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: Quin
Author: Rice, Alice Caldwell Hegan, 1870-1942
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 "Quin" ***

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



produced from images generously made available by The
Kentuckiana Digital Library)



    [Illustration: "If you don't leave the room instantly, I will!"]



                               Q U I N



                                 BY

                           ALICE HEGAN RICE


             Author of "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch,"
             "Lovey Mary," "Sandy," "Calvary Alley," etc.



                               NEW YORK
                            THE CENTURY CO.
                                 1921



                         Copyright, 1921, by
                           THE CENTURY CO.

                         PRINTED IN U. S. A.



                        TO MY MERRIEST FRIEND

                         JOSEPHINE F. HAMILL



                         Transcriber's Note:

         The Table of Contents was not in the original text and
           has been created for the convenience of the reader.



                               CONTENTS

                CHAPTER  1                    CHAPTER 18
                CHAPTER  2                    CHAPTER 19
                CHAPTER  3                    CHAPTER 20
                CHAPTER  4                    CHAPTER 21
                CHAPTER  5                    CHAPTER 22
                CHAPTER  6                    CHAPTER 23
                CHAPTER  7                    CHAPTER 24
                CHAPTER  8                    CHAPTER 25
                CHAPTER  9                    CHAPTER 26
                CHAPTER 10                    CHAPTER 27
                CHAPTER 11                    CHAPTER 28
                CHAPTER 12                    CHAPTER 29
                CHAPTER 13                    CHAPTER 30
                CHAPTER 14                    CHAPTER 31
                CHAPTER 15                    CHAPTER 32
                CHAPTER 16                    CHAPTER 33
                CHAPTER 17



                               Q U I N



                              CHAPTER 1


If the dollar Quinby Graham tossed up on New Year's eve had not elected
to slip through his fingers and roll down the sewer grating, there might
have been no story to write. Quin had said, "Tails, yes"; and who knows
but that down there under the pavement that coin of fate was registering
"Heads, no"? It was useless to suggest trying it over, however, for
neither of the young privates with town leave for twenty-four hours
possessed another coin.

The heavier of the two boys, Cass Martel,--the lame one, whose nose began
quite seriously, as if it had every intention of being a nose, then
changed abruptly into a button,--scraped the snow from the sewer grating
with his cane, and swore savagely under his breath. But Quin shrugged his
shoulders with a slow, easy-going laugh.

"That settles it," he said triumphantly. "We got to go to the Hawaiian
Garden now, because it's the only place that's free!"

"I'll be hanged if I know what you want to go to a dance for," argued his
companion fiercely. "Here you been on your back for six months, and your
legs so shaky they won't hardly hold you. Don't you know you can't
dance?"

"Sure," agreed Quin amicably. "I don't mean to dance. But I got to go
where I can see some girls. I'm dead sick of men. Come on in. We don't
need to stay but a little while."

"That's too long for me," said Cass. "If you weren't such a bonehead for
doing what you start out to do, we could do something interesting."

One might have thought they were Siamese twins, from the way in which
Cass ignored the possibility of each going his own way. He glared at his
tall companion with a mingled expression of rage and dog-like devotion.

"Cut it out, Cass," said Quin at last, putting an end to an argument that
had been in progress for fifteen minutes. "I'm going to that dance, and
I'm going to make love to the first girl that looks at me. I'll meet you
wherever you say at six o'clock."

Cass, seeing that further persuasion was useless, reluctantly consented.

"Well, you take care of yourself, and don't forget you are going home
with me for the night," he warned.

"Where else could I go? Haven't got a red cent, and I wouldn't go back
out to the hospital if I had to bunk on the curbstone! So long, _chérie_!"

Sergeant Quinby Graham, having thus carried his point, adjusted his
overseas cap at a more acute angle, turned back his coat to show his
distinguished-conduct medal, and went blithely up the steps to the
dance-hall. He was tall and outrageously thin, and pale with the pallor
that comes from long confinement. His hands and feet seemed too big for
the rest of him, and his blond hair stuck up in a bristly mop above his
high forehead. But Sergeant Graham walked with the buoyant tread of one
who has a good opinion not only of himself but of mankind in general.

The only thing that disturbed his mind was the fact that, swagger as he
would, his shoulders, usually so square and trim, refused to fill out his
uniform. It was the first time he had had it on for six months, his
wardrobe having been limited to pajamas and bath-robes during his
convalescence in various hospitals at home and abroad.

Two years before, when he had left a lumber camp in Maine to answer
America's first call for volunteers to France, his personal appearance
had concerned him not in the least. But the army had changed that, as it
had changed most things for Quin.

He checked his overcoat at the hall entrance, stepped eagerly up to the
railing that divided the spectators from the dancers, and drew a deep
breath of satisfaction. Here, at last, was something different from the
everlasting hospital barracks: glowing lights, holiday decorations, the
scent of flowers instead of the stale fumes of ether and disinfectants;
soul-stirring music in place of the wheezy old phonograph grinding out
the same old tunes; and, above all, girls, hundreds of them, circling in
a bewildering rainbow of loveliness before him.

Was it any wonder that Quin's foot began to twitch, and that, in spite of
repeated warnings at the hospital, a blind desire seized him to dance? At
the mere thought his heart gained a beat--that unruly heart, which had
caused so much trouble. It had never been right since that August day in
the Sevzevais sector, when, to quote his citation, he "had shown great
initiative in assuming command when his officer was disabled, and, with
total disregard for his personal safety, had held his machine-gun against
almost impossible odds." In the accomplishment of this feat he had been
so badly gassed and wounded that his career as a soldier was definitely,
if gloriously, ended.

The long discipline of pain to which he had been subjected had not,
however, conquered Quin's buoyancy. He was still tremendously vital, and
when he wanted anything he wanted it inordinately and immediately. Just
now, when every muscle in him was keeping time to that soul-disturbing
music, he heard his own imperative desire voiced at his elbow:

"I don't want to go home. I want to dance. Nobody will notice us. Just
one round, Captain Phipps."

The voice was young and singularly vibrant, and the demand in it was
quite as insistent as the demand that was clamoring in Quin's own
khaki-covered breast.

He craned his neck to see the speaker; but she was hidden by her escort,
in whose supercilious profile he recognized one of the officers in charge
of his ward at the hospital.

"You foolish child!" the officer was saying, fingering his diminutive
mustache and viewing the scene with a somewhat contemptuous smile. "You
said if I would bring you in for a moment you wouldn't ask to stay."

"I know, but I always break my promises," said the coaxing voice; "and
besides I'm simply crazy to dance."

"You surely don't imagine that I would get out on the floor with all this
hoi-poloi?"

Quin saw a pair of small gloved hands grasp the railing resolutely, and
he was straightway filled with indignation that any man, of whatever
rank, should stand back on his dignity when a voice like that asked a
favor. A similar idea had evidently occurred to the young lady, for she
said with some spirit:

"The only difference I can see between these boys and you is that they
are privates who got over, and you are an officer who didn't."

Quin could not hear the answer, but as the officer shifted his position
he caught his first glimpse of the girl. She was very young and obviously
imperious, with white skin and coal-black hair and the most utterly
destructive brown eyes he had ever encountered. Discretion should have
prompted him to seek immediate safety out of the firing-line, but instead
he put himself in the most exposed position possible and waited results.

They arrived on schedule time.

"Captain Phipps!" called a page. "Wanted on the telephone."

"Will you wait for me here just a second?" asked the officer.

"I don't know whether I will or not," was the spirited answer; "I may go
home."

"Then I'll follow you," said the Captain as he pushed his way through the
crowd to the telephone-booth.

It was just at this moment, when the jazz band was breaking into its most
beguiling number, that Quin's eyes and the girl's eyes met in a glance of
mutual desire. History repeated itself. Once again, "with total disregard
for his personal safety, Sergeant Graham assumed command when his officer
was disabled," and rashly flung himself into the breach.

"Will you dance it with me?" he asked eagerly, and he blushed to the
roots of his stubbly hair.

There was an ominous pause, during which the young girl stood irresolute,
while Mrs. Grundy evidently whispered "Don't" in one ear and instinct
whispered "Do" in the other. It lasted but a second, for the next thing
Quin knew, a small gloved hand was slipped into his, a blue plume was
tickling his nose, and he was gliding a bit unsteadily into Paradise.

What his heart might do after that dance was of absolutely no consequence
to him. It could beat fast or slow, or even stop altogether, if it would
only hold out as long as the music did. Round and round among the dancers
he guided his dainty partner, carefully avoiding the entrance end of the
hall, and devoutly praying that his clumsy army shoes might not crush
those little high-heeled brown pumps tripping so deftly in and out
between them. He was not used to dancing with officers' girls, and he
held the small gray-gloved hand in his big fist as if it were a bird
about to take flight.

Next to the return of the Captain, he dreaded that other dancers, seeing
his prize, would try to capture her; but there was a certain tempered
disdain in the poise of his little partner's head, an ability to put up a
quick and effective defense against intrusion, that protected him as
well.

Neither of them spoke until the music stopped, and then they stood
applauding vociferously, with the rest, for an encore.

"I ought to go," said the Radiant Presence, with a guilty glance upward
from under long eyelashes. "You don't see a very cross-looking Captain
charging around near the door, do you?"

"No," said Quin, without turning his head, "I don't see him"--and he
smiled as he said it.

Now, Quin's smile was his chief asset in the way of looks. It was a
leisurely smile, that began far below the surface and sent preliminary
ripples up to his eyes and the corners of his big mouth, and broke
through at last in a radiant flash of good humor. In this case it met a
very prompt answer under the big hat.

"You see, I'm not supposed to be dancing," she explained rather
condescendingly.

"Nor me, either," said Quin, breathing heavily.

Then the band decided to be accommodating, and the saxophone decided to
out-jazz the piano, and the drum got its ambition roused and joined in
the competition, and the young couple who were not supposed to be dancing
out-danced everything on the floor!

Quin's heart might have adjusted itself to that first dance, but the
rollicking encore, together with the emotional shock it sustained every
time those destructive eyes were trained upon him, was too much for it.

"Say, would you mind stopping a bit?--just for a second?" he gasped, when
his breath seemed about to desert him permanently.

"You surely aren't _tired_?" scoffed the young lady, lifting a pair of
finely arched eyebrows.

"No; but, you see--as a matter of fact, ever since I was gassed----"

"Gassed!"

The word acted like a charm. The girl's sensitive face, over which the
expressions played like sunlight on water, softened to instant sympathy,
and Quin, who up to now had been merely a partner, suddenly found himself
individual.

"Did you see much actual service?" she asked, her eyes wide with
interest.

"Sure," said Quin, bracing himself against a post and trying to keep his
breath from coming in jerks; "saw sixteen months of it."

Her quick glance swept from the long scar on his forehead to the bar on
his breast.

"What do all those stars on the rainbow ribbon mean?" she demanded.

"Major engagements," said Quin diffidently.

"And the silver one in the middle?"

"A citation," He glanced around to make sure none of the other boys were
near, then confessed, as if to a crime: "That's where I got my medal."

"Come over here and sit down this minute," she commanded. "You've got to
tell me all about it."

It would be very pleasant to chronicle the fact that our hero modestly
declined to take advantage of the opportunity thus offered. But it must
be borne in mind that, his heart having failed him at a critical hour, he
had to fall back upon his tongue as the only means at hand of detaining
the Celestial Being who at any moment might depart. With what breath he
had left he told his story, and, having a good story to tell, he did it
full justice. Sometimes, to be sure, he got his pronouns mixed, and once
he lost the thread of his discourse entirely; but that was when he became
too conscious of those star-like eyes and the flattering absorption of
the little lady who for one transcendent moment was deigning "to love him
for the dangers he had passed." With unabated interest and curiosity she
drank in every detail of his recital, her half-parted lips only closing
occasionally to say, "Wonderful!" or "How _perfectly_ wonderful!"

On and on went the music, round and round went the dancers, and still the
private in the uniform that was too big and the officer's girl in blue
and gray sat in the alcove, totally oblivious to everything but each
other.

It was not until the girl happened to look at the ridiculous little watch
that was pretending to keep time on her wrist that the spell was broken.

"Merciful heaven!" she exclaimed dramatically, "It's six o'clock. What
_will_ the family say to me? I must fly this minute."

"But ain't you going to finish this dance with me?" asked Quin with
tragic insistence.

"Ought you to dance again?" The note was personal and divinely
solicitous.

"I oughtn't, but I am"; and, with superb disregard for doctors and syntax
alike, Quin put a firm arm around that slender yielding figure and swept
her into the moving crowd.

