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Title: Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1907 to 1908
Author: Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942
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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Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1907 to 1908


Lucy Maud Montgomery was born at Clifton (now New London), Prince
Edward Island, Canada, on November 30, 1874. She achieved
international fame in her lifetime, putting Prince Edward Island and
Canada on the world literary map. Best known for her "Anne of Green
Gables" books, she was also a prolific writer of short stories and
poetry. She published some 500 short stories and poems and twenty
her short stories was gathered from numerous sources and is presented
in chronological publishing order:

Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1896 to 1901
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1902 to 1903
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1904
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1905 to 1906
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1907 to 1908
Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1909 to 1922


       *       *       *       *       *



Short Stories 1907 to 1908

    Millionaire's Proposal                                   1907
    A Substitute Journalist                                  1907
    Anna's Love Letters                                      1908
    Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress                               1907
    Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving Dinner                       1907
    By Grace of Julius Caesar                                1908
    By the Rule of Contrary                                  1908
    Fair Exchange and No Robbery                             1907
    Four Winds                                               1908
    Marcella's Reward                                        1907
    Margaret's Patient                                       1908
    Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves                        1908
    Missy's Room                                             1907
    Ted's Afternoon Off                                      1907
    The Girl Who Drove the Cows                              1908
    The Doctor's Sweetheart                                  1908
    The End of the Young Family Feud                         1907
    The Genesis of the Doughnut Club                         1907
    The Growing Up of Cornelia                               1908
    The Old Fellow's Letter                                  1907
    The Parting of the Ways                                  1907
    The Promissory Note                                      1907
    The Revolt of Mary Isabel                                1908
    The Twins and a Wedding                                  1908



A Millionaire's Proposal


                                  Thrush Hill, Oct. 5, 18--.

It is all settled at last, and in another week I shall have left
Thrush Hill. I am a little bit sorry and a great bit glad. I am going
to Montreal to spend the winter with Alicia.

Alicia--it used to be plain Alice when she lived at Thrush Hill and
made her own dresses and trimmed her own hats--is my half-sister. She
is eight years older than I am. We are both orphans, and Aunt
Elizabeth brought us up here at Thrush Hill, the most delightful old
country place in the world, half smothered in big willows and poplars,
every one of which I have climbed in the early tomboy days of gingham
pinafores and sun-bonnets.

When Alicia was eighteen she married Roger Gresham, a man of forty.
The world said that she married him for his money. I dare say she did.
Alicia was tired of poverty.

I don't blame her. Very likely I shall do the same thing one of these
days, if I get the chance--for I too am tired of poverty.

When Alicia went to Montreal she wanted to take me with her, but I
wanted to be outdoors, romping in the hay or running wild in the woods
with Jack.

Jack Willoughby--Dr. John H. Willoughby, it reads on his office
door--was the son of our nearest neighbour. We were chums always, and
when he went away to college I was heartbroken.

The vacations were the only joy of my life then.

I don't know just when I began to notice a change in Jack, but when he
came home two years ago, a full-fledged M.D.--a great, tall,
broad-shouldered fellow, with the sweetest moustache, and lovely thick
black hair, just made for poking one's fingers through--I realized it
to the full. Jack was grown up. The dear old days of bird-nesting and
nutting and coasting and fishing and general delightful goings-on were
over forever.

I was sorry at first. I wanted "Jack." "Dr. Willoughby" seemed too
distinguished and far away.

I suppose he found a change in me, too. I had put on long skirts and
wore my hair up. I had also found out that I had a complexion, and
that sunburn was not becoming. I honestly thought I looked pretty, but
Jack surveyed me with decided disapprobation.

"What have you done to yourself? You don't look like the same girl.
I'd never know you in that rig-out, with all those flippery-trippery
curls all over your head. Why don't you comb your hair straight back,
and let it hang in a braided tail, like you used to?"

This didn't suit me at all. When I expect a compliment and get
something quite different I always get snippy. So I said, with what I
intended to be crushing dignity, "that I supposed I wasn't the same
girl; I had grown up, and if he didn't like my curls he needn't look
at them. For my part, I thought them infinitely preferable to that
horrid, conceited-looking moustache he had grown."

"I'll shave it off if it doesn't suit you," said Jack amiably.

Jack is always so provokingly good-humoured. When you've taken pains
and put yourself out--even to the extent of fibbing about a
moustache--to exasperate a person, there is nothing more annoying than
to have him keep perfectly angelic.

But after a while Jack and I adjusted ourselves to the change in each
other and became very good friends again. It was quite a different
friendship from the old, but it was very pleasant. Yes, it was; I
_will_ admit that much.

I was provoked at Jack's determination to settle down for life in
Valleyfield, a horrible, humdrum, little country village.

"You'll never make your fortune there, Jack," I said spitefully.
"You'll just be a poor, struggling country doctor all your life, and
you'll be grey at forty."

"I don't expect to make a fortune, Kitty," said Jack quietly. "Do you
think that is the one desirable thing? I shall never be a rich man.
But riches are not the only thing that makes life pleasant."

"Well, I think they have a good deal to do with it, anyhow," I
retorted. "It's all very well to pretend to despise wealth, but it's
generally a case of sour grapes. _I_ will own up honestly that I'd
_love_ to be rich."

It always seems to make Jack blue and grumpy when I talk like that. I
suppose that is one reason why he never asked me to settle down in
life as a country doctor's wife. Another was, no doubt, that I always
nipped his sentimental sproutings religiously in the bud.

Three weeks ago Alicia wrote to me, asking me to spend the winter with
her. Her letters always make me just gasp with longing for the life
they describe.

Jack's face, when I told him about it, was so woebegone that I felt a
stab of remorse, even in the heyday of my delight.

"Do you really mean it, Kitty? Are you going away to leave me?"

"You won't miss me much," I said flippantly--I had a creepy, crawly
presentiment that a scene of some kind was threatening--"and I'm
awfully tired of Thrush Hill and country life, Jack. I suppose it is
horribly ungrateful of me to say so, but it is the truth."

"I shall miss you," he said soberly.

Somehow he had my hands in his. _How_ did he ever get them? I was sure
I had them safely tucked out of harm's way behind me. "You know,
Kitty, that I love you. I am a poor man--perhaps I may never be
anything else--and this may seem to you very presumptuous. But I
cannot let you go like this. Will you be my wife, dear?"

Wasn't it horribly straightforward and direct? So like Jack! I tried
to pull my hands away, but he held them fast. There was nothing to do
but answer him. That "no" I had determined to say must be said, but,
oh! how woefully it did stick in my throat!

And I honestly believe that by the time I got it out it would have
been transformed into a "yes," in spite of me, had it not been for a
certain paragraph in Alicia's letter which came providentially to my
mind:

    Not to flatter you, Katherine, you are a beauty, my dear--if
    your photo is to be trusted. If you have not discovered that
    fact before--how should you, indeed, in a place like Thrush
    Hill?--you soon will in Montreal. With your face and figure
    you will make a sensation.

    There is to be a nephew of the Sinclairs here this winter. He
    is an American, immensely wealthy, and will be the catch of
    the season. A word to the wise, etc. Don't get into any
    foolish entanglement down there. I have heard some gossip of
    you and our old playfellow, Jack Willoughby. I hope it is
    nothing but gossip. You can do better than that, Katherine.

That settled Jack's fate, if there ever had been any doubt.

"Don't talk like that, Jack," I said hurriedly. "It is all nonsense. I
think a great deal of you as a friend and--and--all that, you know.
But I can never marry you."

"Are you sure, Kitty?" said Jack earnestly. "Don't you care for me at
all?"

It was horrid of Jack to ask that question!

"No," I said miserably, "not--not in that way, Jack. Oh, don't ever
say anything like this to me again."

He let go of my hands then, white to the lips.

"Oh, don't look like that, Jack," I entreated.

"I can't help it," he said in a low voice. "But I won't bother you
again, dear. It was foolish of me to expect--to hope for anything of
the sort. You are a thousand times too good for me, I know."

"Oh, indeed I'm not, Jack," I protested. "If you knew how horrid I am,
really, you'd be glad and thankful for your escape. Oh, Jack, I wish
people never grew up."

Jack smiled sadly.

"Don't feel badly over this, Kitty. It isn't your fault. Good night,
dear."

He turned my face up and kissed me squarely on the mouth. He had never
kissed me since the summer before he went away to college. Somehow it
didn't seem a bit the same as it used to; it was--nicer now.

After he went away I came upstairs and had a good, comfortable howl.
Then I buried the whole affair decently. I am not going to think of it
any more.

I shall always have the highest esteem for Jack, and I hope he will
soon find some nice girl who will make him happy. Mary Carter would
jump at him, I know. To be sure, she is as homely as she can be and
live. But, then, Jack is always telling me how little he cares for
beauty, so I have no doubt she will suit him admirably.

As for myself--well, I am ambitious. I don't suppose my ambition is a
very lofty one, but such as it is I mean to hunt it down. Come. Let me
put it down in black and white, once for all, and see how it looks:

I mean to marry the rich nephew of the Sinclairs.

There! It is out, and I feel better. How mercenary and awful it looks
written out in cold blood like that. I wouldn't have Jack or Aunt
Elizabeth--dear, unworldly old soul--see it for the world. But I
wouldn't mind Alicia.

Poor dear Jack!

       *       *       *       *       *

                                    Montreal, Dec. 16, 18--.

This is a nice way to keep a journal. But the days when I could write
regularly are gone by. That was when I was at Thrush Hill.

I am having a simply divine time. How in the world did I ever contrive
to live at Thrush Hill?

To be sure, I felt badly enough that day in October when I left it.
When the train left Valleyfield I just cried like a baby.

Alicia and Roger welcomed me very heartily, and after the first week
of homesickness--I shiver yet when I think of it--was over, I settled
down to my new life as if I had been born to it.

Alicia has a magnificent home and everything heart could wish
for--jewels, carriages, servants, opera boxes, and social position.
Roger is a model husband apparently. I must also admit that he is a
model brother-in-law.

I could feel Alicia looking me over critically the moment we met. I
trembled with suspense, but I was soon relieved.

"Do you know, Katherine, I am glad to see that your photograph didn't
flatter you. Photographs so often do, I am positively surprised at the
way you have developed, my dear; you used to be such a scrawny little
brown thing. By the way, I hope there is nothing between you and Jack
Willoughby?"

"No, of course not," I answered hurriedly. I had intended to tell
Alicia all about Jack, but when it came to the point I couldn't.

"I am glad of that," said Alicia, with a relieved air. "Of course,
I've no doubt Jack is a good fellow enough. He was a nice boy. But he
would not be a suitable husband for you, Katherine."

I knew that very well. That was just why I had refused him. But it
made me wince to hear Alicia say it. I instantly froze up--Alicia says
dignity is becoming to me--and Jack's name has never been mentioned
between us since.

I made my bow to society at an "At Home" which Alicia gave for that
purpose. She drilled me well beforehand, and I think I acquitted
myself decently. Charlie Vankleek, whose verdict makes or mars every
debutante in his set, has approved of me. He called me a beauty, and
everybody now believes that I am one, and greets me accordingly.

I met Gus Sinclair at Mrs. Brompton's dinner. Alicia declares it was a
case of love at first sight. If so, I must confess that it was all on
one side.

Mr. Sinclair is undeniably ugly--even Alicia has to admit that--and
can't hold a candle to Jack in point of looks, for Jack, poor boy, was
handsome, if he were nothing else. But, as Alicia does not fail to
remind me, Mr. Sinclair's homeliness is well gilded.

Apart from his appearance, I really liked him very much. He is a
gentlemanly little fellow--his head reaches about to my
shoulder--cultured and travelled, and can talk splendidly, which Jack
never could.

He took me into dinner at Mrs. Brompton's, and was very attentive. You
may imagine how many angelic glances I received from the other
candidates for his favour.

Since then I have been having the gayest time imaginable. Dances,
dinners, luncheons, afternoon teas, "functions" to no end, and all
delightful.

Aunt Elizabeth writes to me, but I have never heard a word from Jack.
He seems to have forgotten my existence completely. No doubt he has
consoled himself with Mary Carter.

Well, that is all for the best, but I must say I did not think Jack
could have forgotten me so soon or so absolutely. Of course it does
not make the least difference to me.

The Sinclairs and the Bromptons and the Curries are to dine here
tonight. I can see myself reflected in the long mirror before me, and
I really think my appearance will satisfy even Gus Sinclair's critical
eye. I am pale, as usual, I never have any colour. That used to be one
of Jack's grievances. He likes pink and white milkmaidish girls. My
"magnificent pallor" didn't suit him at all.

But, what is more to the purpose, it suits Gus Sinclair. He admires
the statuesque style.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                    Montreal, Jan. 20, 18--.

Here it is a whole month since my last entry. I am sitting here decked
out in "gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls" for Mrs. Currie's dance.
These few minutes, after I emerge from the hands of my maid and before
the carriage is announced, are almost the only ones I ever have to
myself.

I am having a good time still. Somehow, though, it isn't as exciting
as it used to be. I'm afraid I'm very changeable. I believe I must be
homesick.

I'd love to get a glimpse of dear old Thrush Hill and Aunt Elizabeth,
and J--but, no! I will not write that.

Mr. Sinclair has not spoken yet, but there is no doubt that he soon
will. Of course, I shall accept him when he does, and I coolly told
Alicia so when she just as coolly asked me what I meant to do.

"Certainly, I shall marry him," I said crossly, for the subject always
irritates me. "Haven't I been laying myself out all winter to catch
him? That is the bold, naked truth, and ugly enough it is. My dearly
beloved sister, I mean to accept Mr. Sinclair, without any hesitation,
whenever I get the chance."

"I give you credit for more sense than to dream of doing anything
else," said Alicia in relieved tones. "Katherine, you are a very lucky
girl."

"Because I am going to marry a rich man for his money?" I said coldly.

Sometimes I get snippy with Alicia these days.

"No," said my half-sister in an exasperated way. "Why will you persist
in speaking in that way? You are very provoking. It is not likely I
would wish to see you throw yourself away on a poor man, and I'm sure
you must like Gus."

"Oh, yes, I like him well enough," I said listlessly. "To be sure, I
did think once, in my salad days, that liking wasn't quite all in an
affair of this kind. I was absurd enough to imagine that love had
something to do with it."

"Don't talk so nonsensically," said Alicia sharply. "Love! Well, of
course, you ought to love your husband, and you will. He loves you
enough, at all events."

"Alicia," I said earnestly, looking her straight in the face and
speaking bluntly enough to have satisfied even Jack's love of
straightforwardness, "you married for money and position, so people
say. Are you happy?"

For the first time that I remembered, Alicia blushed. She was very
angry.

"Yes, I did marry for money," she said sharply, "and I don't regret
it. Thank heaven, I never was a fool."

"Don't be vexed, Alicia," I entreated. "I only asked because--well, it
is no matter."

       *       *       *       *       *

                                    Montreal, Jan. 25, 18--.

It is bedtime, but I am too excited and happy and miserable to sleep.
Jack has been here--dear old Jack! How glad I was to see him.

His coming was so unexpected. I was sitting alone in my room this
afternoon--I believe I was moping--when Bessie brought up his card. I
gave it one rapturous look and tore downstairs, passing Alicia in the
hall like a whirlwind, and burst into the drawing-room in a most
undignified way.

"Jack!" I cried, holding out both hands to him in welcome.

There he was, just the same old Jack, with his splendid big shoulders
and his lovely brown eyes. And his necktie was crooked, too; as soon
as I could get my hands free I put them up and straightened it out for
him. How nice and old-timey that was!

"So you are glad to see me, Kitty?" he said as he squeezed my hands in
his big strong paws.

"'Deed and 'deed I am, Jack. I thought you had forgotten me
altogether. And I've been so homesick and so--so everything," I said
incoherently. "And, oh, Jack, I've so many questions to ask I don't
know where to begin. Tell me all the Thrush Hill and Valleyfield news,
tell me everything that has happened since I left. How many people
have you killed off? And, oh, why didn't you come to see me before?"

"I didn't think I should be wanted, Kitty," Jack answered quietly.
"You seemed to be so absorbed in your new life that old friends and
interests were crowded out."

"So I was at first," I answered penitently. "I was dazzled, you know.
The glare was too much for my Thrush Hill brown. But it's different
now. How did you happen to come, Jack?"

"I had to come to Montreal on business, and I thought it would be too
bad if I went back without coming to see what they had been doing in
Vanity Fair to my little playmate."

"Well, what do you think they have been doing?" I asked saucily.

I had on a particularly fetching gown and knew I was looking my best.
Jack, however, looked me over with his head on one side.

"Well, I don't know, Kitty," he said slowly. "That is a stunning sort
of dress you have on--not so pretty, though, as that old blue muslin
you used to wear last summer--and your hair is pretty good. But you
look rather disdainful and, after all, I believe I prefer Thrush Hill
Kitty."

How like Jack that was. He never thought me really pretty, and he is
too honest to pretend he does.

But I didn't care. I just laughed, and we sat down together and had a
long, delightful, chummy talk.

Jack told me all the Valleyfield gossip, not forgetting to mention
that Mary Carter was going to be married to a minister in June. Jack
didn't seem to mind it a bit, so I guess he couldn't have been
particularly interested in Mary.

In due time Alicia sailed in. I suppose she had found out from Bessie
who my caller was, and felt rather worried over the length of our
tête-à-tête.

She greeted Jack very graciously, but with a certain polite
condescension of which she is past mistress. I am sure Jack felt it,
for, as soon as he decently could, he got up to go. Alicia asked him
to remain to dinner.

"We are having a few friends to dine with us, but it is quite an
informal affair," she said sweetly.

I felt that Jack glanced at me for the fraction of a second. But I
remembered that Gus Sinclair was coming too, and I did not look at
him.

Then he declined quietly. He had a business engagement, he said.

I suppose Alicia had noticed that look at me, for she showed her
claws.

"Don't forget to call any time you are in Montreal," she said more
sweetly than ever. "I am sure Katherine will always be glad to see any
of her old friends, although some of her new ones _are_ proving very
absorbing--one, in especial. Don't blush, Katherine, I am sure Mr.
Willoughby won't tell any tales out of school to your old Valleyfield
friends."

I was not blushing, and I was furious. It was really too bad of
Alicia, although I don't see why I need have cared.

Alicia kept her eye on us both until Jack was fairly gone. Then she
remarked in the patronizing tone which I detest:

"Really, Katherine, Jack Willoughby has developed into quite a
passable-looking fellow, although he is rather shabby. But I suppose
he is poor."

"Yes," I answered curtly, "he is poor, in everything except youth and
manhood and goodness and truth! But I suppose those don't count for
anything."

Whereupon Alicia lifted her eyebrows and looked me over.

Just at dusk a box arrived with Jack's compliments. It was full of
lovely white carnations, and must have cost the extravagant fellow
more than he has any business to waste on flowers. I was beast enough
to put them on when I went down to listen to another man's
love-making.

This evening I sparkled and scintillated with unusual brilliancy, for
Jack's visit and my consequent crossing of swords with Alicia had
produced a certain elation of spirits. When Gus Sinclair was leaving
he asked if he might see me alone tomorrow afternoon.

I knew what that meant, and a cold shiver went up and down my
backbone. But I looked down at him--spick-and-span and glossy--_his_
neckties are never crooked--and said, yes, he might come at three
o'clock.

Alicia had noticed our aside--when did anything ever escape her?--and
when he was gone she asked, significantly, what secret he had been
telling me.

"He wants to see me alone tomorrow afternoon. I suppose you know what
that means, Alicia?"

"Ah," purred Alicia, "I congratulate you, my dear."

"Aren't your congratulations a little premature?" I asked coldly. "I
haven't accepted him yet."

"But you will?"

"Oh, certainly. Isn't it what we've schemed and angled for? I'm very
well satisfied."

And so I am. But I wish it hadn't come so soon after Jack's visit,
because I feel rather upset yet. Of course I like Gus Sinclair very
much, and I am sure I shall be very fond of him.

Well, I must go to bed now and get my beauty sleep. I don't want to be
haggard and hollow-eyed at that important interview tomorrow--an
interview that will decide my destiny.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                   Thrush Hill, May 6, 18--.

Well, it did decide it, but not exactly in the way I anticipated. I
can look back on the whole affair quite calmly now, but I wouldn't
live it over again for all the wealth of Ind.

That day when Gus Sinclair came I was all ready for him. I had put on
my very prettiest new gown to do honour to the occasion, and Alicia
smilingly assured me I was looking very well.

"And _so_ cool and composed. Will you be able to keep that up? Don't
you really feel a little nervous, Katherine?"

"Not in the least," I said. "I suppose I ought to be, according to
traditions, but I never felt less flustered in my life."

When Bessie brought up Gus Sinclair's card Alicia dropped a pecky
little kiss on my cheek, and pushed me toward the door. I went down
calmly, although I'll admit that my heart _was_ beating wildly. Gus
Sinclair was plainly nervous, but I was composed enough for both. You
would really have thought that I was in the habit of being proposed to
by a millionaire every day.

"I suppose you know what I have come to say," he said, standing before
me, as I leaned gracefully back in a big chair, having taken care that
the folds of my dress fell just as they should.

And then he proceeded to say it in a rather jumbled-up fashion, but
very sincerely.

I remember thinking at the time that he must have composed the speech
in his head the night before, and rehearsed it several times, but was
forgetting it in spots.

When he ended with the self-same question that Jack had asked me three
months before at Thrush Hill he stopped and took my hands.

I looked up at him. His good, homely face was close to mine, and in
his eyes was an unmistakable look of love and tenderness.

I opened my mouth to say yes.

And then there came over me in one rush the most awful realization of
the sacrilege I was going to commit.

I forgot everything except that I loved Jack Willoughby, and that I
could never, never marry anybody in the world except him.

Then I pulled my hands away and burst into hysterical, undignified
tears.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Sinclair. "I did not mean to startle
you. Have I been too abrupt? Surely you must have known--you must have
expected--"

"Yes--yes--I knew," I cried miserably, "and I intended right up to
this very minute to marry you. I'm so sorry--but I can't--I can't."

"I don't understand," he said in a bewildered tone. "If you expected
it, then why--why--don't you care for me?"

"No, that's just it," I sobbed. "I don't love you at all--and I do
love somebody else. But he is poor, and I hate poverty. So I refused
him, and I meant to marry you just because you are rich."

Such a pained look came over his face. "I did not think this of you,"
he said in a low tone.

"Oh, I know I have acted shamefully," I said. "You can't think any
worse of me than I do of myself. How you must despise me!"

"No," he said, with a grim smile, "if I did it would be easier for me.
I might not love you then. Don't distress yourself, Katherine. I do
not deny that I feel greatly hurt and disappointed, but I am glad you
have been true to yourself at last. Don't cry, dear."

"You're very good," I answered disconsolately, "but all the same the
fact remains that I have behaved disgracefully to you, and I know you
think so. Oh, Mr. Sinclair, please, please, go away. I feel so
miserably ashamed of myself that I cannot look you in the face."

"I am going, dear," he said gently. "I know all this must be very
painful to you, but it is not easy for me, either."

"Can you forgive me?" I said wistfully.

"Yes, my dear, completely. Do not let yourself be unhappy over this.
Remember that I will always be your friend. Goodbye."

He held out his hand and gave mine an earnest clasp. Then he went
away.

I remained in the drawing-room, partly because I wanted to finish out
my cry, and partly because, miserable coward that I was, I didn't dare
face Alicia. Finally she came in, her face wreathed with anticipatory
smiles. But when her eyes fell on my forlorn, crumpled self she fairly
jumped.

"Katherine, what is the matter?" she asked sharply. "Didn't Mr.
Sinclair--"

"Yes, he did," I said desperately. "And I've refused him. There now,
Alicia!"

Then I waited for the storm to burst. It didn't all at once. The shock
was too great, and at first quite paralyzed my half-sister.

"Katherine," she gasped, "are you crazy? Have you lost your senses?"

"No, I've just come to them. It's true enough, Alicia. You can scold
all you like. I know I deserve it, and I won't flinch. I did really
intend to take him, but when it came to the point I couldn't. I didn't
love him."

Then, indeed, the storm burst. I never saw Alicia so angry before, and
I never got so roundly abused. But even Alicia has her limits, and at
last she grew calmer.

"You have behaved disgracefully," she concluded. "I am disgusted with
you. You have encouraged Gus Sinclair markedly right along, and now
you throw him over like this. I never dreamed that you were capable of
such unwomanly behaviour."

"That's a hard word, Alicia," I protested feebly.

She dealt me a withering glance. "It does not begin to be as hard as
your shameful conduct merits. To think of losing a fortune like that
for the sake of sentimental folly! I didn't think you were such a
consummate fool."

"I suppose you absorbed all the sense of our family," I said drearily.
"There now, Alicia, do leave me alone. I'm down in the very depths
already."

"What do you mean to do now?" said Alicia scornfully. "Go back to
Valleyfield and marry that starving country doctor of yours, I
suppose?"

I flared up then; Alicia might abuse me all she liked, but I wasn't
going to hear a word against Jack.

"Yes, I will, if he'll have me," I said, and I marched out of the room
and upstairs, with my head very high.

Of course I decided to leave Montreal as soon as I could. But I
couldn't get away within a week, and it was a very unpleasant one.
Alicia treated me with icy indifference, and I knew I should never be
reinstated in her good graces.

To my surprise, Roger took my part. "Let the girl alone," he told
Alicia. "If she doesn't love Sinclair, she was right in refusing him.
I, for one, am glad that she has got enough truth and womanliness in
her to keep her from selling herself."

Then he came to the library where I was moping, and laid his hand on
my head.

"Little girl," he said earnestly, "no matter what anyone says to you,
never marry a man for his money or for any other reason on earth
except because you love him."

This comforted me greatly, and I did not cry myself to sleep that
night as usual.

At last I got away. I had telegraphed to Jack: "Am coming home
Wednesday; meet me at train," and I knew he would be there. How I
longed to see him again--dear, old, badly treated Jack.

I got to Valleyfield just at dusk. It was a rainy evening, and
everything was slush and fog and gloom. But away up I saw the home
light at Thrush Hill, and Jack was waiting for me on the platform.

"Oh, Jack!" I said, clinging to him, regardless of appearances. "Oh,
I'm so glad to be back."

"That's right, Kitty. I knew you wouldn't forget us. How well you are
looking!"

"I suppose I ought to be looking wretched," I said penitently. "I've
been behaving very badly, Jack. Wait till we get away from the crowd
and I'll tell you all about it."

And I did.

I didn't gloss over anything, but just confessed the whole truth. Jack
heard me through in silence, and then he kissed me.

"Can you forgive me, Jack, and take me back?" I whispered, cuddling up
to him.

And he said--but, on second thought, I will not write down what he
said.

We are to be married in June.



A Substitute Journalist


Clifford Baxter came into the sitting-room where Patty was darning
stockings and reading a book at the same time. Patty could do things
like that. The stockings were well darned too, and Patty understood
and remembered what she read.

Clifford flung himself into a chair with a sigh of weariness. "Tired?"
queried Patty sympathetically.

"Yes, rather. I've been tramping about the wharves all day gathering
longshore items. But, Patty, I've got a chance at last. Tonight as I
was leaving the office Mr. Harmer gave me a real assignment for
tomorrow--two of them in fact, but only one of importance. I'm to go
and interview Mr. Keefe on this new railroad bill that's up before the
legislature. He's in town, visiting his old college friend, Mr. Reid,
and he's quite big game. I wouldn't have had the assignment, of
course, if there'd been anyone else to send, but most of the staff
will be away all day tomorrow to see about that mine explosion at
Midbury or the teamsters' strike at Bainsville, and I'm the only one
available. Harmer gave me a pretty broad hint that it was my chance to
win my spurs, and that if I worked up a good article out of it I'd
stand a fair show of being taken on permanently next month when Alsop
leaves. There'll be a shuffle all round then, you know. Everybody on
the staff will be pushed up a peg, and that will leave a vacant space
at the foot."

Patty threw down her darning needle and clapped her hands with
delight. Clifford gazed at her admiringly, thinking that he had the
prettiest sister in the world--she was so bright, so eager, so rosy.

"Oh, Clifford, how splendid!" she exclaimed. "Just as we'd begun to
give up hope too. Oh, you must get the position! You must hand in a
good write-up. Think what it means to us."

"Yes, I know." Clifford dropped his head on his hand and stared
rather moodily at the lamp. "But my joy is chastened, Patty. Of course
I want to get the permanency, since it seems to be the only possible
thing, but you know my heart isn't really in newspaper work. The plain
truth is I don't like it, although I do my best. You know Father
always said I was a born mechanic. If I only could get a position
somewhere among machinery--that would be my choice. There's one vacant
in the Steel and Iron Works at Bancroft--but of course I've no chance
of getting it."

"I know. It's too bad," said Patty, returning to her stockings with a
sigh. "I wish I were a boy with a foothold on the _Chronicle_. I
firmly believe that I'd make a good newspaper woman, if such a thing
had ever been heard of in Aylmer."

"That you would. You've twice as much knack in that line as I have.
You seem to know by instinct just what to leave out and put in. I
never do, and Harmer has to blue-pencil my copy mercilessly. Well,
I'll do my best with this, as it's very necessary I should get the
permanency, for I fear our family purse is growing very slim. Mother's
face has a new wrinkle of worry every day. It hurts me to see it."

"And me," sighed Patty. "I do wish I could find something to do too.
If only we both could get positions, everything would be all right.
Mother wouldn't have to worry so. Don't say anything about this chance
to her until you see what comes of it. She'd only be doubly
disappointed if nothing did. What is your other assignment?"

"Oh, I've got to go out to Bancroft on the morning train and write up
old Mr. Moreland's birthday celebration. He is a hundred years old,
and there's going to be a presentation and speeches and that sort of
thing. Nothing very exciting about it. I'll have to come back on the
three o'clock train and hurry out to catch my politician before he
leaves at five. Take a stroll down to meet my train, Patty. We can go
out as far as Mr. Reid's house together, and the walk will do you
good."

The Baxters lived in Aylmer, a lively little town with two
newspapers, the _Chronicle_ and the _Ledger_. Between these two was a
sharp journalistic rivalry in the matter of "beats" and "scoops." In
the preceding spring Clifford had been taken on the _Chronicle_ on
trial, as a sort of general handyman. There was no pay attached to the
position, but he was getting training and there was the possibility of
a permanency in September if he proved his mettle. Mr. Baxter had died
two years before, and the failure of the company in which Mrs.
Baxter's money was invested had left the little family dependent on
their own resources. Clifford, who had cherished dreams of a course in
mechanical engineering, knew that he must give them up and go to the
first work that offered itself, which he did staunchly and
uncomplainingly. Patty, who hitherto had had no designs on a "career,"
but had been sunnily content to be a home girl and Mother's right
hand, also realized that it would be well to look about her for
something to do. She was not really needed so far as the work of the
little house went, and the whole burden must not be allowed to fall on
Clifford's eighteen-year-old shoulders. Patty was his senior by a
year, and ready to do her part unflinchingly.

The next afternoon Patty went down to meet Clifford's train. When it
came, no Clifford appeared. Patty stared about her at the hurrying
throngs in bewilderment. Where was Clifford? Hadn't he come on the
train? Surely he must have, for there was no other until seven
o'clock. She must have missed him somehow. Patty waited until
everybody had left the station, then she walked slowly homeward. As
the _Chronicle_ office was on her way, she dropped in to see if
Clifford had reported there.

She found nobody in the editorial offices except the office boy, Larry
Brown, who promptly informed her that not only had Clifford not
arrived, but that there was a telegram from him saying that he had
missed his train. Patty gasped in dismay. It was dreadful!

"Where is Mr. Harmer?" she asked.

"He went home as soon as the afternoon edition came out. He left
before the telegram came. He'll be furious when he finds out that
nobody has gone to interview that foxy old politician," said Larry,
who knew all about Clifford's assignment and its importance.

"Isn't there anyone else here to go?" queried Patty desperately.

Larry shook his head. "No, there isn't a soul in. We're mighty
short-handed just now on account of the explosion and the strike."

Patty went downstairs and stood for a moment in the hall, rapt in
reflection. If she had been at home, she verily believed she would
have sat down and cried. Oh, it was too bad, too disappointing!
Clifford would certainly lose all chance of the permanency, even if
the irate news editor did not discharge him at once. What could she
do? Could she do anything? She _must_ do something.

"If I only could go in his place," moaned Patty softly to herself.

Then she started. Why not? Why not go and interview the big man
herself? To be sure, she did not know a great deal about interviewing,
still less about railroad bills, and nothing at all about politics.
But if she did her best it might be better than nothing, and might at
least save Clifford his present hold.

With Patty, to decide was to act. She flew back to the reporters'
room, pounced on a pencil and tablet, and hurried off, her breath
coming quickly, and her eyes shining with excitement. It was quite a
long walk out to Mr. Reid's place and Patty was tired when she got
there, but her courage was not a whit abated. She mounted the steps
and rang the bell undauntedly.

"Can I see Mr.--Mr.--Mr.--" Patty paused for a moment in dismay. She
had forgotten the name. The maid who had come to the door looked her
over so superciliously that Patty flushed with indignation. "The
gentleman who is visiting Mr. Reid," she said crisply. "I can't
remember his name, but I've come to interview him on behalf of the
_Chronicle_. Is he in?"

"If you mean Mr. Reefer, he is," said the maid quite respectfully.
Evidently the _Chronicle_'s name carried weight in the Reid
establishment. "Please come into the library. I'll go and tell him."

Patty had just time to seat herself at the table, spread out her paper
imposingly, and assume a businesslike air when Mr. Reefer came in. He
was a tall, handsome old man with white hair, jet-black eyes, and a
mouth that made Patty hope she wouldn't stumble on any questions he
wouldn't want to answer. Patty knew she would waste her breath if she
did. A man with a mouth like that would never tell anything he didn't
want to tell.

"Good afternoon. What can I do for you, madam?" inquired Mr. Reefer
with the air and tone of a man who means to be courteous, but has no
time or information to waste.

Patty was almost overcome by the "Madam." For a moment, she quailed.
She couldn't ask that masculine sphinx questions! Then the thought of
her mother's pale, careworn face flashed across her mind, and all her
courage came back with an inspiriting rush. She bent forward to look
eagerly into Mr. Reefer's carved, granite face, and said with a frank
smile:

"I have come to interview you on behalf of the _Chronicle_ about the
railroad bill. It was my brother who had the assignment, but he has
missed his train and I have come in his place because, you see, it is
so important to us. So much depends on this assignment. Perhaps Mr.
Harmer will give Clifford a permanent place on the staff if he turns
in a good article about you. He is only handyman now. I just couldn't
let him miss the chance--he might never have another. And it means so
much to us and Mother."

"Are you a member of the _Chronicle_ staff yourself?" inquired Mr.
Reefer with a shade more geniality in his tone.

"Oh, no! I've nothing to do with it, so you won't mind my being
inexperienced, will you? I don't know just what I should ask you, so
won't you please just tell me everything about the bill, and Mr.
Harmer can cut out what doesn't matter?"

Mr. Reefer looked at Patty for a few moments with a face about as
expressive as a graven image. Perhaps he was thinking about the bill,
and perhaps he was thinking what a bright, vivid, plucky little girl
this was with her waiting pencil and her air that strove to be
businesslike, and only succeeded in being eager and hopeful and
anxious.

"I'm not used to being interviewed myself," he said slowly, "so I
don't know very much about it. We're both green hands together, I
imagine. But I'd like to help you out, so I don't mind telling you
what I think about this bill, and its bearing on certain important
interests."

Mr. Reefer proceeded to tell her, and Patty's pencil flew as she
scribbled down his terse, pithy sentences. She found herself asking
questions too, and enjoying it. For the first time, Patty thought she
might rather like politics if she understood them--and they did not
seem so hard to understand when a man like Mr. Reefer explained them.
For half an hour he talked to her, and at the end of that time Patty
was in full possession of his opinion on the famous railroad bill in
all its aspects.

"There now, I'm talked out," said Mr. Reefer. "You can tell your news
editor that you know as much about the railroad bill as Andrew Reefer
knows. I hope you'll succeed in pleasing him, and that your brother
will get the position he wants. But he shouldn't have missed that
train. You tell him that. Boys with important things to do mustn't
miss trains. Perhaps it's just as well he did in this case though,
but tell him not to let it happen again."

Patty went straight home, wrote up her interview in ship-shape form,
and took it down to the _Chronicle_ office. There she found Mr.
Harmer, scowling blackly. The little news editor looked to be in a
rather bad temper, but he nodded not unkindly to Patty. Mr. Harmer
knew the Baxters well and liked them, although he would have
sacrificed them all without a qualm for a "scoop."

"Good evening, Patty. Take a chair. That brother of yours hasn't
turned up yet. The next time I give him an assignment, he'll manage to
be on hand in time to do it."

"Oh," cried Patty breathlessly, "please, Mr. Harmer, I have the
interview here. I thought perhaps I could do it in Clifford's place,
and I went out to Mr. Reid's and saw Mr. Reefer. He was very kind
and--"

"Mr. who?" fairly shouted Mr. Harmer.

"Mr. Reefer--Mr. Andrew Reefer. He told me to tell you that this
article contained all he knew or thought about the railroad bill
and--"

But Mr. Harmer was no longer listening. He had snatched the neatly
written sheets of Patty's report and was skimming over them with a
practised eye. Then Patty thought he must have gone crazy. He danced
around the office, waving the sheets in the air, and then he dashed
frantically up the stairs to the composing room.

Ten minutes later, he returned and shook the mystified Patty by the
hand.

"Patty, it's the biggest beat we've ever had! We've scooped not only
the _Ledger_, but every other newspaper in the country. How did you do
it? How did you ever beguile or bewitch Andrew Reefer into giving you
an interview?"

"Why," said Patty in utter bewilderment, "I just went out to Mr.
Reid's and asked for the gentleman who was visiting there--I'd
forgotten his name--and Mr. Reefer came down and I told him my
brother had been detailed to interview him on behalf of the
_Chronicle_ about the bill, and that Clifford had missed his train,
and wouldn't he let me interview him in his place and excuse my
inexperience--and he did."

"It wasn't Andrew Reefer I told Clifford to interview," laughed Mr.
Harmer. "It was John C. Keefe. I didn't know Reefer was in town, but
even if I had I wouldn't have thought it a particle of use to send a
man to him. He has never consented to be interviewed before on any
known subject, and he's been especially close-mouthed about this bill,
although men from all the big papers in the country have been after
him. He is notorious on that score. Why, Patty, it's the biggest
journalistic fish that has ever been landed in this office. Andrew
Reefer's opinion on the bill will have a tremendous influence. We'll
run the interview as a leader in a special edition that is under way
already. Of course, he must have been ready to give the information to
the public or nothing would have induced him to open his mouth. But to
think that we should be the first to get it! Patty, you're a brick!"

Clifford came home on the seven o'clock train, and Patty was there to
meet him, brimful of her story. But Clifford also had a story to tell
and got his word in first.

"Now, Patty, don't scold until you hear why I missed the train. I met
Mr. Peabody of the Steel and Iron Company at Mr. Moreland's and got
into conversation with him. When he found out who I was, he was
greatly interested and said Father had been one of his best friends
when they were at college together. I told him about wanting to get
the position in the company, and he had me go right out to the works
and see about it. And, Patty, I have the place. Goodbye to the grind
of newspaper items and fillers. I tried to get back to the station at
Bancroft in time to catch the train but I couldn't, and it was just as
well, for Mr. Keefe was suddenly summoned home this afternoon, and
when the three-thirty train from town stopped at Bancroft he was on
it. I found that out and I got on, going to the next station with him
and getting my interview after all. It's here in my notebook, and I
must hurry up to the office and hand it in. I suppose Mr. Harmer will
be very much vexed until he finds that I have it."

"Oh, no. Mr. Harmer is in a very good humour," said Patty with dancing
eyes. Then she told her story.

The interview with Mr. Reefer came out with glaring headlines, and the
_Chronicle_ had its hour of fame and glory. The next day Mr. Harmer
sent word to Patty that he wanted to see her.

"So Clifford is leaving," he said abruptly when she entered the
office. "Well, do you want his place?"

"Mr. Harmer, are you joking?" demanded Patty in amazement.

"Not I. That stuff you handed in was splendidly written--I didn't have
to use the pencil more than once or twice. You have the proper
journalist instinct all right. We need a lady on the staff anyhow, and
if you'll take the place it's yours for saying so, and the permanency
next month."

"I'll take it," said Patty promptly and joyfully.

"Good. Go down to the Symphony Club rehearsal this afternoon and
report it. You've just ten minutes to get there," and Patty joyfully
and promptly departed.



Anna's Love Letters


"Are you going to answer Gilbert's letter tonight, Anna?" asked Alma
Williams, standing in the pantry doorway, tall, fair, and grey-eyed,
with the sunset light coming down over the dark firs, through the
window behind her, and making a primrose nimbus around her shapely
head.

Anna, dark, vivid, and slender, was perched on the edge of the table,
idly swinging her slippered foot at the cat's head. She smiled
wickedly at Alma before replying.

"I am not going to answer it tonight or any other night," she said,
twisting her full, red lips in a way that Alma had learned to dread.
Mischief was ripening in Anna's brain when that twist was out.

"What do you mean?" asked Alma anxiously.

"Just what I say, dear," responded Anna, with deceptive meekness.
"Poor Gilbert is gone, and I don't intend to bother my head about him
any longer. He was amusing while he lasted, but of what use is a beau
two thousand miles away, Alma?"

Alma was patient--outwardly. It was never of any avail to show
impatience with Anna.

"Anna, you are talking foolishly. Of course you are going to answer
his letter. You are as good as engaged to him. Wasn't that practically
understood when he left?"

"No, no, dear," and Anna shook her sleek black head with the air of
explaining matters to an obtuse child. "_I_ was the only one who
understood. Gil _mis_understood. He thought that I would really wait
for him until he should have made enough money to come home and pay
off the mortgage. I let him think so, because I hated to hurt his
little feelings. But now it's off with the old love and on with a new
one for me."

"Anna, you cannot be in earnest!" exclaimed Alma.

But she was afraid that Anna was in earnest. Anna had a wretched
habit of being in earnest when she said flippant things.

"You don't mean that you are not going to write to Gilbert at
all--after all you promised?"

Anna placed her elbows daintily on the top of the rocking chair,
dropped her pointed chin in her hands, and looked at Alma with black
demure eyes.

"I--do--mean--just--that," she said slowly. "I never mean to marry
Gilbert Murray. This is final, Alma, and you need not scold or coax,
because it would be a waste of breath. Gilbert is safely out of the
way, and now I am going to have a good time with a few other
delightful men creatures in Exeter."

Anna nodded decisively, flashed a smile at Alma, picked up her cat,
and went out. At the door she turned and looked back, with the big
black cat snuggled under her chin.

"If you think Gilbert will feel very badly over his letter not being
answered, you might answer it yourself, Alma," she said teasingly.
"There it is"--she took the letter from the pocket of her ruffled
apron and threw it on a chair. "You may read it if you want to; it
isn't really a love letter. I told Gilbert he wasn't to write silly
letters. Come, pussy, I'm going to get ready for prayer meeting. We've
got a nice, new, young, good-looking minister in Exeter, pussy, and
that makes prayer meeting _very_ interesting."

Anna shut the door, her departing laugh rippling mockingly through the
dusk. Alma picked up Gilbert Murray's letter and went to her room. She
wanted to cry, since she could not shake Anna. Even if she could have
shook her, it would only have made her more perverse. Anna was in
earnest; Alma knew that, even while she hoped and believed that it was
but the earnestness of a freak that would pass in time. Anna had had
one like it a year ago, when she had cast Gilbert off for three
months, driving him distracted by flirting with Charlie Moore. Then
she had suddenly repented and taken him back. Alma thought that this
whim would run its course likewise and leave a repentant Anna. But
meanwhile everything might be spoiled. Gilbert might not prove
forgiving a second time.

Alma would have given much if she could only have induced Anna to
answer Gilbert's letter, but coaxing Anna to do anything was a very
sure and effective way of preventing her from doing it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alma and Anna had lived alone at the old Williams homestead ever since
their mother's death four years before. Exeter matrons thought this
hardly proper, since Alma, in spite of her grave ways, was only
twenty-four. The farm was rented, so that Alma's only responsibilities
were the post office which she kept, and that harum-scarum beauty of
an Anna.

The Murray homestead adjoined theirs. Gilbert Murray had grown up with
Alma; they had been friends ever since she could remember. Alma loved
Gilbert with a love which she herself believed to be purely sisterly,
and which nobody else doubted could be, since she had been at pains to
make a match--Exeter matrons' phrasing--between Gil and Anna, and was
manifestly delighted when Gilbert obligingly fell in love with the
latter.

There was a small mortgage on the Murray place which Mr. Murray senior
had not been able to pay off. Gilbert determined to get rid of it, and
his thoughts turned to the west. His father was an active, hale old
man, quite capable of managing the farm in Gilbert's absence.
Alexander MacNair had gone to the west two years previously and got
work on a new railroad. He wrote to Gilbert to come too, promising him
plenty of work and good pay. Gilbert went, but before going he had
asked Anna to marry him.

It was the first proposal Anna had ever had, and she managed it quite
cleverly, from her standpoint. She told Gilbert that he must wait
until he came home again before settling that, meanwhile, they would
be _very_ good friends--emphasized with a blush--and that he might
write to her. She kissed him goodbye, and Gilbert, honest fellow, was
quite satisfied. When an Exeter girl had allowed so much to be
inferred, it was understood to be equivalent to an engagement. Gilbert
had never discerned that Anna was not like the other Exeter girls, but
was a law unto herself.

Alma sat down by her window and looked out over the lane where the
slim wild cherry trees were bronzing under the autumn frosts. Her lips
were very firmly set. Something must be done. But what?

Alma's heart was set on this marriage for two reasons. Firstly, if
Anna married Gilbert she would be near her all her life. She could not
bear the thought that some day Anna might leave her and go far away to
live. In the second and largest place, she desired the marriage
because Gilbert did. She had always been desirous, even in the old,
childish play-days, that Gilbert should get just exactly what he
wanted. She had always taken a keen, strange delight in furthering his
wishes.

Anna's falseness would surely break his heart, and Alma winced at the
thought of his pain.

There was one thing she could do. Anna's tormenting suggestion had
fallen on fertile soil. Alma balanced pros and cons, admitting the
risk. But she would have taken a tenfold larger risk in the hope of
holding secure Anna's place in Gilbert's affections until Anna herself
should come to her senses.

When it grew quite dark and Anna had gone lilting down the lane on her
way to prayer meeting, Alma lighted her lamp, read Gilbert's
letter--and answered it. Her handwriting was much like Anna's. She
signed the letter "A. Williams," and there was nothing in it that
might not have been written by her to Gilbert; but she knew that
Gilbert would believe Anna had written it, and she intended him so to
believe. Alma never did a thing halfway when she did it at all. At
first she wrote rather constrainedly but, reflecting that in any case
Anna would have written a merely friendly letter, she allowed her
thoughts to run freely, and the resulting epistle was an excellent one
of its kind. Alma had the gift of expression and more brains than
Exeter people had ever imagined she possessed. When Gilbert read that
letter a fortnight later he was surprised to find that Anna was so
clever. He had always, with a secret regret, thought her much inferior
to Alma in this respect, but that delightful letter, witty, wise,
fanciful, was the letter of a clever woman.

When a year had passed Alma was still writing to Gilbert the letters
signed "A. Williams." She had ceased to fear being found out, and she
took a strange pleasure in the correspondence for its own sake. At
first she had been quakingly afraid of discovery. When she smuggled
the letters addressed in Gilbert's handwriting to Miss Anna Williams
out of the letter packet and hid them from Anna's eyes, she felt as
guilty as if she were breaking all the laws of the land at once. To be
sure, she knew that she would have to confess to Anna some day, when
the latter repented and began to wish she had written to Gilbert, but
that was a very different thing from premature disclosure.

But Anna had as yet given no sign of such repentance, although Alma
looked for it anxiously. Anna was having the time of her life. She was
the acknowledged beauty of five settlements, and she went forward on
her career of conquest quite undisturbed by the jealousies and
heart-burnings she provoked on every side.

One moonlight night she went for a sleigh-drive with Charlie Moore of
East Exeter--and returned to tell Alma that they were married!

"I knew you would make a fuss, Alma, because you don't like Charlie,
so we just took matters into our own hands. It was so much more
romantic, too. I'd always said I'd never be married in any of your
dull, commonplace ways. You might as well forgive me and be nice right
off, Alma, because you'd have to do it anyway, in time. Well, you do
look surprised!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Alma accepted the situation with an apathy that amazed Anna. The truth
was that Alma was stunned by a thought that had come to her even while
Anna was speaking.

"Gilbert will find out about the letters now, and despise me."

Nothing else, not even the fact that Anna had married shiftless
Charlie Moore, seemed worth while considering beside this. The fear
and shame of it haunted her like a nightmare; she shrank every morning
from the thought of all the mail that was coming that day, fearing
that there would be an angry, puzzled letter from Gilbert. He must
certainly soon hear of Anna's marriage; he would see it in the home
paper, other correspondents in Exeter would write him of it. Alma grew
sick at heart thinking of the complications in front of her.

When Gilbert's letter came she left it for a whole day before she
could summon courage to open it. But it was a harmless epistle after
all; he had not yet heard of Anna's marriage. Alma had at first no
thought of answering it, yet her fingers ached to do so. Now that Anna
was gone, her loneliness was unbearable. She realized how much
Gilbert's letters had meant to her, even when written to another
woman. She could bear her life well enough, she thought, if she only
had his letters to look forward to.

No more letters came from Gilbert for six weeks. Then came one,
alarmed at Anna's silence, anxiously asking the reason for it; Gilbert
had heard no word of the marriage. He was working in a remote district
where newspapers seldom penetrated. He had no other correspondent in
Exeter now; except his mother, and she, not knowing that he supposed
himself engaged to Anna had forgotten to mention it.

Alma answered that letter. She told herself recklessly that she would
keep on writing to him until he found out. She would lose his
friendship anyhow, when that occurred, but meanwhile she would have
the letters a little longer. She could not learn to live without them
until she had to.

