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Title: Mary Ware's Promised Land
Author: Johnston, Annie F. (Annie Fellows), 1863-1931
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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Microsoft for their Live Search Books site.)Music by Linda
Cantoni.



MARY WARE'S PROMISED LAND



  Works of
  ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON

       *       *       *       *       *


The Little Colonel Series

(_Trade Mark, Reg. U. S. Pat. Of._)

Each one vol., large 12mo, cloth, illustrated

        The Little Colonel Stories                    $1.50
        (Containing in one volume the three stories, "The
        Little Colonel," "The Giant Scissors," and "Two
        Little Knights of Kentucky.")
        The Little Colonel's House Party               1.50
        The Little Colonel's Holidays                  1.50
        The Little Colonel's Hero                      1.50
        The Little Colonel at Boarding-School          1.50
        The Little Colonel in Arizona                  1.50
        The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation        1.50
        The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor              1.50
        The Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding       1.50
        Mary Ware: The Little Colonel's Chum           1.50
        Mary Ware in Texas                             1.50
        Mary Ware's Promised Land                      1.50
        The above 12 vols., _boxed_, as a set         18.00

       *       *       *       *       *

        The Little Colonel Good Times Book             1.50
        The Little Colonel Doll Book                   1.50


Illustrated Holiday Editions

Each one vol. small quarto, cloth, illustrated, and printed in colour

        The Little Colonel                            $1.25
        The Giant Scissors                             1.25
        Two Little Knights of Kentucky                 1.25
        Big Brother                                    1.25


Cosy Corner Series

Each one vol., thin 12mo, cloth, illustrated

        The Little Colonel                             $.50
        The Giant Scissors                              .50
        Two Little Knights of Kentucky                  .50
        Big Brother                                     .50
        Ole Mammy's Torment                             .50
        The Story of Dago                               .50
        Cicely                                          .50
        Aunt 'Liza's Hero                               .50
        The Quilt that Jack Built                       .50
        Flip's "Islands of Providence"                  .50
        Mildred's Inheritance                           .50


Other Books

        Joel: A Boy of Galilee                        $1.50
        In the Desert of Waiting                        .50
        The Three Weavers                               .50
        Keeping Tryst                                   .50
        The Legend of the Bleeding Heart                .50
        The Rescue of the Princess Winsome              .50
        The Jester's Sword                              .50
        Asa Holmes                                     1.00
        Travelers Five Along Life's Highway            1.25

       *       *       *       *       *

        L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
        53 Beacon Street           Boston, Mass.

[Illustration: "'I DON'T WANT TO BE JUST AN OLD MAID SISTER IN SOMEBODY
ELSE'S HOME.'" (_See page 34._)]



Mary Ware's Promised Land

By ANNIE FELLOWS JOHNSTON

Author of "The Little Colonel Series," "Big Brother," "Ole Mammy's
Torment," "Joel: A Boy of Galilee," "Asa Holmes," "Travelers Five on
Life's Highway," etc.

Illustrated by JOHN GOSS

        BOSTON   L. C. PAGE
        & COMPANY   MDCCCCXII



        _Copyright_, 1912,
        BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY.
        (INCORPORATED)

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

_All rights reserved_

First Impression, October, 1912

        THE COLONIAL PRESS
        C. H. SIMONDS & CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.



TO

MISS FANNY CRAIG

THE "MISS ALLISON" OF THESE STORIES, WHOSE "ROAD OF THE LOVING HEART"
RUNS WIDE AND FAR THROUGH ALL THIS HAPPY VALLEY



CONTENTS


PART I

        CHAPTER                                  PAGE

           I. A SEEKER OF NEW TRAILS                1
          II. BACK AT LONE-ROCK                    24
         III. A NEW FRIEND                         51
          IV. THE WITCH WITH A WAND                68
           V. P STANDS FOR PINK                    91
          VI. TOLD IN LETTERS                     111
         VII. A DESERT OF WAITING                 126
        VIII. A GREAT SORROW                      144


PART II

           I. BETTY'S WEDDING                     161
          II. TOWARDS THE CANAAN OF HER DESIRE    183
         III. THE SUPREME CALL                    204
          IV. "PINK" OR DIAMOND ROW               227
           V. MARY AND THE "BIG OPPORTUNITY"      244
          VI. PHIL WALKS IN                       266
         VII. HER GREAT RENUNCIATION              278
        VIII. HOW IT ALL ENDED                    300



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                          PAGE

   "'I DON'T WANT TO BE JUST AN OLD MAID SISTER IN
      SOMEBODY ELSE'S HOME'" (_see page 34_)      _Frontispiece_

   "THERE WAS ONLY TIME TO . . . HASTILY CLASP THE
      LITTLE GLOVED HAND HELD OUT TO HIM"                  4

   "'I'LL SLEEP BETTER IF THEY ARE ON THEIR POLES
      INSTEAD OF ON MY MIND'"                             26

   "'I WISH WE COULD SETTLE THINGS BY A FEATHER,
      AS THEY USED TO IN THE OLD FAIRY TALES'"            77

   "SEVERAL TIMES SHE STOPPED JACK IN PASSING TO
      ASK HIM A QUESTION"                                118

   "'DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU EVER SAW
      THIS?'"                                            167

   "GAZING INTO THE SWEET FACE THAT SEEMED TO SMILE
      HELPFULLY BACK AT HER"                             240

   "'IT WAS AS IF WE HAD REACHED THAT LAND THAT WE
      USED TO SING ABOUT'"                               310



PART I



MARY WARE'S
PROMISED LAND



PART I



CHAPTER I

A SEEKER OF NEW TRAILS


When the Ware family boarded the train in San Antonio that September
morning for their long journey back to Lone-Rock, every passenger on the
Pullman straightened up with an appearance of interest. Somehow their
arrival had the effect of a breath of fresh air blowing through the
stuffy car. Even before their entrance some curiosity had been awakened
by remarks which floated in from the rear platform, where they were
bidding farewell to some friends who had come to see them off.

"Do write and tell us what your next adventures are, Mary," exclaimed
one clear voice. "Your family ought to be named Gulliver instead of
Ware, for you are always travelling around to such queer,
out-of-the-way places. I suppose you haven't the faintest idea where
you'll be six months from now."

"No, nor where I'll be in even six weeks," came the answer, in a
laughing girlish treble. "As I told the Mallory twins when we left
Bauer, I'm like 'Gray Brother' now, snuffing at the dawn wind and asking
where shall we lair to-day. From now I follow new trails. And, girls, I
wish you could have heard Brud's mournful little voice piping after me
down the track, as the train pulled out, 'Good hunting, Miss Mayry! Good
hunting!'"

"Oh, you'll have that, no matter where you go," was the confident
answer. "And don't forget to write and tell us about it."

A chorus of good-byes and farewell injunctions followed this seeker of
new trails into the car, and the passengers glanced up to find that she
was a bright, happy-looking girl in her teens. She carried a sheaf of
roses on one arm, and some new magazines under the other. One noticed
first the alertness of the face under the stylish hat with its bronze
quills, and then the girlish simplicity of dress and manner which showed
at a glance that she was a thorough little gentlewoman. Her mother, who
followed, gave the same impression; gray-gowned, gray-gloved, bearing a
parting gift of sweet violets, all that she could carry, in both hands.

One literal minded woman who had overheard Mary's remarks about lairs
and new trails, and who had been on the watch for something wild all
across the state of Texas, looked up in disappointment. There was
nothing whatever in their appearance to suggest that they had lived in
queer places or that they were on their way to one now. The fifteen year
old boy who followed them was like any other big boy in short trousers,
and the young man who brought up the rear and was undeniably good to
look at, gave not the slightest evidence of being on a quest for
adventure. The only reason the woman could see for the name of Gulliver
being applied to the family, was that they settled themselves with the
ease and dispatch of old travellers.

While Jack was hanging up his mother's coat, and Norman storing their
suit-cases away in one section, Mary, in the seat across the aisle, was
pressing her face against the window-pane, watching for a parting
glimpse of the friends, when they should pass through the station gate.
A sudden tapping on the glass outside startled her, and the next
instant she was exclaiming excitedly to her elder brother, "Oh, quick,
Jack! Put up the window, please. It's Gay and Roberta! They're still
waiting out there!"

As the window flew up, and Mary's head was thrust out, passengers on
that side of the car saw two young girls standing on tiptoe to speak to
her. The one with beautiful auburn hair called out breathlessly, "Oh,
Mary! Bogey's coming! Pray that the train will stand one more minute!"
And the other, the one with curly lashes and mischievous mouth, chimed
in, "He's bringing an enormous box of candy! Mean thing, to come so late
that we can't have even a nibble!"

Then those looking out saw a young fellow in lieutenant's uniform sprint
through the gate, down the long station and across half a dozen tracks
to reach the place where Roberta and Gay stood like excited guide-posts,
wildly pointing out the window, and beckoning him to hurry. Red-faced
and panting, he brought up beside them with a hasty salute, just as the
wheels began turning and the long train started to puff slowly out of
the station. There was only time to thrust the box through the window
and hastily clasp the little gloved hand held out to him.

[Illustration: "THERE WAS ONLY TIME TO . . . HASTILY CLASP THE LITTLE
GLOVED HAND HELD OUT TO HIM."]

"Say good-bye to the others for me," he called, trotting along beside
the moving train. "Sorry I was late. I had a lot of things to tell you.
I'll have to write them."

"Do," called Mary, "and let me know--" But he was no longer in hearing
distance and the sentence was left unfinished.

When she drew in her head there was a deeper color in her face and such
shining pleasure in her eyes, that every fellow traveller who had seen
the little byplay, knew just what delight the lieutenant's parting
attention had given her. More than one watched furtively with a sort of
inward smiling as she opened the box and passed it around for the family
to share and admire.

One person, especially, found entertainment in watching her. He was the
elderly, spectacled gentleman in the section behind her. He was an
illustrator for a well-known publishing house, and Mary would have
counted her adventures well begun, could she have known who was sitting
behind her, and that one of his famous cover designs was on the very
magazine which lay open on her lap. Well for her peace of mind that she
did not know what he proceeded to do soon after her arrival. Producing a
pencil and drawing pad from his satchel, he made a quick sketch of her,
as she sat sideways in her seat, carrying on an animated conversation
with Jack.

The artist smiled as he sketched in the jaunty quills of the hat, perked
at just the right angle to make an effective picture. He was sure that
they gave the key-note to her character.

"They have such an effect of alertness and 'go,'" was his inward
comment. "It's sensible of her to know that this style gives her
distinction, while those big floppy affairs everybody wears nowadays
would have made just an ordinary looking girl of her."

He would have been still more positive that the hat gave the key-note of
her character, if he had seen the perseverance and ingenuity that had
gone towards its making. For she had been her own milliner. Two other
hats had been ripped to pieces to give her material for this, and the
stylish brown quills which had first attracted his attention, had been
saved from the big bronze turkey which had been sent to them from the
Barnaby ranch for their Christmas dinner.

Before he had made more than an outline, the porter came by with a paper
bag, and Mary whisked her hat off her head and into the bag, serenely
unconscious that thereby she was arresting the development of a good
picture.

Later, when Jack changed to the seat facing Mary, and with his elbow on
the window ledge and chin propped on his fist sat watching the flying
landscape, the illustrator made a sketch of him also. This time he did
not stop with a bare outline. What had seemed just a boyish face at
first glance, invited his careful study. Those mature lines about the
mouth, the firm set of the lips, the serious depths of the grave gray
eyes, certainly belonged to one who had known responsibilities and
struggles, and, in some way, he felt, conquest. He wondered what there
had been in the young fellow's life to leave such a record. The longer
he studied the face the better he liked it.

The whole family seemed unusually well worth knowing, he concluded after
a critical survey of Norman and his mother, who sat in the opposite
section, entertaining each other with such evident interest that it made
him long for some one to talk to himself. Tired by his two days' journey
and bored by the monotony of his surroundings, he yawned, stretched
himself, and rising, sauntered out to the rear platform of the
observation car. Here, some time later, Norman found him smoking and
was drawn into conversation with the stranger, who seemed to have a gift
for asking questions.

The conversation was confined principally to the different kinds of wild
animals and snakes to be found in the state of Texas, and to an amateur
"zoo" which Norman had once owned in Lone-Rock, the mining camp in
Arizona that they were now going back to. But incidentally the
interested artist learned that Jack had been assistant manager of the
mines. That accounted for the mature lines of his face. They stood for
responsibilities bravely shouldered. He had been almost killed by an
accident which would have crushed several Mexican workmen had he not
risked his own life for theirs. He had been ordered to a milder climate,
hence their recent sojourn in Texas. They had supposed he would always
be a helpless cripple, but, by an almost miraculous operation, he had
been restored, and was now going back to take his old position.

Norman himself intended to be a mining engineer, he told the stranger
when questioned. He had already begun to take a practical course under
the chief at the office. Mathematics came easy to him. The other
studies, which he thought unnecessary, but which his family insisted
upon, he recited to the minister. He, and another boy, Billy Downs.
There were only a few white boys of his age in Lone-Rock.

"What does your sister do for entertainment?" asked his questioner,
recalling the vivacious little face under the hat with the saucy bronze
quills. "Doesn't she find it rather lonely there?"

"Why, no!" answered Norman in a surprised tone. "A place just naturally
quits being lonesome when Mary gets into it, and she does so many things
that nobody can ever guess what she's going to think of doing next."

Probably it was because he had a daughter of his own, who, not
possessing Mary's rare gift, demanded constant amusement from her
family, that he turned his spectacled gaze on her with deepened interest
when he went back into the car, and many times during the rest of the
time that they journeyed together. She crossed the aisle to sit with her
mother the greater part of the afternoon, so he heard nothing of the
conversation which appeared to be of absorbing interest to them both.

But the woman who had been on the watch for something wild all the way
across the state, deliberately arranged to hear as much of it as she
could. A scrap or two that reached her above the noise of the train
made her prick up her ears. She changed her seat so that she sat back to
back with Mrs. Ware and Mary. Eavesdropping on the train was perfectly
justifiable, she told her uneasy conscience, because there was no
personal element in it. Of course she couldn't do it at home, but it was
different among strangers. All the world was a stage when one travelled,
and the people one met on a journey were the actors one naturally looked
to to help pass the time. So she sat with her eyes closed, because
riding backward always made her dizzy, and her head so close to the back
of Mary's that the bronze quills would have touched her ear had Mary
turned an inch or two farther around in her seat.

Presently she gathered that this interesting young girl was about to go
out into the wide, wide world to make her fortune, and that she had a
list of teachers' agencies and employment bureaus to which she intended
applying as soon as she reached home. From various magazines given her
to read on the way, she had cut a number of advertisements which she
wanted to answer, but her mother objected to most of them. She did not
want her to take a place among strangers as governess, companion,
social secretary, mother's helper, reader for a clipping bureau or
shopping agent.

"You are too young, Mary," she insisted. "One never knows what one is
getting into in strange families. Now, that position in a Girls' Winter
Camp in Florida does not seem so objectionable, because they give
teachers at Warwick Hall as reference. You can easily find out all about
it. But there is no real reason why you should go away this winter. Now
that Jack has his position again and we are all well and strong we can
live like lords at Lone-Rock on his salary. At least," she added,
smiling, "it must seem like lords to some of the families in the camp.
And he can save a little each month besides."

"But, mother dear," answered Mary, a distressed frown puckering her
smooth forehead. "I don't want to settle down for Jack to take care of
me. I want to live my own life--to see something of the world. You let
Joyce go without objecting."

"Yes, to make an artist of herself. But somehow that was different. She
had a definite career mapped out. Her work is the very breath of life to
her, and it would have been wrong to hold her when she has such
undoubted talent. But you see, Mary, your goal is so vague. You haven't
any great object in view. You're willing to do almost anything for the
sake of change. I verily believe you'd like to try each one of those
positions in turn, just for the novelty of the experiences, and the
opportunity of meeting all those different kinds of people."

Mary nodded emphatically. "Oh, I would! I'd love it!" Then she laughed
at her mother's puzzled expression.

"You can't understand it, can you? Your whole brood is turning out to be
the kind that pines to be 'in the swim' for itself. Still, you didn't
cluck distractedly when Joyce went to New York and Holland into the
Navy, and you followed Jack up here when he struck out for himself, and
you know Norman's chosen work is liable to take him anywhere on the face
of the globe. So I don't see why you should cluck at me when I edge off
after the others."

Mrs. Ware smiled into the merry eyes waiting for their answer. "I'm not
trying to stop you entirely," she replied. "I'm only warning you to go
slowly and to be very careful. As long as there is nothing especial you
have set your heart on accomplishing, it seems unwise to snatch at the
first chance that offers. You're very young yet, remember, only
eighteen."

Mary made no answer for several minutes. Down in her heart was the
feeling that some day her life would mean far more to the world than
Joyce's career as an artist or Holland's as a naval officer. She had
felt so ever since that first day at Warwick Hall, when she gazed up at
the great window of Edryn's tryst, where his coat of arms gleamed like
jewels in its amber setting. As she had listened to the flood of
wonderful music rolling up from below, something out of it had begun
calling her. And it had gone on calling and calling with the compelling
note of a far-off yet insistent trumpet, into a world of nameless
longings and exalted ambitions, of burning desire to do great deeds. And
finally she had begun to understand that somewhere, some day, some great
achievement awaited her. Like Edryn she had heard the King's call, and
like him she had whispered his answer softly and reverently as before an
altar:

                            "Oh list!
        Oh heart and hand of mine, keep tryst--
             Keep tryst or die!"

It was still all vague and shadowy. With what great duty to the universe
she was to keep tryst she did not yet know, and it was now two years
since she had heard that call. But the vision still stayed. Inwardly she
knew she was some sort of a Joan of Arc, consecrated to some high
destiny. Yet when she thought of explaining anything so intangible, she
began to smile at the thought of how ridiculous such an explanation
would sound, shouted out in broad daylight, above the roar of the train.
Such confidences can be given only in twilight and cloisters, just as
the call itself can come only to those who "wake at dawn to listen in
high places."

But feeling presently that she must give some definite reason to her
mother for wanting to start out to seek her fortunes, she leaned across
the aisle and slipped a railroad folder from Jack's coat pocket. It had
a map on one side of it, and spreading it across both her lap and her
mother's, she laid her finger on a spot within the boundary lines of
Kentucky.

"Don't you remember my little primary geography?" she asked. "The one I
began to study at Lee's ranch? I had a gilt paper star pasted right
there over Lloydsboro Valley, and a red ink line running to it from
Arizona. I remember the day I put them there, I told Hazel Lee that
there was my 'Promised Land,' and that I'd vowed a vow to go there some
day if the heavens fell. I'll never forget the horror on her little
freckled face as she answered, 'Aw, ain't you wicked! I bet you never
get there now, just for saying that!'

"But I _did_ get there!" she continued with deep satisfaction. "And now
I've made up my mind to go back there to live some of these days. You
see, mamma, my visit there was like the trial trip that Caleb and Joshua
made to 'spy out the land.' Don't you remember the picture in
Grandmother Ware's Bible of the two men coming back with such an
enormous bunch of grapes on a pole between them that they could hardly
carry it? It proved that the fruits of Canaan were better and bigger
than the fruits of any other country. That was what my visit did; proved
that I could be better and happier in Lloydsboro Valley than anywhere
else in the world."

There was a moment's silence, then she added wistfully, "Somehow, when
you're there, it seems easier to keep 'the compass needle of your soul
true to the North-star of a great ambition.' There's so much to inspire
one there. I have a feeling that if I could only go back to live, I'd--
Oh, I hardly know how to express it! But it would prove to be my 'high
place,' the place where I'll hear my call. So the great reason why I
want to start right away to earn money is that I may have enough as soon
as possible to buy a home back there. That's my dearest day-dream, and
I'm bound to make it come true if I have to wander around in the
wilderness of hard work as long as the old Israelites did in theirs.
You're to come with me. That's one of the best parts of my dream, for I
know how you've always loved the place and longed to go back. Now, don't
you think that's an object good enough and big enough to let me go for?"

Mrs. Ware seized the little hand spread out over the map of Kentucky and
gave it an impulsive squeeze.

"Yes," she answered. "If you're ever as homesick for the dear old place
as I used to be sometimes, I can understand your longing to go back
there to live."

"_Used_ to be!" echoed Mary blankly, staring at her in astonishment.
"Aren't you now? Wouldn't you be glad to go back there to spend the rest
of your days? I don't mean right now, of course, while Jack and Norman
need you so much here, but"--lowering her voice--"I'm just as sure as I
can be without having been told officially that Jack is going to marry
Betty Lewis as soon as his finances are in better shape. She's such a
perfect darling that they'd be happy ever after, and then I wouldn't
have any compunctions about taking you away from him. Now that's another
reason I don't want to stay on here, just to be an added expense to
him."

The words poured out so impetuously, the face turned toward her was so
eager, that Mrs. Ware could not dim its light by answering the first two
questions as she felt impelled. She answered the last instead, saying
that she felt as Mary did about Jack's marriage, and that it made her
inexpressibly happy to think that the girl he might some day bring home
as his bride was the daughter of her dear old friend and schoolmate,
Joyce Allen.

They lowered their voices over this confidence, so that the woman who
was sitting back to back with them shifted her position and leaned a
little nearer. Even then she could not hear what they were saying till
Mary returned to her first question.

"But, mamma, you said '_used_ to be.' Do you really mean that you don't
care for your Happy Valley as much as you used to? The place you've
talked about to us since we were babies, till we've come to think of it
as enchanted ground?"

Feeling as if she were pleading guilty to a charge of high treason, Mrs.
Ware answered slowly, "No, I can't truthfully say that I do long for it
as I used to. It's this way, little daughter," she added hastily, seeing
the disappointment that shadowed Mary's face. "I've been away such a
very, very long time, that there are only a few of my girlhood friends
left. Betty's mother has been dead many years. The Little Colonel's
mother is really the only one I could expect to find unchanged. The old
seminary is burned down, strangers are in the homes I used to visit, and
I'm afraid I'd find so many changes that it would be as sad as visiting
a cemetery. And I've lived so long in the West, that I've taken root
here now. I think of it as home. I'm just as interested as Jack is in
building up the fortunes of our new state. I think he is going to be a
power in it some day. If I should live long enough, it would not
surprise me in the least to see him Governor of it some time."

She folded one little gray-gloved hand over the other so complacently as
she calmly made this announcement, that Mary laughed and shook her head
despairingly.

"Oh, mamma! mamma! You vain woman! What fine swans all your ducklings
are going to turn out to be! Jack a Governor, Holland an Admiral,
Norman a mighty man of valor (variety still undetermined), and Joyce a
celebrity in the world of art! Must I be the only Simple Simon in the
bunch? What would you really like to have me do? Now, own up, if you
could have your choice, what is your ambition for me?"

"Well," confessed Mrs. Ware, "you're such a born home-maker, that I'd
like to see you that before all else. I believe you could make a home so
much better than your neighbors, that like the creator of the proverbial
mouse-trap, you would have the world making a beaten track to your door,
even though you lived in the woods. As the old Colonel once said, you
can be an honor to your sex and one of the most interesting women of
your generation."

Although she spoke jokingly there was such a note of belief in her voice
that Mary caught her by the arm and shook it, saying playfully,
"Peacock! If _that's_ what you hope for me, then you must certainly
speed my parting. It's only in the goodly land of Lloydsboro that I can
measure up to all you expect of me. I'll try and fill the bill, but
promise me this much. When I've finally pitched my tent in Canaan and
achieved that happy home, then you'll come and share it with me. At
least," she added as Mrs. Ware nodded assent, "what time you are not
strutting through foreign salons or the Governor's mansion, or sailing
the high seas with the Admiral."

The woman behind them heard no more, for Jack called them across the
aisle to look at something from his window, and when they returned to
their seats Mrs. Ware picked up a magazine and Mary began an absorbing
study of the map. She retraced the line of her first railroad journey,
the pilgrimage from the little village of Plainsville, Kansas, to
Phoenix, Arizona. As she thought of it, she could almost feel the lump
in her throat that had risen when she looked back for the last time on
the little brown house they were leaving forever, and waved good-bye to
the lonesome little Christmas tree they had put out on the porch for the
birds.

It was on that trip that her tireless tongue had made life-long friends
of two strangers whom she talked to: Phil Tremont, and his sister Elsie.
Her brothers had always teased her about her chatterbox ways, but
suppose she _hadn't_ talked to them that day. The endless chain of
happenings that that friendship started never would have begun, and life
would have been far different for all of them.

Then her finger traced the way to where Ware's Wigwam would have been on
the map if it had been a spot large enough to mark. There Phil had come
into their life again, almost like one of the family. Her real
acquaintance with the Princess Winsome of her dreams began there too,
when Lloyd Sherman made her memorable visit, and Mary, with the adoring
admiration of a little girl for the older one whom she takes as her
ideal in all things, began to copy her in every way possible.

The next line followed the course of the red ink trail in her old
primary geography, for that was the trail she had followed back to the
gilt paper star which stood for Lloydsboro Valley. The land which she
had learned to love through song and story had been the dearest of all
to her ever since, through the associations of that happy summer. There
were several other trips to retrace as she sat with the map spread out
before her. The long one she took to Warwick Hall, where surely no one
ever had fuller, happier school-days. She did not stop to recall them
now, thinking with satisfaction that they were all recorded in her "Good
Times Book," and that if ever "days of dole, those hoarfrost seasons of
the soul," came into her life, every cell of that memory hive would be
stored with the honey of their good cheer. So also were her Christmas
and Easter vacations recorded, when she and Betty visited Joyce in her
studio apartment in New York.

The next line which she traced was a hasty dash back across the map to
Lone-Rock. She always tried to dash the thought of it out of mind just
as quickly. The heart-breaking agony of it, when she was flying home to
find her brother a hopeless cripple, was too terrible to recall even
now, after a long time, when he was sitting beside her, strong and well.

Then her finger trailed down across the map, retracing their last
journey the year before to San Antonio and the hill country above it. In
many ways it had been a hard year, but, remembering its happy outcome,
she said to herself that it should be marked by triple lines of red.
They had gone down to the place, strangers in a strange land, they were
coming away with some of the warmest friendships of their lives binding
them fast to it. Down there Jack had had his wonderful recovery, which
was above and beyond all that their wildest hopes had pictured. And,
too, it was the last place where she would have expected to meet Phil
Tremont again. Yet he had appeared suddenly one day as if it were the
most natural thing in the world to be standing there by the huisache
tree to help her over the fence of the blue-bonnet pasture.

"By what has been, learn what will be," she repeated, and then idly
pricked that motto into the edge of the folder with a pin, as she went
on recalling various incidents. Judging by her past she had every reason
to believe that the future might be full of happy surprises; so, as she
studied the map now, it was to wonder which way the new trails would
lead her.

"Any way at all!" she thought fervently. "I don't care which direction
they take, if they'll only come around to the Happy Valley. I'm bound to
get there at any cost."

Presently she folded up the map and sat gazing dreamily out of the
window. An old song that was often on her lips came to her mind, but,
this time, she parodied it to suit her hopes:

        "For if I go not by the road, and go not by the hill,
         And go not by the far sea way, yet go I surely will!
         Close all the roads of all the world--Love's road is open still."



CHAPTER II

BACK AT LONE-ROCK


The home-coming was keenly pleasant. Mary, who had been going over the
house helping to throw open all the doors and windows, paused in the
cheerful living-room. The September sun shone across the worn carpet and
the familiar furniture which had served them even in the days of the
little brown house.

"I didn't know that I _could_ be so glad to get back to these old tables
and chairs," she exclaimed. "It actually gives you a real thrill to be
welcomed by something that's known you since babyhood, doesn't it?"

"Yes," answered Jack. "They've been considerably mixed up with our
family history, and bear more of the scars of our battles than we do.
That little chair of Joyce's for instance. Back in the days of my kilts
and curls I used to kick dents in it every time we had a scrap, because
I couldn't fight a girl, and I had to let off steam some way."

"This is my especial friend," said Mary. She dropped into a wide rocker
that held out welcoming arms. "Holland and I used to play in this by the
hour. It's a wonder there's anything left of it. We had it for a
stage-coach so many times, and turned over in it whenever it was
attacked by the Indians. I used to curl up in it before the fire, to
read or dream or cry in it, till it knows me in all my moods and tenses.
Some of these days, when I go to live in my old Kentucky home, I shall
ask mamma to let me take it with me just for old times' sake."

Jack opened the door of the clock and began winding the weights that had
hung idle for nearly a year. When the swinging pendulum once more began
its deep-toned tick-tock, he looked back over his shoulder with a smile.

"Now I feel that I'm really at home when I hear that voice. As far back
as I can remember it's always been saying, 'All _right_! All _right_!' I
made the nurse carry it back into the kitchen where I couldn't hear it
the day the doctor told me I could never walk again. Its cheerfulness
nearly drove me wild when I knew that everything was so hopelessly all
wrong. But now listen!" he insisted exultantly. "Everything _is_ all
right now, and every day is Thanksgiving Day to me the year around."

There was a huskiness in his voice as he added, "Nobody can know what it
means to me--the blessedness of being able to go to work."

He dashed away to the office soon after to discover what had been done
in his long absence. Norman hurried through the tasks assigned to him as
soon as possible, impatient to be off to explore old haunts with Billy
Downs. Two pairs of quick, capable hands made light work of the cleaning
and unpacking that had to be done that day, and accomplished much more
that might have been left till another time had not Mary's usual zeal
for getting everything in proper place in the least possible time taken
possession of her.

"Oh, yes, I know, mamma," she called back in answer to a protest from
the next room. "These curtains _could_ wait till to-morrow, but they are
all fresh and ready to hang, and I'll sleep better if they are on their
poles instead of on my mind."

[Illustration: "'I'LL SLEEP BETTER IF THEY ARE ON THEIR POLES INSTEAD OF
ON MY MIND.'"]

As she climbed up and down the step-ladder her thoughts were not on the
curtains which she adjusted mechanically, nor on the song which she was
humming in the same way. She was composing the letter which she intended
sending to the Girls' Winter Camp in Florida, applying for the vacant
position, and she wanted to make it perfect of its kind. Mrs. Ware,
watching the zest with which she fell upon her work of beautifying the
little cottage, thought it must be because she felt the truth of the
refrain which she sang softly over and over:

        "'Mid pleasures and palaces, tho' we may roam,
         Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

She was so glad to be back herself, that presently, when she had
occasion to go through the room again, she joined in for a few notes in
passing.

The sweet alto voice made Mary suddenly aware of what she was singing,
and she gave a guilty little start, glad that her mother could not know
that her thoughts had all been absorbed in planning to get away from the
home she was singing about so fondly.

"It does seem nicer to be back than I thought it would," she admitted to
herself. "But maybe that's because I know I don't have to stay. Even the
finest cage in the world is more attractive with its door open than
shut."

Although she did not realize the fact, much of her hurry to get the
house in order was due to a feeling that the summons to take advantage
of that open door might come very soon, and she wanted to be ready when
it came.

Late that afternoon she started to the post-office with two letters, one
to the principal of the Girls' Camp, the other to the teacher in Warwick
Hall who had been given as reference.

"Oh, I hope my application will get there in time, and I hope my
references will be satisfactory," she thought earnestly. "They ought to
be impressed, with a list which begins with Bishop Chartley and Madam,
and General Walton's wife, and includes twenty people from New York to
Fort Sam Houston in Texas."

Just then a wagon, bearing a huge load of hay, creaked slowly along the
road past her, and a half forgotten superstition of her childhood
flashed into her mind. Hazel Lee had told her once that if you make a
wish on a hay-wagon it will come true if "yes" is the first word you say
after doing so. But should you be asked a question requiring any other
answer, or should it be necessary to make a remark not beginning with
the magic yes, you'll "lose your wish."

So it was with a smile at the old foolishness that Mary watched the
loaded wagon go lumbering by. She had wished for a speedy and favorable
reply to the letter she was about to post. It had been a point of honor
with Hazel and herself whenever the other came running up, significantly
tapping mute lips with an impatient forefinger, to ask, "Do you love
candy?" or "Do you like peaches?" recognizing the necessity of some
question to which the liberated little tongue could respond with a
fervent yes. Boys were always so mean about it, asking, "Do you want me
to pull your hair?" or "Do you love Peter Finn?" a half-witted boy in
the neighborhood.

The childish rite brought up a little of the old thrill of apprehension,
that no one might ask her the proper question to make her wish come
true, and Mary smiled broadly over her own foolishness as she went on up
the street. It was the only street which Lone-Rock boasted; just a
straggling road, beginning down by the railroad station and the mine
offices, and ending farther up the mountain in a narrow wagon track. The
houses of the white families were scattered along it at uneven intervals
for the space of half a mile. Then one came to a little wooden
school-house on one side, and on the other the tiny box of a room which
served as a post-office. The school-house was used as a chapel one day
out of the week. The mining company's store was beyond that, and a
little farther along, the colony of shanties where the Mexican workmen
and their families lived.

The fact that Mary had met no one since leaving home and that only the
hay-wagon had passed her, emphasized the loneliness of the little hamlet
and made her glad that she need not look forward to spending a winter
there. Her quick eyes noted a few changes, however, which promised
interesting things. Five new houses had gone up in their absence. There
was a piano in one of them, Billy Downs had told Norman, and Mr.
Moredock, the man in the new yellow house, who had come for his health,
was writing a history of some kind, and had brought a whole wagon-load
of books.

The postmaster would know all about the newcomers, Mary reflected with
satisfaction. One of her pleasures of coming back was meeting her old
friend, the postmaster, and at the thought of him she walked a little
faster. Captain Doane had held the office ever since Lone-Rock had been
a mail station, and in a way was a sort of father confessor to everybody
in the place. A clean-shaven jolly old face with deep laughter wrinkles
about the blue eyes, which twinkled through steel-bowed spectacles,
bushy iron-gray hair and bristling eyebrows--that was about all one saw
through the bars of the narrow delivery window. But so much kindly
sympathy and neighborly interest and good advice and real concern were
handed out with the daily mail, that every man in the community regarded
him as his personal friend.

There were only two mail trains a day in Lone-Rock, and at this hour
Mary was sure of finding him at leisure. Seeing him through the open
window, sound asleep in his arm-chair over an open newspaper, with his
spectacles slipping down his nose, Mary was about to spring in the door
with a playful "boo." But she remembered her wish on the hay-wagon and
the necessity of waiting for him to speak first. So she only rattled the
latch. He started up, a little bewildered from his sudden awakening, but
seeing who had come, dashed off the old slouch hat, perched on the back
of his head.

"Well, bless my soul!" he cried heartily, coming forward with an
outstretched hand. "If it isn't our little Mary Ware! I heard you were
back and I've been looking all afternoon for you to drop in. Have you
come back to stay, this time?"

There was an instant of hesitation, as she considered how she could
reply to such a question honestly with a yes. Then she stammered,
"Y-yes, for a little while. That is, just for a few weeks." Then she
drew a long breath. "My! That was a narrow escape. I've been wondering
all the way up the street what would be the first thing you'd say to me,
and for a second I was afraid you'd ruined my chances."

Her laugh rang out merrily at his bewildered exclamation. "The chances
for my wish coming true," she explained. "I made one on a hay-wagon,
coming along, about this letter."

"Sit down and give an account of yourself," he insisted, and as she had
come for a visit she willingly obeyed. But she would not take his chair
at the desk as he urged, climbing instead to the only other seat which
the office afforded. It was a high stool beside the shelf where pens,
ink and money-order blanks awaited the needs of the public. Mary had
often occupied it, and from this perch had given the Captain some of the
most amusing hours of his life.

He had missed her when she went away to school, and he never handed out
the letters to her family post-marked "Warwick Hall" without a vision of
the friendly little girl swinging her feet from her seat on this high
stool, as she told him amazing tales of Ware's Wigwam and a place
somewhere off in Kentucky that she seemed to regard as a cross between
the Land of Beulah and the Garden of Eden. When she came back from
Warwick Hall she no longer dangled her feet, but sat in more grown-up
fashion, her toes propped on the round below. And she seldom stayed
long. There was too much to be done at home, with Jack needing such
constant attention. But her short accounts of boarding-school life were
like glimpses into a strange world, and he carried home all she told to
repeat to his wife; for in an out-of-the-way corner of the universe,
where little happens, the most trivial things are accounted of vital
interest.

Now he had many questions to ask about Jack's recovery. It was a matter
of household rejoicing in Lone-Rock that he had come back able to take
his old place among them. Mary satisfied his curiosity and gave a brief
outline of their doings while away, but she had questions of her own to
ask. How was Aunt Sally Doane? The Captain's wife was "Aunt Sally" by
courtesy to the entire settlement. Was her rheumatism better, and was
the old red rooster still alive? Was it true that Mr. Moredock was an
author, and how many young people had the new families brought with
them?

But all roads led to the Rome of her heart's desire, and between her
questions and the Captain's she kept jumping back, grasshopper-like, to
the subject uppermost in her mind. His cordial interest, unlike her
family's half-hearted consenting, led her into further confidences.

"Jack wants me to wait awhile and study at home until he can afford to
send me back to Warwick Hall, but I might be in my twenties before that
time, and the girls in my classes would be so much younger that they'd
look upon me as a hoary old patriarch. Of course I'd be better equipped
for what I hope to do eventually, but it would give me such a late
start, and there are a number of things that I am fitted to do right
now. Besides, it would handicap Jack to spend so much on me. It's only
natural to expect that he'll want to marry and settle down some of these
days, and he might not be able to do it as soon as he otherwise would if
he had me to support and keep at college. And, Captain Doane, I don't
want to be just an old maid sister in somebody else's home, even if it
is the home of the dearest brother in the world."

The Captain threw back his head and laughed until the steel-bowed
spectacles slid down his nose again.

"Much danger of your being an old maid sister in anybody's home, in a
place like this where pretty girls are scarcer than hens' teeth," he
declared, teasingly. "I know a likely young lad this minute who'd gladly
save you from that fate. He's been around several times lately,
inquiring when you might be expected back."

Mary was nearly consumed with curiosity to ask who the likely lad was,
but only shrugged her shoulders incredulously, knowing that that would
be the surest way of provoking him to a disclosure.

"Well, he _has_!" insisted the Captain. "It's young Upham, if you must
know."

Mary's brows drew together in a vain effort to recall him, and she shook
her head. "Upham? Upham? I never heard of him."

"Yes, yes, you have," insisted the Captain. "He drove a lumber wagon for
the company summer before last. But he's been to school in Tucson all
the time you've been away, and has just come back."

"Oh, you mean _Pink_ Upham!" exclaimed Mary, suddenly enlightened, with
an emphasis which seemed to say, "Oh, _that_ boy! He doesn't count."

