Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1909 to 1922
Author: Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1909 to 1922" ***

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



Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1909 to 1922


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 1909 to 1922

    A Golden Wedding                                         1909
    A Redeeming Sacrifice                                    1909
    A Soul that Was Not At Home                              1909
    Abel And His Great Adventure                             1917
    Akin to Love                                             1909
    Aunt Philippa and the Men                                1915
    Bessie's Doll                                            1914
    Charlotte's Ladies                                       1911
    Christmas at Red Butte                                   1909
    How We Went to the Wedding                               1913
    Jessamine                                                1909
    Miss Sally's Letter                                      1910
    My Lady Jane                                             1915
    Robert Turner's Revenge                                  1909
    The Fillmore Elderberries                                1909
    The Finished Story                                       1912
    The Garden of Spices                                     1918
    The Girl and the Photograph                              1915
    The Gossip of Valley View                                1910
    The Letters                                              1910
    The Life-Book of Uncle Jesse                             1909
    The Little Black Doll                                    1909
    The Man on the Train                                     1914
    The Romance of Jedediah                                  1912
    The Tryst of the White Lady                              1922
    Uncle Richard's New Year Dinner                          1910
    White Magic                                              1921



A Golden Wedding


The land dropped abruptly down from the gate, and a thick, shrubby
growth of young apple orchard almost hid the little weather-grey house
from the road. This was why the young man who opened the sagging gate
could not see that it was boarded up, and did not cease his cheerful
whistling until he had pressed through the crowding trees and found
himself almost on the sunken stone doorstep over which in olden days
honeysuckle had been wont to arch. Now only a few straggling,
uncared-for vines clung forlornly to the shingles, and the windows
were, as has been said, all boarded up.

The whistle died on the young man's lips and an expression of blank
astonishment and dismay settled down on his face--a good, kindly,
honest face it was, although perhaps it did not betoken any pronounced
mental gifts on the part of its owner.

"What can have happened?" he said to himself. "Uncle Tom and Aunt
Sally can't be dead--I'd have seen their deaths in the paper if they
was. And I'd a-thought if they'd moved away it'd been printed too.
They can't have been gone long--that flower-bed must have been made up
last spring. Well, this is a kind of setback for a fellow. Here I've
been tramping all the way from the station, a-thinking how good it
would be to see Aunt Sally's sweet old face again, and hear Uncle
Tom's laugh, and all I find is a boarded-up house going to seed.
S'pose I might as well toddle over to Stetsons' and inquire if they
haven't disappeared, too."

He went through the old firs back of the lot and across the field to a
rather shabby house beyond. A cheery-faced woman answered his knock
and looked at him in a puzzled fashion. "Have you forgot me, Mrs.
Stetson? Don't you remember Lovell Stevens and how you used to give
him plum tarts when he'd bring your turkeys home?"

Mrs. Stetson caught both his hands in a hearty clasp.

"I guess I haven't forgotten!" she declared. "Well, well, and you're
Lovell! I think I ought to know your face, though you've changed a
lot. Fifteen years have made a big difference in you. Come right in.
Pa, this is Lovell--you mind Lovell, the boy Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom
had for years?"

"Reckon I do," drawled Jonah Stetson with a friendly grin. "Ain't
likely to forget some of the capers you used to be cutting up. You've
filled out considerable. Where have you been for the last ten years?
Aunt Sally fretted a lot over you, thinking you was dead or gone to
the bad."

Lovell's face clouded.

"I know I ought to have written," he said repentantly, "but you know
I'm a terrible poor scholar, and I'd do most anything than try to
write a letter. But where's Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally gone? Surely they
ain't dead?"

"No," said Jonah Stetson slowly, "no--but I guess they'd rather be.
They're in the poorhouse."

"The poorhouse! Aunt Sally in the poorhouse!" exclaimed Lovell.

"Yes, and it's a burning shame," declared Mrs. Stetson. "Aunt Sally's
just breaking her heart from the disgrace of it. But it didn't seem as
if it could be helped. Uncle Tom got so crippled with rheumatism he
couldn't work and Aunt Sally was too frail to do anything. They hadn't
any relations and there was a mortgage on the house."

"There wasn't any when I went away."

"No; they had to borrow money six years ago when Uncle Tom had his
first spell of rheumatic fever. This spring it was clear that there
was nothing for them but the poorhouse. They went three months ago and
terrible hard they took it, especially Aunt Sally, I felt awful about
it myself. Jonah and I would have took them if we could, but we just
couldn't--we've nothing but Jonah's wages and we have eight children
and not a bit of spare room. I go over to see Aunt Sally as often as I
can and take her some little thing, but I dunno's she wouldn't rather
not see anybody than see them in the poorhouse."

Lovell weighed his hat in his hands and frowned over it reflectively.

"Who owns the house now?"

"Peter Townley. He held the mortgage. And all the old furniture was
sold too, and that most killed Aunt Sally. But do you know what she's
fretting over most of all? She and Uncle Tom will have been married
fifty years in a fortnight's time and Aunt Sally thinks it's awful to
have to spend their golden wedding anniversary in the poorhouse. She
talks about it all the time. You're not going, Lovell"--for Lovell had
risen--"you must stop with us, since your old home is closed up. We'll
scare you up a shakedown to sleep on and you're welcome as welcome. I
haven't forgot the time you caught Mary Ellen just as she was tumbling
into the well."

"Thank you, I'll stay to tea," said Lovell, sitting down again, "but I
guess I'll make my headquarters up at the station hotel as long as I
stay round here. It's kind of more central."

"Got on pretty well out west, hey?" queried Jonah.

"Pretty well for a fellow who had nothing but his two hands to depend
on when he went out," said Lovell cautiously. "I've only been a
labouring man, of course, but I've saved up enough to start a little
store when I go back. That's why I came east for a trip now--before
I'd be tied down to business. I was hankering to see Aunt Sally and
Uncle Tom once more. I'll never forget how kind and good they was to
me. There I was, when Dad died, a little sinner of eleven, just
heading for destruction. They give me a home and all the schooling I
ever had and all the love I ever got. It was Aunt Sally's teachings
made as much a man of me as I am. I never forgot 'em and I've tried to
live up to 'em."

After tea Lovell said he thought he'd stroll up the road and pay Peter
Townley a call. Jonah Stetson and his wife looked at each other when
he had gone.

"Got something in his eye," nodded Jonah. "Him and Peter weren't never
much of friends."

"Maybe Aunt Sally's bread is coming back to her after all," said his
wife. "People used to be hard on Lovell. But I always liked him and
I'm real glad he's turned out so well."

Lovell came back to the Stetsons' the next evening. In the interval he
had seen Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom. The meeting had been both glad and
sad. Lovell had also seen other people.

"I've bought Uncle Tom's old house from Peter Townley," he said
quietly, "and I want you folks to help me out with my plans. Uncle Tom
and Aunt Sally ain't going to spend their golden wedding in the
poorhouse--no, sir. They'll spend it in their own home with their old
friends about them. But they're not to know anything about it till the
very night. Do you s'pose any of the old furniture could be got back?"

"I believe every stick of it could," said Mrs. Stetson excitedly.
"Most of it was bought by folks living handy and I don't believe one
of them would refuse to sell it back. Uncle Tom's old chair is here to
begin with--Aunt Sally give me that herself. She said she couldn't
bear to have it sold. Mrs. Isaac Appleby at the station bought the set
of pink-sprigged china and James Parker bought the grandfather's clock
and the whatnot is at the Stanton Grays'."

For the next fortnight Lovell and Mrs. Stetson did so much travelling
round together that Jonah said genially he might as well be a bachelor
as far as meals and buttons went. They visited every house where a bit
of Aunt Sally's belongings could be found. Very successful they were
too, and at the end of their jaunting the interior of the little house
behind the apple trees looked very much as it had looked when Aunt
Sally and Uncle Tom lived there.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Stetson had been revolving a design in her mind, and
one afternoon she did some canvassing on her own account. The next
time she saw Lovell she said:

"We ain't going to let you do it all. The women folks around here are
going to furnish the refreshments for the golden wedding and the girls
are going to decorate the house with golden rod."

The evening of the wedding anniversary came. Everybody in Blair was in
the plot, including the matron of the poorhouse. That night Aunt Sally
watched the sunset over the hills through bitter tears.

"I never thought I'd be celebrating my golden wedding in the
poorhouse," she sobbed. Uncle Tom put his twisted hand on her shaking
old shoulder, but before he could utter any words of comfort Lovell
Stevens stood before them.

"Just get your bonnet on, Aunt Sally," he cried jovially, "and both of
you come along with me. I've got a buggy here for you ... and you
might as well say goodbye to this place, for you're not coming back to
it any more."

"Lovell, oh, what do you mean?" said Aunt Sally tremulously.

"I'll explain what I mean as we drive along. Hurry up--the folks are
waiting."

When they reached the little old house, it was all aglow with light.
Aunt Sally gave a cry as she entered it. All her old household goods
were back in their places. There were some new ones too, for Lovell
had supplied all that was lacking. The house was full of their old
friends and neighbours. Mrs. Stetson welcomed them home again.

"Oh, Tom," whispered Aunt Sally, tears of happiness streaming down her
old face, "oh, Tom, isn't God good?"

They had a right royal celebration, and a supper such as the Blair
housewives could produce. There were speeches and songs and tales.
Lovell kept himself in the background and helped Mrs. Stetson cut cake
in the pantry all the evening. But when the guests had gone, he went
to Aunt Sally and Uncle Tom, who were sitting by the fire.

"Here's a little golden wedding present for you," he said awkwardly,
putting a purse into Aunt Sally's hand. "I reckon there's enough there
to keep you from ever having to go to the poorhouse again and if not,
there'll be more where that comes from when it's done."

There were twenty-five bright twenty-dollar gold pieces in the purse.

"We can't take it, Lovell," protested Aunt Sally. "You can't afford
it."

"Don't you worry about that," laughed Lovell. "Out west men don't
think much of a little wad like that. I owe you far more than can be
paid in cash, Aunt Sally. You must take it--I want to know there's a
little home here for me and two kind hearts in it, no matter where I
roam."

"God bless you, Lovell," said Uncle Tom huskily. "You don't know what
you've done for Sally and me."

That night, when Lovell went to the little bedroom off the
parlour--for Aunt Sally, rejoicing in the fact that she was again
mistress of a spare room, would not hear of his going to the station
hotel--he gazed at his reflection in the gilt-framed mirror soberly.

"You've just got enough left to pay your passage back west, old
fellow," he said, "and then it's begin all over again just where you
begun before. But Aunt Sally's face was worth it all--yes, sir. And
you've got your two hands still and an old couple's prayers and
blessings. Not such a bad capital, Lovell, not such a bad capital."



A Redeeming Sacrifice


The dance at Byron Lyall's was in full swing. Toff Leclerc, the best
fiddler in three counties, was enthroned on the kitchen table and from
the glossy brown violin, which his grandfather brought from Grand Pré,
was conjuring music which made even stiff old Aunt Phemy want to show
her steps. Around the kitchen sat a row of young men and women, and
the open sitting-room doorway was crowded with the faces of
non-dancing guests who wanted to watch the sets.

An eight-hand reel had just been danced and the girls, giddy from the
much swinging of the final figure, had been led back to their seats.
Mattie Lyall came out with a dipper of water and sprinkled the floor,
from which a fine dust was rising. Toff's violin purred under his
hands as he waited for the next set to form. The dancers were slow
about it. There was not the rush for the floor that there had been
earlier in the evening, for the supper table was now spread in the
dining-room and most of the guests were hungry.

"Fill up dere, boys," shouted the fiddler impatiently. "Bring out your
gals for de nex' set."

After a moment Paul King led out Joan Shelley from the shadowy corner
where they had been sitting. They had already danced several sets
together; Joan had not danced with anybody else that evening. As they
stood together under the light from the lamp on the shelf above them,
many curious and disapproving eyes watched them. Connor Mitchell, who
had been standing in the open outer doorway with the moonlight behind
him, turned abruptly on his heel and went out.

Paul King leaned his head against the wall and watched the watchers
with a smiling, defiant face as they waited for the set to form. He
was a handsome fellow, with the easy, winning ways that women love.
His hair curled in bronze masses about his head; his dark eyes were
long and drowsy and laughing; there was a swarthy bloom on his round
cheeks; and his lips were as red and beguiling as a girl's. A bad egg
was Paul King, with a bad past and a bad future. He was shiftless and
drunken; ugly tales were told of him. Not a man in Lyall's house that
night but grudged him the privilege of standing up with Joan Shelley.

Joan was a slight, blossom-like girl in white, looking much like the
pale, sweet-scented house rose she wore in her dark hair. Her face was
colourless and young, very pure and softly curved. She had wonderfully
sweet, dark blue eyes, generally dropped down, with notably long black
lashes. There were many showier girls in the groups around her, but
none half so lovely. She made all the rosy-cheeked beauties seem
coarse and over-blown.

She left in Paul's clasp the hand by which he had led her out on the
floor. Now and then he shifted his gaze from the faces before him to
hers. When he did, she always looked up and they exchanged glances as
if they had been utterly alone. Three other couples gradually took the
floor and the reel began. Joan drifted through the figures with the
grace of a wind-blown leaf. Paul danced with rollicking abandon,
seldom taking his eyes from Joan's face. When the last mad whirl was
over, Joan's brother came up and told her in an angry tone to go into
the next room and dance no more, since she would dance with only one
man. Joan looked at Paul. That look meant that she would do as he, and
none other, told her. Paul nodded easily--he did not want any fuss
just then--and the girl went obediently into the room. As she turned
from him, Paul coolly reached out his hand and took the rose from her
hair; then, with a triumphant glance around the room, he went out.

The autumn night was very clear and chill, with a faint, moaning wind
blowing up from the northwest over the sea that lay shimmering before
the door. Out beyond the cove the boats were nodding and curtsying on
the swell, and over the shore fields the great red star of the
lighthouse flared out against the silvery sky. Paul, with a whistle,
sauntered down the sandy lane, thinking of Joan. How mightily he loved
her--he, Paul King, who had made a mock of so many women and had never
loved before! Ah, and she loved him. She had never said so in words,
but eyes and tones had said it--she, Joan Shelley, the pick and pride
of the Harbour girls, whom so many men had wooed, winning their
trouble for their pains. He had won her; she was his and his only, for
the asking. His heart was seething with pride and triumph and passion
as he strode down to the shore and flung himself on the cold sand in
the black shadow of Michael Brown's beached boat.

Byron Lyall, a grizzled, elderly man, half farmer, half fisherman, and
Maxwell Holmes, the Prospect schoolteacher, came up to the boat
presently. Paul lay softly and listened to what they were saying. He
was not troubled by any sense of dishonour. Honour was something Paul
King could not lose since it was something he had never possessed.
They were talking of him and Joan.

"What a shame that a girl like Joan Shelley should throw herself away
on a man like that," Holmes said.

Byron Lyall removed the pipe he was smoking and spat reflectively at
his shadow.

"Darned shame," he agreed. "That girl's life will be ruined if she
marries him, plum' ruined, and marry him she will. He's bewitched
her--darned if I can understand it. A dozen better men have wanted
her--Connor Mitchell for one. And he's a honest, steady fellow with a
good home to offer her. If King had left her alone, she'd have taken
Connor. She used to like him well enough. But that's all over. She's
infatuated with King, the worthless scamp. She'll marry him and be
sorry for it to her last day. He's bad clear through and always will
be. Why, look you, Teacher, most men pull up a bit when they're
courting a girl, no matter how wild they've been and will be again.
Paul hasn't. It hasn't made any difference. He was dead drunk night
afore last at the Harbour head, and he hasn't done a stroke of work
for a month. And yet Joan Shelley'll take him."

"What are her people thinking of to let her go with him?" asked
Holmes.

"She hasn't any but her brother. He's against Paul, of course, but it
won't matter. The girl's fancy's caught and she'll go her own gait to
ruin. Ruin, I tell ye. If she marries that handsome ne'er-do-well,
she'll be a wretched woman all her days and none to pity her."

The two moved away then, and Paul lay motionless, face downward on the
sand, his lips pressed against Joan's sweet, crushed rose. He felt no
anger over Byron Lyall's unsparing condemnation. He knew it was true,
every word of it. He _was_ a worthless scamp and always would be. He
knew that perfectly well. It was in his blood. None of his race had
ever been respectable and he was worse than them all. He had no
intention of trying to reform because he could not and because he did
not even want to. He was not fit to touch Joan's hand. Yet he had
meant to marry her!

But to spoil her life! Would it do that? Yes, it surely would. And if
he were out of the way, taking his baleful charm out of her life,
Connor Mitchell might and doubtless would win her yet and give her all
he could not.

The man suddenly felt his eyes wet with tears. He had never shed a
tear in his daredevil life before, but they came hot and stinging now.
Something he had never known or thought of before entered into his
passion and purified it. He loved Joan. Did he love her well enough to
stand aside and let another take the sweetness and grace that was now
his own? Did he love her well enough to save her from the
poverty-stricken, shamed life she must lead with him? Did he love her
better than himself?

"I ain't fit to think of her," he groaned. "I never did a decent thing
in my life, as they say. But how can I give her up--God, how can I?"

He lay still a long time after that, until the moonlight crept around
the boat and drove away the shadow. Then he got up and went slowly
down to the water's edge with Joan's rose, all wet with his
unaccustomed tears, in his hands. Slowly and reverently he plucked off
the petals and scattered them on the ripples, where they drifted
lightly off like fairy shallops on moonshine. When the last one had
fluttered from his fingers, he went back to the house and hunted up
Captain Alec Matheson, who was smoking his pipe in a corner of the
verandah and watching the young folks dancing through the open door.
The two men talked together for some time.

When the dance broke up and the guests straggled homeward, Paul sought
Joan. Rob Shelley had his own girl to see home and relinquished the
guardianship of his sister with a scowl. Paul strode out of the
kitchen and down the steps at the side of Joan, smiling with his usual
daredeviltry. He whistled noisily all the way up the lane.

"Great little dance," he said. "My last in Prospect for a spell, I
guess."

"Why?" asked Joan wonderingly.

"Oh, I'm going to take a run down to South America in Matheson's
schooner. Lord knows when I'll come back. This old place has got too
deadly dull to suit me. I'm going to look for something livelier."

Joan's lips turned ashen under the fringes of her white fascinator.
She trembled violently and put one of her small brown hands up to her
throat. "You--you are not coming back?" she said faintly.

"Not likely. I'm pretty well tired of Prospect and I haven't got
anything to hold me here. Things'll be livelier down south."

Joan said nothing more. They walked along the spruce-fringed roads
where the moonbeams laughed down through the thick, softly swaying
boughs. Paul whistled one rollicking tune after another. The girl bit
her lips and clenched her hands. He cared nothing for her--he had been
making a mock of her as of others. Hurt pride and wounded love fought
each other in her soul. Pride conquered. She would not let him, or
anyone, see that she cared. She would _not_ care!

At her gate Paul held out his hand.

"Well, good-bye, Joan. I'm sailing tomorrow so I won't see you
again--not for years likely. You will be some sober old married woman
when I come back to Prospect, if I ever do."

"Good-bye," said Joan steadily. She gave him her cold hand and looked
calmly into his face without quailing. She had loved him with all her
heart, but now a fatal scorn of him was already mingling with her
love. He was what they said he was, a scamp without principle or
honour.

Paul whistled himself out of the Shelley lane and over the hill. Then
he flung himself down under the spruces, crushed his face into the
spicy frosted ferns, and had his black hour alone.

But when Captain Alec's schooner sailed out of the harbour the next
day, Paul King was on board of her, the wildest and most hilarious of
a wild and hilarious crew. Prospect people nodded their satisfaction.

"Good riddance," they said. "Paul King is black to the core. He never
did a decent thing in his life."



A Soul That Was Not at Home


There was a very fine sunset on the night Paul and Miss Trevor first
met, and she had lingered on the headland beyond Noel's Cove to
delight in it. The west was splendid in daffodil and rose; away to the
north there was a mackerel sky of little fiery golden clouds; and
across the water straight from Miss Trevor's feet ran a sparkling path
of light to the sun, whose rim had just touched the throbbing edge of
the purple sea. Off to the left were softly swelling violet hills and
beyond the sandshore, where little waves were crisping and silvering,
there was a harbour where scores of slender masts were nodding against
the gracious horizon.

Miss Trevor sighed with sheer happiness in all the wonderful,
fleeting, elusive loveliness of sky and sea. Then she turned to look
back at Noel's Cove, dim and shadowy in the gloom of the tall
headlands, and she saw Paul.

It did not occur to her that he could be a shore boy--she knew the
shore type too well. She thought his coming mysterious, for she was
sure he had not come along the sand, and the tide was too high for him
to have come past the other headland. Yet there he was, sitting on a
red sandstone boulder, with his bare, bronzed, shapely little legs
crossed in front of him and his hands clasped around his knee. He was
not looking at Miss Trevor but at the sunset--or, rather, it seemed as
if he were looking through the sunset to still grander and more
radiant splendours beyond, of which the things seen were only the pale
reflections, not worthy of attention from those who had the gift of
further sight.

Miss Trevor looked him over carefully with eyes that had seen a good
many people in many parts of the world for more years than she found
it altogether pleasant to acknowledge, and she concluded that he was
quite the handsomest lad she had ever seen. He had a lithe, supple
body, with sloping shoulders and a brown, satin throat. His hair was
thick and wavy, of a fine reddish chestnut; his brows were very
straight and much darker than his hair; and his eyes were large and
grey and meditative. The modelling of chin and jaw was perfect and his
mouth was delicious, being full without pouting, the crimson lips just
softly touching, and curving into finely finished little corners that
narrowly escaped being dimpled.

His attire was a blue cotton shirt and a pair of scanty corduroy
knickerbockers, but he wore it with such an unconscious air of purple
and fine linen that Miss Trevor was tricked into believing him much
better dressed than he really was.

Presently he smiled dreamily, and the smile completed her subjugation.
It was not merely an affair of lip and eye, as are most smiles; it
seemed an illumination of his whole body, as if some lamp had
suddenly burst into flame inside of him, irradiating him from his
chestnut crown to the tips of his unspoiled toes. Best of all, it was
involuntary, born of no external effort or motive, but simply the
outflashing of some wild, delicious thought that was as untrammelled
and freakish as the wind of the sea.

Miss Trevor made up her mind that she must find out all about him, and
she stepped out from the shadows of the rocks into the vivid, eerie
light that was glowing all along the shore. The boy turned his head
and looked at her, first with surprise, then with inquiry, then with
admiration. Miss Trevor, in a white dress with a lace scarf on her
dark, stately head, was well worth admiring. She smiled at him and
Paul smiled back. It was not quite up to his first smile, having more
of the effect of being put on from the outside, but at least it
conveyed the subtly flattering impression that it had been put on
solely for her, and they were as good friends from that moment as if
they had known each other for a hundred years. Miss Trevor had enough
discrimination to realize this and know that she need not waste time
in becoming acquainted.

"I want to know your name and where you live and what you were looking
at beyond the sunset," she said.

"My name is Paul Hubert. I live over there. And I can't tell just what
I saw in the sunset, but when I go home I'm going to write it all in
my foolscap book."

In her surprise over the second clause of his answer, Miss Trevor
forgot, at first, to appreciate the last. "Over there," according to
his gesture, was up at the head of Noel's Cove, where there was a
little grey house perched on the rocks and looking like a large
seashell cast up by the tide. The house had a stovepipe coming out of
its roof in lieu of a chimney, and two of its window panes were
replaced by shingles. Could this boy, who looked as young princes
should--and seldom do--live there? Then he was a shore boy after all.

"Who lives there with you?" she asked. "You see"--plaintively--"I must
ask questions about you. I know we like each other, and that is all
that really matters. But there are some tiresome items which it would
be convenient to know. For example, have you a father--a mother? Are
there any more of you? How long have you been yourself?"

Paul did not reply immediately. He clasped his hands behind him and
looked at her affectionately.

"I like the way you talk," he said. "I never knew anybody did talk
like that except folks in books and my rock people."

"Your rock people?"

"I'm eleven years old. I haven't any father or mother, they're dead. I
live over there with Stephen Kane. Stephen is splendid. He plays the
violin and takes me fishing in his boat. When I get bigger he's going
shares with me. I love him, and I love my rock people too."

"What do you mean by your rock people?" asked Miss Trevor, enjoying
herself hugely. This was the only child she had ever met who talked as
she wanted children to talk and who understood her remarks without
having to have them translated.

"Nora is one of them," said Paul, "the best one of them. I love her
better than all the others because she came first. She lives around
that point and she has black eyes and black hair and she knows all
about the mermaids and water kelpies. You ought to hear the stories
she can tell. Then there are the Twin Sailors. They don't live
anywhere--they sail all the time, but they often come ashore to talk
to me. They are a pair of jolly tars and they have seen everything in
the world--and more than what's in the world, if you only knew it. Do
you know what happened to the Youngest Twin Sailor once? He was
sailing and he sailed right into a moonglade. A moonglade is the track
the full moon makes on the water when it is rising from the sea, you
know. Well, the Youngest Twin Sailor sailed along the moonglade till
he came right up to the moon, and there was a little golden door in
the moon and he opened it and sailed right through. He had some
wonderful adventures inside the moon--I've got them all written down
in my foolscap book. Then there is the Golden Lady of the Cave. One
day I found a big cave down the shore and I went in and in and in--and
after a while I found the Golden Lady. She has golden hair right down
to her feet, and her dress is all glittering and glistening like gold
that is alive. And she has a golden harp and she plays all day long on
it--you might hear the music if you'd listen carefully, but prob'bly
you'd think it was only the wind among the rocks. I've never told Nora
about the Golden Lady, because I think it would hurt her feelings. It
even hurts her feelings when I talk too long with the Twin Sailors.
And I hate to hurt Nora's feelings, because I do love her best of all
my rock people."

"Paul! How much of this is true?" gasped Miss Trevor.

"Why, none of it!" said Paul, opening his eyes widely and
reproachfully. "I thought you would know that. If I'd s'posed you
wouldn't I'd have warned you there wasn't any of it true. I thought
you were one of the kind that would know."

"I am. Oh, I am!" said Miss Trevor eagerly. "I really would have known
if I had stopped to think. Well, it's getting late now. I must go
back, although I don't want to. But I'm coming to see you again. Will
you be here tomorrow afternoon?"

Paul nodded.

"Yes. I promised to meet the Youngest Twin Sailor down at the striped
rocks tomorrow afternoon, but the day after will do just as well. That
is the beauty of the rock people, you know. You can always depend on
them to be there just when you want them. The Youngest Twin Sailor
won't mind--he's very good-tempered. If it was the Oldest Twin I dare
say he'd be cross. I have my suspicions about that Oldest Twin
sometimes. I b'lieve he'd be a pirate if he dared. You don't know how
fierce he can look at times. There's really something very mysterious
about him."

On her way back to the hotel Miss Trevor remembered the foolscap book.

"I must get him to show it to me," she mused, smiling. "Why, the boy
is a born genius--and to think he should be a shore boy! I can't
understand it. And here I am loving him already. Well, a woman has to
love something--and you don't have to know people for years before you
can love them."

Paul was waiting on the Noel's Cove rocks for Miss Trevor the next
afternoon. He was not alone; a tall man, with a lined, strong-featured
face and a grey beard, was with him. The man was clad in a rough suit
and looked what he was, a 'longshore fisherman. But he had deep-set,
kindly eyes, and Miss Trevor liked his face. He moved off to one side
when she came and stood there for a little, apparently gazing out to
sea, while Paul and Miss Trevor talked. Then he walked away up the
cove and disappeared in his little grey house.

"Stephen came down to see if you were a suitable person for me to talk
to," said Paul gravely.

"I hope he thinks I am," said Miss Trevor, amused.

"Oh, he does! He wouldn't have gone away and left us alone if he
didn't. Stephen is very particular who he lets me 'sociate with. Why,
even the rock people now--I had to promise I'd never let the Twin
Sailors swear before he'd allow me to be friends with them. Sometimes
I know by the look of the Oldest Twin that he's just dying to swear,
but I never let him, because I promised Stephen. I'd do anything for
Stephen. He's awful good to me. Stephen's bringing me up, you know,
and he's bound to do it well. We're just perfectly happy here, only I
wish I'd more books to read. We go fishing, and when we come home at
night I help Stephen clean the fish and then we sit outside the door
and he plays the violin for me. We sit there for hours sometimes. We
never talk much--Stephen isn't much of a hand for talking--but we just
sit and think. There's not many men like Stephen, I can tell you."

Miss Trevor did not get a glimpse of the foolscap book that day, nor
for many days after. Paul blushed all over his beautiful face whenever
she mentioned it.

"Oh, I couldn't show you that," he said uncomfortably. "Why, I've
never even showed it to Stephen--or Nora. Let me tell you something
else instead, something that happened to me once long ago. You'll find
it more interesting than the foolscap book, only you must remember it
isn't true! You won't forget that, will you?"

"I'll try to remember," Miss Trevor agreed.

"Well, I was sitting here one evening just like I was last night, and
the sun was setting. And an enchanted boat came sailing over the sea
and I got into her. The boat was all pearly like the inside of the
mussel shells, and her sail was like moonshine. Well, I sailed right
across to the sunset. Think of that--I've been in the sunset! And what
do you suppose it is? The sunset is a land all flowers, like a great
garden, and the clouds are beds of flowers. We sailed into a great big
harbour, a thousand times bigger than the harbour over there at your
hotel, and I stepped out of the boat on a 'normous meadow all roses. I
stayed there for ever so long. It seemed almost a year, but the
Youngest Twin Sailor says I was only away a few hours or so. You see,
in Sunset Land the time is ever so much longer than it is here. But I
was glad to come back too. I'm always glad to come back to the cove
and Stephen. Now, you know this never really happened."

Miss Trevor would not give up the foolscap book so easily, but for a
long time Paul refused to show it to her. She came to the cove every
day, and every day Paul seemed more delightful to her. He was so
quaint, so clever, so spontaneous. Yet there was nothing premature or
unnatural about him. He was wholly boy, fond of fun and frolic, not
too good for little spurts of quick temper now and again, though, as
he was careful to explain to Miss Trevor, he never showed them to a
lady.

"I get real mad with the Twin Sailors sometimes, and even with
Stephen, for all he's so good to me. But I couldn't be mad with you or
Nora or the Golden Lady. It would never do."

Every day he had some new story to tell of a wonderful adventure on
rock or sea, always taking the precaution of assuring her beforehand
that it wasn't true. The boy's fancy was like a prism, separating
every ray that fell upon it into rainbows. He was passionately fond of
the shore and water. The only world for him beyond Noel's Cove was the
world of his imagination. He had no companions except Stephen and the
"rock people."

"And now you," he told Miss Trevor. "I love you too, but I know you'll
be going away before long, so I don't let myself love you as
much--quite--as Stephen and the rock people."

"But you could, couldn't you?" pleaded Miss Trevor. "If you and I were
to go on being together every day, you could love me just as well as
you love them, couldn't you?"

Paul considered in a charming way he had.

"Of course I could love you better than the Twin Sailors and the
Golden Lady," he announced finally. "And I think perhaps I could love
you as much as I love Stephen. But not as much as Nora--oh, no, I
wouldn't love you quite as much as Nora. She was first, you see; she's
always been there. I feel sure I couldn't ever love anybody as much as
Nora."

One day when Stephen was out to the mackerel grounds, Paul took Miss
Trevor into the little grey house and showed her his treasures. They
climbed the ladder in one corner to the loft where Paul slept. The
window of it, small and square-paned, looked seaward, and the moan of
the sea and the pipe of the wind sounded there night and day. Paul had
many rare shells and seaweeds, curious flotsam and jetsam of shore
storms, and he had a small shelf full of books.

"They're splendid," he said enthusiastically. "Stephen brought me them
all. Every time Stephen goes to town to ship his mackerel he brings me
home a new book."

"Were you ever in town yourself?" asked Miss Trevor.

"Oh, yes, twice. Stephen took me. It was a wonderful place. I tell
you, when I next met the Twin Sailors it was me did the talking then.
I had to tell them about all I saw and all that had happened. And Nora
was ever so interested too. The Golden Lady wasn't, though--she didn't
hardly listen. Golden people are like that."

"Would you like," said Miss Trevor, watching him closely, "to live
always in a town and have all the books you wanted and play with real
girls and boys--and visit those strange lands your twin sailors tell
you of?"

Paul looked startled.

"I--don't--know," he said doubtfully. "I don't think I'd like it very
well if Stephen and Nora weren't there too."

But the new thought remained in his mind. It came back to him at
intervals, seeming less new and startling every time.

"And why not?" Miss Trevor asked herself. "The boy should have a
chance. I shall never have a son of my own--he shall be to me in the
place of one."

The day came when Paul at last showed her the foolscap book. He
brought it to her as she sat on the rocks of the headland.

"I'm going to run around and talk to Nora while you read it," he said.
"I'm afraid I've been neglecting her lately--and I think she feels
it."

Miss Trevor took the foolscap book. It was made of several sheets of
paper sewed together and encased in an oilcloth cover. It was nearly
filled with writing in a round childish hand and it was very neat,
although the orthography was rather wild and the punctuation
capricious. Miss Trevor read it through in no very long time. It was a
curious medley of quaint thoughts and fancies. Conversations with the
Twin Sailors filled many of the pages; accounts of Paul's "adventures"
occupied others. Sometimes it seemed impossible that a child of eleven
should have written them, then would come an expression so boyish and
naive that Miss Trevor laughed delightedly over it. When she finished
the book and closed it she found Stephen Kane at her elbow. He
removed his pipe and nodded at the foolscap book.

"What do you think of it?" he said.

"I think it is wonderful. Paul is a very clever child."

"I've often thought so," said Stephen laconically. He thrust his hands
into his pockets and gazed moodily out to sea. Miss Trevor had never
before had an opportunity to talk to him in Paul's absence and she
determined to make the most of it.

"I want to know something about Paul," she said, "all about him. Is he
any relation to you?"

"No. I expected to marry his mother once, though," said Stephen
unemotionally. His hand in his pocket was clutching his pipe fiercely,
but Miss Trevor could not know that. "She was a shore girl and very
pretty. Well, she fell in love with a young fellow that came teaching
up t' the harbour school and he with her. They got married and she
went away with him. He was a good enough sort of chap. I know that
now, though once I wasn't disposed to think much good of him. But
'twas a mistake all the same; Rachel couldn't live away from the
shore. She fretted and pined and broke her heart for it away there in
his world. Finally her husband died and she came back--but it was too
late for her. She only lived a month--and there was Paul, a baby of
two. I took him. There was nobody else. Rachel had no relatives nor
her husband either. I've done what I could for him--not that it's been
much, perhaps."

"I am sure you have done a great deal for him," said Miss Trevor
rather patronizingly. "But I think he should have more than you can
give him now. He should be sent to school."

Stephen nodded.

"Maybe. He never went to school. The harbour school was too far away.
I taught him to read and write and bought him all the books I could
afford. But I can't do any more for him."

"But I can," said Miss Trevor, "and I want to. Will you give Paul to
me, Mr. Kane? I love him dearly and he shall have every advantage. I'm
rich--I can do a great deal for him."

Stephen continued to gaze out to sea with an expressionless face.
Finally he said: "I've been expecting to hear you say something of the
sort. I don't know. If you took Paul away, he'd grow to be a cleverer
man and a richer man maybe, but would he be any better--or happier?
He's his mother's son--he loves the sea and its ways. There's nothing
of his father in him except his hankering after books. But I won't
choose for him--he can go if he likes--he can go if he likes."

In the end Paul "liked," since Stephen refused to influence him by so
much as a word. Paul thought Stephen didn't seem to care much whether
he went or stayed, and he was dazzled by Miss Trevor's charm and the
lure of books and knowledge she held out to him.

"I'll go, I guess," he said, with a long sigh.

Miss Trevor clasped him close to her and kissed him maternally. Paul
kissed her cheek shyly in return. He thought it very wonderful that he
was to live with her always. He felt happy and excited--so happy and
excited that the parting when it came slipped over him lightly. Miss
Trevor even thought he took it too easily and had a vague wish that he
had shown more sorrow. Stephen said farewell to the boy he loved
better than life with no visible emotion.

"Good-bye, Paul. Be a good boy and learn all you can." He hesitated a
moment and then said slowly, "If you don't like it, come back."

"Did you bid good-bye to your rock people?" Miss Trevor asked him with
a smile as they drove away.

"No. I--couldn't--I--I--didn't even tell them I was going away. Nora
would break her heart. I'd rather not talk of them anymore, if you
please. Maybe I won't want them when I've plenty of books and lots of
other boys and girls--real ones--to play with."

They drove the ten miles to the town where they were to take the train
the next day. Paul enjoyed the drive and the sights of the busy
streets at its end. He was all excitement and animation. After they
had had tea at the house of the friend where Miss Trevor meant to
spend the night, they went for a walk in the park. Paul was tired and
very quiet when they came back. He was put away to sleep in a bedroom
whose splendours frightened him, and left alone.

At first Paul lay very still on his luxurious perfumed pillows. It was
the first night he had ever spent away from the little seaward-looking
loft where he could touch the rafters with his hands. He thought of it
now and a lump came into his throat and a strange, new, bitter longing
came into his heart. He missed the sea plashing on the rocks below
him--he could not sleep without that old lullaby. He turned his face
into the pillow, and the longing and loneliness grew worse and hurt
him until he moaned. Oh, he wanted to be back home! Surely he had not
left it--he could never have meant to leave it. Out there the stars
would be shining over the harbour. Stephen would be sitting at the
door, all alone, with his violin. But he would not be playing it--all
at once Paul knew he would not be playing it. He would be sitting
there with his head bowed and the loneliness in his heart calling to
the loneliness in Paul's heart over all the miles between them. Oh, he
could never have really meant to leave Stephen.

And Nora? Nora would be down on the rocks waiting for him--for him,
Paul, who would never come to her more. He could see her elfin little
face peering around the point, watching for him wistfully.

Paul sat up in bed, choking with tears. Oh, what were books and
strange countries?--what was even Miss Trevor, the friend of a
month?--to the call of the sea and Stephen's kind, deep eyes and his
dear rock people? He could not stay away from them--never--never.

He slipped out of bed very softly and dressed in the dark. Then he
lighted the lamp timidly and opened the little brown chest Stephen had
given him. It held his books and his treasures, but he took out only a
pencil, a bit of paper and the foolscap book. With a hand shaking in
his eagerness, he wrote:

    _dear miss Trever_

    _Im going back home, dont be fritened about me because I know
    the way. Ive got to go. something is calling me. dont be
    cross. I love you, but I cant stay. Im leaving my foolscap
    book for you, you can keep it always but I must go back to
    Stephen and nora_

                                                 _Paul_

He put the note on the foolscap book and laid them on the table. Then
he blew out the light, took his cap and went softly out. The house was
very still. Holding his breath, he tiptoed downstairs and opened the
front door. Before it ran the street which went, he knew, straight out
to the country road that led home. Paul closed the door and stole down
the steps, his heart beating painfully, but when he reached the
sidewalk he broke into a frantic run under the limes. It was late and
no one was out on that quiet street. He ran until his breath gave
out, then walked miserably until he recovered it, and then ran again.
He dared not stop running until he was out of that horrible town,
which seemed like a prison closing around him, where the houses shut
out the stars and the wind could only creep in a narrow space like a
fettered, cringing thing, instead of sweeping grandly over great salt
wastes of sea.

At last the houses grew few and scattered, and finally he left them
behind. He drew a long breath; this was better--rather smothering yet,
of course, with nothing but hills and fields and dark woods all about
him, but at least his own sky was above him, looking just the same as
it looked out home at Noel's Cove. He recognized the stars as friends;
how often Stephen had pointed them out to him as they sat at night by
the door of the little house.

He was not at all frightened now. He knew the way home and the kind
night was before him. Every step was bringing him nearer to Stephen
and Nora and the Twin Sailors. He whistled as he walked sturdily
along.

The dawn was just breaking when he reached Noel's Cove. The eastern
sky was all pale rose and silver, and the sea was mottled over with
dear grey ripples. In the west over the harbour the sky was a very
fine ethereal blue and the wind blew from there, salt and bracing.
Paul was tired, but he ran lightly down the shelving rocks to the
cove. Stephen was getting ready to launch his boat. When he saw Paul
he started and a strange, vivid, exultant expression flashed across
his face.

Paul felt a sudden chill--the upspringing fountain of his gladness was
checked in mid-leap. He had known no doubt on the way home--all that
long, weary walk he had known no doubt--but now?

"Stephen," he cried. "I've come back! I had to! Stephen, are you
glad--are you glad?"

Stephen's face was as emotionless as ever. The burst of feeling which
had frightened Paul by its unaccustomedness had passed like a fleeting
outbreak of sunshine between dull clouds.

"I reckon I am," he said. "Yes, I reckon I am. I kind of--hoped--you
would come back. You'd better go in and get some breakfast."

Paul's eyes were as radiant as the deepening dawn. He knew Stephen was
glad and he knew there was nothing more to be said about it. They were
back just where they were before Miss Trevor came--back in their
perfect, unmarred, sufficient comradeship.

"I must just run around and see Nora first," said Paul.



Abel and His Great Adventure


"Come out of doors, master--come out of doors. I can't talk or think
right with walls around me--never could. Let's go out to the garden."
These were almost the first words I ever heard Abel Armstrong say. He
was a member of the board of school trustees in Stillwater, and I had
not met him before this late May evening, when I had gone down to
confer with him upon some small matter of business. For I was "the new
schoolmaster" in Stillwater, having taken the school for the summer
term.

It was a rather lonely country district--a fact of which I was glad,
for life had been going somewhat awry with me and my heart was sore
and rebellious over many things that have nothing to do with this
narration. Stillwater offered time and opportunity for healing and
counsel. Yet, looking back, I doubt if I should have found either had
it not been for Abel and his beloved garden.

Abel Armstrong (he was always called "Old Abel", though he was barely
sixty) lived in a quaint, gray house close by the harbour shore. I
heard a good deal about him before I saw him. He was called "queer",
but Stillwater folks seemed to be very fond of him. He and his sister,
Tamzine, lived together; she, so my garrulous landlady informed me,
had not been sound of mind at times for many years; but she was all
right now, only odd and quiet. Abel had gone to college for a year
when he was young, but had given it up when Tamzine "went crazy".
There was no one else to look after her. Abel had settled down to it
with apparent content: at least he had never complained.

"Always took things easy, Abel did," said Mrs. Campbell. "Never
seemed to worry over disappointments and trials as most folks do.
Seems to me that as long as Abel Armstrong can stride up and down in
that garden of his, reciting poetry and speeches, or talking to that
yaller cat of his as if it was a human, he doesn't care much how the
world wags on. He never had much git-up-and-git. His father was a
hustler, but the family didn't take after him. They all favoured the
mother's people--sorter shiftless and dreamy. 'Taint the way to git on
in this world."

No, good and worthy Mrs. Campbell. It was not the way to get on in
your world; but there are other worlds where getting on is estimated
by different standards, and Abel Armstrong lived in one of these--a
world far beyond the ken of the thrifty Stillwater farmers and
fishers. Something of this I had sensed, even before I saw him; and
that night in his garden, under a sky of smoky red, blossoming into
stars above the harbour, I found a friend whose personality and
philosophy were to calm and harmonize and enrich my whole existence.
This sketch is my grateful tribute to one of the rarest and finest
souls God ever clothed with clay.

He was a tall man, somewhat ungainly of figure and homely of face. But
his large, deep eyes of velvety nut-brown were very beautiful and
marvellously bright and clear for a man of his age. He wore a little
pointed, well-cared-for beard, innocent of gray; but his hair was
grizzled, and altogether he had the appearance of a man who had passed
through many sorrows which had marked his body as well as his soul.
Looking at him, I doubted Mrs. Campbell's conclusion that he had not
"minded" giving up college. This man had given up much and felt it
deeply; but he had outlived the pain and the blessing of sacrifice had
come to him. His voice was very melodious and beautiful, and the brown
hand he held out to me was peculiarly long and shapely and flexible.

We went out to the garden in the scented moist air of a maritime
spring evening. Behind the garden was a cloudy pine wood; the house
closed it in on the left, while in front and on the right a row of
tall Lombardy poplars stood out in stately purple silhouette against
the sunset sky.

"Always liked Lombardies," said Abel, waving a long arm at them. "They
are the trees of princesses. When I was a boy they were fashionable.
Anyone who had any pretensions to gentility had a row of Lombardies at
the foot of his lawn or up his lane, or at any rate one on either side
of his front door. They're out of fashion now. Folks complain they die
at the top and get ragged-looking. So they do--so they do, if you
don't risk your neck every spring climbing up a light ladder to trim
them out as I do. My neck isn't worth much to anyone, which, I
suppose, is why I've never broken it; and _my_ Lombardies never look
out-at-elbows. My mother was especially fond of them. She liked their
dignity and their stand-offishness. _They_ don't hobnob with every
Tom, Dick and Harry. If it's pines for company, master, it's
Lombardies for society."

We stepped from the front doorstone into the garden. There was another
entrance--a sagging gate flanked by two branching white lilacs. From
it a little dappled path led to a huge apple-tree in the centre, a
great swelling cone of rosy blossom with a mossy circular seat around
its trunk. But Abel's favourite seat, so he told me, was lower down
the slope, under a little trellis overhung with the delicate emerald
of young hop-vines. He led me to it and pointed proudly to the fine
view of the harbour visible from it. The early sunset glow of rose and
flame had faded out of the sky; the water was silvery and mirror-like;
dim sails drifted along by the darkening shore. A bell was ringing in
a small Catholic chapel across the harbour. Mellowly and dreamily
sweet the chime floated through the dusk, blent with the moan of the
sea. The great revolving light at the channel trembled and flashed
against the opal sky, and far out, beyond the golden sand-dunes of the
bar, was the crinkled gray ribbon of a passing steamer's smoke.

"There, isn't that view worth looking at?" said old Abel, with a
loving, proprietary pride. "You don't have to pay anything for it,
either. All that sea and sky free--'without money and without price'.
Let's sit down here in the hop-vine arbour, master. There'll be a
moonrise presently. I'm never tired of finding out what a moonrise
sheen can be like over that sea. There's a surprise in it every time.
Now, master, you're getting your mouth in the proper shape to talk
business--but don't you do it. Nobody should talk business when he's
expecting a moonrise. Not that I like talking business at any time."

"Unfortunately it has to be talked of sometimes, Mr. Armstrong," I
said.

"Yes, it seems to be a necessary evil, master," he acknowledged. "But
I know what business you've come upon, and we can settle it in five
minutes after the moon's well up. I'll just agree to everything you
and the other two trustees want. Lord knows why they ever put me on
the school board. Maybe it's because I'm so ornamental. They wanted
one good-looking man, I reckon."

His low chuckle, so full of mirth and so free from malice, was
infectious. I laughed also, as I sat down in the hop-vine arbour.

"Now, you needn't talk if you don't want to," he said. "And I won't.
We'll just sit here, sociable like, and if we think of anything worth
while to say we'll say it. Otherwise, not. If you can sit in silence
with a person for half an hour and feel comfortable, you and that
person can be friends. If you can't, friends you'll never be, and you
needn't waste time in trying."

Abel and I passed successfully the test of silence that evening in the
hop-vine arbour. I was strangely content to sit and think--something I
had not cared to do lately. A peace, long unknown to my stormy soul,
seemed hovering near it. The garden was steeped in it; old Abel's
personality radiated it. I looked about me and wondered whence came
the charm of that tangled, unworldly spot.

"Nice and far from the market-place isn't it?" asked Abel suddenly,
as if he had heard my unasked question. "No buying and selling and
getting gain here. Nothing was ever sold out of _this_ garden. Tamzine
has her vegetable plot over yonder, but what we don't eat we give
away. Geordie Marr down the harbour has a big garden like this and he
sells heaps of flowers and fruit and vegetables to the hotel folks. He
thinks I'm an awful fool because I won't do the same. Well, he gets
money out of his garden and I get happiness out of mine. That's the
difference. S'posing I could make more money--what then? I'd only be
taking it from people that needed it more. There's enough for Tamzine
and me. As for Geordie Marr, there isn't a more unhappy creature on
God's earth--he's always stewing in a broth of trouble, poor man. O'
course, he brews up most of it for himself, but I reckon that doesn't
make it any easier to bear. Ever sit in a hop-vine arbour before,
master?"

I was to grow used to Abel's abrupt change of subject. I answered that
I never had.

"Great place for dreaming," said Abel complacently. "Being young, no
doubt, you dream a-plenty."

I answered hotly and bitterly that I had done with dreams.

"No, you haven't," said Abel meditatively. "You may _think_ you have.
What then? First thing you know you'll be dreaming again--thank the
Lord for it. I ain't going to ask you what's soured you on dreaming
just now. After awhile you'll begin again, especially if you come to
this garden as much as I hope you will. It's chockful of dreams--_any_
kind of dreams. You take your choice. Now, _I_ favour dreams of
adventures, if you'll believe it. I'm sixty-one and I never do anything
rasher than go out cod-fishing on a fine day, but I still lust after
adventures. Then I dream I'm an awful fellow--blood-thirsty."

I burst out laughing. Perhaps laughter was somewhat rare in that old
garden. Tamzine, who was weeding at the far end, lifted her head in a
startled fashion and walked past us into the house. She did not look
at us or speak to us. She was reputed to be abnormally shy. She was
very stout and wore a dress of bright red-and-white striped material.
Her face was round and blank, but her reddish hair was abundant and
beautiful. A huge, orange-coloured cat was at her heels; as she passed
us he bounded over to the arbour and sprang up on Abel's knee. He was
a gorgeous brute, with vivid green eyes, and immense white double
paws.

"Captain Kidd, Mr. Woodley." He introduced us as seriously as if the
cat had been a human being. Neither Captain Kidd nor I responded very
enthusiastically.

"You don't like cats, I reckon, master," said Abel, stroking the
Captain's velvet back. "I don't blame you. I was never fond of them
myself until I found the Captain. I saved his life and when you've
saved a creature's life you're bound to love it. It's next thing to
giving it life. There are some terrible thoughtless people in the
world, master. Some of those city folks who have summer homes down the
harbour are so thoughtless that they're cruel. It's the worst kind of
cruelty, I think--the thoughtless kind. You can't cope with it. They
keep cats there in the summer and feed them and pet them and doll them
up with ribbons and collars; and then in the fall they go off and
leave them to starve or freeze. It makes my blood boil, master."

"One day last winter I found a poor old mother cat dead on the shore,
lying against the skin and bone bodies of her three little kittens.
She had died trying to shelter them. She had her poor stiff claws
around them. Master, I cried. Then I swore. Then I carried those poor
little kittens home and fed 'hem up and found good homes for them. I
know the woman who left the cat. When she comes back this summer I'm
going to go down and tell her my opinion of her. It'll be rank
meddling, but, lord, how I love meddling in a good cause."

"Was Captain Kidd one of the forsaken?" I asked.

"Yes. I found him one bitter cold day in winter caught in the
branches of a tree by his darn-fool ribbon collar. He was almost
starving. Lord, if you could have seen his eyes! He was nothing but a
kitten, and he'd got his living somehow since he'd been left till he
got hung up. When I loosed him he gave my hand a pitiful swipe with
his little red tongue. He wasn't the prosperous free-booter you behold
now. He was meek as Moses. That was nine years ago. His life has been
long in the land for a cat. He's a good old pal, the Captain is."

"I should have expected you to have a dog," I said.

Abel shook his head.

"I had a dog once. I cared so much for him that when he died I
couldn't bear the thought of ever getting another in his place. He was
a _friend_--you understand? The Captain's only a pal. I'm fond of the
Captain--all the fonder because of the spice of deviltry there is in
all cats. But I _loved_ my dog. There isn't any devil in a good dog.
That's why they're more lovable than cats--but I'm darned if they're
as interesting."

I laughed as I rose regretfully.

"Must you go, master? And we haven't talked any business after all. I
reckon it's that stove matter you've come about. It's like those two
fool trustees to start up a stove sputter in spring. It's a wonder
they didn't leave it till dog-days and begin then."

"They merely wished me to ask you if you approved of putting in a new
stove."

"Tell them to put in a new stove--any kind of a new stove--and be
hanged to them," rejoined Abel. "As for you, master, you're welcome to
this garden any time. If you're tired or lonely, or too ambitious or
angry, come here and sit awhile, master. Do you think any man could
keep mad if he sat and looked into the heart of a pansy for ten
minutes? When you feel like talking, I'll talk, and when you feel like
thinking, I'll let you. I'm a great hand to leave folks alone."

"I think I'll come often," I said, "perhaps too often."

"Not likely, master--not likely--not after we've watched a moonrise
contentedly together. It's as good a test of compatibility as any I
know. You're young and I'm old, but our souls are about the same age,
I reckon, and we'll find lots to say to each other. Are you going
straight home from here?"

"Yes."

"Then I'm going to bother you to stop for a moment at Mary Bascom's
and give her a bouquet of my white lilacs. She loves 'em and I'm not
going to wait till she's dead to send her flowers."

"She's very ill just now, isn't she?"

"She's got the Bascom consumption. That means she may die in a month,
like her brother, or linger on for twenty years, like her father. But
long or short, white lilac in spring is sweet, and I'm sending her a
fresh bunch every day while it lasts. It's a rare night, master. I
envy you your walk home in the moonlight along that shore."

"Better come part of the way with me," I suggested.

"No." Abel glanced at the house. "Tamzine never likes to be alone o'
nights. So I take my moonlight walks in the garden. The moon's a great
friend of mine, master. I've loved her ever since I can remember. When
I was a little lad of eight I fell asleep in the garden one evening
and wasn't missed. I woke up alone in the night and I was most scared
to death, master. Lord, what shadows and queer noises there were! I
darsn't move. I just sat there quaking, poor small mite. Then all at
once I saw the moon looking down at me through the pine boughs, just
like an old friend. I was comforted right off. Got up and walked to
the house as brave as a lion, looking at her. Goodnight, master. Tell
Mary the lilacs'll last another week yet."

From that night Abel and I were cronies. We walked and talked and kept
silence and fished cod together. Stillwater people thought it very
strange that I should prefer his society to that of the young fellows
of my own age. Mrs. Campbell was quite worried over it, and opined
that there had always been something queer about me. "Birds of a
feather."

I loved that old garden by the harbour shore. Even Abel himself, I
think, could hardly have felt a deeper affection for it. When its gate
closed behind me it shut out the world and my corroding memories and
discontents. In its peace my soul emptied itself of the bitterness
which had been filling and spoiling it, and grew normal and healthy
again, aided thereto by Abel's wise words. He never preached, but he
radiated courage and endurance and a frank acceptance of the hard
things of life, as well as a cordial welcome of its pleasant things.
He was the sanest soul I ever met. He neither minimized ill nor
exaggerated good, but he held that we should never be controlled by
either. Pain should not depress us unduly, nor pleasure lure us into
forgetfulness and sloth. All unknowingly he made me realize that I had
been a bit of a coward and a shirker. I began to understand that my
personal woes were not the most important things in the universe, even
to myself. In short, Abel taught me to laugh again; and when a man can
laugh wholesomely things are not going too badly with him.

That old garden was always such a cheery place. Even when the east
wind sang in minor and the waves on the gray shore were sad, hints of
sunshine seemed to be lurking all about it. Perhaps this was because
there were so many yellow flowers in it. Tamzine liked yellow flowers.
Captain Kidd, too, always paraded it in panoply of gold. He was so
large and effulgent that one hardly missed the sun. Considering his
presence I wondered that the garden was always so full of singing
birds. But the Captain never meddled with them. Probably he understood
that his master would not have tolerated it for a moment. So there was
always a song or a chirp somewhere. Overhead flew the gulls and the
cranes. The wind in the pines always made a glad salutation. Abel and
I paced the walks, in high converse on matters beyond the ken of cat
or king.

"I liked to ponder on all problems, though I can never solve them,"
Abel used to say. "My father held that we should never talk of things
we couldn't understand. But, lord, master, if we didn't the subjects
for conversation would be mighty few. I reckon the gods laugh many a
time to hear us, but what matter? So long as we remember that we're
only men, and don't take to fancying ourselves gods, really knowing
good and evil, I reckon our discussions won't do us or anyone much
harm. So we'll have another whack at the origin of evil this evening,
master."

Tamzine forgot to be shy with me at last, and gave me a broad smile of
welcome every time I came. But she rarely spoke to me. She spent all
her spare time weeding the garden, which she loved as well as Abel
did. She was addicted to bright colours and always wore wrappers of
very gorgeous print. She worshipped Abel and his word was a law unto
her.

"I am very thankful Tamzine is so well," said Abel one evening as we
watched the sunset. The day had begun sombrely in gray cloud and mist,
but it ended in a pomp of scarlet and gold. "There was a time when she
wasn't, master--you've heard? But for years now she has been quite
able to look after herself. And so, if I fare forth on the last great
adventure some of these days Tamzine will not be left helpless."

"She is ten years older than you. It is likely she will go before
you," I said.

Abel shook his head and stroked his smart beard. I always suspected
that beard of being Abel's last surviving vanity. It was always so
carefully groomed, while I had no evidence that he ever combed his
grizzled mop of hair.

"No, Tamzine will outlive me. She's got the Armstrong heart. I have
the Marwood heart--my mother was a Marwood. We don't live to be old,
and we go quick and easy. I'm glad of it. I don't think I'm a coward,
master, but the thought of a lingering death gives me a queer sick
feeling of horror. There, I'm not going to say any more about it. I
just mentioned it so that some day when you hear that old Abel
Armstrong has been found dead, you won't feel sorry. You'll remember I
wanted it that way. Not that I'm tired of life either. It's very
pleasant, what with my garden and Captain Kidd and the harbour out
there. But it's a trifle monotonous at times and death will be
something of a change, master. I'm real curious about it."

"I hate the thought of death," I said gloomily.

"Oh, you're young. The young always do. Death grows friendlier as we
grow older. Not that one of us really wants to die, though, master.
Tennyson spoke truth when he said that. There's old Mrs. Warner at the
Channel Head. She's had heaps of trouble all her life, poor soul, and
she's lost almost everyone she cared about. She's always saying that
she'll be glad when her time comes, and she doesn't want to live any
longer in this vale of tears. But when she takes a sick spell, lord,
what a fuss she makes, master! Doctors from town and a trained nurse
and enough medicine to kill a dog! Life may be a vale of tears, all
right, master, but there are some folks who enjoy weeping, I reckon."

Summer passed through the garden with her procession of roses and
lilies and hollyhocks and golden glow. The golden glow was
particularly fine that year. There was a great bank of it at the lower
end of the garden, like a huge billow of sunshine. Tamzine revelled in
it, but Abel liked more subtly-tinted flowers. There was a certain
dark wine-hued hollyhock which was a favourite with him. He would sit
for hours looking steadfastly into one of its shallow satin cups. I
found him so one afternoon in the hop-vine arbour.

"This colour always has a soothing effect on me," he explained.
"Yellow excites me too much--makes me restless--makes me want to sail
'beyond the bourne of sunset'. I looked at that surge of golden glow
down there today till I got all worked up and thought my life had been
an awful failure. I found a dead butterfly and had a little
funeral--buried it in the fern corner. And I thought I hadn't been
any more use in the world than that poor little butterfly. Oh, I was
woeful, master. Then I got me this hollyhock and sat down here to look
at it alone. When a man's alone, master, he's most with God--or with
the devil. The devil rampaged around me all the time I was looking at
that golden glow; but God spoke to me through the hollyhock. And it
seemed to me that a man who's as happy as I am and has got such a
garden has made a real success of living."

"I hope I'll be able to make as much of a success," I said sincerely.

"I want you to make a different kind of success, though, master," said
Abel, shaking his head. "I want you to _do_ things--the things I'd
have tried to do if I'd had the chance. It's in you to do them--if you
set your teeth and go ahead."

"I believe I _can_ set my teeth and go ahead now, thanks to you, Mr.
Armstrong," I said. "I was heading straight for failure when I came
here last spring; but you've changed my course."

"Given you a sort of compass to steer by, haven't I?" queried Abel
with a smile. "I ain't too modest to take some credit for it. I saw I
could do _you_ some good. But my garden has done more than I did, if
you'll believe it. It's wonderful what a garden can do for a man when
he lets it have its way. Come, sit down here and bask, master. The
sunshine may be gone to-morrow. Let's just sit and think."

We sat and thought for a long while. Presently Abel said abruptly:

"You don't see the folks I see in this garden, master. You don't see
anybody but me and old Tamzine and Captain Kidd. I see all who used to
be here long ago. It was a lively place then. There were plenty of us
and we were as gay a set of youngsters as you'd find anywhere. We
tossed laughter backwards and forwards here like a ball. And now old
Tamzine and older Abel are all that are left."

He was silent a moment, looking at the phantoms of memory that paced
invisibly to me the dappled walks and peeped merrily through the
swinging boughs. Then he went on:

"Of all the folks I see here there are two that are more vivid and
real than all the rest, master. One is my sister Alice. She died
thirty years ago. She was very beautiful. You'd hardly believe that to
look at Tamzine and me, would you? But it is true. We always called
her Queen Alice--she was so stately and handsome. She had brown eyes
and red gold hair, just the colour of that nasturtium there. She was
father's favourite. The night she was born they didn't think my mother
would live. Father walked this garden all night. And just under that
old apple-tree he knelt at sunrise and thanked God when they came to
tell him that all was well.

"Alice was always a creature of joy. This old garden rang with her
laughter in those years. She seldom walked--she ran or danced. She
only lived twenty years, but nineteen of them were so happy I've never
pitied her over much. She had everything that makes life worth
living--laughter and love, and at the last sorrow. James Milburn was
her lover. It's thirty-one years since his ship sailed out of that
harbour and Alice waved him good-bye from this garden. He never came
back. His ship was never heard of again.

"When Alice gave up hope that it would be, she died of a broken heart.
They say there's no such thing; but nothing else ailed Alice. She
stood at yonder gate day after day and watched the harbour; and when
at last she gave up hope life went with it. I remember the day: she
had watched until sunset. Then she turned away from the gate. All the
unrest and despair had gone out of her eyes. There was a terrible
peace in them--the peace of the dead. 'He will never come back now,
Abel,' she said to me.