The correspondence slipped back into its old groove. The harassed look
which Alma's face had worn, and which Exeter people had attributed to
worry over Anna, disappeared. She did not even feel lonely, and
reproached herself for lack of proper feeling in missing Anna so
little. Besides, to her horror and dismay, she detected in herself a
strange undercurrent of relief at the thought that Gilbert could never
marry Anna now! She could not understand it. Had not that marriage
been her dearest wish for years? Why then should she feel this strange
gladness at the impossibility of its fulfilment? Altogether, Alma
feared that her condition of mind and morals must be sadly askew.
Perhaps, she thought mournfully, this perversion of proper feeling was
her punishment for the deception she had practised. She had
deliberately done evil that good might come, and now the very
imaginations of her heart were stained by that evil. Alma cried
herself to sleep many a night in her repentance, but she kept on
writing to Gilbert, for all that.

The winter passed, and the spring and summer waned, and Alma's outward
life flowed as smoothly as the currents of the seasons, broken only by
vivid eruptions from Anna, who came over often from East Exeter,
glorying in her young matronhood, "to cheer Alma up." Alma, so said
Exeter people, was becoming unsociable and old maidish. She lost her
liking for company, and seldom went anywhere among her neighbours. Her
once frequent visits across the yard to chat with old Mrs. Murray
became few and far between. She could not bear to hear the old lady
talking about Gilbert, and she was afraid that some day she would be
told that he was coming home. Gilbert's home-coming was the nightmare
dread that darkened poor Alma's whole horizon.

       *       *       *       *       *

One October day, two years after Gilbert's departure, Alma, standing
at her window in the reflected glow of a red maple outside, looked
down the lane and saw him striding up it! She had had no warning of
his coming. His last letter, dated three weeks back, had not hinted at
it. Yet there he was--and with him Alma's Nemesis.

She was very calm. Now that the worst had come, she felt quite strong
to meet it. She would tell Gilbert the truth, and he would go away in
anger and never forgive her, but she deserved it. As she went
downstairs, the only thing that really worried her was the thought of
the pain Gilbert would suffer when she told him of Anna's
faithlessness. She had seen his face as he passed under her window,
and it was the face of a blithe man who had not heard any evil
tidings. It was left to her to tell him; surely, she thought
apathetically, that was punishment enough for what she had done.

With her hand on the doorknob, she paused to wonder what she should
say when he asked her why she had not told him of Anna's marriage when
it occurred--why she had still continued the deception when it had no
longer an end to serve. Well, she would tell him the truth--that it
was because she could not bear the thought of giving up writing to
him. It was a humiliating thing to confess, but that did not
matter--nothing mattered now. She opened the door.

Gilbert was standing on the big round door-stone under the red
maple--a tall, handsome young fellow with a bronzed face and laughing
eyes. His exile had improved him. Alma found time and ability to
reflect that she had never known Gilbert was so fine-looking.

He put his arm around her and kissed her cheek in his frank delight at
seeing her again. Alma coldly asked him in. Her face was still as pale
as when she came downstairs, but a curious little spot of fiery red
blossomed out where Gilbert's lips had touched it.

Gilbert followed her into the sitting-room and looked about eagerly.

"When did you come home?" she said slowly. "I did not know you were
expected."

"Got homesick, and just came! I wanted to surprise you all," he
answered, laughing. "I arrived only a few minutes ago. Just took time
to hug my mother, and here I am. Where's Anna?"

The pent-up retribution of two years descended on Alma's head in the
last question of Gilbert's. But she did not flinch. She stood straight
before him, tall and fair and pale, with the red maple light streaming
in through the open door behind her, staining her light house-dress
and mellowing the golden sheen of her hair. Gilbert reflected that
Alma Williams was really a very handsome girl. These two years had
improved her. What splendid big grey eyes she had! He had always
wished that Anna's eyes had not been quite so black.

"Anna is not here," said Alma. "She is married."

"Married!"

Gilbert sat down suddenly on a chair and looked at Alma in
bewilderment.

"She has been married for a year," said Alma steadily. "She married
Charlie Moore of East Exeter, and has been living there ever since."

"Then," said Gilbert, laying hold of the one solid fact that loomed
out of the mist of his confused understanding, "why did she keep on
writing letters to me after she was married?"

"She never wrote to you at all. It was I that wrote the letters."

Gilbert looked at Alma doubtfully. Was she crazy? There was something
odd about her, now that he noticed, as she stood rigidly there, with
that queer red spot on her face, a strange fire in her eyes, and that
weird reflection from the maple enveloping her like an immaterial
flame.

"I don't understand," he said helplessly.

Still standing there, Alma told the whole story, giving full
explanations, but no excuses. She told it clearly and simply, for she
had often pictured this scene to herself and thought out what she must
say. Her memory worked automatically, and her tongue obeyed it
promptly. To herself she seemed like a machine, talking mechanically,
while her soul stood on one side and listened.

When she had finished there was a silence lasting perhaps ten seconds.
To Alma it seemed like hours. Would Gilbert overwhelm her with angry
reproaches, or would he simply rise up and leave her in unutterable
contempt? It was the most tragic moment of her life, and her whole
personality was strung up to meet it and withstand it.

"Well, they were good letters, anyhow," said Gilbert finally;
"interesting letters," he added, as if by way of a meditative
afterthought.

It was so anti-climactic that Alma broke into an hysterical giggle,
cut short by a sob. She dropped into a chair by the table and flung
her hands over her face, laughing and sobbing softly to herself.
Gilbert rose and walked to the door, where he stood with his back to
her until she regained her self-control. Then he turned and looked
down at her quizzically.

Alma's hands lay limply in her lap, and her eyes were cast down, with
tears glistening on the long fair lashes. She felt his gaze on her.

"Can you ever forgive me, Gilbert?" she said humbly.

"I don't know that there is much to forgive," he answered. "I have
some explanations to make too and, since we're at it, we might as well
get them all over and have done with them. Two years ago I did
honestly think I was in love with Anna--at least when I was round
where she was. She had a taking way with her. But, somehow, even then,
when I wasn't with her she seemed to kind of grow dim and not count
for so awful much after all. I used to wish she was more like
you--quieter, you know, and not so sparkling. When I parted from her
that last night before I went west, I did feel very bad, and she
seemed very dear to me, but it was six weeks from that before
her--your--letter came, and in that time she seemed to have faded out
of my thoughts. Honestly, I wasn't thinking much about her at all.
Then came the letter--and it was a splendid one, too. I had never
thought that Anna could write a letter like that, and I was as pleased
as Punch about it. The letters kept coming, and I kept on looking for
them more and more all the time. I fell in love all over again--with
the writer of those letters. I thought it was Anna, but since you
wrote the letters, it must have been with you, Alma. I thought it was
because she was growing more womanly that she could write such
letters. That was why I came home. I wanted to get acquainted all over
again, before she grew beyond me altogether--I wanted to find the real
Anna the letters showed me. I--I--didn't expect this. But I don't care
if Anna is married, so long as the girl who wrote those letters isn't.
It's you I love, Alma."

He bent down and put his arm about her, laying his cheek against hers.
The little red spot where his kiss had fallen was now quite drowned
out in the colour that rushed over her face.

"If you'll marry me, Alma, I'll forgive you," he said.

A little smile escaped from the duress of Alma's lips and twitched her
dimples.

"I'm willing to do anything that will win your forgiveness, Gilbert,"
she said meekly.



Aunt Caroline's Silk Dress


Patty came in from her walk to the post office with cheeks finely
reddened by the crisp air. Carry surveyed her with pleasure. Of late
Patty's cheeks had been entirely too pale to please Carry, and Patty
had not had a very good appetite. Once or twice she had even
complained of a headache. So Carry had sent her to the office for a
walk that night, although the post office trip was usually Carry's own
special constitutional, always very welcome to her after a weary day
of sewing on other people's pretty dresses.

Carry never sewed on pretty dresses for herself, for the simple reason
that she never had any pretty dresses. Carry was twenty-two--and
feeling forty, her last pretty dress had been when she was a girl of
twelve, before her father had died. To be sure, there was the silk
organdie Aunt Kathleen had sent her, but that was fit only for
parties, and Carry never went to any parties.

"Did you get any mail, Patty?" she asked unexpectantly. There was
never much mail for the Lea girls.

"Yes'm," said Patty briskly. "Here's the _Weekly Advocate_, and a
patent medicine almanac with all your dreams expounded, _and_ a letter
for Miss Carry M. Lea. It's postmarked Enfield, and has a suspiciously
matrimonial look. I'm sure it's an invitation to Chris Fairley's
wedding. Hurry up and see, Caddy."

Carry, with a little flush of excitement on her face, opened her
letter. Sure enough, it contained an invitation "to be present at the
marriage of Christine Fairley."

"How jolly!" exclaimed Patty. "Of course you'll go, Caddy. You'll have
a chance to wear that lovely organdie of yours at last."

"It was sweet of Chris to invite me," said Carry. "I really didn't
expect it."

"Well, I did. Wasn't she your most intimate friend when she lived in
Enderby?"

"Oh, yes, but it is four years since she left, and some people might
forget in four years. But I might have known Chris wouldn't. Of course
I'll go."

"And you'll make up your organdie?"

"I shall have to," laughed Carry, forgetting all her troubles for a
moment, and feeling young and joyous over the prospect of a festivity.
"I haven't another thing that would do to wear to a wedding. If I
hadn't that blessed organdie I couldn't go, that's all."

"But you have it, and it will look lovely made up with a tucked skirt.
Tucks are so fashionable now. And there's that lace of mine you can
have for a bertha. I want you to look just right, you see. Enfield is
a big place, and there will be lots of grandees at the wedding. Let's
get the last fashion sheet and pick out a design right away. Here's
one on the very first page that would be nice. You could wear it to
perfection, Caddy you're so tall and slender. It wouldn't suit a plump
and podgy person like myself at all."

Carry liked the pattern, and they had an animated discussion over it.
But, in the end, Carry sighed, and pushed the sheet away from her,
with all the brightness gone out of face.

"It's no use, Patty. I'd forgotten for a few minutes, but it's all
come back now. I can't think of weddings and new dresses, when the
thought of that interest crowds everything else out. It's due next
month--fifty dollars--and I've only ten saved up. I can't make forty
dollars in a month, even if I had any amount of sewing, and you know
hardly anyone wants sewing done just now. I don't know what we shall
do. Oh, I suppose we can rent a couple of rooms in the village and
_exist_ in them. But it breaks my heart to think of leaving our old
home."

"Perhaps Mr. Kerr will let us have more time," suggested Patty, not
very hopefully. The sparkle had gone out of her face too. Patty loved
their little home as much as Carry did.

"You know he won't. He has been only too anxious for an excuse to
foreclose, this long time. He wants the land the house is on. Oh, if I
only hadn't been sick so long in the summer--just when everybody had
sewing to do. I've tried so hard to catch up, but I couldn't." Carry's
voice broke in a sob.

Patty leaned over the table and patted her sister's glossy dark hair
gently.

"You've worked too hard, dearie. You've just gone to skin and bone.
Oh, I know how hard it is! I can't bear to think of leaving this dear
old spot either. If we could only induce Mr. Kerr to give us a year's
grace! I'd be teaching then, and we could easily pay the interest and
some of the principal too. Perhaps he will if we both go to him and
coax very hard. Anyway, don't worry over it till after the wedding. I
want you to go and have a good time. You never have good times,
Carry."

"Neither do you," said Carry rebelliously. "You never have anything
that other girls have, Patty--not even pretty clothes."

"Deed, and I've lots of things to be thankful for," said Patty
cheerily. "Don't you fret about me. I'm vain enough to think I've got
some brains anyway, and I'm a-meaning to do something with them too.
Now I think I'll go upstairs and study this evening. It will be warm
enough there tonight, and the noise of the machine rather bothers me."

Patty whisked out, and Carry knew she should go to her sewing. But she
sat a long while at the table in dismal thought. She was so tired, and
so hopeless. It had been such a hard struggle, and it seemed now as if
it would all come to naught. For five years, ever since her mother's
death, Carry had supported herself and Patty by dressmaking. They had
been a hard five years of pinching and economizing and going without,
for Enderby was only a small place, and there were two other
dressmakers. Then there was always the mortgage to devour everything.
Carry had kept it at bay till now, but at last she was conquered. She
had had typhoid fever in the spring and had not been able to work for
a long time. Indeed, she had gone to work before she should. The
doctor's bill was yet unpaid, but Dr. Hamilton had told her to take
her time. Carry knew she would not be pressed for that, and next year
Patty would be able to help her. But next year would be too late. The
dear little home would be lost then.

When Carry roused herself from her sad reflections, she saw a crumpled
note lying on the floor. She picked it up and absently smoothed it
out. Seeing Patty's name at the top she was about to lay it aside
without reading it, but the lines were few, and the sense of them
flashed into Carry's brain. The note was an invitation to Clare
Forbes's party! The Lea girls had known that the Forbes girls were
going to give a party, but they had not expected that Patty would be
invited. Of course, Clare Forbes was in Patty's class at school and
was always very nice and friendly with her. But then the Forbes set
was not the Lea set.

Carry ran upstairs to Patty's room. "Patty, you dropped this on the
floor. I couldn't help seeing what it was. Why didn't you tell me
Clare had invited you?"

"Because I knew I couldn't go, and I thought you would feel badly over
that. Caddy, I wish you hadn't seen it."

"Oh, Patty, I _do_ wish you could go to the party. It was so sweet of
Clare to invite you, and perhaps she will be offended if you don't
go--she won't understand. Clare Forbes isn't a girl whose friendship
is to be lightly thrown away when it is offered."

"I know that. But, Caddy dear, it is impossible. I don't think that I
have any foolish pride about clothes, but you know it is out of the
question to think of going to Clare Forbes's party in my last winter's
plaid dress, which is a good two inches too short and skimpy in
proportion. Putting my own feelings aside, it would be an insult to
Clare. There, don't think any more about it."

But Carry did think about it. She lay awake half the night wondering
if there might not be some way for Patty to go to that party. She knew
it was impossible, unless Patty had a new dress, and how could a new
dress be had? Yet she did so want Patty to go. Patty never had any
good times, and she was studying so hard. Then, all at once, Carry
thought of a way by which Patty might have a new dress. She had been
tossing restlessly, but now she lay very still, staring with wide-open
eyes at the moonlit window, with the big willow boughs branching
darkly across it. Yes, it was a way, but could she? _Could_ she? Yes,
she could, and she would. Carry buried her face in her pillow with a
sob and a gulp. But she had decided what must be done, and how it must
be done.

"Are you going to begin on your organdie today?" asked Patty in the
morning, before she started for school.

"I must finish Mrs. Pidgeon's suit first," Carry answered. "Next week
will be time enough to think about my wedding garments."

She tried to laugh and failed. Patty thought with a pang that Carry
looked horribly pale and tired--probably she had worried most of the
night over the interest. "I'm so glad she's going to Chris's wedding,"
thought Patty, as she hurried down the street. "It will take her out
of herself and give her something nice to think of for ever so long."

Nothing more was said that week about the organdie, or the wedding, or
the Forbes's party. Carry sewed fiercely, and sat at her machine for
hours after Patty had gone to bed. The night before the party she said
to Patty, "Braid your hair tonight, Patty. You'll want it nice and
wavy to go to the Forbes's tomorrow night."

Patty thought that Carry was actually trying to perpetrate a weak
joke, and endeavoured to laugh. But it was a rather dreary laugh.
Patty, after a hard evening's study, felt tired and discouraged, and
she was really dreadfully disappointed about the party, although she
wouldn't have let Carry suspect it for the world.

"You're going, you know," said Carry, as serious as a judge, although
there was a little twinkle in her eyes.

"In a faded plaid two inches too short?" Patty smiled as brightly as
possible.

"Oh, no. I have a dress all ready for you." Carry opened the wardrobe
door and took out--the loveliest girlish dress of creamy organdie,
with pale pink roses scattered over it, made with the daintiest of
ruffles and tucks, with a bertha of soft creamy lace, and a girdle of
white silk. "This is for you," said Carry.

Patty gazed at the dress with horror-stricken eyes. "Caroline Lea,
_that is your organdie!_ And you've gone and made it up for _me_!
Carry Lea, what are you going to wear to the wedding?"

"Nothing. I'm not going."

"You are--you must--you shall. I won't take the organdie."

"You'll have to now, because it's made to fit you. Come, Patty dear,
I've set my heart on your going to that party. You mustn't disappoint
me--you _can't_, for what good would it do? I can never wear the dress
now."

Patty realized that. She knew she might as well go to the party, but
she did not feel much pleasure in the prospect. Nevertheless, when she
was ready for it the next evening, she couldn't help a little thrill
of delight. The dress was so pretty, and dainty, and becoming.

"You look sweet," exclaimed Carry admiringly. "There, I hear the
Browns' carriage. Patty, I want you to promise me this--that you'll
not let any thought of me, or my not going to the wedding, spoil your
enjoyment this evening. I gave you the dress that you might have a
good time, so don't make my gift of no effect."

"I'll try," promised Patty, flying downstairs, where her next-door
neighbours were waiting for her.

At two o'clock that night Carry was awakened to see Patty bending over
her, flushed and radiant. Carry sat sleepily up. "I hope you had a
good time," she said.

"I had--oh, I had--but I didn't waken you out of your hard-earned
slumbers at this wee sma' hour to tell you that. Carry, I've thought
of a way for you to go to the wedding. It just came to me at supper.
Mrs. Forbes was sitting opposite to me, and her dress suggested it.
You must make over Aunt Caroline's silk dress."

"Nonsense," said Carry, a little crossly; even sweet-tempered people
are sometimes cross when they are wakened up for--as it
seemed--nothing.

"It's good plain sense. Of course, you must make it over and--"

"Patty Lea, you're crazy. I wouldn't dream of wearing that hideous
thing. Bright green silk, with huge yellow brocade flowers as big as
cabbages all over it! I think I see myself in it."

"Caddy, listen to me. You know there's enough of that black lace of
mother's for the waist, and the big black lace shawl of Grandmother
Lea's will do for the skirt. Make it over--"

"A plain slip of the silk," gasped Carry, her quick brain seizing on
all the possibilities of the plan. "Why didn't I think of it before?
It will be just the thing, the greens and yellow will be toned down to
a nice shimmer under the black lace. And I'll make cuffs of black
velvet with double puffs above--and just cut out a wee bit at the
throat with a frill of lace and a band of black velvet ribbon around
my neck. Patty Lea, it's an inspiration."

Carry was out of bed by daylight the next morning and, while Patty
still slumbered, she mounted to the garret, and took Aunt Caroline's
silk dress from the chest where it had lain forgotten for three
years. Carry held it up at arm's length, and looked at it with
amusement.

"It is certainly ugly, but with the lace over it it will look very
different. There's enough of it, anyway, and that skirt is stiff
enough to stand alone. Poor Aunt Caroline, I'm afraid I wasn't
particularly grateful for her gift at the time, but I really am now."

Aunt Caroline, who had given the dress to Carry three years before,
was, an old lady of eighty, the aunt of Carry's father. She had once
possessed a snug farm but in an evil hour she had been persuaded to
deed it to her nephew, Edward Curry, whom she had brought up. Poor
Aunt Caroline had lived to regret this step, for everyone in Enderby
knew that Edward Curry and his wife had repaid her with ingratitude
and greed.

Carry, who was named for her, was her favourite grandniece and often
went to see her, though such visits were coldly received by the
Currys, who always took especial care never to leave Aunt Caroline
alone with any of her relatives. On one occasion, when Carry was
there, Aunt Caroline had brought out this silk dress.

"I'm going to give this to you, Carry," she said timidly. "It's a good
silk, and not so very old. Mr. Greenley gave it to me for a birthday
present fifteen years ago. Maybe you can make it over for yourself."

Mrs. Edward, who was on duty at the time, sniffed disagreeably, but
she said nothing. The dress was of no value in her eyes, for the
pattern was so ugly and old-fashioned that none of her smart daughters
would have worn it. Had it been otherwise, Aunt Caroline would
probably not have been allowed to give it away.

Carry had thanked Aunt Caroline sincerely. If she did not care much
for the silk, she at least prized the kindly motive behind the gift.
Perhaps she and Patty laughed a little over it as they packed it away
in the garret. It was so very ugly, but Carry thought it was sweet of
Aunt Caroline to have given her something. Poor old Aunt Caroline had
died soon after, and Carry had not thought about the silk dress again.
She had too many other things to think of, this poor worried Carry.

After breakfast Carry began to rip the skirt breadths apart. Snip,
snip, went her scissors, while her thoughts roamed far afield--now
looking forward with renewed pleasure to Christine's wedding, now
dwelling dolefully on the mortgage. Patty, who was washing the dishes,
knew just what her thoughts were by the light and shadow on her
expressive face.

"Why!--what?" exclaimed Carry suddenly. Patty wheeled about to see
Carry staring at the silk dress like one bewitched. Between the silk
and the lining which she had just ripped apart was a twenty-dollar
bill, and beside it a sheet of letter paper covered with writing in a
cramped angular hand, both secured very carefully to the silk.

"Carry Lea!" gasped Patty.

With trembling fingers Carry snipped away the stitches that held the
letter, and read it aloud.

    "My dear Caroline," it ran, "I do not know when you will find
    this letter and this money, but when you do it belongs to you.
    I have a hundred dollars which I always meant to give you
    because you were named for me. But Edward and his wife do not
    know I have it, and I don't want them to find out. They would
    not let me give it to you if they knew, so I have thought of
    this way of getting it to you. I have sewed five twenty-dollar
    bills under the lining of this skirt, and they are all yours,
    with your Aunt Caroline's best love. You were always a good
    girl, Carry, and you've worked hard, and I've given Edward
    enough. Just take this money and use it as you like.

                                   "Aunt Caroline Greenley."


"Carry Lea, are we both dreaming?" gasped Patty.

With crimson cheeks Carry ripped the other breadths apart, and there
were the other four bills. Then she slipped down in a little heap on
the sofa cushions and began to cry--happy tears of relief and
gladness.

"We can pay the interest," said Patty, dancing around the room, "and
get yourself a nice new dress for the wedding."

"Indeed I won't," said Carry, sitting up and laughing through her
tears. "I'll make over this dress and wear it out of gratitude to the
memory of dear Aunt Caroline."



Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving Dinner.

BY L.M. MONTGOMERY


"Here's Aunt Susanna, girls," said Laura who was sitting by the north
window--nothing but north light does for Laura who is the artist of
our talented family.

Each of us has a little pet new-fledged talent which we are faithfully
cultivating in the hope that it will amount to something and soar
highly some day. But it is difficult to cultivate four talents on our
tiny income. If Laura wasn't such a good manager we never could do it.

Laura's words were a signal for Kate to hang up her violin and for me
to push my pen and portfolio out of sight. Laura had hidden her
brushes and water colors as she spoke. Only Margaret continued to bend
serenely over her Latin grammar. Aunt Susanna frowns on musical and
literary and artistic ambitions but she accords a faint approval to
Margaret's desire for an education. A college course, with a tangible
diploma at the end, and a sensible pedagogic aspiration is something
Aunt Susanna can understand when she tries hard. But she cannot
understand messing with paints, fiddling, or scribbling, and she has
only unmeasured contempt for messers, fiddlers, and scribblers. Time
was when we had paid no attention to Aunt Susanna's views on these
points; but ever since she had, on one incautious day when she was in
high good humor, dropped a pale, anemic little hint that she might
send Margaret to college if she were a good girl we had been bending
all our energies towards securing Aunt Susanna's approval. It was not
enough that Aunt Susanna should approve of Margaret; she must approve
of the whole four of us or she would not help Margaret. That is Aunt
Susanna's way. Of late we had been growing a little discouraged. Aunt
Susanna had recently read a magazine article which stated that the
higher education of women was ruining our country and that a woman who
was a B.A. couldn't, in the very nature of things, ever be a
housewifely, cookly creature. Consequently, Margaret's chances looked
a little foggy; but we hadn't quite given up hope. A very little thing
might sway Aunt Susanna one way or the other, so that we walked very
softly and tried to mingle serpents' wisdom and doves' harmlessness in
practical portions.

When Aunt Susanna came in Laura was crocheting, Kate was sewing, and I
was poring over a recipe book. That was not deception at all, since we
did all these things frequently--much more frequently, in fact, than
we painted or fiddled or wrote. But Aunt Susanna would never believe
it. Nor did she believe it now.

She threw back her lovely new sealskin cape, looked around the
sitting-room and then smiled--a truly Aunt Susannian smile.

[Illustration]

"What a pity you forgot to wipe that smudge of paint off your nose,
Laura," she said sarcastically. "You don't seem to get on very fast
with your lace. How long is it since you began it? Over three months,
isn't it?"

"This is the third piece of the same pattern I've done in three
months, Aunt Susanna," said Laura presently. Laura is an old duck. She
never gets cross and snaps back. I do; and it's so hard not to with
Aunt Susanna sometimes. But I generally manage it for I'd do anything
for Margaret. Laura did not tell Aunt Susanna that she sold her lace
at the Women's Exchange in town and made enough to buy her new hats.
She makes enough out of her water colors to dress herself.

Aunt Susanna took a second breath and started in again.

"I notice your violin hasn't quite as much dust on it as the rest of
the things in this room, Kate. It's a pity you stopped playing just as
I came in. I don't enjoy fiddling much but I'd prefer it to seeing
anyone using a needle who isn't accustomed to it."

Kate is really a most dainty needlewoman and does all the fine sewing
in our family. She colored and said nothing--that being the highest
pitch of virtue to which our Katie, like myself, can attain.

"And there's Margaret ruining her eyes over books," went on Aunt
Susanna severely. "Will you kindly tell me, Margaret Thorne, what good
you ever expect Latin to do you?"

"Well, you see, Aunt Susanna," said Margaret gently--Magsie and Laura
are birds of a feather--"I want to be a teacher if I can manage to get
through, and I shall need Latin for that."

All the girls except me had now got their accustomed rap, but I knew
better than to hope I should escape.

"So you're reading a recipe book, Agnes? Well, that's better than
poring over a novel. I'm afraid you haven't been at it very long
though. People generally don't read recipes upside down--and besides,
you didn't quite cover up your portfolio. I see a corner of it
sticking out. Was genius burning before I came in? It's too bad if I
quenched the flame."

"A cookery book isn't such a novelty to me as you seem to think, Aunt
Susanna," I said, as meekly as it was possible for me. "Why I'm a real
good cook--'if I do say it as hadn't orter.'"

I am, too.

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Aunt Susanna skeptically, "because
that has to do with my errand her to-day. I'm in a peck of troubles.
Firstly, Miranda Mary's mother has had to go and get sick and Miranda
Mary must go home to wait on her. Secondly, I've just had a telegram
from my sister-in-law who has been ordered west for her health, and
I'll have to leave on to-night's train to see her before she goes. I
can't get back until the noon train Thursday, and that is
Thanksgiving, and I've invited Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert to dinner that
day. They'll come on the same train. I'm dreadfully worried. There
doesn't seem to be anything I can do except get on of you girls to go
up to the Pinery Thursday morning and cook the dinner for us. Do you
think you can manage it?"

We all felt rather dismayed, and nobody volunteered with a rush. But
as I had just boasted that I could cook it was plainly my duty to step
into the breach, and I did it with fear and trembling.

"I'll go, Aunt Susanna," I said.

"And I'll help you," said Kate.

"Well, I suppose I'll have to try you," said Aunt Susanna with the air
of a woman determined to make the best of a bad business. "Here is the
key of the kitchen door. You'll find everything in the pantry, turkey
and all. The mince pies are all ready made so you'll only have to warm
them up. I want dinner sharp at twelve for the train is due at 11:50.
Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert are very particular and I do hope you will have
things right. Oh, if I could only be home myself! Why will people get
sick at such inconvenient times?"

"Don't worry, Aunt Susanna," I said comfortingly. "Kate and I will
have your Thanksgiving dinner ready for you in tiptop style."

"Well I'm sure I hope so. Don't get to mooning over a story, Agnes.
I'll lock the library up and fortunately there are no fiddles at the
Pinery. Above all, don't let any of the McGinnises in. They'll be sure
to be prowling around when I'm not home. Don't give that dog of theirs
any scraps either. That is Miranda Mary's one fault. She will feed
that dog in spite of all I can do and I can't walk out of my own back
door without falling over him."

We promise to eschew the McGinnises and all their works, including
the dog, and when Aunt Susanna had gone we looked at each other with
mingled hope and fear.

"Girls, this is the chance of your lives," said Laura. "If you can
only please Aunt Susanna with this dinner it will convince her that
you are good cooks in spite of your nefarious bent for music and
literature. I consider the illness of Miranda Mary's mother a
Providential interposition--that is, if she isn't too sick."

"It's all very well for you to be pleased, Lolla," I said dolefully.
"But I don't feel jubilant over the prospect at all. Something will
probably go wrong. And then there's our own nice little Thanksgiving
celebration we've planned, and pinched and economized for weeks to
provide. That is half spoiled now."

"Oh, what is that compared to Margaret's chance of going to college?"
exclaimed Kate. "Cheer up, Aggie. You know we can cook. I feel that it
is now or never with Aunt Susanna."

I cheered up accordingly. We are not given to pessimism which is
fortunate. Ever since father died four years ago we have struggled on
here, content to give up a good deal just to keep our home and be
together. This little gray house--oh, how we do love it and its apple
trees--is ours and we have, as aforesaid, a tiny income and our
ambitions; not very big ambitions but big enough to give zest to our
lives and hope to the future. We've been very happy as a rule. Aunt
Susanna has a big house and lots of money but she isn't as happy as
we are. She nags us a good deal--just as she used to nag father--but
we don't mind it very much after all. Indeed, I sometimes suspect that
we really like Aunt Susanna tremendously if she'd only leave us alone
long enough to find it out.

Thursday morning was an ideal Thanksgiving morning--bright, crisp and
sparkling. There had been a white frost in the night, and the orchard
and the white birch wood behind it looked like fairyland. We were all
up early. None of us had slept well, and both Kate and I had had the
most fearful dreams of spoiling Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving dinner.

"Never mind, dreams always go by contraries, you know," said Laura
cheerfully. "You'd better go up to the Pinery early and get the fires
on, for the house will be cold. Remember the McGinnises and the dog.
Weigh the turkey so that you'll know exactly how long to cook it. Put
the pies in the oven in time to get piping hot--lukewarm mince pies
are an abomination. Be sure--"

"Laura, don't confuse us with any more cautions," I groaned, "or we
shall get hopelessly fuddled. Come on, Kate, before she has time to."

[Illustration]

It wasn't very far up to the Pinery--just ten minutes' walk, and such
a delightful walk on that delightful morning. We went through the
orchard and then through the white birch wood where the loveliness of
the frosted boughs awed us. Beyond that there was a lane between ranks
of young, balsamy, white-misted firs and then an open pasture field,
sere and crispy. Just across it was the Pinery, a lovely old house
with dormer windows in the roof, surrounded by pines that were dark
and glorious against the silvery morning sky.

The McGinnis dog was sitting on the back-door steps when we arrived.
He wagged his tail ingratiatingly, but we ruthlessly pushed him off,
went in and shut the door in his face. All the little McGinnises were
sitting in a row on their fence, and they whooped derisively. The
McGinnis manners are not those which appertain to the caste of Vere de
Vere; but we rather like the urchins--there are eight of them--and we
would probably have gone over to talk to them if we had not had the
fear of Aunt Susanna before our eyes.

We kindled the fires, weighed the turkey, put it in the oven and
prepared the vegetables. Then we set the dining-room table and
decorated it with Aunt Susanna's potted ferns and dishes of lovely red
apples. Everything went so smoothly that we soon forgot to be nervous.
When the turkey was done, we took it out, set it on the back of the
range to keep warm and put the mince pies in. The potatoes, cabbage
and turnips were bubbling away cheerfully, and everything was going as
merrily as a marriage bell. Then, all at once, things happened.

In an evil hour we went to the yard window and looked out. We saw a
quiet scene. The McGinnis dog was still sitting on his haunches by the
steps, just as he had been sitting all the morning. Down in the
McGinnis yard everything wore an unusually peaceful aspect. Only one
McGinnis was in sight--Tony, aged eight, who was perched up on the
edge of the well box, swinging his legs and singing at the top of his
melodious Irish voice. All at once, just as we were looking at him,
Tony went over backward and apparently tumbled head foremost down his
father's well.

Kate and I screamed simultaneously. We tore across the kitchen, flung
open the door, plunged down over Aunt Susanna's yard, scrambled over
the fence and flew to the well. Just as we reached it, Tony's red head
appeared as he climbed serenely out over the box. I don't know whether
I felt more relieved or furious. He had merely fallen on the blank
guard inside the box: and there are times when I am tempted to think
he fell on purpose because he saw Kate and me looking out at the
window. At least he didn't seem at all frightened, and grinned most
impishly at us.

Kate and I turned on our heels and marched back in as dignified a
manner as was possible under the circumstances. Half way up Aunt
Susanna's yard we forgot dignity and broke into a run. We had left the
door open and the McGinnis dog had disappeared.

Never shall I forget the sight we saw or the smell we smelled when we
burst into that kitchen. There on the floor was the McGinnis dog and
what was left of Aunt Susanna's Thanksgiving turkey. As for the smell,
imagine a commingled odor of scorching turnips and burning mince pies,
and you have it.

The dog fled out with a guilty yelp. I groaned and snatched the
turnips off. Kate threw open the oven door and dragged out the pies.
Pies and turnips were ruined as irretrievably as the turkey.

"Oh, what shall we do?" I cried miserably. I knew Margaret's chance of
college was gone forever.

"Do!" Kate was superb. She didn't lose her wits for a second. "We'll
go home and borrow the girls' dinner. Quick--there's just ten minutes
before train time. Throw those pies and turnips into this basket--the
turkey too--we'll carry them with us to hide them."

I might not be able to evolve an idea like that on the spur of the
moment, but I can at least act up to it when it is presented. Without
a moment's delay we shut the door and ran. As we went I saw the
McGinnis dog licking his chops over in their yard. I have been ashamed
ever since of my feelings toward that dog. They were murderous.
Fortunately I had no time to indulge them.

It is ten minutes walk from the Pinery to our house, but you can run
it in five. Kate and I burst into the kitchen just as Laura and
Margaret were sitting down to dinner. We had neither time nor breath
for explanations. Without a word I grasped the turkey platter and the
turnip tureen. Kate caught one hot mince pie from the oven and whisked
a cold one out of the pantry.

"We've--got--to have--them," was all she said.

I've always said that Laura and Magsie would rise to any occasion.
They saw us carry their Thanksgiving dinner off under their very eyes
and they never interfered by word or motion. They didn't even worry us
with questions. They realized that something desperate had happened
and that the emergency called for deed not words.

"Aggie," gasped Kate behind me as we tore through the birch wood, "the
border--of these pies--is crimped--differently--from Aunt Susanna's."

"She--won't know--the difference," I panted. "Miranda--Mary--crimps
them."

We got back to the Pinery just as the train whistle blew. We had ten
minutes to transfer turkey and turnips to Aunt Susanna's dishes, hide
our own, air the kitchen, and get back our breath. We accomplished it.
When Aunt Susanna and her guests came we were prepared for them: we
were calm--outwardly--and the second mince pie was getting hot in the
oven. It was ready by the time it was needed. Fortunately our turkey
was the same size as Aunt Susanna's, and Laura had cooked a double
supply of turnips, intending to warm them up the next day. Still, all
things considered, Kate and I didn't enjoy that dinner much. We kept
thinking of poor Laura and Magsie at home, dining off potatoes on
Thanksgiving!

But at least Aunt Susanna was satisfied. When Kate and I were washing
the dishes she came out quite beamingly.

"Well, my dears, I must admit that you made a very good job of the
dinner, indeed. The turkey was done to perfection. As for the mince
pies--well, of course Miranda Mary made them, but she must have had
extra good luck with them, for they were excellent and heated to just
the right degree. You didn't give anything to the McGinnis dog, I
hope?"

"No, we didn't give him anything," said Kate.

Aunt Susanna did not notice the emphasis.

When we had finished the dishes we smuggled our platter and tureen out
of the house and went home. Laura and Margaret were busy painting and
studying and were just as sweet-tempered as if we hadn't robbed them
of their dinner. But we had to tell them the whole story before we
even took off our hats.

"There is a special Providence for children and idiots," said Laura
gently. We didn't ask her whether she meant us or Tony McGinnis or
both. There are some things better left in obscurity. I'd have
probably said something much sharper than that if anybody had made off
with my Thanksgiving turkey so unceremoniously.

Aunt Susanna came down the next day and told Margaret that she would
send her to college. Also she commissioned Laura to paint her a
water-color for her dining-room and said she'd pay her five dollars
for it.

Kate and I were rather left out in the cold in this distribution of
favors, but when you come to reflect that Laura and Magsie had really
cooked that dinner, it was only just.

Anyway, Aunt Susanna has never since insinuated that we can't cook,
and that is as much as we deserve.



By Grace of Julius Caesar


Melissa sent word on Monday evening that she thought we had better go
round with the subscription list for cushioning the church pews on
Tuesday. I sent back word that I thought we had better go on Thursday.
I had no particular objection to Tuesday, but Melissa is rather fond
of settling things without consulting anyone else, and I don't believe
in always letting her have her own way. Melissa is my cousin and we
have always been good friends, and I am really very fond of her; but
there's no sense in lying down and letting yourself be walked over. We
finally compromised on Wednesday.

I always have a feeling of dread when I hear of any new church-project
for which money will be needed, because I know perfectly well that
Melissa and I will be sent round to collect for it. People say we seem
to be able to get more than anybody else; and they appear to think
that because Melissa is an unencumbered old maid, and I am an
unencumbered widow, we can spare the time without any inconvenience to
ourselves. Well, we have been canvassing for building funds, and
socials, and suppers for years, but it is needed now; at least, I have
had enough of it, and I should think Melissa has, too.

We started out bright and early on Wednesday morning, for Jersey Cove
is a big place and we knew we should need the whole day. We had to
walk because neither of us owned a horse, and anyway it's more
nuisance getting out to open and shut gates than it is worth while. It
was a lovely day then, though promising to be hot, and our hearts
were as light as could be expected, considering the disagreeable
expedition we were on.

I was waiting at my gate for Melissa when she came, and she looked me
over with wonder and disapproval. I could see she thought I was a fool
to dress up in my second best flowered muslin and my very best hat
with the pale pink roses in it to walk about in the heat and dust; but
I wasn't. All my experience in canvassing goes to show that the better
dressed and better looking you are the more money you'll get--that is,
when it's the men you have to tackle, as in this case. If it had been
the women, however, I would have put on the oldest and ugliest things,
consistent with decency, I had. This was what Melissa had done, as it
was, and she did look fearfully prim and dowdy, except for her front
hair, which was as soft and fluffy and elaborate as usual. I never
could understand how Melissa always got it arranged so beautifully.

Nothing particular happened the first part of the day. Some few
growled and wouldn't subscribe anything, but on the whole we did
pretty well. If it had been a missionary subscription we should have
fared worse; but when it was something touching their own comfort,
like cushioning the pews, they came down handsomely. We reached Daniel
Wilson's by noon, and had to have dinner there. We didn't eat much,
although we were hungry enough--Mary Wilson's cooking is a by-word in
Jersey Cove. No wonder Daniel is dyspeptic; but dyspeptic or not, he
gave us a big subscription for our cushions and told us we looked
younger than ever. Daniel is always very complimentary, and they say
Mary is jealous.

When we left the Wilson's Melissa said, with an air of a woman nerving
herself to a disagreeable duty:

"I suppose we might as well go to Isaac Appleby's now and get it
over."

I agreed with her. I had been dreading that call all day. It isn't a
very pleasant thing to go to a man you have recently refused to marry
and ask him for money; and Melissa and I were both in that
predicament.

Isaac was a well-to-do old bachelor who had never had any notion of
getting married until his sister died in the winter. And then, as soon
as the spring planting was over, he began to look round for a wife. He
came to me first and I said "No" good and hard. I liked Isaac well
enough; but I was snug and comfortable, and didn't feel like pulling
up my roots and moving into another lot; besides, Isaac's courting
seemed to me a shade too business-like. I can't get along without a
little romance; it's my nature.

Isaac was disappointed and said so, but intimated that it wasn't
crushing and that the next best would do very well. The next best was
Melissa, and he proposed to her after the decent interval of a
fortnight. Melissa also refused him. I admit I was surprised at this,
for I knew Melissa was rather anxious to marry; but she has always
been down on Isaac Appleby, from principle, because of a family feud
on her mother's side; besides, an old beau of hers, a widower at
Kingsbridge, was just beginning to take notice again, and I suspected
Melissa had hopes concerning him. Finally, I imagine Melissa did not
fancy being second choice.

Whatever her reasons were, she refused poor Isaac, and that finished
his matrimonial prospects as far as Jersey Cove was concerned, for
there wasn't another eligible woman in it--that is, for a man of
Isaac's age. I was the only widow, and the other old maids besides
Melissa were all hopelessly old-maiden.

This was all three months ago, and Isaac had been keeping house for
himself ever since. Nobody knew much about how he got along, for the
Appleby house is half a mile from anywhere, down near the shore at the
end of a long lane--the lonesomest place, as I did not fail to
remember when I was considering Isaac's offer.

"I heard Jarvis Aldrich say Isaac had got a dog lately," said Melissa,
when we finally came in sight of the house--a handsome new one, by the
way, put up only ten years ago. "Jarvis said it was an imported
breed. I do hope it isn't cross."

I have a mortal horror of dogs, and I followed Melissa into the big
farmyard with fear and trembling. We were halfway across the yard when
Melissa shrieked:

"Anne, there's the dog!"

There was the dog; and the trouble was that he didn't stay there, but
came right down the slope at a steady, business-like trot. He was a
bull-dog and big enough to bite a body clean in two, and he was the
ugliest thing in dogs I had ever seen.

Melissa and I both lost our heads. We screamed, dropped our parasols,
and ran instinctively to the only refuge that was in sight--a ladder
leaning against the old Appleby house. I am forty-five and something
more than plump, so that climbing ladders is not my favorite form of
exercise. But I went up that one with the agility and grace of
sixteen. Melissa followed me, and we found ourselves on the
roof--fortunately it was a flat one--panting and gasping, but safe,
unless that diabolical dog could climb a ladder.

I crept cautiously to the edge and peered over. The beast was sitting
on his haunches at the foot of the ladder, and it was quite evident he
was not short on time. The gleam in his eye seemed to say:

"I've got you two unprincipled subscription hunters beautifully treed
and it's treed you're going to stay. That is what I call satisfying."

I reported the state of the case to Melissa.

"What shall we do?" I asked.

"Do?" said Melissa, snappishly. "Why, stay here till Isaac Appleby
comes out and takes that brute away? What else can we do?"

"What if he isn't at home?" I suggested.

"We'll stay here till he comes home. Oh, this is a nice predicament.
This is what comes of cushioning churches!"

"It might be worse," I said comfortingly. "Suppose the roof hadn't
been flat?"

"Call Isaac," said Melissa shortly.

I didn't fancy calling Isaac, but call him I did, and when that failed
to bring him Melissa condescended to call, too; but scream as we
might, no Isaac appeared, and that dog sat there and smiled
internally.

"It's no use," said Melissa sulkily at last. "Isaac Appleby is dead or
away."

Half an hour passed; it seemed as long as a day. The sun just boiled
down on that roof and we were nearly melted. We were dreadfully
thirsty, and the heat made our heads ache, and I could see my muslin
dress fading before my very eyes. As for the roses on my best hat--but
that was too harrowing to think about.

Then we saw a welcome sight--Isaac Appleby coming through the yard
with a hoe over his shoulder. He had probably been working in his
field at the back of the house. I never thought I should have been so
glad to see him.

"Isaac, oh, Isaac!" I called joyfully, leaning over as far as I dared.

Isaac looked up in amazement at me and Melissa craning our necks over
the edge of the roof. Then he saw the dog and took in the situation.
The creature actually grinned.

"Won't you call off your dog and let us get down, Isaac?" I said
pleadingly.

Isaac stood and reflected for a moment or two. Then he came slowly
forward and, before we realized what he was going to do, he took that
ladder down and laid it on the ground.

"Isaac Appleby, what do you mean?" demanded Melissa wrathfully.

Isaac folded his arms and looked up. It would be hard to say which
face was the more determined, his or the dog's. But Isaac had the
advantage in point of looks, I will say that for him.

"I mean that you two women will stay up on that roof until one of you
agrees to marry me," said Isaac solemnly.

I gasped.

"Isaac Appleby, you can't be in earnest?" I cried incredulously. "You
couldn't be so mean?"

"I am in earnest. I want a wife, and I am going to have one. You two
will stay up there, and Julius Caesar here will watch you until one of
you makes up her mind to take me. You can settle it between
yourselves, and let me know when you have come to a decision."

And with that Isaac walked jauntily into his new house.

"The man can't mean it!" said Melissa. "He is trying to play a joke on
us."

"He does mean it," I said gloomily. "An Appleby never says anything he
doesn't mean. He will keep us here until one of us consents to marry
him."

"It won't be me, then," said Melissa in a calm sort of rage. "I won't
marry him if I have to sit on this roof for the rest of my life. You
can take him. It's really you he wants, anyway; he asked you first."

I always knew that rankled with Melissa.

I thought the situation over before I said anything more. We certainly
couldn't get off that roof, and if we could, there was Julius Caesar.
The place was out of sight of every other house in Jersey Cove, and
nobody might come near it for a week. To be sure, when Melissa and I
didn't turn up the Covites might get out and search for us; but that
wouldn't be for two or three days anyhow.

Melissa had turned her back on me and was sitting with her elbows
propped up on her knees, looking gloomily out to sea. I was afraid I
couldn't coax her into marrying Isaac. As for me, I hadn't any real
objection to marrying him, after all, for if he was short of romance
he was good-natured and has a fat bank account; but I hated to be
driven into it that way.

"You'd better take him, Melissa," I said entreatingly. "I've had one
husband and that is enough."

"More than enough for me, thank you," said Melissa sarcastically.

"Isaac is a fine man and has a lovely house; and you aren't sure the
Kingsbridge man really means anything," I went on.

"I would rather," said Melissa, with the same awful calmness, "jump
down from this roof and break my neck, or be devoured piecemeal by
that fiend down there than marry Isaac Appleby."

It didn't seem worth while to say anything more after that. We sat
there in stony silence and the time dragged by. I was hot, hungry,
thirsty, cross; and besides, I felt that I was in a ridiculous
position, which was worse than all the rest. We could see Isaac
sitting in the shade of one of his apple trees in the front orchard
comfortably reading a newspaper. I think if he hadn't aggravated me by
doing that I'd have given in sooner. But as it was, I was determined
to be as stubborn as everybody else. We were four obstinate
creatures--Isaac and Melissa and Julius Caesar and I.

At four o'clock Isaac got up and went into the house; in a few minutes
he came out again with a basket in one hand and a ball of cord in the
other.

"I don't intend to starve you, of course, ladies," he said politely,
"I will throw this ball up to you and you can then draw up the
basket."

I caught the ball, for Melissa never turned her head. I would have
preferred to be scornful, too, and reject the food altogether; but I
was so dreadfully thirsty that I put my pride in my pocket and hauled
the basket up. Besides, I thought it might enable us to hold out until
some loophole of escape presented itself.

Isaac went back into the house and I unpacked the basket. There was a
bottle of milk, some bread and butter, and a pie. Melissa wouldn't
take a morsel of the food, but she was so thirsty she had to take a
drink of milk.

She tried to lift her veil--and something caught; Melissa gave it a
savage twitch, and off came veil and hat--and all her front hair!

You never saw such a sight. I'd always suspected Melissa wore a false
front, but I'd never had any proof before.

Melissa pinned on her hair again and put on her hat and drank the
milk, all without a word; but she was purple. I felt sorry for her.

And I felt sorry for Isaac when I tried to eat that bread. It was sour
and dreadful. As for the pie, it was hopeless. I tasted it, and then
threw it down to Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar, not being over
particular, ate it up. I thought perhaps it would kill him, for
anything might come of eating such a concoction. That pie was a strong
argument for Isaac. I thought a man who had to live on such cookery
did indeed need a wife and might be pardoned for taking desperate
measures to get one. I was dreadfully tired of broiling on the roof
anyhow.

But it was the thunderstorm that decided me. When I saw it coming up,
black and quick, from the northwest, I gave in at once. I had endured
a good deal and was prepared to endure more; but I had paid ten
dollars for my hat and I was not going to have it ruined by a
thunderstorm. I called to Isaac and out he came.

"If you will let us down and promise to dispose of that dog before I
come here I will marry you, Isaac," I said, "but I'll make you sorry
for it afterwards, though."

"I'll take the risk of that, Anne," he said; "and, of course, I'll
sell the dog. I won't need him when I have you."

Isaac meant to be complimentary, though you mightn't have thought so
if you had seen the face of that dog.

Isaac ordered Julius Caesar away and put up the ladder, and turned his
back, real considerately, while we climbed down. We had to go in his
house and stay till the shower was over. I didn't forget the object of
our call and I produced our subscription list at once.

"How much have you got?" asked Isaac.

"Seventy dollars and we want a hundred and fifty," I said.

"You may put me down for the remaining eighty, then," said Isaac
calmly.

The Applebys are never mean where money is concerned, I must say.

Isaac offered to drive us home when it cleared up, but I said "No." I
wanted to settle Melissa before she got a chance to talk.

On the way home I said to her:

"I hope you won't mention this to anyone, Melissa. I don't mind
marrying Isaac, but I don't want people to know how it came about."

"Oh, I won't say anything about it," said Melissa, laughing a little
disagreeably.

"Because," I said, to clinch the matter, looking significantly at her
front hair as I said it, "I have something to tell, too."

Melissa will hold her tongue.



By the Rule of Contrary


"Look here, Burton," said old John Ellis in an ominous tone of voice,
"I want to know if what that old busybody of a Mary Keane came here
today gossiping about is true. If it is--well, I've something to say
about the matter! Have you been courting that niece of Susan Oliver's
all summer on the sly?"

Burton Ellis's handsome, boyish face flushed darkly crimson to the
roots of his curly black hair. Something in the father's tone roused
anger and rebellion in the son. He straightened himself up from the
turnip row he was hoeing, looked his father squarely in the face, and
said quietly,

"Not on the sly, sir, I never do things that way. But I have been
going to see Madge Oliver for some time, and we are engaged. We are
thinking of being married this fall, and we hope you will not object."