The Captain interpreted the emphasis and resented it.

"Just let me tell you, little Miss Disdain, he's a lad not to be sneezed
at. He's come back the likeliest young man in all these parts."

Again Mary shrugged her shoulders and smiled unbelievingly. Her
recollection of Pink Upham was of a big red-faced fellow overgrown and
awkward, with a disgusting habit of twisting every one's remarks into
puns, and of uttering trite truths with the air of just having
discovered them. The warning whirr of a clock about to strike made her
spring down from the stool with an exclamation of surprise.

"I had no idea I was staying so long. I've an errand at the store too,
so I'll have to hurry."

"Well, I'll see that your letter gets started all right," he assured
her. "You can't expect an answer before ten days at the earliest, can
you?"

She turned back from the door and stood, considering. "I had counted it
at about that, but I didn't think--if they wait to hear from the people
I've referred them to, especially those farthest away, it might be
double that time. That would keep me waiting clear into October. And
then suppose somebody were ahead of me, and I shouldn't get the place,
there'd be all that time lost. It would be tragic to have the little
ship I'd waited for so long, drift in a wreck."

"That's why I always hold that it's best to send out more than one,"
said the Captain. "Launch a whole fleet of 'em, is my advice. What makes
life a tragedy for most people is that they put all their hopes on just
one thing. They load all they've got on one vessel and then strain their
eyes for a lifetime waiting for it to come back with all their hopes
realized. But if they'd divide their interests and affections around a
bit, and start them off in different directions, there'd never be a
danger of total wreck. If one went down, there'd be some other cargo to
look forward to."

It was a pet subject of the old man's, and Mary made haste to ward off
his usual monologue by saying, "I'll certainly take your advice, Captain
Doane. You'll see me down here to-morrow with a whole harbor full of
little ships. I'll launch all the applications that my family will
allow."

The figure of speech pleased her, and as she walked on to the store a
vision of blue sea rose before her. On it she seemed to see a fleet of
little boats with white sails swelling in the wind. On each sail was a
letter and all together they spelled "Great Expectations."

"It's funny," thought Mary, "how such a picture popped right up in front
of me. Now, if Joyce had such a fancy she'd do something with it. It
would suggest a title design or a tail piece of some kind. Oh, why
wasn't I born with a talent for writing! My head is just full of things
sometimes that would make the loveliest stories, but when I try to put
them on paper it's like trying to touch the rainbows on a bubble. The
touch makes them vanish instantly."

It was some crash towelling that she was to call for at the store.

When she opened the door, the place seemed deserted, but she picked her
way, among barrels and boxes, saddles and hams, to the dry-goods
department in the rear. Through the open back door she could see two men
in the yard, one repairing a chicken-coop, and the other standing with
his hands in his pockets, watching the job. The man with the hammer and
saw, she knew. He was the manager of the store. The other was a new
clerk, who had been installed in her absence. She glanced at him
curiously, for one reason because every newcomer counted for so much in
the social life of the place, for another because he was so imposingly
large. "Even taller than Phil Tremont," she thought, and Phil was her
standard of all that a man should measure up to in every way.

Presently, seeing that the chicken-coop would occupy their attention
indefinitely unless she made some sign, she tapped on the floor with her
heel. It was the new clerk who turned, and taking his hands out of his
pockets, strode in to wait on her. She noticed that he had to stoop as
he came through the doorway. Then she almost forgot what it was she had
come to buy, in her surprise. For it was Pink Upham who rushed up to
greet her, still red-faced and awkward and facetious, but such a
different Pink that she could understand why the Captain had spoken of
him as Pinckney, instead of by his undignified nickname. The year at
college had done him good.

While he measured off the crash she was taking his measure with quick,
critical glances. It was not his pale, straw-colored hair she objected
to, made to look even paler by the contrast of his florid complexion and
red four-in-hand with its turquoise scarf-pin. It was the way he combed
his hair that she criticized, and the gaudy tie and the combination of
colors. But his cordial greeting softened her critical glances somewhat.
He was genuinely glad to see her, and it was flattering to be welcomed
so heartily.

That night at the supper table she recounted her adventures. "I met Pink
Upham at the store to-day, Jack. How old do you suppose he is?"

"Oh, about twenty-one. Why?"

"Well, I scarcely knew him before we went away, and he called me by my
first name as pat as you may please, and I didn't like it. And when he
rolled up the towelling he crooked his little finger in such an
affected, genteel, Miss Prim sort of way that it made his big fat hands
look ridiculous. I don't know exactly what it was about him that
irritated me so, but I couldn't bear him. And yet it seemed that he was
so near being nice, that he could be awfully likable if he wasn't so
self-conscious and queer."

"He's all right," answered Jack. "Pink is a good-hearted fellow, with
the best intentions in the world, but he's green. You see, he hasn't any
sisters to call him down and make fun of his mannerisms and set him
straight on his color schemes and such things. Now, a girl in his
position could get her bearings by going the rounds of the Home
Magazines and Ladies' Companions, reading all the Aunt Jenny Corners
and columns of advice to anxious correspondents. But there are not so
many fountains of information and inspiration for a young man."

"Now, there's your mission in life, Mary," spoke up Norman. "You are
strong on giving advice and setting people straight. If you could only
get some magazine to take you on for a column of that kind, you might
accomplish a world of good. You could send marked copies to Pink, and it
might be the making of him."

Norman expected his teasing remarks to meet with an amusing outburst,
and was surprised when she pretended to take his suggestion seriously.
Her eyes shone with the interest it awakened.

"Say! I'd like that," she answered emphatically. "I really would. I'd
call it Uncle Jerry's Corner, and I'd certainly enjoy making up the
letters myself so that I could have good spicy replies for my
correspondents."

Norman, just in the act of drinking, almost choked on the laugh which
seized him. "Excuse me," he spluttered, putting the glass down hastily,
"but Mary in the rôle of Uncle Jerry is too funny. Why, Sis, you
couldn't be a proper Uncle Jerry without chin whiskers. The editors
wouldn't give such a column to anybody without them. A _girl_ could
never fill a position like that."

"Indeed she could," Mary protested. "I knew a girl at school who earned
her entire spending money for a year, one vacation, by writing an Aunt
Ruth's Column for the weekly paper in her home town. She was only
eighteen, and the most harum-scarum creature you ever saw. She had been
engaged four times, and once to two boys at the same time. And she used
to lay down the law in her advice column like a Puritan forefather. Just
_scored_ the girls who flirted and accepted valuable presents from men,
and who met clandestinely at friends' houses.

"Her letters were so good that several parents wrote to the paper
congratulating them on that department. And all the time she was doing
the very things which she preached against. She and Charlotte Tatwell
were chums, and in all sorts of scrapes together. Charlotte's father
used to mourn over her wild ways and try to keep her from running so
much with Milly. He thought that Milly had such a bad influence over
her. He hadn't the faintest idea that she wrote the Aunt Ruth advice,
and twice, when it seemed particularly well aimed at Charlotte's faults,
he made her sit down and listen while he read it aloud to the family.
Charlotte thought it was such a good joke on her father that she never
enlightened him till he'd repeated the performance several times. He
wouldn't believe it at first, didn't think it possible that Milly could
have written it, till Charlotte proved that she really had.

"If she could do that, I don't see why I couldn't write better advice to
boys than a doddering old man who has only his recollections to draw on.
I could criticize the faults that I see before me. Boys need to be shown
themselves as they appear to the girls, and I'm not sure but I'll act on
Norman's suggestion, and take it up as a side-line."

When supper was cleared away Mary brought out her writing material and
wrote several applications for the positions which she knew she was
qualified to fill. She could teach in the primary or grammar grades, or
take beginner's classes in Domestic Science. She knew that she could
adapt herself to almost any kind of person as companion, and her
experience with the Mallory twins made her confident that she could do
wonders with small children, no matter how refractory. She soon had a
whole fleet of applications ready to launch in the morning. Then,
inspired by the conversation at the supper-table, she tried her hand at
a few answers to imaginary correspondents, in which were set forth
certain criticisms and suggestions which she burned to make to Pink in
person, and several others which were peculiarly well fitted to Norman.

Next morning, when Norman came back from the store with the basket of
groceries which it was his daily task to bring, he began calling for
Mary at the front gate, and kept it up all the way to the kitchen door.
When she appeared, towel in hand, asking what was the matter, he set the
basket on the step.

Then with mock solemnity he reached into his pocket and pulled out a
lavender envelope; lavender crossed faintly with gray lines to give a
checked effect. It was addressed in purple ink to Miss Mary Ware, and in
the lower left-hand corner was written, with many ornate flourishes, "K.
O. B." It smelled so strongly of rose geranium perfume that Mary sniffed
disapprovingly as she took it.

"Pink asked me to bring it," said Norman with a grin. "He's to send a
boy up for an answer at three o'clock. What do you suppose 'K. O. B.'
stands for?"

Mary puzzled over it, shaking her head, then broke the large purple
seal.

"Oh, it must mean 'kindness of bearer,' for he begins the note that
way. 'By kindness of bearer I am venturing to send this little missive
to know if it will be convenient for you to give me the pleasure of your
company this evening. A messenger will call for your answer at three P.
M. Trusting that it will accord with my desires, I am yours in
friendship's bonds, P. Pinckney Upham.'"

Norman exploded with a loud "whoopee!" of laughter and Mary sniffed
again at the strong odor of rose geranium and handed the note to her
mother, who had come to the door to see the cause of Norman's mirth.

"The silly boy," exclaimed Mary. "I told him yesterday, when he said
that he hoped to call, that we'd all be glad to see him any evening he
wanted to drop in. The idea of such formality in a mining camp. And such
paper! And such flourishes of purple ink, to say nothing of the strong
perfume! Mamma, I don't want him coming to see me."

Mrs. Ware handed the note back with a smile at Mary's disgusted
expression. "Don't judge the poor boy too severely. He evidently tried
his best to do the proper thing, and probably thinks he has achieved
it."

"Yes, Uncle Jerry," added Norman. "Here's your chance. Here's your tide
in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune!
Just cultivate Pink's acquaintance and you'll get enough out of him
every week to fill your columns."

Mary ignored his teasing, turning again to her mother to say: "I don't
want to answer his note. What did he write for, anyway? Why didn't he
just come, as I told him he could?"

"That's the way Sara Downs' beau does," explained Norman. "He always
makes an engagement so that she'll be sure to have the best room lighted
up and Billy out of the way. He's too bashful to talk to the whole
family. They usually go out to the kitchen when he comes, because their
house is so small."

"Well, this family won't," declared Mary. "He's no 'beau,' anyway.
You'll all have to help entertain him."

She had not answered the note when Jack came home at noon, and she
passed it to him without comment. He smiled a little over her evident
disgust, and repeated in substance what Mrs. Ware had said, that she
must not judge him too severely for his lack of social polish.

"He's a diamond in the rough, Mary," he assured her gravely, but with a
twinkle in his eyes. "He may be one of the leading citizens of the
state twenty years from now, and even if he isn't, he's one of the few
young fellows of the settlement, and a decent one at that, and you can't
afford to snub him because he is green."

"Green Pink is a new kind of color," teased Norman. "Say, Mary, are you
going to put a 'K. O. B.' on your answer?"

Mary ignored his question. It irritated her to be teased about Pink as
much as it used to annoy her to be teased about the half-witted Peter
Finn.

When, in answer to her note, P. Pinckney Upham called that evening, he
did not find her sitting up alone in state to receive him. He was
ushered in to the cheerful living-room, where the entire family was
gathered around the lamp, putting a new dissected puzzle together.
Before he knew how it came about his bashfulness had vanished and he was
a part of that circle. When the puzzle was completed Mary brought out a
chafing-dish and a bowl of nuts, which she commanded him to "pick out"
while Jack cracked them. She was going to try a new kind of candy.
Later, when he disclosed the fact that he could play a little on the
guitar, Norman brought out his mother's, bidding him "tune up and plunk
away."

Now if there was one thing Pink was fond of it was sweets, and if there
was one thing he was proud of it was his tenor voice, and presently he
began to feel that he was having the time of his life. They were all
singing with him, and stopping at intervals to pass the candy and tell
funny stories. He was a good mimic and had a keen sense of humor, and he
was elated with the consciousness that he had an appreciative audience.
In spite of her certainty that the evening would be a bore, Mary found
herself really enjoying it, until she realized that Pink was having such
a good time that he didn't want to leave. Later she concluded that he
wanted to go but didn't know how to tear himself away gracefully.

"Well, I guess I'd better be going," he said when the clock struck ten.
It struck eleven when he said it the second time, and it was quarter
past when he finally pulled himself out of his chair and looked around
for his hat. They all rose, and Jack brought it. With that in hand, he
still lingered, talking at random in a way that showed his evident
inability to take his leave.

Finally Mrs. Ware put out her hand, saying, "We've enjoyed having you
with us so much, this evening, Pinckney. You must come often."

Jack echoed the invitation with a handshake, and Mary added gaily, "And
after this, whatever you do, don't write first to announce your coming.
We're used to the boys just dropping in informally. We like it so much
better that way."

Pink stopped to reply to that, hesitated with his hand on the knob, and
leaning against the door, made some remark about the weather. It was
evident that he was fixed to stay until the clock struck again.

Mary reached up to the match-safe hanging near the door and handed him a
match. "I wish you'd scratch this as you go out, and see how the
thermometer stands. It's hanging on the post just at the right hand of
the porch steps. Call back what it registers, please. Thirty-six? Oh,
thank you! I'm sure there'll be frost before morning. Good night."

She closed the door and came back into the room, pretending to swoon
against Jack, who shook her, exclaiming laughingly, "I think that was a
frost, right now."

Just then, Norman, who had disappeared an hour earlier, cautiously
opened the door of his bedroom a crack. He was clad in his pajamas.
Seeing that the coast was clear he thrust out a dishevelled head and
recited dramatically:

               "'Parting is such sweet sorrow
        I fain would say goodnight until it be to-morrow.'"

Mary blinked at him sleepily, saying with a yawn, "Let this be a lesson
to you, son. You can take this from your Uncle Jerry, that there is no
social grace more to be desired than the ability to make a nimble and
graceful exit when the proper time comes."

As she turned out her light, later, she said to herself, "I'm glad I
don't have to look forward to a whole lifetime in Lone-Rock. One such
evening is pleasant enough, but a whole winter of them would be
dreadful." Then she went to sleep and dreamed that her little fleet of
boats had all come home from sea, each one so heavily laden with
treasure that she did not know which cargo to draw in first.



CHAPTER III

A NEW FRIEND


Although some of the applications which Mary sent out did not have as
far to travel as the first one, she did not count on hearing from any of
them within two weeks. However, it was to no fortnight of patient
waiting that she settled down. She threw herself into such an orgy of
preparations for leaving home, that the days flew around like the wheels
of a squirrel cage.

She could not afford any new clothes, but everything in her wardrobe was
rejuvenated as far as possible, and a number of things entirely
remodelled. One by one they were folded away in her trunk until
everything was so shipshape that she could have finished packing at an
hour's notice. Then she insisted on giving some freshening touches to
her mother's winter outfit, and on beginning a set of shirts for Norman,
saying that she wanted to finish all the work she possibly could before
leaving home.

Mrs. Ware used to wonder sometimes at her boundless energy. She would
whirl through the housework, help prepare the meals, do a morning's
ironing, run the sewing machine all afternoon, and then often, after
supper, challenge Norman to some such thing as a bonfire race, to see
which could rake up the greatest pile of autumn leaves in the yard, by
moonlight.

These days of waiting were filled with a queer sense of expectancy, as
the air is sometimes charged with electric currents before a storm. No
matter what she did or what she thought about, it was always with the
sense of something exciting about to happen. The feeling exhilarated
her, deepened the glow in her face, the happy eagerness in her eyes,
until every one around her felt the contagion of her high hopefulness.

"I don't know what it is you're always looking so pleased over," the old
postmaster said to her one day, "but every time after you've been in
here, I catch myself smiling away as broadly as if I'd heard some good
news myself."

"Maybe," answered Mary, "it's because I feel all the time as if I'm just
_going_ to hear some. It's so interesting wondering what turn things
will take. It's like waiting for the curtain to go up on a new play
that you've never heard of before. My curtain may go up in any part of
the United States. It all depends on which letter it is that brings me a
position."

"I should think you'd be a leetle mite anxious," said the Captain, who
was in somewhat of a pessimistic mood that day. "They can't all be
equally good. You remember what the old hymn says:

        "'Should I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease
         Whilst others fought to win the prize, and sailed through
              bloody seas.'"

"Oh, I'm not expecting any flowery beds of ease," retorted Mary. "I
don't mind hard work and all sorts of disagreeable things if they'll
only prove to be stepping-stones to carry me through my Red Sea. I don't
even ask to go over dry-shod as the Children of the Exodus did. All I
want is a chance to wade."

"That's right! That's right!" exclaimed the Captain admiringly. "That's
the proper spirit to show. It's a pity, though, that you can't do your
wading somewhere around Lone-Rock. We'll miss you dreadfully. And I'm
not the only one who thinks so, either. From all I hear there's somebody
up the street who would almost rob the mails if doing so would keep you
from getting a letter calling you away."

From the twinkle of the eyes which peered at her through the steel-bowed
glasses, Mary knew that he was referring to Pink Upham, but before she
could reply the mail carrier dashed up on horseback from the railroad
station, with the big leather pouch swung across the horse in front of
him. It was the signal for every one along the street, who had seen him,
to come sauntering into the office to wait for the distribution of the
mail. Mary climbed up on the high stool again. She had started out from
home, intending to take a tramp far up the mountain road, but stopping
in the office to post a letter had stayed on talking longer than she
intended.

Pink Upham was one of the first to come in. He had been at the house
several times since his first call, and while some of his mannerisms
annoyed Mary even more than they had at first, she liked him better as
their acquaintance progressed. She could not help being pleased at the
attention he gave her slightest remarks. No girl can be wholly oblivious
to the compliment of having every word remembered, every preference
noted. Once, when they were looking at some soap advertisements, in a
most careless off-hand way she had expressed her dislike for strong
perfumes. Since then the odor of rose geranium was no longer noticeable
in his wake. Once she announced her admiration of a certain kind of
scarlet berry which grew a long distance up the mountain. The next day
there was a bunch of them left at her door. Pink had taken a tramp
before breakfast to get them for her.

There was a family discussion one night about celluloid. Nobody could
answer one of Mary's questions in connection with it about camphor gum,
and she forgot it almost as soon as it was asked, although she had
assumed an air of intense curiosity at the time. But Pink remembered. He
thought about it, in fact, as one of his chief duties in life to find
its answer, until he had time to consult Mr. Moredock's encyclopædia.

At his last visit to the Wares he had seen a kodak picture of Mary,
taken at the Wigwam years before. She was mounted on the Indian pony
Washington. She wore short dresses then. Her wide-brimmed Mexican
sombrero was on the back of her head, and she was laughing so heartily
that one could not look at the picture without feeling the contagion of
her enjoyment. There was nothing she liked better than horseback riding,
she remarked as she laid the picture aside, but she had not tried it
since she was a child. That was one thing she was looking forward to in
her promised land, she told him, to owning a beautiful thoroughbred
saddle-horse, like Lloyd Sherman's.

Then Pink was shown "The Little Colonel's Corner," for the collection of
Lloydsboro Valley pictures were grouped in panels on one wall of the
Lone-Rock home as they had been at the Wigwam. First there was Lloyd in
her little Napoleon hat, riding on Tarbaby down the long locust avenue,
and then Lloyd on the horse that later took the place of the black pony.
Then Lloyd in her Princess Winsome costume, with the dove and the
spinning-wheel, and again in white, beside the gilded harp, and again as
the Queen of Hearts and as the Maid of Honor at Eugenia's wedding.

In showing these pictures to Pink and telling him how well Lloyd rode
and how graceful she was in the saddle, Mary forgot her casual remark
about her own enjoyment of riding, but Pink remembered. He had thought
about it at intervals ever since. Now catching sight of her on the high
stool, he hurried into the post-office to tell her that he could secure
two horses any morning that she would go out with him before breakfast.
His uncle owned the team of buckskins which drew the delivery wagon,
and was willing for him to use them any morning before eight o'clock.
They were not stylish-looking beasts, he admitted, like Kentucky
thoroughbreds, but they were sure-footed and used to mountain trails.

As Mary thanked him with characteristic enthusiasm, she was conscious of
a double thrill of pleasure. One came from the fact that he had planned
such enjoyment for her, the other that he had remembered her casual
remark and attached so much importance to it. She'd let him know later
just when she could go, she told him. She'd have to see her mother
first, and she'd have to get up some kind of a riding skirt.

Then the Captain threw up the delivery window, and half a dozen people
who had been waiting crowded forward to get their mail. Mary waited on
the stool while Pink took his turn at the window and came back with her
mail. His own, and that for the store, he drew out from one of the large
locked boxes below the pigeon-holes. While he was unlocking it Mary
looked over the letters he had laid in her lap. There was one from
Joyce, one to her mother from Phil Tremont, and one bearing the address
in an upper corner of one of the agencies to which she had written. She
opened it eagerly, and Pink, watching her from the corner of his eye as
he sorted a handful of circulars, saw a shade of disappointment cross
her face. Every one else had left the office. She looked up to see the
old Captain smiling at her.

"First ship in from sea," he remarked knowingly. "Well, what's the
cargo?"

"No treasure aboard this one. It's just a printed form to say that they
have no vacancies at present, but have put me on the waiting list, and
will inform me if anything comes up later."

"Well, there're others to hear from," the Captain answered. "That's the
good of putting your hopes on more than one thing. In the meantime,
though, don't get discouraged."

"Oh, I'll not," was the cheerful answer. "You see, I have two mottoes to
live up to. One was on the crest that used to be sported in the
ancestral coat of arms once upon a time, away back in mamma's family. It
was a winged spur with the words '_Ready, aye ready_.'

"The other is the one we adopted ourselves from the Vicar of Wakefield:
'_Let us be inflexible, and fortune will at last change in our favor._'
So there I am, ready to go at a moment's notice, but also bound to keep
inflexible and wait for a turn if fortune wills it so. I don't know
what the Ware family would do sometimes without that saying of the old
Vicar's. His philosophy has helped us out of more than one hole."

The Captain, rather vague in his knowledge as to the old Vicar, nodded
sagely. "Pretty good philosophy to tie to," he remarked. Pink, to whom
the Vicar was merely a name, one of many in a long list of English
novels he had once memorized for a literature recitation, made no
response. He felt profoundly ignorant. But remembering Mr. Moredock's
hospitable remark that the latchstring of his library was always out for
his friends, he resolved to borrow the book that very night after
closing hours, and discover what there was in it that had "helped the
Ware family out of more than one hole."

As he and Mary left the office together the Captain called after her,
"By the way, I noticed a foreign stamp on one of your letters. Mexican,
wasn't it? If you're not making a collection yourself, I'd like to speak
for it. My little grandson's just started one, and I've promised him all
I can get."

Mary paused on the doorstep. "The letter is mamma's, but I'm sure she
would not mind if I were to cut the stamp out of the envelope."

In an instant Pink's knife was out of his pocket, and he was cutting
deftly around the stamp, while Mary held the envelope flat against the
door. He did it slowly, in order not to cut through into the letter, and
he could not fail to notice the big dashing hand in which it was
addressed to Mrs. Emily Ware. It looked so familiar that it puzzled him
to recall where he had seen it before.

"I can bring you a lot more like this, if you want them," said Mary, as
she gave the stamp to the postmaster. "Jack and I each get letters from
this friend down in Mexico, and he writes to mamma nearly every week."

The Captain thanked her emphatically, and she and Pink started off
again, she towards home and he towards the store. A dozen times before
closing hours Pink recalled the scene at the post-office, Mary holding
the letter up against the door for him to cut out the stamp. What firm,
capable-looking little hands she had, with their daintily kept nails,
and how pink her cheeks were, and how fluffy and brown the hair blowing
out from under the stylish little hat with the bronze quills.

Each time he recalled the letter he puzzled over the familiar appearance
of the address, until suddenly, as he was filling a jug at the spigot of
a molasses barrel, he remembered. He had seen the same handwriting
under a photograph on the mantel at Mrs. Ware's: "Philip Tremont,
Necaxa, Mexico." And on the back was pencilled, "For Aunt Emily, from
her 'other boy.'" Mary had called upon Pink to admire the picture which
had arrived that same day, and had referred to Phil several times since
as "The Best Man."

Pink almost let the molasses jug overflow, while thinking about it and
wondering why she had given him such a nickname. He resolved to ask her
why if he could ever screw his courage up to such a point.

Mary, hurrying home with the letters from Joyce and Phil, eager to hear
what was in them, never gave Pink another thought till after supper,
when she remembered his invitation and began a search for Joyce's old
riding-skirt. It was not in any of the trunks or closets in the house,
but remembering several boxes which had been stored in the loft above
the woodshed, she made Jack climb up the ladder with her to open them,
while she held the lantern. At the bottom of the last box they found
what she was searching for, not only the khaki skirt, but the little
Norfolk jacket which completed the outfit. Thanks to Joyce's orderly
habits they had been packed away clean and whole, and needed only the
magic touch of a hot iron to make them presentable.

There was something else in the box which Mary pounced upon and carried
down the ladder. It was a bag containing odds and ends of zephyrs and
yarns, left from various afghans and pieces of fancy work. Opened under
the sitting-room lamp it disclosed, among other things, several skeins
of wool as red as the flash of a cardinal's wing. "Enough to make a
whole Tam-O'-Shanter!" exclaimed Mary jubilantly, "and a fluffy pompon
on top! I can have it ready by day after to-morrow. I've been wondering
what I could wear on my head. I simply can't keep a hat on when I ride
fast! Here, Norman, be a dear duck of a brother and hold this skein
while I wind, won't you?"

Norman made a wry face and held out his arms with pretended
unwillingness, but she slipped the skein over his hands, saying, "Item
for Uncle Jerry's Column. 'A young gentleman should always spring nimbly
to the service of a lady, and offer his assistance with alacrity.'"

"Say," he interrupted in the tone of one having a real grievance.
"You've got to quit making a catspaw of me when you want to teach Pink
Upham manners. You know well enough that I always pick up your
handkerchief and stand until mamma is seated, and things like that, so
you needn't hint about 'em to me when he's here. You're just trying to
slap at Pink over my shoulders."

"Oh, you don't mind a little thing like that," laughed Mary. "It's for
the good of your country, my boy. I'm just trying to polish up one of
the pillars of the new state that you and mamma and Jack are so
interested in. Besides, Pink is so quick to take a hint that it's really
interesting to see how much a few suggestions can accomplish."

"Humph! You're singing a different tune from what you did at first. You
thought he was so tiresome and his laugh so awful and that he had such
dreadful taste--"

"I still think so," answered Mary, "but I don't notice his wild laugh so
much now that I am used to it, and he has many traits which make him
very companionable. Besides, I am sorry for him. He'd have been very
different if he'd had _your_ opportunities, for instance."

"Mary is right," agreed Mrs. Ware, smiling at Norman's grimace. "I think
it would be a good thing to ask him to stop when you come back from your
ride and have breakfast with us."

Norman groaned, then said with a vigorous nod of the head, since his
hands were too busy with the skein for gestures, "Well, have him if you
want to, but I'll give you fair warning, Mary Ware, if you go to getting
off any of your Uncle Jerry remarks on me for his benefit, I'll let the
cat right out of the bag."

Mary replied with a grimace so much like his own, that it brought on a
contest in which the yarn winding was laid aside for a time, while they
stood before a mirror, each trying to outdo the other in making
grotesque faces.

Two mornings after that, in Joyce's khaki riding-suit and the new red
Tam-O'-Shanter, Mary swung into the saddle while Pink held both horses,
and they were off for an early gallop in the frosty October dawn. The
crisp, tingling air of the mountains brought such color into Mary's
face, and such buoyancy into her spirits that Pink watched her as he
would have watched some rare kind of a bird, skimming along beside him.
He had never known such a girl. There was not a particle of coquetry in
her attitude towards him. She didn't glance up with pretty appealing
side-glances as Sara Downs did, or say little personal things which
naturally called for compliments in reply. She was like a boy in her
straightforward plain dealing with him, her joking banter, her keen
interest in the mountain life and her knowledge of wood lore. One never
knew which way her quick-winged thoughts might dart. As they rode on he
began to feel as if he was thoroughly awake for the first time in his
life.

Up to this time he had been fairly well satisfied with himself. A small
inheritance safely invested and his one year at college had given him
the prestige of a person of both wealth and education in the little town
where he had lived until recently. Yet there was Jack, who had not even
finished a High School course, and Mary, who had had less than a year at
Warwick Hall, on such amazing terms of intimacy with a world outside of
his ken, that he felt illiterate and untutored beside them. Even Norman
seemed to have a wider horizon than himself, and he wondered what made
the difference.

He divined the reason afterward when they came back from their ride and
sat at breakfast in the sunny dining-room. It was Mrs. Ware who had
lifted their life out of the ordinary by the force of her rare
personality. Through all their poverty and trouble and hard times she
had kept fast hold on her early standards of refinement and culture, and
made them a part of her family's daily living.

Pink felt the difference, even in the breakfast. It was no better than
the one he would have had at home, but at home there would have been no
interesting conversation, no glowing bit of color in the centre of the
table like this bowl of autumn leaves and berries. At home there would
have been no attempt at any pleasing effect in the dainty serving of
courses. There ham was ham and eggs were eggs, and it made no difference
how they were slapped on to the table, so long as they were well cooked.
There, meal-time was merely a time to satisfy one's appetite as quickly
as possible and hurry away from the table as soon as the food was
devoured. Here, the day seemed to take its key-note from the illuminated
text of a calendar hanging beside the fireplace. It was a part of _The
Salutation of the Dawn_ from the Sanskrit:

        "For yesterday is but a dream,
         And to-morrow is only a vision;
         But to-day well-lived, makes
         Every yesterday a dream of happiness
         And every to-morrow a vision of hope.
         _Look well, therefore, to this day!_
             _Such is the Salutation of the Dawn._"

The Ware breakfast-table seemed to be the place where they all gathered
to get a good start for the day. It was Mrs. Ware who gave it, and gave
it unconsciously, not so much by what she said, as what she was. One
felt her hopefulness, her serenity of soul, as one feels the cheer of a
warm hearthstone.

Pink could not recall one word she had said to stimulate his ambition,
but when he rode away on one horse, leading the other, he was trying to
adjust himself to a new set of standards. He felt that there was
something to live for besides taking in dimes over the counter of a
country store. One thing happened at breakfast which made him glow with
pleasure whenever he thought of it. It was the quick look of approval
which Mary flashed him when he answered one of her sallies by a
quotation about green spectacles.

"Oh, you know the old Vicar too!" she exclaimed, as if claiming mutual
acquaintance with a real friend. "Don't you love him?"

Pink was glad that some interruption spared him the necessity of an
enthusiastic assent. He had not been specially thrilled by the book, so
far as he had read, but he attacked it manfully again that night,
feeling that there must be more in it than he had wit to discover, else
the Wares would not have adopted it as "guide, philosopher and friend."



CHAPTER IV

THE WITCH WITH A WAND


Snow lay deep over Lone-Rock, muffling every sound. It was so still in
the cozy room where Jack sat reading by the lamp, that several times he
found himself listening to the intense silence, as if it had been a
noise. No one moved in the house. He and Mary were alone together, and
she on the other side of the table was apparently as interested in a
pile of letters which she was re-reading as he was in his story. But
presently, when he finished it and tossed the magazine aside, he saw
that his usually jolly little sister was sitting in a disconsolate bunch
by the fire, her face buried in her hands.

She had pushed the letters from her lap, and the open pages lay
scattered around her on the floor. There were five of them, from
different employment agencies. Jack had read them all before supper,
just as he had been reading similar ones at intervals for the last two
months and a half. The answers had always been disappointing, but until
to-day they had come singly and far apart. Undismayed, she had met them
all in the spirit of their family motto, insisting that fortune would be
compelled to change in her favor soon. She'd be so persistent it
couldn't help itself.

Five disappointments, however, all coming by the same post, were more
than she could meet calmly. Besides, these were the five positions which
seemed the most promising. The thought that they were the last on her
list, and that there was no clue now left for her to follow, was the
thought that weighed her down with the heaviest discouragement she had
ever felt in all her life. She had made a brave effort not to show it
when Jack came home to supper earlier in the evening. The two ate alone
for the first time that she could remember, Mrs. Ware and Norman having
been invited to take supper with the Downs family. It was a joint
birthday anniversary, Billy Downs and his mother happening to claim the
same day of the month, though many years apart.

Mary talked cheerfully of the reports Billy had brought of the two cakes
that were to adorn the table, one with fifteen candles for him and the
boys, and one with forty-eight icing roses for his mother and her
friends. She had put on a brave, even a jolly front, until this last
re-reading of her letters. Now she had given away to such a sense of
helplessness and defeat that it showed in every line of the little
figure huddled up in front of the fire.

Jack noticed it as he tossed aside his magazine and sat watching her a
moment. Then he exclaimed sympathetically, "Cheer up, Mary. Never mind
the old letters. You'll have better luck next time."

There was no answer. A profound silence followed, so deep that he could
hear the ticking of a clock across the hall, coming faintly through
closed doors.

"Cheer up, Sis!" he exclaimed again, knowing that if he could only start
her to talking she would soon drag herself out of her slough of despond.

"Don't all the calendars and cards nowadays tell you to _smile_, no
matter what happens? Don't you know that

        "'The man worth while is the man who can smile
         When everything goes dead wrong?'"

His question drew the retort he hoped for, and she exclaimed savagely,
"I _hate_ those silly old cheerfulness calendars! And deliver me from
people who follow their advice! It's just as foolish to go through life
smiling at every kind of circumstances that fate hands out as it would
be to wear furs in all kinds of weather, even the dog-days. What's the
use of pretending that the sun is shining when everybody can see that
the rain's simply drenching you and that you're as bedraggled as a wet
hen?"

"Well, the sun _is_ shining," persisted Jack. "Always, somewhere. Our
little rain clouds don't stop it. All they can do is to hide it from us
awhile."

"You tell that to old Noah," grumbled Mary, her face still hidden in her
hands. "Much good the sun behind his rain clouds did him! If he hadn't
had an ark he'd have been washed off the face of the earth like the
other flood sufferers. Seems to me it's sort of foolish to smile when
you've been swept clean down and out. Five turn-downs in one day--"

Her voice broke, and she gave the scattered letters an impatient push
with her foot. Her tone of unusual bitterness stopped Jack's playful
attempt to console her. He sat looking into the fire a little space,
considering what to say. When he spoke again it was in a firm, quiet
tone, almost fatherly in its kindness.

"There's no reason, Mary, for you to be so utterly miserable over your
disappointments. There is no actual need for you to go out into the
world to make your own living and fight your own way. It was different
when I was a helpless cripple. Then I had to sit by and watch you and
Joyce and mother struggle to keep us all afloat. But I'm able to furnish
a very comfortable little ark for you now, and I'd be glad to have you
stay in it always. I didn't interfere when you first announced your
intention of starting out to seek your fortune, because I knew you'd
never be satisfied to settle down in this quiet mining camp until you'd
tried something different. But now the question of your staying here
seems to have been settled for you, there's no use letting the
disappointment down you so completely. What's your big brother for if
not to take care of you?"

"Oh, Jack! You're an old darling!" she cried, with tears in her eyes.
"It's dear of you to put it that way, and I do appreciate it even if I
don't seem to. But--there's something inside of me that just won't let
me settle down to be taken care of by my family. I have my own place to
make in the world. I have my own life to live!"

She saw his amused, indulgent smile and cried out indignantly, "Well,
you'd scorn a _boy_ who'd be satisfied with that kind of life. Just
because I'm a girl is no reason that I should be dependent on you the
rest of my days. You wouldn't want Norman to."

"No," admitted Jack, "but that is different. I should think you could
understand how a fellow feels about his little sister when he's the head
of the family. He regards her as one of his first responsibilities, to
look out for her and take care of her."

Mary straightened up in her chair and looked at him with a perplexed
expression, saying in a slow, puzzled way, "Jack, it makes me almost
cross-eyed trying to see your way and my way at the same time. Your way
is so dear and sweet and generous that I feel like a dog to say a word
against it, and yet--_please_ don't get mad--it _is_ an old-fashioned
way. Nowadays girls don't want to be kept at home on a shelf like a
piece of fragile china. When they're well and strong and capable of
taking care of themselves they want a chance to strike out and realize
their ambitions just as a boy would. Joyce did it, and look what she's
doing for herself and how happy she is."

"Yes," he admitted. "Her work is her very life, and her success in it
means just as much to her as mine here at the mines does to me. But I
can't see what particular ambition you'd be realizing in filling any of
the positions you've applied for. You couldn't do more than drudge along
and make a bare living at first. There'd be very little time and energy
left for ambitions."

"Well, I'd be satisfying one of them at any rate," she persisted. "I'd
be at least 'paddling my own canoe' and making a place for myself where
I'd be really needed. Oh, yes, I know what you're going to say," she
added hurriedly, as he tried to interrupt her. "Just what mamma said,
that you do need me here to keep things stirred up and lively. That
might be all right if we were going to live along this way always. If
you'd settle down to be a nice comfortable old bachelor, I could try to
be an ideal old-fashioned spinster sister. But you'll be getting married
some day, and then I won't be needed at all, and it'll be too late for
me to strike out then and be a modern, up-to-date bachelor maid like
Miss Henrietta Robbins. I know that Captain Doane says that old maid
aunts are the salt of the earth," she added, a twinkle in her eyes
taking the place of the tear which she hastily dashed away with the back
of her hand, "but I don't want to be one in somebody else's home. If I
have to be one at all I want to be the Miss Henrietta kind. But," she
admitted honestly, "I'd rather marry some day, after I'd done all the
other things I've planned to, and no Prince Charming will ever find his
way to Lone-Rock. You know that perfectly well."

Jack threw back his head to laugh at the dolorous tone of her
confession, and then grew suddenly sober, staring into the fire, as if
her remarks had started a very serious train of thoughts. The
snow-muffled silence was so deep that again the ticking of the distant
clock sounded through closed doors.

"Sometimes," he began presently, "when I see the way you chafe at the
loneliness here, and hate the monotony and long so desperately to get
away, I wonder if any girl would be happy here. If I would have a right
even to ask one to share such a life with me."