They danced very quietly this time, for he was determined to hold out to
the end. In fact, from the dreamy, preoccupied look on their faces one
might have mistaken them for two zealous young acolytes lost in the
performance of a religious rite.

Quin was still in a trance when he helped her on with her coat and
piloted her down the crowded stairs. He could not bear to have her
jostled by the boisterous crowd, and he glared at the men whose admiring
glances dared to rest too long upon her.

Now that the dance was over, the young lady was in a fever of impatience
to get away. Qualms of remorse seized her for the way she had treated her
one-time escort, and she hinted at the trouble in store for her if the
family heard of her escapade.

Outside the pavements were white with snow, and falling flakes glistened
against the blue electric lights. Holiday crowds thronged the sidewalks,
and every other man was in uniform.

"I left my car at the corner," said Quin's companion, nervously
consulting her watch for the fourth time. "You needn't come with me; I
can find it all right."

But Quin hadn't the slightest intention of forgoing one second of that
delectable interview. He followed her to her car, awkwardly helped her
in, and stood looking at her wistfully. In her hurry to get home she
seemed to have forgotten him entirely. In two minutes she would never
know that she had met him, while he----

"Good-by, Soldier Boy," she said, suddenly holding out her hand.

"My name is Graham," stammered Quin--"Sergeant Quinby Graham; Battery C,
Sixth Field Artillery. And yours?"

She was fussing with the starter by this time, but she smiled up at him
and shook her head.

"I? Oh, I haven't any! I'm just an irresponsible young person who is
going to gets fits for having stayed out so late. But it was worth it,
wasn't it--Sergeant Slim?"

And then, before he knew what had happened, the small runabout was
skilfully backed out of its narrow space and a red tail-light was rapidly
wagging down the avenue, leaving him standing dazed on the curbstone.

"Where in the devil have you been?" demanded a cross voice behind him,
and turning he encountered Cass's snub-nose and irate eyes.

Quin's own eyes were shining and his face was flushed. With a laugh he
flung his arm around his buddy's shoulder and affectionately punched his
head.

"In heaven," he answered laconically.

"Funny place to leave your overcoat!" said Cass, viewing him with
suspicion. "Quin Graham, have you had a drink?"

Quin hilariously declared his innocence. The draught of which he had so
freely imbibed, though far more potent than any earthly brew, was one
against which there are no prohibitory laws.



                              CHAPTER 2


The fact that Cass had neglected to tell the family that he was bringing
a friend home to supper did not in the least affect his welcome. It was
not that the daily menu was of such a lavish nature that a guest or two
made no difference; it was simply that the Martels belonged to that
casual type which accepts any interruption to the regular order of things
as a God-sent diversion.

In the present instance Rose had only to dispatch Edwin to the grocery
for eggs and cheese, and send Myrna next door to borrow a chafing-dish,
and, while these errands were being accomplished, to complete her own
sketchy toilet. Rose was an impressionist when it came to dress. She got
the desired effect with the least possible effort, as was evinced now by
the way she was whirling two coils of chestnut hair, from which the
tangles had not been removed, into round puffs over each ear. A dab of
rouge on each cheek, a touch of red on the lips, a dash of powder over
the whole, sleeves turned back, neck turned in, resulted in a poster
effect that was quite satisfactory.

Of course the Martels had heard of Quinby Graham: his name had loomed
large in Cass's letters from France and later in his conversation; but
this was the first time the hero was to be presented in person.

"What's he like, Rose?" asked Myrna, arriving breathlessly with the
chafing-dish. Myrna was twelve and seemed to labor under the constant
apprehension that she was missing something, due no doubt to the fact
that she was invariably dispatched on an errand when anything interesting
was pending.

"Don't know," said Rose; "the hall was pitch-dark. He's got a nice voice,
though, and a dandy handshake."

"I bid to sit next to him at supper," said Myrna, hugging herself in
ecstasy.

"You can if you promise not to take two helps of the Welsh rabbit."

Myrna refused to negotiate on any such drastic terms. "Are we going to
have a fire in the sitting-room?" she asked.

"I don't know whether there is any more wood. Papa Claude promised to
order some. You go see while I set the table. I've a good notion to call
over the fence and ask Fan Loomis to come to supper."

"Oh, Rose, _please_ do!" cried Myrna. "I won't take but one help."

Cass, in the meanwhile, was making his guest at home in the sitting-room
by permitting him to be useful.

"You can light the lamp," he said, "while I make a fire."

Quin was willing to oblige, but the lamp was not. It put up a stubborn
resistance to all efforts to coax it to do its duty.

"I bet it hasn't been filled," said Cass; then, after the fashion of
mankind, he lifted his voice in supplication to the nearest feminine ear:

"Oh! Ro--ose!"

His older sister, coming to the rescue, agreed with his diagnosis of the
case, and with Quin's assistance bore the delinquent lamp to the kitchen.

"Hope you don't mind being made home-folks," she said, patting the puffs
over her ears and looking at him sideways.

"Mind?" said Quin. "If you knew how good all this looks to me! It's the
first touch of home I've had in years. Wish you'd let me set the
table--I'm strong on K. P."

"Help yourself," said Rose; "the plates are in the pantry and the silver
in the sideboard drawer. Wait a minute!"

She took a long apron from behind the door and handed it to him.

"How do these ends buckle up?" he asked, helplessly holding out the
straps of the bib.

"They button around your little neck," she told him, smiling. "Turn
round; I'll fix it."

"Why turn round?" said Quin.

Their eyes met in frank challenge.

"You silly boy!" she said--but she put her arms around his neck and
fastened the bib just the same.

How that supper ever got itself cooked and served is a marvel. Everybody
took a turn at the stirring and toasting, everybody contributed a missing
article to the table, and there was much rushing from kitchen to
dining-room, with many collisions and some upsets.

Quin was in the highest of spirits. Even Cass had never seen him quite
like this. With his white apron over his uniform, he pranced about,
dancing attendance on Rose, and keeping Myrna and Edwin in gales of
laughter over his antics. Every now and then, however, his knees got
wabbly and his breath came short, and by the time supper was prepared he
was quite ready to sit down.

"What a shame Nell's not here!" said Rose, breaking the eggs into the
chafing-dish. "Then we could have charades. She's simply great when she
gets started."

"Who is Nell?" asked Quin.

"Eleanor Bartlett, our cousin. She's like chicken and ice-cream--the rich
Bartletts have her on weekdays and we poor Martels get her only on
Sundays. Hasn't Cass ever told you about Nell?"

"Do you suppose I spend my time talking about my precious family?"
growled Cass.

"No, but Nell's different," said Rose; "she's a sort of Solomon's baby--I
mean the baby that Solomon had to decide about. Only in this case neither
old Madam Bartlett nor Papa Claude will give up their half; they'd see
her dead first."

"You did tell me about her," said Quin to Cass, "one night when we were
up in the Cantigny offensive. I remember the place exactly. Something
about an orphan, and a lawsuit, and a little girl that was going to be an
actress."

"That's the dope," said Cass. "Only she's not a kid any more. She grew up
while I was in France. She's a great girl, Nell is, when you get her away
from that Bartlett mess!"

"Does anybody know where Papa Claude is?" Rose demanded, dexterously
ladling out steaming Welsh rabbit on to slices of crisp brown toast.

"He is here, _mes enfants_, he is here!" cried a joyous voice from the
hall, followed by a presence at once so exuberant and so impressive
that Quin stared in amazement.

"This is Quinby Graham, grandfather," said Cass, by way of introduction.

The dressy old gentleman with the flowing white locks and the white rose
in his buttonhole bore down upon Quin and enveloped his hand in both his
own.

"I welcome you for Cassius' sake and for your own!" he declared with such
effusion that Quin was visibly embarrassed. "My grandson has told me of
your long siege in the hospital, of your noble service to your country,
of your gallant conduct at----"

"Sit down, Papa Claude, and finish your oration after supper," cried
Rose; "the rabbit won't wait on anybody."

Thus cut short, Mr. Martel took his seat and, nothing daunted, helped
himself bountifully to everything within reach.

"I am a gourmet, Sergeant Graham, but not a gourmand. Edwin Booth used to
say----"

"Sir?" answered Edwin Booth's namesake from the kitchen, where he had
been dispatched for more bread.

"No, no, my son, I was referring to----"

But Papa Claude, as usual, did not get to finish the sentence. The advent
of the next-door neighbor, who had been invited and then forgotten,
caused great amusement owing to the fact that there was no more supper
left.

"Give her some bread and jam, Myrna," said Rose; "and if the jam is out,
bring the brown sugar. You don't mind, do you, Fan?"

Fan, an amiable blonde person who was going to be fat at forty, declared
that she didn't want a thing to eat, honestly she didn't, and that
besides she adored bread and brown sugar.

"We won't stop to wash up," said Rose; "Myrna will have loads of time to
do it in the morning, because she doesn't have to go to school. We'll
just clear the table and let the dishes stand."

"We are incorrigible Bohemians, as you observe," said Mr. Martel to Quin,
with a deprecating arching of his fine brows. "We lay too little stress,
I fear, on the conventions. But the exigencies of the dramatic
profession--of which, you doubtless know, I have been a member for the
past forty years----"

"Take him in the sitting-room, Mr. Graham," urged Rose; "I'll bring your
coffee in there."

Without apparently being conscious of the fact, Mr. Martel, still
discoursing in rounded periods, was transferred to the big chair beside
the lamp, while Quin took up his stand on the hearth-rug and looked about
him.

Such a jumble of a room as it was! Odds and ends of furniture, the
survival of various household wrecks; chipped bric-à-brac; a rug from
which the pattern had long ago vanished; an old couch piled with shabby
cushions; a piano with scattered music sheets. On the walls, from ceiling
to foot-board, hung faded photographs of actors and actresses, most of
them with bold inscriptions dashed across their corners in which the
donors invariably expressed their friendship, affection, or if the
chirography was feminine their devoted love, for "dear Claude Martel."
Over the mantel was a portrait of dear Claude himself, taken in the rôle
of Mark Antony, and making rather a good job of it, on the whole, with
his fine Roman profile and massive brow.

It was all shabby and dusty and untidy; but to Quinby Graham, standing on
the hearth-rug and trying to handle his small coffee-cup as if he were
used to it, the room was completely satisfying. There was a cozy warmth
and mellowness about it, a kindly atmosphere of fellowship, a sense of
intimate human relations, that brought a lump into his throat. He had
almost forgotten that things could be like this!

So absorbed was he in his surroundings, and in the imposing old actor
encompassed by the galaxy of pictured notables, that he lost the thread
of Mr. Martel's discourse until he heard him asking:

"What is the present? A clamor of the senses, a roar that deafens us to
the music of life. I dwell in the past and in the future, Sergeant
Graham--the dear reminiscent past and the glorious unborn future. And
that reminds me that Cassius tells me that you are both about to receive
your discharge from the army and are ready for the next great adventure.
May I ask what yours is to be? A return, perhaps, to your native city?"

"My native city happens to be a river," said Quin. "I was born on a
house-boat going up the Yangtse-Kiang."

"Indeed!" cried Mr. Martel with interest. "What a romantic beginning! And
your family?"

"Haven't got any. You see, sir," said Quin, expanding under the
flattering attention of his host, "my people were all missionaries. Most
of them died off before I was fourteen, and I was shipped back to America
to go to school. I didn't hold out very long, though. After two years in
high school I ran away and joined the navy."

"And since then you have been a soldier of fortune, eh? No cares, no
responsibilities. Free to roam the wide world in search of adventure."

Quin studied the end of his cigarette.

"That ain't so good as it sounds," he said. "Sometimes I think I'd
amounted to more if I had somebody that belonged to me."

"Isn't it rather early in the season for a young man's fancy to be
lightly turning----"

The quotation was lost upon Quin, but the twinkle in the speaker's
expressive eye was not.

"I didn't mean that," he laughingly protested; "I mean a mother or a
sister or somebody like that, who would be a kind of anchor. Take Cass,
for instance; he's steady as a rock."

"Ah! Cassius! One in ten thousand. From the time he was twelve he has
shared with me the financial burden. An artist, Sergeant Graham, must
remain aloof from the market-place. Now that I have retired permanently
from the stage in order to devote my time exclusively to writing, my only
business engagement is a series of lectures at the university, where, as
you know, I occupy the chair of Dramatic Literature."

The chair thus euphemistically referred to was scarcely more than a
three-legged stool, which he occupied four mornings in the week, the rest
of his time being spent at home in the arduous task of writing tragedies
in blank verse.