"In less than a week she was dead. The others mourned her, but I
didn't, master. She had sounded the deeps of living and there was
nothing else to linger through the years for. _My_ grief had spent
itself earlier, when I walked this garden in agony because I could
not help her. But often, on these long warm summer afternoons, I seem
to hear Alice's laughter all over this garden; though she's been dead
so long."

He lapsed into a reverie which I did not disturb, and it was not until
another day that I learned of the other memory that he cherished. He
reverted to it suddenly as we sat again in the hop-vine arbour,
looking at the glimmering radiance of the September sea.

"Master, how many of us are sitting here?"

"Two in the flesh. How many in the spirit I know not," I answered,
humouring his mood.

"There is one--the other of the two I spoke of the day I told you
about Alice. It's harder for me to speak of this one."

"Don't speak of it if it hurts you," I said.

"But I want to. It's a whim of mine. Do you know why I told you of
Alice and why I'm going to tell you of Mercedes? It's because I want
someone to remember them and think of them sometimes after I'm gone. I
can't bear that their names should be utterly forgotten by all living
souls.

"My older brother, Alec, was a sailor, and on his last voyage to the
West Indies he married and brought home a Spanish girl. My father and
mother didn't like the match. Mercedes was a foreigner and a Catholic,
and differed from us in every way. But I never blamed Alec after I saw
her. It wasn't that she was so very pretty. She was slight and dark
and ivory-coloured. But she was very graceful, and there was a charm
about her, master--a mighty and potent charm. The women couldn't
understand it. They wondered at Alec's infatuation for her. I never
did. I--I loved her, too, master, before I had known her a day. Nobody
ever knew it. Mercedes never dreamed of it. But it's lasted me all my
life. I never wanted to think of any other woman. She spoiled a man
for any other kind of woman--that little pale, dark-eyed Spanish girl.
To love her was like drinking some rare sparkling wine. You'd never
again have any taste for a commoner draught.

"I think she was very happy the year she spent here. Our thrifty
women-folk in Stillwater jeered at her because she wasn't what they
called capable. They said she couldn't do anything. But she could do
one thing well--she could love. She worshipped Alec. I used to hate
him for it. Oh, my heart has been very full of black thoughts in its
time, master. But neither Alec nor Mercedes ever knew. And I'm
thankful now that they were so happy. Alec made this arbour for
Mercedes--at least he made the trellis, and she planted the vines.

"She used to sit here most of the time in summer. I suppose that's why
I like to sit here. Her eyes would be dreamy and far-away until Alec
would flash his welcome. How that used to torture me! But now I like
to remember it. And her pretty soft foreign voice and little white
hands. She died after she had lived here a year. They buried her and
her baby in the graveyard of that little chapel over the harbour where
the bell rings every evening. She used to like sitting here and
listening to it. Alec lived a long while after, but he never married
again. He's gone now, and nobody remembers Mercedes but me."

Abel lapsed into a reverie--a tryst with the past which I would not
disturb. I thought he did not notice my departure, but as I opened the
gate he stood up and waved his hand.

Three days later I went again to the old garden by the harbour shore.
There was a red light on a distant sail. In the far west a sunset city
was built around a great deep harbour of twilight. Palaces were there
and bannered towers of crimson and gold. The air was full of music;
there was one music of the wind and another of the waves, and still
another of the distant bell from the chapel near which Mercedes slept.
The garden was full of ripe odours and warm colours. The Lombardies
around it were tall and sombre like the priestly forms of some mystic
band. Abel was sitting in the hop-vine arbour; beside him Captain
Kidd slept. I thought Abel was asleep, too; his head leaned against
the trellis and his eyes were shut.

But when I reached the arbour I saw that he was not asleep. There was
a strange, wise little smile on his lips as if he had attained to the
ultimate wisdom and were laughing in no unkindly fashion at our old
blind suppositions and perplexities.

Abel had gone on his Great Adventure.



Akin To Love


David Hartley had dropped in to pay a neighbourly call on Josephine
Elliott. It was well along in the afternoon, and outside, in the clear
crispness of a Canadian winter, the long blue shadows from the tall
firs behind the house were falling over the snow.

It was a frosty day, and all the windows of every room where there was
no fire were covered with silver palms. But the big, bright kitchen
was warm and cosy, and somehow seemed to David more tempting than ever
before, and that is saying a good deal. He had an uneasy feeling that
he had stayed long enough and ought to go. Josephine was knitting at a
long gray sock with doubly aggressive energy, and that was a sign that
she was talked out. As long as Josephine had plenty to say, her plump
white fingers, where her mother's wedding ring was lost in dimples,
moved slowly among her needles. When conversation flagged she fell to
her work as furiously as if a husband and half a dozen sons were
waiting for its completion. David often wondered in his secret soul
what Josephine did with all the interminable gray socks she knitted.
Sometimes he concluded that she put them in the home missionary
barrels; again, that she sold them to her hired man. At any rate, they
were very warm and comfortable looking, and David sighed as he thought
of the deplorable state his own socks were generally in.

When David sighed Josephine took alarm. She was afraid David was going
to have one of his attacks of foolishness. She must head him off
someway, so she rolled up the gray sock, stabbed the big pudgy ball
with her needles, and said she guessed she'd get the tea.

David got up.

"Now, you're not going before tea?" said Josephine hospitably. "I'll
have it all ready in no time."

"I ought to go home, I s'pose," said David, with the air and tone of a
man dallying with a great temptation. "Zillah'll be waiting tea for
me; and there's the stock to tend to."

"I guess Zillah won't wait long," said Josephine. She did not intend
it at all, but there was a certain scornful ring in her voice. "You
must stay. I've a fancy for company to tea."

David sat down again. He looked so pleased that Josephine went down on
her knees behind the stove, ostensibly to get a stick of firewood, but
really to hide her smile.

"I suppose he's tickled to death to think of getting a good square
meal, after the starvation rations Zillah puts him on," she thought.

But Josephine misjudged David just as much as he misjudged her. She
had really asked him to stay to tea out of pity, but David thought it
was because she was lonesome, and he hailed that as an encouraging
sign. And he was not thinking about getting a good meal either,
although his dinner had been such a one as only Zillah Hartley could
get up. As he leaned back in his cushioned chair and watched Josephine
bustling about the kitchen, he was glorying in the fact that he could
spend another hour with her, and sit opposite to her at the table
while she poured his tea for him and passed him the biscuits, just as
if--just as if--

Here Josephine looked straight at him with such intent and stern brown
eyes that David felt she must have read his thoughts, and he colored
guiltily. But Josephine did not even notice that he was blushing. She
had only paused to wonder whether she would bring out cherry or
strawberry preserve; and, having decided on the cherry, took her
piercing gaze from David without having seen him at all. But he
allowed his thoughts no more vagaries.

Josephine set the table with her mother's wedding china. She used it
because it was the anniversary of her mother's wedding day, but David
thought it was out of compliment to him. And, as he knew quite well
that Josephine prized that china beyond all her other earthly
possessions, he stroked his smooth-shaven, dimpled chin with the air
of a man to whom is offered a very subtly sweet homage.

Josephine whisked in and out of the pantry, and up and down cellar,
and with every whisk a new dainty was added to the table. Josephine,
as everybody in Meadowby admitted, was past mistress in the noble art
of cookery. Once upon a time rash matrons and ambitious young wives
had aspired to rival her, but they had long ago realised the vanity of
such efforts and dropped comfortably back to second place.

Josephine felt an artist's pride in her table when she set the teapot
on its stand and invited David to sit in. There were pink slices of
cold tongue, and crisp green pickles and spiced gooseberry, the recipe
for which Josephine had invented herself, and which had taken first
prize at the Provincial Exhibition for six successive years; there was
a lemon pie which was a symphony in gold and silver, biscuits as light
and white as snow, and moist, plummy cubes of fruit cake. There was
the ruby-tinted cherry preserve, a mound of amber jelly, and, to crown
all, steaming cups of tea, in flavour and fragrance unequalled.

And Josephine, too, sitting at the head of the table, with her smooth,
glossy crimps of black hair and cheeks as rosy clear as they had been
twenty years ago, when she had been a slender slip of girlhood and
bashful young David Hartley had looked at her over his hymn-book in
prayer-meeting and tramped all the way home a few feet behind her,
because he was too shy to go boldly up and ask if he might see her
home.

All taken together, what wonder if David lost his head over that
tea-table and determined to ask Josephine the same old question once
more? It was eighteen years since he had asked it for the first time,
and two years since the last. He would try his luck again; Josephine
was certainly more gracious than he remembered her to ever have been
before.

When the meal was over Josephine cleared the table and washed the
dishes. When she had taken a dry towel and sat down by the window to
polish her china David understood that his opportunity had come. He
moved over and sat down beside her on the sofa by the window.

Outside the sun was setting in a magnificent arch of light and colour
over the snow-clad hills and deep blue St. Lawrence gulf. David
grasped at the sunset as an introductory factor.

"Isn't that fine, Josephine?" he said admiringly. "It makes me think
of that piece of poetry that used to be in the old Fifth Reader when
we went to school. D'ye mind how the teacher used to drill us up in it
on Friday afternoons? It begun

    'Slow sinks more lovely ere his race is run
    Along Morea's hills the setting sun.'"

Then David declaimed the whole passage in a sing-song tone,
accompanied by a few crude gestures recalled from long-ago school-boy
elocution. Josephine knew what was coming. Every time David proposed
to her he had begun by reciting poetry. She twirled her towel around
the last plate resignedly. If it had to come, the sooner it was over
the better. Josephine knew by experience that there was no heading
David off, despite his shyness, when he had once got along as far as
the poetry.

"But it's going to be for the last time," she said determinedly. "I'm
going to settle this question so decidedly to-night that there'll
never be a repetition."

When David had finished his quotation he laid his hand on Josephine's
plump arm.

"Josephine," he said huskily, "I s'pose you couldn't--could you
now?--make up your mind to have me. I wish you would, Josephine--I
wish you would. Don't you think you could, Josephine?"

Josephine folded up her towel, crossed her hands on it, and looked her
wooer squarely in the eyes.

"David Hartley," she said deliberately, "what makes you go on asking
me to marry you every once in a while when I've told you times out of
mind that I can't and won't?"

"Because I can't help hoping that you'll change your mind through
time," David replied meekly.

"Well, you just listen to me. I will not marry you. That is in the
first place. And in the second, this is to be final. It has to be. You
are never to ask me this again under any circumstances. If you do I
will not answer you--I will not let on I hear you at all; but (and
Josephine spoke very slowly and impressively) I will never speak to
you again--never. We are good friends now, and I like you real well,
and like to have you drop in for a neighbourly chat as often as you
wish to, but there'll be an end, short and sudden, to that, if you
don't mind what I say."

"Oh, Josephine, ain't that rather hard?" protested David feebly. It
seemed terrible to be cut off from all hope with such finality as
this.

"I mean every word of it," returned Josephine calmly. "You'd better go
home now, David. I always feel as if I'd like to be alone for a spell
after a disagreeable experience."

David obeyed sadly and put on his cap and overcoat. Josephine kindly
warned him not to slip and break his legs on the porch, because the
floor was as icy as anything; and she even lighted a candle and held
it up at the kitchen door to guide him safely out. David, as he
trudged sorrowfully homeward across the fields, carried with him the
mental picture of a plump, sonsy woman, in a trim dress of
plum-coloured homespun and ruffled blue-check apron, haloed by
candlelight. It was not a very romantic vision, perhaps, but to David
it was more beautiful than anything else in the world.

When David was gone Josephine shut the door with a little shiver. She
blew out the candle, for it was not yet dark enough to justify
artificial light to her thrifty mind. She thought the big, empty
house, in which she was the only living thing, was very lonely. It was
so still, except for the slow tick of the "grandfather's clock" and
the soft purr and crackle of the wood in the stove. Josephine sat down
by the window.

"I wish some of the Sentners would run down," she said aloud. "If
David hadn't been so ridiculous I'd have got him to stay the evening.
He can be good company when he likes--he's real well-read and
intelligent. And he must have dismal times at home there with nobody
but Zillah."

She looked across the yard to the little house at the other side of
it, where her French-Canadian hired man lived, and watched the purple
spiral of smoke from its chimney curling up against the crocus sky.
Would she run over and see Mrs. Leon Poirier and her little
black-eyed, brown-skinned baby? No, they never knew what to say to
each other.

"If 'twasn't so cold I'd go up and see Ida," she said. "As it is, I
guess I'd better fall back on my knitting, for I saw Jimmy Sentner's
toes sticking through his socks the other day. How setback poor David
did look, to be sure! But I think I've settled that marrying notion of
his once for all and I'm glad of it."

She said the same thing next day to Mrs. Tom Sentner, who had come
down to help her pick her geese. They were at work in the kitchen with
a big tubful of feathers between them, and on the table a row of dead
birds, which Leon had killed and brought in. Josephine was enveloped
in a shapeless print wrapper, and had an apron tied tightly around her
head to keep the down out of her beautiful hair, of which she was
rather proud.

"What do you think, Ida?" she said, with a hearty laugh at the
recollection. "David Hartley was here to tea last night, and asked me
to marry him again. There's a persistent man for you. I can't brag of
ever having had many beaux, but I've certainly had my fair share of
proposals."

Mrs. Tom did not laugh. Her thin little face, with its faded
prettiness, looked as if she never laughed.

"Why won't you marry him?" she said fretfully.

"Why should I?" retorted Josephine. "Tell me that, Ida Sentner."

"Because it is high time you were married," said Mrs. Tom decisively.
"I don't believe in women living single. And I don't see what better
you can do than take David Hartley."

Josephine looked at her sister with the interested expression of a
person who is trying to understand some mental attitude in another
which is a standing puzzle to her. Ida's evident wish to see her
married always amused Josephine. Ida had married very young and for
fifteen years her life had been one of drudgery and ill-health. Tom
Sentner was a lazy, shiftless fellow. He neglected his family and was
drunk half his time. Meadowby people said that he beat his wife when
"on the spree," but Josephine did not believe that, because she did
not think that Ida could keep from telling her if it were so. Ida
Sentner was not given to bearing her trials in silence.

Had it not been for Josephine's assistance, Tom Sentner's family would
have stood an excellent chance of starvation. Josephine practically
kept them, and her generosity never failed or stinted. She fed and
clothed her nephews and nieces, and all the gray socks whose
destination puzzled David so much went to the Sentners.

As for Josephine herself, she had a good farm, a comfortable house, a
plump bank account, and was an independent, unworried woman. And yet,
in the face of all this, Mrs. Tom Sentner could bewail the fact that
Josephine had no husband to look out for her. Josephine shrugged her
shoulders and gave up the conundrum, merely saying ironically, in
reply to her sister's remark:

"And go to live with Zillah Hartley?"

"You know very well you wouldn't have to do that. Ever since John
Hartley's wife at the Creek died he's been wanting Zillah to go and
keep house for him, and if David got married Zillah'd go quick. Catch
her staying there if you were mistress! And David has such a beautiful
house! It's ten times finer than yours, though I don't deny yours is
comfortable. And his farm is the best in Meadowby and joins yours.
Think what a beautiful property they'd make together. You're all right
now, Josephine, but what will you do when you get old and have nobody
to take care of you? I declare the thought worries me at night till I
can't sleep."

"I should have thought you had enough worries of your own to keep you
awake at nights without taking over any of mine," said Josephine
drily. "As for old age, it's a good ways off for me yet. When your
Jack gets old enough to have some sense he can come here and live with
me. But I'm not going to marry David Hartley, you can depend on that,
Ida, my dear. I wish you could have heard him rhyming off that poetry
last night. It doesn't seem to matter much what piece he
recites--first thing that comes into his head, I reckon. I remember
one time he went clean through that hymn beginning, 'Hark from the
tombs a doleful sound,' and two years ago it was 'To Mary in Heaven,'
as lackadaisical as you please. I never had such a time to keep from
laughing, but I managed it, for I wouldn't hurt his feelings for the
world. No, I haven't any intention of marrying anybody, but if I had
it wouldn't be dear old sentimental, easy-going David."

Mrs. Tom thumped a plucked goose down on the bench with an expression
which said that she, for one, wasn't going to waste any more words on
an idiot. Easy-going, indeed! Did Josephine consider that a drawback?
Mrs. Tom sighed. If Josephine, she thought, had put up with Tom
Sentner's tempers for fifteen years she would know how to appreciate a
good-natured man at his real value.

The cold snap which had set in on the day of David's call lasted and
deepened for a week. On Saturday evening, when Mrs. Tom came down for
a jug of cream, the mercury of the little thermometer thumping against
Josephine's porch was below zero. The gulf was no longer blue, but
white with ice. Everything outdoors was crackling and snapping. Inside
Josephine had kept roaring fires all through the house but the only
place really warm was the kitchen.

"Wrap your head up well, Ida," she said anxiously, when Mrs. Tom rose
to go. "You've got a bad cold."

"There's a cold going," said Mrs. Tom. "Everyone has it. David Hartley
was up at our place to-day barking terrible--a real churchyard cough,
as I told him. He never takes any care of himself. He said Zillah had
a bad cold, too. Won't she be cranky while it lasts?"

Josephine sat up late that night to keep fires on. She finally went to
bed in the little room opposite the big hall stove, and she slept at
once, and dreamed that the thumps of the thermometer flapping in the
wind against the wall outside grew louder and more insistent until
they woke her up. Some one was pounding on the porch door.

Josephine sprang out of bed and hurried on her wrapper and felt shoes.
She had no doubt that some of the Sentners were sick. They had a habit
of getting sick about that time of night. She hurried out and opened
the door, expecting to see hulking Tom Sentner, or perhaps Ida
herself, big-eyed and hysterical.

But David Hartley stood there, panting for breath. The clear moonlight
showed that he had no overcoat on, and he was coughing hard.
Josephine, before she spoke a word, clutched him by the arm and pulled
him in out of the wind.

"For pity's sake, David Hartley, what is the matter?"

"Zillah's awful sick," he gasped. "I came here because 'twas nearest.
Oh, won't you come over, Josephine? I've got to go for the doctor and
I can't leave her alone. She's suffering dreadful. I know you and her
ain't on good terms, but you'll come, won't you?"

"Of course I will," said Josephine sharply. "I'm not a barbarian, I
hope, to refuse to go to the help of a sick person, if 'twas my worst
enemy. I'll go in and get ready and you go straight to the hall stove
and warm yourself. There's a good fire in it yet. What on earth do you
mean, starting out on a bitter night like this without an overcoat or
even mittens, and you with a cold like that?"

"I never thought of them, I was so frightened," said David
apologetically. "I just lit up a fire in the kitchen stove as quick's
I could and run. It rattled me to hear Zillah moaning so's you could
hear her all over the house."

"You need someone to look after you as bad as Zillah does," said
Josephine severely.

In a very few minutes she was ready, with a basket packed full of
homely remedies, "for like as not there'll be no putting one's hand on
anything there," she muttered. She insisted on wrapping her big plaid
shawl around David's head and neck, and made him put on a pair of
mittens she had knitted for Jack Sentner. Then she locked the door and
they started across the gleaming, crusted field. It was so slippery
that Josephine had to cling to David's arm to keep her feet. In the
rapture of supporting her David almost forgot everything else.

In a few minutes they had passed under the bare, glistening boughs of
the poplars on David's lawn, and for the first time Josephine crossed
the threshold of David Hartley's house.

Years ago, in her girlhood, when the Hartley's lived in the old house
and there were half a dozen girls at home, Josephine had frequently
visited there. All the Hartley girls liked her except Zillah. She and
Zillah never "got on" together. When the other girls had married and
gone, Josephine gave up visiting there. She had never been inside the
new house, and she and Zillah had not spoken to each other for years.

Zillah was a sick woman--too sick to be anything but civil to
Josephine. David started at once for the doctor at the Creek, and
Josephine saw that he was well wrapped up before she let him go. Then
she mixed up a mustard plaster for Zillah and sat down by the bedside
to wait.

When Mrs. Tom Sentner came down the next day she found Josephine busy
making flaxseed poultices, with her lips set in a line that betokened
she had made up her mind to some disagreeable course of duty.

"Zillah has got pneumonia bad," she said, in reply to Mrs. Tom's
inquiries. "The Doctor is here and Mary Bell from the Creek. She'll
wait on Zillah, but there'll have to be another woman here to see to
the work. I reckon I'll stay. I suppose it's my duty and I don't see
who else could be got. You can send Mamie and Jack down to stay at my
house until I can go back. I'll run over every day and keep an eye on
things."

At the end of a week Zillah was out of danger. Saturday afternoon
Josephine went over home to see how Mamie and Jack were getting on.
She found Mrs. Tom there, and the latter promptly despatched Jack and
Mamie to the post-office that she might have an opportunity to hear
Josephine's news.

"I've had an awful week of it, Ida," said Josephine solemnly, as she
sat down by the stove and put her feet up on the glowing hearth.

"I suppose Zillah is pretty cranky to wait on," said Mrs. Tom
sympathetically.

"Oh, it isn't Zillah. Mary Bell looks after her. No, it's the house. I
never lived in such a place of dust and disorder in my born days. I'm
sorrier for David Hartley than I ever was for anyone before."

"I suppose he's used to it," said Mrs. Tom with a shrug.

"I don't see how anyone could ever get used to it," groaned Josephine.
"And David used to be so particular when he was a boy. The minute I
went there the other night I took in that kitchen with a look. I don't
believe the paint has even been washed since the house was built. I
honestly don't. And I wouldn't like to be called upon to swear when
the floor was scrubbed either. The corners were just full of rolls of
dust--you could have shovelled it out. I swept it out next day and I
thought I'd be choked. As for the pantry--well, the less said about
_that_ the better. And it's the same all through the house. You could
write your name on everything. I couldn't so much as clean up. Zillah
was so sick there couldn't be a bit of noise made. I did manage to
sweep and dust, and I cleaned out the pantry. And, of course, I saw
that the meals were nice and well cooked. You should have seen David's
face. He looked as if he couldn't get used to having things clean and
tasty. I darned his socks--he hadn't a whole pair to his name--and
I've done everything I could to give him a little comfort. Not that I
could do much. If Zillah heard me moving round she'd send Mary Bell
out to ask what the matter was. When I wanted to go upstairs I'd have
to take off my shoes and tiptoe up on my stocking feet, so's she
wouldn't know it. And I'll have to stay there another fortnight yet.
Zillah won't be able to sit up till then. I don't really know if I can
stand it without falling to and scrubbing the house from garret to
cellar in spite of her."

Mrs. Tom Sentner did not say much to Josephine. To herself she said
complacently:

"She's sorry for David. Well, I've always heard that pity was akin to
love. We'll see what comes of this."

Josephine did manage to live through that fortnight. One morning she
remarked to David at the breakfast table:

"Well, I think that Mary Bell will be able to attend to the work after
today, David. I guess I'll go home tonight."

David's face clouded over.

"Well, I s'pose we oughtn't to keep you any longer, Josephine. I'm
sure it's been awful good of you to stay this long. I don't know what
we'd have done without you."

"You're welcome," said Josephine shortly.

"Don't go for to walk home," said David; "the snow is too deep. I'll
drive you over when you want to go."

"I'll not go before the evening," said Josephine slowly.

David went out to his work gloomily. For three weeks he had been
living in comfort. His wants were carefully attended to; his meals
were well cooked and served, and everything was bright and clean. And
more than all, Josephine had been there, with her cheerful smile and
companionable ways. Well, it was all ended now.

Josephine sat at the breakfast table long after David had gone out.
She scowled at the sugar-bowl and shook her head savagely at the
tea-pot.

"I'll have to do it," she said at last.

"I'm so sorry for him that I can't do anything else."

She got up and went to the window, looking across the snowy field to
her own home, nestled between the grove of firs and the orchard.

"It's awful snug and comfortable," she said regretfully, "and I've
always felt set on being free and independent. But it's no use. I'd
never have a minute's peace of mind again, thinking of David living
here in dirt and disorder, and him so particular and tidy by nature.
No, it's my duty, plain and clear, to come here and make things
pleasant for him--the pointing of Providence, as you might say. The
worst of it is, I'll have to tell him so myself. He'll never dare to
mention the subject again, after what I said to him that night he
proposed last. I wish I hadn't been so dreadful emphatic. Now I've got
to say it myself if it is ever said. But I'll not begin by quoting
poetry, that's one thing sure!"

Josephine threw back her head, crowned with its shining braids of
jet-black hair, and laughed heartily. She bustled back to the stove
and poked up the fire.

"I'll have a bit of corned beef and cabbage for dinner," she said,
"and I'll make David that pudding he's so fond of. After all, it's
kind of nice to have someone to plan and think for. It always did seem
like a waste of energy to fuss over cooking things when there was
nobody but myself to eat them."

Josephine sang over her work all day, and David went about his with
the face of a man who is going to the gallows without benefit of
clergy. When he came in to supper at sunset his expression was so
woe-begone that Josephine had to dodge into the pantry to keep from
laughing outright. She relieved her feelings by pounding the dresser
with the potato masher, and then went primly out and took her place at
the table.

The meal was not a success from a social point of view. Josephine was
nervous and David glum. Mary Bell gobbled down her food with her usual
haste, and then went away to carry Zillah hers. Then David said
reluctantly:

"If you want to go home now, Josephine, I'll hitch up Red Rob and
drive you over."

Josephine began to plait the tablecloth. She wished again that she had
not been so emphatic on the occasion of his last proposal. Without
replying to David's suggestion she said crossly (Josephine always
spoke crossly when she was especially in earnest):

"I want to tell you what I think about Zillah. She's getting better,
but she's had a terrible shaking up, and it's my opinion that she
won't be good for much all winter. She won't be able to do any hard
work, that's certain. If you want my advice, I tell you fair and
square that I think she'd better go off for a visit as soon as she's
fit. She thinks so herself. Clementine wants her to go and stay a
spell with her in town. 'Twould be just the thing for her."

"She can go if she wants to, of course," said David dully. "I can get
along by myself for a spell."

"There's no need of your getting along by yourself," said Josephine,
more crossly than ever. "I'll--I'll come here and keep house for you
if you like."

David looked at her uncomprehendingly.

"Wouldn't people kind of gossip?" he asked hesitatingly. "Not but
what--"

"I don't see what they'd have to gossip about," broke in Josephine,
"if we were--married."

David sprang to his feet with such haste that he almost upset the
table.

"Josephine, do you mean that?" he exclaimed.

"Of course I mean it," she said, in a perfectly savage tone. "Now, for
pity's sake, don't say another word about it just now. I can't discuss
it for a spell. Go out to your work. I want to be alone for awhile."

For the first and last time David disobeyed her. Instead of going out,
he strode around the table, caught Josephine masterfully in his arms,
and kissed her. And Josephine, after a second's hesitation, kissed him
in return.



Aunt Philippa and the Men


I knew quite well why Father sent me to Prince Edward Island to visit
Aunt Philippa that summer. He told me he was sending me there "to
learn some sense"; and my stepmother, of whom I was very fond, told me
she was sure the sea air would do me a world of good. I did not want
to learn sense or be done a world of good; I wanted to stay in
Montreal and go on being foolish--and make up my quarrel with Mark
Fenwick. Father and Mother did not know anything about this quarrel;
they thought I was still on good terms with him--and that is why they
sent me to Prince Edward Island.

I was very miserable. I did not want to go to Aunt Philippa's. It was
not because I feared it would be dull--for without Mark, Montreal was
just as much of a howling wilderness as any other place. But it was so
horribly far away. When the time came for Mark to want to make up--as
come I knew it would--how could he do it if I were seven hundred miles
away?

Nevertheless, I went to Prince Edward Island. In all my eighteen years
I had never once disobeyed Father. He is a very hard man to disobey. I
knew I should have to make a beginning some time if I wanted to marry
Mark, so I saved all my little courage up for that and didn't waste
any of it opposing the visit to Aunt Philippa.

I couldn't understand Father's point of view. Of course, he hated old
John Fenwick, who had once sued him for libel and won the case. Father
had written an indiscreet editorial in the excitement of a red-hot
political contest--and was made to understand that there are some
things you can't say of another man even at election time. But then,
he need not have hated Mark because of that; Mark was not even born
when it happened.

Old John Fenwick was not much better pleased about Mark and me than
Father was, though he didn't go to the length of forbidding it; he
just acted grumpily and disagreeably. Things were unpleasant enough
all round without a quarrel between Mark and me; yet quarrel we
did--and over next to nothing, too, you understand. And now I had to
set out for Prince Edward Island without even seeing him, for he was
away in Toronto on business.

       *       *       *       *       *

When my train reached Copely the next afternoon, Aunt Philippa was
waiting for me. There was nobody else in sight, but I would have known
her had there been a thousand. Nobody but Aunt Philippa could have
that determined mouth, those piercing grey eyes, and that pronounced,
unmistakable Goodwin nose. And certainly nobody but Aunt Philippa
would have come to meet me arrayed in a wrapper of chocolate print
with huge yellow roses scattered over it, and a striped blue-and-white
apron!

She welcomed me kindly but absent-mindedly, her thoughts evidently
being concentrated on the problem of getting my trunk home. I had only
the one, and in Montreal it had seemed to be of moderate size; but on
the platform of Copely station, sized up by Aunt Philippa's merciless
eye, it certainly looked huge.

"I thought we could a-took it along tied on the back of the buggy,"
she said disapprovingly, "but I guess we'll have to leave it, and I'll
send the hired boy over for it tonight. You can get along without it
till then, I s'pose?"

There was a fine irony in her tone. I hastened to assure her meekly
that I could, and that it did not matter if my trunk could not be
taken up till next day.

"Oh, Jerry can come for it tonight as well as not," said Aunt
Philippa, as we climbed into her buggy. "I'd a good notion to send him
to meet you, for he isn't doing much today, and I wanted to go to Mrs.
Roderick MacAllister's funeral. But my head was aching me so bad I
thought I wouldn't enjoy the funeral if I did go. My head is better
now, so I kind of wish I had gone. She was a hundred and four years
old and I'd always promised myself that I'd go to her funeral."

Aunt Philippa's tone was melancholy. She did not recover her good
spirits until we were out on the pretty, grassy, elm-shaded country
road, garlanded with its ribbon of buttercups. Then she suddenly
turned around and looked me over scrutinizingly.

"You're not as good-looking as I expected from your picture, but them
photographs always flatter. That's the reason I never had any took.
You're rather thin and brown. But you've good eyes and you look
clever. Your father writ me you hadn't much sense, though. He wants me
to teach you some, but it's a thankless business. People would rather
be fools."

Aunt Philippa struck her steed smartly with the whip and controlled
his resultant friskiness with admirable skill.

"Well, you know it's pleasanter," I said, wickedly. "Just think what a
doleful world it would be if everybody were sensible."

Aunt Philippa looked at me out of the corner of her eye and disdained
any skirmish of flippant epigram.

"So you want to get married?" she said. "You'd better wait till you're
grown up."

"How old must a person be before she is grown up?" I asked gravely.

"Humph! That depends. Some are grown up when they're born, and others
ain't grown up when they're eighty. That same Mrs. Roderick I was
speaking of never grew up. She was as foolish when she was a hundred
as when she was ten."

"Perhaps that's why she lived so long," I suggested. All thought of
seeking sympathy in Aunt Philippa had vanished. I resolved I would not
even mention Mark's name.

"Mebbe 'twas," admitted Aunt Philippa with a grim smile. "_I'd_ rather
live fifty sensible years than a hundred foolish ones."

Much to my relief, she made no further reference to my affairs. As we
rounded a curve in the road where two great over-arching elms met, a
buggy wheeled by us, occupied by a young man in clerical costume. He
had a pleasant boyish face, and he touched his hat courteously. Aunt
Philippa nodded very frostily and gave her horse a quite undeserved
cut.

"There's a man you don't want to have much to do with," she said
portentously. "He's a Methodist minister."

"Why, Auntie, the Methodists are a very nice denomination," I
protested. "My stepmother is a Methodist, you know."

"No, I didn't know, but I'd believe anything of a stepmother. I've no
use for Methodists or their ministers. This fellow just came last
spring, and it's _my_ opinion he smokes. And he thinks every girl who
looks at him falls in love with him--as if a Methodist minister was
any prize! Don't you take much notice of him, Ursula."

"I'll not be likely to have the chance," I said, with an amused smile.

"Oh, you'll see enough of him. He boards at Mrs. John Callman's, just
across the road from us, and he's always out sunning himself on her
verandah. Never studies, of course. Last Sunday they say he preached
on the iron that floated. If he'd confine himself to the Bible and
leave sensational subjects alone it would be better for him and his
poor congregation, and so I told Mrs. John Callman to her face. I
should think _she_ would have had enough of his sex by this time. She
married John Callman against her father's will, and he had delirious
trembles for years. That's the men for you."

"They're not _all_ like that, Aunt Philippa," I protested.

"Most of 'em are. See that house over there? Mrs. Jane Harrison lives
there. Her husband took tantrums every few days or so and wouldn't get
out of bed. She had to do all the barn work till he'd got over his
spell. That's men for you. When he died, people writ her letters of
condolence but _I_ just sot down and writ her one of congratulation.
There's the Presbyterian manse in the hollow. Mr. Bentwell's our
minister. He's a good man and he'd be a rather nice one if he didn't
think it was his duty to be a little miserable all the time. He won't
let his wife wear a fashionable hat, and his daughter can't fix her
hair the way she wants to. Even being a minister can't prevent a man
from being a crank. Here's Ebenezer Milgrave coming. You take a good
look at him. He used to be insane for years. He believed he was dead
and used to rage at his wife because she wouldn't bury him. _I'd_
a-done it."

Aunt Philippa looked so determinedly grim that I could almost see her
with a spade in her hand. I laughed aloud at the picture summoned up.

"Yes, it's funny, but I guess his poor wife didn't find it very
humorsome. He's been pretty sane for some years now, but you never can
tell when he'll break out again. He's got a brother, Albert Milgrave,
who's been married twice. They say he was courting his second wife
while his first was dying. Let that be as it may, he used his first
wife's wedding ring to marry the second. That's the men for you."

"Don't you know _any_ good husbands, Aunt Philippa?" I asked
desperately.

"Oh, yes, lots of 'em--over there," said Aunt Philippa sardonically,
waving her whip in the direction of a little country graveyard on a
distant hill.

"Yes, but _living_--walking about in the flesh?"

"Precious few. Now and again you'll come across a man whose wife won't
put up with any nonsense and he _has_ to be respectable. But the most
of 'em are poor bargains--poor bargains."

"And are all the wives saints?" I persisted.

"Laws, no, but they're too good for the men," retorted Aunt Philippa,
as she turned in at her own gate. Her house was close to the road and
was painted such a vivid green that the landscape looked faded by
contrast. Across the gable end of it was the legend, "Philippa's
Farm," emblazoned in huge black letters two feet long. All its
surroundings were very neat. On the kitchen doorstep a patchwork cat
was making a grave toilet. The groundwork of the cat was white, and
its spots were black, yellow, grey, and brown.

"There's Joseph," said Aunt Philippa. "I call him that because his
coat is of many colours. But I ain't no lover of cats. They're too
much like the men to suit me."

"Cats have always been supposed to be peculiarly feminine," I said,
descending.

"'Twas a man that supposed it, then," retorted Aunt Philippa,
beckoning to her hired boy. "Here, Jerry, put Prince away. Jerry's a
good sort of boy," she confided to me as we went into the house. "I
had Jim Spencer last summer and the only good thing about _him_ was
his appetite. I put up with him till harvest was in, and then one day
my patience give out. He upsot a churnful of cream in the back
yard--and was just as cool as a cowcumber over it--laughed and said it
was good for the land. I told him I wasn't in the habit of fertilizing
my back yard with cream. But that's the men for you. Come in. I'll
have tea ready in no time. I sot the table before I left. There's
lemon pie. Mrs. John Cantwell sent it over. I never make lemon pie
myself. Ten years ago I took the prize for lemon pies at the county
fair, and I've never made any since for fear I'd lose my reputation
for them."

       *       *       *       *       *

The first month of my stay passed not unpleasantly. The summer weather
was delightful, and the sea air was certainly splendid. Aunt
Philippa's little farm ran right down to the shore, and I spent much
of my time there. There were also several families of cousins to be
visited in the farmhouses that dotted the pretty, seaward-sloping
valley, and they came back to see me at "Philippa's Farm." I picked
spruce gum and berries and ferns, and Aunt Philippa taught me to make
butter. It was all very idyllic--or would have been if Mark had
written. But Mark did not write. I supposed he must be very angry
because I had run off to Prince Edward Island without so much as a
note of goodbye. But I had been so sure he would understand!

Aunt Philippa never made any further reference to the reason Father
had sent me to her, but she allowed no day to pass without holding up
to me some horrible example of matrimonial infelicity. The number of
unhappy wives who walked or drove past "Philippa's Farm" every
afternoon, as we sat on the verandah, was truly pitiable.

We always sat on the verandah in the afternoon, when we were not
visiting or being visited. I made a pretence of fancy work, and Aunt
Philippa spun diligently on a little old-fashioned spinning-wheel that
had been her grandmother's. She always sat before the wood stand which
held her flowers, and the gorgeous blots of geranium blossom and big
green leaves furnished a pretty background. She always wore her
shapeless but clean print wrappers, and her iron-grey hair was always
combed neatly down over her ears. Joseph sat between us, sleeping or
purring. She spun so expertly that she could keep a close watch on the
road as well, and I got the biography of every individual who went by.
As for the poor young Methodist minister, who liked to read or walk on
the verandah of our neighbour's house, Aunt Philippa never had a good
word for him. I had met him once or twice socially and had liked him.
I wanted to ask him to call but dared not--Aunt Philippa had vowed he
should never enter her house.

"If I was dead and he came to my funeral I'd rise up and order him
out," she said.

"I thought he made a very nice prayer at Mrs. Seaman's funeral the
other day," I said.

"Oh, I've no doubt he can pray. I never heard anyone make more
beautiful prayers than old Simon Kennedy down at the harbour, who was
always drunk or hoping to be--and the drunker he was the better he
prayed. It ain't no matter how well a man prays if his preaching isn't
right. That Methodist man preaches a lot of things that ain't true,
and what's worse they ain't sound doctrine. At least, that's what I've
heard. I never was in a Methodist church, thank goodness."

"Don't you think Methodists go to heaven as well as Presbyterians,
Aunt Philippa?" I asked gravely.

"That ain't for us to decide," said Aunt Philippa solemnly. "It's in
higher hands than ours. But I ain't going to associate with them on
_earth_, whatever I may have to do in heaven. The folks round here
mostly don't make much difference and go to the Methodist church quite
often. But _I_ say if you are a Presbyterian, _be_ a Presbyterian. Of
course, if you ain't, it don't matter much what you do. As for that
minister man, he has a grand-uncle who was sent to the penitentiary
for embezzlement. I found out _that_ much."

And evidently Aunt Philippa had taken an unholy joy in finding it out.

"I dare say some of our own ancestors deserved to go to the
penitentiary, even if they never did," I remarked. "Who is that woman
driving past, Aunt Philippa? She must have been very pretty once."

"She was--and that was all the good it did her. 'Favour is deceitful
and beauty is vain,' Ursula. She was Sarah Pyatt and she married Fred
Proctor. He was one of your wicked, fascinating men. After she married
him he give up being fascinating but he kept on being wicked. _That's_
the men for you. Her sister Flora weren't much luckier. _Her_ man was
that domineering she couldn't call her soul her own. Finally he
couldn't get his own way over something and he just suicided by
jumping into the well. A good riddance--but of course the well was
spoiled. Flora could never abide the thought of using it again, poor
thing. _That's_ men for you.

"And there's that old Enoch Allan on his way to the station. He's
ninety if he's a day. You can't kill some folks with a meat axe. His
wife died twenty years ago. He'd been married when he was twenty so
they'd lived together for fifty years. She was a faithful,
hard-working creature and kept him out of the poorhouse, for he was a
shiftless soul, not lazy, exactly, but just too fond of sitting. But
he weren't grateful. She had a kind of bitter tongue and they did use
to fight scandalous. O' course it was all his fault. Well, she died,
and old Enoch and my father drove together to the graveyard. Old Enoch
was awful quiet all the way there and back, but just afore they got
home, he says solemnly to Father: 'You mayn't believe it, Henry, but
this is the happiest day of my life.' _That's_ men for you. His
brother, Scotty Allan, was the meanest man ever lived in these parts.
When his wife died she was buried with a little gold brooch in her
collar unbeknownst to him. When he found it out he went one night to
the graveyard and opened up the grave and the casket to get that
brooch."

"Oh, Aunt Philippa, that is a horrible story," I cried, recoiling with
a shiver over the gruesomeness of it.

"'Course it is, but what would you expect of a man?" retorted Aunt
Philippa.

Somehow, her stories began to affect me in spite of myself. There were
times when I felt very dreary. Perhaps Aunt Philippa was right.
Perhaps men possessed neither truth nor constancy. Certainly Mark had
forgotten me. I was ashamed of myself because this hurt me so much,
but I could not help it. I grew pale and listless. Aunt Philippa
sometimes peered at me sharply, but she held her peace. I was grateful
for this.

       *       *       *       *       *

But one day a letter did come from Mark. I dared not read it until I
was safely in my own room. Then I opened it with trembling fingers.

The letter was a little stiff. Evidently Mark was feeling sore enough
over things. He made no reference to our quarrel or to my sojourn in
Prince Edward Island. He wrote that his firm was sending him to South
Africa to take charge of their interests there. He would leave in
three weeks' time and could not return for five years. If I still
cared anything for him, would I meet him in Halifax, marry him, and go
to South Africa with him? If I would not, he would understand that I
had ceased to love him and that all was over between us.

That, boiled down, was the gist of Mark's letter. When I had read it I
cast myself on the bed and wept out all the tears I had refused to let
myself shed during my weeks of exile.

For I could not do what Mark asked--I _could not_. I couldn't run away
to be married in that desolate, unbefriended fashion. It would be a
disgrace. I would feel ashamed of it all my life and be unhappy over
it. I thought that Mark was rather unreasonable. He knew what my
feelings about run-away marriages were. And was it absolutely
necessary for him to go to South Africa? Of course his father was
behind it somewhere, but surely he could have got out of it if he had
really tried.

Well, if he went to South Africa he must go alone. But my heart would
break.

I cried the whole afternoon, cowering among my pillows. I never wanted
to go out of that room again. I never wanted to see anybody again. I
hated the thought of facing Aunt Philippa with her cold eyes and her
miserable stories that seemed to strip life of all beauty and love of
all reality. I could hear her scornful, "That's the men for you," if
she heard what was in Mark's letter.

"What is the matter, Ursula?"

Aunt Philippa was standing by my bed. I was too abject to resent her
coming in without knocking.

"Nothing," I said spiritlessly.

"If you've been crying for three mortal hours over nothing you want a
good spanking and you'll get it," observed Aunt Philippa placidly,
sitting down on my trunk. "Get right up off that bed this minute and
tell me what the trouble is. I'm bound to know, for I'm in your
father's place at present."

"There, then!" I flung her Mark's letter. There wasn't anything in it
that it was sacrilege to let another person see. That was one reason
why I had been crying.

Aunt Philippa read it over twice. Then she folded it up deliberately
and put it back in the envelope.

"What are you going to do?" she asked in a matter-of-fact tone.

"I'm not going to run away to be married," I answered sullenly.

"Well, no, I wouldn't advise you to," said Aunt Philippa reflectively.
"It's a kind of low-down thing to do, though there's been a terrible
lot of romantic nonsense talked and writ about eloping. It may be a
painful necessity sometimes, but it ain't in this case. You write to
your young man and tell him to come here and be married respectable
under my roof, same as a Goodwin ought to."

I sat up and stared at Aunt Philippa. I was so amazed that it is
useless to try to express my amazement.

"Aunt--Philippa," I gasped. "I thought--I thought--"

"You thought I was a hard old customer, and so I am," said Aunt
Philippa. "But I don't take my opinions from your father nor anybody
else. It didn't prejudice me any against your young man that your
father didn't like him. I knew your father of old. I have some other
friends in Montreal and I writ to them and asked them what he was
like. From what they said I judged he was decent enough as men go.
You're too young to be married, but if you let him go off to South
Africa he'll slip through your fingers for sure, and I s'pose you're
like some of the rest of us--nobody'll do you but the one. So tell him
to come here and be married."

"I don't see how I can," I gasped. "I can't get ready to be married in
three weeks. I can't--"

"I should think you have enough clothes in that trunk to do you for a
spell," said Aunt Philippa sarcastically. "You've more than my mother
ever had in all her life. We'll get you a wedding dress of some kind.
You can get it made in Charlottetown, if country dressmakers aren't
good enough for you, and I'll bake you a wedding cake that'll taste as
good as anything you could get in Montreal, even if it won't look so
stylish."

"What will Father say?" I questioned.

"Lots o' things," conceded Aunt Philippa grimly. "But I don't see as
it matters when neither you nor me'll be there to have our feelings
hurt. I'll write a few things to your father. He hasn't got much
sense. He ought to be thankful to get a decent young man for his
son-in-law in a world where most every man is a wolf in sheep's
clothing. But that's the men for you."

And that was Aunt Philippa for you. For the next three weeks she was a
blissfully excited, busy woman. I was allowed to choose the material
and fashion of my wedding suit and hat myself, but almost everything
else was settled by Aunt Philippa. I didn't mind; it was a relief to
be rid of all responsibility; I did protest when she declared her
intention of having a big wedding and asking all the cousins and
semi-cousins on the island, but Aunt Philippa swept my objections
lightly aside.

"I'm bound to have one good wedding in this house," she said. "Not
likely I'll ever have another chance."

She found time amid all the baking and concocting to warn me
frequently not to take it too much to heart if Mark failed to come
after all.

"I know a man who jilted a girl on her wedding day. That's the men for
you. It's best to be prepared."

But Mark did come, getting there the evening before our wedding day.
And then a severe blow fell on Aunt Philippa. Word came from the manse
that Mr. Bentwell had been suddenly summoned to Nova Scotia to his
mother's deathbed; he had started that night.

"That's the men for you," said Aunt Philippa bitterly. "Never can
depend on one of them, not even on a minister. What's to be done now?"

"Get another minister," said Mark easily.

"Where'll you get him?" demanded Aunt Philippa. "The minister at
Cliftonville is away on his vacation, and Mercer is vacant, and that
leaves none nearer than town. It won't do to depend on a town minister
being able to come. No, there's no help for it. You'll have to have
that Methodist man."

Aunt Philippa's tone was tragic. Plainly she thought the ceremony
would scarcely be legal if that Methodist man married us. But neither
Mark nor I cared. We were too happy to be disturbed by any such
trifles.

The young Methodist minister married us the next day in the presence
of many beaming guests. Aunt Philippa, splendid in black silk and
point-lace collar, neither of which lost a whit of dignity or lustre
by being made ten years before, was composure itself while the
ceremony was going on. But no sooner had the minister pronounced us
man and wife than she spoke up.

"Now that's over I want someone to go right out and put out the fire
on the kitchen roof. It's been on fire for the last ten minutes."

Minister and bridegroom headed the emergency brigade, and Aunt
Philippa pumped the water for them. In a short time the fire was out,
all was safe, and we were receiving our deferred congratulations.

"Now, young man," said Aunt Philippa solemnly as she shook hands with
Mark, "don't you ever try to get out of this, even if a Methodist
minister did marry you."

She insisted on driving us to the train and said goodbye to us as we
stood on the car steps. She had caught more of the shower of rice than
I had, and as the day was hot and sunny she had tied over her head,
atop of that festal silk dress, a huge, home-made, untrimmed straw
hat. But she did not look ridiculous. There was a certain dignity
about Aunt Philippa in any costume and under any circumstance.

"Aunt Philippa," I said, "tell me this: why have you helped me to be
married?"

The train began to move.

"I refused once to run away myself, and I've repented it ever since."
Then, as the train gathered speed and the distance between us widened,
she shouted after us, "But I s'pose if I had run away I'd have
repented of that too."



Bessie's Doll


Tommy Puffer, sauntering up the street, stopped to look at Miss
Octavia's geraniums. Tommy never could help stopping to look at Miss
Octavia's flowers, much as he hated Miss Octavia. Today they were
certainly worth looking at. Miss Octavia had set them all out on her
verandah--rows upon rows of them, overflowing down the steps in waves
of blossom and colour. Miss Octavia's geraniums were famous in
Arundel, and she was very proud of them. But it was her garden which
was really the delight of her heart. Miss Octavia always had the
prettiest garden in Arundel, especially as far as annuals were
concerned. Just now it was like faith--the substance of things hoped
for. The poppies and nasturtiums and balsams and morning glories and
sweet peas had been sown in the brown beds on the lawn, but they had
not yet begun to come up.

Tommy was still feasting his eyes on the geraniums when Miss Octavia
herself came around the corner of the house. Her face darkened the
minute she saw Tommy. Most people's did. Tommy had the reputation of
being a very bad, mischievous boy; he was certainly very poor and
ragged, and Miss Octavia disapproved of poverty and rags on principle.
Nobody, she argued, not even a boy of twelve, need be poor and ragged
if he is willing to work.

"Here, you, get away out of this," she said sharply. "I'm not going to
have you hanging over my palings."

"I ain't hurting your old palings," retorted Tommy sullenly. "I was
jist a-looking at the flowers."

"Yes, and picking out the next one to throw a stone at," said Miss
Octavia sarcastically. "It was you who threw that stone and broke my
big scarlet geranium clear off the other day."

"It wasn't--I never chucked a stone at your flowers," said Tommy.

"Don't tell me any falsehoods, Tommy Puffer. It was you. Didn't I
catch you firing stones at my cat a dozen times?"

"I might have fired 'em at an old cat, but I wouldn't tech a flower,"
avowed Tommy boldly--brazenly, Miss Octavia thought.

"You clear out of this or I'll make you," she said warningly.

Tommy had had his ears boxed by Miss Octavia more than once. He had no
desire to have the performance repeated, so he stuck his tongue out at
Miss Octavia and then marched up the street with his hands in his
pockets, whistling jauntily.

"He's the most impudent brat I ever saw in my life," muttered Miss
Octavia wrathfully. There was a standing feud between her and all the
Arundel small boys, but Tommy was her special object of dislike.

Tommy's heart was full of wrath and bitterness as he marched away. He
hated Miss Octavia; he wished something would happen to every one of
her flowers; he knew it was Ned Williams who had thrown that stone,
and he hoped Ned would throw some more and smash all the flowers. So
Tommy raged along the street until he came to Mr. Blacklock's store,
and in the window of it he saw something that put Miss Octavia and her
disagreeable remarks quite out of his tow-coloured head.

This was nothing more or less than a doll. Now, Tommy was not a judge
of dolls and did not take much interest in them, but he felt quite
sure that this was a very fine one. It was so big; it was beautifully
dressed in blue silk, with a ruffled blue silk hat; it had lovely long
golden hair and big brown eyes and pink cheeks; and it stood right up
in the showcase and held out its hands winningly.

"Gee, ain't it a beauty!" said Tommy admiringly. "It looks 'sif it was
alive, and it's as big as a baby. I must go an' bring Bessie to see
it."

Tommy at once hurried away to the shabby little street where what he
called "home" was. Tommy's home was a very homeless-looking sort of
place. It was the smallest, dingiest, most slatternly house on a
street noted for its dingy and slatternly houses. It was occupied by a
slatternly mother and a drunken father, as well as by Tommy; and
neither the father nor the mother took much notice of Tommy except to
scold or nag him. So it is hardly to be wondered at if Tommy was the
sort of boy who was frowned upon by respectable citizens.

But one little white blossom of pure affection bloomed in the arid
desert of Tommy's existence for all that. In the preceding fall a new
family had come to Arundel and moved into the tiny house next to the
Puffers'. It was a small, dingy house, just like the others, but
before long a great change took place in it. The new family were
thrifty, industrious folks, although they were very poor. The little
house was white-washed, the paling neatly mended, the bit of a yard
cleaned of all its rubbish. Muslin curtains appeared in the windows,
and rows of cans, with blossoming plants, adorned the sills.

There were just three people in the Knox family--a thin little mother,
who went out scrubbing and took in washing, a boy of ten, who sold
newspapers and ran errands--and Bessie.

Bessie was eight years old and walked with a crutch, but she was a
smart little lassie and kept the house wonderfully neat and tidy while
her mother was away. The very first time she had seen Tommy she had
smiled at him sweetly and said, "Good morning." From that moment Tommy
was her devoted slave. Nobody had ever spoken like that to him before;
nobody had ever smiled so at him. Tommy would have given his useless
little life for Bessie, and thenceforth the time he was not devising
mischief he spent in bringing little pleasures into her life. It was
Tommy's delight to bring that smile to her pale little face and a look
of pleasure into her big, patient blue eyes. The other boys on the
street tried to tease Bessie at first and shouted "Cripple!" after her
when she limped out. But they soon stopped it. Tommy thrashed them
all one after another for it, and Bessie was left in peace. She would
have had a very lonely life if it had not been for Tommy, for she
could not play with the other children. But Tommy was as good as a
dozen playmates, and Bessie thought him the best boy in the world.
Tommy, whatever he might be with others, was very careful to be good
when he was with Bessie. He never said a rude word in her hearing, and
he treated her as if she were a little princess. Miss Octavia would
have been amazed beyond measure if she had seen how tender and
thoughtful and kind and chivalrous that neglected urchin of a Tommy
could be when he tried.

Tommy found Bessie sitting by the kitchen window, looking dreamily out
of it. For just a moment Tommy thought uneasily that Bessie was
looking very pale and thin this spring.

"Bessie, come for a walk up to Mr. Blacklock's store," he said
eagerly. "There is something there I want to show you."

"What is it?" Bessie wanted to know. But Tommy only winked
mysteriously.

"Ah, I ain't going to tell you. But it's something awful pretty. Just
you wait."

Bessie reached for her crutch and the two went up to the store, Tommy
carefully suiting his steps to Bessie's slow ones. Just before they
reached the store he made her shut her eyes and led her to the window.

"Now--look!" he commanded dramatically.

Bessie looked and Tommy was rewarded. She flushed pinkly with delight
and clasped her hands in ecstasy.

"Oh, Tommy, isn't she perfectly beautiful?" she breathed. "Oh, she's
the very loveliest dolly I ever saw. Oh, Tommy!"

"I thought you'd like her," said Tommy exultantly. "Don't you wish you
had a doll like that of your very own, Bessie?"

Bessie looked almost rebuking, as if Tommy had asked her if she
wouldn't like a golden crown or a queen's palace.

"Of course I could never have a dolly like that," she said. "She must
cost an awful lot. But it's enough just to look at her. Tommy, will
you bring me up here every day just to look at her?"

"'Course," said Tommy.

Bessie talked about the blue-silk doll all the way home and dreamed of
her every night. "I'm going to call her Roselle Geraldine," she said.
After that she went up to see Roselle Geraldine every day, gazing at
her for long moments in silent rapture. Tommy almost grew jealous of
her; he thought Bessie liked the doll better than she did him.

"But it don't matter a bit if she does," he thought loyally, crushing
down the jealousy. "If she likes to like it better than me, it's all
right."

Sometimes, though, Tommy felt uneasy. It was plain to be seen that
Bessie had set her heart on that doll. And what would she do when the
doll was sold, as would probably happen soon? Tommy thought Bessie
would feel awful sad, and he would be responsible for it.

What Tommy feared came to pass. One afternoon, when they went up to
Mr. Blacklock's store, the doll was not in the window.

"Oh," cried Bessie, bursting into tears, "she's gone--Roselle
Geraldine is gone."

"Perhaps she isn't sold," said Tommy comfortingly. "Maybe they only
took her out of the window 'cause the blue silk would fade. I'll go in
and ask."

A minute later Tommy came out looking sober.

"Yes, she's sold, Bessie," he said. "Mr. Blacklock sold her to a lady
yesterday. Don't cry, Bessie--maybe they'll put another in the window
'fore long."

"It won't be mine," sobbed Bessie. "It won't be Roselle Geraldine. It
won't have a blue silk hat and such cunning brown eyes."

Bessie cried quietly all the way home, and Tommy could not comfort
her. He wished he had never shown her the doll in the window.

From that day Bessie drooped, and Tommy watched her in agony. She grew
paler and thinner. She was too tired to go out walking, and too tired
to do the little household tasks she had delighted in. She never spoke
about Roselle Geraldine, but Tommy knew she was fretting about her.
Mrs. Knox could not think what ailed the child.

"She don't take a bit of interest in nothing," she complained to Mrs.
Puffer. "She don't eat enough for a bird. The doctor, he says there
ain't nothing the matter with her as he can find out, but she's just
pining away."

Tommy heard this, and a queer, big lump came up in his throat. He had
a horrible fear that he, Tommy Puffer, was going to cry. To prevent it
he began to whistle loudly. But the whistle was a failure, very unlike
the real Tommy-whistle. Bessie was sick--and it was all his fault,
Tommy believed. If he had never taken her to see that hateful,
blue-silk doll, she would never have got so fond of it as to be
breaking her heart because it was sold.

"If I was only rich," said Tommy miserably, "I'd buy her a cartload of
dolls, all dressed in blue silk and all with brown eyes. But I can't
do nothing."

By this time Tommy had reached the paling in front of Miss Octavia's
lawn, and from force of habit he stopped to look over it. But there
was not much to see this time, only the little green rows and circles
in the brown, well-weeded beds, and the long curves of dahlia plants,
which Miss Octavia had set out a few days before. All the geraniums
were carried in, and the blinds were down. Tommy knew Miss Octavia was
away. He had seen her depart on the train that morning, and heard her
tell a friend that she was going down to Chelton to visit her
brother's folks and wouldn't be back until the next day.

Tommy was still leaning moodily against the paling when Mrs. Jenkins
and Mrs. Reid came by, and they too paused to look at the garden.

"Dear me, how cold it is!" shivered Mrs. Reid. "There's going to be a
hard frost tonight. Octavia's flowers will be nipped as sure as
anything. It's a wonder she'd stay away from them overnight when her
heart's so set on them."

"Her brother's wife is sick," said Mrs. Jenkins. "We haven't had any
frost this spring, and I suppose Octavia never thought of such a
thing. She'll feel awful bad if her flowers get frosted, especially
them dahlias. Octavia sets such store by her dahlias."

Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Reid moved away, leaving Tommy by the paling. It
was cold--there was going to be a hard frost--and Miss Octavia's
plants and flowers would certainly be spoiled. Tommy thought he ought
to be glad, but he wasn't. He was sorry--not for Miss Octavia, but for
her flowers. Tommy had a queer, passionate love for flowers in his
twisted little soul. It was a shame that they should be nipped--that
all the glory of crimson and purple and gold hidden away in those
little green rows and circles should never have a chance to blossom
out royally. Tommy could never have put this thought into words, but
it was there in his heart. He wished he could save the flowers. And
couldn't he? Newspapers spread over the beds and tied around the
dahlias would save them, Tommy knew. He had seen Miss Octavia doing it
other springs. And he knew there was a big box of newspapers in a
little shed in her backyard. Ned Williams had told him there was, and
that the shed was never locked.

Tommy hurried home as quickly as he could and got a ball of twine out
of his few treasures. Then he went back to Miss Octavia's garden.

The next forenoon Miss Octavia got off the train at the Arundel
station with a very grim face. There had been an unusually severe
frost for the time of year. All along the road Miss Octavia had seen
gardens frosted and spoiled. She knew what she should see when she got
to her own--the dahlia stalks drooping and black and limp, the
nasturtiums and balsams and poppies and pansies all withered and
ruined.

But she didn't. Instead she saw every dahlia carefully tied up in a
newspaper, and over all the beds newspapers spread out and held neatly
in place with pebbles. Miss Octavia flew into her garden with a
radiant face. Everything was safe--nothing was spoiled.

But who could have done it? Miss Octavia was puzzled. On one side of
her lived Mrs. Kennedy, who had just moved in and, being a total
stranger, would not be likely to think of Miss Octavia's flowers. On
the other lived Miss Matheson, who was a "shut-in" and spent all her
time on the sofa. But to Miss Matheson Miss Octavia went.

"Rachel, do you know who covered my plants up last night?"

Miss Matheson nodded. "Yes, it was Tommy Puffer. I saw him working
away there with papers and twine. I thought you'd told him to do it."

"For the land's sake!" ejaculated Miss Octavia. "Tommy Puffer! Well,
wonders will never cease."

Miss Octavia went back to her house feeling rather ashamed of herself
when she remembered how she had always treated Tommy Puffer.

"But there must be some good in the child, or he wouldn't have done
this," she said to herself. "I've been real mean, but I'll make it up
to him."

Miss Octavia did not see Tommy that day, but when he passed the next
morning she ran to the door and called him.

"Tommy, Tommy Puffer, come in here!"

Tommy came reluctantly. He didn't like Miss Octavia any better than he
had, and he didn't know what she wanted of him. But Miss Octavia soon
informed him without loss of words.

"Tommy, Miss Matheson tells me that it was you who saved my flowers
from the frost the other night. I'm very much obliged to you indeed.
Whatever made you think of doing it?"

"I hated to see the flowers spoiled," muttered Tommy, who was feeling
more uncomfortable than he had ever felt in his life.

"Well, it was real thoughtful of you. I'm sorry I've been so hard on
you, Tommy, and I believe now you didn't break my scarlet geranium. Is
there anything I can do for you--anything you'd like to have? If it's
in reason I'll get it for you, just to pay my debt."

Tommy stared at Miss Octavia with a sudden hopeful inspiration. "Oh,
Miss Octavia," he cried eagerly, "will you buy a doll and give it to
me?"

"Well, for the land's sake!" ejaculated Miss Octavia, unable to
believe her ears. "A doll! What on earth do you want of a doll?"

"It's for Bessie," said Tommy eagerly. "You see, it's this way."

Then Tommy told Miss Octavia the whole story. Miss Octavia listened
silently, sometimes nodding her head. When he had finished she went
out of the room and soon returned, bringing with her the very
identical doll that had been in Mr. Blacklock's window.

"I guess this is the doll," she said. "I bought it to give to a small
niece of mine, but I can get another for her. You may take this to
Bessie."

It would be of no use to try to describe Bessie's joy when Tommy
rushed in and put Roselle Geraldine in her arms with a breathless
account of the wonderful story. But from that moment Bessie began to
pick up again, and soon she was better than she had ever been and the
happiest little lassie in Arundel.