Mary gave him a keen, penetrating glance, her pulses throbbing at this
beginning of a confidence. She hesitated to say anything, for fear her
reply might stop him, but when he seemed waiting for her answer she said
with a worldly-wise air, "That depends on the girl. If it were Kitty
Walton or Gay or Roberta, they'd be simply bored to death up here.
They're so used to constant entertainment. But if it were somebody like
Betty, it would be different. Lone-Rock isn't any lonesomer than the
Cuckoo's Nest was, and she loved that place. And this would be a good
quiet spot where she could go on with her writing, so she wouldn't have
to give up her ambition."

Then, feeling that perhaps she was expatiating too much in the direction
of Betty, she added hastily, "But there's one thing I hadn't thought of.
Of course that would make it all right for any kind of a girl, even for
a Gay or a Roberta. _You'd_ be her Prince Charming, so of course you'd
'live happily ever after.'"

Again Jack laughed heartily, lying back in the big Morris chair. Then
reaching out for the paper cutter on the table, he began toying with it
as he often did when he talked. But this time, instead of saying
anything, he sat looking into the fire, slowly drawing the ivory blade
in and out through his closed fingers.

The fore-log burned through, suddenly broke apart between the andirons,
and falling into a bed of glowing coals beneath, sent a puff of ashes
out on to the hearth. Mary leaned forward to reach for the turkey-wing
hanging beside the tongs. There had always been a turkey-wing beside her
Grandmother Ware's fireplace. That is why Mary insisted on using one
now instead of a modern hearth-broom. It suggested so pleasantly the
housewifely thrift and cleanliness of an earlier generation which she
loved to copy. She had prepared this wing herself, stretching and drying
it under a heavy weight, and binding the quill ends into a handle with a
piece of brown ribbon.

[Illustration: "'I WISH WE COULD SETTLE THINGS BY A FEATHER, AS THEY
USED TO IN THE OLD FAIRY TALES.'"]

Now as she flirted it briskly across the hearth, a tiny fluff of down
detached itself from one of the stiff quills, and floated to the rug.
When she picked it up it clung to her fingers, and only after repeated
attempts did she succeed in dislodging it, and in blowing it into the
fire.

"I wish we could settle things by a feather, as they used to in the old
fairy tales," she said wistfully, looking after the bit of down. "Just
say:

        "'Feather, feather, when I blow
         Point the way that I should go.'

Then there would be no endless worry and waiting and indecision. It
would be up to the feather to settle the matter."

"Why not wish for your 'witch with a wand,' as you used to do?" asked
Jack. "There used to be a time when scarcely a day passed that you did
not make that wish."

Mary's answer was a sudden exclamation and a clasping of her hands
together as she turned towards him, her face radiant.

"Jack, you've given me an idea! Don't you remember that's what we took
to calling Cousin Kate after she gave Joyce that trip abroad, and did so
many lovely things for all of us--our witch with a wand! I've a notion
to write to her and I ask her if she can't help me get a position of
some kind. Didn't she endow a library in the little village where she
was born? Seems to me I remember hearing something about it a long time
ago. Maybe I could get a position in it."

Jack shook his head decidedly. "No, Mary, I don't like your idea at all.
She did endow a library, and she's interested in so many things of the
kind that she could doubtless pull strings in all directions. But mother
wouldn't like to have you ask any favors of her, I'm sure. I wouldn't do
it myself, and I shouldn't think you'd want to, after all she's done for
us."

"But I'd not be asking her for money or _things_," declared Mary. "I'd
only ask her to use her influence, and I don't see why she wouldn't be
as willing to do it for her own 'blood and kin' as she would for working
girls and Rest Cottage people and fresh-air babies. I'm going to try it
anyhow. I'll take all the blame myself. I'll tell her that mamma
doesn't know I'm writing, and that you told me not to."

"But she's been out of touch with us for so long," persisted Jack,
frowning. "She promised once, that if Joyce reached a certain point in
her work she'd give her a term or two in Paris, and Joyce reached it a
year ago. Cousin Kate knows it, for she was at the studio and saw for
herself what Joyce was doing, but she was so interested in two blind
children that she had taken under her wing, that she couldn't talk of
anything else. She had gone down to New York to consult some specialist
about them, and she was considering adopting them. She told Joyce that
she wouldn't hesitate, only she had made such inroads on her capital to
keep up her social settlement work, that there was danger of her ending
her own days in some kind of an asylum or old ladies' home. She nearly
lost her own sight several years ago. That is why she takes such an
especial interest in those two children."

Mary considered his news in silence a moment, then remarked stubbornly,
"She might like to have me come on and help take care of the blind
children. At any rate it will cost only a postage stamp to find out,
and I can afford that much of an investment. I'll write now, before
mamma gets back."

Knowing that the composition of such a letter would be a long and
painstaking affair, Mary did not risk beginning it on her precious
monogram stationery. She brought out some scraps of paper instead, and
with the arm of her chair for a desk, scribbled down with a pencil a
rough draft of all she wanted to say to this Cousin Kate, who had been
the good fairy of her childhood. Many erasures and changes were
necessary, and it was nearly an hour later when she read it all over,
highly pleased with her own production. She wondered how it would affect
Jack, and glanced over at him, so sure of its excellence that she was
tempted to read it aloud. But Jack, having read himself drowsy, had gone
to sleep in his chair, and she knew that even if she should waken him by
clashing the tongs or upsetting the rocker, he would not be in a mood to
appreciate her epistle as it deserved.

So she sat jabbing the paper with her pencil till it had a wide border
of dots and dashes, while she pictured to herself the probable effect of
the letter on her Cousin Kate. Hope sprang up again as buoyant as if it
had not been crushed to earth a score of times in the last few months,
and she thought exultingly, "Now _this_ will surely bring a
satisfactory reply!"

A far-away jingle of sleigh-bells sounded presently, coming nearer and
nearer down the snowy road, then stopped in front of the house. Mr.
Downs was bringing the birthday banqueters home in his sleigh, according
to promise.

Mary sprang up to open the door. At the first faint sound of the bells
she had folded the sheet of paper into a tiny square, and tucked it into
her belt. She had a feeling that Jack was wrong about her writing to
Cousin Kate, and that her mother would not disapprove as strongly as he
seemed to think she would, if the matter could be put properly before
her. But she intended to take no risks. There would be time enough to
confess what she had done when the answer came, promising her the
coveted position.

Mrs. Ware and Norman came in glowing from their sleigh-ride.

"You certainly must have had a good time," exclaimed Mary, noticing the
unusual animation of her mother's face. "You ought to go to a birthday
dinner every night if it can shake you up and make you look as young and
bright-eyed as you do now."

"Oh, it isn't that," laughed Mrs. Ware, as Jack took her heavy coat from
her and Mary her furs. "We did have a beautiful time, but it is _this_
which has gone to my head."

She took a letter from the muff which Mary had just laid on a chair, and
as soon as she could slip off her gloves, began to unfold it without
waiting to lay aside her hat.

"It's a letter from Joyce which that naughty Norman has been carrying
around all day. He didn't remember to give it to me until he was putting
on his overcoat to start home, and discovered it in one of the pockets.
I just _had_ to open it while the other guests were making their adieus,
and I've read enough to set me all in a whirl. Joyce's long dreamed of
happiness has come at last! She's to go to Paris in a few weeks, but
first--_she's coming home to spend Christmas with us!_"

Mrs. Ware paused to enjoy the effect of her announcement. She was in
such a quiver of delight herself that Mary's happy cry of astonishment
and Jack's excited exclamation did not do justice to the occasion. Only
long-legged Norman's demonstration seemed adequate. Standing on his head
he turned one somersault after another across the room, till he landed
perilously near Mary, who gave him a sharp tweak of the ear as he came
up in a sitting posture beside her.

"Oh, you wretch!" she exclaimed. "To keep such news in your pocket all
day! I'm going to tell Captain Doane never to give you any letters
again, if you can't deliver them more promptly than that!"

"Sh!" she added, as Norman began a string of excuses for his
forgetfulness. "Mamma is going to read it aloud."

        "BELOVED FAMILY," the letter began. "Ere you
        have recovered from the shock of the
        announcement I am about to make, we shall be
        dismantling the studio, packing our trunks and
        making preparations to shift our little
        establishment from New York to Paris. At least,
        Miss Henrietta and I expect to go to Paris and
        carry on the same kind of studio-apartment
        housekeeping that we have done here. Mrs. Boyd
        and Lucy have gone to Florida, but they may
        join us next summer.

        "But first, before I put the ocean between us,
        I'm going home for a glimpse of you all. It is
        a long journey for such a short visit, but I
        can't go so far without seeing you all once
        more, just at Christmas time too, when we've
        been separated so many Christmases. It is
        Cousin Kate who has made all this possible. She
        did not adopt those little blind children after
        all. She was taken with a spell of typhoid
        fever while she was trying to make up her mind,
        and has never been well enough since to
        consider burdening herself in such a way. She
        sailed yesterday with her maid for the south of
        France, by the doctor's orders. Later, if she
        is better, she is going back to Tours, where
        she and I had such a happy year. Old Madame
        Gréville is no longer living in the villa near
        the Gate of the Giant Scissors, but Cousin Kate
        hopes to find lodgings near there. She has just
        spent a week with us while she was making
        preparations for her journey, and the visit
        revived all her old interest in my work. She
        was pleased to find that I am doing practical
        money-making things like designing book-covers,
        etc., but she wants me to widen my field, she
        says.

        "She insists on giving me this year abroad, and
        says it is pure selfishness on her part,
        because she may want to attach herself to our
        Paris establishment later on. She is so alone
        in the world. I am sure that I can make it up
        to her some day, all that she is doing for me
        now, in the way that will make her very happy.
        So I am accepting as cordially as she is
        giving. When I told her how long I have been
        away from you all, and that I thought I'd take
        part of my savings for a flying visit home, she
        thought I ought to do so by all means, and said
        that she wanted to add to the happiness of the
        family, especially mamma's, by sending a
        handsome Christmas present back with me.

        "For several days it seemed as if she would not
        be able to get exactly what she wanted, but it
        was finally arranged, just at the last moment,
        after much trouble on her part. It's perfectly
        grand, but I've sworn not to even hint at what
        it is. So expect me Christmas Eve with The
        Surprise. I'll not write again in the meantime,
        as I am so very, very busy. Till then good-bye.

                "Yours lovingly and joyfully,
                                           "JOYCE."

As Mrs. Ware looked up from her reading, everybody spoke at once. "It's
almost too good to be true," was Jack's quick exclamation. "What do you
suppose the surprise will be?" Norman's eager question. While Mary,
clasping her elbow with her hands, as if hugging herself in sheer
ecstasy, cried, "Oh, I just _love_ to be knocked flat and have my breath
taken away with unexpected news like that! It makes you tingle all over
and at the same time have a queer die-away feeling too, like when you
swoop down in a swing!"

Mrs. Ware took down the almanac hanging in the chimney corner, and began
to turn the pages, looking for the one marked December.

"Oh, you needn't count the days till Christmas," said Mary. "I've been
marking them off my calendar every morning and can tell you to a dot.
Not that I had expected to take much interest in celebrating this year,
but just from force of habit, I suppose. But now we'll have to 'put the
big pot in the little one,' as they say back in Kentucky, in honor of
our being all together once more."

"All but Holland," corrected Mrs. Ware sadly, with the wistful look
which always came into her eyes whenever his name was mentioned. "That's
the worst of giving up a boy to the Navy. One has to give him up so
completely."

There was such a note of longing in her voice that Jack hastened to say,
"But the worst of it is nearly over now, little mother. He'll be home on
his first furlough next summer."

"Yes, but the years will have made a man of him," answered Mrs. Ware.
"He'll not be the same boy that left us, and he'll be here such a short
time that we'll hardly have time to make his acquaintance."

"Oh, but think of when he gets to be a high and mighty Admiral,"
exclaimed Mary, comfortingly. "You'll be so proud of him you'll forget
all about the separation. Between him and the Governor I don't know what
will happen to your pride. It will be so inflated."

Mary had laughingly called Jack the Governor ever since Mrs. Ware's
complacent remark that day on the train, that it would not surprise her
to have such an honor come to her oldest son some day.

"And Joyce, don't forget _her_," put in Norman, feeling in his pocket
for a handful of nuts which he had carried away from the birthday feast.
"The way she's started out she'll have a place in your hall of fame,
too. And me--don't forget _this_ Abou Ben Adhem. Probably my name'll
lead all the rest. Where do _you_ expect to come in, Mary? What will
_you_ do?"

As he spoke he placed a row of pecans under the rocker of his chair, and
bore down on them until the shells cracked. When he had picked out a
handful of kernels, he popped them into his mouth all at once.

"We'll write your name as the Great American Cormorant," laughed Mary,
ignoring his question about herself. "You remember that verse, don't
you?

        "'C, my dear, is the Cormorant.
         When he don't eat more it's because he can't.'

"Mamma, didn't he eat anything at all at the Downs'? He's been stuffing
ever since he came back--cake and candy, and now those nuts. It's
positively disgraceful to carry food away in your pockets the way you
do, Norman Ware."

"I always do when I go to Billy's house," answered Norman, undisturbed
by her criticism, and crashing his rocker down on a row of almonds. "And
Billy always does the same here. We're not company. We're home folks at
both places."

The shells which he threw toward the fire missed their aim and fell on
the hearth. Mary pointed significantly toward the turkey-wing, and he as
significantly shrugged his shoulders, in token that he would not sweep
up the mess he had made. They kept up a playful pantomime some time,
while Jack and his mother went on discussing Joyce's home-coming, before
he finally obeyed her peremptory gesture. He thought she was in one of
her jolliest moods, induced by the glorious news of the letter. But all
the time she was silently repeating his question, "Where do _you_ expect
to come in, Mary? What will _you_ do?"

Here she was, baffled again. The time she had spent in writing that
letter, now tucked away under her belt, was wasted. It was out of the
question to appeal to Cousin Kate now, just when she had done so much
for another member of the family, and especially when she had sailed
away to so vague a place as the south of France, by the doctor's orders.
Even if Mary had her address, she felt it would be wrong to bother her
with a request which would require any "pulling of strings." For that
could not be done without letter writing, and in her state of health
even that might be some tax on her strength, which she had no right to
ask. Hope, that had soared so buoyantly an hour before, once more sank
despairingly to earth. What was she to do? Which way could she turn
next?

When bedtime came a little later, Mrs. Ware went in to Norman's room to
take some extra cover. Mary lingered to pin some newspapers around her
potted plants and move them away from the windows. Jack, standing in
front of the fireplace, winding the clock on the mantel, saw her slip a
folded paper from under her belt, and toss it into the fire with such a
tragic gesture, that he knew without telling that it was the letter on
which she had worked so industriously. She saw that he understood and
she was grateful that he said nothing.

While they were undressing, Mrs. Ware talked so happily of Joyce's
return, that Mary's own glow of anticipation came back. She was not
jealous of her sister's good fortune. She had never been that. She was
wholly, generously glad for every good thing that had ever come into
Joyce's life, and she was so thrilled with the thought of her coming
home that she was sure she should lie awake all night thinking about it.
But when she snuggled down under the warm covers, it was Norman's
question which kept her awake. "Where do _you_ expect to come in, Mary?
What are _you_ going to do?"



CHAPTER V

P STANDS FOR PINK


What happened in the Christmas holidays which followed is best told in
the letter which Mary wrote to Phil Tremont on the last day of the old
year.

        "DEAR BEST MAN:" it began. "Mamma has asked me
        to write to you this time in her place, as she
        has succumbed to an attack of 'reunionitis.'
        She doesn't call it that, but we know well
        enough that it is nothing but the excitement
        and unexpectedness of having a whole family
        reunion which has frazzled her out so
        completely. She wrote you that Joyce was coming
        home, but none of us knew that Holland would be
        with her. _He_ was the surprise--Cousin Kate's
        Christmas gift to the family. His furlough is
        not due till next summer, but she said by that
        time Joyce would be in Paris, and the chances
        are that if we didn't get together now we might
        never again be able to; at least for years and
        years.

        "Cousin Kate is such a solitary soul herself,
        no relatives nearer than cousins, that she has
        an immense amount of sentiment for family
        gatherings, and that is why she gave us such a
        happy one. She had to go to Washington to
        arrange it. She has a friend at court in the
        shape of a senator who was once an intimate
        school chum of the President's. (We think he
        was one of her many bygone suitors. Isn't that
        romantic?) Among them they managed to untie
        enough red tape to let Holland out.

        "You can imagine our astonishment when he
        walked in. We almost swooned with joy, and I
        thought for a moment that mamma really was
        going to, the surprise was so great. You saw
        him just before you went to Mexico, so you know
        how big he has grown, and how impressively
        dignified he can be on occasion. And polite--
        My! What a polish the Navy can give! He was so
        polite that I was awestruck at first, and it
        was two whole days before I felt familiar
        enough to dare to refer to the time that he
        dragged me down the hay-mow by my hair because
        I wouldn't come any other way.

        "It has been a wonderful week; yet, isn't it
        queer, as I look back on it, there is nothing
        at all in it really worth putting into a
        letter. It is just that after the first
        strangeness wore off, we seemed to slip back
        into the dear old good times of the Wigwam
        days. You know better than any one else in the
        world what they were, for you shared them with
        us so often. You know how we have always
        enjoyed each other and what entertainment we
        found in our own conversation and jokes and
        disputes, so you'll understand exactly what
        that week was to us, when I say that it was a
        slice out of the old days.

        "It was better in some ways, however. The
        future is not such a distressingly unknown
        quantity as it was then. We don't have to say,
        'Let X (a very slim X at that) equal Jack's
        chances, and minus Y equal Joyce's.' If we
        could only determine the value of the chances
        of Mary, we'd soon know the 'length of the
        whole fish.' 'Member how you moiled and toiled
        over that old fish problem in Ray's Algebra, to
        help me to understand it?

        "Well, I am the puzzling element in the Ware
        family's equation. It's our problem to find the
        extent of my resources. I was dreadfully
        discouraged before Christmas, when every
        application I sent out was turned down. It
        seemed to me that if I had one more
        disappointment I couldn't possibly bear it. But
        Joyce has almost persuaded me to give up the
        quest for awhile, at least until spring. I am a
        year younger than she was when she went away
        from home, and she thinks that I owe it to
        mamma to stay with her till I am out of my
        teens. Mamma hasn't been very well lately.
        Sometimes I think I could have a very pleasant
        winter here after all, if I'd just make up my
        mind to settle down and forget my ambitions.
        There are mild social possibilities in two of
        the new families who moved here last fall, and
        Pink Upham does everything he can think of to
        make it pleasant. We are going skating
        to-night, and have a big bonfire on the bank.
        To-morrow, being New Year's Day, consequently a
        holiday for him, we are to have a long
        sleigh-ride over to Hemlock Ridge. The ladies
        of some lodge in the settlement over there are
        to serve a turkey dinner in the school-house.

        "I have begun this letter backwards. What I set
        out to do, first and foremost, was to thank you
        for the lovely book which you sent with your
        Yuletide greeting. I read over half of it aloud
        last night after our Christmas guests departed,
        and was glad that we had such an interesting
        story. It kept us from getting doleful.

        "By the way, the heroine is called Bonnie,
        after the song, _Bonnie Eloise_. And Joyce said
        that Eugenia told her that there is an
        American girl visiting the doctor's family near
        your construction camp, whom you refer to in
        your letters as Bonnie Eloise. Eugenia says
        that she plays the guitar and sings duets with
        you, and is altogether charming. Is Eloise her
        real name, or do you call her that because she
        is bonny like the girl in the book? And does
        she sing as well as Lloyd Sherman? Do tell us
        about her the next time you write! Your sayings
        and doings would interest us even if we were
        looping the loop socially in gay Gotham and
        dwelt continually 'in the midst of alarms.' But
        in the Selkirkian stillness of these solitudes
        our interest in our friends deepens into
        something amazing.

        "Mamma says to tell you that we all spoke of
        you and quoted you many times this week, and
        wished daily that you were with us. She sends
        her love and will write as soon as she is able.
        With all good wishes for your New Year from
        each of us,   Yours, downcast but still inflexible,

                                            "MARY."

Phil answered this letter the day it was received, replying to her
question about Eloise in a joking postscript, as if wishing to convey
the impression that his interest in her was less than Mary's.

        "I forgot to say that Eloise is a name I have
        bestowed upon the young lady who is visiting
        the Whites, in exchange for the compliment of
        her having given my name to her dog. He is a
        lank, sneaking greyhound which never leaves her
        side, and was called merely Señor, when she
        brought him to Mexico. Now she has added
        Tremonti to his title. She herself is baptized
        Eliza. She is a pretty, kittenish little thing,
        deathly afraid of cock-roaches and
        caterpillars, devoted to frills and fetching
        furbelows, and fond of taking picturesque poses
        in the moonlight with the slinky greyhound. No,
        her voice is not to be compared to the Little
        Colonel's, but it is sweet and sympathetic,
        very effective in ballads and simple things. We
        sing together whenever I happen to drop in at
        the doctor's, which is several times a week,
        and I am indebted to her for many pleasant
        hours, which are doubly appreciated in this
        desert waste of a place.

        "Now will you answer a few questions for me?
        Who is this Pink Upham who is 'doing everything
        to make the winter pleasant' for you? What is
        his age, his business and his ultimate aim in
        life? Is he the only available escort to all
        the social functions of Lone-Rock? You never
        mention any other. Don't forget what I told you
        when I said good-bye in Bauer, and _don't
        forget what you promised me then_."

Mary was in the kitchen when that letter was brought in to her. She had
just slipped a pan of gingersnaps into the oven, and was rolling out the
remainder of the dough to fill another pan. Not even stopping to wipe
her floury hands, she walked over to the window, tore open the envelope
and began to read. When she came to the end of the postscript she stood
gazing out of the window at the back fence, half buried in the drifted
snow. What she saw was not the old fence, however. She was gazing back
into a sunny April morning in the hills of Texas. She was standing by a
kitchen window there, also, but that one was open, and looked out upon a
meadow of blue-bonnets, as blue as the sea. And outside, looking in at
her, with his arms crossed on the window-sill, was Phil. There was no
need for him to write in that postscript, "Don't forget what I told you
when I said good-bye in Bauer." She had recalled it so many times in the
nine months that had passed since then, that she could repeat every
word.

It still seemed just as remarkable now as it had then that he should
have asked her to promise to let him know if anybody ever came along
trying to persuade her "to join him on a new trail," or that he should
have said that he wanted "a hand in choosing the right man," and above
all that he should have added solemnly, "I have never yet seen anybody
whom I considered good enough for little Mary Ware."

If Mary could have known what picture rose up before Phil's eyes as he
wrote that postscript, she would have been unspeakably happy. She had so
many mortifying remembrances of times when he had caught her looking her
very worst, when he had come upon her just emerging from some accident
that had left her drenched or smoked or bedraggled, mud-spattered,
ink-stained or dust-covered. Holland's recent reminiscences had deepened
her impression that she must have been in a wrecked condition half her
time, for he had kept the family laughing all one evening, recalling
various plights he had rescued her from.

It would have been most soul-satisfying to her could she have known that
Phil thought of her oftenest as he had last seen her, standing at the
gate in a white and pink dress, fresh as a spring blossom, her sweet
sincere eyes looking gravely into his as he insisted on a promise, but
her dear little mouth smiling mischievously as she vowed, "I'll keep my
word. Honest, I will!"

As she recalled that promise now, her face dimpled again as it had then
over the absurdity of such a thing. "The idea of Phil's thinking that
Pink Upham is anybody to be considered seriously!" she exclaimed, as she
recalled his uncouth laugh, his barbaric taste in dress, his provincial
little habits and mannerisms, which in the parlance of the Warwick Hall
girls, would have stamped him "dead common" according to their
standards. She was still looking dreamily out into the snowy yard when
Mrs. Ware came to the door to inquire with an anxious sniff,

"Mary, isn't something burning?"

Suddenly recalled to herself, Mary sprang to open the oven door,
wailing, "My cookies, oh, my cookies! Burnt to a crisp! And the
gingerbread man I promised to little Don Moredock, black as a cinder!
I'll have to make him another one, but there won't be time to stick in
all the beautiful clove buttons that I had this one's suit trimmed with.
His coat was like Old Grimes', 'all buttoned down before.' It was Phil's
letter that caused the wreck," she explained to her mother, as she
emptied the burnt cakes into the fire. "There it is on the table."

Phil's letters were family property. Mrs. Ware carried it off to read,
and Mary, taking another pan, proceeded to shape another gingerbread
man. As she did so, her thoughts went from it to little Don Moredock for
whom it was intended, and then to Pink Upham, who had been the devoted
slave of the little fellow with the broken leg ever since the accident
occurred. As she recalled Pink's patience and gentleness with the child,
she wondered just what sort of an impression he would make on Phil. The
more she pondered the more certain she was that Phil would see him
through Jack's eyes and little Don's, rather than through hers. And
somehow, thinking that, she began to get a different view of him
herself.

It was nearly sundown before she found time to run over to the
Moredocks' with the gingerbread man, and tell Don the story which it was
intended to illustrate. He had never heard it before, and insisted upon
her repeating it over and over. He kept her much later than she had
intended to stay, and a young moon was shining on the snow when she
started home again. Pink Upham, stopping on his way home to supper to
leave a feather whirligig he had made for Don, met her going out of the
gate as he went in.

Two minutes later he had caught up with her, and was walking along
beside her. There was to be a Valentine party at Sara Downs on the
fourteenth, he told her. A fancy dress affair. He wanted her to go with
him, as his valentine. Now if it had not been for Phil's letter, Mary's
eyes might not have been opened quite so soon to the fact that Pink
regarded her as the right girl, no matter what she thought of him. But
all at once she realized that he was looking down at her as no one had
ever looked before. There was something in his glance like the dumb
wistfulness that makes a hunting dog's eyes so pathetic, and she felt a
little shiver run over her. She didn't want him to care like _that_! It
was perfectly thrilling to feel that she had aroused a deep regard in
any one's heart, but, oh, _why_ did it have to be some one who fell so
short of her standard of what a true prince must measure up to?

Embarrassed and troubled, she hurried away from him as soon as they
reached the gate. The lamps were lighted and supper was ready when she
went into the house. She began talking the moment she sat down at the
table, but somehow she could not put Pink out of her mind. She kept
seeing him as he had stood there at the gate in the snow with the young
moon lighting it up. She knew that he had stood and watched her pass up
the path and into the house, for she had stolen a hasty glance over her
shoulder as she opened the door, and the tall, dark figure was still
there.

She talked vivaciously of many things: of little Don's pleasure in her
gift, of her fall on the ice on the way over, of Sara Downs' Valentine
party, of Phil's letter. When the last subject was mentioned Mrs. Ware
remarked, "That snap-shot of 'Eloise' shows her to be a very pretty
girl, I think."

"Snap-shot of Eloise!" echoed Mary blankly. "I didn't see it. Where is
it?"

"In the envelope. I didn't see it either, until I started to shove the
folded sheet back into it. Something inside prevented its going more
than half way, and I found it was the little unmounted picture curled up
inside. It's on the mantel. Norman, get it for your sister, please."

Mary held the picture under the lamp for a careful scrutiny. So that was
Eloise. A slim, graceful girl posing in a hammock, with one hand resting
on the guitar in her lap, the other on the head of Señor Tremonti. Her face
was in shadow, but she looked dangerously attractive to Mary, who spoke
her opinion openly.

"She's an appealing little thing, the clinging-vine sort. If Phil saw
her only in the daylight and called her plain Eliza, and could remember
that she's a little 'fraid cat whose chief interest in life is frills
and fetching furbelows, he wouldn't be in any danger. But you see, he
hasn't any of his kind of girls down there--I mean like the Little
Colonel and Betty and Gay, and the moonlight and musical evenings will
give her a sort of glamor that'll make her seem different, just as
calling her Eloise makes her seem more romantic than when he says
Eliza."

"Don't you worry," laughed Jack. "Phil is old enough to look out for
himself, and to know what he wants. You can trust him to pick out the
kind of wife that suits him, better than you could do it for him."

"But I don't want him to be satisfied with that kind after all the
lovely girls he's known," grumbled Mary, putting the picture aside and
going on with her supper. Her motherly concern was even greater over
this situation than it had been when she thought of him as "doomed to
carry a secret sorrow to his grave." She pinned the picture of Eloise
to the frame of her mirror when she went to her room that night, and
studied it while she slowly brushed her hair.

Once she paused with brush in air as a comforting thought suddenly
occurred to her. "Why, I'm in the same position that Phil is. Pink
doesn't measure up to my highest ideal of a man any more than Eliza
measures up to Lloyd, but he's my chief source of amusement here, just
as she is Phil's there. Maybe she lets him see that she's fond of his
company and all that, and he hates to hurt her feelings as I hate to
hurt Pink's. I'll intimate as much in my letter when I answer his
questions, if I can think of the right way to do it."

It was because she could not find the right words to express these
sentiments that she delayed answering from day to day, then other things
crowded it out of her mind. The Valentine party required that much time
and thought be spent on the costumes, and she helped Jack with his. He
went as a comic Valentine. Pink begged her to dress as the Queen of
Hearts, and she was almost persuaded to do so, thinking that would be
the easiest of costumes to prepare, till she guessed from something he
let fall that he intended to personate the King himself. Then nothing
would have induced her to do it. She knew it would give occasion for
the coupling of their names together in the familiar and teasing way
they have in little country towns.

So she dressed as an old-fashioned lace-paper valentine. The dress was
made of a much-mended lace curtain. The front of the bodice had two
square lapels wired at the edges, so that they could be folded together
like the front of a real valentine, or opened back like shutters to show
on her breast a panel of pale blue satin, on which was outlined two
white doves perched above a great red heart. Mrs. Ware painted it, and
although it may sound queer in the description, it was in reality a very
pretty costume, and the touch of color made it so becoming that Mary's
cheeks glowed with pleasure many times during the evening at the
comments she overheard on all sides.

Pink's eyes followed her admiringly everywhere she went, but he had
little to say to her, except once, as he finished singing a song which
Sara Downs had begged for, he leaned over and whispered significantly,
"That's _your_ song."

It was Kathleen Mavourneen, and she wondered why he called it hers. On
the way home he was so strangely silent that Mary wondered what was the
matter. She rattled along, talking with even more vivacity than usual,
to cover his silence, and walked fast to keep within speaking distance
of several others who were going down their road. They all walked Indian
file, the path beaten through the snow was so narrow. Jack had started
much earlier, as he was taking old Captain Doane's niece home. The
cottage was in sight when the others turned off into another road, and
Pink and Mary were left crunching through the snow alone.

Then Pink suddenly found his voice. Clearing his throat he began
diffidently, "Mary, I want to ask you something. I want to ask a favor
of you."

His tone was so ominous that Mary's heart gave a thump like a startled
rabbit's.

"I wish you wouldn't call me 'Pink' like everybody else does. I wish
you'd call me a name that no one would use but you. Just when we're by
ourselves, you know. I wouldn't want you to any other time. I'd love for
you to have your own special name for me just as I have for you."

"What's that?" asked Mary, crunching steadily on ahead, determined to
laugh him out of his serious tone if possible. "What name do you have
for me? 'Polly-put-the-kettle-on? 'That's my usual nickname. It used to
be 'Mother-bunch' and 'Gordo' when I was little and fat."

"I didn't mean a nickname," answered Pink a little stiffly. He was in no
humor for joking, and he rather resented her light reply. Her rapid pace
had quickened almost into a dog-trot. With a few long strides he put
himself even with her, walking along in the deep snow beside the narrow
path. Evidently he felt the witchery of the still winter night, with the
moonlight silvering the snowy world around them, even if Mary did not.
For in spite of the brisk, business-like pace she set, he said
presently:

"I've been making up my mind all evening to tell you this on my way
home. You've never seemed like an ordinary girl to me. You're so much
nicer in every way, that long ago I gave you a name that I always call
you to myself. And I wanted to ask you if you wouldn't do the same for
me. Of course I couldn't expect you to give me the same sort of a name
that I have for you, but I'd be content if you'd just call me by my
first name, _Philip_."

"_Philip!_" repeated Mary blankly, turning short in the narrow path to
stare at him. "Why, I didn't know that that was _your_ name. It's a name
that has always seemed to belong especially to just one person in the
world. I never dreamed that it was _your_ name. Somehow I had the
impression that that first P in it stood for Peter."

"I don't know why," answered Pink in a hurt tone. "I was named for my
grandfather, Philip Pinckney, so I don't see why I haven't as good a
right to it as any one."

"Oh, of course you have," cried Mary. "I was just surprised, that's all.
It's only that I've always regarded it as the especial property of one
of my very best friends, I suppose."

"Well, I rather hoped that you counted _me_ as one of your very best
friends," was the gloomy response. To Mary's unspeakable relief Jack
came swinging up behind them just then with some jolly remark that saved
her the necessity of an answer, and the good nights were spoken without
any further reference to personal matters.

It was so late that she undressed as quickly and quietly as she could,
in order not to awaken her mother in the next room. As she did so she
kept thinking, "I wonder what it is he always calls me to himself? I'd
give a fortune to know. But I suppose I never will find out, for I'm
sure that I hurt his feelings saying what I did about Phil's name. Why,
I could no more call him Philip than I could call him _mother_! Those
names belong so entirely to the people I've always given them to."

It was not until she had been tucked warmly in bed for some time, with
her eyes closed, that she thought of something which made her sit bolt
upright, regardless of the icy wind blowing in through her open windows.

"_Philip and Mary on a shilling!_ Merciful heavens!" she exclaimed in a
whisper. "It can't be that that old shilling that I drew out of
Eugenia's bridecake really has any power to influence my destiny!"

There was something vaguely alarming in the knowledge that Pink claimed
the name of Philip. Long ago Mary had taken the story of _The Three
Weavers_ to heart, and vowed that no one could be her prince who did not
fit her ideals "as the falcon's feathers fit the falcon." Now she
exclaimed almost savagely to herself:

"Why, Pink Upham no more measures up to my ideals than,
than--_anything!_ It's ridiculous to believe that an old shilling could
influence my destiny that way. It can't! It _sha'n't_! I simply won't
let it!"

Then, as she lay back on her pillow again and pulled the blankets over
her shivering shoulders, she thought drearily, "But, oh, dear, this is
going to interfere with my only good times! Whenever he is nice to me
I'll think of that dreadful old shilling in spite of myself. I wish I
could go away from Lone-Rock this very week!"



CHAPTER VI

TOLD IN LETTERS


On the way to the post-office next morning, Mary determined that if she
should meet Pink there, as she sometimes did, not even the flicker of an
eyelash should show that she remembered last night's conversation. But
when she saw the back of a familiar fur overcoat through the post-office
window, she felt the color rush into her face.

When she went in, not only was she conscious from his greeting that _he_
remembered, but the look in his eyes said as plainly as words that the
name which he kept for her alone had risen almost to his lips. It made
her uncomfortable, but she was burning with curiosity to know what that
name could be.

There were several people in the line ahead of her, and Pink emptied his
locked box before her turn came at the window. She knew that he was
waiting outside the door for her, so, when she passed him, she was
purposely absorbed in opening the only letter which had fallen to her
share. It was a tough-fibred envelope, hard to tear, and her heavily
gloved hands made clumsy work of it. Finally she thrust a forefinger
under the flap and wrenched it apart. A ragged scrap of yellowed paper
fluttered out on to the step. Pink stooped and handed it to her.

"Why, how queer! That's all there is in the envelope," she exclaimed,
shaking it, then holding out the jagged bit of paper so that Pink could
examine it with her. It was only a scrap torn from a sheet of music, or
some old song-book. They read the bars together:

[Illustration: Music: Oh! why art thou silent thou voice of my heart?]

If Mary had not been so busy puzzling over why it had been sent, she
would have seen a dull red creep into Pink's face, as he recognized it
as a line from _Kathleen Mavourneen_, the song which he told Mary the
night before he always regarded as hers.

Suddenly she laughed. "Of course! I see it now! It's just Phil's cute
way of reminding me that I owe him a letter. Once, when Jack had not
written for months, Phil called his attention to the silence by sending
a postal with just a big question mark on it. But this is a much
brighter way."

"Yes, I see a few things too," said Pink stiffly. "I'd forgotten that
that fellow down in Mexico is named Philip. So _he's_ the only person in
the world you consider the name belongs to--and he calls you--_that!_"

His ringer pointed to the last five words under the bar of music.

"He's the only one I've ever known by that name," began Mary, surprised
by the unaccountable change in his manner, and unaware that it was a
swift flash of jealousy which caused it. To her amazement he turned
abruptly and walked away without even a curt "good morning."

She glanced after him in surprise, wondering at his abrupt leave-taking.
He was unmistakably offended about something. Sara Downs had told her
more than once that he was the most foolishly sensitive person she had
ever known, continually getting his feelings hurt over nothing, but this
was the first time Mary had ever had an exhibition of his sensitiveness.
Conscious that she had done nothing at which a reasonable person could
take offence, she looked after him with a desire to shake him for such
childishness. Then with a shrug of her shoulders she turned and started
homeward.

"That was such a bright, original way for Phil to remind me," she
thought, glancing again at the scrap of music. "And it is so absolutely
silly of Pink to say in such a tragic tone, 'And he called you _that_!'
There is nothing more personal in Phil's saying 'thou voice of my heart'
than there would be in his calling me 'Old Dog Tray' or a scrap of any
other song. He's always roaring questions at people in the shape of bits
of music. But, of course, Pink doesn't know that," she added a moment
afterward, wanting to be perfectly honest in her judgment of him. "But
even if he doesn't, it's none of his business what anybody calls me."

The episode, trifling as it was, made a difference in the answer that
she sent to Phil. Instead of trying to reply to his questions seriously,
as she had intended to do, she was so disdainful of Pink's behavior that
she concluded to ignore all mention of him. As she passed the Moredock
house, a phonograph, playing away inside for the amusement of little Don,
brayed out a rag-time refrain: "I want what I want, _when I want it_!"

Suddenly the inspiration seized her to answer Phil's reminder of her
silence in his own way. She would make a medley of fragments of songs.
How to begin it puzzled her, for the only song she could think of,
containing his name, was "Philip, my King," and she dismissed that
immediately, as impossible. All the way home she whistled under her
breath bits of old melodies, one suggesting another, until she had a
long list, and she made haste to write them down, for fear she might
forget. From the back of an old dog-eared guitar instructor, which she
found in the book-case, she copied many titles of ballads, and among
them came across the line, "Friend of my soul, the goblet sip." It was
one which she knew Phil was familiar with, for she remembered having
heard him sing it at the Wigwam. So she promptly chose the first four
words as the ones with which to commence. The first part of the letter
ran somewhat after this fashion:

                          "LONE-ROCK (NOT) BY THE SEA.

