Flint; but it was at least impersonal, and he felt an unaccountable
aversion to hearing any further discussion of Winifred Anstice.

The diners had advanced to the meat course,--Graham having
complimented Flint so far as to duplicate his order, with the addition
of an ice for Mrs. Graham and Pommery Sec for the party,--when a noise
was heard further up the avenue. The sound drew nearer, and the notes
of a brass band tooted a lively tune which re-echoed from the walls of
the Brunswick, and drew a crowd from the benches of the square.
Several people in the restaurant left their places, and came to the
window to investigate the commotion. Flint himself rose, napkin in
hand, and stood under the blaze of the lights, looking out.

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Graham, raising her lorgnon as the procession
came in sight, "it's that horrid Salvation Army!"

"Bless me! so it is," assented her husband, adjusting his eye-glass.
"Pretty girl, though, that--in the front row with the tambourine."

Flint's eyes followed his companion's, and saw Nora Costello walking a
few paces in advance of her comrades, the electric light from the
northern edge of the square falling on her pale face and rings of
dark, curling hair.

The tambourines jangled discordantly; the brass instruments were out
of tune; the rag-tag crowd surged about, some jeering, some
cheering,--everything in the environment was repellent, but in the
midst shone that pale face like a star.

Attracted by the brilliant lights within, or perhaps impelled by that
curious psychic law which arrests the attention of one closely
watched, the girl turned her head as she passed their corner, and her
eyes met those of Flint; she smiled gravely, and he bowed.

Graham saw the interchange of glances, and looked at the man beside
him, with the raised eyebrows of amused comprehension. Flint could
have shot him.

"I don't see," said Mrs. Graham, returning to her venison, "why they
let those creatures go about like that, making everybody
uncomfortable. They are very annoying."

"Yes, very. So were the early Christians," murmured Flint, as he
helped himself to the mushrooms.

"I never studied church history," said Mrs. Graham, a little
repressively. She felt that the conversation was bordering on
blasphemy, and sought to turn it into safer channels. She begged
Flint, whom, she looked upon, in spite of his denials, as alarmingly
cultivated, to recommend a course of reading for the steamer, so that
she might be "up" on the associations of the English lakes.

"You know," she said, "I just _adore_ Wordsworth. I think 'Lucy Grey'
and 'Peter Bell' are too sweet for anything, and the 'Picnic'--no, I
mean the 'Excursion' is my favorite of them all. So light and
cheerful; I'm glad the dear man did take a day off once in a while."

Flint gravely promised a Life of Wordsworth, to be sent to the
"Etruria" to-morrow, and then, bidding his companions adieu, he passed
out into the night.

His mood, as he strolled up the avenue, was far from complacent. He
felt a contempt for himself, as the sport of every passing impression.
It was not enough, it seemed, that he should have cut short a summer
vacation, and come hurrying back to the city at Winifred Anstice's
behest. He must vibrate to every whim about him. He had found, with
inward disgust, that he was raising his elbow to shake hands with the
Grahams, instead of holding his hand at the customary, self-respecting
angle; and that he might be still further convicted of weak
mindedness, he had a sense of being in some inexplicable fashion
dominated by the vision of Nora Costello and her comrades. Not that he
experienced any sudden drawing to the Salvation Army; he felt, to the
core, its crudeness, its limitations, its social dangers. His reason
assured him that its methods threatened socialism and anarchy. He
could have demolished all General Booth's pet theories by an appeal to
the simplest logical processes, but that it seemed absurd to apply
logic to so crude a scheme. "Nevertheless," said conscience, "these
people are striving, however blunderingly, to better the condition of
the forlorn, the wicked, and the wretched. What are _you_ doing about
it?" He had almost framed a defence, when it suddenly occurred to him
that he was under no accusations, except from his own soul, and such
thoughts and impulses as had arisen at sight of Nora Costello, moving
in the world outside the social wall behind which he had intrenched
himself.

"I suppose," he said to himself, with a shrug, "if I were living in
the Massachusetts of a hundred years ago, I should be considered in a
hopeful way to conversion. Now, we have learned just how far we may
indulge an emotion, without allowing it to eventuate in action."

Yet the passing of Nora Costello, like the passing of Pippa in the
poem, had left its light, ineffaceable touch on at least one life that
night.



                             CHAPTER XIII

                              A SOLDIER

      "'T was August, and the fierce sun overhead
       Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green;
       And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
       In Spitalfields, look'd thrice dispirited.

      "I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
       'Ill and o'erworked, how fare you in this scene?'
       'Bravely!' he said; 'for I of late have been
       Much cheered with thoughts of Christ, the _living bread_.'"


Nora Costello was even more moved than Flint by their chance meeting,
if meeting it could be called, under the white light of the lamps of
Madison Square. On leaving Nepaug, she had resolutely shut out of her
mental horizon the acquaintances that she had made in her few days
there. She felt instinctively that any further continuance of the
associations would be fraught with embarrassing complications, if not
actual perils. These people belonged to a world to which she was as
dead as though she had taken the black veil in a convent.

As the daughter of the manse, in her young girlhood she had come in
contact with people of refinement and some wealth; people of keen
perceptions if somewhat pronounced limitations; and she realized that
in enlisting in the Salvation Army, she had not only shocked their
prejudices beyond repair, but had wrenched herself out of their
sympathies in a degree which could not have been exceeded by an actual
crime on her part.

Time had in some measure healed the sensitiveness which had been
sorely wounded by the withdrawal and disapproval of these early
friends; but she seemed to feel all reflected and renewed in her brief
acquaintance with the strangers at Nepaug, especially in her
intercourse with Miss Standish. There is a curious resemblance, which
lies deeper than outward circumstances, between New England and
Scotland. The same outward environment of frugal poverty, the same
inward experience of intense religious exaltation, continued from
generation to generation, produced in early New England a type closely
allied to the Scotch Covenanters, and many resemblances still linger
among their descendants, widely as they may be removed from the
primitive conditions which formed their ancestors.

Miss Standish's manner was marked by all the old Covenanters'
directness, and in spite of her prepossession in Nora Costello's
favor, showed clearly that she looked upon her as an extremist, if not
a fanatic.

"What took you into that Salvation Army?" she had asked, as she sat by
Nora's bedside in the upper front chamber of the White-House.

"A divine call, I hope," Nora had answered.

"Couldn't you have done just as much good in some of the churches?"

"Very likely, but there's many will be doing that work, and there's no
over-crowding among us highway-and-hedgers."

Nora remembered a curious little look on Miss Standish's face, as if
she thought the answer savored of sarcasm. This expression had led her
on to further explanation:--

"I know just how folk will be feeling about the Army. I know how I
felt myself before I signed the Articles of War,--as if it was much
like joining a circus-troop, going about so with a brass band."

"Well, isn't it?" asked Miss Standish, bluntly.

Nora colored, but answered amiably: "No, it does not look so to me
now,--whiles there's things in the Army work for which I've no liking
myself, the noise and a'; but such things are not for you and me. We
can get our spiritual aid and comfort somewhere else; but these are
like a snare spread for the souls we are hunting, and when you see the
rough men come round us like those in the London streets, it's fair
wonderfu' how they be taken wi' the drums and torches."

"Humph!" sniffed Miss Standish, "it is as easy to gather converts with
a drum as to collect flies round a lump of sugar,--men will always
come buzzing about where there is any excitement. The question is,
Have you got the fly-paper to make 'em stick?"

At Nepaug Nora had smiled at Miss Standish's blunt questions; but
here, in the depression of spirits caused by overwork and the deadened
atmosphere, the words came back to her with overwhelming force. When
she rose on the morning after seeing Flint standing in the window at
Delmonico's, she found more than one importunate question arising in
her mind. Was it worth while after all--the sacrifice she was making,
the work, the worry, and above all the contact with so much that
offended her taste and judgment?

Were not those people behind the curtains, with their purple and fine
linen, more nearly right than she? They at least found and gave
pleasure for the moment--while she--? Then there swept over her the
recollection of the drunkard who had shouted loudest in the hallelujah
chorus and reeled home drunk after the meeting, of the penitent girl
whom she had seen one night dissolved in tears, the next out on the
streets again at her old calling,--"Yes," she admitted sadly, "Miss
Standish is right. It is one thing to catch them, but another to keep
them." If it had been only the sinners, she would not have minded so
much, but there were some things about her fellow-officers-- Here
she stopped, for her loyalty would not allow her to go on, even in
thought. This mood of depression was not an uncommon thing in Nora
Costello's life, but she sought the antidote in prayer and work.

After her morning devotions, she spent an hour in setting her room to
rights; watering the plants on the window-sill, feeding the bird in
the cage, and then, after a breakfast of the most frugal sort, she
started on her way to her post. Although it was not yet eight o'clock
when she emerged from the door of the tenement-house where she lodged,
a haze of heat hung over the city like a pall, the sun was already
beating with a sickening glare upon the sidewalk, which still showed
signs of having been made a sleeping place by those who found their
crowded quarters within too suffocating for endurance. On the
doorstep, worn with the feet of the frequent passers, sat a weary
woman, nursing her baby. Nora's heart sank as she noticed the deathly
pallor of the little thing. She stopped, bent over, and listened to
its breathing. Then she lifted the eyelid streaked with blue, and
looked into the fast dimming eye.

"That bairn needs a doctor," she said to the mother. "Come with me;
there is a dispensary on the next block."

Rising stupidly, with her infant in her arms, the woman in dull
obedience followed her down the sun-baked block to the door marked:

                             "DISPENSARY.

         "PATIENTS TREATED FREE FROM TEN TO TWELVE O'CLOCK."

Nora looked at the sign in discouragement; instinct told her that two
hours of delay would be fatal. The child was evidently nearing a state
of collapse. Turning about entirely baffled, Nora's eyes fell upon an
elderly man coming down the street at a brisk trot, a travelling bag
in one hand and a large white umbrella in the other. He was evidently
a gentleman,--which was strange, for gentlemen did not often appear in
Bayard Street. What was stranger still, he looked up at the numbers of
the houses as if he were seeking a friend, and, strangest of all, at
the sight of herself he took off his hat, and her astonished gaze
rested upon Dr. Cricket.

"Well, well, Captain," the little Doctor cried, peering at her with
his near-sighted frown. "I _am_ in luck. I came down on the night
boat, and hurried over here right away; but we were so late I was
afraid you might have got off to headquarters to report for duty. I
promised Miss Standish when I left Nepaug that I would surely see you
on my way through New York. She felt so worried about your coming back
so soon to this town, which is like a bake-oven,--or would be if it
smelled better."

All this the good Doctor poured forth so rapidly that Nora could not
get in a word edgewise. When at length she found space to utter a
reply, she cried out, "Oh, Doctor, never mind me, but take pity on
this bairn! It's in an awfu' way."

"Pooh, Pooh, nothing of the sort!" answered the Doctor, with
professional cheerfulness, before he had fairly glanced at the child.
Then aside to Nora: "We must get into the dispensary somehow. Water,
hot and cold, are what the child needs. It is near a convulsion."

At this juncture, as eight o'clock was striking, the dispensary clerk
arrived, key in hand, and, seeing the emergency, put all the resources
of the building at the disposal of Dr. Cricket, who soon brought a
better color to the little face, and handing the child, rolled in a
blanket, to the mother, bade her keep it cool. The woman looked
blankly at the rising wave of heat outside; Dr. Cricket too looked
out, and felt the shadow of her hopelessness fall on himself. "Here,"
he said suddenly, pressing a bill into her hand, "take that; get your
baby dressed and onto the Coney Island boat as quick as you can."

The woman took the bill and crumpled it in her fingers; but she turned
away without uttering either thanks or protest.

"You must na mind the ongraciousness o' the puir mither," Nora said,
as they turned away. "She is too fashed and clear worn out to have any
sense o' gratitude left." In her excitement the girl dropped into a
nearer approach to dialect than marked her ordinary speech.

"My dear young lady," said the Doctor, "do you suppose I hold you
responsible for the manners of Bayard Street? You won't be here to be
held responsible for anything long if this heat lasts. I wish to the
devil (excuse me!) I could get you out of the hole. We need just such
a person as you at our Sanatorium in Germantown. What do you say to
coming to try it for two months at least?"

The offer chimed in so with her morning thoughts that it seemed to
Nora a direct temptation of the devil, and she thrust it away almost
angrily.

"Never be speaking o' such a thing! Do you think I would desert now
when the war is raging?"

"I don't know anything about your Salvation Army jargon," answered the
Doctor, with equal brusqueness; "if it's the war with sin you're
talking about, you needn't be afraid of lack of fighting wherever you
go--I'll wager Philadelphia can furnish as lively service as New
York."

Nora laughed, showing her white teeth in genuine amusement.

"Well, I'm fearing you're richt, Doctor, and you must na fancy I dinna
recognise your kindness in wanting to get me out of 'this hole;' but
I'm called to work right here, and I must 'stay by the stuff,' like
the men in the Bible."

"Then my taking the trouble to come here without any breakfast goes
for nothing," said the Doctor, a little crossly. He liked his own way,
and he liked to help people, and this girl was balking him in both
desires.

"Good for nothing!" cried Nora. "You must na say so. You dare na say
so, when God put it into your hands to save a life! Dinna ye remember
the story of Abdallah, and how the golden leaf of his clover, the most
precious leaf he found on earth, was the life which it was given to
him to save?"

Nora stopped in her words, as in her walk, for they had reached the
corner where her division headquarters stood. Dr. Cricket made no
answer to her little sermon--only put out his hands in response to
hers, and gave her a grip like a freemason's. "Maybe you're right
after all," he said, "and I like your pluck, right or wrong. Only
remember, if you want help, or think better of my offer, just drop a
line to Dr. Alonzo Cricket at the Sanatorium."

When the good-byes were said, Nora stood a moment watching the
Doctor's little figure moving jerkily down the street under its white
umbrella. "I believe he was sent," she said to herself. "I must try to
be to some other puir soul what he has been to me this day."

At her desk at headquarters Nora found a memorandum of four letters to
be written,--three to men in the prison at Sing-Sing. These she
despatched speedily, with the aid of a typewriter; but the fourth she
wrote with her own hand, for it was in answer to one from an orphan
girl who was coming to New York in search of work, and who desired to
be put in the way of finding a safe boarding-place. Nora's heart was
touched by a peculiar sympathy at the thought of the girl's
loneliness, so closely allied to her own, and she wanted her to feel
that it was a friend, and not merely an officer of the Army, who
responded to her appeal, and held out the right hand of fellowship.

It was eleven o'clock when the letters were written, and Nora ran
downstairs to vary her industry by cutting out baby-clothes in the
workroom. Just as she was taking the shears in hand, however, news was
brought in of an accident to a factory-girl who had crushed her foot
in the machinery, and had been brought home to her lodgings in the
house on the next corner.

To this house Nora went, and found the girl alone, and weeping more
from loneliness than suffering. The doctor had left, promising to come
again, and to send an ambulance later in the day, to take the sufferer
to the hospital. Nora knocked gently at the chamber door.

"Come in!" a voice from within answered wearily.

The visitor, standing in the doorway, was impressed by the dreariness
of disorder which reigned inside. Such a room would have been
impossible to Nora herself while hands and knees and a scrubbing-brush
were left to her. In one sweeping glance she took in the hastily
dumped clothing on the floor, the bureau heaped with mussy finery, the
fly-specked window-pane, and soiled bed-spread.

"Who are you?" asked the girl, raising her head from the pillow. "Oh,
one of those Salvation Army women," she added, as she caught sight of
the dark bonnet.

"Yes," answered Nora, "I heard of your accident and that you were all
alone. I have come to try to help you."

"You can't. Nobody can help me. I wish I was dead." With this the girl
buried her face in the pillow and resumed her half-hysterical weeping.

Nora wisely wasted no words in trying to prove her ability to help,
but began quietly to hang up the clothes, to slip the soiled lace and
brass chains from the top of the bureau into the drawer, to close the
blinds, and fold a towel over a basin on the chair within reach of the
sufferer.

"There," she said, "maybe if you could wash you'd feel a bit more
comfortable, and I'll run round to my lodgings--they're not far
off--and back in no time."

When she reappeared, it was with a snowy white dimity spread taken
from her own bed, a pitcher of ice-water, and a large palm-leaf fan.
When the bed was re-made, the self-appointed nurse seated herself by
the bedside of the sick girl, promising to stay until the coming of
the ambulance, and settling down to listen to all the details of the
accident, which seemed to give the victim a grewsome satisfaction in
rehearsing.

When the ambulance arrived, and the patient departed, the nurse began
to realize that it was three o'clock, and that she had had no food
since seven. As the Bible-reading was at four, she had time only for a
hastily swallowed cup of tea, and a slice of bread and butter, with a
bit of cold meat, before the reading, after which she went home,
bathed, rested, and supped, before presenting herself again at
headquarters for the night duty, which called her to patrol the
streets with a companion officer (a dull, rather coarse woman, who
"exhorted" and sang through her nose) until after midnight.

Then she went home and to bed, inwardly thanking Heaven for her happy
day. She felt, as she would have said, that she had been "awfu'
favored."



                             CHAPTER XIV

                            TWO SOUL-SIDES

          "Thanks to God, the meanest of his creatures
           Boasts two soul-sides--one to face the world with,
           One to show a woman when he loves her."


A man's character is like the body of a child,--it grows unequally and
in sections. Certain qualities in Flint had lain throughout these
thirty-three years wholly undeveloped and unaffected by the culture of
other characteristics. In his case the dormancy of the sympathetic
side of his nature was no doubt largely due to the absence of those
close family ties which call out in most of us our first sense of the
kinship of the race.

Flint had no recollection of either father or mother, and he was an
only child. On his mother's death, he was sent to the home of an uncle
and aunt in Syracuse. They received him without enthusiasm, and only
because it was inevitable that the child should be cared for, and
there was no one else to undertake the task. Flint sometimes recalled,
with a feeling of bitterness against Fate, those early years of
repression, when silence and self-obliteration were the only merits or
attractions asked for in the orphan boy.

Those formative years might have proved a much drearier period but for
the circumstance that his uncle's house was provided with a library,
made up of books of all grades and qualities. To these volumes young
Jonathan was at liberty to help himself without let or hindrance,
provided he handled them with care.

Mr. Mullett Flint was a collector of books, but not a reader. Elzevirs
and Aldines and first editions bound by Rivière pleased him as so much
pottery might have pleased him, and he took great pride in relating
how the value of his purchases had increased on his hands. His
guidance in the paths of literature would not have been of great
benefit to his nephew had he been disposed to offer it; but, in fact,
he wasted little thought either on the contents of books or on his
nephew's mental progress. His tastes, interests, and ambitions lay
wholly in the business world, in the making of money, and the handling
of mercantile affairs of magnitude. Had Jonathan, as he grew older,
shown more sharpness and sagacity, some bond of sympathy, if not
attachment, might have formed itself between the two. As it was, they
drifted farther and farther apart. The uncle looked with a shrug of
his shoulders at the boy curled up in one of the library arm-chairs on
a Saturday morning, poring over a volume of the Waverley Novels, when
he himself was briskly making ready to betake himself to business.

"I wish that boy had any enterprise. I'd rather see him breaking
windows or shooting cats out the back door than dawdling like that,"
he said once to his wife.

"Yes," answered that worthy lady,--"and he wears out the furniture
so!"

Mrs. Mullett Flint was one of those heavy, apathetic women who seem to
have a special attraction for brisk, energetic men of Mr. Flint's
type. If he ever made the discovery that apathy and amiability are not
identical, he never revealed his disappointment to the world,--perhaps
for the same reason that he kept silence over the failure of other
investments, lest the rumor should injure his reputation for
shrewdness as a business-man.