When a week had passed, Miss Octavia again called Tommy in; Tommy
went more willingly this time. He had begun to like Miss Octavia.

That lady looked him over sharply and somewhat dubiously. He was
certainly very ragged and unkempt. But Miss Octavia saw what she had
never noticed before--that Tommy's eyes were bright and frank, that
Tommy's chin was a good chin, and that Tommy's smile had something
very pleasant about it.

"You're fond of flowers, aren't you, Tommy?" she asked.

"You bet," was Tommy's inelegant but heartfelt answer.

"Well," said Miss Octavia slowly, "I have a brother down at Chelton
who is a florist. He wants a boy of your age to do handy jobs and run
errands about his establishment, and he wants one who is fond of
flowers and would like to learn the business. He asked me to recommend
him one, and I promised to look out for a suitable boy. Would you like
the place, Tommy? And will you promise to be a very good boy and learn
to be respectable if I ask my brother to give you a trial and a chance
to make something of yourself?"

"Oh, Miss Octavia!" gasped Tommy. He wondered if he were simply having
a beautiful dream.

But it was no dream. And it was all arranged later on. No one rejoiced
more heartily in Tommy's success than Bessie.

"But I'll miss you dreadfully, Tommy," she said wistfully.

"Oh, I'll be home every Saturday night, and we'll have Sunday
together, except when I've got to go to Sunday school. 'Cause Miss
Octavia says I must," said Tommy comfortingly. "And the rest of the
time you'll have Roselle Geraldine."

"Yes, I know," said Bessie, giving the blue-silk doll a fond kiss,
"and she's just lovely. But she ain't as nice as you, Tommy, for all."

Then was Tommy's cup of happiness full.



Charlotte's Ladies


Just as soon as dinner was over at the asylum, Charlotte sped away to
the gap in the fence--the northwest corner gap. There was a gap in the
southeast corner, too--the asylum fence was in a rather poor
condition--but the southeast gap was interesting only after tea, and
it was never at any time quite as interesting as the northwest gap.

Charlotte ran as fast as her legs could carry her, for she did not
want any of the other orphans to see her. As a rule, Charlotte liked
the company of the other orphans and was a favourite with them. But,
somehow, she did not want them to know about the gaps. She was sure
they would not understand.

Charlotte had discovered the gaps only a week before. They had not
been there in the autumn, but the snowdrifts had lain heavily against
the fence all winter, and one spring day when Charlotte was creeping
through the shrubbery in the northwest corner in search of the little
yellow daffodils that always grew there in spring, she found a
delightful space where a board had fallen off, whence she could look
out on a bit of woodsy road with a little footpath winding along by
the fence under the widespreading boughs of the asylum trees.
Charlotte felt a wild impulse to slip out and run fast and far down
that lovely, sunny, tempting, fenceless road. But that would have been
wrong, for it was against the asylum rules, and Charlotte, though she
hated most of the asylum rules with all her heart, never disobeyed or
broke them. So she subdued the vagrant longing with a sigh and sat
down among the daffodils to peer wistfully out of the gap and feast
her eyes on this glimpse of a world where there were no brick walls
and prim walks and never-varying rules.

Then, as Charlotte watched, the Pretty Lady with the Blue Eyes came
along the footpath. Charlotte had never seen her before and hadn't the
slightest idea in the world who she was, but that was what she called
her as soon as she saw her. The lady was so pretty, with lovely blue
eyes that were very sad, although somehow as you looked at them you
felt that they ought to be laughing, merry eyes instead. At least
Charlotte thought so and wished at once that she knew how to make them
laugh. Besides, the Lady had lovely golden hair and the most beautiful
pink cheeks, and Charlotte, who had mouse-coloured hair and any number
of freckles, had an unbounded admiration for golden locks and roseleaf
complexions. The Lady was dressed in black, which Charlotte didn't
like, principally because the matron of the asylum wore black and
Charlotte didn't--exactly--like the matron.

When the Pretty Lady with the Blue Eyes had gone by, Charlotte drew a
long breath.

"If I could pick out a mother I'd pick out one that looked just like
her," she said.

Nice things sometimes happen close together, even in an orphan asylum,
and that very evening Charlotte discovered the southeast gap and found
herself peering into the most beautiful garden you could imagine, a
garden where daffodils and tulips grew in great ribbon-like beds, and
there were hedges of white and purple lilacs, and winding paths under
blossoming trees. It was such a garden as Charlotte had pictured in
happy dreams and never expected to see in real life. And yet here it
had been all the time, divided from her only by a high board fence.

"I wouldn't have s'posed there could be such a lovely place so near an
orphan asylum," mused Charlotte. "It's the very loveliest place I ever
saw. Oh, I do wish I could go and walk in it. Well, I do declare! If
there isn't a lady in it, too!"

Sure enough, there was a lady, helping an unruly young vine to run in
the way it should go over a little arbour. Charlotte instantly named
her the Tall Lady with the Black Eyes. She was not nearly so young or
so pretty as the Lady with the Blue Eyes, but she looked very kind and
jolly.

I'd like her for an aunt, reflected Charlotte. Not for a mother--oh,
no, not for a mother, but for an aunt. I know she'd make a splendid
aunt. And, oh, just look at her cat!

Charlotte looked at the cat with all her might and main. She loved
cats, but cats were not allowed in an orphan asylum, although
Charlotte sometimes wondered if there were no orphan kittens in the
world which would be appropriate for such an institution.

The Tall Lady's cat was so big and furry, with a splendid tail and
elegant stripes. A Very Handsome Cat, Charlotte called him mentally,
seeing the capitals as plainly as if they had been printed out.
Charlotte's fingers tingled to stroke his glossy coat, but she folded
them sternly together.

"You know you can't," she said to herself reproachfully, "so what is
the use of wanting to, Charlotte Turner? You ought to be thankful just
to see the garden and the Very Handsome Cat."

Charlotte watched the Tall Lady and the Cat until they went away into
a fine, big house further up the garden, then she sighed and went back
through the cherry trees to the asylum playground, where the other
orphans were playing games. But, somehow, games had lost their flavour
compared with those fascinating gaps.

It did not take Charlotte long to discover that the Pretty Lady always
walked past the northwest gap about one o'clock every day and never at
any other time--at least at no other time when Charlotte was free to
watch her; and that the Tall Lady was almost always in her garden at
five in the afternoon, accompanied by the Very Handsome Cat, pruning
and trimming some of her flowers. Charlotte never missed being at the
gaps at the proper times, if she could possibly manage it, and her
heart was full of dreams about her two Ladies. But the other orphans
thought all the fun had gone out of her, and the matron noticed her
absent-mindedness and dosed her with sulphur and molasses for it.
Charlotte took the dose meekly, as she took everything else. It was
all part and parcel with being an orphan in an asylum.

"But if the Pretty Lady with the Blue Eyes was my mother, she wouldn't
make me swallow such dreadful stuff," sighed Charlotte. "I don't
believe even the Tall Lady with the Black Eyes would--though perhaps
she might, aunts not being quite as good as mothers."

"Do you know," said Maggie Brunt, coming up to Charlotte at this
moment, "that Lizzie Parker is going to be adopted? A lady is going to
adopt her."

"Oh!" cried Charlotte breathlessly. An adoption was always a wonderful
event in the asylum, as well as a somewhat rare one. "Oh, how
splendid!"

"Yes, isn't it?" said Maggie enviously. "She picked out Lizzie because
she was pretty and had curls. I don't think it is fair."

Charlotte sighed. "Nobody will ever want to adopt me, because I've
mousy hair and freckles," she said. "But somebody may want you some
day, Maggie. You have such lovely black hair."

"But it isn't curly," said Maggie forlornly. "And the matron won't let
me put it up in curl papers at night. I just wish I was Lizzie."

Charlotte shook her head. "I don't. I'd love to be adopted, but I
wouldn't really like to be anybody but myself, even if I am homely.
It's better to be yourself with mousy hair and freckles than somebody
else who is ever so beautiful. But I do envy Lizzie, though the
matron says it is wicked to envy anyone."

Envy of the fortunate Lizzie did not long possess Charlotte's mind,
however, for that very day a wonderful thing happened at noon hour by
the northwest gap. Charlotte had always been very careful not to let
the Pretty Lady see her, but today, after the Pretty Lady had gone
past, Charlotte leaned out of the gap to watch her as far as she
could. And just at that very moment the Pretty Lady looked back; and
there, peering at her from the asylum fence, was a little scrap of a
girl, with mouse-coloured hair and big freckles, and the sweetest,
brightest, most winsome little face the Pretty Lady had ever seen. The
Pretty Lady smiled right down at Charlotte and for just a moment her
eyes looked as Charlotte had always known they ought to look.
Charlotte was feeling rather frightened down in her heart but she
smiled bravely back.

"Are you thinking of running away?" said the Pretty Lady, and, oh,
what a sweet voice she had--sweet and tender, just like a mother's
voice ought to be!

"No," said Charlotte, shaking her head gravely. "I should like to run
away but it would be of no use, because there is no place to run to."

"Why would you like to run away?" asked the Pretty Lady, still
smiling. "Don't you like living here?"

Charlotte opened her big eyes very widely. "Why, it's an orphan
asylum!" she exclaimed. "Nobody could like living in an orphan asylum.
But, of course, orphans should be very thankful to have any place to
live in and I _am_ thankful. I'd be thankfuller still if the matron
wouldn't make me take sulphur and molasses. If you had a little girl,
would you make her take sulphur and molasses?"

"I didn't when I had a little girl," said the Pretty Lady wistfully,
and her eyes were sad again.

"Oh, did you really have a little girl once?" asked Charlotte softly.

"Yes, and she died," said the Pretty Lady in a trembling voice.

"Oh, I am sorry," said Charlotte, more softly still. "Did she--did she
have lovely golden hair and pink cheeks like yours?"

"No," the Pretty Lady smiled again, though it was a very sad smile.
"No, she had mouse-coloured hair and freckles."

"Oh! And weren't you sorry?"

"No, I was glad of it, because it made her look like her father. I've
always loved little girls with mouse-coloured hair and freckles ever
since. Well, I must hurry along. I'm late now, and schools have a
dreadful habit of going in sharp on time. If you should happen to be
here tomorrow, I'm going to stop and ask your name."

Of course Charlotte was at the gap the next day and they had a lovely
talk. In a week they were the best of friends. Charlotte soon found
out that she could make the Pretty Lady's eyes look as they ought to
for a little while at least, and she spent all her spare time and lay
awake at nights devising speeches to make the Pretty Lady laugh.

Then another wonderful thing happened. One evening when Charlotte went
to the southeast gap, the Tall Lady with the Black Eyes was not in the
garden--at least, Charlotte thought she wasn't. But the Very Handsome
Cat was, sitting gravely under a syringa bush and looking quite proud
of himself for being a cat.

"You Very Handsome Cat," said Charlotte, "won't you come here and let
me stroke you?"

The Very Handsome Cat did come, just as if he understood English, and
he purred with delight when Charlotte took him in her arms and buried
her face in his fur. Then--Charlotte thought she would really sink
into the ground, for the Tall Lady herself came around a lilac bush
and stood before the gap.

"Please, ma'am," stammered Charlotte in an agony of embarrassment, "I
wasn't meaning to do any harm to your Very Handsome Cat. I just wanted
to pat him. I--I am very fond of cats and they are not allowed in
orphan asylums."

"I've always thought asylums weren't run on proper principles," said
the Tall Lady briskly. "Bless your heart, child, don't look so scared.
You're welcome to pat the cat all you like. Come in and I'll give you
some flowers."

"Thank you, but I am not allowed to go off the grounds," said
Charlotte firmly, "and I think I'd rather not have any flowers because
the matron might want to know where I got them, and then she would
have this gap closed up. I live in mortal dread for fear it will be
closed anyhow. It's very uncomfortable--living in mortal dread."

The Tall Lady laughed a very jolly laugh. "Yes, I should think it
would be," she agreed. "I haven't had that experience."

Then they had a jolly talk, and every evening after that Charlotte
went to the gap and stroked the Very Handsome Cat and chatted to the
Tall Lady.

"Do you live all alone in that big house?" she asked wonderingly one
day.

"All alone," said the Tall Lady.

"Did you always live alone?"

"No. I had a sister living with me once. But I don't want to talk
about her. You'll oblige me, Charlotte, by _not_ talking about her."

"I won't then," agreed Charlotte. "I can understand why people don't
like to have their sisters talked about sometimes. Lily Mitchell has a
big sister who was sent to jail for stealing. Of course Lily doesn't
like to talk about her."

The Tall Lady laughed a little bitterly. "My sister didn't steal. She
married a man I detested, that's all."

"Did he drink?" asked Charlotte gravely. "The matron's husband drank
and that was why she left him and took to running an orphan asylum. I
think I'd rather put up with a drunken husband than live in an orphan
asylum."

"My sister's husband didn't drink," said the Tall Lady grimly. "He was
beneath her, that was all. I told her I'd never forgive her and I
never shall. He's dead now--he died a year after she married him--and
she's working for her living. I dare say she doesn't find it very
pleasant. She wasn't brought up to that. Here, Charlotte, is a
turnover for you. I made it on purpose for you. Eat it and tell me if
you don't think I'm a good cook. I'm dying for a compliment. I never
get any now that I've got old. It's a dismal thing to get old and have
nobody to love you except a cat, Charlotte."

"I think it is just as bad to be young and have nobody to love you,
not _even_ a cat," sighed Charlotte, enjoying the turnover,
nevertheless.

"I dare say it is," agreed the Tall Lady, looking as if she had been
struck by a new and rather startling idea.

       *       *       *       *       *

I like the tall lady with the Black Eyes ever so much, thought
Charlotte that night as she lay in bed, but I love the Pretty Lady. I
have more fun with the Tall Lady and the Very Handsome Cat, but I
always feel nicer with the Pretty Lady. Oh, I'm so glad her little
girl had mouse-coloured hair.

Then the most wonderful thing of all happened. One day a week later
the Pretty Lady said, "Would you like to come and live with me,
Charlotte?"

Charlotte looked at her. "Are you in earnest?" she asked in a whisper.

"Indeed I am. I want you for my little girl, and if you'd like to
come, you shall. I'm poor, Charlotte, really, I'm dreadfully poor, but
I can make my salary stretch far enough for two, and we'll love each
other enough to cover the thin spots. Will you come?"

"Well, I should just think I will!" said Charlotte emphatically. "Oh,
I wish I was sure I'm not dreaming. I do love you so much, and it will
be so delightful to be your little girl."

"Very well, sweetheart. I'll come tomorrow afternoon--it is Saturday,
so I'll have the whole blessed day off--and see the matron about it.
Oh, we'll have lovely times together, dearest. I only wish I'd
discovered you long ago."

Charlotte may have eaten and studied and played and kept rules the
rest of that day and part of the next, but, if so, she has no
recollection of it. She went about like a girl in a dream, and the
matron concluded that something more than sulphur and molasses was
needed and decided to speak to the doctor about her. But she never
did, because a lady came that afternoon and told her she wanted to
adopt Charlotte.

Charlotte obeyed the summons to the matron's room in a tingle of
excitement. But when she went in, she saw only the matron and the Tall
Lady with the Black Eyes. Before Charlotte could look around for the
Pretty Lady the matron said, "Charlotte, this lady, Miss Herbert,
wishes to adopt you. It is a splendid thing for you, and you ought to
be a very thankful little girl."

Charlotte's head fairly whirled. She clasped her hands and the tears
brimmed up in her eyes.

"Oh, I like the Tall Lady," she gasped, "but I _love_ the Pretty Lady
and I promised her I'd be her little girl. I can't break my promise."

"What on earth is the child talking about?" said the mystified matron.

And just then the maid showed in the Pretty Lady. Charlotte flew to
her and flung her arms about her.

"Oh, tell them I am your little girl!" she begged. "Tell them I
promised you first. I don't want to hurt the Tall Lady's feelings
because I truly do like her so very much. But I want to be your little
girl."

The Pretty Lady had given one glance at the Tall Lady and flushed red.
The Tall Lady, on the contrary, had grown very pale. The matron felt
uncomfortable. Everybody knew that Miss Herbert and Mrs. Bond hadn't
spoken to each other for years, even if they were sisters and alone in
the world except for each other.

Mrs. Bond turned to the matron. "I have come to ask permission to
adopt this little girl," she said.

"Oh, I'm very sorry," stammered the matron, "but Miss Herbert has just
asked for her, and I have consented."

Charlotte gave a great gulp of disappointment, but the Pretty Lady
suddenly wheeled around to face the Tall Lady, with quivering lips and
tearful eyes.

"Don't take her from me, Alma," she pleaded humbly. "She--she is so
like my own baby and I'm so lonely. Any other child will suit you as
well."

"Not at all," said the Tall Lady brusquely. "Not at all, Anna. No
other child will suit me at all. And may I ask what you intend to keep
her on? I know your salary is barely enough for yourself."

"That is my concern," said the Pretty Lady a little proudly.

"Humph!" The Tall Lady shrugged her shoulders. "Just as independent as
ever, Anna, I see. Well, child, what do _you_ say? Which of us will
you come with? Remember, I have the cat on my side, and Anna can't
make half as good turnovers as I can. Remember all this, Charlotte."

"Oh, I--I like you so much," stammered Charlotte, "and I wish I could
live with you both. But since I can't, I must go with the Pretty Lady,
because I promised, and because I loved her first."

"And best?" queried the Tall Lady.

"And best," admitted Charlotte, bound to be truthful, even at the risk
of hurting the Tall Lady's feelings. "But I _do_ like you, too--next
best. And you really don't need me as much as she does, for you have
your Very Handsome Cat and she hasn't anything."

"A cat no longer satisfies the aching void in my soul," said the Tall
Lady stubbornly. "Nothing will satisfy it but a little girl with
mouse-coloured hair and freckles. No, Anna, I've got to have
Charlotte. But I think that with her usual astuteness, she has already
solved the problem for us by saying she'd like to live with us both.
Why can't she? You just come back home and we'll let bygones be
bygones. We both have something to forgive, but I was an obstinate old
fool and I've known it for years, though I never confessed it to
anybody but the cat."

The Pretty Lady softened, trembled, smiled. She went right up to the
Tall Lady and put her arms about her neck.

"Oh, I've wanted so much to be friends with you again," she sobbed.
"But I thought you would never relent--and--and--I've been so
lonely--"

"There, there," whispered the Tall Lady, "don't cry under the matron's
eye. Wait till we get home. I may have some crying to do myself then.
Charlotte, go and get your hat and come right over with us. We can
sign the necessary papers later on, but we must have you right off.
The cat is waiting for you on the back porch, and there is a turnover
cooling on the pantry window that is just your size."

"I am so happy," remarked Charlotte, "that I feel like crying
myself."



Christmas at Red Butte


"Of course Santa Claus will come," said Jimmy Martin confidently.
Jimmy was ten, and at ten it is easy to be confident. "Why, he's _got_
to come because it is Christmas Eve, and he always _has_ come. You
know that, twins."

Yes, the twins knew it and, cheered by Jimmy's superior wisdom, their
doubts passed away. There had been one terrible moment when Theodora
had sighed and told them they mustn't be too much disappointed if
Santa Claus did not come this year because the crops had been poor,
and he mightn't have had enough presents to go around.

"That doesn't make any difference to Santa Claus," scoffed Jimmy. "You
know as well as I do, Theodora Prentice, that Santa Claus is rich
whether the crops fail or not. They failed three years ago, before
Father died, but Santa Claus came all the same. Prob'bly you don't
remember it, twins, 'cause you were too little, but I do. Of course
he'll come, so don't you worry a mite. And he'll bring my skates and
your dolls. He knows we're expecting them, Theodora, 'cause we wrote
him a letter last week, and threw it up the chimney. And there'll be
candy and nuts, of course, and Mother's gone to town to buy a turkey.
I tell you we're going to have a ripping Christmas."

"Well, don't use such slangy words about it, Jimmy-boy," sighed
Theodora. She couldn't bear to dampen their hopes any further, and
perhaps Aunt Elizabeth might manage it if the colt sold well. But
Theodora had her painful doubts, and she sighed again as she looked
out of the window far down the trail that wound across the prairie,
red-lighted by the declining sun of the short wintry afternoon.

"Do people always sigh like that when they get to be sixteen?" asked
Jimmy curiously. "You didn't sigh like that when you were only
fifteen, Theodora. I wish you wouldn't. It makes me feel funny--and
it's not a nice kind of funniness either."

"It's a bad habit I've got into lately," said Theodora, trying to
laugh. "Old folks are dull sometimes, you know, Jimmy-boy."

"Sixteen _is_ awful old, isn't it?" said Jimmy reflectively. "I'll
tell you what _I'm_ going to do when I'm sixteen, Theodora. I'm going
to pay off the mortgage, and buy mother a silk dress, and a piano for
the twins. Won't that be elegant? I'll be able to do that 'cause I'm a
man. Of course if I was only a girl I couldn't."

"I hope you'll be a good kind brave man and a real help to your
mother," said Theodora softly, sitting down before the cosy fire and
lifting the fat little twins into her lap.

"Oh, I'll be good to her, never you fear," assured Jimmy, squatting
comfortably down on the little fur rug before the stove--the skin of
the coyote his father had killed four years ago. "I believe in being
good to your mother when you've only got the one. Now tell us a story,
Theodora--a real jolly story, you know, with lots of fighting in it.
Only please don't kill anybody. I like to hear about fighting, but I
like to have all the people come out alive."

Theodora laughed, and began a story about the Riel Rebellion of '85--a
story which had the double merit of being true and exciting at the
same time. It was quite dark when she finished, and the twins were
nodding, but Jimmy's eyes were wide open and sparkling.

"That was great," he said, drawing a long breath. "Tell us another."

"No, it's bedtime for you all," said Theodora firmly. "One story at a
time is my rule, you know."

"But I want to sit up till Mother comes home," objected Jimmy.

"You can't. She may be very late, for she would have to wait to see
Mr. Porter. Besides, you don't know what time Santa Claus might
come--if he comes at all. If he were to drive along and see you
children up instead of being sound asleep in bed, he might go right on
and never call at all."

This argument was too much for Jimmy.

"All right, we'll go. But we have to hang up our stockings first.
Twins, get yours."

The twins toddled off in great excitement, and brought back their
Sunday stockings, which Jimmy proceeded to hang along the edge of the
mantel shelf. This done, they all trooped obediently off to bed.
Theodora gave another sigh, and seated herself at the window, where
she could watch the moonlit prairie for Mrs. Martin's homecoming and
knit at the same time.

I am afraid that you will think from all the sighing Theodora was
doing that she was a very melancholy and despondent young lady. You
couldn't think anything more unlike the real Theodora. She was the
jolliest, bravest girl of sixteen in all Saskatchewan, as her shining
brown eyes and rosy, dimpled cheeks would have told you; and her sighs
were not on her own account, but simply for fear the children were
going to be disappointed. She knew that they would be almost
heartbroken if Santa Claus did not come, and that this would hurt the
patient hardworking little mother more than all else.

Five years before this, Theodora had come to live with Uncle George
and Aunt Elizabeth in the little log house at Red Butte. Her own
mother had just died, and Theodora had only her big brother Donald
left, and Donald had Klondike fever. The Martins were poor, but they
had gladly made room for their little niece, and Theodora had lived
there ever since, her aunt's right-hand girl and the beloved playmate
of the children. They had been very happy until Uncle George's death
two years before this Christmas Eve; but since then there had been
hard times in the little log house, and though Mrs. Martin and
Theodora did their best, it was a woefully hard task to make both ends
meet, especially this year when their crops had been poor. Theodora
and her aunt had made every sacrifice possible for the children's
sake, and at least Jimmy and the twins had not felt the pinch very
severely yet.

At seven Mrs. Martins bells jingled at the door and Theodora flew out.
"Go right in and get warm, Auntie," she said briskly. "I'll take Ned
away and unharness him."

"It's a bitterly cold night," said Mrs. Martin wearily. There was a
note of discouragement in her voice that struck dismay to Theodora's
heart.

"I'm afraid it means no Christmas for the children tomorrow," she
thought sadly, as she led Ned away to the stable. When she returned to
the kitchen Mrs. Martin was sitting by the fire, her face in her
chilled hand, sobbing convulsively.

"Auntie--oh, Auntie, don't!" exclaimed Theodora impulsively. It was
such a rare thing to see her plucky, resolute little aunt in tears.
"You're cold and tired--I'll have a nice cup of tea for you in a
trice."

"No, it isn't that," said Mrs. Martin brokenly "It was seeing those
stockings hanging there. Theodora, I couldn't get a thing for the
children--not a single thing. Mr. Porter would only give forty dollars
for the colt, and when all the bills were paid there was barely enough
left for such necessaries as we must have. I suppose I ought to feel
thankful I could get those. But the thought of the children's
disappointment tomorrow is more than I can bear. It would have been
better to have told them long ago, but I kept building on getting more
for the colt. Well, it's weak and foolish to give way like this. We'd
better both take a cup of tea and go to bed. It will save fuel."

When Theodora went up to her little room her face was very thoughtful.
She took a small box from her table and carried it to the window. In
it was a very pretty little gold locket hung on a narrow blue ribbon.
Theodora held it tenderly in her fingers, and looked out over the
moonlit prairie with a very sober face. Could she give up her dear
locket--the locket Donald had given her just before he started for the
Klondike? She had never thought she could do such a thing. It was
almost the only thing she had to remind her of Donald--handsome,
merry, impulsive, warmhearted Donald, who had gone away four years ago
with a smile on his bonny face and splendid hope in his heart.

"Here's a locket for you, Gift o' God," he had said gaily--he had such
a dear loving habit of calling her by the beautiful meaning of her
name. A lump came into Theodora's throat as she remembered it. "I
couldn't afford a chain too, but when I come back I'll bring you a
rope of Klondike nuggets for it."

Then he had gone away. For two years letters had come from him
regularly. Then he wrote that he had joined a prospecting party to a
remote wilderness. After that was silence, deepening into anguish of
suspense that finally ended in hopelessness. A rumour came that Donald
Prentice was dead. None had returned from the expedition he had
joined. Theodora had long ago given up all hope of ever seeing Donald
again. Hence her locket was doubly dear to her.

But Aunt Elizabeth had always been so good and loving and kind to her.
Could she not make the sacrifice for her sake? Yes, she could and
would. Theodora flung up her head with a gesture that meant decision.
She took out of the locket the bits of hair--her mother's and
Donald's--which it contained (perhaps a tear or two fell as she did
so) and then hastily donned her warmest cap and wraps. It was only
three miles to Spencer; she could easily walk it in an hour and, as it
was Christmas Eve, the shops would be open late. She muse walk, for
Ned could not be taken out again, and the mare's foot was sore.
Besides, Aunt Elizabeth must not know until it was done.

As stealthily as if she were bound on some nefarious errand, Theodora
slipped downstairs and out of the house. The next minute she was
hurrying along the trail in the moonlight. The great dazzling prairie
was around her, the mystery and splendour of the northern night all
about her. It was very calm and cold, but Theodora walked so briskly
that she kept warm. The trail from Red Butte to Spencer was a lonely
one. Mr. Lurgan's house, halfway to town, was the only dwelling on it.

When Theodora reached Spencer she made her way at once to the only
jewellery store the little town contained. Mr. Benson, its owner, had
been a friend of her uncle's, and Theodora felt sure that he would
buy her locket. Nevertheless her heart beat quickly, and her breath
came and went uncomfortably fast as she went in. Suppose he wouldn't
buy it. Then there would be no Christmas for the children at Red
Butte.

"Good evening, Miss Theodora," said Mr. Benson briskly. "What can I do
for you?"

"I'm afraid I'm not a very welcome sort of customer, Mr. Benson," said
Theodora, with an uncertain smile. "I want to sell, not buy. Could
you--will you buy this locket?"

Mr. Benson pursed up his lips, took up the locket, and examined it.
"Well, I don't often buy second-hand stuff," he said, after some
reflection, "but I don't mind obliging you, Miss Theodora. I'll give
you four dollars for this trinket."

Theodora knew the locket had cost a great deal more than that, but
four dollars would get what she wanted, and she dared not ask for
more. In a few minutes the locket was in Mr. Benson's possession, and
Theodora, with four crisp new bills in her purse, was hurrying to the
toy store. Half an hour later she was on her way back to Red Butte,
with as many parcels as she could carry--Jimmy's skates, two lovely
dolls for the twins, packages of nuts and candy, and a nice plump
turkey. Theodora beguiled her lonely tramp by picturing the children's
joy in the morning.

About a quarter of a mile past Mr. Lurgan's house the trail curved
suddenly about a bluff of poplars. As Theodora rounded the turn she
halted in amazement. Almost at her feet the body of a man was lying
across the road. He was clad in a big fur coat, and had a fur cap
pulled well down over his forehead and ears. Almost all of him that
could be seen was a full bushy beard. Theodora had no idea who he was,
or where he had come from. But she realized that he was unconscious,
and that he would speedily freeze to death if help were not brought.
The footprints of a horse galloping across the prairie suggested a
fall and a runaway, but Theodora did not waste time in speculation.
She ran back at full speed to Mr. Lurgan's, and roused the household.
In a few minutes Mr. Lurgan and his son had hitched a horse to a
wood-sleigh, and hurried down the trail to the unfortunate man.

Theodora, knowing that her assistance was not needed, and that she
ought to get home as quickly as possible, went on her way as soon as
she had seen the stranger in safe keeping. When she reached the little
log house she crept in, cautiously put the children's gifts in their
stockings, placed the turkey on the table where Aunt Elizabeth would
see it the first thing in the morning, and then slipped off to bed, a
very weary but very happy girl.

The joy that reigned in the little log house the next day more than
repaid Theodora for her sacrifice.

"Whoopee, didn't I tell you that Santa Claus would come all right!"
shouted the delighted Jimmy. "Oh, what splendid skates!"

The twins hugged their dolls in silent rapture, but Aunt Elizabeth's
face was the best of all.

Then the dinner had to be prepared, and everybody had a hand in that.
Just as Theodora, after a grave peep into the oven, had announced that
the turkey was done, a sleigh dashed around the house. Theodora flew
to answer the knock at the door, and there stood Mr. Lurgan and a big,
bewhiskered, fur-coated fellow whom Theodora recognized as the
stranger she had found on the trail. But--_was_ he a stranger? There
was something oddly familiar in those merry brown eyes. Theodora felt
herself growing dizzy.

"Donald!" she gasped. "Oh, Donald!"

And then she was in the big fellow's arms, laughing and crying at the
same time.

Donald it was indeed. And then followed half an hour during which
everybody talked at once, and the turkey would have been burned to a
crisp had it not been for the presence of mind of Mr. Lurgan who,
being the least excited of them all, took it out of the oven, and set
it on the back of the stove.

"To think that it was you last night, and that I never dreamed it,"
exclaimed Theodora. "Oh, Donald, if I hadn't gone to town!"

"I'd have frozen to death, I'm afraid," said Donald soberly. "I got
into Spencer on the last train last night. I felt that I must come
right out--I couldn't wait till morning. But there wasn't a team to be
got for love or money--it was Christmas Eve and all the livery rigs
were out. So I came on horseback. Just by that bluff something
frightened my horse, and he shied violently. I was half asleep and
thinking of my little sister, and I went off like a shot. I suppose I
struck my head against a tree. Anyway, I knew nothing more until I
came to in Mr. Lurgan's kitchen. I wasn't much hurt--feel none the
worse of it except for a sore head and shoulder. But, oh, Gift o' God,
how you have grown! I can't realize that you are the little sister I
left four years ago. I suppose you have been thinking I was dead?"

"Yes, and, oh, Donald, where _have_ you been?"

"Well, I went way up north with a prospecting party. We had a tough
time the first year, I can tell you, and some of us never came back.
We weren't in a country where post offices were lying round loose
either, you see. Then at last, just as we were about giving up in
despair, we struck it rich. I've brought a snug little pile home with
me, and things are going to look up in this log house, Gift o' God.
There'll be no more worrying for you dear people over mortgages."

"I'm so glad--for Auntie's sake," said Theodora, with shining eyes.
"But, oh, Donald, it's best of all just to have you back. I'm so
perfectly happy that I don't know what to do or say."

"Well, I think you might have dinner," said Jimmy in an injured tone.
"The turkey's getting stone cold, and I'm most starving. I just can't
stand it another minute."

So, with a laugh, they all sat down to the table and ate the merriest
Christmas dinner the little log house had ever known.



How We Went to the Wedding


"If it were to clear up I wouldn't know how to behave, it would seem
so unnatural," said Kate. "Do you, by any chance, remember what the
sun looks like, Phil?"

"Does the sun ever shine in Saskatchewan anyhow?" I asked with assumed
sarcasm, just to make Kate's big, bonny black eyes flash.

They did flash; but Kate laughed immediately after, as she sat down on
a chair in front of me and cradled her long, thin, spirited dark face
in her palms.

"We have more sunny weather in Saskatchewan than in all the rest of
Canada put together, in an average year," she said, clicking her
strong, white teeth and snapping her eyes at me. "But I can't blame
you for feeling sceptical about it, Phil. If I went to a new country
and it rained every day--all day--all night--after I got there for
three whole weeks I'd think things not lawful to be uttered about the
climate too. So, little cousin, I forgive you. Remember that 'into
each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.' Oh,
if you'd only come to visit me last fall. We had such a bee-yew-tiful
September last year. We were drowned in sunshine. This fall we're
drowned in water. Old settlers tell of a similar visitation in '72,
though they claim even that wasn't quite as bad as this."

I was sitting rather disconsolately by an upper window of Uncle
Kenneth Morrison's log house at Arrow Creek. Below was what in dry
weather--so, at least, I was told--was merely a pretty, grassy little
valley, but which was now a considerable creek of muddy yellow water,
rising daily. Beyond was a cheerless prospect of sodden prairie and
dripping "bluff."

"It would be a golden, mellow land, with purple hazes over the bluffs,
in a normal fall," assured Kate. "Even now if the sun were just to
shine out for a day and a good 'chinook' blow you'd see a surprising
change. I feel like chanting continually that old rhyme I learned in
the first primer,

    'Rain, rain, go away,
    Come again some other day:
    --some other day next summer--
    Phil and Katie want to play.'

Philippa, dear girl, don't look so dismal. It's bound to clear up
sometime."

"I wish the 'sometime' would come soon, then," I said, rather
grumpily.

"You know it hasn't really rained for three days," protested Kate.
"It's been damp and horrid and threatening, but it hasn't rained. I
defy you to say that it has actually rained."

"When it's so wet underfoot that you can't stir out without rubber
boots it might as well be wet overhead too," I said, still grumpily.

"I believe you're homesick, girl," said Kate anxiously.

"No, I'm not," I answered, laughing, and feeling ashamed of my
ungraciousness. "Nobody could be homesick with such a jolly good
fellow as you around, Kate. It's only that this weather is getting on
my nerves a bit. I'm fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. If your
chinook doesn't come soon, Kitty, I'll do something quite desperate."

"I feel that way myself," admitted Kate. "Real reckless, Phil. Anyhow,
let's put on our despised rubber boots and sally out for a wade."

"Here's Jim Nash coming on horseback down the trail," I said. "Let's
wait and see if he's got the mail."

We hurried down, Kate humming, "Somewhere the sun is shining," solely,
I believe, because she knew it aggravated me. At any other time I
should probably have thrown a pillow at her, but just now I was too
eager to see if Jim Nash had brought any mail.

I had come from Ontario, the first of September, to visit Uncle
Kenneth Morrison's family. I had been looking forward to the trip for
several years. My cousin Kate and I had always corresponded since they
had "gone west" ten years before; and Kate, who revelled in the
western life, had sung the praises of her adopted land rapturously and
constantly. It was quite a joke on her that, when I did finally come
to visit her, I should have struck the wettest autumn ever recorded in
the history of the west. A wet September in Saskatchewan is no joke,
however. The country was almost "flooded out." The trails soon became
nearly impassable. All our plans for drives and picnics and
inter-neighbour visiting--at that time a neighbour meant a man who
lived at least six miles away--had to be given up. Yet I was not
lonesome, and I enjoyed my visit in spite of everything. Kate was a
host in herself. She was twenty-eight years old--eight years my
senior--but the difference in our ages had never been any barrier to
our friendship. She was a jolly, companionable, philosophical soul,
with a jest for every situation, and a merry solution for every
perplexity. The only fault I had to find with her was her tendency to
make parodies. Kate's parodies were perfectly awful and always got on
my nerves.

She was dreadfully ashamed of the way the Saskatchewan weather was
behaving after all her boasting. She was thin at the best of times,
but now she grew positively scraggy with the worry of it. I am afraid
I took an unholy delight in teasing her, and abused the western
weather even more than was necessary.

Jim Nash--the lank youth who was hired to look after the place during
Uncle Kenneth's absence on a prolonged threshing expedition--had
brought some mail. Kate's share was a letter, postmarked Bothwell, a
rising little town about one hundred and twenty miles from Arrow
Creek. Kate had several friends there, and one of our plans had been
to visit Bothwell and spend a week with them. We had meant to drive,
of course, since there was no other way of getting there, and equally
of course the plan had been abandoned because of the wet weather.

"Mother," exclaimed Kate, "Mary Taylor is going to be married in a
fortnight's time! She wants Phil and me to go up to Bothwell for the
wedding."

"What a pity you can't go," remarked Aunt Jennie placidly. Aunt Jennie
was always a placid little soul, with a most enviable knack of taking
everything easy. Nothing ever worried her greatly, and when she had
decided that a thing was inevitable it did not worry her at all.

"But I am going," cried Kate. "I will go--I must go. I positively
cannot let Mary Taylor--my own beloved Molly--go and perpetrate
matrimony without my being on hand to see it. Yes, I'm going--and if
Phil has a spark of the old Blair pioneer spirit in her, she'll go
too."

"Of course I'll go if you go," I said.

Aunt Jennie did not think we were in earnest, so she merely laughed at
first, and said, "How do you propose to go? Fly--or swim?"

"We'll drive, as usual," said Kate calmly. "I'd feel more at home in
that way of locomotion. We'll borrow Jim Nash's father's democrat, and
take the ponies. We'll put on old clothes, raincoats, rubber caps and
boots, and we'll start tomorrow. In an ordinary time we could easily
do it in six days or less, but this fall we'll probably need ten or
twelve."

"You don't really mean to go, Kate!" said Aunt Jennie, beginning to
perceive that Kate did mean it.

"I do," said Kate, in a convincing tone.

Aunt Jennie felt a little worried--as much as she could feel worried
over anything--and she tried her best to dissuade Kate, although she
plainly did not have much hope of doing so, having had enough
experience with her determined daughter to realize that when Kate said
she was going to do a thing she did it. It was rather funny to listen
to the ensuing dialogue.

"Kate, you can't do it. It's a crazy idea! The road is one hundred and
twenty miles long."

"I've driven it twice, Mother."

"Yes, but not in such a wet year. The trail is impassable in places."

"Oh, there are always plenty of dry spots to be found if you only look
hard for them."

"But you don't know where to look for them, and goodness knows what
you'll get into while you are looking."

"We'll call at the M.P. barracks and get an Indian to guide us.
Indians always know the dry spots."

"The stage driver has decided not to make another trip till the
October frosts set in."

"But he always has such a heavy load. It will be quite different with
us, you must remember. We'll travel light--just our provisions and a
valise containing our wedding garments."

"What will you do if you get mired twenty miles from a human being?"

"But we won't. I'm a good driver and I haven't nerves--but I have
nerve. Besides, you forget that we'll have an Indian guide with us."

"There was a company of Hudson Bay freighters ambushed and killed
along that very trail by Blackfoot Indians in 1839," said Aunt Jennie
dolefully.

"Fifty years ago! Their ghosts must have ceased to haunt it by this
time," said Kate flippantly.

"Well, you'll get wet through and catch your deaths of cold,"
protested Aunt Jennie.

"No fear of it. We'll be cased in rubber. And we'll borrow a good
tight tent from the M.P.s. Besides, I'm sure it's not going to rain
much more. I know the signs."

"At least wait for a day or two until you're sure that it has cleared
up," implored Aunt Jennie.

"Which being interpreted means, 'Wait for a day or two, because then
your father may be home and he'll squelch your mad expedition,'" said
Kate, with a sly glance at me. "No, no, my mother, your wiles are in
vain. We'll hit the trail tomorrow at sunrise. So just be good,
darling, and help us pack up some provisions. I'll send Jim for his
father's democrat."

Aunt Jennie resigned herself to the inevitable and betook herself to
the pantry with the air of a woman who washes her hands of the
consequences. I flew upstairs to pack some finery. I was wild with
delight over the proposed outing. I did not realize what it actually
meant, and I had perfect confidence in Kate, who was an expert driver,
an experienced camper out, and an excellent manager. If I could have
seen what was ahead of us I would certainly not have been quite so
jubilant and reckless, but I would have gone all the same. I would not
miss the laughter-provoking memories of that trip out of my life for
anything. I have always been glad I went.

       *       *       *       *       *

We left at sunrise the next morning; there was a sunrise that morning,
for a wonder. The sun came up in a pinky-saffron sky and promised us a
fine day. Aunt Jennie bade us goodbye and, estimable woman that she
was, did not trouble us with advice or forebodings.

Mr. Nash had sent over his "democrat," a light wagon with springs; and
Kate's "shaganappies," Tom and Jerry--native ponies, the toughest
horse flesh to be found in the world--were hitched to it. Kate and I
were properly accoutred for our trip and looked--but I try to forget
how we looked! The memory is not flattering.

We drove off in the gayest of spirits. Our difficulties began at the
start, for we had to drive a mile before we could find a place to ford
the creek. Beyond that, however, we had a passable trail for three
miles to the little outpost of the Mounted Police, where five or six
men were stationed on detachment duty.

"Sergeant Baker is a friend of mine," said Kate. "He'll be only too
glad to lend me all we require."

The sergeant was a friend of Kate's, but he looked at her as if he
thought she was crazy when she told him where we were going.

"You'd better take a canoe instead of a team," he said sarcastically.
"I've a good notion to arrest you both as horse thieves and prevent
you from going on such a mad expedition."

"You know nothing short of arrest would stop me," said Kate, nodding
at him with laughing eyes, "and you really won't go to such an
extreme, I know. So please be nice, even if it comes hard, and lend us
some things. I've come a-borrying."

"I won't lend you a thing," declared the sergeant. "I won't aid and
abet you in any such freak as this. Go home now, like a good girl."

"I'm not going home," said Kate. "I'm not a 'good girl'--I'm a wicked
old maid, and I'm going to Bothwell. If you won't lend us a tent we'll
go without--and sleep in the open--and our deaths will lie forever at
your door. I'll come back and haunt you, if you don't lend me a tent.
I'll camp on your very threshold and you won't be able to go out of
your door without falling over my spook."

"I've more fear of being accountable for your death if I do let you
go," said Sergeant Baker dubiously. "However, I see that nothing but
physical force will prevent you. What do you want?"

"I want," said Kate, "a cavalry tent, a sheet-iron camp stove, and a
good Indian guide--old Peter Crow for choice. He's such a
respectable-looking old fellow, and his wife often works for us."

The sergeant gave us the tent and stove, and sent a man down to the
Reserve for Peter Crow. Moreover, he vindicated his title of friend by
making us take a dozen prairie chickens and a large ham--besides any
quantity of advice. We didn't want the advice but we hugely welcomed
the ham. Presently our guide appeared--quite a spruce old Indian, as
Indians go. I had never been able to shake off my childhood conviction
that an Indian was a fearsome creature, hopelessly addicted to
scalping knives and tomahawks, and I secretly felt quite horrified at
the idea of two defenceless females starting out on a lonely prairie
trail with an Indian for guide. Even old Peter Crow's meek appearance
did not quite reassure me; but I kept my qualms to myself, for I knew
Kate would only laugh at me.

It was ten when we finally got away from the M.P. outpost. Sergeant
Baker bade us goodbye in a tone which seemed to intimate that he never
expected to see either of us again. What with his dismal predictions
and my secret horror of Indians, I was beginning to feel anything but
jubilant over our expedition. Kate, however, was as blithe and buoyant
as usual. She knew no fear, being one of those enviable folk who can
because they think they can. One hundred and twenty miles of
half-flooded prairie trail--camping out at night in the solitude of
the Great Lone Land--rain--muskegs--Indian guides--nothing had any
terror for my dauntless cousin.

For the next three hours, however, we got on beautifully. The trail
was fair, though somewhat greasy; the sun shone, though with a
somewhat watery gleam, through the mists; and Peter Crow, coiled up on
the folded tent behind the seat, slept soundly and snored
mellifluously. That snore reassured me greatly. I had never thought of
Indians as snoring. Surely one who did couldn't be dreaded greatly.

We stopped at one o'clock and had a cold lunch, sitting in our wagon,
while Peter Crow wakened up and watered the ponies. We did not get on
so well in the afternoon. The trail descended into low-lying ground
where travelling was very difficult. I had to admit old Peter Crow
was quite invaluable. He knew, as Kate had foretold, "all the dry
spots"--that is to say, spots less wet than others. But, even so, we
had to make so many detours that by sunset we were little more than
six miles distant from our noon halting place.

"We'd better set camp now, before it gets any darker," said Kate.
"There's a capital spot over there, by that bluff of dead poplar. The
ground seems pretty dry too. Peter, cut us a set of tent poles and
kindle a fire."

"Want my dollar first," said old Peter stolidly.

We had agreed to pay him a dollar a day for the trip, but none of the
money was to be paid until we got to Bothwell. Kate told him this. But
all the reply she got was a stolid, "Want dollar. No make fire without
dollar."

We were getting cold and it was getting dark, so finally Kate, under
the law of necessity, paid him his dollar. Then he carried out our
orders at his own sweet leisure. In course of time he got a fire
lighted, and while we cooked supper he set up the tent and prepared
our beds, by cutting piles of brush and covering them with rugs.

Kate and I had a hilarious time cooking that supper. It was my first
experience of camping out and, as I had become pretty well convinced
that Peter Crow was not the typical Indian of old romance, I enjoyed
it all hugely. But we were both very tired, and as soon as we had
finished eating we betook ourselves to our tent and found our brush
beds much more comfortable than I had expected. Old Peter coiled up on
his blanket outside by the fire, and the great silence of a windless
prairie enwrapped us. In a few minutes we were sound asleep and never
wakened until seven o'clock.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we arose and lifted the flap of the tent we saw a peculiar sight.
The little elevation on which we had pitched our camp seemed to be an
island in a vast sea of white mist, dotted here and there with other
islands. On every hand to the far horizon stretched that strange,
phantasmal ocean, and a hazy sun looked over the shifting billows. I
had never seen a western mist before and I thought it extremely
beautiful; but Kate, to whom it was no novelty, was more cumbered with
breakfast cares.

"I'm ravenous," she said, as she bustled about among our stores.
"Camping out always does give one such an appetite. Aren't you hungry,
Phil?"

"Comfortably so," I admitted. "But where are our ponies? And where is
Peter Crow?"

"Probably the ponies have strayed away looking for pea vines. They
love and adore pea vines," said Kate, stirring up the fire from under
its blanket of grey ashes. "And Peter Crow has gone to look for them,
good old fellow. When you do get a conscientious Indian there is no
better guide in the world, but they are rare. Now, Philippa-girl, just
pry out the sergeant's ham and shave a few slices off it for our
breakfast. Some savoury fried ham always goes well on the prairie."

I went for the ham but could not find it. A thorough search among our
effects revealed it not.

"Kate, I can't find the ham," I called out. "It must have fallen out
somewhere on the trail."

Kate ceased wrestling with the fire and came to help in the search for
the missing delicacy.

"It couldn't have fallen out," she said incredulously. "That is
impossible. The tent was fastened securely over everything. Nothing
could have jolted out."

"Well, then, where is the ham?" I said.

That question was unanswerable, as Kate discovered after another
thorough search. The ham was gone--that much was certain.

"I believe Peter Crow has levanted with the ham," I said decidedly.

"I don't believe Peter Crow could be so dishonest," said Kate rather
shortly. "His wife has worked for us for years, and she's as honest as
the sunlight."

"Honesty isn't catching," I remarked, but I said nothing more just
then, for Kate's black eyes were snapping.

"Anyway, we can't have ham for breakfast," she said, twitching out the
frying pan rather viciously. "We'll have to put up with canned
chicken--if the cans haven't disappeared too."

They hadn't, and we soon produced a very tolerable breakfast. But
neither of us had much appetite.

"Do you suppose Peter Crow has taken the horses as well as the ham?" I
asked.

"No," gloomily responded Kate, who had evidently been compelled by the
logic of hard facts to believe in Peter's guilt, "he would hardly dare
to do that, because he couldn't dispose of them without being found
out. They've probably strayed away on their own account when Peter
decamped. As soon as this mist lifts I'll have a look for them. They
can't have gone far."

We were spared this trouble, however, for when we were washing up the
dishes the ponies returned of their own accord. Kate caught them and
harnessed them.

"Are we going on?" I asked mildly.

"Of course we're going on," said Kate, her good humour entirely
restored. "Do you suppose I'm going to be turned from my purpose by
the defection of a miserable old Indian? Oh, wait till he comes round
in the winter, begging."

"Will he come?" I asked.

"Will he? Yes, my dear, he will--with a smooth, plausible story to
account for his desertion and a bland denial of ever having seen our
ham. I shall know how to deal with him then, the old scamp."

"When you do get a conscientious Indian there's no better guide in the
world, but they are rare," I remarked with a far-away look.

Kate laughed.

"Don't rub it in, Phil. Come, help me to break camp. We'll have to
work harder and hustle for ourselves, that's all."

"But is it safe to go on without a guide?" I inquired dubiously. I
hadn't felt very safe with Peter Crow, but I felt still more unsafe
without him.

"Safe! Of course, it's safe--perfectly safe. I know the trail, and
we'll just have to drive around the wet places. It would have been
easier with Peter, and we'd have had less work to do, but we'll get
along well enough without him. I don't think I'd have bothered with
him at all, only I wanted to set Mother's mind at rest. She'll never
know he isn't with us till the trip is over, so that is all right.
We're going to have a glorious day. But, oh, for our lost ham! 'The
Ham That Was Never Eaten.' There's a subject for a poem, Phil. You
write one when we get back to civilization. Methinks I can sniff the
savoury odour of that lost ham on all the prairie breezes."

    "Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these--it might have been,"

I quoted, beginning to wash the dishes.

    "Saw ye my wee ham, saw ye my ain ham,
        Saw ye my pork ham down on yon lea?
    Crossed it the prairie last night in the darkness
        Borne by an old and unprincipled Cree?"

sang Kate, loosening the tent ropes. Altogether, we got a great deal
more fun out of that ham than if we had eaten it.

As Kate had predicted, the day was glorious. The mists rolled away and
the sun shone brightly. We drove all day without stopping, save for
dinner--when the lost ham figured largely in our conversation--of
course. We said so many witty things about it--at least, we thought
them witty--that we laughed continuously through the whole meal,
which we ate with prodigious appetite.

But with all our driving we were not getting on very fast. The country
was exceedingly swampy and we had to make innumerable detours.

"'The longest way round is the shortest way to Bothwell,'" said Kate,
when we drove five miles out of our way to avoid a muskeg. By evening
we had driven fully twenty-five miles, but we were only ten miles
nearer Bothwell than when we had broken camp in the morning.

"We'll have to camp soon," sighed Kate. "I believe around this bluff
will be a good place. Oh, Phil, I'm tired--dead tired! My very
thoughts are tired. I can't even think anything funny about the ham.
And yet we've got to set up the tent ourselves, and attend to the
horses; and we'll have to scrape some of the mud off this beautiful
vehicle."

"We can leave that till the morning," I suggested.

"No, it will be too hard and dry then. Here we are--and here are two
tepees of Indians also!"

There they were, right around the bluff. The inmates were standing in
a group before them, looking at us as composedly as if we were not at
all an unusual sight.

"I'm going to stay here anyhow," said Kate doggedly.

"Oh, don't," I said in alarm. "They're such a villainous-looking
lot--so dirty--and they've got so little clothing on. I wouldn't sleep
a wink near them. Look at that awful old squaw with only one eye.
They'd steal everything we've got left, Kate. Remember the ham--oh,
pray remember the fate of our beautiful ham."

"I shall never forget that ham," said Kate wearily, "but, Phil, we
can't drive far enough to be out of their reach if they really want to
steal our provisions. But I don't believe they will. I believe they
have plenty of food--Indians in tepees mostly have. The men hunt, you
know. Their looks are probably the worst of them. Anyhow, you can't
judge Indians by appearances. Peter Crow looked respectable--and he
was a whited sepulchre. Now, these Indians look as bad as Indians can
look--so they may turn out to be angels in disguise."

"Very much disguised, certainly," I acquiesced satirically. "They seem
to me to belong to the class of a neighbour of ours down east. Her
family is always in rags, because she says, 'a hole is an accident, a
patch is a disgrace,' Set camp here if you like, Kate. But I'll not
sleep a wink with such neighbours."

I cheerfully ate my words later on. Never were appearances more
deceptive than in the case of those Stoneys. There is an old saying
that many a kind heart beats behind a ragged coat. The Indians had no
coats for their hearts to beat behind--nothing but shirts--some of
them hadn't even shirts! But the shirts were certainly ragged enough,
and their hearts were kind.

Those Indians were gentlemen. They came forward and unhitched our
horses, fed, and watered them; they pitched our tent, and built us a
fire, and cut brush for our beds. Kate and I had simply nothing to do
except sit on our rugs and tell them what we wanted done. They would
have cooked our supper for us if we had allowed it. But, tired as we
were, we drew the line at that. Their hearts were pure gold, but their
hands! No, Kate and I dragged ourselves up and cooked our own suppers.
And while we ate it, those Indians fell to and cleaned all the mud off
our democrat for us. To crown all--it is almost unbelievable but it is
true, I solemnly avow--they wouldn't take a cent of payment for it
all, urge them as we might and did.

"Well," said Kate, as we curled up on our brush beds that night,
"there certainly is a special Providence for unprotected females. I'd
forgive Peter Crow for deserting us for the sake of those Indians, if
he hadn't stolen our lovely ham into the bargain. That was altogether
unpardonable."

In the morning the Indians broke camp for us and harnessed our
shaganappies. We drove off, waving our hands to them, the delightful
creatures. We never saw any of them again. I fear their kind is
scarce, but as long as I live I shall remember those Stoneys with
gratitude.

We got on fairly well that third day, and made about fifteen miles
before dinner time. We ate three of the sergeant's prairie chickens
for dinner, and enjoyed them.

"But only think how delicious the ham would have been," said Kate.

Our real troubles began that afternoon. We had not been driving long
when the trail swooped down suddenly into a broad depression--a swamp,
so full of mud-holes that there didn't seem to be anything but
mud-holes. We pulled through six of them--but in the seventh we stuck,
hard and fast. Pull as our ponies could and did, they could not pull
us out.

"What are we to do?" I said, becoming horribly frightened all at once.
It seemed to me that our predicament was a dreadful one.

"Keep cool," said Kate. She calmly took off her shoes and stockings,
tucked up her skirt, and waded to the horses' heads.

"Can't I do anything?" I implored.

"Yes, take the whip and spare it not," said Kate. "I'll encourage them
here with sundry tugs and inspiriting words. You urge them behind with
a good lambasting."

Accordingly we encouraged and urged, tugged and lambasted, with a
right good will, but all to no effect. Our ponies did their best, but
they could not pull the democrat out of that slough.

"Oh, what--" I began, and then I stopped. I resolved that I would not
ask that question again in that tone in that scrape. I would be
cheerful and courageous like Kate--splendid Kate!

"I shall have to unhitch them, tie one of them to that stump, and ride
off on the other for help," said Kate.

"Where to?" I asked.

"Till I find it," grinned Kate, who seemed to think the whole
disaster a capital joke. "I may have to go clean back to the
tepees--and further. For that matter, I don't believe there were any
tepees. Those Indians were too good to be true--they were phantoms of
delight--such stuff as dreams are made of. But even if they were real
they won't be there now--they'll have folded their tents like the
Arabs and as silently stolen away. But I'll find help somewhere."

"I can't stay here alone. You may be gone for hours," I cried,
forgetting all my resolutions of courage and cheerfulness in an access
of panic.

"Then ride the other pony and come with me," suggested Kate.

"I can't ride bareback," I moaned.

"Then you'll have to stay here," said Kate decidedly. "There's nothing
to hurt you, Phil. Sit in the wagon and keep dry. Eat something if you
get hungry. I may not be very long."

I realized that there was nothing else to do; and, rather ashamed of
my panic, I resigned myself to the inevitable and saw Kate off with
a smile of encouragement. Then I waited. I was tired and
frightened--horribly frightened. I sat there and imagined scores of
gruesome possibilities. It was no use telling myself to be brave. I
couldn't be brave. I never was in such a blue funk before or since.
Suppose Kate got lost--suppose she couldn't find me again--suppose
something happened to her--suppose she couldn't get help--suppose it
came on night and I there all alone--suppose Indians--not gentlemanly
Stoneys or even Peter Crows, but genuine, old-fashioned
Indians--should come along--suppose it began to pour rain!

It did begin to rain, the only one of my suppositions which came true.
I hoisted an umbrella and sat there grimly, in that horseless wagon in
the mud-hole.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many a time since have I laughed over the memory of the appearance I
must have presented sitting in that mud-hole, but there was nothing in
the least funny about it at the time. The worst feature of it all was
the uncertainty. I could have waited patiently enough and conquered my
fears if I had known that Kate would find help and return within a
reasonable time--at least before dark. But everything was doubtful. I
was not composed of the stuff out of which heroines are fashioned and
I devoutly wished we had never left Arrow Creek.

Shouts--calls--laughter--Kate's dear voice in an encouraging cry from
the hill behind me!

"Halloo, honey! Hold the fort a few minutes longer. Here we are. Bless
her, hasn't she been a brick to stay here all alone like this--and a
tenderfoot at that?"

I could have cried with joy. But I saw that there were men with
Kate--two men--white men--and I laughed instead. I had not been
brave--I had been an arrant little coward, but I vowed that nobody,
not even Kate, should suspect it. Later on Kate told me how she had
fared in her search for assistance.

"When I left you, Phil, I felt much more anxious than I wanted to let
you see. I had no idea where to go. I knew there were no houses along
our trail and I might have to go clean back to the tepees--fifteen
miles bareback. I didn't dare try any other trail, for I knew nothing
of them and wasn't sure that there were even tepees on them. But when
I had gone about six miles I saw a welcome sight--nothing less than a
spiral of blue, homely-looking smoke curling up from the prairie far
off to my right. I decided to turn off and investigate. I rode two
miles and finally I came to a little log shack. There was a
bee-yew-tiful big horse in a corral close by. My heart jumped with
joy. But suppose the inmates of the shack were half-breeds! You can't
realize how relieved I felt when the door opened and two white men
came out. In a few minutes everything was explained. They knew who I
was and what I wanted, and I knew that they were Mr. Lonsdale and Mr.
Hopkins, owners of a big ranch over by Deer Run. They were 'shacking
out' to put up some hay and Mrs. Hopkins was keeping house for them.
She wanted me to stop and have a cup of tea right off, but I thought
of you, Phil, and declined. As soon as they heard of our predicament
those lovely men got their two biggest horses and came right with me."

It was not long before our democrat was on solid ground once more, and
then our rescuers insisted that we go back to the shack with them for
the night. Accordingly we drove back to the shack, attended by our two
gallant deliverers on white horses. Mrs. Hopkins was waiting for us, a
trim, dark-haired little lady in a very pretty gown, which she had
donned in our honour. Kate and I felt like perfect tramps beside her
in our muddy old raiment, with our hair dressed by dead reckoning--for
we had not included a mirror in our baggage. There was a mirror in the
shack, however--small but good--and we quickly made ourselves tidy at
least, and Kate even went to the length of curling her bangs--bangs
were in style then and Kate had long, thick ones--using the stem of a
broken pipe of Mr. Hopkins's for a curler. I was so tired that my
vanity was completely crushed out--for the time being--and I simply
pinned my bangs back. Later on, when I discovered that Mr. Lonsdale
was really the younger son of an English earl, I wished I had curled
them, but it was too late then.

He didn't look in the least like a scion of aristocracy. He wore a
cowboy rig and had a scrubby beard of a week's growth. But he was very
jolly and played the violin beautifully. After tea--and a lovely tea
it was, although, as Kate remarked to me later, there was no ham--we
had an impromptu concert. Mr. Lonsdale played the violin; Mrs.
Hopkins, who sang, was a graduate of a musical conservatory; Mr.
Hopkins gave a comic recitation and did a Cree war-dance; Kate gave a
spirited account of our adventures since leaving home and mother; and
I described--with trimmings--how I felt sitting alone in the democrat
in a mud-hole, in a pouring rain on a vast prairie.

Mrs. Hopkins, Kate, and I slept in the one bed the shack boasted,
screened off from public view by a calico curtain. Mr. Lonsdale
reposed in his accustomed bunk by the stove, but poor Mr. Hopkins had
to sleep on the floor. He must have been glad Kate and I stayed only
one night.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fourth morning found us blithely hitting the trail in renewed
confidence and spirits. We parted from our kind friends in the shack
with mutual regret. Mr. Hopkins gave us a haunch of jumping deer and
Mrs. Hopkins gave us a box of home-made cookies. Mr. Lonsdale at first
thought he couldn't give us anything, for he said all he had with him
was his pipe and his fiddle; but later on he said he felt so badly to
see us go without any token of his good will that he felt constrained
to ask us to accept a piece of rope that he had tied his outfit
together with.

The fourth day we got on so nicely that it was quite monotonous. The
sun shone, the chinook blew, our ponies trotted over the trail
gallantly. Kate and I sang, told stories, and laughed immoderately
over everything. Even a poor joke seems to have a subtle flavour on
the prairie. For the first time I began to think Saskatchewan
beautiful, with those far-reaching parklike meadows dotted with the
white-stemmed poplars, the distant bluffs bannered with the airiest of
purple hazes, and the little blue lakes that sparkled and shimmered in
the sunlight on every hand.

The only thing approaching an adventure that day happened in the
afternoon when we reached a creek which had to be crossed.