        "'FRIEND OF MY SOUL':--'The day is cold and
        dark and dreary.' 'In the gloaming,' 'The
        swallows homeward fly.' 'The daily question
        is,' 'What's this dull town to me?' 'Tell me
        not in mournful numbers' that 'I'd better bide
        a wee.' 'Oh, 'tis not true!' 'I hear the angel
        voices calling' 'Where the sun shines bright on
        my old Kentucky home,' and 'I want what I want
        _when I want it_.'"

It took an entire evening to evolve a letter which suited her, and
although it was utter foolishness, she managed to give the news and to
convey through the cleverly combined titles the fact that she was still
struggling to get away from Lone-Rock, that there was no "swain amang
the train" to keep her from "going back to Dixie" "in the sweet bye and
bye." She also found a way to make complimentary mention of Bonnie
Eloise.

That was the last evening, however, which she devoted to trivial things
for many weeks. For Jack came home next noon greatly troubled over
conditions at the office. The bookkeeper was down with pneumonia. There
was no one who could step into his place but Jack, and he already had
his hands full with his own responsibilities and duties.

"It is the correspondence which worries me most," he said. "We haven't
had enough of that kind of work, so far, to justify us hiring a
stenographer, but some days the mail is so heavy that it keeps me
pounding on the typewriter an hour or more. Now, Mary, if you had only
added shorthand to your many accomplishments, there'd be a fine chance
for you to help hold the fort till Bailey gets well."

"I can help do it, anyhow," she declared promptly. "I know how business
letters ought to sound--'Yours of recent date' and 'enclosed herewith
please find' and all that sort of thing. I can scratch off in pencil a
sort of outline of what you want said, and then take my time copying it
on the machine."

Past experience had taught the family that whenever Mary attempted
anything with the eagerness with which she proposed this plan, she
always carried it through triumphantly, and Jack's face showed his
relief as he promptly accepted her offer.

"No use for you to come down this afternoon," he said. "I'll be too busy
looking after other things to give any time to letters."

"But I can be making the acquaintance of the machine," answered Mary.
"Madam Chartley's stenographer learned to run hers simply by studying
the book of instructions. And if it won't bother you to hear me clicking
away I'll put in the whole afternoon practising."

[Illustration: "SEVERAL TIMES SHE STOPPED JACK IN PASSING TO ASK HIM A
QUESTION."]

So when Jack went back to the office, Mary went with him, happy and
excited over this unexpected entrance into the world of Business.

"Who knows but what this may be a stepping-stone into a successful
career?" she exclaimed. "Why didn't I think of applying to you for a
position in the very beginning? It would have saved a world of worry and
disappointment, and a small fortune in postage stamps."

He had time for only a short explanation of the machine before he was
called away, but the book of instructions was clear and concise. She
studied the illustrations and diagrams for awhile with her whole
attention concentrated on them. Accustomed to picking up new crochet
stitches and following intricate patterns from printed directions, it
was an easy matter for her to master the intricacies of the new machine.
Several times she stopped Jack in passing to ask him a question about
some movement or adjustment, but in the main she experimented until she
could answer her own questions.

In a little while she could shift the ribbon or flip a sheet of paper in
and out with the ease of an expert. Then she began studying the
keyboard, to learn the position of the letters, and after that it was
only a question of practice to gain speed. Fingers that had learned
nimbleness and accuracy of touch in other fields, did not lag long here.
Hour after hour she sat at the machine, practising finger exercises as
patiently as if the keys were the ivories of a grand piano.

The next letter which she sent to Phil, some days later, was such a
contrast to the musical medley that it did not seem possible that they
had been written by the same person.

                                "LONE-ROCK, ARIZONA, April 2d.

        "MR. PHILIP TREMONT,
           "Necaxa, Mexico.

        "DEAR SIR: Your favor of the 24th ult. duly
        received and contents noted. I am much
        gratified with your reference to my last
        epistle, and your hearty encore, but I can give
        no more musical monologues at present. I am
        engaged as Corresponding Secretary in the
        office of the Lone-Rock Mining Company.
        Corresponding Secretary may be too grand a name
        to give my humble position, but it comes nearer
        to describing it than any that I can think of.

        "First I came in just to help Jack out, while
        his chief was away and the bookkeeper ill. I
        helped him with the correspondence and all
        sorts of odds and ends, and between times
        practised typewriting, till now I can take
        dictation on the machine when he speaks at a
        moderately slow pace.

        "Yesterday he received a telegram calling him
        East to a special directors' meeting, to report
        on something unexpected that has recently
        developed out here. So I'm to stay on at the
        office while he is gone, _on a salary_! A very
        modest one it is to be sure, but it is bliss to
        feel that at last I have found a paying
        position, no matter how small it is. Isn't it
        queer? Lone-Rock is the last place on the
        planet where a girl like me would expect to
        find anything of the sort to do. Mr. Headley,
        the chief, is back, of course, or Jack couldn't
        leave, and I'm watching my opportunity to make
        myself so useful around the office that they'll
        all wonder how they ever 'kept house' so long
        without me.

        "Mr. Bailey's pneumonia has been blessed to me
        if not to him, for it has broken the spell, or
        hoo-doo, or whatever it was that thwarted all
        my efforts. Fortune's 'turn' is slowly
        approaching. Let it come when it will I can now
        meet it like the wingèd spur of my ancestors,
        with the cry 'Ready! Aye, ready!'

        "Trusting that this explanation is
        satisfactory, and that we may be favored by a
        reply at your earliest convenience, I have the
        honor to remain,

                      "Yours very truly,
                                      "M. WARE.

        "(P.S. I must ask you to observe the very tasty
        manner in which this is typed.)"

The next letter from Mary to Phil was hastily scribbled in pencil.

        "DEAR PHIL:--Jack came home yesterday with a
        bit of news for the Ware family, which set it
        into a wild commotion, to say the least. Nobody
        but the family is to know it for awhile, but I
        am going to tell you because you're sort of
        'next of kin.' Jack said I might, but you
        mustn't send your congratulations until you are
        officially notified.

        "When Jack went East to that directors' meeting
        he stopped over Sunday in Lloydsboro Valley,
        and Betty was home from Warwick Hall on her
        Easter vacation, and he saw her again, and
        well--_they're engaged!_ Isn't it perfectly
        lovely? I've known for a long time that they
        have been corresponding. They began it over
        _me_ while I was at Warwick Hall. It will
        probably be a long time before they are
        married. Betty will finish teaching this term
        at Warwick Hall and then go back to Locust for
        awhile. Jack is to be promoted to Mr. Headley's
        place next fall, and I _think_ the grand event
        will take place the following spring, a year
        from now.

        "You know Betty, and what a perfectly darling
        saint she is, so I needn't tell you how the
        entire family rejoices over Jack's good
        fortune, although we _do_ think too, that she
        is equally fortunate to have Jack and--_us_.
        Don't you?"

It was May before another letter found its way from Lone-Rock to the
little station up in the mountains of Mexico, to which Phil sent a daily
messenger on mule-back for his mail. Mary wrote it in the office while
waiting for Jack to come in again and go on with his dictation. It had
been interrupted in the middle by some outside matter which called him
away from his desk for nearly an hour.

"No," she began, "I must confess that it isn't lack of time which has
kept me so long from answering your last letter, but merely lack of
news. Mr. Bailey is back at his post now as good as new after his spell
of pneumonia. I had a busy month while he was out, but now there isn't
enough for me to do to justify their keeping me more than an hour or so
each morning.

"I am glad to have that much of a position however, for it adds a trifle
every week to my bank account, and breaks into the monotony of the days
more than you can imagine. I come down just after the morning train gets
in and stay long enough to attend to the day's correspondence. Usually
it takes about an hour.

"I haven't written for some time because there was nothing to tell. Of
course the mountains are beautiful in this perfect May weather, but you
wouldn't want to read pages of description. There has been nothing going
on socially since the Valentine party. Pink Upham used to stir up things
quite often, but he seems to be very much absorbed in his business
lately, and I rarely see him. Occasionally I go for a tramp up the
mountains with Norman and Billy, and we went fishing twice last week,
and cooked our lunch on the creek bank.

"But if we are not doing things ourselves we are enjoying the activities
of our friends. Have I ever told you that Lieutenant Boglin is now in
the Philippines? He sent me a bunch of photographs from there last week
that make me wild to see the place. And Roberta is abroad with her
family and is having adventures galore in London.

"Gay is having all sorts of good times at the post, and even old Mr. and
Mrs. Barnaby up in Bauer are planning for a trip to the Pacific coast.

"Joyce and Miss Henrietta have shut up the studio for a few weeks, and
have gone to Tours to join Cousin Kate and sketch awhile in that lovely
chateau region. And that reminds me of the question you asked in your
last letter about Jules Ciseaux. I wonder how you happened to think of
him. He came to America last year just as he had expected to do, but he
got no farther than New York. Joyce told us all about him when she was
home last Christmas. She says he has grown up to be a wonderfully
interesting young fellow, slim and dark, with a most distinguished air
and courtly manner. Something called him back to France before he made
his Western trip, and he lamented to her that he could not meet her
'young sister Marie,' whom he 'pictured to be most charming and
accomplished.' But I suppose it's destined that we shall never see each
other, for he's married now to a little artist whom he met in Paris when
he was studying there. He came across her again in New York, and Joyce
says she knows now that that is what took him back again so suddenly to
Paris. The girl was just starting, and he took passage on the same
steamer. They are living now in the home of his ancestors behind the
great Gate of the Giant Scissors, and Joyce was entertained there at
dinner one night, and was charmed with young Mrs. Jules. She says they
are as happy as two Babes in Candyland.

"Oh, I've just thought--I _am_ doing something, although it may not
appeal to your masculine mind as anything worth mentioning. Mamma and I
are both at work on some beautiful embroidery for Betty. It is so fine
and intricate that we can only do a little at a time, but it is a labor
of love, like the touches the old monks used to put on their illuminated
missals. Nothing can be too fine and dainty for our dear Betty, and we
are counting the months until we can really claim her. Do you suppose
you will be back in the States by that time? I truly hope so. In the
meantime don't forget your old friends of the Wigwam days, and
especially, _this_ member of the House of Ware."



CHAPTER VII

A DESERT OF WAITING


It was so still on the porch where Mary and her mother sat sewing that
warm May afternoon that they could distinctly hear the Moredock
phonograph, playing some new records over and over. One of them was a
quick-step that the military band had often played at Fort Sam Houston,
and as Mary listened an intolerable longing for stir and excitement took
possession of her. She wanted to be back in the midst of people and
constantly changing scenes. She felt that she could not endure the
deadly monotony of Lone-Rock another day.

Usually she had much to say as they sat and sewed through the long still
afternoons, but to-day the music claimed her attention. It was very
pleasing at that distance, but it was disquieting in its effect. She
dropped her embroidery into her lap and sat looking out at the narrow
grass-grown road winding past the house and over the hill, and ending in
a narrow mountain path beyond.

"Mamma," she asked suddenly, in one of the pauses of the music, "were
any of our ancestors tramps or gypsies? Seems to me they must have been,
or I wouldn't feel the 'Call of the Road' so strongly. Don't you feel
it? As if it beckons and you _must_ break loose and follow, to find
what's waiting for you around the next turn?"

Mrs. Ware shook her head. "No," she said slowly. "I'm like the old
Israelites. When they came to Elim, with its wells and palm trees, they
were glad to camp there indefinitely. This is my Elim."

"I wonder, now," mused Mary, "if they really were satisfied. I don't
mean to be irreverent, but only last night I read that verse, '_Whether
it were two days or a month or a year that the cloud tarried upon the
tabernacle, the Children of Israel abode in their tents and journeyed
not._' And I thought that among so many, there must have been a lot of
them who were impatient to get on to their promised land; who fretted
and fumed when day after day the pillar of cloud never lifted to lead
them on. I'd have been like that. If we could only know how long we have
to stay in a place it would make it lots easier. Now, if I had known
last fall that eight months would go by and find me still here in
Lone-Rock, I'd have made up my mind to the inevitable and settled down
comfortably. It's the dreadful uncertainty that is so hard to bear."

Just then the phonograph started up one of its old records. "_I want
what I want when I want it!_" They both looked up and laughed at each
other.

"That is the cry of the ages," said Mrs. Ware merrily. "I've no doubt
that even the tribes of Israel had some version of that same song, and
wailed it often on the march. But their very impatience showed that they
were not fit to go on towards their conquest of Canaan."

"Then you think that _I_ am not fitted yet to take possession of my
Canaan?" Mary asked quickly.

"I don't know, dear," was the hesitating answer, "but I've come to
believe that every one who reaches the best that life holds for him
reaches it through some Desert of Waiting. You remember that legend of
old Camelback Mountain, don't you?"

Mary nodded, and Mrs. Ware quoted softly, "No one fills his crystal vase
till he has been pricked by the world's disappointments and bowed by its
tasks. . . . Oh, thou vendor of salt, is not any waiting worth the while,
if in the end it give thee wares with which to gain a royal entrance?"

Mary waited a moment, then with an impatient shrug of her shoulders
picked up her embroidery hoops again. In her present mood it irritated
her to be told that waiting was good for her. The legend itself
irritated her. She wondered how any one could find any comfort in it,
least of all her mother, whose life had been so largely a desert of hard
work and hard times.

Presently, as if in answer to her thought, Mrs. Ware looked up, saying,
"You spoke just now of the call of the road. It is strange how strongly
I've felt it all afternoon, only my call takes me backward. I've been
living over little scenes that I haven't thought of before in years;
hearing little things your father said when Joyce and Jack were babies;
seeing the neighbors back in Plainsville. Maybe that is one reason I am
not impatient to push on any farther into the future. I have such a
beautiful Memory Road to travel back over. I'd rather sit and recall the
turns in that than wonder what lies on ahead."

"For instance," suggested Mary, and Mrs. Ware immediately began a
reminiscence that Mary remembered hearing when a child. But to-day she
realized that there was a difference in the telling. Her mother was not
repeating it as she used to do to amuse the children who clamored for
tales of Once upon a time. She was speaking as one woman to another,
opening a chapter into the inmost history of her heart.

"She recognizes the fact that I'm grown up," Mary thought to herself
with satisfaction, and she was conscious that her mother was taking
quite as deep a pleasure in this sense of equal understanding and
companionship as she.

It was nearly sundown when a slow creaking of wheels and soft thud of
hoofs on the grass-grown road called their attention to a short
procession of wagons and horsemen, winding along towards the house. A
long pine box was in the first wagon, and several families crowded into
the others.

"Oh, it's a funeral procession!" whispered Mary, pushing back a little
further into the shadow of the vines, so as to be out of sight. "It must
be that Mr. Locksley who was killed yesterday over at Hemlock Ridge by a
falling tree. Isn't it awful?"

She gave a little shiver and her eyes filled with tears as they rested
on the children in the second wagon. There had been a pitiful attempt to
honor the dead by following the conventions. The woman who sat bowed
over on the front seat like an image of despair, wore a black veil and
cotton gloves; and black sunbonnets, evidently borrowed from grown-up
neighbors, covered the flaxen hair of three little girls in pink calico
dresses, who nestled against her. There was a band of rusty crape
fastened around the gray cow-boy hat that the boy wore.

The pathetic little procession wound on past the house and up the hill,
then was lost to sight as it passed into a grove of cedars on the right,
behind which lay the lonely cemetery. Only a few times in her life had
Mary come this close to death. Now the horror of it seemed to blot out
all the brightness of the sweet May day, and the thought of the
grief-stricken woman in the wagon cast such a shadow over her that her
eyes were full of unshed tears and her hands trembled when she took up
her needle again.

"It's so awful!" she exclaimed, when they had passed out of hearing.
"They were all over at that dinner at Hemlock Ridge that Pink took me to
last winter. I remember Mr. Locksley especially because he was so big
and strong-looking, like a young giant, almost. I asked Pink who he was,
because I noticed how good he was to his family, carrying the baby
around on one arm and helping his wife unpack baskets with the other.
Yesterday morning when he left the house he was just as well and strong
as anybody in the world, Captain Doane told me. He went off laughing and
joking, and stopped to call back something to his wife about the garden,
and two hours later they carried him home--like that! In just an instant
the life had been crushed out of him."

Her voice broke and she swallowed hard before she could go on.

"I've always thought death wouldn't be so bad if one could die as dear
Beth did, in 'Little Women.' Don't you remember how sweetly and gently
she faded away, and so slowly that there was no great shock when the end
came? She had time to get used to the idea of going, and to say things
that would comfort them after she was gone. But to be snatched away like
Mr. Locksley--without a moment's warning--it seems too dreadful! I don't
see how God can let such cruel things happen."

"But think, little daughter," urged Mrs. Ware gently, "how much he was
spared. No long illness, no racking pain, no lingering with the
consciousness that he was a burden to others! There is nothing cruel in
that. It's a happy way for the one who goes, dear, to go suddenly. It
is the way of all others I would choose for myself."

"But think of the ones left behind!" said Mary, with a shudder. "I don't
see how that poor woman can go on living after having the one she loved
best in all the world, torn so suddenly and so utterly out of her life."

"But he isn't, dear!" persisted Mrs. Ware gently. "You do not think
because Joyce has gone away to another land, which we have never seen,
and an ocean rolls between us, that she is torn out of our lives, do
you? She does not know what we are doing, and we cannot follow her
through her busy, happy days over there, but we know that she is still
ours, that her love flows out to us just the same, that separation
cannot make her any less our own, and that she looks forward with us to
the happy time when we shall once more be together. That's all that
death is, Mary. Just a going away into another country, as Joyce has
gone. Only the separation is harder to bear because there can be no
letters to bridge the silence. I used to have the same horror of it that
you do, but after your father went away I learned to look upon it as God
intended we should. Not a horrible doom which must overtake every one of
us, but as a beautiful mystery through which we pass as through an open
gate, with glad surprise at the things that shall be made plain to us,
and with a great sense of triumph."

As she spoke, the light of the sunset seemed to turn the mountain trail
up which she was gazing, into a golden path which led straight up to the
City of the Shining Ones, and its radiant glow was reflected in her
face. Mary's eyes followed hers. Somehow she felt warmed and comforted
by her mother's strong faith, but she said nothing. Only sat and watched
with her, the gorgeous colors of the sunset that were transfiguring the
gray old mountain.

If there were only some way of recognizing at their beginning, the days
which are to be hallowed days in our lives! We know them as such after
they have slipped by, and we enshrine them in our memories and go back
to live them over, moment by moment. But it is always with the cry, "Oh,
if I had only known! If I had only filled them fuller while I had them!
If I had not left so much unasked, unsaid!"

Unconscious that this was such a time, Mary sat rocking back and forth
in the silence that followed, drifting into vague day dreams, as they
watched the changing colors over the western mountain tops. Then a
click of the back gate-latch called them both back to speech, and Norman
came around the corner of the house swinging a string of fish. He
announced that Billy Downs had helped catch them and was going to stay
to supper to help eat them.

Billy usually stayed to supper three or four times a week, and on the
nights when he was not there Norman was at his house. The two boys were
inseparable, and a pleasant intimacy had grown up between the families.
That night as usual, he went home at nine o'clock, but came running back
almost immediately, bareheaded and breathless. His mother had been taken
suddenly ill. The only doctor in the place had been called to a case on
the other side of the mountain, and nobody knew when he would be home.
His father and Sara were nearly scared stiff, they were so frightened,
and wouldn't Mrs. Ware please come and tell them what to do?

It was the beginning of a long siege, for no nurses were to be had in
the little settlement, and there were only the neighbors to turn to in
times of stress and trouble. What true neighborliness is, in the fullest
meaning of the word, can be known only in pioneer places like this.
Hands already full of burdens stretched out to help lighten theirs, and
for awhile one common interest and anxiety made the families of
Lone-Rock as one.

But most of the women who came to offer their services had little
children at home, or helpless old people who could not be left long
alone, or more work than one pair of hands could manage. The only two of
experience, not thus burdened, were Mrs. Ware and old Aunt Sally Doane.
So they took turns sitting up at nights, and did all they could on
alternate days to relieve poor frightened Sara and her anxious father.

Mary, not experienced enough to be left in charge in the sick room, did
double duty at home. She did the baking for both families, sometimes
three; for many a time old Aunt Sally, too worn out to cook, went home
to find a basket full of good things spread out for her and the Captain
on the pantry shelves. The Downs family mending went into Mary's basket,
and Billy's darns and patches alone were no small matter. Several times
a week she slipped over to sweep and dust and do many necessary things
that Sara had neither time nor strength to do.

Remembering how valiantly the neighbors had served them during Jack's
long illness, Mary gladly did her part, and a very large one towards
relieving the stricken household. When she saw Mr. Downs' anxious face
relax, at some evidence of her thoughtfulness, and heard Sara's tearful
thanks poured out in a broken voice, she was glad that fate had kept her
in Lone-Rock to play the good angel in this emergency. If she had not
been at home, Mrs. Ware could not have been free to take charge of the
invalid, and it was her skilful nursing, so the doctor said, which would
pull her through the crisis if anything could.

After the first week, Mrs. Ware came home only in the afternoon each
day, to sleep. While she was doing that, Mary tiptoed softly around the
house till her tasks were done, careful not to disturb the rest that was
so precious and so necessary. Then she took her mending basket out on
the front porch, where she could meet any chance comers before they
could knock, or could chase away the insistent roosters who
tantalizingly chose that corner of the yard to come to when they felt
impelled to crow.

It was hard to sit there alone through the long still afternoons while
her mother slept. There were a hundred things she wanted to talk about,
so many questions she wanted to ask, so many little matters on which she
needed advice. There was not even the Moredock phonograph to listen to
now, for it had not been wound up since the beginning of Mrs. Downs'
illness, lest its playing disturb her. All she could do was to sit and
stitch as patiently as she could, till she heard the bedroom door open,
and then fly to make her mother a cup of tea and have a tempting little
supper ready for her when she should come out, dressed and ready to go
back to another exhausting vigil.

The few minutes while Mrs. Ware sat enjoying the dainty meal were the
best in the day for Mary, for she poured out her pent-up questions and
speeches, reported all that had gone on since the last time she sat
there, and crowded into that brief space as much of Jack's sayings and
Norman's doings as she could possibly remember.

"Oh, it'll be so good to have you home again to stay!" she would say
every time when Mrs. Ware rose to start back, ending her good-bye
embrace with a tight squeeze. "I miss you so I can hardly stand it. The
house is so still when you are gone, that if a fly happens to get in its
buzz sounds like a roar. You can't imagine how deathly still it is."

"Oh, yes, I can!" laughed Mrs. Ware. "I've been left alone myself. I
don't need to imagine. I've experienced it."

Mary hung over the gate to which she had followed her mother, and
looked after her down the road, thinking, "That never occurred to me
before. Of course, if I miss her as I do, quiet as she is, she would
miss a rattletybang person like me twice as much. I had never thought of
_her_ getting lonely, but she'd be bound to if I went away. How'd I feel
if she'd gone with Joyce and I had to stay here day after day alone, and
know that I'd never have her again except on flying visits, and that she
was wrapped up in all sorts of interests that I could never have a part
in?"

All that evening she thought about it, and all next morning; and when
Mrs. Ware came home in the afternoon she met her with a serious
question:

"Mamma, when I'm away from home and you're here by yourself, do you miss
me as much as I do you?"

"Oh, a thousand times more!" was the quick answer.

"Then I've made up my mind. Promised Land or no Promised Land, I'm not
going away to stay until Jack brings Betty here to take my place."

Taken by surprise, the look which illuminated Mrs. Ware's face for a
moment showed more plainly than she had intended Mary to know, how much
it had cost her to consent to her going away. After that if there were
times when Mary was tempted to pity herself and look upon that decision
as a great sacrifice, one thought of her mother's happy face and the
glad little cry that had welcomed her announcement, immediately
dispelled any martyr-like feeling.

"Such good news rests me more than any amount of sleep can do," declared
Mrs. Ware, as she slipped into her kimono and drew down the window
shades. "You don't know how the dread of having to give you up has hung
over me. Every time that you've gone to the post-office since last
October I've been afraid to see you come home--afraid that you were
bringing some summons that would take you away."

"Why, mamma!" cried Mary, surprised to see that there were tears in her
eyes, "I didn't dream that you felt _that_ way about it. Why didn't you
tell me?"

"Because I knew that you'd stay if I asked it, and I _couldn't_ block
the road in which you were sure you would find your highest good, just
for my own selfish pleasure. Oh, you don't know," she added, with a
wistfulness which brought a choke to Mary's throat, "what a comfort
you've been to me, ever since the day you came back from school, after
Jack's accident. You've always been a comfort--but since that time it's
been in a different way. I've _leaned_ on you so!"

Deeply touched past all words, Mary's only answer was a kiss and an
impulsive hug, before she turned away to hide her happy tears. All
afternoon as she sat and sewed, the words sang themselves over and over
in her heart: "You've always been a comfort," and she began planning
many things to keep them true. She would do something to stir up a
social spirit among her mother's small circle of friends; start a club,
perhaps, have readings and teas and old-fashioned quilting bees; even a
masquerade party now and then. _Anything_ to give an air of gaiety to
the colorless monotony of the workaday life of Lone-Rock. So with her
energies turned into a new channel she at once set to work vigorously
mapping out a campaign to be put into effect as soon as Mrs. Downs
should be once more on her feet.

It was a happy day when Mrs. Ware came home saying that her services
were no longer needed. The family could manage without her, now that a
sister had come up from Phoenix to help the invalid through her
convalescence.

"It is high time! You are worn out!" said Jack, scanning her face
anxiously.

It was pale and drawn, and after a quick scrutiny he rose and followed
her into the next room, saying in a low tone, "Mother, I believe you've
been having another one of those attacks. Have you?"

"Just a slight one, last night," she confessed. "But it was soon over."

He closed the door behind him, but low as the question had been, Mary's
quick ears caught both it and the answer, and she pounced upon him the
moment he reappeared, demanding to know what they were talking about. He
explained in an undertone, although he had again closed the door behind
him when he came back to the dining-room.

"That winter you were at Warwick Hall she had several queer spells with
her heart. The pain was dreadful for awhile, but the doctor soon
relieved it, and she made me promise not to tell you girls. She said she
had been over-exerting herself. That was all. It was that time the
Fitchs' house caught fire while they were away from home. She saw it
first and ran to give the alarm and help save things, and after it was
all over she had a collapse. I made her promise just now that she'd go
to bed and stay there till she is thoroughly rested. She's seen Doctor
Bates. He gave her the same remedies she had before, and she insists
she's entirely over it now."

With a vague fear clutching at her, Mary started towards her mother's
room, but Jack stopped her. "You mustn't go in there looking like a
scared rabbit. It will do her more harm than good to let her know that
you've found out about it. And really, I don't think there's any cause
for alarm, now that the attack is safely over. She responds so quickly
to the remedies that she'll soon be all right again. But she _must_ take
things easy for awhile."

All the rest of that day Mary was troubled and uneasy, notwithstanding
the fact that her mother dressed and came out to the supper-table,
seemingly as well as usual. Twice in the night Mary wakened with a
frightened start, thinking some one had called her, and, raising herself
on her elbow, lay listening for some sound from the next room. Once she
stepped out of bed and stole noiselessly to the door to look in at her.
The late moon, streaming across the floor, showed Mrs. Ware peacefully
sleeping, and Mary crept back, relieved and thankful.



CHAPTER VIII

A GREAT SORROW


Norman cut his foot the following day, which was Saturday; not
seriously, yet deep enough to need a couple of stitches taken in it, and
to necessitate the wearing of a bandage instead of a shoe for awhile.
Sunday morning, by the aid of a broom stick, he hopped out to the
hammock in the shady side yard, and proceeded to enjoy to the fullest
his disabled condition. For some reason there was no service in the
little school-house which usually took the place of a chapel on the
Sabbath, and he openly rejoiced that his family would be free to
minister to his comfort and entertainment all day long.

The hammock hung so near the side window of the kitchen that he could
look in and see Mary and his mother washing up the breakfast china in
their deft, dainty way. Jack was doing the morning chores usually
allotted to his younger brother. It was with a sense of luxurious ease
that Norman lolled in the hammock, watching Jack bring in wood and
water, carry out ashes and sweep the porch. In his rôle of invalid he
felt privileged to ask to be waited upon at intervals, also to demand
his favorite dessert for dinner. He did this through the kitchen window,
taking part in the conversation which went on as a brisk accompaniment
to the quick movements of busy hands.

It was a perfect June day, the kind that makes one feel that with a sky
so fair and an earth so sweet life is too full to ask anything more of
heaven. Time and again in the pauses that fell between their remarks,
Mary's voice jubilantly broke out in the refrain of an old hymn that
they all loved: "Happy day, oh, happy day!" And when Jack's deep bass
out on the porch and Mrs. Ware's sweet alto in the pantry took up the
words to the accompaniment of swishing broom and clattering cups, Norman
hummed them too, like a big, contented bumblebee in a field of clover.

Years afterward Mary used to look back to that day and fondly re-live
every hour of it. Somehow every little incident stood out so vividly
that she could recall even the feeling of unusual well-being and
contentment which seemed to imbue them all.

They had spread the table out under the trees at Norman's insistence,
and she had only to close her eyes to recall how each one looked as
they gathered around it. She could remember even the pearl gray tie that
Jack wore, and the way Norman's hair curled in little rings around his
forehead. And she could see her mother's quick smile of appreciation
when Jack slipped a cushion into her chair, and her affectionate glance
when Norman reached out and fingered a fold of her white dress. Both the
boys liked to see her in white, and never failed to comment on it
admiringly when she put it on to please them.

All afternoon they stayed out-doors, part of the time reading aloud in
turn; and that evening in the afterglow, when the western mountain tops
were turning from gold to rose and pearl and purple, they sat out on the
front porch watching the glory fade, and ending the day with Jack's
favorite song, "Pilgrims of the Night."

And the reason that this day stood out so vividly from all the others in
her life was because it was the last day that they had their mother with
them. That night the old pain came again, just for an instant, but long
enough to stop the beating of the brave heart which would never feel its
clutch again.

There are some pages in every one's life better skipped than read. What
those next few hours brought to Mary and the boys can never be told.
She found herself in her own room, after awhile, lying across the foot
of her bed and trying to thrust away from her the awful truth that was
gradually forcing itself upon her consciousness. Dazed and bewildered,
like one who has just had a heavy blow on the head, she could not adjust
herself to the new conditions. She could not imagine an existence in
which her mother had no part. She wondered dully how it would be
possible to go on living without her. Aunt Sally Doane came in presently
and took her in her arms and said the comforting things people usually
say at such times, and Mary submitted dumbly, as if it were a part of a
bewildering dream. At times she was sure that she must wake up presently
and find that she had been in the grip of a dreadful nightmare. It was
that certainty which helped her through the next few hours.

It helped her to a strange calmness when Jack came in to ask her about
the trip to Plainsville. She was the one to decide that he must go alone
to the quiet little God's Acre at their old home, because Norman's foot
would not allow him to travel, and she could not leave him behind with
just the neighbors at such a time. It was the sound of Norman's sobbing
in the next room which made her decide this, and yet at the same time
she was thinking, "This is one of the most vivid dreams I ever had in my
whole life, and the most horrible."

Hours after, when all the neighbors had gone but Aunt Sally and the old
Captain, who stayed to keep faithful vigil, Mary stole out of her room
to look at the clock. It seemed as if the night would never end. A dim
light burning in the living-room showed that everything there was
unchanged, while the old clock ticked along with its accustomed clatter
of "All _right_! All _right_!" Surely, with the daylight everything
would be all right, and would awaken to the usual round of life.
Anything else was unbelievable, unthinkable!

On the way back to her room Mary's glance fell on her mother's sewing
basket in its accustomed corner. A long strip of exquisitely wrought
embroidery lay folded on top. It was the piece which she had finished
for Betty on the day that Mrs. Downs was taken ill, that afternoon when
they sat and watched the little procession file over the hill to the
grove of cedars. How plainly Mary could recall the scene. How clearly
she could hear her mother saying, "It is a happy way for the one who
goes, dear, to go suddenly. It is the way of all others I would choose
for myself."

And then with a force that made her heart give a great jump and go on
throbbing wildly, Mary realized that she was not dreaming, that her
mother was really gone; that this bit of embroidery with the needle
sticking just where she had left it after the final stitch, was the last
that the patient fingers would ever do. Dear tired fingers, that through
so many years had wrought unselfishly for her children; so unfailing in
their gentleness, in their power to comfort!

With a rush of tears that blinded her so that she could no longer see
the beautiful handiwork which seemed such a symbol of her mother's
finished life, Mary rushed back to her room to throw herself across the
bed again, and sob herself into a state of exhaustion. Then after a long
time, sleep came mercifully to her relief.

When she awakened, the early light of a June dawn was stealing into the
room, and the birds were singing jubilantly. She lay there a moment,
wondering why she was so stiff and uncomfortable. Then she was aware
that she was still dressed, and memory came back in a rush, with a pain
so overwhelming that she felt utterly powerless to get up and face the
day which lay ahead of her, and all the stretch of dreary existence
beyond it.

An irresistible impulse seemed drawing her towards her mother's room.
Presently she opened the door a little way and stood looking in. Then
step by step she advanced into the room. It looked just as it had the
day before in its spotless Sabbath orderliness, except that the rosebuds
in the glass vase on the table had opened into full bloom in the night.
The white dress that Mrs. Ware had worn the day before lay across a
chair, the sleeves still round and creased with the imprint of the arms
that had slipped out of them.

As Mary stood by the bed, looking down on the still form with the smile
of ineffable peace on its sweet face, her first thought was that she had
never seen such gentle sleep; and then the knowledge slowly dawned on
her, overwhelmingly, with a great feeling of awe that stilled her into
utter calm, that that was not her mother lying there; only the familiar
and beloved garment that had clothed her. She had slipped out of it as
her body had slipped out of the white dress, lying there across the
chair. A holy thing it was, to be sure, hallowed by the beautiful spirit
which had tabernacled in it so long, and bearing her mother's imprint in
every part, as the white gown still held the imprint of the form that
had worn it; but no more than that.

Somehow there was a deep strange comfort in the knowledge, even while
the mystery of it baffled her. And her mother's words came back to her
as forcibly as if she were hearing them for the first time:

"_She is still ours. Her love flows out to us just the same. The
separation cannot make her any less our own! . . . That's all that death
is, Mary, just a going away into another country, as Joyce has done. . . .
A beautiful mystery through which we pass as through an open gate, with
glad surprise at the things that shall be made plain to us, and with a
great sense of triumph!_"

Now, as Mary faced this mystery, a belief began to grow up in her heart,
so soothing, so comforting, that she felt it was surely heaven-sent.
Somewhere in God's universe, this sunny June morning, her mother was
alive and well. She was loving them all just as tenderly and deeply as
she had loved them yesterday, when they all worked together, singing
"Happy Day." And just as it would have grieved her then to have seen
them mourning over any sorrow, so it would grieve her now to know that
they were heart-broken over her going away.

Mary picked up the white dress with reverent fingers and laid her cheek
against its soft folds a moment before she hung it away in the closet.
Then she turned again to that other garment which had clothed her mother
so long; the form which was so like her, and yet so mysteriously
different, now that her warm, living personality no longer filled it.

"Dear," she whispered, her eyes brimming over, "you were too unselfish
to let me see your loneliness when I wanted to go away to my Happy
Valley; now that you have gone to a happier one to be with papa, I
mustn't think of _my_ part of it, only of yours."

There was untold comfort in that thought. She clung to it all through
the hours that followed, through the simple service, and through Jack's
going away, and she brought it out to comfort Norman when the two were
left alone together.

"She's just away," she repeated, trying to console him with the belief
which was beginning to bring a peace that passed her understanding.
Every room in the house seemed to bear the imprint of the beloved
presence, just as they had done during those weeks when she waited every
day for her mother to come home from the Downs.

"We must think of her absence in that way," she repeated, "as if it is
only till nightfall. We can bear almost anything that long, if we take
it only one day at a time. It's when we get to piling up all the days
ahead of us and thinking of the years that we'll have to do without her
that it seems so unbearable. And you know, Norman, if she were here
she'd say by all means for you to go with Billy when he comes along with
the buggy. She'd want you to spend all this afternoon in the bright out
of doors instead of grieving here at home."

"But what about leaving you here alone?" asked Norman, with a new
consideration for her which touched her deeply.

"Oh, I shall be busy every minute of the time until you get back. I must
write to Joyce and Holland. They'll want to know every little thing. I
feel so sorry for them, so far away--"

"They'll never get done being thankful now, that they came home last
Christmas," said Norman in the pause that followed her unfinished
sentence.

"And I'll never get done being thankful that I didn't go away," rejoined
Mary. "There comes Billy now. You can hop out and show him what to do."

It had been arranged that Billy Downs should stay with them during the
few days of Jack's absence, to keep them company and to do Norman's
chores, which his disabled foot prevented him doing himself. Soon after
dinner the two boys started off in the old rattle-trap of a buggy to
drive along the shady mountain roads all afternoon in the sweet June
weather, and Mary went to her letter-writing. It was a hard task, and
she was thankful that she was alone, for time and again in telling of
that last happy day together she pushed the paper aside to lay her head
on the table and sob out, not only her own grief, but her sympathy for
Holland and Joyce so far away among strangers at this heart-breaking
time. She had one thing to console her which they had not, and which she
treasured as her dearest memory: her mother's softly spoken
commendation, "You've always been a comfort. I've _leaned_ on you so."

By the time the boys came back she had regained her usual composure, for
she spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden, weeding borders and
doing some necessary transplanting, and finding "the soft mute comfort
of green things growing," which gardens always hold. Next day in folding
away some of her mother's things she came across a yellowed envelope
which contained something of more permanent consolation than even her
garden had given. It was a copy of Kemble's beautiful poem, _Absence_,
traced in her mother's fine clear handwriting. The ink was faded and the
margin bore the date of her father's death. Several of the lines were
underscored, and Mary, reading these in the light of her own experience,
suddenly found the key to the great courage and serenity of soul with
which her mother had faced the desolation of her early widowhood.

        "_What shall I do with all the days and hours
          That must be counted ere I see thy face?_

                  .     .     .     .     .     .

        "_I'll tell thee; for thy sake I will lay hold
          Of all good aims, and consecrate to thee
          In worthy deeds, each moment that is told
          While thou, beloved one! art far from me._

                  .     .     .     .     .     .

        "_I will this dreary blank of absence make
          A noble task time . . ._

                  .     .     .     .     .     .