Burton's frankness nearly took away his father's breath. Old John
fairly choked with rage.

"You young fool," he spluttered, bringing down his hoe with such
energy that he sliced off half a dozen of his finest young turnip
plants, "have you gone clean crazy? No, sir, I'll never consent to
your marrying an Oliver, and you needn't have any idea that I will."

"Then I'll marry her without your consent," retorted Burton angrily,
losing the temper he had been trying to keep.

"Oh, will you indeed! Well, if you do, out you go, and not a cent of
my money or a rod of my land do you ever get."

"What have you got against Madge?" asked Burton, forcing himself to
speak calmly, for he knew his father too well to doubt for a minute
that he meant and would do just what he said.

"She's an Oliver," said old John crustily, "and that's enough." And
considering that he had settled the matter, John Ellis threw down his
hoe and left the field in a towering rage.

Burton hoed away savagely until his anger had spent itself on the
weeds. Give up Madge--dear, sweet little Madge? Not he! Yet if his
father remained of the same mind, their marriage was out of the
question at present. And Burton knew quite well that his father would
remain of the same mind. Old John Ellis had the reputation of being
the most contrary man in Greenwood.

When Burton had finished his row he left the turnip field and went
straight across lots to see Madge and tell her his dismal story. An
hour later Miss Susan Oliver went up the stairs of her little brown
house to Madge's room and found her niece lying on the bed, her pretty
curls tumbled, her soft cheeks flushed crimson, crying as if her heart
would break.

Miss Susan was a tall, grim, angular spinster who looked like the last
person in the world to whom a love affair might be confided. But never
were appearances more deceptive than in this case. Behind her
unprepossessing exterior Miss Susan had a warm, sympathetic heart
filled to the brim with kindly affection for her pretty niece. She had
seen Burton Ellis going moodily across the fields homeward and guessed
that something had gone wrong.

"Now, dearie, what is the matter?" she said, tenderly patting the
brown head.

Madge sobbed out the whole story disconsolately. Burton's father would
not let him marry her because she was an Oliver. And, oh, what would
she do?

"Don't worry, Madge," said Miss Susan comfortingly. "I'll soon settle
old John Ellis."

"Why, what can you do?" asked Madge forlornly.

Miss Susan squared her shoulders and looked amused.

"You'll see. I know old John Ellis better than he knows himself. He is
the most contrary man the Lord ever made. I went to school with him. I
learned how to manage him then, and I haven't forgotten how. I'm going
straight up to interview him."

"Are you sure that will do any good?" said Madge doubtfully. "If you
go to him and take Burton's and my part, won't it only make him
worse?"

"Madge, dear," said Miss Susan, busily twisting her scanty, iron-grey
hair up into a hard little knob at the back of her head before Madge's
glass, "you just wait. I'm not young, and I'm not pretty, and I'm not
in love, but I've more gumption than you and Burton have or ever will
have. You keep your eyes open and see if you can learn something.
You'll need it if you go up to live with old John Ellis."

Burton had returned to the turnip field, but old John Ellis was taking
his ease with a rampant political newspaper on the cool verandah of
his house. Looking up from a bitter editorial to chuckle over a
cutting sarcasm contained therein, he saw a tall, angular figure
coming up the lane with aggressiveness written large in every fold and
flutter of shawl and skirt.

"Old Susan Oliver, as sure as a gun," said old John with another
chuckle. "She looks mad clean through. I suppose she's coming here to
blow me up for refusing to let Burton take that girl of hers. She's
been angling and scheming for it for years, but she will find who she
has to deal with. Come on, Miss Susan."

John Ellis laid down his paper and stood up with a sarcastic smile.

Miss Susan reached the steps and skimmed undauntedly up them. She did
indeed look angry and disturbed. Without any preliminary greeting she
burst out into a tirade that simply took away her complacent foe's
breath.

"Look here, John Ellis, I want to know what this means. I've
discovered that that young upstart of a son of yours, who ought to be
in short trousers yet, has been courting my niece, Madge Oliver, all
summer. He has had the impudence to tell me that he wants to marry
her. I won't have it, I tell you, and you can tell your son so. Marry
my niece indeed! A pretty pass the world is coming to! I'll never
consent to it."

Perhaps if you had searched Greenwood and all the adjacent districts
thoroughly you might have found a man who was more astonished and
taken aback than old John Ellis was at that moment, but I doubt it.
The wind was completely taken out of his sails and every bit of the
Ellis contrariness was roused.

"What have you got to say against my son?" he fairly shouted in his
rage. "Isn't he good enough for your girl, Susan Oliver, I'd like to
know?"

"No, he isn't," retorted Miss Susan deliberately and unflinchingly.
"He's well enough in his place, but you'll please to remember, John
Ellis, that my niece is an Oliver, and the Olivers don't marry beneath
them."

Old John was furious. "Beneath them indeed! Why, woman, it is
condescension in my son to so much as look at your niece--condescension,
that is what it is. You are as poor as church mice."

"We come of good family, though," retorted Miss Susan. "You Ellises
are nobodies. Your grandfather was a hired man! And yet you have the
presumption to think you're fit to marry into an old, respectable
family like the Olivers. But talking doesn't signify. I simply won't
allow this nonsense to go on. I came here today to tell you so plump
and plain. It's your duty to stop it; if you don't I will, that's
all."

"Oh, will you?" John Ellis was at a white heat of rage and
stubbornness now. "We'll see, Miss Susan, we'll see. My son shall
marry whatever girl he pleases, and I'll back him up in it--do you
hear that? Come here and tell me my son isn't good enough for your
niece indeed! I'll show you he can get her anyway."

"You've heard what I've said," was the answer, "and you'd better go by
it, that's all. I shan't stay to bandy words with you, John Ellis. I'm
going home to talk to my niece and tell her her duty plain, and what I
want her to do, and she'll do it, I haven't a fear."

Miss Susan was halfway down the steps, but John Ellis ran to the
railing of the verandah to get the last word.

"I'll send Burton down this evening to talk to her and tell her what
_he_ wants her to do, and we'll see whether she'll sooner listen to
you than to him," he shouted.

Miss Susan deigned no reply. Old John strode out to the turnip field.
Burton saw him coming and looked for another outburst of wrath, but
his father's first words almost took away his breath.

"See here, Burt, I take back all I said this afternoon. I want you to
marry Madge Oliver now, and the sooner, the better. That old cat of a
Susan had the face to come up and tell me you weren't good enough for
her niece. I told her a few plain truths. Don't you mind the old
crosspatch. I'll back you up."

By this time Burton had begun hoeing vigorously, to hide the amused
twinkle of comprehension in his eyes. He admired Miss Susan's tactics,
but he did not say so.

"All right, Father," he answered dutifully.

When Miss Susan reached home she told Madge to bathe her eyes and put
on her new pink muslin, because she guessed Burton would be down that
evening.

"Oh, Auntie, how did you manage it?" cried Madge.

"Madge," said Miss Susan solemnly, but with dancing eyes, "do you know
how to drive a pig? Just try to make it go in the opposite direction
and it will bolt the way you want it. Remember that, my dear."



Fair Exchange and No Robbery


Katherine Rangely was packing up. Her chum and roommate, Edith Wilmer,
was sitting on the bed watching her in that calm disinterested fashion
peculiarly maddening to a bewildered packer.

"It does seem too provoking," said Katherine, as she tugged at an
obstinate shawl strap, "that Ned should be transferred here now, just
when I'm going away. The powers that be might have waited until
vacation was over. Ned won't know a soul here and he'll be horribly
lonesome."

"I'll do my best to befriend him, with your permission," said Edith
consolingly.

"Oh, I know. You're a special Providence, Ede. Ned will be up tonight
first thing, of course, and I'll introduce him. Try to keep the poor
fellow amused until I get back. Two months! Just fancy! And Aunt
Elizabeth won't abate one jot or tittle of the time I promised to stay
with her. Harbour Hill is so frightfully dull, too."

Then the talk drifted around to Edith's affairs. She was engaged to a
certain Sidney Keith, who was a professor in some college.

"I don't expect to see much of Sidney this summer," said Edith. "He's
writing another book. He is so terribly addicted to literature."

"How lovely," sighed Katherine, who had aspirations in that line
herself. "If only Ned were like him I should be perfectly happy. But
Ned is so prosaic. He doesn't care a rap for poetry, and he laughs
when I enthuse. It makes him quite furious when I talk of taking up
writing seriously. He says women writers are an abomination on the
face of the earth. Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous?"

"He is very handsome, though," said Edith, with a glance at his
photograph on Katherine's dressing table. "And that is what Sid is
not. He is rather distinguished looking, but as plain as he can
possibly be."

Edith sighed. She had a weakness for handsome men and thought it
rather hard that fate should have allotted her so plain a lover.

"He has lovely eyes," said Katherine comfortingly, "and handsome men
are always vain. Even Ned is. I have to snub him regularly. But I
think you'll like him."

Edith thought so too when Ned Ellison appeared that night. He was a
handsome off-handed young fellow, who seemed to admire Katherine
immensely, and be a little afraid of her into the bargain.

"Edith will try to make Riverton pleasant for you while I am away,"
she told him in their good-bye chat. "She is a dear girl--you'll like
her, I know. It's really too bad I have to go away now, but it can't
be helped."

"I shall be awfully lonesome," grumbled Ned. "Don't you forget to
write regularly, Kitty."

"Of course I'll write, but for pity's sake, Ned, don't call me Kitty.
It sounds so childish. Well, bye-bye, dear boy. I'll be back in two
months and then we'll have a lovely time."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Katherine had been at Harbour Hill for a week she wondered how
upon earth she was going to put in the remaining seven. Harbour Hill
was noted for its beauty, but not every woman can live by scenery
alone.

"Aunt Elizabeth," said Katherine one day, "does anybody ever die in
Harbour Hill? Because it doesn't seem to me it would be any change for
them if they did."

Aunt Elizabeth's only reply to this was a shocked look.

To pass the time Katherine took to collecting seaweeds, and this
involved long tramps along the shore. On one of these occasions she
met with an adventure. The place was a remote spot far up the shore.
Katherine had taken off her shoes and stockings, tucked up her skirt,
rolled her sleeves high above her dimpled elbows, and was deep in the
absorbing process of fishing up seaweeds off a craggy headland. She
looked anything but dignified while so employed, but under the
circumstances dignity did not matter.

Presently she heard a shout from the shore and, turning around in
dismay, she beheld a man on the rocks behind her. He was evidently
shouting at her. What on earth could the creature want?

"Come in," he called, gesticulating wildly. "You'll be in the
bottomless pit in another moment if you don't look out."

"He certainly must be a lunatic," said Katherine to herself, "or else
he's drunk. What am I to do?"

"Come in, I tell you," insisted the stranger. "What in the world do
you mean by wading out to such a place? Why, it's madness."

Katherine's indignation got the better of her fear.

"I do not think I am trespassing," she called back as icily as
possible.

The stranger did not seem to be snubbed at all. He came down to the
very edge of the rocks where Katherine could see him plainly. He was
dressed in a somewhat well-worn grey suit and wore spectacles. He did
not look like a lunatic, and he did not seem to be drunk.

"I implore you to come in," he said earnestly. "You must be standing
on the very brink of the bottomless pit."

He is certainly off his balance, thought Katherine. He must be some
revivalist who has gone insane on one point. I suppose I'd better go
in. He looks quite capable of wading out here after me if I don't.

She picked her steps carefully back with her precious specimens. The
stranger eyed her severely as she stepped on the rocks.

"I should think you would have more sense than to risk your life in
that fashion for a handful of seaweeds," he said.

"I haven't the faintest idea what you mean," said Miss Rangely. "You
don't look crazy, but you talk as if you were."

"Do you mean to say you don't know that what the people hereabouts
call the Bottomless Pit is situated right off that point--the most
dangerous spot along the whole coast?"

"No, I didn't," said Katherine, horrified. She remembered now that
Aunt Elizabeth had warned her to be careful of some bad hole along
shore, but she had not been paying much attention and had supposed it
to be in quite another direction. "I am a stranger here."

"Well, I hardly thought you'd be foolish enough to be out there if you
knew," said the other in mollified accents. "The place ought not to be
left without warning, anyhow. It is the most careless thing I ever
heard of. There is a big hole right off that point and nobody has ever
been able to find the bottom of it. A person who got into it would
never be heard of again. The rocks there form an eddy that sucks
everything right down."

"I am very grateful to you for calling me in," said Katherine humbly.
"I had no idea I was in such danger."

"You have a very fine bunch of seaweeds, I see," said the unknown.

But Katherine was in no mood to converse on seaweeds. She suddenly
realized what she must look like--bare feet, draggled skirts, dripping
arms. And this creature whom she had taken for a lunatic was
undoubtedly a gentleman. Oh, if he would only go and give her a chance
to put on her shoes and stockings!

Nothing seemed further from his intentions. When Katherine had picked
up the aforesaid articles and turned homeward, he walked beside her,
still discoursing on seaweeds as eloquently as if he were commonly
accustomed to walking with barefooted young women. In spite of
herself, Katherine couldn't help listening to him, for he managed to
invest seaweeds with an absorbing interest. She finally decided that
as he didn't seem to mind her bare feet, she wouldn't either.

He knew so much about seaweeds that Katherine felt decidedly
amateurish beside him. He looked over her specimens and pointed out
the valuable ones. He explained the best method of preserving and
mounting them, and told her of other and less dangerous places along
the shore where she might get some new varieties.

When they came in sight of Harbour Hill, Katherine began to wonder
what on earth she would do with him. It wasn't exactly permissible to
snub a man who had practically saved your life, but, on the other
hand, the prospect of walking through the principal street of Harbour
Hill barefooted and escorted by a scholarly looking gentleman
discoursing on seaweeds was not to be calmly contemplated.

The unknown cut the Gordian knot himself. He said that he must really
go back or he would be late for dinner, lifted his hat politely, and
departed. Katherine waited until he was out of sight, then sat down on
the sand and put on her shoes and stockings.

"Who on earth can he be?" she said to herself. "And where have I seen
him before? There was certainly something familiar about his
appearance. He is very nice, but he must have thought me crazy. I
wonder if he belongs to Harbour Hill."

The mystery was solved when she got home and found a letter from Edith
awaiting her.

"I see Ned quite often," wrote the latter, "and I think he is
perfectly splendid. You are a lucky girl, Kate. But oh, do you know
that Sidney is actually at Harbour Hill, too, or at least quite near
it? I had a letter from him yesterday. He has gone down there to spend
his vacation, because it is so quiet, and to finish up some horrid
scientific book he is working at. He's boarding at some little
farmhouse up the shore. I've written to him today to hunt you up and
consider himself introduced to you. I think you'll like him, for he's
just your style."

Katherine smiled when Sidney Keith's card was brought up to her that
evening and went down to meet him. Her companion of the morning rose
to meet her.

"You!" he said.

"Yes, me," said Miss Rangely cheerfully and ungrammatically. "You
didn't expect it, did you? I was sure I had seen you before--only it
wasn't you but your photograph."

When Professor Keith went away it was with a cordial invitation to
call again. He did not fail to avail himself of it--in fact, he became
a constant visitor at Sycamore Villa. Katherine wrote all about it to
Edith and cultivated Professor Keith with a dear conscience.

They got on capitally together. They went on long expeditions up shore
after seaweeds, and when seaweeds were exhausted they began to make a
collection of the Harbour Hill flora. This involved more long,
companionable expeditions. Katherine sometimes wondered when Professor
Keith found time to work on his book, but as he made no reference to
the subject, neither did she.

Once in a while, when she had time to think of them, she wondered how
Ned and Edith were getting on. At first Edith's letters had been full
of Ned, but in her last two or three she had said little about him.
Katherine wrote and jokingly asked Edith if she and Ned had quarreled.
Edith wrote back and said, "What nonsense." She and Ned were as good
friends as ever, but he was getting acquainted in Riverton now and
wasn't so dependent on her society, etc.

Katherine sighed and went on a fern hunt with Professor Keith. It was
getting near the end of her vacation and she had only two weeks more.
They were sitting down to rest on the side of the road when she
mentioned this fact inconsequently. The professor prodded the harmless
dust with his cane. Well, he supposed she would find a return to work
pleasant and would doubtless be glad to see her Riverton friends
again.

"I'm dying to see Edith," said Katherine.

"And Ned?" suggested Professor Keith.

"Oh yes. Ned, of course," assented Katherine without enthusiasm. There
didn't seem to be anything more to say. One cannot talk everlastingly
about ferns, so they got up and went home.

Katherine wrote a particularly affectionate letter to Ned that night.
Then she went to bed and cried.

When Professor Keith came up to bid Miss Rangely good-bye on the eve
of her departure from Harbour Hill, he looked like a man who was being
led to execution without benefit of clergy. But he kept himself well
in hand and talked calmly on impersonal subjects. After all, it was
Katherine who made the first break when she got up to say good-bye.
She was in the middle of some conventional sentence when she suddenly
stopped short, and her voice trailed off in a babyish quiver.

The professor put out his arm and drew her close to him. His hat
dropped under their feet and was trampled on, but I doubt if Professor
Keith knows the difference to this day, for he was fully absorbed in
kissing Katherine's hair. When she became cognizant of this fact, she
drew herself away.

"Oh, Sidney, don't!--think of Edith! I feel like a traitor."

"Do you think she would care very much if I--if you--if we--"
hesitated the professor.

"Oh, it would break her heart," cried Katherine with convincing
earnestness. "I know it would--and Ned's too. They must never know."

The professor stooped and began hunting for his maltreated hat. He was
a long time finding it, and when he did he went softly to the door.
With his hand on the knob, he paused and looked back.

"Good-bye, Miss Rangely," he said softly.

But Katherine, whose face was buried in the cushions of the lounge,
did not hear him and when she looked up he was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Katharine felt that life was stale, flat and unprofitable when she
alighted at Riverton station in the dusk of the next evening. She was
not expected until a later train and there was no one to meet her. She
walked drearily through the streets to her boarding house and entered
her room unannounced. Edith, who was lying on the bed, sprang up with
a surprised greeting. It was too dark to be sure, but Katherine had an
uncomfortable suspicion that her friend had been crying, and her heart
quaked guiltily. Could Edith have suspected anything?

"Why, we didn't think you'd be up till the 8:30 train, and Ned and I
were going to meet you."

"I found I could catch an earlier train, so I took it," said
Katherine, as she dropped listlessly into a chair. "I am tired to
death and I have such a headache. I can't see anyone tonight, not even
Ned."

"You poor dear," said Edith sympathetically, beginning a search for
the cologne. "Lie down on the bed and I'll bathe your poor head. Did
you have a good time at Harbour Hill? And how did you leave Sid? Did
he say anything about coming up?"

"Oh, he was quite well," said Katherine wearily. "I didn't hear him
say if he intended to come up or not. There, thanks--that will do
nicely."

After Edith had gone down, Katherine tossed about restlessly. She knew
Ned had come and she did not want to see him. But, after all, it was
only putting off the evil day, and it was treating him rather
shabbily. She would go down for a minute.

There were two doors to the parlour, and Katherine went by way of the
library one, over which a portiere was hanging. Her hand was lifted to
draw it back when she heard something that arrested the movement.

A woman was crying in the room beyond. It was Edith--and what was she
saying?

"Oh, Ned, it is all perfectly dreadful! I couldn't look Catherine in
the face when she came home. I'm so ashamed of myself and I never
meant to be so false. We must never let her suspect for a minute."

"It's pretty rough on a fellow," said another voice--Ned's voice--in a
choked sort of a way. "Upon my word, Edith, I don't see how I'm going
to keep it up."

"You must," sobbed Edith. "It would break her heart--and Sidney's too.
We must just make up our minds to forget each other, Ned, and you must
marry Katherine."

Just at this point Katherine became aware that she was eavesdropping
and she went away noiselessly. She did not look in the least like a
person who has received a mortal blow, and she had forgotten her
headache altogether.

When Edith came up half an hour later, she found the worn-out invalid
sitting up and reading a novel.

"How is your headache, dear?" she asked, carefully keeping her face
turned away from Katherine.

"Oh, it's all gone," said Miss Rangely cheerfully.

"Why didn't you come down then? Ned was here."

"Well, Ede, I did go down, but I thought I wasn't particularly wanted,
so I came back."

Edith faced her friend in dismay, forgetful of swollen lids and
tear-stained cheeks.

"Katherine!"

"Don't look so conscience stricken, my dear child. There is no harm
done."

"You heard--"

"Some surprising speeches. So you and Ned have gone and fallen in love
with one another?"

"Oh, Katherine," sobbed Edith, "we--we--couldn't help it--but it's all
over. Oh, don't be angry with me!"

"Angry? My dear, I'm delighted."

"Delighted?"

"Yes, you dear goose. Can't you guess, or must I tell you? Sidney and
I did the very same, and had just such a melancholy parting last night
as I suspect you and Ned had tonight."

"Katherine!"

"Yes, it's quite true. And of course we made up our minds to sacrifice
ourselves on the altar of duty and all that. But now, thank goodness,
there is no need of such wholesale immolation. So just let's forgive
each other."

"Oh," sighed Edith happily, "it is almost too good to be true."

"It is really providentially ordered, isn't it?" said Katherine. "Ned
and I would never have got on together in the world, and you and
Sidney would have bored each other to death. As it is, there will be
four perfectly happy people instead of four miserable ones. I'll tell
Ned so tomorrow."



Four Winds


Alan Douglas threw down his pen with an impatient exclamation. It was
high time his next Sunday's sermon was written, but he could not
concentrate his thoughts on his chosen text. For one thing he did not
like it and had selected it only because Elder Trewin, in his call of
the evening before, had hinted that it was time for a good stiff
doctrinal discourse, such as his predecessor in Rexton, the Rev. Jabez
Strong, had delighted in. Alan hated doctrines--"the soul's
staylaces," he called them--but Elder Trewin was a man to be reckoned
with and Alan preached an occasional sermon to please him.

"It's no use," he said wearily. "I could have written a sermon in
keeping with that text in November or midwinter, but now, when the
whole world is reawakening in a miracle of beauty and love, I can't do
it. If a northeast rainstorm doesn't set in before next Sunday, Mr.
Trewin will not have his sermon. I shall take as my text instead,
'The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds has
come.'"

He rose and went to his study window, outside of which a young vine
was glowing in soft tender green tints, its small dainty leaves
casting quivering shadows on the opposite wall where the portrait of
Alan's mother hung. She had a fine, strong, sweet face; the same face,
cast in a masculine mould, was repeated in her son, and the
resemblance was striking as he stood in the searching evening
sunshine. The black hair grew around his forehead in the same way; his
eyes were steel blue, like hers, with a similar expression, half
brooding, half tender, in their depths. He had the mobile, smiling
mouth of the picture, but his chin was deeper and squarer, dented with
a dimple which, combined with a certain occasional whimsicality of
opinion and glance, had caused Elder Trewin some qualms of doubt
regarding the fitness of this young man for his high and holy
vocation. The Rev. Jabez Strong had never indulged in dimples or
jokes; but then, as Elder Trewin, being a just man, had to admit, the
Rev. Jabez Strong had preached many a time and oft to more empty pews
than full ones, while now the church was crowded to its utmost
capacity on Sundays and people came to hear Mr. Douglas who had not
darkened a church door for years. All things considered, Elder Trewin
decided to overlook the dimple. There was sure to be some drawback in
every minister.

Alan from his study looked down on all the length of the Rexton
valley, at the head of which the manse was situated, and thought that
Eden might have looked so in its innocence, for all the orchards were
abloom and the distant hills were tremulous and aerial in springtime
gauzes of pale purple and pearl. But in any garden, despite its
beauty, is an element of tameness and domesticity, and Alan's eyes,
after a moment's delighted gazing, strayed wistfully off to the north
where the hills broke away into a long sloping lowland of pine and
fir. Beyond it stretched the wide expanse of the lake, flashing in the
molten gold and crimson of evening. Its lure was irresistible. Alan
had been born and bred beside a faraway sea and the love of it was
strong in his heart--so strong that he knew he must go back to it
sometime. Meanwhile, the great lake, mimicking the sea in its vast
expanse and the storms that often swept over it, was his comfort and
solace. As often as he could he stole away to its wild and lonely
shore, leaving the snug bounds of cultivated home lands behind him
with something like a sense of relief. Down there by the lake was a
primitive wilderness where man was as naught and man-made doctrines
had no place. There one might walk hand in hand with nature and so
come very close to God. Many of Alan's best sermons were written after
he had come home, rapt-eyed, from some long shore tramp where the
wilderness had opened its heart to him and the pines had called to him
in their soft, sibilant speech.

With a half guilty glance at the futile sermon, he took his hat and
went out. The sun of the cool spring evening was swinging low over the
lake as he turned into the unfrequented, deep-rutted road leading to
the shore. It was two miles to the lake, but half way there Alan came
to where another road branched off and struck down through the pines
in a northeasterly direction. He had sometimes wondered where it led
but he had never explored it. Now he had a sudden whim to do so and
turned into it. It was even rougher and lonelier than the other;
between the ruts the grasses grew long and thickly; sometimes the pine
boughs met overhead; again, the trees broke away to reveal wonderful
glimpses of gleaming water, purple islets, dark feathery coasts.
Still, the road seemed to lead nowhere and Alan was half repenting the
impulse which had led him to choose it when he suddenly came out from
the shadow of the pines and found himself gazing on a sight which
amazed him.

Before him was a small peninsula running out into the lake and
terminating in a long sandy point. Beyond it was a glorious sweep of
sunset water. The peninsula itself seemed barren and sandy, covered
for the most part with scrub firs and spruces, through which the
narrow road wound on to what was the astonishing; feature in the
landscape--a grey and weather-beaten house built almost at the
extremity of the point and shadowed from the western light by a thick
plantation of tall pines behind it.

It was the house which puzzled Alan. He had never known there was any
house near the lake shore--had never heard mention made of any; yet
here was one, and one which was evidently occupied, for a slender
spiral of smoke was curling upward from it on the chilly spring air.
It could not be a fisherman's dwelling, for it was large and built
after a quaint tasteful design. The longer Alan looked at it the more
his wonder grew. The people living here were in the bounds of his
congregation. How then was it that he had never seen or heard of them?

He sauntered slowly down the road until he saw that it led directly to
the house and ended in the yard. Then he turned off in a narrow path
to the shore. He was not far from the house now and he scanned it
observantly as he went past. The barrens swept almost up to its door
in front but at the side, sheltered from the lake winds by the pines,
was a garden where there was a fine show of gay tulips and golden
daffodils. No living creature was visible and, in spite of the
blossoming geraniums and muslin curtains at the windows and the homely
spiral of smoke, the place had a lonely, almost untenanted, look.

When Alan reached the shore he found that it was of a much more open
and less rocky nature than the part which he had been used to
frequent. The beach was of sand and the scrub barrens dwindled down to
it almost insensibly. To right and left fir-fringed points ran out
into the lake, shaping a little cove with the house in its curve.

Alan walked slowly towards the left headland, intending to follow the
shore around to the other road. As he passed the point he stopped
short in astonishment. The second surprise and mystery of the evening
confronted him.

A little distance away a girl was standing--a girl who turned a
startled face at his unexpected appearance. Alan Douglas had thought
he knew all the girls in Rexton, but this lithe, glorious creature was
a stranger to him. She stood with her hand on the head of a huge,
tawny collie dog; another dog was sitting on his haunches beside her.

She was tall, with a great braid of shining chestnut hair, showing
ruddy burnished tints where the sunlight struck it, hanging over her
shoulder. The plain dark dress she wore emphasized the grace and
strength of her supple form. Her face was oval and pale, with straight
black brows and a finely cut crimson mouth--a face whose beauty bore
the indefinable stamp of race and breeding mingled with a wild
sweetness, as of a flower growing in some lonely and inaccessible
place. None of the Rexton girls looked like that. Who, in the name of
all that was amazing, could she be?

As the thought crossed Alan's mind the girl turned, with an air of
indifference that might have seemed slightly overdone to a calmer
observer than was the young minister at that moment and, with a
gesture of command to her dogs, walked quickly away into the scrub
spruces. She was so tall that her uncovered head was visible over them
as she followed some winding footpath, and Alan stood like a man
rooted to the ground until he saw her enter the grey house. Then he
went homeward in a maze, all thought of sermons, doctrinal or
otherwise, for the moment knocked out of his head.

She is the most beautiful woman I ever saw, he thought. How is it
possible that I have lived in Rexton for six months and never heard of
her or of that house? Well, I daresay there's some simple explanation
of it all. The place may have been unoccupied until lately--probably
it is the summer residence of people who have only recently come to
it. I'll ask Mrs. Danby. She'll know if anybody will. That good woman
knows everything about everybody in Rexton for three generations back.

Alan found Isabel King with his housekeeper when he got home. His
greeting was tinged with a slight constraint. He was not a vain man,
but he could not help knowing that Isabel looked upon him with a
favour that had in it much more than professional interest. Isabel
herself showed it with sufficient distinctness. Moreover, he felt a
certain personal dislike of her and of her hard, insistent beauty,
which seemed harder and more insistent than ever contrasted with his
recollection of the girl of the lake shore.

Isabel had a trick of coming to the manse on plausible errands to Mrs.
Danby and lingering until it was so dark that Alan was in courtesy
bound to see her home. The ruse was a little too patent and amused
Alan, although he carefully hid his amusement and treated Isabel with
the fine unvarying deference which his mother had engrained into him
for womanhood--a deference that flattered Isabel even while it annoyed
her with the sense of a barrier which she could not break down or
pass. She was the daughter of the richest man in Rexton and inclined
to give herself airs on that account, but Alan's gentle indifference
always brought home to her an unwelcome feeling of inferiority.

"You've been tiring yourself out again tramping that lake shore, I
suppose," said Mrs. Danby, who had kept house for three bachelor
ministers and consequently felt entitled to hector them in a somewhat
maternal fashion.

"Not tiring myself--resting and refreshing myself rather," smiled
Alan. "I was tired when I went out but now I feel like a strong man
rejoicing to run a race. By the way, Mrs. Danby, who lives in that
quaint old house away down at the very shore? I never knew of its
existence before."

Alan's "by the way" was not quite so indifferent as he tried to make
it. Isabel King, leaning back posingly among the cushions of the
lounge, sat quickly up as he asked his question.

"Dear me, you don't mean to say you've never heard of Captain
Anthony--Captain Anthony Oliver?" said Mrs. Danby. "He lives down
there at Four Winds, as they call it--he and his daughter and an old
cousin."

Isabel King bent forward, her brown eyes on Alan's face.

"Did you see Lynde Oliver?" she asked with suppressed eagerness.

Alan ignored the question--perhaps he did not hear it.

"Have they lived there long?" he asked.

"For eighteen years," said Mrs. Danby placidly. "It's funny you
haven't heard them mentioned. But people don't talk much about the
Captain now--he's an old story--and of course they never go anywhere,
not even to church. The Captain is a rank infidel and they say his
daughter is just as bad. To be sure, nobody knows much about her, but
it stands to reason that a girl who's had her bringing up must be odd,
to say no worse of her. It's not really her fault, I suppose--her
wicked old scalawag of a father is to blame for it. She's never
darkened a church or school door in her life and they say she's always
been a regular tomboy--running wild outdoors with dogs, and fishing
and shooting like a man. Nobody ever goes there--the Captain doesn't
want visitors. He must have done something dreadful in his time, if it
was only known, when he's so set on living like a hermit away down on
that jumping-off place. Did you see any of them?"

"I saw Miss Oliver, I suppose," said Alan briefly. "At least I met a
young lady on the shore. But where did these people come from? Surely
more is known of them than this."

"Precious little. The truth is, Mr. Douglas, folks don't think the
Olivers respectable and don't want to have anything to do with them.
Eighteen years ago Captain Anthony came from goodness knows where,
bought the Four Winds point, and built that house. He said he'd been a
sailor all his life and couldn't live away from the water. He brought
his wife and child and an old cousin of his with him. This Lynde
wasn't more than two years old then. People went to call but they
never saw any of the women and the Captain let them see they weren't
wanted. Some of the men who'd been working round the place saw his
wife and said she was sickly but real handsome and like a lady, but
she never seemed to want to see anyone or be seen herself. There was
a story that the Captain had been a smuggler and that if he was caught
he'd be sent to prison. Oh, there were all sorts of yarns, mostly
coming from the men who worked there, for nobody else ever got inside
the house. Well, four years ago his wife disappeared--it wasn't known
how or when. She just wasn't ever seen again, that's all. Whether she
died or was murdered or went away nobody ever knew. There was some
talk of an investigation but nothing came of it. As for the girl,
she's always lived there with her father. She must be a perfect
heathen. He never goes anywhere, but there used to be talk of
strangers visiting him--queer sort of characters who came up the lake
in vessels from the American side. I haven't heard any reports of such
these past few years, though--not since his wife disappeared. He keeps
a yacht and goes sailing in it--sometimes he cruises about for
weeks--that's about all he ever does. And now you know as much about
the Olivers as I do, Mr. Douglas."

Alan had listened to this gossipy narrative with an interest that did
not escape Isabel King's observant eyes. Much of it he mentally
dismissed as improbable surmise, but the basic facts were probably as
Mrs. Danby had reported them. He had known that the girl of the shore
could be no commonplace, primly nurtured young woman.

"Has no effort ever been made to bring these people into touch with
the church?" he asked absently.

"Bless you, yes. Every minister that's ever been in Rexton has had a
try at it. The old cousin met every one of them at the door and told
him nobody was at home. Mr. Strong was the most persistent--he didn't
like being beaten. He went again and again and finally the Captain
sent him word that when he wanted parsons or pill-dosers he'd send
for them, and till he did he'd thank them to mind their own business.
They say Mr. Strong met Lynde once along shore and wanted to know if
she wouldn't come to church, and she laughed in his face and told him
she knew more about God now than he did or ever would. Perhaps the
story isn't true. Or if it was maybe he provoked her into saying it.
Mr. Strong wasn't overly tactful. I believe in judging the poor girl
as charitably as possible and making allowances for her, seeing how
she's been brought up. You couldn't expect her to know how to behave."

Somehow, Alan resented Mrs. Danby's charity. Then, his sense of humour
being strongly developed, he smiled to think of this commonplace old
lady "making allowances" for the splendid bit of femininity he had
seen on the shore. A plump barnyard fowl might as well have talked of
making allowances for a seagull!

Alan walked home with Isabel King but he was very silent as they went
together down the long, dark, sweet-smelling country road bordered by
its white orchards. Isabel put her own construction on his absent
replies to her remarks and presently she asked him, "Did you think
Lynde Oliver handsome?"

The question gave Alan an annoyance out of all proportion to its
significance. He felt an instinctive reluctance to discuss Lynde
Oliver with Isabel King.

"I saw her only for a moment," he said coldly, "but she impressed me
as being a beautiful woman."

"They tell queer stories about her--but maybe they're not all true,"
said Isabel, unable to keep the sneer of malice out of her voice. At
that moment Alan's secret contempt for her crystallized into
pronounced aversion. He made no reply and they went the rest of the
way in silence. At her gate Isabel said, "You haven't been over to see
us very lately, Mr. Douglas."

"My congregation is a large one and I cannot visit all my people as
often as I might wish," Alan answered, all the more coldly for the
personal note in her tone. "A minister's time is not his own, you
know."

"Shall you be going to see the Olivers?" asked Isabel bluntly.

"I have not considered that question. Good-night, Miss King."

On his way back to the manse Alan did consider the question. Should he
make any attempt to establish friendly relations with the residents of
Four Winds? It surprised him to find how much he wanted to, but he
finally concluded that he would not. They were not adherents of his
church and he did not believe that even a minister had any right to
force himself upon people who plainly wished to be let alone.

When he got home, although it was late, he went to his study and began
work on a new text--for Elder Trewin's seemed utterly out of the
question. Even with the new one he did not get on very well. At last
in exasperation he leaned back in his chair.

Why can't I stop thinking of those Four Winds people? Here, let me put
these haunting thoughts into words and see if that will lay them. That
girl had a beautiful face but a cold one. Would I like to see it
lighted up with the warmth of her soul set free? Yes, frankly, I would.
She looked upon me with indifference. Would I like to see her welcome
me as a friend? I have a conviction that I would, although no doubt
everybody in my congregation would look upon her as a most unsuitable
friend for me. Do I believe that she is wild, unwomanly, heathenish, as
Mrs. Danby says? No, I do not, most emphatically. I believe she is a
lady in the truest sense of that much abused word, though she is
doubtless unconventional. Having said all this, I do not see what more
there is to be said. And--I--am--going--to--write--this--sermon.

Alan wrote it, putting all thought of Lynde Oliver sternly out of his
mind for the time being. He had no notion of falling in love with her.
He knew nothing of love and imagined that it counted for nothing in
his life. He admitted that his curiosity was aflame about the girl,
but it never occurred to him that she meant or could mean anything to
him but an attractive enigma which once solved would lose its
attraction. The young women he knew in Rexton, whose simple, pleasant
friendship he valued, had the placid, domestic charm of their own
sweet-breathed, windless orchards. Lynde Oliver had the fascination of
the lake shore--wild, remote, untamed--the lure of the wilderness and
the primitive. There was nothing more personal in his thought of her,
and yet when he recalled Isabel King's sneer he felt an almost
personal resentment.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the following fortnight Alan made many trips to the shore--and
he always went by the branch road to the Four Winds point. He did not
attempt to conceal from himself that he hoped to meet Lynde Oliver
again. In this he was unsuccessful. Sometimes he saw her at a distance
along the shore but she always disappeared as soon as seen.
Occasionally as he crossed the point he saw her working in her garden
but he never went very near the house, feeling that he had no right to
spy on it or her in any way. He soon became convinced that she avoided
him purposely and the conviction piqued him. He felt an odd masterful
desire to meet her face to face and make her look at him. Sometimes he
called himself a fool and vowed he would go no more to the Four Winds
shore. Yet he inevitably went. He did not find in the shore the
comfort and inspiration he had formerly found. Something had come
between his soul and the soul of the wilderness--something he did not
recognize or formulate--a nameless, haunting longing that shaped
itself about the memory of a cold sweet face and starry, indifferent
eyes, grey as the lake at dawn.

Of Captain Anthony he never got even a glimpse, but he saw the old
cousin several times, going and coming about the yard and its
environs. Finally one day he met her, coming up a path which led to a
spring down in a firry hollow. She was carrying two heavy pails of
water and Alan asked permission to help her.

He half expected a repulse, for the tall, grim old woman had a rather
stern and forbidding look, but after gazing at him a moment in a
somewhat scrutinizing manner she said briefly, "You may, if you like."

Alan took the pails and followed her, the path not being wide enough
for two. She strode on before him at a rapid, vigorous pace until they
came out into the yard by the house. Alan felt his heart beating
foolishly. Would he see Lynde Oliver? Would--

"You may carry the water there," the old woman said, pointing to a
little outhouse near the pines. "I'm washing--the spring water is
softer than the well water. Thank you"--as Alan set the pails down on
a bench--"I'm not so young as I was and bringing the water so far
tires me. Lynde always brings it for me when she's home."

She stood before him in the narrow doorway, blocking his exit, and
looked at him with keen, deep-set dark eyes. In spite of her withered
aspect and wrinkled face, she was not an uncomely old woman and there
was about her a dignity of carriage and manner that pleased Alan. It
did not occur to him to wonder why it should please him. If he had
hunted that feeling down he might have been surprised to discover that
it had its origin in a curious gratification over the thought that the
woman who lived with Lynde had a certain refinement about her. He
preferred her unsmiling dourness to vulgar garrulity.

"Are you the young minister up at Rexton?" she asked bluntly.

"Yes."

"I thought so. Lynde said she had seen you on the shore once.
Well"--she cast an uncertain glance over her shoulder at the
house--"I'm much obliged to you."

Alan had an idea that that was not what she had thought of saying, but
as she had turned aside and was busying herself with the pails, there
seemed nothing for him to do but to go.

"Wait a moment." She faced him again, and if Alan had been a vain man
he might have thought that admiration looked from her piercing eyes.
"What do you think of us? I suppose they've told you tales of us up
there?"--with a scornful gesture of her hand in the direction of
Rexton. "Do you believe them?"

"I believe no ill of anyone until I have absolute proof of it," said
Alan, smiling--he was quite unconscious what a winning smile he had,
which was the best of it--"and I never put faith in gossip. Of course
you are gossipped about--you know that."

"Yes, I know it"--grimly--"and I don't care what they say about the
Captain and me. We are a queer pair--just as queer as they make us
out. You can believe what you like about us, but don't you believe a
word they say against Lynde. She's sweet and good and beautiful. It's
not her fault that she never went to church--it's her father's. Don't
you hold that against her."

The fierce yet repressed energy of her tone prevented Alan from
feeling any amusement over her simple defence of Lynde. Moreover, it
sounded unreasonably sweet in his ears.

"I won't," he promised, "but I don't suppose it would matter much to
Miss Oliver if I did. She did not strike me as a young lady who would
worry very much about other people's opinions."

If his object were to prolong the conversation about Lynde, he was
disappointed, for the old woman had turned abruptly to her work again
and, though Alan lingered for a few moments longer, she took no
further notice of him. But when he had gone she peered stealthily
after him from the door until he was lost to sight among the pines.

"A well-looking man," she muttered. "I wish Lynde had been home. I
didn't dare ask him to the house for I knew Anthony was in one of his
moods. But it's time something was done. She's woman grown and this is
no life for her. And there's nobody to do anything but me and I'm not
able, even if I knew what to do. I wonder why she hates men so.
Perhaps it's because she never knew any that were real gentlemen. This
man is--but then he's a minister and that makes a wide gulf between
them in another way. I've seen the love of man and woman bridge some
wider gulfs though. But it can't with Lynde, I'm fearing. She's so
bitter at the mere speaking of love and marriage. I can't think why.
I'm sure her mother and Anthony were happy together, and that was all
she's ever seen of marriage. But I thought when she told me of meeting
this young man on the shore there was something in her look I'd never
noticed before--as if she'd found something in herself she'd never
known was there. But she'll never make friends with him and I can't.
If the Captain wasn't so queer--"

She stopped abruptly, for a tall lithe figure was coming up from the
shore. Lynde waved her hand as she drew near.

"Oh, Emily, I've had such a splendid sail. It was glorious. Bad Emily,
you've been carrying water. Didn't I tell you never to do that when I
was away?"

"I didn't have to do it. That young minister up at Rexton met me and
brought it up. He's nice, Lynde."

Lynde's brow darkened. She turned and walked away to the house without
a word.

On his way home that night Alan met Isabel King on the main shore
road. She carried an armful of pine boughs and said she wanted the
needles for a cushion. Yet the thought came into Alan's mind that she
was spying on him and, although he tried to dismiss it as unworthy, it
continued to lurk there.

For a week he avoided the shore, but there came a day when its
inexplicable lure drew him to it again irresistibly. It was a warm,
windy evening and the air was sweet and resinous, the lake misty and
blue. There was no sign of life about Four Winds and the shore seemed
as lonely and virgin as if human foot had never trodden it. The
Captain's yacht was gone from the little harbour where it was
generally anchored and, though every flutter of wind in the scrub firs
made Alan's heart beat expectantly, he saw nothing of Lynde Oliver. He
was on the point of turning homeward, with an unreasoning sense of
disappointment, when one of Lynde's dogs broke down through the hedge
of spruces, barking loudly.

Alan looked for Lynde to follow, but she did not, and he speedily saw
that there was something unusual about the dog's behaviour. The animal
circled around him, still barking excitedly, then ran off for a short
distance, stopped, barked again, and returned, repeating the
manoeuvre. It was plain that he wanted Alan to follow him, and it
occurred to the young minister that the dog's mistress must be in
danger of some kind. Instantly he set off after him; and the dog, with
a final sharp bark of satisfaction, sprang up the low bank into the
spruces.

Alan followed him across the peninsula and then along the further
shore, which rapidly grew steep and high. Half a mile down the cliffs
were rocky and precipitous, while the beach beneath them was heaped
with huge boulders. Alan followed the dog along one of the narrow
paths with which the barrens abounded until nearly a mile from Four
Winds. Then the animal halted, ran to the edge of the cliff and
barked.

It was an ugly-looking place where a portion of the soil had evidently
broken away recently, and Alan stepped cautiously out to the brink and
looked down. He could not repress an exclamation of dismay and alarm.

A few feet below him Lynde Oliver was lying on a mass of mossy soil
which was apparently on the verge of slipping over a sloping shelf of
rock, below which was a sheer drop of thirty feet to the cruel
boulders below. The extreme danger of her position was manifest at a
glance; the soil on which she lay was stationary, yet it seemed as if
the slightest motion on her part would send it over the brink.

Lynde lay movelessly; her face was white, and both fear and appeal
were visible in her large dilated eyes. Yet she was quite calm and a
faint smile crossed her pale lips as she saw the man and the dog.

"Good faithful Pat, so you did bring help," she said.

"But how can I help you, Miss Oliver?" said Alan hoarsely. "I cannot
reach you--and it looks as if the slightest touch or jar would send
that broken earth over the brink."

"I fear it would. You must go back to Four Winds and get a rope."

"And leave you here alone--in such danger?"

"Pat will stay with me. Besides, there is nothing else to do. You will
find a rope in that little house where you put the water for Emily.
Father and Emily are away. I think I am quite safe here if I don't
move at all."

Alan's own common sense told him that, as she said, there was nothing
else to do and, much as he hated to leave her alone thus, he realized
that he must lose no time in doing it.

"I'll be back as quickly as possible," he said hurriedly.

Alan had been a noted runner at college and his muscles had not
forgotten their old training. Yet it seemed to him an age ere he
reached Four Winds, secured the rope, and returned. At every flying
step he was haunted by the thought of the girl lying on the brink of
the precipice and the fear that she might slip over it before he could
rescue her. When he reached the scene of the accident he dreaded to
look over the broken edge, but she was lying there safely and she
smiled when she saw him--a brave smile that softened her tense white
face into the likeness of a frightened child's.

"If I drop the rope down to you, are you strong enough to hold to it
while the earth goes and then draw yourself up the slope hand over
hand?" asked Alan anxiously.

"Yes," she answered fearlessly.

Alan passed down one end of the rope and then braced himself firmly to
hold it, for there was no tree near enough to be of any assistance.
The next moment the full weight of her body swung from it, for at her
first movement the soil beneath her slipped away. Alan's heart
sickened; what if she went with it? Could she cling to the rope while
he drew her up?

Then he saw she was still safe on the sloping shelf. Carefully and
painfully she drew herself to her knees and, dinging to the rope,
crept up the rock hand over hand. When she came within his reach he
grasped her arms and lifted her up into safety beside him.

"Thank God," he said, with whiter lips than her own.

For a few moments Lynde sat silent on the sod, exhausted with fright
and exertion, while her dog fawned on her in an ecstasy of joy.
Finally she looked up into Alan's anxious face and their eyes met. It
was something more than the physical reaction that suddenly flushed
the girl's cheeks. She sprang lithely to her feet.

"Can you walk back home?" Alan asked.

"Oh, yes, I am all right now. It was very foolish of me to get into
such a predicament. Father and Emily went down the lake in the yacht
this afternoon and I started out for a ramble. When I came here I saw
some junebells growing right out on the ledge and I crept out to
gather them. I should have known better. It broke away under me and
the more I tried to scramble back the faster it slid down, carrying me
with it. I thought it would go right over the brink"--she gave a
little involuntary shudder--"but just at the very edge it stopped. I
knew I must lie very still or it would go right over. It seemed like
days. Pat was with me and I told him to go for help, but I knew there
was no one at home--and I was horribly afraid," she concluded with
another shiver. "I never was afraid in my life before--at least not
with that kind of fear."

"You have had a terrible experience and a narrow escape," said Alan
lamely. He could think of nothing more to say; his usual readiness of
utterance seemed to have failed him.

"You saved my life," she said, "you and Pat--for doggie must have his
share of credit."

"A much larger share than mine," said Alan, smiling. "If Pat had not
come for me, I would not have known of your danger. What a magnificent
fellow he is!"

"Isn't he?" she agreed proudly. "And so is Laddie, my other dog. He
went with Father today. I love my dogs more than people." She looked
at him with a little defiance in her eyes. "I suppose you think that
terrible."

"I think many dogs are much more lovable--and worthy of love--than
many people," said Alan, laughing.

How childlike she was in some ways! That trace of defiance--it was so
like a child who expected to be scolded for some wrong attitude of
mind. And yet there were moments when she looked the tall proud queen.
Sometimes, when the path grew narrow, she walked before him, her hand
on the dog's head. Alan liked this, since it left him free to watch
admiringly the swinging grace of her step and the white curves of her
neck beneath the thick braid of hair, which today was wound about her
head. When she dropped back beside him in the wider spaces, he could
only have stolen glances at her profile, delicately, strongly cut,
virginal in its soft curves, childlike in its purity. Once she looked
around and caught his glance; again she flushed, and something strange
and exultant stirred in Alan's heart. It was as if that maiden blush
were the involuntary, unconscious admission of some power he had over
her--a power which her hitherto unfettered spirit had never before
felt. The cold indifference he had seen in her face at their first
meeting was gone, and something told him it was gone forever.

When they came in sight of Four Winds they saw two people walking up
the road from the harbour and a few further steps brought them face to
face with Captain Anthony Oliver and his old housekeeper.

The Captain's appearance was a fresh surprise to Alan. He had expected
to meet a rough, burly sailor, loud of voice and forbidding of manner.
Instead, Captain Anthony was a tall, well-built man of perhaps fifty.
His face, beneath its shock of iron-grey hair, was handsome but wore a
somewhat forbidding expression, and there was something in it, apart
from line or feature, which did not please Alan. He had no time to
analyze this impression, for Lynde said hurriedly, "Father, this is
Mr. Douglas. He has just done me a great service."

She briefly explained her accident; when she had finished, the Captain
turned to Alan and held out his hand, a frank smile replacing the
rather suspicious and contemptuous scowl which had previously
overshadowed it.

"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Douglas," he said cordially. "You must
come up to the house and let me thank you at leisure. As a rule I'm
not very partial to the cloth, as you may have heard. In this case it
is the man, not the minister, I invite."