"What I got to think about is a job," said Quin, much more interested in
his own affairs than in those of his host.

"Commercial or professional?" inquired Mr. Martel.

"Oh, I can turn my hand to 'most anything," bragged Quin, blowing
smoke-rings at the ceiling. "It's experience that counts, and, believe
me, I've had a plenty."

"Experience plus education," added Mr. Martel; "we must not underestimate
the advantages of education."

"That's where I'm short," admitted Quin. "My folks were all smart enough.
Guess if they had lived I'd been put through college and all the rest of
it. My grandfather was Dr. Ezra Quinby. Ever hear of him?"

Mr. Martel had to acknowledge that he had not.

"Guess he is better known in China than in America," said Quin. "He died
before I was born."

"And you have no people in America?"

"No people anywhere," said Quin cheerfully; "but I got a lot of friends
scattered around over the world, and a bull-dog and a couple of cats up
at a lumber-camp near Portland."

"Cassius tells me that you are thinking of returning to Maine."

Quin ran his fingers through his hair and laughed. "That was yesterday,"
he said. "To-day you couldn't get me out of Kentucky with a machine-gun!"

Claude Martel rose and laid an affectionate hand on his shoulder. "Then,
my boy, we claim you as our own. Cassius' home is your home, his family
your family, his----"

The address of welcome was cut short by Cass's arrival with an armful of
wood which he deposited on the hearth, and a moment later the girls,
followed by Edwin, came trooping in from the kitchen.

"Let's make a circle round the fire and sing the old year out," suggested
Rose gaily. "Myrna, get the banjo and the guitar. Shall I play on the
piano, Papa Claude, or will you?"

Mr. Martel, expressing the noble sentiment that age should always be an
accompaniment to youth, took his place at the piano and, with a pose
worthy of Rubinstein, struck a few preliminary chords, while the group
about the fire noisily settled itself for the evening.

"You can put your head against my knees, if you like," Rose said to Quin,
who was sprawling on the floor at her feet. "There, is that comfy?"

"I'll say it's all right!" said Quin with heartfelt satisfaction.

There was something free and easy and gipsy-like about the evening, a
sort of fireside picnic that brought June dreams in January. As the hours
wore on, the singing, which had been noisy and rollicking, gradually
mellowed into sentiment, a sentiment that found vent in dreamy eyes and
long-drawn-out choruses, with a languorous over-accentuation of the
sentimental passages. One by one, the singers fell under the spell of the
music and the firelight. Cass and Fan Loomis sat shoulder to shoulder on
the broken-springed couch and gazed with blissful oblivion into the red
embers on the hearth. Rose, whose voice led all the rest, surreptitiously
wiped her eyes when no one was looking; Edwin and Myrna, solemnly
plucking their banjo and guitar, were lost in moods of dormant emotion;
while Papa Claude at the piano let his dim eyes range the pictured walls,
while his memory traveled back through the years on many a secret tryst
of its own.

But it was the lank Sergeant with the big feet, and the hair that stood
up where it shouldn't, who dared to dream the most preposterous dream of
them all. For, as he sang there in the firelight, a little god was busy
lighting the tapers in the most sacred shrines of his being, until he
felt like a cathedral at high mass with all the chimes going.

    "There's a long, long trail a-winding
      Into the land of my dreams,
    Where the nightingales are singing
      And a white moon beams."

How many times he had sung it in France!--jolting along muddy, endless
roads, heartsick, homesick.

    "There's a long, long night of waiting
      Until my dreams all come true,
    Till the day when I'll be going
      Down that long, long trail with you."

What had "you" meant to him then? A girl--a pretty girl, of course; but
_any_ girl. And now?

Ah, now he knew what he had been going toward, not only on those terrible
roads in France, but all through the years of his life. An exquisite,
imperious little officer's girl with divinely compassionate eyes, who
wasn't ashamed to dance with a private, and who had let him hold her hand
at parting while she said in accents an angel might have envied,
"Good-by, Soldier Boy."

Quin sighed profoundly and slipped his arm under his head, and at the
same moment the owner of the knee upon which he was leaning also heaved a
sigh and shifted _her_ position, and somehow in the adjustment two lonely
hands came in contact and evidently decided that, after all, substitutes
were _some_ comfort.

It was not until all the whistles in town had announced the birth of the
New Year that the party broke up, and it was not until then that Quin
realized that he was very tired, and that his pulse was behaving in a way
that was, alas, all too familiar.



                              CHAPTER 3


Friday after New Year's found Sergeant Graham again flat on his back at
the Base Hospital, facing sentence of three additional weeks in bed. In
vain had he risked a reprimand by hotly protesting the point with the
Captain; in vain had he declared to the nurse that he would rather live
on his feet than die on his back. Judgment was passed, and he lay with an
ice-bag on his head and a thermometer in his mouth and hot rage in his
heart.

What made matters worse was that Cass Martel had come over from the
Convalescent Barracks only that morning to announce that he had received
his discharge and was going home. To Quin it seemed that everybody but
himself was going home--that is, everybody but the incurables. At that
thought a dozen nameless fears that had been tormenting him of late all
seemed to get together and rush upon him. What if the doctors were
holding him on from month to month, experimenting, promising,
disappointing, only in the end to bunch him with the permanently disabled
and ship him off to some God-forsaken spot to spend the rest of his life
in a hospital?

He gripped his hands over his chest and gave himself up to savage
rebellion. If they would let him alone he might get well! In France it
had been his head. Whenever the wound began to heal and things looked a
bit cheerful, some saw-bones had come along and thumped and probed and
X-rayed, and then it had been ether and an operation and the whole
blooming thing over again. Then, when they couldn't work on his head any
longer, they'd started up this talk about his heart. Of course his heart
was jumpy! All the fellows who had been badly gassed had jumpy hearts.
But how was he ever going to get any better lying there on his back? What
he needed was exercise and decent food and something cheerful to think
about. He wanted desperately to get away from his memories, to forget the
horrors, the sickening sights and smells, the turmoil and confusion of
the past two years. In spite of his most heroic efforts, he kept living
over past events. This time last year he had been up in the Toul sector,
where half the men he knew had gone west. It was up there old Corpy had
got his head shot off....

He resolutely fixed his attention on a spider that was swinging directly
over his head and tried to forget old Corpy. He thought instead of
Captain Phipps, but the thought did not calm him. What sense was there in
his ordering more of this fool rest business? Well, he told himself
fiercely, he wasn't going to stand for it! The war was over, he had done
his part, he was going to demand his freedom. Discipline or no
discipline, he would go over Phipps' head and appeal to the Colonel.

Throwing aside the ice-bag, he looked around for his uniform. But the
nurse had evidently mistrusted the look in his eyes when she gave him the
Captain's orders, for the hook over his bed was empty. He raised himself
in his cot and glared savagely down the ward, sniffing the air
suspiciously. Two orderlies were wheeling No. 17 back from the
operating-room, and Quin already caught the faint odor of ether. The
first whiff of it filled him with loathing.

Thrusting his bare feet into slippers and his arms into a shabby old
bath-robe, he flung himself out of bed and slipped out on the porch. The
air was cold and bracing and gloriously free from the hospital
combination of wienerwürst, ether, and dried peaches that had come to be
a nightmare odor to him. He sat on the railing and drew in deep,
refreshing breaths, and as he did so things began to right themselves.
Fair play to Quin amounted almost to a religion, and it was suddenly
borne in upon him that he would not be where he was had he observed the
rules of the game. But then again, if he had not danced, he never would
have----

At that moment something so strange happened that he put a hot hand to a
hotter brow and wondered if he was delirious. The singularly vibrant
voice that had been echoing in his memory since New Year's eve was saying
directly behind him:

"I shall give them all the chocolate they want, Captain Harold Phipps,
and you may court-martial me later if you like!"

Quin glanced up hastily, and there, framed in the doorway, in a Red Cross
uniform, stood his dream girl, looking so much more ravishing than she
had before that he promptly snatched the blue and gray vision from its
place of honor and installed a red, white, and blue one instead. So
engrossed was he in the apparition that he quite failed to see Captain
Phipps surveying him over her shoulder.

"Number 7!" said the Captain with icy decision, "weren't you instructed
to stay in bed?"

"I was, sir," said Quin, coming to attention and presenting a decidedly
sorry aspect.

"Go back at once, and add three days to the time indicated. This way,
Miss Bartlett."

Now, it is well-nigh impossible to preserve one's dignity when suffering
a reprimand in public; but when you are handicapped by a shabby
bath-robe, a three days' growth of beard, and a grouch that gives you the
expression of a bandit, and the public happens to be the one being on
earth whom you are most anxious to please, the situation becomes tragic.

Quin set his jaw and shuffled ignominiously off to bed, thankful for once
that he had been considered unworthy a second glance from those luminous
brown eyes. His satisfaction, however, was short-lived. A moment later
the young lady appeared at the far end of the ward, carrying an absurd
little basket adorned with a large pink bow, from which she began to
distribute chocolates.

A feminine presence in the ward always created a flutter, but the
previous flutters were mere zephyrs compassed to the cyclone produced by
the new ward visitor. Some one started the phonograph, and Michaelis, who
had been swearing all day that he would never be able to walk again,
actually began to dance. Witticisms were exchanged from bed to bed, and
the man who was going to be operated on next morning flung a pillow at an
orderly and upset a vase of flowers. Things had not been so cheerful for
weeks.

Quin, lying in the last bed in the ward, alternated between rapture and
despair as he watched the progress of the visitor. Would she recognize
him? Would she speak to him if she did, when he looked like that? Perhaps
if he turned his face to the wall and pretended to be asleep she would
pass him by. But he did not want her to pass him by. This might be the
only chance he would ever have to see her again!

Back in his fringe of consciousness he was frantically groping for the
name the Captain had mentioned: Barnet? Barret? Bartlett? That was it!
And with the recovery of the name Quin's mind did another somersault.
Bartlett? Where had he heard that name? Eleanor Bartlett? Some nonsense
about "Solomon's baby." Why, Rose Martel, of course.

Then all thought deserted him, for the world suddenly shrank to five feet
two of femininity, and he heard a gay, impersonal voice saying:

"May I put a cake of chocolate on your table?"

For the life of him, he could not answer. He only lay there with his
mouth open, looking at her, while she straightened the contents of her
basket. One more moment and she would be gone. Quin staked all on a
chance shot.

"Thank you, Miss Eleanor Bartlett," he said, with that ridiculous blush
that was so out of keeping with his audacity.

She looked at him in amazement; then her face broke into a smile of
recognition.

"Well, bless my soul, if it isn't Sergeant Slim! What are you doing
here?"

"Same thing I been doing for six months," said Quin sheepishly; "counting
the planks in the ceiling."

"But I thought you had got well. Oh, I hope it wasn't the dancing----"

"Lord, no," said Quin, keeping his hand over his bristly chin. "I'm
husky, all right. Only they've got so used to seeing me laying around
that they can't bear to let me go."

"Do you have to lie flat on your back like that, with no pillow or
anything?"

"It ain't so bad, except at mess-time."

"And you can't even sit up to eat?"

"Not supposed to."

Miss Bartlett eyed him compassionately.

"I am coming out twice a week now--Mondays and Fridays--and I'm going to
bring you something nice every time I come. How long will you be here?"

"Three weeks," said Quin--adding, with a funny twist of his lip, "three
weeks and three days."

"Oh! Were you the boy on the porch? How funny I didn't recognize you! I'm
going to ask Captain Phipps to let you off those extra days."

"No, you mustn't." Quin objected earnestly; "I'll take what's coming to
me. Besides," he added, "one of those days might be a Monday or a
Friday!"

This seemed to amuse her, for she smiled as she wrote his name and bed
number in a small notebook, with the added entry: "Oyster soup,
cigarettes, and a razor."

Just as she was leaving, she remembered something and turned back.

"How did you know my name?" she asked with lively curiosity.

"Didn't the Captain call it on the porch?"

"Did he? But not my first name. How on earth _did_ you know that?"

"Perhaps I guessed it," Quin said, looking mysterious. And just then a
nurse came along and thrust the thermometer back in his mouth, and the
conversation was abruptly ended.

Of course the calendar must have been right about the three weeks that
followed; there probably were seven days in each week and twenty-four
hours in each day. But Quin wasn't sure about it. He knew beyond doubt
that there were three Mondays and four Fridays and one wholly gratuitous
and never-to-be-forgotten Sunday when Miss Bartlett brought his dinner
from town, and insisted upon cutting his chicken for him and feeding him
custard with a spoon. The rest of the days were lost in abstract time,
during which Quin had his hair cut and his face shaved, and did
bead-work.