        "_So may my love and longing hallowed be,
          And thy dear thought an influence divine._"

Up till this moment there had been one element in Mary's grief which she
had not recognized plainly enough to name. That was a sort of pity for
the incompleteness of her mother's life; the bareness of it. The
work-worn hands folded in their last rest seemed infinitely pathetic to
her, and some of her hardest crying spells had been when she thought
how little they had grasped of the good things of life, and how they had
been taken away before she had a chance to fill them herself as she had
so long dreamed of doing. But now, in the light of these underscored
lines, the worn hands no longer looked pathetic. They seemed rather to
have been folded with a glad sense of triumph that they had made such "a
noble task time" out of the dreary blank.

"And I shall do the same," whispered Mary resolutely, pressing her lips
together in a tight line, as she slipped the paper back into its
yellowed envelope and laid it aside to show it to Jack on his return.

So many household duties filled her time, that it was over a week before
she resumed her daily trips to the post-office. The first time she went
the old Captain's first question was:

"Of course you'll stay right on here in Lone-Rock."

"Oh, yes," was the quick answer. "As long as the boys need me." Then
with a wan little smile, "I've begun to think it was never intended that
I should reach my Promised Land, Captain Doane."

"Does look like it," assented the Captain gravely. "About everything
there is has stepped in to stop you. Well, your staying here is surely
Lone-Rock's gain."

"I shall certainly try to make it so," was Mary's answer. "Next week I'm
going to start a cooking class for the little Mexican girls. Mamma and I
had been talking it over for several weeks, and she was so interested in
the plan that I couldn't bear not to carry it out now, for it was her
idea. We found ten that will be glad to learn. I'm to have the class in
our kitchen, and Mr. Moredock has promised to donate the materials for
the first half-term and Mr. Downs for the second. I'm going down to the
store now to order the first lot."

"Make Pink donate something, too," suggested the Captain.

"Oh, he has, already. He's given a keg of nails and some tools to Norman
and Billy, so that they can teach practical carpentry to some of the
Mexican boys by showing them how to patch up their leaky shanties.
Norman is a first-class carpenter for his age. It was Pink's suggestion
that they should do that. I'm so grateful to him for getting Norman
interested in something of the sort. It seemed as if he could never get
over the dreadful shock--and--everything."

"I know," nodded the Captain, understandingly. "And there's nothing like
using your hands for other people to lift the load off your own heart."

The lessons in cooking and carpentry were only a few of the things that
went to the making of "a noble task time" out of the little mother's
absence. They kept her always in their lives by loving mention of her
name, quoting her daily, recalling this preference and that wish, and
settling everything by the question "would mamma want us to do it?" And
gradually time brought its slow healing, as God has mercifully provided
it shall, to all wounds, no matter how deep, and the daily round of
living went on.



PART II



        _THE TORCH_


        _Make me to be a torch for feet that grope
         Down Truth's dim trail; to bear for wistful eyes
         Comfort of light; to bid great beacons blaze,
         And kindle altar fires of sacrifice.
         Let me set souls aflame with quenchless zeal
         For high endeavors, causes true and high.
         So would I live to quicken and inspire,
         So would I, thus consumed, burn out and die._

        _Albion Fellows Bacon._



PART II



CHAPTER I

BETTY'S WEDDING


Spring had come to Lloydsboro Valley earlier than usual. Red-bud trees
glowed everywhere, and wild plum and dogwood and white lilac were all in
bridal array. At The Locusts the giant trees which arched over the long
avenue had not yet hung out their fragrant pennons of bloom, but old
Colonel Lloyd, sauntering down towards the gate, was clad in a suit of
fresh white duck. Usually he waited until the blossoming of the locusts
gave the signal for donning such attire.

As he neared the gate he quickened his pace, for he had caught sight of
a slim girlish figure hurrying along the path from Oaklea, and a
graceful little hand waved him a greeting. It was Lloyd, coming home for
the daily visit which she had never failed to make since her wedding
day, six months before.

"Good mawning, grandfathah deah," she called gaily from a distance.
Then added as she joined him and lifted her face for the customary kiss,
"How comes it that you are all diked up in yoah white clothes so early
in the season? Don't you know that we haven't had blackberry wintah yet,
and it's bound to turn cold again when they bloom? Or have you heard so
much about the wedding that you just naturally put on white?"

The old Colonel playfully pinched her cheek, and linking his arm in
hers, turned to go back toward the house with her.

"Well, Mrs. Rob Moore, if you must know, my actions are guided by the
thermometer and not by the almanac, and I haven't heard much about this
wedding, except that a young Lochinvar has come out of the West to carry
away our little Betty before we are ready to give her up. It's too much
to lose you both within half a year of each other."

"How utterly you have lost me!" teased Lloyd. "You see me mawning, noon
and night. When I'm not at The Locusts you're at Oaklea, or at the othah
end of the telephone wiah. Heah I am, come to spend the whole live-long
day with you, and you say you have lost me. Own up, now. Honest! I'm
yoah same little girl that I've always been. I haven't changed one
bit."

"I know," he admitted, smiling down affectionately into the glowing face
lifted to his. "It might have been worse. But it will be losing Betty in
reality when _she_ goes. Arizona is a far country. I wish that young
jackanapes had never seen her. There are plenty of fine fellows back
here in Kentucky she might have had, and then we'd have had her where we
could see her once in a while. How long has it been since she came to
The Locusts to live?"

"Twelve yeahs, grandfathah," said Lloyd, after a pause, in which she
counted backward. "She's been just like a real sistah to me, and I feel
worse than you do about giving her up. Lone-Rock does have a dreadfully
dismal fo'saken sawt of sound. But I can ovahlook that for Jack Ware's
sake. He's such a splendid fellow."

The Colonel made no answer to that, for he fully agreed with her, but
changing the subject said in an aggrieved tone, "I suppose that even the
few days that are left to us will be so taken up with folderols and
preparations that we'll scarcely see her. It was that way when Eugenia
had her wedding here; caterers and florists turning the house upside
down. And it was the same way with yours. So many people in the house
always going and coming, so many things to be planned and discussed and
decided, that I scarcely got a word in edgeways with you for a whole
week before."

"It will not be that way this time," Lloyd answered. "It has been less
than a yeah since Jack's mothah died, so Betty wouldn't have anything
but a very quiet affair on that account. It is to be so simple and so
different from any wedding that you've evah seen that you'll nevah know
it's going to take place till it is all ovah. There's to be no flurry or
worry about anything. Mothah wanted to make a grand occasion of it, but
Betty wouldn't let her. There'll not be moah than half a dozen guests."

They had reached the house by this time, and on again being assured that
Lloyd intended to remain all day, the Colonel left her and turned back
to take his usual morning walk, which her coming had interrupted. The
telephone bell rang just as she entered the door, so Lloyd ran up-stairs
to her own room, knowing that her mother would be busy for a few minutes
with giving the daily household orders. Lloyd's own ordering had been
done nearly an hour, for Rob's business necessitated an early breakfast
to enable him to catch the eight o'clock car into the city. He did not
return until six, so she could stay away from home any day she chose,
with a clear conscience. She took her housekeeping seriously, however,
and had turned out to be a most capable and thorough-going little
housekeeper, but with experienced servants who had taken charge of
Oaklea for years her cares were not heavy.

Her room had been kept for her, just as she had used it, all through her
girlhood, and Mom Beck put fresh flowers in it every day. Lloyd always
darted in for a quick look around, even when she came for only a short
while. There was a glass bowl of pink hyacinths on her desk this
morning, and she sat down to make a list of several things which she
wanted to suggest for the coming event. Presently there was a rustle of
stiffly starched skirts in the hall, and she looked up to see Mom Beck
in the doorway. The old black face was beaming as she called: "How's my
honey chile this mawnin'?" Then without waiting for an answer, she
added, "Miss Betty said to tell you she's up in the attic rummagin', and
wants you to come up right away."

Passing on down the hall, Lloyd paused beside her mother, who sat with
telephone receiver to her ear, long enough to seize her in an
overwhelming embrace that muffled the conversation for an instant, then
hurried up the attic stairs to find her old playmate. The little dormer
windows were all thrown open, and the morning sun streamed in across the
motley collection of chests, old furniture and the attic treasures of
several generations.

On a camp-stool in front of a little old leather trunk, sat Betty. It
was the same shabby trunk that had held all her earthly possessions when
she left the Cuckoo's Nest years before, and she was packing it with
some of those same keepsakes to take with her on her wedding journey to
her new home in the far West. A bright bandanna was knotted into a cap
to cover her curly brown hair, and a long gingham apron protected her
morning dress from the attic dust.

Somehow, as she sat over the old trunk, carefully folding away the
relics of her childhood, she looked so like the little Betty who had
fared forth alone from the Cuckoo's Nest to the long ago house-party at
The Locusts, that Lloyd exclaimed aloud over the resemblance. The three
years of teaching at Warwick Hall had given her a certain grown-up sort
of dignity, added a sweet seriousness to the always sweet face; but the
wistful brown eyes and sensitive little mouth wore the same trustfulness
of expression that they had worn for the mirror in the little room up
under the eaves at her Cousin Hetty's.

[Illustration: "'DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU EVER SAW THIS?'"]

As Lloyd's bright head appeared at the top of the stairs, Betty glanced
up, calling gaily, "You are just in time, Lloyd, to see the last of
these things. Don't they take you back? Do you remember the first time
you ever saw this?"

She dangled a little white sunbonnet by the string, and Lloyd, picking
her way between boxes and barrels, reached out her hand for it, then
dropped to a seat on the rug which had been spread out to receive the
contents of the trunk.

"Indeed I do remembah it," she exclaimed. "You had it on the first time
I evah saw you--travelled in it all the way to Louisville. I was so
scandalized to see you arrive in a sunbonnet, that I could scarcely keep
from letting you know it."

"And this," continued Betty, holding up an old-fashioned basket of brown
willow with two handles and a lid with double flaps, "this was my
travelling bag. My lunch was in this, and my pass, and five nickels, and
the handkerchief that Davy gave me, with Red Ridinghood and the wolf
printed in each corner. Here's that self-same handkerchief!" she cried,
lifting the lid to peep in.

Scattered all around on the rug at her feet were many articles to be
packed in the trunk, but for the next half-hour the work went slowly.
Each thing that Lloyd picked up to hand to her suggested so many
reminiscences to them both that they made little progress. One was a
newspaper, bearing the date of Lloyd's first house-party. It was
beginning to turn yellow, and Lloyd scanned the columns, wondering why
Betty had saved it. Then she came to a poem marked with a blue pencil,
and cried:

"Oh, Betty! Heah's yoah first published poem! The one called 'Night.'
How wondahful we all thought it was that you should have something
printed in a real papah, when you were only twelve. Don't you remembah,
you had the measles when we carried it in to show it to you? But yoah
eyes were so bad you couldn't see, and it was so pitiful. You asked to
feel it. I had to guide yoah poah little groping fingah down the page
and put it on the spot. It almost broke my heart!"

"I know," answered Betty. "I thought that I was going to be blind
always, and that my long, long night had begun. And it seemed queer that
the only thing I had ever published should be called Night. That was a
terrible experience."

She laid the paper carefully back into the portfolio from which it had
slipped, and picked up the next thing, a box of typewritten manuscript.

"My ill-starred novel--my story of Aberdeen Hall," she laughed. "Don't
you remember the night at the Lindsey cabin when I read it aloud, and
each one of you girls made such a solemn ceremony of wrapping it up? Gay
furnished the box, Lucy the paper, and Kitty tied it with a fresh pink
ribbon slipped out of her nightgown. And you put on the big red sealing
wax seals."

"With the handle of the old silvah ladle that had the Harcourt family
crest on it," interrupted Lloyd eagerly. "I can see it now, a daggah
thrust through a crown, and the motto, 'I strive till I ovahcome!'"

"That was an appropriate motto," laughed Betty. "It nearly killed me
when the novel came back from the publisher. I'd have burned it on the
spot if it hadn't been for your grandfather. But what he said encouraged
me to put that motto into practice. I'm glad now that I didn't burn the
manuscript, for I've lived to see its many faults, and to be thankful
that the publishers didn't accept it. I'd be heartily ashamed now to
claim it as mine before a critical public. But it has much that is good
in it, and I'll do it over some day and send it out as it ought to be.
In the meantime--"

She interrupted herself with a glad little cry. "Oh, I didn't tell you.
I've been so joyful thinking that Jack is coming to-night, that I forgot
I hadn't told you my good news. You know I've been working all winter on
a book of school-girl experiences. Well, I sent it to the publishers
several weeks ago, and I've just had their answer. They are so pleased
with it that they want me to go on and make a series of them. The letter
was lovely. I'll show it to you when we go down-stairs. It makes me feel
as if fame and fortune might be just around the corner."

"Oh, Betty!" was the breathlessly joyful answer. "I'm so _glad_! I'm so
_glad_! I've always told you you'd do it some day. It's a pity--" She
stopped herself, then began again. "I was about to say that it's a pity
you're going to be married, because you may be so taken up with yoah
housekeeping and home-making that you'll nevah have time for yoah
writing. But, on second thought, I can't say it. I know from experience
that having Rob and a home like mine are bettah than all the books that
anybody could write."

"_Jack_ will never be a hindrance to authorship," asserted Betty
positively. "He's already been the greatest help. He's so proud of
everything I write, and really so helpful in his criticisms that he is a
constant inspiration."

At this mention of him she reached forward and began to scrabble things
hastily into the trunk.

"Here I sit, dawdling along with this packing as if the morning were not
fairly flying by, and he'll be here on the five o'clock train. There's
so much to do I don't know what to touch first."

Thus inspired to swift action, Lloyd began to help vigorously, and the
pile of relics were soon out of sight under the travel-worn old lid.
Souvenirs of their boarding-school days at Lloydsboro Seminary, of
Christmas vacations, of happy friendships at Warwick Hall, went in in a
hurry. Her old tennis racquet, a pennant that Rob had sent her from
college, a kodak album of Keith's that they had filled together one
happy summer, Malcolm's riding whip, all in at last, locked in and
strapped down, ready for their journey to their new home.

Down-stairs there was other packing to do, but Mrs. Sherman was
attending to that with the assistance of Mom Beck and Alec. All the
stores of household linen, which was her gift to her beloved
god-daughter, from whom she was parting so reluctantly, were carefully
folded away. The chest of silver from Papa Jack, all the collection of
bric-a-brac and fancy work sent in by many friends in the Valley,
Lloyd's gift, a Persian rug, and the old Colonel's, a large box of
carefully selected books, had already been shipped to Lone-Rock, to
transform the plain old living-room into a thing of beauty. The etching
which the Walton girls sent would help largely in that transforming
process, also the beautiful painting of beech trees which Mrs. Walton
gave, knowing that Betty loved the stately old trees as dearly as did
she herself.

It was Betty's great regret that The Beeches was closed at the time and
the family all away, for she longed to have these especial friends with
her on her happy day. Elise was still in school at Warwick Hall, Mrs.
Walton visiting Allison in her beautiful Washington home, and Kitty had
gone to San Antonio for another visit with Gay Melville at the post. The
wedding was to be so very quiet and simple that she could not ask any of
them to come so far to be present, but she wished for them all over and
over.

Eugenia would have come had it not been that it was too far to bring
little Patricia for such a short visit, and she was not willing to leave
her behind. She wrote a long letter, recalling her own beautiful
wedding, at which Betty had been a bridesmaid, and added, "If you're
only half as happy as I am, Betty, dear, you'll never regret for an
instant giving up the grand career we all prophesied for you. But in
order to remind you that it is still possible for you 'to be famous
though married,' Stuart and I are sending you the most efficient
typewriter we can find in the shops. It has already gone on to await you
in Lone-Rock."

Ever since the arrival of the first gift, a little silver vase from Miss
Allison McIntyre, which would always suggest the donor's love of flowers
and her garden which she shared lavishly with the whole Valley, Betty
had been in a beatific state of mind over the loving favor showed her by
her friends. Her pleasure reached high tide, however, when the last one
arrived, a box marked from Warwick Hall. It was from Madam Chartley. The
box was so big that they made all sorts of wild guesses as to its
contents. Layer after layer of paper and excelsior were lifted out, and
all they could find was more wrappings. At last, from the very centre,
Alec lifted out a fragile cup and saucer, which Betty recognized with a
cry of astonishment and delight.

"One of the ancestral teacups! I didn't suppose Madam would part with
one of them for anybody!"

She turned the bit of delicate china so that Mrs. Sherman could see the
crest, and the motto, "I keep tryste." The note folded inside brought
happy tears to her eyes, for it said that she was the only one to whom
one of these treasured heirlooms had been given. Madam felt deeply that
a spiritual kinship existed between her old ancestor Edryn and the
little friend who had kept tryst so faithfully in all things.

Jack came at five o'clock. He was to be the guest of Oaklea, but most of
his time was spent at The Locusts. That night, when moonlight and
springtime filled the valley with ethereal whiteness and sweetness, he
and Betty sat out on the porch. Three generations of Romance made
enchanted ground of the whole place. In the library an older Jack and
Elizabeth sat recalling the night like this when they had entered
_their_ Arcady. Outside, under the arching locusts, up and down, up and
down, paced the old Colonel in the moonlight. But not alone; for every
lilac-laden breeze that stirred the branches whispered softly,
"_Amanthis! Amanthis!_"

Once Jack looked at Betty, sitting beside him in the broad shaft of
moonlight, its glory streaming across her white dress and fair face and
said, "It's like that song, 'Oh, fair and sweet and holy,' out here. Why
couldn't we have the wedding on the porch, where I first saw you,
instead of in the house? Right here in this moonlight that makes you
look like a snowdrop."

"Would you really like to have it out here?" asked Betty, pleased by the
idea herself and pleased because he suggested it. "It would be a very
simple matter to have it so, and there'll be nobody critical enough
among our few guests to call us sentimental if we do."

So it came about that the wedding next night was the simplest and most
beautiful that any one there had ever witnessed. Besides the two
families, Miss Allison and Alex Shelby were the only guests; Alex,
because of the part he had played in restoring Jack to health, and Miss
Allison, because no occasion in the Valley seemed quite complete without
her. She had been too closely bound up with all the good times of
Betty's little girl days and her happy maidenhood, not to be present at
this time.

Betty had said, "I want my last evening at The Locusts to be just like
the first one that I ever spent here, in one way. Then Lloyd sang and
played on her harp. I've missed it so much since she took it over to
Oaklea. I'd love to have the memory of her music one of the last that I
carry away with me."

So that night, when she stepped out on the porch all dressed for her
bridal, she found the harp standing in one corner, gleaming in the
moonlight like burnished gold. Fair and tall, it impressed her as it had
done when it first struck her childish fancy, that its strings had just
been swept by some one of the Shining Ones beyond, who were a part of
the Pilgrim's dream. She was standing beside it when Lloyd and Rob and
Jack walked over from Oaklea. Her filmy white dress, exquisitely
cloud-like and dainty, was as simple and girlish as the one she had worn
the night before; but this time Jack did not compare her to a snowdrop.
The moonlight gave such an unearthly whiteness to her gown, such a
radiance to her upturned face, that he, too, thought of the Pilgrim's
dream, and likened her to one of the Shining Ones herself.

With that thought came the memory of a beloved voice as he had heard it
for the last time at the end of a perfect Sabbath, singing of those
"Angels of Light," that had been so very real to him since they first
trailed comfort through his earliest lullabies. Man as he was, something
like a poignant ache seemed to grip his throat till he could not speak
for a moment, because "the little mother" was having no part in this,
the crowning happiness of his life.

Later, Miss Allison and Alex dropped in as informally as if they had
come to make an ordinary evening call, and they all sat talking awhile.
Then Lloyd took her place at the harp and sang the songs that Betty
loved best, till the moon rose high enough to send a flood of silvery
light between the tall white pillars. There was a little stir around the
hall door, and Lloyd, seeing the colored servants, who had gathered
there to listen, step back respectfully, gave a signalling nod. The old
minister, who had just arrived by the side door, came out past them.

Lloyd's fingers went on touching the harp-strings, so softly that it
seemed as if a wandering breeze had tangled in them. Every one rose as
the minister came out, and Jack, taking Betty by the hand, led her
directly to him. There was no need of book to prompt the silver-haired
old pastor. He had joined too many lives in the course of his long
ministry, not to know every word of the solemn ritual.

There in the fragrant stillness of the moon-flooded place, with the odor
of the lilacs and the snowy wild-plum blossoms entrancingly sweet, and
the melody dropping softly from the harp-strings like a fall of far-off
crystal bells, they gave themselves to each other:

"I, John Alwyn, take thee, Elizabeth Lloyd."

"I, Elizabeth Lloyd, take thee, John Alwyn."

"Until death us do part."

It was all so sacred and beautiful and still, that even Rob felt the
tears start to his eyes, and no one moved for a full moment after the
benediction. Even then there was not the usual buzz of congratulations
that always follows such a ceremony; but the tender embraces and
heartfelt hand-clasps showed that the spell of the solemn scene was
still upon them.

Suddenly lights streamed out through all the windows, the dining-room
doors were thrown wide open, and Alec bowed the party in to the bridal
repast. It, too, was as simple as all that had gone before, save for the
towering cake in the centre.

"We just had to have that a mammoth and a gorgeous affair," explained
Lloyd, "to send around to all Betty's admiring friends and old pupils
who could not be asked to the ceremony. We'll be busy for a week sending
off the little boxes."

"No," she replied later, to Alex Shelby, "Betty wouldn't have any of
the usual charms and frills, like 'something borrowed, something blue.'
She says she's lost faith in them since so many of them that she's known
of at different weddings have failed to come true. Besides, everybody
heah has their fate already settled. We all know about yoah engagement
to Gay, even if it hasn't been announced. You'll be the next to go. You
don't need a ring in a cake, or the bride's bouquet thrown over the
bannistah to tell you _that_."

Later, when it was time to start to the station, and Betty had joined
them again in her travelling dress, the old Colonel looked out to see
what was delaying the carriage.

"It's not coming at all, grandfathah deah," explained Lloyd. "The
baggage has gone on ahead and Betty wants to walk. She said she'd rathah
go that way, just as if she were only saying good night to you and
mothah and Papa Jack, and would be back in a little while. She doesn't
want it to seem like a long good-bye. She wants her last look at you all
to be heah at home."

But, in spite of everybody's efforts to make it appear that this was
just a casual going away, only a temporary separation, Betty found the
parting almost more than she could bear. She clung to her god-mother a
moment at the last, wanting to sob out all her love and gratitude for
the beautiful years she was leaving behind her, but there were no words
deep enough. Her last kiss was given in silence more eloquent than
speech. At the bottom of the steps she whisked away the tears which
would gather despite her brave resolve to fight them back, and turned
for one more look at the House Beautiful before she left it to go
farther on her pilgrim way.

There they stood, the three who had filled her life so full, who had
taken the place of father and mother and indulgent grandfather in her
life. She smiled bravely as she gave them a parting wave of her hand.
She could not let tears dim her last sight of those dear faces. Another
wave for Mom Beck and Alec Walker and old Aunt Cindy, who stood behind
them calling their blessings and good wishes after her. Then she went on
with the others.

The moonlight filtered down through the trees, casting swaying shadows
on the long white avenue. Rob, walking ahead with Lloyd, looked back
when they came to the "measuring tree," to say to Miss Allison and Alex,
who were just behind:

"It doesn't seem natural for a crowd of this size to start out on a
night like this in such a quiet way. We always used to sing. Strike up,
Alex!"

Instantly there was wafted back to the watchers on the porch the words
of a familiar old song:

        "It was from Aunt Dinah's quilting party
         I was seeing Nellie home."

How many scores of times had that song echoed through the valley! They
had sung it crunching through the snow with their skates on their
shoulders; they had hummed it strolling through starry August nights
when the still air was heavy with the smell of dew-laden lilies. Now,
once more they sang it, like boys and girls together again, and Betty
wiped her eyes with a little thrill of pleasure when Jack's voice joined
in the chorus. She had never heard him sing before and she did not know
that he had such a deep, sweet voice. It pleased her, too, to know that
he was familiar with the song and could join in with the others as
readily as if he had always had a part in her happy past.

At the gate she turned for one more look at the house, with its lights
streaming from every window, and wondered when she would ever see it
again.

"But no matter how long it may be," she thought, "I can carry the cheer
of those lights with me always, wherever I go. It's been such a happy,
happy home."

When they reached the station there were only a few moments to wait for
the train. She stood holding Lloyd's hand in silence while the others
talked, until they heard it rumbling down the track. It was a fast
express that stopped only by special order, and then only long enough to
throw the trunks on, so the leave-taking was over in a rush. In another
instant she was sitting with her face pressed against the window pane,
peering out for a last glimpse of the place. She saw just one quickly
vanishing light as they sped by, and whispered, "Good-bye, dear Valley."

A sudden feeling of homesickness took possession of her for one long
moment. Then Jack's hand closed over hers, holding it in a warm, strong
clasp, and she knew that he understood just what that parting meant to
her. Instantly there sprang up in her heart the knowledge that all she
had left behind was as nothing to the love and sympathy that was to
enfold her henceforth.



CHAPTER II

TOWARDS THE CANAAN OF HER DESIRE


In Phil Tremont's office desk, in an inner drawer reserved for private
papers, lay a package of letters fastened together by a broad rubber
band. "From the Little Vicar," it was labelled, and Mary's astonishment
would have been great, could she have known that every letter she had
ever written him was thus preserved. He had kept the first ones, written
in a childish, painstaking hand, because they chronicled the doings of
the family at Ware's Wigwam in such an amusing and characteristic way.
The letters after that time had been few and far between until her final
return to Lone-Rock, but each one had been kept for some different
reason. It had contained a particularly laughable description of some of
her Warwick Hall escapades, or some original view of life and the world
in general which made it worth preserving.

Then when Mrs. Ware's letters ceased, and at Phil's urgent request Mary
took up her mother's custom of writing regularly to him, he kept them
because they revealed so much of herself. So brave, so womanly, so
strong she had grown, bearing her great sorrow as the Jester did his
hidden sword, to prove that "undaunted courage was the jewel of her
soul." All during the lonely summer after her mother's death he expected
to go to see her in the fall, but the work which held him in Mexico was
not finished, and too much depended upon its successful completion for
him to ask for leave of absence.

Then, just as he was about to start back to the States, his chief was
taken ill, and asked him to stay and fill his place in another
engineering enterprise which he had made a contract for. It was an
opportunity too big for Phil to thrust aside, even if his sense of
obligation had not been so great to the man who had helped make him what
he was. So he consented to stay on another year. The place to which he
was sent, where the great new dam was to be constructed, was further in
the interior. His papers, brought over on mule back, were a week old
when they reached him, and Mary's letters attained an importance they
might not have had otherwise, had he been in a less lonely region.

It was with great satisfaction that he heard of Jack's marriage. He
felt that Mary would be more satisfied to stay on in Lone-Rock
indefinitely now that she had Betty's companionship. Her letters were
enthusiastic about the new sister, whom she had long loved, first with
the admiration of a little girl for an older one, then with that of a
pupil for an adored teacher. Now they seemed of the same age, and of the
same mind about essential things, especially the pedestal on which they
both placed Jack.

Betty fitted into the family as beautifully as if she had always been a
part of it, Mary wrote soon after her arrival. She loved Lone-Rock the
moment she laid eyes on it, and made friends with everybody right away.
She thought it an ideal place in which to write, and already was at work
on the series which the publishers had asked for. Norman was "simply
crazy" about her, and Jack was so happy and proud that it did one's
heart good to see him.

As for Mary herself, it was easy for Phil to see the vast difference
that Betty's coming had made in her life. He laid these letters aside
with the others as they came, thankful for the happy spirit that
breathed through them, for now he was convinced that she "really felt
the gladness she had only feigned before." She was all aglow once more
with her old hopes and ambitions. Despite her efforts to hide it he had
discerned how dreary the days had been for her hitherto, and now he was
glad he could think of her with the background she pictured for him.
Betty's coming had brightened it wonderfully. But just as he was
beginning to be sure she was satisfied and settled, a little note came
to disturb his comfort in that belief. It was evidently scrawled in
haste and began abruptly without address or date.

        "'_And it came to pass . . . when the cloud was
        taken up . . . they journeyed!_' Oh, Phil, the
        signal to move on has come at last! I have no
        idea what it will lead to. It may be to the
        wells of some Elim, it may be to that part of
        the wilderness 'where there is no water to
        drink.' But wherever it may be I'm convinced
        that Providence is pointing the way, for the
        call came without my lifting so much as a
        little finger. It came through Madam Chartley.
        I'm to be secretary for a friend of hers, a
        Mrs. Dudley Blythe of Riverville, at a big
        salary--at least it seems big to me--and I'm
        leaving in the morning. That's all I know now,
        but I'll write you full particulars as soon as
        I'm settled.

        "Manuella, the clever little Mexican maid who
        has tided us over various emergencies, is
        coming to help Betty with the work, so that the
        writing may not be interfered with. Yours, once
        more on the march towards the Canaan of her
        desire,

        "M. W."



The next was a note scribbled at some junction near the end of her
journey.

        "Five hours late, so we've missed connection
        and are side-tracked here, waiting for the fast
        express to pass us. Nothing at all has happened
        as there usually does on my travels, and I've
        met no interesting people. But I've had a
        really thrilling time just guessing what my
        future is to be like. I've imagined Mrs. Dudley
        Blythe to be every kind of a woman that would
        be likely to employ a secretary, from a
        stern-eyed suffragette to a modern Mrs. Jellyby
        interested in the heathen. All I've had to
        build on was Madam Chartley's night letter and
        Mrs. Blythe's telegram in answer to mine, and
        naturally that was slim material.

        "What I'm hoping is, that Mrs. Blythe is a
        grand society dame, who needs a secretary to
        attend to her invitations and list of
        engagements. I'd like for her to be that, or
        else a successful writer who wanted me to type
        her manuscript. It would be so lovely to be
        behind the scenes at the making of a book, and
        maybe to meet a lot of literary lions at close
        range. I've blocked out enough scenes from
        those two situations to fill a two-volume
        Duchess novel. But, in order to keep from being
        too greatly disappointed, I tell myself that
        it's not at all probable that Mrs. Blythe will
        be either of those things. Most likely she's in
        a big mail-order business of some kind that
        requires a large correspondence, and I'll be
        tamely quoting prices on hats, hair-goods or
        imported trimmings for the next dozen years. I
        am 'minded that:

        "'There are two moments in a diver's life.
         One when, a beggar, he prepares to plunge,
         One when, a prince, he rises with his pearl.
                     _Festus, I plunge!_'

        "More anon.                            MARY."



       *       *       *       *       *


        "June 15, RIVERVILLE.

        "Here I am, bobbing up serenely with
        _something_, but still unable to say whether it
        be pearl or pebble. Mrs. Blythe is not the
        grand personage I pictured her to be, for there
        was no liveried footman to meet me at the
        station, no carriage in waiting. Nor is she an
        author. Mrs. Crum, the landlady of this
        caravansary, told me that. I rattled up in a
        'bus to the number of the house given in Mrs.
        Blythe's telegram, and found it to be a
        comfortable looking boarding-house on a quiet
        side street, shaded by scraggly old sycamores.
        Mrs. Blythe had engaged a room for me here, and
        left a note telling me where and how to find
        her in the morning.

        "It was so near supper-time that Mrs. Crum had
        to go right down-stairs before I could ask any
        more questions, and I followed in a very few
        moments. I am disappointed in one thing. I had
        hoped to be in an interesting private family. I
        had hoped that Mrs. Blythe would want me to
        stay in her house, but I think I shall like it
        here.

        "My room is big and airy and simply furnished,
        the supper was good, and as far as I can see
        I'm lots better off than Jo was in 'Little
        Women,' when she left home to be a governess.
        For one thing, there is no old bearded
        professor in the background to work on one's
        sympathies and get interested in, in lieu of
        some one better. Of course Professor Baher was
        dear in lots of ways, but I never could forgive
        Jo for marrying that bewhiskered old Teuton.

        "So far as I have discovered, the boarders are
        all widows and orphans, though the oldest
        orphan is old enough to vote, and is a
        reporter on the Riverville _Herald_. He sat
        next to me at the table, at supper, and I found
        out from him that my first guess was partly
        correct, even if there was no liveried footman
        to meet me at the station. Mrs. Blythe _is_ one
        of the social leaders of Riverville and has a
        lovely home. But this city isn't large enough
        to justify any one's keeping a social
        secretary. He said so. It's just a big,
        commonplace, hustling manufacturing town like a
        hundred others in the middle West. I didn't
        like to ask any personal questions about Mrs.
        Blythe of _Orphant Annie_. (That's the name I
        couldn't help giving the young reporter in my
        own mind. He was introduced as Mr. Sandford
        Berry.) He looks the character to perfection;
        sort of old for his years, spry and capable, as
        if he'd spent his youth in doing the chores and
        shooing the hens away. Besides, he gave me a
        lot of wise advice, as if he were a
        full-fledged man of the world and I a little
        hayseed from the West who didn't know enough to
        get out of the way of a go-cart. He has pale
        blue pop eyes, and an alert little blond
        mustache, and his whole air seems to say, 'The
        gobelins'll git you, if you don't watch out.'

        "He took it for granted that I knew all about
        my future employer, and, of course, I didn't
        tell him any better. I just tried in a
        roundabout way to lead him on to talk of her.
        He is very enthusiastic about her work, though
        I gathered only a vague idea of what it is,
        despite my clever manoeuvring to find out. He
        called her a grand little woman. As he has
        interviewed her several times he knows her
        personally. What he said was certainly
        encouraging, but he finished his supper so soon
        after he began to talk about her that I came
        up-stairs still knowing very little more than
        when I went down.

        "A street light glimmered in the front windows,
        so that I did not turn on the gas at first, but
        sat looking down at the people strolling along
        the pavement below. The house stands very close
        to the street, so that I could hear everything
        any one said in passing, and it seemed to bring
        me right into the thick of things, as I so
        often wished to be, back there in the desert.
        The warm, wet smell of the freshly sprinkled
        streets, the whiff of an occasional cigar, the
        sound of a street piano in the next block, all
        seemed so strange yet so friendly and sociable.
        It made me feel for a little while--oh, I can
        hardly explain it--as if the old Mary Ware that
        I used to be was a million miles away, and as
        if the Mary Ware sitting here in Riverville was
        an entirely different person. I couldn't make
        it seem possible that the 'me' who was sitting
        there in the hot June dusk, looking down on the
        lively streets, was the same person who only a
        few days before had no other excitement in life
        than making Jack's coffee or ironing Norman's
        shirts back in the hills of Arizona.

        "I wasn't homesick or lonesome in the least,
        but I had such a queer, untied, set-adrift
        sensation, like the man must have had who wrote
        that hymn, 'Lo, on a narrow neck of land,
        'Twixt two unbounded seas I stand.' The
        yesterdays are one sea, and the to-morrows
        another, and me, waiting between them, just a
        scrap of humanity--a stranger in a strange
        city--wondering and wondering and wondering
        what the next day would bring.

        "Then I began to be almost afraid of what I'd
        undertaken, and all of a sudden grew so cold
        and depressed that I wished I was back in my
        own little room in Lone-Rock. The shutters of
        the back window had been closed all this time,
        and when I got up to light the gas and write to
        Jack of my safe arrival, I opened them to see
        what kind of an outlook I was to have from that
        window. You can imagine my surprise when I
        found that it gave me a glimpse of the river.
        Such a wide, full, sweeping river, with just
        enough of a young moon over it to define its
        banks, and remind me of the beautiful silvery
        Potomac that I used to watch from my window at
        Warwick Hall.

        "A big steamboat came gliding around the bend,
        with a deep musical whistle that sent the same
        kind of an echo booming along the water, and
        there were lights twinkling from every deck and
        from the wharves along shore to which it was
        headed. Somehow it made me think of a song that
        we used to sing at the Wigwam, and that Holland
        always sang wrong, for some unaccountable
        reason insisting on saying 'shining' instead of
        'margin.'

        "'At the _shining_ of the river, lay we every burden down.'

        "The wide silvery tracks that the crescent moon
        and the wharf lights made reassured me, and I
        stopped worrying about the future, and laid my
        burden of apprehension and depression right
        down, and just sat and enjoyed the sight.
        Presently I saw a little launch put out from
        the wharf and go chugging merrily over towards
        the far side, and suddenly I realized that that
        other shore was Kentucky. I was in sight of my
        Promised Land, although my particular portion
        of it was several hundred miles away. I had
        been so occupied with other things that I had
        forgotten what part of the map I was on.

        "I stood right up, so excited that I could
        hardly keep from squealing and whirling around
        on my toes, as I used to do. My first impulse
        was to run and tell somebody of my discovery.
        Then I remembered with a sort of shock that
        there wasn't anybody I could tell. Not a soul
        in the whole city who _cared_. For a moment
        that thought made me utterly and wretchedly
        homesick. But it all passed away the moment I
        began my letter to Jack and Betty. I think the
        reason that this epistle to you has grown
        longer and more garrulous than usual, is
        because you have assured me so often of your
        interest in all my comings and goings, and it
        seems so good to pour out everything to
        somebody who cares to hear. So, I am sure, you
        will rejoice with me in the discovery that my
        back window looks away to the dim shores of my
        Promised Land, and that that view will help me
        'to hold out faithful to the end,' as old
        Brother Petree used to say in prayer meeting."

       *       *       *       *       *


                                             "June 22.

        "I didn't intend to write so soon again, but
        your letter has just come with all those kodak
        pictures of your bachelor quarters, and the
        big dam, and the different views of your
        mountain background. I am so glad to have them,
        especially the ones that have _you_ in them,
        and most especially that one of you in the camp
        chair with the hat on the back of your head.
        You look exactly as if you were about to speak,
        and I have stood that one on my table, and am
        looking at it now as I write. I am glad you
        sent it, for really I am becoming so engrossed
        with my new work, that I need some reminder of
        my past life to keep me from forgetting what
        manner of person I used to be. I have had such
        an absorbing week.

        "To begin with, I found that Mrs. Blythe, who
        is comparatively a young woman, although she
        has two sons away at school, is one of the old
        Warwick Hall girls. She wears the alumni pin,
        with Edryn's crest on it and the motto 'I keep
        tryste.' And she adores Madam Chartley and
        everything connected with the school. After I
        discovered that I knew everything would be all
        right no matter what she set me to doing.

        "She had a dressmaker there fitting a gown for
        her, when I was ushered into her room, and
        there wasn't a thing in it to suggest her need
        of a secretary except a frivolous looking
        little desk in one corner. She talked to me
        about Warwick Hall all the time she was being
        fitted until a neighbor dropped in to ask her
        to pour tea for her at an informal reception
        next day. I 'sized her up,' as the boys say, as
        a pretty little woman fond of dainty clothes
        and good times, one who would always shine at a
        social function and be popular because she is
        such a winsome, sweet little thing, but not
        much more than that.