From the beginning Mrs. Mullett Flint had taken one of her apathetic
dislikes to the little Jonathan. He was no kindred of hers, and she
thought it rather hard at her time of life to have her housekeeping
put about by a boy whose feet were always muddy and who had a
reprehensible habit of tucking them under him when he sat down, as he
did with utter lack of discrimination in the matter of relative values
in furniture. Her manner toward the child was not intentionally
unkind, but it was wholly devoid of the tenderness which is as
necessary to the growth of a child as air and sunshine to a plant. She
always called him by his full name, which sounded strangely prim and
formal applied to the little kilted figure with its thatch of black
hair. He recalled distinctly once going up to the long pier-glass
between the two windows and stroking his own hair as he had seen a
mother across the street do for her boy at the window opposite, and
then saying softly, in imitation of supposed maternal tones, "Johnny!
Dear little Johnny!"

Such moods of sentiment were exceedingly rare in Flint's earliest
infancy, and grew rarer as he advanced in life. At twelve he was sent
to boarding-school, and thence to college, with scarcely an interval
of home life. In college he formed several friendships; but in each he
was and felt himself the superior, whereby he lost the inestimable
privilege of looking up.

There had been a decided difference of opinion between Mr. Mullett
Flint and his nephew in regard to the choice of a college. Mr. Flint
strongly urged that the family traditions should be preserved, and
that Jonathan should pursue his education under the shadow of old
Nassau, "where giant Edwards stamped his iron heel." The nephew was as
strongly prejudiced against Princeton as the uncle in its favor. He
declared that the educative effect of living for four years within
sight of his venerated ancestor's grave in President's Row was more
than offset by other considerations, and that if the influence of the
departed still lingered about the college halls he was as likely to
fall under the spell of Aaron Burr as under that of Jonathan Edwards.
With all the headstrong will of youth he determined to go to Harvard,
and carried his point, though not without a degree of friction, which
alienated him still farther from his uncle.

It was, therefore, with immense surprise that, on Mr. Flint's death,
which occurred in Jonathan's junior year at college, the young man
learned that his uncle had left him his library and a substantial
share of his fortune. The terms of the will were not flattering. "To
my nephew, Jonathan Edwards Flint," so it ran, "I leave this amount,
realizing that the money left him by his father is inadequate for his
support, and that he will never have the energy to make a living for
himself."

The widow wrote a conventional note of combined self-condolence and
congratulation for Jonathan over his inheritance. Between the lines
Flint quite easily read that her latent aversion to him was augmented
by her husband's bequest.

"I have decided," she wrote, "to go at once to London, where I shall
probably reside for some years. I shall therefore strip my house of
furniture preparatory to renting. I will pack up the books which now
belong to you, and await your instructions as to the address to which
you would like them forwarded. Should we not meet again--and I presume
you will agree with me that it is hardly worth while to interrupt your
studies at Cambridge for a trip to New York before the steamer
sails--pray accept my best wishes for your future happiness and
prosperous career."

With this cool leave-taking Flint's association with his aunt had come
to an end. The books, which were his earliest friends, followed him
about from place to place, until at length they had found a home on
the walls of his study in "The Chancellor."

The work of his first solitary evening after his return from Nepaug
was to pull off the sheets and newspapers with which the caretaker of
his room had vainly striven to protect them against the all-pervading
dust of summer. He sat in his easy-chair, running over the titles with
the endeared eye of long familiarity.

There stood a set of Edwards's treatises, in eight ponderous volumes;
their leaves yellow with age, and cut only here and there at irregular
intervals. "Freedom of the Will" and "The Nature of Virtue" jostled
"Original Sin;" and "The History of Redemption" leaned up against
"God's Last End in the Creation of the World."

On the same shelf, as if with sarcastic attempt to mark the logical
sequence, Flint had placed a black-clad row of John Stuart Mill's
essays, while Hume and Hobbes looked out above and below. It amused
Flint, as he sat there alone, to fancy these polemical gentlemen
issuing from their bindings and sitting down together around his
evening lamp, to talk things over. "Probably," he mused, with that
idle pensiveness which is the lazy man's apology to himself for not
thinking, "the thing which would surprise them most would be to see
how much they held in common. If they could get rid of the cant of
theology and the jargon of metaphysics, they would find that they were
not so far apart after all. But I don't know that that would gratify
them so much,--certainly not the old parson, for he belonged to the
Church Militant if ever any one did, and dearly loved to belabor his
enemies with the spiritual weapons too heavy for any but him to
handle. Well, it _was_ a temptation to let something fly, be it Bible
or brickbat, at the head of the average dullard. How was it that some
people did not find the average man dull? There was Winifred Anstice,
for instance,--she seemed to find something interesting in every one
she met. Perhaps because she did not try to approach them on the
intellectual side at all, but took them into her sympathies and
soothed their troubles, as he remembered that mother across the way
from his uncle's house soothing the little son and wiping away his
tears."

_Perhaps, after all, she was right and he was wrong._ It was almost
the first time in Flint's life that he had ever definitely formulated
a confession that his attitude towards life in general was not what it
might be. Once formulated, it began to grow upon him curiously. He
found himself reviewing whole courses of conduct, and testing them by
new rules and standards.

At first these rules and standards were cold and rigid abstractions;
but gradually they took on a faint echo of personality, and he found
himself speculating on what Winifred Anstice would have done or said,
on occasions when he felt himself to have been harsh and hard. This
haunting influence was intensified by the presence of the portrait
which he had brought away from Nepaug; the picture of the gray-robed
Quakeress, with the soft dark eyes, and the white lace, and the point
of flame at her breast.

He had lost all appreciation of its artistic qualities. The mottled
softness of the curtained background against the folds of the woollen
stuff gave him no pleasure now,--at least, he never thought of it. His
whole attention was absorbed in that faint hint of resemblance to
Winifred Anstice which lay chiefly in the full eyelids and the subtle,
shadowy, evanescent smile which said at once so much and so little.

He could not tell how it fell out, but at last the time came when he
admitted the source of its charm. He recalled the time sharply long
after, and how he had risen hastily, and paced the floor with his
hands thrust deep into his pockets. That it should come to this--he,
Jonathan Flint, a man whose gray hairs--here he stepped before the
mirror and studied the tuft of prematurely white locks upon his
forehead--whose gray hairs ought to have brought with them wisdom, or
at least common sense,--that he should fall to sitting for hours in
front of a picture like any schoolboy of eighteen! Really, it was too
absurd!

He would send off the portrait to the cleaner to-morrow, and then when
it was properly framed, it should be sent to Miss Anstice with his
compliments, and so an end of the whole matter. He would never see it
again.

_Nor the original?_

This query was so insistent that it seemed to come from outside his
consciousness, and to demand an answer. He stopped short in his walk
as it struck him. Then, alone as he was, he colored to the temples,
and gave a little gasp. Like an overwhelming tidal wave there swept
over him the realization that his will was mastered by a power above
it, mightier than itself; that his seeing Winifred Anstice again was
hardly a question of volition any longer, any more than breathing was
a matter of will--that he _must_ see her--that the chief question of
his future was whether she cared to see him.

This train of thought did not tend to anything very cheerful. One
after another he recalled their interviews, on the road, in the boat,
on the beach, and again at Flying Point. Her manner on each of these
occasions had been sufficiently pronounced to leave him in no doubt of
her opinion; and at the last two meetings her words had been even more
explicit. She had called him a man of ice. She had taxed him with the
narrow limits of his sympathies. "Well," said Reason, "did you not
give her cause for all she said and more? Weren't you an odious,
crabbed, supercilious cad?"

Flint took a savage satisfaction in admitting every accusation which
he could bring against himself, in recalling the light irony with
which Winifred Anstice had witnessed his blunders, and the direct,
downright anger with which she had dealt out her judgments there at
the Point. Only one drop of comfort could Flint extract from the
memory of that interview, and he smiled cynically as he remembered the
warmth which marked her description of her friend, the editor of the
"Trans-Continental." When the surprises of the sudden enlightenment
and the emotion of the moment had passed away, which feeling, he asked
himself, would remain in her mind,--the liking for the ideal or the
disliking of the experienced? For both there was not room, yet each
was intense. It was a curious psychological problem. At a further
remove it would have afforded him a keen intellectual pleasure to
speculate upon the probable working of a woman's heart under such
conditions. As it was, he found himself incapable either of solving
the problem or of letting it alone. His mind dwelt upon it
continuously. He was almost inclined, like Eugene Aram, to tell his
story disguised to strangers, and listen to their idle speculations.
Brady was a comfort at this time. He was so responsive in his
sympathies and so obtuse in his perceptions. It was possible to talk
all round a subject to him with no fear that his imagination would
travel a step farther than it was led. It needed no urging, either,
for he appeared to have a sentiment of his own for Nepaug and all its
associations, and drew towards it as naturally as a moth to a flame or
a woman to a mirror.

Indeed, Brady often dwelt spontaneously upon the various episodes of
the days at the beach,--the fireworks, the shipwreck, the evening at
Flying Point. He was a capital mimic, and loved to imitate Dr. Cricket
striding up and down the room, with his hands clasping his elbows
behind his back and his chin-whiskers thrust out before as a herald of
his approach. Then casting aside all the scruples which should have
been raised within him by ties of blood, he would give a burlesque of
Miss Standish peering out from beneath her little gray curls at the
world, and rapping out her opinion of those around her in good set
terms.

After her came Mr. Anstice, looking busily in every corner for the
book he had in his hand. This the mimic followed by a representation
of Ben Bradford, with hand propped on knee and chin on hand, glooming
from his corner upon Winifred Anstice, when she ventured to address
some one else.

"I cannot do Miss Anstice," Brady confessed one evening. It was
October then, and the two friends were sitting together in Flint's
room. "She has too much humor. The more humor there is in an original
poem, for instance, the harder it is to parody, and so with people.
The grand, gloomy, and peculiar are easy enough, let them be ever so
august; but the light, delicately ironical manner is a difficult thing
to exaggerate."

"Yes," assented Flint, "the heaviness of touch necessary to caricature
spoils the effect."

"Precisely," said Brady, "and it is as difficult to take off her looks
as her manner. Her expression is too changeable to leave any
characteristic fixed in the mind. The fact is, Miss Anstice is almost
a beauty at times."

"You think so?" responded Flint, with half-closed eyes.

"Yes, I do really--in a way--not like that Madonna-type of Nora
Costello."

"No, certainly not like her."

"But still she has a style of her own."

"Oh, yes, quite so--as you say, she has a style of her own."

"You are very cool on the subject; but you should have heard a man at
the club go on about her, when he heard that we had spent our vacation
at Nepaug."

"I should scarcely think," said Flint, opening and closing his
match-box with a quick, nervous movement, "that you would have allowed
her name to come up at the club."

"Oh, hang it, Flint, that is going pretty far! I don't know that Miss
Anstice's name is too sacred to be mentioned in general society; and
as for the club,--why, if it is not made up of gentlemen, what did you
put me up for?"

It was seldom that Brady got off so much of a speech, and he felt a
little elated by seeing his friend without an answer for the moment.

"Besides," he continued, "nothing was said, except about what a
stunning girl she was. 'Handsomer than ever,' Livingston said, 'since
she came home.'"

"So the Anstices are at home?"

"Yes, and Cousin Susan is coming down next week to visit them. She
wrote me to be sure to call."

"I shall try to go before Miss Standish arrives."

Brady laughed.

"You and Cousin Susan never did hit it off very well."

"Excuse me, I think she hit me off very well; the fact is, the _femme
sole_ after fifty becomes either pious or pugnacious. Miss Standish is
both."

"You are prejudiced, as usual, and malicious, too, under the guise of
impartiality. Miss Standish is a benevolent woman, with an
irresistible bent towards doing people good even against their will."

Flint groaned assent. "Alas, yes," he muttered.

"She is a fine woman," continued Brady, "and a fine-looking one too,
as Dr. Cricket will testify, for on my soul I think the old duffer
wants to marry her."

"I wish he would, and rid the world of an officious old maid."

"'Old maid' is an opprobrious term. Miss Standist is a well-preserved
single woman."

"Hold there, Brady! She is really not sugary enough for a preserve; I
should say rather well canned. But never mind, I can forgive her some
acidity toward myself, in consideration of her sweetness to Nora
Costello. She has really been good to that girl."

"Who could help it!" exclaimed Brady, unguardedly. Then he cleared his
throat with a nervous little cough, and began again with would-be
unconcern: "By the way, I don't know whether I told you, that the day
after you left Nepaug, Jimmy Anstice picked up a gold brooch on the
beach, just where you came ashore after the wreck. It was a homely,
old-fashioned thing, with a gold-stone centre big enough for a
tombstone; but Jim brought it to me with all the pride of a
discoverer. I turned it over, and on the back I saw engraved in the
gold, 'To Nora from her Mother, on her birthday, November tenth,' Of
course I knew in an instant that it belonged to Nora Costello. Then it
came to me how the girl spent most of the day while she was at Nepaug
wandering up and down on the beach. Of course she was looking for her
brooch; but she was afraid, if she said anything, it would look like
accusing somebody; and besides, very likely with her queer ideas she
felt that she ought not to have kept any piece of jewelry, even if it
was her mother's."

"You seem to have studied her feelings rather closely."

"Why, of course, when one meets a pretty girl like that--and really
you know she is the prettiest I ever saw--"

"How long is it since you said the same of Miss Anstice?"

"Ah! that was before I met Nora Costello. 'Time's noblest offspring is
his last.' But if you will keep still and listen, instead of
interrupting all the time, you will hear something about the little
plot which Miss Anstice and Cousin Susan and I have laid among us."

"Well--"

"I should say it was well. Just you wait and see. Cousin Susan is to
write to Nora."

"Nora?" commented Flint, with raised eyebrows.

"Yes, Nora," repeated Brady, somewhat defiantly. "If I said Captain
Costello you would not know whether I was talking of her or her
brother."

"Oh, yes, I should," said Flint, "for you never talk of him at all;
but never mind that--go on with your revelations of this deep
conspiracy."

"You don't deserve to hear; but as it gives me pleasure to tell you, I
will. Cousin Susan writes to the Costellos to come to the Anstices'
house on the evening of November tenth. They arrive. We are there
already. Tableau--old Nepaug minus Dr. Cricket and Ben Bradford--and a
bouquet for Mistress Nora, with her brooch hanging from it in a little
bag which Miss Standish was manufacturing when I came away. Now isn't
that a scheme?"

"The tenth of November," responded Flint, as though the latter part of
the sentence had escaped him--"and am I to be invited?"

"Why, of course!" exclaimed Brady, impatiently. "Weren't you the one
to save her life? Worse luck to you for having the honor fall to your
share!"

"Then," said Flint, with that curious obliviousness of the important
parts of his companion's remarks,--"then in common civility I ought to
call there beforehand."

"Ah! Flint, I'm glad to see you waking up to some decent sense of
social observances."

"What time is it?" asked his friend, absently, oblivious of the watch
in his pocket.

"Quarter before eight," Brady answered.

"Then out of my room with you, for I have just time to dress and get
down there. If one must do these things, the sooner they are out of
the way the better."



                              CHAPTER XV

                              A BIRTHDAY

              _An Extract from the Journal of Miss Susan
               Standish, New York, November 12._


It is nearly two weeks since I left Oldburyport, and in spite of the
Anstices' hospitality I have been homesick ever since. When we reach
middle age nothing suits us so well as village life. The small events
occupy and divert our minds without wearying them with the bewildering
whirl of the city. The interest of our neighbors in us and our
affairs, which is annoying in youth, becomes more grateful as life
goes on, and we discover how little real thoughtfulness and interest
in others the world contains. As for the narrowing influences of
village life, I don't see that people in Oldburyport are any more
provincial or prejudiced than they are in New York,--not so much so, I
really think, for they are forced by the very smallness of their
circle to find their interests in the affairs of the great world, and
the lack of social excitements gives them so much more time for
reading. To be sure, when people are unhappy there is less to divert
their minds, and when they are irritable they feel more at liberty to
vent their tempers, because they know folks cannot get away from them
so easily. I confess I was not sorry to take leave of Cousin John,
though I did feel sorry for him, as he sat there all alone with his
gouty foot up on the chair in front of the Franklin stove in the
sitting-room. He is not satisfied with Philip, and seems to hold me
responsible. He would like to have Phil come home to live and be
cashier of the bank.

Cousin John thinks the world revolves round the Oldbury bank; and I
suppose it is natural he should, seeing how long he has been
president, and what a fine reputation it has the country round.

Of course Philip does not see it in the same light, and it seems he
made some ill-advised speech,--said he would rather turn sexton and
bury other people than be buried alive himself in a hole like that,
which was not a nice thing for him to say to his father,--but that was
no reason why Cousin John should swear at him, and tell him he was
sick of his capitalist airs, and he for one should not be surprised if
he came some day to beg for aid from the bank he thought too
insignificant to be worthy of his attention.

Philip was furious. "Bankrupt I may be some day," he answered, "but I
promise you I will go to the poorhouse before ever I ask help of you
and your infernal bank."

This was the state of mind in which they parted, when Philip had come
home for his first visit in years. I could have shaken them both for
their obstinacy and lack of common sense; but it is always so when men
live alone. They need a woman about the house to accustom them to
being contradicted. Now if Philip married a girl like Winifred, she
would soon straighten things out. I can see now how Cousin John would
dote on her and pretend not to care very much, and scold sometimes
when he had the gout; but all the while be her slave and spend his
life trying to give her pleasure. That is what ought to happen, so of
course it won't. Instead, Philip will go and marry some uncomfortable
sort of person with a mission. Oh, dear! what if it should be--?
There, I will not allow my mind to turn in _that_ direction. I have a
sort of superstition that thinking too much about any unfortunate
thing helps to bring it about. I think it must be this city life which
makes me feel so blue and discouraged. The fact is, I do not like New
York. In the first place, because it is not Boston; and in the second
place, because it _is_ New York. There is too much of everything
here--too much money, too much show, too many lamps, and
sofa-pillows, and courses at dinner. Then everybody seems to be
everlastingly at work getting ready to live. Here is Winifred, for
instance, tearing up and down for hours after upholsterers and
paper-hangers, toiling about from shop to shop, and from Broadway to
Sixth Avenue, matching samples and trying æsthetic effects which no
one but herself cares anything for when they are accomplished. And by
the end of the day she is so tired that she falls asleep when I read
aloud to her in the evening.

"Why do you fuss so about everything?" I asked her the other day. "We
don't fuss in Boston."

"That accounts," she answered,--which was not very civil, I
thought. She has certainly grown very queer this fall. She told me
this morning that she thought the Unitarians were as bigoted as
anybody. Now she never would have said a thing like that this summer
when she was living in the open air. It's my opinion that two things
are telling upon her,--furnace heat and the influence of that Mr.
Flint--especially the last. Why, it just seems to me as if she were
trying to make herself over into the kind of woman he would be likely
to like. She has dropped her old hoidenish ways and goes about as prim
as a Puritan. She says she is always like that in the city, and that
her Nepaug ways are only a reaction; but I don't believe it. He comes
here a great deal, that is certain; and I don't think it is very
gentlemanly, after her begging him, as I heard her with my own ears,
to go away. But he is too selfish to care what any one wants but
himself. For some reason or other it suits his plans just now to try
to please Winifred.

The first night I was here Winifred was telling him about Maria
Polonati, the little Italian girl who sells flowers at the corner of
the Square, and how she had made friends with her, and learned all
about her "padre" and her "madre" and the playmates she had left
behind her in the "bella Napoli." Winifred knows how to tell a thing
so it seems to stand right out like the old Dutch women in the
pictures, and I could see that Mr. Flint was taking it all in, for all
he said so little; and so he was, for the next time he came he walked
right up to Winifred's chair and dropped a great bunch of violets into
her lap.

"The little girl at the corner sent you these," he said; and Winifred
smiled as if it were the most natural thing in the world for that
cross-grained egotist to do a thing like that. He did it rather
gracefully, I admit; but a Boston man would have done it just as well,
if he had only thought of it.