Until now he had sturdily refused to be inveigled into occupational
therapy. Those guys that were done for could learn to knit, he said, and
to make silly little mats, and weave things on a loom. If he couldn't do
a man's work he'd be darned if he was going to do a woman's. But now all
was changed. He announced his intention of making the classiest bead
chain that had ever been achieved in 2 C. He insisted upon the instructor
getting him the most expensive beads in the market, regardless of size or
color.

Now, for Quin, with his big hands and lack of dexterity, to have worked
with beads under the most favorable conditions would have been difficult,
but to master the art lying flat on his back was a _tour de force_. He
pricked his fingers and broke his thread; he upset the beads on the
floor, on the bed, in his tray; he took out and put in with infinite
patience, "each bead a thought, each thought a prayer."

"Don't you think you had better give it up?" asked the instructor, in
despair, after the fourth lesson.

"You don't know me," said Quin, setting his jaw. "You been trying to get
me into this for two weeks--now you've got to see me through."

It did not take long for the other patients to discover Quin's state of
mind.

"How about your heart disease, Graham?" they inquired daily; "think it's
going to be chronic?"

But Quin had little time for them. The distinction he had enjoyed as the
champion poker-player in 2 C. began to wane as his popularity with the
new ward visitor increased.

"I like your nerve!--keeping her up there at your bed all the time,"
complained Michaelis.

"She's an old friend of mine," Quin threw off nonchalantly.

"Aw, what you tryin' to put over on us?" scoffed Mike. "Where'd you ever
git to know a girl like that?"

"Well, I know her all right," said Quin.

The little mystery about Miss Bartlett's first name had been a fruitful
topic of conversation between a couple whose topics were necessarily
limited. She had teased Quin to tell her how he knew, and also how he
knew she wanted to go on the stage; and Quin had teased back; and at last
it had resolved itself into a pretty contest of wits.

This served to keep her beside him often as long as four minutes. Then he
would gain an additional two minutes by showing her what progress he had
made with his chain, and consulting her preference for an American flag
or a Red Cross worked in the medallion.

When every other means of detaining her had been exhausted, he sometimes
resorted to strategy. Constitutionally he was opposed to duplicity; he
was built on certain square lines that disqualified him for many a
comfortable round hole in life. But under the stress of present
circumstances he persuaded himself that the end justified the means.
Ignoring the fact that he was as devoid of relations as a tree is of
leaves in December, he developed a sudden sense of obligation to an
imaginary cousin whom he added, without legal authority, to the
population of Peru, Indiana. By means of Miss Bartlett's white hand he
frequently informed her that she was not to worry about him, because he
was "doing splendid," and that a hospital "wasn't so worse when you get
used to it." And while he dictated words of assurance to his "Cousin Sue"
his eyes feasted upon a dainty profile with long brown lashes that swept
a peach-blow cheek. Once he became so demoralized by this too pleasing
prospect that he said "tell him" instead of "tell her," and the lashes
lifted in instant inquiry.

"I mean--er--her husband," Quin gasped.

"But you had me direct the other letters to Miss Sue Brown."

"Yes, I know," said Quin, with an embarrassment that might have been
attributed to skeletons in family closets; "but, you see--she--er--she
took back her own name."

The one cloud that darkened Quin's horizon these days was Captain Phipps.
His visits to the ward always coincided with Miss Bartlett's, and he
seemed to take a spiteful pleasure in keeping the men at attention while
he engaged her in intimate conversation. He was an extremely fastidious,
well groomed young man, with an insolent hauteur and a certain lordly air
of possession that proclaimed him a conqueror of the sex. Quin regarded
him with growing disfavor.

When the three weeks were almost over, Quin was allowed to sit up, and
even to walk on the porch. Miss Bartlett found him there one day when she
arrived.

"Aha!" she cried, "I've found you out, Sergeant Slim! You are Cass
Martel's hero, and that's where you heard about me and found out my first
name."

Quin pleaded guilty, and their usual five minutes together lengthened
into fifteen while she gave him all the news of the Martel family. Cass
had taken his old position at the railroad office, and, dear knows, it
was a good thing! And Rose was giving dancing lessons. And what did he
think little old Myrna had done? Adopted a baby! Yes, a baby; wasn't it
too ridiculous! An Italian one that the washwoman had forsaken. And Papa
Claude had given up his lectures at the university in order to write the
great American play. Weren't they the funniest and the dearest people he
had ever known?

It was amazing how intimate Quin and Miss Bartlett got on the subject of
the Martels. He had to tell her in detail just what a brick her cousin
Cass was, and she had to tell him what a really wonderful actor Papa
Claude used to be.

"Captain Phipps says he knows more about the stage than any man in the
country."

"What does the Captain know about it?" asked Quin.

"Captain Phipps? Why, he's a playwright. He means to devote all his time
to the stage as soon as he gets out of the army. You may not believe it,
but he is an even better dramatist than he is a doctor."

"Oh, yes, I do," said Quin; "that's easy to believe."

The sarcasm was lost upon Miss Bartlett, who was intent upon delivering
her message from the Martels. They had sent word that they expected Quin
to come straight to them when he got his discharge, and that his room was
waiting for him.

"And you?" asked Quin eagerly. "You'll be there every Sunday?"

Her face, which had been all smiles, underwent a sudden change. She said
with something perilously like a pout:

"No, I shan't; I'm to be shipped off to school next week."

"School?" repeated Quin incredulously. "What do you want to be going back
to school for?"

"I _don't_ want to. I hate it. It's the price I am paying for that dance
I had with you at the Hawaiian Garden--that and other things."

"What do you mean?"

"Some old tabby of a chaperon saw me there and came and told my
grandmother."

"But what could she have told? You didn't do anything you oughtn't to."

Miss Bartlett shook her head. It was evidently something she could not
explain, for she sat staring gloomily at the wall above the bed, then she
said abruptly: "Well, I must be going. Good-by if I don't see you again!"

"But you will," announced Quin fiercely. "You are going to see me next
Sunday at the Martels'. I'll be there if I land in the guard-house for
it."

"Why, your time's up Saturday, isn't it? Oh! I forgot those three extra
days. Captain Phipps has got to let you off. He will if I tell him to."

At this something quite unexpected and elemental surged up in Quin. He
forgot the amenities that he had taken such pains to observe in Miss
Bartlett's presence, he entirely lost sight of the social gap that lay
between them, and blurted out with deadly earnestness:

"Say, are you his girl?"

This had the effect of bringing Miss Bartlett promptly to her feet, and
the next instant poor Quin was saying in an agony of regret:

"I'm sorry, Miss Bartlett. I didn't mean to be nervy. Honest, I didn't.
Wait a minute--_please_----"

But she was gone, leaving him to spend the rest of the afternoon searching
for a phrase sufficiently odious to express his own opinion of himself.



                              CHAPTER 4


Eleanor Bartlett, speeding home from the hospital with Captain Phipps
beside her, repeated Quin's question to herself more than once. Up to the
present her loves, like her friendships, had been entirely episodic. She
had gone easily from one affair to another not so much from fickleness as
from growth. What she wanted on Monday did not seem in the least
desirable on Saturday, and it was a new and disturbing sensation to have
the same person dominating her thoughts for so many consecutive days. If
her relations with the young officer from Chicago were as platonic as she
would have herself and her family believe, why had she allowed the affair
to arrive at a stage that precipitated her banishment? Why was she even
now flying in the face of authority and risking a serious reprimand by
letting him ride in her car?

In fierce justification she told herself it was simply because the family
had meddled. If they had not interfered, things would never have reached
the danger mark. She had met Captain Phipps three weeks ago at her Uncle
Randolph Bartlett's, and had at first not been sure that she liked him.
He had seemed then a little superior and condescending, and had evidently
considered her too young to be interesting. But the next time they met
there Aunt Flo had made her do the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet,"
and since then all had been different.

Captain Phipps had not only monopolized her at the dances--he had also
found time from his not over-arduous military duties to drop in on her
frequently in the afternoons. For hours at a time they had sat in the
long, dim Bartlett parlor, with only the ghostly bust of old Madam
Bartlett for a chaperon, ostensibly absorbed in the study of modern
drama, but finding ample time to dwell at length upon Eleanor's
qualifications for the stage and the Captain's budding genius as a
playwright. And just when Ibsen and Pinero were giving place to
Sudermann, and vague personal ambitions were crystallizing into definite
plans, the family interfered.

The causes of their condemnation were as varied as they were numerous. He
was ten years older than Eleanor; he was too sophisticated a companion
for a young girl; he had taken her to a public dance-hall on New Year's
eve, where she had been seen dancing with an unknown private; he had been
quite insolent to Madam when she had taken him to task for it; and, most
heinous of all, he was encouraging her in her ambition to go on the
stage. And beneath it all, Eleanor knew quite well, was the nervous
flutter of apprehension that seized the entire family whenever a
threatening masculine presence loomed on the horizon.

She stole a glance at her handsome companion, and, seeing that he was
observing her, quickly lowered her eyes. The Captain had a flattering way
of studying her poses, remarking on the lines of her gowns and her hats.
He was constantly discovering interesting things about her that she had
not known before. But sometimes, as now, she was restive under his too
close scrutiny.

"So you are actually going to leave me next week?" he asked, with a note
of personal aggrievement.

"To leave you? I like that! If it weren't for you I shouldn't be going."

"Are they really sending you away on my account?"

"Indeed they are. Grandmother says you are encouraging me about the
stage, and that poor Papa Claude is demoralizing us both."

"Isn't that absurd?" said the Captain. "Dear old C. M. is about as
innocuous as a peacock. Madam Bartlett should have been born in the
seventeenth century. What will she say when she sees your name blazing
over a Broadway theater?"

"In one of your plays! Oh, Captain, wouldn't that be glorious?"

"Haven't I asked you to drop the 'Captain'? My name is Harold. Say it!"

"No; I can't."

"Yes, you can. Come!"

But she defied him with tightly closed lips and dancing eyes. With
feminine instinct she had discovered that the irresistible Captain was
piqued and stimulated by the unusual taste of opposition.

"You little minx!" he said, lifting an accusing finger. "Those eyes of
yours are going to do a lot of damage before they get through with it."

Eleanor took kindly to the thought that she was dangerous. If she could
cause disturbance to an individual by the guarded flutter of her eyelids,
what effect might she not produce by giving them full play before a
larger audience?

"Do you really think I could act if I got the chance?" she asked
dreamily.

"I am absolutely sure. Your grandfather's quite right when he says you
were born to the footlights. With your voice and your unusual coloring
and your plastic little body----"

"But you can't imagine the opposition," Eleanor broke in. "It isn't as if
my mother and father were living. I believe they would understand. But
grandfather and the aunties, and even Uncle Ranny, throw a fit at the
mere mention of the stage."

"You do not belong to them," said the Captain impatiently. "You do not
even belong to yourself. A great talent belongs to the world. All these
questions will settle themselves, once you take the definite step."

"And you actually believe that I will get to New York to study?"

"I don't believe--I _know_. I intend to make it my business to see that
you do."

There was a confident ring of masterful assurance in his voice that
carried delicious conviction. A person who was so absolutely sure of
himself made other people sure of him, too, for the moment.

Eleanor, sitting low in the car, with her absent eyes fixed on the road
ahead, lapsed into a daydream. From an absorbed contemplation of herself
and her dramatic career, her mind veered in gratitude to the one who most
believed in its possibility. What a friend he had been! Just when she had
been ready to give up in despair, he had fanned her dying hope into a
glorious blaze that illuminated every waking hour. And it was not only
his sympathetic interest in her thwarted ambition that touched her: it
was also the fact that he had rescued her from the daily boredom of
sitting with elderly ladies making interminable surgical dressings, and
by an adroit bit of diplomacy outwitted the family and introduced her as
a ward visitor at the camp hospital.

The mere thought of the hospital sent her mind flying off at a tangent.
Even the stage gave way for the moment to this new and all-absorbing
occupation. Never in her life had she done anything so interesting. The
escape from home, the personal contact with all those nice, jolly boys,
the excitement of being of service for the first time in her butterfly
existence, was intoxicating. She smiled now as she thought of the way
Graham's eager head always popped up the moment she entered the door,
and of how his face shone when she talked to him. After all, she told
herself, there _was_ something thrilling in having hands that had
captured a machine-gun laboriously threading tiny beads for her, in
having a soldier who had been decorated for courage stammer and blush
in her presence.