The front door of Four Winds opened directly into a wide,
low-ceilinged living room, furnished with simplicity and good taste.
Leaving the two men there, Lynde and the old cousin vanished, and Alan
found himself talking freely with the Captain who could, as it
appeared, talk well on many subjects far removed from Four Winds. He
was evidently a clever, self-educated man, somewhat opinionated and
given to sarcasm; he never made any references to his own past life or
experiences, but Alan discovered him to be surprisingly well read in
politics and science. Sometimes in the pauses of the conversation Alan
found the older man looking at him in a furtive way he did not like,
but the Captain was such an improvement on what he had been led to
expect that he was not inclined to be over critical. At least, this
was what he honestly thought. He did not suspect that it was because
this man was Lynde's father that he wished to think as well as
possible of him.

Presently Lynde came in. She had changed her outdoor dress, stained
with moss and soil in her fall, for a soft clinging garment of some
pale yellow material, and her long, thick braid of hair hung over her
shoulder. She sat mutely down in a dim corner and took no part in the
conversation except to answer briefly the remarks which Alan addressed
to her. Emily came in and lighted the lamp on the table. She was as
grim and unsmiling as ever, yet she cast a look of satisfaction on
Alan as she passed out. One dog lay down at Lynde's feet, the other
sat on his haunches by her side and laid his head on her lap. Rexton
and its quiet round of parish duties seemed thousands of miles away
from Alan, and he wondered a little if this were not all a dream.

When he went away the Captain invited him back.

"If you like to come, that is," he said brusquely, "and always as the
man, not the priest, remember. I don't want you by and by to be slyly
slipping in the thin end of any professional wedges. You'll waste your
time if you do. Come as man to man and you'll be welcome, for I like
you--and it's few men I like. But don't try to talk religion to me."

"I never talk religion," said Alan emphatically. "I try to live it.
I'll not come to your house as a self-appointed missionary, sir, but I
shall certainly act and speak at all times as my conscience and my
reverence for my vocation demands. If I respect your beliefs, whatever
they may be, I shall expect you to respect mine, Captain Oliver."

"Oh, I won't insult your God," said the Captain with a faint sneer.

Alan went home in a tumult of contending feelings. He did not
altogether like Captain Anthony--that was very clear to him, and yet
there was something about the man that attracted him. Intellectually
he was a worthy foeman, and Alan had often longed for such since
coming to Rexton. He missed the keen, stimulating debates of his
college days and, now there seemed a chance of renewing them, he was
eager to grasp it. And Lynde--how beautiful she was! What though she
shared--as was not unlikely--in her father's lack of belief? She could
not be essentially irreligious--that were impossible in a true woman.
Might not this be his opportunity to help her--to lead her into dearer
light? Alan Douglas was a sincere man, with himself as well as with
others, yet there are some motives that lie, in their first inception,
too deep even for the probe of self-analysis. He had not as yet the
faintest suspicion as to the real source of his interest in Lynde
Oliver--in his sudden forceful desire to be of use and service to
her--to rescue her from spiritual peril as he had that day rescued her
from bodily danger.

She must have a lonely, unsatisfying life, he thought. It is my duty
to help her if I can.

It did not then occur to him that duty in this instance wore a much
more pleasing aspect than it had sometimes worn in his experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alan did not mean to be oversoon in going back to Four Winds, but
three days later a book came to him which Captain Anthony had
expressed a wish to see. It furnished an excuse for an earlier call.
After that he went often. He always found the Captain courteous and
affable, old Emily grimly cordial, Lynde sometimes remote and demure,
sometimes frankly friendly. Occasionally, when the Captain was away in
his yacht, he went for a walk with her and her dogs along the shore or
through the sweet-smelling pinelands up the lake. He found that she
loved books and was avid for more of them than she could obtain; he
was glad to take her several and discuss them with her. She liked
history and travels best. With novels she had no patience, she said
disdainfully. She seldom spoke of herself or her past life and Alan
fancied she avoided any personal reference. But once she said
abruptly, "Why do you never ask me to go to church? I've always been
afraid you would."

"Because I do not think it would do you any good to go if you didn't
want to," said Alan gravely. "Souls should not be rudely handled any
more than bodies."

She looked at him reflectively, her finger denting her chin in a
meditative fashion she had.

"You are not at all like Mr. Strong. He always scolded me, when he got
a chance, for not going to church. I would have hated him if it had
been worthwhile. I told him one day that I was nearer to God under
these pines than I could be in any building fashioned by human hands.
He was very much shocked. But I don't want you to misunderstand me.
Father does not go to church because he does not believe there is a
God. But I know there is. Mother taught me so. I have never gone to
church because Father would not allow me, and I could not go now in
Rexton where the people talk about me so. Oh, I know they do--you know
it, too--but I do not care for them. I know I'm not like other girls.
I would like to be but I can't be--I never can be--now."

There was some strange passion in her voice that Alan did not quite
understand--a bitterness and a revolt which he took to be against the
circumstances that hedged her in.

"Is not some other life possible for you if your present life does not
content you?" he said gently.

"But it does content me," said Lynde imperiously. "I want no other--I
wish this life to go on forever--forever, do you understand? If I were
sure that it would--if I were sure that no change would ever come to
me, I would be perfectly content. It is the fear that a change will
come that makes me wretched. Oh!" She shuddered and put her hands over
her eyes.

Alan thought she must mean that when her father died she would be
alone in the world. He wanted to comfort her--reassure her--but he did
not know how.

One evening when he went to Four Winds he found the door open and,
seeing the Captain in the living room, he stepped in unannounced.
Captain Anthony was sitting by the table, his head in his hands; at
Alan's entrance he turned upon him a haggard face, blackened by a
furious scowl beneath which blazed eyes full of malevolence.

"What do you want here?" he said, following up the demand with a
string of vile oaths.

Before Alan could summon his scattered wits, Lynde glided in with a
white, appealing face. Wordlessly she grasped Alan's arm, drew him
out, and shut the door.

"Oh, I've been watching for you," she said breathlessly. "I was afraid
you might come tonight--but I missed you."

"But your father?" said Alan in amazement. "How have I angered him?"

"Hush. Come into the garden. I will explain there."

He followed her into the little enclosure where the red and white
roses were now in full blow.

"Father isn't angry with you," said Lynde in a low shamed voice. "It's
just--he takes strange moods sometimes. Then he seems to hate us
all--even me--and he is like that for days. He seems to suspect and
dread everybody as if they were plotting against him. You--perhaps you
think he has been drinking? No, that is not the trouble. These
terrible moods come on without any cause that we know of. Even Mother
could not do anything with him when he was like that. You must go away
now--and do not come back until his dark mood has passed. He will be
just as glad to see you as ever then, and this will not make any
difference with him. Don't come back for a week at least."

"I do not like to leave you in such trouble, Miss Oliver."

"Oh, it doesn't matter about me--I have Emily. And there is nothing
you could do. Please go at once. Father knows I am talking to you and
that will vex him still more."

Alan, realizing that he could not help her and that his presence only
made matters worse, went away perplexedly. The following week was a
miserable one for him. His duties were distasteful to him and meeting
his people a positive torture. Sometimes Mrs. Danby looked dubiously
at him and seemed on the point of saying something--but never said it.
Isabel King watched him when they met, with bold probing eyes. In his
abstraction he did not notice this any more than he noticed a certain
subtle change which had come over the members of his congregation--as
if a breath of suspicion had blown across them and troubled their
confidence and trust. Once Alan would have been keenly and instantly
conscious of this slight chill; now he was not even aware of it.

When he ventured to go back to Four Winds he found the Captain on the
point of starting off for a cruise in his yacht. He was urbane and
friendly, utterly ignoring the incident of Alan's last visit and
regretting that business compelled him to go down the lake. Alan saw
him off with small regret and turned joyfully to Lynde, who was
walking under the pines with her dogs. She looked pale and tired and
her eyes were still troubled, but she smiled proudly and made no
reference to what had happened.

"I'm going to put these flowers on Mother's grave," she said, lifting
her slender hands filled with late white roses. "Mother loved flowers
and I always keep them near her when I can. You may come with me if
you like."

Alan had known Lynde's mother was buried under the pines but he had
never visited the spot before. The grave was at the westernmost end of
the pine wood, where it gave out on the lake, a beautiful spot, given
over to silence and shadow.

"Mother wished to be buried here," Lynde said, kneeling to arrange her
flowers. "Father would have taken her anywhere but she said she wanted
to be near us and near the lake she had loved so well. Father buried
her himself. He wouldn't have anyone else do anything for her. I am so
glad she is here. It would have been terrible to have seen her taken
far away--my sweet little mother."

"A mother is the best thing in the world--I realized that when I lost
mine," said Alan gently. "How long is it since your mother died?"

"Three years. Oh, I thought I should die too when she did. She was
very ill--she was never strong, you know--but I never thought she
could die. There was a year then--part of the time I didn't believe in
God at all and the rest I hated Him. I was very wicked but I was so
unhappy. Father had so many dreadful moods and--there was something
else. I used to wish to die."

She bowed her head on her hands and gazed moodily on the ground. Alan,
leaning against a pine tree, looked down at her. The sunlight fell
through the swaying boughs on her glory of burnished hair and lighted
up the curve of cheek and chin against the dark background of wood
brown. All the defiance and wildness had gone from her for the time
and she seemed like a helpless, weary child. He wanted to take her in
his arms and comfort her.

"You must resemble your mother," he said absently, as if thinking
aloud. "You don't look at all like your father."

Lynde shook her head.

"No, I don't look like Mother either. She was tiny and dark--she had a
sweet little face and velvet-brown eyes and soft curly dark hair. Oh,
I remember her look so well. I wish I did resemble her. I loved her
so--I would have done anything to save her suffering and trouble. At
least, she died in peace."

There was a curious note of fierce self-gratulation in the girl's voice
as she spoke the last sentence. Again Alan felt the unpleasant
impression that there was much in her that he did not understand--might
never understand--although such understanding was necessary to perfect
friendship. She had never spoken so freely of her past life to him
before, yet he felt somehow that something was being kept back in
jealous repression. It must be something connected with her father,
Alan thought. Doubtless, Captain Anthony's past would not bear
inspection, and his daughter knew it and dwelt in the shadow of her
knowledge. His heart filled with aching pity for her; he raged secretly
because he was so powerless to help her. Her girlhood had been
blighted, robbed of its meed of happiness and joy. Was she likewise to
miss her womanhood? Alan's hands clenched involuntarily at the
unuttered question.

On his way home that evening he again met Isabel King. She turned and
walked back with him but she made no reference to Four Winds or its
inhabitants. If Alan had troubled himself to look, he would have seen
a malicious glow in her baleful brown eyes. But the only eyes which
had any meaning for him just then were the grey ones of Lynde Oliver.

       *       *       *       *       *

During Alan's next three visits to Four Winds he saw nothing of Lynde,
either in the house or out of it. This surprised and worried him.
There was no apparent difference in Captain Anthony, who continued to
be suave and friendly. Alan always enjoyed his conversations with the
Captain, who was witty, incisive, and pungent; yet he disliked the man
himself more at every visit. If he had been compelled to define his
impression, he would have said the Captain was a charming scoundrel.

But it occurred to him that Emily was disturbed about something.
Sometimes he caught her glance, full of perplexity and--it almost
seemed--distrust. She looked as if she felt hostile towards him. But
Alan dismissed the idea as absurd. She had been friendly from the
first and he had done nothing to excite her disapproval. Lynde's
mysterious absence was a far more perplexing problem. She had not gone
away, for when Alan asked the Captain concerning her, he responded
indifferently that she was out walking. Alan caught a glint of
amusement in the older man's eyes as he spoke. He could have sworn it
was malicious amusement.

One evening he went to Four Winds around the shore. As he turned the
headland of the cove, he saw Lynde and her dogs not a hundred feet
away. The moment she saw him she darted up the bank and disappeared
among the firs.

Alan was thunderstruck. There was no room for doubt that she meant to
avoid him. He walked up to the house in a tumult of mingled feelings
which he did not even then understand. He only realized that he felt
bitterly hurt and grieved--puzzled as well. What did it all mean?

He met Emily in the yard of Four Winds on her way to the spring and
stopped her resolutely.

"Miss Oliver," he said bluntly, "is Miss Lynde angry with me? And
why?"

Emily looked at him piercingly.

"Have you no idea why?" she asked shortly.

"None in the world."

She looked at him through and through a moment longer. Then, seeming
satisfied with her scrutiny, she picked up her pail.

"Come down to the spring with me," she said.

As soon as they were out of sight of the house, Emily began abruptly.

"If you don't know why Lynde is acting so, I can't tell you, for I
don't know either. I don't even know if she is angry. I only thought
perhaps she was--that you had done or said something to vex
her--plaguing her to go to church maybe. But if you didn't, it may not
be anger at all. I don't understand that girl. She's been different
ever since her mother died. She used to tell me everything before
that. You must go and ask her right out yourself what is wrong. But
maybe I can tell you something. Did you write her a letter a
fortnight ago?"

"A letter? No."

"Well, she got one then. I thought it came from you--I didn't know who
else would be writing to her. A boy brought it and gave it to her at
the door. She's been acting strange ever since. She cries at
night--something Lynde never did before except when her mother died.
And in daytime she roams the shore and woods like one possessed. You
must find out what was in that letter, Mr. Douglas."

"Have you any idea who the boy was?" Alan asked, feeling somewhat
relieved. The mystery was clearing up, he thought. No doubt it was the
old story of some cowardly anonymous letter. His thoughts flew
involuntarily to Isabel King.

Emily shook her head.

"No. He was just a half-grown fellow with reddish hair and he limped a
little."

"Oh, that is the postmaster's son," said Alan disappointedly. "That
puts us further off the scent than ever. The letter was probably
dropped in the box at the office and there will consequently be no way
of tracing the writer."

"Well, I can't tell you anything more," said Emily. "You'll have to
ask Lynde for the truth."

This Alan was determined to do whenever he should meet her. He did not
go to the house with Emily but wandered about the shore, watching for
Lynde and not seeing her. At length he went home, a prey to stormy
emotions. He realized at last that he loved Lynde Oliver. He wondered
how he could have been so long blind to it. He knew that he must have
loved her ever since he had first seen her. The discovery amazed but
did not shock him. There was no reason why he should not love
her--should not woo and win her for his wife if she cared for him. She
was good and sweet and true. Anything of doubt in her antecedents
could not touch her. Probably the world would look upon Captain
Anthony as a somewhat undesirable father-in-law for a minister, but
that aspect of the question did not disturb Alan. As for the trouble
of the letter, he felt sure he would easily be able to clear it away.
Probably some malicious busybody had become aware of his frequent
calls at Four Winds and chose to interfere in his private affairs
thus. For the first time it occurred to him that there had been a
certain lack of cordiality among his people of late. If it were really
so, doubtless this was the reason. At any other time this would have
been of moment to him. But now his thoughts were too wholly taken up
with Lynde and the estrangement on her part to attach much importance
to anything else. What she thought mattered incalculably more to Alan
than what all the people in Rexton put together thought. He had the
right, like any other man, to woo the woman of his choice and he would
certainly brook no outside interference in the matter.

After a sleepless night he went back to Four Winds in the morning.
Lynde would not expect him at that time and he would have more chance
of finding her. The result justified his idea, for he met her by the
spring.

Alan felt shocked at the change in her appearance. She looked as if
years of suffering had passed over her. Her lips were pallid, and
hollow circles under her eyes made them appear unnaturally large. He
had last left the girl in the bloom of her youth; he found her again a
woman on whom life had laid its heavy hand.

A burning flood of colour swept over her face as they met, then
receded as quickly, leaving her whiter than before. Without any waste
of words, Alan plunged abruptly into the subject.

"Miss Oliver, why have you avoided me so of late? Have I done anything
to offend you?"

"No." She spoke as if the word hurt her, her eyes persistently cast
down.

"Then what is the trouble?"

There was no answer. She gave an unvoluntary glance around as if
seeking some way of escape. There was none, for the spring was set
about with thick young firs and Alan blocked the only path.

He leaned forward and took her hands in his.

"Miss Oliver, you must tell me what the trouble is," he said firmly.

She pulled her hands away and flung them up to her face, her form
shaken by stormy sobs. In distress he put his arm about her and drew
her closer.

"Tell me, Lynde," he whispered tenderly.

She broke away from him, saying passionately, "You must not come to
Four Winds any more. You must not have anything more to do with
us--any of us. We have done you enough harm already. But I never
thought it could hurt you--oh, I am sorry, sorry!"

"Miss Oliver, I want to see that letter you received the other
evening. Oh"--as she started with surprise--"I know about it--Emily
told me. Who wrote it?"

"There was no name signed to it," she faltered.

"Just as I thought. Well, you must let me see it."

"I cannot--I burned it."

"Then tell me what was in it. You must. This matter must be cleared
up--I am not going to have our beautiful friendship spoiled by the
malice of some coward. What did that letter say?"

"It said that everybody in your congregation was talking about your
frequent visits here--that it had made a great scandal--that it was
doing you a great deal of injury and would probably end in your having
to leave Rexton."

"That would be a catastrophe indeed," said Alan drily. "Well, what
else?"

"Nothing more--at least, nothing about you. The rest was about
myself--I did not mind it--much. But I was so sorry to think that I
had done you harm. It is not too late to undo it. You must not come
here any more. Then they will forget."

"Perhaps--but I should not forget. It's a little too late for me.
Lynde, you must not let this venomous letter come between us. I love
you, dear--I've loved you ever since I met you and I want you for my
wife."

Alan had not intended to say that just then, but the words came to his
lips in spite of himself. She looked so sad and appealing and weary
that he wanted to have the right to comfort and protect her.

She turned her eyes full upon him with no hint of maidenly shyness or
shrinking in them. Instead, they were full of a blank, incredulous
horror that swallowed up every other feeling. There was no mistaking
their expression and it struck an icy chill to Alan's heart. He had
certainly not expected a too ready response on her part--he knew that
even if she cared for him he might find it a matter of time to win her
avowal of it--but he certainly had not expected to see such evident
abject dismay as her blanched face betrayed. She put up her hand as if
warding a blow.

"Don't--don't," she gasped. "You must not say that--you must never say
it. Oh, I never dreamed of this. If I had thought it possible you
could--love me, I would never have been friends with you. Oh, I've
made a terrible mistake."

She wrung her hands piteously together, looking like a soul in
torment. Alan could not bear to see her pain.

"Don't feel such distress," he implored. "I suppose I've spoken too
abruptly--but I'll be so patient, dear, if you'll only try to care for
me a little. Can't you, dear?"

"I can't marry you," said Lynde desperately. She leaned against a slim
white bole of a young birch behind her and looked at him wretchedly.
"Won't you please go away and forget me?"

"I can't forget you," Alan said, smiling a little in spite of his
suffering. "You are the only woman I can ever love--and I can't give
you up unless I have to. Won't you be frank with me, dear? Do you
honestly think you can never learn to love me?"

"It is not that," said Lynde in a hard, unnatural voice. "I am married
already."

Alan stared at her, not in the least comprehending the meaning of her
words. Everything--pain, hope, fear, passion--had slipped away from
him for a moment, as if he had been stunned by a physical blow. He
could not have heard aright.

"Married?" he said dully. "Lynde, you cannot mean it?"

"Yes, I do. I was married three years ago."

"Why was I not told this?" Alan's voice was stern, although he did not
mean it to be so, and she shrank and shivered. Then she began in a low
monotonous tone from which all feeling of any sort seemed to have
utterly faded.

"Three years ago Mother was very ill--so ill that any shock would kill
her, so the doctor Father brought from the lake told us. A man--a
young sea captain--came here to see Father. His name was Frank Harmon
and he had known Father well in the past. They had sailed together.
Father seemed to be afraid of him--I had never seen him afraid of
anybody before. I could not think much about anybody except Mother
then, but I knew I did not quite like Captain Harmon, although he was
very polite to me and I suppose might have been called handsome. One
day Father came to me and told me I must marry Captain Harmon. I
laughed at the idea at first but when I looked at Father's face I did
not laugh. It was all white and drawn. He implored me to marry Captain
Harmon. He said if I did not it would mean shame and disgrace for us
all--that Captain Harmon had some hold on him and would tell what he
knew if I did not marry him. I don't know what it was but it must have
been something dreadful. And he said it would kill Mother. I knew it
would, and that was what drove me to consent at last. Oh, I can't tell
you what I suffered. I was only seventeen and there was nobody to
advise me. One day Father and Captain Harmon and I went down the lake
to Crosse Harbour and we were married there. As soon as the ceremony
was over, Captain Harmon had to sail in his vessel. He was going to
China. Father and I came back home. Nobody knew--not even Emily. He
said we must not tell Mother until she was better. But she was never
better. She only lived three months more--she lived them happily and
at rest. When I think of that, I am not sorry for what I did. Captain
Harmon said he would be back in the fall to claim me. I waited, sick
at heart. But he did not come--he has never come. We have never heard
a word of or about him since. Sometimes I feel sure he cannot be still
living. But never a day dawns that I don't say to myself, 'Perhaps he
will come today'--and, oh--"

She broke down again, sobbing bitterly. Amid all the daze of his own
pain Alan realized that, at any cost, he must not make it harder for
her by showing his suffering. He tried to speak calmly, wisely, as a
disinterested friend.

"Could it not be discovered whether your--this man--is or is not
living? Surely your father could find out."

Lynde shook her head.

"No, he says he has no way of doing so. We do not know if Captain
Harmon had any relatives or even where his home was, and it was his
own ship in which he sailed. Father would be glad to think that Frank
Harmon was dead, but he does not think he is. He says he was always a
fickle-minded fellow, one fancy driving another out of his mind. Oh, I
can bear my own misery--but to think what I have brought on you! I
never dreamed that you could care for me. I was so lonely and your
friendship was so pleasant--can you ever forgive me?"

"There is nothing to forgive, as far as you are concerned, Lynde,"
said Alan steadily. "You have done me no wrong. I have loved you
sincerely and such love can be nothing but a blessing to me. I only
wish that I could help you. It wrings my heart to think of your
position. But I can do nothing--nothing. I must not even come here any
more. You understand that?"

"Yes."

There was an unconscious revelation in the girl's mournful eyes as she
turned them on Alan. It thrilled him to the core of his being. She
loved him. If it were not for that empty marriage form, he could win
her, but the knowledge was only an added mocking torment. Alan had not
known a man could endure such misery and live. A score of wild
questions rushed to his lips but he crushed them back for Lynde's sake
and held out his hand.

"Good-bye, dear," he said almost steadily, daring to say no more lest
he should say too much.

"Good-bye," Lynde answered faintly.

When he had gone she flung herself down on the moss by the spring and
lay there in an utter abandonment of misery and desolation.

Pain and indignation struggled for mastery in Alan's stormy soul as he
walked homeward. So this was Captain Anthony's doings! He had
sacrificed his daughter to some crime of his dubious past. Alan never
dreamed of blaming Lynde for having kept her marriage a secret; he put
the blame where it belonged--on the Captain's shoulders. Captain
Anthony had never warned him by so much as a hint that Lynde was not
free to be won. It had all probably seemed a good joke to him. Alan
thought the furtive amusement he had so often detected in the
Captain's eyes was explained now.

He found Elder Trewin in his study when he got home. The good Elder's
face was stern and anxious; he had called on a distasteful errand--to
tell the young minister of the scandal his intimacy with the Four
Winds people was making in the congregation and remonstrate with him
concerning it. Alan listened absently, with none of the resentment he
would have felt at the interference a day previously. A man does not
mind a pin-prick when a limb is being wrenched away.

"I can promise you that my objectionable calls at Four Winds will
cease," he said sarcastically, when the Elder had finished. Elder
Trewin got himself away, feeling snubbed but relieved.

"Took it purty quiet," he reflected. "Don't believe there was much in
the yarns after all. Isabel King started them and probably she
exaggerated a lot. I suppose he's had some notion like as not of
bringing the Captain over to the church. But that's foolish, for he'd
never manage it, and meanwhile was giving occasion for gossip. It's
just as well to stop it. He's a good pastor and he works hard--too
hard, mebbe. He looked real careworn and worried today."

The Rexton gossip soon ceased with the cessation of the young
minister's visits to Four Winds. A month later it suffered a brief
revival when a tall grim-faced old woman, whom a few recognized as
Captain Anthony's housekeeper, was seen to walk down the Rexton road
and enter the manse. She did not stay there long--watchers from a
dozen different windows were agreed upon that--and nobody, not even
Mrs. Danby, who did her best to find out, ever knew why she had
called.

Emily looked at Alan with grim reproach when she was shown into his
study, and as soon as they were alone she began with her usual
abruptness, "Mr. Douglas, why have you given up coming to Four Winds?"

Alan flinched.

"You must ask Lynde that, Miss Oliver," he said quietly.

"I have asked her--and she says nothing."

"Then I cannot tell you."

Anger glowed in Emily's eyes.

"I thought you were a gentleman," she said bitterly. "You are not. You
are breaking Lynde's heart. She's gone to a shadow of herself and
she's fretting night and day. You went there and made her like
you--oh, I've eyes--and then you left her."

Alan bent over his desk and looked the old woman in the face
unflinchingly.

"You are mistaken, Miss Oliver," he said earnestly. "I love Lynde and
would be only too happy if it were possible that I could marry her. I
am not to blame for what has come about--she will tell you that
herself if you ask her."

His look and tone convinced Emily.

"Who is to blame then? Lynde herself?"

"No, no."

"The Captain then?"

"Not in the sense you mean. I can tell you nothing more."

A baffled expression crossed the old woman's face. "There's a mystery
here--there always has been--and I'm shut out of it. Lynde won't
confide in me--in me who'd give my life's blood to help her. Perhaps I
can help her--I could tell you something. Have you stopped coming to
Four Winds--has she made you stop coming--because she's got such a
wicked old scamp for a father? Is that the reason?"

Alan shook his head.

"No, that has nothing to do with it."

"And you won't come back?"

"It is not a question of will. I cannot--must not go."

"Lynde will break her heart then," said Emily in a tone of despair.

"I think not. She is too strong and fine for that. Help her all you
can with sympathy but don't torment her with any questions. You may
tell her if you like that I advise her to confide the whole story to
you, but if she cannot don't tease her to. Be very gentle with her."

"You don't need to tell me that. I'd rather die than hurt her. I came
here full of anger against you--but I see now you are not to blame.
You are suffering too--your face tells that. All the same, I wish
you'd never set foot in Four Winds. She wasn't happy before but she
wasn't so miserable as she is now. Oh, I know Anthony is at the bottom
of it all in some way but I won't ask you any more questions since you
don't feel free to answer them. But are you sure that nothing can be
done to clear up the trouble?"

"Too sure," said Alan's white lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

The autumn dragged away. Alan found out how much a man may suffer and
yet go on living and working. As for that, his work was all that made
life possible for him now and he flung himself into it with feverish
energy, growing so thin and hollow-eyed over it that even Elder Trewin
remonstrated and suggested a vacation--a suggestion at which Alan
merely smiled. A vacation which would take him away from Lynde's
neighbourhood--the thought was not to be entertained.

He never saw Lynde, for he never went to any part of the shore now;
yet he hungered constantly for the sight of her, the sound of her
voice, the glance of her luminous eyes. When he pictured her eating
her heart out in the solitude of Four Winds, he clenched his hands in
despair. As for the possibility of Harmon's return, Alan could never
face it for a moment. When it thrust its ugly presence into his
thoughts, he put it away desperately. The man was dead--or his fickle
fancy had veered elsewhere. Nothing else could explain his absence.
But they could never know, and the uncertainty would forever stand
between him and Lynde like a spectre. But he thought more of Lynde's
pain than his own. He would have elected to bear any suffering if by
so doing he could have freed her from the nightmare dread of Harmon's
returning to claim her. That dread had always hung over her and now it
must be intensified to agony by her love for another man. And he could
do nothing--nothing. He groaned aloud in his helplessness.

One evening in late November Alan flung aside his pen and yielded to
the impulse that urged him to the lake shore. He did not mean to seek
Lynde--he would go to a part of the shore where there would be no
likelihood of meeting her. But get away by himself he must. A November
storm was raging and there would be a certain satisfaction in
breasting its buffets and fighting his way through it. Besides, he
knew that Isabel King was in the house and he dreaded meeting her.
Since his conviction that she had written that letter to Lynde, he
could not tolerate the girl and it tasked his self-control to keep
from showing his contempt openly. Perhaps Isabel felt it beneath all
his outward courtesy. At least she did not seek his society as she had
formerly done.

It was the second day of the storm; a wild northeast gale was blowing
and cold rain and freezing sleet fell in frequent showers. Alan
shivered as he came out into its full fury on the lake shore. At first
he could not see the water through the driving mist. Then it cleared
away for a moment and he stopped short, aghast at the sight which met
his eyes.

Opposite him was a long low island known as Philip's Point, dwindling
down at its northeastern side to two long narrow bars of quicksand.
Alan's horrified eyes saw a small schooner sunk between the bars; her
hull was entirely under water and in the rigging clung one solitary
figure. So much he saw before the Point was blotted out in a renewed
downpour of sleet.

Without a moment's hesitation Alan turned and ran for Four Winds,
which was only about a quarter of a mile away around a headland. With
the Captain's assistance, something might be done. Other help could
not be obtained before darkness would fall and then it would be
impossible to do anything. He dashed up the steps of Four Winds and
met Emily, who had flung the door open. Behind her was Lynde's pale
face with its alarmed questioning eyes.

"Where is the Captain?" gasped Alan. "There's a vessel on Philip's
Point and one man at least on her."

"The Captain's away on a cruise," said Emily blankly. "He went three
days ago."

"Then nothing can be done," said Alan despairingly. "It will be dark
long before I can get to the village."

Lynde stepped out, tying a shawl around her head.

"Let us go around to the Point," she said. "Have you matches? No?
Emily, get some. We must light a bonfire at least. And bring Father's
glass."

"It is not a fit night for you to be out," said Alan anxiously. "You
are sheltered here--you don't feel it--but it's a fearful storm down
there."

"I am not afraid of the storm. It will not hurt me. Let us hurry. It
is growing dark already."

In silence they breasted their way to the shore and around the
headland. Arriving opposite Philip's Point, a lull in the sleet
permitted them to see the sunken schooner and the clinging figure.
Lynde waved her hand to him and they saw him wave back.

"It won't be necessary to light a fire now that he has seen us," said
Lynde. "Nothing can be done with village help till morning and that
man can never cling there so long. He will freeze to death, for it is
growing colder every minute. His only chance is to swim ashore if he
can swim. The danger will be when he comes near shore; the undertow of
the backwater on the quicksand will sweep him away and in his probably
exhausted condition he may not be able to make head against it."

"He knows that, doubtless, and that is why he hasn't attempted to swim
ashore before this," said Alan. "But I'll meet him in the backwater
and drag him in."

"You--you'll risk your own life," cried Lynde.

"There is a little risk certainly, but I don't think there is a great
one. Anyhow, the attempt must be made," said Alan quietly.

Suddenly Lynde's composure forsook her. She wrung her hands.

"I can't let you do it," she cried wildly. "You might be
drowned--there's every risk. You don't know the force of that
backwater. Alan, Alan, don't think of it."

She caught his arm in her white wet hands and looked into his face
with passionate pleading.

Emily, who had said nothing, now spoke harshly.

"Lynde is right, Mr. Douglas. You have no right to risk your life for
a stranger. My advice is to go to the village for help, and Lynde and
I will make a fire and watch here. That is all that can be expected of
you or us."

Alan paid no heed to Emily. Very tenderly he loosened Lynde's hold on
his arm and looked into her quivering face.

"You know it is my duty, Lynde," he said gently. "If anything can be
done for that poor man, I am the only one who can do it. I will come
back safe, please God. Be brave, dear."

Lynde, with a little moan of resignation, turned away. Old Emily
looked on with a face of grim disapproval as Alan waded out into the
surf that boiled and swirled around him in a mad whirl of foam. The
shower of sleet had again slackened, and the wreck half a mile away,
with its solitary figure, was dearly visible. Alan beckoned to the man
to jump overboard and swim ashore, enforcing his appeal by gestures
that commanded haste before the next shower should come. For a few
moments it seemed as if the seaman did not understand or lacked the
courage or power to obey. The next minute he had dropped from the
rigging on the crest of a mighty wave and was being borne onward to
the shore.

Speedily the backwater was reached and the man, sucked down by the
swirl of the wave, threw up his arms and disappeared. Alan dashed in,
groping, swimming; it seemed an eternity before his hand clutched the
drowning man and wrenched him from the undertow. And, with the seaman
in his arms, he staggered back through the foam and dropped his
burden on the sand at Lynde's feet. Alan was reeling from exhaustion
and chilled to the marrow, but he thought only of the man he had
rescued. The latter was unconscious and, as Alan bent over him, he
heard Lynde give a choking little cry.

"He is living still," said Alan. "We must get him up to the house as
soon as possible. How shall we manage it?"

"Lynde and I can go and bring the Captain's mattress down," said
Emily. Now that Alan was safe she was eager to do all she could. "Then
you and I can carry him up to the house."

"That will be best," said Alan. "Go quickly."

He did not look at Lynde or he would have been shocked by the agony on
her face. She cast one glance at the prostrate man and followed Emily.
In a short time they returned with the mattress, and Alan and Emily
carried the sailor on it to Four Winds. Lynde walked behind them,
seemingly unconscious of both. She watched the stranger's face as one
fascinated.

At Four Winds they carried the man to a room where Emily and Alan
worked over him, while Lynde heated water and hunted out stimulants in
a mechanical fashion. When Alan came down she asked no questions but
looked at him with the same strained horror on her face which it had
borne ever since Alan had dropped his burden at her feet.

"Is he--conscious?" asked Lynde, as if she forced herself to ask the
question.

"Yes, he has come back to life. But he is delirious and doesn't
realize his surroundings at all. He thinks he is still on board the
vessel. He'll probably come round all right. Emily is going to watch
him and I'll go up to Rexton and send Dr. Ames down."

"Do you know who that man you have saved is?" asked Lynde.

"No. I asked him his name but could not get any sensible answer."

"I can tell you who he is--he is Frank Harmon."

Alan stared at her. "Frank Harmon. Your--your--the man you married?
Impossible!"

"It is he. Do you think I could be mistaken?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Ames came to Four Winds that night and again the next day. He
found Harmon delirious in a high fever.

"It will be several days before he comes to his senses," he said.
"Shall I send you help to nurse him?"

"It isn't necessary," said Emily stiffly. "I can look after him--and
the Captain ought to be back tomorrow."

"You've no idea who he is, I suppose?" asked the doctor.

"No." Emily was quite sincere. Lynde had not told her, and Emily did
not recognize him.

"Well, Mr. Douglas did a brave thing in rescuing him," said Dr. Ames.
"I'll be back tomorrow."

Harmon remained delirious for a week. Alan went every day to Four
Winds, his interest in a man he had rescued explaining his visits to
the Rexton people. The Captain had returned and, though not absolutely
uncivil, was taciturn and moody. Alan reflected grimly that Captain
Anthony probably owed him a grudge for saving Harmon's life. He never
saw Lynde alone, but her strained, tortured face made his heart ache.
Old Emily only seemed her natural self. She waited on Harmon and Dr.
Ames considered her a paragon of a nurse. Alan thought it was well
that Emily knew nothing more of Harmon than that he was an old friend
of Captain Anthony's. He felt sure that she would have walked out of
the sick room and never reentered it had she guessed that the patient
was the man whom, above all others, Lynde dreaded and feared.

One afternoon when Alan went to Four Winds Emily met him at the door.

"He's better," she announced. "He had a good sleep this afternoon and
when he woke he was quite himself. You'd better go up and see him. I
told him all I could but he wants to see you. Anthony and Lynde are
away to Crosse Harbour. Go up and talk to him."

Harmon turned his head as the minister approached and held out his
hand with a smile.

"You're the preacher, I reckon. They tell me you were the man who
pulled me out of that hurly-burly. I wasn't hardly worth saving but
I'm as grateful to you as if I was."

"I only--did--what any man would have done," said Alan, taking the
offered hand.

"I don't know about that. Anyhow, it's not every man could have done
it. I'd been hanging in that rigging all day and most of the night
before. There were five more of us but they dropped off. I knew it was
no use to try to swim ashore alone--the backwater would be too much
for me. I must have been a lot of trouble. That old woman says I've
been raving for a week. And, by the way I feel, I fancy I'll be
stretched out here another week before I'll be able to use my pins.
Who are these Olivers anyhow? The old woman wouldn't talk about the
family."

"Don't you know them?" asked Alan in astonishment. "Isn't your name
Harmon?"

"That's right--Harmon--Alfred Harmon, first mate of the schooner,
_Annie M._"

"Alfred! I thought your name was Frank!"

"Frank was my twin brother. We were so much alike our own mammy
couldn't tell us apart. Did you know Frank?"

"No. This family did. Miss Oliver thought you were Frank when she saw
you."

"I don't feel much like myself but I'm not Frank anyway. He's dead,
poor chap--got shot in a spat with Chinese pirates three years ago."

"Dead! Man, are you speaking the truth? Are you certain?"

"Pop sure. His mate told me the whole story. Say, preacher, what's the
matter? You look as if you were going to keel over."

Alan hastily drank a glass of water.

"I--I am all right now. I haven't been feeling well of late."

"Guess you didn't do yourself any good going out into that freezing
water and dragging me in."

"I shall thank God every day of my life that I did do it," said Alan
gravely, new light in his eyes, as Emily entered the room. "Miss
Oliver, when will the Captain and Lynde be back?"

"They said they would be home by four."

She looked at Alan curiously.

"I will go and meet her," he said quickly.

He came upon Lynde, sitting on a grey boulder under the shadow of an
overhanging fir coppice, with her dogs beside her.

She turned her head indifferently as Alan's footsteps sounded on the
pebbles, and then stood slowly up.

"Are you looking for me?" she asked.

"I have some news for you, Lynde," Alan said.

"Has he--has he come to himself?" she whispered.

"Yes, he has come to himself. Lynde, he is not Frank Harmon--he is his
twin brother. He says Frank Harmon was killed three years ago in the
China seas."

For a moment Lynde's great grey eyes stared into Alan's, questioning.
Then, as the truth seized on her comprehension, she sat down on the
boulder and put her hands over her face without a word. Alan walked
down to the water's edge to give her time to recover herself. When he
came back he took her hands and said quietly, "Lynde, do you realize
what this means for us--for us? You are free--free to love me--to be
my wife."

Lynde shook her head.

"Oh, that can't be. I am not fit to be your wife."

"Don't talk nonsense, dear," he smiled.

"It isn't nonsense. You are a minister and it would ruin you to marry
a girl like me. Think what the Rexton people would say of it."

"Rexton isn't the world, dearest. Last week I had a letter from home
asking me to go to a church there. I did not think of accepting
then--now I will go--we will both go--and a new life will begin for
you, clear of the shadows of the old."

"That isn't possible. No, Alan, listen--I love you too well to do you
the wrong of marrying you. It would injure you. There is Father. I
love him and he has always been very kind to me. But--but--there's
something wrong--you know it--some crime in his past--"

"The only man who knew that is dead."

"We do not know that he was the only man. I am the daughter of a
criminal and I am no fit wife for Alan Douglas. No, Alan, don't plead,
please. I won't think differently--I never can."

There was a ring of finality in her tone that struck dismay to Alan's
heart. He prepared to entreat and argue, but before he could utter a
word, the boughs behind them parted and Captain Anthony stepped down
from the bank.

"I've been listening," he announced coolly, "and I think it high time
I took a share in the conversation. You seem to have run up against a
snag, Mr. Douglas. You say Frank Harmon is dead. That's good riddance
if it's true. Is it true?"

"His brother declares it is."

"Well, then, I'll help you all I can. I like you, Mr. Douglas, and I
happen to be fond of Lynde, too--though you mayn't believe it. I'm
fond of her for her mother's sake and I'd like to see her happy. I
didn't want to give her to Harmon that time three years ago but I
couldn't help myself. He had the upper hand, curse him. It wasn't for
my own sake, though--it was for my wife's. However, that's all over
and done with and I'll do the best I can to atone for it. So you won't
marry your minister because your father was not a good man, Lynde?
Well, I don't suppose he was a very good man--a man who makes his
wife's life a hell, even in a refined way, isn't exactly a saint, to
my way of thinking. But that's the worst that could be said of him and
it doesn't entail any indelible disgrace on his family, I suppose. I
am not your father, Lynde."

"Not my father?" Lynde echoed the words blankly.

"No. Your father was your mother's first husband. She never told you
of him. When I said he made her life a hell, I said the truth, no
more, no less. I had loved your mother ever since I was a boy, Lynde.
But she was far above me in station and I never dreamed it was
possible to win her love. She married James Ashley. He was a
gentleman, so called--and he didn't kick or beat her. Oh no, he just
tormented her refined womanhood to the verge of frenzy, that was all.
He died when you were a baby. And a year later I found out your mother
could love me, rough sailor and all as I was. I married her and
brought her here. We had fifteen years of happiness together. I'm not
a good man--but I made your mother happy in spite of her wrecked
health and her dark memories. It was her wish that you should be known
as my daughter, but under the present circumstances I know she would
wish that you should be told the truth. Marry your man, Lynde, and go
away with him. Emily will go with you if you like. I'm going back to
the sea. I've been hankering for it ever since your mother died. I'll
go out of your life. There, don't cry--I hate to see a woman cry. Mr.
Douglas, I'll leave you to dry her tears and I'll go up to the house
and have a talk with Harmon."

When Captain Anthony had disappeared behind the Point, Alan turned to
Lynde. She was sobbing softly and her face was wet with tears. Alan
drew her head down on his shoulder.

"Sweetheart, the dark past is all put by. Our future begins with
promise. All is well with us, dear Lynde."

Like a child, she put her arms about his neck and their lips met.



Marcella's Reward


Dr. Clark shook his head gravely. "She is not improving as fast as I
should like to see," he said. "In fact--er--she seems to have gone
backward the past week. You must send her to the country, Miss
Langley. The heat here is too trying for her."

Dr. Clark might as well have said, "You must send her to the moon"--or
so Marcella thought bitterly. Despair filled her heart as she looked
at Patty's white face and transparent hands and listened to the
doctor's coolly professional advice. Patty's illness had already swept
away the scant savings of three years. Marcella had nothing left with
which to do anything more for her.

She did not make any answer to the doctor--she could not. Besides,
what could she say, with Patty's big blue eyes, bigger and bluer than
ever in her thin face, looking at her so wistfully? She dared not say
it was impossible. But Aunt Emma had no such scruples. With a great
clatter and racket, that lady fell upon the dishes that held Patty's
almost untasted dinner and whisked them away while her tongue kept
time to her jerky movements.

"Goodness me, doctor, do you think you're talking to millionaires?
Where do you suppose the money is to come from to send Patty to the
country? _I_ can't afford it, that is certain. I think I do pretty
well to give Marcella and Patty their board free, and I have to work
my fingers to the bone to do _that_. It's all nonsense about Patty,
anyhow. What she ought to do is to make an effort to get better. She
doesn't--she just mopes and pines. She won't eat a thing I cook for
her. How can anyone expect to get better if she doesn't eat?"

Aunt Emma glared at the doctor as if she were triumphantly sure that
she had propounded an unanswerable question. A dull red flush rose to
Marcella's face.

"Oh, Aunt Emma, I _can't_ eat!" said Patty wearily. "It isn't because
I won't--indeed, I can't."

"Humph! I suppose my cooking isn't fancy enough for you--that's the
trouble. Well, I haven't the time to put any frills on it. I think I
do pretty well to wait on you at all with all that work piling up
before me. But some people imagine that they were born to be waited
on."

Aunt Emma whirled the last dish from the table and left the room,
slamming the door behind her.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. He had become used to Miss Gibson's
tirades during Patty's illness. But Marcella had never got used to
them--never, in all the three years she had lived with her aunt. They
flicked on the raw as keenly as ever. This morning it seemed
unbearable. It took every atom of Marcella's self-control to keep her
from voicing her resentful thoughts. It was only for Patty's sake that
she was able to restrain herself. It was only for Patty's sake, too,
that she did not, as soon as the doctor had gone, give way to tears.
Instead, she smiled bravely into the little sister's eyes.

"Let me brush your hair now, dear, and bathe your face."

"Have you time?" said Patty anxiously.

"Yes, I think so."

Patty gave a sigh of content.

"I'm so glad! Aunt Emma always hurts me when she brushes my hair--she
is in such a hurry. You're so gentle, Marcella, you don't make my head
ache at all. But oh! I'm so tired of being sick. I wish I could get
well faster. Marcy, do you think I can be sent to the country?"

"I--I don't know, dear. I'll see if I can think of any way to manage
it," said Marcella, striving to speak hopefully.

Patty drew a long breath.

"Oh, Marcy, it would be lovely to see the green fields again, and the
woods and brooks, as we did that summer we spent in the country
before Father died. I wish we could live in the country always. I'm
sure I would soon get better if I could go--if it was only for a
little while. It's so hot here--and the factory makes such a noise--my
head seems to go round and round all the time. And Aunt Emma scolds
so."

"You mustn't mind Aunt Emma, dear," said Marcella. "You know she
doesn't really mean it--it is just a habit she has got into. She was
really very good to you when you were so sick. She sat up night after
night with you, and made me go to bed. There now, dearie, you're fresh
and sweet, and I must hurry to the store, or I'll be late. Try and
have a little nap, and I'll bring you home some oranges tonight."

Marcella dropped a kiss on Patty's cheek, put on her hat and went out.
As soon as she left the house, she quickened her steps almost to a
run. She feared she would be late, and that meant a ten-cent fine. Ten
cents loomed as large as ten dollars now to Marcella's eyes when every
dime meant so much. But fast as she went, her distracted thoughts went
faster. She could not send Patty to the country. There was no way,
think, plan, worry as she might. And if she could not! Marcella
remembered Patty's face and the doctor's look, and her heart sank like
lead. Patty was growing weaker every day instead of stronger, and the
weather was getting hotter. Oh, if Patty were to--to--but Marcella
could not complete the sentence even in thought.

If they were not so desperately poor! Marcella's bitterness overflowed
her soul at the thought. Everywhere around her were evidences of
wealth--wealth often lavishly and foolishly spent--and she could not
get money enough anywhere to save her sister's life! She almost felt
that she hated all those smiling, well-dressed people who thronged the
streets. By the time she reached the store, poor Marcella's heart was
seething with misery and resentment.

Three years before, when Marcella had been sixteen and Patty nine,
their parents had died, leaving them absolutely alone in the world
except for their father's half-sister, Miss Gibson, who lived in
Canning and earned her livelihood washing and mending for the hands
employed in the big factory nearby. She had grudgingly offered the
girls a home, which Marcella had accepted because she must. She
obtained a position in one of the Canning stores at three dollars a
week, out of which she contrived to dress herself and Patty and send
the latter to school. Her life for three years was one of absolute
drudgery, yet until now she had never lost courage, but had struggled
bravely on, hoping for better times in the future when she should get
promotion and Patty would be old enough to teach school.

But now Marcella's courage and hopefulness had gone out like a spent
candle. She was late at the store, and that meant a fine; her head
ached, and her feet felt like lead as she climbed the stairs to her
department--a hot, dark, stuffy corner behind the shirtwaist counter.
It was warm and close at any time, but today it was stifling, and
there was already a crowd of customers, for it was the day of a
bargain sale. The heat and noise and chatter got on Marcella's
tortured nerves. She felt that she wanted to scream, but instead she
turned calmly to a waiting customer--a big, handsome, richly dressed
woman. Marcella noted with an ever-increasing bitterness that the
woman wore a lace collar the price of which would have kept Patty in
the country for a year.

She was Mrs. Liddell--Marcella knew her by sight--and she was in a
very bad temper because she had been kept waiting. For the next half
hour she badgered and worried Marcella to the point of distraction.
Nothing suited her. Pile after pile, box after box, of shirtwaists
did Marcella take down for her, only to have them flung aside with
sarcastic remarks. Mrs. Liddell seemed to hold Marcella responsible
for the lack of waists that suited her; her tongue grew sharper and
sharper and her comments more trying. Then she mislaid her purse, and
was disagreeable about that until it turned up.

Marcella shut her lips so tightly that they turned white to keep back
the impatient retort that rose momentarily to her lips. The insolence
of some customers was always trying to the sensitive, high-spirited
girl, but today it seemed unbearable. Her head throbbed fiercely with
the pain of the ever-increasing ache, and--what was the lady on her
right saying to a friend?

"Yes, she had typhoid, you know--a very bad form. She rallied from it,
but she was so exhausted that she couldn't really recover, and the
doctor said--"

"Really," interrupted Mrs. Liddell's sharp voice, "may I ask you to
attend to me, if you please? No doubt gossip may be very interesting
to you, but I am accustomed to having a clerk pay _some_ small
attention to my requirements. If you cannot attend to your business, I
shall go to the floor walker and ask him to direct me to somebody who
can. The laziness and disobligingness of the girls in this store is
really getting beyond endurance."

A passionate answer was on the point of Marcella's tongue. All her
bitterness and suffering and resentment flashed into her face and
eyes. For one moment she was determined to speak out, to repay Mrs.
Liddell's insolence in kind. A retort was ready to her hand. Everyone
knew that Mrs. Liddell, before her marriage to a wealthy man, had been
a working girl. What could be easier than to say contemptuously: "You
should be a judge of a clerk's courtesy and ability, madam. You were a
shop girl yourself once?"

But if she said it, what would follow? Prompt and instant dismissal.
And Patty? The thought of the little sister quelled the storm in
Marcella's soul. For Patty's sake she must control her temper--and she
did. With an effort that left her white and tremulous she crushed back
the hot words and said quietly: "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Liddell. I
did not mean to be inattentive. Let me show you some of our new
lingerie waists, I think you will like them."

But Mrs. Liddell did not like the new lingerie waists which Marcella
brought to her in her trembling hands. For another half hour she
examined and found fault and sneered. Then she swept away with the
scornful remark that she didn't see a thing there that was fit to
wear, and she would go to Markwell Bros. and see if they had anything
worth looking at.

When she had gone, Marcella leaned against the counter, pale and
exhausted. She must have a breathing spell. Oh, how her head ached!
How hot and stifling and horrible everything was! She longed for the
country herself. Oh, if she and Patty could only go away to some place
where there were green clover meadows and cool breezes and great hills
where the air was sweet and pure!