Of late Mr. Flint has taken to dropping in once or twice a week of an
evening to play whist,--he and Winifred against her father and me. Now
I like to beat as well as any one; but I do like some show of
organized resistance, and this young man's playing is what I call
impertinently poor, as if he did not think it worth while to try.
Winifred seems just as well satisfied to be beaten as to beat, and the
Professor takes a guileless and childlike satisfaction in his triumph
which is quite pitiable. I take pains to let Mr. Flint see that I at
least am not taken in; but he only smiles in that exasperatingly
non-committal way of his, as if it mattered little enough to him what
I thought one way or the other. After the game is over he gets a
chance for a few minutes' talk with Winifred while I am hunting up my
knitting and her father his pipe, and it is my belief that it's just
those few minutes that he looks forward to all the evening, while he
is ignoring his partner's trump-signal and leading from his weak suit.

Winifred has caught a very annoying trick of turning to him on all
occasions, as if waiting to know what he thought before making up her
mind. Altogether I don't like the look of things at all.

Of course there was no getting out of inviting Mr. Flint to the little
birthday party which we were planning for Nora Costello. To tell the
truth, nobody but me seemed to want to get out of it. Professor
Anstice says he is the most agreeable man that comes to the house, and
when I confided to him that I was afraid Winifred would fall in love
with him, he answered: "She might do worse. She might do much worse."
That was all the consolation I got in that quarter, and with Winifred
herself it was as bad. I thought it might do good to recall some of
her early impressions, which seem to have changed so mightily of late.

"Don't you remember," I said, "how you called him a refrigerator?"

"Did I?" she said with a little laugh. "Well, he was rather frigid in
those days."

"Yes, and you said how disagreeable his manners were, and how
thoughtless he was of every one but himself."

At this Winifred colored up as if they hadn't been her own very words.
"If I said it," she answered with a little toss of her head, "or if
anybody else said it, it was a stupid slander, which grows stupider
every time it is repeated."

I was a little nettled myself at her answering me like that. "You
didn't think so," I said, "when you begged him to go away from
Nepaug."

At this Winifred jumped straight up from her chair, running her hand
through her hair in a way she has when she is excited--"Did you hear
that? Then you must have been listening," she cried out, as if she
were accusing me of chicken-stealing.

"If you think that of me, Winifred, the sooner my trunk is packed the
better," I answered, as stiff as the Captain's monument on Duxbury
Hill.

In an instant Winifred was on her knees by my side, and had thrown her
arms around my neck.

"No, no, dear Miss Standish, I do not think it, and I ought not to
have said it. It only made me feel so badly to think of any one's
having overheard my secret, which after all was not my own."

Now here was my chance to find out the very thing which had been
bothering my old head all these weeks. I had only to pretend to know
and I should hear it all, for Winifred was in one of her rare
confidential moods. But that inconvenient New England conscience of
mine not only would not let me pretend, but it pricked me a little
with Winifred's accusation of having listened. Perhaps if my ears had
not been strained just a trifle, I should not have caught as much as I
did of the conversation at Flying Point. Anyway, I felt bound to
confess now.

"I did not hear anything but just your asking him to go away, and his
answering rather reluctantly that he did not want to, but he would."

"Then," said Winifred, "you are bound to take my word for the meaning
of the snatch of talk you heard, and I tell you that he acted like a
gentleman and a very honorable gentleman; moreover, that from that
good hour I began to be ashamed of my rash estimate of him (I always
do jump in overhead in my judgments) and am only waiting for a chance
to tell him so frankly, and to ask him to forget all my rude
speeches."

After this there was no more to be said. I only pray to be kept from
arguing. The habit of making comments has brought me into more trouble
than all my other vices put together. Well, this time grace was given
me to hold my tongue. When I saw a note addressed in Winifred's hand
to "J. Edwards Flint, Esq.," I did not even observe that it would have
been as well to let her father write it, nor did I say what I
think,--that I hate to see a man chop off his first name with a
capital and write his middle name in full. It always looks like an
alias. The man who does it is either trying to attract attention or
trying to get rid of it.

Everything else about the birthday scheme ran as smooth as a ribbon
from Jordan & Marsh's. I begged leave to make the cake, and it came
out of the oven done to a turn, white as snow inside and a golden
brown on the crust. Nora Costello and her brother came at eight
o'clock just as they had promised, with unfashionable promptness. They
looked somewhat surprised to see the house so lighted up, and Nora
gave a timid little glance at Winifred's rose-colored waist (a woman
doesn't forget how clothes look just because she joins the Salvation
Army); but she herself was a picture in spite of her dress--perhaps
because of it, for the close-fitting blue gown, with its plain band at
the neck and sleeves, set off her fine features and the noble carriage
of her head. The chief decoration of her dress was a scarlet ribbon
coming diagonally from the shoulder to the belt, marked "Jesus is My
Helper." I did wish she had not felt called to make a guy of herself
with that thing; but she seemed so unconscious of it herself that I
should have forgotten it too if Mr. Flint had not been coming; but I
hate to see a scoffer like him get hold of anything ridiculous in
religion. Now we Unitarians stand midway between scepticism and
superstition. I wonder everybody can't see it as we do.

I am bound to say, however, that Mr. Flint behaved exceedingly well. A
thorough acquaintance with the world seems to give pleasanter manners
sometimes than a religious nature. Anyway, he came forward and greeted
her very handsomely. He handed her a little volume of Thomas à Kempis,
"For those leisure hours which you never have," he said. The girl
looked mightily pleased but a little bewildered, and still more so
when Philip Brady followed with a great bunch of the reddest of red
roses (trust men for always picking out red flowers--I don't believe
they know there is any other color). Tied by a satin ribbon to the
flowers was the little blue bag which I made at Nepaug, and inside it
lay the lost brooch. I never saw any such delight as shone on Nora
Costello's face when she drew out the pin. She looked from one to
another of us, then at the pin in her hand, which she turned about and
about, crying over it softly. At length she brushed away her tears and
smiled a real child's smile of pure pleasure. "Look, Angus!" she
exclaimed, holding out her treasure to her brother, "the lost is
found. Do you mind the day Mither gave it me, and how she bade me have
a care, for that I was a heedless lass and like to lose it?"

"Ay, I mind it," answered her brother, a flush of gratified pride and
affection mounting to his high cheekbones. "How can we thank these
kind folks?"

"How indeed!" echoed Nora. "Oh, how good it is to have it back!" she
exclaimed, fondling the brooch as though it had life and could feel.
"But where did you find it, and why--Ah! I see," she added, as she
turned it in her hand--"you dear, good folks--and here it was only
this morning I thought the Lord had clean forgot 't was my birthday."

I wish I could recall on paper the little foreign accent of the Scotch
girl which seemed to add so much to the charm of her simple speech.
Her big drooping eyes were wet with tears, and the little homesick
note in her voice made an irresistible appeal to the hearts of those
who heard it,--at least it did to mine, and I sneaked away behind the
lid of the grand piano, which was open, to get out my pocket
handkerchief, for I did not choose to make a spectacle of myself, and
I don't know how to cry prettily, like Nora Costello. My nose gets
red, and my eyes look as if I were addicted to the use of intoxicating
liquors.

When I emerged from behind the screen of the piano, I saw Philip Brady
standing over Nora Costello, and looking down at her in a way that
made my heart jump. She is a sweet girl, and a good girl, and a
beautiful girl; but really this wouldn't do at all. Fancy Cousin
John's son going round with a drum, keeping company with a
tambourine. Shades of Dr. Charming forbid! Now why couldn't it have
been Mr. Flint? That would have been poetic justice. Conversion of an
atheist--marriage on the platform in presence of the Army. She is too
good for him; but still I would have given my blessing--but here
everything is snarled up and getting worse all the time.

The surprises of the evening were not over yet, for the most
remarkable remains to tell. While we were all sitting at table
(Winifred did look startlingly handsome under the pink candle-shades)
the bell rang, and a messenger boy appeared.

Could he not leave the package? Professor Anstice asked, when he had
signed the ticket the boy took out of his hat, where for some
inscrutable reason New York messengers carry everything.

No, he was ordered to give it to Miss Anstice herself.

"Very well," said Winifred, "bring it in by all means. Perhaps some
one has mixed things a little, and fancies that it is _my_ birthday
that we are celebrating."

So in came the package, and with it a great bunch of violets, and a
card which said, "The little girl at the corner sends you these."

I saw Winifred's hands tremble as she untied the ends of the package.
The wrappings fell off and she saw a picture.

"What--who is it?" Winifred asked, turning from one to another of us
with bewilderment in her eyes.

"A relative of yours, I believe," Mr. Flint answered quietly. "Her
name is Ruth. She formed the habit of eloping in her youth, and had
not the heart to refuse my entreaties to run away with me when I left
Nepaug."

Then in an instant it flashed across Winifred and all of us
that this was the portrait for which she had been searching all
summer (any one might have recognized it, for the resemblance to
Winifred about the eyes and mouth is unmistakable), and she knew of
course that Mr. Flint had been the one to find it. Her way of taking
the affair was very characteristic. There was no tearful tremulous
gratitude like Nora Costello's, but a great overflow of pride and
gladness. Rising, with her just filled wine glass in her hand, and her
head thrown back a little as if in a pride which had a shade of
defiance in it, she called out, "A health!--a health! Here's to my
great-great-grandmother, the runaway bride, and to the generous man
who restored her to the bosom of her family!"

Every one looked bewildered, but all laughed and drank the toast (I
noticed that the Costellos drank theirs in water), and then began to
ask questions as fast as they could talk. The health broke up the
feast, and every one crowded about the portrait. As Winifred and Mr.
Flint stood close behind me, I overheard, this time without intention,
upon my honor, an exchange of remarks between them.

"You have shown yourself very generous, Mr. Flint," Winifred remarked.
"You will not surely be so _un_generous as not to let us make some
little return for your gift. I am not ignorant that such a portrait
has a value besides that of sentiment."

"You touch me there on a sore point, Miss Anstice," Mr. Flint
answered. "I am afraid the person to whom you are really indebted is
old Marsden, for I knew if I offered him anything like the real value
of the picture, he would hold it for the price of a Raphael. So I made
him set his own price, which the sly old dog thought a staggering one,
and which I found so absurdly low that I shall feel bound to remember
him handsomely at Christmas."

"You are jesting," Winifred answered, speaking lower; "but I am in
earnest. Can we not persuade you to let us pay for this picture? For
the pleasure you have given us we never could repay you."

"If it is a question of payment," said Mr. Flint, sinking his voice
still lower, "I am so deep in your debt that it would bankrupt me to
straighten our accounts. If it is a question of generosity, and I
should come to you some day and ask--"

"Did you say it was a Copley?"

This question from Philip broke in upon Mr. Flint's aside. He answered
with some asperity, "No, it was painted in England before Copley's
time. It is unsigned, but the artist, I should say, was first-rate."

After this response Mr. Flint turned his head in an instant; but the
charm was snapped. Winifred had slipped away, and the company was
breaking up. How the man would hate me if he knew that it was I who
set Brady on to ask that question!

Winifred is tired to-day, and took her breakfast in bed. I
wonder--Pshaw, what good does it do to wonder?



                             CHAPTER XVI

                              YES OR NO

     "A man's homage may be delightful until he asks straight for
      love, by which a woman renders homage."


The Anstices' house stood on the sunny side of Stuyvesant Square. It
belonged to the type common in the lower part of the city fifty years
ago,--a type borrowed from Beacon Street, as Miss Standish was fond of
pointing out, and never improved upon for comfort. Its red-brick front
swelled outward, not in the awkward proportions of the modern
bay-window, which suggests some uncomfortable protuberance; but with a
gracious sweep from the front door to the limits of the next property.
In front ran a balcony with a finely wrought iron balustrade, over
which clambered a wistaria vine hung with purple clusters in the
spring, and green with foliage throughout the summer.

The front door was framed by glass side-lights set in delicate oval
mouldings, and above, the colonial fan-light lined with silk fluted in
a rising-sun pattern, gave additional cheerfulness to the hall
within.

This hall was of generous proportions, and suggestive of land sold by
the foot rather than by the inch. At the back a white staircase railed
with mahogany wound its way to the second story, and at the right a
broad silver-knobbed mahogany door opened invitingly into the
drawing-room.

The charm of the Anstice drawing-room lay in its being no drawing-room
at all, but just a living-room, reflecting the taste and habits of the
people who occupied it. Jim's parrot usurped the window, where he
chattered in the sun all day, and flew about at his will, much to the
injury of the curtains. Between the windows and the white casing of
the mahogany door, stood an old desk strewn with papers in some
confusion; for Professor Anstice was fond of bringing his writing from
the study on the upper floor to Winifred's domain. The piano occupied
the opposite side of the room, the coffin-like gloom of its polished
rosewood enlivened by a tall vase brilliant now with the
chrysanthemums which autumn had brought. A shaded lamp glowed on a
table loaded with books and drawn cosily to the side of a deep couch,
and on the other side of the fire, which shot out little hisses of
heat on this chilly afternoon, stood the tea-table, with its delicate
old-fashioned silver, its transparent china cups, and the plates of
hot toasted muffins and ethereally thin bread-and-butter sandwiches
which McGregor brought in punctually at five every day.

The old butler was the one extravagance of the Anstice ménage, and as
Winifred said, she saved his wages out of the china that he didn't
break,--which was one way of looking at it,--and then, McGregor was so
much more than a butler! He was housekeeper and parent's assistant and
family counsellor all in one. He advised Professor Anstice as to the
weight of overcoat called for by the temperature outside. He reminded
Jimmy of his mittens and rubbers, and his respectful but significant
glances informed Winifred of the exact estimation in which he held her
guests.

Flint was a special favorite, and the bow he accorded him was
equivalent to a benediction.

"Yes, sir," he said this afternoon, "Miss Anstice is in the parlor. I
am just taking in the tea." Having relieved the visitor of his hat and
coat, he ushered him in with the air of a protector, and then, after
drawing the curtains and lighting the alcohol lamp under the silver
kettle, he withdrew noiselessly and deferentially.

"What a treasure that man is!" said Flint, looking after him as he
disappeared. "He is better than forty coats of arms as a guarantee of
respectability, and the welcome which he extends to callers is a
perpetual testimonial to the hospitality of the household."

"Ah," Winifred answered, smiling, "you say that because you belong to
the most favored nations. You might not think him so genial if you saw
the frigidity with which he receives some of our guests."

"Then I suppose I have only to be thankful that McGregor has not yet
caught a hint of my real character, as set forth last summer so
vividly by his mistress, and I think I have one more friend in the
household; what do you say to that, Paddy?"

The dog had risen from his comfortable doze in front of the fire, and
stood stretching himself, with two shaggy paws thrust out in front.
When he heard his name called he wagged his tail and came up to
Flint's chair, by which he squatted, laying his tawny head cosily
across the visitor's lap.

"Come here, Paddy; don't make yourself a nuisance!"

The dog listened calmly to his mistress's invitation, wagged his tail
again, and winked his sleepy eyes, but made no motion to obey.

Flint patted the dog's head.

"This is too bad!" Winifred exclaimed, in assumed indignation. "Jimmy
has already learned to oppose my opinions by quotations from what Mr.
Flint thinks and says; but I will not have Paddy taught to defy my
authority."

"Go, Paddy!" said Flint, moving his chair further back. "Your mistress
regards me as a dangerous character, and considers it her solemn duty
to remove every one in her charge from the risk of the injurious
effects of my society."

In spite of Flint's jesting tone there was a hint of bitterness in his
voice. The dog, in some surprise at the sudden withdrawal of his
head-rest, stood up, looking from one to the other, apparently in
doubt as to the rival claims. At length old habits of allegiance
asserted themselves, and he seated himself in the angle between the
tea-table and his mistress's chair.

Winifred's mood suddenly seemed to have changed from gay to grave. She
sat for a moment or two in silence, her hand softly playing with
Paddy's long ear, and her head bent ever so little to one side.

"Mr. Flint," she said at last, somewhat abruptly, "I want to tell you
a little story; but first let me make your tea. Do you take lemon?"

"Yes, if you please."

"And sugar?"

"One lump--no, thanks--no more."

"Try this brown-bread sandwich. Now, lean back in your chair and
listen. Once there was a girl--"

"No!"

"Yes, there was, and she was a very stupid girl, and all the stupider
that she thought herself rather clever. She fancied that she was very
acute in reading character, and she trusted a great deal to instinct,
and first impressions, and all that sort of rubbish by which women
excuse themselves from taking the trouble to use their reason. Well,
once upon a time, this girl met a man whom she did not like. Her
vanity was touched, in the first place, because he disapproved of her
and showed his disapproval."

"What a cad he must have been!" Flint put in.

"Now you are no better than the girl I am telling you about--going off
like that on insufficient evidence. The girl made up her mind at once
that the man must be at fault, since he failed to appreciate her,--all
our estimates are based on vanity, you see in the last analysis,--so
she proceeded to fit him out with a character to match her ideal of
him. He was to be selfish and cold, and regardless of everybody but
himself, and supercilious and domineering, and endowed with all the
other agreeable qualities which go with those engaging epithets. This
answered very well for a while, and I am bound to admit that at first
you--I mean he--seemed to play the part which she had assigned to him
very satisfactorily; but presently little things began to come to her
knowledge which refused to fit into the picture she had made of him.
He had a friend who let slip stories of inconsistently kind things he
had done for a man whom he had known in college, pooh-poohing them all
the time as folly."

"Rubbish!"

"Exactly what the girl said. They didn't go with the character of the
kind of man that she had made up her mind this was to be, so she would
not believe them, and kept repeating every disagreeable thing she had
ever heard him say as an antidote against any change of impression.
But stupid as she was, she was not quite dishonest, even with herself,
and when gradually her eyes were opened to the wrong which she had
done him in her own mind, she longed for an opportunity to make him
some amends; but all the opportunities came to him, and the coals of
fire were heaped on her head till she began to feel them quite too hot
for comfort. So at last she resolved, on the first occasion when she
saw him alone, to ask his pardon very humbly for all her misdoings and
misthinkings. Now, if she did, what do you think the man would say?"

Flint had set down his tea untasted, and sat staring steadily into
the fire, yet no detail of Winifred's dress or attitude escaped him.
He noted the glint of the firelight playing on the buckle of her
little slipper; he watched it climb over the sheen of the gray-silk
dress, higher, higher, till it reached the bare throat, and flushed
the already flushed cheek to a deeper carnation. He felt the appeal in
the girl's attitude as she leaned ever so little towards him. He
caught the tremulous note in her voice. His own was less steady than
its wont as he answered:--

"How do you know that the girl was not right in her first
estimate? For my part, I think a man who presumed to show the
disapproval you speak of, and to say disagreeable things on slight
acquaintance, fully justified her opinion of him; and if he seemed to
change later, I should think it probable that something in her had
shamed him out of his coldness and his selfishness. As for the
superciliousness, I should be inclined to set down the appearance of
that to the charge of an unconquerable shyness masquerading in the
guise of self-assertion,--I have known men like that,--but the other
qualities I believe were there. I suspect it was a reversal of the old
story of Pygmalion and Galatea, as if he were slowly turning from
stone to flesh, yet still held back by the old chill of stony
habit,--an imprisonment which could only be broken by a word from
her. Is there any chance that you will ever speak it--Winifred?"

"Oh, no--no!" the girl answered brokenly. "Don't say anything more!"

"I love you," Flint continued, as if the statement were necessary to
his vindication.

"Oh, but why do you tell me?"

"Because I choose to have you know,--because I must tell it. I love
you. I love you." He repeated the words with a persistence not to be
put aside. Winifred was inwardly furious with herself for her own
stupidity in giving him such an opening; but then, as she told
herself, who could have foreseen it, with this man of all men! The
shock of the surprise took her breath away, and robbed her of her
usual self-command. She still strove to take the situation lightly, to
treat it picturesquely, like a love-scene on a Watteau fan.

"Here is another proof of your generosity," she said, with a half
tremulous, wholly adorable little smile. "I asked for pardon and you
offer love."