        "When the dressmaker left, Mrs. Blythe crossed
        over to the desk and opened it, and it was so
        chuck full of papers and letters and
        business-like looking legal documents, that
        they began to pour out all over the floor.

        "She said in a laughing way that that was the
        reason she needed another pair of hands, and
        then turned and gave me a searching look with
        those dark eyes of her, as if she were taking
        _my_ measure, and said:

        "'I hope that Madam Chartley was not mistaken
        and that you will prove equal to the task, for
        it is a big undertaking I've called you to help
        me with--_The awakening of a State!_'

        "I was as astonished as if a fluffy little
        kitten had opened its mouth, and instead of
        gently mewing, had roared out, 'Cry havoc and
        let slip the dogs of war!' Luckily she was so
        busy sorting the papers and stuffing them back
        into pigeon-holes that she didn't see my face,
        or she couldn't have gone on in such a matter
        of course way to explain what she wanted me to
        do. She said I must become so thoroughly
        familiar with the situation that I could answer
        most of the letters that come to her, without
        her dictation, and in order to do that she'd
        have to take me over the ground that she had
        been over, and let me see for myself just what
        had aroused her to undertake the work she was
        engaged in. That just as soon as she could give
        the cook her daily orders we'd start right out.

        "While she put on her hat and little face veil,
        she explained that she had become interested in
        the first place while taking flowers to a
        crippled child in the tenement district. Seeing
        how absorbed she seemed in getting her hat and
        veil on 'just so,' I couldn't help thinking
        that she must have taken up her charities as so
        many society women do, who are impulsive and
        kind-hearted, just as a fad to help occupy
        their leisure hours. But it wasn't long before
        I found how mistaken I was in my judgment of
        her.

        "We took a street-car, and on the way she
        explained that she was going to show me what
        might be seen in almost any town of its size
        in the United States, and in many of its
        villages. We stopped on a shady street corner
        and passed a row of houses on a respectable
        looking street. She told me that she had grown
        up in Riverville and had walked up and down
        that street nearly every day of her life, and
        that she never knew till last year that those
        respectable fronts of houses opened on to
        interiors and into back yards that were a
        disgrace to any civilization. The other
        property owners on that block were perfectly
        horrified when she published a description of
        it, with photographs of the worst spots. It
        stirred up a great deal of talk and
        indignation, but nobody did anything to make it
        better, and soon the interest died out and
        people forgot.

        "I wish you could have seen her face when she
        told me that and when she said, '_But I made up
        my mind that I would change conditions if I had
        to fight a lifetime and fight single-handed,
        and I'll fight to the death!_'

        "When I saw the determination in her face, not
        only did I wonder how I could have been so
        mistaken in my first estimate of her, but I
        felt a queer responsive thrill at her
        enthusiasm, that made me sure she can succeed
        in anything she attempts.

        "Well, I've read of slums and have always
        taken it as a matter of course that it was one
        of the evils to be expected in a large city,
        but I never thought to see with my own eyes
        what I saw that day, in an ordinary town like
        Riverville. Maybe living so long as I have done
        on the clean, fresh desert and in the pure air
        of the hills, made it seem worse to me, but
        anybody would have been horrified at what she
        showed me. When I exclaimed over the filth and
        foul odors, as we picked our way over the
        ash-piles and garbage and slimy pools in one
        back yard, and said that people might at least
        keep themselves clean, even if they were poor,
        she turned on me, her eyes fairly blazing.

        "'That's what everybody says!' she exclaimed.
        'That's why I brought you here, to prove to you
        that these tenants are not to blame. Look! This
        house was originally built for two families,
        but _ten_ families are crowded into it now,
        with only one cistern to provide water for the
        whole lot. And every drop of it has to be
        carried to the different stories in buckets. No
        wonder they have to be "sparin' of water," as
        little Elsie Whayne complained, when I found
        her crying over her line full of yellow-gray,
        half-clean clothes. She had come from the
        country, where she had had an unlimited supply,
        and couldn't get used to hoarding every drop.
        The landlord won't provide city water, and
        there is no law to make him do it.'

        "As she spoke the nasty, greasy contents of a
        dishpan came splashing over the railing of the
        porch above us, into the court where we were
        standing, and we barely escaped being drenched
        with it. A few drops did reach me, and when I
        expressed my disgust most forcibly, Mrs. Blythe
        said apologetically, 'Don't blame the poor
        woman. She has no other place to throw it. The
        landlord won't provide drains and there is no
        law to make him do it. And up-stairs, I am
        going to show you three rooms _without
        windows_, where people live and eat and sleep
        by lamplight, without a ray of sunshine or a
        breath of fresh air. All that they get of
        either air or light must filter through other
        stale, overcrowded rooms. And if you wonder, as
        I did, why the landlords do not cut windows in
        these dark rooms, and mend the leaky roofs and
        the dangerous stairways, you'll find the answer
        is the same. There is no law to make them do
        it. The houses bring good rents as they stand,
        and the public is not awake to the fact that
        these places in their midst are responsible for
        the greater part of infection and disease that
        menace the whole town. That is the cause I am
        giving myself to, and the cause that I want to
        make yours also. We must wake up the State. We
        must make them pass a law that will wipe out
        these plague spots already existing and prevent
        the growth of any more. A law that will allow
        no renter to make money off a house that is not
        decent to shelter human beings.'

        "That is a sample of the places she showed me,
        places where the plaster was off the walls in
        great patches, and the paper hung in greasy
        tatters, and where we encountered so many
        nauseating sights and smells that by the time
        we were back at her house I didn't have any
        appetite for lunch. She told me that it
        affected her that way too, at first, and it got
        so that a procession of white-faced, wailing
        babies began to appear to her in the dead of
        night and cry for her to help them; to give
        them a chance to breathe in the stifling
        midnight, a chance to claim their birthright of
        clean water and air and sun. And she added,
        'When you get to seeing things at night you're
        ready for work.'

        "Already she has written hundreds of letters on
        the subject, to individuals and to clubs who
        have influence, and I am to help her with
        hundreds more. We are to send one to each
        member of the Legislature. I think it is great
        fun to be mixed up with 'affairs of State,' and
        I shall feel so grand having a hand in writing
        to senators and representatives. I'm going with
        her to some of the near-by towns to take
        photographs of the worst places. We're to have
        a collection representing every town and city
        in the State, and mount them on large posters
        for the public to see. That part of the work
        will be intensely interesting. I don't mind
        pounding away at the typewriter from daylight
        till dark, but I must confess to you what I'll
        not tell any one at home. The other part of the
        work, the contact with the suffering and misery
        and dirt that we see daily simply makes me
        sick.

        "I asked _Orphant Annie_ how he supposed a
        dainty little woman like Mrs. Blythe stands it,
        and he said she had answered that question
        herself in a poem that she had written by
        request for the Riverville _Herald_. I was so
        surprised to know that she is a poet too, that
        he said he'd look up the verses for me. He did,
        and brought me a copy of them when he came that
        night at dinner. He doesn't seem as pop-eyed
        now that I know him better, and he says some
        very bright things occasionally. This is the
        poem. I am sending it so that you'll see how
        mistaken I was at first in assuming that Mrs.
        Blythe was just a kind-hearted little social
        butterfly, who had taken up housing betterment
        as a fad. Some of the divine fire that
        inspired the great reformers of all the ages
        must burn in her soul, or she couldn't have
        written this poem that she calls _The Torch_.

        "'Make me to be a torch for feet that grope
         Down Truth's dim trail; to bear for wistful eyes
         Comfort of light; to bid great beacons blaze,
         And kindle altar fires of sacrifice!

        "'Let me set souls aflame with quenchless zeal
         For great endeavors, causes true and high.
         So would I live to quicken and inspire,
         So would I, thus consumed, burn out and die.'

        "Mr. Berry says that is just what Mrs. Blythe
        is, a torch to set others aflame. He has heard
        her talk to clubs and societies about her work,
        and he says that she is so convincing that
        before the summer is over she'll have me
        blazing like a house afire, the biggest beacon
        in the bunch. But I don't think much of
        _Orphant Annie_ as a prophet. It is just one of
        his ways of always saying the gobelins'll git
        you. I know they'll never get me to the extent
        of making me 'speak in meetin'.' Now you know
        just what it is I have gone into, and can
        picture the daily life quite accurately of
        Yours as ever, Mary Ware, late of Lone-Rock,
        now Reformer of Riverville."



CHAPTER III

THE SUPREME CALL


That was the last letter which Phil received from Mary for many weeks,
although he wrote regularly to the address she gave of the
boarding-house on the sycamore-shaded street. Several times she sent a
postal with a scribbled line of acknowledgment, but the days were too
full for personal affairs, and at night she was too tired to attend to
her own correspondence, after pounding on the typewriter so many hours.

She had attacked her new duties with all the zeal and force that had
characterized her "snake-killings" on the desert. Habit alone made her
do that, and pride added another motive. She was determined to justify
Madam Chartley's opinion of her. Not being able to write shorthand she
worked overtime to gain extra speed on the typewriter, so that she might
take dictation directly on the machine. Now, all the neatness and system
which had made her housekeeping so perfect in its way, made her a
painstaking and methodical little business woman. Her neatly typed pages
were a joy to Mrs. Blythe. Her system of filing and indexing brought
order out of confusion in the topsy-turvy desk, and she soon had the
various reports which they referred to daily, labelled and arranged in
the different pigeon-holes as conveniently as the spice boxes and cereal
jars had been in the kitchen cabinet at home.

It was not long before Mrs. Blythe began handing letters over to her as
Jack had done, saying briefly, tell them this or thus, and leaving her
to frame the answer in the best style she could. This spurred her on to
still greater effort, and she made up her mind to become so familiar
with every branch of the subject that she could give an intelligent
answer to any question that might be asked. Once she wrote home to Jack:

"I am beginning to see now some of the things that my Desert of Waiting
in Lone-Rock taught me. I couldn't fill this position half so
satisfactorily if I hadn't had the training that you gave me in your
office in all sorts of business forms and details. I am especially
thankful for the letters you made me answer in my own words. Mrs. Blythe
turns over two-thirds of her mail to me now to be answered in that way.
She has had many invitations lately from clubs in neighboring towns,
asking her to go and explain what it is she wants them to do, and she
feels that she can't afford to miss a single opportunity of the kind.
Every time she gives a talk she gets more people interested in the
cause, and they in turn interest other people, and that sends the ball
rolling still farther. Really, it is getting to be as exciting as a game
of 'Prisoners' Base,' seeing how many we can get on 'our side,' and when
she is out of town and I am left to 'guard base,' I surely feel as if I
am 'It,' and had the whole responsibility on my shoulders."

It must be confessed that it was Mary's pride in doing her work well
which made her a competent helper, more than any personal interest which
she took in Mrs. Blythe's plans. After the first round of visits to the
tenements she kept away from them as much as possible. The first month's
salary was accorded a silent jubilee in her room. Most of it had to go
for board and some few things she needed, but she started a savings
account and locked away her bank-book with the feeling that she was
laying the corner-stone of her home in the Happy Valley. True, there
wasn't the same joy in planning for it that there had been when she
looked forward to her mother sharing it with her, but it was with a
sense of deep satisfaction that she opened her account and carried home
the little book with its first entry.

On one of the occasions when Mrs. Blythe was away from home for several
days, an indignant letter came from some one in a town where she had
spoken the previous week, demanding to know why she was making such a
fight to have a law passed which would work hardship to worthy landlords
who were good citizens and prominent in all public charities. It named a
man in Riverville as a sample of the kind of citizen she was trying to
injure, and demanded so threateningly her reasons for doing so, that
Mary was troubled by its covert threats. Mrs. Blythe would not be back
till the end of the week, Mr. Blythe was in New York, and there was no
one in Riverville whom she knew well enough to discuss the situation
with. After worrying over it all one day and night, quite unexpectedly
she found out what she wanted to know from Sandford Berry.

He came out on the side porch where she was sitting after an early
lunch, and paused to light a cigar. Something prompted her to refer
casually to the man who had been spoken of in the letter as a model
citizen, and to ask if the reporter knew him.

"Oh, yes, he's a charitable old cuss," was Mr. Berry's elegant answer.
"His name leads all the subscription lists a-going; but I'll give you a
tip on the side, if you're after him to get a bit of local color for any
of your documents. Just make some excuse to visit some lodging houses he
owns on the corner of Myrtle and Tenth Streets. Diamond Row they call
it, because they say he gets the worth of his wife's gorgeous diamonds
out of it in rents every year, and she has the most notable ones in
town. It's the worst ever! I don't think Mrs. Blythe has discovered it
yet. I didn't get into it myself until the other day, when I had to go
to report an accident, but we newspaper men unearth all the sights that
are to be seen, eventually."

"Would it be all right for me to go--I mean safe?" asked Mary
hesitatingly.

"Sure!" was the cheerful answer. "It's safe as far as the people you'll
meet are concerned. I can't say as much for the germs."

"But I haven't a shadow of excuse for going," faltered Mary. "I couldn't
walk into a hovel out of sheer curiosity without some reason for
intruding, any more than I could into a rich person's home. I haven't
any more right to do the one than the other."

"That's what they all say," answered Sandford Berry. "But there is a
difference. You'll find that those tenants are glad of a chance to tell
their troubles to some one. Oh, of course, they'd spot you if you went
poking in for no reason _but_ curiosity, but anybody with tact and a
desire to get at the real inwardness of things for the purpose of
bettering them would find a welcome. _Those_ people know the
difference."

He puffed away in silence a moment, considering a way to help her as he
had often helped Mrs. Blythe, and taking it for granted that Mary was
just as eager for his suggestions as the other one had been.

"You might tell them you are looking for an old woman from the country
who knits some sort of lace for sale. There used to be one there. At
least, I've seen an old woman who used to be always knitting, sitting at
a corner window. I don't know whether she sold it or not, or whether she
was from the country. But it will do for an opening wedge, and with her
to start on you can easily get into conversation with any of them."
Then, as Mary still hesitated, he added, "If you really want to
investigate and feel anyways backward about it, I'll walk down that far
with you and show you where it is. It happens to be on my beat."

Mary really had no wish to go. She shrank from contact with something
which the experienced Mr. Berry pronounced "the worst ever." But he was
waiting so confidently for her to put on her hat and accompany him, that
there seemed nothing else for her to do.

"Get an eye on those basement rooms," he advised her as he left her at
the corner of Myrtle and Tenth Streets, and pointed out the steps
leading to the underground rooms in Diamond Row. With the helpless
feeling of one who cannot swim, yet is left to plunge alone into icy
water, Mary stood at the top of the steps until she was afraid her
hesitation would attract attention. Then plucking up her courage, she
forced herself to walk down and knock at the open door.

What she saw in her first quick glance was a girl no older than herself,
lying on a dirty bare mattress, a woman bending over a wash-tub, and a
baby crawling around the floor. What she saw in her second horrified
glance was that a green mould stood out on the walls, that both plaster
and lath were broken away in places, so that one could peer through
into an adjoining cellar. Evidently the cellar had water standing in it,
from the foul, dank odor which came in through the holes. And the water
must have seeped through into this room at times, for some of the planks
in the floor nearest the wall were rotting.

The woman looked up listlessly without taking her arms from the tub, as
Mary made her faltering inquiry for the old lady who made lace, and
answered in some foreign tongue. Then she bent again to her rubbing, in
stolid indifference to the stranger who had made a sudden descent on her
home. Mary was too inexperienced to know that one cause of her
indifference was that she was too underfed and overworked and mentally
stunted by her hideous surroundings to care who came and went around
her.

Mary turned to the girl on the musty mattress. It wasn't actual
starvation which drew the skin so tightly over her cheek-bones and gave
the pinched look to her face, for there was food still left on the
cluttered table, where flies buzzed over the unwashed dishes in
sickening swarms. It was the disease which had claimed a victim,
sometimes several, from every family in turn who occupied the room,
because it had never been properly disinfected. Not even the sunlight
could get in to do its share towards making it fit for a human dwelling,
for the only windows of this half-underground room were narrow transoms
near the ceiling, and the only air reached it through the door at the
bottom of the steps.

The girl was evidently asleep, and, after one more glance, Mary turned
with a shudder and hurried back up the steps. She hesitated to make a
second attempt but nerved herself to it by the thought of the questions
Sandford Berry was sure to ask of her. On the first floor she knocked at
several doors, and although she found no clue to the old lace knitter,
she soon found a welcome from a voluble old Irish woman, who hospitably
invited her in. Her eyes were that bad, she explained, that she couldn't
see to do much. Her family worked in the factory all day, and she was
glad of some one to talk to.

The door into the hall stood open, and presently another woman strayed
in, scenting entertainment of some kind, and then a much younger woman
followed, a slatternly creature with a sickly looking baby in her arms.
Old Mrs. Donegan talked freely of her neighbors after Mary had tactfully
won her confidence. She told her that most of them worked in the
factory. The Polish woman in the basement washed for some of the factory
hands, and although she worked all day and often far into the night, it
took nearly all she could make to pay the rent. There wasn't enough to
buy medicine for the girl, who was dying of consumption.

"Why don't they leave here and go out to the country?" asked Mary.
"People out there need help, and they could at least have clean water,
and clean grass to lie on. They'd be better off out under the trees than
in that basement."

Mrs. Donegan's dim eyes narrowed shrewdly. "Did you ever see a rat
caught in a trap?" she asked. "_It_ can't help itself. _It_ can't get
out. No more can they. They can't even speak English."

"Don't you go to telling the landlord we complained," whined the woman
with the baby. "He'd turn us out. Rents are so high everywhere that I
tramped for days to find this place. The others was worse than this."

Mary's evident friendliness and warmly expressed interest soon started
all three of the women to telling tales of Diamond Row. Mrs. Donegan's
were the worst, as she claimed the distinction of being the oldest
inhabitant. The one that aroused Mary's greatest indignation was of a
child which had been drowned in the cellar ten years ago. The inside
staircase going to the basement ran down over the cellar in some way,
and it was so rotten in parts that it gave way one day and he fell
through. It was in the spring, when the river was so high that the
cellar was half full of backwater, and the child drowned before they
could get him out.

Mrs. Donegan gave a dramatic account of it, omitting none of the
gruesome details, for she had been fond of the pretty golden-haired boy
of three, and sympathized with all the ardor of her warm Irish heart
with the old grandmother, who was one of her best friends.

"That's sorrow for you," she exclaimed, shaking her head dismally. "If
you could only see the poor old creature now, so crippled up with the
misery in her bones that she can't leave her chair, and nothing for her
to do all day but sit and eat her heart out with longing for little
Terence. Ah, he was the fine lad, always hanging on his granny's chair
and putting his little curly head on her shoulder to be petted. She
keeps one of those curls always by her in a little box on the table, and
like the sunshine it is. Come in and see it now. Do," she urged
hospitably. "It's always glad she is to talk about him and cry over the
sad end he come to."

Mary drew back, protesting that she couldn't bear to. It was all so
horrible. "What did they do about it afterwards?" she asked.

"Nothing," was the answer. "The lad's father, Tim Reilly, was too poor
to bring suit, and it cost something to move, and they couldn't get
anything better for the same price. So they just stayed on, although his
wife and the poor old granny almost wept their eyes out at the sight of
that staircase for many a month. It was all written up in the papers,
with pictures of Terence and the cellar. Lots of people came to look at
the house, and there was a piece in the paper saying that the stairway
was a death-trap, and that the owner ought to have the charge of murder
laid at his door, and that an indignant public demanded that he put in a
new one. Mrs. Reilly keeps one of these same papers by her to this day.
She keeps it for the picture of Terence that's in it."

"How long was it before he put in the new stairway?" asked Mary, seeing
that some response was expected of her.

The old woman leaned over and shook her finger impressively. "It's the
gospel truth I'm telling you, never a one has been put in to this day.
They just patched up the old one with a few new planks, and all rotten
it is and tearing loose again, as you may see for yourself if you'll
follow me."

But Mary refused this invitation also, and a little later took her
leave, unutterably depressed by all that she had seen and heard. Mrs.
Donegan, with the other women to refresh her memory, had counted up
forty funerals which had taken place in Diamond Row in the eleven years
that she had lived under its leaky roof.

Mary was through supper that night when Sandford Berry strolled in.
"Well," he said, pausing to put his head in at the parlor door, where
she sat glancing over the evening paper. "What luck?"

"Oh, it was perfectly hideous!" she exclaimed, and proceeded to pour out
the story of her visit so indignantly that he nodded his approval.

"I see that you got your local color all right. It's fairly lurid."

"And I did something else," confessed Mary. "I tried to find the owner
of the place, Mr. Stoner, and paint the picture for him. But he was in
Europe. So was his wife. And then I found out who his agent was, and I
went to him and asked him why he didn't fix the place up. He was as
coolly polite as an iceberg, but he told me in so many words that it
was none of my business. That it was his business to look after the
interests of his employer and collect the rents, and not to humor the
whims of a few fussy women who had more sentiment than sense."

"Then what did _you_ say?" laughed Sandford.

Mary's eyes flashed angrily, and her cheeks grew redder and redder as
she talked.

"I told him it was not rents alone he was collecting, but blood-money,
and that the owner of that tenement was as responsible for the forty
deaths inside its walls as if he'd deliberately poisoned them. And I
told him I'd _make_ it my business from now on to see that the people
knew the truth about him. And then I got so mad that I knew I'd burst
out crying if I stayed another minute, so I flounced out and left him
staring after me open-mouthed, as if I'd flown at him and pecked him."

The reporter laughed again and started on towards the dining-room, but
paused to look back with a wise nod of the head, which aggravated Mary
quite as much as the knowing tone with which he exclaimed, "I told you
so! I told you that when the torch once set you to blazing you'd be the
biggest beacon fire in the bunch!"

That night Mary dreamed of that basement room with the mould on the
walls and the water seeping in from the adjoining cellar, and of the
girl dying of consumption on the musty mattress. And all the forty
sufferers who had sickened and died from the unsanitary conditions of
the tenement trooped through her dream, and held out their feverish thin
hands to her, imploring her to help. And she answered them as she had
answered the agent, "I'll _make_ it my business. I'll tell your story
all over the state and all over the land until the people demand a law
to save you."

It was a hot July night, and Mary, waking in her big many-windowed room,
sat up almost gasping. She wondered what the heat must be like in those
tenement rooms without any windows, with half a dozen or more people
crowded into each one. Slipping out of bed she drew a low rocker to the
window overlooking the river, and with her arms crossed on the sill,
looked out into the darkness. There was only the starlight to-night, and
the colored lights of the wharf boats along the bank. She could not see
the dim outline of the Kentucky shore, but it was a comfort to know that
it was there.

Presently she lifted her head and looked up, her lips parted and a half
frightened throbbing in her ears. It had come over her with an almost
overpowering realization that those voices she was hearing were like
those which Joan of Arc heard. It was the King's Call summoning her
again as it had summoned her at Warwick Hall. Then it was all vague and
shadowy, the thing she was to do. Now she knew with what great task she
was to keep tryst. She was to help in this struggle to free these poor
people from the conditions which bound them. She was to help them reach
out for their birthright, which was nothing more than a fair chance to
help themselves.

Gazing up at the stars, a great wonder swept over her, that she, little
Mary Ware, had been called to a destiny even greater than that of the
Maid of Orleans. For was it not greater to enlist a nation in such
warfare than to ride at the head of an army and spur men on to
bloodshed? This battle, once won, would give not only this generation of
helpless poor their chance for health and decent homes, but would lift
the handicap from their children and all their children's children who
might come after them.

Once, as she sat there, the thought came to her that if she devoted
herself to this cause she might be an old woman before it was
accomplished, and that she would have to give up all hope of the home
she had long planned to have eventually in the Happy Valley. Even in her
exalted mood it seemed a great sacrifice to make, and a long time she
sat there, counting the cost.

"To live in scorn of miserable aims that end in self--" She started as
if a real voice had spoken in her ear. "That is what mamma used to say
so often," she thought. "That is the way _she_ lived. But can I keep it
up for a whole lifetime, clear to the end?"

It was the years that lay behind her which helped her to an answer. The
years, which, could they have been marked like Edryn's would have been
bejewelled with the tokens of little duties faithfully performed. No
pearls showed white like his to mark them, no diamond gleamed where
Sorrow's tear had fallen, no amethyst glowed in purple splendor to mark
her patient meeting with Defeat, yet she had earned them as truly as he,
and in the earning had fitted herself for this fuller fealty.

The sky had lightened until the far shore of the river was dimly visible
when she stood up and held out her hands towards it in a mute gesture of
surrender. Like Edryn she had heard the supreme call, and like him she
answered it:

        "Oh, heart, and hand of mine, keep tryst!
              Keep tryst or die!"

She was still in the same exalted mood when she sat down next day to
answer the angry letter which had started her on her search after "local
color." All her indignation of the previous day came back, and she
pictured the foul conditions of the basement room as realistically as a
photographer could have done, ending with the underscored statement:

"The man you are defending is living luxuriously on the rents he
collects from this death-trap and others like it, and yet refuses
through his agent to drive one nail in it to make it more fit to live
in. A man who gives out as alms, with one hand, what he wrings with the
other as blood-money from the victims of his miserly greed, deserves to
have a trumpet sounded before him as the hypocrites do, and we shall
continue to sound it until public sentiment compels him to be as humane
as his pretensions."

When Mrs. Blythe came back and found this fiery response on her desk
awaiting her signature, she smiled at first, then recognized gratefully
that this burst of indignation meant that a new ally had been born to
the cause. But she had to explain tactfully to Mary that while her
answer was a just one, it was not wise to anger the man still farther by
sending it.

"I shall have to ask you to rewrite that last page," she said
regretfully. "Send your description of Diamond Row, just as it is, and
the agent's refusal to do anything to better it, but leave out the
personal tirade that follows. It may relieve your feelings but it will
do the cause harm by arousing an opposition which means the loss of many
votes when the question comes up before the Legislature next winter.

"But I'll tell you what I'd like," she added, seeing the shade of
disappointment that clouded Mary's face for a second. "I'd like to have
that description published in _The Survey_, and I'd like to take you
with me this afternoon to the meeting of a committee of the Commercial
Club, and have you tell them about this visit, just as you have told it
in this letter. It's one of the most realistic things I ever read. It
fairly makes my flesh creep in places."

Mary gave a gasp of astonishment, unable to believe at first that Mrs.
Blythe was serious. To be pushed forward as a magazine writer and a
public speaker, both in one day, was too much for her comprehension.

"Oh, Mrs. Blythe! I couldn't make a speech in public!" protested Mary,
half frightened at the mere thought.

"I don't want you to," was the placid answer. "I merely want you to come
with me and sit at a big table with a dozen or more people around it,
and answer the questions that we put to you about what you've seen.
You're not afraid to do that, are you?"

"No, if that's all," admitted Mary hesitatingly. "It's never been any
trouble for me to do just plain talking. It used to be that my
difficulty was I never knew when to quit."

"I'll attend to that part of it," laughed Mrs. Blythe.

So it came about that afternoon that Mary sat at the big directors'
table in an upper room of the Commercial Club building, and told once
more the story of her visit to the tenement on Myrtle and Tenth Streets.
She began it a little hesitatingly, with a quicker beating of pulses and
a deepening of color, but gradually she lost her self-consciousness. The
inspiration of many interested listeners gave her a sense of power. She
was conscious of the breathless silence in which her story held them.
She felt rather than saw that no one stirred, and that they were all
moved by the story of the old blind grandmother, grieving over the
golden curl that was all that was left to her of the child who was her
sunshine. When she mimicked the agent's voice and manner, the ripple of
appreciation which passed around the table gratified her more than the
applause which followed. It showed that she had made what Sandford Berry
would have called "a decided hit."

"You will do it again," Mrs. Blythe said when the meeting was over and
they were on their way home, and Mary nodded assent. She didn't mind any
amount of "just plain talking," especially when it succeeded in arousing
such interest as this first effort had done. She told the same story
several times that week in Riverville to small audiences, and then again
in Maysport, in a room so large that she had to stand in order to make
herself heard. But even then she was not embarrassed, for Mrs. Blythe
was standing too. She had turned in the midst of her own talk to say
quite naturally, "You tell them about that part of it, Miss Ware. You
can make them see it more plainly than I."

Again Mary, in the midst of profound silence, saw eyes grow misty with
sympathy and saw faces light up with indignation at her recital. It
never occurred to her to write home that she had spoken in public. She
didn't really count it as such, for, as she told Sandford Berry, it
wasn't a real speech. It was just as if she had seen a case that needed
the attention of a Humane officer, and had stopped in off the street to
report it. It was Mrs. Blythe who made the real speeches, who put their
duty so clearly before the people of Riverville that before August was
over a Better Homes society had been organized, and a score of members
enrolled as active workers.

When Mary had time to stop and think, she realized that she was truly in
the thick of things at last, for the more she tried to interest people
the more necessary she found it to go often to the tenements for fresh
pictures of their need. And sometimes a day that began by sending her to
a needy family on Myrtle Street, ended by taking her to a musicale or a
lawn fête in one of the most beautiful homes of the city. Mrs. Blythe's
introduction of her everywhere as her friend, rather than her secretary,
would have opened Riverville doors to her of its own self, but, aside
from that, Mary won an entrance to many a friendship on her own account.
She was so sincerely interested in everything and everybody, so glad to
make friends, so fresh in her enthusiasm, and so attractive in all the
healthy vigor of heart and body which a sturdy outdoor life had given
her.



CHAPTER IV

"PINK" OR DIAMOND ROW


The long hot summer was followed by a September so dry and dusty that
the town lay parched in the sweltering heat.

"Doesn't it make you feel like a wilted lettuce leaf?" Mary said to
Sandford Berry one noon when they met at the boarding-house gate on
their way in to dinner. "I've been down to Myrtle Street all morning,
and some of those crowded rooms are so stifling that I don't see how the
inmates breathe."

"You ought to keep away from them," advised Sandford with a critical
glance at her. "They're making you pale and thin. They're getting on
your nerves."

"I know it," admitted Mary, "but the more they get on my nerves, the
more I feel obliged to go."

She took her place at the table languidly, and merely tasted the iced
bouillon which the waitress put before her. She felt faint and needed
food, but it was hard to force herself to swallow while the smell of
the unwholesome places she had visited seemed still in her nostrils. The
remembrance of some of them rose sickeningly before her and she pushed
her plate aside.

"You take my advice and stay away from those places," said Sandford
again, noticing the movement. "What's the use of wearing your sympathies
to a frazzle over what can't be helped? They're sapping the life out of
you, and you're doing them no good--that is, no lasting good. It only
affords temporary relief."

"You know nothing about what I am doing," retorted Mary, irritated by
his comments and provoked at herself for feeling irritation over what
she knew was prompted by friendly interest. Yet when she went to her
room after having barely tasted her dinner, she stood a moment in front
of the mirror, recalling his remarks. She had to admit that the first
was true. There were blue shadows under her eyes. All the fresh color
and the sparkle was gone from her face. She looked as she felt, worn and
exhausted.

"But I _am_ doing them some good," she protested to herself, and in
proof of it took from a drawer the little memorandum book in which she
set down her daily expenses. She went back over the accounts of the
month just past. Nothing for herself except board and carfare, but the
other entries filled several pages: "Ice, fresh eggs, cream, beef juice,
ice, alcohol, towels, ice--"

Each time the word ice met her eye she recalled the parched lips that
had moaned for it, the feverish hands that had clutched it so greedily
when she brought it, and she thought if Sandford Berry could only see
what she had done for some of the poor souls who "got on her nerves"
he'd change his opinion about her efforts to help them being of no
avail. But the next moment a mood of depression seized her, weighing
down on her so heavily that hot tears started to her eyes.

"He's right! It isn't of any lasting good," she thought. "It's like the
ice that brings relief for a moment, but is melted and gone the next!
And my salary is all gone, and so is nearly everything that I saved the
month before. There isn't a dollar left to my credit in the savings
bank. What _is_ the use of going on this way, when all one can do
amounts to no more than a drop in the bucket?"

Mary had sat up late the night before, finishing a lot of letters that
Mrs. Blythe was anxious to have mailed as soon as possible. It was
midnight when she covered her typewriter, and the heat and a stray
mosquito which had eluded both Mrs. Crum and the screens, made her
wakeful and restless. That accounted for her physical exhaustion, while
the experiences of the morning were enough to send her spirits to the
lowest ebb.

She told herself over and over, as she lay across the bed and tried to
reason herself into a more cheerful frame of mind, that it was only
natural that she should feel as she did, and that when she was rested
the world would look as bright as usual. On account of her late work the
night before, Mrs. Blythe had given her nothing to do to-day. It was to
see protégés of her own that Mary had gone to the tenements. She might
have passed the morning with a book, down on the bank of the river under
the willows, where there was a cooling breath now and then from the
water. But, haunted by Elsie Whayne's hollow-eyed little face, she could
not go off and enjoy her holiday alone in comfort.

For weeks Elsie had seemed burning up with a slow fever, and it was for
her Mary had spent the last of her salary on alcohol for cooling rubs,
and for ice and for some thin, soft ready-made gowns. Poor little
country-bred Elsie, who had cried over her line of gray clothes because
she could not wash them clean in the scanty amount of water allotted to
each room in the crowded house, cried again over the snowy whiteness of
the new gowns. They were such a joy to her that it was pitiful to hear
her exclamations over them.

And Mary, seeing the wreck that fever had made of the pretty child, who
had come to the tenement abloom with health, wrote down one more black
crime against the man who was responsible for the fever, because he
would not clean up the plague-infested spots on which it fed and grew.

It is bad enough to be ill when one has every luxury in a quiet room to
oneself, where deft-fingered nurses keep noiseless watch to minister to
the slightest need; but to suffer as the children of the tenements must,
with not even a whole bed to oneself sometimes, oh, the pity of it! And
to have to lie as some of them do, all through the stifling days,
panting and gasping in the fumes of an ill-smelling lamp, because the
four dark walls have not a single window--oh, the shame of it!

Mary never encountered the first sight without wishing impulsively that
her eyes had never been opened to such things. She was so much happier
before she knew that such conditions existed in the world. But she never
came across the second that a sort of fierce joy did not take possession
of her at the thought that she _did_ know, and that she was helping in
a fight to wipe out such dreadful holes, which are all that some
families have to call home.

She fell asleep presently, and lay motionless until a banana man went by
in the street below, with loud cries of his wares underneath her window.
Then she roused up with a start, to find herself cramped from long lying
in one position with her clothes on.

"I might as well make myself comfortable and spend the whole afternoon
resting," she concluded; so slipping off her dress, she opened the
closet door to take down a long white kimono which hung on one of the
back hooks. In reaching around to get it she upset a pile of boxes on
the corner shelf, and one of them tumbled open at her feet. It was full
of odds and ends which she did not use often, and as she replaced them
her attention was called to the box itself. It was the big one that
Lieutenant Boglin had brought to the train filled with candy, the
morning that they left San Antonio.

How far away that time seemed, and how far Bogey had dropped out of her
life: Bogey and Gay and Roberta and all those other good friends who had
filled such a big place in her thoughts. She hadn't heard from any of
them for months, and lately she had scarcely thought of them. For that
matter Jack and Norman and Joyce and Phil had dropped far into the
background. They were no longer her first thought on waking, and the
most constant thought throughout the day. It was a different world she
was living in now. She wondered what old Captain Doane would think of
it; and Pink Upham-- Then she smiled, remembering that it had been weeks
since she had given a thought to either of them. And yet, only three
months before they had been a part of her daily living and thinking at
Lone-Rock.

All at once a longing for the clean, quiet little haven up in the hills
came over her like an ache. She was homesick for the restful mountains,
where there were no slums, no fever-infested spots such as she had been
in all morning, no loathsome mouldy walls, no dank, foul odors. She
pictured the little home not as it stood when last she saw it,
brightened with all Betty's bridal gifts, with Betty as mistress, but as
it was at that last Christmas reunion, in all its dear shabby
homeliness. The sun shone in across the clean faded carpet, and every
old chair held out its arms in friendly welcome.

She could see herself stepping around the kitchen getting supper. How
shiningly clean everything was! What peace brooded over the place, and
what a deep sense of calm and well-being and contentment pervaded it.
And her mother sat by the window, looking up from her sewing now and
then to smile or speak. Sometimes she hummed softly to herself some old
tune like Hebron:

        "Thus far the Lord hath led me on--
         Thus far His power prolongs my days!"

Burying her face in the pillow, Mary cried softly for what could never
be again. It seemed to her, for that heart-breaking little while, that
all the heaven she could ever ask would be just to go back to the little
home and find it as it used to be, with her mother there, and Jack and
Norman, nothing changed. She longed to spend the rest of her life right
there in that cottage which she had once been so anxious to get away
from, doing the same tasks, day after day, that had once seemed so
trivial and monotonous. She lay there picturing the whole scene, making
herself more miserable every instant, yet finding a sorrowful sort of
pleasure in thus torturing herself.

She could recall the very pattern of the oil-cloth on the kitchen floor,
the brown crocks, the yellow mixing-bowl, the little black-handled knife
she always pared the vegetables with. One by one she took them up. She
went the whole narrow round of things, from kindling the fire in the
stove with the fresh-smelling pine chips in the box, to putting the tea
to brew in the fat little earthenware pot that had been one of
Grandmother Ware's treasures. She drew the biscuits from the oven, and
brought up the cream and butter from the spotless white cellar. How good
and fresh they looked! How good and fresh they tasted!

Faint from having eaten no dinner, it made her sob to think how hungry
she was, with a hunger that nothing could appease, since what she wanted
most existed only in memory now. She went on with her pictures,
summoning the family to the table, hearing Norman's answering whoop from
the woodshed, and Jack's hearty "All right! I'll be there in a jiffy,
Sis!" Then she sobbed harder than ever, remembering that her summons
could never again be answered by an unbroken circle.

Presently, exhausted by the heat, her long fast and her crying spell,
she fell into a deep sleep. The banana man passed back again under her
window, calling his wares as loudly as before, but she did not hear him.
An Italian with a hand-organ stopped in front of the house and ground
out several popular noisy airs, but no note of it reached her. There
was a dog fight on the corner, a terrific pow-wow of yelps and snarls;
still she did not stir. Two, three hours went by. Then she was aroused
by a rustling sound at her door, and opening her eyes, saw that some one
was slipping a letter under it.

She lay blinking at it lazily for a moment, then, hanging over the side
of the bed as far as she could without falling out, tried to pick it up.
It was just beyond her reach, but with the aid of a slipper she managed
to touch it and drag it near enough to get her fingers on to it.
Doubling up the pillow under her head, she lay back, leisurely scanning
the envelope. It was post-marked Lone-Rock, and she knew by a glance at
the heavily shaded flourishes of the address that it was from Pink
Upham.