"Well," said the Captain, who had been lazily observing her, "aren't you
about through with your mental monologue?"

Eleanor roused herself with a start.

"Oh, I am sorry! I was thinking about my boys at the hospital. You can't
imagine how I hate to leave them!"

The answer was evidently not what the Captain had expected. As long as
his company of feminine admirers marched in adoring unison he was
indifferent to their existence; but let one miss step and he was
instantly on the alert.

"I haven't noticed any tears being shed over leaving me," he said, and
the aggrieved note in his voice promptly stirred her humor.

"Why should I mind leaving you? You don't need me."

"How do you know?"

She looked at him scoffingly.

"You don't need anything or anybody. You've got all you want in
yourself."

"I'll show you what I want!" he said, and, quickly bending toward her, he
kissed her on the cheek.

It was the merest brush of his lips, but it brought the color flaming
into her face and the lightning into her eyes. She had never been so
angry in her life, and it seemed to her an age that she sat there rigid
and indignant, suffocated by his nearness but powerless to move away.
Then she got the car stopped, and announced with great dignity that she
was nearly home and that she would have to ask him to get out.

Captain Phipps lazily descended from the car, then stood with elbows on
the ledge of the door and rolled a cigarette with great deliberation.
Eleanor, in spite of her wrath, could not help admiring the graceful,
conscious movement of his slender hands with their highly polished nails.
It was not until he had struck his match that he looked at her and smiled
quizzically.

"What a dear little goose you are! Do you suppose that stage lovers are
going to stand in the wings and throw kisses to you?"

"No," said Eleanor hotly; "but that will be different."

"It certainly will," he agreed amiably. "You will not only have to be
kissed, but you will have to kiss back. You have a lot of little
puritanical prejudices to get over, my dear, before you can ever hope to
act. You don't want to be a thin-blooded little old maid, do you?"

The shot was well aimed, for Eleanor had no desire to follow in the arid
footsteps of her two spinster aunts. She looked at Captain Phipps
unsteadily and shook her head.

"Of course you don't," he encouraged her. "You aren't built for it.
Besides, it's an actress's business to cultivate her emotions rather than
repress them, isn't it?"

"Yes, I suppose it is."

"Then, for heaven's sake, obey your impulses and let other people obey
theirs. From now on you are to be identified with a profession that
transcends the petty conventions of society. Confess! Aren't you already
a little ashamed of getting angry with me just now?"

She was not ashamed, not in the least; but her ardent desire to prove her
fitness for that coveted profession, together with the compelling
insistence of that persuasive voice, prompted her to hold out a reluctant
hand and to smile.

"You are a darling child!" said Captain Phipps, with a level glance of
approval. "I shall see you to-morrow. When? Where?"

But she would make no engagement. She was in a flutter to be gone. It was
her first experience at dancing on a precipice, and, while she liked it,
she could not deny, even to herself, that at times it made her
uncomfortably hot and dizzy.



                              CHAPTER 5


Eleanor's thoughts were still in a turmoil as she slowed her car to a
within-the-law limit of speed and brought it to a dignified halt before
an imposing edifice on Third Avenue. The precaution was well taken, for a
long, pale face that had been pressed to a front window promptly
transferred itself to the front door, and an anxious voice called out:

"Oh, Nellie, _why_ did you stay out so late? Didn't you know it was your
duty to be in before five?"

"It's not late, Aunt Isobel," said Eleanor impatiently. "It gets dark
early, that's all."

"And you must be frozen," persisted Miss Isobel, "with those thin pumps
and silk stockings, and nothing but that veil on your head."

"But I'm _hot!_" declared Eleanor, throwing open her coat. "The house is
stifling. Can't we have a window open?"

Miss Isobel sighed. Like the rest of the family, she never knew what to
expect from this troublesome, adorable, disturbing mystery called
Eleanor. She worshiped her with the solicitous, over-anxious care that
saw fever in the healthy flush of youth, regarded a sneeze as premonitory
of consumption, and waited with dark certitude for the "something
dreadful" that instinct told her was ever about to happen to her darling.

"I am afraid your grandmother is terribly upset about your staying out so
late," she said, with a note of warning in her voice.

"What made you tell her?" demanded Eleanor.

"Because she asked me, and of course I could not deceive her. I don't
believe you know how hard it is to keep things from her."

"_Don't_ I!" said Eleanor, with the tolerant smile of a professional for
an amateur. "Well, a few minutes more won't make any difference. I'll go
and change my dress."

"No, dear; you must go to her first. She's been sending Hannah down every
few minutes to see if you were here."

"Oh, dear! I suppose I'm in for it!" sighed Eleanor, flinging her coat
across the banister. Then, in answer to a plaintive voice from the
library, "Yes, Aunt Enid?"

"Why on earth are you so late, sweetheart? Didn't you know your
grandmother would be fretted?"

The possessor of the plaintive voice emerged from the library, trailing
an Oriental scarf as she came. Like her elder sister, she was tall and
thin, but she did not wear Miss Isobel's look of martyred resignation. On
the contrary, she had the starved look of one who is constantly trying to
pick up the crumbs of interest that other people let fall.

Enid Bartlett might have passed for a pretty woman had her appearance not
been permanently affected by an artist once telling her she looked like a
Botticelli. Since that time she had done queer things to her hair, pursed
her lips, and cultivated an expression of chronic yearning.

"I haven't seen you since breakfast, Nellie," she said gently. "Haven't
you a kiss for me?"

Eleanor presented a perfunctory cheek over the banisters, taking care
that it was not the one that had been kissed a few minutes before.

"Remember your promise," Aunt Enid whispered; "don't forget that your
grandmother is an old lady and you must not excite her."

"But she excites me," said Eleanor doggedly. "She makes me want to smash
windows and scream."

"Why, Nellie!" Miss Enid's mournful eyes filled with tears. Instantly
Eleanor was all contrition.

"I'm sorry!" she said, with a real kiss this time. "I'll behave. Give you
my word I will!" And, with an affectionate squeeze of the hand that
clasped hers, she ran up the steps.

The upper hall, like the rest of the house, was pervaded by an air of
gloomy grandeur. Everything was dreary, formal, fixed. Not an ornament or
a picture had been changed since Eleanor could remember. She was the only
young thing about the place, and it always seemed to her as if the house
and its occupants were conspiring to make her old and staid and stupid,
like themselves.

At the door of her grandmother's room she paused. As far back as she
could remember, her quarrels with her grandmother had been the most
terrifying events of her life. Repetition never robbed them of their
horror, and no amount of spoiling between times could make up to her for
the violence of the moment. It took all the courage she had to turn the
knob of the door and enter.

A brigadier-general planning an important campaign would have presented
no more commanding presence than did the formidable old lady who sat at a
flat-top desk, issuing orders in a loud, decisive tone to a small
meek-looking man who stood before her. The most arresting feature about
Madam Bartlett was a towering white pompadour that began where most
pompadours end, and soared to a surprising height above her large,
handsome, masculine face. The fact that her hair line had gradually
receded from her forehead to the top of her head affected no change
whatever in the arrangement of her coiffure. Neither in regard to her
hair nor to her figure had she yielded one iota to the whims of Nature.
Her body was still confined in the stiffest of stays, and in spite of her
seventy years was as straight as an arrow. At Eleanor's entrance she
motioned her peremptorily to a chair and proceeded with the business in
hand.

"You go back and tell Mr. Bangs," she was saying to the meek-looking
person, "that I want him to send somebody up here who knows more than you
do. Do you understand?"

The meek one evidently understood, for he reached nervously for his cap.

"Wait!" commanded Madam peremptorily. "Don't start off like that, while I
am talking to you! Tell Mr. Bangs this is the third time I've asked him
to send me the report of Bartlett & Bangs' export business for the past
year. I want it immediately. I am not in my dotage yet. I still have some
say-so in the firm. Well, what are you waiting for?"

"I was waiting to know if there was anything more, ma'am."

"If there had been I would have said so. Tell Hannah to come in as you go
out."

Eleanor looked at her grandmother expectantly, but there was no answering
glance. The old lady was evidently in one of her truculent moods that
brooked no interference.

"Has the plumber come?" she demanded of the elderly colored maid who
appeared at the door.

"No, ma'am. He can't get here till to-morrow."

"Tell him I won't wait. If he can't come within an hour he needn't come
at all. Where is Tom?"

Hannah's eyes shifted uneasily. "Tom? Why, Tom, he thought you discharged
him."

"So I did. But he's not to go until I get another butler. Send him up
here at once."

"But he ain't here," persisted Hannah fearfully, "He's went for good this
time."

Eleanor, sitting demurely by the door, had a moment of unholy exultation.
Old black Tom, the butler, had been Madam's chief domestic prop for a
quarter of a century. He had been the patient buffer between her and the
other servants, taking her domineering with unfailing meekness, and even
venturing her defense when mutiny threatened below stairs. "You-all don't
understand old Miss," he would say loyally. "She's all right, only she's
jes' nachully mean, dat's all."

In the turning of this humble worm, Eleanor felt in some vague way a
justification of her own rebellion.

His departure, however, did not tend to clear the domestic atmosphere. By
the time Madam had settled the plumbing question and expressed her
opinion of Tom and all his race, she was in no mood to deal leniently
with the shortcomings of a headstrong young granddaughter.

"Well," she said, addressing her at last, "why didn't you make it
midnight?"

"It's only a little after five." Eleanor knew she was putting up a feeble
defense, and her hands grew cold.

"It is nearly six, and it is dark. Couldn't you have withdrawn the
sunshine of your presence from the hospital half an hour sooner?"

Under her sharp glance there was a curious protective tenderness, the
savage concern of a lioness for her whelp; but Eleanor saw only the
scoffing expression in the keen eyes, and heard the note of irony in all
she said.

"Your going out to the hospital is all foolishness, anyhow," the old lady
continued, sorting her papers with efficiency. "Contagious diseases,
germs, and what not. But some women would be willing to go to Hades if
they could tie a becoming rag around their heads. Why didn't you dress
yourself properly before you came in here?"

"I wanted to, but Aunt----"

"Aunt Enid, I suppose! If it was left to her she'd have you trailing
around in a Greek tunic and sandals, with a laurel wreath on your head."

There was an ominous pause, during which Madam's wrinkled, bony hands,
flashing with diamonds, searched rapidly among the papers.

"You are all ready to start on Monday? Your clothes are in good
condition, I presume?"

Eleanor brought her gaze from a detached contemplation of the ceiling to
a critical inspection of her finger-nails.

"I suppose Aunt Isobel has attended to them," she said indifferently.

"Aunt Isobel, indeed!" snarled Madam. "You'd lean on a broken reed if you
depended on Isobel. And Enid is no better. _I_ attended to your clothes.
I got you everything you need, even down to a new set of furs."

"Silver fox?" asked Eleanor, brightening visibly.

"No, mink. I can't abide fox. Ah! here's what I am looking for. Your
ticket and berth reservation. Train leaves at ten-thirty Monday morning."

"Grandmother," ventured Eleanor, summing up courage to lead a forlorn
hope, "you are just wasting money sending me back to Baltimore."

"It's my money," said the old lady grimly.

"It's your money, but it is my life," Eleanor urged, with a quiver in her
voice. "If you are going to send me away, why not send me to New York and
let me do the one thing in the world I want to do?"

That Madam should be willing to furnish unlimited funds for finishing
schools, music lessons, painting lessons, and every "extra" that the
curriculum offered, and yet refuse to cultivate her one real talent,
seemed to Eleanor the most unreasonable autocracy. She had no way of
knowing that Madam's indomitable pride, still quivering with the memory
of her oldest son's marriage to an unknown young actress, recoiled
instinctively from the theatrical rock on which so many of her old hopes
had been wrecked.

Eleanor's persistence in recurring to this most distasteful of subjects
roused her to fury. A purple flush suffused her face, and her cheeks
puffed in and out as she breathed.

"I suppose Claude Martel has it all mapped out," she said. "He and that
fool Harold Phipps have stirred you up to a pretty pitch. What do you see
in that silly coxcomb, anyhow?"

"If you mean Captain Phipps," Eleanor said with dignity, "I see a great
deal. He is one of the most cultivated men I ever met."

"Fiddlesticks! He smells like a soap-counter! When I see an affected man
I see a fool. He has airs enough to fill a music-box. But that's neither
here nor there. You understand definitely that I do not wish you to see
him again?"

Eleanor's silence did not satisfy Madam. She insisted upon a verbal
assurance, which Eleanor was loath to give.