Flint would not be put off so. "Ah, but I ask for so much more than I
offer," he said.

"And--if I cannot give it?"

"Why, then," he answered steadily, "I shall still carry with me
through life something you cannot take away if you would,--the ideal
which these weeks have held up before me. If it is not for your best
happiness to marry me, loving you as I do, I would not have you do it.
The matter is in your hands--a simple 'Yes' or 'No' is all I ask."

"But life is too complicated to be settled by a word like that. It
could not be 'Yes'--but what if it is 'No'?"

She paused a moment, and then, hurried on by a tidal wave of feeling,
she burst out: "Oh, I don't suppose you can understand it; but much as
I like you,--and I do like you now,--I feel as though if I promised to
marry you, I might absolutely hate you."

"Oh, yes," Flint answered quietly, "I can quite understand it; I think
I should feel in the same way if I were not perfectly sure I loved a
person."

Winifred felt herself touched by his quick response and perfect
comprehension of her state of mind; but her feeling was too intense,
too direct and too importunate, to be stayed in its utterance.

"I cannot marry you. I never could promise. I am sure of it. Forgive
me!"

Flint rose and stood by the mantel, toying absently with a bronze
model of the Praxiteles Faun which rested on its shelf.

"It is all right," he said, "and I shall always thank you for it all,
and say God bless you, whatever happens; only for a while I must go
away and make my life over a bit in the light of all this."

"Why must you go away?"

"Because--" Here Flint paused, and began to walk the floor
impatiently. "Oh, if you can ask that, I could not make you
understand. It is useless to go on talking."

"No," said Winifred, now with fuller command of herself, "it is not
useless; it is necessary. We must make each other understand. If we
cannot do it now, how much less afterward! It always seems to me as if
it were selfish folly in men and women to act as if their love were
the only reality in the world, so that they forget everything that
they owe to other people. Yes," she added, gathering strength as she
went on, "I think it would be selfish in you to consider only
yourself, or even yourself and me, in this matter, and I think it
would be foolish if--if you really care for me, as you say you do, to
throw away all my interest and regard and sympathy just because I do
not consent to marry you. If you would only put that idea out of your
head, I think I could be of some service to you. I know you could be
of great service to me."

As Winifred uttered these words she sat looking up at him with
wide-open, childlike eyes, a hint of pathetic appeal in her voice.

Flint paused a moment, as one who counted the cost of his words. Then
he said slowly: "It shall be as you wish; but on your own head lie the
risks. When a man has once said, 'I love you,' the woman to whom he
says it sees it in his eyes and hears it in his voice forever after. I
tell you," he went on, setting down the faun hard on the mantel, "love
is like the spirit which the Arabian fisherman let out of the shell.
It can never be shut up again--never--never--never!"

Winifred stirred a little, but did not lift her eyes.

"You shall try this precious scheme of friendship," Flint continued
hotly. "It is not a new experiment. It is well worn, and so far in the
world's history it has not proved a great success; but try it if you
will, only you shall make me one return. I shall never ask you again
for your love. It is not a plaything to be teased for in such childish
fashion. You tell me you will not give it to me. Well and good. But if
ever--" here he paused and shut his eyes for an instant, as if upon
some inward vision,--"if ever you should come to feel differently, I
demand it as my right that you shall tell me so honestly. You know me
too well to think I could ever change."

"I accept the risk," Winifred answered steadily. "You shall never
regret this concession, and by-and-by, when we both grow old, you will
look back and see that such a friendship is the best thing that could
befall you and me."

The girl spoke with quick decision of manner. It was characteristic of
her not to question for a moment the wisdom of her decision, the
infallibility of her own judgment, or her power to regulate the life
and destiny of those around her.

Flint smiled, as one smiles at the eager illusions of a child. He was
going to speak further; but the ringing of the door-bell warned him
that the interview was at an end.

"So be it!" he said, coming over to the side of the fireplace where
Winifred stood,--for she too had risen. "Since it is not to be
good-bye, then, I will bid you good-night."

He took the hand which she extended, and raised its slender
finger-tips to his lips. "That is for friendship," he murmured; then
turning it, he laid a swift kiss upon the delicate pink palm,--"and
that is for love," he whispered, and was gone.

On his way out he passed Miss Standish, who had just come in from a
concert. She gave a little nod of scant civility, suggestive of
disapproval, and instead of turning in at the parlor door, made her
way directly to her room.

As the hall door closed after Flint, Winifred Anstice felt as if some
door had closed also in her life. She sat for some time in her low
chair, leaning forward, with her hands clasped about her knees, and
her pretty brows knit, gazing into the embers. At length, with a
little vexed shake of the head, she rose, and paced the long room; but
the whirl and rush of thought were too importunate for her present
mood, and she paused in her walk at last, and betook herself to the
table, with its litter of new books and magazines. She picked up the
"Fortnightly Review," and opened mechanically where a silver book-mark
pointed to an article on "Balzac and his Followers" marked with
emphatic notes of assent or protest. It was another reminder. She
impatiently shut the covers sharply together and returned to her
vigils before the fire.

There is no woman living who is not somewhat shaken by a proposal of
marriage. It is a peremptory challenge, which forces her, for the
moment at least, to consider a certain man not as one of a class,--as
a member of the conventional, calling, smiling, chaffing circle,--but
as an individual, passing suddenly from all this surface trifling to a
life and death reality--saying as Jonathan Flint had said this night:
"Give me all or nothing. I will have no half loaves. Let us have an
end of pretences and evasions. For once at least you shall listen, and
be told the truth flowing at lava heat out of a man's heart." It was
by no means a new experience to Winifred Anstice. As a younger girl,
although no coquette, she had found a certain charm of romance in
finding herself the heroine of a love-affair in real life; but as she
grew older she felt more and more shrinking from such sentimental
crises, and a more and more genuine regret as she saw the candid
comradeship of one friendship after another sacrificed to the
absorbing egotism of passion.

One by one she had let these lovers slip out of her life, and
acknowledged to herself that it was better so; but when it came to
Jonathan Flint, she had found herself impelled to the impetuous
protest for which she already half blamed herself in her heart. But in
self-exculpation she argued with the embers, which seemed to wink at
her from the hearth, that there were more considerations than one in
the matter; that as she had told Mr. Flint, modern life was too
complex to be compressed into a "Yes" or "No."

As she was pondering, her eyes fell upon the portrait,--Ruth's
portrait, hanging there over the mantel.

"I wish you were here, Grandmamma," Winifred exclaimed, looking up at
it, "to help me clear up the muddle in my mind! I have a kind of
feeling that _you_ would understand."

The girl's sentimental musings were rudely interrupted by a race
between Jimmy and Paddy, who came rushing through the room, regardless
of tea-tables or rugs.

"Jump for it, Paddy!" cried Jim, snatching a piece of cake from the
tray, and holding it high in air.

"Don't, Jimmy! You will upset the table."

"Come on then, Paddy, we'll jump in the hall, where there is no girl
to be nervous--I hate nervous people."

"Whose cane is that, McGregor?" he asked, as he saw an unfamiliar
walking-stick on the hall table.

"It belongs to Mr. Flint--he must have forgot it," the butler
answered.

"I say, Fred, has Mr. Flint been here?" Jimmy called out from the
baluster, over which he was leaning at imminent risk to life and limb.

"He has," Winifred answered repressively.

"Did he say anything about seats for the football game on Thanksgiving
Day?"

"He did not."

"Then I think I'd better sit right down and write to him, for he told
me not to let him forget about it, and all the best seats will be
taken if he does not attend to it soon."

"Papa," appealed Winifred to her father, who had come in and was
taking off his coat in the hall, "you won't let Jimmy write to Mr.
Flint, will you?"

"I _will_ write," said the voice from the stairs, "and I'll tell him
how cross you are. I did once, and he only laughed."

"Jimmy!"

"Yes, I did. It was that day when you would not let me go fishing with
him. I told him you were quite nice sometimes, but you could be horrid
to people when they did things that didn't suit you, and he said that
was just the way you struck him."

"Papa!" cried Winifred, now thoroughly out of temper, "will you forbid
Jimmy to talk me over with strangers? It is really too much, the way
that boy's tongue runs on."

"You understand him, don't you?" the Professor asked mildly, looking
over his gold-bowed spectacles.

"Yes, but other people don't."

"Are they so much less clear-sighted than you?" With this gentle
sarcasm her father slowly mounted the stairs, leaving Jimmy making
faces of triumph through the open door.

It is often a curious experience in the contrasts of life for a girl
to see herself from the family point of view, after catching the
rose-colored reflections which the admiration of an outsider throws
upon her character.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                           A LITTLE DINNER

               "Wreathe the bowl with flowers of soul."


The suppressed excitement of the afternoon lent an added flush and
sparkle to Winifred's face as she entered the study where her father
and Miss Standish were playing chess together after the family dinner.
Self-absorbed as she was at the moment, she found leisure to be struck
with the picture of the two sitting there; her father's head, with its
austere profile outlined against the green curtain, which cast
softened reflections over his white hair, and Miss Standish, crisp and
dainty as a sprig of dried lavender, her gray curls quivering with the
excitement, and her white hands hovering anxiously over rooks and
pawns.

Miss Standish looked up as Winifred came in, radiant in her new
evening gown, for she was to dine with the Hartington Grahams, who had
recently returned from England and opened their town house for the
season.

"I thought it was to be a _little_ dinner," said Miss Standish,
looking with some disapproval at the bare shoulders rising above the
billowy ruffles of rose-colored chiffon.

"It is--'just a small affair,' Mrs. Graham wrote me. Besides, it is
too early in the season for anything formal. In fact, she would hardly
ask her most fashionable friends at this time of year. But she must
get round somehow," Winifred finished with a little laugh.

"In Boston," said Miss Standish, "you would be overdoing it to wear
that kind of a gown to such an affair, but here people seem to have no
sense of gradation. They take literally Longfellow's advice to the
young poet seeking success: 'Do your best every time.'"

"I don't see," said Winifred, "why the advice is not just as good for
dress as for poetry,--except that gowns wear out and poems don't. Is
the carriage there, McGregor, and Maria ready? Well, good-night, Papa;
look out for your queen, and don't let Miss Standish checkmate you
with any of her Boston tricks!"

"I think," Jimmy called out after her from the corner of the big sofa,
where he lay curled up like a dormouse, "if you would do your best on
_my_ dress, instead of making me wear this old suit, it would strike a
better average in the family."

As McGregor closed the carriage door, Winifred was conscious of a
certain satisfaction that she was not to spend the evening at home
with the family. Her restlessness craved a vent, and she wanted to
postpone =all= opportunity for reflection.

There was something about the Grahams which always appealed
to the girl. Their environment suited her æsthetically. For
themselves,--why, one could not have everything--and then they were
never alone.

The carriage stopped before Mrs. Graham's house, and the door opened
almost before she had mounted the steps.

As she passed along the hall, a wave of fragrance from lavishly
disposed flowers floated out to her through the drawn portières, and
she caught a glimpse of the softened light of many lamps-shaded to the
eye but festive to the fancy. "Decidedly," thought Winifred, "it is
agreeable to be rich, and next to being rich one's self, the best
thing is to associate with rich people. Money is such a smoother of
rough ways! and then the vast opportunities of being nice to other
people that come of a purse at leisure from itself to soothe and
sympathize." She smiled to herself at her bold adaptation of the
poet's sentiments, and mounted the stairs with a quickened step,
reflecting suddenly that she had not marked the time accurately and
might be late. Her glance in at the door of the dressing-room
reassured her. At least she was not the last, for in front of the
mirror stood a portly, bediamonded dame, gazing intently into the
glass and putting the last touches to her toilet with stolid
equanimity.

"Want to come here?" she asked, pausing in her elaboration of her
water-waves, and nodding affably to Winifred.

"No, =I= thank you," Winifred answered, seating herself in the low
easy-chair, while the maid pulled off her velvet overshoes.

"Chilly to-night, isn't it?" the lady continued pleasantly, desirous
of putting the new-comer at her ease.

Winifred acquiesced in the views of the weather expressed, and a hint
of the chilliness seemed to have crept into the interior. Her
agreeable anticipations of the evening were vaguely dampened, and she
could not quite forgive the innocent cause. "Why will women with red
necks wear light blue and diamonds!" she wondered, "and what can
reconcile her to looking in the glass?"

With a little shake of the head to make sure that her hairpins were
firmly anchored, and a futile effort to smooth the rebellious curls at
her neck, Winifred glided past the lady in front of the mirror, who
seemed no nearer the completion of her toilet than when she had
entered. At the door of the rear room stood a short, bald-headed man
with a patient expression on his face, as of one who had spent a large
share of his life waiting for his wife. He glanced with some surprise
at the swift reappearance of the girl whom he had watched as she came
up the stairs so short a time before.

"That girl beats the ticker," he said to himself as she passed him;
"she'll make some man happy if she keeps it up."

The clock was striking eight as Winifred entered the drawing-room. "It
is quite a feat to be on time in this city of long distances," said
her hostess.

"How delightful to be appreciated!" responded Winifred, with a
brilliant smile. "I was just pluming myself on being so prompt, but I
see the others are still more so." Here she swept a rapid glance over
a seated group at the other end of the room.

"I suppose it is hardly more prompt to be too early than too late, so
you are still entitled to the palm."

The voice which came from close beside her drew the blood to her
cheek; but as the words went on, her nervous tremor subdued itself,
for the tone said to her as clearly as words, "Everything is to be
ignored. We are on the social stage, and must play our parts. You may
trust me."

Winifred felt a wave of relief sweep over her. She thanked the speaker
with her eyes. To her hostess she said lightly, "Mr. Flint is as much
of a purist as ever--no; don't leave us together. He and I have been
quarrelling over the tea-cups this afternoon. I will let you take up
the defence, while I go over to speak to your sister, Miss Wabash, in
the corner--and isn't that Captain Blathwayt with her?"

"Yes, he crossed with us on the 'Lucania'; remembered meeting you in
Cheyenne or some other outlandish Western town--thinks you the most
charming American he ever met."

"How clever of you!" said Winifred over her shoulder, as she moved
away. "Reflected flattery is the most alluring kind."

As Mrs. Graham turned to greet two newcomers, Flint was left alone,
with no hindrance to the occupation of watching Winifred Anstice. She
stood with her back toward him and her head slightly turned, so that
his eye took in the delicate line of cheek and chin, broken by the
shadows of a dimple, the curve of the neck, and the soft little curls
that nestled at the base of the hair. A woman is always much handsomer
or much plainer than usual in evening dress.

As Flint looked at Winifred, he felt an absurd jealousy of the
monocled Englishman who presumed to show his admiration so plainly.
His reflections were ended for the time being by the voice of his
hostess saying, "Will you take my sister in to dinner?" As he moved
across the room, Winifred and Captain Blathwayt passed out together,
just ahead of Miss Wabash and himself. He scarcely knew whether to
feel regret or relief to find that the width of the table was to be
between him and Winifred. It certainly had the advantage of shutting
off all necessity for the conversation _farcie_ of the conventional
dinner, which he felt would be an impossibility between him and her
to-night.

With Miss Wabash the _vol-au-vent_ of talk seemed the most natural
thing; and Flint dashed at once into a jesting, somewhat daring tone,
which she took quite in good part, and when her attention was claimed
by the bald-headed broker on the other side, his neighbor on the left,
a double-chinned dowager, with a pearl necklace half hidden in the
creases of her neck and a diamond aigrette in her hair, proved no less
garrulous if somewhat less sprightly.

She had much to tell of the loss of her diamonds by a burglary last
week, and of their recovery through the agency of detectives whose
charges were exorbitant. She acquainted Flint with every detail of
the conduct of the family and the servants, the police and the
detectives. As she went on, people began to listen, and the talk
around the table, which had lagged a little, started up more briskly
than before.

"I have noticed," said Winifred to Captain Blathwayt, "that there are
two subjects which will make even dull people lively,--burglaries and
mind-cure."

"Aw, I don't know much about burglaries,--never had one in the family;
but I think a lot about mind-cure and all that sort of thing."

"Confirmation of my theory!" said Winifred, with an impertinence which
felt safe in banking on the lack of perception in the person whose
dignity was assailed.

"Do you believe in the mind-cure?" asked Miss Wabash, who had caught
the phrase across the table.

"It depends on the mind," Flint answered.

"Oh, no, it doesn't; not at all. That's the first principle of the
science. You only need to resign yourself and let the influence flow
over you."

"Does it make any difference whose influence it is?"

"Oh, I suppose so. It must be trained influence, and it seems to work
better when it is paid for."

"Most things do," observed Flint.

"My cousin says--"

Flint never knew exactly what Miss Wabash's cousin did say, for at
that point in the conversation his attention was irresistibly
attracted by the talk of his opposite neighbors.

"Now there's a lot in it, I'm sure," the man of the monocle was
saying, bending toward Winifred with what Flint considered
objectionable propinquity,--"telepathy, don't you know, and--and all
that sort of thing. I had no idea I was to meet you to-night, but as I
was standing on the doorstep I remembered how you looked at that
dinner out in Cheyenne, and a remark you made to me--do you
recollect?"

"The dinner, perfectly; the remark, not at all."

"Well, I sha'n't repeat it, for it was deucedly severe on the English.
Really, you know, we're not half bad; but you don't care for your
cousins over the water, I am afraid. Do you?"

"I think the cousins over the water are much like those on this
side,--the relationship is simply an opportunity for intimate
acquaintance. Some Englishmen are the most charming of their sex;
others are--well, quite the reverse."

"To which do _I_ belong?" asked the Captain, turning toward her more
openly and leaving his terrapin untasted, which meant much with
Blathwayt.

"Can you doubt?" Winifred responded with a radiant but wholly
non-committal smile. Self-possessed as she was outwardly, however, she
felt Flint's eyes upon her, and experienced a sense of annoyance at
the attitude of both men.

Her host on the other side came to her relief at the moment.

"Blathwayt," he said, leaning over, "you must try this wine. It is
some my wine-merchant in Paris sent over ten years ago,--a special
vintage,--and don't let the terrapin go by, for there's nothing else
worth while before the canvas-backs. I'll let you into the secret too,
Miss Anstice," he added with an expression closely approaching a wink.

"Thanks," said Winifred, rather wearily, "I am not an epicure."

"Oh, but you can be trained to be!" Graham answered encouragingly. "It
is mainly a question of practice, though I must say that I was born
with the taste,--inherited from my father, I believe; and I've heard
him tell how once when I was five years old I scolded the butler for
sending up the Burgundy iced."

"How precocious!" murmured Winifred.

"Well, of course, that was unusual; but if children were taken young
and had half the attention paid to their palates that folks give to
their eyes and ears, with their fool drawing-teachers and
music-masters in the attempt to enable them to bore somebody with
their twopenny accomplishments, we should soon have a race of
gourmets; and gourmets make cooks. No chef can do his best without
appreciation. For the matter of that, a cook must be born,--he must
have the feeling for his business. Now there was a fellow in
England--My dear," he called out to his wife at the other end of the
table, "was it Windermere or Grassmere where we had those excellent
breaded trout?"

"I forget," Mrs. Graham answered; "but I know it was the one where
Wordsworth lived. Which was that, Mr. Flint?"

"Now don't interrupt us," Miss Wabash said in her loud, unshaded
tones; "Mr. Flint has just consented to let me tell his fortune by his
hand."

Flint looked rather foolish. He was in that awkward position where it
seemed equally fatuous to assent or decline; but deciding on the
former course, he held out his hand, saying, "Spare my character as
far as you conscientiously can, Miss Wabash, and remember in
extenuation of my shortcomings that I did not have the advantage of
being brought up in Chicago."

All tête-à-tête conversation now ceased, and the attention of the
company was riveted upon Flint and his neighbor. Winifred felt herself
growing intensely nervous. She had no fear of Miss Wabash's
extraordinary power of divination, but she had still less confidence
in the delicacy of her perceptions, and she dreaded some remark which
would embarrass her through Flint's embarrassment.