Earlier in the week, when Riverville was the boundary of her interests,
a letter from him would have had scant attention. But coming at this
time, when a homesick mood brought the old life so vividly before her
that it had suddenly become very dear and desirable, she opened it
eagerly. It was the first one she had received from him, for she had
told him on leaving Lone-Rock that she could not correspond with him;
that she would be too busy with Mrs. Blythe's letters to write many of
her own.

As she glanced down the first page she saw why he had disregarded her
wishes. He had news of such great importance to himself that he
naturally expected her to take a friendly interest in it. She smiled
with pleasure as she read. Good old Pink! He deserved to have things
come his way. If she hadn't spent so much for the relief of Diamond Row,
she would have been tempted to send him a telegram of congratulation. It
would please him immensely, she knew. A mine in which he had a small
amount of stock that was regarded as almost worthless, had suddenly
proved to be valuable, and he had been offered so much for his shares
that he could buy out the Company's store at Lone-Rock and build a house
bigger and better in every way than Mr. Moredock's. He had closed the
deal and bought the store, and he would build the house if--here Mary
turned another page--_if she would consent to become Mrs. Pinckney
Upham_.

Mary sat straight up in bed, the better to reread this startling
paragraph. Her face colored slowly as she rapidly scanned what followed.
It was a manly letter, although here and there it sounded as if phrases
and whole sentences had been copied from some Guide to Etiquette and
Social Correspondence. She had filled his life entirely from the first
day of their acquaintance, he told her. She had been an inspiration, a
guiding star to all that was high and noble. He loved her devotedly,
humbly and more greatly than any woman had ever been loved before, and
his whole life should be given to making her happy.

When she had finished, Mary lay back on the pillow and stared out of the
window into the branches of a sycamore tree that leaned across it. A
very tender feeling crept up into her heart for this man who was
offering her so much. She had not realized before what a beautiful, what
a solemn thing it was to be counted first in somebody's life; to know
that she really was its guiding star, its inspiration. At this distance
Pink's little mannerisms, which had always annoyed her, shrank out of
sight, and she remembered only how considerate he was, how carefully he
remembered every wish, how important he regarded her slightest word. It
would be lovely to be taken care of always by one who would do it in
such fashion; to be shielded and considered, and surrounded with every
comfort that a boundless affection could suggest.

Again it came over Mary with overwhelming force how good it would be to
go back to the clean, sweet life of the hills; the simple, wholesome
country life that she loved, and never again have to help lift the
burden of other people's poverty, or puzzle over the problem of their
wrongs. For a little space she lay and imagined what it would be like to
be back in Lone-Rock, in the new house Pink would build for her. She
could picture that, for she knew that every detail would be planned to
accord with her wishes, and she could see just the way it would be
furnished, and how she would make it the centre of hospitality and good
cheer for all of Lone-Rock; and how she and Betty would visit back and
forth, and the family celebrations they'd have on anniversaries and
holidays. All this she could see quite clearly and pleasantly. She could
even see Pink on the other side of a little table spread for two,
praising her muffins, and carefully cutting out the choicest parts of
the tenderloin for her. She was positive he would do both.

That might be very pleasant for a few times, but suppose they should
live to celebrate their silver wedding? Alack for Pink, that a mental
arithmetic problem suddenly popped into her mind!

If there are three meals in one day, and three hundred and sixty-five
days in one year, in twenty-five years through how many meals would they
have to sit opposite each other? She did not try to multiply the
numbers, only whispered in a sort of groan, "there'd be thousands and
thousands! I don't believe I could stand it, for no matter how good and
kind he is, there's no denying it, his visits always begin to bore me
before they're half over!"

[Illustration: "GAZING INTO THE SWEET FACE THAT SEEMED TO SMILE
HELPFULLY BACK AT HER."]

She got up and began to dress presently, stopping twice in the process
to reread the letter, once with her hair hanging, once with her dress
slipped half way on. She wanted to make sure of some sentences which she
could not entirely recall.

"I wonder what mamma would say," she thought, wistfully. She walked over
to the mantel, where a photograph of Mrs. Ware stood in a silver frame.
It was one which Joyce had colored, and was so life-like that Mary's
eyes often sought it questioningly. Now she leaned towards it, gazing
into the sweet face that seemed to smile helpfully back at her until she
found the answer to her own question.

"You always liked him," she whispered. "You always saw the best in him
and made excuses for him. You would have been so happy to have had me
settle in Lone-Rock if you had been there. But I _couldn't_ care for him
as you did for papa, and it wouldn't be right unless I did."

She did not answer the letter then. Just as she was sitting down to
supper a telephone message came from Mrs. Blythe, saying that they would
call for her in a little while to take her out on the river for a
moonlight ride. Mary was glad that the excursion was on one of the big
steamboats instead of a little launch, for in the larger party gathered
on it, no one noticed when she wandered off by herself and sat apart,
leaning against the deck railing, and gazing dreamily over the shining
water. She wanted to be alone. She wanted to think of some way to answer
Pink, which would hurt him as little as possible. She knew just how he
would stride into the post-office and unlock the drawer that held her
letter, and how his face would brighten when he saw it. He always did
show so plainly everything he felt. And then the grim hurt look would
come into his eyes, and she knew just how his mouth would straighten
into a grim line when he read it. Oh, for his sake she wished that she
didn't have to tell him that what he wanted with all his good, big,
generous heart could never be.

Was it the band playing _Kathleen Mavourneen_, or was it something else
that suddenly made her think of Phil and her parting promise to him at
Bauer. Some one _had_ come asking her to join his trail, just as Phil
had prophesied, but she needn't keep her promise in this case, because
there was only one answer possible. She would stick to her own trail and
go on her way alone. But--there was a queer little thrill of comfort in
the thought--somehow it was nice to know that somebody wanted you, and
that you didn't _have_ to be an old maid. She would keep that letter
always, her first and, probably, her last proposal.

Again the band was repeating that refrain of _Kathleen Mavourneen_, and
the notes rang out tremulously sweet over the water:

        "Oh, why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?"

She recalled the scrap of music Phil had torn out and sent to her with
that question on it, and that suggested the other song, _Bonnie Eloise_,
whose name he had given to the girl with the greyhound. She wondered if
Phil ever wrote to her now. Maybe at this very moment he was sitting in
his bachelor quarters down in Mexico, looking out at the moonlight and
dreaming about Eloise. She hoped not, for somehow, without cause or
reason, she had conceived a strong dislike for her.

Some friends of Mrs. Blythe's came hunting Mary just then, to carry her
off to the hurricane deck, where something of especial interest was
going on. There was no more time for serious meditation, and the
combination of youth and mirth and moonlight worked its magical charm.
By the time the boat had made its return trip, Mary was restored to her
usual normal self, and to the equanimity that the heat and the slums and
Pink's letter had upset. When the lights of the town streamed out across
the river to meet them, she was rested and refreshed, ready to take up
the next day's work with her usual enthusiasm.

It was late when she reached home, but her long sleep in the afternoon
made her wakeful, and she sat up till after midnight trying to compose a
satisfactory answer to Pink's letter. It was a depressing task, and she
tore up page after page, in her effort to make her refusal as kind as
possible, and yet to make him understand that it was final.

When it was finished and sealed she drew another envelope towards her,
intending to address it to Phil. Then she hesitated and pushed it aside,
saying:

"I'd better wait until I'm in a more cheerful frame of mind. If I write
now it'll be so full of slums and disappointments that it'll give him
the doldrums."



CHAPTER V

MARY AND THE "BIG OPPORTUNITY"


The cheerful frame of mind came soon, but it was nearly a month before
that letter was written. Unlike the others which preceded it, this one
was not thrust under the rubber band that held the many missives from
"The Little Vicar." It was slipped into Phil's pocket; for the package,
with all the rest of the contents of the private drawer in his desk,
reposed in the bottom of his trunk. His work in Mexico was done and he
was starting back to the States.

He had expected to buy his ticket straight through to New York, and
retrace his steps as far as Lloydsboro Valley later. Rob Moore had
written him that Lloyd was arranging for a house-party during the
Thanksgiving holidays, and that he and Alex Shelby and Mary Ware were to
be included among the guests, and for him to make his plans accordingly.

Mary's letter also mentioned this house-party. She had been invited but
could not accept. She had been too extravagant the month before, she
told him in a joking way.

"I have squandered my princely income on paltry trifles, and now must
pay the penalty. I must see the door of Paradise slam in my face and
shut me away into outer darkness. But, seriously, even if I could afford
the trip, I could not take so much time. Mrs. Blythe needs me. We are
straining every nerve to accomplish certain things before the next
session of the Legislature, when the bill for better housing is to be
brought up. Oh, I am sure that you understand, knowing how I love the
Valley and the blessed people in it, that a house-party at Oaklea, just
that alone, would be little short of heaven for me. But to meet the Best
Man there, and Kitty Walton and Katie Mallard and all the rest--well, I
can't talk about it calmly. The thought of missing it is too grievous to
mention in public. Enough said. Only the lonely pillow and the midnight
hour shall hear my plaint.

"I couldn't possibly bear the disappointment if we were not so busy.
Mrs. Blythe is massing her forces like a major-general, and I am too
deeply interested in the fight to let my personal affairs stand in the
way. Three months ago, in my innocence and ignorance, I could not have
believed that any fight would be necessary. I would have taken it for
granted that all one had to do was to put the plain facts before the
public and show what a danger and disgrace such houses are to a
community, and it would rise up of its own accord to change conditions.
I was utterly amazed when I found that there are respectable men who not
only will do nothing to help, but will throw all their weight on the
other side, and spend hundreds of dollars to prevent the passage of such
a law.

"And I've learned a lot about politics, too. I've come to see that it's
just a great, greedy hand, reaching out to get the best of everything
for itself. You don't see how it _could_ want to interfere with anything
like giving people decenter houses to live in, and wiping the causes of
disease out of the world, but it does, and it dips in just where you'd
least expect it. That is why Mrs. Blythe is so anxiously watching the
results of the city election, which is to be held next week.

"Mr. Stoner, the owner of Diamond Row, is one of the candidates for
office, and if he gets in he'll have it in his power to pull lots of
wires against us in the Legislature. There is almost no hope of
defeating him. Don't think that Mrs. Blythe has gone in personally for
politics or anything like that, because she hasn't. But she has waked up
a lot of influential people to work for her cause, and induced one of
the foremost men in the senate to introduce the bill. Also she has
managed to get an invitation to explain it all to a big audience that
will be in the Opera House next week, before the election.

"We are so excited over that, for it is one of the Big Opportunities
that we hope will count for a great deal. She has a love of a new gown
to wear, and a big black hat with plumes, and her speech is certainly
soul-stirring. I wish you could hear her. It's nothing but 'the short
and simple annals of the poor,' but when she gets done there won't be 'a
dry eye in the house.' That's the highest praise that the Riverville
_Herald_ can give, and it gives it to her so often that it has become a
household joke at the Blythes."

When Phil slipped this letter into his pocket he had changed his mind
about buying a ticket to New York. He had decided to take a roundabout
route by way of Riverville, with the privilege of a short stop-over. He
intended that Mary should be one of the guests at the house-party, and
he knew that the only way to persuade her was to go in person and
answer each objection as it was raised. She had written jokingly of her
disappointment, but her very effort to make light of it seemed pathetic
to him, and showed him how deeply she felt it.

All the way up from Mexico his thoughts kept drifting back to her. He
wondered if he would find her greatly changed. She had passed through so
much in the time he had been away, yet he was sure that he would find
her the same sturdy, valiant little soul that had challenged his
admiration when she was a child. He wondered what effect her mother's
death had had upon her, and what had been the outcome of her association
with a woman like Mrs. Blythe, one who made addresses in public. He
hoped that Mary wouldn't imbibe any strong-minded, women's rights
notions to detract from her feminine charm. He was glad she had
mentioned so enthusiastically the "love of a gown, and the big, black
plumed hat" that Mrs. Blythe was to wear.

It would take a great deal to eradicate Mary's love of pretty clothes.
That trait of hers had always amused him. He recalled more than one
Sunday at Ware's Wigwam when she insisted on putting on her "rosebud
sash" to wear walking on the desert, when there was nothing but the
owls and the jack-rabbits to take notice. And he recalled the big
hat-box she had squeezed into the automobile that day in New York, when
he took the girls out to the Wayside Inn, and how blissfully she peeped
at the lilac-trimmed concoction within from time to time.

A hot box delayed Phil's train awhile on the first day of his journey,
and a disabled engine on another, so that he missed the St. Louis
connection, and was a day late getting into Riverville. It happened most
unfortunately for his plans and the limited time he had to spare, that
it was the very day of the "Big Opportunity," when Mrs. Blythe was to
speak in the Opera House, to a crowd which would assemble to hear
several other speakers, one of national importance.

Phil did not discover this until after he had reached the hotel. Ha
wanted his meeting with Mary to be as great a surprise to her as it had
been the day he met her coming across the field of blue-bonnets in
Bauer. But he also wanted to be sure of finding her at home when he
called. So while he waited for his late luncheon to be served, he walked
into the telephone booth and called up the boarding-house. Mrs. Crum
took his message, with the answer that Miss Ware had not been at the
house for over a week. She had been so busy that she was spending her
nights as well as her days with Mrs. Blythe, and probably would not
return to her room for another week. She advised him to call up Mr.
Dudley Blythe's residence.

The maid answered his ring at that place, and asked that he leave a
message for Mrs. Blythe, who was resting and could not be disturbed, as
she was to speak at the Opera House in a little while. Miss Ware? No,
the maid could not say where she was, but had heard her say something
had happened which called her down on Myrtle Street. She knew that Mrs.
Blythe had arranged to meet her there in her auto on her way to the
Opera House. Probably they would be back about six o'clock.

Phil hung up the receiver impatiently. He hadn't come all the way from
Mexico to listen to a speech on housing reform, but, under the
circumstances, he had no other choice if he was to find Mary before
dark. Then he laughed outright, thinking of her amazement if she should
happen to catch sight of him in the audience. He supposed she would
naturally sit near the front, and he could easily locate her. He didn't
dare run the risk of suddenly sitting down beside her. One never knew
what Mary would say or do when very much surprised. It would be better
to send an usher with a note, asking her to meet him at the entrance and
then--well, Mary should decide how and where they should spend the rest
of the afternoon together. It was a chilly, gray day in early November,
a trifle cold either for an auto spin or a ride on the river. But they
must go to some place where they could have a long, uninterrupted talk,
and he could tell her all he had come to Riverville to say.

With his pulses quickening at the thought, he left the hotel for a brisk
walk along the river, until time to go to the place of meeting.

Meanwhile Mary was having an exciting experience down at Diamond Row. A
message had called her there just as they arose from the lunch-table.

"Oh, why couldn't it have come sooner," she mourned, "before I was all
dressed up so spick and span for your grand speechifying occasion? I
always feel as if I ought to be fumigated when I come back from there.
More than likely it's just another complaint that old Mrs. Donegan wants
to lodge against the universe. She seems to think lately that it owes
her a special grudge, and that my ears are Heaven-ordained funnels for
her to pour her troubles into."

But it was not Mrs. Donegan's troubles this time which summoned her,
although that excitable old woman met her, crying and wringing her
hands. It was for a neighbor's misfortunes that she invoked Mary's aid.
Dena Barowsky, a frail girl in the room above hers, who supported a
family by her work in the factory, had had a bad fall.

"Both legs broken and all hurted inside she is!" wailed Mrs. Donegan,
eager to be the first to tell the bad news.

"Where is she?" asked Mary. "Where did it happen? At the factory?"

Half a dozen eager voices interrupted each other to tell her. It seemed
as if all the inmates of the tenement had gathered on the stairs and the
landing to discuss the accident in sympathizing little groups. It was
something which might have happened to any one of them. Dena Barowsky
had come home from the factory at noon to fix a bite and sup for her old
father, who was worse than usual, and while going down the rickety
stairs to the cellar for some reason, had fallen. A loose board had
tripped her, so that she pitched against the bannister, which was so
rotten that it broke under her weight, and she fell headlong into the
cellar.

A doctor was in the room with her now, examining to find how badly she
was hurt, Mrs. Donegan explained. The saints only knew what would become
of the family if it should be so that she was laid up long. Her father
was bedridden, and her mother so queer in her head that she did nothing
but sit in a corner and mutter to herself all day long. Luckily there
wasn't more than a foot of water in the cellar, and they got her out
right away. It had been half full when little Terence Reilly fell in,
for that was the time of the backwater in the spring freshets.

Following half a dozen self-appointed guides, Mary picked her way to the
stairway and looked down. The broken piece of rotten timber, the gaping
hole in the splintered bannister, the dark gleam of the water beneath,
told their own story. One long, horrified look was enough for Mary. The
others hung over the spot as if it held some unexplainable fascination,
pointing out the step which tripped her first, the rusty nail to which
still clung a shred of her dress torn out in falling, the jagged
splinter that must have been the one which made the gash in her face.

With a shudder Mary turned away and asked to be taken to Dena's room. At
the opening of the door a strong odor of anæsthetics rose above the
mouldy smell of the unventilated apartment, which was made still closer
by the inquisitive neighbors whom the doctor's orders had not been able
to bar out. Despite his sternness they gathered in the corners, watching
the white-faced girl on the bed. She was moaning, though unconscious.
This was not the first time Mary had met the young doctor in such
places. He looked up with evident relief at her entrance.

"It's a case for a district nurse," he said, when he had explained
briefly in a low tone the seriousness of the injuries. He spoke
purposely in medical terms so that the old father, sobbing childishly on
the opposite bed, could not understand the gravity of the situation.

"I'll find the nurse at once and send her just as soon as possible,"
promised Mary. "I can telephone from the corner grocery."

She hurried out, thankful for the Organized Charities which made such
help possible, and remembering with a queer mixture of resentment and
gratitude that it was the owner of this disgraceful Diamond Row, Mr.
Stoner himself, who had made such a generous contribution to the
Association that they were able to hire an extra nurse for this part of
town.

"If he had only gone at the root of the matter," wailed Mary, inwardly,
"and used the 'ounce of prevention,' there would have been no need for
this great 'pound of cure.' There wouldn't have been this dreadful
accident."

At the foot of the landing she was halted again by old Mrs. Donegan, who
was haranguing an interested crowd while she waited for Mary's
appearance. She was waving a time-yellowed and tattered newspaper in
their faces, and calling attention to the headlines and pictures on the
front page.

"We want you should take it to Mrs. Blythe, and let her put it in the
great speech she'll be after making this day. The whole town ought to
know what happened this ten years gone on account of that same stairway.
Mrs. Reilly didn't want to let the paper go. She couldn't bear the
thought of losing that picture of little Terence. But I took it from
her, and told her you'd never let it out of your hands till you brought
it back safe to her. That it was for the good of us all you'd be using
it."

The telephone was in use when Mary entered the grocery, and while she
waited for her turn, she glanced through the paper that Mrs. Donegan had
thrust into her hands. She had already seen the marked account of the
funeral on one of her visits to old Mrs. Reilly, for she had been asked
on that trying occasion to read it aloud; but she had not read until now
the article on the opposite page, which gave a graphic description of
the tenement in which the accident occurred, and which indignantly
called attention to the criminal negligence which had caused the death
of a tenant. No names were given, but Mary knew that Burke Stoner owned
the premises then, and that in the ten years he had collected nearly
fifty thousand dollars in rents from the inmates of Diamond Row. She had
been busy collecting statistics as well as other kinds of information
since her first interview with his agent, and the recording angel was
not the only one who had a long list of black figures set down against
his name. Mary kept hers on a page by itself in a neat little memorandum
book, biding her time to sound the promised trumpet before him.

It was a very grim and determined Mary who came out of the corner
grocery five minutes later. She had been able to locate the nurse much
sooner than she expected to, and was on her way back to Dena's room to
report that help was coming. And when a little later the honk of Mrs.
Blythe's machine sounded at the curbstone in front of Diamond Row, she
climbed into her seat beside her friend without a glance at the new gown
and the picture hat she was wearing for the first time. That omission in
itself showed Mrs. Blythe that something was wrong, for usually Mary was
keenly interested in her appearance, and never failed to express her
admiration of anything which she especially admired.

"What's gone wrong?" asked Mrs. Blythe, as they whirled around a corner
and turned into a pleasanter part of the town.

For once Mary waited before speaking, taking a deep breath and pressing
her lips tightly together. Then she answered in a tense way:

"I feel as if I'd witnessed a murder! I can't get poor Dena's moans out
of my ears, nor the sight of that broken stairway with the water
underneath out of my mind!" Then reminded by the perplexed expression of
Mrs. Blythe's face that she was talking in riddles, she gave an account
of the accident, and repeated old Mrs. Donegan's plea that the story of
the staircase with its double tragedy be told that afternoon, in order
that public sentiment might be aroused in behalf of the people of the
tenements.

"I wish it had been Mr. Stoner himself who fell through those rotten
stairs!" stormed Mary, her face white with indignation and her eyes
blazing angrily. "I never felt such a mighty wrath rise up in me before!
I could stop right here on the street corner and call out his name so
all the town could hear. I'd like to shout 'Here's your model citizen!
Here's the kind, benevolent man who buys your praise with his gifts to
the poor. Look what he has done for the Reillys and for Dena!' It isn't
as if he didn't know what condition the place is in. He'd been warned
that the steps were unsafe, even before the first accident. And to think
he let it go on ten years after it had been condemned and cost one
life--"

She stopped abruptly, finding words futile to express her feelings, and
Mrs. Blythe, taking the crumpled sheet, hastily scanned it. They were
turning into Main Street when she finished, and with a glance at the
clock in the front of the car she told the chauffeur to go around by Mr.
Blythe's office.

"It may make us a little late for the first speech," she said, "but I
must ask Mr. Blythe's advice. I shall tell this story of the two
accidents of course. It will illustrate one point I am trying to make
better than anything else I could say. But I don't know how personal I
ought to make it. It would be a centre shot at the enemy, and _might_
help to defeat Stoner in the election day after to-morrow if I could
mention him by name, and emphasize the big rents he collects from those
working girls and factory men, but it may not be wise for me to do it,
in the interest of the bill. It might antagonize all his party, as he is
one of the most influential of the local bosses. I must ask Mr. Blythe
just how far I can go."

Two minutes later they stopped at the office, and Mary, watching from
her seat in the car, saw Mrs. Blythe go in and the stenographer rise
hurriedly from her desk beside the big front window, and come forward.
Evidently what she was telling Mrs. Blythe was very unexpected and
agitating, for she came out looking pale and frightened, and spoke only
the one word, "Home," as she sank back limply in her seat.

"Dudley was taken suddenly ill a little while ago," she explained in
hurried gasps. "Miss Nellie says it was something like an apoplectic
stroke. They have been telephoning everywhere to find me. It must have
happened just as I left the house. They have taken him home in an
ambulance. Hurry, Hardy!"

Except for Mary's shocked exclamation of sympathy and alarm, no word was
spoken until the house was reached. Mary ran up the stairs with Mrs.
Blythe, stood a moment in the upper hall when the other left her, and
then went on to the alcove at the end, which had been fitted up as a
little office. There she sat down to wait. Three physicians, personal
friends of Dudley Blythe, were in the room with him. The housemaid was
running back and forth getting what was necessary, and the next door
neighbor had come in.

There was nothing that Mary could do, and the moments of waiting seemed
endless. A programme of the afternoon's meeting lay on the desk, and
from time to time she glanced at it nervously, and then at the clock.
The time for the first speech passed. The second one must have been well
under way when Mrs. Blythe came out into the hall and saw her sitting in
the alcove. Mary started up and went towards her impulsively, both hands
out.

"Oh, isn't there something I can do?" she whispered.

"Not in there," was the answer in a low tone. "The doctors give me
every encouragement to believe that he will come out of this all right,
but I don't know--I'm so frightened and upset."

She passed her hand across her eyes, as if trying to remember something,
then exclaimed, "It's just come to me! I had forgotten about that
meeting. It's almost time for me to go on to speak, but, of course, I
can't do that now. I couldn't leave him in the critical condition he is
in, no matter what is at stake. There's only one thing to do, and that
is to send you in my place. _You'll_ have to go, Mary, and tell them why
I couldn't come, and explain what it is that--"

"Oh, Mrs. Blythe!" interrupted Mary, aghast. "I _couldn't_! I couldn't
possibly! There's not a moment to prepare for it!"

"But you _must_," was the answer in a tone so firm and compelling that
it brooked no denial.

"There's no other way out--you know every phase of the situation. You've
explained it over and over in your letters and to small audiences. Your
sympathies have just been worked up to white heat by Dena's accident--
Oh, you're _splendidly_ prepared, and you can't fail me now, Mary. Not
at a time like this!"

Her voice broke and the tears came into her eyes, at which sight Mary
drew one deep breath and surrendered.

"Well--I'll do the best I can," she promised, "but I've barely time to
get there."

With one squeeze of the hands which she had caught in hers, Mrs. Blythe
released her, saying gratefully, "Oh, I knew you wouldn't fail me!
Go--and Godspeed!"

Breathless, speechless, Mary found herself climbing into the automobile,
with a dazed feeling, as if some one had sounded an alarm of fire and
she was blindly fumbling her way through smoke. In a vague way she was
conscious that she was facing one of the big moments of her life, and
she wondered why, when she needed to centre all her thoughts on the
ordeal that confronted her, they should slip backward to a trivial thing
that had happened years ago at Lloydsboro Valley.

It was at the tableau at The Beeches, when the curtain was rising on the
scene of Elaine the Lily Maid, lying on her funeral barge, in her right
hand the lily, in her left the letter. Miss Casey, the reader, had lost
her copy of the poem, and everything was going wrong because there was
no one to explain the tableau, and Mary sprang to the rescue. She could
hear her own voice ringing out, beginning the story: "And that day
there was dole in Astalot!" And she could feel the Little Colonel's arms
around her afterward, as she cried, "You were a perfect darling to save
the day that way." And Phil had come up and called her a brick and the
heroine of the evening. Now she wondered why that scene in detail should
come back so vividly, until something seemed to tell her she was to take
it as a sort of prophecy that she was to be as successful in her second
rising to meet an emergency as she was in her first.

When she entered the side door of the hall, the speaker whose place on
the programme immediately preceded Mrs. Blythe's had just taken his seat
in the midst of hearty applause, and the orchestra had begun a short
selection. In the shelter of some large palms at the side of the stage
she gave the chairman Mrs. Blythe's message, and sat down to wait. The
orchestra sounded as if it were miles away. She had often used the
expression, a sea of faces. As she looked across the expanse of those
upturned before her now, they seemed indeed a sea, and took on a
wave-like motion that made her dizzy. Then she happened to glance down
at the little signet ring she always wore. "By the bloodstone on her
finger" she must fail not in proving that undaunted courage was the
jewel of her soul.

When she looked out again, through the screen of palms, she could
distinguish individual faces in the great mass. There was Judge Brown
and Senator Ripley and Doctor Haverhill. And down in front, at the
reporters' table, was Orphant Annie. She couldn't help smiling as she
anticipated his surprise when he should see her taking Mrs. Blythe's
place. He was so close that he had already caught sight of her, and his
pale, prominent eyes were gazing at her with a solemn, quizzical
expression which made her smile. The thought of the surprise in store
for him steadied her nerves, and as she began to enjoy the humor of the
situation, gradually the loud knocking at her heart quieted. The buzzing
in her ears stopped. Her icy cold hands, which she had been holding
clenched, relaxed and grew warm again, and she came consciously out of
what seemed to be a waking dream.

Then the call of the hour marshalled all the forces of her mind in
orderly array. The vital words to say, the vital thing to do stood
clearly before her. With her fear all gone she looked out across the
house waiting for her summons to speak. When she rose it was with Mrs.
Blythe's "Godspeed" giving her courage. When she went forward, it was
with the exalted feeling of a soldier into whose hand a falling general
has thrust a sword, and commanded him to take a rampart. She would do it
or die.



CHAPTER VI

PHIL WALKS IN


Meanwhile, Phil Tremont, on the outer edge of the big audience, looked
in vain for Mary or for some one answering to the description she had
given of Mrs. Blythe. Several times he shifted his seat, slipping
farther around towards the stage. In one of the brief intervals between
speeches, while the orchestra played, he questioned an usher, and found
that Mrs. Blythe had not yet arrived, and that when she came she would
probably wait in one of the wings until time to be introduced to the
audience.

With an impatient glance at his watch he changed his seat once more,
this time to one in the section nearest the stage, but still in a back
row. He wanted to make sure of seeing Mary before she could see him. He
decided that if she did not make her appearance by the time Mrs. Blythe
arrived he would go back behind the scenes and look for her. Maybe Mrs.
Blythe would station her there somewhere as prompter, for fear that she
might forget her speech. If that were the case it would be a pity to
distract the prompter's attention, but it was a greater pity that the
few hours he had to spend with her should be wasted in idle waiting.

Several people who had glanced up admiringly at the handsome stranger
when he took his seat, watched with interest his growing impatience. It
was evident that he was anxiously waiting for some one, from the way he
alternately scanned the entrance, looked at his watch and referred to
the programme. When Mrs. Blythe's name on it was reached he leaned
forward, clutching the back of the chair in front of him impatiently
till the chairman came to the front of the stage.

The next instant such an audible exclamation of surprise broke from him
that several rows of heads were turned inquiringly in his direction. He
felt his face burn, partly from having attracted so much attention to
himself, partly from the surprise of the moment. For following the
chairman came not the dainty little Mrs. Blythe in her love of a new
gown and the big plumed hat, but Mary herself. There was such a pounding
in Phil's ears that he scarcely heard the chairman's explanation of Mrs.
Blythe's absence, and his announcement that Miss Ware had brought a
message from her to which they would now listen.

Several curious emotions possessed him in turn, after his first
overwhelming surprise. One was a little twinge of resentment at her
speaking in public. Not that he was opposed to other women doing it, but
somehow he wished that she hadn't attempted it. Then he felt the anxiety
and sense of personal responsibility one always has when a member of
one's own family is in the limelight. No matter how competent he may be
to rise to the occasion, there is always the lurking dread that he may
fail to acquit himself creditably.

Phil had been thinking of Mary as he saw her that last morning in Bauer,
all a-giggle and a-dimple and aglow, romping around the kitchen with
Norman, till the tinware clattered on the walls. But it was a very
different Mary who faced him now, with the old newspaper in her hand and
the story of Dena's wrongs burning to be told on her lips. It is proof
of how well she told it that her opening sentence brought a hush over
the great audience and held it in absolute silence to the end. And yet
she told it so simply, so personally, that it was as if she had merely
opened a door into Diamond Row and bidden them see for themselves the
windowless rooms, the mouldy walls, the slimy yards, Elsie Whayne and
Dena, and the old grandmother fondling the sunny curls of little
Terence.

When she finished, old Judge Brown was wiping his eyes, and portly
Doctor Haverhill was adding to the general din of applause by pounding
on the floor with his gold-headed cane. The chairman rose to announce
the last speaker on the programme, but Phil did not wait for anything
more. He had seen Mary pick up the coat which she had left hanging on
the chair behind the palms, and leave the platform. At the same time
Sandford Berry started up from his place at the reporters' table and
hurried after her.

Immediately Phil slipped from his seat and dashed down the aisle along
the side wall, to the door leading into one of the wings. Not familiar
with the back exits, he stumbled into several wrong passages before he
found some one to start him in the right direction. Despite his haste,
when he reached the street, Mrs. Blythe's automobile was just whirling
away from the curbstone, and Sandford Berry was coming back from putting
Mary into it. He had the newspaper in his hand which she had brought
from Diamond Row. It was for that he had hurried after her, promising
to use it to good advantage and return it to her in the morning. She had
refused at first, remembering old Mrs. Donegan's caution not to let it
out of her hands, and it was that brief parley which held her long
enough for Phil to reach the street and catch a fleeting glimpse of her.

He looked around for a taxicab or a carriage, but there was none in
sight. A policeman on the next corner directed him to a trolley car, and
told him where to transfer in order to reach Dudley Blythe's residence.
As he swung up on to the platform of the car he looked at his watch
again. It was half-past four o'clock. It was past five when he reached
the house. A tie-up of cars on the track ahead was accountable for the
delay.

Mary, in the machine and by a more direct route, had reached home nearly
half an hour before. She found a trained nurse in attendance on Mr.
Blythe. He had regained consciousness and, though still unable to speak,
was so much better that they were sure of his ultimate recovery. Mrs.
Blythe came out into the hall to tell her the good news.

"There's no need to ask you how _you_ got through," she exclaimed,
slipping an arm around her in an impulsive embrace.

"I know you did splendidly, and I'll be in your room in a few minutes to
hear all about it. Now, run along and lie down awhile. You look so white
and tired--no wonder, after all you've been through to-day."

If Mary had been at the boarding-house she would have thrown herself
down on the bed and gone without her supper. She felt so exhausted and
collapsed. But under the circumstances she felt that the obligations of
a guest required her to keep going. The evening meal was always somewhat
of a formal affair here, but she decided not to dress for it as usual.
Mr. Blythe's illness would change everything in that regard. She was so
tired she would just bathe her face and brush her hair while she still
had energy enough to move, and then would stretch out in the big
lounging chair in the firelight, and be ready for Mrs. Blythe any time
she might happen to come in. It took only a few moments to do all this,
and just as she finished, Mrs. Blythe came in with a cup of hot tea.

"Drink it and don't say a word until you have finished," she ordered.

Mary obeyed the first part, sipping the tea slowly as she lay back
luxuriously in the big chair, but she couldn't help commenting on the
strange, strange day that had brought so many unexpected things to
pass.

"Isn't it a blessed good thing," she exclaimed, "that we can't know when
we get up in the morning all that the day has in store for us? You'd
have been nearly crazy if you'd known all day that Mr. Blythe was going
to have that stroke of paralysis, and I'd simply have gone up in the air
if I had dreamed that I had to take your place on the programme. Nothing
could have happened that would have surprised me more."

But even while she spoke a still greater surprise was in store for her.
Both had heard the doorbell ring a moment before, but neither had paid
any attention to it. Now the maid came in with a message for Mary.

"A gentleman in the library to see you, Miss Ware. He wouldn't give his
name. He just said to tell you that he was an old friend passing through
town, and that he couldn't go till he had seen you."

"Who can it be?" exclaimed Mary, pulling herself slowly up from the
sleepy hollow chair, much puzzled. "If it's an old friend, it must be
some one from Lloydsboro Valley. Everybody else is too far away to drop
in like that. But why didn't he send up his card, I wonder?"

"Probably because he wants to surprise you," answered Mrs. Blythe. "If
it's any one you'd care to invite to dinner, feel perfectly free to do
so."

With a word of thanks and a hasty peep into the mirror, Mary started
down stairs, wondering at every step whom she would find. Time had been
when she would have pictured an imaginary suitor waiting for her below,
for it had been one of her pastimes when she was a child to manufacture
such mythical personages by the score. What they were like depended on
what she had just been reading. If fairy-tales, then it was a
blond-haired prince who came to her on bended knee to kiss her hand and
beg her to fly with him upon his coal-black steed to his castle. If she
had been dipping into some forbidden novel like _Lady Agatha's Career_,
then the fond suppliant was a haughty duke whom she spurned at first,
but graciously accepted afterward. Through many a day-dream, slender
lads and swarthy knights in armor, dauntless Sir Galahads and wicked St.
Elmos had sued for her favor in turn, with long and fervent speeches.
She did not know that there was any other way. And it had always been in
moon-lighted gardens that these imaginary scenes took place, with
nightingales singing in rose vines and jessamine arbors.

She had quit dreaming of such things since she came to Riverville.
Romance had little place in the hard, sad world with which her work
brought her in contact. So no such fancies passed through her mind now
as she went down the stairs; nothing but a keen curiosity to know which
of her old friends it was who waited below.

Dusk had fallen early that gray November evening, but the library was
aglow with the cheerful light of an open fire. Some one stood before it,
gazing down into the dancing flames, a tall, familiar figure,
broad-shouldered and erect. There was no mistaking who it was waiting
there in the gloaming. Only one person in all the world had that lordly
turn of the head, that alert, masterful air, and Mary acknowledged to
herself with a disquieting throb of the pulses that he was the one
person in the world whom of all others she wished most to see.

"Oh, Phil!" she cried happily from the doorway.

He had not heard her coming down the stairs and along the hall, so
softly was it carpeted, but at the call he turned and came to meet her,
both hands out, his handsome face suddenly radiant, as if the sight of
her brought unspeakable pleasure. Not a word did he say as he reached
out and took her hands in his and looked down into her upturned face.
But his eyes spoke. Their very smile was a caress, and the strong, warm
hands clasping hers closed over them as if they had just found something
that belonged to them and were taking undisputed possession.

There was no need for him to tell her all that he had come to say. She
felt it throbbing through the silence that was as solemn as a sacrament.
Their eyes looked into each other's searchingly. Then, as if from the
beginning of time they had been moving towards this meeting, he
announced simply, "I've come for you, dear. I'm starting on a new trail
now, and I can't go without you."

If that first hour of their betrothal had little need of words, there
was call for much speech and many explanations before he bade her good
night. Mary learned first, to her unbounded amazement, how near he had
come to asking her to marry him more than two years before, when he
parted from her in Bauer.

"But you were not more than half-way grown up then," he said. "I
realized it when I saw you romping around with Norman. I couldn't say
anything then because it didn't seem fair to you. But I had to bind you
in some way. That's why I made you promise what you did about letting me
know if any other man ever crossed your trail. I wanted to claim you
then and there and make sure of you, for I've always felt in some way or
another we belonged to each other. I've felt that ever since I first
knew you, Little Vicar."

There flashed across Mary's mind the remembrance of a conversation she
had overheard on the porch at The Locusts one night, and of Phil's voice
singing to Lloyd, to the accompaniment of a guitar:

        "Till the stars are old,
         And the sun grows cold,
         And the leaves of the Judgment
             Book unfold."

But if the faintest spark of jealousy glowed in Mary's heart, it was
extinguished at once and forever by another recollection--a remark of
Phil's as they once waited on the side-track together, going up to Bauer
after the San Jacinto festival. It was just after she had confessed to
the unconscious eavesdropping that made her a hearer of that song.

"Yes," he said, "that time will always be one of the sweetest and most
sacred of my memories. One's earliest love always is, they say, like the
first white violet in the spring. But--_there is always a summer after
every spring, you know._"

Who cares for one little violet of a bygone spring when the prodigal
wealth of a whole wonderful summertime is being poured out for one? So
when Phil said again musingly, "It does seem strange, how we've always
belonged to each other, doesn't it?" Mary looked up with a twinkling
smile to say:

"How could it be otherwise with _Philip and Mary on a shilling_?" And
then she showed him the old English shilling which she wore on her
watch-fob, the charm which she had drawn from Eugenia's wedding cake. To
Phil's unbounded amusement she told the story of dropping it into the
contribution plate that Christmas service, and getting lost in the
streets of New York in trying to rescue it from the bank where it had
been taken for deposit.