"I tell you once for all, young lady," said Madam, by this time roused to
fury, "that you have _got_ to do what I say for another year. After that
you will be twenty-one, and you can go to the devil, if you want to."

"Grandmother!" cried Eleanor, shrinking as if from a physical blow. Then,
remembering her promise to her Aunt Enid, she bit her lip and struggled
to keep back the tears. As she started to leave the room, Madam called
her back.

"Here, take this," she said gruffly, thrusting a small morocco box into
her hand. "Isobel and Enid never had decent necks to hang 'em on. See
that you don't lose them." And without more ado she thrust Eleanor out of
the room and shut the door in her face.

Eleanor fled down the hall to her own room, and after locking the door
flung herself on the bed. It was always like that, she told herself
passionately; they nagged at her and tormented her and wore her out with
their care and anxiety, and then suffocated her with their affection. She
did not want their presents. She wanted freedom, the right to live her
own life, think her own thoughts, make her own decisions. She did not
mean to be ungrateful, but she couldn't please them all! The family
expectations of her were too high, too different from what she wanted.
Other girls with half her talents for the stage had succeeded, and just
because she was a Bartlett----

She clenched her fists and wished for the hundredth time that she had
never been born. She had been a bone of contention all her life, and,
even when the two families were not fighting over her, the Bartlett blood
was warring with the Martel blood within her. Her standards were
hopelessly confused; she did not know what she wanted except that she
wanted passionately to be let alone.

"Nellie!" called a gentle voice on the other side of the door. "Are you
ready for dinner?"

"Don't want any dinner," she mumbled from the depths of a pillow.

The door-handle turned softly and the voice persisted:

"You must unlock the door, dearie; I want to speak to you."

Eleanor flung herself off the bed and opened the door. "I tell you, I
don't want any dinner, Aunt Enid," she declared petulantly.

Miss Enid drew her down on the bed beside her and regarded her with
pensive persuasion. "I know, Nelchen; I often feel like that. But you
must come down and make a pretense of eating. It upsets your grandmother
to have any one of us absent from meals."

"Everything I do upsets her!" cried Eleanor with tragic insistence. "I
can't please her--there's no use trying. Why does she treat me the way
she does? Why does she sometimes almost seem to hate me?"

Miss Enid's eyes involuntarily glanced at the picture of Eleanor's mother
over the desk, taken in the doublet and hose of _Rosalind_.

"Hush, child; you mustn't say such awful things," she said, drawing the
girl close and stroking her hair. "Mother adores you. Think of all she
has done for you ever since you were a tiny baby. What other girl of your
acquaintance has her own car, all the pretty clothes she can wear, and as
much pin-money as she can spend?"

"But that's not what I _want_!" cried Eleanor tragically. "I want to _be_
something and to _do_ something. I feel like I am in prison here. I'm not
good and resigned like you and Aunt Isobel, and I simply refuse to go
through life standing grandmother's tyranny."

Poor Eleanor, so intolerably sensitive to contacts, so hopelessly
confused in her bearings, sitting red-eyed and miserable, kicking her
feet against the side of the bed, looked much more like a naughty child
than like the radiant Lady Bountiful who had dispensed favors and
received homage in the hospital a few hours before.

So swift was the sympathetic action of her nerves that any change in her
physical condition affected her whole nature, making her an enigma to
herself as well as to others. Even as she sat there rebellious and
defiant, her eyes fell upon the small morocco box on her pillow, and she
picked it up and opened it.

"Oh, Aunt Enid!" she cried in instant remorse. "Just look what she's
given me! Her string of pearls! The ones she wore in the portrait! And
just think of what I've been saying about her. I'm a beast, a regular
little beast!"

And with characteristic impetuosity she flung herself on Miss Enid's neck
and burst into tears.



                              CHAPTER 6


The sun was getting ready to set on Sunday afternoon when a tall,
trim-looking figure turned the corner of the street leading to the
Martels' and broke into a run. In one hand he carried a large suit-case,
and in the other he held a bead chain wrapped in tissue-paper. In the
breast pocket of his uniform was a paper stating that Quinby Graham was
thereby honorably discharged from the U.S.A.

Whether it was his enforced rest, or his state of mind, or a combination
of the two, it is impossible to say; but at least ten pounds had been
added to his figure, the hollows had about gone from his eyes, and a
natural color had returned to his face. But the old cough remained, as
was evident when he presented himself breathless at the Martels' door and
demanded of Cass:

"Has she gone?"

"Who?"

"Miss Bartlett."

"I believe she's fixing to go now. What's it to you?"

"Oh, I just want to say good-by," Quin threw off with a great show of
indifference. "She was awful good to me out at the hospital."

"Oh, I see." Then Cass dismissed the subject for one of far more
importance. "Are you out for keeps? Have you come to stay?"

"You bet I have. How long has she been here?"

"Who?"

"Miss Bartlett, I tell you."

"Oh! I don't know. All day, I reckon. I got to take her home now in a
minute, but I'll be back soon. Don't you go anywhere till I come back."

Quin seized his arm: "Cass, I'll take her home for you. I don't mind a
bit, honest I don't. I need some exercise."

"Old lady'd throw a fit," objected Cass. "Old grandmother, I mean.
Regular Tartar. Old aunts are just as bad. They devil the life out of
Nell, except when she's deviling the life out of them."

"How do you mean?" Quin encouraged him.

"I mean Nell's a handful all right. She kicks over the traces every time
she gets a chance. I don't blame her. They're a rotten bunch of snobs,
and she knows it."

"Well, I could leave her at the door," Quin urged. "I wouldn't let her in
for anything for the world. But I got to talk to her, I tell you; I got
to thank her----"

Meanwhile, in the room above the young lady under discussion was
leisurely adjusting a new and most becoming hat before a cracked mirror
while she discussed a subject of perennial interest to the eternal
feminine.

"Rose," she was asking, "what's the first thing you notice about a man?"

Rose, sitting on the side of the bed nursing little Bino, the latest
addition to the family, answered promptly:

"His mouth, of course. I wouldn't marry a man who showed his gums when he
laughed, not if every hair of his head was strung with diamonds!"

The visualization of this unpleasant picture threw Eleanor into peals of
laughter which upset the carefully acquired angle of the new hat, to say
nothing of the nerves of the young gentleman just arrived in the hall
below.

"I wasn't thinking of his looks only," she said; "I mean everything about
him."

"Why, I guess it's whether he notices me," said Rose after deliberation.

"Exactly," agreed Eleanor. "Not only you or me, but girls. Take Cass, for
instance; girls might just as well be broomsticks to Cass, all except Fan
Loomis. Now, when Captain Phipps looks at you----"

"He never would," said Rose; "he'd look straight over my head. I'll tell
you who is a better example--Mr. Graham."

Eleanor smiled reminiscently. "Oh, Sergeant Slim? _he's_ thrilled, all
right! Always looks as if he couldn't wait a minute to hear what you are
going to say next."

"He's not as susceptible as he looks," Rose pronounced from her
vantage-point of seniority. "He's just got a way with him that fools
people. Cass says girls are always crazy about him, and that he never
cares for any of them more than a week."

"Much Cass knows about it!" said Cass's cousin, pulling on her long
gloves. Then she dismissed the subject abruptly: "Rose, if I tell you
something will you swear not to tell?"

"Never breathe it."

"Captain Phipps is coming up to Baltimore for the Easter vacation."

"Does your grandmother know?"

"I should say _not_. She's written Miss Hammond that I'm not to receive
callers without permission, and that all suspicious mail is to be
opened."

"How outrageous! You tell Captain Phipps to send his letters to me; I'll
get them to you. They'll never suspect my fine Italian hand, with my name
and address on the envelope."

Eleanor looked at her older cousin dubiously. "I hate to do underhand
things like that!" she said crossly.

"You wouldn't have to if they treated you decently. Opening your letters!
The idea! I wouldn't stand for it. I'd show them a thing or two."

Eleanor stood listlessly buttoning her glove, pondering what Rose was
saying.

"I wonder if I could get word to the Captain to-night?" she said. "Shall
I really tell him to send the letters to you?"

"No; tell him to bring them. I'm crazy to see what his nibs looks like."

"He looks like that picture of Richard Mansfield downstairs--the one
taken as _Beau Brummel_. He's the most fastidious man you ever saw, and
too subtle for words."

"He's terribly rich, isn't he?"

"I don't know," said Eleanor indifferently. "His father is a Chicago
manufacturer of some kind. Does Papa Claude think he is _very_ talented?"

"Talented! He says he's one of the most gifted young men he ever met.
They are hatching out some marvelous schemes to write a play together.
Papa Claude is treading on air."

"Bless his heart! Wouldn't it be too wonderful, Rose, if Captain Phipps
should produce one of his plays? He's crazy about him."

"You mean he's crazy about you."

"Who said so?"

"I don't have to be told. How about you, Nell? Are you in love with him?"

Eleanor, taking a farewell look in the mirror, saw a tiny frown gather
between her eyebrows. It was the second time that week she had been asked
the question, and, as before, she avoided it.

"Listen!" she said. "Who is that talking so loud downstairs?"

Investigation proved that it was Cass and Quin in hot dispute, as usual.
On seeing her descend the stair the latter promptly stepped forward.

"Cass is going to let me take you home, Miss Bartlett."

"I never said I would," Cass contradicted him. "I'm not going to get her
into trouble the night before she goes away."

"That's for her to decide," said Quin. "If she says I can go I'm going."

The very novelty of being called upon to decide anything for herself,
augmented perhaps by the ardent desire in his eyes, caused Eleanor to tip
the scales in his favor.

"I don't mind his taking me home," she said somewhat condescendingly.
"They'll think it's Cass."

"All buck privates look alike to them," added Rose, laughing.

"My private days are over," said Quin grandly. "This time next week I'll
be out of my uniform."

"You won't be half so good-looking," said Eleanor, surveying him with
such evident approval that he had a wild idea of reënlisting at once.

"Tell Papa Claude I couldn't wait for him any longer," Eleanor then said.
"Kiss him good-by for me, Rose, and tell him I'll write the minute I get
to Baltimore."

Then Cass kissed her, and Rose and the baby kissed her, and Myrna came
downstairs to kiss her, and Edwin was called up from the basement to kiss
her. It seemed the easiest and most natural thing in the world for
everybody to kiss her but Quin, who would have given all he had for the
privilege.

At last he found himself alone with her in the street, trying to catch
step and wondering whether or not it was proper to take hold of a young
lady's elbow. With commendable self-restraint he compromised on street
crossings and muddy places. It was not quite dark yet, but it was going
to be very soon, and a big pale moon was hiding behind a tall chimney,
waiting for a chance to pounce out on unwary young couples who might be
venturing abroad.

As they started across Central Park, an open square in the heart of the
city, Eleanor stopped short, and with eyes fixed on the sky began
incanting:

    "Star light, star bright
    Very first star I see to-night
    Wish I may, wish I might--
    May these three wishes come true before to-morrow night."

"I haven't got three wishes," said Quin solemnly; "I've only got one."

"Mercy, I have dozens! Shall I lend you some?"

"No! mine's bigger than all yours put together."

She flashed a look at him from under her tilted hat-brim:

"What on earth's the matter with you? You look so solemn. I don't believe
you wanted to bring me home, after all."

Quin didn't know what was the matter with him. Heretofore he had fallen
in love as a pebble falls into a pond. There had been a delicious splash,
and subsequent encircling ripples, each one further away than the last.
But this time the pebble had fallen into a whirlpool, and was being
turned and tossed and played with in a manner wholly bewildering.

"Oh, I wanted to come, all right," he said slowly. "I _had_ to come. Say,
I wish you weren't going away to-morrow."

"So do I. I'd give anything not to."

"But why do you go, then?"

"Because I am always made to do what I don't want to do."

Quin, who had decided views on individual freedom and the consent of the
governed, promptly espoused her cause.

"They've got no right to force you. You ought to decide things for
yourself."

"Do you really think that? Do you think a girl has the right to go ahead
and do as she likes, regardless of her family?"

"That depends on whether she wants to do the right thing. Which way do we
turn?"

"This way, if we go home," said Eleanor. Then she stopped abruptly. "What
time is it?"

Quin consulted his watch and his conscience at the same time.

"It's only five-thirty," he said eagerly.

"I wonder if you'd do something for me?"

"You bet I will."

"I want to go out to the hospital. I can get out there and back in my
machine in thirty minutes. Would you be willing to go with me?"

Would he be willing? Two hours before he had sworn that no power on earth
could induce him to return to those prison walls, and now he felt that
nothing could keep him away. Forty minutes of bliss in that snug little
runabout with Miss Bartlett, and the destination might be Hades for all
he cared.