"We must investigate," said Kate decidedly. "It would never do to risk
getting mired here, for this country is unsettled and we must be
twenty miles from another human being."

Kate again removed her shoes and stockings and puddled about that
creek until she found a safe fording place. I am afraid I must admit
that I laughed most heartlessly at the spectacle she presented while
so employed.

"Oh, for a camera, Kate!" I said, between spasms.

Kate grinned. "I don't care what I look like," she said, "but I feel
wretchedly unpleasant. This water is simply swarming with wigglers."

"Goodness, what are they?" I exclaimed.

"Oh, they're tiny little things like leeches," responded Kate. "I
believe they develop into mosquitoes later on, bad 'cess to them. What
Mr. Nash would call my pedal extremities are simply being devoured by
the brutes. Ugh! I believe the bottom of this creek is all soft mud.
We may have to drive--no, as I'm a living, wiggler-haunted human
being, here's firm bottom. Hurrah, Phil, we're all right!"

In a few minutes we were past the creek and bowling merrily on our
way. We had a beautiful camping ground that night--a fairylike little
slope of white poplars with a blue lake at its foot. When the sun went
down a milk-white mist hung over the prairie, with a young moon
kissing it. We boiled some slices of our jumping deer and ate them in
the open around a cheery camp-fire. Then we sought our humble couches,
where we slept the sleep of just people who had been driving over the
prairie all day. Once in the night I wakened. It was very dark. The
unearthly stillness of a great prairie was all around me. In that vast
silence Kate's soft breathing at my side seemed an intrusion of sound
where no sound should be.

"Philippa Blair, can you believe it's yourself?" I said mentally.
"Here you are, lying on a brush bed on a western prairie in the middle
of the night, at least twenty miles from any human being except
another frail creature of your own sex. Yet you're not even
frightened. You are very comfy and composed, and you're going right to
sleep again."

And right to sleep again I went.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our fifth day began ominously. We had made an early start and had
driven about six miles when the calamity occurred. Kate turned a
corner too sharply, to avoid a big boulder; there was a heart-breaking
sound.

"The tongue of the wagon is broken," cried Kate in dismay. All too
surely it was. We looked at each other blankly.

"What can we do?" I said.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Kate helplessly. When Kate felt helpless
I thought things must be desperate indeed. We got out and investigated
the damage.

"It's not a clean break," said Kate. "It's a long, slanting break. If
we had a piece of rope I believe I could fix it."

"Mr. Lonsdale's piece of rope!" I cried.

"The very thing," said Kate, brightening up.

The rope was found and we set to work. With the aid of some willow
withes and that providential rope we contrived to splice the tongue
together in some shape.

Although the trail was good we made only twelve miles the rest of the
day, so slowly did we have to drive. Besides, we were continually
expecting that tongue to give way again, and the strain was bad for
our nerves. When we came at sunset to the junction of the Black River
trail with ours, Kate resolutely turned the shaganappies down it.

"We'll go and spend the night with the Brewsters," she said. "They
live only ten miles down this trail. I went to school in Regina with
Hannah Brewster, and though I haven't seen her for ten years I know
she'll be glad to see us. She's a lovely person, and her husband is a
very nice man. I visited them once after they were married."

We soon arrived at the Brewster place. It was a trim, white-washed
little log house in a grove of poplars. But all the blinds were down
and we discovered the door was locked. Evidently the Brewsters were
not at home.

"Never mind," said Kate cheerfully, "we'll light a fire outside and
cook our supper and then we'll spend the night in the barn. A bed of
prairie hay will be just the thing."

But the barn was locked too. It was now dark and our plight was rather
desperate.

"I'm going to get into the house if I have to break a window," said
Kate resolutely. "Hannah would want us to do that. She'd never get
over it, if she heard we came to her house and couldn't get in."

Fortunately we did not have to go to the length of breaking into
Hannah's house. The kitchen window went up quite easily. We turned the
shaganappies loose to forage for themselves, grass and water being
abundant. Then we climbed in at the window, lighted our lantern, and
found ourselves in a very snug little kitchen. Opening off it on one
side was a trim, nicely furnished parlour and on the other a
well-stocked pantry.

"We'll light the fire in the stove in a jiffy and have a real good
supper," said Kate exultantly. "Here's cold roast beef--and preserves
and cookies and cheese and butter."

Before long we had supper ready and we did full justice to the absent
Hannah's excellent cheer. After all, it was quite nice to sit down
once more to a well-appointed table and eat in civilized fashion.

Then we washed up all the dishes and made everything snug and tidy. I
shall never be sufficiently thankful that we did so.

Kate piloted me upstairs to the spare room.

"This is fixed up much nicer than it was when I was here before," she
said, looking around. "Of course, Hannah and Ted were just starting
out then and they had to be economical. They must have prospered, to
be able to afford such furniture as this. Well, turn in, Phil. Won't
it be rather jolly to sleep between sheets once more?"

We slept long and soundly until half-past eight the next morning; and
dear knows if we would have wakened then of our own accord. But I
heard somebody saying in a very harsh, gruff voice, "Here, you two,
wake up! I want to know what this means."

We two did wake up, promptly and effectually. I never wakened up so
thoroughly in my life before. Standing in our room were three people,
one of them a man. He was a big, grey-haired man with a bushy black
beard and an angry scowl. Beside him was a woman--a tall, thin,
angular personage with red hair and an indescribable bonnet. She
looked even crosser and more amazed than the man, if that were
possible. In the background was another woman--a tiny old lady who
must have been at least eighty. She was, in spite of her tininess, a
very striking-looking personage; she was dressed all in black, and had
snow-white hair, a dead-white face, and snapping, vivid, coal-black
eyes. She looked as amazed as the other two, but she didn't look
cross.

I knew something must be wrong--fearfully wrong--but I didn't know
what. Even in my confusion, I found time to think that if that
disagreeable-looking red-haired woman was Hannah Brewster, Kate must
have had a queer taste in school friends. Then the man said, more
gruffly than ever, "Come now. Who are you and what business have you
here?"

Kate raised herself on one elbow. She looked very wild. I heard the
old black-and-white lady in the background chuckle to herself.

"Isn't this Theodore Brewster's place?" gasped Kate.

"No," said the big woman, speaking for the first time. "This place
belongs to us. We bought it from the Brewsters in the spring. They
moved over to Black River Forks. Our name is Chapman."

Poor Kate fell back on the pillow, quite overcome. "I--I beg your
pardon," she said. "I--I thought the Brewsters lived here. Mrs.
Brewster is a friend of mine. My cousin and I are on our way to
Bothwell and we called here to spend the night with Hannah. When we
found everyone away we just came in and made ourselves at home."

"A likely story," said the red woman.

"We weren't born yesterday," said the man.

Madam Black-and-White didn't say anything, but when the other two had
made their pretty speeches she doubled up in a silent convulsion of
mirth, shaking her head from side to side and beating the air with her
hands.

If they had been nice to us, Kate would probably have gone on feeling
confused and ashamed. But when they were so disagreeable she quickly
regained her self-possession. She sat up again and said in her
haughtiest voice, "I do not know when you were born, or where, but it
must have been somewhere where very peculiar manners were taught. If
you will have the decency to leave our room--this room--until we can
get up and dress we will not transgress upon your hospitality" (Kate
put a most satirical emphasis on that word) "any longer. And we shall
pay you amply for the food we have eaten and the night's lodging we
have taken."

The black-and-white apparition went through the motion of clapping her
hands, but not a sound did she make. Whether he was cowed by Kate's
tone, or appeased by the prospect of payment, I know not, but Mr.
Chapman spoke more civilly. "Well, that's fair. If you pay up it's all
right."

"They shall do no such thing as pay you," said Madam Black-and-White
in a surprisingly clear, resolute, authoritative voice. "If you
haven't any shame for yourself, Robert Chapman, you've got a
mother-in-law who can be ashamed for you. No strangers shall be
charged for food or lodging in any house where Mrs. Matilda Pitman
lives. Remember that I've come down in the world, but I haven't forgot
all decency for all that. I knew you was a skinflint when Amelia
married you and you've made her as bad as yourself. But I'm boss here
yet. Here, you, Robert Chapman, take yourself out of here and let
those girls get dressed. And you, Amelia, go downstairs and cook a
breakfast for them."

I never, in all my life, saw anything like the abject meekness with
which those two big people obeyed that mite. They went, and stood not
upon the order of their going. As the door closed behind them, Mrs.
Matilda Pitman laughed silently, and rocked from side to side in her
merriment.

"Ain't it funny?" she said. "I mostly lets them run the length of
their tether but sometimes I has to pull them up, and then I does it
with a jerk. Now, you can take your time about dressing, my dears, and
I'll go down and keep them in order, the mean scalawags."

When we descended the stairs we found a smoking-hot breakfast on the
table. Mr. Chapman was nowhere to be seen, and Mrs. Chapman was
cutting bread with a sulky air. Mrs. Matilda Pitman was sitting in an
armchair, knitting. She still wore her bonnet and her triumphant
expression. "Set right in, dears, and make a good breakfast," she
said.

"We are not hungry," said Kate, almost pleadingly. "I don't think we
can eat anything. And it's time we were on the trail. Please excuse us
and let us go on."

Mrs. Matilda Pitman shook a knitting needle playfully at Kate. "Sit
down and take your breakfast," she commanded. "Mrs. Matilda Pitman
commands you. Everybody obeys Mrs. Matilda Pitman--even Robert and
Amelia. You must obey her too."

We did obey her. We sat down and, such was the influence of her
mesmeric eyes, we ate a tolerable breakfast. The obedient Amelia never
spoke; Mrs. Matilda Pitman did not speak either, but she knitted
furiously and chuckled. When we had finished Mrs. Matilda Pitman
rolled up her knitting. "Now, you can go if you want to," she said,
"but you don't have to go. You can stay here as long as you like, and
I'll make them cook your meals for you."

I never saw Kate so thoroughly cowed.

"Thank you," she said faintly. "You are very kind, but we must go."

"Well, then," said Mrs. Matilda Pitman, throwing open the door, "your
team is ready for you. I made Robert catch your ponies and harness
them. And I made him fix that broken tongue properly. I enjoy making
Robert do things. It's almost the only sport I have left. I'm eighty
and most things have lost their flavour, except bossing Robert."

Our democrat and ponies were outside the door, but Robert was nowhere
to be seen; in fact, we never saw him again.

"I do wish," said Kate, plucking up what little spirit she had left,
"that you would let us--ah--uh"--Kate quailed before Mrs. Matilda
Pitman's eye--"recompense you for our entertainment."

"Mrs. Matilda Pitman said before--and meant it--that she doesn't take
pay for entertaining strangers, nor let other people where she lives
do it, much as their meanness would like to do it."

We got away. The sulky Amelia had vanished, and there was nobody to
see us off except Mrs. Matilda Pitman.

"Don't forget to call the next time you come this way," she said
cheerfully, waving her knitting at us. "I hope you'll get safe to
Bothwell. If I was ten years younger I vow I'd pack a grip and go
along with you. I like your spunk. Most of the girls nowadays is such
timid, skeery critters. When I was a girl I wasn't afraid of nothing
or nobody."

We said and did nothing until we had driven out of sight and earshot.
Then Kate laid down the reins and laughed until the tears came.

"Oh, Phil, Phil, will you ever forget this adventure?" she gasped.

"I shall never forget Mrs. Matilda Pitman," I said emphatically.

We had no further adventures that day. Robert Chapman had fixed the
tongue so well--probably under Mrs. Matilda Pitman's watchful
eyes--that we could drive as fast as we liked; and we made good
progress. But when we pitched camp that night Kate scanned the sky
with an anxious expression. "I don't like the look of it," she said.
"I'm afraid we're going to have a bad day tomorrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

We had. When we awakened in the morning rain was pouring down. This in
itself might not have prevented us from travelling, but the state of
the trail did. It had been raining the greater part of the night and
the trail was little more than a ditch of slimy, greasy, sticky mud.

If we could have stayed in the tent the whole time it would not have
been quite so bad. But we had to go out twice to take the ponies to
the nearest pond and water them; moreover, we had to collect pea vines
for them, which was not an agreeable occupation in a pouring rain. The
day was very cold too, but fortunately there was plenty of dead poplar
right by our camp. We kept a good fire on in the camp stove and were
quite dry and comfortable as long as we stayed inside. Even when we
had to go out we did not get very wet, as we were well protected. But
it was a long dreary day. Finally when the dark came down and supper
was over Kate grew quite desperate. "Let's have a game of checkers,"
she suggested.

"Where is your checkerboard?" I asked.

"Oh, I'll soon furnish that," said Kate.

She cut out a square of brown paper, in which a biscuit box had been
wrapped, and marked squares off on it with a pencil. Then she produced
some red and white high-bush cranberries for men. A cranberry split in
two was a king.

We played nine games of checkers by the light of our smoky lantern.
Our enjoyment of the game was heightened by the fact that it had
ceased raining. Nevertheless, when morning came the trail was so
drenched that it was impossible to travel on it.

"We must wait till noon," said Kate.

"That trail won't be dry enough to travel on for a week," I said
disconsolately.

"My dear; the chinook is blowing up," said Kate. "You don't know how
quickly a trail dries in a chinook. It's like magic."

I did not believe a chinook or anything else could dry up that trail
by noon sufficiently for us to travel on. But it did. As Kate said, it
seemed like magic. By one o'clock we were on our way again, the
chinook blowing merrily against our faces. It was a wind that blew
straight from the heart of the wilderness and had in it all the potent
lure of the wild. The yellow prairie laughed and glistened in the sun.

We made twenty-five miles that afternoon and, as we were again
fortunate enough to find a bluff of dead poplar near which to camp, we
built a royal camp-fire which sent its flaming light far and wide over
the dark prairie.

We were in jubilant spirits. If the next day were fine and nothing
dreadful happened to us, we would reach Bothwell before night.

But our ill luck was not yet at an end. The next morning was
beautiful. The sun shone warm and bright; the chinook blew balmily and
alluringly; the trail stretched before us dry and level. But we sat
moodily before our tent, not even having sufficient heart to play
checkers. Tom had gone lame--so lame that there was no use in thinking
of trying to travel with him. Kate could not tell what was the matter.

"There is no injury that I can see," she said. "He must have sprained
his foot somehow."

Wait we did, with all the patience we could command. But the day was
long and wearisome, and at night Tom's foot did not seem a bit better.

We went to bed gloomily, but joy came with the morning. Tom's foot was
so much improved that Kate decided we could go on, though we would
have to drive slowly.

"There's no chance of making Bothwell today," she said, "but at least
we shall be getting a little nearer to it."

"I don't believe there is such a place as Bothwell, or any other
town," I said pessimistically. "There's nothing in the world but
prairie, and we'll go on driving over it forever, like a couple of
female Wandering Jews. It seems years since we left Arrow Creek."

"Well, we've had lots of fun out of it all, you know," said Kate.
"Mrs. Matilda Pitman alone was worth it. She will be an amusing memory
all our lives. Are you sorry you came?"

"No, I'm not," I concluded, after honest, soul-searching reflection.
"No, I'm glad, Kate. But I think we were crazy to attempt it, as
Sergeant Baker said. Think of all the might-have-beens."

"Nothing else will happen," said Kate. "I feel in my bones that our
troubles are over."

Kate's bones proved true prophets. Nevertheless, that day was a weary
one. There was no scenery. We had got into a barren, lakeless,
treeless district where the world was one monotonous expanse of
grey-brown prairie. We just crawled along. Kate had her hands full
driving those ponies. Jerry was in capital fettle and couldn't
understand why he mightn't tear ahead at full speed. He was so much
disgusted over being compelled to walk that he was very fractious.
Poor Tom limped patiently along. But by night his lameness had quite
disappeared, and although we were still a good twenty-five miles from
Bothwell we could see it quite distinctly far ahead on the level
prairie.

"'Tis a sight for sore eyes, isn't it?" said Kate, as we pitched camp.

There is little more to be told. Next day at noon we rattled through
the main and only street of Bothwell. Curious sights are frequent in
prairie towns, so we did not attract much attention. When we drew up
before Mr. Taylor's house Mary Taylor flew out and embraced Kate
publicly.

"You darling! I knew you'd get here if anyone could. They telegraphed
us you were on the way. You're a brick--two bricks."

"No, I'm not a brick at all, Miss Taylor," I confessed frankly. "I've
been an arrant coward and a doubting Thomas and a wet blanket all
through the expedition. But Kate is a brick and a genius and an
all-round, jolly good fellow."

"Mary," said Kate in a tragic whisper,
"have--you--any--ham--in--the--house?"



Jessamine


When the vegetable-man knocked, Jessamine went to the door wearily.
She felt quite well acquainted with him. He had been coming all the
spring, and his cheery greeting always left a pleasant afterglow
behind him. But it was not the vegetable-man after all--at least, not
the right one. This one was considerably younger. He was tall and
sunburned, with a ruddy, smiling face, and keen, pleasant blue eyes;
and he had a spray of honeysuckle pinned on his coat.

"Want any garden stuff this morning?"

Jessamine shook her head. "We always get ours from Mr. Bell. This is
his day to come."

"Well, I guess you won't see Mr. Bell for a spell. He fell off a loft
out at his place yesterday and broke his leg. I'm his nephew, and I'm
going to fill his place till he gets 'round again."

"Oh, I'm so sorry--for Mr. Bell, I mean. Have you any green peas?"

"Yes, heaps of them. I'll bring them in. Anything else?"

"Not today," said Jessamine, with a wistful glance at the honeysuckle.

Mr. Bell, junior, saw it. In an instant the honeysuckle was unpinned
and handed to her. "If you like posies, you're welcome to this. I
guess you're fond of flowers," he added, as he noted the flash of
delight that passed over her pale face.

"Yes, indeed; they put me so in mind of home--of the country. Oh, how
sweet this is!"

"You're country-bred, then? Been in the city long?"

"Since last fall. I was born and brought up in the country. I wish I
was back. I can't get over being homesick. This honeysuckle seems to
bring it right back. We had honeysuckles around our porch at home."

"You don't like the city, then?"

"Oh, no. I sometimes feel as if I should smother here. I shall never
feel at home, I am afraid."

"Where did you live before you came here?"

"Up at Middleton. It was an old-fashioned place, but pretty--our house
was covered with vines, and there were trees all about it, and great
green fields beyond. But I don't know what makes me tell you this. I
forgot I was talking to a stranger."

"Pretty little woman," soliloquized Andrew Bell, as he drove away.
"She doesn't look happy, though. I suppose she's married some city
chap and has to live in town. I guess it don't agree with her. Her
eyes had a real hungry look in them over that honeysuckle. She seemed
near about crying when she talked of the country."

Jessamine felt more like crying than ever when she went back to her
work. Her head ached and she was very tired. The tiny kitchen was hot
and stifling. How she longed for the great, roomy kitchen in her old
home, with its spotless floors and floods of sunshine streaming in
through the maples outside. There was room to live and breathe there,
and from the door one looked out over green wind-rippled meadows,
under a glorious arch of pure blue sky, away to the purple hills in
the distance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jessamine Stacy had always lived in the country. When her sister died
and the old home had to go, Jessamine could only accept the shelter
offered by her brother, John Stacy, who did business in the city.

Of her stylish sister-in-law Jessamine was absolutely in awe. At first
Mrs. John was by no means pleased at the necessity of taking a country
sister into her family circle. But one day, when the servant girl took
a tantrum and left, Mrs. John found it very convenient to have in the
house a person who could step into Eliza's place as promptly and
efficiently as Jessamine could.

Indeed, she found it so convenient that Eliza never had a successor.
Jessamine found herself in the position of maid-of-all-work and
kitchen drudge for board and clothes.

She never complained, but she grew thinner and paler as the winter
went by. She had worked as hard on the farm, but it was the close
confinement and weary routine that told on her. Mrs. John was exacting
and querulous. John was absorbed in his business worries and had no
time to waste on his sister. Now, when the summer had come, her
homesickness was almost unbearable.

The next day Mr. Bell came he handed her a big bunch of sweet-brier
roses.

"Here you are," he said heartily. "I took the liberty to bring you
these today, seeing you're so fond of posies. The country roads are
pink with them now. Why don't you get your husband to bring you out
for a drive some day? You'd be as welcome as a lark at my farm."

"I will when he comes along, but I haven't seen him yet."

Mr. Bell gave a prolonged whistle. "Excuse me. I thought you were Mrs.
Something-or-other for sure. Aren't you mistress here?"

"Oh, no. My brother's wife is the mistress here. I'm only Jessamine."

She laughed again. She was holding the roses against her face, and her
eyes sparkled over them roguishly. The vegetable-man looked at her
admiringly.

"You're a country rose yourself, miss, and you ought to be blooming
out in the fields, instead of wilting in here."

"I wish I was. Thank you so much for the roses, Mr. ---- Mr. ----"

"Bell--Andrew Bell, that's my name. I live out at Pine Pastures. We're
all Bells out there--can't throw a stone without hitting one. Glad you
like the roses."

After that the vegetable-man brought Jessamine a bouquet every trip.
Now it was a big bunch of field-daisies or golden buttercups, now a
green glory of spicy ferns, now a cluster of old-fashioned garden
flowers.

"They keep life in me," Jessamine told him.

They were great friends by this time. True, she knew little about him
but she felt instinctively that he was manly and kind-hearted.

One day when he came Jessamine met him almost gleefully. "No, nothing
today. There is no dinner to cook."

"You don't say. Where are the folks?"

"Gone on an excursion. They won't be back until tonight."

"They won't? Well, I'll tell you what to do. You get ready, and when
I'm through my rounds we'll go for a drive up the country."

"Oh, Mr. Bell! But won't it be too much bother for you?"

"Well, I reckon not! You want an excursion as well as other folks, and
you shall have it."

"Oh, thank you so much. Yes, I'll be ready. You don't know how much it
means to me."

"Poor little creature," said Mr. Bell, as he drove away. "It's
downright cruelty, that's what it is, to keep her penned up like that.
You might as well coop up a lark in a hen-house and expect it to
thrive and sing. I'd like to give that brother of hers a piece of my
mind."

When he lifted her up to the high seat of his express wagon that
afternoon he said, "Now, I want you to do something. Just shut your
eyes and don't open them again until I tell you to."

Jessamine laughed and obeyed. Finally she heard him say, "Look."

Jessamine opened her eyes with a little cry. They were on a remote
country road, cool and dim and quiet, in the very heart of the beech
woods. Long banners of light fell athwart the grey boles. Along the
roadsides grew sheets of feathery ferns. Above the sky was gloriously
blue. The air was sweet with the wild woodsy smell of the forest.

Jessamine lifted and clasped her hands in rapture. "Oh, how lovely!"

"Do you know where we're going?" said Mr. Bell delightedly. "Out to my
farm at Pine Pastures. My aunt keeps house for me, and she'll be real
glad to see you. You're just going to have a real good time this
afternoon."

They had a delightful drive to begin with, and presently Mr. Bell
turned into a wide lane.

"This is Cloverside Farm. I'm proud of it, I'll admit. There isn't a
finer place in the county. What do you think of it?"

"Oh, it is lovely--it is like home. Look at those great fields. I'd
like to go and lie down in that clover."

Mr. Bell lifted her from the wagon and marched her up a flowery garden
path. "You shall do it, and everything else you want to. Here, Aunt,
this is the young lady I spoke of. Make her at home while I tend to
the horses."

Miss Bell was a pleasant-faced woman with silver hair and kind blue
eyes. She took Jessamine's hand in a friendly fashion.

"Come in, dear. You're welcome as a June rose."

When Mr. Bell returned, he found Jessamine standing on the porch with
her hands full of honeysuckle and her cheeks pink with excitement.

"I declare, you've got roses already," he exclaimed. "If they'd only
stay now, and not bleach out again. What's first now?"

"Oh, I don't know. There are so many things I want to do. Those
flowers in the garden are calling me--and I want to go down to that
hollow and pick buttercups--and I want to stay right here and look at
things."

Mr. Bell laughed. "Come with me to the pasture and see my Jersey
calves. They're something worth seeing. Come, Aunt. This way, Miss
Stacy."

He led the way down the lane, the two women following together.
Jessamine thought she must be in a pleasant dream. The whole afternoon
was a feast of delight to her starved heart. When sunset came she sat
down, tired out, but radiant, on the porch steps. Her hat had slipped
back and her hair was curling around her face. Her dark eyes were
aglow; the roses still bloomed in her cheeks.

Mr. Bell looked at her admiringly. "If a man could see that pretty
sight every night!" he thought. "And, Great Scott, why can't he?
What's to prevent, I'd like to know?"

When the moon rose, Mr. Bell brought his team around and they drove
back through the clear night, past the wonderful stillness of the
great beech woods and the wide fields. The farmer looked sideways at
his companion.

"The little thing wants to be petted and looked after," he thought.
"She's just pining away for home and love. And why can't she have it?
She's dying by inches in that hole back in town."

Jessamine, quite unsuspecting the farmer's meditations, was living
over again in fancy the joys of the afternoon: the ramble in the
pasture, the drink of water from the spring under the hillside pines,
the bountiful, old-fashioned country supper in the vine-shaded
dining-room, the cup of new milk in the dairy at sunset, and all the
glory of skies and meadows and trees. How could she go back to her
cage again?


The next week Mr. Bell, senior, resumed his visits, and the young
farmer came no more to the side door of No. 49. Jessamine missed him
greatly. Mr. Bell, senior, never brought her clover or honeysuckle.

But one day his nephew suddenly reappeared. Jessamine opened the door
for him, and her face lighted up, but Mr. Bell saw that she had been
crying.

"Did you think I had forgotten you?" he asked. "Not a bit of it.
Harvest was on and I couldn't get clear before. I've come to ask you
when you intend to take another drive to Cloverside Farm. What have
you been up to? You look as if you'd been working too hard."

"I--I--haven't felt very well. I'm glad you came today, Mr. Bell.
Perhaps I shall not see you again, and I wanted to say goodbye and
thank you for all your kindness."

"Goodbye? Why, where are you going?"

"My brother went west a week ago," faltered Jessamine. She could not
bring herself to tell the clear-eyed farmer that John Stacy had failed
and had been obliged to start for the west without saying goodbye to
his creditors. "His wife and I--are going too--next week."

"Oh, Jessamine," exclaimed Mr. Bell in despair, "don't go--you
mustn't. I want you at Cloverside Farm. I came today on purpose to ask
you. I love you and I'll make you happy if you'll marry me. What do
you say, Jessamine?"

Jessamine, by way of answer, sat down on the nearest chair and began
to cry.

"Oh, don't," said the wooer in distress. "I didn't want to make you
feel bad. If you don't like the idea, I won't mention it again."

"Oh, it isn't that--but I--I thought nobody cared what became of me.
You are so kind--I'm afraid I'd only be a bother to you...."

"I'll risk that. You shall have a happy home, little girl. Will you
come to it?"

"Ye-e-e-s." It was very indistinct and faltering, but Mr. Bell heard
it and considered it a most eloquent answer.

Mrs. John fumed and sulked and chose to consider herself hoodwinked
and injured. But Mr. Bell was a resolute man, and a few days later he
came for the last time to No. 49 and took his bride away with him.

As they drove through the beech woods he put his arm tenderly around
the shy, smiling little woman beside him and said, "You'll never be
sorry for this, my dear."

And she never was.



Miss Sally's Letter


Miss Sally peered sharply at Willard Stanley, first through her
gold-rimmed glasses and then over them. Willard continued to look very
innocent. Joyce got up abruptly and went out of the room.

"So you have bought that queer little house with the absurd name?"
said Miss Sally.

"You surely don't call Eden an absurd name," protested Willard.

"I do--for a house. Particularly such a house as that. Eden! There are
no Edens on earth. And what are you going to do with it?"

"Live in it."

"Alone?"

Miss Sally looked at him suspiciously.

"No. The truth is, Miss Sally, I am hoping to be married in the fall
and I want to fix up Eden for my bride."

"Oh!" Miss Sally drew a long breath, partly it seemed of relief and
partly of triumph, and looked at Joyce, who had returned, with an
expression that said, "I told you so"; but Joyce, whose eyes were cast
down, did not see it.

"And," went on Willard calmly, "I want you to help me fix it up, Miss
Sally. I don't know much about such things and you know everything.
You will be able to tell me just what to do to make Eden habitable."

Miss Sally looked as pleased as she ever allowed herself to look over
anything a man suggested. It was the delight of her heart to plan and
decorate and contrive. Her own house was a model of comfort and good
taste, and Miss Sally was quite ready for new worlds to conquer.
Instantly Eden assumed importance in her eyes. She might be sorry for
the misguided bride who was rashly going to trust her life's keeping
to a man, but she would see, at least, that the poor thing should have
a decent place to begin her martyrdom in.

"I'll be pleased to help you all I can," she said graciously.

Miss Sally could speak very graciously when she chose, even to men.
You would not have thought she hated them, but she did. In all
sincerity, too. Also, she had brought her niece up to hate and
distrust them. Or, she had tried to do so. But at times Miss Sally was
troubled with an uncomfortable suspicion that Joyce did not hate and
distrust men quite as thoroughly as she ought. The suspicion had
recurred several times this summer since Willard Stanley had come to
take charge of the biological station at the harbour. Miss Sally did
not distrust Willard on his own account. She merely distrusted him on
principle and on Joyce's account. Nevertheless, she was rather nice to
him. Miss Sally, dear, trim, dainty Miss Sally, with her snow-white
curls and her big girlish black eyes, couldn't help being nice, even
to a man.

Willard had come a great deal to Miss Sally's. If it were Joyce he
were after Miss Sally blocked his schemes with much enjoyment. He
never saw Joyce alone--that Miss Sally knew of, at least--and he did
not make much apparent headway. But now all danger was removed, Miss
Sally thought. He was going to be married to somebody else, and Joyce
was safe.

"Thank you," said Willard. "I'll come up tomorrow afternoon, and you
and I will take a prowl about Eden and see what must be done. I'm ever
so much obliged, Miss Sally."

"I wonder who he is going to marry," said Miss Sally, careless of
grammar, after he had gone. "Poor, poor girl!"

"I don't see why you should pity her," said Joyce, not looking up from
her embroidery. There was just the merest tremor in her voice. Miss
Sally looked at her sharply.

"I pity any woman who is foolish enough to marry," she said solemnly.
"No man is to be trusted, Joyce--no man. They are all ready to break a
trusting woman's heart for the sport of it. Never you allow any man
the chance to break yours, Joyce. I shall never consent to your
marrying anybody, so mind you don't take any such notion into your
head. There oughtn't to be any danger, for I have instilled correct
ideas on this subject into you from childhood. But girls are such
fools. I know, because I was one myself once."

"Of course, I would never marry without your consent, Aunt Sally,"
said Joyce, smiling faintly but affectionately at her aunt. Joyce
loved Miss Sally with her whole heart. Everybody did who knew her.
There never was a more lovable creature than this pretty little old
maid who hated the men so bitterly.

"That's a good girl," said Miss Sally approvingly. "I own that I have
been a little afraid that this Willard Stanley was coming here to see
you. But my mind is set at rest on that point now, and I shall help
him fix up his doll house with a clear conscience. Eden, indeed!"

Miss Sally sniffed and tripped out of the room to hunt up a furniture
catalogue. Joyce sighed and let her embroidery slip to the floor.

"Oh, I'm afraid Willard's plan won't succeed," she murmured. "I'm
afraid Aunt Sally will never consent to our marriage. And I can't and
won't marry him unless she does, for she would never forgive me and I
couldn't bear that. I wonder what makes her so bitter against men. She
is so sweet and loving, it seems simply unnatural that she should have
such a feeling so deeply rooted in her. Oh, what will she say when she
finds out--dear little Aunt Sally? I couldn't bear to have her angry
with me."

The next day Willard came up from the harbour and took Miss Sally down
to see Eden. Eden was a tiny, cornery, gabled grey house just across
the road and down a long, twisted windy lane, skirting the edge of a
beech wood. Nobody had lived in it for four years, and it had a
neglected, out-at-elbow appearance.

"It's rather a box of a place, isn't it?" said Willard slowly. "I'm
afraid she will think so. But it is all I can afford just now. I
dream of giving her a palace some day, of course. But we'll have to
begin humbly. Do you think anything can be made of it?"

Miss Sally was busily engaged in sizing up the possibilities of the
place.

"It is pretty small," she said meditatively. "And the yard is small
too--and there are far too many trees and shrubs all messed up
together. They must be thinned out--and that paling taken down. I
think a good deal can be done with it. As for the house--well, let us
see the inside."

Willard unlocked the door and showed Miss Sally over the place. Miss
Sally poked and pried and sniffed and wrinkled her forehead, and
finally stood on the stairs and delivered her ultimatum.

"This house can be done up very nicely. Paint and paper will work
wonders. But I wouldn't paint it outside. Leave it that pretty silver
weather-grey and plant vines to run over it. Oh, we'll see what we can
do. Of course it is small--a kitchen, a dining room, a living room,
and two bedrooms. You won't want anything stuffy. You can do the
painting yourself, and I'll help you hang the paper. How much money
can you spend on it?"

Willard named the sum. It was not a large one.

"But I think it will do," mused Miss Sally. "We'll _make_ it do.
There's such satisfaction getting as much as you possibly can out of a
dollar, and twice as much as anybody else would get. I enjoy that sort
of thing. This will be a game, and we'll play it with a right good
will. But I do wish you would give the place a sensible name."

"I think Eden is the most appropriate name in the world," laughed
Willard. "It will be Eden for me when she comes."

"I suppose you tell her all that and she believes it," said Miss Sally
sarcastically. "You'll both find out that there is a good deal more
prose than poetry in life."

"But we'll find it out _together_," said Willard tenderly. "Won't
that be worth something, Miss Sally? Prose, rightly written and read,
is sometimes as beautiful as poetry."

Miss Sally deigned no reply. She carefully gathered up her grey silken
skirts from the dusty floor and walked out. "Get Christina Bowes to
come up tomorrow and scrub this place out," she said practically. "We
can go to town and select paint and paper. I should like the dining
room done in pale green and the living room in creamy tones, ranging
from white to almost golden brown. But perhaps my taste won't be
hers."

"Oh, yes, it will," said Willard with assurance. "I am quite certain
she will like everything you like. I can never thank you enough for
helping me. If you hadn't consented I should have had to put it into
the hands of some outsider whom I couldn't have helped at all. And I
_wanted_ to help. I wanted to have a finger in everything, because it
is for her, you see, Miss Sally. It will be such a delight to fix up
this little house, knowing that she is coming to live in it."

"I wonder if you really mean it," said Miss Sally bitterly. "Oh, I
dare say you think you do. But _do_ you? Perhaps you do. Perhaps you
are the exception that proves the rule."

This was a great admission for Miss Sally to make.

For the next two months Miss Sally was happy. Even Willard himself was
not more keenly interested in Eden and its development. Miss Sally did
wonders with his money. She was an expert at bargain hunting, and her
taste was excellent. A score of times she mercilessly nipped Willard's
suggestions in the bud. "Lace curtains for the living room--never!
They would be horribly out of place in such a house. You don't want
curtains at all--just a frill is all that quaint window needs, with a
shelf above it for a few bits of pottery. I picked up a love of a
brass platter in town yesterday--got it for next to nothing from that
old Jew who would really rather _give_ you a thing than suffer you to
escape without taking something. Oh, I know how to manage them."

"You certainly do," laughed Willard. "It amazes me to see how far you
can stretch a dollar."

Willard did the painting under Miss Sally's watchful eye, and they
hung the paper together. Together they made trips to town or junketed
over the country in search of furniture and dishes of which Miss Sally
had heard. Day by day the little house blossomed into a home, and day
by day Miss Sally's interest in it grew. She began to have a personal
affection for its quaint rooms and their adornments. Moreover, in
spite of herself, she felt a growing interest in Willard's bride. He
never told her the name of the girl he hoped to bring to Eden, and
Miss Sally never asked it. But he talked of her a great deal, in a
shy, reverent, tender way.

"He certainly seems to be very much in love with her," Miss Sally told
Joyce one evening when she returned from Eden. "I would believe in him
if it were possible for me to believe in a man. Anyway, she will have
a dear little home. I've almost come to love that Eden house. Why
don't you come down and see it, Joyce?"

"Oh, I'll come some day--I hope," said Joyce lightly. "I think I'd
rather not see it until it is finished."

"Willard is a nice boy," said Miss Sally suddenly. "I don't think I
ever did him justice before. The finer qualities of his character come
out in these simple, homely little doings and tasks. He is certainly
very thoughtful and kind. Oh, I suppose he'll make a good husband, as
husbands go. But he doesn't know the first thing about managing. If
his wife isn't a good manager, I don't know what they'll do. And
perhaps she won't like the way we've done up Eden. Willard says she
will, of course, because he thinks her perfection. But she may have
dreadful taste and want the lace curtains and that nightmare of a pink
rug Willard admired, and I dare say she'd rather have a new flaunting
set of china with rosebuds on it than that dear old dull blue I picked
up for a mere song down at the Aldenbury auction. I stood in the rain
for two mortal hours to make sure of it, and it was really worth all
that Willard has spent on the dining room put together. It will break
my heart if she sets to work altering Eden. It's simply perfect as it
is--though I suppose I shouldn't say it."

       *       *       *       *       *

In another week Eden was finished. Miss Sally stood in the tiny hall
and looked about her.

"Well, it is done," she said with a sigh. "I'm sorry. I have enjoyed
fixing it up tremendously, and now I feel that my occupation is gone.
I hope you are satisfied, Willard."

"Satisfied is too mild a word, Miss Sally. I am delighted. I knew you
could accomplish wonders, but I never hoped for _this_. Eden is a
dream--the dearest, quaintest, sweetest little home that ever waited
for a bride. When I bring her here--oh, Miss Sally, do you know what
that thought means to me?"

Miss Sally looked curiously at the young man. His face was flushed and
his voice trembled a little. There was a far-away shining look in his
eyes as if he saw a vision.

"I hope you and she will be happy," said Miss Sally slowly. "When will
she be coming, Willard?"

The flush went out of Willard's face, leaving it pale and determined.

"That is for her--and you--to say," he answered steadily.

"Me!" exclaimed Miss Sally. "What have I to do with it?"

"A great deal--for unless you consent she will never come here at
all."

"Willard Stanley," said Miss Sally, with ominous calm, "who is the
girl you mean to marry?"

"The girl I _hope_ to marry is Joyce, Miss Sally. Wait--don't say
anything till you hear me out." He came close to her and caught her
hands in a boyish grip. "Joyce and I have loved each other ever since
we met. But we despaired of winning your consent, and Joyce will not
marry me without it. I thought if I could get you to help me fix up my
little home that you might get so interested in it--and so well
acquainted with me--that you would trust me with Joyce. Please do,
Miss Sally. I love her so truly and I know I can make her happy. If
you don't, Eden shall never have a mistress. I'll shut it up, just as
it is, and leave it sacred to the dead hope of a bride that will never
come to it."

"Oh, you wouldn't," protested Miss Sally. "It would be a shame--such a
dear little house--and after all the trouble I've taken. But you have
tricked me--oh, you men couldn't be straightforward in anything--"

"Wasn't it a fair device for a desperate lover, Miss Sally?"
interrupted Willard. "Oh, you mustn't hold spite because of it, dear;
And you will give me Joyce, won't you? Because if you don't, I really
will shut up Eden forever."

Miss Sally looked wistfully around her. Through the open door on her
left she saw the little living room with its quaint, comfortable
furniture, its dainty pictures and adornments. Through the front door
she saw the trim, velvet-swarded little lawn. Upstairs were two white
rooms that only wanted a woman's living presence to make them jewels.
And the kitchen on which she had expended so much thought and
ingenuity--the kitchen furnished to the last detail, even to the
kindling in the range and the match Willard had laid ready to light
it! It gave Miss Sally a pang to think of that altar fire never being
lighted. It was really the thought of the kitchen that finished Miss
Sally.

"You've tricked me," she said again reproachfully. "You've tricked me
into loving this house so much that I cannot bear the thought of it
never living. You'll have to have Joyce, I suppose. And I believe I'm
glad that it isn't a stranger who is to be the mistress of Eden. Joyce
won't hanker after pink rugs and lace curtains. And her taste in china
is the same as mine. In one way it's a great relief to my mind. But
it's a fearful risk--a fearful risk. To think that you may make my
dear child miserable!"

"You know you don't think that I will, Miss Sally. I'm not really such
a bad fellow, now, am I?"

"You are a man--and I have no confidence whatever in men," declared
Miss Sally, wiping some very real tears from her eyes with a very
unreal sort of handkerchief--one of the cobwebby affairs of lace her
daintiness demanded.

"Miss Sally, why have you such a rooted distrust of men?" demanded
Willard curiously. "Somehow, it seems so foreign to your character."

"I suppose you think I am a perfect crank," said Miss Sally, sighing.
"Well, I'll tell you why I don't trust men. I have a very good reason
for it. A man broke my heart and embittered my life. I've never spoken
about it to a living soul, but if you want to hear about it, you
shall."

Miss Sally sat down on the second step of the stairs and tucked her
wet handkerchief away. She clasped her slender white hands over her
knee. In spite of her silvery hair and the little lines on her face
she looked girlish and youthful. There was a pink flush on her cheeks,
and her big black eyes sparkled with the anger her memories aroused in
her.

"I was a young girl of twenty when I met him," she said, "and I was
just as foolish as all young girls are--foolish and romantic and
sentimental. He was very handsome and I thought him--but there, I
won't go into that. It vexes me to recall my folly. But I loved
him--yes, I did, with all my heart--with all there was of me to love.
He made me love him. He deliberately set himself to win my love. For a
whole summer he flirted with me. I didn't know he was flirting--I
thought him in earnest. Oh, I was such a little fool--and so happy.
Then--he went away. Went away suddenly without even a word of goodbye.
But he had been summoned home by his father's serious illness, and I
thought he would write--I waited--I hoped. I never heard from
him--never saw him again. He had tired of his plaything and flung it
aside. That is all," concluded Miss Sally passionately. "I never
trusted any man again. When my sister died and gave me her baby, I
determined to bring the dear child up safely, training her to avoid
the danger I had fallen into. Well, I've failed. But perhaps it will
be all right--perhaps there are some men who are true, though Stephen
Merritt was false."

"Stephen--who?" demanded Willard abruptly. Miss Sally coloured.

"I didn't mean to tell you his name," she said, getting up. "It was a
slip of the tongue. Never mind--forget it and him. He was not worthy
of remembrance--and yet I do remember him. I can't forget him--and I
hate him all the more for it--for having entered so deeply into my
life that I could not cast him out when I knew him unworthy. It is
humiliating. There--let us lock up Eden and go home. I suppose you are
dying to see Joyce and tell her your precious plot has succeeded."

Willard did not appear to be at all impatient. He had relapsed into a
brown study, during which he let Miss Sally lock up the house. Then he
walked silently home with her. Miss Sally was silent too. Perhaps she
was repenting her confidence--or perhaps she was thinking of her false
lover. There was a pathetic droop to her lips, and her black eyes were
sad and dreamy.

"Miss Sally," said Willard at last, as they neared her house, "had
Stephen Merritt any sisters?"

Miss Sally threw him a puzzled glance.

"He had one--Jean Merritt--whom I disliked and who disliked me," she
said crisply. "I don't want to talk of her--she was the only woman I
ever hated. I never met any of the other members of his family--his
home was in a distant part of the state."

Willard stayed with Joyce so brief a time that Miss Sally viewed his
departure with suspicion. This was not very lover-like conduct.

"I dare say he's like all the rest--when his aim is attained the
prize loses its value," reflected Miss Sally pessimistically. "Poor
Joyce--poor child! But there--there isn't a single inharmonious thing
in his house--that is one comfort. I'm so thankful I didn't let
Willard buy those brocade chairs he wanted. They would have given
Joyce the nightmare."

Meanwhile, Willard rushed down to the biological station and from
there drove furiously to the station to catch the evening express. He
did not return until three days later, when he appeared at Miss
Sally's, dusty and triumphant.

"Joyce is out," said Miss Sally.

"I'm glad of it," said Willard recklessly. "It's you I want to see,
Miss Sally. I have something to show you. I've been all the way home
to get it."

From his pocketbook Willard drew something folded and creased and
yellow that looked like a letter. He opened it carefully and, holding
it in his fingers, looked over it at Miss Sally.

"My grandmother's maiden name was Jean Merritt," he said deliberately,
"and Stephen Merritt was my great-uncle. I never saw him--he died when
I was a child--but I've heard my father speak of him often."

Miss Sally turned very pale. She passed her cobwebby handkerchief
across her lips and her hand trembled. Willard went on.

"My uncle never married. He and his sister Jean lived together until
her late marriage. I was not very fond of my grandmother. She was a
selfish, domineering woman--very unlike the grandmother of tradition.
When she died everything she possessed came to me, as my father, her
only child, was then dead. In looking over a box of old papers I found
a letter--an old love letter. I read it with some interest, wondering
whose it could be and how it came among Grandmother's private letters.
It was signed 'Stephen,' so that I guessed my great-uncle had been the
writer, but I had no idea who the Sally was to whom it was written,
until the other day. Then I knew it was you--and I went home to bring
you your letter--the letter you should have received long ago. Why
you did not receive it I cannot explain. I fear that my grandmother
must have been to blame for that--she must have intercepted and kept
the letter in order to part her brother and you. In so far as I can I
wish to repair the wrong she has done you. I know it can never be
repaired--but at least I think this letter will take the bitterness
out of the memory of your lover."

He dropped the letter in Miss Sally's lap and went away.

Pale, Miss Sally picked it up and read it. It was from Stephen Merritt
to "dearest Sally," and contained a frank, manly avowal of love. Would
she be his wife? If she would, let her write and tell him so. But if
she did not and could not love him, let her silence reveal the bitter
fact; he would wish to spare her the pain of putting her refusal into
words, and if she did not write he would understand that she was not
for him.

When Willard and Joyce came back into the twilight room they found
Miss Sally still sitting by the table, her head leaning pensively on
her hand. She had been crying--the cobwebby handkerchief lay beside
her, wrecked and ruined forever--but she looked very happy.

"I wonder if you know what you have done for me," she said to Willard.
"But no--you can't know--you can't realize it fully. It means
everything to me. You have taken away my humiliation and restored to
me my pride of womanhood. He really loved me--he was not false--he was
what I believed him to be. Nothing else matters to me at all now. Oh,
I am very happy--but it would never have been if I had not consented
to give you Joyce."

She rose and took their hands in hers, joining them.

"God bless you, dears," she said softly. "I believe you will be happy
and that your love for each other will always be true and faithful and
tender. Willard, I give you my dear child in perfect trust and
confidence."

With her yellowed love letter clasped to her heart, and a raptured
shining in her eyes, Miss Sally went out of the room.



My Lady Jane


The boat got into Broughton half an hour after the train had gone. We
had been delayed by some small accident to the machinery; hence that
lost half-hour, which meant a night's sojourn for me in Broughton. I
am ashamed of the things I thought and said. When I think that fate
might have taken me at my word and raised up a special train, or some
such miracle, by which I might have got away from Broughton that
night, I experience a cold chill. Out of gratitude I have never sworn
over missing connections since.

At the time, however, I felt thoroughly exasperated. I was in a hurry
to get on. Important business engagements would be unhinged by the
delay. I was a stranger in Broughton. It looked like a stupid, stuffy
little town. I went to a hotel in an atrocious humor. After I had
fumed until I wanted a change, it occurred to me that I might as well
hunt up Clark Oliver by way of passing the time. I had never been
overly fond of Clark Oliver, although he was my cousin. He was a bit
of a cad, and stupider than anyone belonging to our family had a right
to be. Moreover, he was in politics, and I detest politics. But I
rather wanted to see if he looked as much like me as he used to. I
hadn't seen him for three years and I hoped that the time might have
differentiated us to a saving degree. It was over a year since I had
last been blown up by some unknown, excited individual on the ground
that I was that scoundrel Oliver--politically speaking. I thought that
was a good omen.

I went to Clark's office, found he had left, and followed him to his
rooms. The minute I saw him I experienced the same nasty feeling of
lost or bewildered individuality which always overcame me in his
presence. He was so absurdly like me. I felt as if I were looking into
a mirror where my reflection persisted in doing things I didn't do,
thereby producing a most uncanny sensation.

Clark pretended he was glad to see me. He really couldn't have been,
because his Great Idea hadn't struck him then, and we had always
disliked each other.

"Hello, Elliott," he said, shaking me by the hand with a twist he had
learned in election campaigns, whereby something like heartiness was
simulated. "Glad to see you, old fellow. Gad, you're as like me as
ever. Where did you drop from?"

I explained my predicament and we talked amiably and harmlessly for
awhile about family gossip. I abhor family gossip, but it is a shade
better than politics, and those two subjects are the only ones on
which Clark can converse at all. I described Mary Alice's wedding, and
Florence's new young man, and Tom-and-Kate's twins. Clark tried to be
interested but I saw he had something on what serves him for a mind.
After awhile it came out. He looked at his watch with a frown.

"I'm in a bit of a puzzle," he said. "The Mark Kennedys are giving a
dinner to-night. You don't know them, of course. They're the big
people of Broughton. Kennedy runs the politics of the place, and Mrs.
K. makes or mars people socially. It's my first invitation there and
it's necessary I should accept it--necessary every way. Mrs. K. would
never forgive me if I disappointed her at the last moment. Not that I,
personally, am of much account--yet--to her. But it would leave a
vacant place. Mrs. K. would never notice me again and, as she bosses
Kennedy, I can't afford to offend her. Besides, there's a girl who'll
be there. I've met her once. I want to meet her again. She's a beauty
and no mistake. Toplofty as they make 'em, though. However, I think
I've made an impression on her. It was at the Harvey's dance last
week. She was the handsomest woman there, and she never took her eyes
off me. I've given Mrs. Kennedy a pretty broad hint that I want to
take her in to dinner. If I don't go I'll miss all round."

"Well, what is there to prevent you from going?" I asked, squiffily. I
never could endure the way Clark talked about girls and hinted at his
conquests.

"Just this. Herbert Bronson came to town this afternoon and is leaving
on the 10.30 train to-night. He's sent me word to meet him at his
hotel this evening and talk over a mining deal I've been trying to
pull off. I simply must go. It's my one chance to corral Bronson. If I
lose him it'll be all up, and I'll be thousands out of pocket."

"Well, you _are_ in rather a predicament," I agreed, with the
philosophical acceptance of the situation that marks the outsider. _I_
wasn't hampered by the multiplicity of my business and social
engagements that evening, so I could afford to pity Clark. It is
always rather nice to be able to pity a person you dislike.

"I should say so. I can't make up my mind what to do. Hang it. I'll
_have_ to see Bronson. There's no question about that. A man ought to
keep an understood substitute on hand to send to dinners when he can't
go. By Jove! Elliott!"

Clark's Great Idea had arrived. He bounced up eagerly.

"Elliott, will _you_ go to the Kennedys' in my place? They'll never
know the difference. Do, now--there's a good fellow!"

"Nonsense!" I said.

"It isn't nonsense. The resemblance between us was foreordained for
this hour. I'll lend you my dress suit--it'll fit you--your figure is
as much like mine as your face. You've nothing to do with yourself
this evening. I offer you a good dinner and an agreeable partner. Come
now, to oblige me. You know you owe me a good turn for that Mulhenen
business."

The Mulhenen business clinched the matter. Until he mentioned it I
had no notion whatever of masquerading as Clark Oliver at the
Kennedys' dinner. But, as Clark so delicately put it, he had done me a
good turn in that affair and the obligation had rankled ever since. It
is beastly to be indebted for a favor to a man you detest. Now was my
chance to pay it off and I took it without more ado.

"But," I said doubtfully, "I don't know the Kennedys--nor any of the
social stunts that are doing in Broughton; I won't dare to talk about
anything, and I'll seem so stupid, even if I don't actually make some
irremediable blunder, that the Kennedys will be disgusted with you. It
will probably do your prospects more harm than your absence would."

"Not at all. Keep your mouth shut when you can and talk generalities
when you can't, and you'll pass. If you take that girl in she's a
stranger in Broughton and won't suspect your ignorance of what's going
on. Nobody will suspect you. Nobody here knows I have a cousin so like
me. Our own mothers haven't always been able to tell us apart. Our
very voices are alike. Come now, get into my dinner togs. You haven't
much time and Mrs. K. doesn't like late comers."

There seemed to be a number of things that Mrs. Kennedy did not like.
I thought my chance of pleasing that critical lady extremely small,
especially when I had to live up to Clark Oliver's personality.
However, I dressed as expeditiously as possible. The novelty of the
adventure rather pleased me. I always liked doing unusual things.
Anything was better than lounging away the evening at my hotel. It
couldn't do any harm. I owed Clark Oliver a good turn and I would save
Mrs. Kennedy the annoyance of a vacant chair.

There was no disputing the fact that I looked most disgustingly like
Clark when I got into his clothes. I actually felt a grudge against
them for their excellent fit.

"You'll do," said Clark. "Remember you're a Conservative to-night and
don't let your rank Liberal views crop out, or you'll queer me for
all time with the great and only Mark. He doesn't talk politics at his
dinners, though, so you're not likely to have trouble on that score.
Mrs. Kennedy has a weakness for beer mugs. Her collection is
considered very fine. Scandal whispers that Miss Harvey has a budding
interest in settlement work--"

"Miss who?" I said sharply.

"Harvey. Christian name unknown. That's the girl I mentioned. You'll
probably take her in. Be nice to her even if you have to make an
effort. She's the one I've picked out as your future cousin, you know,
so I don't want you to spoil her good opinion of me in any way."

The name had given me a jump. Once, in another world, I had known a
Jane Harvey. But Clark's Miss Harvey couldn't be Jane. A month before
I had read a newspaper item to the effect that Jane was on the Pacific
coast. Moreover, Jane, when I knew her, had certainly no manifest
vocation for settlement work. I didn't think two years could have
worked such a transformation. Two years! Was it only two years? It
seemed more like two centuries.

I went to the Kennedys' in a pleasantly excited frame of mind and a
cab. I just missed being late by a hairbreadth. The house was a big
one, and everybody pertaining to it was big, except the host. Mark
Kennedy was a little, thin man with a bald head. He didn't look like a
political power, but that was all the more reason for his being one in
a world where things are not what they seem.

Mrs. Kennedy greeted me cordially and told me significantly that she
had granted my request. This meant, as my card had already informed
me, that I was to take Miss Harvey out. Of course there would be no
introduction since Clark Oliver was already acquainted with the lady.
I was wondering how I was to locate her when I got a shock that made
me dizzy. Jane was over in a corner looking at me.

There was no time to collect my wits. The guests were moving out to
the dining-room. I took my nerve in my hand, crossed the room, bowed,
and the next moment was walking through the hall with Jane's hand on
my arm. The hall was a good long one; I blessed the architect who had
planned it. It gave me time to sort out my ideas.

Jane here! Jane going out to dinner with me, believing me to be Clark
Oliver! Jane--but it was incredible! The whole thing was a dream--or I
had gone crazy!

I looked at her sideways when we had got into our places at the table.
She was more beautiful than ever, that tall, brown-haired, disdainful
Jane. The settlement work story I was inclined to dismiss as a myth.
Settlement work in a beautiful woman generally means crowsfeet or a
broken heart. Jane, according to my sight and belief, possessed
neither.

Once upon a time I had been engaged to Jane. I had been idiotically in
love with her in those days and still more idiotically believed that
she loved me. The trouble was that, although I had been cured of the
latter phase of my idiocy, the former had become chronic. I had never
been able to get over loving Jane. All through those two years I had
hugged the fond hope that sometime I might stumble across her in a
mild mood and make matters up. There was no such thing as seeking her
out or writing to her, since she had icily forbidden me to do so, and
Jane had a most detestable habit--in a woman--of meaning what she
said. But the deity I had invoked was the god of chance--and this was
how he had answered my prayers. I was eating my dinner beside Jane,
who supposed me to be Clark Oliver!

What should I do? Confess the truth and plead my cause while she had
to sit beside me? That would never do. Someone might overhear us. And,
in any case, it would be no passport to Jane's favor that I was a
guest in the house under false pretences. She would be certain to
disapprove strongly. It was a maddening situation.

Jane, who was calmly eating soup--she was the only woman I had ever
seen who could eat soup and look like a goddess at the same
time--glanced around and caught me studying her profile. I thought she
blushed slightly and I raged inwardly to think that blush was meant
for Clark Oliver--Clark Oliver who had told me he thought Jane was
smitten on him! Jane! On him!

"Do you know, Mr. Oliver," said Jane slowly, "that you are startlingly
like a--a person I used to know? When I first saw you the other night
I took you for him."

A _person_ you used to know! Oh, Jane, that was the most unkindest cut
of all.

"My cousin, Elliott Cameron, I suppose?" I answered as indifferently
as I could. "We resemble each other very closely. You were acquainted
with Cameron, Miss Harvey?"

"Slightly," said Jane.

"A fine fellow," I said unblushingly.

"A-h," said Jane.

"My favorite relative," I went on brazenly. "He's a thoroughly good
sort--rather dull now to what he used to be, though. He had an
unfortunate love affair two years ago and has never got over it."

"Indeed?" said Jane coldly, crumbling a bit of bread between her
fingers. Her face was expressionless and her voice ditto; but I had
heard her criticize nervous people who did things like that at table.

"I fear poor Elliott's life has been completely spoiled," I said, with
a sigh. "It's a shame."

"Did he confide the affair to you?" asked Jane, a little scornfully.

"Well, after a fashion. He said enough for me to guess the rest. He
never told me the lady's name. She was very beautiful, I understand,
and very heartless. Oh, she used him very badly."

"Did he tell you that, too?" asked Jane.

"Not he. He won't listen to a word against her. But a chap can draw
his own conclusions, you know."

"What went wrong between them?" asked Jane. She smiled at a lady
across the table, as if she were merely asking questions to make
conversation, but she went on crumbling bread.

"Simply a very stiff quarrel, I believe. Elliott never went into
details. The lady was flirting with somebody else, I fancy."

"People have such different ideas about flirting," said Jane,
languidly. "What one would call mere simple friendliness another
construes into flirting. Possibly your friend--or is it your
cousin?--is one of those men who become insanely jealous over every
trifle and attempt to exert authority before they have any to exert. A
woman of spirit would hardly fail to resent that."

"Of course Elliott was jealous," I admitted. "But then, you know, Miss
Harvey, that jealousy is said to be the measure of a man's love. If he
went beyond his rights I am sure he is bitterly sorry for it."

"Does he really care about her still?" asked Jane, eating most
industriously, although somehow the contents of her plate did hot grow
noticeably less. As for me, I didn't pretend to eat. I simply pecked.

"He loves her with all his heart," I answered fervently. "There never
has been and never will be any other woman for Elliott Cameron."

"Why doesn't he go and tell her so?" inquired Jane, as if she felt
rather bored over the whole subject.

"He doesn't dare to. She forbade him ever to cross her path again.
Told him she hated him and always would hate him as long as she
lived."

"She must have been an unpleasantly emphatic young woman," commented
Jane.

"I'd like to hear anyone say so to Elliott," I responded. "He
considers her perfection. I'm sorry for Elliott. His life is wrecked."

"Do you know," said Jane slowly, as if poking about in the recesses of
her memory for something half forgotten. "I believe I know the--the
girl in question."

"Really?" I said.

"Yes, she is a friend of mine. She--she never told me his name, but
putting two and two together, I believe it must have been your cousin.
But she--she thinks she was the one to blame."

"Does she?" It was my turn to ask questions now, but my heart thumped
so that I could hardly speak.

"Yes, she says she was too hasty and unreasonable. She didn't mean to
flirt at all--and she never cared for anyone but--him. But his
jealousy irritated her. I suppose she said things to him she didn't
really mean. She--she never supposed he was going to take her at her
word."

"Do you think she cares for him still?" Considering what was at stake,
I think I asked the question very well.

"I think she must," said Jane languidly. "She has never looked at any
other man. She devotes most of her time to charitable work, but I feel
sure she isn't really happy."

So the settlement story was true. Oh, Jane!

"What would you advise my cousin to do?" I asked. "Do you think he
should go boldly to her? Would she listen to him--forgive him?"

"She might," said Jane.

"Have I your permission to tell Elliott Cameron this?" I demanded.

Jane selected and ate an olive with maddening deliberation.

"I suppose you may--if you are really convinced that he wants to hear
it," she said at last, as if barely recollecting that I had asked the
question two minutes previously.

"I'll tell him as soon as I go home," I said.

I had the satisfaction of startling Jane at last. She turned her head
and looked at me. I got a good, square, satisfying gaze into her big,
blackish-blue eyes.

"Yes," I said, compelling myself to look away. "He came in on the boat
this afternoon too late for his train. Has to stay over till to-morrow
night. I left him in my rooms when I came away. Doubtless to-morrow
will see him speeding recklessly to his dear divinity. I wonder if he
knows where she is at present."

"If he doesn't," said Jane, with the air of dismissing the subject
once and forever from her mind, "I can give him the information. You
may tell him I'm staying with the Duncan Moores, and shall be leaving
day after to-morrow. By the way, have you seen Mrs. Kennedy's
collection of steins? It is a remarkably fine one."

Clark Oliver couldn't come to our wedding--or wouldn't. Jane has never
met him since, but she cannot understand why I have such an aversion to
him, especially when he has such a good opinion of me. She says she
thought him charming, and one of the most interesting conversationalists
she ever went out to dinner with.



Robert Turner's Revenge


When Robert Turner came to the green, ferny triangle where the station
road forked to the right and left under the birches, he hesitated as
to which direction he would take. The left led out to the old Turner
homestead, where he had spent his boyhood and where his cousin still
lived; the right led down to the Cove shore where the Jameson property
was situated. Since he had stopped off at Chiswick for the purpose of
looking this property over before foreclosing the mortgage on it he
concluded that he might as well take the Cove road; he could go around
by the shore afterward--he had not forgotten the way even in forty
years--and so on up through the old spruce wood in Alec Martin's
field--if the spruces were there still and the field still Alec
Martin's--to his cousin's place. He would just about have time to make
the round before the early country supper hour. Then a brief visit
with Tom--Tom had always been a good sort of a fellow although
woefully dull and slow-going--and the evening express for Montreal. He
swung with a businesslike stride into the Cove road.