CHAPTER VII

HER GREAT RENUNCIATION


Mary went back to her work next day, but not to the same old treadmill.
It could never be that again. The thought that Phil was waiting for her,
working to provide a home for her, glorified the most commonplace day,
and came between her and her most disagreeable tasks. It was uppermost
in her mind when she made her visits to the tenements, and often caused
her to pause and ask herself why the gods had picked her out to make her
the most blessed among mortals. What had _she_ done that life should
bestow so much more on her than it had on poor Dena and Elsie Whayne?

Somehow the sharp contrast between her lot and theirs hurt her more each
time that it was forced upon her notice. It began to make her feel
personally responsible, if not for the difference between them, at least
for making that difference less. Why she owed it to them to do anything
to make their lives more livable, she could not tell, but the
obligation to do so weighed upon her more heavily every day.

Maybe if her endeavors had not been so effectual she might not have felt
the obligation so keenly, but she could not fail to see the difference
that her visits made to the families in the Row. Sometimes she counted
over the things she accomplished, as one might count the beads of a
rosary, not from any sense of pride in what she had done, but as a sort
of self-justification; asking herself, since she had done that much,
could more be reasonably expected.

It was through her efforts that Dena was sent to a hospital and some one
provided to take care of the invalid father and demented mother. It was
because she had interested charitable people in their behalf that Elsie
Whayne found a home in the country once more, and old Mrs. Donegan's
eyes had such skilful treatment from a specialist that she was able to
use them again. There were a dozen instances like that, but best of all,
she realized that she was responsible in a direct way for the miraculous
change that took place in Diamond Row itself.

The morning that Phil went away she was too much occupied to care for
such trivial matters as the daily papers. She did not even glance at
the Riverville _Herald_ to see if it mentioned the fact that she had
taken Mrs. Blythe's place on the programme. It was not until late that
afternoon that she found there was quite a glowing tribute to her
ability as a speaker. Sandford Berry had written it. He had also done
more. In a way they have in newspaper offices he had taken the paper
that Mary loaned him, traced the article denouncing Burke Stoner to its
source, and found that the man who had written it was now a prominent
lawyer in Riverville. He had been employed on the editorial staff of the
_Herald_ for a short time ten years before. Armed with permission to use
his name if necessary, in verifying the article, Sandford Berry had
electrified the town the morning after Mary's talk, by printing her
description of Diamond Row, and her burning appeal to the people of
Riverville to rise up and wipe out the disgrace in their midst. She had
not mentioned Burke Stoner's name, nor was her name mentioned in
connection with this article. It was for political reasons solely that
the _Herald_ made capital of it, stringing sensational headlines across
the front page in startling black letters: "One of to-morrow's
candidates responsible for death of one tenant and maybe two. Shameful
condition of Tenth and Myrtle Street tenements, from which millionaire
owner collects many thousands a year rental."

There was a picture of Burke Stoner, surrounded by a circle of
condemning snapshots of the basement room which had filled Mary with
such horror on her first visit, the stairway labelled "Death-trap of ten
years' standing," and a portrait of little Terence Reilly, reproduced
from the first paper.

Next morning Sandford Berry called her over the telephone to say
gleefully, "Well, it did the work! Coming as it did the last minute
before election it simply wiped Stoner off the map. He was defeated
overwhelmingly, and, between you and me and the gate-post, it was your
speech that did it. I took the liberty of appropriating it without
giving you any credit, for I knew that you wouldn't want to be mixed up
in a mess like that. Didn't I tell you that you'd be the biggest beacon
fire in the lot when you once got a-going? Well, you've started a blaze
now that'll rage a bit. Tell Mrs. Blythe that she'll have no trouble now
in getting the city ordinance she wanted, providing building inspectors.
This Board of Aldermen is hot for it, now that Stoner is out of the way,
and losing this election is going to cripple his influence through all
this part of the state. It'll help the bill you want to put through the
next session more than you realize. You didn't have any idea how far
your little candle was throwing its beams when you made that speech, did
you, Miss Mary? Well, it's indeed a good deed you did for this naughty
world."

"That's just Orphant Annie's extravagant way of putting things," thought
Mary, as she hung up the receiver. "My part in it wouldn't have amounted
to a row of pins if he hadn't written it up so vividly with all those
scare headlines. But, still, I _did_ start it all," she acknowledged to
herself, "and it's something to have done that."

For a moment she was elated by the sense of power that thrilled her. But
the thought that followed had a queer chilling effect. If she could
start such forces in motion for the betterment of the human beings
around her, had she any right to turn her back on this work which she
knew she was called to, just as definitely as Joan of Arc was called to
_her_ mission?

Phil's coming had made her forget for a little space what she had been
so very sure of for many months, that she had been set apart for some
high destiny, too great to allow her own personal considerations to
interfere. Now, at his call, she was about to forsake her first tryst
and turn to him. In just a little while she would leave it all and give
herself wholly to him. Was it right? Was it right?

That question troubled her oftener as the days went by. Not when his
letters came and his strong personality seemed to fold protectingly
about her while she read, shutting out the doubts which troubled her.
Not when she sat with his picture before her, tracing its outlines over
and over with adoring eyes. Not when she gave herself up to dreams of
the little home he wrote about frequently. The little home she would
know so well how to make into a real hearts' haven. She blessed the old
days of hard times and hard work now, for the valuable lessons they had
taught her.

But "is it right? Is it right to fail in the keeping of my first tryst
for this one of purely selfish pleasure?" she asked herself when she saw
the changes that were being wrought in Diamond Row. Before the winter
went by it had been transformed. It was not the sting of defeat which
drove Burke Stoner to do it, nor the sting of public opinion aroused
against him, but the pride of his own daughter, a girl of Mary's age,
when she learned the facts in the case.

She chanced to be in the audience the day when Mary made her appeal, and
unaware that it was her father's property that was being described, was
one of the most thoroughly aroused listeners in the whole audience. But
when she saw her father's picture in the paper next day, set in the
midst of others, proclaiming him a disgrace to good citizenship, her
mortification at being thus publicly shamed was something pitiful to
see. Hitherto it had been her pride to see his name heading popular
subscription lists, and to hear him spoken of as the friend of the poor,
on account of liberal donations.

Nobody knew what kind of a scene took place when she read the condemning
headlines, but it was reported that she locked herself in her room and
refused to see her father for several days. She was his only child and
his idol, and she had to be pacified at any cost. So she had her way as
usual, this time to the transforming of the whole of Diamond Row, and
the comfort of its inmates.

It began with drains and city water-works to supplant the infected
cistern. It moved on to paint and plaster and new floors, to the putting
in of a skylight in two dark rooms, and the cutting of windows in the
third. And, more than that, it led to the opening of both skylight and
windows into the sympathies of Burke Stoner's petted daughter, and led
her out of her round of self-centred thoughts to unselfish interest in
her unfortunate neighbors. It is a question which of the two gained the
greatest inrush of sunshine by those openings.

Mary, watching all this, felt alternately exultant that she had been the
means of starting these blessed changes, and depressed by the thought
that she would be doing wrong if she turned her back on the opportunity
of continuing such work. Thanksgiving went by and the first of December.
As the shops began to put on holiday dress Mary began to be more
depressed than ever. The burden of her poor people pressed upon her more
sorely each day that she listened to their stories of the hard winter
and their struggle to make both ends meet. But more depressing still
were the times when old Mrs. Donegan begged her to come often, and
called down the blessing of all the saints in the calendar upon her
head, and told her tearfully that it would be a sorry day for the Row
that took her away from it.

"It's God's own blessing you've been to the whole tenement!" she
proclaimed volubly on every occasion, and, remembering the changes that
had been brought about directly and indirectly by her efforts, Mary
knew that it was so, and felt all the more strongly that she would be
doing wrong to abandon the work.

Mr. Blythe was able to be out again by Christmas time. The two boys came
home for the holidays, and for two weeks Mary helped with the
entertaining that went on in the big house. There was no question now of
her going back to the boarding-house at Mrs. Crum's. Mrs. Blythe said
that having once experienced the comfort of having a daughter in the
house, she could not dispense with her. She could go off to the capital
now with a free conscience, leaving Mary in charge of the establishment.
So, in January she went, and for several weeks waited for the bill to
come up before the Legislature; busy weeks in which she was occupied all
day long in making new friends for her cause.

Then she wrote home cheerfully that the bill had come up. There had been
much opposition, and it had been cut down and amended till it would fit
only the larger cities of the state. They had gained only a part of what
they had asked for, but that was something, and they would go on
awakening public sentiment until the next session, and bring it up
again. The fight would have to be made all over again, but they would
make it valiantly, hoping for absolute victory next time. She would be
home in a few days.

Up till this time Mary had not realized how anxiously she was looking
forward to the passage of the bill. Upon its fate depended her own, for
as one draws straws to decide a matter, she had made up her mind to let
its outcome settle the question which had troubled her so long. If it
went through successfully, and the State thus proved that it was fully
awake to its duty, then she would feel that her obligation was ended.
That was the specific work she had pledged herself to do. But if it
failed--well, it would break her heart, but she'd have to keep the
tryst, no matter what it cost her.

Her intense desire for its success gradually led her to feel that it was
assured, and the news of only a partial victory left her as undecided as
before. To escape the mood of depression which seized her the snowy
Sunday night before Mrs. Blythe's return, she put on her wraps and
slipped out to a little church in the next block, hoping to find some
word to quiet her unrest, either in song, service or sermon. She sat
listening almost feverishly till the minister announced his text: "_No
man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the
kingdom of God."_

It was a sermon extolling sacrifice. The minister, a young man with a
thin, earnest face and deep-set eyes that burned like two dark fires,
seemed to know no call of the flesh. It was all of the spirit. One after
another he cited the examples of the Father Damiens, the Florence
Nightingales of the world, till the whole noble army of martyrs, the
goodly company of the Apostles were marshalled before Mary's accusing
conscience, and she felt herself condemned as unfit to stand with them,
wholly unfit for the kingdom. The closing hymn was as accusing as the
sermon:

        "The Son of God goes forth to war. Who follows in His train?

                      .     .     .     .     .     .

         Who best can drink his cup of woe, triumphant over pain,
         Who patient bears his cross below, he follows in His train."

She went away with those lines repeating themselves in her ears. It was
still early when she went home, but Mr. Blythe had retired, so telling
the maid to close the house for the night, she went up to her own room,
where the fire burned cheerfully in the grate. She drew up a little
table before it and brought out her writing material. She had made up
her mind to make the supreme sacrifice of her life, even if it killed
her.

"Keep tryst or die!" she sobbed, as she took up her pen. "Oh, Phil! How
can I write it, that I must give you up?"

It took a long time to tell him. She wanted to make it perfectly clear
to him that it was breaking her heart to do it. She was afraid he
wouldn't understand how she felt about not being fit for the kingdom,
and it was hard to put down in black and white such a deeply personal,
such a spiritual thing as that experience of hearing the voices and
answering the call. But in no other way could she explain. Twice she
broke down utterly, and with her head on her arms on the little table,
cried and sobbed with long shuddering gasps that shook her convulsively.
Once she threw the half-finished letter into the fire, saying fiercely
in a low tone, "I _can't_! Oh, I _can't_! It would be giving up more
than Father Damien did. It's more than I can bear!"

But she remembered again those awful words, "No man, putting his hand to
the plough"-- _This_ was looking back. She took another sheet of paper
and patiently rewrote all that was on the sheets she had just burned. It
was nearly morning when she finally sealed the envelope and crept into
bed exhausted by the ordeal. There was no sense of "rising triumphant
over pain" to reward her for her sacrifice, but her stern little Puritan
conscience found a dreary sort of comfort in the thought that she had
followed duty, and that nothing else mattered.

"One doesn't _have_ to be happy," she told herself, over and over.

When she awoke next morning and remembered what she had done, the bottom
seemed to drop out of the whole universe, and she felt a hundred years
old as she moved languidly about the room at her dressing.

"But I can't go on this way," she exclaimed, catching a glimpse of her
wan-eyed reflection in the mirror. "Such a half-hearted sort of giving
won't do any good. I shall have to do as the nuns do when they shut
their convent gate on the world, shut it entirely and forever. I shall
have to put away everything that reminds me of Phil."

She glanced around the room. How many reminders there were, for she had
always treasured everything he had ever sent her; books, pictures,
little curios picked up on his travels. Even an odd stone he had found
on the desert and brought into the Wigwam one day, she used now as a
paperweight. An Indian basket he had bought from an old squaw at
Hole-in-the-rock held her sewing materials. Just under her hand on the
table lay the little book he had given her to read on the train when she
was starting home after Jack's accident, "The Jester's Sword." As she
fingered it caressingly, it seemed to open of its own accord to the
fly-leaf, where was printed the line from Stevenson: "To renounce when
that shall be necessary and not be embittered." And then on the opposite
page--"Because he was born in Mars' month the bloodstone became his
signet, sure token that undaunted courage would be the jewel of his
soul."

She had thought those lines were wonderfully helpful when she offered
them to Jack as an inspiration to renew _his_ courage, but what a hollow
mockery they seemed now that the time had come to apply them to her own
case. Still, the thought of the brave Jester persisted, and was with her
when she went down to breakfast, and later when she went to the station
to meet Mrs. Blythe. She, too, would wear her sword of conquest so
hidden, and unbeknown, even to those who walked closest to her side.

Almost feverishly she threw herself into the duties of the next few
days, glad that an accumulation of letters on Mrs. Blythe's desk kept
her busy at the typewriter all morning, and that some investigating for
the Associated Charities kept her tramping about the streets the rest of
the time, until nightfall. She thought that she was hiding her secret so
successfully that no one imagined she had one. She talked more than
usual at the table, she laughed at the slightest excuse, she joined
spiritedly in the repartee at dinner, a time when they nearly always had
guests. But keen-eyed Mrs. Blythe saw several things in the course of
the week. She noticed her lack of appetite, the long spells of
abstraction that came sometimes after her merriest outbursts; the deep
shadows under her eyes of a morning, as if she had passed many sleepless
hours.

Then going into her room one day it occurred to her that Phil's pictures
were missing. There had been several, so prominently placed on mantel,
dressing-table and desk that one saw them the first thing on entering.
Then she noticed that the solitaire was gone from Mary's finger, and was
tempted to ask the reason, but resisted the impulse, thinking that it
was probably because of some trivial misunderstanding which would right
itself in time.

One afternoon, passing through the lower end of the hall, she saw Mary
sitting at the typewriter in the alcove that had been curtained off for
an office. She was about to call to her to stop and get ready for a
tramp before dark, when the postman's whistle sounded across the street.
He was making his four o'clock rounds. It was a rare occurrence for him
to pass the house at this time of day without leaving something. All
winter it had been the hour at which Phil's daily letter was most likely
to arrive. Mrs. Blythe recalled the big, dashing hand in which they were
always addressed, and Mary's radiant face when they arrived.

Now, at the sounding of the whistle, the clicking of keys stopped and
Mary leaned forward to look out of the window, and watch the progress of
the postman down the avenue. He did not cross over. As the cheerful
whistle sounded again, further down the street, she suddenly leaned her
arms on the typewriter in front of her and dropped her head upon them in
such an attitude of utter hopelessness that Mrs. Blythe hesitated no
longer.

"What's the matter, dear?" she asked kindly, putting her arms around
her, and Mary, surprised into confession, sobbed out the story of her
renunciation on her sympathetic shoulder.

If there was one person in the world whom Mary thought would
understand, who would heartily approve of what she had done, and who
would comfort her with due appreciation and praise, that person would be
Mrs. Blythe. But, to her astonishment, although the arm that encircled
her closed around her with an affectionate embrace, the exclamation that
accompanied it was only, "Oh, you dear little, blessed little _goose_!"

It was a shock, and yet there was some note in it that gave Mary a glad,
swift sense of relief and comfort. She straightened up and wiped her
eyes. Mrs. Blythe hurried to say:

"Don't think for a moment that I don't appreciate to the very fullest
your motive in making such a sacrifice. I think it is very fine and
noble of you, but--my dear little girl, I don't believe it is wholly
necessary. You see, it's this way. The work we are trying to do can't be
accomplished by any one person. If it could you would be gloriously
justified in giving your whole life up to it. But it must be the work of
many. One little torch can't possibly lighten every town in the country.
Even that greatest of beacons, the statue of Liberty, lightens only one
harbor. All we can hope to do is to kindle the unlit torches next to us,
and keep the circle of light widening in every direction till the
farthest boundary of the farthest state is aglow. And you can do that
wherever you go, Mary. Very few states have their homes safeguarded by
the law we are trying to get for this one. And every town and village in
the United States has the _beginning_ of a city slums in some of its
corners.

"Perhaps the very greatest thing you can do for the cause is to show
other girls that they don't have to be like nuns in order to help. They
don't have to take any sort of vow or veil that shuts them away from a
normal, usual life. It is something in which social influence counts for
a very great deal. Because I have a home of my own, and a recognized
social position, and am a happy wife and mother, people listen to me far
more readily when I go to them with a plea for less fortunate homes and
wives and mothers. Mrs. Philip Tremont will be able to accomplish even
more than little Mary Ware. I cannot see where loyalty to Phil and
loyalty to your conception of what you owe humanity conflict in the
slightest. Marriage may take away the leisure that you have now. Few
women have the time to give to a public cause what I am giving. It is
only of late years that I have had it myself. But a torch is a torch, no
matter where you put it, and sometimes the lights streaming from
cheerful home windows make better guides for the benighted traveller
than the street lamp, whose sole purpose is to give itself to the
public."

"I hadn't thought about it that way," said Mary slowly, looking out of
the window in order to keep her face averted. "Maybe you're right, but
it's too late for me to take your point of view, much as I'd like to. I
wrote to Phil a week ago, and sent back his ring, and I made it so clear
that it was a matter of conscience with me, that I'm very sure that I
convinced him that I was doing the right thing. At any rate, there has
been plenty of time for a reply, and I haven't had a word. 'Silence
gives consent,' you know."

She spoke drearily and kept on looking out of the window so long that
Mrs. Blythe was sure that her eyes were full of tears which she wanted
to hide. So she rose briskly, saying, as if the matter were ended:

"Well, at any rate, come on and let's have our walk. We can tramp out to
the Turnpike Inn and come back by trolley before dark if we start
immediately."

All the way out and back Mrs. Blythe could see what an effort Mary was
making to appear interested in the conversation, but she knew by
intuition that her thoughts were not on the people and places they
passed. Each way she turned she was seeing, not the bare February
landscape, but the handsome, laughing face she was trying so hard to put
out of her memory. It was doubly hard now that Mrs. Blythe had
pronounced her renunciation of it unnecessary. The more Mary thought
about it, the more reasonable Mrs. Blythe's viewpoint seemed. It was
true that Dudley Blythe's position in the professional world gave his
wife a certain prestige with many people, and her words a weight they
would not have had otherwise, despite her own personal charm and
ability. And his hearty endorsement and coöperation was her strongest
support.

"Maybe Mrs. Blythe was right," thought Mary. Maybe giving herself to
Phil wouldn't be looking back from the "plough" to which she had
consecrated herself. Maybe it would only be giving it a strong, guiding
hand. She certainly needed it herself, judging from the mess she had
made of her life and Phil's.

Oddly enough, it was not until that moment that she thought of him as
being particularly affected by her decision. Probably it was because she
had always taken such an humble attitude in her mind towards the Best
Man that she had not realized it might be as hard for him to be
"renounced" as for her to make the sacrifice.

On their return Mrs. Blythe saw her quick glance at the silver tray on
the hall table. Any letters arriving while they were out were always
placed there. It was impossible that there should be any now, for the
postman had made his last rounds before they started out. Nevertheless,
she glanced hopefully towards it, and was turning away in disappointment
when the maid, who had heard their latchkey in the door, came into the
hall.

"There's a caller in the library for Miss Ware," she announced. "Been
waiting nearly an hour."

"It's probably Electa Dunn," said Mary listlessly, to whom the word
"waiting" brought up the figure of an unfortunate little seamstress who
had spent a large part of her life in that attitude.

"I left word that I had some sewing for her to do and would send the
material to-morrow. She must be more eager than ever for work, else she
wouldn't come a day ahead of time and wait till dark to get it."

The library door stood open and the firelight shone out cheerfully
across the hall, now almost dark with the shadows of the February
twilight. Just that way it had shone out to meet her three months
before, when she came down and found Phil there. That room had seemed
sacred to her ever since. She wished the maid had not sent Electa in
there to wait for her. It hurt so to have to go into it and recall all
that had happened since that meeting. For an instant her eyes closed and
her lips pressed together as if an actual physical pain had gripped her.
Then she forced herself to go on. At the doorway she paused again and
passed the back of her hand across her eyes, sure that she was dreaming.

It was all as it had been that never-to-be-forgotten night. Some one
stood before the fire gazing down into the dancing flames. It was not
the patient little seamstress, however. The tall, masterful man that
stood there had never waited patiently for anything in his life. Now, at
the sound of her entrance, he turned and came impetuously towards her,
his face alight, his hands outstretched.

Mrs. Blythe, half-way up the stairs, heard Mary's surprised cry, "Oh,
Phil!" and nodded sagely to herself. "He's come instead of writing, just
as I thought he would. Wise man!"



CHAPTER VIII

HOW IT ALL ENDED


When Mary's letter with the ring reached Phil, he was making
preparations to leave New York that very day. Mr. Sherman had offered
him a partnership in one of his enterprises, with headquarters in
Louisville. It was a very flattering offer, still Phil hesitated.
Personally, he preferred the position in the far West, which his former
chief had been urging him all winter to accept. His previous training
fitted him for one as well as the other, but he had always loved the
West, always felt its lure.

It was when he considered Mary, that Mr. Sherman's offer appealed to him
most. When he thought of the radiant delight with which she would
receive the news that they could cross over and take possession of her
long-desired land, he was almost persuaded to choose Kentucky, for that
one reason alone. He was fully persuaded the morning her letter arrived,
and had just telegraphed Mr. Sherman that he was starting for
Louisville to arrange matters at once.

It was well for both Phil and Mary that he had known her so long and
understood so thoroughly the ins and outs of her honest little heart.
This was not the first time that he had known her to make some
renunciation for conscience' sake, and although the letter, in his own
forcible parlance, "gave him a jolt" for an hour or so, after several
readings he folded it up with a smile and slipped it into the package
with the others marked "From the Little Vicar."

He hadn't the faintest intention of being "renounced." Moreover, he was
positive that he had only to see her and urge a few good arguments in
his favor, which would convince her that he would never be in the way of
what she considered her duty.

But a very tender regard lay under his smile of amusement, for the
attitude she had taken, and a feeling of reverence possessed him as he
saw her in the new light which this revelation of her spiritual life
gave him. "Nobody is good enough for little Mary Ware," he had said
once, when she was a romping child. He was thinking of her
unselfishness, her sturdy sincerity, her undaunted courage. Now he
repeated it, thinking of her as this letter revealed her, a
white-souled vestal maiden who took the stars as a symbol of her duty,
and who would not swerve a hair's-breadth from the orbit which she
thought was heaven appointed.

Knowing that he could reach her almost as quickly as a letter, and
confident that a personal interview would be a thousandfold more
effective, Phil did not write. But he took the first train to
Louisville, and after a few days with Mr. Sherman left for Riverville,
armed with an argument and a promise which he was sure would carry
weight in his behalf. The argument was that he needed her. He was about
to take charge of an important business entrusted to him, and he could
not do it half so well without the inspiration of the little home she
had agreed to help him make. The promise was that marrying him should
not interfere with what she considered her tryst. She should have his
hearty help and coöperation in trying to do for any state which they
might move to, what Mrs. Blythe was doing for hers.

All this and much more he said in the first impetuous words of meeting,
and almost before Mary had recovered from the overwhelming surprise of
seeing him, the ring was back on her finger and she was listening to the
plans which he rapidly outlined to her. He wasn't going to give her a
chance to change her mind again, he insisted. There was no reason why
they should not be married right there in the library the following day,
as soon as he could make the necessary arrangements.

"Oh, but there is a reason," gasped Mary, aghast at the sudden demand.
Then she hesitated, loath to tell what it was. For though it was a
weighty one with her, she knew that he would smile at it as childish.
But, after all, it was easier to confess to Phil than any one else. He
seemed to understand perfectly what she meant, even when the words
halted and failed to express her innermost feelings.

So, presently, she found herself explaining to him that it had always
been one of her beliefs from the time of her earliest knowledge of such
things, that one couldn't properly be a bride without a certain ceremony
of preparation. The filling of a dower chest was one part of it, and the
setting of infinite stitches, each as perfect as a tiny pearl, in much
"fair and broidered raiment" was another. The princesses in the fairy
tales did their fine needlework to the accompaniment of songs upon a
lute; so one set stitches in one's wedding garments, to the romance of
fancies--and so--

She did not finish coherently, but Phil laughed and said teasingly that
he ought to have known that any one, who, as a child, wept to wear her
rosebud sash out walking on the desert, where there were only owls and
jack-rabbits to see it, would insist on veils and trails and things at a
time like this. He wouldn't wait for the filling of a dower chest. She
could do that afterward; but he was finally induced to wait for the
other things, when Mrs. Blythe was brought into the discussion and
pronounced them actually necessary.

He went back to Louisville without telling Mary of his arrangement with
Mr. Sherman which had changed all his plans. The home he had written so
much about would be ready for her, but it would not be in the far West,
as she expected. He could hardly wait for the day to come when he could
witness her delight over the tremendous surprise which he had in store
for her.

It was not many weeks before he had the pleasure of telling her, but it
was over two months before she made a record of it in her diary. Then
she wrote:

"There is room for just one more chapter in my Good Times book, and when
that is finished it is to be laid away in the chest with my wedding
gown and bridal roses. Maybe, a hundred years from now, some young girl
rummaging through the attic may find my beautiful dress all yellowed
with time, and the rose leaves dried and scentless. But I am sure my
happiness will call to her from these pages like a living voice as young
as hers.

"And when she sees how this record is blistered with tears in places,
and reads how Disappointment and Duty and even Death rose up to 'close
all the roads of all the world' to me, then she'll take 'heart of grace'
if she is in any desert of waiting herself. For she'll see how true it
is that Love's road is always open, and that if we only keep inflexible
it will finally lead to the land of our desire. For here I am at last in
Lloydsboro Valley.

"It has been more than two months since Phil and I were married at Saint
Mark's Cathedral in Riverville, but I have been too busy to write the
chronicles of that important affair. No one was there but Mr. and Mrs.
Dudley Blythe. Dear old Bishop Chartley came down for the ceremony. His
warm friendship with Mrs. Blythe made that arrangement possible. It was
late in the afternoon, and the great stained-glass windows made it seem
like twilight, and down the long dim aisles the altar candles gleamed
like stars.

"I had thought at first that the vast place would seem empty and
lonesome, and that it would be queer not to have the pews filled with
friendly faces at a time like that. But when I went down the aisle I
wasn't conscious of empty pews. The glorious organ music filled it,
clear to the vaulted ceiling. And although Phil had teased me about not
wanting to wear an ordinary travelling dress and hat, he had to
acknowledge afterward that he was glad I chose to come to him all in
white and in a filmy tulle veil. And he said some dear things about the
way I looked, that were as sweet to me as the rose leaves I have
scattered among the folds of my wedding gown's white loveliness. I have
not put what he said into these pages for the girl to find a century
from now. For fashions change so curiously that maybe she would smile
and say how very queer my old-time garments are, and wonder how any man
could have made a pretty speech about them.

"Phil proved he had some sentiment about such things himself, for soon
after he bought me a real 'Ginevra' chest, all beautifully carved, with
my name engraved on the brass plate on the lid: _'Mary Ware Tremont_.'

"Not until we were aboard the train, and he showed me our tickets
marked Lloydsboro Valley, did I know that we were bound for Kentucky,
instead of the far West, and not until we were almost there did he
spring his grand surprise, although he was nearly choking with
impatience to tell. Of course I hadn't expected that we would set up
much of an establishment. I supposed that wherever we went we would rent
a modest little cottage, probably in the suburbs. I knew that Phil
couldn't afford much. He never began to save anything at all until two
years ago. He confessed when he first came back from Mexico that it was
a lecture of mine about providing a financial umbrella for a possible
rainy day which started him to doing it, and that as expenses were light
in the construction camp, and his pay very large, he had put by enough
to take us through almost anything, short of a cloudburst. But that was
an emergency fund, of course, and not to be invested in houses and
lands.

"He never told me that the tangle about his Great-aunt Patricia's
holdings in England, whatever that may be, had been straightened out at
last, and that his share, paid to him recently, was over five thousand
pounds.

"That was the first part of the surprise. The second was that he had
_bought_ (mark that word, whoever you are, oh, little maiden of the
far-off future, if you ever come across this record of happiness)--he
had bought a home in Lloydsboro Valley. He had the deed in his pocket,
and he showed how it was made out to _me_!

"Well, when the time comes for me 'to read my title clear to mansions in
the skies,' I _may_ be happier than I was that moment, but I doubt it. I
don't see how it could be possible. And when I got it through my
bewildered brain that it was _Green Acres_ that was meant by all the
queer measurements and descriptions in the deed, I lost my head
altogether, and Phil had the satisfaction of seeing that his surprise
was absolute, supreme and overpowering. It seemed too good to be true.

"Green Acres is just across the road from Oaklea. The grounds don't make
you think of a big, stately park as Oaklea does. It is more countrified.
But it is the dearest, most homelike, inviting old place that one can
imagine. I had been there several times with Lloyd and Mrs. Sherman, and
remembered it as a real picture-book sort of house, with its low gables
and quaint casement windows. I remembered that it had a garden gay as
Grandmother Ware's, with its holly-hocks and prince's feathers, its
marigolds and yellow roses; and that it had mint and sage and all sorts
of spicy, savory things in some of its borders. But I didn't know half
of its charms. Now, after two months, I am just beginning to discover
the extent of them.

"When a family has owned a place for three generations, as the
Wyckliffes did Green Acres, and have spent their time making it livable
and lovable, the result leaves little more to be wished for. The
hillside that slopes down from the back of the house has a small orchard
on part of it and a smaller vineyard on the other, but both quite ample
for our needs. Down at the bottom a little brook trickles along from a
cold spring, and watercress and forget-me-nots grow along its edges. The
apple trees are in bloom now. This morning I spent a whole hour up in
the gnarly crotch of one of them, doing nothing but enjoying to the
fullest the sweetness of their white and pink glory.

"When we came only the early wildflowers were out, but all the knoll
between the gate and the house looked as if there had been a snowfall of
anemones and spring beauties. It isn't possible to put into black and
white the joy of that first home-coming. We walked up from the station,
and when we went through the great gate and heard it click behind us,
shutting us in on our own grounds, we turned and looked at each other
and laughed like delighted children. It was as if we had reached that
land that we used to sing about, where

        "'Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
         Stand dressed in living green.'

No wonder they named the place Green Acres!

"We left the wide driveway that winds around the hill to the house, and
took the little path that leads straight up to it under the trees. The
footpath to peace, Phil calls it.

"There was smoke coming out of the kitchen chimney, for Lloyd and Mrs.
Sherman had been in the secret and had helped Phil as industriously as
the two genii of the Bottle to get everything ready. He had bought some
of the furniture with the house, some they had helped him choose and
some they waited for me to select myself. But there was enough to make
the place livable right away, and there wasn't a room in the house that
didn't look comfortable and inviting.

"And there was May Lily installed in the kitchen as temporary cook, and
perfectly willing to stay if I wanted her. As if there could be any
question as to that! If there was anything needed to make it seem more
homelike than it already was, I found it when we started out to explore
the back premises. A fussy old hen, with her feathers all fluffed out
importantly, was clucking and scratching for a brood of downy yellow
chickens, just out of the shell. Old Mom Beck had sent them over as a
wedding present, May Lily said.

"When we had been all through the orchard and down to the spring, and
had discovered the rows of currant and gooseberry bushes at the end of
the garden, Phil said in a careless off-hand way that we might as well
take a look through the barn. By this time I had exhausted my whole
stock of exclamations, so I hadn't another word left when he led me up
to a stall, where stood one of the prettiest bay saddle horses I ever
saw in my whole life. That was Father Tremont's present to me.

"'Daddy didn't know what would please you most,' Phil said, 'but I
remembered the pleasure you used to take in old Washington out at the
Wigwam, and Lloyd insisted that you would like a riding horse better
than anything else. She rides every day herself, and was sure you would
enjoy joining her on her gallops across country.'

"Well, by that time, being speechless, all I could do was to put my
arms around the beautiful creature's satiny neck and cry a bit into her
glossy mane. The sheer happiness of having so many of my cherished
dreams come true all at once was too much for me. Her name was
Silver-wings, but from that moment I called her Joy.

"All afternoon I kept discovering things. When we sat down to dinner
that night, our first meal together (Lloyd had told May Lily exactly
what to do), a lot of the silver was marked Tremont, for the doctor had
divided all of Aunt Patricia's silver that came down from her
grandfather's family equally among Elsie and Stuart and Phil. But there
were some beautiful pieces from Lloyd and the old Colonel, and Mr. and
Mrs. Sherman. Stuart and Eugenia had sent quantities of fine table
linen.

"The last surprise of the day was the house-warming. Everybody had
stayed away till then, to let us have time to 'spy out the land and
possess it.' Lloyd and Rob were the first to come over, then Gay and
Alex Shelby. They have just gone to housekeeping in the Lindsey cabin.
Every old friend in the Valley came before the evening was over, and
gave us a royal welcome, as warm and heartening as the blaze which we
started in the big fireplace. When the Colonel went away he quoted from
the Hanging of the Crane,

        "'Oh, fortunate, oh, happy day
         When a new household has its birth
         Amid the myriad homes of earth.'

"He said that Green Acres had always been the synonym for whole-souled
hospitality, but that we had even surpassed its best traditions.

"There isn't room for much more in this little book; only a few pages
are left, so I can't crowd into it all the good times of the last two
months, but I must make mention of the delightful rides I have had with
Lloyd, and the times when she and Gay and I have spent the day together
in good old Valley fashion. Just to be this near my Princess Winsome and
to see her daily is a constant joy. She is lovelier and more winsome
than she ever was before.

"I must put on record that I have proved what Mrs. Blythe said to be
true about the light from happy home windows being the best guide for
benighted travellers, and that social influence counts so greatly in the
work we are trying to do. Already I am beginning to see that as Mistress
of Green Acres I shall be able to accomplish far more than little Mary
Ware ever did. Of course, that might not be possible if Phil were not in
hearty sympathy with what I want to do. But he is thoroughly interested
himself.

"The other night at the Moores I overheard him discussing Housing Reform
with Judge Abbott of Lexington, as warmly as Mrs. Blythe could have
done. Finally the whole dinner party took it up, and Mrs. Abbott said
that her club had been interested in the subject for some time, and all
they need is for some one to take the initiative. The Abbotts were
staying several days with Lloyd and Rob, so next night I had them over
here. After dinner I took them up into my 'Place of the Tryst.' Of
course, I don't call it that to anybody but Phil, and he has dubbed it
the Chamber of Horrors.

"It's just a big empty room up in one of the gables. There is nothing in
it but a desk and a table and some chairs and the typewriter that I
bought with the check which Jack sent me. But around the walls are
copies of the photographs we used as posters in Riverville to arouse the
public, and had hanging in the corridors of the State House all during
the session of the Legislature. They are the very worst tenement views
we could get, like that basement in Diamond Row, and some of the
windowless rooms taken by flashlight.

"Judge Abbott said he knew that there are places every bit as bad in
Lexington and Frankfort and Covington, and Mr. Sherman and Alex Shelby
said there were scores even worse in Louisville. Miss Allison told some
experiences a friend of hers had in exploring alleys in some of the
smaller towns, and presently the whole little company, representing
several different parts of the state, were all ablaze from that one
touch of Mrs. Blythe's torch.

"When I first fitted up the room, Phil said that it didn't seem right
that a Chamber of Horrors should have a place in such a perfect home.
But I told him that we needed it to keep us from 'joining ourselves to
idols,' as Ephraim did. That is the danger that always menaces people
when they get over into their Promised Land. We might be tempted to
think so much of our dear possessions that we'd make idols of them sure
enough, and forget all about the work we had pledged ourselves to do. No
one has a right to settle down to the full possession and full enjoyment
of any Canaan, until he has put to flight every Hittite and Gittite that
preys upon its internal peace.

"They all seemed surprised to see my typewriter, but I told them how I
had used Mrs. Blythe's, and that this one is dedicated to the same
cause. That I expected to write hundreds of letters just as soon as I
found out who were the most influential people to address. Right then
and there the movement started. Every man there promised me a list of
his personal acquaintances who had big influence, and said he'd gladly
put his signature to any letter or petition that would help get what we
wanted. Lloyd and Miss Allison are both members of the Women's Club in
Louisville, and they asked me to join, and are as enthusiastic as heart
could wish. Judge Abbott took a copy of Mrs. Blythe's bill to look it
over and see how it could be amended to put before the Kentucky
Legislature, so already I feel that something has been accomplished. It
is something just to get a start.

"Once, long ago, the old Colonel remarked that I had it in my power to
become an honor to my sex and one of the most interesting women of my
generation. My family used to quote it to me to tease me, on all
occasions, but for years it was one of my highest ambitions to become
what he had prophesied. It is something else that I crave now.

"I write it here on the last page and lay it away under the white tulle
and the rose leaves, for some one to bring to light long years from
now. It will be the crowning happiness of my happy life, if she who
reads may chance to have heard that my wish found fulfilment. For then
she can add 'She _was_ a blessing to her generation and a torch that
helped to light the way for all who came after her.'"


THE END.



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       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 22, missing word "a" added to text. (after a long time)

Page 30, missing word "the" added to text (at the thought of)

Page 41, "role" changed to "rôle" (the rôle of Uncle)

Page 119, "muscial" changed to "musical" (no more musical)

Page 120, "me" changed to "my" (of my ancestors)

Page 121 "Lloydboro" changed to "Lloydsboro" (Sunday in Lloydsboro)

Page 189, "Tueton" changed to "Teuton" (bewhiskered old Tueton)

Page 297, "professsional" changed to "professional" (professional world
gave)

Page 307, "Loydsboro" changed to "Lloydsboro" (marked Lloydsboro Valley)





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