It took but a few minutes to get to the garage and into the machine, and
then they were speeding out the avenue at a pace that would surely have
landed them in the police station had the traffic officer been on his
job.

Quin, doubled up like a jack-knife beside her, was drunk with ecstasy.
His expression when he looked at her resembled that of a particularly
maudlin Airedale. Having her all to himself, with nobody to interfere,
was an almost overwhelming joy. He longed to pour out his soul in
gratitude for all that she had done for him at the hospital; he burned to
tell her that she was the most beautiful and holy thing that had ever
come into his life; but instead he only got his foot tangled in the
steering gear, and muttered something about her "not driving a car bad
for a girl"!

But Eleanor was not concerned with her companion or his silent
transports. She evidently had something of importance on her mind.

"What time is the officers' mess?" she asked.

"About six. Why?"

"I want to catch Captain Phipps before he leaves the hospital."

Quin's glowing bubble burst at the word. She _was_ Captain Phipps' girl,
after all! She had simply pressed him into service in order to get a last
interview with the one officer in the battalion for whom he had no
respect.

The guard challenged them as they swung into the hospital area, but,
seeing Quin's uniform, allowed them to enter. Past the long line of
contagious wards, past the bleak two-story convalescent barracks, and up
to the officers' quarters they swept.

"You are not going in yourself?" Quin protested, as she started to get
out of the car.

"Why not? Haven't I been coming out here all the time?"

"Not at night--not like this."

"Nonsense. What's the harm? I'll only be a minute?"

But Quin had already got out, and was holding the door with a large, firm
hand.

"No," he said humbly but positively; "I'll go and bring him out here."

The unexpected note of authority in his voice nettled her instantly.

"I shall go myself," she insisted petulantly. "Let me out."

For a moment their eyes clashed in frank combat, hers angry and defiant,
his adoring but determined.

"Listen here, Miss Bartlett," he urged. "The men wouldn't understand your
coming out like this, at night, without your uniform. I told Cass I'd
take care of you, and I'm going to do it."

"You mean that you will dare to stop me from getting out of my own car?
Take your hand off that door instantly!"

She actually seized his big, strong fingers with her small gloved ones
and tried to pull them away from the door. But Quin began to laugh, and
in spite of herself she laughed back; and, while the two were childishly
struggling for the possession of the door-handle, Captain Phipps all
unnoticed passed out of the mess-hall, gave a few instructions to his
waiting orderly, and disappeared in the darkness.



                              CHAPTER 7


By the time they were on their way home, the moon, no longer dodging
behind chimneys, had swaggered into the open. It was a hardened old
highwayman of a moon, red in the face and very full, and it declared with
every flashing beam that it was no respecter of persons, and that it
intended doing all the mischief possible down there in the little world
of men.

Miss Eleanor Bartlett was its first victim. In the white twilight she
forgot the social gap that lay between her and the youth beside her. She
ceased to observe the size and roughness of his hands, but noted instead
the fine breadth of his shoulders. She concerned herself no longer with
his verbal lapses, but responded instead to his glowing confidence that
everybody was as sincere and well intentioned as himself. She discovered
what the more sophisticated Rose had perceived at once--that Quinby
Graham "had a way with him," a beguiling, sympathetic way that made one
tell him things that one really didn't mean to tell any one. Of course,
it was partly due to the fact that he asked such outrageously direct
questions, questions that no one in her most intimate circle of friends
would dare to ask. And the queer part of it was that she was answering
them.

Before she realized it she was launched on a full recital of her woes,
her thwarted ambition to go on the stage, her grandmother's tyranny, the
indignity of being sent back to a school from which she had run away six
months before. She flattered herself that she was stating her case for
the sole purpose of getting an unprejudiced outsider's unbiased opinion;
but from the inflection of her voice and the expressive play of eyes and
lips it was evident that she was deriving some pleasure from the mere act
of thus dramatizing her woes before that wholly sympathetic audience of
one.

It was not until they reached the Eastern Parkway and were speeding
toward the twinkling lights of the city that their little bubble of
intimacy, blown in the moonlight, was shattered by a word.

"Say, Miss Eleanor," Quin blurted out unexpectedly, "do you like me?"

The question, together with the fact that he had dared used her first
name, brought her up with a start.

"Like you?" she repeated in her most conventional tone, "Why, of course.
Whatever made you think I didn't?"

"I didn't think that. But--do you like me enough to let me come to see
you when you come back?"

Now, a romantically wounded hero receiving favors in a hospital is one
thing, and an unknown discharged soldier asking them is quite another.
The very thought of Quinby Graham presenting himself as a caller, and the
comments that would follow made Eleanor shy away from the subject in
alarm.

"Oh, you'll be on the other side of the world by the time I get back,"
she said lightly.

"Not me. Not if there's a chance of seeing you again."

A momentary diversion followed, during which Eleanor fancied there was
something wrong with the radiator and expatiated at length on her
preference for air-cooled cars.

Quin listened patiently. A gentleman more versed in social subtleties
would have accepted the hint and said no more. But he was still laboring
under the error that language was invented to reveal rather than to
conceal thought.

"You didn't answer my question," he said, when Eleanor paused for breath.

"What question?"

"About my coming to see you."

She took shelter in a subterfuge.

"I told you that the family was horrid to everybody that came to see me.
To tell you the truth, I don't think you would be comfortable."

"I'm not afraid of 'em," Quin insisted fatuously. "I'd butt in anywhere
to get to see you."

Eleanor's eyes dropped under his gaze.

"You don't know my grandmother," she said; "and, what is much more
important, she doesn't know you."

"No, but she might like to," urged Quin, with one of his most engaging
smiles. "Old ladies and cats always cotton to me."

Eleanor laughed. It was impossible to be dignified and superior with a
person who didn't know the first rules of the game.

"She might," she admitted; "you never can tell about grandmother. She
really is a wonderful person in many ways, and just as generous and kind
when you are in trouble! But she says the most dreadful things; she's
always hurting people's feelings."

"She couldn't hurt mine, unless I let her," said Quin.

"Oh, yes, she could--you don't know her. But even if she happened to be
nice to you, there's Aunt Isobel."

"What is she like?"

"_Horribly_ good and conscientious, and shocked to death at everything
people do and say. I don't mean that she isn't awfully kind. She'll do
anything for you if you are sick. But Uncle Ranny says her sense of duty
amounts to a vice. Whatever she's doing, she thinks she ought to be doing
something else. And she expects you to be just as good as she is. If she
knew I was out here with a strange man to whom I'd never been
introduced----"

Eleanor was appalled at the effect upon her aunt of such indiscretion.

"Oh, I could handle her all right," said Quin boastfully. "I'd talk
foreign missions to her. Any others?"

"Heaps. There's Aunt Flo and Uncle Ranny. He's a dear, only he's the
black sheep of the family. He says I am a promising gray lamb, which
makes grandmother furious. They all let her twist them round her finger
but me. I won't twist. I never intend to."

"Is that all the family?"

"No; there's Aunt Enid. She is the nicest of them all."

"What is her line?"

"Oh, she's awfully good, too. But she's different from Aunt Isobel. She
was engaged to be married once, and grandmother broke it off because the
man was poor. I don't think she'll ever get over it."

"Do you think she would like me?" Quin anxiously inquired.

"Yes," admitted Eleanor, "I believe she would. She simply adores to mold
people. She doesn't care how many faults they have, if they will just let
her influence them to be better. And she does help loads of people. I am
her one failure. She wouldn't acknowledge it for the world, but I know
that I am the disappointment of Aunt Enid's life."

She gazed gloomily down the long moonlit road and lapsed into one of her
sudden abstractions. A belated compunction seized her for not going
straight home from the Martels', for being late for dinner on her last
night, for going on with her affair with Captain Phipps, when she had
been forbidden to see him.

"Miss Nell," said the persistent voice beside her, "do you know what I
intend to do while you are away?"

"No; what?"

"I'm going to start in to-morrow morning and make love to your whole darn
family!"

Now, if there is one thing Destiny admires in a man, it is his courage to
defy her. She relentlessly crushes the supine spirit who acquiesces, but
to him who snaps his fingers in her face she often extends a helping
hand. In this case she did not make Quin wait until the morrow to begin
his colossal undertaking. By means of a humble tack that lay in the way
of the speeding automobile, she at once set in motion the series of
events that were to determine his future life.

By the time the puncture was repaired and they were again on their way,
it was half-past seven and all hope of a timely arrival was abandoned. As
they slowed up at the Bartlett house, their uneasiness was increased by
the fact that lights were streaming from every window and the front door
was standing open.

"Is that the doctor?" an excited voice called to them from the porch.

"No," called back Eleanor, scrambling out of the car. "What is the
matter?"

No answer being received, she clutched Quin's sleeve nervously.

"Something has happened! Look, the front hall is full of people. Oh, I'm
afraid to go in! I----"

"Steady on!" said Quin, with a firm grip on her elbow as he marched her
up the steps and into the hall.

Everything was in confusion. People were hurrying to and fro, doors were
slamming, excited voices were asking questions and not waiting for
answers. "What's Dr. Snowden's telephone number?" "Can't they get another
doctor?" "Has somebody sent for Randolph?" "Are they going to try to move
her?" everybody demanded of everybody else.

Eleanor pushed through the crowd until she reached the foot of the steps.
There, lying on the floor, with her towering white pompadour crushed
ignominiously against the newel-post, lay the one person in the house who
could have brought prompt order out of the chaos. On one side of her
knelt Miss Enid frantically applying smelling salts, while on the other
stood Miss Isobel futilely wringing her hands and imploring some one to
go for a minister.

Suddenly the buzz of excited talk ceased. Madam was returning to
consciousness. She groaned heavily, then opened one eye.

"What's the matter?" she demanded feebly. "What's all this fuss about?"

"You fell down the steps, mother. Don't get excited; don't try to move."

But Madam had already tried, with the result that she fell back with a
sharp cry of pain.

"Oh, my leg, my leg!" she groaned. "What are you all standing around like
fools for? Why don't you send Tom for the doctor?"

"Tom isn't with us any more, dearest," said Aunt Enid with trembling
reassurance, "and Dr. Snowden is out of town. But we are trying to get
Dr. Bean."

"I won't have Bean," Madam declared, clinching her jaw with pain. "I'll
send him away if he comes."

"Dr. Vaughn, then?" suggested Miss Enid tenderly.

"Vaughn nothing! Send for Rawlins. He's an old stick, but he'll do till
Dr. Snowden gets here."

"But, mother," protested Miss Isobel. "Dr. Rawlins lives in the country;
he can't get here for half an hour."

"Do as I tell you and stop arguing," commanded Madam. "Has anybody
telephoned Ranny?"

The two sisters exchanged significant glances.

"Their line is busy," said Miss Enid soothingly. "We will get him soon."

"I want to be taken upstairs," announced Madam; "I want to be put in my
own bed."

A buzz of protest met this suggestion, and a small, nervous man in
clerical garb, who had just arrived, came forward to add his voice to the
rest.

Madam glared at him savagely. "There'll be plenty of time for parsons
when the doctors get through with me," she said. "Tell some of those
able-bodied men back there to come here and take me upstairs."

Quin, who had been standing in the background looking down at the
formidable old lady, promptly came forward.

"I'll take you up," he said. "Which leg is hurt?"

The old lady turned her head and looked up at him. The note of confidence
in his voice had evidently appealed to her.

"It's my left leg. I think it's broken just above the knee."

"Do you want me to put a splint on it?"

"Are you a doctor?"

"No, ma'am; but I can fix it so's it won't hurt you so bad when we move
you," Quin replied.

"How do you know you can?"

Quin ran his fingers through his hair and smiled.

"Well, I wasn't with the Ambulance Corps for six months in France for
nothing."

Madam eyed him keenly for a moment; then, "Go ahead," she commanded.

A chorus of protests from the surrounding group only deepened her
determination.

"It's _my_ leg," she said irritably. "If he knows how to splint it, let
him do it. I want to be taken upstairs."

It is difficult enough to apply a splint properly under favorable
circumstances; but when one has only an umbrella and table napkins to
work with, and is hemmed in by a doubtful and at times protesting
audience, it becomes well-nigh impossible.

Quin worked slowly and awkwardly, putting the bones as nearly as possible
in position and then binding them firmly in place. He paid no more
attention to the agitated comments of those about him than he had paid to
the whizzing bullets when he rendered first aid to a fallen comrade in No
Man's Land.