During all this time a middle-aged woman had been sitting on a stool
beside the bargain counter. When a clerk asked her if she wished to be
waited on, she said, "No, I'm just waiting here for a friend who
promised to meet me."

She was tall and gaunt and grey haired. She had square jaws and cold
grey eyes and an aggressive nose, but there was something attractive
in her plain face, a mingling of common sense and kindliness. She
watched Marcella and Mrs. Liddell closely and lost nothing of all that
was said and done on both sides. Now and then she smiled grimly and
nodded.

When Mrs. Liddell had gone, she rose and leaned over the counter.
Marcella opened her burning eyes and pulled herself wearily together.

"What can I do for you?" she said.

"Nothing. I ain't looking for to have anything done for me. You need
to have something done for you, I guess, by the looks of you. You seem
dead beat out. Aren't you awful tired? I've been listening to that
woman jawing you till I felt like rising up and giving her a large and
wholesome piece of my mind. I don't know how you kept your patience
with her, but I can tell you I admired you for it, and I made up my
mind I'd tell you so."

The kindness and sympathy in her tone broke Marcella down. Tears
rushed to her eyes. She bowed her head on her hands and said
sobbingly, "Oh, I _am_ tired! But it's not that. I'm--I'm in such
trouble."

"I knew you were," said the other, with a nod of her head. "I could
tell that right off by your face. Do you know what I said to myself? I
said, 'That girl has got somebody at home awful sick.' _That's_ what I
said. Was I right?"

"Yes, indeed you were," said Marcella.

"I knew it"--another triumphant nod. "Now, you just tell me all about
it. It'll do you good to talk it over with somebody. Here, I'll
pretend I'm looking at shirtwaists, so that floor walker won't be
coming down on you, and I'll be as hard to please as that other woman
was, so's you can take your time. Who's sick--and what's the matter?"

Marcella told the whole story, choking back her sobs and forcing
herself to speak calmly, having the fear of the floor walker before
her eyes.

"And I can't afford to send Patty to the country--I _can't_--and I
know she won't get better if she doesn't go," she concluded.

"Dear, dear, but that's too bad! Something must be done. Let me
see--let me put on my thinking cap. What is your name?"

"Marcella Langley."

The older woman dropped the lingerie waist she was pretending to
examine and stared at Marcella.

"You don't say! Look here, what was your mother's name before she was
married?"

"Mary Carvell."

"Well, I _have_ heard of coincidences, but this beats all! Mary
Carvell! Well, did you ever hear your mother speak of a girl friend of
hers called Josephine Draper?"

"I should think I did! You don't mean--"

"I _do_ mean it. I'm Josephine Draper. Your mother and I went to
school together, and we were as much as sisters to each other until
she got married. Then she went away, and after a few years I lost
trace of her. I didn't even know she was dead. Poor Mary! Well, _my_
duty is plain--that's one comfort--my duty and my pleasure, too. Your
sister is coming out to Dalesboro to stay with me. Yes, and you are
too, for the whole summer. You needn't say you're not, because you
_are_. I've said so. There's room at Fir Cottage for you both. Yes,
Fir Cottage--I guess you've heard your mother speak of _that_. There's
her old room out there that we always slept in when she came to stay
all night with me. It's all ready for you. What's that? You can't
afford to lose your place here? Bless your heart, child, you won't
lose it! The owner of this store is my nephew, and he'll do
considerable to oblige me, as well he might, seeing as I brought him
up. To think that Mary Carvell's daughter has been in his store for
three years, and me never suspecting it! And I might never have found
you out at all if you hadn't been so patient with that woman. If you'd
sassed her back, I'd have thought she deserved it and wouldn't have
blamed you a mite, but I wouldn't have bothered coming to talk to you
either. Well, well well! Poor child, don't cry. You just pick up and
go home. I'll make it all right with Tom. You're pretty near played
out yourself, I can see that. But a summer in Fir Cottage, with plenty
of cream and eggs and _my_ cookery, will soon make another girl of
you. Don't you dare to _thank_ me. It's a privilege to be able to do
something for Mary Carvell's girls. I just loved Mary."

The upshot of the whole matter was that Marcella and Patty went, two
days later, to Dalesboro, where Miss Draper gave them a hearty welcome
to Fir Cottage--a quaint, delightful little house circled by big
Scotch firs and overgrown with vines. Never were such delightful weeks
as those that followed. Patty came rapidly back to health and
strength. As for Marcella, Miss Draper's prophecy was also fulfilled;
she soon looked and felt like another girl. The dismal years of
drudgery behind her were forgotten like a dream, and she lived wholly
in the beautiful present, in the walks and drives, the flowers and
grass slopes, and in the pleasant household duties which she shared
with Miss Draper.

"I love housework," she exclaimed one September day. "I don't like the
thought of going back to the store a bit."

"Well, you're not going back," calmly said Miss Draper, who had a
habit of arranging other people's business for them that might have
been disconcerting had it not been for her keen insight and hearty
good sense. "You're going to stay here with me--you and Patty. I don't
propose to die of lonesomeness losing you, and I need somebody to help
me about the house. I've thought it all out. You are to call me Aunt
Josephine, and Patty is to go to school. I had this scheme in mind
from the first, but I thought I'd wait to see how we got along living
in the same house, and how you liked it here, before I spoke out. No,
you needn't thank me this time either. I'm doing this every bit as
much for my sake as yours. Well, that's all settled. Patty won't
object, bless her rosy cheeks!"

"Oh!" said Marcella, with eyes shining through her tears. "I'm so
happy, dear Miss Draper--I mean Aunt Josephine. I'll love to stay
here--and I _will_ thank you."

"Fudge!" remarked Miss Draper, who felt uncomfortably near crying
herself. "You might go out and pick a basket of Golden Gems. I want to
make some jelly for Patty."



Margaret's Patient


[Illustration: "DID DR. FORBES THINK SHE OUGHT TO GIVE UP HER TRIP?"]

Margaret paused a moment at the gate and looked back at the quaint old
house under its snowy firs with a thrill of proprietary affection. It
was her home; for the first time in her life she had a real home, and
the long, weary years of poorly paid drudgery were all behind her.
Before her was a prospect of independence and many of the delights she
had always craved; in the immediate future was a trip to Vancouver
with Mrs. Boyd.

For I shall go, of course, thought Margaret, as she walked briskly
down the snowy road. I've always wanted to see the Rockies, and to go
there with Mrs. Boyd will double the pleasure. She is such a
delightful companion.

Margaret Campbell had been an orphan ever since she could remember.
She had been brought up by a distant relative of her father's--that
is, she had been given board, lodging, some schooling and indifferent
clothes for the privilege of working like a little drudge in the house
of the grim cousin who sheltered her. The death of this cousin flung
Margaret on her own resources. A friend had procured her employment as
the "companion" of a rich, eccentric old lady, infirm of health and
temper. Margaret lived with her for five years, and to the young girl
they seemed treble the time. Her employer was fault-finding, peevish,
unreasonable, and many a time Margaret's patience almost failed
her--almost, but not quite. In the end it brought her a more tangible
reward than sometimes falls to the lot of the toiler. Mrs. Constance
died, and in her will she left to Margaret her little up-country
cottage and enough money to provide her an income for the rest of her
life.

Margaret took immediate possession of her little house and, with the
aid of a capable old servant, soon found herself very comfortable. She
realized that her days of drudgery were over, and that henceforth
life would be a very different thing from what it had been. Margaret
meant to have "a good time." She had never had any pleasure and now
she was resolved to garner in all she could of the joys of existence.

"I'm not going to do a single useful thing for a year," she had told
Mrs. Boyd gaily. "Just think of it--a whole delightful year of
vacation, to go and come at will, to read, travel, dream, rest. After
that, I mean to see if I can find something to do for other folks, but
I'm going to have this one golden year. And the first thing in it is
our trip to Vancouver. I'm so glad I have the chance to go with you.
It's a wee bit short notice, but I'll be ready when you want to
start."

Altogether, Margaret felt pretty well satisfied with life as she
tripped blithely down the country road between the ranks of snow-laden
spruces, with the blue sky above and the crisp, exhilarating air all
about. There was only one drawback, but it was a pretty serious one.

It's so lonely by spells, Margaret sometimes thought wistfully. All
the joys my good fortune has brought me can't quite fill my heart.
There's always one little empty, aching spot. Oh, if I had somebody of
my very own to love and care for, a mother, a sister, even a cousin.
But there's nobody. I haven't a relative in the world, and there are
times when I'd give almost anything to have one. Well, I must try to
be satisfied with friendship, instead.

Margaret's meditations were interrupted by a brisk footstep behind
her, and presently Dr. Forbes came up.

"Good afternoon, Miss Campbell. Taking a constitutional?"

"Yes. Isn't it a lovely day? I suppose you are on your professional
rounds. How are all your patients?"

"Most of them are doing well. But I'm sorry to say I have a new one
and am very much worried about her. Do you know Freda Martin?"

"The little teacher in the Primary Department who boards with the
Wayes? Yes, I've met her once or twice. Is she ill?"

"Yes, seriously. It's typhoid, and she has been going about longer
than she should. I don't know what is to be done with her. It seems
she is like yourself in one respect, Miss Campbell; she is utterly
alone in the world. Mrs. Waye is crippled with rheumatism and can't
nurse her, and I fear it will be impossible to get a nurse in
Blythefield. She ought to be taken from the Wayes'. The house is
overrun with children, is right next door to that noisy factory, and
in other respects is a poor place for a sick girl."

"It is too bad, I am very sorry," said Margaret sympathetically.

Dr. Forbes shot a keen look at her from his deep-set eyes. "Are you
willing to show your sympathy in a practical form, Miss Campbell?" he
said bluntly. "You told me the other day you meant to begin work for
others next year. Why not begin now? Here's a splendid chance to
befriend a friendless girl. Will you take Freda Martin into your home
during her illness?"

"Oh, I couldn't," cried Margaret blankly. "Why, I'm going away next
week. I'm going with Mrs. Boyd to Vancouver, and my house will be shut
up."

"Oh, I did not know. That settles it, I suppose," said the doctor with
a sigh of regret. "Well, I must see what else I can do for poor Freda.
If I had a home of my own, the problem would be easily solved, but as
I'm only a boarder myself, I'm helpless in that respect. I'm very much
afraid she will have a hard time to pull through, but I'll do the best
I can for her. Well, I must run in here and have a look at Tommy
Griggs' eyes. Good morning, Miss Campbell."

Margaret responded rather absently and walked on with her eyes fixed
on the road. Somehow all the joy had gone out of the day for her, and
out of her prospective trip. She stopped on the little bridge and
gazed unseeingly at the ice-bound creek. Did Dr. Forbes really think
she ought to give up her trip in order to take Freda Martin into her
home and probably nurse her as well, since skilled nursing of any kind
was almost unobtainable in Blythefield? No, of course, Dr. Forbes did
not mean anything of the sort. He had not known she intended to go
away. Margaret tried to put the thought out of her mind, but it came
insistently back.

She knew--none better--what it was to be alone and friendless. Once
she had been ill, too, and left to the ministration of careless
servants. Margaret shuddered whenever she thought of that time. She
was very, very sorry for Freda Martin, but she certainly couldn't give
up her plans for her.

"Why, I'd never have the chance to go with Mrs. Boyd again," she
argued with her troublesome inward promptings.

Altogether, Margaret's walk was spoiled. But when she went to bed that
night, she was firmly resolved to dismiss all thought of Freda Martin.
In the middle of the night she woke up. It was calm and moonlight and
frosty. The world was very still, and Margaret's heart and conscience
spoke to her out of that silence, where all worldly motives were
hushed and shamed. She listened, and knew that in the morning she must
send for Dr. Forbes and tell him to bring his patient to Fir Cottage.

The evening of the next day found Freda in Margaret's spare room and
Margaret herself installed as nurse, for as Dr. Forbes had feared, he
had found it impossible to obtain anyone else. Margaret had a natural
gift for nursing, and she had had a good deal of experience in sick
rooms. She was skilful, gentle and composed, and Dr. Forbes nodded his
head with satisfaction as he watched her.

A week later Mrs. Boyd left for Vancouver, and Margaret, bending over
her delirious patient, could not even go to the station to see her
off. But she thought little about it. All her hopes were centred on
pulling Freda Martin through; and when, after a long, doubtful
fortnight, Dr. Forbes pronounced her on the way to recovery, Margaret
felt as if she had given the gift of life to a fellow creature. "Oh, I
am so glad I stayed," she whispered to herself.

During Freda's convalescence Margaret learned to love her dearly. She
was such a sweet, brave little creature, full of a fine courage to
face the loneliness and trials of her lot.

"I can never repay you for your kindness, Miss Campbell," she said
wistfully.

"I am more than repaid already," said Margaret sincerely. "Haven't I
found a dear little friend?"

One day Freda asked Margaret to write a note for her to a certain
school chum.

"She will like to know I am getting better. You will find her address
in my writing desk."

Freda's modest trunk had been brought to Fir Cottage, and Margaret
went to it for the desk. As she turned over the loose papers in search
of the address, her eye was caught by a name signed to a faded and
yellowed letter--Worth Spencer. Her mother's name!

Margaret gave a little exclamation of astonishment. Could her mother
have written that letter? It was not likely another woman would have
that uncommon name. Margaret caught up the letter and ran to Freda's
room.

"Freda, I couldn't help seeing the name signed to this letter, it is
my mother's. To whom was it written?"

"That is one of my mother's old letters," said Freda. "She had a
sister, my Aunt Worth. She was a great deal older than Mother. Their
parents died when Mother was a baby. Aunt Worth went to her father's
people, while Mother's grandmother took her. There was not very good
feeling between the two families, I think. Mother said she lost trace
of her sister after her sister married, and then, long after, she saw
Aunt Worth's death in the papers."

"Can you tell me where your mother and her sister lived before they
were separated?" asked Margaret excitedly.

"Ridgetown."

"Then my mother must have been your mother's sister, and, oh, Freda,
Freda, you are my cousin."

Eventually this was proved to be the fact. Margaret investigated the
matter and discovered beyond a doubt that she and Freda were cousins.
It would be hard to say which of the two girls was the more delighted.

"Anyhow, we'll never be parted again," said Margaret happily. "Fir
Cottage is your home henceforth, Freda. Oh, how rich I am. I have got
somebody who really belongs to me. And I owe it all to Dr. Forbes. If
he hadn't suggested you coming here, I should never have found out
that we were cousins."

"And I don't think I should ever have got better at all," whispered
Freda, slipping her hand into Margaret's.

"I think we are going to be the two happiest girls in the world," said
Margaret. "And Freda, do you know what we are going to do when your
summer vacation comes? We are going to have a trip through the
Rockies, yes, indeedy. It would have been nice going with Mrs. Boyd,
but it will be ten times nicer to go with you."



Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves


Matthew was having a bad ten minutes of it. He had come into the
kitchen, in the twilight of a cold, grey December evening, and had sat
down in the wood-box corner to take off his heavy boots, unconscious
of the fact that Anne and a bevy of her schoolmates were having a
practice of "The Fairy Queen" in the sitting-room. Presently they came
trooping through the hall and out into the kitchen, laughing and
chattering gaily. They did not see Matthew, who shrank bashfully back
into the shadows beyond the wood-box with a boot in one hand and a
bootjack in the other, and he watched them shyly for the aforesaid ten
minutes as they put on caps and jackets and talked about the dialogue
and the concert. Anne stood among them, bright eyed and animated as
they; but Matthew suddenly became conscious that there was something
about her different from her mates. And what worried Matthew was that
the difference impressed him as being something that should not exist.
Anne had a brighter face, and bigger, starrier eyes, and more delicate
features than the others; even shy, unobservant Matthew had learned to
take note of these things; but the difference that disturbed him did
not consist in any of these respects. Then in what did it consist?

Matthew was haunted by this question long after the girls had gone,
arm in arm, down the long, hard-frozen lane and Anne had betaken
herself to her books. He could not refer it to Marilla, who, he felt,
would be quite sure to sniff scornfully and remark that the only
difference she saw between Anne and the other girls was that they
sometimes kept their tongues quiet while Anne never did. This, Matthew
felt, would be no great help.

He had recourse to his pipe that evening to help him study it out,
much to Marilla's disgust. After two hours of smoking and hard
reflection Matthew arrived at a solution of his problem. Anne was not
dressed like the other girls!

The more Matthew thought about the matter the more he was convinced
that Anne never had been dressed like the other girls--never since she
had come to Green Gables. Marilla kept her clothed in plain, dark
dresses, all made after the same unvarying pattern. If Matthew knew
there was such a thing as fashion in dress it is as much as he did;
but he was quite sure that Anne's sleeves did not look at all like the
sleeves the other girls wore. He recalled the cluster of little girls
he had seen around her that evening--all gay in waists of red and blue
and pink and white--and he wondered why Marilla always kept her so
plainly and soberly gowned.

Of course, it must be all right. Marilla knew best and Marilla was
bringing her up. Probably some wise, inscrutable motive was to be
served thereby. But surely it would do no harm to let the child have
one pretty dress--something like Diana Barry always wore. Matthew
decided that he would give her one; that surely could not be objected
to as an unwarranted putting in of his oar. Christmas was only a
fortnight off. A nice new dress would be the very thing for a present.
Matthew, with a sigh of satisfaction, put away his pipe and went to
bed, while Marilla opened all the doors and aired the house.

The very next evening Matthew betook himself to Carmody to buy the
dress, determined to get the worst over and have done with it. It
would be, he felt assured, no trifling ordeal. There were some things
Matthew could buy and prove himself no mean bargainer; but he knew he
would be at the mercy of shopkeepers when it came to buying a girl's
dress.

After much cogitation Matthew resolved to go to Samuel Lawson's store
instead of William Blair's. To be sure, the Cuthberts always had gone
to William Blair's; it was almost as much a matter of conscience with
them as to attend the Presbyterian church and vote Conservative. But
William Blair's two daughters frequently waited on customers there and
Matthew held them in absolute dread. He could contrive to deal with
them when he knew exactly what he wanted and could point it out; but
in such a matter as this, requiring explanation and consultation,
Matthew felt that he must be sure of a man behind the counter. So he
would go to Lawson's, where Samuel or his son would wait on him.

Alas! Matthew did not know that Samuel, in the recent expansion of his
business, had set up a lady clerk also; she was a niece of his wife's
and a very dashing young person indeed, with a huge, drooping
pompadour, big, rolling brown eyes, and a most extensive and
bewildering smile. She was dressed with exceeding smartness and wore
several bangle bracelets that glittered and rattled and tinkled with
every movement of her hands. Matthew was covered with confusion at
finding her there at all; and those bangles completely wrecked his
wits at one fell swoop.

"What can I do for you this evening. Mr. Cuthbert?" Miss Lucilla
Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with
both hands.

"Have you any--any--any--well now, say any garden rakes?" stammered
Matthew.

Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a
man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.

"I believe we have one or two left over," she said, "but they're
upstairs in the lumber-room. I'll go and see."

During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another
effort.

When Miss Harris returned with the rake and cheerfully inquired:
"Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?" Matthew took his courage in
both hands and replied: "Well now, since you suggest it, I might as
well--take--that is--look at--buy some--some hayseed."

Miss Harris had heard Matthew Cuthbert called odd. She now concluded
that he was entirely crazy.

"We only keep hayseed in the spring," she explained loftily. "We've
none on hand just now."

"Oh, certainly--certainly--just as you say," stammered unhappy
Matthew, seizing the rake and making for the door. At the threshold he
recollected that he had not paid for it and he turned miserably back.
While Miss Harris was counting out his change he rallied his powers
for a final desperate attempt.

"Well now--if it isn't too much trouble--I might as well--that is--I'd
like to look at--at--some sugar."

"White or brown?" queried Miss Harris patiently.

"Oh--well now--brown," said Matthew feebly.

"There's a barrel of it over there," said Miss Harris, shaking her
bangles at it. "It's the only kind we have."

"I'll--I'll take twenty pounds of it," said Matthew, with beads of
perspiration standing on his forehead.

Matthew had driven halfway home before he was his own man again. It
had been a gruesome experience, but it served him right, he thought,
for committing the heresy of going to a strange store. When he reached
home he hid the rake in the tool-house, but the sugar he carried in to
Marilla.

"Brown sugar!" exclaimed Marilla. "Whatever possessed you to get so
much? You know I never use it except for the hired man's porridge or
black fruit-cake. Jerry's gone and I've made my cake long ago. It's
not good sugar, either--it's coarse and dark--William Blair doesn't
usually keep sugar like that."

"I--I thought it might come in handy sometime," said Matthew, making
good his escape.

When Matthew came to think the matter over he decided that a woman was
required to cope with the situation. Marilla was out of the question.
Matthew felt sure she would throw cold water on his project at once.
Remained only Mrs. Lynde; for of no other woman in Avonlea would
Matthew have dared to ask advice. To Mrs. Lynde he went accordingly,
and that good lady promptly took the matter out of the harassed man's
hands.

"Pick out a dress for you to give Anne? To be sure I will. I'm going
to Carmody tomorrow and I'll attend to it. Have you something
particular in mind? No? Well, I'll just go by my own judgment then. I
believe a nice rich brown would just suit Anne, and William Blair has
some new gloria in that's real pretty. Perhaps you'd like me to make
it up for her, too, seeing that if Marilla was to make it Anne would
probably get wind of it before the time and spoil the surprise? Well,
I'll do it. No, it isn't a mite of trouble. I like sewing. I'll make
it to fit my niece, Jenny Gillis, for she and Anne are as like as two
peas as far as figure goes."

"Well now, I'm much obliged," said Matthew, "and--and--I dunno--but
I'd like--I think they make the sleeves different nowadays to what
they used to be. If it wouldn't be asking too much I--I'd like them
made in the new way."

"Puffs? Of course. You needn't worry a speck more about it, Matthew.
I'll make it up in the very latest fashion," said Mrs. Lynde. To
herself she added when Matthew had gone:

"It'll be a real satisfaction to see that poor child wearing something
decent for once. The way Marilla dresses her is positively ridiculous,
that's what, and I've ached to tell her so plainly a dozen times. I've
held my tongue though, for I can see Marilla doesn't want advice and
she thinks she knows more about bringing children up than I do for all
she's an old maid. But that's always the way. Folks that has brought
up children know that there's no hard and fast method in the world
that'll suit every child. But them as never have think it's all as
plain and easy as Rule of Three--just set your three terms down so
fashion, and the sum'll work out correct. But flesh and blood don't
come under the head of arithmetic and that's where Marilla Cuthbert
makes her mistake. I suppose she's trying to cultivate a spirit of
humility in Anne by dressing her as she does: but it's more likely to
cultivate envy and discontent. I'm sure the child must feel the
difference between her clothes and the other girls'. But to think of
Matthew taking notice of it! That man is waking up after being asleep
for over sixty years."

Marilla knew all the following fortnight that Matthew had something on
his mind, but what it was she could not guess, until Christmas Eve,
when Mrs. Lynde brought up the new dress. Marilla behaved pretty well
on the whole, although it is very likely she distrusted Mrs. Lynde's
diplomatic explanation that she had made the dress because Matthew was
afraid Anne would find out about it too soon if Marilla made it.

"So this is what Matthew has been looking so mysterious over and
grinning about to himself for two weeks, is it?" she said a little
stiffly but tolerantly. "I knew he was up to some foolishness. Well, I
must say I don't think Anne needed any more dresses. I made her three
good, warm, serviceable ones this fall, and anything more is sheer
extravagance. There's enough material in those sleeves alone to make a
waist, I declare there is. You'll just pamper Anne's vanity, Matthew,
and she's as vain as a peacock now. Well, I hope she'll be satisfied
at last, for I know she's been hankering after those silly sleeves
ever since they came in, although she never said a word after the
first. The puffs have been getting bigger and more ridiculous right
along; they're as big as balloons now. Next year anybody who wears
them will have to go through a door sideways."

Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very
mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but
just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne
peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs
in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and
wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the ploughed fields were
stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that
was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice re-echoed
through Green Gables.

"Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn't it a lovely
Christmas? I'm so glad it's white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn't
seem real, does it? I don't like green Christmases. They're _not_
green--they're just nasty faded browns and greys. What makes people
call them green? Why--why--Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!"

Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and
held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be
contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene
out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how
pretty it was--a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk;
a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately
pin-tucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy
lace at the neck. But the sleeves--they were the crowning glory! Long
elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of
shirring and bows of brown silk ribbon.

"That's a Christmas present for you, Anne," said Matthew shyly.
"Why--why--Anne, don't you like it? Well now--well now."

For Anne's eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

"_Like_ it! Oh, Matthew!" Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped
her hands. "Matthew, it's perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank
you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a
happy dream."

"Well, well, let us have breakfast," interrupted Marilla. "I must say,
Anne, I don't think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it
for you, see that you take good care of it. There's a hair ribbon Mrs.
Lynde left for you. It's brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in."

"I don't see how I'm going to eat breakfast," said Anne rapturously.
"Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I'd rather
feast my eyes on that dress. I'm so glad that puffed sleeves are
still fashionable. It did seem to me that I'd never get over it if
they went out before I had a dress with them. I'd never have felt
quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the
ribbon, too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It's
at times like this I'm sorry I'm not a model little girl; and I always
resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it's hard to carry out
your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really
will make an extra effort after this."

When the commonplace breakfast was over Diana appeared, crossing the
white log bridge in the hollow, a gay little figure in her crimson
ulster. Anne flew down the slope to meet her.

"Merry Christmas, Diana! And oh, it's a wonderful Christmas. I've
something splendid to show you. Matthew has given me the loveliest
dress, with _such_ sleeves. I couldn't even imagine any nicer."

"I've got something more for you," said Diana breathlessly.
"Here--this box. Aunt Josephine sent us out a big box with ever so
many things in it--and this is for you. I'd have brought it over last
night, but it didn't come until after dark, and I never feel very
comfortable coming through the Haunted Wood in the dark now."

Anne opened the box and peeped in. First a card with "For the
Anne-girl and Merry Christmas," written on it; and then, a pair of the
daintiest little kid slippers, with beaded toes and satin bows and
glistening buckles.

"Oh," said Anne, "Diana, this is too much, I must be dreaming."

"_I_ call it providential," said Diana. "You won't have to borrow
Ruby's slippers now, and that's a blessing, for they're two sizes too
big for you, and it would be awful to hear a fairy shuffling. Josie
Pye would be delighted. Mind you, Rob Wright went home with Gertie Pye
from the practice night before last. Did you ever hear anything equal
to that?"

All the Avonlea scholars were in a fever of excitement that day, for
the hall had to be decorated and a last grand rehearsal held.

The concert came off in the evening and was a pronounced success. The
little hall was crowded; all the performers did excellently well, but
Anne was the bright particular star of the occasion, as even envy, in
the shape of Josie Pye, dared not deny.

"Oh, hasn't it been a brilliant evening?" sighed Anne, when it was all
over and she and Diana were walking home together under a dark, starry
sky.

"Everything went off very well," said Diana practically. "I guess we
must have made as much as ten dollars. Mind you, Mr. Allan is going to
send an account of it to the Charlottetown papers."

"Oh, Diana, will we really see our names in print? It makes me thrill
to think of it. Your solo was perfectly elegant, Diana. I felt prouder
than you did when it was encored. I just said to myself, 'It is my
dear bosom friend who is so honoured.'"

"Well, your recitations just brought down the house, Anne. That sad
one was simply splendid."

"Oh, I was so nervous, Diana. When Mr. Allan called out my name I
really cannot tell how I ever got up on that platform. I felt as if a
million eyes were looking at me and through me, and for one dreadful
moment I was sure I couldn't begin at all. Then I thought of my lovely
puffed sleeves and took courage. I knew that I must live up to those
sleeves, Diana. So I started in, and my voice seemed to be coming from
ever so far away. I just felt like a parrot. It's providential that I
practised those recitations so often up in the garret, or I'd never
have been able to get through. Did I groan all right?"

"Yes, indeed, you groaned lovely," assured Diana.

"I saw old Mrs. Sloane wiping away tears when I sat down. It was
splendid to think I had touched somebody's heart. It's so romantic to
take part in a concert isn't it? Oh, it's been a very memorable
occasion indeed."

"Wasn't the boys' dialogue fine?" said Diana. "Gilbert Blythe was just
splendid. Anne, I do think it's awful mean the way you treat Gil. Wait
till I tell you. When you ran off the platform after the fairy
dialogue one of your roses fell out of your hair. I saw Gil pick it up
and put it in his breast pocket. There now. You're so romantic that
I'm sure you ought to be pleased at that."

"It's nothing to me what that person does," said Anne loftily. "I
simply never waste a thought on him, Diana."

That night Marilla and Matthew, who had been out to a concert for the
first time in twenty years, sat for awhile by the kitchen fire after
Anne had gone to bed.

"Well now, I guess our Anne did as well as any of them," said Matthew
proudly.

"Yes, she did," admitted Marilla. "She's a bright child, Matthew. And
she looked real nice, too. I've been kind of opposed to this concert
scheme, but I suppose there's no real harm in it after all. Anyhow, I
was proud of Anne tonight, although I'm not going to tell her so."

"Well now, I was proud of her and I did tell her so 'fore she went
upstairs," said Matthew. "We must see what we can do for her some of
these days, Marilla. I guess she'll need something more than Avonlea
school by and by."

"There's time enough to think of that," said Marilla. "She's only
thirteen in March. Though tonight it struck me she was growing quite a
big girl. Mrs. Lynde made that dress a mite too long, and it makes
Anne look so tall. She's quick to learn and I guess the best thing we
can do for her will be to send her to Queen's after a spell. But
nothing need be said about that for a year or two yet."

"Well now, it'll do no harm to be thinking it over off and on," said
Matthew. "Things like that are all the better for lots of thinking
over."



Missy's Room


Mrs. Falconer and Miss Bailey walked home together through the fine
blue summer afternoon from the Ladies' Aid meeting at Mrs. Robinson's.
They were talking earnestly; that is to say, Miss Bailey was talking
earnestly and volubly, and Mrs. Falconer was listening. Mrs. Falconer
had reduced the practice of listening to a fine art. She was a thin,
wistful-faced mite of a woman, with sad brown eyes, and with
snow-white hair that was a libel on her fifty-five years and girlish
step. Nobody in Lindsay ever felt very well acquainted with Mrs.
Falconer, in spite of the fact that she had lived among them forty
years. She kept between her and her world a fine, baffling reserve
which no one had ever been able to penetrate. It was known that she
had had a bitter sorrow in her life, but she never made any reference
to it, and most people in Lindsay had forgotten it. Some foolish ones
even supposed that Mrs. Falconer had forgotten it.

"Well, I do not know what on earth is to be done with Camilla Clark,"
said Miss Bailey, with a prodigious sigh. "I suppose that we will
simply have to trust the whole matter to Providence."

Miss Bailey's tone and sigh really seemed to intimate to the world at
large that Providence was a last resort and a very dubious one. Not
that Miss Bailey meant anything of the sort; her faith was as
substantial as her works, which were many and praiseworthy and
seasonable.

The case of Camilla Clark was agitating the Ladies' Aid of one of the
Lindsay churches. They had talked about it through the whole of that
afternoon session while they sewed for their missionary box--talked
about it, and come to no conclusion.

In the preceding spring James Clark, one of the hands in the lumber
mill at Lindsay, had been killed in an accident. The shock had proved
nearly fatal to his young wife. The next day Camilla Clark's baby was
born dead, and the poor mother hovered for weeks between life and
death. Slowly, very slowly, life won the battle, and Camilla came back
from the valley of the shadow. But she was still an invalid, and would
be so for a long time.

The Clarks had come to Lindsay only a short time before the accident.
They were boarding at Mrs. Barry's when it happened, and Mrs. Barry
had shown every kindness and consideration to the unhappy young widow.
But now the Barrys were very soon to leave Lindsay for the West, and
the question was, what was to be done with Camilla Clark? She could
not go west; she could not even do work of any sort yet in Lindsay;
she had no relatives or friends in the world; and she was absolutely
penniless. As she and her husband had joined the church to which the
aforesaid Ladies' Aid belonged, the members thereof felt themselves
bound to take up her case and see what could be done for her.

The obvious solution was for some of them to offer her a home until
such time as she would be able to go to work. But there did not seem
to be anyone who could offer to do this--unless it was Mrs. Falconer.
The church was small, and the Ladies' Aid smaller. There were only
twelve members in it; four of these were unmarried ladies who boarded,
and so were helpless in the matter; of the remaining eight seven had
large families, or sick husbands, or something else that prevented
them from offering Camilla Clark an asylum. Their excuses were all
valid; they were good, sincere women who would have taken her in if
they could, but they could not see their way clear to do so. However,
it was probable they would eventually manage it in some way if Mrs.
Falconer did not rise to the occasion.

Nobody liked to ask Mrs. Falconer outright to take Camilla Clark in,
yet everyone thought she might offer. She was comfortably off, and
though her house was small, there was nobody to live in it except
herself and her husband. But Mrs. Falconer sat silent through all the
discussion of the Ladies' Aid, and never opened her lips on the
subject of Camilla Clark despite the numerous hints which she
received.

Miss Bailey made one more effort as aforesaid. When her despairing
reference to Providence brought forth no results, she wished she dared
ask Mrs. Falconer openly to take Camilla Clark, but somehow she did
not dare. There were not many things that could daunt Miss Bailey, but
Mrs. Falconer's reserve and gentle aloofness always could.

When Miss Bailey had gone on down the village street, Mrs. Falconer
paused for a few moments at her gate, apparently lost in deep thought.
She was perfectly well aware of all the hints that had been thrown out
for her benefit that afternoon. She knew that the Aids, one and all,
thought that she ought to take Camilla Clark. But she had no room to
give her--for it was out of the question to think of putting her in
Missy's room.

"I couldn't do such a thing," she said to herself piteously. "They
don't understand--they can't understand--but I _couldn't_ give her
Missy's room. I'm sorry for poor Camilla, and I wish I could help her.
But I can't give her Missy's room, and I have no other."

The little Falconer cottage, set back from the road in the green
seclusion of an apple orchard and thick, leafy maples, was a very tiny
one. There were just two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. When Mrs.
Falconer entered the kitchen an old-looking man with long white hair
and mild blue eyes looked up with a smile from the bright-coloured
blocks before him.

"Have you been lonely, Father?" said Mrs. Falconer tenderly.

He shook his head, still smiling.

"No, not lonely. These"--pointing to the blocks--"are so pretty. See
my house, Mother."

This man was Mrs. Falconer's husband. Once he had been one of the
smartest, most intelligent men in Lindsay, and one of the most trusted
employees of the railroad company. Then there had been a train
collision. Malcolm Falconer was taken out of the wreck fearfully
injured. He eventually recovered physical health, but he was from that
time forth merely a child in intellect--a harmless, kindly creature,
docile and easily amused.

Mrs. Falconer tried to dismiss the thought of Camilla Clark from her
mind, but it would not be dismissed. Her conscience reproached her
continually. She tried to compromise with it by saying that she would
go down and see Camilla that evening and take her some nice fresh
Irish moss jelly. It was so good for delicate people.

She found Camilla alone in the Barry sitting-room, and noticed with a
feeling that was almost like self-reproach how thin and frail and
white the poor young creature looked. Why, she seemed little more
than a child! Her great dark eyes were far too big for her wasted
face, and her hands were almost transparent.

"I'm not much better yet," said Camilla tremulously, in response to
Mrs. Falconer's inquiries. "Oh, I'm so slow getting well! And I
know--I feel that I'm a burden to everybody."

"But you mustn't think that, dear," said Mrs. Falconer, feeling more
uncomfortable than ever. "We are all glad to do all we can for you."

Mrs. Falconer paused suddenly. She was a very truthful woman and she
instantly realized that that last sentence was not true. She was not
doing all she could for Camilla--she would not be glad, she feared, to
do all she could.

"If I were only well enough to go to work," sighed Camilla. "Mr. Marks
says I can have a place in the shoe factory whenever I'm able to. But
it will be so long yet. Oh, I'm so tired and discouraged!"

She put her hands over her face and sobbed. Mrs. Falconer caught her
breath. What if Missy were somewhere alone in the world--ill,
friendless, with never a soul to offer her a refuge or a shelter? It
was so very, very probable. Before she could check herself Mrs.
Falconer spoke. "My dear, don't cry! I want you to come and stay with
me until you get perfectly well. You won't be a speck of trouble, and
I'll be glad to have you for company."

Mrs. Falconer's Rubicon was crossed. She could not draw back now if
she wanted to. But she was not at all sure that she did want to. By
the time she reached home she was sure she didn't want to. And yet--to
give Missy's room to Camilla! It seemed a great sacrifice to Mrs.
Falconer.

She went up to it the next morning with firmly set lips to air and
dust it. It was just the same as when Missy had left it long ago.
Nothing had ever been moved or changed, but everything had always been
kept beautifully neat and clean. Snow-white muslin curtains hung
before the small square window. In one corner was a little white bed.
Missy's pictures hung on the walls; Missy's books and work-basket were
lying on the square stand; there was a bit of half-finished fancy
work, yellow from age, lying in the basket. On a small bureau before
the gilt-framed mirror were several little girlish knick-knacks and
boxes whose contents had never been disturbed since Missy went away.
One of Missy's gay pink ribbons--Missy had been so fond of pink
ribbons--hung over the top of the mirror. On a chair lay Missy's hat,
bright with ribbons and roses, just as Missy had laid it there on the
night before she left her home.

Mrs. Falconer's lips quivered as she looked about the room, and tears
came to her eyes. Oh, how could she put these things away and bring a
stranger here--here, where no one save herself had entered for fifteen
years, here in this room, sacred to Missy's memory, waiting for her
return when she should be weary of wandering? It almost seemed to the
mother's vague fancy, distorted by long, silent brooding, that her
daughter's innocent girlhood had been kept here for her and would be
lost forever if the room were given to another.

"I suppose it's dreadful foolishness," said Mrs. Falconer, wiping her
eyes. "I know it is, but I can't help it. It just goes to my heart to
think of putting these things away. But I must do it. Camilla is
coming here today, and this room must be got ready for her. Oh, Missy,
my poor lost child, it's for your sake I'm doing this--because you may
be suffering somewhere as Camilla is now, and I'd wish the same
kindness to be shown to you."

She opened the window and put fresh linen on the bed. One by one
Missy's little belongings were removed and packed carefully away. On
the gay, foolish little hat with its faded wreath of roses the
mother's tears fell as she put it in a box. She remembered so plainly
the first time Missy had worn it. She could see the pretty, delicately
tinted face, the big shining brown eyes, and the riotous golden curls
under the drooping, lace-edged brim. Oh, where was Missy now? What
roof sheltered her? Did she ever think of her mother and the little
white cottage under the maples, and the low-ceilinged, dim room where
she had knelt to say her childhood's prayer?

Camilla Clark came that afternoon.

"Oh, it is lovely here," she said gratefully, looking out into the
rustling shade of the maples. "I'm sure I shall soon get well here.
Mrs. Barry was so kind to me--I shall never forget her kindness--but
the house is so close to the factory, and there was such a whirring
of wheels all the time, it seemed to get into my head and make me wild
with nervousness. I'm so weak that sounds like that worry me. But it
is so still and green and peaceful here. It just rests me."

When bedtime came, Mrs. Falconer took Camilla up to Missy's room. It
was not as hard as she had expected it to be after all. The wrench was
over with the putting away of Missy's things, and it did not hurt the
mother to see the frail, girlish Camilla in her daughter's place.

"What a dear little room!" said Camilla, glancing around. "It is so
white and sweet. Oh, I know I am going to sleep well here, and dream
sweet dreams."

"It was my daughter's room," said Mrs. Falconer, sitting down on the
chintz-covered seat by the open window.

Camilla looked surprised.

"I did not know you had a daughter," she said.

"Yes--I had just the one child," said Mrs. Falconer dreamily.

For fifteen years she had never spoken of Missy to a living soul
except her husband. But now she felt a sudden impulse to tell Camilla
about her, and about the room.

"Her name was Isabella, after her father's mother, but we never called
her anything but Missy. That was the little name she gave herself when
she began to talk. Oh, I've missed her so!"

"When did she die?" asked Camilla softly, sympathy shining, starlike,
in her dark eyes.

"She--she didn't die," said Mrs. Falconer. "She went away. She was a
pretty girl and gay and fond of fun--but such a good girl. Oh, Missy
was always a good girl! Her father and I were so proud of her--too
proud, I suppose. She had her little faults--she was too fond of dress
and gaiety, but then she was so young, and we indulged her. Then Bert
Williams came to Lindsay to work in the factory. He was a handsome
fellow, with taking ways about him, but he was drunken and profane,
and nobody knew anything about his past life. He fascinated Missy. He
kept coming to see her until her father forbade him the house. Then
our poor, foolish child used to meet him elsewhere. We found this out
afterwards. And at last she ran away with him, and they were married
over at Peterboro and went there to live, for Bert had got work there.
We--we were too hard on Missy. But her father was so dreadful hurt
about it. He'd been so fond and proud of her, and he felt that she had
disgraced him. He disowned her, and sent her word never to show her
face here again, for he'd never forgive her. And I was angry too. I
didn't send her any word at all. Oh, how I've wept over that! If I had
just sent her one little word of forgiveness, everything might have
been different. But Father forbade me to.

"Then in a little while there was a dreadful trouble. A woman came to
Peterboro and claimed to be Bert Williams's wife--and she was--she
proved it. Bert cleared out and was never seen again in these parts.
As soon as we heard about it Father relented, and I went right down
to Peterboro to see Missy and bring her home. But she wasn't
there--she had gone, nobody knew where. I got a letter from her the
next week. She said her heart was broken, and she knew we would never
forgive her, and she couldn't face the disgrace, so she was going away
where nobody would ever find her. We did everything we could to trace
her, but we never could. We've never heard from her since, and it is
fifteen years ago. Sometimes I am afraid she is dead, but then again I
feel sure she isn't. Oh, Camilla, if I could only find my poor child
and bring her home!

"This was her room. And when she went away I made up my mind I would
keep it for her just as she left it, and I have up to now. Nobody has
ever been inside the door but myself. I've always hoped that Missy
would come home, and I would lead her up here and say, 'Missy, here is
your room just as you left it, and here is your place in your mother's
heart just as you left it,' But she never came. I'm afraid she never
will."

Mrs. Falconer dropped her face in her hands and sobbed softly. Camilla
came over to her and put her arms about her.

"I think she will," she said. "I think--I am sure your love and
prayers will bring Missy home yet. And I understand how good you have
been in giving me her room--oh, I know what it must have cost you! I
will pray tonight that God will bring Missy back to you."

When Mrs. Falconer returned to the kitchen to close the house for the
night, her husband being already sound asleep; she heard a low, timid
knock at the door. Wondering who it could be so late, she opened it.
The light fell on a shrinking, shabby figure on the step, and on a
pale, pinched face in which only a mother could have recognized the
features of her child. Mrs. Falconer gave a cry.

"Missy! Missy! Missy!"

She caught the poor wanderer to her heart and drew her in.

"Oh, Missy, Missy, have you come back at last? Thank God! Oh, thank
God!"

"I _had_ to come back. I was starving for a glimpse of your face and
of the old home, Mother," sobbed Missy. "But I didn't mean you should
know--I never meant to show myself to you. I've been sick, and just as
soon as I got better I came here. I meant to creep home after dark and
look at the dear old house, and perhaps get a glimpse of you and
Father through the window if you were still here. I didn't know if you
were. And then I meant to go right away on the night train. I was
under the window and I heard you telling my story to someone. Oh,
Mother, when I knew that you had forgiven me, that you loved me still
and had always kept my room for me, I made up my mind that I'd show
myself to you."

The mother had got her child into a rocking-chair and removed the
shabby hat and cloak. How ill and worn and faded Missy looked! Yet her
face was pure and fine, and there was in it something sweeter than had
ever been there in her beautiful girlhood.

"I'm terribly changed, am I not, Mother?" said Missy, with a faint
smile. "I've had a hard life--but an honest one, Mother. When I went
away I was almost mad with the disgrace my wilfulness had brought on
you and Father and myself. I went as far as I could get away from you,
and I got work in a factory. I've worked there ever since, just making
enough to keep body and soul together. Oh, I've starved for a word
from you--the sight of your face! But I thought Father would spurn me
from his door if I should ever dare to come back."

"Oh, Missy!" sobbed the mother. "Your poor father is just like a
child. He got a terrible hurt ten years ago, and never got over it. I
don't suppose he'll even know you--he's clean forgot everything. But
he forgave you before it happened. You poor child, you're done right
out. You're too weak to be travelling. But never mind, you're home
now, and I'll soon nurse you up. I'll put on the kettle and get you a
good cup of tea first thing. And you're not to do any more talking
till the morning. But, oh, Missy, I can't take you to your own room
after all. Camilla Clark has it, and she'll be asleep by now; we
mustn't disturb her, for she's been real sick. I'll fix up a bed for
you on the sofa, though. Missy, Missy, let us kneel down here and
thank God for His mercy!"

Late that night, when Missy had fallen asleep in her improvised bed,
the wakeful mother crept in to gloat over her.

"Just to think," she whispered, "if I hadn't taken Camilla Clark in,
Missy wouldn't have heard me telling about the room, and she'd have
gone away again and never have known. Oh, I don't deserve such a
blessing when I was so unwilling to take Camilla! But I know one
thing: this is going to be Camilla's home. There'll be no leaving it
even when she does get well. She shall be my daughter, and I'll love
her next to Missy."



Ted's Afternoon Off


Ted was up at five that morning, as usual. He always had to rise early
to kindle the fire and go for the cows, but on this particular morning
there was no "had to" about it. He had awakened at four o'clock and
had sprung eagerly to the little garret window facing the east, to see
what sort of a day was being born. Thrilling with excitement, he saw
that it was going to be a glorious day. The sky was all rosy and
golden and clear beyond the sharp-pointed, dark firs on Lee's Hill.
Out to the north the sea was shimmering and sparkling gaily, with
little foam crests here and there ruffled up by the cool morning
breeze. Oh, it would be a splendid day!

And he, Ted Melvin, was to have a half holiday for the first time
since he had come to live in Brookdale four years ago--a whole
afternoon off to go to the Sunday School picnic at the beach beyond
the big hotel. It almost seemed too good to be true!

The Jacksons, with whom he had lived ever since his mother had died,
did not think holidays were necessities for boys. Hard work and
cast-off clothes, and three grudgingly allowed months of school in the
winter, made up Ted's life year in and year out--his outer life at
least. He had an inner life of dreams, but nobody knew or suspected
anything about that. To everybody in Brookdale he was simply Ted
Melvin, a shy, odd-looking little fellow with big dreamy black eyes
and a head of thick tangled curls which could never be made to look
tidy and always annoyed Mrs. Jackson exceedingly.

It was as yet too early to light the fire or go for the cows. Ted
crept softly to a corner in the garret and took from the wall an old
brown fiddle. It had been his father's. He loved to play on it, and
his few rare spare moments were always spent in the garret corner or
the hayloft, with his precious fiddle. It was his one link with the
old life he had lived in a little cottage far away, with a mother who
had loved him and a merry young father who had made wonderful music on
the old brown violin.

Ted pushed open his garret window and, seating himself on the sill,
began to play, with his eyes fixed on the glowing eastern sky. He
played very softly, since Mrs. Jackson had a pronounced dislike to
being wakened by "fiddling at all unearthly hours."

The music he made was beautiful and would have astonished anybody who
knew enough to know how wonderful it really was. But there was nobody
to hear this little neglected urchin of all work, and he fiddled away
happily, the music floating out of the garret window, over the
treetops and the dew-wet clover fields, until it mingled with the
winds and was lost in the silver skies of the morning.

Ted worked doubly hard all that forenoon, since there was a double
share of work to do if, as Mrs. Jackson said, he was to be gadding to
picnics in the afternoon. But he did it all cheerily and whistled for
joy as he worked.

After dinner Mrs. Ross came in. Mrs. Ross lived down on the shore road
and made a living for herself and her two children by washing and
doing days' work out. She was not a very cheerful person and generally
spoke as if on the point of bursting into tears. She looked more
doleful than ever today, and lost no time in explaining why.

"I've just got word that my sister over at White Sands is sick with
pendikis"--this was the nearest Mrs. Ross could get to
appendicitis--"and has to go to the hospital. I've got to go right over
and see her, Mrs. Jackson, and I've run in to ask if Ted can go and
stay with Jimmy till I get back. There's no one else I can get, and
Amelia is away. I'll be back this evening. I don't like leaving Jimmy
alone."

"Ted's been promised that he could go to the picnic this afternoon,"
said Mrs. Jackson shortly. "Mr. Jackson said he could go, so he'll
have to please himself. If he's willing to stay with Jimmy instead, he
can. _I_ don't care."

"Oh, I've _got_ to go to the picnic," cried Ted impulsively. "I'm
awful sorry for Jimmy--but I _must_ go to the picnic."

"I s'pose you feel so," said Mrs. Ross, sighing heavily. "I dunno's I
blame you. Picnics is more cheerful than staying with a poor little
lame boy, I don't doubt. Well, I s'pose I can put Jimmy's supper on
the table clost to him, and shut the cat in with him, and mebbe he'll
worry through. He was counting on having you to fiddle for him,
though. Jimmy's crazy about music, and he don't never hear much of it.
Speaking of fiddling, there's a great fiddler stopping at the hotel
now. His name is Blair Milford, and he makes his living fiddling at
concerts. I knew him well when he was a child--I was nurse in his
father's family. He was a taking little chap, and I was real fond of
him. Well, I must be getting. Jimmy'll feel bad at staying alone, but
I'll tell him he'll just have to put up with it."

Mrs. Ross sighed herself away, and Ted flew up to his garret corner
with a choking in his throat. He couldn't go to stay with Jimmy--he
couldn't give up the picnic! Why, he had never been at a picnic; and
they were going to drive to the hotel beach in wagons, and have
swings, and games, and ice cream, and a boat sail to Curtain Island!
He had been looking forward to it, waking and dreaming, for a
fortnight. He _must_ go. But poor little Jimmy! It was too bad for him
to be left all alone.

"I wouldn't like it myself," said Ted miserably, trying to swallow a
lump that persisted in coming up in his throat. "It must be dreadful
to have to lie on the sofa all the time and never be able to run,
climb trees or play, or do a single thing. And Jimmy doesn't like
reading much. He'll be dreadful lonesome. I'll be thinking of him all
the time at the picnic--I know I will. I suppose I _could_ go and
stay with him, if I just made up my mind to it."