As he went on, however, the stride insensibly slackened into an
unaccustomed saunter. How well he remembered that old road, although
it was forty years since he had last traversed it, a set-lipped boy of
fifteen, cast on the world by the indifference of an uncle. The years
had made surprisingly little difference in it or in the surrounding
scenery. True, the hills and fields and lanes seemed lower and smaller
and narrower than he remembered them; there were some new houses along
the road, and the belt of woods along the back of the farms had become
thinner in most places. But that was all. He had no difficulty in
picking out the old familiar spots. There was the big cherry orchard
on the Milligan place which had been so famous in his boyhood. It was
snow-white with blossoms, as if the trees were possessed of eternal
youth; they had been in blossom the last time he had seen them. Well,
time had not stood still with him as it had with Luke Milligan's
cherry orchard, he reflected grimly. His springtime had long gone by.

The few people he met on the road looked at him curiously, for
strangers were not commonplace in Chiswick. He recognized some of the
older among them but none of them knew him. He had been an awkward,
long-limbed lad with fresh boyish colour and crisp black curls when he
had left Chiswick. He returned to it a somewhat portly figure of a
man, with close-cropped, grizzled hair, and a face that looked as if
it might be carved out of granite, so immobile and unyielding it
was--the face of a man who never faltered or wavered, who stuck at
nothing that might advance his plans and purposes, a face known and
dreaded in the business world where he reigned master. It was a cold,
hard, selfish face, but the face of the boy of forty years ago had
been neither cold nor hard nor selfish.

Presently the homesteads and orchard lands grew fewer and then ceased
altogether. The fields were long and low-lying, sloping down to the
misty blue rim of sea. A turn of the road brought him in sudden sight
of the Cove, and there below him was the old Jameson homestead, built
almost within wave-lap of the pebbly shore and shut away into a lonely
grey world of its own by the sea and sands and those long slopes of
tenantless fields.

He paused at the sagging gate that opened into the long, deep-rutted
lane and, folding his arms on it, looked earnestly and scrutinizingly
over the buildings. They were grey and faded, lacking the prosperous
appearance that had characterized them once. There was an air of
failure about the whole place as if the very land had become
disheartened and discouraged.

Long ago, Neil Jameson, senior, had been a well-to-do man. The big
Cove farm had been one of the best in Chiswick then. As for Neil
Jameson, Junior, Robert Turner's face always grew something grimmer
when he recalled him--the one person, boy and man, whom he had really
hated in the world. They had been enemies from childhood, and once in
a bout of wrestling at the Chiswick school Neil had thrown him by an
unfair trick and taunted him continually thereafter on his defeat.
Robert had made a compact with himself that some day he would pay Neil
Jameson back. He had not forgotten it--he never forgot such
things--but he had never seen or heard of Neil Jameson after leaving
Chiswick. He might have been dead for anything Robert Turner knew.
Then, when John Kesley failed and his effects turned over to his
creditors, of whom Robert Turner was the chief, a mortgage on the Cove
farm at Chiswick, owned by Neil Jameson, had been found among his
assets. Inquiry revealed the fact that Neil Jameson was dead and that
the farm was run by his widow. Turner felt a pang of disappointment.
What satisfaction was there in wreaking revenge on a dead man? But at
least his wife and children should suffer. That debt of his to Jameson
for an ill-won victory and many a sneer must be paid in full, if not
to him, why, then to his heirs.

His lawyers reported that Mrs. Jameson was two years behind with her
interest. Turner instructed them to foreclose the mortgage promptly.
Then he took it into his head to revisit Chiswick and have a good look
at the Cove farm and other places he knew so well. He had a notion
that it might be a decent place to spend a summer month or two in. His
wife went to seaside and mountain resorts, but he liked something
quieter. There was good fishing at the Cove and in Chiswick pond, as
he remembered. If he liked the farm as well as his memory promised him
he would do, he would bid it in himself. It would make Neil Jameson
turn in his grave if the penniless lad he had jeered at came into the
possession of his old ancestral property that had been owned by a
Jameson for over one hundred years. There was a flavour in such a
revenge that pleased Robert Turner. He smiled one of his occasional
grim smiles over it. When Robert Turner smiled, weather prophets of
the business sky foretold squalls.

Presently he opened the gate and went through. Halfway down the lane
forked, one branch going over to the house, the other slanting across
the field to the cove. Turner took the latter and soon found himself
on the grey shore where the waves were tumbling in creamy foam just as
he remembered them long ago. Nothing about the old cove had changed;
he walked around a knobby headland, weather-worn with the wind and
spray of years, which cut him off from sight of the Jameson house, and
sat down on a rock. He thought himself alone and was annoyed to find a
boy sitting on the opposite ledge with a book on his knee.

The lad lifted his eyes and looked Turner over with a clear, direct
gaze. He was about twelve years old, tall for his age, slight, with a
delicate, clear-cut face--a face that was oddly familiar to Turner,
although he was sure he had never seen it before. The boy had oval
cheeks, finely tinted with colour, big, shy blue eyes quilled about
with long black lashes, and silvery-golden hair lying over his head in
soft ringlets like a girl's. What girl's? Something far back in Robert
Turner's dreamlike boyhood seemed to call to him like a note of a
forgotten melody, sweet yet stirring like a pain. The more he looked
at the boy the stronger the impression of a resemblance grew in every
feature but the mouth. That was alien to his recollection of the face,
yet there was something about it, when taken by itself, that seemed
oddly familiar also--yes, and unpleasantly familiar, although the
mouth was a good one--finely cut and possessing more firmness than was
found in all the other features put together.

"It's a good place for reading, sonny, isn't it?" he inquired, more
genially than he had spoken to a child for years. In fact, having no
children of his own, he so seldom spoke to a child that his voice and
manner when he did so were generally awkward and rusty.

The boy nodded a quick little nod. Somehow, Turner had expected that
nod and the glimmer of a smile that accompanied it.

"What book are you reading?" he asked.

The boy held it out; it was an old _Robinson Crusoe_, that classic of
boyhood.

"It's splendid," he said. "Billy Martin lent it to me and I have to
finish it today because Ned Josephs is to have it next and he's in a
hurry for it."

"It's a good while since I read _Robinson Crusoe_," said Turner
reflectively. "But when I did it was on this very shore a little
further along below the Miller place. There was a Martin and a Josephs
in the partnership then too--the fathers, I dare say, of Billy and
Ned. What is your name, my boy?"

"Paul Jameson, sir."

The name was a shock to Turner. This boy a Jameson--Neil Jameson's
son? Why, yes, he had Neil's mouth. Strange he had nothing else in
common with the black-browed, black-haired Jamesons. What business had
a Jameson with those blue eyes and silvery-golden curls? It was
flagrant forgery on Nature's part to fashion such things and label
them Jameson by a mouth.

Hated Neil Jameson's son! Robert Turner's face grew so grey and hard
that the boy involuntarily glanced upward to see if a cloud had
crossed the sun.

"Your father was Neil Jameson, I suppose?" Turner said abruptly.

Paul nodded. "Yes, but he is dead. He has been dead for eight years. I
don't remember him."

"Have you any brothers or sisters?"

"I have a little sister a year younger than I am. The other four are
dead. They died long ago. I'm the only boy Mother had. Oh, I do so
wish I was bigger and older! If I was I could do something to save the
place--I'm sure I could. It is breaking Mother's heart to have to
leave it."

"So she has to leave it, has she?" said Turner grimly, with the old
hatred stirring in his heart.

"Yes. There is a mortgage on it and we're to be sold out very soon--so
the lawyers told us. Mother has tried so hard to make the farm pay but
she couldn't. I could if I was bigger--I know I could. If they would
only wait a few years! But there is no use hoping for that. Mother
cries all the time about it. She has lived at the Cove farm for over
thirty years and she says she can't live away from it now.
Elsie--that's my sister--and I do all we can to cheer her up, but we
can't do much. Oh, if I was only a man!"

The lad shut his lips together--how much his mouth was like his
father's--and looked out seaward with troubled blue eyes. Turner
smiled another grim smile. Oh, Neil Jameson, your old score was being
paid now!

Yet something embittered the sweetness of revenge. That boy's face--he
could not hate it as he had accustomed himself to hate the memory of
Neil Jameson and all connected with him.

"What was your mother's name before she married your father?" he
demanded abruptly.

"Lisbeth Miller," answered the boy, still frowning seaward over his
secret thoughts.

Turner started again. Lisbeth Miller! He might have known it. What
woman in all the world save Lisbeth Miller could have given her son
those eyes and curls? So Lisbeth had married Neil Jameson--little
Lisbeth Miller, his schoolboy sweetheart. He had forgotten her--or
thought he had; certainly he had not thought of her for years. But the
memory of her came back now with a rush.

Little Lisbeth--pretty little Lisbeth--merry little Lisbeth! How
clearly he remembered her! The old Miller place had adjoined his
uncle's farm. Lisbeth and he had played together from babyhood. How he
had worshipped her! When they were six years old they had solemnly
promised to marry each other when they grew up, and Lisbeth had let
him kiss her as earnest of their compact, made under a bloom-white
apple tree in the Miller orchard. Yet she would always blush furiously
and deny it ever afterwards; it made her angry to be reminded of it.

He saw himself going to school, carrying her books for her, the envied
of all the boys. He remembered how he had fought Tony Josephs because
Tony had the presumption to bring her spice apples: he had thrashed
him too, so soundly that from that time forth none of the schoolboys
presumed to rival him in Lisbeth's affections--roguish little Lisbeth!
who grew prettier and saucier every year.

He recalled the keen competition of the old days when to be "head of
the class" seemed the highest honour within mortal reach, and was
striven after with might and main. He had seldom attained to it
because he would never "go up past" Lisbeth. If she missed a word, he,
Robert, missed it too, no matter how well he knew it. It was sweet to
be thought a dunce for her dear sake. It was all the reward he asked
to see her holding her place at the head of the class, her cheeks
flushed pink and her eyes starry with her pride of position. And how
sweetly she would lecture him on the way home from school about
learning his spellings better, and wind up her sermon with the frank
avowal, uttered with deliciously downcast lids, that she liked him
better than any of the other boys after all, even if he couldn't spell
as well as they could. Nothing of success that he had won since had
ever thrilled him as that admission of little Lisbeth's!

She had been such a sympathetic little sweetheart too, never weary of
listening to his dreams and ambitions, his plans for the future. She
had always assured him that she knew he would succeed. Well, he had
succeeded--and now one of the uses he was going to make of his success
was to turn Lisbeth and her children out of their home by way of
squaring matters with a dead man!

Lisbeth had been away from home on a long visit to an aunt when he had
left Chiswick. She was growing up and the childish intimacy was
fading. Perhaps, under other circumstances, it might have ripened into
fruit, but he had gone away and forgotten her; the world had claimed
him; he had lost all active remembrance of Lisbeth and, before this
late return to Chiswick, he had not even known if she were living. And
she was Neil Jameson's widow!

He was silent for a long time, while the waves purred about the base
of the big red sandstone rock and the boy returned to his _Crusoe_.
Finally Robert Turner roused himself from his reverie.

"I used to know your mother long ago when she was a little girl," he
said. "I wonder if she remembers me. Ask her when you go home if she
remembers Bobby Turner."

"Won't you come up to the house and see her, sir?" asked Paul
politely. "Mother is always glad to see her old friends."

"No, I haven't time today." Robert Turner was not going to tell Neil
Jameson's son that he did not care to look for the little Lisbeth of
long ago in Neil Jameson's widow. The name spoiled her for him, just
as the Jameson mouth spoiled her son for him. "But you may tell her
something else. The mortgage will not be foreclosed. I was the power
behind the lawyers, but I did not know that the present owner of the
Cove farm was my little playmate, Lisbeth Miller. You and she shall
have all the time you want. Tell her Bobby Turner does this in return
for what she gave him under the big sweeting apple tree on her sixth
birthday. I think she will remember and understand. As for you, Paul,
be a good boy and good to your mother. I hope you'll succeed in your
ambition of making the farm pay when you are old enough to take it in
hand. At any rate, you'll not be disturbed in your possession of it."

"Oh, sir! oh, sir!" stammered Paul in an agony of embarrassed
gratitude and delight. "Oh, it seems too good to be true. Do you
really mean that we're not to be sold out? Oh, won't you come and tell
Mother yourself? She'll be so happy--so grateful. Do come and let her
thank you."

"Not today. I haven't time. Give her my message, that's all. There,
run; the sooner she gets the news the better."

Turner watched the boy as he bounded away, until the headland hid him
from sight.

"There goes my revenge--and a fine bit of property eminently suited
for a summer residence--all for a bit of old, rusty sentiment," he
said with a shrug. "I didn't suppose I was capable of such a mood. But
then--little Lisbeth. There never was a sweeter girl. I'm glad I
didn't go with the boy to see her. She's an old woman now--and Neil
Jameson's widow. I prefer to keep my old memories of her
undisturbed--little Lisbeth of the silvery-golden curls and the
roguish blue eyes. Little Lisbeth of the old time! I'm glad to be able
to have done you the small service of securing your home to you. It is
my thanks to you for the friendship and affection you gave my lonely
boyhood--my tribute to the memory of my first sweetheart."

He walked away with a smile, whose amusement presently softened to an
expression that would have amazed his business cronies. Later on he
hummed the air of an old love song as he climbed the steep spruce road
to Tom's.



The Fillmore Elderberries


"I expected as much," said Timothy Robinson. His tone brought the
blood into Ellis Duncan's face. The lad opened his lips quickly, as if
for an angry retort, but as quickly closed them again with a set
firmness oddly like Timothy Robinson's own.

"When I heard that lazy, worthless father of yours was dead, I
expected you and your mother would be looking to me for help," Timothy
Robinson went on harshly. "But you're mistaken if you think I'll give
it. You've no claim on me, even if your father was my half-brother--no
claim at all. And I'm not noted for charity."

Timothy Robinson smiled grimly. It was very true that he was far from
being noted for charity. His neighbours called him "close" and "near."
Some even went so far as to call him "a miserly skinflint." But this
was not true. It was, however, undeniable that Timothy Robinson kept a
tight clutch on his purse-strings, and although he sometimes gave
liberally enough to any cause which really appealed to him, such
causes were few and far between.

"I am not asking for charity, Uncle Timothy," said Ellis quietly. He
passed over the slur at his father in silence, deeply as he felt it,
for, alas, he knew that it was only too true. "I expect to support my
mother by hard and honest work. And I am not asking you for work on
the ground of our relationship. I heard you wanted a hired man, and I
have come to you, as I should have gone to any other man about whom I
had heard it, to ask you to hire me."

"Yes, I do want a man," said Uncle Timothy drily. "A _man_--not a
half-grown boy of fourteen, not worth his salt. I want somebody able
and willing to work."

Again Ellis flushed deeply and again he controlled himself. "I am
willing to work, Uncle Timothy, and I think you would find me able
also if you would try me. I'd work for less than a man's wages at
first, of course."

"You won't work for any sort of wages from me," interrupted Timothy
Robinson decidedly. "I tell you plainly that I won't hire you. You're
the wrong man's son for that. Your father was lazy and incompetent
and, worst of all, untrustworthy. I did try to help him once, and all
I got was loss and ingratitude. I want none of his kind around my
place. I don't believe in you, so you may as well take yourself off,
Ellis. I've no more time to waste."

Ellis took himself off, his ears tingling. As he walked homeward his
thoughts were very bitter. All Uncle Timothy had said about his father
was true, and Ellis realized what a count it was against him in his
efforts to obtain employment. Nobody wanted to be bothered with "Old
Sam Duncan's son," though nobody had been so brutally outspoken as his
Uncle Timothy.

Sam Duncan and Timothy Robinson had been half-brothers. Sam, the
older, had been the son of Mrs. Robinson's former marriage. Never were
two lads more dissimilar. Sam was a lazy, shiftless fellow, deserving
all the hard things that came to be said of him. He would not work and
nobody could depend on him, but he was a handsome lad with rather
taking ways in his youth, and at first people had liked him better
than the close, blunt, industrious Timothy. Their mother had died in
their childhood, but Mr. Robinson had been fond of Sam and the boy had
a good home. When he was twenty-two and Timothy eighteen, Mr. Robinson
had died very suddenly, leaving no will. Everything he possessed went
to Timothy. Sam immediately left. He said he would not stay there to
be "bossed" by Timothy.

He rented a little house in the village, married a girl "far too good
for him," and started in to support himself and his wife by days'
work. He had lounged, borrowed, and shirked through life. Once Timothy
Robinson, perhaps moved by pity for Sam's wife and baby, had hired him
for a year at better wages than most hired men received in Dalrymple.
Sam idled through a month of it, then got offended and left in the
middle of haying. Timothy Robinson washed his hands of him after that.

When Ellis was fourteen Sam Duncan died, after a lingering illness of
a year. During this time the family were kept by the charity of
pitying neighbours, for Ellis could not be spared from attendance on
his father to make any attempt at earning money. Mrs. Duncan was a
fragile little woman, worn out with her hard life, and not strong
enough to wait on her husband alone.

When Sam Duncan was dead and buried, Ellis straightened his shoulders
and took counsel with himself. He must earn a livelihood for his
mother and himself, and he must begin at once. He was tall and strong
for his age, and had a fairly good education, his mother having
determinedly kept him at school when he had pleaded to be allowed to
go to work. He had always been a quiet fellow, and nobody in Dalrymple
knew much about him. But they knew all about his father, and nobody
would hire Ellis unless he were willing to work for a pittance that
would barely clothe him.

Ellis had not gone to his Uncle Timothy until he had lost all hope of
getting a place elsewhere. Now this hope too had gone. It was nearly
the end of June and everybody who wanted help had secured it. Look
where he would, Ellis could see no prospect of employment.

"If I could only get a chance!" he thought miserably. "I know I am not
idle or lazy--I know I can work--if I could get a chance to prove it."

He was sitting on the fence of the Fillmore elderberry pasture as he
said it, having taken a short cut across the fields. This pasture was
rather noted in Dalrymple. Originally a mellow and fertile field, it
had been almost ruined by a persistent, luxuriant growth of elderberry
bushes. Old Thomas Fillmore had at first tried to conquer them by
mowing them down "in the dark of the moon." But the elderberries did
not seem to mind either moon or mowing, and flourished alike in all
the quarters. For the past two years Old Thomas had given up the
contest, and the elderberries had it all their own sweet way.

Thomas Fillmore, a bent old man with a shrewd, nutcracker face, came
through the bushes while Ellis was sitting on the fence.

"Howdy, Ellis. Seen anything of my spotted calves? I've been looking
for 'em for over an hour."

"No, I haven't seen any calves--but a good many might be in this
pasture without being visible to the naked eye," said Ellis, with a
smile.

Old Thomas shook his head ruefully. "Them elders have been too many
for me," he said. "Did you ever see a worse-looking place? You'd
hardly believe that twenty years ago there wasn't a better piece of
land in Dalrymple than this lot, would ye? Such grass as grew here!"

"The soil must be as good as ever if anything had a chance to grow on
it," said Ellis. "Couldn't those elders be rooted out?"

"It'd be a back-breaking job, but I reckon it could be done if anyone
had the muscle and patience and time to tackle it. I haven't the first
at my age, and my hired man hasn't the last. And nobody would do it
for what I could afford to pay."

"What will you give me if I undertake to clean the elders out of this
field for you, Mr. Fillmore?" asked Ellis quietly.

Old Thomas looked at him with a surprised face, which gradually
reverted to its original shrewdness when he saw that Ellis was in
earnest. "You must be hard up for a job," he said.

"I am," was Ellis's laconic answer.

"Well, lemme see." Old Thomas calculated carefully. He never paid a
cent more for anything than he could help, and was noted for hard
bargaining. "I'll give ye sixteen dollars if you clean out the whole
field," he said at length.

Ellis looked at the pasture. He knew something about cleaning out
elderberry brush, and he also knew that sixteen dollars would be very
poor pay for it. Most of the elders were higher than a man's head,
with big roots, thicker than his wrist, running deep into the ground.

"It's worth more, Mr. Fillmore," he said.

"Not to me," responded Old Thomas drily. "I've plenty more land and
I'm an old fellow without any sons. I ain't going to pay out money for
the benefit of some stranger who'll come after me. You can take it or
leave it at sixteen dollars."

Ellis shrugged his shoulders. He had no prospect of anything else, and
sixteen dollars were better than nothing. "Very well, I'll take it,"
he said.

"Well, now, look here," said Old Thomas shrewdly, "I'll expect you to
do the work thoroughly, young man. Them roots ain't to be cut off,
remember; they'll have to be dug out. And I'll expect you to finish
the job if you undertake it too, and not drop it halfway through if
you get a chance for a better one."

"I'll finish with your elderberries before I leave them," promised
Ellis.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ellis went to work the next day. His first move was to chop down all
the brush and cart it into heaps for burning. This took two days and
was comparatively easy work. The third day Ellis tackled the roots. By
the end of the forenoon he had discovered just what cleaning out an
elderberry pasture meant, but he set his teeth and resolutely
persevered. During the afternoon Timothy Robinson, whose farm adjoined
the Fillmore place, wandered by and halted with a look of astonishment
at the sight of Ellis, busily engaged in digging and tearing out huge,
tough, stubborn elder roots. The boy did not see his uncle, but worked
away with a vim and vigour that were not lost on the latter.

"He never got that muscle from Sam," reflected Timothy. "Sam would
have fainted at the mere thought of stumping elders. Perhaps I've been
mistaken in the boy. Well, well, we'll see if he holds out."

Ellis did hold out. The elderberries tried to hold out too, but they
were no match for the lad's perseverance. It was a hard piece of work,
however, and Ellis never forgot it. Week after week he toiled in the
hot summer sun, digging, cutting, and dragging out roots. The job
seemed endless, and his progress each day was discouragingly slow. He
had expected to get through in a month, but he soon found it would
take two. Frequently Timothy Robinson wandered by and looked at the
increasing pile of roots and the slowly extending stretch of cleared
land. But he never spoke to Ellis and made no comment on the matter to
anybody.

One evening, when the field was about half done, Ellis went home more
than usually tired. It had been a very hot day. Every bone and muscle
in him ached. He wondered dismally if he would ever get to the end of
that wretched elderberry field. When he reached home Jacob Green from
Westdale was there. Jacob lost no time in announcing his errand.

"My hired boy's broke his leg, and I must fill his place right off.
Somebody referred me to you. Guess I'll try you. Twelve dollars a
month, board, and lodging. What say?"

For a moment Ellis's face flushed with delight. Twelve dollars a month
and permanent employment! Then he remembered his promise to Mr.
Fillmore. For a moment he struggled with the temptation. Then he
mastered it. Perhaps the discipline of his many encounters with those
elderberry roots helped him to do so.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Green," he said reluctantly. "I'd like to go, but I
can't. I promised Mr. Fillmore that I'd finish cleaning up his
elderberry pasture when I'd once begun it, and I shan't be through for
a month yet."

"Well, I'd see myself turning down a good offer for Old Tom Fillmore,"
said Jacob Green.

"It isn't for Mr. Fillmore--it's for myself," said Ellis steadily. "I
promised and I must keep my word."

Jacob drove away grumblingly. On the road he met Timothy Robinson and
stopped to relate his grievances.

       *       *       *       *       *

It must be admitted that there were times during the next month when
Ellis was tempted to repent having refused Jacob Green's offer. But at
the end of the month the work was done and the Fillmore elderberry
pasture was an elderberry pasture no longer. All that remained of the
elders, root and branch, was piled into a huge heap ready for burning.

"And I'll come up and set fire to it when it's dry enough," Ellis told
Mr. Fillmore. "I claim the satisfaction of that."

"You've done the job thoroughly," said Old Thomas. "There's your
sixteen dollars, and every cent of it was earned, if ever money was,
I'll say that much for you. There ain't a lazy bone in your body. If
you ever want a recommendation just you come to me."

As Ellis passed Timothy Robinson's place on the way home that worthy
himself appeared, strolling down his lane. "Ah, Ellis," he said,
speaking to his nephew for the first time since their interview two
months before, "so you've finished with your job?"

"Yes, sir."

"Got your sixteen dollars, I suppose? It was worth four times that.
Old Tom cheated you. You were foolish not to have gone to Green when
you had the chance."

"I'd promised Mr. Fillmore to finish with his pasture, sir!"

"Humph! Well, what are you going to do now?"

"I don't know. Harvest will be on next week. I may get in somewhere as
an extra hand for a spell."

"Ellis," said his uncle abruptly, after a moment's silence, "I'm
going to discharge my man. He's no earthly good. Will you take his
place? I'll give you fifteen dollars a month and found."

Ellis stared at Timothy Robinson. "I thought you told me that you had
no place for my father's son," he said slowly.

"I've changed my mind. I've seen how you went at that elderberry job.
Great snakes, there couldn't be a better test for anybody than rooting
out them things. I know you can work. When Jacob Green told me why
you'd refused his offer I knew you could be depended on. You come to
me and I'll do well by you. I've no kith or kin of my own except you.
And look here, Ellis. I'm tired of hired housekeepers. Will your
mother come up and live with us and look after things a bit? I've a
good girl, and she won't have to work hard, but there must be somebody
at the head of a household. She must have a good headpiece--for you
have inherited good qualities from someone, and goodness knows it
wasn't from your father."

"Uncle Timothy," said Ellis respectfully but firmly, "I'll accept your
offer gratefully, and I am sure Mother will too. But there is one
thing I must say. Perhaps my father deserves all you say of him--but
he is dead--and if I come to you it must be with the understanding
that nothing more is ever to be said against him."

Timothy Robinson smiled--a queer, twisted smile that yet had a hint of
affection and comprehension in it. "Very well," he said. "I'll never
cast his shortcomings up to you again. Come to me--and if I find you
always as industrious and reliable as you've proved yourself to be
negotiating them elders, I'll most likely forget that you ain't my own
son some of these days."



The Finished Story


She always sat in a corner of the west veranda at the hotel, knitting
something white and fluffy, or pink and fluffy, or pale blue and
fluffy--always fluffy, at least, and always dainty. Shawls and scarfs
and hoods the things were, I believe. When she finished one she gave
it to some girl and began another. Every girl at Harbour Light that
summer wore some distracting thing that had been fashioned by Miss
Sylvia's slim, tireless, white fingers.

She was old, with that beautiful, serene old age which is as beautiful
in its way as youth. Her girlhood and womanhood must have been very
lovely to have ripened into such a beauty of sixty years. It was a
surprise to everyone who heard her called _Miss_ Sylvia. She looked so
like a woman who ought to have stalwart, grown sons and dimpled little
grandchildren.

For the first two days after the arrival at the hotel she sat in her
corner alone. There was always a circle of young people around her;
old folks and middle-aged people would have liked to join it, but Miss
Sylvia, while she was gracious to all, let it be distinctly understood
that her sympathies were with youth. She sat among the boys and girls,
young men and maidens, like a fine white queen. Her dress was always
the same and somewhat old-fashioned, but nothing else would have
suited her half so well; she wore a lace cap on her snowy hair and a
heliotrope shawl over her black silk shoulders. She knitted
continually and talked a good deal, but listened more. We sat around
her at all hours of the day and told her everything.

When you were first introduced to her you called her Miss
Stanleymain. Her endurance of that was limited to twenty-four hours.
Then she begged you to call her Miss Sylvia, and as Miss Sylvia you
spoke and thought of her forevermore.

Miss Sylvia liked us all, but I was her favourite. She told us so
frankly and let it be understood that when I was talking to her and
her heliotrope shawl was allowed to slip under one arm it was a sign
that we were not to be interrupted. I was as vain of her favour as any
lovelorn suitor whose lady had honoured him, not knowing, as I came to
know later, the reason for it.

Although Miss Sylvia had an unlimited capacity for receiving
confidences, she never gave any. We were all sure that there must be
some romance in her life, but our efforts to discover it were
unsuccessful. Miss Sylvia parried tentative questions so skilfully
that we knew she had something to defend. But one evening, when I had
known her a month, as time is reckoned, and long years as affection
and understanding are computed, she told me her story--at least, what
there was to tell of it. The last chapter was missing.

We were sitting together on the veranda at sunset. Most of the hotel
people had gone for a harbour sail; a few forlorn mortals prowled
about the grounds and eyed our corner wistfully, but by the sign of
the heliotrope shawl knew it was not for them.

I was reading one of my stories to Miss Sylvia. In my own excuse I
must allege that she tempted me to do it. I did not go around with
manuscripts under my arm, inflicting them on defenceless females. But
Miss Sylvia had discovered that I was a magazine scribbler, and
moreover, that I had shut myself up in my room that very morning and
perpetrated a short story. Nothing would do but that I read it to her.

It was a rather sad little story. The hero loved the heroine, and she
loved him. There was no reason why he should not love her, but there
was a reason why he could not marry her. When he found that he loved
her he knew that he must go away. But might he not, at least, tell her
his love? Might he not, at least, find out for his consolation if she
cared for him? There was a struggle; he won, and went away without a
word, believing it to be the more manly course. When I began to read
Miss Sylvia was knitting, a pale green something this time, of the
tender hue of young leaves in May. But after a little her knitting
slipped unheeded to her lap and her hands folded idly above it. It was
the most subtle compliment I had ever received.

When I turned the last page of the manuscript and looked up, Miss
Sylvia's soft brown eyes were full of tears. She lifted her hands,
clasped them together and said in an agitated voice:

"Oh, no, no; don't let him go away without telling her--just telling
her. Don't let him do it!"

"But, you see, Miss Sylvia," I explained, flattered beyond measure
that my characters had seemed so real to her, "that would spoil the
story. It would have no reason for existence then. Its _motif_ is
simply his mastery over self. He believes it to be the nobler course."

"No, no, it wasn't--if he loved her he should have told her. Think of
her shame and humiliation--she loved him, and he went without a word
and she could never know he cared for her. Oh, you must change it--you
must, indeed! I cannot bear to think of her suffering what I have
suffered."

Miss Sylvia broke down and sobbed. To appease her, I promised that I
would remodel the story, although I knew that the doing so would leave
it absolutely pointless.

"Oh, I'm so glad," said Miss Sylvia, her eyes shining through her
tears. "You see, I know it would make her happier--I know it. I'm
going to tell you my poor little story to convince you. But you--you
must not tell it to any of the others."

"I am sorry you think the admonition necessary," I said
reproachfully.

"Oh, I do not, indeed I do not," she hastened to assure me. "I know I
can trust you. But it's such a poor little story. You mustn't laugh at
it--it is all the romance I had. Years ago--forty years ago--when I
was a young girl of twenty, I--learned to care very much for somebody.
I met him at a summer resort like this. I was there with my aunt and
he was there with his mother, who was delicate. We saw a great deal of
each other for a little while. He was--oh, he was like no other man I
had ever seen. You remind me of him somehow. That is partly why I like
you so much. I noticed the resemblance the first time I saw you. I
don't know in just what it consists--in your expression and the way
you carry your head, I think. He was not strong--he coughed a good
deal. Then one day he went away--suddenly. I had thought he cared for
me, but he never said so--just went away. Oh, the shame of it! After a
time I heard that he had been ordered to California for his health.
And he died out there the next spring. My heart broke then, I never
cared for anybody again--I couldn't. I have always loved him. But it
would have been so much easier to bear if I had only known that he
loved me--oh, it would have made all the difference in the world. And
the sting of it has been there all these years. I can't even permit
myself the joy of dwelling on his memory because of the thought that
perhaps he did not care."

"He must have cared," I said warmly. "He couldn't have helped it, Miss
Sylvia."

Miss Sylvia shook her head with a sad smile.

"I cannot be sure. Sometimes I think he did. But then the doubt creeps
back again. I would give almost anything to know that he did--to know
that I have not lavished all the love of my life on a man who did not
want it. And I never can know, never--I can hope and almost believe,
but I can never know. Oh, you don't understand--a man couldn't fully
understand what my pain has been over it. You see now why I want you
to change the story. I am sorry for that poor girl, but if you only
let her know that he really loves her she will not mind all the rest
so very much; she will be able to bear the pain of even life-long
separation if she only knows."

Miss Sylvia picked up her knitting and went away. As for me, I thought
savagely of the dead man she loved and called him a cad, or at best, a
fool.

Next day Miss Sylvia was her serene, smiling self once more, and she
did not again make any reference to what she had told me. A fortnight
later she returned home and I went my way back to the world. During
the following winter I wrote several letters to Miss Sylvia and
received replies from her. Her letters were very like herself. When I
sent her the third-rate magazine containing my story--nothing but a
third-rate magazine would take it in its rewritten form--she wrote to
say that she was so glad that I had let the poor girl know.

Early in April I received a letter from an aunt of mine in the
country, saying that she intended to sell her place and come to the
city to live. She asked me to go out to Sweetwater for a few weeks and
assist her in the business of settling up the estate and disposing of
such things as she did not wish to take with her.

When I arrived at Sweetwater I found it moist and chill with the sunny
moisture and teasing chill of our Canadian springs. They are long and
fickle and reluctant, these springs of ours, but, oh, the unnamable
charm of them! There was something even in the red buds of the maples
at Sweetwater and in the long, smoking stretches of hillside fields
that sent a thrill through my veins, finer and subtler than any given
by old wine.

A week after my arrival, when we had got the larger affairs pretty
well straightened out, Aunt Mary suggested that I had better overhaul
Uncle Alan's room.

"The things there have never been meddled with since he died," she
said. "In particular, there's an old trunk full of his letters and his
papers. It was brought home from California after his death. I've
never examined them. I don't suppose there is anything of any
importance among them. But I'm not going to carry all that old rubbish
to town. So I wish you would look over them and see if there is
anything that should be kept. The rest may be burned."

I felt no particular interest in the task. My Uncle Alan Blair was a
mere name to me. He was my mother's eldest brother and had died years
before I was born. I had heard that he had been very clever and that
great things had been expected of him. But I anticipated no pleasure
from exploring musty old letters and papers of forty neglected years.

I went up to Uncle Alan's room at dusk that night. We had been having
a day of warm spring rain, but it had cleared away and the bare maple
boughs outside the window were strung with glistening drops. The room
looked to the north and was always dim by reason of the close-growing
Sweetwater pines. A gap had been cut through them to the northwest,
and in it I had a glimpse of the sea Uncle Alan had loved, and above
it a wondrous sunset sky fleeced over with little clouds, pale and
pink and golden and green, that suddenly reminded me of Miss Sylvia
and her fluffy knitting. It was with the thought of her in my mind
that I lighted a lamp and began the task of grubbing into Uncle Alan's
trunkful of papers. Most of these were bundles of yellowed letters, of
no present interest, from his family and college friends. There were
several college theses and essays, and a lot of loose miscellania
pertaining to boyish school days. I went through the collection
rapidly, until at the bottom of the trunk, I came to a small book
bound in dark-green leather. It proved to be a sort of journal, and I
began to glance over it with a languid interest.

It had been begun in the spring after he had graduated from college.
Although suspected only by himself, the disease which was to end his
life had already fastened upon him. The entries were those of a doomed
man, who, feeling the curse fall on him like a frost, blighting all
the fair hopes and promises of life, seeks some help and consolation
in the outward self-communing of a journal. There was nothing morbid,
nothing unmanly in the record. As I read, I found myself liking Uncle
Alan, wishing that he might have lived and been my friend.

His mother had not been well that summer and the doctor ordered her to
the seashore. Alan accompanied her. Here occurred a hiatus in the
journal. No leaves had been torn out, but a quire or so of them had
apparently become loosened from the threads that held them in place. I
found them later on in the trunk, but at the time I passed to the next
page. It began abruptly:

    This girl is the sweetest thing that God ever made. I had not
    known a woman could be so fair and sweet. Her beauty awes me,
    the purity of her soul shines so clearly through it like an
    illuminating lamp. I love her with all my power of loving and
    I am thankful that it is so. It would have been hard to die
    without having known love. I am glad that it has come to me,
    even if its price is unspeakable bitterness. A man has not
    lived for nothing who has known and loved Sylvia Stanleymain.

    I must not seek her love--that is denied me. If I were well
    and strong I should win it; yes, I believe I could win it, and
    nothing in the world would prevent me from trying, but, as
    things are, it would be the part of a coward to try. Yet I
    cannot resist the delight of being with her, of talking to
    her, of watching her wonderful face. She is in my thoughts day
    and night, she dwells in my dreams. O, Sylvia, I love you, my
    sweet!

A week later there was another entry:


                                 July Seventeenth.

    I am afraid. To-day I met Sylvia's eyes. In them was a look
    which at first stirred my heart to its deeps with tumultuous
    delight, and then I remembered. I must spare her that
    suffering, at whatever cost to myself. I must not let myself
    dwell on the dangerous sweetness of the thought that her heart
    is turning to me. What would be the crowning joy to another
    man could be only added sorrow to me.

Then:


                                  July Eighteenth.

    This morning I took the train to the city. I was determined to
    know the worst once for all. The time had come when I must. My
    doctor at home had put me off with vague hopes and perhapses.
    So I went to a noted physician in the city. I told him I
    wanted the whole truth--I made him tell it. Stripped of all
    softening verbiage it is this: I have perhaps eight months or
    a year to live--no more!

    I had expected it, although not quite so soon. Yet the
    certainty was none the less bitter. But this is no time for
    self-pity. It is of Sylvia I must think now. I shall go away
    at once, before the sweet fancy which is possibly budding in
    her virgin heart shall have bloomed into a flower that might
    poison some of her fair years.



                                  July Nineteenth.

    It is over. I said good-bye to her to-day before others, for I
    dared not trust myself to see her alone. She looked hurt and
    startled, as if someone had struck her. But she will soon
    forget, even if I have not been mistaken in the reading of her
    eyes. As for me, the bitterness of death is already over in
    that parting. All that now remains is to play the man to the
    end.

From further entries in the journal I learned that Alan Blair had
returned to Sweetwater and later on had been ordered to California.
The entries during his sojourn there were few and far between. In all
of them he spoke of Sylvia. Finally, after a long silence, he had
written:

    I think the end is not far off now. I am not sorry for my
    suffering has been great of late. Last night I was easier. I
    slept and dreamed that I saw Sylvia. Once or twice I thought
    that I would arrange to have this book sent to her after my
    death. But I have decided that it would be unwise. It would
    only pain her, so I shall destroy it when I feel the time has
    come.

    It is sunset in this wonderful summer land. At home in
    Sweetwater it is only early spring as yet, with snow lingering
    along the edges of the woods. The sunsets there will be
    creamy-yellow and pale red now. If I could but see them once
    more! And  Sylvia--

There was a little blot where the pen had fallen. Evidently the end
had been nearer than Alan Blair had thought. At least, there were no
more entries, and the little green book had not been destroyed. I was
glad that it had not been; and I felt glad that it was thus put in my
power to write the last chapter of Miss Sylvia's story for her.

As soon as I could leave Sweetwater I went to the city, three hundred
miles away, where Miss Sylvia lived. I found her in her library, in
her black silk dress and heliotrope shawl, knitting up cream wool, for
all the world as if she had just been transplanted from the veranda
corner of Harbour Light.

"My dear boy!" she said.

"Do you know why I have come?" I asked.

"I am vain enough to think it was because you wanted to see me," she
smiled.

"I did want to see you; but I would have waited until summer if it had
not been that I wished to bring you the missing chapter of your story,
dear lady."

"I--I--don't understand," said Miss Sylvia, starting slightly.

"I had an uncle, Alan Blair, who died forty years ago in California,"
I said quietly. "Recently I have had occasion to examine some of his
papers. I found a journal among them and I have brought it to you
because I think that you have the best right to it."

I dropped the parcel in her lap. She was silent with surprise and
bewilderment.

"And now," I added, "I am going away. You won't want to see me or
anyone for a while after you have read this book. But I will come up
to see you to-morrow."

When I went the next day Miss Sylvia herself met me at the door. She
caught my hand and drew me into the hall. Her eyes were softly
radiant.

"Oh, you have made me so happy!" she said tremulously. "Oh, you can
never know how happy! Nothing hurts now--nothing ever can hurt,
because I know he did care."

She laid her face down on my shoulder, as a girl might have nestled to
her lover, and I bent and kissed her for Uncle Alan.



The Garden of Spices


Jims tried the door of the blue room. Yes, it was locked. He had hoped
Aunt Augusta _might_ have forgotten to lock it; but when did Aunt
Augusta forget anything? Except, perhaps, that little boys were not
born grown-ups--and _that_ was something she never remembered. To be
sure, she was only a half-aunt. Whole aunts probably had more
convenient memories.

Jims turned and stood with his back against the door. It was better
that way; he could not imagine things behind him then. And the blue
room was so big and dim that a dreadful number of things could be
imagined in it. All the windows were shuttered but one, and that one
was so darkened by a big pine tree branching right across it that it
did not let in much light.

Jims looked very small and lost and lonely as he shrank back against
the door--so small and lonely that one might have thought that even
the sternest of half-aunts should have thought twice before shutting
him up in that room and telling him he must stay there the whole
afternoon instead of going out for a promised ride. Jims hated being
shut up alone--especially in the blue room. Its bigness and dimness
and silence filled his sensitive little soul with vague horror.
Sometimes he became almost sick with fear in it. To do Aunt Augusta
justice, she never suspected this. If she had she would not have
decreed this particular punishment, because she knew Jims was delicate
and must not be subjected to any great physical or mental strain. That
was why she shut him up instead of whipping him. But how was she to
know it? Aunt Augusta was one of those people who never know anything
unless it is told them in plain language and then hammered into their
heads. There was no one to tell her but Jims, and Jims would have died
the death before he would have told Aunt Augusta, with her cold,
spectacled eyes and thin, smileless mouth, that he was desperately
frightened when he was shut in the blue room. So he was always shut in
it for punishment; and the punishments came very often, for Jims was
always doing things that Aunt Augusta considered naughty. At first,
this time, Jims did not feel quite so frightened as usual because he
was very angry. As he put it, he was very mad at Aunt Augusta. He
hadn't _meant_ to spill his pudding over the floor and the tablecloth
and his clothes; and how such a little bit of pudding--Aunt Augusta
was mean with desserts--could ever have spread itself over so much
territory Jims could not understand. But he had made a terrible mess
and Aunt Augusta had been very angry and had said he must be cured of
such carelessness. She said he must spend the afternoon in the blue
room instead of going for a ride with Mrs. Loring in her new car.

Jims was bitterly disappointed. If Uncle Walter had been home Jims
would have appealed to him--for when Uncle Walter could be really
wakened up to a realization of his small nephew's presence in his
home, he was very kind and indulgent. But it was so hard to waken him
up that Jims seldom attempted it. He liked Uncle Walter, but as far as
being acquainted with him went he might as well have been the
inhabitant of a star in the Milky Way. Jims was just a lonely,
solitary little creature, and sometimes he felt so friendless that his
eyes smarted, and several sobs had to be swallowed.

There were no sobs just now, though--Jims was still too angry. It
wasn't fair. It was so seldom he got a car ride. Uncle Walter was
always too busy, attending to sick children all over the town, to take
him. It was only once in a blue moon Mrs. Loring asked him to go out
with her. But she always ended up with ice cream or a movie, and
to-day Jims had had strong hopes that both were on the programme.

"I hate Aunt Augusta," he said aloud; and then the sound of his voice
in that huge, still room scared him so that he only thought the rest.
"I won't have any fun--and she won't feed my gobbler, either."

Jims had shrieked "Feed my gobbler," to the old servant as he had been
hauled upstairs. But he didn't think Nancy Jane had heard him, and
nobody, not even Jims, could imagine Aunt Augusta feeding the gobbler.
It was always a wonder to him that she ate, herself. It seemed really
too human a thing for her to do.

"I wish I had spilled that pudding _on purpose_," Jims said
vindictively, and with the saying his anger evaporated--Jims never
could stay angry long--and left him merely a scared little fellow,
with velvety, nut-brown eyes full of fear that should have no place in
a child's eyes. He looked so small and helpless as he crouched against
the door that one might have wondered if even Aunt Augusta would not
have relented had she seen him.

How that window at the far end of the room rattled! It sounded
terribly as if somebody--or _something_--were trying to get in. Jims
looked desperately at the unshuttered window. He must get to it; once
there, he could curl up in the window seat, his back to the wall, and
forget the shadows by looking out into the sunshine and loveliness of
the garden over the wall. Jims would have likely have been found dead
of fright in that blue room some time had it not been for the garden
over the wall.

But to get to the window Jims must cross the room and pass by the bed.
Jims held that bed in special dread. It was the oldest fashioned thing
in the old-fashioned, old-furnitured house. It was high and rigid, and
hung with gloomy blue curtains. _Anything_ might jump out of such a
bed.

Jims gave a gasp and ran madly across the room. He reached the window
and flung himself upon the seat. With a sigh of relief he curled down
in the corner. Outside, over the high brick wall, was a world where
his imagination could roam, though his slender little body was pent a
prisoner in the blue room.

Jims had loved that garden from his first sight of it. He called it
the Garden of Spices and wove all sorts of yarns in fancy--yarns gay
and tragic--about it. He had only known it for a few weeks. Before
that, they had lived in a much smaller house away at the other side of
the town. Then Uncle Walter's uncle--who had brought him up just as he
was bringing up Jims--had died, and they had all come to live in Uncle
Walter's old home. Somehow, Jims had an idea that Uncle Walter wasn't
very glad to come back there. But he had to, according to
great-uncle's will. Jims himself didn't mind much. He liked the
smaller rooms in their former home better, but the Garden of Spices
made up for all.

It was such a beautiful spot. Just inside the wall was a row of aspen
poplars that always talked in silvery whispers and shook their dainty,
heart-shaped leaves at him. Beyond them, under scattered pines, was a
rockery where ferns and wild things grew. It was almost as good as a
bit of woods--and Jims loved the woods, though he scarcely ever saw
them. Then, past the pines, were roses just breaking into June
bloom--roses in such profusion as Jims hadn't known existed, with dear
little paths twisting about among the bushes. It seemed to be a garden
where no frost could blight or rough wind blow. When rain fell it must
fall very gently. Past the roses one saw a green lawn, sprinkled over
now with the white ghosts of dandelions, and dotted with ornamental
trees. The trees grew so thickly that they almost hid the house to
which the garden pertained. It was a large one of grey-black stone,
with stacks of huge chimneys. Jims had no idea who lived there. He had
asked Aunt Augusta and Aunt Augusta had frowned and told him it did
not matter who lived there and that he must never, on any account,
mention the next house or its occupant to Uncle Walter. Jims would
never have thought of mentioning them to Uncle Walter. But the
prohibition filled him with an unholy and unsubduable curiosity. He
was devoured by the desire to find out who the folks in that tabooed
house were.

And he longed to have the freedom of that garden. Jims loved gardens.
There had been a garden at the little house but there was none
here--nothing but an old lawn that had been fine once but was now
badly run to seed. Jims had heard Uncle Walter say that he was going
to have it attended to but nothing had been done yet. And meanwhile
here was a beautiful garden over the wall which looked as if it should
be full of children. But no children were ever in it--or anybody else
apparently. And so, in spite of its beauty, it had a lonely look that
hurt Jims. He _wanted_ his Garden of Spices to be full of laughter. He
pictured himself running in it with imaginary playmates--and there was
a mother in it--or a big sister--or, at the least, a whole aunt who
would let you hug her and would never dream of shutting you up in
chilly, shadowy, horrible blue rooms.

"It seems to me," said Jims, flattening his nose against the pane,
"that I must get into that garden or bust."

Aunt Augusta would have said icily, "We do not use such expressions,
James," but Aunt Augusta was not there to hear.

"I'm afraid the Very Handsome Cat isn't coming to-day," sighed Jims.
Then he brightened up; the Very Handsome Cat was coming across the
lawn. He was the only living thing, barring birds and butterflies,
that Jims ever saw in the garden. Jims worshipped that cat. He was jet
black, with white paws and dickey, and he had as much dignity as ten
cats. Jims' fingers tingled to stroke him. Jims had never been allowed
to have even a kitten because Aunt Augusta had a horror of cats. And
you cannot stroke gobblers!

The Very Handsome Cat came through the rose garden paths on his
beautiful paws, ambled daintily around the rockery, and sat down in a
shady spot under a pine tree, right where Jims could see him, through
a gap in the little poplars. He looked straight up at Jims and winked.
At least, Jims always believed and declared he did. And that wink
said, or seemed to say, plainly:

"Be a sport. Come down here and play with me. A fig for your Aunt
Augusta!"

A wild, daring, absurd idea flashed into Jims' brain. Could he? He
could! He would! He knew it would be easy. He had thought it all out
many times, although until now he had never dreamed of really doing
it. To unhook the window and swing it open, to step out on the pine
bough and from it to another that hung over the wall and dropped
nearly to the ground, to spring from it to the velvet sward under the
poplars--why, it was all the work of a minute. With a careful,
repressed whoop Jims ran towards the Very Handsome Cat.

The cat rose and retreated in deliberate haste; Jims ran after him.
The cat dodged through the rose paths and eluded Jims' eager hands,
just keeping tantalizingly out of reach. Jims had forgotten everything
except that he must catch the cat. He was full of a fearful joy, with
an elfin delight running through it. He had escaped from the blue room
and its ghosts; he was in his Garden of Spices; he had got the better
of mean old Aunt Augusta. But he _must_ catch the cat.

The cat ran over the lawn and Jims pursued it through the green gloom
of the thickly clustering trees. Beyond them came a pool of sunshine
in which the old stone house basked like a huge grey cat itself. More
garden was before it and beyond it, wonderful with blossom. Under a
huge spreading beech tree in the centre of it was a little tea table;
sitting by the table reading was a lady in a black dress.

The cat, having lured Jims to where he wanted him, sat down and began
to lick his paws. He was quite willing to be caught now; but Jims had
no longer any idea of catching him. He stood very still, looking at
the lady. She did not see him then and Jims could only see her
profile, which he thought very beautiful. She had wonderful ropes of
blue-black hair wound around her head. She looked so sweet that Jims'
heart beat. Then she lifted her head and turned her face and saw him.
Jims felt something of a shock. She was not pretty after all. One side
of her face was marked by a dreadful red scar. It quite spoilt her
good looks, which Jims thought a great pity; but nothing could spoil
the sweetness of her face or the loveliness of her peculiar soft,
grey-blue eyes. Jims couldn't remember his mother and had no idea what
she looked like, but the thought came into his head that he would have
liked her to have eyes like that. After the first moment Jims did not
mind the scar at all.

But perhaps that first moment had revealed itself in his face, for a
look of pain came into the lady's eyes and, almost involuntarily it
seemed, she put her hand up to hide the scar. Then she pulled it away
again and sat looking at Jims half defiantly, half piteously. Jims
thought she must be angry because he had chased her cat.

"I beg your pardon," he said gravely, "I didn't mean to hurt your cat.
I just wanted to play with him. He is _such_ a very handsome cat."

"But where did you come from?" said the lady. "It is so long since I
saw a child in this garden," she added, as if to herself. Her voice
was as sweet as her face. Jims thought he was mistaken in thinking her
angry and plucked up heart of grace. Shyness was no fault of Jims.

"I came from the house over the wall," he said. "My name is James
Brander Churchill. Aunt Augusta shut me up in the blue room because I
spilled my pudding at dinner. I hate to be shut up. And I was to have
had a ride this afternoon--and ice cream--and _maybe_ a movie. So I
was mad. And when your Very Handsome Cat came and looked at me I just
got out and climbed down."

He looked straight at her and smiled. Jims had a very dear little
smile. It seemed a pity there was no mother alive to revel in it. The
lady smiled back.

"I think you did right," she said.

"_You_ wouldn't shut a little boy up if you had one, would you?" said
Jims.

"No--no, dear heart, I wouldn't," said the lady. She said it as if
something hurt her horribly. She smiled again gallantly.

"Will you come here and sit down?" she added, pulling a chair out from
the table.

"Thank you. I'd rather sit here," said Jims, plumping down on the
grass at her feet. "Then maybe your cat will come to me."

The cat came over promptly and rubbed his head against Jims' knee.
Jims stroked him delightedly; how lovely his soft fur felt and his
round velvety head.

"I like cats," explained Jims, "and I have nothing but a gobbler. This
is such a Very Handsome Cat. What is his name, please?"

"Black Prince. He loves me," said the lady. "He always comes to my bed
in the morning and wakes me by patting my face with his paw. _He_
doesn't mind my being ugly."

She spoke with a bitterness Jims couldn't understand.

"But you are not ugly," he said.

"Oh, I _am_ ugly--I _am_ ugly," she cried. "Just look at me--right at
me. Doesn't it hurt you to look at me?"

Jims looked at her gravely and dispassionately.

"No, it doesn't," he said. "Not a bit," he added, after some further
exploration of his consciousness.

Suddenly the lady laughed beautifully. A faint rosy flush came into
her unscarred cheek.

"James, I believe you mean it."

"Of course I mean it. And, if you don't mind, please call me Jims.
Nobody calls me James but Aunt Augusta. She isn't my whole aunt. She
is just Uncle Walter's half-sister. _He_ is my whole uncle."

"What does he call you?" asked the lady. She looked away as she asked
it.

"Oh, Jims, when he thinks about me. He doesn't often think about me.
He has too many sick children to think about. Sick children are all
Uncle Walter cares about. He's the greatest children's doctor in the
Dominion, Mr. Burroughs says. But he is a woman-hater."

"How do you know that?"

"Oh, I heard Mr. Burroughs say it. Mr. Burroughs is my tutor, you
know. I study with him from nine till one. I'm not allowed to go to
the public school. I'd like to, but Uncle Walter thinks I'm not strong
enough yet. I'm going next year, though, when I'm ten. I have holidays
now. Mr. Burroughs always goes away the first of June."

"How came he to tell you your uncle was a woman-hater?" persisted the
lady.

"Oh, he didn't tell me. He was talking to a friend of his. He thought
I was reading my book. So I was--but I heard it all. It was more
interesting than my book. Uncle Walter was engaged to a lady, long,
long ago, when he was a young man. She was devilishly pretty."

"Oh, Jims!"

"Mr. Burroughs said so. I'm only quoting," said Jims easily. "And
Uncle Walter just worshipped her. And all at once she just jilted him
without a word of explanation, Mr. Burroughs said. So that is why he
hates women. It isn't any wonder, is it?"

"I suppose not," said the lady with a sigh. "Jims, are you hungry?"

"Yes, I am. You see, the pudding was spilled. But how did you know?"

"Oh, boys always used to be hungry when I knew them long ago. I
thought they hadn't changed. I shall tell Martha to bring out
something to eat and we'll have it here under this tree. You sit
here--I'll sit there. Jims, it's so long since I talked to a little
boy that I'm not sure that I know how."

"You know how, all right," Jims assured her. "But what am I to call
you, please?"

"My name is Miss Garland," said the lady a little hesitatingly. But
she saw the name meant nothing to Jims. "I would like you to call me
Miss Avery. Avery is my first name and I never hear it nowadays. Now
for a jamboree! I can't offer you a movie--and I'm afraid there isn't
any ice cream either. I could have had some if I'd known you were
coming. But I think Martha will be able to find something good."

A very old woman, who looked at Jims with great amazement, came out to
set the table. Jims thought she must be as old as Methusaleh. But he
did not mind her. He ran races with Black Prince while tea was being
prepared, and rolled the delighted cat over and over in the grass. And
he discovered a fragrant herb-garden in a far corner and was
delighted. Now it was truly a garden of spices.

"Oh, it is so beautiful here," he told Miss Avery, who sat and looked
at his revels with a hungry expression in her lovely eyes. "I wish I
could come often."

"Why can't you?" said Miss Avery.

The two looked at each other with sly intelligence.

"I could come whenever Aunt Augusta shuts me up in the blue room,"
said Jims.

"Yes," said Miss Avery. Then she laughed and held out her arms. Jims
flew into them. He put his arms about her neck and kissed her scarred
face.

"Oh, I wish _you_ were my aunt," he said.

Miss Avery suddenly pushed him away. Jims was horribly afraid he had
offended her. But she took his hand.

"We'll just be chums, Jims," she said. "That's really better than
being relations, after all. Come and have tea."

Over that glorious tea-table they became life-long friends. They had
always known each other and always would. The Black Prince sat between
them and was fed tit-bits. There was such a lot of good things on the
table and nobody to say "You have had enough, James." James ate until
_he_ thought he had enough. Aunt Augusta would have thought he was
doomed, could she have seen him.

"I suppose I must go back," said Jims with a sigh. "It will be our
supper time in half an hour and Aunt Augusta will come to take me
out."

"But you'll come again?"

"Yes, the first time she shuts me up. And if she doesn't shut me up
pretty soon I'll be so bad she'll have to shut me up."

"I'll always set a place for you at the tea-table after this, Jims.
And when you're not here I'll pretend you are. And when you can't come
here write me a letter and bring it when you do come."

"Good-bye," said Jims. He took her hand and kissed it. He had read of
a young knight doing that and had always thought he would like to try
it if he ever got a chance. But who could dream of kissing Aunt
Augusta's hands?

"You dear, funny thing," said Miss Avery. "Have you thought of how you
are to get back? Can you reach that pine bough from the ground?"

"Maybe I can jump," said Jims dubiously.

"I'm afraid not. I'll give you a stool and you can stand on it. Just
leave it there for future use. Good-bye, Jims. Jims, two hours ago I
didn't know there was such a person in the world as you--and now I
love you--I love you."

Jims' heart filled with a great warm gush of gladness. He had always
wanted to be loved. And no living creature, he felt sure, loved him,
except his gobbler--and a gobbler's love is not very satisfying,
though it is better than nothing. He was blissfully happy as he
carried his stool across the lawn. He climbed his pine and went in at
the window and curled up on the seat in a maze of delight. The blue
room was more shadowy than ever but that did not matter. Over in the
Garden of Spices was friendship and laughter and romance galore. The
whole world was transformed for Jims.

From that time Jims lived a shamelessly double life. Whenever he was
shut in the blue room he escaped to the Garden of Spices--and he was
shut in very often, for, Mr. Burroughs being away, he got into a good
deal of what Aunt Augusta called mischief. Besides, it is a sad truth
that Jims didn't try very hard to be good now. He thought it paid
better to be bad and be shut up. To be sure there was always a fly in
the ointment. He was haunted by a vague fear that Aunt Augusta might
relent and come to the blue room before supper time to let him out.

"And _then_ the fat would be in the fire," said Jims.

But he had a glorious summer and throve so well on his new diet of
love and companionship that one day Uncle Walter, with fewer sick
children to think about than usual, looked at him curiously and said:

"Augusta, that boy seems to be growing much stronger. He has a good
color and his eyes are getting to look more like a boy's eyes should.
We'll make a man of you yet, Jims."

"He may be getting stronger but he's getting naughtier, too," said
Aunt Augusta, grimly. "I am sorry to say, Walter, that he behaves very
badly."

"We were all young once," said Uncle Walter indulgently.

"Were _you_?" asked Jims in blank amazement.

Uncle Walter laughed.

"Do you think me an antediluvian, Jims?"

"I don't know what _that_ is. But your hair is gray and your eyes are
tired," said Jims uncompromisingly.

Uncle Walter laughed again, tossed Jims a quarter, and went out.

"Your uncle is only forty-five and in his prime," said Aunt Augusta
dourly.

Jims deliberately ran across the room to the window and, under
pretence of looking out, knocked down a flower pot. So he was exiled
to the blue room and got into his beloved Garden of Spices where Miss
Avery's beautiful eyes looked love into his and the Black Prince was a
jolly playmate and old Martha petted and spoiled him to her heart's
content.

Jims never asked questions but he was a wide-awake chap, and, taking
one thing with another, he found out a good deal about the occupants
of the old stone house. Miss Avery never went anywhere and no one ever
went there. She lived all alone with two old servants, man and maid.
Except these two and Jims nobody had ever seen her for twenty years.
Jims didn't know why, but he thought it must be because of the scar on
her face.

He never referred to it, but one day Miss Avery told him what caused
it.

"I dropped a lamp and my dress caught fire and burned my face, Jims.
It made me hideous. I was beautiful before that--very beautiful.
Everybody said so. Come in and I will show you my picture."

She took him into her big parlor and showed him the picture hanging on
the wall between the two high windows. It was of a young girl in
white. She certainly was very lovely, with her rose-leaf skin and
laughing eyes. Jims looked at the pictured face gravely, with his
hands in his pockets and his head on one side. Then he looked at Miss
Avery.

"You were prettier then--yes," he said, judicially, "but I like your
face ever so much better now."

"Oh, Jims, you can't," she protested.

"Yes, I do," persisted Jims. "You look kinder and--nicer now."

It was the nearest Jims could get to expressing what he felt as he
looked at the picture. The young girl was beautiful, but her face was
a little hard. There was pride and vanity and something of the
insolence of great beauty in it. There was nothing of that in Miss
Avery's face now--nothing but sweetness and tenderness, and a motherly
yearning to which every fibre of Jims' small being responded. How they
loved each other, those two! And how they understood each other! To
_love_ is easy, and therefore common; but to _understand_--how rare
that is! And oh! such good times as they had! They made taffy. Jims
had always longed to make taffy, but Aunt Augusta's immaculate kitchen
and saucepans might not be so desecrated. They read fairy tales
together. Mr. Burroughs had disapproved of fairy tales. They blew
soap-bubbles out on the lawn and let them float away over the garden
and the orchard like fairy balloons. They had glorious afternoon teas
under the beech tree. They made ice cream themselves. Jims even slid
down the bannisters when he wanted to. And he could try out a slang
word or two occasionally without anybody dying of horror. Miss Avery
did not seem to mind it a bit.

At first Miss Avery always wore dark sombre dresses. But one day Jims
found her in a pretty gown of pale primrose silk. It was very old and
old-fashioned, but Jims did not know that. He capered round her in
delight.

"You like me better in this?" she asked, wistfully.

"I like you just as well, no matter what you wear," said Jims, "but
that dress is awfully pretty."

"Would you like me to wear bright colors, Jims?"

"You bet I would," said Jims emphatically.

After that she always wore them--pink and primrose and blue and white;
and she let Jims wreathe flowers in her splendid hair. He had quite a
knack of it. She never wore any jewelry except, always, a little gold
ring with a design of two clasped hands.

"A friend gave that to me long ago when we were boy and girl together
at school," she told Jims once. "I never take it off, night or day.
When I die it is to be buried with me."