In her present high-strung condition, her apprehension made her a
little faint for a moment. The centrepiece of orchids and roses seemed
a vague mass of rather oppressive color and perfume. The women's faces
and necks looked like reddish blobs with flashes of light where the
jewels came. The broad white expanse of the men's shirt fronts alone
retained a certain steadiness. Hastily she grasped her glass of
champagne and drained it dry. It was the first wine she had tasted
that night, and it braced her nerves at once. Fortunately no one
observed her paleness, for everybody's attention was fixed upon Miss
Wabash as she bent over Flint's open palm.

"A surprising hand!" that young lady was saying; "really in some ways
quite the most interesting I ever came across. I must report it to
Chiro. The fingers very pointed--that ought to indicate idealism, but
the knots on the joints imply practical critical sense. It looks as
though the mind were always grasping at some ideal and were held back
by the critical faculty."

"Don't blink your points, Mamie!" called out the host, facetiously. At
this allusion to sporting reminiscences, all the men laughed, but the
women rather resented the interruption, as a frivolous treatment of a
serious subject.

"You have learned your profession thoroughly," said Flint, coloring a
little in spite of himself. "I shall begin to be afraid of you in
earnest, if you are so discerning."

"Oh, I have only begun!" answered Miss Wabash, kindled by success to
greater vivacity. "That thumb shows marked firmness (see, I can
scarcely bend it back at all); perhaps, if I knew you better, I should
say obstinacy."

Every one laughed.

"The fingers," she went on, "show more sensitiveness; and the
mounds--oh, those mean a great deal! Mars is firm and prominent--what
you undertake you will carry through, if it kills you and everybody
else."

"What a fellow to buy on margin!" said the broker.

"He doesn't seem to have succeeded in getting married for all his
perseverance," laughed Mr. Graham.

Winifred, in spite of her emotion, found time to reflect on the
vulgarity of the phrase, and shivered a little. Flint colored, though
he held his hand quite steady.

"Perhaps he'll buy her sixty," chuckled the broker, pleased with his
technical wit.

"He'd better hurry up," said Miss Wabash, "for his life-line is short.
He's had experiences though. May I tell them, Mr. Flint?"

"I give you permission."

"Well, then, you were in love once a long time ago, but there were
reasons why you couldn't marry, and so you gave up the affair and have
never really cared for any one since; but two or three women have been
desperately in love with you."

"Mademoiselle, respect the seal of the confessional!" said Flint,
smiling, but drawing away his hand with a quick instinctive motion
which did not escape Winifred.

"Ho! ho!" called out Graham, "perhaps there is more in palmistry than
I thought. Go on, Mamie, and give us the history of the Salvation Army
episode and the Hallelujah lassie!"

Flint cursed inwardly, cursed everything and almost everybody, himself
most of all. What was he here for? What if Graham _was_ the chief
stockholder in the "Trans-Continental," he was a coarse-grained
sensualist, with whom no gentleman should associate. (This estimate by
no means did Graham justice, but Flint was not in a judicial mood.)
Then this crack-brained girl with her foolish fake of a theory--and he
had been idiot enough to fall into this trap, and now Winifred would
think he had boasted of Nora Costello as a conquest, perhaps bragged
about saving her life. Oh, the whole thing was past endurance!
Meanwhile everything around moved on mechanically. He heard his host
say impatiently, "My dear, if you keep that épigramme of lamb waiting
much longer, we'd better give up dining and take to holding hands all
round."

At this there was a general taking up of forks and a subdued buzz of
conversation. It was rather a relief when the candle-shade took fire
and Flint had an excuse for rising to seize it before the butler could
reach it.

The dinner ended at last, though it seemed as if it never would. As he
held aside the velvet curtains for the ladies to pass, Flint strove to
catch Winifred's eyes, to judge, if he might, what impression Graham's
remark had made; but Blathwayt held her in talk till the threshold was
reached, and the curtain dropped behind her without a glance in
Flint's direction.

She held her head a little higher than usual as she moved beside Mrs.
Graham into the music-room. A wave of contempt was sweeping over her,
as she reviewed the dinner, its gilding, its gluttony, and its
unspeakable dulness, and she felt that she had sold her birthright of
self-respect for a mess of pottage.

Miss Wabash sat down at the piano and sang "Oh, Promise Me," and one
or two other gems from DeKoven's latest opera, and then the ladies
adjourned once more to the library.

The Grahams' library was a large square room, diversified by two
shallow bay-windows such as only a corner house permits. It was ceiled
and finished in heavy Flemish oak, and the walls above the low
bookcases were hung with tapestry. Easy-chairs and softly upholstered
divans filled every nook and corner. It was really, Winifred decided,
an ideal library,--or would have been if there had been any books
behind the silk curtains hung over the shelves.

As they entered the room Miss Wabash drew Winifred to a seat near
herself on the sofa.

"Green mint or Chartreuse?" the hostess asked, as the little
ice-filled glasses were set on the low table by her side.

Winifred declined the cordials, but sat sipping the coffee out of the
tiny Dresden cup, while she listened to the wearisome platitudes of
Mrs. Graham and her guests. From time to time her eye was caught by
the flashing of the jewelled pendulum of the clock on the mantel, in
the drawing-room across the hall, and her mind dwelt ironically on
some lines she had read somewhere:--

      "Ah! who with clear account remarks
        The ebbing of Time's glass,
      When all his sands are diamond sparks
        That dazzle as they pass!"

She smiled a derisive little smile, all to herself, as she thought how
small a power lay in jewelled pendulums to make a brilliant evening,
and she felt a certain thrill of pride at the thought that her
associations lay in a world removed from all this smothering
materialism. The lavish sumptuousness which till now had appealed to
her rather strongly, seemed suddenly tainted with vulgarity, and her
thoughts wandered half unconsciously to the bare little room where she
had gone to see Nora Costello. The name brought a slight quickening of
her pulses, and she wanted time to think over things alone.

As the men came in from the dining-room Miss Anstice's carriage was
announced, and she rose to bid her hostess good-night.

"Must you run away so early, my dear?"

"Thank you, yes; I promised Papa to come home early. He likes to see
me before he goes to bed, and to hear an account of my evening."

"You will be at home at five to-morrow, and I may bring Captain
Blathwayt?"

"Any friend of yours, of course," murmured Winifred, in a tone which
could hardly have proved encouraging to the vanity or incipient
sentiment of the guardsman.

"If you will permit me," said Flint to Graham as Winifred came down
the stairs, "I will put Miss Anstice into her carriage, and then come
back for that last cigar."

Never in his life had Flint so raved against his own lack of readiness
as now, when he felt the passing moments slipping by, and could find
no words to set himself right in the eyes of the woman he loved,--the
woman whose little gloved hand rested on his arm. Judge then of his
feeling when, smiling up into his eyes with perfect friendliness,
Winifred said under her breath, "Why do we go there--you and I? They
really aren't our kind at all."

The remark carried with it full assurance that no words uttered by
Hartington Graham had power to shake for an instant her faith in the
man whom she had called her friend; but beyond that her confident use
of the word _our_, as if their interests and associations were the
same, thrilled him with a sort of intoxication.

"Oh, thank you!" was all that he could find to say to express his
complicated state of mind.

"I do not deserve any thanks at all," Winifred answered. "I ought to
be well scolded for speaking slightingly of people whom I have just
been visiting. I do not often do such ill-mannered things, and I
should not have said it to any one but you."

Again Flint thrilled at the unconscious flattery.

"Will you come in to-morrow afternoon?" she asked, as he shut the
carriage door.

"To meet Captain Blathwayt? No, thank you."

"The day after then."

"So be it--till then, farewell!"

Flint re-entered the house with his heart beating like a trip-hammer.



                            CHAPTER XVIII

                            A MAIDEN'S VOW

                  "A maiden's vow, old Calham spoke,
                   Is lightly made and lightly broke."


As the cab rattled down the avenue, Winifred sank back against the
cushions. She sat in the corner in a sort of daze, marking the glimmer
of the electric lights, which seemed so many milestones in her life,
as she passed them one after another. After all, it is experience
which marks time, and in this day Winifred Anstice had tasted more of
life than in many a year before. Crashing into her world of calm
commonplace had fallen the dynamite bomb of an overwhelming emotion.
Her present, with all its preoccupying trifles, lay in wrecks about
her. For the future--it was too tumultuous to be faced.

She was like a person who has been walking in the darkness along a
familiar road, and suddenly feels himself plunging over an unsuspected
precipice. She was conscious of nothing but a gasping sense of
dizziness--all control of herself and her life seemed passing out of
her hands into those of another, and she scarcely knew whether to be
glad or sorry. Was it only this afternoon that she had looked upon a
marriage with Jonathan Flint as impossible? If she had thought so a
few hours ago, why not now? Nothing had occurred since. No
transcendent change had come over him or her--why should it all look
so different to her now? Perhaps, she told herself, this mood too
would pass like its precursor. She dared not feel sure of
anything--she who had swung round the whole compass of feeling like a
weather-vane before a thunder-storm.

These introspective reflections brought back irresistibly the feelings
with which she had read Flint's letter, little dreaming that it was
his,--the letter so full of wise and friendly counsel. She remembered
how, as she read, she had been filled with a yearning desire to rise
to the ideal her unknown counsellor had set before her, and filled too
with a longing that Fate might send it in her way, to be something to
him, to return in some measure the spiritual aid and comfort which she
had received at his hands.

"Well," she told herself gloomily, "the opportunity had come, and this
was how she had used it--not only by denying his petition,--that, of
course, was inevitable, feeling as she did,--but by accusing him of
selfishness, by insisting that he should accept her terms of
friendship. _Friendship_, bah!--how stale and flat it sounded! Could
she not have devised some newer way of wounding an honorable man who
had offered her his heart?"

It seemed to her excited consciousness that she must appear to him a
vain and empty coquette, eager to retain a homage for which she
intended no return. When once he awoke to that view, his love would
die out, for he was not a man to continue devotion where he had lost
respect; and so it was all over, or as good as over, between her and
him.

The cab lurched sharply across the tracks at Twenty-Third Street,
jostling Winifred's flowers and fan out of her lap. The maid stooped
to pick them up. As she returned them she caught a glimpse of the set
look in the face of her mistress.

"Are you feelin' bad?" she asked.

"No, no, I am quite well, Maria, only a little tired--are we near
home?"

"Yes'm, we've passed Gramercy Park, and there's the steeples of St.
George's that you see from your windows."

"Yes, yes, I see. Here we are close at home. You may go to bed, Maria,
after you have lighted the lamp in my room. I shall not need you
to-night."

"Well, well," thought the maid, "something's the matter sure. I never
knew no one more fussy about the unhooking of her gown. She can't do
much herself, but she does know how things ought to be done, and
that's what I calls a real lady."

"Winifred, my dear, is that you?" Professor Anstice called, as the
rustle of his daughter's dress caught his ear on the stair.

"Oh, Papa, are you awake still?"

"_Still!_ Why it is not so very late!" said her father, as Winifred
entered the study and threw herself into the deep upholstered chair
beside the fire, which was just graying into ashes in the grate.

Her father was sitting in his cane-seated study-chair with a
conglomeration of volumes piled about the table. His face, perhaps
from the reflection of the green-shaded student-lamp, looked pale and
worn. His shoulders, too, seemed to Winifred's abnormally quickened
perception to have caught a new stoop. The fact forced itself upon her
consciousness with a sudden, swift pang, that her father was growing
old. She had never thought of age in connection with him before. To
her he had been simply and sufficiently "my father," without thought
of other relations or conditions; but now it rushed upon her with a
wave of insistent remorse, that his life was slipping by, while she
was doing so little for his happiness. A rather bare and dreary life
it seemed to her now, as she contemplated its monotony; for Winifred
had no appreciation of "the still air of delightful studies." Her
world was peopled with live, active figures, always pushing forward,
seeking, striving, loving. And her father had loved once. Yes, that
too struck her now, almost with a shock of surprise. He, too, had
asked for some one's love as ardently, perhaps, as Jonathan Flint for
hers. More than that, he had won the love he sought. Won it and lost
it again. Could it ever come to that for her? The thought smote her
with an intolerable sharpness.

Mr. Anstice was a strange man to be the parent and guardian of such a
girl as Winifred. The world for him was bounded by the walls of his
study. Even his teaching seemed an interruption to the real business
of his life, and he turned his back upon his class-room with a
sensation of relief.

He was not a popular professor among the body of the students; but the
unfailing courtesy of his manner, and the solidity of his scholarship,
won the respect of the many, and the esteem and warm admiration of the
few.

His bearing, in spite of the scholar's stoop, was marked by a certain
distinction, and the lines of his worn face curiously suggested the
fresh curves which marked his daughter's brow and cheek. The beauty of
youth is an ivorytype; the beauty of age is an etching, bitten out by
the burin and acid of thought, experience, and sorrow.

The prevailing mood with James Anstice was one of gentle weariness. He
felt that his life was ended, and that the years were going on in a
sort of monotonous anti-climax. Yet, in spite of this undertone of
depression, his manner was responsive, genial, even gay at times, and
he lived much in the reflected light of Winifred's youth and energy.

If it caused him some surprise that any one should want anything as
much as Winifred wanted everything for which she cared at all, he
treated her enthusiasms with amused toleration, and made as much
effort to secure for her the successive desires of her heart as though
they had assumed the same importance in his own mind as in hers.

To-night he forced himself away from his own train of thought with an
effort, to throw himself into Winifred's evening experiences. He
watched her for some time as she sat in silence, with head bent
forward and gloved hands clasped about her knee.

"Well, little girl," he said at last, "you seem to have fallen into a
brown study. Was the dinner so dull?"

"No, Papa, not dull exactly; rather brilliant in some ways."

"I understand--brilliant materially, dull spiritually, like the
mantles those fellows wore in the Inferno--gilt on the outside, and
lead within. 'Oh, everlastingly fatiguing mantle!' I am gladder than
ever that I stayed at home."

"I am glad too, for I think you would have been bored, and when you
are bored you make no concealment of the fact."

"Of course not,--why should I? If I seemed to be having a good time, I
should be compelled to go through it again. No, society is organized
for people under twenty-five. They really enjoy it. For the rest of
the world it is a sham."

Winifred smiled absently.

"Who was there?" Professor Anstice asked at length, pushing away his
books as if bidding them a reluctant good-night.

"Oh, no one whom you know, I think, except Mr. Flint."

"Flint? Does he go to such things?"

"Yes, and appears to find them sufficiently entertaining, though I
fancy he must be decidedly over twenty-five. By the way," she added,
with an elaborately careless aside, "what do you think of Mr. Flint,
on the whole?"

"I think, for a clever man, he plays the worst game of whist I ever
saw."

"Yes, yes," admitted Winifred, with light mockery in her tone; "but
what do you think of him in lesser matters,--general character, for
instance?"

The Professor looked at his daughter with a little quizzical sadness
in his faded gray eyes. He began to perceive the drift of her banter.

"It would be difficult to state exactly what I think of him when you
put it so broadly as that," he answered. "Flint's character is
complex. He has in him the making of a fine man; but the question is,
will it ever be made? He seems to me abnormally lacking in personal
ambition,--does not seem to care whether he is heard of or not,--has a
sort of contempt for the little neighborhood notorieties which give
most men pleasure. It is as if he were taking a bird's-eye view of
himself, and every one else, and they all looked so small that the
trifling variations in prominence did not matter."

Winifred looked at her father in silent surprise. She had no idea that
he had made such a study of the younger man. He paused for a moment;
but meeting his daughter's absorbed gaze, he continued: "The thing
which gives me most hope of Flint is his genuine devotion to truth.
Positive or negative truth--it is all the same to him. Now, many a
man is loyal to his convictions; but very few are loyal to their
doubts. He will 'come into port greatly or sail with God the seas.'
Fine line that, isn't it? The sound is quite majestic if you say it
over aloud--'Come into port--'"

"But, Papa," interrupted Winifred a little impatiently, "you were
talking of Mr. Flint."

"To be sure, so we were,--at least I was; but I should like to hear a
little of your opinion of him. A woman's estimate of a man is always
worth having, though not always worth heeding. You see too much in
high lights and deep shadows, not enough by clear daylight; still, I
should like to know how Flint strikes you. I remember at first you
found him absolutely disagreeable."

"Yes, Papa."

"But of late you have seemed to change your mind, or at least to feel
less prejudice against him."

"Yes, Papa."

A silence fell between them after this. At length Winifred rose and
turned down the lights. Then she drew a low stool to the side of her
father's chair, and sitting down by his knee began to rub her hand
gently up and down over the broadcloth.

"Papa," she said after a while, "I haven't been very nice to you; have
I?"

"Nonsense, child,--what put such an idea into your head? As if I had
had any happiness in all these years since--since your mother
died--except through my children!"

"Oh, yes, I know you have found your happiness in taking care of us,
but I have found my happiness in being taken care of; and I have
enjoyed having my own way and doing the things I liked, and now I
would give--oh, so much!--if I had been different."

"What does this mean?" exclaimed Professor Anstice, anxiously fumbling
about Winifred's wrist in the vain effort to find her pulse. "Are you
ill? You have not had a hemorrhage or anything, have you?"

"Don't worry about me, dear! I shall live to plague you for many a
year yet. I'm as well as can be, except for the mind ache." Here she
gave a nervous little laugh. The Professor looked down at her, sitting
there on the stool, her head drooping to the side as he remembered to
have seen it years ago when she was a little chidden child. The waving
hair hid her face from his sight,--all but the delicate oval of the
cheek and the curve of the full, rounded chin.

"Winifred," he said gently, "I think you have something to tell me."

"Yes, I have, only I don't know how to begin."

"Is it, perhaps, about Mr. Flint?"

"Yes, about Mr. Flint," Winifred admitted.

"He has been asking you to marry him?"

"Yes, asking me to marry him," Winifred repeated, still like a child
reciting her catechism.

"And you promised."

"No, I did not," Winifred answered with sudden energy; "I told him I
never could, would, or should marry him,--that I would go on being
friends with him as long as he liked, but on condition that he gave up
the other idea entirely."

Professor Anstice reached out his thin white scholarly fingers and
stroked the rebellious waves of his daughter's hair.

"Winifred," he said, "you are always acting on impulse. You never take
time to consider anything, but jump and plunge like a broncho. Now let
us talk this matter over calmly: I am afraid you have made a
mistake--a serious mistake, my dear, though it may not be too late to
remedy it."

"There is nothing to remedy," said Winifred, with a tremulous attempt
at cheerfulness; "he asked me and I said 'No,' and he said he should
never ask me again, and I said I hoped he wouldn't, or something like
that, and so the matter ended; and I am always going to live with you
and be good to you,--and you won't be sorry for that, will you?"

"I should be very sorry if it came about so. Listen, Winifred. Because
you see me a delver in dusty old books, you think perhaps that I don't
know what love is; but I tell you as I grow older it comes to fill a
larger and larger part of the horizon, to seem perhaps the only
reality. I don't mean just the love of a man for a woman, but the
great throbbing bond of human affection and sympathy; and of all the
kinds of affection, there is none that has the strength and toughness
that belong to the love of husband and wife. I wish you to marry,
Winifred,--I have always wished it,--only let it be to a true man, my
dear,--let it be to a true man!"

"Father, he _is_ a true man," said Winifred, speaking low and with a
timidity wholly new to her.

"I think so,--I earnestly believe it. He seems to me to have more
ability, more strength, and more tenderness than he has shown yet.
Some wrong ideas have twisted themselves persistently among the very
fibres of his life and warped it; but it is not yet too late to tear
them away."

"Some one else may do it," said Winifred, in exaggerated
discouragement, "I let the opportunity slip by. He will never ask me
again, and as for me--do you think I will ever go to any man with the
offer of my love? Not if my heart broke for him!"

"He said he would never ask you again?"

"Yes, Papa; he said it twice."