Making up his mind to it was a slow and difficult process. But when
Ted was finally dressed in his shabby, "skimpy" Sunday best, he tucked
his precious fiddle under his arm and slipped downstairs. "Please, I
think I'll go and stay with Jimmy," he said to Mrs. Jackson timidly,
as he always spoke to her.

"Well, if you're to waste the afternoon, I s'pose it's better to waste
it that way than in going to a picnic and eating yourself sick," was
Mrs. Jackson's ungracious response.

Ted reached Mrs. Ross's little house just as that good lady was
locking the door on Jimmy and the cat. "Well, I'm real glad," she
said, when Ted told her he had come to stay. "I'd have worried most
awful if I'd had to leave Jimmy all alone. He's crying in there this
minute. Come now, Jimmy, dry up. Here's Ted come to stop with you
after all, and he's brought his fiddle, too."

Jimmy's tears were soon dried, and he welcomed Ted joyfully. "I've
been thinking awful long to hear you fiddling," said Jimmy, with a
sigh of content. "Seems like the ache ain't never half so bad when I'm
listening to music--and when it's your music, I forget there's any
ache at all."

Ted took his violin and began to play. After all, it was almost as
good as a picnic to have a whole afternoon for his music. The stuffy
little room, with its dingy plaster and shabby furniture, was filled
with wonderful harmonies. Once he began, Ted could play for hours at a
stretch and never be conscious of fatigue. Jimmy lay and listened in
rapturous content while Ted's violin sang and laughed and dreamed and
rippled.

There was another listener besides Jimmy. Outside, on the red
sandstone doorstep, a man was sitting--a tall, well-dressed man with a
pale, beautiful face and long, supple white hands. Motionless, he sat
there and listened to the music until at last it stopped. Then he rose
and knocked at the door. Ted, violin in hand, opened it.

An expression of amazement flashed into the stranger's face, but he
only said, "Is Mrs. Ross at home?"

"No, sir," said Ted shyly. "She went over to White Sands and she won't
be back till night. But Jimmy is here--Jimmy is her little boy. Will
you come in?"

"I'm sorry Mrs. Ross is away," said the stranger, entering. "She was
an old nurse of mine. I must confess I've been sitting on the step out
there for some time, listening to your music. Who taught you to play,
my boy?"

"Nobody," said Ted simply. "I've always been able to play."

"He makes it up himself out of his own head, sir," said Jimmy eagerly.

"No, I don't make it--it makes itself--it just _comes_," said Ted, a
dreamy gaze coming into his big black eyes.

The caller looked at him closely. "I know a little about music
myself," he said. "My name is Blair Milford and I am a professional
violinist. Your playing is wonderful. What is your name?"

"Ted Melvin."

"Well, Ted, I think that you have a great talent, and it ought to be
cultivated. You should have competent instruction. Come, you must tell
me all about yourself."

Ted told what little he thought there was to tell. Blair Milford
listened and nodded, guessing much that Ted didn't tell and, indeed,
didn't know himself. Then he made Ted play for him again. "Amazing!"
he said softly, under his breath.

Finally he took the violin and played himself. Ted and Jimmy listened
breathlessly. "Oh, if I could only play like that!" said Ted
wistfully.

Blair Milford smiled. "You will play much better some day if you get
the proper training," he said. "You have a wonderful talent, my boy,
and you should have it cultivated. It will never in the world do to
waste such genius. Yes, that is the right word," he went on musingly,
as if talking to himself, "'genius.' Nature is always taking us by
surprise. This child has what I have never had and would make any
sacrifice for. And yet in him it may come to naught for lack of
opportunity. But it must not, Ted. You must have a musical training."

"I can't take lessons, if that is what you mean, sir," said Ted
wonderingly. "Mr. Jackson wouldn't pay for them."

"I think we needn't worry about the question of payment if you can
find time to practise," said Blair Milford. "I am to be at the beach
for two months yet. For once I'll take a music pupil. But will you
have time to practise?"

"Yes, sir, I'll make time," said Ted, as soon as he could speak at all
for the wonder of it. "I'll get up at four in the morning and have an
hour's practising before the time for the cows. But I'm afraid it'll
be too much trouble for you, sir, I'm afraid--"

Blair Milford laughed and put his slim white hand on Ted's curly head.
"It isn't much trouble to train an artist. It is a privilege. Ah, Ted,
you have what I once hoped I had, what I know now I never can have.
You don't understand me. You will some day."

"Ain't he an awful nice man?" said Jimmy, when Blair Milford had gone.
"But what did he mean by all that talk?"

"I don't know exactly," said Ted dreamily. "That is, I seem to _feel_
what he meant but I can't quite put it into words. But, oh, Jimmy, I'm
so happy. I'm to have lessons--I have always longed to have them."

"I guess you're glad you didn't go to the picnic?" said Jimmy.

"Yes, but I was glad before, Jimmy, honest I was."

Blair Milford kept his promise. He interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Jackson
and, by means best known to himself, induced them to consent that Ted
should take music lessons every Saturday afternoon. He was a pupil to
delight a teacher's heart and, after every lesson, Blair Milford
looked at him with kindly eyes and murmured, "Amazing," under his
breath. Finally he went again to the Jacksons, and the next day he
said to Ted, "Ted, would you like to come away with me--live with
me--be my boy and have your gift for music thoroughly cultivated?"

"What do you mean, sir?" said Ted tremblingly.

"I mean that I want you--that I must have you, Ted. I've talked to Mr.
Jackson, and he has consented to let you come. You shall be educated,
you shall have the best masters in your art that the world affords,
you shall have the career I once dreamed of. Will you come, Ted?"

Ted drew a long breath. "Yes, sir," he said. "But it isn't so much
because of the music--it's because I love you, Mr. Milford, and I'm so
glad I'm to be always with you."



The Doctor's Sweetheart


Just because I am an old woman outwardly it doesn't follow that I am
one inwardly. Hearts don't grow old--or shouldn't. Mine hasn't, I am
thankful to say. It bounded like a girl's with delight when I saw
Doctor John and Marcella Barry drive past this afternoon. If the
doctor had been my own son I couldn't have felt more real pleasure in
his happiness. I'm only an old lady who can do little but sit by her
window and knit, but eyes were made for seeing, and I use mine for
that purpose. When I see the good and beautiful things--and a body
need never look for the other kind, you know--the things God planned
from the beginning and brought about in spite of the counter plans and
schemes of men, I feel such a deep joy that I'm glad, even at
seventy-five, to be alive in a world where such things come to pass.
And if ever God meant and made two people for each other, those people
were Doctor John and Marcella Barry; and that is what I always tell
folk who come here commenting on the difference in their ages. "Old
enough to be her father," sniffed Mrs. Riddell to me the other day. I
didn't say anything to Mrs. Riddell. I just looked at her. I presume
my face expressed what I felt pretty clearly. How any woman can live
for sixty years in the world, as Mrs. Riddell has, a wife and mother
at that, and not get some realization of the beauty and general
satisfactoriness of a real and abiding love, is something I cannot
understand and never shall be able to.

Nobody in Bridgeport believed that Marcella would ever come back,
except Doctor John and me--not even her Aunt Sara. I've heard people
laugh at me when I said I knew she would; but nobody minds being
laughed at when she is sure of a thing and I was sure that Marcella
Barry would come back as that the sun rose and set. I hadn't lived
beside her for eight years to know so little about her as to doubt
her. Neither had Doctor John.

Marcella was only eight years old when she came to live in Bridgeport.
Her father, Chester Barry, had just died. Her mother, who was a sister
of Miss Sara Bryant, my next door neighbor, had been dead for four
years. Marcella's father left her to the guardianship of his brother,
Richard Barry; but Miss Sara pleaded so hard to have the little girl
that the Barrys consented to let Marcella live with her aunt until she
was sixteen. Then, they said, she would have to go back to them, to be
properly educated and take the place of her father's daughter in _his_
world. For, of course, it is a fact that Miss Sara Bryant's world was
and is a very different one from Chester Barry's world. As to which
side the difference favors, that isn't for me to say. It all depends
on your standard of what is really worth while, you know.

So Marcella came to live with us in Bridgeport. I say "us" advisedly.
She slept and ate in her aunt's house, but every house in the village
was a home to her; for, with all our little disagreements and diverse
opinions, we are really all one big family, and everybody feels an
interest in and a good working affection for everybody else. Besides,
Marcella was one of those children whom everybody loves at sight, and
keeps on loving. One long, steady gaze from those big grayish-blue
black-lashed eyes of hers went right into your heart and stayed there.

She was a pretty child and as good as she was pretty. It was the right
sort of goodness, too, with just enough spice of original sin in it to
keep it from spoiling by reason of over-sweetness. She was a frank,
loyal, brave little thing, even at eight, and wouldn't have said or
done a mean or false thing to save her life.

She and I were right good friends from the beginning. She loved me and
she loved her Aunt Sara; but from the very first her best and deepest
affection went out to Doctor John Haven, who lived in the big brick
house on the other side of Miss Sara's.

Doctor John was a Bridgeport boy, and when he got through college he
came right home and settled down here, with his widowed mother. The
Bridgeport girls were fluttered, for eligible young men were scarce in
our village; there was considerable setting of caps, I must say that,
although I despise ill-natured gossip; but neither the caps nor the
wearers thereof seemed to make any impression on Doctor John. Mrs.
Riddell said that he was a born old bachelor; I suppose she based her
opinion on the fact that Doctor John was always a quiet, bookish
fellow, who didn't care a button for society, and had never been
guilty of a flirtation in his life. I knew Doctor John's heart far
better than Martha Riddell could know anybody's; and I knew there was
nothing of the old bachelor in his nature. He just had to wait for the
right woman, that was all, not being able to content himself with less
as some men can and do. If she never came Doctor John would never
marry; but he wouldn't be an old bachelor for all that.

He was thirty when Marcella came to Bridgeport--a tall,
broad-shouldered man with a mane of thick brown curls and level, dark
hazel eyes. He walked with a little stoop, his hands clasped behind
him; and he had the sweetest, deepest voice. Spoken music, if ever a
voice was. He was kind and brave and gentle, but a little distant and
reserved with most people. Everybody in Bridgeport liked him, but only
a very few ever passed the inner gates of his confidence or were
admitted to any share in his real life. I am proud to say I was one; I
think it is something for an old woman to boast of.

Doctor John was always fond of children, and they of him. It was
natural that he and little Marcella should take to each other. He had
the most to do with bringing her up, for Miss Sara consulted him in
everything. Marcella was not hard to manage for the most part; but she
had a will of her own, and when she did set it up in opposition to
the powers that were, nobody but the doctor could influence her at
all; she never resisted him or disobeyed his wishes.

Marcella was one of those girls who develop early. I suppose her
constant association with us elderly folks had something to do with
it, too. But, at fifteen, she was a woman, loving, beautiful, and
spirited.

And Doctor John loved her--loved the woman, not the child. I knew it
before he did--but not, as I think, before Marcella did, for those
young, straight-gazing eyes of hers were wonderfully quick to read
into other people's hearts. I watched them together and saw the love
growing between them, like a strong, fair, perfect flower, whose
fragrance was to endure for eternity. Miss Sara saw it, too, and was
half-pleased and half-worried; even Miss Sara thought the Doctor too
old for Marcella; and besides, there were the Barrys to be reckoned
with. Those Barrys were the nightmare dread of poor Miss Sara's life.

The time came when Doctor John's eyes were opened. He looked into his
own heart and read there what life had written for him. As he told me
long afterwards, it came to him with a shock that left him
white-lipped. But he was a brave, sensible fellow and he looked the
matter squarely in the face. First of all, he put away to one side all
that the world might say; the thing concerned solely him and Marcella,
and the world had nothing to do with it. That disposed of, he asked
himself soberly if he had a right to try to win Marcella's love. He
decided that he had not; it would be taking an unfair advantage of her
youth and inexperience. He knew that she must soon go to her father's
people--she must not go bound by any ties of his making. Doctor John,
for Marcella's sake, gave the decision against his own heart.

So much did Doctor John tell me, his old friend and confidant. I said
nothing and gave no advice, not having lived seventy-five years for
nothing. I knew that Doctor John's decision was manly and right and
fair; but I also knew it was all nullified by the fact that Marcella
already loved him.

So much I knew; the rest I was left to suppose. The Doctor and
Marcella told me much, but there were some things too sacred to be
told, even to me. So that to this day I don't know how the doctor
found out that Marcella loved him. All I know is that one day, just a
month before her sixteenth birthday, the two came hand in hand to Miss
Sara and me, as we sat on Miss Sara's veranda in the twilight, and
told us simply that they had plighted their troth to each other.

I looked at them standing there with that wonderful sunrise of life
and love on their faces--the doctor, tall and serious, with a sprinkle
of silver in his brown hair and the smile of a happy man on his
lips--Marcella, such a slip of a girl, with her black hair in a long
braid and her lovely face all dewed over with tears and sunned over
with smiles--I, an old woman, looked at them and thanked the good God
for them and their delight.

Miss Sara laughed and cried and kissed--and forboded what the Barrys
would do. Her forebodings proved only too true. When the doctor wrote
to Richard Barry, Marcella's guardian, asking his consent to their
engagement, Richard Barry promptly made trouble--the very worst kind
of trouble. He descended on Bridgeport and completely overwhelmed poor
Miss Sara in his wrath. He laughed at the idea of countenancing an
engagement between a child like Marcella and an obscure country
doctor. And he carried Marcella off with him!

She had to go, of course. He was her legal guardian and he would
listen to no pleadings. He didn't know anything about Marcella's
character, and he thought that a new life out in the great world would
soon blot out her fancy.

After the first outburst of tears and prayers Marcella took it very
calmly, as far as outward eye could see. She was as cool and dignified
and stately as a young queen. On the night before she went away she
came over to say good-bye to me. She did not even shed any tears, but
the look in her eyes told of bitter hurt. "It is goodbye for five
years, Miss Tranquil," she said steadily. "When I am twenty-one I will
come back. That is the only promise I can make. They will not let me
write to John or Aunt Sara and I will do nothing underhanded. But I
will not forget and I will come back."

Richard Barry would not even let her see Doctor John alone again. She
had to bid him good-bye beneath the cold, contemptuous eyes of the man
of the world. So there was just a hand-clasp and one long deep look
between them that was tenderer than any kiss and more eloquent than
any words.

"I will come back when I am twenty-one," said Marcella. And I saw
Richard Barry smile.

So Marcella went away and in all Bridgeport there were only two people
who believed she would ever return. There is no keeping a secret in
Bridgeport, and everybody knew all about the love affair between
Marcella and the doctor and about the promise she had made. Everybody
sympathized with the doctor because everybody believed he had lost his
sweetheart.

"For of course she'll never come back," said Mrs. Riddell to me.
"She's only a child and she'll soon forget him. She's to be sent to
school and taken abroad and between times she'll live with the Richard
Barrys; and they move, as everyone knows, in the very highest and
gayest circles. I'm sorry for the doctor, though. A man of his age
doesn't get over a thing like that in a hurry and he was perfectly
silly over Marcella. But it really serves him right for falling in
love with a child."

There are times when Martha Riddell gets on my nerves. She's a
good-hearted woman, and she means well; but she rasps--rasps terribly.

Even Miss Sara exasperated me. But then she had her excuse. The child
she loved as her own had been torn from her and it almost broke her
heart. But even so, I thought she ought to have had a little more
faith in Marcella.

"Oh, no, she'll never come back," sobbed Miss Sara. "Yes, I know she
promised. But they'll wean her away from me. She'll have such a gay,
splendid life she'll not want to come back. Five years is a lifetime
at her age. No, don't try to comfort me, Miss Tranquil, because I
_won't_ be comforted!"

When a person has made up her mind to be miserable you just have to
_let_ her be miserable.

I almost dreaded to see Doctor John for fear he would be in despair,
too, without any confidence in Marcella. But when he came I saw I
needn't have worried. The light had all gone out of his eyes, but
there was a calm, steady patience in them.

"She will come back to me, Miss Tranquil," he said. "I know what
people are saying, but that does not trouble me. They do not know
Marcella as I do. She promised and she will keep her word--keep it
joyously and gladly, too. If I did not know that I would not wish its
fulfilment. When she is free she will turn her back on that brilliant
world and all it offers her and come back to me. My part is to wait
and believe."

So Doctor John waited and believed. After a little while the
excitement died away and people forgot Marcella. We never heard from
or about her, except a paragraph now and then in the society columns
of the city paper the doctor took. We knew she was sent to school for
three years; then the Barrys took her abroad. She was presented at
court. When the doctor read this--he was with me at the time--he put
his hand over his eyes and sat very silent for a long time. I wondered
if at last some momentary doubt had crept into his mind--if he did not
fear that Marcella must have forgotten him. The paper told of her
triumph and her beauty and hinted at a titled match. Was it probable
or even possible that she would be faithful to him after all this?

The doctor must have guessed my thoughts, for at last he looked up
with a smile.

"She will come back," was all he said. But I saw that the doubt, if
doubt it were, had gone. I watched him as he went away, that tall,
gentle, kindly-eyed man, and I prayed that his trust might not be
misplaced; for if it should be it would break his heart.

Five years seems a long time in looking forward. But they pass
quickly. One day I remembered that it was Marcella's twenty-first
birthday. Only one other person thought of it. Even Miss Sara did not.
Miss Sara remembered Marcella only as a child that had been loved and
lost. Nobody else in Bridgeport thought about her at all. The doctor
came in that evening. He had a rose in his buttonhole and he walked
with a step as light as a boy's.

"She is free to-day," he said. "We shall soon have her again, Miss
Tranquil."

"Do you think she will be the same?" I said.

I don't know what made me say it. I hate to be one of those people who
throw cold water on other peoples' hopes. But it slipped out before I
thought. I suppose the doubt had been vaguely troubling me always,
under all my faith in Marcella, and now made itself felt in spite of
me.

But the doctor only laughed.

"How could she be changed?" he said. "Some women might be--most women
would be--but not Marcella. Dear Miss Tranquil, don't spoil your
beautiful record of confidence by doubting her now. We shall have her
again soon--how soon I don't know, for I don't even know where she is,
whether in the old world or the new--but just as soon as she can come
to us."

We said nothing more--neither of us. But every day the light in the
doctor's eyes grew brighter and deeper and tenderer. He never spoke of
Marcella, but I knew she was in his thoughts every moment. He was much
calmer than I was. I trembled when the postman knocked, jumped when
the gate latch clicked, and fairly had a cold chill if I saw a
telegraph boy running down the street.

One evening, a fortnight later, I went over to see Miss Sara. She was
out somewhere, so I sat down in her little sitting room to wait for
her. Presently the doctor came in and we sat in the soft twilight,
talking a little now and then, but silent when we wanted to be, as
becomes real friendship. It was such a beautiful evening. Outside in
Miss Sara's garden the roses were white and red, and sweet with dew;
the honeysuckle at the window sent in delicious breaths now and again;
a few sleepy birds were twittering; between the trees the sky was all
pink and silvery blue and there was an evening star over the elm in my
front yard. We heard somebody come through the door and down the hall.
I turned, expecting to see Miss Sara--and I saw Marcella! She was
standing in the doorway, tall and beautiful, with a ray of sunset
light falling athwart her black hair under her travelling hat. She was
looking past me at Doctor John and in her splendid eyes was the look
of the exile who had come home to her own.

"Marcella!" said the doctor.

I went out by the dining-room door and shut it behind me, leaving them
alone together.

The wedding is to be next month. Miss Sara is beside herself with
delight. The excitement has been really terrible, and the way people
have talked and wondered and exclaimed has almost worn my patience
clean out. I've snubbed more persons in the last ten days than I ever
did in all my life before.

Nothing of this worries Doctor John or Marcella. They are too happy to
care for gossip or outside curiosity. The Barrys are not coming to the
wedding, I understand. They refuse to forgive Marcella or countenance
her folly, as they call it, in any way. Folly! When I see those two
together and realize what they mean to each other I have some humble,
reverent idea of what true wisdom is.



The End of the Young Family Feud


A week before Christmas, Aunt Jean wrote to Elizabeth, inviting her
and Alberta and me to eat our Christmas dinner at Monkshead. We
accepted with delight. Aunt Jean and Uncle Norman were delightful
people, and we knew we should have a jolly time at their house.
Besides, we wanted to see Monkshead, where Father had lived in his
boyhood, and the old Young homestead where he had been born and
brought up and where Uncle William still lived. Father never said much
about it, but we knew he loved it very dearly, and we had always
greatly desired to get at least a glimpse of what Alberta liked to
call "our ancestral halls."

Since Monkshead was only sixty miles away, and Uncle William lived
there as aforesaid, it may be pertinently asked what there was to
prevent us from visiting it and the homestead as often as we wished.
We answer promptly: the family feud.

Father and Uncle William were on bad terms, or rather on no terms at
all, and had been ever since we could remember. After Grandfather
Young's death there had been a wretched quarrel over the property.
Father always said that he had been as much to blame as Uncle William,
but Great-aunt Emily told us that Uncle William had been by far the
most to blame, and that he had behaved scandalously to Father.
Moreover, she said that Father had gone to him when cooling-down time
came, apologized for what he had said, and asked Uncle William to be
friends again; and that William, simply turned his back on Father and
walked into the house without saying a word, but, as Great-aunt Emily
said, with the Young temper sticking out of every kink and curve of
his figure. Great-aunt Emily is our aunt on Mother's side, and she
does not like any of the Youngs except Father and Uncle Norman.

This was why we had never visited Monkshead. We had never seen Uncle
William, and we always thought of him as a sort of ogre when we
thought of him at all. When we were children, our old nurse, Margaret
Hannah, used to frighten us into good behaviour by saying ominously,
"If you 'uns aint good your Uncle William'll cotch you."

What he would do to us when he "cotched" us she never specified,
probably reasoning that the unknown was always more terrible than the
known. My private opinion in those days was that he would boil us in
oil and pick our bones.

Uncle Norman and Aunt Jean had been living out west for years. Three
months before this Christmas they had come east, bought a house in
Monkshead, and settled there. They had been down to see us, and Father
and Mother and the boys had been up to see them, but we three girls
had not; so we were pleasantly excited at the thought of spending
Christmas there.

Christmas morning was fine, white as a pearl and clear as a diamond.
We had to go by the seven o'clock train, since there was no other
before eleven, and we reached Monkshead at eight-thirty.

When we stepped from the train the stationmaster asked us if we were
the three Miss Youngs. Alberta pleaded guilty, and he said, "Well,
here's a letter for you then."

We took the letter and went into the waiting room with sundry
misgivings. What had happened? Were Uncle Norman and Aunt Jean
quarantined for scarlet fever, or had burglars raided the pantry and
carried off the Christmas supplies? Elizabeth opened and read the
letter aloud. It was from Aunt Jean to the following effect:

    DEAR GIRLS: I am so sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot help
    it. Word has come from Streatham that my sister has met with a
    serious accident and is in a very critical condition. Your
    uncle and I must go to Streatham immediately and are leaving
    on the eight o'clock express. I know you have started before
    this, so there is no use in telegraphing. We want you to go
    right to the house and make yourself at home. You will find
    the key under the kitchen doorstep, and the dinner in the
    pantry all ready to cook. There are two mince pies on the
    third shelf, and the plum pudding only needs to be warmed up.
    You will find a little Christmas remembrance for each of you
    on the dining-room table. I hope you will make as merry as you
    possibly can and we will have you down again as soon as we
    come back.

                              Your hurried and affectionate,
                                               AUNT JEAN


We looked at each other somewhat dolefully. But, as Alberta pointed
out, we might as well make the best of it, since there was no way of
getting home before the five o'clock train. So we trailed out to the
stationmaster, and asked him limply if he could direct us to Mr.
Norman Young's house.

He was a rather grumpy individual, very busy with pencil and notebook
over some freight; but he favoured us with his attention long enough
to point with his pencil and say jerkily, "Young's? See that red house
on the hill? That's it."

The red house was about a quarter of a mile from the station, and we
saw it plainly. Accordingly, to the red house we betook ourselves. On
nearer view it proved to be a trim, handsome place, with nice grounds
and very fine old trees.

We found the key under the kitchen doorstep and went in. The fire was
black out, and somehow things wore a more cheerless look than I had
expected to find. I may as well admit that we marched into the dining
room first of all, to find our presents.

There were three parcels, two very small and one pretty big, lying on
the table, but when we came to look for names there were none.

"Evidently Aunt Jean, in her hurry and excitement, forgot to label
them," said Elizabeth. "Let us open them. We may be able to guess from
the contents which belongs to whom."

I must say we were surprised when we opened those parcels. "We had
known that Aunt Jean's gifts would be nice, but we had not expected
anything like this. There was a magnificent stone marten collar, a
dear little gold watch and pearl chatelaine, and a gold chain bracelet
set with turquoises.

"The collar must be for you, Elizabeth, because Mary and I have one
already, and Aunt Jean knows it," said Alberta; "the watch must be for
you, Mary, because I have one; and by the process of exhaustion the
bracelet must be for me. Well, they are all perfectly sweet."

Elizabeth put on her collar and paraded in front of the sideboard
mirror. It was so dusty she had to take her handkerchief and wipe it
before she could see herself properly. Everything in the room was
equally dusty. As for the lace curtains, they looked as if they hadn't
been washed for years, and one of them had a long ragged hole in it. I
couldn't help feeling secretly surprised, for Aunt Jean had the
reputation of being a perfect housekeeper. However, I didn't say
anything, and neither did the other girls. Mother had always impressed
upon us that it was the height of bad manners to criticize anything we
might not like in a house where we were guests.

"Well, let's see about dinner," said Alberta, practically, snapping
her bracelet on her wrist and admiring the effect.

We went to the kitchen, where Elizabeth proceeded to light the fire,
that being one of her specialties, while Alberta and I explored the
pantry. We found the dinner supplies laid out as Aunt Jean had
explained. There was a nice fat turkey all stuffed, and vegetables
galore. The mince pies were in their place, but they were almost the
only things about which that could be truthfully said, for the
disorder of that pantry was enough to give a tidy person nightmares
for a month. "I never in all my life saw--" began Alberta, and then
stopped short, evidently remembering Mother's teaching.

"Where is the plum pudding?" said I, to turn the conversation into
safer channels.

It was nowhere to be seen, so we concluded it must be in the cellar.
But we found the cellar door padlocked good and fast.

"Never mind," said Elizabeth. "You know none of us really likes plum
pudding. We only eat it because it is the proper traditional dessert.
The mince pies will suit us better."

We hurried the turkey into the oven, and soon everything was going
merrily. We had lots of fun getting up that dinner, and we made
ourselves perfectly at home, as Aunt Jean had commanded. We kindled a
fire in the dining room and dusted everything in sight. We couldn't
find anything remotely resembling a duster, so we used our
handkerchiefs. When we got through, the room looked like something, for
the furnishings were really very handsome, but our handkerchiefs--well!

Then we set the table with all the nice dishes we could find. There
was only one long tablecloth in the sideboard drawer, and there were
three holes in it, but we covered them with dishes and put a little
potted palm in the middle for a centrepiece. At one o'clock dinner was
ready for us and we for it. Very nice that table looked, too, as we
sat down to it.

Just as Alberta was about to spear the turkey with a fork and begin
carving, that being one of _her_ specialties, the kitchen door opened
and somebody walked in. Before we could move, a big, handsome,
bewhiskered man in a fur coat appeared in the dining-room doorway.

I wasn't frightened. He seemed quite respectable, I thought, and I
supposed he was some intimate friend of Uncle Norman's. I rose
politely and said, "Good day."

You never saw such an expression of amazement as was on that poor
man's face. He looked from me to Alberta and from Alberta to Elizabeth
and from Elizabeth to me again as if he doubted the evidence of his
eyes.

"Mr. and Mrs. Norman Young are not at home," I explained, pitying him.
"They went to Streatham this morning because Mrs. Young's sister is
very ill."

"What does all this mean?" said the big man gruffly. "This isn't
Norman Young's house ... it is mine. I'm William Young. Who are you?
And what are you doing here?"

I fell back into my chair, speechless. My very first impulse was to
put up my hand and cover the gold watch. Alberta had dropped the
carving knife and was trying desperately to get the gold bracelet off
under the table. In a flash we had realized our mistake and its
awfulness. As for me, I felt positively frightened; Margaret Hannah's
warnings of old had left an ineffaceable impression.

Elizabeth rose to the occasion. Rising to the occasion is another of
Elizabeth's specialties. Besides, she was not hampered by the tingling
consciousness that she was wearing a gift that had not been intended
for her.

"We have made a mistake, I fear," she said, with a dignity which I
appreciated even in my panic, "and we are very sorry for it. We were
invited to spend Christmas with Mr. and Mrs. Norman Young. When we got
off the train we were given a letter from them stating that they were
summoned away but telling us to go to their house and make ourselves
at home. The stationmaster told us that this was the house, so we came
here. We have never been in Monkshead, so we did not know the
difference. Please pardon us."

I had got off the watch by this time and laid it on the table,
unobserved, as I thought. Alberta, not having the key of the
bracelet, had not been able to get it off, and she sat there crimson
with shame. As for Uncle William, there was positively a twinkle in
his eye. He did not look in the least ogreish.

"Well, it has been quite a fortunate mistake for me," he said. "I came
home expecting to find a cold house and a raw dinner, and I find this
instead. I'm very much obliged to you."

Alberta rose, went to the mantel piece, took the key of the bracelet
therefrom, and unlocked it. Then she faced Uncle William. "Mrs. Young
told us in her letter that we would find our Christmas gifts on the
table, so we took it for granted that these things belonged to us,"
she said desperately. "And now, if you will kindly tell us where Mr.
Norman Young does live, we won't intrude on you any longer. Come,
girls."

Elizabeth and I rose with a sigh. There was nothing else to be done,
of course, but we were fearfully hungry, and we did not feel
enthusiastic over the prospect of going to another empty house and
cooking another dinner.

"Wait a bit," said Uncle William. "I think since you have gone to all
the trouble of cooking the dinner it's only fair you should stay and
help to eat it. Accidents seem to be rather fashionable just now. My
housekeeper's son broke his leg down at Weston, and I had to take her
there early this morning. Come, introduce yourselves. To whom am I
indebted for this pleasant surprise?"

"We are Elizabeth, Alberta, and Mary Young of Green Village," I said;
and then I looked to see the ogre creep out if it were ever going to.

But Uncle William merely looked amazed for the first moment, foolish
for the second, and the third he was himself again.

"Robert's daughters?" he said, as if it were the most natural thing in
the world that Robert's daughters should be there in his house. "So
you are my nieces? Well, I'm very glad to make your acquaintance. Sit
down and we'll have dinner as soon as I can get my coat off. I want to
see if you are as good cooks as your mother used to be long ago."

We sat down, and so did Uncle William. Alberta had her chance to show
what she could do at carving, for Uncle William said it was something
he never did; he kept a housekeeper just for that. At first we felt a
bit stiff and awkward; but that soon wore off, for Uncle William was
genial, witty, and entertaining. Soon, to our surprise, we found that
we were enjoying ourselves. Uncle William seemed to be, too. When we
had finished he leaned back and looked at us.

"I suppose you've been brought up to abhor me and all my works?" he
said abruptly.

"Not by Father and Mother," I said frankly. "They never said anything
against you. Margaret Hannah did, though. She brought us up in the way
we should go through fear of you."

Uncle William laughed.

"Margaret Hannah was a faithful old enemy of mine," he said. "Well, I
acted like a fool--and worse. I've been sorry for it ever since. I was
in the wrong. I couldn't have said this to your father, but I don't
mind saying it to you, and you can tell him if you like."

"He'll be delighted to hear that you are no longer angry with him,"
said Alberta. "He has always longed to be friends with you again,
Uncle William. But he thought you were still bitter against him."

"No--no--nothing but stubborn pride," said Uncle William. "Now, girls,
since you are my guests I must try to give you a good time. We'll take
the double sleigh and have a jolly drive this afternoon. And about
those trinkets there--they are yours. I did get them for some young
friends of mine here, but I'll give them something else. I want you to
have these. That watch looked very nice on your blouse, Mary, and the
bracelet became Alberta's pretty wrist very well. Come and give your
cranky old uncle a hug for them."

Uncle William got his hugs heartily; then we washed up the dishes and
went for our drive. We got back just in time to catch the evening
train home. Uncle William saw us off at the station, under promise to
come back and stay a week with him when his housekeeper came home.

"One of you will have to come and stay with me altogether, pretty
soon," he said. "Tell your father he must be prepared to hand over one
of his girls to me as a token of his forgiveness. I'll be down to talk
it over with him shortly."

When we got home and told our story, Father said, "Thank God!" very
softly. There were tears in his eyes. He did not wait for Uncle
William to come down, but went to Monkshead himself the next day.

In the spring Alberta is to go and live with Uncle William. She is
making a supply of dusters now. And next Christmas we are going to
have a grand family reunion at the old homestead. Mistakes are not
always bad.



The Genesis of the Doughnut Club


When John Henry died there seemed to be nothing for me to do but pack
up and go back east. I didn't want to do it, but forty-five years of
sojourning in this world have taught me that a body has to do a good
many things she doesn't want to do, and that most of them turn out to
be for the best in the long run. But I knew perfectly well that it
wasn't best for me or anybody else that I should go back to live with
William and Susanna, and I couldn't think what Providence was about
when things seemed to point that way.

I wanted to stay in Carleton. I loved the big, straggling, bustling
little town that always reminded me of a lanky, overgrown schoolboy,
all arms and legs, but full to the brim with enthusiasm and splendid
ideas. I knew Carleton was bound to grow into a magnificent city, and
I wanted to be there and see it grow and watch it develop; and I loved
the whole big, breezy golden west, with the rush and tingle of its
young life. And, more than all, I loved my boys, and what I was going
to do without them or they without me was more than I knew, though I
tried to think Providence might know.

But there was no place in Carleton for me; the only thing to do was to
go back east, and I knew that all the time, even when I was
desperately praying that I might find a way to remain. There's not
much comfort, or help either, praying one way and believing another.

I'd lived down east in Northfield all my life--until five years
ago--lived with my brother William and his wife. Northfield was a
little pinched-up village where everybody knew more about you than you
did about yourself, and you couldn't turn around without being
commented upon. William and Susanna were kind to me, but I was just
the old maid sister, of no importance to anybody, and I never felt as
if I were really living. I was simply vegetating on, and wouldn't be
missed by a single soul if I died. It is a horrible feeling, but I
didn't expect it would ever be any different, and I had made up my
mind that when I died I would have the word "Wasted" carved on my
tombstone. It wouldn't be conventional at all, but I'd been
conventional all my life, and I was determined I'd have something done
out of the common even if I had to wait until I was dead to have it.

Then all at once the letter came from John Henry, my brother out west.
He wrote that his wife had died and he wanted me to go out and keep
house for him. I sat right down and wrote him I'd go and in a week's
time I started.

It made quite a commotion; I had that much satisfaction out of it to
begin with. Susanna wasn't any too well pleased. I was only the old
maid sister, but I was a good cook, and help was scarce in Northfield.
All the neighbours shook their heads, and warned me I wouldn't like
it. I was too old to change my ways, and I'd be dreadfully homesick,
and I'd find the west too rough and boisterous. I just smiled and said
nothing.

Well, I came out here to Carleton, and from the time I got here I was
perfectly happy. John Henry had a little rented house, and he was as
poor as a church mouse, being the ne'er-do-well of our family, and the
best loved, as ne'er-do-wells are so apt to be. He'd nearly died of
lonesomeness since his wife's death, and he was so glad to see me.
That was delightful in itself, and I was just in my element getting
that little house fixed up cosy and homelike, and cooking the most
elegant meals. There wasn't much work to do, just for me and him, and
I got a squaw in to wash and scrub. I never thought about Northfield
except to thank goodness I'd escaped from it, and John Henry and I
were as happy as a king and queen.

Then after awhile my activities began to sprout and branch out, and
the direction they took was _boys_. Carleton was full of boys, like
all the western towns, overflowing with them as you might say, young
fellows just let loose from home and mother, some of them dying of
homesickness and some of them beginning to run wild and get into
risky ways, some of them smart and some of them lazy, some ugly and
some handsome; but all of them boys, lovable, rollicking boys, with
the makings of good men in them if there was anybody to take hold of
them and cut the pattern right, but liable to be spoiled just because
there wasn't anybody.

Well, I did what I could. It began with John Henry bringing home some
of them that worked in his office to spend the evening now and again,
and they told other fellows and asked leave to bring them in too. And
before long it got to be that there never was an evening there wasn't
some of them there, "Aunt-Pattying" me. I told them from the start I
would _not_ be called Miss. When a woman has been Miss for forty-five
years she gets tired of it.

So Aunt Patty it was, and Aunt Patty it remained, and I loved all
those dear boys as if they'd been my own. They told me all their
troubles, and I mothered them and cheered them up and scolded them,
and finally topped off with a jolly good supper; for, talk as you
like, you can't preach much good into a boy if he's got an aching void
in his stomach. Fill _that_ up with tasty victuals, and then you can
do something with his spiritual nature. If a boy is well stuffed with
good things and then won't listen to advice, you might as well stop
wasting your breath on him, because there is something radically wrong
with him. Probably his grandfather had dyspepsia. And a dyspeptic
ancestor is worse for a boy than predestination, in my opinion.

Anyway, most of my boys took to going to church and Bible class of
their own accord, after I'd been their aunt for awhile. The young
minister thought it was all his doings, and I let him think so to keep
him cheered up. He was a nice boy himself, and often dropped in of an
evening too; but I never would let him talk theology until after
supper. His views always seemed so much mellower then, and didn't
puzzle the other boys more than was wholesome for them.

This went on for five glorious years, the only years of my life I'd
ever _lived_, and then came, as I thought, the end of everything. John
Henry took typhoid and died. At first that was all I could think of;
and when I got so that I could think of other things, there was, as I
have said, nothing for me to do but go back east.

The boys, who had been as good as gold to me all through my trouble,
felt dreadfully bad over this, and coaxed me hard to stay. They said
if I'd start a boarding house I'd have all the boarders I could
accommodate; but I knew it was no use to think of that, because I
wasn't strong enough, and help was so hard to get. No, there was
nothing for it but Northfield and stagnation again, with not a stray
boy anywhere to mother. I looked the dismal prospect square in the
face and made up my mind to it.

But I was determined to give my boys one good celebration before I
went, anyway. It was near Thanksgiving, and I resolved they should
have a dinner that would keep my memory green for awhile, a real
old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner such as they used to have at home. I
knew it would cost more than I could really afford, but I shut my eyes
to that aspect of the question. I was going back to strict eastern
economy for the rest of my days, and I meant to indulge in one wild,
blissful riot of extravagance before I was cooped up again.

I counted up the boys I must have, and there were fifteen, including
the minister. I invited them a fortnight ahead to make sure of getting
them, though I needn't have worried, for they all said they would have
broken an engagement to dine with the king for one of my dinners. The
minister said he had been feeling so homesick he was afraid he
wouldn't be able to preach a real thankful sermon, but now he was
comfortably sure that his sermon would be overflowing with gratitude.

I just threw myself heart and soul into the preparations for that
dinner. I had three turkeys and two sucking pigs, and mince pies and
pumpkin pies and apple pies, and doughnuts and fruit cake and
cranberry sauce and brown bread, and ever so many other things to fill
up the chinks. The night before Thanksgiving everything was ready, and
I was so tired I could hardly talk to Jimmy Nelson when he dropped in.

Jimmy had something on his mind, I saw that. So I said, "'Fess up,
Jimmy, and then you'll be able to enjoy your call."

"I want to ask a favour of you, Aunt Patty," said Jimmy.

I knew I should have to grant it; nobody could refuse Jimmy anything,
he looked so much like a nice, clean, pink-and-white little schoolboy
whose mother had just scrubbed his face and told him to be good. At
the same time he was one of the wildest young scamps in Carleton, or
had been until a year ago. I'd got him well set on the road to
reformation, and I felt worse about leaving him than any of the rest
of them. I knew he was just at the critical point. With somebody to
tide him over the next half year he'd probably go straight for the
rest of his life, but if he were left to himself he'd likely just slip
back to his old set and ways.

"I want you to let me bring my Uncle Joe to dinner tomorrow," said
Jimmy. "The poor old fellow is stranded here for Thanksgiving, and he
hates hotels. May I?"

"Of course," I said heartily, wondering why Jimmy seemed to think I
mightn't want his Uncle Joe. "Bring him right along."

"Thanks," said Jimmy. "He'll be more than pleased. Your sublime
cookery will delight him. He adores the west, but he can't endure its
cooking. He's always harping on his mother's pantry and the good old
down-east dinners. He's dyspeptic and pessimistic most of the time,
and he's got half a dozen cronies just like himself. All they think of
is railroads and bills of fare."

"Railroads!" I cried. And then an awful thought assailed me. "Jimmy
Nelson, your uncle isn't--isn't--he can't be Joseph P. Nelson, the
_rich_ Joseph P. Nelson!"

"Oh, he's rich enough," said Jimmy; getting up and reaching for his
hat. "In dollars, that is. Some ways he's poor enough. Well, I must be
going. Thanks ever so much for letting me bring Uncle Joe."

And that rascal was gone, leaving me crushed. Joseph Nelson was coming
to my house to dinner--Joseph P. Nelson, the millionaire railroad
king, who kept his own chef and was accustomed to dining with the
great ones of the earth!

I was afraid I should never be able to forgive Jimmy. I couldn't sleep
a wink that night, and I cooked that dinner next day in a terrible
state of mind. Every ring that came at the door made my heart
jump,--but in the end Jimmy didn't ring at all, but just walked in
with his uncle in tow. The minute I saw Joseph P. I knew I needn't be
scared of _him_; he just looked real common. He was little and thin
and kind of bored-looking, with grey hair and whiskers, and his
clothes were next door to downright shabbiness. If it hadn't been for
the thought of that chef, I wouldn't have felt a bit ashamed of my
old-fashioned Thanksgiving spread.

When Joseph P. sat down to that table he stopped looking bored. All
the time the minister was saying grace that man simply stared at a big
plate of doughnuts near my end of the table, as if he'd never seen
anything like them before.

All the boys talked and laughed while they were eating, but Joseph P.
just _ate_, tucking away turkey and vegetables and keeping an anxious
eye on those doughnuts, as if he was afraid somebody else would get
hold of them before his turn came. I wished I was sure it was
etiquette to tell him not to worry because there were plenty more in
the pantry. By the time he'd been helped three times to mince pie I
gave up feeling bad about the chef. He finished off with the
doughnuts, and I shan't tell how many of them he devoured, because I
would not be believed.

Most of the boys had to go away soon after dinner. Joseph P. shook
hands with me absently and merely said, "Good afternoon, Miss
Porter." I didn't think he seemed at all grateful for his dinner, but
that didn't worry me because it was for my boys I'd got it up, and not
for dyspeptic millionaires whose digestion had been spoiled by private
chefs. And my boys had appreciated it, there wasn't any doubt about
that. Peter Crockett and Tommy Gray stayed to help me wash the dishes,
and we had the jolliest time ever. Afterward we picked the turkey
bones.

But that night I realized that I was once more a useless, lonely old
woman. I cried myself to sleep, and next morning I hadn't spunk enough
to cook myself a dinner. I dined off some crackers and the remnants of
the apple pies, and I was sitting staring at the crumbs when the bell
rang. I wiped away my tears and went to the door. Joseph P. Nelson was
standing there, and he said, without wasting any words--it was easy to
see how that man managed to get railroads built where nobody else
could manage it--that he had called to see me on a little matter of
business.

He took just ten minutes to make it clear to me, and when I saw the
whole project I was the happiest woman in Carleton or out of it. He
said he had never eaten such a Thanksgiving dinner as mine, and that I
was the woman he'd been looking for for years. He said that he had a
few business friends who had been brought up on a down-east farm like
himself, and never got over their hankering for old-fashioned cookery.

"That is something we can't get here, with all our money," he said.
"Now, Miss Porter, my nephew tells me that you wish to remain in
Carleton, if you can find some way of supporting yourself. I have a
proposition to make to you. These aforesaid friends of mine and I
expect to spend most of our time in Carleton for the next few years.
In fact we shall probably make it our home eventually. It's going to
be _the_ city of the west after awhile, and the centre of a dozen
railroads. Well, we mean to equip a small private restaurant for
ourselves and we want you to take charge of it. You won't have to do
much except oversee the business and arrange the bills of fare. We
want plain, substantial old-time meals and cookery. When we have a
hankering for doughnuts and apple pies and cranberry tarts, we want to
know just where to get them and have them the right kind. We're all
horribly tired of hotel fare and fancy fol-de-rols with French names.
A place where we could get a dinner such as you served yesterday would
be a boon to us. We'd have started the restaurant long ago if we could
have got a suitable person to take charge of it."

He named the salary the club would pay and the very sound of it made
me feel rich. You may be sure I didn't take long to decide. That was a
year ago, and today the Doughnut Club, as they call themselves, is a
huge success, and the fame of it has gone abroad in the land, although
they are pretty exclusive and keep all their good things close enough
to themselves. Joseph P. took a Scotch peer there to dinner one day
last week. Jimmy Nelson told me afterward that the man said it was the
only satisfying meal he'd had since he left the old country.

As for me, I have my little house, my very own and no rented one, and
all my dear boys, and I'm a happy old busybody. You see, Providence
did answer my prayers in spite of my lack of faith; but of course He
used means, and that Thanksgiving dinner of mine was the earthly
instrument of it all.



The Girl Who Drove the Cows


"I wonder who that pleasant-looking girl who drives cows down the
beech lane every morning and evening is," said Pauline Palmer, at the
tea table of the country farmhouse where she and her aunt were
spending the summer. Mrs. Wallace had wanted to go to some fashionable
watering place, but her husband had bluntly told her he couldn't
afford it. Stay in the city when all her set were out she would not,
and the aforesaid farmhouse had been the compromise.

"I shouldn't suppose it could make any difference to you who she is,"
said Mrs. Wallace impatiently. "I do wish, Pauline, that you were more
careful in your choice of associates. You hobnob with everyone, even
that old man who comes around buying eggs. It is very bad form."

Pauline hid a rather undutiful smile behind her napkin. Aunt Olivia's
snobbish opinions always amused her.

"You've no idea what an interesting old man he is," she said. "He can
talk more entertainingly than any other man I know. What is the use of
being so exclusive, Aunt Olivia? You miss so much fun. You wouldn't be
so horribly bored as you are if you fraternized a little with the
'natives,' as you call them."

"No, thank you," said Mrs. Wallace disdainfully.

"Well, I am going to try to get acquainted with that girl," said
Pauline resolutely. "She looks nice and jolly."

"I don't know where you get your low tastes from," groaned Mrs.
Wallace. "I'm sure it wasn't from your poor mother. What do you
suppose the Morgan Knowles would think if they saw you taking up with
some tomboy girl on a farm?"

"I don't see why it should make a great deal of difference what they
would think, since they don't seem to be aware of my existence, or
even of yours, Aunty," said Pauline, with twinkling eyes. She knew it
was her aunt's dearest desire to get in with the Morgan Knowles'
"set"--a desire that seemed as far from being realized as ever. Mrs.
Wallace could never understand why the Morgan Knowles shut her from
their charmed circle. They certainly associated with people much
poorer and of more doubtful worldly station than hers--the Markhams,
for instance, who lived on an unfashionable street and wore quite
shabby clothes. Just before she had left Colchester, Mrs. Wallace had
seen Mrs. Knowles and Mrs. Markham together in the former's
automobile. James Wallace and Morgan Knowles were associated in
business dealings; but in spite of Mrs. Wallace's schemings and
aspirations and heart burnings, the association remained a purely
business one and never advanced an inch in the direction of
friendship.

As for Pauline, she was hopelessly devoid of social ambitions and she
did not in the least mind the Morgan Knowles' remote attitude.

"Besides," continued Pauline, "she isn't a tomboy at all. She looks
like a very womanly, well-bred sort of girl. Why should you think her
a tomboy because she drives cows? Cows are placid, useful
animals--witness this delicious cream which I am pouring over my
blueberries. And they have to be driven. It's an honest occupation."

"I daresay she is someone's servant," said Mrs. Wallace
contemptuously. "But I suppose even that wouldn't matter to you,
Pauline?"

"Not a mite," said Pauline cheerfully. "One of the very nicest girls I
ever knew was a maid Mother had the last year of her dear life. I
loved that girl, Aunt Olivia, and I correspond with her. She writes
letters that are ten times more clever and entertaining than those
stupid epistles Clarisse Gray sends me--and Clarisse Gray is a rich
man's daughter and is being educated in Paris."

"You are incorrigible, Pauline," said Mrs. Wallace hopelessly.

"Mrs. Boyd," said Pauline to their landlady, who now made her
appearance, "who is that girl who drives the cows along the beech lane
mornings and evenings?"

"Ada Cameron, I guess," was Mrs. Boyd's response. "She lives with the
Embrees down on the old Embree place just below here. They're
pasturing their cows on the upper farm this summer. Mrs. Embree is her
father's half-sister."

"Is she as nice as she looks?"

"Yes, Ada's a real nice sensible girl," said Mrs. Boyd. "There is no
nonsense about her."

"That doesn't sound very encouraging," murmured Pauline, as Mrs. Boyd
went out. "I like people with a little nonsense about them. But I hope
better things of Ada, Mrs. Boyd to the contrary notwithstanding. She
has a pair of grey eyes that can't possibly always look sensible. I
think they must mellow occasionally into fun and jollity and wholesome
nonsense. Well, I'm off to the shore. I want to get that photograph of
the Cove this evening, if possible. I've set my heart on taking first
prize at the Amateur Photographers' Exhibition this fall, and if I can
only get that Cove with all its beautiful lights and shadows, it will
be the gem of my collection."

Pauline, on her return from the shore, reached the beech lane just as
the Embree cows were swinging down it. Behind them came a tall,
brown-haired, brown-faced girl in a neat print dress. Her hat was hung
over her arm, and the low evening sunlight shone redly over her smooth
glossy head. She carried herself with a pretty dignity, but when her
eyes met Pauline's, she looked as if she would smile on the slightest
provocation.