"You mustn't die till I do," said Jims in dismay.

"Oh, Jims, if we could only _live_ together nothing else would
matter," she said hungrily. "Jims--Jims--I see so little of you
really--and some day soon you'll be going to school--and I'll lose
you."

"I've got to think of some way to prevent it," cried Jims. "I won't
have it. I won't--I won't."

But his heart sank notwithstanding.

One day Jims slipped from the blue room, down the pine and across the
lawn with a tear-stained face.

"Aunt Augusta is going to kill my gobbler," he sobbed in Miss Avery's
arms. "She says she isn't going to bother with him any longer--and
he's getting old--and he's to be killed. And that gobbler is the only
friend I have in the world except you. Oh, I can't _stand_ it, Miss
Avery."

Next day Aunt Augusta told him the gobbler had been sold and taken
away. And Jims flew into a passion of tears and protest about it and
was promptly incarcerated in the blue room. A few minutes later a
sobbing boy plunged through the trees--and stopped abruptly. Miss
Avery was reading under the beech and the Black Prince was snoozing on
her knee--and a big, magnificent, bronze turkey was parading about on
the lawn, twisting his huge fan of a tail this way and that.

"_My_ gobbler!" cried Jims.

"Yes. Martha went to your uncle's house and bought him. Oh, she didn't
betray you. She told Nancy Jane she wanted a gobbler and, having seen
one over there, thought perhaps she could get him. See, here's your
pet, Jims, and here he shall live till he dies of old age. And I have
something else for you--Edward and Martha went across the river
yesterday to the Murray Kennels and got it for you."

"Not a dog?" exclaimed Jims.

"Yes--a dear little bull pup. He shall be your very own, Jims, and I
only stipulate that you reconcile the Black Prince to him."

It was something of a task but Jims succeeded. Then followed a month
of perfect happiness. At least three afternoons a week they contrived
to be together. It was all too good to be true, Jims felt. Something
would happen soon to spoil it. Just _suppose_ Aunt Augusta grew
tender-hearted and ceased to punish! Or suppose she suddenly
discovered that he was growing too big to be shut up! Jims began to
stint himself in eating lest he grew too fast. And then Aunt Augusta
worried about his loss of appetite and suggested to Uncle Walter that
he should be sent to the country till the hot weather was over. Jims
didn't want to go to the country now because his heart was elsewhere.
He must eat again, if he grew like a weed. It was all very harassing.

Uncle Walter looked at him keenly.

"It seems to me you're looking pretty fit, Jims. Do you want to go to
the country?"

"No, please."

"Are you happy, Jims?"

"Sometimes."

"A boy should be happy all the time, Jims."

"If I had a mother and someone to play with I would be."

"I have tried to be a mother to you, Jims," said Aunt Augusta, in an
offended tone. Then she addressed Uncle Walter. "A younger woman would
probably understand him better. And I feel that the care of this big
place is too much for me. I would prefer to go to my own old home. If
you had married long ago, as you should, Walter, James would have had
a mother and some cousins to play with. I have always been of this
opinion."

Uncle Walter frowned and got up.

"Just because one woman played you false is no good reason for
spoiling your life," went on Aunt Augusta severely. "I have kept
silence all these years but now I am going to speak--and speak
plainly. You should marry, Walter. You are young enough yet and you
owe it to your name."

"Listen, Augusta," said Uncle Walter sternly. "I loved a woman once. I
believed she loved me. She sent me back my ring one day and with it a
message saying she had ceased to care for me and bidding me never to
try to look upon her face again. Well, I have obeyed her, that is
all."

"There was something strange about all that, Walter. The life she has
since led proves that. So you should not let it embitter you against
all women."

"I haven't. It's nonsense to say I'm a woman-hater, Augusta. But that
experience has robbed me of the power to care for another woman."

"Well, this isn't a proper conversation for a child to hear," said
Aunt Augusta, recollecting herself. "Jims, go out."

Jims would have given one of his ears to stay and listen with the
other. But he went obediently.

And then, the very next day, the dreaded something happened.

It was the first of August and very, very hot. Jims was late coming to
dinner and Aunt Augusta reproved him and Jims, deliberately, and with
malice aforethought, told her he thought she was a nasty old woman. He
had never been saucy to Aunt Augusta before. But it was three days
since he had seen Miss Avery and the Black Prince and Nip and he was
desperate. Aunt Augusta crimsoned with anger and doomed Jims to an
afternoon in the blue room for impertinence.

"And I shall tell your uncle when he comes home," she added.

That rankled, for Jims didn't want Uncle Walter to think him
impertinent. But he forgot all his worries as he scampered through the
Garden of Spices to the beech tree. And there Jims stopped as if he
had been shot. Prone on the grass under the beech tree, white and cold
and still, lay his Miss Avery--dead, stone dead!

At least Jims drought she was dead. He flew into the house like a mad
thing, shrieking for Martha. Nobody answered. Jims recollected, with a
rush of sickening dread, that Miss Avery had told him Martha and
Edward were going away that day to visit a sister. He rushed blindly
across the lawn again, through the little side gate he had never
passed before and down the street home. Uncle Walter was just opening
the door of his car.

"Uncle Walter--come--come," sobbed Jims, clutching frantically at his
hand. "Miss Avery's dead--dead--oh, come quick."

"_Who_ is dead?"

"Miss Avery--Miss Avery Garland. She's lying on the grass over there
in her garden. And I love her so--and I'll die, too--oh, Uncle Walter,
_come_."

Uncle Walter looked as if he wanted to ask some questions, but he said
nothing. With a strange face he hurried after Jims. Miss Avery was
still lying there. As Uncle Walter bent over her he saw the broad red
scar and started back with an exclamation.

"She is dead?" gasped Jims.

"No," said Uncle Walter, bending down again--"no, she has only
fainted, Jims--overcome by the heat, I suppose. I want help. Go and
call somebody."

"There's no one home here to-day," said Jims, in a spasm of joy so
great that it shook him like a leaf.

"Then go home and telephone over to Mr. Loring's. Tell them I want the
nurse who is there to come here for a few minutes."

Jims did his errand. Uncle Walter and the nurse carried Miss Avery
into the house and then Jims went back to the blue room. He was so
unhappy he didn't care where he went. He wished something _would_ jump
at him out of the bed and put an end to him. Everything was discovered
now and he would never see Miss Avery again. Jims lay very still on
the window seat. He did not even cry. He had come to one of the griefs
that lie too deep for tears.

"I think I must have been put under a curse at birth," thought poor
Jims.

       *       *       *       *       *

Over at the stone house Miss Avery was lying on the couch in her room.
The nurse had gone away and Dr. Walter was sitting looking at her. He
leaned forward and pulled away the hand with which she was hiding the
scar on her face. He looked first at the little gold ring on the hand
and then at the scar.

"Don't," she said piteously.

"Avery--why did you do it?--_why_ did you do it?"

"Oh, you know--you must know now, Walter."

"Avery, did you break my heart and spoil my life--and your own--simply
because your face was scarred?"

"I couldn't bear to have you see me hideous," she moaned. "You had
been so proud of my beauty. I--I--thought you couldn't love me any
more--I couldn't bear the thought of looking in your eyes and seeing
aversion there."

Walter Grant leaned forward.

"Look in my eyes, Avery. Do you see any aversion?"

Avery forced herself to look. What she saw covered her face with a hot
blush.

"Did you think my love such a poor and superficial thing, Avery," he
said sternly, "that it must vanish because a blemish came on your
fairness? Do you think _that_ would change me? Was your own love for
me so slight?"

"No--no," she sobbed. "I have loved you every moment of my life,
Walter. Oh, don't look at me so sternly."

"If you had even told me," he said. "You said I was never to try to
look on your face again--and they told me you had gone away. You sent
me back my ring."

"I kept the old one," she interrupted, holding out her hand, "the
first one you ever gave me--do you remember, Walter? When we were boy
and girl."

"You robbed me of all that made life worth while, Avery. Do you wonder
that I've been a bitter man?"

"I was wrong--I was wrong," she sobbed. "I should have believed in
you. But don't you think I've paid, too? Forgive me, Walter--it's too
late to atone--but forgive me."

"_Is_ it too late?" he asked gravely.

She pointed to the scar.

"Could you endure seeing this opposite to you every day at your
table?" she asked bitterly.

"Yes--if I could see your sweet eyes and your beloved smile with it,
Avery," he answered passionately. "Oh, Avery, it was _you_ I
loved--not your outward favor. Oh, how foolish you were--foolish and
morbid! You always put too high a value on beauty, Avery. If I had
dreamed of the true state of the case--if I had known you were here
all these years--why I heard a rumor long ago that you had married,
Avery--but if I had known I would have come to you and _made_ you
be--sensible."

She gave a little laugh at his lame conclusion. That was so like the
old Walter. Then her eyes filled with tears as he took her in his
arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

The door of the blue room opened. Jims did not look up. It was Aunt
Augusta, of course--and she had heard the whole story.

"Jims, boy."

Jims lifted his miserable eyes. It was Uncle Walter--but a different
Uncle Walter--an Uncle Walter with laughing eyes and a strange
radiance of youth about him.

"Poor, lonely little fellow," said Uncle Walter unexpectedly. "Jims,
would you like Miss Avery to come _here_--and live with us always--and
be your real aunt?"

"Great snakes!" said Jims, transformed in a second. "Is there any
chance of _that_?"

"There is a certainty, thanks to you," said Uncle Walter. "You can go
over to see her for a little while. Don't talk her to death--she's
weak yet--and attend to that menagerie of yours over there--she's
worrying because the bull dog and gobbler weren't fed--and Jims--"

But Jims had swung down through the pine and was tearing across the
Garden of Spices.



The Girl and the Photograph


When I heard that Peter Austin was in Vancouver I hunted him up. I had
met Peter ten years before when I had gone east to visit my father's
people and had spent a few weeks with an uncle in Croyden. The Austins
lived across the street from Uncle Tom, and Peter and I had struck up
a friendship, although he was a hobbledehoy of awkward sixteen and I,
at twenty-two, was older and wiser and more dignified than I've ever
been since or ever expect to be again. Peter was a jolly little round
freckled chap. He was all right when no girls were around; when they
were he retired within himself like a misanthropic oyster, and was
about as interesting. This was the one point upon which we always
disagreed. Peter couldn't endure girls; I was devoted to them by the
wholesale. The Croyden girls were pretty and vivacious. I had a score
of flirtations during my brief sojourn among them.

But when I went away the face I carried in my memory was not that of
any girl with whom I had walked and driven and played the game of
hearts.

It was ten years ago, but I had never been quite able to forget that
girl's face. Yet I had seen it but once and then only for a moment. I
had gone for a solitary ramble in the woods over the river and, in a
lonely little valley dim with pines, where I thought myself alone, I
had come suddenly upon her, standing ankle-deep in fern on the bank of
a brook, the late evening sunshine falling yellowly on her uncovered
dark hair. She was very young--no more than sixteen; yet the face and
eyes were already those of a woman. Such a face! Beautiful? Yes, but I
thought of that afterward, when I was alone. With that face before my
eyes I thought only of its purity and sweetness, of the lovely soul
and rich mind looking out of the great, greyish-blue eyes which, in
the dimness of the pine shadows, looked almost black. There was
something in the face of that child-woman I had never seen before and
was destined never to see again in any other face. Careless boy
though I was, it stirred me to the deeps. I felt that she must have
been waiting forever in that pine valley for me and that, in finding
her, I had found all of good that life could offer me.

I would have spoken to her, but before I could shape my greeting into
words that should not seem rude or presumptuous, she had turned and
gone, stepping lightly across the brook and vanishing in the maple
copse beyond. For no more than ten seconds had I gazed into her face,
and the soul of her, the real woman behind the fair outwardness, had
looked back into my eyes; but I had never been able to forget it.

When I returned home I questioned my cousins diplomatically as to who
she might be. I felt strangely reluctant to do so--it seemed in some
way sacrilege; yet only by so doing could I hope to discover her. They
could tell me nothing; nor did I meet her again during the remainder
of my stay in Croyden, although I never went anywhere without looking
for her, and haunted the pine valley daily, in the hope of seeing her
again. My disappointment was so bitter that I laughed at myself.

I thought I was a fool to feel thus about a girl I had met for a
moment in a chance ramble--a mere child at that, with her hair still
hanging in its long glossy schoolgirl braid. But when I remembered her
eyes, my wisdom forgave me.

Well, that was ten years ago; in those ten years the memory had, I
must confess, grown dimmer. In our busy western life a man had not
much time for sentimental recollections. Yet I had never been able to
care for another woman. I wanted to; I wanted to marry and settle
down. I had come to the time of life when a man wearies of drifting
and begins to hanker for a calm anchorage in some snug haven of his
own. But, somehow, I shirked the matter. It seemed rather easier to
let things slide.

At this stage Peter came west. He was something in a bank, and was as
round and jolly as ever; but he had evidently changed his attitude
towards girls, for his rooms were full of their photos. They were
stuck around everywhere and they were all pretty. Either Peter had
excellent taste, or the Croyden photographers knew how to flatter. But
there was one on the mantel which attracted my attention especially.
If the photo were to be trusted the girl was quite the prettiest I had
ever seen.

"Peter, what pretty girl's picture is this on your mantel?" I called
out to Peter, who was in his bedroom, donning evening dress for some
function.

"That's my cousin, Marian Lindsay," he answered. "She _is_ rather
nice-looking, isn't she. Lives in Croyden now--used to live up the
river at Chiselhurst. Didn't you ever chance across her when you were
in Croyden?"

"No," I said. "If I had I wouldn't have forgotten her face."

"Well, she'd be only a kid then, of course. She's twenty-six now.
Marian is a mighty nice girl, but she's bound to be an old maid. She's
got notions--ideals, she calls 'em. All the Croyden fellows have been
in love with her at one time or another but they might as well have
made up to a statue. Marian really hasn't a spark of feeling or
sentiment in her. Her looks are the best part of her, although she's
confoundedly clever."

Peter spoke rather squiffily. I suspected that he had been one of the
smitten swains himself. I looked at the photo for a few minutes
longer, admiring it more every minute and, when I heard Peter coming
out, I did an unjustifiable thing--I took that photo and put it in my
pocket.

I expected Peter would make a fuss when he missed it, but that very
night the house in which he lived was burned to the ground. Peter
escaped with the most important of his goods and chattels, but all the
counterfeit presentments of his dear divinities went up in smoke. If
he ever thought particularly of Marian Lindsay's photograph he must
have supposed that it shared the fate of the others.

As for me, I propped my ill-gotten treasure up on my mantel and
worshipped it for a fortnight. At the end of that time I went boldly
to Peter and told him I wanted him to introduce me by letter to his
dear cousin and ask her to agree to a friendly correspondence with me.

Oddly enough, I did not do this without some reluctance, in spite of
the fact that I was as much in love with Marian Lindsay as it was
possible to be through the medium of a picture. I thought of the girl
I had seen in the pine wood and felt an inward shrinking from a step
that might divide me from her forever. But I rated myself for this
nonsense. It was in the highest degree unlikely that I should ever
meet the girl of the pines again. If she were still living she was
probably some other man's wife. I would think no more about it.

Peter whistled when he heard what I had to say.

"Of course I'll do it, old man," he said obligingly. "But I warn you I
don't think it will be much use. Marian isn't the sort of girl to open
up a correspondence in such a fashion. However, I'll do the best I can
for you."

"Do. Tell her I'm a respectable fellow with no violent bad habits and
all that. I'm in earnest, Peter. I want to make that girl's
acquaintance, and this seems the only way at present. I can't get off
just now for a trip east. Explain all this, and use your cousinly
influence in my behalf if you possess any."

Peter grinned.

"It's not the most graceful job in the world you are putting on me,
Curtis," he said. "I don't mind owning up now that I was pretty far
gone on Marian myself two years ago. It's all over now, but it was bad
while it lasted. Perhaps Marian will consider your request more
favourably if I put it in the light of a favour to myself. She must
feel that she owes me something for wrecking my life."

Peter grinned again and looked at the one photo he had contrived to
rescue from the fire. It was a pretty, snub-nosed little girl. She
would never have consoled me for the loss of Marian Lindsay, but every
man to his taste.

In due time Peter sought me out to give me his cousin's answer.

"Congratulations, Curtis. You've out-Caesared Caesar. You've conquered
without even going and seeing. Marian agrees to a friendly
correspondence with you. I am amazed, I admit--even though I did paint
you up as a sort of Sir Galahad and Lancelot combined. I'm not used to
seeing proud Marian do stunts like that, and it rather takes my
breath."

I wrote to Marian Lindsay after one farewell dream of the girl under
the pines. When Marian's letters began to come regularly I forgot the
other one altogether.

Such letters--such witty, sparkling, clever, womanly, delightful
letters! They completed the conquest her picture had begun. Before we
had corresponded six months I was besottedly in love with this woman
whom I had never seen. Finally, I wrote and told her so, and I asked
her to be my wife.

A fortnight later her answer came. She said frankly that she believed
she had learned to care for me during our correspondence, but that she
thought we should meet in person, before coming to any definite
understanding. Could I not arrange to visit Croyden in the summer?
Until then we would better continue on our present footing.

I agreed to this, but I considered myself practically engaged, with
the personal meeting merely to be regarded as a sop to the Cerberus of
conventionality. I permitted myself to use a decidedly lover-like tone
in my letters henceforth, and I hailed it as a favourable omen that I
was not rebuked for this, although Marian's own letters still retained
their pleasant, simple friendliness.

Peter had at first tormented me mercilessly about the affair, but when
he saw I did not like his chaff he stopped it. Peter was always a good
fellow. He realized that I regarded the matter seriously, and he saw
me off when I left for the east with a grin tempered by honest
sympathy and understanding.

"Good luck to you," he said. "If you win Marian Lindsay you'll win a
pearl among women. I haven't been able to grasp her taking to you in
this fashion, though. It's so unlike Marian. But, since she
undoubtedly has, you are a lucky man."

I arrived in Croyden at dusk and went to Uncle Tom's. There I found
them busy with preparations for a party to be given that night in
honour of a girl friend who was visiting my cousin Edna. I was
secretly annoyed, for I wanted to hasten at once to Marian. But I
couldn't decently get away, and on second thoughts I was consoled by
the reflection that she would probably come to the party. I knew she
belonged to the same social set as Uncle Tom's girls. I should,
however, have preferred our meeting to have been under different
circumstances.

From my stand behind the palms in a corner I eagerly scanned the
guests as they arrived. Suddenly my heart gave a bound. Marian Lindsay
had just come in.

I recognized her at once from her photograph. It had not flattered her
in the least; indeed, it had not done her justice, for her exquisite
colouring of hair and complexion were quite lost in it. She was,
moreover, gowned with a taste and smartness eminently admirable in the
future Mrs. Eric Curtis. I felt a thrill of proprietary pride as I
stepped out from behind the palms. She was talking to Aunt Grace; but
her eyes fell on me. I expected a little start of recognition, for I
had sent her an excellent photograph of myself; but her gaze was one
of blankest unconsciousness.

I felt something like disappointment at her non-recognition, but I
consoled myself by the reflection that people often fail to recognize
other people whom they have seen only in photographs, no matter how
good the likeness may be. I waylaid Edna, who was passing at that
time, and said, "Edna I want you to introduce me to the girl who is
talking to your mother."

Edna laughed.

"So you have succumbed at first sight to our Croyden beauty? Of course
I'll introduce you, but I warn you beforehand that she is the most
incorrigible flirt in Croyden or out of it. So take care."

It jarred on me to hear Marian called a flirt. It seemed so out of
keeping with her letters and the womanly delicacy and fineness
revealed in them. But I reflected that women sometimes find it hard to
forgive another woman who absorbs more than her share of lovers, and
generally take their revenge by dubbing her a flirt, whether she
deserves the name or not.

We had crossed the room during this reflection. Marian turned and
stood before us, smiling at Edna, but evincing no recognition whatever
of myself. It is a piquant experience to find yourself awaiting an
introduction to a girl to whom you are virtually engaged.

"Dorothy dear," said Edna, "this is my cousin, Mr. Curtis, from
Vancouver. Eric, this is Miss Armstrong."

I suppose I bowed. Habit carries us mechanically through many
impossible situations. I don't know what I looked like or what I said,
if I said anything. I don't suppose I betrayed my dire confusion, for
Edna went off unconcernedly without another glance at me.

Dorothy Armstrong! Gracious powers--who--where--why? If this girl was
Dorothy Armstrong who was Marian Lindsay? To whom was I engaged? There
was some awful mistake somewhere, for it could not be possible that
there were two girls in Croyden who looked exactly like the photograph
reposing in my valise at that very moment. I stammered like a
schoolboy.

"I--oh--I--your face seems familiar to me, Miss Armstrong. I--I--think
I must have seen your photograph somewhere."

"Probably in Peter Austin's collection," smiled Miss Armstrong. "He
had one of mine before he was burned out. How is he?"

"Peter? Oh, he's well," I replied vaguely. I was thinking a hundred
words to the second, but my thoughts arrived nowhere. I was staring at
Miss Armstrong like a man bewitched. She must have thought me a
veritable booby. "Oh, by the way--can you tell me--do you know a Miss
Lindsay in Croyden?"

Miss Armstrong looked surprised and a little bored. Evidently she was
not used to having newly introduced young men inquiring about another
girl.

"Marian Lindsay? Oh, yes."

"Is she here tonight?" I said.

"No, Marian is not going to parties just now, owing to the recent
death of her aunt, who lived with them."

"Does she--oh--does she look like you at all?" I inquired idiotically.

Amusement glimmered but over Miss Armstrong's boredom. She probably
concluded that I was some harmless lunatic.

"Like me? Not at all. There couldn't be two people more dissimilar.
Marian is quite dark. I am fair. And our features are altogether
unlike. Why, good evening, Jack. Yes, I believe I did promise you this
dance."

She bowed to me and skimmed away with Jack. I saw Aunt Grace bearing
down upon me and fled incontinently. In my own room I flung myself on
a chair and tried to think the matter out. Where did the mistake come
in? How had it happened? I shut my eyes and conjured up the vision of
Peter's room that day. I remembered vaguely that, when I had picked up
Dorothy Armstrong's picture, I had noticed another photograph that had
fallen face downward beside it. That must have been Marian Lindsay's,
and Peter had thought I meant it.

And now what a position I was in! I was conscious of bitter
disappointment. I had fallen in love with Dorothy Armstrong's
photograph. As far as external semblance goes it was she whom I loved.
I was practically engaged to another woman--a woman who, in spite of
our correspondence, seemed to me now, in the shock of this discovery,
a stranger. It was useless to tell myself that it was the mind and
soul revealed in those letters that I loved, and that that mind and
soul were Marian Lindsay's. It was useless to remember that Peter had
said she was pretty. Exteriorly, she was a stranger to me; hers was
not the face which had risen before me for nearly a year as the face
of the woman I loved. Was ever unlucky wretch in such a predicament
before?

Well, there was only one thing to do. I must stand by my word. Marian
Lindsay was the woman I had asked to marry me, whose answer I must
shortly go to receive. If that answer were "yes" I must accept the
situation and banish all thought of Dorothy Armstrong's pretty face.

Next evening at sunset I went to "Glenwood," the Lindsay place.
Doubtless, an eager lover might have gone earlier, but an eager lover
I certainly was not. Probably Marian was expecting me and had given
orders concerning me, for the maid who came to the door conveyed me to
a little room behind the stairs--a room which, as I felt as soon as I
entered it, was a woman's pet domain. In its books and pictures and
flowers it spoke eloquently of dainty femininity. Somehow, it suited
the letters. I did not feel quite so much the stranger as I had felt.
Nevertheless, when I heard a light footfall on the stairs my heart
beat painfully. I stood up and turned to the door, but I could not
look up. The footsteps came nearer; I knew that a white hand swept
aside the _portière_ at the entrance; I knew that she had entered the
room and was standing before me.

With an effort I raised my eyes and looked at her. She stood, tall and
gracious, in a ruby splendour of sunset falling through the window
beside her. The light quivered like living radiance over a dark proud
head, a white throat, and a face before whose perfect loveliness the
memory of Dorothy Armstrong's laughing prettiness faded like a star in
the sunrise, nevermore in the fullness of the day to be remembered.
Yet it was not of her beauty I thought as I stood spellbound before
her. I seemed to see a dim little valley full of whispering pines, and
a girl standing under their shadows, looking at me with the same
great, greyish-blue eyes which gazed upon me now from Marian Lindsay's
face--the same face, matured into gracious womanhood, that I had seen
ten years ago; and loved--aye, loved--ever since. I took an unsteady
step forward.

"Marian?" I said.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I got home that night I burned Dorothy Armstrong's photograph.
The next day I went to my cousin Tom, who owns the fashionable studio
of Croyden and, binding him over to secrecy, sought one of Marian's
latest photographs from him. It is the only secret I have ever kept
from my wife.

Before we were married Marian told me something.

"I always remembered you as you looked that day under the pines," she
said. "I was only a child, but I think I loved you then and ever
afterwards. When I dreamed my girl's dream of love your face rose up
before me. I had the advantage of you that I knew your name--I had
heard of you. When Peter wrote about you I knew who you were. That was
why I agreed to correspond with you. I was afraid it was a forward--an
unwomanly thing to do. But it seemed my chance for happiness and I
took it. I am glad I did."

I did not answer in words, but lovers will know how I did answer.



The Gossip of Valley View


It was the first of April, and Julius Barrett, aged fourteen, perched
on his father's gatepost, watched ruefully the low descending sun, and
counted that day lost. He had not succeeded in "fooling" a single
person, although he had tried repeatedly. One and all, old and young,
of his intended victims had been too wary for Julius. Hence, Julius
was disgusted and ready for anything in the way of a stratagem or a
spoil.

The Barrett gatepost topped the highest hill in Valley View. Julius
could see the entire settlement, from "Young" Thomas Everett's farm, a
mile to the west, to Adelia Williams's weather-grey little house on a
moonrise slope to the east. He was gazing moodily down the muddy road
when Dan Chester, homeward bound from the post office, came riding
sloppily along on his grey mare and pulled up by the Barrett gate to
hand a paper to Julius.

Dan was a young man who took life and himself very seriously. He
seldom smiled, never joked, and had a Washingtonian reputation for
veracity. Dan had never told a conscious falsehood in his life; he
never even exaggerated.

Julius, beholding Dan's solemn face, was seized with a perfectly
irresistible desire to "fool" him. At the same moment his eye caught
the dazzling reflection of the setting sun on the windows of Adelia
Williams's house, and he had an inspiration little short of
diabolical. "Have you heard the news, Dan?" he asked.

"No, what is it?" asked Dan.

"I dunno's I ought to tell it," said Julius reflectively. "It's kind
of a family affair, but then Adelia didn't say not to, and anyway
it'll be all over the place soon. So I'll tell you, Dan, if you'll
promise never to tell who told you. Adelia Williams and Young Thomas
Everett are going to be married."

Julius delivered himself of this tremendous lie with a transparently
earnest countenance. Yet Dan, credulous as he was, could not believe
it all at once.

"Git out," he said.

"It's true, 'pon my word," protested Julius. "Adelia was up last night
and told Ma all about it. Ma's her cousin, you know. The wedding is to
be in June, and Adelia asked Ma to help her get her quilts and things
ready."

Julius reeled all this off so glibly that Dan finally believed the
story, despite the fact that the people thus coupled together in
prospective matrimony were the very last people in Valley View who
could have been expected to marry each other. Young Thomas was a
confirmed bachelor of fifty, and Adelia Williams was forty; they were
not supposed to be even well acquainted, as the Everetts and the
Williamses had never been very friendly, although no open feud existed
between them.

Nevertheless, in view of Julius's circumstantial statements, the
amazing news must be true, and Dan was instantly agog to carry it
further. Julius watched Dan and the grey mare out of sight, fairly
writhing with ecstasy. Oh, but Dan had been easy! The story would be
all over Valley View in twenty-four hours. Julius laughed until he
came near to falling off the gatepost.

At this point Julius and Danny drop out of our story, and Young Thomas
enters.

It was two days later when Young Thomas heard that he was to be
married to Adelia Williams in June. Eben Clark, the blacksmith, told
him when he went to the forge to get his horse shod. Young Thomas
laughed his big jolly laugh. Valley View gossip had been marrying him
off for the last thirty years, although never before to Adelia
Williams.

"It's news to me," he said tolerantly.

Eben grinned broadly. "Ah, you can't bluff it off like that, Tom," he
said. "The news came too straight this time. Well, I was glad to hear
it, although I was mighty surprised. I never thought of you and
Adelia. But she's a fine little woman and will make you a capital
wife."

Young Thomas grunted and drove away. He had a good deal of business to
do that day, involving calls at various places--the store for
molasses, the mill for flour, Jim Bentley's for seed grain, the
doctor's for toothache drops for his housekeeper, the post office for
mail--and at each and every place he was joked about his approaching
marriage. In the end it rather annoyed Young Thomas, He drove home at
last in what was for him something of a temper. How on earth had that
fool story started? With such detailed circumstantiality of rugs and
quilts, too? Adelia Williams must be going to marry somebody, and the
Valley View gossips, unable to locate the man, had guessed Young
Thomas.

When he reached home, tired, mud-bespattered, and hungry, his
housekeeper, who was also his hired man's wife, asked him if it was
true that he was going to be married. Young Thomas, taking in at a
glance the ill-prepared, half-cold supper on the table, felt more
annoyed than ever, and said it wasn't, with a strong expression--not
quite an oath--for Young Thomas never swore, unless swearing be as
much a matter of intonation as of words.

Mrs. Dunn sighed, patted her swelled face, and said she was sorry; she
had hoped it was true, for her man had decided to go west. They were
to go in a month's time. Young Thomas sat down to his supper with the
prospect of having to look up another housekeeper and hired man before
planting to destroy his appetite.

Next day, three people who came to see Young Thomas on business
congratulated him on his approaching marriage. Young Thomas, who had
recovered his usual good humour, merely laughed. There was no use in
being too earnest in denial, he thought. He knew that his unusual fit
of petulance with his housekeeper had only convinced her that the
story was true. It would die away in time, as other similar stories
had died, he thought. Valley View gossip was imaginative.

Young Thomas looked rather serious, however, when the minister and his
wife called that evening and referred to the report. Young Thomas
gravely said that it was unfounded. The minister looked graver still
and said he was sorry--he had hoped it was true. His wife glanced
significantly about Young Thomas's big, untidy sitting-room, where
there were cobwebs on the ceiling and fluff in the corners and dust on
the mop-board, and said nothing, but looked volumes.

"Dang it all," said Young Thomas, as they drove away, "they'll marry
me yet in spite of myself."

The gossip made him think about Adelia Williams. He had never thought
about her before; he was barely acquainted with her. Now he remembered
that she was a plump, jolly-looking little woman, noted for being a
good housekeeper. Then Young Thomas groaned, remembering that he must
start out looking for a housekeeper soon; and housekeepers were not
easily found, as Young Thomas had discovered several times since his
mother's death ten years before.

Next Sunday in church Young Thomas looked at Adelia Williams. He
caught Adelia looking at him. Adelia blushed and looked guiltily away.

"Dang it all," reflected Young Thomas, forgetting that he was in
church. "I suppose she has heard that fool story too. I'd like to know
the person who started it; man or woman, I'd punch their head."

Nevertheless, Young Thomas went on looking at Adelia by fits and
starts, although he did not again catch Adelia looking at him. He
noticed that she had round rosy cheeks and twinkling brown eyes. She
did not look like an old maid, and Young Thomas wondered that she had
been allowed to become one. Sarah Barnett, now, to whom report had
married him a year ago, looked like a dried sour apple.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the next four weeks the story haunted Young Thomas like a spectre.
Down it would not. Everywhere he went he was joked about it. It
gathered fresh detail every week. Adelia was getting her clothes
ready; she was to be married in seal-brown cashmere; Vinnie Lawrence
at Valley Centre was making it for her; she had got a new hat with a
long ostrich plume; some said white, some said grey.

Young Thomas kept wondering who the man could be, for he was convinced
that Adelia was going to marry somebody. More than that, once he
caught himself wondering enviously. Adelia was a nice-looking woman,
and he had not so far heard of any probable housekeeper.

"Dang it all," said Young Thomas to himself in desperation. "I
wouldn't care if it was true."

His married sister from Carlisle heard the story and came over to
investigate. Young Thomas denied it shortly, and his sister scolded.
She had devoutly hoped it was true, she said, and it would have been a
great weight off her mind.

"This house is in a disgraceful condition, Thomas," she said severely.
"It would break Mother's heart if she could rise out of her grave to
see it. And Adelia Williams is a perfect housekeeper."

"You didn't use to think so much of the Williams crowd," said Young
Thomas drily.

"Oh, some of them don't amount to much," admitted Maria, "but Adelia
is all right."

Catching sight of an odd look on Young Thomas's face, she added
hastily, "Thomas Everett, I believe it's true after all. Now, is it?
For mercy's sake don't be so sly. You might tell me, your own and only
sister, if it is."

"Oh, shut up," was Young Thomas's unfeeling reply to his own and only
sister.

Young Thomas told himself that night that Valley View gossip would
drive him into an asylum yet if it didn't let up. He also wondered if
Adelia was as much persecuted as himself. No doubt she was. He never
could catch her eye in church now, but he would have been surprised
had he realized how many times he tried to.

The climax came the third week in May, when Young Thomas, who had been
keeping house for himself for three weeks, received a letter and an
express box from his cousin, Charles Everett, out in Manitoba. Charles
and he had been chums in their boyhood. They corresponded occasionally
still, although it was twenty years since Charles had gone west.

The letter was to congratulate Young Thomas on his approaching
marriage. Charles had heard of it through some Valley View
correspondents of his wife. He was much pleased; he had always liked
Adelia, he said--had been an old beau of hers, in fact. Thomas might
give her a kiss for him if he liked. He forwarded a wedding present by
express and hoped they would be very happy, etc.

The present was an elaborate hatrack of polished buffalo horns,
mounted on red plush, with an inset mirror. Young Thomas set it up on
the kitchen table and scowled moodily at his reflection in the mirror.
If wedding presents were beginning to come, it was high time something
was done. The matter was past being a joke. This affair of the present
would certainly get out--things always got out in Valley View, dang it
all--and he would never hear the last of it.

"I'll marry," said Young Thomas decisively. "If Adelia Williams won't
have me, I'll marry the first woman who will, if it's Sarah Barnett
herself."

Young Thomas shaved and put on his Sunday suit. As soon as it was
safely dark, he hied him away to Adelia Williams. He felt very
doubtful about his reception, but the remembrance of the twinkle in
Adelia's brown eyes comforted him. She looked like a woman who had a
sense of humour; she might not take him, but she would not feel
offended or insulted because he asked her.

"Dang it all, though, I hope she will take me," said Young Thomas.
"I'm in for getting married now and no mistake. And I can't get Adelia
out of my head. I've been thinking of her steady ever since that
confounded gossip began."

When he knocked at Adelia's door he discovered that his face was wet
with perspiration. Adelia opened the door and started when she saw
him; then she turned very red and stiffly asked him in. Young Thomas
went in and sat down, wondering if all men felt so horribly
uncomfortable when they went courting.

Adelia stooped low over the woodbox to put a stick of wood in the
stove, for the May evening was chilly. Her shoulders were shaking; the
shaking grew worse; suddenly Adelia laughed hysterically and, sitting
down on the woodbox, continued to laugh. Young Thomas eyed her with a
friendly grin.

"Oh, do excuse me," gasped poor Adelia, wiping tears from her eyes.
"This is--dreadful--I didn't mean to laugh--I don't know why I'm
laughing--but--I--can't help it."

She laughed helplessly again. Young Thomas laughed too. His
embarrassment vanished in the mellowness of that laughter. Presently
Adelia composed herself and removed from the woodbox to a chair, but
there was still a suspicious twitching about the corners of her mouth.

"I suppose," said Young Thomas, determined to have it over with before
the ice could form again, "I suppose, Adelia, you've heard the story
that's been going about you and me of late?"

Adelia nodded. "I've been persecuted to the verge of insanity with
it," she said. "Every soul I've seen has tormented me about it, and
people have written me about it. I've denied it till I was black in
the face, but nobody believed me. I can't find out how it started. I
hope you believe, Mr. Everett, that it couldn't possibly have arisen
from anything I said. I've felt dreadfully worried for fear you might
think it did. I heard that my cousin, Lucilla Barrett, said I told
her, but Lucilla vowed to me that she never said such a thing or even
dreamed of it. I've felt dreadful bad over the whole affair. I even
gave up the idea of making a quilt after a lovely new pattern I've got
because they made such a talk about my brown dress."

"I've been kind of supposing that you must be going to marry somebody,
and folks just guessed it was me," said Young Thomas--he said it
anxiously.

"No, I'm not going to be married to anybody," said Adelia with a
laugh, taking up her knitting.

"I'm glad of that," said Young Thomas gravely. "I mean," he hastened
to add, seeing the look of astonishment on Adelia's face, "that I'm
glad there isn't any other man because--because I want you myself,
Adelia."

Adelia laid down her knitting and blushed crimson. But she looked at
Young Thomas squarely and reproachfully.

"You needn't think you are bound to say that because of the gossip,
Mr. Everett," she said quietly.

"Oh, I don't," said Young Thomas earnestly. "But the truth is, the
story set me to thinking about you, and from that I got to wishing it
was true--honest, I did--I couldn't get you out of my head, and at
last I didn't want to. It just seemed to me that you were the very
woman for me if you'd only take me. Will you, Adelia? I've got a good
farm and house, and I'll try to make you happy."

It was not a very romantic wooing, perhaps. But Adelia was forty and
had never been a romantic little body even in the heyday of youth. She
was a practical woman, and Young Thomas was a fine looking man of his
age with abundance of worldly goods. Besides, she liked him, and the
gossip had made her think a good deal about him of late. Indeed, in a
moment of candour she had owned to herself the very last Sunday in
church that she wouldn't mind if the story were true.

"I'll--I'll think of it," she said.

This was practically an acceptance, and Young Thomas so understood
it. Without loss of time he crossed the kitchen, sat down beside
Adelia, and put his arms about her plump waist.

"Here's a kiss Charlie sent me to give you," he said, giving it.



The Letters


Just before the letter was brought to me that evening I was watching
the red November sunset from the library window. It was a stormy,
unrestful sunset, gleaming angrily through the dark fir boughs that
were now and again tossed suddenly and distressfully in a fitful gust
of wind. Below, in the garden, it was quite dark, and I could only see
dimly the dead leaves that were whirling and dancing uncannily over
the roseless paths. The poor dead leaves--yet not quite dead! There
was still enough unquiet life left in them to make them restless and
forlorn. They hearkened yet to every call of the wind, who cared for
them no longer but only played freakishly with them and broke their
rest. I felt sorry for the leaves as I watched them in that dull,
weird twilight, and angry--in a petulant fashion that almost made me
laugh--with the wind that would not leave them in peace. Why should
they--and I--be vexed with these transient breaths of desire for a
life that had passed us by?

I was in the grip of a bitter loneliness that evening--so bitter and
so insistent that I felt I could not face the future at all, even with
such poor fragments of courage as I had gathered about me after
Father's death, hoping that they would, at least, suffice for my
endurance, if not for my content. But now they fell away from me at
sight of the emptiness of life.

The emptiness! Ah, it was from that I shrank. I could have faced pain
and anxiety and heartbreak undauntedly, but I could not face that
terrible, yawning, barren emptiness. I put my hands over my eyes to
shut it out, but it pressed in upon my consciousness insistently, and
would not be ignored longer.

The moment when a woman realizes that she has nothing to live
for--neither love nor purpose nor duty--holds for her the bitterness
of death. She is a brave woman indeed who can look upon such a
prospect unquailingly, and I was not brave. I was weak and timid. Had
not Father often laughed mockingly at me because of it?

It was three weeks since Father had died--my proud, handsome,
unrelenting old father, whom I had loved so intensely and who had
never loved me. I had always accepted this fact unresentfully and
unquestioningly, but it had steeped my whole life in its tincture of
bitterness. Father had never forgiven me for two things. I had cost my
mother's life and I was not a son to perpetuate the old name and carry
on the family feud with the Frasers.

I was a very lonely child, with no playmates or companions of any
sort, and my girlhood was lonelier still. The only passion in my life
was my love for my father. I would have done and suffered anything to
win his affection in return. But all I ever did win was an amused
tolerance--and I was grateful for that--almost content. It was much to
have something to love and be permitted to love it.

If I had been a beautiful and spirited girl I think Father might have
loved me, but I was neither. At first I did not think or care about my
lack of beauty; then one day I was alone in the beech wood; I was
trying to disentangle my skirt which had caught on some thorny
underbrush. A young man came around the curve of the path and, seeing
my predicament, bent with murmured apology to help me. He had to kneel
to do it, and I saw a ray of sunshine falling through the beeches
above us strike like a lance of light athwart the thick brown hair
that pushed out from under his cap. Before I thought I put out my hand
and touched it softly, then I blushed crimson with shame over what I
had done. But he did not know--he never knew.

When he had released my dress he rose and our eyes met for a moment as
I timidly thanked him. I saw that he was good to look upon--tall and
straight, with broad, stalwart shoulders and a dark, clean-cut face.
He had a firm, sensitive mouth and kindly, pleasant, dark blue eyes. I
never quite forgot the look in those eyes. It made my heart beat
strangely, but it was only for a moment, and the next he had lifted
his cap and passed on.

As I went homeward I wondered who he might be. He must be a stranger,
I thought--probably a visitor in some of our few neighbouring
families. I wondered too if I should meet him again, and found the
thought very pleasant.

I knew few men and they were all old, like Father, or at least
elderly. They were the only people who ever came to our house, and
they either teased me or overlooked me. None of them was at all like
this young man I had met in the beech wood, nor ever could have been,
I thought.

When I reached home I stopped before the big mirror that hung in the
hall and did what I had never done before in my life--looked at myself
very scrutinizingly and wondered if I had any beauty. I could only
sorrowfully conclude that I had not--I was so slight and pale, and the
thick black hair and dark eyes that might have been pretty in another
woman seemed only to accentuate the lack of spirit and regularity in
my features. I was still standing there, gazing wistfully at my
mirrored face with a strange sinking of spirit, when Father came
through the hall, his riding whip in his hand. Seeing me, he laughed.

"Don't waste your time gazing into mirrors, Isobel," he said
carelessly. "That might have been excusable in former ladies of
Shirley whose beauty might pardon and even adorn vanity, but with you
it is only absurd. The needle and the cookbook are all that you need
concern yourself with."

I was accustomed to such speeches from him, but they had never hurt me
so cruelly before. At that moment I would have given all the world
only to be beautiful.

The next Sunday I looked across the church, and in the Fraser pew I
saw the young man I had met in the wood. He was looking at me with his
arms folded over his breast and on his brow a little frown that seemed
somehow indicative of pain and surprise. I felt a miserable sense of
disappointment. If he were the Frasers' guest I could not expect to
meet him again. Father hated the Frasers, all the Shirleys hated them;
it was an old feud, bitter and lasting, that had been as much our
inheritance for generations as land and money. The only thing Father
had ever taken pains to teach me was detestation of the Frasers and
all their works. I accepted this as I accepted all the other
traditions of my race. I thought it did not matter much. The Frasers
were not likely to come my way, and hatred was a good satisfying
passion in the lack of all else. I think I rather took a pride in
hating them as became my blood.

I did not look at the Fraser pew again, but outside, under the elms,
we met him, standing in the dappling light and shadow. He looked very
handsome and a little sad. I could not help glancing back over my
shoulder as Father and I walked to the gate, and I saw him looking
after us with that little frown which again made me think something
had hurt him. I liked better the smile he had worn in the beech wood,
but I had an odd liking for the frown too, and I think I had a foolish
longing to go back to him, put up my fingers and smooth it away.

"So Alan Fraser has come home," said my father.

"Alan Fraser?" I repeated, with a strange, horrible feeling of
coldness and chill coming over me like a shadow on a bright day. Alan
Fraser, the son of old Malcolm Fraser of Glenellyn! The son of our
enemy! He had been living since childhood with his dead mother's
people, so much I knew. And this was he! Something stung and smarted
in my eyes. I think the sting and smart might have turned to tears if
Father had not been looking down at me.

"Yes. Didn't you see him in his father's pew? But I forgot. You are
too demure to be looking at the young men in preaching--or out of it,
Isobel. You are a model young woman. Odd that the men never like the
model young women! Curse old Malcolm Fraser! What right has he to have
a son like that when I have nothing but a puling girl? Remember,
Isobel, that if you ever meet that young man you are not to speak to
or look at him, or even intimate that you are aware of his existence.
He is your enemy and the enemy of your race. You will show him that
you realize this."

Of course that ended it all--though just what there had been to end
would have been hard to say. Not long afterwards I met Alan Fraser
again, when I was out for a canter on my mare. He was strolling
through the beech wood with a couple of big collies, and he stopped
short as I drew near. I had to do it--Father had decreed--my Shirley
pride demanded--that I should do it. I looked him unseeingly in the
face, struck my mare a blow with my whip, and dashed past him. I even
felt angry, I think, that a Fraser should have the power to make me
feel so badly in doing my duty.

After that I had forgotten. There was nothing to make me remember, for
I never met Alan Fraser again. The years slipped by, one by one, so
like each other in their colourlessness that I forgot to take account
of them. I only knew that I grew older and that it did not matter
since there was nobody to care. One day they brought Father in,
white-lipped and groaning. His mare had thrown him, and he was never
to walk again, although he lived for five years. Those five years had
been the happiest of my life. For the first time I was necessary to
someone--there was something for me to do which nobody else could do
so well. I was Father's nurse and companion; and I found my pleasure
in tending him and amusing him, soothing his hours of pain and
brightening his hours of ease. People said I "did my duty" toward him.
I had never liked that word "duty," since the day I had ridden past
Alan Fraser in the beech wood. I could not connect it with what I did
for Father. It was my delight because I loved him. I did not mind the
moods and the irritable outbursts that drove others from him.

But now he was dead, and I sat in the sullen dusk, wishing that I need
not go on with life either. The loneliness of the big echoing house
weighed on my spirit. I was solitary, without companionship. I looked
out on the outside world where the only sign of human habitation
visible to my eyes was the light twinkling out from the library window
of Glenellyn on the dark fir hill two miles away. By that light I knew
Alan Fraser must have returned from his long sojourn abroad, for it
only shone when he was at Glenellyn. He still lived there, something
of a hermit, people said; he had never married, and he cared nothing
for society. His companions were books and dogs and horses; he was
given to scientific researches and wrote much for the reviews; he
travelled a great deal. So much I knew in a vague way. I even saw him
occasionally in church, and never thought the years had changed him
much, save that his face was sadder and sterner than of old and his
hair had become iron-grey. People said that he had inherited and
cherished the old hatred of the Shirleys--that he was very bitter
against us. I believed it. He had the face of a good hater--or
lover--a man who could play with no emotion but must take it in all
earnestness and intensity.

When it was quite dark the housekeeper brought in the lights and
handed me a letter which, she said, a man had just brought up from the
village post office. I looked at it curiously before I opened it,
wondering from whom it was. It was postmarked from a city several
miles away, and the firm, decided, rather peculiar handwriting was
strange to me. I had no correspondents. After Father's death I had
received a few perfunctory notes of condolence from distant relatives
and family friends. They had hurt me cruelly, for they seemed to
exhale a subtle spirit of congratulation on my being released from a
long and unpleasant martyrdom of attendance on an invalid, that quite
overrode the decorous phrases of conventional sympathy in which they
were expressed. I hated those letters for their implied injustice. I
was not thankful for my "release." I missed Father miserably and
longed passionately for the very tasks and vigils that had evoked
their pity.

This letter did not seem like one of those. I opened it and took out
some stiff, blackly written sheets. They were undated and, turning to
the last, I saw that they were unsigned. With a not unpleasant
tingling of interest I sat down by my desk to read. The letter began
abruptly:

    You will not know by whom this is written. Do not seek to
    know--now or ever. It is only from behind the veil of your
    ignorance of my identity that I can ever write to you fully
    and freely as I wish to write--can say what I wish to say in
    words denied to a formal and conventional expression of
    sympathy. Dear lady, let me say to you thus what is in my
    heart.

    I know what your sorrow is, and I think I know what your
    loneliness must be--the sorrow of a broken tie, the loneliness
    of a life thrown emptily back on itself. I know how you loved
    your father--how you must have loved him if those eyes and
    brow and mouth speak truth, for they tell of a nature divinely
    rich and deep, giving of its wealth and tenderness
    ungrudgingly to those who are so happy as to be the objects of
    its affection. To such a nature bereavement must bring a depth
    and an agony of grief unknown to shallower souls.

    I know what your father's helplessness and need of you meant
    to you. I know that now life must seem to you a broken and
    embittered thing and, knowing this, I venture to send this
    greeting across the gulf of strangerhood between us, telling
    you that my understanding sympathy is fully and freely yours,
    and bidding you take heart for the future, which now, it may
    be, looks so heartless and hopeless to you.

    Believe me, dear lady, it will be neither. Courage will come
    to you with the kind days. You will find noble tasks to do,
    beautiful and gracious duties waiting along your path. The
    pain and suffering of the world never dies, and while it
    lives there will be work for such as you to do, and in the
    doing of it you will find comfort and strength and the highest
    joy of living. I believe in you. I believe you will make of
    your life a beautiful and worthy thing. I give you Godspeed
    for the years to come. Out of my own loneliness I, an unknown
    friend, who has never clasped your hand, send this message to
    you. I understand--I have always understood--and I say to you:
    "Be of good cheer."

To say that this strange letter was a mystery to me seems an
inadequate way of stating the matter. I was completely bewildered, nor
could I even guess who the writer might be, think and ponder as I
might.

The letter itself implied that the writer was a stranger. The
handwriting was evidently that of a man, and I knew no man who could
or would have sent such a letter to me.

The very mystery stung me to interest. As for the letter itself, it
brought me an uplift of hope and inspiration such as I would not have
believed possible an hour earlier. It rang so truly and sincerely, and
the mere thought that somewhere I had a friend who cared enough to
write it, even in such odd fashion, was so sweet that I was half
ashamed of the difference it made in my outlook. Sitting there, I took
courage and made a compact with myself that I would justify the
writer's faith in me--that I would take up my life as something to be
worthily lived for all good, to the disregard of my own selfish sorrow
and shrinking. I would seek for something to do--for interests which
would bind me to my fellow-creatures--for tasks which would lessen the
pains and perils of humankind. An hour before, this would not have
seemed to me possible; now it seemed the right and natural thing to
do.

A week later another letter came. I welcomed it with an eagerness
which I feared was almost childish. It was a much longer letter than
the first and was written in quite a different strain. There was no
apology for or explanation of the motive for writing. It was as if the
letter were merely one of a permitted and established correspondence
between old friends. It began with a witty, sparkling review of a new
book the writer had just read, and passed from this to crisp comments
on the great events, political, scientific, artistic, of the day. The
whole letter was pungent, interesting, delightful--an impersonal essay
on a dozen vital topics of life and thought. Only at the end was a
personal note struck.

"Are you interested in these things?" ran the last paragraph. "In what
is being done and suffered and attained in the great busy world? I
think you must be--for I have seen you and read what is written in
your face. I believe you care for these things as I do--that your
being thrills to the 'still, sad music of humanity'--that the songs of
the poets I love find an echo in your spirit and the aspirations of
all struggling souls a sympathy in your heart. Believing this, I have
written freely to you, taking a keen pleasure in thus revealing my
thoughts and visions to one who will understand. For I too am
friendless, in the sense of one standing alone, shut out from the
sweet, intimate communion of feeling and opinion that may be held with
the heart's friends. Shall you have read this as a friend, I wonder--a
candid, uncritical, understanding friend? Let me hope it, dear lady."

I was expecting the third letter when it came--but not until it did
come did I realize what my disappointment would have been if it had
not. After that every week brought me a letter; soon those letters
were the greatest interest in my life. I had given up all attempts to
solve the mystery of their coming and was content to enjoy them for
themselves alone. From week to week I looked forward to them with an
eagerness that I would hardly confess, even to myself.

And such letters as they were, growing longer and fuller and freer as
time went on--such wise, witty, brilliant, pungent letters,
stimulating all my torpid life into tingling zest! I had begun to
look abroad in my small world for worthy work and found plenty to do.
My unknown friend evidently kept track of my expanding efforts, for he
commented and criticized, encouraged and advised freely. There was a
humour in his letters that I liked; it leavened them with its sanity
and reacted on me most wholesomely, counteracting many of the morbid
tendencies and influences of my life. I found myself striving to live
up to the writer's ideal of philosophy and ambition, as pictured,
often unconsciously, in his letters.

They were an intellectual stimulant as well. To understand them fully
I found it necessary to acquaint myself thoroughly with the literature
and art, the science and the politics they touched upon. After every
letter there was something new for me to hunt out and learn and
assimilate, until my old narrow mental attitude had so broadened and
deepened, sweeping out into circles of thought I had never known or
imagined, that I hardly knew myself.

They had been coming for a year before I began to reply to them. I had
often wished to do so--there were so many things I wanted to say and
discuss, but it seemed foolish to write letters that could not be
sent. One day a letter came that kindled my imagination and stirred my
heart and soul so deeply that they insistently demanded answering
expression. I sat down at my desk and wrote a full reply to it. Safe
in the belief that the mysterious friend to whom it was written would
never see it, I wrote with a perfect freedom and a total lack of
self-consciousness that I could never have attained otherwise. The
writing of that letter gave me a pleasure second only to that which
the reading of his brought. For the first time I discovered the
delight of revealing my thought unhindered by the conventions. Also, I
understood better why the writer of those letters had written them.
Doubtless he had enjoyed doing so and was not impelled thereto simply
by a purely philanthropic wish to help me.

When my letter was finished I sealed it up and locked it away in my
desk with a smile at my middle-aged folly. What, I wondered, would all
my sedate, serious friends, my associates of mission and hospital
committees think if they knew. Well, everybody has, or should have, a
pet nonsense in her life. I did not think mine was any sillier than
some others I knew, and to myself I admitted that it was very sweet. I
knew if those letters ceased to come all savour would go out of my
life.

After that I wrote a reply to every letter I received and kept them
all locked up together. It was delightful. I wrote out all my doings
and perplexities and hopes and plans and wishes--yes, and my dreams.
The secret romance of it all made me look on existence with joyous,
contented eyes.

Gradually a change crept over the letters I received. Without ever
affording the slightest clue to the identity of their writer they grew
more intimate and personal. A subtle, caressing note of tenderness
breathed from them and thrilled my heart curiously. I felt as if I
were being drawn into the writer's life, admitted into the most sacred
recesses of his thoughts and feelings. Yet it was all done so subtly,
so delicately, that I was unconscious of the change until I discovered
it in reading over the older letters and comparing them with the later
ones.

Finally a letter came--my first love letter, and surely never was a
love letter received under stranger circumstances. It began abruptly
as all the letters had begun, plunging into the middle of the writer's
strain of thought without any preface. The first words drove the blood
to my heart and then sent it flying hotly all over my face.

    I love you. I must say it at last. Have you not guessed it
    before? It has trembled on my pen in every line I have written
    to you--yet I have never dared to shape it into words before.
    I know not how I dare now. I only know that I must. What a
    delight to write it out and know that you will read it.
    Tonight the mood is on me to tell it to you recklessly and
    lavishly, never pausing to stint or weigh words. Sweetheart, I
    love you--love you--love you--dear true, faithful woman soul,
    I love you with all the heart of a man.

    Ever since I first saw you I have loved you. I can never come
    to tell you so in spoken words; I can only love you from afar
    and tell my love under the guise of impersonal friendship. It
    matters not to you, but it matters more than all else in life
    to me. I am glad that I love you, dear--glad, glad, glad.

There was much more, for it was a long letter. When I had read it I
buried my burning face in my hands, trembling with happiness. This
strange confession of love meant so much to me; my heart leaped forth
to meet it with answering love. What mattered it that we could never
meet--that I could not even guess who my lover was? Somewhere in the
world was a love that was mine alone and mine wholly and mine forever.
What mattered his name or his station, or the mysterious barrier
between us? Spirit leaped to spirit unhindered over the fettering
bounds of matter and time. I loved and was beloved. Nothing else
mattered.

I wrote my answer to his letter. I wrote it fearlessly and
unstintedly. Perhaps I could not have written so freely if the letter
were to have been read by him; as it was, I poured out the riches of
my love as fully as he had done. I kept nothing back, and across the
gulf between us I vowed a faithful and enduring love in response to
his.

The next day I went to town on business with my lawyers. Neither of
the members of the firm was in when I called, but I was an old client,
and one of the clerks showed me into the private office to wait. As I
sat down my eyes fell on a folded letter lying on the table beside
me. With a shock of surprise I recognized the writing. I could not be
mistaken--I should have recognized it anywhere.

The letter was lying by its envelope, so folded that only the middle
third of the page was visible. An irresistible impulse swept over me.
Before I could reflect that I had no business to touch the letter,
that perhaps it was unfair to my unknown friend to seek to discover
his identity when he wished to hide it, I had turned the letter over
and seen the signature.

I laid it down again and stood up, dizzy, breathless, unseeing. Like a
woman in a dream I walked through the outer office and into the
street. I must have walked on for blocks before I became conscious of
my surroundings. The name I had seen signed to that letter was Alan
Fraser!

No doubt the reader has long ago guessed it--has wondered why I had
not. The fact remains that I had not. Out of the whole world Alan
Fraser was the last man whom I should have suspected to be the writer
of those letters--Alan Fraser, my hereditary enemy, who, I had been
told, cherished the old feud so faithfully and bitterly, and hated our
very name.

And yet I now wondered at my long blindness. No one else could have
written those letters--no one but him. I read them over one by one
when I reached home and, now that I possessed the key, he revealed
himself in every line, expression, thought. And he loved me!

I thought of the old feud and hatred; I thought of my pride and
traditions. They seemed like the dust and ashes of outworn
things--things to be smiled at and cast aside. I took out all the
letters I had written--all except the last one--sealed them up in a
parcel and directed it to Alan Fraser. Then, summoning my groom, I
bade him ride to Glenellyn with it. His look of amazement almost made
me laugh, but after he was gone I felt dizzy and frightened at my own
daring.

When the autumn darkness came down I went to my room and dressed as
the woman dresses who awaits the one man of all the world. I hardly
knew what I hoped or expected, but I was all athrill with a nameless,
inexplicable happiness. I admit I looked very eagerly into the mirror
when I was done, and I thought that the result was not unpleasing.
Beauty had never been mine, but a faint reflection of it came over me
in the tremulous flush and excitement of the moment. Then the maid
came up to tell me that Alan Fraser was in the library.

I went down with my cold hands tightly clasped behind me. He was
standing by the library table, a tall, broad-shouldered man, with the
light striking upward on his dark, sensitive face and iron-grey hair.
When he saw me he came quickly forward.

"So you know--and you are not angry--your letters told me so much. I
have loved you since that day in the beech wood, Isobel--Isobel."

His eyes were kindling into mine. He held my hands in a close,
impetuous clasp. His voice was infinitely caressing as he pronounced
my name. I had never heard it since Father died--I had never heard it
at all so musically and tenderly uttered. My ancestors might have
turned in their graves just then--but it mattered not. Living love had
driven out dead hatred.

"Isobel," he went on, "there was _one_ letter unanswered--the last."

I went to my desk, took out the last letter I had written and gave it
to him in silence. While he read it I stood in a shadowy corner and
watched him, wondering if life could always be as sweet as this. When
he had finished he turned to me and held out his arms. I went to them
as a bird to her nest, and with his lips against mine the old feud was
blotted out forever.



The Life-Book of Uncle Jesse


Uncle Jesse! The name calls up the vision of him as I saw him so often
in those two enchanted summers at Golden Gate; as I saw him the first
time, when he stood in the open doorway of the little low-eaved
cottage on the harbour shore, welcoming us to our new domicile with
the gentle, unconscious courtesy that became him so well. A tall,
ungainly figure, somewhat stooped, yet suggestive of great strength
and endurance; a clean-shaven old face deeply lined and bronzed; a
thick mane of iron-grey hair falling quite to his shoulders; and a
pair of remarkably blue, deep-set eyes, which sometimes twinkled and
sometimes dreamed, but oftener looked out seaward with a wistful
question in them, as of one seeking something precious and lost. I was
to learn one day what it was for which Uncle Jesse looked.

It cannot be denied that Uncle Jesse was a homely man. His spare jaws,
rugged mouth, and square brow were not fashioned on the lines of
beauty, but though at first sight you thought him plain you never
thought anything more about it--the spirit shining through that rugged
tenement beautified it so wholly.

Uncle Jesse was quite keenly aware of his lack of outward comeliness
and lamented it, for he was a passionate worshipper of beauty in
everything. He told Mother once that he'd rather like to be made over
again and made handsome.

"Folks say I'm good," he remarked whimsically, "but I sometimes wish
the Lord had made me only half as good and put the rest of it into
looks. But I reckon He knew what He was about, as a good Captain
should. Some of us have to be homely or the purty ones--like Miss Mary
there--wouldn't show up so well."

I was not in the least pretty but Uncle Jesse was always telling me I
was--and I loved him for it. He told the fib so prettily and sincerely
that he almost made me believe it for the time being, and I really
think he believed it himself. All women were lovely and of good report
in his eyes, because of one he had loved. The only time I ever saw
Uncle Jesse really angered was when someone in his hearing cast an
aspersion on the character of a shore girl. The wretched man who did
it fairly cringed when Uncle Jesse turned on him with lightning of eye
and thundercloud of brow. At that moment I no longer found it hard to
reconcile Uncle Jesse's simple, kindly personality with the wild,
adventurous life he had lived.

We went to Golden Gate in the spring. Mother's health had not been
good and her doctor recommended sea air and quiet. Uncle James, when
he heard it, proposed that we take possession of a small cottage at
Golden Gate, to which he had recently fallen heir by the death of an
old aunt who had lived in it.

"I haven't been up to see it," he said, "but it is just as Aunt
Elizabeth left it and she was the pink of neatness. The key is in the
possession of an old sailor living nearby--Jesse Boyd is the name, I
think. I imagine you can be very comfortable in it. It is built right
on the harbour shore, inside the bar, and it is within five minutes'
walk of the outside shore."