"Well, if he said it twice fifty times, it was a lie, or would have
been if he had not believed it himself at the time. Never fear but you
will have a chance to tell him that you have changed your mind, and
without any wound to your pride either."

"Oh, Papa!" cried Winifred, rising and throwing her arms about his
neck, "you are such a comfort!"

The old clock on the landing of the stairway struck one.

"There, it is morning already," said her father. "Off to bed with you,
else I shall have no one to pour out my cup of coffee to-morrow." As
he spoke, he gently unclasped her arms from about his neck, but she
would not go quite yet.

"If--if--all this should ever come about, are you quite sure you would
be willing to have me leave you?"

"Quite sure, my dear. It is the natural thing, and what is natural
must be right. Now, good-night."

Winifred wiped away the tears which had been hanging on the fringe of
her eyelashes, and after a parting hug gathered up her wraps and swept
away to her room. Her father watched her tenderly till the last trace
of her gown had vanished up the stairs; then he closed the door
softly, took a miniature from its case in the drawer, laid it on the
table, and bowed his head on both arms above it.

"'Father and Mother both.' Yes, that was what I promised, and that is
what I must be so far as I can, and may God help me!" he murmured.



                             CHAPTER XIX

                             A SLUM POST

               "Sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."


Despair fells; suspense tortures. The forty odd hours which lay
between the ending of the Grahams' dinner and the promised interview
with Winifred Anstice stretched out into an eternity to the impatience
of Flint. By turns he tried occupation and diversion; yet his ear
caught every tick of the clock, which seemed to his exaggerated fancy
to have retarded its movement. He found it so impossible to work at
his office that he packed up his papers and started for home.

"What! going so early?" called Brooke from his desk.

"Yes, a man cannot do any work here with this everlasting steam-drill
outside."

"You are growing too sensitive for this world, Flint. We shall have to
build you a padded room, like Carlyle's, on top of the building."

Flint vouchsafed no answer. He posted out and up Broadway as if he
were in mad haste. Then suddenly recollecting that his chief purpose
was to kill time, he moderated his stramming gait to a stroll. At a
jeweller's on Union Square he paused, and turned in, ostensibly to
order some cards; but passing out he stopped surreptitiously before
the case of jewels. The rubies interested him most. How well they
would look against a certain gray-silk gown! Should he ever dare-- He
caught a meaning smile on the face of the clerk, and bolted out of the
door.

He paused again at a fashionable florist's shop tucked deftly in among
the theatres of central Broadway. The men at the counter were busily
engaged over curiously incongruous tasks,--one binding up a cross of
lilies, another a wreath for a baby's coffin, and a third preparing a
beribboned basket, gay with chrysanthemums, for a dinner-table.
Heedless, like us all, of every one's experiences but his own, Flint
stood by, waiting impatiently for the clerk who was putting the last
lily in the cross. From the great heaps of roses which stood about he
selected an overflowing boxful of the longest-stemmed and most
fragrant. The clerk smiled as he watched his recklessness. "I've seen
'em like that," he said to himself, "and two or three years after
they'll come in and ask for carnations, and say it doesn't matter if
they _were_ brought in yesterday."

Unconscious of the florist's cynical reflections, Flint tossed him
his card, and emerged once more to add one to the moving mass of
humanity on the street. At Madison Square he dropped in at the club
and looked over the latest numbers of "Life" and "Punch."

Still time hung heavy on his hands. He looked at his watch; it was
just five o'clock,--exactly the time when that objectionable Blathwayt
was to call in Stuyvesant Square. Still two hours before dinner.

He left the club, crossed over to Broadway, and jumped onto the
platform of the moving cable-car at imminent peril to life and limb.
He rode on in a sort of daze, till he was roused by a sudden jerk and
the conductor's call of: "Central Park--all out here!" Moving with the
moving stream of passengers, he stepped out of the car, and refusing a
green transfer ticket he crossed the street and entered the park at
the Seventh Avenue gate, where the path makes a sudden dip from the
level of the street. The sun was near its setting, and the chilly wind
had swept the walks clear of tricycles and baby carriages. The
gray-coated guardian of the peace blinked at him from his sentry box.
Otherwise he had the park to himself, and found an intense pleasure in
the solitude, the keen air, and the sharp outlines of the dreary
autumn branches against the gorgeous sky.

The west had that peculiar brilliancy which the dwellers on Manhattan
would recognize as characteristic of their island in November, if
there were not so few who ever get a peep at the sky except
perpendicularly at noonday, as they emerge from rows of brownstone
houses or overshadowing buildings of fabulous height. Flint was in no
mood to sentimentalize over sunsets. The intensely human interests
before him drove Nature far away, as a cold abstraction akin to death;
yet half unconsciously the scene imprinted itself upon his senses, and
long afterward he recalled distinctly the pale grayish-blue of the
zenith shading into the rare, cold tint of green, and that again
barred over with light gossamer clouds, beneath which lay the glowing
bands of orange, red, and violet.

As the sun dropped, the temperature followed it. The wind whistled
more keenly through the bare branches. Flint turned up the collar of
his overcoat, thrust his hands into his pockets, and quickened his
pace.

The relief of rapid motion told upon his overstrained condition. By
the time he had rounded the lakes he was calmer. The ascent of the
steep, rock-hewn steps of the ramble rested his nerves as much as it
taxed his wind, and as he came stramming down the mall, his mind was
sufficiently detached from its own hopes and fears to be able to
realize that the overhanging elms recalled agreeably the long walk at
Oxford, and that the Cathedral spires were fine in the gathering dusk,
as one emerged from the Fifth Avenue entrance. The return to the world
of men stimulated him, and the long undulating waves of electric
lights seemed to beckon to him hopefully as he went on.

The afternoon was gone. That was one comfort, he said, as he reached
his own room. It would take half-an-hour to dress for dinner, and that
meal might be prolonged to cover another hour; but the evening still
stretched onward, seeming interminable to his restless fancy. It was a
relief when Brady came in and suggested that they drop in at a meeting
of the Salvation Army to be held at a slum post in a region of the
city known as Berry Hill.

"Will I go?" he said, echoing the question of his friend, who stood
looking out of the window with an appearance of indifference, which
deceived no one. "Yes, I will; but I want you to understand that I
don't go as you do, out of pure emotional piety, but only to see and
hear Nora Costello."

"Well, she is worth it, isn't she?" Brady responded.

"Worth a trip down-town? Without doubt; but that is not the question
that is lying down in the depths of the locality you are pleased to
call your heart. Come, now," he added, walking across to the window
and throwing his arm over Brady's shoulder with one of his rare
exhibitions of affection,--"come; make a clean breast of it, and let
us talk the thing out from A to Z. _Imprimis_, you are in love with
Nora Costello."

Brady started and moved away a trifle, but made no effort at denial
till after a minute, when he said rather weakly, "What makes you think
so?"

"_Think_ so! Why, man, I must be deaf, dumb, and blind not to _know_
it. Do you suppose I believed that a man at your time of life, brought
up as you have been, had suddenly gone daft on this Salvation Army
business?"

"It's a 'business', as you call it, that does more good than all the
churches put together," answered Brady, hotly.

"Hear him!" echoed Flint, mockingly.

"Hear this son of New England actually declaring that there may be a
way to heaven which does not lie between church-pews or start from a
pulpit!"

"Flint, you are a scoffer."

"What do I scoff at?"

"Religion."

"Pardon me, but I do not."

"Well, theology, anyway."

"Ah, that is a different matter."

"You call yourself an agnostic."

"No, I don't. 'Agnostic' is too long and too pretentious a word. I
prefer to translate it and call myself a know-nothing."

"Don't you believe in God and a future life--and--and all that sort of
thing?" Brady ended rather disjointedly.

"Don't you believe Mars is inhabited? and that the lines on its
surface are canals for irrigation?"

"I don't know," answered Brady, whose mental processes were simple.

"Neither do I," said Flint; "and what is more, neither does any man,
any more than he knows about God and a future life; and so why should
we go to making up creeds and breaking the heads of people who don't
agree with us when we are all just guessers, and probably all of us
wrong?"

"Then you would take away faith out of the world?"

"Not I,--at least not unless I could see something to take its place,
which at present I don't; and as for these poor devils who are
consoling themselves for their hard lot in this world by the
expectation of a soft thing in the next, I would not be such a brute
as to shake their confidence if I could, and I don't blame them much
if in addition to their heaven they set up a hell where, in
imagination at least, they can put the folks who have been having a
too good time here while they were grunting and sweating under their
weary load."

"Then I wonder you have not more sympathy with an organization like
the Salvation Army, which is doing its best to lighten the burden of
the grunters and sweaters."

"Ah," answered Flint, "I had forgotten the Salvation Army,--it seems
so small a branch of a big subject. I am glad you brought me back. But
let us go a little further back still, for you know it was not the
Army at all that we started to discuss, but only one of its officers,
with a slender little figure and a pale face and a big pair of rather
mournful dark eyes."

"Oh!" said Brady, taken somewhat off his guard, "but you should see
her when she is pleased! They light up just as if a torch had been
kindled in them."

"Oh, they do, do they?" said Flint, with genial raillery; "well, you
see I never saw her so pleased as that."

"Why, don't you remember on her birthday, when I gave her back the
locket?"

"I remember the occasion; but I had precious little chance to see how
her eyes looked, for you stood so close to her that nobody else could
catch a glimpse. I did see something, though."

"What?"

"I saw _you_, and any one more palpably sentimental I never did see."

"Well, what of it? It isn't a crime, I suppose--"

"That depends," Flint answered dryly.

Brady shook off his hand. "What do you mean by that?" he asked
angrily.

"I mean," said Flint, folding his arms and looking at his friend
steadily, "that you have come to the cross-roads. You cannot go on as
you are. You must either give up hanging about Nora Costello, or you
must make up your mind to marry her."

"And why not, pray, if I could induce her to accept me?"

"Great Heavens!" cried Flint; "has it gone so far as that?"

"Yes, it has," answered Brady, as defiantly as though Flint had
represented his whole family circle; "and if she will marry me I shall
be a proud and happy man."

"And your relatives,--the Bradfords and Standishes and all?"

"Plymouth Rock may fall on them for all I care," exclaimed Brady.

"And how about the tambourines and torches?"

Brady colored a little, but he stood his ground manfully.

"I shall never presume to dictate," he answered. "I will go my way and
she shall go hers; and if I can lend a helping hand to any of the poor
wretches she is trying to save, I shall do it, if I have to take off
my kid gloves and get down into the gutter, as many a better man has
done before me."

"Well," answered Flint, "if that is the way you take it I have nothing
more to say. But if you don't object I would like to be present when
you announce the engagement to Miss Standish."

"Miss Standish be hanged!" cried Brady. "It is a question of Miss
Costello, I tell you. My only anxiety lies right there. If you had
ever been in love you would know how it feels."

"I can imagine," Flint answered, taking up his pipe and looking
scrutinizingly into the bowl; "I have read about it in books. But
come! if we are going to the rally we must be about it. It is nearly
eight by my watch. How long is the confounded thing--excuse me--I mean
the gospel gathering?"

"If you are going to make fun of it, Flint, you would better stay at
home," said Brady, stiffly.

"No, no, forgive me, Brady! I meant nothing of the kind; it is my
accursed habit of joking when I am in earnest, and being so solemn
when I try to be funny that I am never in harmony with the occasion.
Go on; I will close the door. I ought not to go, for I half expect
Brooke of the Magazine. No matter; I will leave word for him."

As they passed the janitor, Flint said, "I shall be back by ten. If
any one comes to see me you have the key of my rooms, and let any
visitor come in and wait."

"All right, sir!"

"And see that the fire is kept up."

"Yes, sir."

Flint shivered as he passed out of the warm, heavily carpeted halls
into the chilly night of late November.

"To-morrow will be Thanksgiving, won't it?" Brady observed.

"Yes, and judging by the number of turkeys on this avenue there will
be no family without one. I heard last year of a poor widow who had
_six_ sent her by different charitable institutions. That is what I
call a pressure of subsistence on population."

Something in Flint's manner jarred upon his companion. It seemed like
a determined opposition to any undue influence of sentiment or
emotion. Brady could not have defined the attitude of his friend's
mind; but he felt it, and resented it to the extent of keeping
silence after they had taken their seats in the car of the elevated
road.

There were few other passengers, and the car smelled of lamp-oil. All
surrounding influences tended to depress Brady's ordinarily buoyant
spirits, and he wished he had stayed at home, or at any rate had left
Flint behind. Meanwhile his companion, apparently wholly oblivious of
the frigidity of his companion's manner, sat with his hat pulled over
his eyes, and his face as undecipherable as the riddle of the Sphinx.

As the cars stopped at a station half-way between the up-town
residences and the downtown offices, in the slum belt of the city,
Brady buttoned up his overcoat and rose, saying shortly, "We get out
here."

"He has been here more than once," was Flint's inward comment; but he
made no reply, only followed in Brady's footsteps down the iron
stairs, and under the shadow of the elevated track for a block or two,
when Brady made a sharp wheel to eastward.

"Is this our street?" asked Flint, speaking for the first time.

"Yes, this is our street. Turn to the right--there where you see the
red lantern hanging out from the second story."

"Ah, you know the neighborhood well, I see. Lead on, and I will
follow. How dark it is down here!"

"Yes, electric lights are reserved for the quarters where you rich
people live."

"_You_ rich people!" Flint smiled to himself. "Pretty soon," he
thought, "Brady will be classing me among the greedy capitalists who
are battening on the sorrows of the poor." He was almost conscious of
a feeling of guilt as he recalled the fresh, pure air of the park and
contrasted it with this atmosphere. The name of Berry Hill seemed
curiously inappropriate for the level streets lined with tumble-down
tenements; and its suggestion of the long-ago days when vine-clad
uplands swelled between the narrowing rivers, and little children
steeped their fingers in nothing more harmful than the blood of
berries, lent an added pathos to the gloom of the contrasting present.

The slum post was a forlorn wooden building which had quite forgotten,
if it had ever owned, a coat of paint. The windows of the lower story
were guarded by a wire netting, behind which reposed the treasures of
the poor under the temporary guardianship of the pawnbroker. On one
side lay bits of finery, tawdry rings of plate and silver set with
sham diamonds and pearls, which if the product of nature, would have
bankrupted a Rothschild. In among them were infants' rattles and
spoons marked for life with the impress of baby teeth. Behind the
smaller articles hung a row of musical instruments, fifes and fiddles
sadly silent, and hinting of moody, mirth-robbed homes. Behind these
again, by the dim light within, Flint caught a glimpse of
miscellaneous piles of household articles wrung from the reluctant
owners who had already parted with vanity and mirth, and now must
banish comfort too.

The door on one side of the window stood open, and a rather dim light
within showed a bare hall-way with a worn shabby staircase leading to
the room above. Flint and Brady toiled up two flights. "The path to
heaven is not to be made too easy, is it?" said Flint, pausing to take
breath.

"No; did you expect elevators?" his friend asked with some asperity.

Flint's good humor was not to be shaken, however.

"To heaven? Why, yes. Angels' wings I've always understood were to be
at our service. Here it seems not."

At the door Brady stopped to drop a quarter into the basket labelled
"Silver contribution," held by a buxom and not unpleasing young woman
in the Army uniform.

"They understand the first principles of the church, I see," Flint
whispered. "They have dropped the communion, but they keep the
contribution-box."

Brady did not attend to him. As the two men entered, several turned to
look at them. Clearly they were not of the class expected. Brady,
however, nodded to one or two, and he and his friend sat down on a
bench near the door, in the corner of the hall. Flint wished it were
in order to keep his hat on to shield his eyes from the unshaded gas,
which struck him full in the face. But he resigned himself to that, as
well as to the heat and the odor, and charged it off to the account of
a new experience.

The interior was bare and cheerless, colorless save for the torn red
shades above the high dormer windows, and the crudely painted mottoes
over the platform and around the wall. "_Berry Hill for God!_"
sprawled along one side, flanked by "_Remember Your Mother's
Prayers!_" and in front the sinner's trembling gaze was met by the
depressing suggestion, "_What if you Was to Die To-night?_"

The ceiling was low, and the air already over-heated and
over-breathed. Flint was an epicure in the matter of air. He looked
longingly at the door, which offered the only method of escape. But he
had come for the evening, and he made up his mind to endure to the
end.

A Hindoo was speaking as they came in, shaking his white turban with
much vehemence, and waving his small delicate hands in the air as he
told of "The General's" work in India, and how he had been drawn by
the gospel (which he pronounced go-spell) to give up his rank in the
Brahmin caste, to wander over the world as an evangel.

"Queer," muttered Flint, "that every converted Hindoo was a Brahmin.
Booth seems to have had great luck with the aristocracy."

For a few moments the strangeness of the Hindoo's speech amused Flint;
then he grew bored, and finally irritated. He took out his watch,
looked at it conspicuously, then closed it with an audible click. If
there is a depressing sound on earth it is the click of a watch to the
ear of an orator. The speaker felt it, and looked round deprecatingly,
reflecting perhaps that however superior in morals, Occidentals have
something to learn of the Orientals in manners.

When the high-caste Hindoo sat down, there was much clapping of hands
and shaking of tambourines, and then to the tune of Daisy Bell rose a
chorus of,--

      "Sinner, Sinner, give me your answer, do!"

Flint felt a convulsive twitching at the corner of his mouth, but he
had sworn to himself that he would betray no levity. Brady looked so
uncomfortable that his friend pitied him. There is much which disturbs
us, chiefly through the sensibility of others. At the end of the
singing, a man rose to tell of what the Army had done for him in
rescuing him from the gutter; but his legs were so unsteady and his
speech so frequently interrupted by hiccoughs that an audible titter
ran around the room, and there was great propriety in the song
following his remarks.

      "If at first you don't succeed,
       Try, try again."

The room grew hotter, the lights more trying, the bench harder. The
humor of the situation began to die out in Flint's mind, and gave way
to a wave of repulsion and of pity for his friend who was about to
condemn himself to these associations for life. His mind, which had
wandered from the scene around him, was recalled by the sound of a
voice, so different from the preceeding ones that it fell like angelic
tones upon a world far beneath.

"My friends," said the voice, which was of course Nora Costello's,
"you have listened this night to stories of sin and suffering, of
struggle, of victory, and sometimes of defeat."

"Like the tipsy gent's," a man called out with a coarse laugh.

"Yes, like his. Would you jeer and gibe if you saw a man sinking in
the waves time after time in spite o' rafts and life-preservers thrown
out to him from the ship?"

A shamed silence showed that the question had struck; but the speaker
was not satisfied with silence. She went on driving the shaft home.
"Would you laugh if you saw a man trying to climb out of a burning
building and beaten back time after time by the flames?"

(Cries of "No, no.")

"Then why should you laugh over a poor wretch who is struggling with
worse flames and in danger of being dragged down to more terrible
fires of endless punishment?"

"Fire! Fire!" cried some one in the hall. For a moment Flint took this
to be like the "No, no" of a moment before,--only a running comment on
the speaker's words,--but at the same instant his eye caught the
curling of a thin blue line of smoke in the corner, and he remembered
the furniture and flimsy flummery stored on the lower floor. He
measured the distance to the door. There was no one between him and
it. He would have little difficulty in escaping if he started on the
instant--_but these others!_

"The place will go up like a rocket," he said to Brady, "but a panic
is worse. Hold the door with me!"

"Take me, meester; I'm stronger nor him!" said a broad-shouldered
coal-heaver, who had overheard their whisper.

With this the three men made a bolt for the door, and formed in line
in front of it, with their stout walking-sticks in hand.

"Keep your seats. We will knock down the first man who moves. There's
no danger!" Flint shouted. For an instant the crowd wavered. It would
have taken only one more impulse to turn it into a mob. Nora Costello
saw the danger, and seizing her tambourine she began on a ringing Army
chorus. The audience fell in with such energy that it drowned the
rattle of the fire engines.