Pauline promptly gave her the provocation.

"Good evening, Miss Cameron," she called blithely. "Won't you please
stop a few moments and look me over? I want to see if you think me a
likely person for a summer chum."

Ada Cameron did more than smile. She laughed outright and went over to
the fence where Pauline was sitting on a stump. She looked down into
the merry black eyes of the town girl she had been half envying for a
week and said humorously: "Yes, I think you very likely, indeed. But
it takes two to make a friendship--like a bargain. If I'm one, you'll
have to be the other."

"I'm the other. Shake," said Pauline, holding out her hand.

That was the beginning of a friendship that made poor Mrs. Wallace
groan outwardly as well as inwardly. Pauline and Ada found that they
liked each other even more than they had expected to. They walked,
rowed, berried and picnicked together. Ada did not go to Mrs. Boyd's a
great deal, for some instinct told her that Mrs. Wallace did not look
favourably on her, but Pauline spent half her time at the little,
brown, orchard-embowered house at the end of the beech lane where the
Embrees lived. She had never met any girl she thought so nice as Ada.

"She is nice every way," she told the unconvinced Aunt Olivia. "She's
clever and well read. She is sensible and frank. She has a sense of
humour and a great deal of insight into character--witness her liking
for your niece! She can talk interestingly and she can also be silent
when silence is becoming. And she has the finest profile I ever saw.
Aunt Olivia, may I ask her to visit me next winter?"

"No, indeed," said Mrs. Wallace, with crushing emphasis. "You surely
don't expect to continue this absurd intimacy past the summer,
Pauline?"

"I expect to be Ada's friend all my life," said Pauline laughingly,
but with a little ring of purpose in her voice. "Oh, Aunty, dear,
can't you see that Ada is just the same girl in cotton print that she
would be in silk attire? She is really far more distinguished looking
than any girl in the Knowles' set."

"Pauline!" said Aunt Olivia, looking as shocked as if Pauline had
committed blasphemy.

Pauline laughed again, but she sighed as she went to her room. Aunt
Olivia has the kindest heart in the world, she thought. What a pity
she isn't able to see things as they really are! My friendship with
Ada can't be perfect if I can't invite her to my home. And she is such
a dear girl--the first real friend after my own heart that I've ever
had.

The summer waned, and August burned itself out.

"I suppose you will be going back to town next week? I shall miss you
dreadfully," said Ada.

The two girls were in the Embree garden, where Pauline was preparing
to take a photograph of Ada standing among the asters, with a great
sheaf of them in her arms. Pauline wished she could have said: But you
must come and visit me in the winter. Since she could not, she had to
content herself with saying: "You won't miss me any more than I shall
miss you. But we'll correspond, and I hope Aunt Olivia will come to
Marwood again next summer."

"I don't think I shall be here then," said Ada with a sigh. "You see,
it is time I was doing something for myself, Pauline. Aunt Jane and
Uncle Robert have always been very kind to me, but they have a large
family and are not very well off. So I think I'll try for a situation
in one of the Remington stores this fall."

"It's such a pity you couldn't have gone to the Academy and studied
for a teacher's licence," said Pauline, who knew what Ada's ambitions
were.

"I should have liked that better, of course," said Ada quietly. "But
it is not possible, so I must do my best at the next best thing. Don't
let's talk of it. It might make me feel blueish and I want to look
especially pleasant if I'm going to have my photo taken."

"You couldn't look anything else," laughed Pauline. "Don't smile too
broadly--I want you to be looking over the asters with a bit of a
dream on your face and in your eyes. If the picture turns out as
beautiful as I fondly expect, I mean to put it in my exhibition
collection under the title 'A September Dream.' There, that's the very
expression. When you look like that, you remind me of somebody I have
seen, but I can't remember who it is. All ready now--don't
move--there, dearie, it is all over."

When Pauline went back to Colchester, she was busy for a month
preparing her photographs for the exhibition, while Aunt Olivia
renewed her spinning of all the little social webs in which she fondly
hoped to entangle the Morgan Knowles and other desirable flies.

When the exhibition was opened, Pauline Palmer's collection won first
prize, and the prettiest picture in it was one called "A September
Dream"--a tall girl with a wistful face, standing in an old-fashioned
garden with her arms full of asters.

The very day after the exhibition was opened the Morgan Knowles'
automobile stopped at the Wallace door. Mrs. Wallace was out, but it
was Pauline whom stately Mrs. Morgan Knowles asked for. Pauline was at
that moment buried in her darkroom developing photographs, and she ran
down just as she was--a fact which would have mortified Mrs. Wallace
exceedingly if she had ever known it. But Mrs. Morgan Knowles did not
seem to mind at all. She liked Pauline's simplicity of manner. It was
more than she had expected from the aunt's rather vulgar
affectations.

"I have called to ask you who the original of the photograph 'A
September Dream' in your exhibit was, Miss Palmer," she said
graciously. "The resemblance to a very dear childhood friend of mine
is so startling that I am sure it cannot be accidental."

"That is a photograph of Ada Cameron, a friend whom I met this summer
up in Marwood," said Pauline.

"Ada Cameron! She must be Ada Frame's daughter, then," exclaimed Mrs.
Knowles in excitement. Then, seeing Pauline's puzzled face, she
explained: "Years ago, when I was a child, I always spent my summers
on the farm of my uncle, John Frame. My cousin, Ada Frame, was the
dearest friend I ever had, but after we grew up we saw nothing of each
other, for I went with my parents to Europe for several years, and Ada
married a neighbour's son, Alec Cameron, and went out west. Her
father, who was my only living relative other than my parents, died,
and I never heard anything more of Ada until about eight years ago,
when somebody told me she was dead and had left no family. That part
of the report cannot have been true if this girl is her daughter."

"I believe she is," said Pauline quickly. "Ada was born out west and
lived there until she was eight years old, when her parents died and
she was sent east to her father's half-sister. And Ada looks like
you--she always reminded me of somebody I had seen, but I never could
decide who it was before. Oh, I hope it is true, for Ada is such a
sweet girl, Mrs. Knowles."

"She couldn't be anything else if she is Ada Frame's daughter," said
Mrs. Knowles. "My husband will investigate the matter at once, and if
this girl is Ada's child we shall hope to find a daughter in her, as
we have none of our own."

"What will Aunt Olivia say!" said Pauline with wickedly dancing eyes
when Mrs. Knowles had gone.

Aunt Olivia was too much overcome to say anything. That good lady felt
rather foolish when it was proved that the girl she had so despised
was Mrs. Morgan Knowles' cousin and was going to be adopted by her.
But to hear Aunt Olivia talk now, you would suppose that she and not
Pauline had discovered Ada.

The latter sought Pauline out as soon as she came to Colchester, and
the summer friendship proved a life-long one and was, for the
Wallaces, the open sesame to the enchanted ground of the Knowles'
"set."

"So everybody concerned is happy," said Pauline. "Ada is going to
college and so am I, and Aunt Olivia is on the same committee as Mrs.
Knowles for the big church bazaar. What about my 'low tastes' now,
Aunt Olivia?"

"Well, who would ever have supposed that a girl who drove cows to
pasture was connected with the Morgan Knowles?" said poor Aunt Olivia
piteously.



The Growing Up of Cornelia


                                              January First.

Aunt Jemima gave me this diary for a Christmas present. It's just the
sort of gift a person named Jemima would be likely to make.

I can't imagine why Aunt Jemima thought I should like a diary.
Probably she didn't think about it at all. I suppose it happened to be
the first thing she saw when she started out to do her Christmas duty
by me, and so she bought it. I'm sure I'm the last girl in the world
to keep a diary. I'm not a bit sentimental and I never have time for
soul outpourings. It's jollier to be out skating or snowshoeing or
just tramping around. And besides, nothing ever happens to me worth
writing in a diary.

Still, since Aunt Jemima gave it to me, I'm going to get the good out
of it. I don't believe in wasting even a diary. Father ... it would be
easier to write "Dad," but Dad sounds disrespectful in a diary ...
says I have a streak of old Grandmother Marshall's economical nature
in me. So I'm going to write in this book whenever I have anything
that might, by any stretch of imagination, be supposed worth while.

Jen and Alice and Sue would have plenty to write about, I dare say.
They certainly seem to have jolly times ... and as for the men ... but
there! People say men are interesting. They may be. But I shall never
get well enough acquainted with any of them to find out.

Mother says it is high time I gave up my tomboy ways and came "out"
too, because I am eighteen. I coaxed off this winter. It wasn't very
hard, because no mother with three older unmarried girls on her hands
would be very anxious to bring out a fourth. The girls took my part
and advised Mother to let me be a child as long as possible. Mother
yielded for this time, but said I must be brought out next winter or
people would talk. Oh, I hate the thought of it! People might talk
about my not being brought out, but they will talk far more about the
blunders I shall make.

The doleful fact is, I'm too wretchedly shy and awkward to live. It
fills my soul with terror to think of donning long dresses and putting
my hair up and going into society. I can't talk and men frighten me to
death. I fall over things as it is, and what will it be with long
dresses? As far back as I can remember it has been my one aim and
object in life to escape company. Oh, if only one need never grow up!
If I could only go back four years and stay there!

Mother laments over it muchly. She says she doesn't know what she has
done to have such a shy, unpresentable daughter. _I_ know. She married
Grandmother Marshall's son, and Grandmother Marshall was as shy as she
was economical. Mother triumphed over heredity with Jen and Sue and
Alice, but it came off best with me. The other girls are noted for
their grace and tact. But I'm the black sheep and always will be. It
wouldn't worry me so much if they'd leave me alone and stop nagging
me. "Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness," where there were no
men, no parties, no dinners ... just quantities of dogs and horses and
skating ponds and woods! I need never put on long dresses then, but
just be a jolly little girl forever.

However, I've got one beautiful year before me yet, and I mean to make
the most of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                              January Tenth.

It is rather good to have a diary to pour out your woes in when you
feel awfully bad and have no one to sympathize with you. I've been
used to shutting them all up in my soul and then they sometimes
fermented and made trouble.

We had a lot of people here to dinner tonight, and that made me
miserable to begin with. I had to dress up in a stiff white dress
_with a sash_, and Jen tied two big white fly-away bows on my hair
that kept rasping my neck and tickling my ears in a most exasperating
way. Then an old lady whom I detest tried to make me talk before
everybody, and all I could do was to turn as red as a beet and
stammer: "Yes, ma'am," "no, ma'am." It made Mother furious, because it
is so old-fashioned to say "ma'am." Our old nurse taught me to say it
when I was small, and though it has been pretty well governessed out
of me since then, it's sure to pop up when I get confused and nervous.

Sue ... may it be accounted unto her for righteousness ... contrived
that I should go out to dinner with old Mr. Grant, because she knew he
goes to dinners for the sake of eating and never talks or wants
anybody else to. But when we were crossing the hall I stepped on Mrs.
Burnett's train and something tore. Mrs. Burnett gave me a furious
look and glowered all through dinner. The meal was completely spoiled
for me and I could find no comfort, even in the Nesselrode pudding,
which is my favourite dessert.

It was just when the pudding came on that I got the most unkindest cut
of all. Mrs. Allardyce remarked that Sidney Elliot was coming home to
Stillwater.

Everybody exclaimed and questioned and seemed delighted. I saw Mother
give one quick, involuntary look at Jen, and then gaze steadfastly at
Mr. Grant to atone for it. Jen is twenty-six, and Stillwater is next
door to our place!

As for me, I was so vexed that I might as well have been eating chips
for all the good that Nesselrode pudding was to me. If Sidney Elliot
were coming home everything would be spoiled. There would be no more
ramblings in the Stillwater woods, no more delightful skating on the
Stillwater lake. Stillwater has been the only place in the world where
I could find the full joy of solitude, and now this, too, was to be
taken from me. We had no woods, no lake. I hated Sidney Elliot.

It is ten years since Sidney Elliot closed Stillwater and went abroad.
He has stayed abroad ever since and nobody has missed him, I'm sure. I
remember him dimly as a tall dark man who used to lounge about alone
in his garden and was always reading books. Sometimes he came into our
garden and teased us children. He is said to be a cynic and to detest
society. If this latter item be a fact I almost feel a grim pity for
him. He may detest it, but he will be dragged into it. Rich bachelors
are few and far between in Riverton, and the mammas will hunt him
down.

I feel like crying. If Sidney Elliot comes home I shall be debarred
from Stillwater. I have roamed its demesnes for ten beautiful years,
and I'm sure I love them a hundredfold better than he does, or can. It
is flagrantly unfair. Oh, I hate him!

       *       *       *       *       *

                                          January Twentieth.

No, I don't. I believe I like him. Yet it's almost unbelievable. I've
always thought men so detestable.

I'm tingling all over with the surprise and pleasure of a little
unexpected adventure. For the first time I have something really worth
writing in a diary ... and I'm glad I have a diary to write it in.
Blessings on Aunt Jemima! May her shadow never grow less.

This evening I started out for a last long lingering ramble in my
beloved Stillwater woods. The last, I thought, because I knew Sidney
Elliot was expected home next week, and after that I'd have to be
cooped up on our lawn. I dressed myself comfortably for climbing
fences and skimming over snowy wastes. That is, I put on the shortest
old tweed skirt I have and a red jacket with sleeves three years
behind the fashion, but jolly pockets to put your hands in, and a
still redder tam. Thus accoutred, I sallied forth.

It was such a lovely evening that I couldn't help enjoying myself in
spite of my sorrows. The sun was low and creamy, and the snow was so
white and the shadows so slender and blue. All through the lovely
Stillwater woods was a fine frosty stillness. It was splendid to skim
down those long wonderful avenues of crusted snow, with the mossy grey
boles on either hand, and overhead the lacing, leafless boughs, I
just drank in the air and the beauty until my very soul was thrilling,
and I went on and on and on until I was most delightfully lost. That
is, I didn't know just where I was, but the woods weren't so big but
that I'd be sure to come out safely somewhere; and, oh, it was so
glorious to be there all alone and never a creature to worry me.

At last I turned into a long aisle that seemed to lead right out into
the very heart of a deep-red overflowing winter sunset. At its end I
found a fence, and I climbed up on that fence and sat there, so
comfortably, with my back against a big beech and my feet dangling.

Then I saw him!

I knew it was Sidney Elliot in a moment. He was just as tall and just
as black-eyed; he was still given to lounging evidently, for he was
leaning against the fence a panel away from me and looking at me with
an amused smile. After my first mad impulse to rush away and bury
myself in the wilderness that smile put me at ease. If he had looked
grave or polite I would have been as miserably shy as I've always been
in a man's presence. But it was the smile of a grandfather for a
child, and I just grinned cheerfully back at him.

He ploughed along through the thick drift that was soft and spongy by
the fence and came close up to me.

"You must be little Cornelia," he said with another aged smile. "Or
rather, you _were_ little Cornelia. I suppose you are big Cornelia now
and want to be treated like a young lady?"

"Indeed, I don't," I protested. "I'm not grown up and I don't want to
be. You are Mr. Elliot, I suppose. Nobody expected you till next week.
What made you come so soon?"

"A whim of mine," he said. "I'm full of whims and crotchets. Old
bachelors always are. But why did you ask that question in a tone
which seemed to imply that you resented my coming so soon, Miss
Cornelia?"

"Oh, don't tack the Miss on," I implored. "Call me Cornelia ... or
better still, Nic, as Dad does. I _do_ resent your coming so soon. I
resent your coming at all. And, oh, it is such a satisfaction to tell
you so."

He smiled with his eyes ... a deep, black, velvety smile. But he shook
his head sorrowfully.

"I must be getting very old," he said. "It's a sign of age when a
person finds himself unwelcome and superfluous."

"Your age has nothing to do with it," I retorted. "It is because
Stillwater is the only place I have to run wild in ... and running
wild is all I'm fit for. It's so lovely and roomy I can lose myself in
it. I shall die or go mad if I'm cooped up on our little pocket
handkerchief of a lawn."

"But why should you be?" he inquired gravely.

I reflected ... and was surprised.

"After all, I don't know ... now ... why I should be," I admitted. "I
thought you wouldn't want me prowling about your domains. Besides, I
was afraid I'd meet you ... and I don't like meeting men. I hate to
have them around ... I'm so shy and awkward."

"Do you find me very dreadful?" he asked.

I reflected again ... and was again surprised.

"No, I don't. I don't mind you a bit ... any more than if you were
Dad."

"Then you mustn't consider yourself an exile from Stillwater. The
woods are yours to roam in at will, and if you want to roam them alone
you may, and if you'd like a companion once in a while command me.
Let's be good friends, little lass. Shake hands on it."

I slipped down from the fence and shook hands with him. I did like him
very much ... he was so nice and unaffected and brotherly ... just as
if I'd known him all my life. We walked down the long white avenue,
where everything was growing dusky, and I had told him all my troubles
before we got to the end of it. He was so sympathetic and agreed with
me that it was a pity people had to grow up. He promised to come over
tomorrow and look at Don's leg. Don is one of my dogs, and he has got
a bad leg. I've been doctoring it myself, but it doesn't get any
better. Sidney thinks he can cure it. He says I must call him Sidney
if I want him to call me Nic.

When we got to the lake, there it lay all gleaming and smooth as glass
... the most tempting thing.

"What a glorious possible slide," he said. "Let us have it, little
lass."

He took my hand and we ran down the slope and went skimming over the
ice. It _was_ glorious. The house came in sight as we reached the
other side. It was big and dark and silent.

"So the old place is still standing," said Sidney, looking up at it.
In the dusk I thought his face had a tender, reverent look instead of
the rather mocking expression it had worn all along.

"Haven't you been there yet?" I asked quickly.

"No. I'm stopping at the hotel over in Croyden. The house will need
some fixing up before it's fit to live in. I just came down tonight to
look at it and took a short cut through the woods. I'm glad I did. It
was worth while to see you come tramping down that long white avenue
when you thought yourself alone with the silence. I thought I had
never seen a child so full of the pure joy of existence. Hold fast to
that, little lass, as long as you can. You'll never find anything to
take its place after it goes. You jolly little child!"

"I'm eighteen," I said suddenly. I don't know what made me say it.

He laughed and pulled his coat collar up around his ears.

"Never," he mocked. "You're about twelve ... stay twelve, and always
wear red caps and jackets, you vivid thing: Good night."

He was off across the lake, and I came home. Yes, I do like him, even
if he is a man.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                         February Twentieth.

I've found out what diaries are for ... to work off blue moods in,
moods that come on without any reason whatever and therefore can't be
confided to any fellow creature. You scribble away for a while ... and
then it's all gone ... and your soul feels clear as crystal once more.

I always go to Sidney now in a blue mood that has a real cause. He can
cheer me up in five minutes. But in such a one as this, which is quite
unaccountable, there's nothing for it but a diary.

Sidney has been living at Stillwater for a month. It seems as if he
must have lived there always.

He came to our place the next day after I met him in the woods.
Everybody made a fuss over him, but he shook them off with an ease I
envied and whisked me out to see Don's leg. He has fixed it up so that
it is as good as new now, and the dogs like him almost better than
they like me.

We have had splendid times since then. We are just the jolliest chums
and we tramp about everywhere together and go skating and snowshoeing
and riding. We read a lot of books together too, and Sidney always
explains everything I don't understand. I'm not a bit shy and I can
always find plenty to say to him. He isn't at all like any other man I
know.

Everybody likes him, but the women seem to be a little afraid of him.
They say he is so terribly cynical and satirical. He goes into society
a good bit, although he says it bores him. He says he only goes
because it would bore him worse to stay home alone.

There's only one thing about Sidney that I hardly like. I think he
rather overdoes it in the matter of treating me as if I were a little
girl. Of course, I don't want him to look upon me as grown up. But
there is a medium in all things, and he really needn't talk as if he
thought I was a child of ten and had no earthly interest in anything
but sports and dogs. These _are_ the best things ... I suppose ... but
I understand lots of other things too, only I can't convince Sidney
that I do. I know he is laughing at me when I try to show him I'm not
so childish as he thinks me. He's indulgent and whimsical, just as he
would be with a little girl who was making believe to be grown up.
Perhaps next winter, when I put on long dresses and come out, he'll
stop regarding me as a child. But next winter is so horribly far off.

The day we were fussing with Don's leg I told Sidney that Mother said
I'd have to be grown up next winter and how I hated it, and I made him
promise that when the time came he would use all his influence to beg
me off for another year. He said he would, because it was a shame to
worry children about society. But somehow I've concluded not to bother
making a fuss. I have to come out some time, and I might as well take
the plunge and get it over.

Mrs. Burnett was here this evening fixing up some arrangements for a
charity bazaar she and Jen are interested in, and she talked most of
the time about Sidney ... for Jen's benefit, I suppose, although Jen
and Sid don't get on at all. They fight every time they meet, so I
don't see why Mrs. Burnett should think things.

"I wonder what he'll do when Mrs. Rennie comes to the Glasgows' next
month," said Mrs. Burnett.

"Why should he do anything?" asked Jen.

"Oh, well, you know there was something between them ... an
understanding if not an engagement ... before she married Rennie. They
met abroad ... my sister told me all about it ... and Mr. Elliot was
quite infatuated with her. She was a very handsome and fascinating
girl. Then she threw him over and married old Jacob Rennie ... for his
millions, of course, for he certainly had nothing else to recommend
him. Amy says Mr. Elliot was never the same man again. But Jacob died
obligingly two years ago and Mrs. Rennie is free now; so I dare say
they'll make it up. No doubt that is why she is coming to Riverton.
Well, it would be a very suitable match."

I'm so glad I never liked Mrs. Burnett.

I wonder if it is true that Sidney did care for that horrid woman ...
of course she is horrid! Didn't she marry an old man for his money?...
and cares for her still. It is no business of mine, of course, and it
doesn't matter to me at all. But I rather hope he doesn't ... because
it would spoil everything if he got married. He wouldn't have time to
be chums with me then.

I don't know why I feel so dull tonight. Writing in this diary doesn't
seem to have helped me as much as I thought it would, either. I dare
say it's the weather. It must be the weather. It is a wet, windy night
and the rain is thudding against the window. I hate rainy nights.

I wonder if Mrs. Rennie is really as handsome as Mrs. Burnett says. I
wonder how old she is. I wonder if she ever cared for Sidney ... no,
she didn't. No woman who cared for Sidney could ever have thrown him
over for an old moneybag. I wonder if I shall like her. No, I won't.
I'm sure I shan't like her.

My head is aching and I'm going to bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                March Tenth.

Mrs. Rennie was here to dinner tonight. My head was aching again, and
Mother said I needn't go down to dinner if I'd rather not; but a dozen
headaches could not have kept me back, or a dozen men either, even
supposing I'd have to talk to them all. I wanted to see Mrs. Rennie.
Nothing has been talked of in Riverton for the last fortnight but Mrs.
Rennie. I've heard of her beauty and charm and costumes until I'm sick
of the subject. Today I spoke to Sidney about her. Before I thought I
said right out, "Mrs. Rennie is to dine with us tonight."

"Yes?" he said in a quiet voice.

"I'm dying to see her," I went on recklessly. "I've heard so much
about her. They say she's so beautiful and fascinating. _Is_ she?
_You_ ought to know."

Sidney swung the sled around and put it in position for another coast.

"Yes, I know her," he admitted tranquilly. "She is a very handsome
woman, and I suppose most people would consider her fascinating. Come,
Nic, get on the sled. We have just time for one more coast, and then
you must go in."

"You were once a good friend ... a very good friend ... of Mrs.
Rennie's, weren't you, Sid?" I said.

A little mocking gleam crept into his eyes, and I instantly realized
that he was looking upon me as a rather impertinent child.

"You've been listening to gossip, Nic," he said. "It's a bad habit,
child. Don't let it grow on you. Come."

I went, feeling crushed and furious and ashamed.

I knew her at once when I went down to the drawing-room. There were
three other strange women there, but I knew she was the only one who
could be Mrs. Rennie. I felt such a horrible queer sinking feeling at
my heart when I saw her. Oh, she was beautiful ... I had never seen
anyone so beautiful. And Sidney was standing beside her, talking to
her, with a smile on his face, but none in his eyes ... I noticed
_that_ at a glance.

She was so tall and slender and willowy. Her dress was wonderful, and
her bare throat and shoulders were like pearls. Her hair was pale,
pale gold, and her eyes long-lashed and sweet, and her mouth like a
scarlet blossom against her creamy face. I thought of how I must look
beside her ... an awkward little girl in a short skirt with my hair in
a braid and too many hands and feet, and I would have given anything
then to be tall and grown-up and graceful.

I watched her all the evening and the queer feeling in me somewhere
grew worse and worse. I couldn't eat anything. Sidney took Mrs. Rennie
in; they sat opposite to me and talked all the time.

I was so glad when the dinner was over and everybody gone. The first
thing I did when I escaped to my room was to go to the glass and look
myself over just as critically and carefully as if I were somebody
else. I saw a great rope of dark brown hair ... a brown skin with red
cheeks ... a big red mouth ... a pair of grey eyes. That was all. And
when I thought of that shimmering witch woman with her white skin and
shining hair I wanted to put out the light and cry in the dark. Only
I've never cried since I was a child and broke my last doll, and I've
got so out of the habit that I don't know how to go about it.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                April Fifth.

Aunt Jemima would not think I was getting the good out of my diary. A
whole month and not a word! But there was nothing to write, and I've
felt too miserable to write if there had been. I don't know what is
the matter with me. I'm just cross and horrid to everyone, even to
poor Sidney.

Mrs. Rennie has been queening it in Riverton society for the past
month. People rave over her and I admire her horribly, although I
don't like her. Mrs. Burnett says that a match between her and Sidney
Elliot is a foregone conclusion.

It's plain to be seen that Mrs. Rennie loves Sidney. Even I can see
that, and I don't know much about such things. But it puzzles me to
know how Sidney regards her. I have never thought he showed any sign
of really caring for her. But then, he isn't the kind that would.

"Nic, I wonder if you will ever grow up," he said to me today,
laughing, when he caught me racing over the lawn with the dogs.

"I'm grown up now," I said crossly. "Why, I'm eighteen and a half and
I'm two inches taller than any of the other girls."

Sidney laughed, as if he were heartily amused at something.

"You're a blessed baby," he said, "and the dearest, truest, jolliest
little chum ever a fellow had. I don't know what I'd do without you,
Nic. You keep me sane and wholesome. I'm a tenfold better man for
knowing you, little girl."

I was rather pleased. It was nice to think I was some good to Sidney.

"Are you going to the Trents' dinner tonight?" I asked.

"Yes," he said briefly.

"Mrs. Rennie will be there," I said.

Sidney nodded.

"Do you think her so very handsome, Sidney?" I said. I had never
mentioned Mrs. Rennie to him since the day we were coasting, and I
didn't mean to now. The question just asked itself.

"Yes, very; but not as handsome as you will be ten years from now,
Nic," said Sidney lightly.

"Do you think I'm handsome, Sidney?" I cried.

"You will be when you're grown up," he answered, looking at me
critically.

"Will you be going to Mrs. Greaves' reception after the dinner?" I
asked.

"Yes, I suppose so," said Sidney absently. I could see he wasn't
thinking of me at all. I wondered if he were thinking of Mrs. Rennie.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                April Sixth.

Oh, something so wonderful has happened. I can hardly believe it.
There are moments when I quake with the fear that it is all a dream. I
wonder if I can really be the same Cornelia Marshall I was yesterday.
No, I'm _not_ the same ... and the difference is so blessed.

Oh, I'm so happy! My heart bubbles over with happiness and song. It's
so wonderful and lovely to be a woman and know it and know that other
people know it.

You dear diary, you were made for this moment ... I shall write all
about it in you and so fulfil your destiny. And then I shall put you
away and never write anything more in you, because I shall not need
you ... I shall have Sidney.

Last night I was all alone in the house ... and I was so lonely and
miserable. I put my chin on my hands and I thought ... and thought ...
and thought. I imagined Sidney at the Greaves', talking to Mrs. Rennie
with that velvety smile in his eyes. I could see her, graceful and
white, in her trailing, clinging gown, with diamonds about her smooth
neck and in her hair. I suddenly wondered what I would look like in
evening dress with my hair up. I wondered if Sidney would like me in
it.

All at once I got up and rushed to Sue's room. I lighted the gas,
rummaged, and went to work. I piled my hair on top of my head, pinned
it there, and thrust a long silver dagger through it to hold a couple
of pale white roses she had left on her table. Then I put on her last
winter's party dress. It was such a pretty pale yellow thing, with
touches of black lace, and it didn't matter about its being a little
old-fashioned, since it fitted me like a glove. Finally I stepped back
and looked at myself.

I saw a woman in that glass ... a tall, straight creature with crimson
cheeks and glowing eyes ... and the thought in my mind was so
insistent that it said itself aloud: "Oh, I wish Sidney could see me
now!"

At that very moment the maid knocked at the door to tell me that Mr.
Elliot was downstairs asking for me. I did not hesitate a second. With
my heart beating wildly I trailed downstairs to Sidney.

He was standing by the fireplace when I went in, and looked very
tired. When he heard me he turned his head and our eyes met.

All at once a terrible thing happened ... at least, I thought it a
terrible thing then. _I knew why I had wanted Sidney to realize that
I was no longer a child._ It was because I loved him! I knew it the
moment I saw that strange, new expression leap into his eyes.

"Cornelia," he said in a stunned sort of voice. "Why ... Nic ... why,
little girl ... you're a woman! How blind I've been! And now I've lost
my little chum."

"Oh, no, no," I said wildly. I was so miserable and confused I didn't
know what I said. "Never, Sidney. I'd rather be a little girl and have
you for a friend ... I'll always be a little girl! It's all this
hateful dress. I'll go and take it off ... I'll...."

And then I just put my hands up to my burning face and the tears that
would never come before came in a flood.

All at once I felt Sidney's arms about me and felt my head drawn to
his shoulder.

"Don't cry, dearest," I heard him say softly. "You can never be a
little girl to me again ... my eyes are opened ... but I didn't want
you to be. I want you to be my big girl ... mine, all mine, forever."

What happened after that isn't to be written in a diary. I won't even
write down the things he said about how I looked, because it would
seem so terribly vain, but I can't help thinking of them, for I am so
happy.



The Old Fellow's Letter


Ruggles and I were down on the Old Fellow. It doesn't matter why and,
since in a story of this kind we must tell the truth no matter what
happens--or else where is the use of writing a story at all?--I'll
have to confess that we had deserved all we got and that the Old
Fellow did no more than his duty by us. Both Ruggles and I see that
now, since we have had time to cool off, but at the moment we were in
a fearful wax at the Old Fellow and were bound to hatch up something
to get even with him.

Of course, the Old Fellow had another name, just as Ruggles has
another name. He is principal of the Frampton Academy--the Old Fellow,
not Ruggles--and his name is George Osborne. We have to call him Mr.
Osborne to his face, but he is the Old Fellow everywhere else. He is
quite old--thirty-six if he's a day, and whatever possessed Sylvia
Grant--but there, I'm getting ahead of my story.

Most of the Cads like the Old Fellow. Even Ruggles and I like him on
the average. The girls are always a little provoked at him because he
is so shy and absent-minded, but when it comes to the point, they like
him too. I heard Emma White say once that he was "so handsome"; I
nearly whooped. Ruggles was mad because he's gone on Em. For the idea
of calling a thin, pale, dark, dreamy-looking chap like the Old Fellow
"handsome" was more than I could stand without guffawing. Em probably
said it to provoke Ruggles; she couldn't really have thought it.
"Micky," the English professor, now--if she had called him handsome
there would have been some sense in it. He is splendid: big six-footer
with magnificent muscles, red cheeks, and curly yellow hair. I can't
see how he can be contented to sit down and teach mushy English
literature and poetry and that sort of thing. It would have been more
in keeping with the Old Fellow. There was a rumour running at large in
the Academy that the Old Fellow wrote poetry, but he ran the
mathematics and didn't make such a foozle of it as you might suppose,
either.

Ruggles and I meant to get square with the Old Fellow, if it took all
the term; at least, we said so. But if Providence hadn't sent Sylvia
Grant walking down the street past our boarding house that afternoon,
we should probably have cooled off before we thought of any working
plan of revenge.

Sylvia Grant did go down the street, however. Ruggles, hanging halfway
out of the window as usual, saw her, and called me to go and look. Of
course I went. Sylvia Grant was always worth looking at. There was no
girl in Frampton who could hold a candle to her when it came to
beauty. As for brains, that is another thing altogether. My private
opinion is that Sylvia hadn't any, or she would never have
preferred--but there, I'm getting on too fast again. Ruggles should
have written this story; he can concentrate better.

Sylvia was the Latin professor's daughter; she wasn't a Cad girl, of
course. She was over twenty and had graduated from it two years ago,
but she was in all the social things that went on in the Academy; and
all the unmarried professors, except the Old Fellow, were in love with
her. Micky had it the worst, and we had all made up our minds that
Sylvia would marry Micky. He was so handsome, we didn't see how she
could help it. I tell you, they made a dandy-looking couple when they
were together.

Well, as I said before, I toddled to the window to have a look at the
fair Sylvia. She was all togged out in some new fall duds, and I guess
she'd come out to show them off. They were brownish, kind of, and
she'd a spanking hat on with feathers and things in it. Her hair was
shining under it, all purply-black, and she looked sweet enough to
eat. Then she saw Ruggles and me and she waved her hand and laughed,
and her big blackish-blue eyes sparkled; but she hadn't been laughing
before, or sparkling either.

I'd thought she looked kind of glum, and I wondered if she and Micky
had had a falling out. I rather suspected it, for at the Senior Prom,
three nights before, she had hardly looked at Micky, but had sat in a
corner and talked to the Old Fellow. He didn't do much talking; he was
too shy, and he looked mighty uncomfortable. I thought it kind of mean
of Sylvia to torment him so, when she knew he hated to have to talk to
girls, but when I saw Micky scowling at the corner, I knew she was
doing it to make him jealous. Girls won't stick at anything when they
want to provoke a chap; I know it to my cost, for Jennie Price--but
that has nothing to do with this story.

Just across the square Sylvia met the Old Fellow and bowed. He lifted
his hat and passed on, but after a few steps he turned and looked
back; he caught Sylvia doing the same thing, so he wheeled and came
on, looking mighty foolish. As he passed beneath our window Ruggles
chuckled fiendishly.

"I've thought of something, Polly," he said--my name is Paul. "Bet you
it will make the Old Fellow squirm. Let's write a letter to Sylvia
Grant--a love letter--and sign the Old Fellow's name to it. She'll
give him a fearful snubbing, and we'll be revenged."

"But who'll write it?" I said doubtfully. "I can't. You'll have to,
Ruggles. You've had more practice."

Ruggles turned red. I know he writes to Em White in vacations.

"I'll do my best," he said, quite meekly. "That is, I'll compose it.
But you'll have to copy it. You can imitate the Old Fellow's
handwriting so well."

"But look here," I said, an uncomfortable idea striking me, "what
about Sylvia? Won't she feel kind of flattish when she finds out he
didn't write it? For of course he'll tell her. We haven't anything
against her, you know."

"Oh, Sylvia won't care," said Ruggles serenely. "She's the sort of
girl who can take a joke. I've seen her eyes shine over tricks we've
played on the professors before now. She'll just laugh. Besides, she
doesn't like the Old Fellow a bit. I know from the way she acts with
him. She's always so cool and stiff when he's about, not a bit like
she is with the other professors."

Well, Ruggles wrote the letter. At first he tried to pass it off on me
as his own composition. But I know a few little things, and one of
them is that Ruggles couldn't have made up that letter any more than
he could have written a sonnet. I told him so, and made him own up. He
had a copy of an old letter that had been written to his sister by her
young man. I suppose Ruggles had stolen it, but there is no use
inquiring too closely into these things. Anyhow, that letter just
filled the bill. It was beautifully expressed. Ruggles's sister's
young man must have possessed lots of ability. He was an English
professor, something like Micky, so I suppose he was extra good at it.
He started in by telling her how much he loved her, and what an angel
of beauty and goodness he had always thought her; how unworthy he felt
himself of her and how little hope he had that she could ever care for
him; and he wound up by imploring her to tell him if she could
possibly love him a little bit and all that sort of thing.

I copied the letter out on heliotrope paper in my best imitation of
the Old Fellow's handwriting and signed it, "Yours devotedly and
imploringly, George Osborne." Then we mailed it that very evening.

The next evening the Cad girls gave a big reception in the Assembly
Hall to an Academy alumna who was visiting the Greek professor's wife.
It was the smartest event of the term and everybody was
there--students and faculty and, of course, Sylvia Grant. Sylvia
looked stunning. She was all in white, with a string of pearls about
her pretty round throat and a couple of little pink roses in her black
hair. I never saw her so smiling and bright; but she seemed quieter
than usual, and avoided poor Micky so skilfully that it was really a
pleasure to watch her. The Old Fellow came in late, with his tie all
crooked, as it always was; I saw Sylvia blush and nudged Ruggles to
look.

"She's thinking of the letter," he said.

Ruggles and I never meant to listen, upon my word we didn't. It was
pure accident. We were in behind the flags and palms in the Modern
Languages Room, fixing up a plan how to get Em and Jennie off for a
moonlit stroll in the grounds--these things require diplomacy I can
tell you, for there are always so many other fellows hanging
about--when in came Sylvia Grant and the Old Fellow arm in arm. The
room was quite empty, or they thought it was, and they sat down just
on the other side of the flags. They couldn't see us, but we could see
them quite plainly. Sylvia still looked smiling and happy, not a bit
mad as we had expected, but just kind of shy and radiant. As for the
Old Fellow, he looked, as Em White would say, as Sphinx-like as ever.
I'd defy any man alive to tell from the Old Fellow's expression what
he was thinking about or what he felt like at any time.

Then all at once Sylvia said softly, with her eyes cast down, "I
received your letter, Mr. Osborne."

Any other man in the world would have jumped, or said, "My letter!!!"
or shown surprise in some way. But the Old Fellow has a nerve. He
looked sideways at Sylvia for a moment and then he said kind of drily,
"Ah, did you?"

"Yes," said Sylvia, not much above a whisper. "It--it surprised me
very much. I never supposed that you--you cared for me in that way."

"Can you tell me how I could help caring?" said the Old Fellow in the
strangest way. His voice actually trembled.

"I--I don't think I would tell you if I knew," said Sylvia, turning
her head away. "You see--I don't want you to help caring."

"Sylvia!"

You never saw such a transformation as came over the Old Fellow. His
eyes just blazed, but his face went white. He bent forward and took
her hand.

"Sylvia, do you mean that you--you actually care a little for me,
dearest? Oh, Sylvia, do you mean that?"

"Of course I do," said Sylvia right out. "I've always cared--ever
since I was a little girl coming here to school and breaking my heart
over mathematics, although I hated them, just to be in your class.
Why--why--I've treasured up old geometry exercises you wrote out for
me just because you wrote them. But I thought I could never make you
care for me. I was the happiest girl in the world when your letter
came today."

"Sylvia," said the Old Fellow, "I've loved you for years. But I never
dreamed that you could care for me. I thought it quite useless to tell
you of my love--before. Will you--can you be my wife, darling?"

At this point Ruggles and I differ as to what came next. He asserts
that Sylvia turned square around and kissed the Old Fellow. But I'm
sure she just turned her face and gave him a look and then he kissed
her.

Anyhow, there they both were, going on at the silliest rate about how
much they loved each other and how the Old Fellow thought she loved
Micky and all that sort of thing. It was awful. I never thought the
Old Fellow or Sylvia either could be so spooney. Ruggles and I would
have given anything on earth to be out of that. We knew we'd no
business to be there and we felt as foolish as flatfish. It was a
tremendous relief when the Old Fellow and Sylvia got up at last and
trailed away, both of them looking idiotically happy.

"Well, did you ever?" said Ruggles.

It was a girl's exclamation, but nothing else would have expressed his
feelings.

"No, I never," I said. "To think that Sylvia Grant should be sweet on
the Old Fellow when she could have Micky! It passes comprehension. Did
she--did she really promise to marry him, Ruggles?"

"She did," said Ruggles gloomily. "But, I say, isn't that Old Fellow
game? Tumbled to the trick in a jiff; never let on but what he wrote
the letter, never will let on, I bet. Where does the joke come in,
Polly, my boy?"

"It's on us," I said, "but nobody will know of it if we hold our
tongues. We'll have to hold them anyhow, for Sylvia's sake, since
she's been goose enough to go and fall in love with the Old Fellow.
She'd go wild if she ever found out the letter was a hoax. We have
made that match, Ruggles. He'd never have got up enough spunk to tell
her he wanted her, and she'd probably have married Micky out of
spite."

"Well, you know the Old Fellow isn't a bad sort after all," said
Ruggles, "and he's really awfully gone on her. So it's all right.
Let's go and find the girls."



The Parting of The Ways


Mrs. Longworth crossed the hotel piazza, descended the steps, and
walked out of sight down the shore road with all the grace of motion
that lent distinction to her slightest movement. Her eyes were very
bright, and an unusual flush stained the pallor of her cheek. Two men
who were lounging in one corner of the hotel piazza looked admiringly
after her.

"She is a beautiful woman," said one.

"Wasn't there some talk about Mrs. Longworth and Cunningham last
winter?" asked the other.

"Yes. They were much together. Still, there may have been nothing
wrong. She was old Judge Carmody's daughter, you know. Longworth got
Carmody under his thumb in money matters and put the screws on. They
say he made Carmody's daughter the price of the old man's redemption.
The girl herself was a mere child, I shall never forget her face on
her wedding day. But she's been plucky since then, I must say. If she
has suffered, she hasn't shown it. I don't suppose Longworth ever
ill-treats her. He isn't that sort. He's simply a grovelling
cad--that's all. Nobody would sympathise much with the poor devil if
his wife did run off with Cunningham."

Meanwhile, Beatrice Longworth walked quickly down the shore road, her
white skirt brushing over the crisp golden grasses by the way. In a
sunny hollow among the sandhills she came upon Stephen Gordon,
sprawled out luxuriously in the warm, sea-smelling grasses. The youth
sprang to his feet at sight of her, and his big brown eyes kindled to
a glow.

Mrs. Longworth smiled to him. They had been great friends all summer.
He was a lanky, overgrown lad of fifteen or sixteen, odd and shy and
dreamy, scarcely possessing a speaking acquaintance with others at the
hotel. But he and Mrs. Longworth had been congenial from their first
meeting. In many ways, he was far older than his years, but there was
a certain inerradicable boyishness about him to which her heart
warmed.

"You are the very person I was just going in search of. I've news to
tell. Sit down."

He spoke eagerly, patting the big gray boulder beside him with his
slim, brown hand. For a moment Beatrice hesitated. She wanted to be
alone just then. But his clever, homely face was so appealing that she
yielded and sat down.

Stephen flung himself down again contentedly in the grasses at her
feet, pillowing his chin in his palms and looking up at her,
adoringly.

"You are so beautiful, dear lady. I love to look at you. Will you tilt
that hat a little more over the left eye-brow? Yes--so--some day I
shall paint you."

His tone and manner were all simplicity.

"When you are a great artist," said Beatrice, indulgently.

He nodded.

"Yes, I mean to be that. I've told you all my dreams, you know. Now
for my news. I'm going away to-morrow. I had a telegram from father
to-day."

He drew the message from his pocket and flourished it up at her.

"I'm to join him in Europe at once. He is in Rome. Think of it--in
Rome! I'm to go on with my art studies there. And I leave to-morrow."

"I'm glad--and I'm sorry--and you know which is which," said Beatrice,
patting the shaggy brown head. "I shall miss you dreadfully, Stephen."

"We _have_ been splendid chums, haven't we?" he said, eagerly.

Suddenly his face changed. He crept nearer to her, and bowed his head
until his lips almost touched the hem of her dress.

"I'm glad you came down to-day," he went on in a low, diffident voice.
"I want to tell you something, and I can tell it better here. I
couldn't go away without thanking you. I'll make a mess of it--I can
never explain things. But you've been so much to me--you mean so much
to me. You've made me believe in things I never believed in before.
You--you--I know now that there is such a thing as a good woman, a
woman who could make a man better, just because he breathed the same
air with her."

He paused for a moment; then went on in a still lower tone:

"It's hard when a fellow can't speak of his mother because he can't
say anything good of her, isn't it? My mother wasn't a good woman.
When I was eight years old she went away with a scoundrel. It broke
father's heart. Nobody thought I understood, I was such a little
fellow. But I did. I heard them talking. I knew she had brought shame
and disgrace on herself and us. And I had loved her so! Then, somehow,
as I grew up, it was my misfortune that all the women I had to do with
were mean and base. They were hirelings, and I hated and feared them.
There was an aunt of mine--she tried to be good to me in her way. But
she told me a lie, and I never cared for her after I found it out. And
then, father--we loved each other and were good chums. But he didn't
believe in much either. He was bitter, you know. He said all women
were alike. I grew up with that notion. I didn't care much for
anything--nothing seemed worth while. Then I came here and met you."

He paused again. Beatrice had listened with a gray look on her face.
It would have startled him had he glanced up, but he did not, and
after a moment's silence the halting boyish voice went on:

"You have changed everything for me. I was nothing but a clod before.
You are not the mother of my body, but you are of my soul. It was
born of you. I shall always love and reverence you for it. You will
always be my ideal. If I ever do anything worth while it will be
because of you. In everything I shall ever attempt I shall try to do
it as if you were to pass judgment upon it. You will be a lifelong
inspiration to me. Oh, I am bungling this! I can't tell you what I
feel--you are so pure, so good, so noble! I shall reverence all women
for your sake henceforth."

"And if," said Beatrice, in a very low voice, "if I were false to your
ideal of me--if I were to do anything that would destroy your faith in
me--something weak or wicked--"

"But you couldn't," he interrupted, flinging up his head and looking
at her with his great dog-like eyes, "you couldn't!"

"But if I could?" she persisted, gently, "and if I did--what then?"

"I should hate you," he said, passionately. "You would be worse than a
murderess. You would kill every good impulse and belief in me. I would
never trust anything or anybody again--but there," he added, his voice
once more growing tender, "you will never fail me, I feel sure of
that."

"Thank you," said Beatrice, almost in a whisper. "Thank you," she
repeated, after a moment. She stood up and held out her hand. "I think
I must go now. Good-bye, dear laddie. Write to me from Rome. I shall
always be glad to hear from you wherever you are. And--and--I shall
always try to live up to your ideal of me, Stephen."

He sprang to his feet and took her hand, lifting it to his lips with
boyish reverence. "I know that," he said, slowly. "Good-bye, my sweet
lady."

When Mrs. Longworth found herself in her room again, she unlocked her
desk and took out a letter. It was addressed to Mr. Maurice
Cunningham. She slowly tore it twice across, laid the fragments on a
tray, and touched them with a lighted match. As they blazed up one
line came out in writhing redness across the page: "I will go away
with you as you ask." Then it crumbled into gray ashes.

She drew a long breath and hid her face in her hands.



The Promissory Note


Ernest Duncan swung himself off the platform of David White's store
and walked whistling up the street. Life seemed good to Ernest just
then. Mr. White had given him a rise in salary that day, and had told
him that he was satisfied with him. Mr. White was not easy to please
in the matter of clerks, and it had been with fear and trembling that
Ernest had gone into his store six months before. He had thought
himself fortunate to secure such a chance. His father had died the
preceding year, leaving nothing in the way of worldly goods except the
house he had lived in. For several years before his death he had been
unable to do much work, and the finances of the little family had
dwindled steadily. After his father's death Ernest, who had been going
to school and expecting to go to college, found that he must go to
work at once instead to support himself and his mother.

If George Duncan had not left much of worldly wealth behind him, he at
least bequeathed to his son the interest of a fine, upright character
and a reputation for honesty and integrity. None knew this better than
David White, and it was on this account that he took Ernest as his
clerk, over the heads of several other applicants who seemed to have a
stronger "pull."

"I don't know anything about _you_, Ernest," he said bluntly. "You're
only sixteen, and you may not have an ounce of real grit or worth in
you. But it will be a queer thing if your father's son hasn't. I knew
him all his life. A better man never lived nor, before his accident, a
smarter one. I'll give his son a chance, anyhow. If you take after
your dad you'll get on all right."

Ernest had not been in the store very long before Mr. White concluded,
with a gratified chuckle, that he did take after his father. He was
hard-working, conscientious, and obliging. Customers of all sorts,
from the rough fishermen who came up from the harbour to the old
Irishwomen from the back country roads, liked him. Mr. White was
satisfied. He was beginning to grow old. This lad had the makings of a
good partner in him by and by. No hurry; he must serves long
apprenticeship first and prove his mettle; no use spoiling him by
hinting at future partnerships before need was. That would all come in
due time. David White was a shrewd man.

Ernest was unconscious of his employer's plans regarding him; but he
knew that he stood well with him and, much to his surprise, he found
that he liked the work, and was beginning to take a personal interest
and pleasure in the store. Hence, he went home to tea on this
particular afternoon with buoyant step and smiling eyes. It was a good
world, and he was glad to be alive in it, glad to have work to do and
a dear little mother to work for. Most of the folks who met him smiled
in friendly fashion at the bright-eyed, frank-faced lad. Only old
Jacob Patterson scowled grimly as he passed him, emitting merely a
surly grunt in response to Ernest's greeting. But then, old Jacob
Patterson was noted as much for his surliness as for his miserliness.
Nobody had ever heard him speak pleasantly to anyone; therefore his
unfriendliness did not at all dash Ernest's high spirits.

"I'm sorry for him," the lad thought. "He has no interest in life save
accumulating money. He has no other pleasure or affection or ambition.
When he dies I don't suppose a single regret will follow him. Father
died a poor man, but what love and respect went with him to his
grave--aye, and beyond it. Jacob Patterson, I'm sorry for you. You
have chosen the poorer part, and you are a poor man in spite of your
thousands."

Ernest and his mother lived up on the hill, at the end of the
straggling village street. The house was a small, old-fashioned one,
painted white, set in the middle of a small but beautiful lawn. George
Duncan, during the last rather helpless years of his life, had devoted
himself to the cultivation of flowers, shrubs, and trees and, as a
result, his lawn was the prettiest in Conway. Ernest worked hard in
his spare moments to keep it looking as well as in his father's
lifetime, for he loved his little home dearly, and was proud of its
beauty.

He ran gaily into the sitting-room.