Uncle James's offer fitted in very opportunely with our limp family
purse, and we straightway betook ourselves to Golden Gate. We
telegraphed to Jesse Boyd to have the house opened for us and, one
crisp spring day, when a rollicking wind was scudding over the harbour
and the dunes, whipping the water into white caps and washing the
sandshore with long lines of silvery breakers, we alighted at the
little station and walked the half mile to our new home, leaving our
goods and chattels to be carted over in the evening by an obliging
station agent's boy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our first glimpse of Aunt Elizabeth's cottage was a delight to soul
and sense; it looked so like a big grey seashell stranded on the
shore. Between it and the harbour was only a narrow strip of shingle,
and behind it was a gnarled and battered fir wood where the winds were
in the habit of harping all sorts of weird and haunting music. Inside,
it was to prove even yet more quaint and delightful, with its low,
dark-beamed ceilings and square, deep-set windows by which, whether
open or shut, sea breezes entered at their own sweet will. The view
from our door was magnificent, taking in the big harbour and sweeps of
purple hills beyond. The entrance of the harbour gave it its name--a
deep, narrow channel between the bar of sand dunes on the one side and
a steep, high, frowning red sandstone cliff on the other. We
appreciated its significance the first time we saw a splendid golden
sunrise flooding it, coming out of the wonderful sea and sky beyond
and billowing through that narrow passage in waves of light. Truly, it
was a golden gate through which one might sail to "faerie lands
forlorn."

As we went along the path to our little house we were agreeably
surprised to see a blue spiral of smoke curling up from its big,
square chimney, and the next moment Uncle Jesse (we were calling him
Uncle Jesse half an hour after we met him, so it seems scarcely
worthwhile to begin with anything else) came to the door.

"Welcome, ladies," he said, holding out a big, hard, but scrupulously
clean hand. "I thought you'd be feeling a bit tired and hungry, maybe,
so when I came over to open up I put on a fire and brewed you up a cup
of tea. I just delight in being neighbourly and 'tain't often I have
the chance."

We found that Uncle Jesse's "cup of tea" meant a veritable spread. He
had aired the little dining room, set out the table daintily with Aunt
Elizabeth's china and linen--"knowed jest where to put my hands on
'em--often and often helped old Miss Kennedy wash 'em. We were
cronies, her and me. I miss her terrible"--and adorned it with
mayflowers which, as we afterwards discovered, he had tramped several
miles to gather. There was good bread and butter, "store" biscuits, a
dish of tea fit for the gods on high Olympus, and a platter of the
most delicious sea trout, done to a turn.

"Thought they'd be tasty after travelling," said Uncle Jesse. "They're
fresh as trout can be, ma'am. Two hours ago they was swimming in
Johnson's pond yander. I caught 'em--yes, ma'am. It's about all I'm
good for now, catching trout and cod occasional. But 'tweren't always
so--not by no manner of means. I used to do other things, as you'd
admit if you saw my life-book."

I was so hungry and tired that I did not then "rise to the bait" of
Uncle Jesse's "life-book." I simply wanted to begin on those trout.
Mother insisted that Uncle Jesse sit down and help us eat the repast
he had prepared, and he assented without undue coaxing.

"Thank ye kindly. 'Twill be a real treat. I mostly has to eat my meals
alone, with the reflection of my ugly old phiz in a looking glass
opposite for company. 'Tisn't often I have the chance to sit down with
two such sweet purty ladies."

Uncle Jesse's compliments look bald enough on paper, but he paid them
with such gracious, gentle deference of tone and look that the woman
who received them felt that she was being offered a queen's gift in
kingly fashion.

He broke bread with us and from that moment we were all friends
together and forever. After we had eaten all we could, we sat at our
table for an hour and listened to Uncle Jesse telling us stories of
his life.

"If I talk too much you must jest check me," he said seriously, but
with a twinkle in his eyes. "When I do get a chance to talk to anyone
I'm apt to run on terrible."

He had been a sailor from the time he was ten years old, and some of
his adventures had such a marvellous edge that I secretly wondered if
Uncle Jesse were not drawing a rather long bow at our credulous
expense. But in this, as I found later, I did him injustice. His tales
were all literally true, and Uncle Jesse had the gift of the born
story-teller, whereby "unhappy, far-off things" can be brought vividly
before the hearer and made to live again in all their pristine
poignancy.

Mother and I laughed and shivered over Uncle Jesse's tales, and once
we found ourselves crying. Uncle Jesse surveyed our tears with
pleasure shining out through his face like an illuminating lamp.

"I like to make folks cry that way," he remarked. "It's a compliment.
But I can't do justice to the things I've seen and helped do. I've got
'em all jotted down in my life-book but I haven't got the knack of
writing them out properly. If I had, I could make a great book, if I
had the knack of hitting on just the right words and stringing
everything together proper on paper. But I can't. It's in this poor
human critter," Uncle Jesse patted his breast sorrowfully, "but he
can't get it out."

When Uncle Jesse went home that evening Mother asked him to come often
to see us.

"I wonder if you'd give that invitation if you knew how likely I'd be
to accept it," he remarked whimsically.

"Which is another way of saying you wonder if I meant it," smiled
Mother. "I do, most heartily and sincerely."

"Then I'll come. You'll likely be pestered with me at any hour. And
I'd be proud to have you drop over to visit me now and then too. I
live on that point yander. Neither me nor my house is worth coming to
see. It's only got one room and a loft and a stovepipe sticking out of
the roof for a chimney. But I've got a few little things lying around
that I picked up in the queer corners I used to be poking my nose
into. Mebbe they'd interest you."

Uncle Jesse's "few little things" turned out to be the most
interesting collection of curios I had ever seen. His one neat little
living room was full of them--beautiful, hideous or quaint as the case
might be, and almost all having some weird or exciting story attached.

Mother and I had a beautiful summer at Golden Gate. We lived the life
of two children with Uncle Jesse as a playmate. Our housekeeping was
of the simplest description and we spent our hours rambling along the
shores, reading on the rocks or sailing over the harbour in Uncle
Jesse's trim little boat. Every day we loved the simple-souled, true,
manly old sailor more and more. He was as refreshing as a sea breeze,
as interesting as some ancient chronicle. We never tired of listening
to his stories, and his quaint remarks and comments were a continual
delight to us. Uncle Jesse was one of those interesting and rare
people who, in the picturesque phraseology of the shore folks, "never
speak but they say something." The milk of human kindness and the
wisdom of the serpent were mingled in Uncle Jesse's composition in
delightful proportions.

One day he was absent all day and returned at nightfall.

"Took a tramp back yander." "Back yander" with Uncle Jesse might mean
the station hamlet or the city a hundred miles away or any place
between--"to carry Mr. Kimball a mess of trout. He likes one
occasional and it's all I can do for a kindness he did me once. I
stayed all day to talk to him. He likes to talk to me, though he's an
eddicated man, because he's one of the folks that's _got_ to talk or
they're miserable, and he finds listeners scarce 'round here. The
folks fight shy of him because they think he's an infidel. He ain't
_that_ far gone exactly--few men is, I reckon--but he's what you might
call a heretic. Heretics are wicked but they're mighty interesting.
It's just that they've got sorter lost looking for God, being under
the impression that He's hard to find--which He ain't, never. Most of
'em blunder to Him after a while I guess. I don't think listening to
Mr. Kimball's arguments is likely to do _me_ much harm. Mind you, I
believe what I was brought up to believe. It saves a vast of
trouble--and back of it all, God is good. The trouble with Mr. Kimball
is, he's a leetle _too_ clever. He thinks he's bound to live up to
his cleverness and that it's smarter to thrash out some new way of
getting to heaven than to go by the old track the common, ignorant
folks is travelling. But he'll get there sometime all right and then
he'll laugh at himself."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing ever seemed to put Uncle Jesse out or depress him in any way.

"I've kind of contracted a habit of enjoying things," he remarked
once, when Mother had commented on his invariable cheerfulness. "It's
got so chronic that I believe I even enjoy the disagreeable things.
It's great fun thinking they can't last. 'Old rheumatiz,' I says, when
it grips me hard, 'you've _got_ to stop aching sometime. The worse you
are the sooner you'll stop, perhaps. I'm bound to get the better of
you in the long run, whether in the body or out of the body.'"

Uncle Jesse seldom came to our house without bringing us something,
even if it were only a bunch of sweet grass.

"I favour the smell of sweet grass," he said. "It always makes me
think of my mother."

"She was fond of it?"

"Not that I knows on. Dunno's she ever saw any sweet grass. No, it's
because it has a kind of motherly perfume--not too young, you
understand--something kind of seasoned and wholesome and
dependable--just like a mother."

Uncle Jesse was a very early riser. He seldom missed a sunrise.

"I've seen all kinds of sunrises come in through that there Gate," he
said dreamily one morning when I myself had made a heroic effort at
early rising and joined him on the rocks halfway between his house and
ours. "I've been all over the world and, take it all in all, I've
never seen a finer sight than a summer sunrise out there beyant the
Gate. A man can't pick his time for dying, Mary--jest got to go when
the Captain gives his sailing orders. But if I could I'd go out when
the morning comes in there at the Gate. I've watched it a many times
and thought what a thing it would be to pass out through that great
white glory to whatever was waiting beyant, on a sea that ain't mapped
out on any airthly chart. I think, Mary, I'd find lost Margaret
there."

He had already told me the story of "lost Margaret," as he always
called her. He rarely spoke of her, but when he did his love for her
trembled in every tone--a love that had never grown faint or
forgetful. Uncle Jesse was seventy; it was fifty years since lost
Margaret had fallen asleep one day in her father's dory and
drifted--as was supposed, for nothing was ever known certainly of her
fate--across the harbour and out of the Gate, to perish in the black
thunder squall that had come up suddenly that long-ago afternoon. But
to Uncle Jesse those fifty years were but as yesterday when it is
past.

"I walked the shore for months after that," he said sadly, "looking to
find her dear, sweet little body, but the sea never gave her back to
me. But I'll find her sometime. I wisht I could tell you just how she
looked but I can't. I've seen a fine silvery mist hanging over the
Gate at sunrise that seemed like her--and then again I've seen a white
birch in the woods back yander that made me think of her. She had pale
brown hair and a little white face, and long slender fingers like
yours, Mary, only browner, for she was a shore girl. Sometimes I wake
up in the night and hear the sea calling to me in the old way and it
seems as if lost Margaret called in it. And when there's a storm and
the waves are sobbing and moaning I hear her lamenting among them. And
when they laugh on a gay day it's _her_ laugh--lost Margaret's sweet
little laugh. The sea took her from me but some day I'll find her,
Mary. It can't keep us apart forever."

I had not been long at Golden Gate before I saw Uncle Jesse's
"life-book," as he quaintly called it. He needed no coaxing to show it
and he proudly gave it to me to read. It was an old leather-bound book
filled with the record of his voyages and adventures. I thought what a
veritable treasure trove it would be to a writer. Every sentence was a
nugget. In itself the book had no literary merit; Uncle Jesse's charm
of story-telling failed him when he came to pen and ink; he could only
jot down roughly the outlines of his famous tales, and both spelling
and grammar were sadly askew. But I felt that if anyone possessing the
gift could take that simple record of a brave, adventurous life,
reading between the bald lines the tale of dangers staunchly faced and
duties manfully done, a wonderful story might be made from it. Pure
comedy and thrilling tragedy were both lying hidden in Uncle Jesse's
"life-book," waiting for the touch of the magician's hand to waken the
laughter and grief and horror of thousands. I thought of my cousin,
Robert Kennedy, who juggled with words in a masterly fashion, but
complained that he found it hard to create incidents or characters.
Here were both ready to his hand, but Robert was in Japan in the
interests of his paper.

In the fall, when the harbour lay black and sullen under November
skies, Mother and I went back to town, parting with Uncle Jesse
regretfully. We wanted him to visit us in town during the winter but
he shook his head.

"It's too far away, Mary. If lost Margaret called me I mightn't hear
her there. I must be here when my time comes. It can't be very far off
now."

I wrote often to Uncle Jesse through the winter and sent him books and
magazines. He enjoyed them but he thought--and truly enough--that none
of them came up to his life-book for real interest.

"If my life-book could be took and writ by someone that knowed how, it
would beat them holler," he wrote in one of his few letters to me.

In the spring we returned joyfully to Golden Gate. It was as golden as
ever and the harbour as blue; the winds still rollicked as gaily and
sweetly and the breakers boomed outside the bar as of yore. All was
unchanged save Uncle Jesse. He had aged greatly and seemed frail and
bent. After he had gone home from his first call on us, Mother cried.

"Uncle Jesse will soon be going to seek lost Margaret," she said.

In June Robert came. I took him promptly over to see Uncle Jesse, who
was very much excited when he found that Robert was a "real writing
man."

"Robert wants to hear some of your stories, Uncle Jesse," I said.
"Tell him the one about the captain who went crazy and imagined he was
the Flying Dutchman."

This was Uncle Jesse's best story. It was a compound of humour and
horror, and though I had heard it several times, I laughed as heartily
and shivered as fearsomely over it as Robert did. Other tales
followed; Uncle Jesse told how his vessel had been run down by a
steamer, how he had been boarded by Malay pirates, how his ship had
caught fire, how he had helped a political prisoner escape from a
South American republic. He never said a boastful word, but it was
impossible to help seeing what a hero the man had been--brave, true,
resourceful, unselfish, skilful. He sat there in his poor little room
and made those things live again for us. By a lift of the eyebrow, a
twist of the lip, a gesture, a word, he painted some whole scene or
character so that we saw it as it was.

Finally, he lent Robert his life-book. Robert sat up all night reading
it and came to the breakfast table in great excitement.

"Mary, this is a wonderful book. If I could take it and garb it
properly--work it up into a systematic whole and string it on the
thread of Uncle Jesse's romance of lost Margaret, it would be the
novel of the year. Do you suppose he would let me do it?"

"Let you! I think he would be delighted," I answered.

And he was. He was as excited as a schoolboy over it. At last his
cherished dream was to be realized and his life-book given to the
world.

"We'll collaborate," said Robert. "You will give the soul and I the
body. Oh, we'll write a famous book between us, Uncle Jesse. And we'll
get right to work."

Uncle Jesse was a happy man that summer. He looked upon the little
back room we gave up to Robert for a study as a sacred shrine. Robert
talked everything over with Uncle Jesse but would not let him see the
manuscript. "You must wait till it is published," he said. "Then
you'll get it all at once in its best shape."

Robert delved into the treasures of the life-book and used them
freely. He dreamed and brooded over lost Margaret until she became a
vivid reality to him and lived in his pages. As the book progressed it
took possession of him and he worked at it with feverish eagerness. He
let me read the manuscript and criticize it; and the concluding
chapter of the book, which the critics later on were pleased to call
idyllic, was modelled after my suggestions, so that I felt as if I had
a share in it too.

It was autumn when the book was finished. Robert went back to town,
but Mother and I decided to stay at Golden Gate all winter. We loved
the spot and, besides, I wished to remain for Uncle Jesse's sake. He
was failing all the time, and after Robert went and the excitement of
the book-making was past, he failed still more rapidly. His tramping
expeditions were over and he seldom went out in his boat. Neither did
he talk a great deal. He liked to come over and sit silently for hours
at our seaward window, looking out wistfully toward the Gate with his
swiftly whitening head leaning on his hand. The only keen interest he
still had was in Robert's book. He waited and watched impatiently for
its publication.

"I want to live till I see it," he said, "just that long--then I'll be
ready to go. He said it would be out in the spring--I must hang on
till it comes, Mary."

There were times when I doubted sadly if he would "hang on." As the
winter wore away he grew frailer and frailer. But ever he looked
forward to the coming of spring and "the book," _his_ book,
transformed and glorified.

One day in young April the book came at last. Uncle Jesse had gone to
the post office faithfully every day for a month, expecting it, but
this day he was too feeble to go and I went for him. The book was
there. It was called simply, _The Life-Book of Jesse Boyd_, and on the
title page the names of Robert Kennedy and Jesse Boyd were printed as
collaborators.

I shall never forget Uncle Jesse's face as I handed it to him. I came
away and left him reading it, oblivious to all else. All night the
light burned in his window, and I looked out across the sands to it
and pictured the delight of the old man poring over the printed pages
whereon his own life was portrayed. I wondered how he would like the
ending--the ending I had suggested. I was never to know.

After breakfast I went over to Uncle Jesse's house, taking some little
delicacy Mother had cooked for him. It was an exquisite morning, full
of delicate spring tints and sounds. The harbour was sparkling and
dimpling like a girl, the winds were playing hide and seek roguishly
among the stunted firs, and the silver-flashing gulls were soaring
over the bar. Beyond the Gate was a shining, wonderful sea.

When I reached the little house on the point I saw the lamp still
burning wanly in the window. A quick alarm struck at my heart. Without
waiting to knock, I lifted the latch, and entered.

Uncle Jesse was lying on the old sofa by the window, with the book
clasped to his heart. His eyes were closed and on his face was a look
of the most perfect peace and happiness--the look of one who has long
sought and found at last.

We could not know at what hour he had died, but somehow I think he had
his wish and went out when the morning came in through the Golden
Gate. Out on that shining tide his spirit drifted, over the sunrise
sea of pearl and silver, to the haven where lost Margaret waited
beyond the storms and calms.



The Little Black Doll


Everybody in the Marshall household was excited on the evening of the
concert at the Harbour Light Hotel--everybody, even to Little Joyce,
who couldn't go to the concert because there wasn't anybody else to
stay with Denise. Perhaps Denise was the most excited of them
all--Denise, who was slowly dying of consumption in the Marshall
kitchen chamber because there was no other place in the world for her
to die in, or anybody to trouble about her. Mrs. Roderick Marshall
thought it very good of herself to do so much for Denise. To be sure,
Denise was not much bother, and Little Joyce did most of the waiting
on her.

At the tea table nothing was talked of but the concert; for was not
Madame Laurin, the great French Canadian prima donna, at the hotel,
and was she not going to sing? It was the opportunity of a
lifetime--the Marshalls would not have missed it for anything.
Stately, handsome old Grandmother Marshall was going, and Uncle
Roderick and Aunt Isabella, and of course Chrissie, who was always
taken everywhere because she was pretty and graceful, and everything
that Little Joyce was not.

Little Joyce would have liked to go to the concert, for she was very
fond of music; and, besides, she wanted to be able to tell Denise all
about it. But when you are shy and homely and thin and awkward, your
grandmother never takes you anywhere. At least, such was Little
Joyce's belief.

Little Joyce knew quite well that Grandmother Marshall did not like
her. She thought it was because she was so plain and awkward--and in
part it was. Grandmother Marshall cared very little for granddaughters
who did not do her credit. But Little Joyce's mother had married a
poor man in the face of her family's disapproval, and then both she
and her husband had been inconsiderate enough to die and leave a
small orphan without a penny to support her. Grandmother Marshall fed
and clothed the child, but who could make anything of such a shy
creature with no gifts or graces whatever? Grandmother Marshall had no
intention of trying. Chrissie, the golden-haired and pink-cheeked, was
Grandmother Marshall's pet.

Little Joyce knew this. She did not envy Chrissie but, oh, how she
wished Grandmother Marshall would love her a little, too! Nobody loved
her but Denise and the little black doll. And Little Joyce was
beginning to understand that Denise would not be in the kitchen
chamber very much longer, and the little black doll couldn't _tell_
you she loved you--although she did, of course. Little Joyce had no
doubt at all on this point.

Little Joyce sighed so deeply over this thought that Uncle Roderick
smiled at her. Uncle Roderick _did_ smile at her sometimes.

"What is the matter, Little Joyce?" he asked.

"I was thinking about my black doll," said Little Joyce timidly.

"Ah, your black doll. If Madame Laurin were to see it, she'd likely
want it. She makes a hobby of collecting dolls all over the world, but
I doubt if she has in her collection a doll that served to amuse a
little girl four thousand years ago in the court of the Pharaohs."

"I think Joyce's black doll is very ugly," said Chrissie. "My wax doll
with the yellow hair is ever so much prettier."

"My black doll isn't ugly," cried Little Joyce indignantly. She could
endure to be called ugly herself, but she could not bear to have her
darling black doll called ugly. In her excitement she upset her cup of
tea over the tablecloth. Aunt Isabella looked angry, and Grandmother
Marshall said sharply: "Joyce, leave the table. You grow more awkward
and careless every day."

Little Joyce, on the verge of tears, crept away and went up the
kitchen stairs to Denise to be comforted. But Denise herself had been
crying. She lay on her little bed by the low window, where the glow of
the sunset was coming in; her hollow cheeks were scarlet with fever.

"Oh! I want so much to hear Madame Laurin sing," she sobbed. "I feel
lak I could die easier if I hear her sing just one leetle song. She is
Frenchwoman, too, and she sing all de ole French songs--de ole songs
my mudder sing long 'go. Oh! I so want to hear Madame Laurin sing."

"But you can't, dear Denise," said Little Joyce very softly, stroking
Denise's hot forehead with her cool, slender hand. Little Joyce had
very pretty hands, only nobody had ever noticed them. "You are not
strong enough to go to the concert. I'll sing for you, if you like. Of
course, I can't sing very well, but I'll do my best."

"You sing lak a sweet bird, but you are not Madame Laurin," said
Denise restlessly. "It is de great Madame I want to hear. I haf not
long to live. Oh, I know, Leetle Joyce--I know what de doctor look
lak--and I want to hear Madame Laurin sing 'fore I die. I know it is
impossible--but I long for it so--just one leetle song."

Denise put her thin hands over her face and sobbed again. Little Joyce
went and sat down by the window, looking out into the white birches.
Her heart ached bitterly. Dear Denise was going to die soon--oh, very
soon! Little Joyce, wise and knowing beyond her years, saw that. And
Denise wanted to hear Madame Laurin sing. It seemed a foolish thing to
think of, but Little Joyce thought hard about it; and when she had
finished thinking, she got her little black doll and took it to bed
with her, and there she cried herself to sleep.

At the breakfast table next morning the Marshalls talked about the
concert and the wonderful Madame Laurin. Little Joyce listened in her
usual silence; her crying the night before had not improved her looks
any. Never, thought handsome Grandmother Marshall, had she appeared so
sallow and homely. Really, Grandmother Marshall could not have the
patience to look at her. She decided that she would not take Joyce
driving with her and Chrissie that afternoon, as she had thought of,
after all.

In the forenoon it was discovered that Denise was much worse, and the
doctor was sent for. He came, and shook his head, that being really
all he could do under the circumstances. When he went away, he was
waylaid at the back door by a small gypsy with big, black, serious
eyes and long black hair.

"Is Denise going to die?" Little Joyce asked in the blunt,
straightforward fashion Grandmother Marshall found so trying.

The doctor looked at her from under his shaggy brows and decided that
here was one of the people to whom you might as well tell the truth
first as last, because they are bound to have it.

"Yes," he said.

"Soon?"

"Very soon, I'm afraid. In a few days at most."

"Thank you," said Little Joyce gravely.

She went to her room and did something with the black doll. She did
not cry, but if you could have seen her face you would have wished she
would cry.

After dinner Grandmother Marshall and Chrissie drove away, and Uncle
Roderick and Aunt Isabella went away, too. Little Joyce crept up to
the kitchen chamber. Denise was lying in an uneasy sleep, with tear
stains on her face. Then Little Joyce tiptoed down and sped away to
the hotel.

She did not know just what she would say or do when she got there, but
she thought hard all the way to the end of the shore road. When she
came out to the shore, a lady was sitting alone on a big rock--a lady
with a dark, beautiful face and wonderful eyes. Little Joyce stopped
before her and looked at her meditatively. Perhaps it would be well to
ask advice of this lady.

"If you please," said Little Joyce, who was never shy with strangers,
for whose opinion she didn't care at all, "I want to see Madame Laurin
at the hotel and ask her to do me a very great favour. Will you tell
me the best way to go about seeing her? I shall be much obliged to
you."

"What is the favour you want to ask of Madame Laurin?" inquired the
lady, smiling.

"I want to ask her if she will come and sing for Denise before she
dies--before Denise dies, I mean. Denise is our French girl, and the
doctor says she cannot live very long, and she wishes with all her
heart to hear Madame Laurin sing. It is very bitter, you know, to be
dying and want something very much and not be able to get it."

"Do you think Madame Laurin will go?" asked the lady.

"I don't know. I am going to offer her my little black doll. If she
will not come for that, there is nothing else I can do."

A flash of interest lighted up the lady's brown eyes. She bent
forward.

"Is it your doll you have in that box? Will you let me see it?"

Little Joyce nodded. Mutely she opened the box and took out the black
doll. The lady gave an exclamation of amazed delight and almost
snatched it from Little Joyce. It was a very peculiar little doll
indeed, carved out of some black polished wood.

"Child, where in the world did you get this?" she cried.

"Father got it out of a grave in Egypt," said Little Joyce. "It was
buried with the mummy of a little girl who lived four thousand years
ago, Uncle Roderick says. She must have loved her doll very much to
have had it buried with her, mustn't she? But she could not have loved
it any more than I do."

"And yet you are going to give it away?" said the lady, looking at her
keenly.

"For Denise's sake," explained Little Joyce. "I would do anything for
Denise because I love her and she loves me. When the only person in
the world who loves you is going to die, there is nothing you would
not do for her if you could. Denise was so good to me before she took
sick. She used to kiss me and play with me and make little cakes for
me and tell me beautiful stories."

The lady put the little black doll back in the box. Then she stood up
and held out her hand.

"Come," she said. "I am Madame Laurin, and I shall go and sing for
Denise."

Little Joyce piloted Madame Laurin home and into the kitchen and up
the back stairs to the kitchen chamber--a proceeding which would have
filled Aunt Isabella with horror if she had known. But Madame Laurin
did not seem to mind, and Little Joyce never thought about it at all.
It was Little Joyce's awkward, unMarshall-like fashion to go to a
place by the shortest way there, even if it was up the kitchen stairs.

Madame Laurin stood in the bare little room and looked pityingly at
the wasted, wistful face on the pillow.

"This is Madame Laurin, and she is going to sing for you, Denise,"
whispered Little Joyce.

Denise's face lighted up, and she clasped her hands.

"If you please," she said faintly. "A French song, Madame--de ole
French song dey sing long 'go."

Then did Madame Laurin sing. Never had that kitchen chamber been so
filled with glorious melody. Song after song she sang--the old
folklore songs of the _habitant_, the songs perhaps that Evangeline
listened to in her childhood.

Little Joyce knelt by the bed, her eyes on the singer like one
entranced. Denise lay with her face full of joy and rapture--such joy
and rapture! Little Joyce did not regret the sacrifice of her black
doll--never could regret it, as long as she remembered Denise's look.

"T'ank you, Madame," said Denise brokenly, when Madame ceased. "Dat
was so beautiful--de angel, dey cannot sing more sweet. I love music
so much, Madame. Leetle Joyce, she sing to me often and often--she
sing sweet, but not lak you--oh, not lak you."

"Little Joyce must sing for me," said Madame, smiling, as she sat down
by the window. "I always like to hear fresh, childish voices. Will
you, Little Joyce?"

"Oh, yes." Little Joyce was quite unembarrassed and perfectly willing
to do anything she could for this wonderful woman who had brought that
look to Denise's face. "I will sing as well as I can for you. Of
course, I can't sing very well and I don't know anything but hymns. I
always sing hymns for Denise, although she is a Catholic and the hymns
are Protestant. But her priest told her it was all right, because all
music was of God. Denise's priest is a very nice man, and I like him.
He thought my little black doll--_your_ little black doll--was
splendid. I'll sing 'Lead, Kindly Light.' That is Denise's favourite
hymn."

Then Little Joyce, slipping her hand into Denise's, began to sing. At
the first note Madame Laurin, who had been gazing out of the window
with a rather listless smile, turned quickly and looked at Little
Joyce with amazed eyes. Delight followed amazement, and when Little
Joyce had finished, the great Madame rose impulsively, her face and
eyes glowing, stepped swiftly to Little Joyce and took the thin dark
face between her gemmed hands.

"Child, do you know what a wonderful voice you have--what a marvellous
voice? It is--it is--I never heard such a voice in a child of your
age. Mine was nothing to it--nothing at all. You will be a great
singer some day--far greater than I--yes. But you must have the
training. Where are your parents? I must see them."

"I have no parents," said the bewildered Little Joyce. "I belong to
Grandmother Marshall, and she is out driving."

"Then I shall wait until your Grandmother Marshall comes home from her
drive," said Madame Laurin decidedly.

Half an hour later a very much surprised old lady was listening to
Madame Laurin's enthusiastic statements.

"How is it I have never heard you sing, if you can sing so well?"
asked Grandmother Marshall, looking at Little Joyce with something in
her eyes that had never been in them before--as Little Joyce instantly
felt to the core of her sensitive soul. But Little Joyce hung her
head. It had never occurred to her to sing in Grandmother Marshall's
presence.

"This child must be trained by-and-by," said Madame Laurin. "If you
cannot afford it, Mrs. Marshall, I will see to it. Such a voice must
not be wasted."

"Thank you, Madame Laurin," said Grandmother Marshall with a gracious
dignity, "but I am quite able to give my granddaughter all the
necessary advantages for the development of her gift. And I thank you
very much for telling me of it."

Madame Laurin bent and kissed Little Joyce's brown cheek.

"Little gypsy, good-by. But come every day to this hotel to see me.
And next summer I shall be back. I like you--because some day you will
be a great singer and because today you are a loving, unselfish baby."

"You have forgotten the little black doll, Madame," said Little Joyce
gravely.

Madame threw up her hands, laughing. "No, no, I shall not take your
little black doll of the four thousand years. Keep it for a mascot. A
great singer always needs a mascot. But do not, I command you, take it
out of the box till I am gone, for if I were to see it again, I might
not be able to resist the temptation. Some day I shall show you _my_
dolls, but there is not such a gem among them."

When Madame Laurin had gone, Grandmother Marshall looked at Little
Joyce.

"Come to my room, Joyce. I want to see if we cannot find a more
becoming way of arranging your hair. It has grown so thick and long. I
had no idea how thick and long. Yes, we must certainly find a better
way than that stiff braid. Come!"

Little Joyce, taking Grandmother Marshall's extended hand, felt very
happy. She realized that this strange, stately old lady, who never
liked little girls unless they were pretty or graceful or clever, was
beginning to love her at last.



The Man on the Train


When the telegram came from William George, Grandma Sheldon was all
alone with Cyrus and Louise. And Cyrus and Louise, aged respectively
twelve and eleven, were not very much good, Grandma thought, when it
came to advising what was to be done. Grandma was "all in a flutter,
dear, oh dear," as she said.

The telegram said that Delia, William George's wife, was seriously ill
down at Green Village, and William George wanted Samuel to bring
Grandma down immediately. Delia had always thought there was nobody
like Grandma when it came to nursing sick folks.

But Samuel and his wife were both away--had been away for two days and
intended to be away for five more. They had driven to Sinclair, twenty
miles away, to visit with Mrs. Samuel's folks for a week.

"Dear, oh dear, what shall I do?" said Grandma.

"Go right to Green Village on the evening train," said Cyrus briskly.

"Dear, oh dear, and leave you two alone!" cried Grandma.

"Louise and I will do very well until tomorrow," said Cyrus sturdily.
"We will send word to Sinclair by today's mail, and Father and Mother
will be home by tomorrow night."

"But I never was on the cars in my life," protested Grandma nervously.
"I'm--I'm so frightened to start alone. And you never know what kind
of people you may meet on the train."

"You'll be all right, Grandma. I'll drive you to the station, get you
your ticket, and put you on the train. Then you'll have nothing to do
until the train gets to Green Village. I'll send a telegram to Uncle
William George to meet you."

"I shall fall and break my neck getting off the train," said Grandma
pessimistically. But she was wondering at the same time whether she
had better take the black valise or the yellow, and whether William
George would be likely to have plenty of flaxseed in the house.

It was six miles to the station, and Cyrus drove Grandma over in time
to catch a train that reached Green Village at nine o'clock.

"Dear, oh dear," said Grandma, "what if William George's folks ain't
there to meet me? It's all very well, Cyrus, to say that they will be
there, but you don't know. And it's all very well to say not to be
nervous because everything will be all right. If you were seventy-five
years old and had never set foot on the cars in your life you'd be
nervous too, and you can't be sure that everything will be all right.
You never know what sort of people you'll meet on the train. I may get
on the wrong train or lose my ticket or get carried past Green Village
or get my pocket picked. Well, no, I won't do that, for not one cent
will I carry with me. You shall take back home all the money you don't
need to get my ticket. Then I shall be easier in my mind. Dear, oh
dear, if it wasn't that Delia is so seriously ill I wouldn't go one
step."

"Oh, you'll be all right, Grandma," assured Cyrus.

He got Grandma's ticket for her and Grandma tied it up in the corner
of her handkerchief. Then the train came in and Grandma, clinging
closely to Cyrus, was put on it. Cyrus found a comfortable seat for
her and shook hands cheerily.

"Good-bye, Grandma. Don't be frightened. Here's the _Weekly Argus_. I
got it at the store. You may like to look over it."

Then Cyrus was gone, and in a minute the station house and platform
began to glide away.

Dear, oh dear, what has happened to it? thought Grandma in dismay. The
next moment she exclaimed aloud, "Why, it's us that's moving, not it!"

Some of the passengers smiled pleasantly at Grandma. She was the
variety of old lady at which people do smile pleasantly; a grandma
with round, pink cheeks, soft, brown eyes, and lovely snow-white curls
is a nice person to look at wherever she is found.

After a while Grandma, to her amazement, discovered that she liked
riding on the cars. It was not at all the disagreeable experience she
had expected it to be. Why, she was just as comfortable as if she were
in her own rocking chair at home! And there was such a lot of people
to look at, and many of the ladies had such beautiful dresses and
hats. After all, the people you met on a train, thought Grandma, are
surprisingly like the people you meet off it. If it had not been for
wondering how she would get off at Green Village, Grandma would have
enjoyed herself thoroughly.

Four or five stations farther on the train halted at a lonely-looking
place consisting of the station house and a barn, surrounded by scrub
woods and blueberry barrens. One passenger got on and, finding only
one vacant seat in the crowded car, sat right down beside Grandma
Sheldon.

Grandma Sheldon held her breath while she looked him over. Was he a
pickpocket? He didn't appear like one, but you can never be sure of
the people you meet on the train. Grandma remembered with a sigh of
thankfulness that she had no money.

Besides, he seemed really very respectable and harmless. He was
quietly dressed in a suit of dark-blue serge with a black overcoat. He
wore his hat well down on his forehead and was clean shaven. His hair
was very black, but his eyes were blue--nice eyes, Grandma thought.
She always felt great confidence in a man who had bright, open, blue
eyes. Grandpa Sheldon, who had died so long ago, four years after
their marriage, had had bright blue eyes.

To be sure, he had fair hair, reflected Grandma. It's real odd to see
such black hair with such light blue eyes. Well, he's real nice
looking, and I don't believe there's a mite of harm in him.

The early autumn night had now fallen and Grandma could not amuse
herself by watching the scenery. She bethought herself of the paper
Cyrus had given her and took it out of her basket. It was an old
weekly a fortnight back. On the first page was a long account of a
murder case with scare heads, and into this Grandma plunged eagerly.
Sweet old Grandma Sheldon, who would not have harmed a fly and hated
to see even a mousetrap set, simply revelled in the newspaper accounts
of murders. And the more shocking and cold-blooded they were, the more
eagerly did Grandma read of them.

This murder story was particularly good from Grandma's point of view;
it was full of "thrills." A man had been shot down, apparently in cold
blood, and his supposed murderer was still at large and had eluded all
the efforts of justice to capture him. His name was Mark Hartwell, and
he was described as a tall, fair man, with full auburn beard and
curly, light hair.

"What a shocking thing!" said Grandma aloud.

Her companion looked at her with a kindly, amused smile.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Why, this murder at Charlotteville," answered Grandma, forgetting, in
her excitement, that it was not safe to talk to people you meet on the
train. "It just makes my blood run cold to read about it. And to think
that the man who did it is still around the country somewhere--plotting
other murders, I haven't a doubt. What is the good of the police?"

"They're dull fellows," agreed the dark man.

"But I don't envy that man his conscience," said Grandma solemnly--and
somewhat inconsistently, in view of her statement about the other
murders that were being plotted. "What must a man feel like who has
the blood of a fellow creature on his hands? Depend upon it, his
punishment has begun already, caught or not."

"That is true," said the dark man quietly.

"Such a good-looking man too," said Grandma, looking wistfully at the
murderer's picture. "It doesn't seem possible that he can have killed
anybody. But the paper says there isn't a doubt."

"He is probably guilty," said the dark man, "but nothing is known of
his provocation. The affair may not have been so cold-blooded as the
accounts state. Those newspaper fellows never err on the side of
undercolouring."

"I really think," said Grandma slowly, "that I would like to see a
murderer--just one. Whenever I say anything like that, Adelaide--Adelaide
is Samuel's wife--looks at me as if she thought there was something
wrong about me. And perhaps there is, but I do, all the same. When I
was a little girl, there was a man in our settlement who was suspected
of poisoning his wife. She died very suddenly. I used to look at him
with such interest. But it wasn't satisfactory, because you could never
be sure whether he was really guilty or not. I never could believe that
he was, because he was such a nice man in some ways and so good and
kind to children. I don't believe a man who was bad enough to poison
his wife could have any good in him."

"Perhaps not," agreed the dark man. He had absent-mindedly folded up
Grandma's old copy of the _Argus_ and put it in his pocket. Grandma
did not like to ask him for it, although she would have liked to see
if there were any more murder stories in it. Besides, just at that
moment the conductor came around for tickets.

Grandma looked in the basket for her handkerchief. It was not there.
She looked on the floor and on the seat and under the seat. It was not
there. She stood up and shook herself--still no handkerchief.

"Dear, oh dear," exclaimed Grandma wildly, "I've lost my ticket--I
always knew I would--I told Cyrus I would! Oh, where can it be?"

The conductor scowled unsympathetically. The dark man got up and
helped Grandma search, but no ticket was to be found.

"You'll have to pay the money then, and something extra," said the
conductor gruffly.

"I can't--I haven't a cent of money," wailed Grandma. "I gave it all
to Cyrus because I was afraid my pocket would be picked. Oh, what
shall I do?"

"Don't worry. I'll make it all right," said the dark man. He took out
his pocketbook and handed the conductor a bill. That functionary
grumblingly made the change and marched onward, while Grandma, pale
with excitement and relief, sank back into her seat.

"I can't tell you how much I am obliged to you, sir," she said
tremulously. "I don't know what I should have done. Would he have put
me off right here in the snow?"

"I hardly think he would have gone to such lengths," said the dark man
with a smile. "But he's a cranky, disobliging fellow enough--I know
him of old. And you must not feel overly grateful to me. I am glad of
the opportunity to help you. I had an old grandmother myself once,"
he added with a sigh.

"You must give me your name and address, of course," said Grandma,
"and my son--Samuel Sheldon of Midverne--will see that the money is
returned to you. Well, this is a lesson to me! I'll never trust myself
on a train again, and all I wish is that I was safely off this one.
This fuss has worked my nerves all up again."

"Don't worry, Grandma. I'll see you safely off the train when we get
to Green Village."

"Will you, though? Will you, now?" said Grandma eagerly. "I'll be real
easy in my mind, then," she added with a returning smile. "I feel as
if I could trust you for anything--and I'm a real suspicious person
too."

They had a long talk after that--or, rather, Grandma talked and the
dark man listened and smiled. She told him all about William George
and Delia and their baby and about Samuel and Adelaide and Cyrus and
Louise and the three cats and the parrot. He seemed to enjoy her
accounts of them too.

When they reached Green Village station he gathered up Grandma's
parcels and helped her tenderly off the train.

"Anybody here to meet Mrs. Sheldon?" he asked of the station master.

The latter shook his head. "Don't think so. Haven't seen anybody here
to meet anybody tonight."

"Dear, oh dear," said poor Grandma. "This is just what I expected.
They've never got Cyrus's telegram. Well, I might have known it. What
shall I do?"

"How far is it to your son's?" asked the dark man.

"Only half a mile--just over the hill there. But I'll never get there
alone this dark night."

"Of course not. But I'll go with you. The road is good--we'll do
finely."

"But that train won't wait for you," gasped Grandma, half in protest.

"It doesn't matter. The Starmont freight passes here in half an hour
and I'll go on her. Come along, Grandma."

"Oh, but you're good," said Grandma. "Some woman is proud to have you
for a son."

The man did not answer. He had not answered any of the personal
remarks Grandma had made to him in her conversation.

They were not long in reaching William George Sheldon's house, for the
village road was good and Grandma was smart on her feet. She was
welcomed with eagerness and surprise.

"To think that there was no one to meet you!" exclaimed William
George. "But I never dreamed of your coming by train, knowing how you
were set against it. Telegram? No, I got no telegram. S'pose Cyrus
forgot to send it. I'm most heartily obliged to you, sir, for looking
after my mother so kindly."

"It was a pleasure," said the dark man courteously. He had taken off
his hat, and they saw a curious scar, shaped like a large, red
butterfly, high up on his forehead under his hair. "I am delighted to
have been of any assistance to her."

He would not wait for supper--the next train would be in and he must
not miss it.

"There are people looking for me," he said with his curious smile.
"They will be much disappointed if they do not find me."

He had gone, and the whistle of the Starmont freight had blown before
Grandma remembered that he had not given her his name and address.

"Dear, oh dear, how are we ever going to send that money to him?" she
exclaimed. "And he so nice and goodhearted!"

Grandma worried over this for a week in the intervals of looking after
Delia. One day William George came in with a large city daily in his
hands. He looked curiously at Grandma and then showed her the
front-page picture of a man, clean-shaven, with an oddly shaped scar
high up on his forehead.

"Did you ever see that man, Mother?" he asked.

"Of course I did," said Grandma excitedly. "Why, it's the man I met on
the train. Who is he? What is his name? Now, we'll know where to
send--"

"That is Mark Hartwell, who shot Amos Gray at Charlotteville three
weeks ago," said William George quietly.

Grandma looked at him blankly for a moment.

"It couldn't be," she gasped at last. "That man a murderer! I'll never
believe it!"

"It's true enough, Mother. The whole story is here. He had shaved his
beard and dyed his hair and came near getting clear out of the
country. They were on his trail the day he came down in the train with
you and lost it because of his getting off to bring you here. His
disguise was so perfect that there was little fear of his being
recognized so long as he hid that scar. But it was seen in Montreal
and he was run to earth there. He has made a full confession."

"I don't care," cried Grandma valiantly. "I'll never believe he was
all bad--a man who would do what he did for a poor old woman like me,
when he was flying for his life too. No, no, there was good in him
even if he did kill that man. And I'm sure he must feel terrible over
it."

In this view Grandma persisted. She never would say or listen to a
word against Mark Hartwell, and she had only pity for him whom
everyone else condemned. With her own trembling hands she wrote him a
letter to accompany the money Samuel sent before Hartwell was taken to
the penitentiary for life. She thanked him again for his kindness to
her and assured him that she knew he was sorry for what he had done
and that she would pray for him every night of her life. Mark Hartwell
had been hard and defiant enough, but the prison officials told that
he cried like a child over Grandma Sheldon's little letter.

"There's nobody all bad," says Grandma when she relates the story. "I
used to believe a murderer must be, but I know better now. I think of
that poor man often and often. He was so kind and gentle to me--he
must have been a good boy once. I write him a letter every Christmas
and I send him tracts and papers. He's my own little charity. But I've
never been on the cars since and I never will be again. You never can
tell what will happen to you or what sort of people you'll meet if you
trust yourself on a train."



The Romance of Jedediah


Jedediah was not a name that savoured of romance. His last name was
Crane, which is little better. And it would be no use to call this
story "Mattie Adams's Romance" because Mattie Adams is not a romantic
name either. But names have really nothing to do with romance. The
most exciting and tragic affair I ever knew was between a man named
Silas Putdammer and a woman named Kezia Cullen--which has nothing to
do with the present story.

Jedediah, to all outward seeming, did not appear to be any more
romantic than his name. He looked distinctly commonplace as he rode
comfortably along the winding country road that was dreaming in the
haze and sunshine of a midsummer afternoon. He was perched on the
seat of a bright red pedlar's wagon, above and behind a dusty,
ambling, red pony of that peculiar gait and appearance pertaining to
the ponies of country pedlars--a certain placid, unhasting leanness,
as of a nag that has encountered troubles of his own and has lived
them down by sheer patience and staying power. From the bright red
wagon proceeded a certain metallic rumbling and clinking as it bowled
along, and two or three nests of tin pans on its flat rope-encircled
top flashed back the light so dazzlingly that Jedediah seemed the
beaming sun of a little planetary system all his own. A new broom
sticking up aggressively at each of the four corners gave the wagon a
resemblance to a triumphal chariot.

Jedediah himself had not been in the tin-peddling business long enough
to acquire the apologetic, out-at-elbows appearance which
distinguishes a tin pedlar from other kinds of pedlars. In fact, this
was his maiden venture in this line; hence he still looked plump and
self-respecting. He had a round red face under his plug hat, twinkling
blue eyes, and a little pursed-up mouth, the shape of which was partly
due to nature and partly to much whistling. Jedediah's pudgy body was
clothed in a suit of large, light checks, and he wore a bright pink
necktie and an amethyst pin. Will I still be believed when I assert
that, in spite of all this, Jedediah was full of, and bubbling over
with, romance?

Romance cares not for appearances and apparently delights in
contradictions. The homely shambling man you pass unnoticed on the
street may have, tucked away in his past, a story more exciting and
thrilling than anything you have ever read in fiction. So it was, in a
measure, with Jedediah; poor, unknown to fame, afflicted with a double
chin and bald spot, reduced to driving a tin-wagon for a living, he
yet had his romance and he was still romantic.

As Jedediah rode through Amberley he looked about him with interest.
He knew it well, although it was fifteen years since he had seen it.
He had been born and brought up in Amberley; he had left it at the age
of twenty-five to make his fortune. But Amberley was Amberley still.
Jedediah found it hard to believe that it or himself was fifteen years
older.

"There's the Stanton place," he said. "Charlie has painted the house
yellow--it used to be white; and Bob Hollman has cut the trees down
behind the blacksmith forge. Bob never had any poetry in his soul--no
romance, as you might say. He was what you might call a plodder--you
might call him that. Get up, my nag, get up. There's the old Harkness
place--seems to be spruced up considerable. Folks used to say if ye
wanted to see how the world looked the morning after the flood just go
into George Harkness's barn-yard on a rainy day. The pond and the old
hills ain't changed any. Get up, my nag, get up. There's the Adams
homestead. Do I really behold it again?"

Jedediah thought the moment deliciously romantic. He revelled in it
and, to match his exhilarated mood, he touched the pony with his whip
and went clinking and glittering down the hill under the poplars at a
dashing rate. He had not intended to offer his wares in Amberley that
day. He meant to break the ice in Occidental, the village beyond. But
he could not pass the Adams place. When he came to the open gate he
turned in under the willows and drove down the wide, shady lane, girt
on both sides with a trim white paling smothered in lavish sweetbriar
bushes that were gay with bloom. Jedediah's heart was beating
furiously under his checks.

"What a fool you are, Jed Crane," he told himself. "You used to be a
young fool, and now you're an old one. Sad, that! Get up, my nag, get
up. It's a poor lookout for a man of your years, Jed. Don't get
excited. It ain't the least likely that Mattie Adams is here yet.
She's married and gone years ago, no doubt. It's probable there's no
Adamses here at all now. But it's romantic, yes, it's romantic. It's
splendid. Get up, my nag, get up."

The Adams place itself was not unromantic. The house was a large,
old-fashioned white one, with green shutters and a front porch with
Grecian columns. These were thought very elegant in Amberley. Mrs.
Carmody said they gave a house such a classical air. In this instance
the classical effect was somewhat smothered in honeysuckle, which
rioted over the whole porch and hung in pale yellow, fragrant
festoons over the rows of potted scarlet geraniums that flanked the
green steps. Beyond the house a low-boughed orchard covered the slope
between it and the main road, and behind it there was a revel of
colour betokening a flower garden.

Jedediah climbed down from his lofty seat and walked dubiously to a
side door that looked more friendly, despite its prim screen, than the
classical front porch. As he drew near he saw a woman sitting behind
the screen--a woman who rose as he approached and opened the door.
Jedediah's heart had been beating a wild tattoo as he crossed the
yard. It now stopped altogether--at least he declared in later years
it did.

The woman was Mattie Adams--Mattie Adams fifteen years older than when
he had seen her last, plumper, rosier, somewhat broader-faced, but
still unmistakably Mattie Adams. Jedediah felt that the situation was
delicious.

"Mattie," he said, holding out his hand.

"Why, Jed, how are you?" said Mattie, as if they had parted the week
before. It had always taken a great deal to disturb Mattie. Whatever
happened she was calm. Even an old lover, and the only one she had
ever possessed at that, dropping, so to speak, from the skies, after
fifteen years' disappearance, did not ruffle her placidity.

"I didn't suppose you'd know me, Mattie," said Jedediah, still holding
her hand foolishly.

"I knew you the minute I set eyes on you," returned Mattie. "You're
some fatter and older--like myself--but you're Jed still. Where have
you been all these years?"

"Pretty near everywhere, Mattie--pretty near everywhere. And ye see
what it's come to--here I be driving a tin-wagon for Boone Brothers.
Business is business--don't you want to buy some new tinware?"

To himself, Jed thought it was romantic, asking a woman whom he had
loved all his life to buy tins on the occasion of their first meeting
after fifteen years' separation.

"I don't know but I do want a quart measure," said Mattie, in her
sweet, unchanged voice, "but all in good time. You must stay and have
tea with me, Jed. I'm all alone now--Mother and Father have gone.
Unhitch your horse and put him in the third stall in the stable."

Jed hesitated.

"I ought to be getting on, I s'pose," he said wistfully. "I hain't
done much today--"

"You must stay to tea," interrupted Mattie. "Why, Jed, there's ever so
much to tell and ask. And we can't stand here in the yard and talk.
Look at Selena. There she is, watching us from the kitchen window.
She'll watch as long as we stand here."

Jed swung himself around. Over the little valley below the Adams
homestead was a steep, treeless hill, and on its crest was perched a
bare farmhouse with windows stuck lavishly all over it. At one of them
a long, pale face was visible.

"Has Selena been pasted up at that window ever since the last time we
stood here and talked, Mattie?" asked Jed, half resentfully, half
amusedly. It was characteristic of Mattie to laugh first at the
question, and then blush over the memory it revived.

"Most of the time, I guess," she said shortly. "But come--come in. I
never could talk under Selena's eyes, even if they were four hundred
yards away."

Jed went in and stayed to tea. The old Adams pantry had not failed,
nor apparently the Adams skill in cooking. After tea Jed hung around
till sunset and drove away with a warm invitation from Mattie to call
every time his rounds took him through Amberley. As he went, Selena's
face appeared at the window of the house over the valley.

When he had gone Mattie went around to the classical porch and sat
herself down under the honeysuckle festoons that dangled above her
smooth braids of fawn-coloured hair. She knew Selena would be down
posthaste presently, agog with curiosity to find out who the pedlar
was whom Mattie had delighted to honour with an invitation to tea.
Mattie preferred to meet Selena out of doors. It was easier to thrust
and parry there. Meanwhile, she wanted to think over things.

Fifteen years before Jedediah Crane had been Mattie Adams's beau.
Jedediah was romantic even then, but, as he was a slim young fellow at
the time, with an abundance of fair, curly hair and innocent blue
eyes, his romance was rather an attraction than not. At least the then
young and pretty Mattie had found it so.

The Adamses looked with no favour on the match. They were a thrifty,
well-to-do folk. As for the Cranes--well, they were lazy and
shiftless, for the most part. It would be a _mésalliance_ for an Adams
to marry a Crane. Still, it would doubtless have happened--for Mattie,
though a meek-looking damsel, had a mind of her own--had it not been
for Selena Ford, Mattie's older sister.

Selena, people said, had married James Ford for no other reason than
that his house commanded a view of nearly every dooryard in Amberley.
This may or may not have been sheer malice. Certainly nothing that
went on in the Adams yard escaped Selena.

She watched Mattie and Jed in the moonlight one night. She saw Jed
kiss Mattie. It was the first time he had ever done so--and the last,
poor fellow. For Selena swooped down on her parents the next day. Such
a storm did she brew up that Mattie was forbidden to speak to Jed
again. Selena herself gave Jed a piece of her mind. Jed usually was
not afflicted with undue sensitiveness. But he had some slumbering
pride at the basis of his character and it was very stubborn when
roused. Selena roused it. Jed vowed he would never creep and crawl at
the feet of the Adamses, and he went west forthwith, determined, as
aforesaid, to make his fortune and hurl Selena's scorn back in her
face.

And now he had come home, driving a tin-wagon. Mattie smiled to think
of it. She bore Jed no ill will for his failure. She felt sorry for
him and inclined to think that fate had used him hardly--fate and
Selena together. Mattie had never had another beau. People thought she
was engaged to Jed Crane until her time for beaus went by. Mattie did
not mind; she had never liked anybody so well as Jed. To be sure, she
had not thought of him for years. It was strange he should come back
like this--"romantic," as he said himself.

Mattie's reverie was interrupted by Selena. Angular, pale-eyed Mrs.
Ford was as unlike the plump, rosy Mattie as a sister could be.
Perhaps her chronic curiosity, which would not let her rest, was
accountable for her excessive leanness.

"Who was that pedlar that was here this afternoon, Mattie?" she
demanded as soon as she arrived.

Mattie smiled. "Jed Crane," she said. "He's home from the West and
driving a tin-wagon for the Boones."

Selena gave a little gasp. She sat down on the lowest step and untied
her bonnet strings.

"Mattie Adams! And you kept him hanging about the whole afternoon."

"Why not?" said Mattie wickedly. She liked to alarm Selena. "Jed and I
were always beaus, you know."

"Mattie Adams! You don't mean to say you're going to make a fool of
yourself over Jed Crane again? A woman of your age!"

"Don't get excited, Selena," implored Mattie. In the old days Selena
could cow her, but that time was past. "I never saw the like of you
for getting stirred up over nothing."

"I'm not excited. I'm perfectly calm. But I might well be excited over
your folly, Mattie Adams. The idea of your taking up again with old
Jed Crane!"

"He's fifteen years younger than Jim," said Mattie, giving thrust for
thrust.

When Selena had come over Mattie had not the slightest idea of
resuming her former relationship with the romantic Jedediah. She had
merely shown him kindness for old friendship's sake. But so well did
the unconscious Selena work in Jed's behalf that when she flounced off
home in a pet Mattie was resolved that she would take Jed back if he
wanted to come. She wasn't going to put up with Selena's everlasting
interference. She would show her that she was independent.

When a week had passed Jed came again. He sold Mattie a stew-pan and
he would not go in to tea this time, but they stood and talked in the
yard for the best part of an hour, while Selena glared at them from
her kitchen window. Their conversation was most innocent and harmless,
being mainly gossip about what had come and gone during Jed's exile.
But Mattie knew that Selena thought that she and Jed were making love
to each other in this shameless, public fashion. When Jed went,
Mattie, more for Selena's benefit than his, broke off some sprays of
honeysuckle and pinned them on his coat. The fragrance went with
Jedediah as he drove through Amberley, and pleasant thoughts were born
of it.

"It's romantic," he told the pony. "Blessed if it ain't romantic! Not
that Mattie cares anything about me now. I know she don't. But it's
just her kind way. She wants to cheer me up and let me know I've a
friend still. Get up, my nag, get up. I ain't one to persoom on her
kindness neither; I know my place. But still, say what you will, it's
romantic--this sitooation. This is it. Here I be, loving the ground
she walks on, as I've always done, and I can't let on that I do
because I'm a poor ne'er-do-well as ain't fit to look at her, an
independent woman with property. And she's a-showing kindness to me
for old times' sake, and piercing my heart all the time, not knowing.
Why, it's romance with a vengeance, that's what it is. Get up, my nag,
get up."

Thereafter Jed called at the Adams place every week. Generally he
stayed to tea. Mattie always bought something of him to colour an
excuse. Her kitchen fairly glittered with new tinware. She gave Selena
the overflow by way of heaping coals of fire.

After every visit Jedediah held stern counsel with himself and decided
that he must not call to see Mattie again--at least, not for a long
time; then he must not stay to tea. He would struggle with himself all
the way down the poplar hill--not without a comforting sense of the
romance of the struggle--but it always ended the same way. He turned
in under the willows and clinked musically into Mattie's yard. At
least, the rattle of the tin-wagon sounded musically to Mattie.

Meanwhile, Selena watched from her window and raged.

Amberley people shrugged their shoulders when gossip noised the matter
abroad. But, being good-humoured in the main, they forebore to do more
than say that Mattie Adams was free to make a goose of herself if it
pleased her, and that Jed Crane wasn't such a fool as he looked. The
Adams farm was one of the best in Amberley, and it had not grown any
poorer under Mattie's management.

"If Jed walks in there and hangs up his hat he'll have done well for
himself after all."

This was Selena's view of it also, barring the good nature. She was
furious at the whole affair, and she did her best to make Mattie's
life a burden to her with slurs and thrusts. But they all misjudged
Jed. He had no intention of "walking in and hanging up his hat"--or
trying to. Romantic as he was, it never occurred to him that Mattie
might be as romantic as himself. She did not care for him, and anyhow
he, Jed, had a little too much pride to ask her, a rich woman, to
marry him, a poor man who had lost all caste he ever possessed by
taking up tin-peddling. Jed was determined not to "persoom." And, oh,
how deliciously romantic it all was! He hugged himself with sorrowful
delight over it.

As the summer waned and the long yellow leaves began to fall thickly
from the willows in the Adams lane Jed began to talk of going out
west again. Tin-peddling was not possible in winter, and he didn't
think he would try it another summer. Mattie listened with dismay in
her heart. All summer she had made much of Jed, by way of tormenting
Selena. But now she realized what he really meant to her. The old love
had wakened to life in her heart; she could not let Jed go out of her
life again, leaving her to the old loneliness. If Jed went away
everything would be flat, stale, and unprofitable.

She knew him to be at heart the kindest, most gentle of human beings,
and the mere fact of his having been unsuccessful, even what some of
his old neighbours might call stupid, did not change her feelings
toward him in the least. He was Jed--that was sufficient for her, and
she had business capability enough for both, when it came to that.

Mattie began to drop hints. But Jed would not take them. True, once or
twice he thought that perhaps Mattie did care a little for him yet.
But it would not do for him to take advantage of that.

"No, I just couldn't do that," he told the pony. "I worship the ground
that woman treads on, but it ain't for the likes of me to tell her so,
not now. Get up, my nag, get up. This has been a mighty pleasant
summer with that visit to look forward to every week. But it's about
over now and you must tramp, Jed."

Jed sighed. He remembered that it was more romantic than ever, but all
at once this failed to comfort him. Romance up to a certain point was
food; beyond that it palled, so to speak. Jed's romance failed him
just when he needed it most.

Mattie, meanwhile, was forced to the dismal conclusion that her hints
were thrown away. Jed was plainly determined not to speak. Mattie felt
half angry with him. She did not choose to make a martyr of herself to
romance, and surely the man didn't expect her to ask him to marry her.

"I'm sure and certain he's as fond of me as ever he was," she mused.
"I suppose he's got some ridiculous notion about being too poor to
aspire to me. Jed always had more pride than a Crane could carry.
Well, I've done all I can--all I'm going to do. If Jed's determined to
go, he must go, I s'pose."

Mattie would not let herself cry, although she felt like it. She went
out and picked apples instead.

Mattie might have remained so and Jedediah's romance might never have
reached a better ending, if it had not been for Selena, who came over
just then to help Mattie pick the golden russets. Fate had evidently
destined her as Jed's best helper. All summer she had been fairly
goading Mattie into love with Jedediah and now she was moved to add
the last spur.

"Jed Crane's going away, I hear," she said maliciously. "Seems to me
you're bound to be jilted again, Mattie."

Mattie had no answer ready. Selena went on undauntedly.

"You've made a nice fool of yourself all summer, I vow. Throwing
yourself at Jed's head--and he doesn't want you, even with all your
property."

"He does want me," said Mattie calmly. Her lips were very firm and her
cheeks scarlet. "He is not going away. We are to be married about
Christmas, and Jed will take charge of the farm for me."

"Matilda Adams!" said Selena. It was all she was capable of saying.

The rest of the golden russets were picked in a dead silence, Mattie
working with an unusually high colour in her cheeks, while Selena's
thin lips were pressed so closely together as to be little else than a
hair line.

After Selena had gone home, sulking, Mattie picked on with a very
determined face. The die was cast; she could not bear Selena's slurs
and she would not. And she had not told a lie either. Her words were
true; she would make them true. All the Adams determination--and that
was not a little--was roused in her.

"If Jed jilts me, he'll do it to my face, clean and clever," she said
viciously.

When Jed came again he was very solemn. He thought it would be his
last visit, but Mattie felt differently. She had dressed herself with
unusual care and crimped her hair. Her cheeks were scarlet and her
eyes bright. Jed thought she looked younger and prettier than ever.
The thought that this was the last time he would see her for many a
long day to come grew more and more unbearable, yet he firmly
determined he would let no presuming word pass his lips. Mattie had
been so kind to him. It was only honourable of him in return not to
let her throw herself away on a poor failure like himself.

"I suppose this is your last round with the wagon," she said. She had
taken him out into the garden to say it. The garden was out of view
from the Ford place. Propose she must, but she drew the line at
proposing under Selena's eyes.

Jed nodded dully. "Yes, and then I must toddle off and look for
something else to do. You see, I haven't much of a gift so to speak
for business, Mattie, and it takes me so long to get worked into an
understanding of a business or trade that I'm generally asked to quit
before you might say I've really commenced. It's been a mighty happy
summer for me, though I can't say I've done much in the selling line
except to you, Mattie. What with your kindness and these little visits
you've been good enough to let me make every week, I feel I may say
it's been the happiest summer of my life, and I'm never going to
forget it, but as I said, it's time for me to be moving on elsewhere
and finding something else to do."