"Don't be alarmed," said a fireman, sticking his head in at the door,
"the fire is out, and the danger over. Five minutes more, though," he
added in an undertone to Flint, "would have done the business, and
then, I reckon, we might have spent a week looking for bodies in the
ashes."

"Come, Brady, let us go; I want some fresh air," said Flint, when the
excitement had subsided and another convert had begun his sing-song
confession and adjuration.

"Go, then," answered his friend; "I shall wait to the end. I am going
to walk home with Miss Costello. Yes," he went on, in response to his
friend's questioning glance, "it's to-night or never."

"Then I won't wait," said Flint; "only come in to-morrow and tell me
how you fared."

It was with a feeling of exultation that Flint found himself again on
the street. "How grewsome it would have been," he thought, "to be
carried off in a job lot like that! I can imagine nothing worse,
except perhaps to be killed in a crush at a bargain-counter."



                              CHAPTER XX

                            THE UNFORESEEN

                "C'est toujours l'imprévu qui arrive."


The ruling thought in Flint's mind as he emerged from the crowded room
and made his way down the shaky stairs to the outer door, was of the
physical delight of inhaling fresh air. He drew in two or three deep,
lung-filling breaths, then he opened his coat and shook it to the air
as he had seen doctors do after coming out of a sick-room.

"Decidedly," he said to himself, "slumming is not my vocation. If I
were drafted into the Salvation Army, I should plead to be permitted
to join the open-air brigade. My sympathy with the poor in general,
and drunkards in particular, is in inverse proportion to the nearness.
Poor Brady! I wonder how he will endure being unequally yoked together
with a believer. Suppose Nora Costello refuses him. No, he is safe
enough, if it is being safe to have her return his love. I saw her
look up as we came in, and though she never glanced in our direction
again till the cry of 'Fire!' came, I saw her look of appeal then,
and his response. Oh, there is no doubt about her accepting him; but
the question is, not how does she feel now, but how will she feel a
year or two years from now? As I grow older, I grow more conservative
on these things. There is such an amount of wear and tear in the
ordinary strain of married life that I hate to see cruel and unusual
ones added. If Winifred Anstice should ever or could ever-- There, I
will not allow myself even to think about it, for it would be so much
harder to give it up afterward if I am compelled to, and, after all,
what chance is there that a girl like Winifred would be willing to
spend her whole life with a man whose nature and character are so
different from hers!"

Flint had been walking rapidly, and his musings had so filled his mind
that he saw with surprise that he had reached the corner where the
Sixth Avenue elevated and surface cars curve together for their
straight-away race to the Park at the end of the course. He was
conscious of a certain added rush of spirits at finding himself once
more on the edge of a familiar world,--a world where the sin was at
least conventionalized and the misery went about well dressed. Already
the scene at the slum post had taken on in his mind a distance which
enabled him to regard it humorously, and he amused himself in
rehearsing the scene as he would set it forth to Brooke when he
reached "The Chancellor."

As he turned a corner, he noticed just in front of him in the side
street leading toward Fifth Avenue a young woman carrying a paper
parcel, and looking up a little nervously at one number after another.
She wore a Canada seal jacket, and a wide felt hat topped with nodding
plumes which made a large effect for the investment. Over the jacket
hung a gilt chain holding a coin purse, the latest fad of the
fashionable world.

As Flint's footsteps quickened behind her, she turned her head a
little timorously. At last she stopped, and as he caught up with her
she began, "Could you tell me--" Then she stopped short.

"Miss Marsden!" exclaimed Flint, in amazement. "What in the world
brings you here?"

"To see New York," the girl began a little flippantly, but ended more
tremulously, "and to see you."

"But where are you staying?"

"Nowhere--that is, I came down on the train this afternoon, and I
thought I'd go to a hotel, and then I meant to write you a note
to-morrow and ask you to come and see me; but a lady I met on the
cars, she was real kind, and she said she guessed I'd find it cost
more 'n I reckoned on to go to a hotel, and so she gave me this
address where a friend of hers lived. She said she was a perfect lady,
and would take good care of me. Not that I need anybody to do that!"

This last with that curious mixture of innocence, ignorance, and
sophistication, incredible outside America, where the self-dependent
girl so early becomes sufficient for herself and too much for every
one else.

Flint took the address from her hand, and studied it for a minute.
"That will not do at all," he said quietly, as he threw the bit of
paper into the gutter. Then he took out his watch. "Half-past nine.
You have just time to catch the night train for South East."

The girl's face fell. "I'm not going to South East," she said
sullenly. "I wrote Pa that I was going off for Thanksgiving, with a
friend from Boxbury."

"Then why not go back to Boxbury? That's still an easier trip, and I
can let you have the money."

Flint's tone, which was always low, had dropped still deeper; but the
earnestness of his manner made itself felt, and a casual passer-by,
catching the word "money," slowed up his walk, and turned his head for
an instant's inspection of the couple. Flint raged inwardly at the
vulgarity of the situation thus thrust upon him. To his companion,
however, the glance of the passer-by conveyed nothing more than a
recognition of her good looks, to which she was not averse. She stood
still a moment, rubbing her ringed and ungloved hand back and forward
over the sanded iron imitation brownstone fence by which she had
paused. Then, as Flint, feeling the conspicuousness of their
stationary attitude, made a movement to walk on, she broke out with a
note of genuine feeling,--

"It's no question of money. I came away because I couldn't stand it
any longer. I wanted so to see you and to tell you what a lot I cared
about you, and I thought perhaps--"

"Don't go on!" said Flint, a trifle sternly. "You are a silly little
fool; but you ought to know better than to say things like that to a
man who never did and never could care anything for you."

"Then you despise me and my love!" said Tilly, with passion half real,
half premeditated for effect. She had rehearsed this scene many times
in her own mind.

"Despise you? Not I," Flint answered; "and as for your love, a real,
genuine affection is about the last thing in the world to be despised.
Whether it is returned or not, it does not matter; and besides," here
Flint paused a minute and then went on, "in that I have much sympathy
with you, for I too love some one who has refused to marry me."

It was with a sense of inward surprise that Flint heard himself
revealing the secrets of his inmost heart to this tawdry young girl;
but Brady's words were ringing in his ears: "I think I would try to
help save a soul, if I had to take off my kid gloves or even go down
in the gutter to do it."

Tilly Marsden had not enough nobleness of nature to take in the spirit
of his confidence. To her his words implied some hope for herself.

"Perhaps," she said brokenly, "if you couldn't get her you might take
me." As she looked up at him pleadingly, with real tears standing on
her long eyelashes and the flush of a genuine emotion on her cheeks,
Flint was conscious that she was very, very pretty.

Her prettiness would not at any time have held any temptation for him.
The inherited austerity of his blood and a fastidiousness of
temperament beyond the appeal of this chromo beauty would have
prevented it in any case, but just now he was under the spell of an
exaltation which lifted him above even the possibility of such danger.
He had stood on the Mount of Transfiguration and looked into the eyes
of spiritual love. Its light still shone above and around him, and
shed its influence over the whole world. All dark thoughts, all
basilar instincts shrank back abashed before that white light. The old
monogamous instinct of the Anglo-Saxon race, which has kept it sound
at the core in spite of a thousand vices, held this man as true to the
woman whom he wished to marry as if she were indeed his wife.

Tempted he was not, but most wofully disturbed in mind he certainly
was. Having destroyed the dubious address, he felt himself to have
assumed in a measure a responsibility for this foolish girl's future,
her immediate future at least. His mind traversed rapidly all the
possible courses open to him. He must take her somewhere. Hotels and
boarding-houses were alike impossible. He thought of Nora Costello;
but he could not bring himself to ask her to share the narrow limits
of her one room with this be-furbelowed young person, and then it
would involve so many awkward explanations. There was only one person
who would understand. By a process of exclusion, his thoughts were
driven more and more insistently toward seeking aid from Winifred
Anstice.

He felt to the full the delicacy and difficulty, not to say the
absurdity, of his position, in seeking to place the woman who loved
him under the protection of the woman he loved, but it was the only
course which seemed even possible.

"Come," he said suddenly to Tilly, with an authority which the girl's
will was powerless to resist. "Since you will not go home, you must be
cared for here. I will take you to a friend of mine, and you must do
as she tells you."

"And what if I won't go?" said the girl, with a feeble effort at
self-assertion.

"Then I will leave you here. Only never hold me responsible for the
ruin that lies before you clear as Hell."

The girl quailed before the energy of his words.

"Cab, sir?" called the driver of a hansom the lights of which had
twinkled from a judicious distance for some time past.

Flint raised his finger in acquiescence, and the hansom rattled up to
the curbstone. Flint handed Tilly Marsden into it with his habitual
deference, gave a street and number to the driver, and, jumping in
himself, slammed to the half doors with a clang which echoed along the
silent street. The driver cracked his whip over the horse's head as if
he were about to drive him at a desperate pace; but the animal,
familiar with the noisy demonstration and recognizing it as intended
for the encouragement of the passengers within the vehicle and not
conveying any special warning to himself, set off at his customary
jog-trot.

A man who had been standing in the shadow of a house moved out and
stood a moment under the quivering nimbus of the electric light. His
brow darkened as he looked after the retreating cab.

"Curse him!" he muttered.

Flint and his companion drove on unwitting of the vengeance-breeding
wrath behind them. For a time they kept silence, each absorbed in his
own thoughts. Flint was unpleasantly conscious that the girl was
crying behind her veil, but realizing that he had no consolation to
offer, he wisely let her alone, and before many minutes the novelty of
her surroundings began to tell upon Tilly's grief.

"Whose house is that?" she asked in a broken voice, as they passed a
brilliantly lighted hotel. She had read so much of the palaces of the
millionnaires that a fourteen-story private dwelling did not strike
her as at all unexpected.

"She will recover," Flint murmured cynically to himself. His mind was
working rapidly now. Like many contemplative men, once roused to
definite action he was capable of great energy and direct executive
ability. He planned every detail of the coming interview, met every
emergency, was prepared for every event.

As the cab drew up before the Anstice door, he noted with relief that
the lights above were bright and those on the parlor floor subdued.
"No company, thank Heaven! and the family upstairs," was his comment.
What he most dreaded now was Winifred's being out. He wondered if in
that event he should have courage to ask for Miss Standish, and had
almost persuaded himself that he would, when McGregor, to the comfort
of his soul, admitted that Miss Anstice was at home and without
visitors. Flint felt a little cut by McGregor's glance of suspicion at
his companion. It seemed to connote the opinion of the world, and to
make his position more difficult than ever. He determined, however, to
carry things with a high hand.

"Show this young woman into the dining-room, McGregor, and close the
doors. Then take this card to Miss Anstice, and ask if I may see her
for a moment on important business."

The old butler stumbled upstairs, murmuring, "Well, it's a queer
business, and I can't make it out; but he's the right sort, he is."

As Flint waited in the drawing-room, he was dimly conscious of the
perfume from the roses in the jar on the piano, conscious too that he
was standing on the very spot where he had kissed Winifred's hand
yesterday. Was it really only yesterday? It seemed an age ago.

The spell was broken by the sound of a light step on the stair, and
the appearance of Winifred herself in the doorway,--Winifred in her
gown of soft gray silk, with a bunch of his roses at her
belt,--Winifred as he had never seen her before, with the gladness of
unrestrained welcome in her eyes, with shy words of love almost
trembling on her lips.

Flint started forward, then thought of the girl behind the closed
door, and hesitated. Surely they could postpone happiness for a time
to bind up the bruises of that foolish wayfarer who was none the less
to be pitied that her wounds were self-inflicted.

Winifred's quick perception took in at once the agitation of his face
and manner.

"You are in trouble!" she said, coming close to him with swift
sympathy.

"Yes, in trouble and in perplexity. I have come to you for help."

"I am glad you have come to me," the girl said simply, and stood with
uplifted eyes waiting for him to go on.

"Don't look at me like that," Flint cried out; "when you do I can
think of nothing but you, and to-night we must both think about some
one else."

"Who is it? What is it? Tell me from the beginning."

Flint was profoundly moved by the instant putting aside of all
thoughts of self in the desire to be of service.

"How dared I ask her to marry me?" he thought. Aloud he said: "Listen,
Winifred, and know that I am trying to tell you the white truth
without reserve or evasion. I come to you because you are the only
person who will need no explanation of the past, to unravel the evil
of the present. I went with Brady this evening to a meeting of the
Salvation Army at a slum post down on Berry Hill, where Nora Costello
was to speak--"

"Oh, why didn't you let me go too?"

"You shall go if you like sometime; but I am glad you were not there
to-night, for there was a fire, and something near a panic--"

Winifred turned white and moved nearer to him.

"Don't be alarmed!" he said; "nothing happened. The fire was soon put
out, and people settled back in their seats. But I grew restless, and
concluded not to wait for Brady; so I started to walk up alone--"

"Alone?" echoed Winifred, "through that quarter! Why, Nora says it is
as bad as Whitechapel."

"Perhaps," said Flint, with a nervous laugh; "but my walk was entirely
uneventful till I reached our own highly respectable part of the city.
As I was turning into Fifth Avenue, out of one of the side streets
above Washington Square, I saw a girl looking up at the houses. As I
came along she stopped to speak to me, and to my amazement I found it
was Tilly Marsden."

"_Tilly Marsden?_"

"Yes, she had come down to spend Thanksgiving here in the city. She
had been expecting, it seems, to go to a hotel; but a woman on the
train gave her the address of some friend, and she was looking up this
unknown landlady when I came along."

"Little fool!" said Winifred, with finely feminine exasperation.

"She is--beyond a doubt she is; but still--"

"But still," said Winifred, with a vanishing smile, "you naturally
have more sympathy with her folly than I have." (At this moment
Winifred had forgotten the charge of lack of sympathy which she had
brought against the man before her three months ago.) "The question
is, of course, what is to be done with her?"

Flint felt an immense sense of relief at Winifred's practical words,
which seemed to remove the situation from the element of tragedy to
rather sordid commonplace.

"That's it exactly," he said helplessly. "I thought of taking her to
Nora Costello."

"That would not do at all," said Winifred, positively. "I am
disappointed in you. If you had trusted to my proffer of friendship
yesterday, you would have brought her to me."

"I--I did," hesitated Flint; "she is in the rear room there. But the
more I think of it, the more I feel as if I could not have her here
near you. She is--"

"You need not tell me what Tilly Marsden is," Winifred interrupted. "I
know her of old. She is silly and pert, and cheaply sensational; but
she is not vicious, and if she were, our duty would be the same. You
may leave her with Miss Standish and me. We will take care of her, and
try to make something of her."

"I suppose I ought to say 'Good-by' to her?"

"By no means. Go, and leave her to me."

"Have you no word for me at parting?"

"No, not now,--all that can wait."

"Good-night, then, since you will let me say nothing more."

Winifred answered with a farewell glance, full of confidence and of
love. Then the door closed after Flint, and Winifred threw open the
folding-doors into the dining-room.

"How do you do, Miss Marsden?" she said, taking Tilly's hand.

The girl looked at her, stupidly bewildered.

"You do not recognize me, I see, but I remember you from seeing you
with Leonard Davitt down at Nepaug."

Tilly blushed painfully, but Winifred took no notice of her
embarrassment.

"Mr. Flint said you were belated in your trip to the city, so he
brought you to us for the night," Winifred continued, as if it were
the most natural episode in the world.

"And did he tell you--"

"He told me nothing else. He was in a hurry, I suppose."

"Then he is gone?"

"Yes, he is gone, and I am glad, because it is time you went to bed
after you have had such a tiresome journey. Come upstairs. I am going
to give you the little room next Miss Standish's. You remember her
perhaps--she was at Nepaug too. To-morrow we will talk over anything
you wish to tell me. Come!"



                             CHAPTER XXI

                            GOD'S PUPPETS

                "God's puppets best and worst are we,
                 There is no last or first."


The breakfast-hour in the Anstice household was regularly irregular. A
movable fast, Professor Anstice called it. On the morning of
Thanksgiving Day the hand of the old Dutch clock pointed to nine when
Winifred Anstice entered the dining-room.

A freshly lighted fire blazed on the hearth. The lamp beneath the
silver urn blazed on the table. Toasted muffins and delicate dishes of
honey and marmalade stood upon the buffet.

"Will you wait for Mr. Anstice?" McGregor asked as she entered.

"No, McGregor, I am like time and tide, and wait for no man or woman
either; but you need not hurry, for I will look over my mail while the
eggs are boiling,--just four minutes, remember. I don't want them
bullets, nor yet those odious slimy trickling things which seem only
held together by the shell."

McGregor smiled,--a smile it had cost him twenty years of service in
the best families to acquire,--a smile which expressed respectful
appreciation of the facetiousness intended without any personal share
in it. He never allowed himself to be more amused than a butler should
be.

Winifred Anstice dropped into the chair which he held for her, and
took up, one by one, the letters which lay on the silver tray by her
side. They proved a strange medley, as the morning mail of a New York
woman always is,--a dozen "At Home" cards, Receptions, Teas, "days" in
December, all put aside after a passing glance for future sorting; an
appeal for aid, by a widow who had done washing for the family twenty
years ago, and was sure for the sake of old times Miss Anstice would
lend her a small sum, to tide over the cruel winter when her son could
get no work; a note from Mrs. De Lancey Jones, stating that a few
excellent seats for a performance to be given for the benefit of the
"Manhattan Appendicitis Hospital" could be had from her; there was a
great rush for the tickets, but she wanted if possible to keep a few
for her friends, and would Miss Anstice kindly let her know at once if
she desired any?

Miss Anstice smiled a sceptical smile, which deepened into a laugh
when she picked up the next note, which stated that Mrs.
Brown-Livingston was also holding back a number of the same
much-sought tickets for her friends, but would part with a few to Miss
Anstice if informed at once.

"What frauds these mortals be!" exclaimed Winifred, laying both
requests aside to amuse her father later.

At the next envelope she colored hotly, for she recognized the
handwriting instantly. Indeed it was an easily recognizable
superscription and of very distinct individuality,--a back-hand which
at first glance gave the impression that it must be held up to the
mirror to be read, but on closer scrutiny looked plainer than the
upright round hand of the copy-books. It did not need the "F" upon the
seal to tell Winifred Anstice from whom it came. She opened it, as she
opened all sealed documents, with a hairpin, though two paper-cutters
of silver and ivory lay at her hand on the tray.

The note was brief. It was dated "University Club, Midnight," and had
no beginning, as if the writer could think of none befitting his
feeling.

"I am distracted," it began abruptly, "with the contest of fears and
hopes, regret and satisfaction. If I seem to have unloaded upon you a
burden of responsibility which was justly mine, I beg you to believe
that I did it only because I could see no other way, and even then I
meant only to ask you to share it. In place of this, with
characteristic generosity you insisted upon assuming the whole. This
must not be. Pray name some hour when I may come to you, and let it be
to-morrow. You don't know how far off that seems."

Only that, and then the signature. It was a strange note from a lover;
but to Winifred Anstice it was full of the assurance that the man to
whom she had given her heart (for she admitted it to herself now) was
of a nature large enough to put himself and his own feelings aside and
to believe that she too was capable of the larger vision, the
renunciation of present happiness for pressing duty. The highest plane
upon which those who love can meet is this of united work and united
self-sacrifice.

Winifred's eyes glistened as she read, and when she had finished, she
slipped the note into her pocket for a second reading. As she did so,
Miss Standish entered.

"I declare, Winifred, you get more morning mail than a Congressman."

"Yes," said Winifred, "and my constituents make larger demands."

"It seems to me," said Miss Standish, "that you engage in too many
projects. You do not give yourself time to attend to your own needs
at all."

"Oh, never fear for that!" answered Winifred. "One's own needs pound
at the door; the needs of others only tap. How did you sleep last
night?"

"Finely. I was so tired after that picture exhibition that I could
hardly keep my eyes open. I was glad enough to creep off to bed by
nine o'clock; but do you know I had a confused dream of voices in the
room next mine,--the little one with the green and white hangings. I
thought I heard your voice, and then a stranger's, and I seemed to
catch the word 'Nepaug.' Isn't it curious how dreams come without any
reason whatever?"