"Tea ready, lady mother? I'm hungry as a wolf. Good news gives one an
appetite. Mr. White has raised my salary a couple of dollars per week.
We must celebrate the event somehow this evening. What do you say to a
sail on the river and an ice cream at Taylor's afterwards? When a
little woman can't outlive her schoolgirl hankering for ice
cream--why, Mother, what's the matter? Mother, dear!"

Mrs. Duncan had been standing before the window with her back to the
room when Ernest entered. When she turned he saw that she had been
crying.

"Oh, Ernest," she said brokenly, "Jacob Patterson has just been
here--and he says--he says--"

"What has that old miser been saying to trouble you?" demanded Ernest
angrily, taking her hands in his.

"He says he holds your father's promissory note for nine hundred
dollars, overdue for several years," answered Mrs. Duncan. "Yes--and
he showed me the note, Ernest."

"Father's promissory note for nine hundred!" exclaimed Ernest in
bewilderment. "But Father paid that note to James Patterson five years
ago, Mother--just before his accident. Didn't you tell me he did?"

"Yes, he did," said Mrs. Duncan, "but--"

"Then where is it?" interrupted Ernest. "Father would keep the
receipted note, of course. We must look among his papers."

"You won't find it there, Ernest. We--we don't know where the note is.
It--it was lost."

"Lost! That is unfortunate. But you say that Jacob Patterson showed
you a promissory note of Father's still in existence? How can that be?
It can't possibly be the note he paid. And there couldn't have been
another note we knew nothing of?"

"I understand how this note came to be in Jacob Patterson's
possession," said Mrs. Duncan more firmly, "but he laughed in my face
when I told him. I must tell you the whole story, Ernest. But sit down
and get your tea first."

"I haven't any appetite for tea now, Mother," said Ernest soberly.
"Let me hear the whole truth about the matter."

"Seven years ago your father gave his note to old James Patterson,
Jacob's brother," said Mrs. Duncan. "It was for nine hundred dollars.
Two years afterwards the note fell due and he paid James Patterson the
full amount with interest. I remember the day well. I have only too
good reason to. He went up to the Patterson place in the afternoon
with the money. It was a very hot day. James Patterson receipted the
note and gave it to your father. Your father always remembered that
much; he was also sure that he had the note with him when he left the
house. He then went over to see Paul Sinclair. A thunderstorm came up
while he was on the road. Then, as you know, Ernest, just as he turned
in at Paul Sinclair's gate the lightning flash struck and stunned him.
It was weeks before he came to himself at all. He never did come
completely to himself again. When, weeks afterwards, I thought of the
note and asked him about it, we could not find it; and, search as we
did, we never found it. Your father could never remember what he did
with it when he left James Patterson's. Neither Mr. Sinclair nor his
wife could recollect seeing anything of it at the time of the
accident. James Patterson had left for California the very morning
after, and he never came back. We did not worry much about the loss of
the note then; it did not seem of much moment, and your father was not
in a condition to be troubled about the matter."

"But, Mother, this note that Jacob Patterson holds--I don't understand
about this."

"I'm coming to that. I remember distinctly that on the evening when
your father came home after signing the note he said that James
Patterson drew up a note and he signed it, but just as he did so the
old man's pet cat, which was sitting on the table, upset an ink bottle
and the ink ran all over the table and stained one end of the note.
Old James Patterson was the fussiest man who ever lived, and a
stickler for neatness. 'Tut, tut,' he said, 'this won't do. Here, I'll
draw up another note and tear this blotted one up.' He did so and your
father signed it. He always supposed James Patterson destroyed the
first one, and certainly he must have intended to, for there never was
an honester man. But he must have neglected to do so for, Ernest, it
was that blotted note Jacob Patterson showed me today. He said he
found it among his brother's papers. I suppose it has been in the desk
up at the Patterson place ever since James went to California. He died
last winter and Jacob is his sole heir. Ernest, that note with the
compound interest on it for seven years amounts to over eleven hundred
dollars. How can we pay it?"

"I'm afraid that this is a very serious business, Mother," said
Ernest, rising and pacing the floor with agitated strides. "We shall
have to pay the note if we cannot find the other--and even if we
could, perhaps. Your story of the drawing up of the second note would
not be worth anything as evidence in a court of law--and we have
nothing to hope from Jacob Patterson's clemency. No doubt he believes
that he really holds Father's unpaid note. He is not a dishonest man;
in fact, he rather prides himself on having made all his money
honestly. He will exact every penny of the debt. The first thing to do
is to have another thorough search for the lost note--although I am
afraid that it is a forlorn hope."

A forlorn hope it proved to be. The note did not turn up. Old Jacob
Patterson proved obdurate. He laughed to scorn the tale of the blotted
note and, indeed, Ernest sadly admitted to himself that it was not a
story anybody would be in a hurry to believe.

"There's nothing for it but to sell our house and pay the debt,
Mother," he said at last. Ernest had grown old in the days that had
followed Jacob Patterson's demand. His boyish face was pale and
haggard. "Jacob Patterson will take the case into the law courts if we
don't settle at once. Mr. White offered to lend me the money on a
mortgage on the place, but I could never pay the interest out of my
salary when we have nothing else to live on. I would only get further
and further behind. I'm not afraid of hard work, but I dare not borrow
money with so little prospect of ever being able to repay it. We must
sell the place and rent that little four-roomed cottage of Mr. Percy's
down by the river to live in. Oh, Mother, it half kills me to think of
your being turned out of your home like this!"

It was a bitter thing for Mrs. Duncan also, but for Ernest's sake she
concealed her feelings and affected cheerfulness. The house and lot
were sold, Mr. White being the purchaser thereof; and Ernest and his
mother removed to the little riverside cottage with such of their
household belongings as had not also to be sold to make up the
required sum. Even then, Ernest had to borrow two hundred dollars from
Mr. White, and he foresaw that the repayal of this sum would cost him
much self-denial and privation. It would be necessary to cut their
modest expenses down severely. For himself Ernest did not mind, but it
hurt him keenly that his mother should lack the little luxuries and
comforts to which she had been accustomed. He saw too, in spite of her
efforts to hide it, that leaving her old home was a terrible blow to
her. Altogether, Ernest felt bitter and disheartened; his step lacked
spring and his face its smile. He did his work with dogged
faithfulness, but he no longer found pleasure in it. He knew that his
mother secretly pined after her lost home where she had gone as a
bride, and the knowledge rendered him very unhappy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Sinclair, his father's friend and cousin, died that winter,
leaving two small children. His wife had died the previous year. When
his business affairs came to be settled they were found to be sadly
involved. There were debts on all sides, and it was soon only too
evident that nothing was left for the little boys. They were homeless
and penniless.

"What will become of them, poor little fellows?" said Mrs. Duncan
pityingly. "We are their only relatives, Ernest. We must give them a
home at least."

"Mother, how can we!" exclaimed Ernest. "We are so poor. It's as much
as we can do to get along now, and there is that two hundred to pay
Mr. White. I'm sorry for Danny and Frank, but I don't see how we can
possibly do anything for them."

Mrs. Duncan sighed.

"I know it isn't right to ask you to add to your burden," she said
wistfully.

"It is of _you_ I am thinking, Mother," said Ernest tenderly. "I can't
have your burden added to. You deny yourself too much and work too
hard now. What would it be if you took the care of those children upon
yourself?"

"Don't think of me, Ernest," said Mrs. Duncan eagerly. "I wouldn't
mind. I'd be glad to do anything I could for them, poor little souls.
Their father was your father's best friend, and I feel as if it were
our duty to do all we can for them. They're such little fellows. Who
knows how they would be treated if they were taken by strangers? And
they'd most likely be separated, and that would be a shame. But I
leave it for you to decide, Ernest. It is your right, for the heaviest
part will fall on you."

Ernest did not decide at once. For a week he thought the matter over,
weighing pros and cons carefully. To take the two Sinclair boys meant
a double portion of toil and self-denial. Had he not enough to bear
now? But, on the other side, was it not his duty, nay, his privilege,
to help the children if he could? In the end he said to his mother:

"We'll take the little fellows, Mother. I'll do the best I can for
them. We'll manage a corner and a crust for them."

So Danny and Frank Sinclair came to the little cottage. Frank was
eight and Danny six, and they were small and lively and mischievous.
They worshipped Mrs. Duncan, and thought Ernest the finest fellow in
the world. When his birthday came around in March, the two little
chaps put their heads together in a grave consultation as to what they
could give him.

"You know he gave us presents on our birthdays," said Frank. "So we
must give him something."

"I'll div him my pottet-knife," said Danny, taking the somewhat
battered and loose-jointed affair from his pocket, and gazing at it
affectionately.

"I'll give him one of Papa's books," said Frank. "That pretty one with
the red covers and the gold letters."

A few of Mr. Sinclair's books had been saved for the boys, and were
stored in a little box in their room. The book Frank referred to was
an old _History of the Turks_, and its gay cover was probably the best
of it, since its contents were of no particular merit.

On Ernest's birthday both boys gave him their offerings after
breakfast.

"Here's a pottet-knife for you," said Danny graciously. "It's a bully
pottet-knife. It'll cut real well if you hold it dust the wight way.
I'll show you."

"And here's a book for you," said Frank. "It's a real pretty book, and
I guess it's pretty interesting reading too. It's all about the
Turks."

Ernest accepted both gifts gravely, and after the children had gone
out he and his mother had a hearty laugh.

"The dear, kind-hearted little lads!" said Mrs. Duncan. "It must have
been a real sacrifice on Danny's part to give you his beloved
'pottet-knife.' I was afraid you were going to refuse it at first, and
that would have hurt his little feelings terribly. I don't think the
_History of the Turks_ will keep you up burning the midnight oil. I
remember that book of old--I could never forget that gorgeous cover.
Mr. Sinclair lent it to your father once, and he said it was absolute
trash. Why, Ernest, what's the matter?"

Ernest had been turning the book's leaves over carelessly. Suddenly he
sprang to his feet with an exclamation, his face turning white as
marble.

"Mother!" he gasped, holding out a yellowed slip of paper. "Look! It's
the lost promissory note."

Mother and son looked at each other for a moment. Then Mrs. Duncan
began to laugh and cry together.

"Your father took that book with him when he went to pay the note,"
she said. "He intended to return it to Mr. Sinclair. I remember seeing
the gleam of the red binding in his hand as he went out of the gate.
He must have slipped the note into it and I suppose the book has never
been opened since. Oh, Ernest--do you think--will Jacob Patterson--"

"I don't know, Mother. I must see Mr. White about this. Don't be too
sanguine. This doesn't prove that the note Jacob Patterson found
wasn't a genuine note also, you know--that is, I don't think it would
serve as proof in law. We'll have to leave it to his sense of justice.
If he refuses to refund the money I'm afraid we can't compel him to do
so."

But Jacob Patterson did not any longer refuse belief to Mrs.
Patterson's story of the blotted note. He was a harsh, miserly man,
but he prided himself on his strict honesty; he had been fairly well
acquainted with his brother's business transactions, and knew that
George Duncan had given only one promissory note.

"I'll admit, ma'am, since the receipted note has turned up, that your
story about the blotted one must be true," he said surlily. "I'll pay
your money back. Nobody can ever say Jacob Patterson cheated. I took
what I believed to be my due. Since I'm convinced it wasn't I'll hand
every penny over. Though, mind you, you couldn't make me do it by law.
It's my honesty, ma'am, it's my honesty."

Since Jacob Patterson was so well satisfied with the fibre of his
honesty, neither Mrs. Duncan nor Ernest was disposed to quarrel with
it. Mr. White readily agreed to sell the old Duncan place back to
them, and by spring they were settled again in their beloved little
home. Danny and Frank were with them, of course.

"We can't be too good to them, Mother," said Ernest. "We really owe
all our happiness to them."

"Yes, but, Ernest, if you had not consented to take the homeless
little lads in their time of need this wouldn't have come about."

"I've been well rewarded, Mother," said Ernest quietly, "but, even if
nothing of the sort had happened, I would be glad that I did the best
I could for Frank and Danny. I'm ashamed to think that I was unwilling
to do it at first. If it hadn't been for what you said, I wouldn't
have. So it is your unselfishness we have to thank for it all, Mother
dear."



The Revolt of Mary Isabel


"For a woman of forty, Mary Isabel, you have the least sense of any
person I have ever known," said Louisa Irving.

Louisa had said something similar in spirit to Mary Isabel almost
every day of her life. Mary Isabel had never resented it, even when it
hurt her bitterly. Everybody in Latimer knew that Louisa Irving ruled
her meek little sister with a rod of iron and wondered why Mary Isabel
never rebelled. It simply never occurred to Mary Isabel to do so; all
her life she had given in to Louisa and the thought of refusing
obedience to her sister's Mede-and-Persian decrees never crossed her
mind. Mary Isabel had only one secret from Louisa and she lived in
daily dread that Louisa would discover it. It was a very harmless
little secret, but Mary Isabel felt rightly sure that Louisa would not
tolerate it for a moment.

They were sitting together in the dim living room of their quaint old
cottage down by the shore. The window was open and the sea-breeze blew
in, stirring the prim white curtains fitfully, and ruffling the little
rings of dark hair on Mary Isabel's forehead--rings which always
annoyed Louisa. She thought Mary Isabel ought to brush them straight
back, and Mary Isabel did so faithfully a dozen times a day; and in
ten minutes they crept down again, kinking defiance to Louisa, who
might make Mary Isabel submit to her in all things but had no power
over naturally curly hair. Louisa had never had any trouble with her
own hair; it was straight and sleek and mouse-coloured--what there was
of it.

Mary Isabel's face was flushed and her wood-brown eyes looked grieved
and pleading. Mary Isabel was still pretty, and vanity is the last
thing to desert a properly constructed woman.

"I can't wear a bonnet yet, Louisa," she protested. "Bonnets have gone
out for everybody except really old ladies. I want a hat: one of
those pretty, floppy ones with pale blue forget-me-nots."

Then it was that Louisa made the remark quoted above.

"I wore a bonnet before I was forty," she went on ruthlessly, "and so
should every decent woman. It is absurd to be thinking so much of
dress at your age, Mary Isabel. I don't know what sort of a way you'd
bedizen yourself out if I'd let you, I'm sure. It's fortunate you have
somebody to keep you from making a fool of yourself. I'm going to town
tomorrow and I'll pick you out a suitable black bonnet. You'd look
nice starring round in leghorn and forget-me-nots, now, wouldn't you?"

Mary Isabel privately thought she would, but she gave in, of course,
although she did hate bitterly that unbought, unescapable bonnet.

"Well, do as you think best, Louisa," she said with a sigh. "I suppose
it doesn't matter much. Nobody cares how I look anyhow. But can't I go
to town with you? I want to pick out my new silk."

"I'm as good a judge of black silk as you," said Louisa shortly. "It
isn't safe to leave the house alone."

"But I don't want a black silk," cried Mary Isabel. "I've worn black
so long; both my silk dresses have been black. I want a pretty
silver-grey, something like Mrs. Chester Ford's."

"Did anyone ever hear such nonsense?" Louisa wanted to know, in
genuine amazement. "Silver-grey silk is the most unserviceable thing
in the world. There's nothing like black for wear and real elegance.
No, no, Mary Isabel, don't be foolish. You must let me choose for you;
you know you never had any judgment. Mother told you so often enough.
Now, get your sunbonnet and take a walk to the shore. You look tired.
I'll get the tea."

Louisa's tone was kind though firm. She Was really good to Mary Isabel
as long as Mary Isabel gave her her own way peaceably. But if she had
known Mary Isabel's secret she would never have permitted those walks
to the shore.

Mary Isabel sighed again, yielded, and went out. Across a green field
from the Irving cottage Dr. Donald Hamilton's big house was hooding
itself in the shadows of the thick fir grove that enabled the doctor
to have a garden. There was no shelter at the cottage, so the Irving
"girls" never tried to have a garden. Soon after Dr. Hamilton had come
there to live he had sent a bouquet of early daffodils over by his
housekeeper. Louisa had taken them gingerly in her extreme fingertips,
carried them across the field to the lawn fence, and cast them over
it, under the amused grey eyes of portly Dr. Hamilton, who was looking
out of his office window. Then Louisa had come back to the porch door
and ostentatiously washed her hands.

"I guess that will settle Donald Hamilton," she told the secretly
sorry Mary Isabel triumphantly, and it did settle him--at least as far
as any farther social advances were concerned.

Dr. Hamilton was an excellent physician and an equally excellent man.
Louisa Irving could not have picked a flaw in his history or
character. Indeed, against Dr. Hamilton himself she had no grudge, but
he was the brother of a man she hated and whose relatives were
consequently taboo in Louisa's eyes. Not that the brother was a bad
man either; he had simply taken the opposite side to the Irvings in a
notable church feud of a dozen years ago, and Louisa had never since
held any intercourse with him or his fellow sinners.

Mary Isabel did not look at the Hamilton house. She kept her head
resolutely turned away as she went down the shore lane with its wild
sweet loneliness of salt-withered grasses and piping sea-winds. Only
when she turned the corner of the fir-wood, which shut her out from
view of the houses, did she look timidly over the line-fence. Dr.
Hamilton was standing there, where the fence ran out to the sandy
shingle, smoking his little black pipe, which he took out and put away
when Mary Isabel came around the firs. Men did things like that
instinctively in Mary Isabel's company. There was something so
delicately virginal about her, in spite of her forty years, that they
gave her the reverence they would have paid to a very young, pure
girl.

Dr. Hamilton smiled at the little troubled face under the big
sunbonnet. Mary Isabel had to wear a sunbonnet. She would never have
done it from choice.

"What is the matter?" asked the doctor, in his big, breezy,
old-bachelor voice. He had another voice for sick-beds and rooms of
bereavement, but this one suited best with the purring of the waves
and winds.

"How do you know that anything is the matter?" Mary Isabel parried
demurely.

"By your face. Come now, tell me what it is."

"It is really nothing. I have just been foolish, that is all. I wanted
a hat with forget-me-nots and a grey silk, and Louisa says I must have
black and a bonnet."

The doctor looked indignant but held his peace. He and Mary Isabel had
tacitly agreed never to discuss Louisa, because such discussion would
not make for harmony. Mary Isabel's conscience would not let the
doctor say anything uncomplimentary of Louisa, and the doctor's
conscience would not let him say anything complimentary. So they left
her out of the question and talked about the sea and the boats and
poetry and flowers and similar non-combustible subjects.

       *       *       *       *       *

These clandestine meetings had been going on for two months, ever
since the day they had just happened to meet below the firs. It never
occurred to Mary Isabel that the doctor meant anything but friendship;
and if it had occurred to the doctor, he did not think there would be
much use in saying so. Mary Isabel was too hopelessly under Louisa's
thumb. She might keep tryst below the firs occasionally--so long as
Louisa didn't know--but to no farther lengths would she dare go.
Besides, the doctor wasn't quite sure that he really wanted anything
more. Mary Isabel was a sweet little woman, but Dr. Hamilton had been
a bachelor so long that it would be very difficult for him to get out
of the habit; so difficult that it was hardly worth while trying when
such an obstacle as Louisa Irving's tyranny loomed in the way. So he
never tried to make love to Mary Isabel, though he probably would have
if he had thought it of any use. This does not sound very romantic, of
course, but when a man is fifty, romance, while it may be present in
the fruit, is assuredly absent in blossom.

"I suppose you won't be going to the induction of my nephew Thursday
week?" said the doctor in the course of the conversation.

"No. Louisa will not permit it. I had hoped," said Mary Isabel with a
sigh, as she braided some silvery shore-grasses nervously together,
"that when old Mr. Moody went away she would go back to the church
here. And I think she would if--if--"

"If Jim hadn't come in Mr. Moody's place," finished the doctor with
his jolly laugh.

Mary Isabel coloured prettily. "It is not because he is your nephew,
doctor. It is because--because--"

"Because he is the nephew of my brother who was on the other side in
that ancient church fracas? Bless you, I understand. What a good hater
your sister is! Such a tenacity in holding bitterness from one
generation to another commands admiration of a certain sort. As for
Jim, he's a nice little chap, and he is coming to live with me until
the manse is repaired."

"I am sure you will find that pleasant," said Mary Isabel primly.

She wondered if the young minister's advent would make any difference
in regard to these shore-meetings; then decided quickly that it would
not; then more quickly still that it wouldn't matter if it did.

"He will be company," admitted the doctor, who liked company and found
the shore road rather lonesome. "I had a letter from him today saying
that he'd come home with me from the induction. By the way, they're
tearing down the old post office today. And that reminds me--by Jove,
I'd all but forgotten. I promised to go up and see Mollie Marr this
evening; Mollie's nerves are on the rampage again. I must rush."

With a wave of his hand the doctor hurried off. Mary Isabel lingered
for some time longer, leaning against the fence, looking dreamily out
to sea. The doctor was a very pleasant companion. If only Louisa would
allow neighbourliness! Mary Isabel felt a faint, impotent resentment.
She had never had anything other girls had: friends, dresses, beaus,
and it was all Louisa's fault--Louisa who was going to make her wear a
bonnet for the rest of her life. The more Mary Isabel thought of that
bonnet the more she hated it.

That evening Warren Marr rode down to the shore cottage on horseback
and handed Mary Isabel a letter; a strange, scrumpled, soiled, yellow
letter. When Mary Isabel saw the handwriting on the envelope she
trembled and turned as deadly pale as if she had seen a ghost:

"Here's a letter for you," said Warren, grinning. "It's been a long
time on the way--nigh fifteen years. Guess the news'll be rather
stale. We found it behind the old partition when we tore it down
today."

"It is my brother Tom's writing," said Mary Isabel faintly. She went
into the room trembling, holding the letter tightly in her clasped
hands. Louisa had gone up to the village on an errand; Mary Isabel
almost wished she were home; she hardly felt equal to the task of
opening Tom's letter alone. Tom had been dead for ten years and this
letter gave her an uncanny sensation; as of a message from the
spirit-land.

Fifteen years, ago Thomas Irving had gone to California and five years
later he had died there. Mary Isabel, who had idolized her brother,
almost grieved herself to death at the time.

Finally she opened the letter with ice-cold fingers. It had been
written soon after Tom reached California. The first two pages were
filled with descriptions of the country and his "job."

On the third Tom began abruptly:

    Look here, Mary Isabel, you are not to let Louisa boss you
    about as she was doing when I was at home. I was going to
    speak to you about it before I came away, but I forgot. Lou is
    a fine girl, but she is too domineering, and the more you give
    in to her the worse it makes her. You're far too easy-going
    for your own welfare, Mary Isabel, and for your own sake I
    Wish you had more spunk. Don't let Louisa live your life for
    you; just you live it yourself. Never mind if there is some
    friction at first; Lou will give in when she finds she has to,
    and you'll both be the better for it, I want you to be real
    happy, Mary Isabel, but you won't be if you don't assert your
    independence. Giving in the way you do is bad for both you and
    Louisa. It will make her a tyrant and you a poor-spirited
    creature of no account in the world. Just brace up and stand
    firm.

When she had read the letter through Mary Isabel took it to her own
room and locked it in her bureau drawer. Then she sat by her window,
looking out into a sea-sunset, and thought it over. Coming in the
strange way it had, the letter seemed a message from the dead, and
Mary Isabel had a superstitious conviction that she must obey it. She
had always had a great respect for Tom's opinion. He was right--oh,
she felt that he was right. What a pity she had not received the
letter long ago, before the shackles of habit had become so firmly
riveted. But it was not too late yet. She would rebel at last
and--how had Tom phrased it--oh, yes, assert her independence. She
owed it to Tom; It had been his wish--and he was dead--and she would
do her best to fulfil it.

"I shan't get a bonnet," thought Mary Isabel determinedly. "Tom
wouldn't have liked me in a bonnet. From this out I'm just going to do
exactly as Tom would have liked me to do, no matter how afraid I am of
Louisa. And, oh, I am horribly afraid of her."

Mary Isabel was every whit as much afraid the next morning after
breakfast but she did not look it, by reason of the flush on her
cheeks and the glint in her brown eyes. She had put Tom's letter in
the bosom of her dress and she pressed her fingertips on it that the
crackle might give her courage.

"Louisa," she said firmly, "I am going to town with you."

"Nonsense," said Louisa shortly.

"You may call it nonsense if you like, but I am going," said Mary
Isabel unquailingly. "I have made up my mind on that point, Louisa,
and nothing you can say will alter it."

Louisa looked amazed. Never before had Mary Isabel set her decrees at
naught.

"Are you crazy, Mary Isabel?" she demanded.

"No, I am not crazy. But I am going to town and I am going to get a
silver-grey silk for myself and a new hat. I will not wear a bonnet
and you need never mention it to me again, Louisa."

"If you are going to town I shall stay home," said Louisa in a cold,
ominous tone that almost made Mary Isabel quake. If it had not been
for that reassuring crackle of Tom's letter I fear Mary Isabel would
have given in. "This house can't be left alone. If you go, I'll stay."

Louisa honestly thought that would bring the rebel to terms. Mary
Isabel had never gone to town alone in her life. Louisa did not
believe she would dare to go. But Mary Isabel did not quail. Defiance
was not so hard after all, once you had begun.

Mary Isabel went to town and she went alone. She spent the whole
delightful day in the shops, unhampered by Louisa's scorn and
criticism in her examination of all the pretty things displayed. She
selected a hat she felt sure Tom would like--a pretty crumpled grey
straw with forget-me-nots and ribbons. Then she bought a grey silk of
a lovely silvery shade.

When she got back home she unwrapped her packages and showed her
purchases to Louisa. But Louisa neither looked at them nor spoke to
Mary Isabel. Mary Isabel tossed her head and went to her own room. Her
draught of freedom had stimulated her, and she did not mind Louisa's
attitude half as much as she would have expected. She read Tom's
letter over again to fortify herself and then she dressed her hair in
a fashion she had seen that day in town and pulled out all the little
curls on her forehead.

The next day she took the silver-grey silk to the Latimer dressmaker
and picked out a fashionable design for it. When the silk dress came
home, Louisa, who had thawed out somewhat in the meantime, unbent
sufficiently to remark that it fitted very well.

"I am going to wear it to the induction tomorrow," Mary Isabel said,
boldly to all appearances, quakingly in reality. She knew that she was
throwing down the gauntlet for good and all. If she could assert and
maintain her independence in this matter Louisa's power would be
broken forever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twelve years before this, the previously mentioned schism had broken
out in the Latimer church. The minister had sided with the faction
which Louisa Irving opposed. She had promptly ceased going to his
church and withdrew all financial support. She paid to the Marwood
church, fifteen miles away, and occasionally she hired a team and
drove over there to service. But she never entered the Latimer church
again nor allowed Mary Isabel to do so. For that matter, Mary Isabel
did not wish to go. She had resented the minister's attitude almost as
bitterly as Louisa. But when Mr. Moody accepted a call elsewhere Mary
Isabel hoped that she and Louisa might return to their old church
home. Possibly they might have done so had not the congregation called
the young, newly fledged James Anderson. Mary Isabel would not have
cared for this, but Louisa sternly said that neither she nor any of
hers should ever darken the doors of a church where the nephew of
Martin Hamilton preached. Mary Isabel had regretfully acquiesced at
the time, but now she had made up her mind to go to church and she
meant to begin with the induction service.

Louisa stared at her sister incredulously.

"Have you taken complete leave of your senses, Mary Isabel?"

"No. I've just come to them," retorted Mary Isabel recklessly,
gripping a chair-back desperately so that Louisa should not see how
she was trembling. "It is all foolishness to keep away from church
just because of an old grudge. I'm tired of staying home Sundays or
driving fifteen miles to Marwood to hear poor old Mr. Grattan.
Everybody says Mr. Anderson is a splendid young man and an excellent
preacher, and I'm going to attend his services regularly."

Louisa had taken Mary Isabel's first defiance in icy disdain. Now she
lost her temper and raged. The storm of angry words beat on Mary
Isabel like hail, but she fronted it staunchly. She seemed to hear
Tom's voice saying, "Live your own life, Mary Isabel; don't let Louisa
live it for you," and she meant to obey him.

"If you go to that man's induction I'll never forgive you," Louisa
concluded.

Mary Isabel said nothing. She just primmed up her lips very
determinedly, picked up the silk dress, and carried it to her room.

The next day was fine and warm. Louisa said no word all the morning.
She worked fiercely and slammed things around noisily. After dinner
Mary Isabel went to her room and came down presently, fine and dainty
in her grey silk, with the forget-me-not hat resting on the soft loose
waves of her hair. Louisa was blacking the kitchen stove.

She shot one angry glance at Mary Isabel, then gave a short,
contemptuous laugh, the laugh of an angry woman who finds herself
robbed of all weapons except ridicule.

Mary Isabel flushed and walked with an unfaltering step out of the
house and up the lane. She resented Louisa's laughter. She was sure
there was nothing so very ridiculous about her appearance. Women far
older than she, even in Latimer, wore light dresses and fashionable
hats. Really, Louisa was very disagreeable.

"I have put up with her ways too long," thought Mary Isabel, with a
quick, unwonted rush of anger. "But I never shall again--no, never,
let her be as vexed and scornful as she pleases."

The induction services were interesting, and Mary Isabel enjoyed them.
Doctor Hamilton was sitting across from her and once or twice she
caught him looking at her admiringly. The doctor noticed the hat and
the grey silk and wondered how Mary Isabel had managed to get her own
way concerning them. What a pretty woman she was! Really, he had never
realized before how very pretty she was. But then, he had never seen
her except in a sunbonnet or with her hair combed primly back.

But when the service was over Mary Isabel was dismayed to see that the
sky had clouded over and looked very much like rain. Everybody hurried
home, and Mary Isabel tripped along the shore road filled with
anxious thoughts about her dress. That kind of silk always spotted,
and her hat would be ruined if it got wet. How foolish she had been
not to bring an umbrella!

She reached her own doorstep panting just as the first drop of rain
fell.

"Thank goodness," she breathed.

Then she tried to open the door. It would not open.

She could see Louisa sitting by the kitchen window, calmly reading.

"Louisa, open the door quick," she called impatiently.

Louisa never moved a muscle, although Mary Isabel knew she must have
heard.

"Louisa, do you hear what I say?" she cried, reaching over and tapping
on the pane imperiously. "Open the door at once. It is going to
rain--it is raining now. Be quick."

Louisa might as well have been a graven image for all the response she
gave. Then did Mary Isabel realize her position. Louisa had locked her
out purposely, knowing the rain was coming. Louisa had no intention of
letting her in; she meant to keep her out until the dress and hat of
her rebellion were spoiled. This was Louisa's revenge.

Mary Isabel turned with a gasp. What should she do? The padlocked
doors of hen-house and well-house and wood-house: revealed the
thoroughness of Louisa's vindictive design. Where should she go? She
would go somewhere. She would not have her lovely new dress and hat
spoiled!

She caught her ruffled skirts up in her hand and ran across the yard.
She climbed the fence into the field and ran across that. Another drop
of rain struck her cheek. She never glanced back or she would have
seen a horrified face peering from the cottage kitchen window. Louisa
had never dreamed that Mary Isabel would seek refuge over at Dr.
Hamilton's.

Dr. Hamilton, who had driven home from church with the young minister,
saw her coming and ran to open the door for her. Mary Isabel dashed
up the verandah steps, breathless, crimson-cheeked, trembling with
pent-up indignation and sense of outrage.

"Louisa locked me out, Dr. Hamilton," she cried almost hysterically.
"She locked me out on purpose to spoil my dress. I'll never forgive
her, I'll never go back to her, never, never, unless she asks me to. I
had to come here. I was not going to have my dress ruined to please
Louisa."

"Of course not--of course not," said Dr. Hamilton soothingly, drawing
her into his big cosy living room. "You did perfectly right to come
here, and you are just in time. There is the rain now in good
earnest."

Mary Isabel sank into a chair and looked at Dr. Hamilton with tears in
her eyes.

"Wasn't it an unkind, unsisterly thing to do?" she asked piteously.
"Oh, I shall never feel the same towards Louisa again. Tom was
right--I didn't tell you about Tom's letter but I will by and by. I
shall not go back to Louisa after her locking me out. When it stops
raining I'll go straight up to my cousin Ella's and stay with her
until I arrange my plans. But one thing is certain, I shall not go
back to Louisa."

"I wouldn't," said the doctor recklessly. "Now, don't cry and don't
worry. Take off your hat--you can go to the spare room across the
hall, if you like. Jim has gone upstairs to lie down; he has a bad
headache and says he doesn't want any tea. So I was going to get up a
bachelor's snack for myself. My housekeeper is away. She heard, at
church that her mother was ill and went over to Marwood."

When Mary Isabel came back from the spare room, a little calmer but
with traces of tears on her pink cheeks, the doctor had as good a
tea-table spread as any woman could have had. Mary Isabel thought it
was fortunate that the little errand boy, Tommy Brewster, was there,
or she certainly would have been dreadfully embarrassed, now that the
flame of her anger had blown out. But later on, when tea was over and
she and the doctor were left alone, she did not feel embarrassed
after all. Instead, she felt delightfully happy and at home. Dr.
Hamilton put one so at ease.

She told him all about Tom's letter and her subsequent revolt. Dr.
Hamilton never once made the mistake of smiling. He listened and
approved and sympathized.

"So I'm determined I won't go back," concluded Mary Isabel, "unless
she asks me to--and Louisa will never do that. Ella will be glad
enough to have me for a while; she has five children and can't get any
help."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. He thought of Mary Isabel as
unofficial drudge to Ella Kemble and her family. Then he looked at the
little silvery figure by the window.

"I think I can suggest a better plan," he said gently and tenderly.
"Suppose you stay here--as my wife. I've always wanted to ask you that
but I feared it was no use because I knew Louisa would oppose it and I
did not think you would consent if she did not. I think," the doctor
leaned forward and took Mary Isabel's fluttering hand in his, "I think
we can be very happy here, dear."

Mary Isabel flushed crimson and her heart beat wildly. She knew now
that she loved Dr. Hamilton--and Tom would have liked it--yes, Tom
would. She remembered how Tom hated the thought of his sisters being
old maids.

"I--think--so--too," she faltered shyly.

"Then," said the doctor briskly, "what is the matter with our being
married right here and now?"

"Married!"

"Yes, of course. Here we are in a state where no licence is required,
a minister in the house, and you all dressed in the most beautiful
wedding silk imaginable. You must see, if you just look at it calmly,
how much better it will be than going up to Mrs. Kemble's and thereby
publishing your difference with Louisa to all the village. I'll give
you fifteen minutes to get used to the idea and then I'll call Jim
down."

Mary Isabel put her hands to her face.

"You--you're like a whirlwind," she gasped. "You take away my breath."

"Think it over," said the doctor in a businesslike voice.

Mary Isabel thought--thought very hard for a few moments.

What would Tom have said?

Was it probable that Tom would have approved of such marrying in
haste?

Mary Isabel came to the decision that he would have preferred it to
having family jars bruited abroad. Moreover, Mary Isabel had never
liked Ella Kemble very much. Going to her was only one degree better
than going back to Louisa.

At last Mary Isabel took her hands down from her face. "Well?" said
the doctor persuasively as she did so.

"I will consent on one condition," said Mary Isabel firmly. "And that
is, that you will let me send word over to Louisa that I am going to
be married and that she may come and see the ceremony if she will.
Louisa has behaved very unkindly in this matter, but after all she is
my sister--and she has been good to me in some ways--and I am not
going to give her a chance to say that I got married in this--this
headlong-fashion and never let her know."

"Tommy can take the word over," said the doctor.

Mary Isabel went to the doctor's desk and wrote a very brief note.

    Dear Louisa:

    I am going to be married to Dr. Hamilton right away. I've seen
    him often at the shore this summer. I would like you to be
    present at the ceremony if you choose.

                                                Mary Isabel.


Tommy ran across the field with the note.

It had now ceased raining and the clouds were breaking. Mary Isabel
thought that a good omen. She and the doctor watched Tommy from the
window. They saw Louisa come to the door, take the note, and shut the
door in Tommy's face. Ten minutes later she reappeared, habited in her
mackintosh, with her second-best bonnet on.

"She's--coming," said Mary Isabel, trembling.

The doctor put his arm protectingly about the little lady.

Mary Isabel tossed her head. "Oh, I'm not--I'm only excited. I shall
never be afraid of Louisa again."

Louisa came grimly over the field, up the verandah steps, and into the
room without knocking.

"Mary Isabel," she said, glaring at her sister and ignoring the doctor
entirely, "did you mean what you said in that letter?"

"Yes, I did," said Mary Isabel firmly.

"You are going to be married to that man in this shameless, indecent
haste?"

"Yes."

"And nothing I can say will have the least effect on you?"

"Not the slightest."

"Then," said Louisa, more grimly than ever, "all I ask of you is to
come home and be married from under your father's roof. Do have that
much respect for your parents' memory, at least."

"Of course I will," cried Mary Isabel impulsively, softening at once.
"Of course we will--won't we?" she asked, turning prettily to the
doctor.

"Just as you say," he answered gallantly.

Louisa snorted. "I'll go home and air the parlour," she said. "It's
lucky I baked that fruitcake Monday. You can come when you're ready."

She stalked home across the field. In a few minutes the doctor and
Mary Isabel followed, and behind them came the young minister,
carrying his blue book under his arm, and trying hard and not
altogether successfully to look grave.



The Twins and a Wedding


Sometimes Johnny and I wonder what would really have happened if we
had never started for Cousin Pamelia's wedding. I think that Ted would
have come back some time; but Johnny says he doesn't believe he ever
would, and Johnny ought to know, because Johnny's a boy. Anyhow, he
couldn't have come back for four years. However, we _did_ start for
the wedding and so things came out all right, and Ted said we were a
pair of twin special Providences.

Johnny and I fully expected to go to Cousin Pamelia's wedding because
we had always been such chums with her. And she did write to Mother to
be sure and bring us, but Father and Mother didn't want to be bothered
with us. That is the plain truth of the matter. They are good parents,
as parents go in this world; I don't think we could have picked out
much better, all things considered; but Johnny and I have always known
that they never want to take us with them anywhere if they can get out
of it. Uncle Fred says that it is no wonder, since we are a pair of
holy terrors for getting into mischief and keeping everybody in hot
water. But I think we are pretty good, considering all the temptations
we have to be otherwise. And, of course, twins have just twice as many
as ordinary children.

Anyway, Father and Mother said we would have to stay home with Hannah
Jane. This decision came upon us, as Johnny says, like a bolt from the
blue. At first we couldn't believe they were not joking. Why, we felt
that we simply _had_ to go to Pamelia's wedding. We had never been to
a wedding in our lives and we were just aching to see what it would be
like. Besides, we had written a marriage ode to Pamelia and we wanted
to present it to her. Johnny was to recite it, and he had been
practising it out behind the carriage house for a week. I wrote the
most of it. I can write poetry as slick as anything. Johnny helped me
hunt out the rhymes. That is the hardest thing about writing poetry,
it is so difficult to find rhymes. Johnny would find me a rhyme and
then I would write a line to suit it, and we got on swimmingly.

When we realized that Father and Mother meant what they said we were
just too miserable to live. When I went to bed that night I simply
pulled the clothes over my face and howled quietly. I couldn't help it
when I thought of Pamelia's white silk dress and tulle veil and flower
girls and all the rest. Johnny said it was the wedding dinner _he_
thought about. Boys are like that, you know.

Father and Mother went away on the early morning train, telling us to
be good twins and not bother Hannah Jane. It would have been more to
the point if they had told Hannah Jane not to bother us. She worries
more about our bringing up than Mother does.

I was sitting on the front doorstep after they had gone when Johnny
came around the corner, looking so mysterious and determined that I
knew he had thought of something splendid.

"Sue," said Johnny impressively, "if you have any real sporting blood
in you now is the time to show it. If you've enough grit we'll get to
Pamelia's wedding after all."

"How?" I said as soon as I was able to say anything.

"We'll just go. We'll take the ten o'clock train. It will get to
Marsden by eleven-thirty and that'll be in plenty of time. The wedding
isn't until twelve."

"But we've never been on the train alone, and we've never been to
Marsden at all!" I gasped.

"Oh, of course, if you're going to hatch up all sorts of
difficulties!" said Johnny scornfully. "I thought you had more spunk!"

"Oh, I have, Johnny," I said eagerly. "I'm _all_ spunk. And I'll do
anything you'll do. But won't Father and Mother be perfectly savage?"

"Of course. But we'll be there and they can't send us home again, so
we'll see the wedding. We'll be punished afterwards all right, but
we'll have had the fun, don't you see?"

I saw. I went right upstairs to dress, trusting everything blindly to
Johnny. I put on my best pale blue shirred silk hat and my blue
organdie dress and my high-heeled slippers. Johnny whistled when he
saw me, but he never said a word; there are times when Johnny is a
duck.

We slipped away when Hannah Jane was feeding the hens.

"I'll buy the tickets," explained Johnny. "I've got enough money left
out of my last month's allowance because I didn't waste it all on
candy as you did. You'll have to pay me back when you get your next
month's jink, remember. I'll ask the conductor to tell us when we get
to Marsden. Uncle Fred's house isn't far from the station, and we'll
be sure to know it by all the cherry trees round it."

It sounded easy, and it _was_ easy. We had a jolly ride, and finally
the conductor came along and said, "Here's your jumping-off place,
kiddies."

Johnny didn't like being called a kiddy, but I saw the conductor's eye
resting admiringly on my blue silk hat and I forgave him.

Marsden was a pretty little village, and away up the road we saw Uncle
Fred's place, for it was fairly smothered in cherry trees all white
with lovely bloom. We started for it as fast as we could go, for we
knew we had no time to lose. It is perfectly dreadful trying to hurry
when you have on high-heeled shoes, but I said nothing and just tore
along, for I knew Johnny would have no sympathy for me. We finally
reached the house and turned in at the open gate of the lawn. I
thought everything looked very peaceful and quiet for a wedding to be
under way and I had a sickening idea that it was too late and it was
all over.

"Nonsense!" said Johnny, cross as a bear, because he was really
afraid of it too. "I suppose everybody is inside the house. No, there
are two people over there by that bench. Let us go and ask them if
this is the right place, because if it isn't we have no time to lose."

We ran across the lawn to the two people. One of them was a young
lady, the very prettiest young lady I had ever seen. She was tall and
stately, just like the heroine in a book, and she had lovely curly
brown hair and big blue eyes and the most dazzling complexion. But she
looked very cross and disdainful and I knew the minute I saw her that
she had been quarrelling with the young man. He was standing in front
of her and he was as handsome as a prince. But he looked angry too.
Altogether, you never saw a crosser-looking couple. Just as we came up
we heard the young lady say, "What you ask is ridiculous and
impossible, Ted. I _can't_ get married at two days' notice and I don't
mean to be."

And he said, "Very well, Una, I am sorry you think so. You would not
think so if you really cared anything for me. It is just as well I
have found out you don't. I am going away in two days' time and I
shall not return in a hurry, Una."

"I do not care if you never return," she said.

That was a fib and well I knew it. But the young man didn't--men are
so stupid at times. He swung around on one foot without replying and
he would have gone in another second if he had not nearly fallen over
Johnny and me.

"Please, sir," said Johnny respectfully, but hurriedly. "We're looking
for Mr. Frederick Murray's place. Is this it?"

"No," said the young man a little gruffly. "This is Mrs. Franklin's
place. Frederick Murray lives at Marsden, ten miles away."

My heart gave a jump and then stopped beating. I know it did, although
Johnny says it is impossible.

"Isn't this Marsden?" cried Johnny chokily.

"No, this is Harrowsdeane," said the young man, a little more mildly.

I couldn't help it. I was tired and warm and so disappointed. I sat
right down on the rustic seat behind me and burst into tears, as the
story-books say.

"Oh, don't cry, dearie," said the young lady in a very different voice
from the one she had used before. She sat down beside me and put her
arms around me. "We'll take you over to Marsden if you've got off at
the wrong station."

"But it will be too late," I sobbed wildly. "The wedding is to be at
twelve--and it's nearly that now--and oh, Johnny, I do think you might
try to comfort me!"

For Johnny had stuck his hands in his pockets and turned his back
squarely on me. I thought it so unkind of him. I didn't know then that
it was because he was afraid he was going to cry right there before
everybody, and I felt deserted by all the world.

"Tell me all about it," said the young lady.

So I told her as well as I could all about the wedding and how wild we
were to see it and why we were running away to it.

"And now it's all no use," I wailed. "And we'll be punished when they
find out just the same. I wouldn't mind being punished if we hadn't
missed the wedding. We've never seen a wedding--and Pamelia was to
wear a white silk dress--and have flower girls--and oh, my heart is
just broken. I shall never get over this--never--if I live to be as
old as Methuselah."

"What can we do for them?" said the young lady, looking up at the
young man and smiling a little. She seemed to have forgotten that they
had just quarrelled. "I can't bear to see children disappointed. I
remember my own childhood too well."

"I really don't know what we can do," said the young man, smiling
back, "unless we get married right here and now for their sakes. If it
is a wedding they want to see and nothing else will do them, that is
the only idea I can suggest."

"Nonsense!" said the young lady. But she said it as if she would
rather like to be persuaded it wasn't nonsense.

I looked up at her. "Oh, if you have any notion of being married I
wish you would right off," I said eagerly. "Any wedding would do just
as well as Pamelia's. Please do."

The young lady laughed.

"One might just as well be married at two hours' notice as two days',"
she said.

"Una," said the young man, bending towards her, "will you marry me
here and now? Don't send me away alone to the other side of the world,
Una."

"What on earth would Auntie say?" said Una helplessly.

"Mrs. Franklin wouldn't object if you told her you were going to be
married in a balloon."

"I don't see how we could arrange--oh, Ted, it's absurd."

"'Tisn't. It's highly sensible. I'll go straight to town on my wheel
for the licence and ring and I'll be back in an hour. You can be ready
by that time."

For a moment Una hesitated. Then she said suddenly to me, "What is
your name, dearie?"

"Sue Murray," I said, "and this is my brother, Johnny. We're twins.
We've been twins for ten years."

"Well, Sue, I'm going to let you decide for me. This gentleman here,
whose name is Theodore Prentice, has to start for Japan in two days
and will have to remain there for four years. He received his orders
only yesterday. He wants me to marry him and go with him. Now, I shall
leave it to you to consent or refuse for me. Shall I marry him or
shall I not?"

"Marry him, of course," said I promptly. Johnny says she knew I would
say that when she left it to me.

"Very well," said Una calmly. "Ted, you may go for the necessaries.
Sue, you must be my bridesmaid and Johnny shall be best man. Come,
we'll go into the house and break the news to Auntie."

I never felt so interested and excited in my life. It seemed too good
to be true. Una and I went into the house and there we found the
sweetest, pinkest, plumpest old lady asleep in an easy-chair. Una
wakened her and said, "Auntie, I'm going to be married to Mr. Prentice
in an hour's time."

That was a most wonderful old lady! All she said was, "Dear me!" You'd
have thought Una had simply told her she was going out for a walk.

"Ted has gone for licence and ring and minister," Una went on. "We
shall be married out under the cherry trees and I'll wear my new white
organdie. We shall leave for Japan in two days. These children are Sue
and Johnny Murray who have come out to see a wedding--_any_ wedding.
Ted and I are getting married just to please them."

"Dear me!" said the old lady again. "This is rather sudden. Still--if
you must. Well, I'll go and see what there is in the house to eat."

She toddled away, smiling, and Una turned to me. She was laughing, but
there were tears in her eyes.

"You blessed accidents!" she said, with a little tremble in her voice.
"If you hadn't happened just then Ted would have gone away in a rage
and I might never have seen him again. Come now, Sue, and help me
dress."

Johnny stayed in the hall and I went upstairs with Una. We had such an
exciting time getting her dressed. She had the sweetest white organdie
you ever saw, all frills and laces. I'm sure Pamelia's silk couldn't
have been half so pretty. But she had no veil, and I felt rather
disappointed about that. Then there was a knock at the door and Mrs.
Franklin came in, with her arms full of something all fine and misty
like a lacy cobweb.

"I've brought you my wedding veil, dearie," she said. "I wore it forty
years ago. And God bless you, dearie. I can't stop a minute. The boy
is killing the chickens and Bridget is getting ready to broil them.
Mrs. Jenner's son across the road has just gone down to the bakery for
a wedding cake."

With that she toddled off again. She was certainly a wonderful old
lady. I just thought of Mother in her place. Well, Mother would simply
have gone wild entirely.

When Una was dressed she looked as beautiful as a dream. The boy had
finished killing the chickens, and Mrs. Franklin had sent him up with
a basket of roses for us, and we had each the loveliest bouquet.
Before long Ted came back with the minister, and the next thing we
knew we were all standing out on the lawn under the cherry trees and
Una and Ted were being married.

I was too happy to speak. I had never thought of being a bridesmaid in
my wildest dreams and here I was one. How thankful I was that I had
put on my blue organdie and my shirred hat! I wasn't a bit nervous and
I don't believe Una was either. Mrs. Franklin stood at one side with a
smudge of flour on her nose, and she had forgotten to take off her
apron. Bridget and the boy watched us from the kitchen garden. It was
all like a beautiful, bewildering dream. But the ceremony was horribly
solemn. I am sure I shall never have the courage to go through with
anything of the sort, but Johnny says I will change my mind when I
grow up.

When it was all over I nudged Johnny and said "Ode" in a fierce
whisper. Johnny immediately stepped out before Una and recited it.
Pamelia's name was mentioned three times and of course he should have
put Una in place of it, but he forgot. You can't remember everything.

"You dear funny darlings!" said Una, kissing us both. Johnny didn't
like _that_, but he said he didn't mind it in a bride.

Then we had dinner, and I thought Mrs. Franklin more wonderful than
ever. I couldn't have believed any woman could have got up such a
spread at two hours' notice. Of course, some credit must be given to
Bridget and the boy. Johnny and I were hungry enough by this time and
we enjoyed that repast to the full.

We went home on the evening train. Ted and Una came to the station
with us, and Una said she would write me when she got to Japan, and
Ted said he would be obliged to us forever and ever.

When we got home we found Hannah Jane and Father and Mother--who had
arrived there an hour before us--simply distracted. They were so glad
to see us safe and sound that they didn't even scold us, and when
Father heard our story he laughed until the tears came into his eyes.

"Some are born to luck, some achieve luck, and some have luck thrust
upon them," he said.





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