"There is something for you to do right here--if you will do it," said
Mattie faintly. For a moment she felt as if she could not go on; Jed
and the garden and the scarf of late asters whirled around her
dizzily. She held by the sweet-pea trellis to steady herself.

"I--I said a terrible thing to Selena the other day. I--I don't know
what I'll do about it if--if--you don't help me out, Jed."

"I'll do anything I can," said Jed, with hearty sympathy. "You know
that, Mattie. What is the trouble?"

His kindly voice and the good will and affection beaming in his honest
blue eyes gave Mattie renewed courage to go on with her self-imposed
and most embarrassing task, although before she ended her voice shook
and dwindled away to such a low whisper that Jed had to bend his head
close to hers to hear what she was saying.

"I--I said--she goaded me into saying it, Jed--slighting and
slurring--jeering at me because you were going away. I just got mad,
Jed--and I told her you weren't going--that you and I--that we were to
be--married."

"Mattie, did you mean that?" he cried. "If you did, I'm the happiest
man alive. I didn't dare persoom--I didn't s'pose you thought anything
of me. But if you do--and if you want me--here's all there is of me,
heart and soul and body, forever and ever, as I've been all my life."

Thinking over this speech afterwards Jed was dissatisfied with it. He
thought he might have made it much more eloquent and romantic than it
was. But it served the purpose very well. It was convincing--it came
straight from his honest, stupid heart, and Mattie knew it. She held
out her hands and Jed gathered her into his arms.

It was certainly a most fortunate circumstance that the garden was
well out of the range of Selena's vision, or the sight of her sister
and the remaining member of the despised Crane family repeating their
foolish performance, which many years previous had resulted in Jed's
long banishment, might have caused her to commit almost any unheard-of
act of spite as an outlet for her jealous anger. But only the few
remaining garden flowers were witness to the lovers' indiscretion, and
they kept their own counsel after the manner of flowers, so Selena's
feelings were mercifully spared this further outrage.

That evening Jed drove slowly away through the twilight, mounted for
the last time on the tin-wagon. He was so happy that he bore no grudge
against even Selena Ford. As the pony climbed the poplar hill Jed drew
a long breath and freed his mind to the surrounding landscape and to
his faithful and slow-plodding steed that had been one of the main
factors in this love affair, having patiently carried him to and from
the abode of his lady-love throughout the summer just passed. Jedediah
was as brimful of happiness as mortal man could be, and his rosy
thoughts flowed forth in a kind of triumphant chant which would have
driven Selena stark distracted had she been within hearing distance.
What he said too was but a poor expression of what he thought, but to
the trees and fields and pony he chanted,

"Well, this _is_ romance. What else would you call it now? Me, poor,
scared to speak--and Mattie ups and does it for me, bless her. Yes,
I've been longing for romance all my life, and I've got it at last.
None of your commonplace courtships for me, I always said. Them was my
very words. And I guess this has been a little uncommon--I guess it
has. Anyhow, I'm uncommon happy. I never felt so romantic before. Get
up, my nag, get up."



The Tryst of the White Lady


"I wisht ye'd git married, Roger," said Catherine Ames. "I'm gitting
too old to work--seventy last April--and who's going to look after ye
when I'm gone. Git married, b'y--git married."

Roger Temple winced. His aunt's harsh, disagreeable voice always
jarred horribly on his sensitive nerves. He was fond of her after a
fashion, but always that voice made him wonder if there could be
anything harder to endure.

Then he gave a bitter little laugh.

"Who'd have me, Aunt Catherine?" he asked.

Catherine Ames looked at him critically across the supper table. She
loved him in her way, with all her heart, but she was not in the least
blind to his defects. She did not mince matters with herself or with
other people. Roger was a sallow, plain-featured fellow, small and
insignificant looking. And, as if this were not bad enough, he walked
with a slight limp and had one thin shoulder a little higher than the
other--"Jarback" Temple he had been called in school, and the name
still clung to him. To be sure, he had very fine grey eyes, but their
dreamy brilliance gave his dull face an uncanny look which girls did
not like, and so made matters rather worse than better. Of course
looks didn't matter so much in the case of a man; Steve Millar was
homely enough, and all marked up with smallpox to boot, yet he had got
for wife the prettiest and smartest girl in South Bay. But Steve was
rich. Roger was poor and always would be. He worked his stony little
farm, from which his father and grandfather had wrested a fair living,
after a fashion, but Nature had not cut him out for a successful
farmer. He hadn't the strength for it and his heart wasn't in it. He'd
rather be hanging over a book. Catherine secretly thought Roger's
matrimonial chances very poor, but it would not do to discourage the
b'y. What he needed was spurring on.

"Ye'll git someone if ye don't fly too high," she announced loudly and
cheerfully. "Thar's always a gal or two here and thar that's glad to
marry for a home. 'Tain't no use for _you_ to be settin' your thoughts
on anyone young and pretty. Ye wouldn't git her and ye'd be worse off
if ye did. Your grandfather married for looks, and a nice useless wife
he got--sick half her time. Git a good strong girl that ain't afraid
of work, that'll hold things together when ye're reading
po'try--that's as much as you kin expect. And the sooner the better.
I'm done--last winter's rheumatiz has about finished _me_. An' we
can't afford hired help."

Roger felt as if his raw, quivering soul were being seared. He looked
at his aunt curiously--at her broad, flat face with the mole on the
end of her dumpy nose, the bristling hairs on her chin, the wrinkled
yellow neck, the pale, protruding eyes, the coarse, good-humoured
mouth. She was so extremely ugly--and he had seen her across the table
all his life. For twenty-five years he had looked at her so. Must he
continue to go on looking at ugliness in the shape of a wife all the
rest of his life--he, who worshipped beauty in everything?

"Did my mother look like you, Aunt Catherine?" he asked abruptly.

His aunt stared--and snorted. Her snort was meant to express kindly
amusement, but it sounded like derision and contempt.

"Yer ma wasn't so humly as me," she said cheerfully, "but she wan't no
beauty either. None of the Temples was ever better lookin' than was
necessary. We was _workers_. Yer pa wa'n't bad looking. You're humlier
than either of 'em. Some ways ye take after yer grandma--though _she_
was counted pretty at one time. She was yaller and spindlin' like you,
and you've got her eyes. What yer so int'rested in yer ma's looks all
at once fer?"

"I was wondering," said Roger coolly, "if Father ever looked at her
across the table and wished she were prettier."

Catherine giggled. Her giggle was ugly and disagreeable like
everything else about her--everything except a certain odd, loving,
loyal old heart buried deep in her bosom, for the sake of which Roger
endured the giggle and all the rest.

"Dessay he did--dessay he did. Men al'ays has a hankerin' for good
looks. But ye've got to cut yer coat 'cording to yer cloth. As for yer
poor ma, she didn't live long enough to git as ugly as me. When I
come here to keep house for yer pa, folks said as it wouldn't be long
'fore he married me. _I_ wouldn't a-minded. But yer pa never hinted
it. S'pose he'd had enough of ugly women likely."

Catherine snorted amiably again. Roger got up--he couldn't endure any
more just then. He must escape.

"Now you think over what I've said," his aunt called after him. "Ye've
gotter git a wife soon, however ye manage it. 'Twon't be so hard if
ye're reasonable. Don't stay out as late as ye did last night. Ye
coughed all night. Where was ye--down at the shore?"

"No," said Roger, who always answered her questions even when he hated
to. "I was down at Aunt Isabel's grave."

"Till eleven o'clock! Ye ain't wise! I dunno what hankering ye have
after that unchancy place. _I_ ain't been near it for twenty year. I
wonder ye ain't scairt. What'd ye think ye'd do if ye saw her ghost?"

Catherine looked curiously at Roger. She was very superstitious and
she believed firmly in ghosts, and saw no absurdity in her question.

"I wish I _could_ see it," said Roger, his great eyes flashing. He
believed in ghosts too, at least in Isabel Temple's ghost. His uncle
had seen it; his grandfather had seen it; he believed he would see
it--the beautiful, bewitching, mocking, luring ghost of lovely Isabel
Temple.

"Don't wish such stuff," said Catherine. "Nobody ain't never the same
after they've seen her."

"Was Uncle different?" Roger had come back into the kitchen and was
looking curiously at his aunt.

"Diff'rent? He was another man. He didn't even _look_ the same. Sich
eyes! Al'ays looking past ye at something behind ye. They'd give
anyone creeps. He never had any notion of flesh-and-blood women after
that--said a man wouldn't, after seeing Isabel. His life was plumb
ruined. Lucky he died young. I hated to be in the same room with
him--he wa'n't canny, that was all there was to it. _You_ keep away
from that grave--_you_ don't want to look odder than ye are by nature.
And when ye git married, ye'll have to give up roamin' about half the
night in graveyards. A wife wouldn't put up with it, as I've done."

"I'll never get as good a wife as you, Aunt Catherine," said Roger
with a little whimsical smile that gave him the look of an amused
gnome.

"Dessay you won't. But someone ye have to have. Why'n't ye try 'Liza
Adams. She _might_ have ye--she's gittin' on."

"'Liza ... Adams!"

"That's what I said. Ye needn't repeat it--'Liza ... Adams--'s if I'd
mentioned a hippopotamus. I git out of patience with ye. I b'lieve in
my heart ye think ye ought to git a wife that'd look like a picter."

"I do, Aunt Catherine. That's just the kind of wife I want--grace and
beauty and charm. Nothing less than that will ever content me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Roger laughed bitterly again and went out. It was sunset. There was no
work to do that night except to milk the cows, and his little home boy
could do that. He felt a glad freedom. He put his hand in his pocket
to see if his beloved Wordsworth was there and then he took his way
across the fields, under a sky of purple and amber, walking quickly
despite his limp. He wanted to get to some solitary place where he
could forget Aunt Catherine and her abominable suggestions and escape
into the world of dreams where he habitually lived and where he found
the loveliness he had not found nor could hope to find in his real
world.

Roger's mother had died when he was three and his father when he was
eight. His little, old, bedridden grandmother had lived until he was
twelve. He had loved her passionately. She had not been pretty in his
remembrance--a tiny, shrunken, wrinkled thing--but she had beautiful
grey eyes that never grew old and a soft, gentle voice--the only
woman's voice he had ever heard with pleasure. He was very critical as
regards women's voices and very sensitive to them. Nothing hurt him
quite so much as an unlovely voice--not even unloveliness of face. Her
death had left him desolate. She was the only human being who had ever
understood him. He could never, he thought, have got through his
tortured school days without her. After she died he would not go to
school. He was not in any sense educated. His father and grandfather
had been illiterate men and he had inherited their underdeveloped
brain cells. But he loved poetry and read all he could get of it. It
overlaid his primitive nature with a curious iridescence of fancy and
furnished him with ideals and hungers his environment could never
satisfy. He loved beauty in everything. Moonrises hurt him with their
loveliness and he could sit for hours gazing at a white
narcissus--much to his aunt's exasperation. He was solitary by nature.
He felt horribly alone in a crowded building but never in the woods or
in the wild places along the shore. It was because of this that his
aunt could not get him to go to church--which was a horror to her
orthodox soul. He told her he would like to go to church if it were
empty but he could not bear it when it was full--full of smug, ugly
people. Most people, he thought, were ugly--though not so ugly as he
was--and ugliness made him sick with repulsion. Now and then he saw a
pretty girl at whom he liked to look but he never saw one that wholly
pleased him. To him, the homely, crippled, poverty-stricken Roger
Temple whom they all would have scorned, there was always a certain
subtle something wanting, and the lack of it kept him heartwhole. He
knew that this probably saved him from much suffering, but for all
that he regretted it. He wanted to love, even vainly; he wanted to
experience this passion of which the poets sang so much. Without it he
felt he lacked the key to a world of wonder. He even tried to fall in
love; he went to church for several Sundays and sat where he could see
beautiful Elsa Carey. She was lovely--it gave him pleasure to look at
her; the gold of her hair was so bright and living; the pink of her
cheek so pure, the curve of her neck so flawless, the lashes of her
eyes so dark and silken. But he looked at her as at a picture. When he
tried to think and dream of her, it bored him. Besides, he knew she
had a rather nasal voice. He used to laugh sarcastically to himself
over Elsa's feelings if she had known how desperately he was trying to
fall in love with her and failing--Elsa the queen of hearts, who
believed she had only to look to reign. He gave up trying at last, but
he still longed to love. He knew he would never marry; he could not
marry plainness, and beauty would have longed to love. He knew he
would never marry; he could not marry plainness, and beauty would have
none of him; but he did not want to miss everything and he had moments
when he was very bitter and rebellious because he felt he must miss it
forever.

He went straight to Isabel Temple's grave in the remote shore field of
his farm. Isabel Temple had lived and died eighty years ago. She had
been very lovely, very wilful, very fond of playing with the hearts of
men. She had married William Temple, the brother of his
great-grandfather, and as she stood in her white dress beside her
bridegroom, at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, a jilted lover,
crazed by despair, had entered the house and shot her dead. She had
been buried in the shore field, where a square space had been dyked
off in the centre for a burial lot because the church was then so far
away. With the passage of years the lot had grown up so thickly with
fir and birch and wild cherry that it looked like a compact grove. A
winding path led through it to its heart where Isabel Temple's grave
was, thickly overgrown with long, silken, pale green grass. Roger
hurried along the path and sat down on the big grey boulder by the
grave, looking about him with a long breath of delight. How
lovely--and witching--and unearthly it was here. Little ferns were
growing in the hollows and cracks of the big boulder where clay had
lodged. Over Isabel Temple's crooked, lichened gravestone hung a young
wild cherry in its delicate bloom. Above it, in a little space of sky
left by the slender tree tops, was a young moon. It was too dark here
after all to read Wordsworth, but that did not matter. The place, with
its moist air, its tang of fir balsam, was like a perfumed room where
a man might dream dreams and see visions. There was a soft murmur of
wind in the boughs over him, and the faraway moan of the sea on the
bar crept in. Roger surrendered himself utterly to the charm of the
place. When he entered that grove, he had left behind the realm of
daylight and things known and come into the realm of shadow and
mystery and enchantment. Anything might happen--anything might be
true.

Eighty long years had come and gone, but Isabel Temple, thus cruelly
torn from life at the moment when it had promised her most, did not
even yet rest calmly in her grave; such at least was the story, and
Roger believed it. It was in his blood to believe it. The Temples were
a superstitious family, and there was nothing in Roger's upbringing to
correct the tendency. His was not a sceptical or scientific mind. He
was ignorant and poetical and credulous. He had always accepted
unquestioningly the tale that Isabel Temple had been seen on earth
long after the red clay was heaped over her murdered body. Her
bridegroom had seen her, when he went to visit her on the eve of his
second and unhappy marriage; his grandfather had seen her. His
grandmother, who had told him Isabel's story, had told him this too,
and believed it. She had added, with a bitterness foreign to his idea
of her, that her husband had never been the same to her afterwards;
his uncle had seen her--and had lived and died a haunted man. It was
only to men the lovely, restless ghost appeared, and her appearance
boded no good to him who saw. Roger knew this, but he had a curious
longing to see her. He had never avoided her grave as others of his
tribe did. He loved the spot, and he believed that some time he would
see Isabel Temple there. She came, so the story went, to one in each
generation of the family.

He gazed down at her sunken grave; a little wind, that came stealing
along the floor of the grove, raised and swayed the long, hair-like
grass on it, giving the curious suggestion of something prisoned under
it trying to draw a long breath and float upward.

Then, when he lifted his eyes again, he saw her!

She was standing behind the gravestone, under the cherry tree, whose
long white branches touched her head; standing there, with her head
drooping a little, but looking steadily at him. It was just between
dusk and dark now, but he saw her very plainly. She was dressed in
white, with some filmy scarf over her head, and her hair hung in a
dark heavy braid over her shoulder. Her face was small and
ivory-white, and her eyes were very large and dark. Roger looked
straight into them and they did something to him--drew something out
of him that was never to be his again--his heart? his soul? He did not
know. He only knew that lovely Isabel Temple had now come to him and
that he was hers forever.

For a few moments that seemed years he looked at her--looked till the
lure of her eyes drew him to his feet as a man rises in sleep-walking.
As he slowly stood up, the low-hanging bough of a fir tree pushed his
cap down over his face and blinded him. When he snatched it off, she
was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Roger Temple did not go home that night till the spring dawn was in
the sky. Catherine was sleepless with anxiety about him. When she
heard him come up the stairs, she opened her door and peeped out.
Roger went along the hall without seeing her. His brilliant eyes
stared straight before him, and there was something in his face that
made Catherine steal back to her bed with a little shiver of fear. He
looked like his uncle. She did not ask him, when they met at
breakfast, where or how he had spent the night. He had been dreading
the question and was relieved beyond measure when it was not asked.
But, apart from that, he was hardly conscious of her presence. He ate
and drank mechanically and voicelessly. When he had gone out,
Catherine wagged her uncomely grey head ominously.

"He's bewitched," she muttered. "I know the signs. He's seen her--drat
her! It's time she gave up that kind of work. Well, I dunno what to
do--thar ain't anything I can do, I reckon. He'll never marry now--I'm
as sure of that as of any mortal thing. He's in love with a ghost."

It had not yet occurred to Roger that he was in love. He thought of
nothing but Isabel Temple--her lovely, lovely face, sweeter than any
picture he had ever seen or any ideal he had dreamed, her long dark
hair, her slim form and, more than all, her compelling eyes. He saw
them wherever he looked--they drew him--he would have followed them to
the end of the world, heedless of all else.

He longed for night, that he might again steal to the grave in the
haunted grove. She might come again--who knew? He felt no fear,
nothing but a terrible hunger to see her again. But she did not come
that night--nor the next--nor the next. Two weeks went by and he had
not seen her. Perhaps he would never see her again--the thought filled
him with anguish not to be borne. He knew now that he loved
her--Isabel Temple, dead for eighty years. This was love--this
searing, torturing, intolerably sweet thing--this possession of body
and soul and spirit. The poets had sung but weakly of it. He could
tell them better if he could find words. Could other men have loved at
all--could any man love those blowzy, common girls of earth? It seemed
impossible--absurd. There was only one thing that could be loved--that
white spirit. No wonder his uncle had died. He, Roger Temple, would
soon die too. That would be well. Only the dead could woo Isabel.
Meanwhile he revelled in his torment and his happiness--so madly
commingled that he never knew whether he was in heaven or hell. It was
beautiful--and dreadful--and wonderful--and exquisite--oh, so
exquisite. Mortal love could never be so exquisite. He had never lived
before--now he lived in every fibre of his being.

He was glad Aunt Catherine did not worry him with questions. He had
feared she would. But she never asked any questions now and she was
afraid of Roger, as she had been afraid of his uncle. She dared not
ask questions. It was a thing that must not be tampered with. Who knew
what she might hear if she asked him questions? She was very unhappy.
Something dreadful had happened to her poor boy--he had been bewitched
by that hussy--he would die as his uncle had died.

"Mebbe it's best," she muttered. "He's the last of the Temples, so
mebbe she'll rest in her grave when she's killed 'em all. I dunno what
she's sich a spite at _them_ for--there'd be more sense if she'd haunt
the Mortons, seein' as a Morton killed her. Well, I'm mighty old and
tired and worn out. It don't seem that it's been much use, the way
I've slaved and fussed to bring that b'y up and keep things together
for him--and now the ghost's got him. I might as well have let him die
when he was a sickly baby."

If this had been said to Roger he would have retorted that it was
worthwhile to have lived long enough to feel what he was feeling now.
He would not have missed it for a score of other men's lives. He had
drunk of some immortal wine and was as a god. Even if she never came
again, he had seen her once, and she had taught him life's great
secret in that one unforgettable exchange of eyes. She was his--his in
spite of his ugliness and his crooked shoulder. No man could ever take
her from him.

But she did come again. One evening, when the darkening grove was full
of magic in the light of the rising yellow moon shining across the
level field, Roger sat on the big boulder by the grave. The evening
was very still; there was no sound save the echoes of noisy laughter
that seemed to come up from the bay shore--drunken fishermen, likely
as not. Roger resented the intrusion of such a sound in such a
place--it was a sacrilege. When he came here to dream of her, only the
loveliest of muted sounds should be heard--the faintest whisper of
trees, the half-heard, half-felt moan of surf, the airiest sigh of
wind. He never read Wordsworth now or any other book. He only sat
there and thought of her, his great eyes alight, his pale face flushed
with the wonder of his love.

She slipped through the dark boughs like a moonbeam and stood by the
stone. Again he saw her quite plainly--saw and drank her in with his
eyes. He did not feel surprise--something in him had known she would
come again. He would not move a muscle lest he lose her as he had lost
her before. They looked at each other--for how long? He did not know;
and then--a horrible thing happened. Into that place of wonder and
revelation and mystery reeled a hiccoughing, laughing creature, a
drunken sailor from a harbour ship, with a leering face and
desecrating breath.

"Oh, you're here, my dear--I thought I'd catch you yet," he said.

He caught hold of her. She screamed. Roger sprang forward and struck
him in the face. In his fury of sudden rage the strength of ten seemed
to animate his slender body and pass into his blow. The sailor reeled
back and put up his hands. He was a coward--and even a brave man might
have been daunted by that terrible white face and those blazing eyes.
He backed down the path.

"Shorry--shorry," he muttered. "Didn't know she was your girl--shorry
I butted in. Shentlemans never butt in--shorry--shir--shorry."

He kept repeating his ridiculous "shorry" until he was out of the
grove. Then he turned and ran stumblingly across the field. Roger did
not follow; he went back to Isabel Temple's grave. The girl was lying
across it; he thought she was unconscious. He stooped and picked her
up--she was light and small, but she was warm flesh and blood; she
clung uncertainly to him for a moment and he felt her breath on his
face. He did not speak--he was too sick at heart. She did not speak
either. He did not think this strange until afterwards. He was
incapable of thinking just then; he was dazed, wretched, lost.
Presently he became aware that she was timidly pulling his arm. It
seemed that she wanted him to go with her--she was evidently
frightened of that brute--he must take her to safety. And then--

She moved on down the little path and he followed. Out in the moonlit
field he saw her clearly. With her drooping head, her flowing dark
hair, her great brown eyes, she looked like the nymph of a wood-brook,
a haunter of shadows, a creature sprung from the wild. But she was
mortal maid, and he--what a fool he had been! Presently he would laugh
at himself, when this dazed agony should clear away from his brain. He
followed her down the long field to the bay shore. Now and then she
paused and looked back to see if he were coming, but she never spoke.
When she reached the shore road she turned and went along it until
they came to an old grey house fronting the calm grey harbour. At its
gate she paused. Roger knew now who she was. Catherine had told him
about her a month ago.

She was Lilith Barr, a girl of eighteen, who had come to live with her
uncle and aunt. Her father had died some months before. She was
absolutely deaf as the result of some accident in childhood, and she
was, as his own eyes told him, exquisitely lovely in her white,
haunting style. But she was not Isabel Temple; he had tricked
himself--he had lived in a fool's paradise--oh, he must get away and
laugh at himself. He left her at her gate, disregarding the little
hand she put timidly out--but he did not laugh at himself. He went
back to Isabel Temple's grave and flung himself down on it and cried
like a boy. He wept his stormy, anguished soul out on it; and when he
rose and went away, he believed it was forever. He thought he could
never, never go there again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Catherine looked at him curiously the next morning. He looked
wretched--haggard and hollow-eyed. She knew he had not come in till
the summer dawn. But he had lost the rapt, uncanny look she hated;
suddenly she no longer felt afraid of him. With this, she began to ask
questions again.

"What kept ye out so late again last night, b'y?" she said
reproachfully.

Roger looked at her in her morning ugliness. He had not really seen
her for weeks. Now she smote on his tortured senses, so long drugged
with beauty, like a physical blow. He suddenly burst into a laughter
that frightened her.

"Preserve's, b'y, have ye gone mad? Or," she added, "have ye seen
Isabel Temple's ghost?"

"No," said Roger loudly and explosively. "Don't talk any more about
that damned ghost. Nobody ever saw it. The whole story is balderdash."

He got up and went violently out, leaving Catherine aghast. Was it
possible Roger had sworn? What on earth had come over the b'y? But
come what had or come what would, he no longer looked _fey_--there was
that much to be thankful for. Even an occasional oath was better than
that. Catherine went stiffly about her dish-washing, resolving to have
'Liza Adams to supper some night.

For a week Roger lived in agony--an agony of shame and humiliation and
self-contempt. Then, when the edge of his bitter disappointment wore
away, he made another dreadful discovery. He still loved her and
longed for her just as keenly as before. He wanted madly to see
her--her flower-like face, her great, asking eyes, the sleek, braided
flow of her hair. Ghost or woman--spirit or flesh--it mattered not. He
could not live without her. At last his hunger for her drew him to the
old grey house on the bay shore. He knew he was a fool--she would
never look at him; he was only feeding the flame that must consume
him. But go he must and did, seeking for his lost paradise.

He did not see her when he went in, but Mrs. Barr received him kindly
and talked about her in a pleasant garrulous fashion which jarred on
Roger, yet he listened greedily. Lilith, her aunt told him, had been
made deaf by the accidental explosion of a gun when she was eight
years old. She could not hear a sound but she could talk.

"A little, that is--not much, but enough to get along with. But she
don't like talking somehow--dunno why. She's shy--and we think maybe
she don't like to talk much because she can't hear her own voice. She
don't ever speak except just when she has to. But she's been trained
to lip-reading something wonderful--she can understand anything that's
said when she can see the person that's talking. Still, it's a
terrible drawback for the poor child--she's never had any real
girl-life and she's dreadful sensitive and retiring. We can't get her
to go out anywhere, only for lonely walks along shore by herself.
We're much obliged for what you did the other night. It ain't safe for
her to wander about alone as she does, but it ain't often anybody from
the harbour gets up this far. She was dreadful upset about it--hasn't
got over her scare yet."

When Lilith came in, her ivory-white face went scarlet all over at the
sight of Roger. She sat down in a shadowy corner. Mrs. Barr got up
and went out. Roger was mute; he could find nothing to say. He could
have talked glibly enough to Isabel Temple's ghost in some unearthly
tryst by her grave, but he could not find a word to say to this slip
of flesh and blood. He felt very foolish and absurd, and very
conscious of his twisted shoulder. What a fool he had been to come!

Then Lilith looked up at him--and smiled. A little shy, friendly
smile. Roger suddenly saw her not as the tantalizing, unreal, mystic
thing of the twilit grove, but as a little human creature, exquisitely
pretty in her young-moon beauty, longing for companionship. He got up,
forgetting his ugliness, and went across the room to her.

"Will you come for a walk," he said eagerly. He held out his hand like
a child; as a child she stood up and took it; like two children they
went out and down the sunset shore. Roger was again incredibly happy.
It was not the same happiness as had been his in that vanished
fortnight; it was a homelier happiness with its feet on the earth. The
amazing thing was that he felt she was happy too--happy because she
was walking with _him_, "Jarback" Temple, whom no girl had even
thought about. A certain secret well-spring of fancy that had seemed
dry welled up in him sparklingly again.

Through the summer weeks the odd courtship went on. Roger talked to
her as he had never talked to anyone. He did not find it in the least
hard to talk to her, though her necessity of watching his face so
closely while he talked bothered him occasionally. He felt that her
intent gaze was reading his soul as well as his lips. She never talked
much herself; what she did say she spoke so low that it was hardly
above a whisper, but she had a voice as lovely as her face--sweet,
cadenced, haunting. Roger was quite mad about her, and he was horribly
afraid that he could never get up enough courage to ask her to marry
him. And he was afraid that if he did, she would never consent. In
spite of her shy, eager welcomes he could not believe she could care
for him--for _him_. She liked him, she was sorry for him, but it was
unthinkable that she, white, exquisite Lilith, could marry him and sit
at his table and his hearth. He was a fool to dream of it.

To the existence of romance and glamour in which he lived, no gossip
of the countryside penetrated. Yet much gossip there was, and at last
it came blundering in on Roger to destroy his fairy world a second
time. He came downstairs one night in the twilight, ready to go to
Lilith. His aunt and an old crony were talking in the kitchen; the
crony was old, and Catherine, supposing Roger was out of the house,
was talking loudly in that horrible voice of hers with still more
horrible zest and satisfaction.

"Yes, I'm guessing it'll be a match as ye say. Oh the b'y's doing
well. He ain't for every market, as I'm bound to admit. Ef she wan't
deaf she wouldn't look at him, no doubt. But she has scads of
money--they won't need to do a tap of work unless they like--and she's
a good housekeeper too her aunt tells me. She's pretty enough to suit
him--he's as particular as never was--and he wan't crooked and she
wan't deaf when they was born, so it's likely their children will be
all right. I'm that proud when I think of the match."

Roger fled out of the house, white of face and sick of heart. He went,
not to the bay shore, but to Isabel Temple's grave. He had never been
there since the night when he had rescued Lilith, but now he rushed to
it in his new agony. His aunt's horrible practicalities had filled him
with disgust--they dragged his love in the dust of sordid things. And
Lilith was rich; he had never known that--never suspected it. He could
never ask her to marry him now; he must never see her again. For the
second time he had lost her, and this second losing could not be
borne.

He sat down on the big boulder by the grave and dropped his poor grey
face in his hands, moaning in anguish. Nothing was left him, not even
dreams. He hoped he could soon die.

He did not know how long he sat there--he did not know when she came.
But when he lifted his miserable eyes, he saw her, sitting just a
little way from him on the big stone and looking at him with something
in her face that made his heart beat madly. He forgot Aunt Catherine's
sacrilege--he forgot that he was a presumptuous fool. He bent forward
and kissed her lips for the first time. The wonder of it loosed his
bound tongue.

"Lilith," he gasped, "I love you."

She put her hand into his and nestled closer to him.

"I thought you would have told me that long ago," she said.



Uncle Richard's New Year's Dinner


Prissy Baker was in Oscar Miller's store New Year's morning, buying
matches--for New Year's was not kept as a business holiday in
Quincy--when her uncle, Richard Baker, came in. He did not look at
Prissy, nor did she wish him a happy New Year; she would not have
dared. Uncle Richard had not been on speaking terms with her or her
father, his only brother, for eight years.

He was a big, ruddy, prosperous-looking man--an uncle to be proud of,
Prissy thought wistfully, if only he were like other people's uncles,
or, indeed, like what he used to be himself. He was the only uncle
Prissy had, and when she had been a little girl they had been great
friends; but that was before the quarrel, in which Prissy had had no
share, to be sure, although Uncle Richard seemed to include her in his
rancour.

Richard Baker, so he informed Mr. Miller, was on his way to Navarre
with a load of pork.

"I didn't intend going over until the afternoon," he said, "but Joe
Hemming sent word yesterday he wouldn't be buying pork after twelve
today. So I have to tote my hogs over at once. I don't care about
doing business New Year's morning."

"Should think New Year's would be pretty much the same as any other
day to you," said Mr. Miller, for Richard Baker was a bachelor, with
only old Mrs. Janeway to keep house for him.

"Well, I always like a good dinner on New Year's," said Richard Baker.
"It's about the only way I can celebrate. Mrs. Janeway wanted to spend
the day with her son's family over at Oriental, so I was laying out to
cook my own dinner. I got everything ready in the pantry last night,
'fore I got word about the pork. I won't get back from Navarre before
one o'clock, so I reckon I'll have to put up with a cold bite."

After her Uncle Richard had driven away, Prissy walked thoughtfully
home. She had planned to spend a nice, lazy holiday with the new book
her father had given her at Christmas and a box of candy. She did not
even mean to cook a dinner, for her father had had to go to town that
morning to meet a friend and would be gone the whole day. There was
nobody else to cook dinner for. Prissy's mother had died when Prissy
was a baby. She was her father's housekeeper, and they had jolly times
together.

But as she walked home, she could not help thinking about Uncle
Richard. He would certainly have cold New Year cheer, enough to chill
the whole coming year. She felt sorry for him, picturing him returning
from Navarre, cold and hungry, to find a fireless house and an
uncooked dinner in the pantry.

Suddenly an idea popped into Prissy's head. Dared she? Oh, she never
could! But he would never know--there would be plenty of time--she
would!

Prissy hurried home, put her matches away, took a regretful peep at
her unopened book, then locked the door and started up the road to
Uncle Richard's house half a mile away. She meant to go and cook Uncle
Richard's dinner for him, get it all beautifully ready, then slip away
before he came home. He would never suspect her of it. Prissy would
not have him suspect for the world; she thought he would be more
likely to throw a dinner of her cooking out of doors than to eat it.

Eight years before this, when Prissy had been nine years old, Richard
and Irving Baker had quarrelled over the division of a piece of
property. The fault had been mainly on Richard's side, and that very
fact made him all the more unrelenting and stubborn. He had never
spoken to his brother since, and he declared he never would. Prissy
and her father felt very badly over it, but Uncle Richard did not seem
to feel badly at all. To all appearance he had completely forgotten
that there were such people in the world as his brother Irving and his
niece Prissy.

Prissy had no trouble in breaking into Uncle Richard's house, for the
woodshed door was unfastened. She tripped into the hostile kitchen
with rosy cheeks and mischief sparkling in her eyes. This was an
adventure--this was fun! She would tell her father all about it when
he came home at night and what a laugh they would have!

There was still a good fire in the stove, and in the pantry Prissy
found the dinner in its raw state--a fine roast of fresh pork,
potatoes, cabbage, turnips and the ingredients of a raisin pudding,
for Richard Baker was fond of raisin puddings, and could make them as
well as Mrs. Janeway could, if that was anything to boast of.

In a short time the kitchen was full of bubbling and hissings and
appetizing odours. Prissy enjoyed herself hugely, and the raisin
pudding, which she rather doubtfully mixed up, behaved itself
beautifully.

"Uncle Richard said he'd be home by one," said Prissy to herself, as
the clock struck twelve, "so I'll set the table now, dish up the
dinner, and leave it where it will keep warm until he gets here. Then
I'll slip away home. I'd like to see his face when he steps in. I
suppose he'll think one of the Jenner girls across the street has
cooked his dinner."

Prissy soon had the table set, and she was just peppering the turnips
when a gruff voice behind her said:

"Well, well, what does this mean?"

Prissy whirled around as if she had been shot, and there stood Uncle
Richard in the woodshed door!

Poor Prissy! She could not have looked or felt more guilty if Uncle
Richard had caught her robbing his desk. She did not drop the turnips
for a wonder; but she was too confused to set them down, so she stood
there holding them, her face crimson, her heart thumping, and a
horrible choking in her throat.

"I--I--came up to cook your dinner for you, Uncle Richard," she
stammered. "I heard you say--in the store--that Mrs. Janeway had gone
home and that you had nobody to cook your New Year's dinner for you.
So I thought I'd come and do it, but I meant to slip away before you
came home."

Poor Prissy felt that she would never get to the end of her
explanation. Would Uncle Richard be angry? Would he order her from the
house?

"It was very kind of you," said Uncle Richard drily. "It's a wonder
your father let you come."

"Father was not home, but I am sure he would not have prevented me if
he had been. Father has no hard feelings against you, Uncle Richard."

"Humph!" said Uncle Richard. "Well, since you've cooked the dinner you
must stop and help me eat it. It smells good, I must say. Mrs. Janeway
always burns pork when she roasts it. Sit down, Prissy. I'm hungry."

They sat down. Prissy felt quite giddy and breathless, and could
hardly eat for excitement; but Uncle Richard had evidently brought
home a good appetite from Navarre, and he did full justice to his New
Year's dinner. He talked to Prissy too, quite kindly and politely, and
when the meal was over he said slowly:

"I'm much obliged to you, Prissy, and I don't mind owning to you that
I'm sorry for my share in the quarrel, and have wanted for a long time
to be friends with your father again, but I was too ashamed and proud
to make the first advance. You can tell him so for me, if you like.
And if he's willing to let bygones be bygones, tell him I'd like him
to come up here with you tonight when he gets home and spend the
evening with me."

"Oh, he will come, I know!" cried Prissy joyfully. "He has felt so
badly about not being friendly with you, Uncle Richard. I'm as glad as
can be."

Prissy ran impulsively around the table and kissed Uncle Richard. He
looked up at his tall, girlish niece with a smile of pleasure.

"You're a good girl, Prissy, and a kind-hearted one too, or you'd
never have come up here to cook a dinner for a crabbed old uncle who
deserved to eat cold dinners for his stubbornness. It made me cross
today when folks wished me a happy New Year. It seemed like mockery
when I hadn't a soul belonging to me to make it happy. But it has
brought me happiness already, and I believe it will be a happy year
all the way through."

"Indeed it will!" laughed Prissy. "I'm so happy now I could sing. I
believe it was an inspiration--my idea of coming up here to cook your
dinner for you."

"You must promise to come and cook my New Year's dinner for me every
New Year we live near enough together," said Uncle Richard.

And Prissy promised.



White Magic


One September afternoon in the year of grace 1840 Avery and Janet
Sparhallow were picking apples in their Uncle Daniel Sparhallow's big
orchard. It was an afternoon of mellow sunshine; about them, beyond
the orchard, were old harvest fields, mellowly bright and serene, and
beyond the fields the sapphire curve of the St. Lawrence Gulf was
visible through the groves of spruce and birch. There was a soft
whisper of wind in the trees, and the pale purple asters that
feathered the orchard grass swayed gently towards each other. Janet
Sparhallow, who loved the outdoor world and its beauty, was, for the
time being at least, very happy, as her little brown face, with its
fine, satiny skin, plainly showed. Avery Sparhallow did not seem so
happy. She worked rather abstractedly and frowned oftener than she
smiled.

Avery Sparhallow was conceded to be a beauty, and had no rival in
Burnley Beach. She was very pretty, with the obvious, indisputable
prettiness of rich black hair, vivid, certain colour, and laughing,
brilliant eyes. Nobody ever called Janet a beauty, or even thought her
pretty. She was only seventeen--five years younger than Avery--and was
rather lanky and weedy, with a rope of straight dark-brown hair, long,
narrow, shining brown eyes and very black lashes, and a crooked,
clever little mouth. She had visitations of beauty when excited,
because then she flushed deeply, and colour made all the difference in
the world to her; but she had never happened to look in the glass when
excited, so that she had never seen herself beautiful; and hardly
anybody else had ever seen her so, because she was always too shy and
awkward and tongue-tied in company to feel excited over anything. Yet
very little could bring that transforming flush to her face: a wind
off the gulf, a sudden glimpse of blue upland, a flame-red poppy, a
baby's laugh, a certain footstep. As for Avery Sparhallow, she never
got excited over anything--not even her wedding dress, which had come
from Charlottetown that day, and was incomparably beyond anything that
had ever been seen in Burnley Beach before. For it was made of an
apple-green silk, sprayed over with tiny rosebuds, which had been
specially sent for to England, where Aunt Matilda Sparhallow had a
brother in the silk trade. Avery Sparhallow's wedding dress was making
far more of a sensation in Burnley Beach than her wedding itself was
making. For Randall Burnley had been dangling after her for three
years, and everybody knew that there was nobody for a Sparhallow to
marry except a Burnley and nobody for a Burnley to marry except a
Sparhallow.

"Only one silk dress--and I want a dozen," Avery had said scornfully.

"What would you do with a dozen silk dresses on a farm?" Janet asked
wonderingly.

"Oh--what indeed?" agreed Avery, with an impatient laugh.

"Randall will think just as much of you in drugget as in silk," said
Janet, meaning to comfort.

Again Avery laughed.

"That is true. Randall never notices what a woman has on. I like a man
who does notice--and tells me about it. I like a man who likes me
better in silk than in drugget. I will wear this rosebud silk when I'm
married, and it will be supposed to last me the rest of my life and be
worn on all state occasions, and in time become an heirloom like Aunt
Matilda's hideous blue satin. I want a new silk dress every month."

Janet paid little attention to this kind of raving. Avery had always
been more or less discontented. She would be contented enough after
she was married. Nobody could be discontented who was Randall
Burnley's wife. Janet was sure of that.

Janet liked picking apples; Avery did not like it; but Aunt Matilda
had decreed that the red apples should be picked that afternoon, and
Aunt Matilda's word was law at the Sparhallow farm, even for wilful
Avery. So they worked and talked as they worked--of Avery's wedding,
which was to be as soon as Bruce Gordon should arrive from Scotland.

"I wonder what Bruce will be like," said Avery. "It is eight years
since he went home to Scotland. He was sixteen then--he will be
twenty-four now. He went away a boy--he will come back a man."

"I don't remember much about him," said Janet. "I was only nine when
he went away. He used to tease me--I do remember that." There was a
little resentment in her voice. Janet had never liked being teased.
Avery laughed.

"You were so touchy, Janet. Touchy people always get teased. Bruce was
very handsome--and as nice as he was handsome. Those two years he was
here were the nicest, gayest time I ever had. I wish he had stayed in
Canada. But of course he wouldn't do that. His father was a rich man
and Bruce was ambitious. Oh, Janet, I wish I could live in the old
land. That would be life."

Janet had heard all this before and could not understand it. She had
no hankering for either Scotland or England. She loved the new land
and its wild, virgin beauty. She yearned to the future, never to the
past.

"I'm tired of Burnley Beach," Avery went on passionately, shaking
apples wildly off a laden bough by way of emphasis. "I know all the
people--what they are--what they can be. It's like reading a book for
the twentieth time. I know where I was born and who I'll marry--and
where I'll be buried. That's knowing too much. All my days will be
alike when I marry Randall. There will never be anything unexpected or
surprising about them. I tell you Janet," Avery seized another bough
and shook it with a vengeance, "I hate the very thought of it."

"The thought of--what?" said Janet in bewilderment.

"Of marrying Randall Burnley--or marrying anybody down here--and
settling down on a farm for life."

Then Avery sat down on the rung of her ladder and laughed at Janet's
face.

"You look stunned, Janet. Did you really think I wanted to marry
Randall?"

Janet was stunned, and she did think that. How could any girl not want
to marry Randall Burnley if she had the chance?

"Don't you love him?" she asked stupidly.

Avery bit into a nut-sweet apple.

"No," she said frankly. "Oh, I don't hate him, of course. I like him
well enough. I like him very well. But we'll quarrel all our lives."

"Then what are you marrying him for?" asked Janet.

"Why, I'm getting on--twenty-two--all the girls of my age are married
already. I won't be an old maid, and there's nobody but Randall.
Nobody good enough for a Sparhallow, that is. You wouldn't want me to
marry Ned Adams or John Buchanan, would you?"

"No," said Janet, who had her full share of the Sparhallow pride.

"Well, then, of course I must marry Randall. That's settled and
there's no use making faces over the notion. I'm not making faces, but
I'm tired of hearing you talk as if you thought I adored him and must
be in the seventh heaven because I was going to marry him, you
romantic child."

"Does Randall know you feel like this?" asked Janet in a low tone.

"No. Randall is like all men--vain and self-satisfied--and believes
I'm crazy about him. It's just as well to let him think so, until
we're safely married anyhow. Randall has some romantic notions too,
and I'm not sure that he'd marry me if he knew, in spite of his three
years' devotion. And I have no intention of being jilted three weeks
before my wedding day."

Avery laughed again, and tossed away the core of her apple.

Janet, who had been very pale, went crimson and lovely. She could not
endure hearing Randall criticized. "Vain and self-satisfied"--when
there was never a man less so! She was horrified to feel that she
almost hated Avery--Avery who did not love Randall.

"What a pity Randall didn't take a fancy to you instead of me, Janet,"
said Avery teasingly. "Wouldn't you like to marry him, Janet? Wouldn't
you now?"

"No," cried Janet angrily. "I just like Randall, I've liked him ever
since that day when I was a little thing and he came here and saved me
from being shut up all day in that dreadful dark closet because I
broke Aunt Matilda's blue cup--when I hadn't meant to break it. He
wouldn't let her shut me up! He is like that--he understands! I want
you to marry him because he wants you, and it isn't fair that
you--that you--"

"Nothing is fair in this world, child. Is it fair that I, who am so
pretty--you know I am pretty, Janet--and who love life and excitement,
should have to be buried on a P.E. Island farm all my days? Or else be
an old maid because a Sparhallow mustn't marry beneath her? Come,
Janet, don't look so woebegone. I wouldn't have told you if I'd
thought you'd take it so much to heart. I'll be a good wife to
Randall, never fear, and I'll keep him up to the notch of prosperity
much better than if I thought him a little lower than the angels. It
doesn't do to think a man perfection, Janet, because he thinks so too,
and when he finds someone who agrees with him he is inclined to rest
on his oars."

"At any rate, you don't care for anyone else," said Janet hopefully.

"Not I. I like Randall as well as I like anybody."

"Randall won't be satisfied with that," muttered Janet. But Avery did
not hear her, having picked up her basket of apples and gone. Janet
sat down on the lower rung of the ladder and gave herself up to an
unpleasant reverie. Oh, how the world had changed in half an hour! She
had never been so worried in her life. She was so fond of Randall--she
had always been fond of him--why, he was just like a brother to her!
She couldn't possibly love a brother more. And Avery was going to hurt
him; it would hurt him horribly when he found out she did not love
him. Janet could not bear the thought of Randall being hurt; it made
her fairly savage. He must not be hurt--Avery must love him. Janet
could not understand why she did not.

Surely everyone must love Randall. It had never occurred to Janet to
ask herself, as Avery had asked, if she would like to marry Randall.
Randall could never fancy her--a little plain, brown thing, only half
grown. Nobody could think of her beside beautiful, rose-faced Avery.
Janet accepted this fact unquestioningly. She had never been jealous.
She only felt that she wanted Randall to have everything he wanted--to
be perfectly happy. Why, it would be dreadful if he did not marry
Avery--if he went and married some other girl. She would never see
him then, never have any more delightful talks with him about all the
things they both loved so much--winds and delicate dawns, mysterious
woods in moonlight and starry midnights, silver-white sails going out
of the harbour in the magic of morning, and the grey of gulf storms.
There would be nothing in life; it would just be one great, unbearable
emptiness; for she, herself, would never marry. There was nobody for
her to marry--and she didn't care. If she could have Randall for a
real brother, she would not mind a bit being an old maid. And there
was that beautiful new frame house Randall had built for his bride,
which she, Janet, had helped him build, because Avery would not
condescend to details of pantry and linen closet and cupboards. Janet
and Randall had had such fun over the cupboards. No stranger must ever
come to be mistress of that house. Randall must marry Avery, and she
must love him. Could anything be done to make her love him?

"I believe I'll go and see Granny Thomas," said Janet desperately.

She thought this was a silly idea, but it still haunted her and would
not be shaken off. Granny Thomas was a very old woman who lived at
Burnley Cove and was reputed to be something of a witch. That is,
people who were not Sparhallows or Burnleys gave her that name.
Sparhallows or Burnleys, of course, were above believing in such
nonsense. Janet was above believing it; but still--the sailors along
shore were careful to "keep on the good side" of Granny Thomas, lest
she brew an unfavourable wind for them, and there was much talk of
love potions. Janet knew that people said Peggy Buchanan would never
have got Jack McLeod if Granny had not given her a love potion. Jack
had never looked at Peggy, though she was after him for years; and
then, all at once, he was quite mad about her--and married her--and
wore her life out with jealousy. And Peggy, the homeliest of all the
Buchanan girls! There must be something in it. Janet made a sudden
desperate resolve. She would go to Granny and ask her for a love
potion to make Avery love Randall. If Granny couldn't do any good, she
couldn't do any harm. Janet was a little afraid of her, and had never
been near her house, but what wouldn't she do for Randall?

       *       *       *       *       *

Janet never lost much time in carrying out any resolution she made.
The next afternoon she slipped away to visit Granny Thomas. She put on
her longest dress and did her hair up for the first time. Granny must
not think her a child. She rowed herself down the long pond to the row
of golden-brown sand dunes that parted it from the gulf. It was a
wonderful autumn day. There were wild growths and colours and scents
in sweet procession all around the pond. Every curve in it revealed
some little whim of loveliness. On the left bank, in a grove of birch,
was Randall's new house, waiting to be sanctified by love and joy and
birth. Janet loved to be alone thus with the delightful day. She was
sorry when she had walked over the stretch of windy weedy sea fields
and reached Granny's little tumbledown house at the Cove--sorry and a
little frightened as well. But only a little; there was good stuff in
Janet; she lifted the latch boldly and walked in when Granny bade.
Granny was curled up on a stool by her fireplace, and if ever anybody
did look like a witch, she did. She waved her pipe at another stool,
and Janet sat down, gazing a little curiously at Granny, whom she had
never seen at such close quarters before.

Will I look like that when I am very old? she thought, beholding
Granny's wizened, marvellously wrinkled face. I wonder if anybody will
be sorry when you die.

"Staring wasn't thought good manners in my time," said Granny. Then,
as Janet blushed crimson under the rebuke, she added, "Keep red like
that instead o' white, and you won't need no love ointment."

Janet felt a little cold thrill. How did Granny know what she had come
for? Was she a real witch after all? For a moment she wished she
hadn't come. Perhaps it was not right to tamper with the powers of
darkness. Peggy Buchanan was notoriously unhappy. If Janet had known
how to get herself away, she would have gone without asking for
anything.

Then a sound came from the lean-to behind the house.

"S-s-h. I hear the devil grunting like a pig," muttered Granny,
looking very impish.

But Janet smiled a little contemptuously. She knew it was a pig and no
devil. Granny Thomas was only an old fraud. Her awe passed away and
left her cool Sparhallow.

"Can you," she said with her own directness, "make a--a person care
for another person--care--very much?"

Granny removed her pipe and chuckled.

"What you want is toad ointment," she said.

Toad ointment! Janet shuddered. That did not sound very nice. Granny
noticed the shudder.

"Nothing like it," she said, nodding her crone-like old grey head.
"There's other things, but noan so sure. Put a li'l bit--oh, such a
li'l bit--on his eyelids, and he's yourn for life. You need something
powerful--you're noan so pretty--only when you're blushing."

Janet was blushing again. So Granny thought she wanted the charm for
herself! Well, what did it matter? Randall was the only one to be
considered.

"Is it very--expensive?" she faltered. She had not much money. Money
was no plentiful thing on a P.E.I. farm in 1840.

"Oh, noa--oh, noa," Granny leered. "I don't sell it. I gives it. I
like to see young folks happy. You don't need much, as I've said--just
a li'l smootch and you'll have your man, and send old Granny a bite o'
the wedding cake and fig o' baccy for luck, and a bid to the fir-r-st
christening! Doan't forget that, dearie."

Janet was cold again with anger. She hated old Granny Thomas. She
would never come near her again.

"I'd rather pay you its worth," she said coldly.

"You couldn't, dearie. What money could be eno' for such a treasure?
But that's the Sparhallow pride. Well, go, see if the Sparhallow pride
and the Sparhallow money will buy you your lad's love."

Granny looked so angry that Janet hastened to appease her.

"Oh, please forgive me--I meant no offence. Only--it must have cost
you much trouble to make it."

Granny chuckled again. She was vastly pleased to see a Sparhallow
suing to her--a Sparhallow!

"Toads am cheap," she said. "It's all in the knowing how and the time
o' the moon. Here, take this li'l pill box--there's eno' in it--and
put a li'l bit on his eyelids when you've getten the chance--and when
he looks at you, he'll love you. Mind you, though, that he looks at no
other first--it's the first one he sees that he'll love. That's the
way it works."

"Thank you." Janet took the little box. She wished she dared to go at
once. But perhaps this would anger Granny. Granny looked at her with a
twinkle in her little, incredibly old eyes.

"Be off," she said. "You're in a hurry to go--you're as proud as any
of the proud Sparhallows. But I bear you no grudge. I likes proud
people--when they have to come to me to get help."

Janet found herself outside with a relieved heart in her bosom and her
little box in her hand. For a moment she was tempted to throw it away.
But no--Randall would be so unhappy if he found out Avery didn't love
him! She would try the ointment at least--she would try to forget
about the toads and not let herself think how it was made--something
might come of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Janet hurried home along the shore, where a silvery wave broke in a
little lovely silvery curve on the sand. She was so happy that her
cheeks burned, and Randall Burnley, who was sitting on the edge of her
flat when she reached the pond, looked at her with admiration. Janet
dropped her box into her pocket stealthily when she saw him. What with
her guilty secret, she hardly knew whether she was glad or not when
he said he was going to row her up the pond.

"I saw you go down an hour ago and I've been waiting ever since," he
said. "Where have you been?"

"Oh--I just--wanted a walk--this lovely day," said Janet miserably.
She felt that she was telling an untruth and this hurt her
horribly--especially when it was to Randall. This was what came of
truck with witches--you were led into falsehood and deception
straightaway. Again Janet was tempted to drop Granny's pill box into
the depths of Burnley Pond--and again she decided not to because she
saw Randall Burnley's deep-set, blue-grey eyes, that could look tender
or sorrowful or passionate or whimsical as he willed, and thought how
they would look when he found Avery did not love him.

So Janet drowned the voice of conscience and was brazenly happy--happy
because Randall Burnley rowed her up the pond--happy because he walked
halfway home with her over the autumnal fields--happy because he
talked of the day and the sea and the golden weather, as only Randall
could talk. But she thought she was happy because she had in her
pocket what might make Avery love him.

Randall went as far as the stile in the birch wood between the Burnley
and the Sparhallow land--and he kept her there talking for another
half-hour--and though he talked only of a book he had read and a new
puppy he was training, Janet listened with her soul in her ears. She
talked too--quite freely; she was never in the least shy or
tongue-tied or awkward in Randall's company. There she was always at
her best, with a delightful feeling of being understood. She wondered
if he noticed she had her hair done up. Her eyes shone and her brown
face was full of rosy, kissable hues. When he finally turned away
homeward, life went flat. Janet decided she was very tired after her
long walk and her trying interview. But it did not matter, since she
had her love potion. That was so much nicer a name than toad ointment.

That night Janet rubbed mutton tallow on her hands. She had never done
that before--she had thought it vain and foolish--though Avery did it
every night. But that afternoon on the pond Randall had said something
about the beautiful shape of her pretty slender hands. He had never
paid her a compliment before. Her hands were brown and a little
hard--not soft and white like Avery's. So Janet resorted to the mutton
tallow. If one had a scrap of beauty, if only in one's hands, one
might as well take care of it.

Having got her ointment, the next thing was to make use of it. This
was not so easy--because, in the first place, it must not be done when
there was any danger of Avery's seeing some other than Randall
first--and it must be done without Avery's knowing it. The two
problems combined were almost too much for Janet. She bided her chance
like a watchful cat--but it did not come. Two weeks went by and it had
not come. Janet was getting very desperate. The wedding day was only a
week away. The bride's cake was made and the turkeys fattened. The
invitations were sent out. Janet's own bridesmaid dress was ready. And
still the little pill box in the till of Janet's blue chest was
unopened. She had never even opened it, lest virtue escape.

Then her chance came at last, unexpectedly. One evening at dusk, when
Janet was crossing the little dark upstairs hall, Aunt Matilda called
up to her.

"Janet, send Avery down. There is a young man wanting to see her."

Aunt Matilda was laughing a little--as she always did when Randall
came. It was a habit with her, hanging over from the early days of
Randall's courtship. Janet went on into their room to tell Avery. And
lo, Avery was lying asleep on her bed, tired out from her busy day.
Janet, after one glance, flew to her chest. She took out her pill box
and opened it, a little fearfully. The toad ointment was there, dark
and unpleasant enough to view. Janet tiptoed breathlessly to the bed
and gingerly scraped the tip of her finger in the ointment.

She said so little would be enough--oh, I hope I'm not doing wrong.

Trembling with excitement, she brushed lightly the white lids of
Avery's eyes. Avery stirred and opened them. Janet guiltily thrust her
pill box behind her.

"Randall is downstairs asking for you, Avery."

Avery sat up, looking annoyed. She had not expected Randall that
evening and would greatly have preferred a continuance of her nap. She
went down crossly enough, but looking very lovely, flushed from sleep.
Janet stood in their room, clasping her cold hands nervously over her
breast. Would the charm work? Oh, she must know--she must know. She
could not wait. After a few moments that seemed like years she crept
down the stairs and out into the dusk of the June-warm September
night. Like a shadow she slipped up to the open parlour window and
looked cautiously in between the white muslin curtains. The next
minute she had fallen on her knees in the mint bed. She wished she
could die then and there.

The young man in the parlour was not Randall Burnley. He was dark and
smart and handsome; he was sitting on the sofa by Avery's side,
holding her hands in his, smiling into her rosy, delighted, excited
face. And he was Bruce Gordon--no doubt of that. Bruce Gordon, the
expected cousin from Scotland!

"Oh, what have I done? What have I done?" moaned poor Janet, wringing
her hands. She had seen Avery's face quite plainly--had seen the look
in her eyes. Avery had never looked at Randall Burnley like that.
Granny Thomas' abominable ointment had worked all right--and Avery had
fallen in love with the wrong man.

Janet, cold with horror and remorse, dragged herself up to the window
again and listened. She must know--she must be sure. She could hear
only a word here and there, but that word was enough.

"I thought you promised to wait for me, Avery," Bruce said
reproachfully.

"You were so long in coming back--I thought you had forgotten me,"
cried Avery.

"I think I did forget a little, Avery. I was such a boy. But
now--well, thank Heaven, I haven't come too late."

There was a silence, and shameless Janet, peering above the window
sill, saw what she saw. It was enough. She crept away upstairs to her
room. She was lying there across the bed when Avery swept in--a
splendid, transfigured Avery, flushed triumphant. Janet sat up,
pallid, tear-stained, and looked at her.

"Janet," said Avery, "I am going to marry Bruce Gordon next Wednesday
night instead of Randall Burnley."

Janet sprang forward and caught Avery's hand.

"You must not," she cried wildly. "It's all my fault--oh, if I could
only die--I got the love ointment from Granny Thomas to rub on your
eyes to make you love the first man you would see. I meant it to be
Randall--I thought it was Randall--oh, Avery!"

Avery had been listening, between amazement and anger. Now anger
mastered amazement.

"Janet Sparhallow," she cried, "are you crazy? Or do you mean that you
went to Granny Thomas--you, a Sparhallow!--and asked her for a love
philtre to make me love Randall Burnley?"

"I didn't tell her it was for you--she thought I wanted it for
myself," moaned Janet. "Oh, we must undo it--I'll go to her again--no
doubt she knows of some way to undo the spell--"

Avery, whose rages never lasted long, threw back her dark head and
laughed ringingly.

"Janet Sparhallow, you talk as if you lived in the dark ages! The idea
of supposing that horrid old woman could give you love philtres! Why,
girl, I've always loved Bruce--always. But I thought he'd forgotten
me. And tonight when he came I found he hadn't. There's the whole
thing in a nutshell. I'm going to marry him and go home with him to
Scotland."

"And what about Randall?" said Janet, corpse-white.

"Oh, Randall--pooh! Do you suppose I'm worrying about Randall? But
you must go to him tomorrow and tell him for me, Janet."

"I will not--I will not."

"Then I'll tell him myself--and I'll tell him about you going to
Granny," said Avery cruelly. "Janet, don't stand there looking like
that. I've no patience with you. I shall be perfectly happy with
Bruce--I would have been miserable with Randall. I know I shan't sleep
a wink tonight--I'm so excited. Why, Janet, I'll be Mrs. Gordon of
Gordon Brae--and I'll have everything heart can desire and the man of
my heart to boot. What has lanky Randall Burnley with his little
six-roomed house to set against that?"

If Avery did not sleep, neither did Janet. She lay awake till dawn,
suffering such misery as she had never endured in her life before. She
knew she must go to Randall Burnley tomorrow and break his heart. If
she did not, Avery would tell him--tell him what Janet had done. And
he must not know that--he must not. Janet could not bear that thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a pallid, dull-eyed Janet who went through the birch wood to
the Burnley farm next afternoon, leaving behind her an excited
household where the sudden change of bridegrooms, as announced by
Avery, had rather upset everybody. Janet found Randall working in the
garden of his new house--setting out rosebushes for Avery--Avery, who
was to jilt him at the very altar, so to speak. He came over to open
the gate for Janet, smiling his dear smile. It was a dear smile--Janet
caught her breath over the dearness of it--and she was going to blot
it off his face.

She spoke out, with plainness and directness. When you had to deal a
mortal blow, why try to lighten it?

"Avery sent me to tell you that she is going to marry Bruce Gordon
instead of you. He came last night--and she says that she has always
liked him best."

A very curious change came over Randall's face--but not the change
Janet had expected to see. Instead of turning pale Randall flushed;
and instead of a sharp cry of pain and incredulity, Randall said in no
uncertain tones, "Thank God!"

Janet wondered if she were dreaming. Granny Thomas' love potion seemed
to have turned the world upside down. For Randall's arms were about
her and Randall was pressing his lean bronzed cheek to hers and
Randall was saying:

"Now I can tell you, Janet, how much I love you."

"Me? Me!" choked Janet.

"You. Why, you're in the very core of my heart, girl. Don't tell me
you can't love me--you can--you must--why, Janet," for his eyes had
caught and locked with hers for a minute, "you do!"

There were five minutes about which nobody can tell anything, for even
Randall and Janet never knew clearly just what happened in those five
minutes. Then Janet, feeling somehow as if she had died and then come
back to life, found her tongue.

"Three years ago you came courting Avery," she said reproachfully.

"Three years ago you were a child. I did not think about you. I wanted
a wife--and Avery was pretty. I thought I was in love with her. Then
you grew up all at once--and we were such good friends--I never could
talk to Avery--she wasn't interested in anything I said--and you have
eyes that catch a man--I've always thought of your eyes. But I was
honour-bound to Avery--I didn't dream you cared. You must marry me
next Wednesday, Janet--we'll have a double wedding. You won't
mind--being married--so soon?"

"Oh, no--I won't--mind," said Janet dazedly. "Only--oh, Randall--I
must tell you--I didn't mean to tell you--I'd have rather died--but
now--I must tell you about it now--because I can't bear anything
hidden between us. I went to old Granny Thomas--and got a love
ointment from her--to make Avery love you, because I knew she
didn't--and I wanted you to be happy--Randall, don't--I can't talk
when you do that! Do you think Granny's ointment could have made her
care for Bruce?"

Randall laughed--the little, low laugh of the triumphant lover.

"If it did, I'm glad of it. But I need no such ointment on my eyes to
make me love you--you carry your philtre in that elfin little face of
yours, Janet."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1909 to 1922" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home