"H'm! Sometimes it is, as you say, very curious; but in this
particular instance there was nothing very miraculous about it, since
you did hear voices and you very likely caught the word 'Nepaug,' for
it was certainly mentioned."

"How's that?" questioned Miss Standish, sharply. She did not relish
the idea of having missed any unusual happenings.

Winifred was a little vexed by the note of curiosity in her voice, and
she answered without undue haste, "Yes, it was I and Tilly Marsden;
you remember her, perhaps,--the daughter of the inn-keeper."

There were two things most exasperating to Miss Standish,--one to be
supposed to know what she did not and thereby to be cheated of
acquiring the information, the other to be suspected of not knowing
what she remembered perfectly.

"Not know Tilly Marsden! Well, you must think I am losing my
faculties. I wish you would not waste your time in telling things I
know as well as you do; but what I would like to hear is how she came
to be in this house."

"Mr. Flint brought her," answered Winifred, with unkind brevity.

"Ah!" commented Miss Standish, with an upward inflection, "and did he
explain how it happened that she was under his protection?"

"I did not insult him by inquiring," flashed Winifred, "and I will not
have him insulted in my presence."

Miss Standish looked at the girl over her glasses, as if she suspected
her of having lost her wits. We are all of us surprised by a response
which seems to us vehement beyond the proximate cause of the present
occasion; we fail to allow for the slow-gathering irritation, the
unseen sources of excitement which collect in the caverns of the mind
like fire-damp ready to explode at the naked flame of one flickering
candle. Winifred had the grace to be instantly ashamed of her
impulsive irritability. She had already set before herself the
standard of self-control which she saw and reverenced in Flint.

"Excuse me," she said. "I was awake almost all night, and am tired and
nervous. Mr. Flint met Tilly Marsden by accident in the street. She
did not know where to go, and so he brought her here. My father
approved," she added a little haughtily.

"But why did she appeal to Mr. Flint?" pursued Miss Standish, who
clung to her inquiries like a burr.

"Because she was in love with him," blurted out Winifred, irritated
beyond the power of silence. "Can't you see! _This_ was why I asked
him to leave Nepaug last summer."

"Tilly Marsden in love with Mr. Flint!" echoed Miss Standish, amazed
beyond the desire to appear to have suspected it all along. "I can't
understand it."

"I can," said Winifred; "I can understand it perfectly. Poor girl! I
am heartily sorry for her."

"Well, you needn't be," responded Miss Standish, with an asperity born
of impatience at her own lack of astuteness. "For my part, I have no
doubt she has enjoyed the situation thoroughly from beginning to end.
No, don't talk to me. I know those hysterical people. All they care
about is making a sensation and being the centre of attention. It is
my opinion that she has made fools of you and Mr. Flint too. As for
her being in love with him, nonsense! She would have fallen in love
with a wax figure at the Eden Musée, if it wore better clothes than
she was accustomed to. It tickles her vanity to fancy herself in love
with a gentleman. It is the next best thing to having him in love with
her."

"Don't you think you're a little hard on her?" asked Winifred, whose
feelings were unusually expansive this morning.

"I think you are entirely too soft about her," Miss Standish answered.
"It is sickly sentimentalism like yours which is filling the hospitals
with hysterical patients. Let 'em alone and they'll come round fast
enough."

"How do you account for my sickly sentimentalism when I have no heart,
as you told me the other day?" commented Winifred demurely, with
downcast eyes.

"Most natural thing in the world," said Miss Standish, rising to an
argument like an old war-horse to the sound of a trumpet.
"Tenderheartedness is touched by the sufferings of others.
Sentimentality is touched by your feeling for them, which is the most
enjoyable form of sadness."

At this point McGregor, who with admirable discretion had retreated to
the pantry, reappeared, served Miss Standish with coffee and eggs, and
again vanished, closing the door behind him.

"Really," cried Winifred, half laughing, half vexed, "you're as bad as
Mr. Flint, with your fine-spun differences."

"There, Winifred, you've said enough. Whatever the provocation, you
could not have hit back harder,--to say I am like Mr. Flint."

"It _was_ rather more than the truth warrants," answered Winifred,
with a little spot of color flaming up in her cheeks like a
danger-signal.

"I hope so," Miss Standish continued, oblivious of the red flag. "I
must say, Winifred, I think you let him come here too much."

"You don't like him?"

"No, I confess I don't."

"Then you needn't like me, either, for _I_ like him so much that I am
going to marry him."

Miss Standish laid down her egg-spoon, and sat staring at Winifred.

"Well!" she exclaimed at length, "this does beat all."

Winifred opened her lips to reply, when her attention was called to
the maid who came hurrying into the room with her cheesecloth duster
in one hand and a folded piece of paper in the other.

"The young woman, mum, as you said I was to call at nine,--well, she
isn't in her room, and the bed doesn't look as if it had been slept in
at all, and I found this on the bureau."

Winifred caught at the paper and read it breathlessly. It was
addressed to herself.

"Good-by," it said, "and thank you for taking me in. I suppose I ought
to be very grateful. I came here because I could not help it, and I am
going away without taking a meal, or sleeping in your bed. I don't
like being taken on charity. If it had not been for you, Mr. Flint
might have cared for me, same as the hero did in 'The Unequal
Marriage.' I saw last night it was you he was talking about when he
said there was somebody he wanted to marry who wouldn't have him. My
heart is broken; but I mean to have _some_ enjoyment, which I
couldn't, if I stayed here with you and that poky Miss Standish. I
think it was real mean of Mr. Flint to bring me here anyhow."

                    Yours truly,
                           "MATILDA MARSDEN"

She tossed the letter across the table to Miss Standish, and touched
the bell under her foot.

"McGregor," she said, as the man appeared, "did you hear any one go
out of the house this morning?"

"I thought I did, Miss Winifred, about six o'clock, before
light,--that is, I was justly sure I heard the front door shut; but
when I got there it was all right, except the outer door was unlocked,
and that often happens when your father is at the Club. He do forget
now and then."

"Three hours' start!" said Winifred to herself, then aloud: "McGregor,
go at once to 'The Chancellor' and leave word for Mr. Flint to come
here. Wait--I will send a note. Oh dear! why didn't I foresee this
possibility?"

"Come!" said Miss Standish, who, even in her excitement, could swallow
the last of her cup of hot coffee,--"come, let us go upstairs and see
if the foolish girl has not left some clew!"

As Winifred and Miss Standish passed out at the parlor door, Master
Jimmy entered from the hall, sleek and smiling in his holiday attire.
"Great Scott!" he ejaculated. "What started Miss Standish off like
that? Our stairs make the old lady puff when she takes 'em on the
slow, and at this rate Fred will have to carry her half-way.
Something's up, that's evident. Never mind, I'm not in it. McGregor,"
he called, "bring on those griddle-cakes; I smell 'em cooking. Quick
now, while there's no one here to count how many I eat! Hurrah for
Thanksgiving!"

McGregor failed to appear at Master Jimmy's call, and when Maria came,
she said he had been sent out on an errand.

"What's up?" asked Jimmy, between mouthfuls.

"Oh, nothing--nothing--I wonder will they have the police?"

"Cops!" cried Jimmy, waking up for the first time to a genuine
interest in the family excitement. "Has any one gone off with the
spoons? It would be just my luck to have had a burglar in the house
last night and me never got a pop at him with my air-gun loaded and
close by the bed."

"It's no burglar," said the maid, with mystery in her tones.

"Not McGregor drunk!" shouted Jimmy, with a scream of delight. "That
would be too good a joke."

"McGregor drunk, indeed!" sniffed Maria, indignantly. "If every one as
came to this house was as good as McGregor, it would be a fine thing;
but when it comes to takin' in all sorts and making a Harbor of Refuge
out of a respectable home--I'm not surprised _whatever_ may happen."

"Oh, hold your tongue, Maria. Don't be a fool! Get me some more cakes,
while I go up and ask Fred what's the matter. It won't take _her_ half
an hour to get it out, I'll bet."

With this cheerful observation Jimmy vanished, and Maria disappeared
down the kitchen stairs, declaring that that boy was "a perfect
gintleman."

When Flint entered the Anstices' drawing-room a little later, Winifred
was standing by the window, and though she turned away quickly, it was
evident that she had been watching for him.

The thought thrilled him.

"What shall we do? Oh, what shall we do?" she broke out, as he came up
to her.

He took her hands; they were burning hot.

"First of all, I will tell you what _not_ to do," Flint answered. "You
are not to work yourself into a fever of distress over this
unfortunate business. The responsibility is not yours but mine, and
the burden of anxiety is to be mine and not yours."

"Oh, never mind me! What about Tilly Marsden? It is dreadful to think
of her wandering about this great city entirely alone--and she such a
simpleton. Of course, it's hopeless to try to find her. Papa says so."

"Not so hopeless as you think," said Flint, with a trifle more
assurance than he felt in his inmost heart. "New York stands for two
things to a girl like her,--the shops and the theatres,--her ideas of
the 'amusement' she speaks of in the note you sent me would be limited
to one of these. Now, as this is a holiday, none of the shops would
be open, and that limits it to the theatres. I shall have detectives
at the door of every theatre this afternoon."

"How clever you are," murmured Winifred, "how clever and how
sympathetic! You have such feeling for everybody in trouble."

This was too much for even Flint's sense of humor, which had suffered
somewhat, as every one's does, from the process of falling in love.
His lips twitched.

"Then I am not more obtuse than any one you ever saw, when the
sufferings of others are involved?"

"Don't, pray, don't bring up the things I said that night!" cried
Winifred, blushing rosy red.

"This is no time for jesting, dear, I know," Flint answered, coming
close to her as she stood against the filmy lace curtain. "No time
either for jesting or hoping; only your words did give me a gleam of
encouragement to think that perhaps a girl who changed her mind so
much in a few weeks might have wavered a little in a few days. Is it
possible--Winifred, before I go away, as I must at once--could you
find it in your heart to say 'I love you'?"

Winifred made him no answer, at least in words; but she came close to
him, and laid both hands on his arm with a touching gesture of
trustful affection.

So absorbed were they in one another that they did not notice how near
they stood to the window, or that the curtain was too diaphanous quite
to conceal them from view. Suddenly into their world of ecstatic
oblivion came a crash, a sound of falling glass, a dull thud against
the wall opposite to the window.

"Great Heavens!" cried Flint, looking anxiously at Winifred. "What was
that? Are you sure you're not hurt, my darling?"

Even as he spoke, another report was heard outside, and, throwing open
the curtains, they saw a man on the other side of the street stagger
and fall. Flint rushed to the door, down the steps and across the
sidewalk. A crowd had already collected.

"He is dead,--stone dead," said one, kneeling with his hand over his
heart.

"Queer, isn't it--on Thanksgiving Day too?" said another.

"Who is he?--a countryman by his looks," said a third. "Fine-looking
chap, too, with that crop of curly hair and these broad shoulders."

"Faith!" murmured an old woman, "it's some mother's heart 'ull bleed
this day." And pulling out her beads, she knelt on the sidewalk to say
a prayer over the parting soul.

The prostrate form lying along the pavement had a certain tragic
dignity, almost majesty, in its attitude. One arm was pressed to the
heart, the other thrown out in a gesture of abandonment to despair.
The revolver, which had dropped from the nerveless hand, lay still
smoking beside the still figure. From a wound in the left temple under
the dark curls the blood trickled in a red stream. Death was in his
look. The lips were turning blue, and the eyes glazing rapidly.

Flint came close to the dying man, and then shrank back with an
involuntary start of horror. "Leonard Davitt!" he murmured below his
breath. In an instant the whole situation was clear to him. By one of
those flashlights which the mind sometimes sheds on a scene before it,
making the hidden places clear and turning darkness to daylight, he
grasped the truth. He knew that by some unlucky chance Leonard had
come to New York, had seen him and Tilly Marsden in conversation, had
seen them come here together, had fancied that he was wronged. Then
this morning again he must have seen him with Winifred at the
window,--Winifred mistaken for the girl he loved,--and then jealousy
quite mastered the brooding brain, and the end was _this_.

As Flint stood over the boy's body, a great weight of sadness fell
upon him. He felt like one of the figures in a Greek tragedy, innocent
in intent, but drawn into a fatal entanglement of evil, and made an
instrument of woe to others as innocent as himself. The blue sky above
in its azure clearness seemed a type of the indifference of Heaven,
the chill of the pavement a symbol of the coldness of earth. These
thoughts, chasing each other through his brain with lightning
rapidity, still left it clear for action.

"Stand away there, and give the man air!" he cried, clearing a little
space. "Go for a doctor, somebody,--quick!"

"Oh, can it be Leonard Davitt!" whispered Winifred under her breath,
as pale and trembling with emotion she drew near the edge of the
crowd. "Poor boy! What shall we say to his mother?"

"Hush!" Flint answered. "May we carry him into the house?"

"Of course--of course. Oh, do hurry with the doctor. Perhaps he is not
dead, after all."

With that ready adaptiveness which in Americans so often supplies the
place of training, four of the men stepped forward, and lifting the
body gently bore it up the steps and through the open door into the
drawing-room, and laid it on the lounge just under the bullet-hole in
the wall.

A doctor bustled in, box in hand. He made no effort to open his case,
however. One look was sufficient.

"Death must have been instantaneous," he said. "What a queer thing,--a
suicide on Thanksgiving Day!"



                             CHAPTER XXII

                               THE END

               _Extract from the Journal of Miss Susan
                  Standish, Oldburyport, December 1._


It is good to be at home again. I said it over to myself many a time
yesterday, as I was helping Mary to take the covers off the family
portraits, and sitting in front of the old andirons with the firelight
dancing in their great brass balls. I felt it when I sat down at my
mahogany table and laid my fingers on the ebony handle of the old
silver coffee-pot. Things come to have a distinct individuality,
almost a personality, and we unconsciously impute to them a response
to our feeling for them. It seemed to me that the old claw-foot sofa
was as glad to get me back as the cat herself, and the door swung wide
with a squeak of welcome. My desk too stood open with friendly
invitation, and on it lay a couple of letters. The first was from Ben
Bradford. It was so long since I had heard from the boy that I opened
his letter first. I wrote him last month, sending him some news and
more good advice. I counselled him to stop thinking about Winifred
Anstice or any other girl, and throw himself into his studies, to make
a record which should do credit to the Bradford name. He replies that
the advice is excellent; only one drawback,--it cannot be done. He has
tried throwing himself into his studies, but they closed over him
without a trace. Talk about records,--he will be glad enough if he
gets through his examinations without a dead flunk. As for not
thinking about Winifred, he says I have not helped him to the desired
end by what I wrote about Mr. Flint and his attentions. Of course, Ben
says, he could not expect that Winifred would wait for him. In these
days no man could hope to marry until he was white-headed like that
Flint; but as for himself he never did or should see any woman whom he
could love except Winifred Anstice.

To try to throw off his depression and discouragement, he had gone
around last evening to call on Fanny Winthrop, who was studying at
Radcliffe this year and staying on Mount Vernon Street. She sent her
love to her "dear Miss Standish," and if I had any message to send in
return he would be happy to carry it, as he and she were to act in
"The Loan of a Lover," and he was likely to see a good deal of her in
the course of the next week or two.

This letter has relieved my mind greatly. It is evident that Ben's
heart is built like a modern ship, in compartments, so that though one
bulkhead suffers wreck, the vessel may still come safe to a
matrimonial haven.

Fanny Winthrop is a plain little girl with a round face and the
traditional student spectacles; but a merry pair of dimples twinkling
with a fund of cheery humor, and then--a Winthrop! That will please
his mother, I am sure. But I am no matchmaker. I never think of such
things unless they are forced upon me, as they have been lately.

The other letter on my desk was from Philip Brady. I had missed his
call that last evening in New York. He writes, as if it were a
surprising piece of information, that he is going to marry Nora
Costello, provided she can gain the consent of her superior officers,
and he delegates to me the pleasant duty of breaking the news to his
family circle. "This," he says, "will be easy for you who have known
Nora, and who were the first to discover her charm and the solid merit
which goes so much deeper than charm."

Here is a pretty state of things!

What am I to do? I can see Cousin John's face when he hears the words
"Salvation Army." He has always scoffed and scolded and sworn at the
mere mention of the business, and his opinions are very "sot," as the
Oldbury farmers say. He is, in fact, the only obstinate member of our
family; but I will let him know that he cannot talk down Susan
Standish. I mean to go right over to his house after dinner and have
it out with him. I shall tell him that Nora Costello is a
daughter-in-law to be proud of (as she is), and that I dare say, if he
wishes it, she will leave the Salvation Army (which she never will);
that, at any rate, he must send for the girl to come on to visit him;
that if he does not, _I_ shall; and that I heartily approve the match.

I call myself a truthful woman, and the proof of it is that when I do
start out to tell a lie, it is a good honest one, not a deft little
evasion such as runs trippingly from the tongue of practised
deceivers.

I suppose the news of Philip's engagement will be spread all over town
before night. I feel now as though I should not object to a little of
that indifference to the affairs of one's neighbors which I found so
depressing when I was in New York. Not that I am any less loyal to
Oldburyport; if anything, I have grown more loyal than ever.

I love the deep snow and the trees bare as they are, and the square
down the road a piece, and the post-office, and the trolley cars. Our
cars go fast, but not too fast,--just fast enough, and they have no
dead man's curve. Folks in Oldburyport die a natural death. They are
not killed by the cable or run over by bicycles, or, what is quite as
bad, hurried and worried to death by the rush of life, as people are
in New York. I declare I felt as if I had lived an age in the month I
was there; but then, why shouldn't I, with so much happening and such
exciting and distressing things too! It seems as if everything went
crooked. Now, if my advice had been taken in the beginning--but nobody
ever will take advice except in Oldburyport.

It makes me wrathy to think of Winifred Anstice marrying that Mr.
Flint, who is so dangerously irreligious, and Philip Brady marrying
Nora Costello, who is so injudiciously religious, and then poor
Leonard Davitt throwing away his life for that pert, forward, foolish
Tilly Marsden, who has gone back to her shop-counter, pleased, for all
I know, with all the excitement she raised! If corporal punishment in
early youth were strictly adhered to, there would be fewer Tilly
Marsdens in the world. In Oldburyport, I am happy to say, we believe
in corporal punishment.

Poor Leonard! I have not got over his death yet. It was all so sad and
so unnecessary. But I am not sure that he is not better off as he is
than he would have been married to that girl. His mother took to her
bed when she heard the news, and the doctor thinks she will not live
long. So Tilly Marsden will have that death on her conscience, too, or
would if she had a conscience to have it on.

There might very easily have been a third, for they said the first
bullet which Leonard fired must have come within an inch of Jonathan
Flint's head. I should have supposed such an escape must have softened
even him. I thought it was a good time to impress the lesson, so I
pointed to the bullet buried in the wall.

"Mr. Flint," said I, "can you look at that and not believe in
Providence?"

Instead of being convinced, as I thought he would, he only pointed to
Leonard's body lying under it and said nothing.

I hate these people who are given to expressive silences. It takes one
at a disadvantage. Silence is the only argument to which there is no
answer. At the time I could not think of anything to say to him,
though, since I got home, I've thought of ever so many. It is easier
to think, I find, in Oldburyport.

Except for the last terrible days I had a beautiful time in the city,
and as I look over my diary I am quite overwhelmed to see how many
things Winifred did for me. She is a dear girl! I have promised to
embroider all the table linen for her wedding outfit. I console myself
by reflecting that Mr. Flint is a descendant of Jonathan Edwards, and
if she wants me to like him, I suppose I must try, though I may
confess right here to my diary that for years I have been wanting her
to marry Philip Brady. She ought to have done it, but we are all fools
where matrimony is concerned.

  P. S. I have promised to marry Dr. Cricket.


                         *   *   *   *   *   *


                               THE END.





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