During the painful operation Madam lay with rigid jaws and clenched
fists. Small beads of perspiration gathered on her forehead and her lips
were white. Now and then she flinched violently, but only once did she
speak, and that was when Miss Enid held the smelling salts too close to
her high-bridged nose.

"Haven't I got enough to stand without that?" she sputtered, knocking the
bottle into the air and sending the contents flying over the polished
floor.

When Quin finished he looked at her with frank admiration.

"You got nerve, all right," he said; then he added gently: "Don't you
worry about getting upstairs; it won't hurt you much now."

"You stay and help," said Madam peremptorily.

"Sure," said Quin.

It was not until she was in her own bed, and word had come that Dr.
Rawlins was on his way, that she would let Quin go, and even then she
called him back.

"You! Soldier! Come here," was the faint edict from the canopied bed. She
was getting very weak from the pain, and her words came in gasps. "Do you
know where--the--Aristo Apartments are?"

"No, but I can find out," said Quin.

"I want you--to--go for my son--Mr. Randolph Bartlett. If he's not at
home--you find him. I'll make it--worth your while."

"I'll find him," Quin said, with a reassuring pat on her wrinkled hand.

As he went into the hall, Eleanor slipped out of the adjoining room and
followed him silently down the stairs. She did not speak until they were
at the front door, and even then took the precaution of stepping outside.

"I just wanted to come down and say good-by," she said.

"But you surely won't be going now?" said Quin hopefully.

"Yes, I'm to go. Grandmother has just told Aunt Isobel that everything is
to be carried out exactly as she planned it. But I wish they'd let me
stay and help. Poor granny!"

Her eyes brimmed with ready tears.

"She'll pull through all right," said Quin, to whom the tear-dimmed eyes
of youth were more unnerving than age's broken bones. "Don't worry, Miss
Eleanor, please. What time does your train go in the morning?"

"Ten-thirty."

"I'll be there at ten."

Eleanor brushed her tears away quickly. "No, no--you mustn't," she said
in quick alarm. "They don't know that we ever saw each other before. They
think you just happened to be passing and ran in to help. Oh, I don't
want to give them any more trouble. Promise me not to come!"

"Well, when you come back, then?"

"Yes, yes, when I come back," she whispered hurriedly. Then she put out
her hand impulsively. "I think you've been perfectly splendid to-night.
Good-by."

For a moment she stood there, her dainty figure silhouetted against the
bright doorway, with the light shining through her soft hair giving her
an undeserved halo. Then she was gone, leaving him on the steps in the
moonlight, tenderly contemplating the hand that had just held hers.



                              CHAPTER 8


It was well that Quin had an errand to perform that night. His emotions,
which had been accumulating compound interest since five o'clock,
demanded an outlet in immediate action. He had not the faintest idea
where the Aristo Apartments might be; but, wherever they were, he meant
to find them. Consultation with a telephone book at the corner drug-store
sent him across the city to a newer and more fashionable residence
quarter. As he left the street-car at the corner indicated, he asked a
man who was just dismounting from a taxi-cab for further information.

When the dapper gentleman, thus addressed, turned toward him, it was
evident that he had dined not wisely but too well. He was at that mellow
stage that radiates affection, and, having bidden a loving farewell to
the taxi driver, he now linked his arm in Quin's and repeated gaily:

"'Risto? Of course I can find it for you, if it's where it was this
morning! Always make a point of helping a man that's worse off than I am.
Always help a sholdier, anyhow. Take my arm, old chap. Take my cane, too.
I'll help you."

Thus assisted and assisting, Quin good-humoredly allowed himself to be
conducted in a zigzag course to the imposing doorway of a large
apartment-house across the street.

"Forgive me f' taking you up stairway," apologized the affable gentleman.
"Mustn't let elevator boy see you in this condishun. Take you up to my
apartment. Put you bed in m' own room. Got to take care sholdiers."

At the second floor Quin tried to disentangle himself from his new-found
protector.

"You can find your way home now, partner," he said. "I got to go down and
find out which floor my party lives on."

But his companion held him tight.

"No, my boy! Mustn't go out again to-night. M.P.'s'll catch you. I'll get
you to bed without anybody knowing. Mustn't 'sturb my wife, though.
Mustn't make any noise." And, adding force to persuasion, he got his arms
around Quin and backed him so suddenly against the wall that they both
took an unexpected seat on the floor.

At this inopportune moment a door opened and a delicate blonde lady in a
pink kimono, followed by an inquisitive poodle, peered anxiously out.

"'S perfectly all right, darling!" reassured the nethermost figure
blithely. "Sholdier friend's had a little too much champagne. Bringing
him in so's won't be 'rested. Nicest kind of chap. Perfectly harmless!"

Quin scrambled to his feet and exchanged an understanding look with the
lady in the doorway.

"I found him down at the corner. Does he belong here?" he asked. And,
upon being informed sorrowfully that he did, he added obligingly, "Don't
you want me to bring him in for you?"

"Will you?" said the lady in grateful agitation. "The maids are both out,
and I can't handle him by myself. Would you mind bringing him into his
bedroom?"

Quin succeeded in detaching an affectionate arm from his right leg and,
getting his patient up, piloted him into the apartment.

"I'd just as leave put him to bed for you if you like?" he offered,
noting the nervousness of the lady, who was fluttering about like a
distracted butterfly.

"Oh, would you?" she asked. "It would help me immensely. If he isn't put
to bed he is sure to want to go out again."

"Shure to!" heartily agreed the object of their solicitude. "Leave him to
me, darling. I'll hide his uniform so's he can't go out. Be a good girl,
run along--I'll take care of him."

Thus left to each other, a satisfactory compromise was effected by which
the host agreed to be undressed and put to bed, provided Quin would later
submit to the same treatment. It was not the first time Quin had thus
assisted a brother in misfortune, but he had never before had to do with
gold buttons and jeweled cuff-links, to say nothing of silk underwear and
sky-blue pajamas. Being on the eve of adopting civilian clothes for the
first time in two years, he took a lively interest in every detail of his
patient's attire, from the modish cut of his coat to the smart pattern of
his necktie.

The bibulous one, who up to the present had regarded the affair as
humorous, now began to be lachrymose, and by the time Quin got him into
the rose-draped bed he was in a state of deep dejection.

"My mother loves me," he assured Quin tearfully. "Gives me everything. I
don't mean to be ungrateful. But I can't go on in the firm. Bangs is
dishonest, but she won't believe it. She thinks I don't know. They both
think I'm a cipher. I _am_ a cipher. But they've made me one. Get so
discouraged, then go break over like this. Promised Flo never would take
another drink. But it's no use. Can't help myself. I'm done for. Just a
cipher, a cipher, a ci----"

Quin standing by the bed waiting for him to get through adding noughts to
his opinion of himself, suddenly leaned forward and examined the picture
that hung above the table. It was of an imperial old lady in black
velvet, with a string of pearls about her throat and a tiara on her
towering white pompadour. His glance swept from the photograph to the
flushed face with the tragic eyes on the pillow, and he seemed to hear a
querulous old voice repeating: "Ranny--I want Ranny. Why don't they send
for Ranny?"

With two strides he was at the door.

"Are you Mrs. Randolph Bartlett?" he asked of the lady who was nervously
pacing the hall.

"Yes; why?"

"Because they sent me after him. It's his mother, you see--she's hurt."

"Madam Bartlett? What's happened?"

"She fell down the steps and broke her leg."

"How terrible! But she mustn't know about him," cried Mrs. Ranny in
instant alarm. "It always makes her furious when he breaks over; and yet,
she is to blame--she drives him to it."

"How do you mean?" asked Quin, plunging into the situation with his usual
temerity.

"I mean that she has dominated him, soul and body, ever since he was
born!" cried Mrs. Ranny passionately. "She has forced him to stay in the
business when every detail of it is distasteful to him. His life is a
perfect hell there under Mr. Bangs. He ought to have an outdoor life. He
loves animals--he ought to be on a ranch." She pulled herself up with an
effort. "Forgive me for going into all this before a stranger, but I am
almost beside myself. Of course I am sorry for Madam Bartlett, but what
can I do? You can see for yourself that my husband is in no condition to
go to her."

"Can't you say he's sick?"

"She wouldn't believe it. She's suspicious of everything I do and say. Do
you _have_ to take back an answer?"

"I told the old lady I'd find him for her. You see, I'm a--sort of a
friend of Miss Eleanor's."

Under ordinary circumstances Mrs. Ranny would have been the last to
accept this without an explanation; but there were too many other
problems pressing for her to worry about this one.

"I wonder how it would do," she said, "for you to telephone that we are
both out of town for the night, spending the week-end in the country?"

"I guess one lie is as good as another," said Quin ruefully. He was
getting involved deeper than he liked, but there seemed no other way out.
"I'll telephone from the drug-store. Anything else I can do for you?"

"You have been so kind, I hate to ask another favor."

"Let's have it," said Quin.

"Would you by any chance have time to leave a package of papers at
Bartlett & Bangs' for me the first thing in the morning? Mr. Bangs has
been telephoning me about them all day, and I've been nearly distracted,
because my husband had them in his pocket and I did not know where he
was."

"Wait a minute," said Quin, going back into the bedroom. "Are these the
ones?"

"Yes. They must be very important; that's why I am afraid to intrust them
to my maid. Be sure to take them to Mr. Bangs himself, and if he asks any
questions----" She caught her trembling lip between her teeth and tried
to force back the tears.

"Don't you worry!" cried Quin. "I'll make it all right with him. You
drink a glass of hot milk or something, and go to bed."

She looked up at him gratefully. "I don't know your name," she said, "but
I certainly appreciate your kindness to me to-night. I wish you would
come back some time and let us thank you----"

"Oh, that's all o.k.," said Quin, turning to the door in sudden
embarrassment. Then he discovered that he was trying to shake hands and
hold his cap with the same hand, and in his confusion he slipped on the
hard-wood floor, and achieved an exit that was scarcely more dignified
than his entrance a half-hour before.



                              CHAPTER 9


The news that Quin had broken through the Bartlett barrage afforded great
amusement to the Martels at breakfast next morning. Of course they were
sympathetic over Madam Bartlett's accident--the Martels' sympathy was
always on tap for friend or foe,--but that did not interfere with a frank
enjoyment of Quin's spirited account of her high-handed treatment of the
family, especially the incident of the smelling salts.

"She ought to belong to the Tank Brigade," said Rose. "'Treat 'em rough'
is her motto."

"I like the old girl, though," said Quin disrespectfully, "she's got so
much pep. And talk about your nerve! You should have seen her set her jaw
when I put the splint on!"

"Is the house very grand?" asked Myrna, hungering for luxurious details.

"No," Cass broke in scornfully. "I been in the hall twice. It looks like
a museum--big pictures and statuary, and everything dark and gloomy."

"Yes, and Miss Isobel and Miss Enid are the mummies," added Rose. "The
only nice one in the bunch besides Nell is Mr. Ranny, and he is hardly
ever sober."

"Well, I wouldn't be, either," said Cass, "if I'd been held down like he
has all his life. The Bartlett estate was left in trust to the old lady,
and she holds the purse-strings and has the say-so about everything."

Quin refrained from mentioning the fact that he had also met Mr. Ranny.
It was a point to his credit, for the story would have been received with
hilarity, and he particularly enjoyed making Rose laugh.

The entrance of Mr. Martel put an end to the discussion of the Bartletts.
Bitter as was his animosity toward the old lady, he would permit no
disrespect to be shown her or hers in his presence. In the garish light
of day he looked a trifle less imposing than he had on New Year's eve in
the firelight. His long white hair hung straight and dry about his face;
baggy wrinkles sagged under his eyes and under his chin. The shoulders
that once proudly carried Mark Antony's shining armor now supported a
faded velvet breakfast jacket that showed its original color only in
patches. But even in the intimacy of the breakfast hour Papa Claude
preserved his air of distinction, the gracious condescension of a
temporary sojourner in an environment from which he expected at any
moment to take flight.

When Cass had gone to work and the girls were busy cleaning up the
breakfast dishes, he linked his arm in Quin's and drew him into the
living-room.

"I have never allowed myself to submit to the tyranny of time!" he said.
"The wine of living should be tasted slowly. Pull up a chair, my boy; I
want to talk to you. You don't happen to have a cigar about you, do you?"

"Yes, sir. Here are two. Take 'em both. I got to cut out smoking; it
makes me cough."

Mr. Martel, protesting and accepting at the same time, sank into his
large chair and bade Quin pull up a rocker. In the Martels' living-room
all the chairs were rockers; so, in fact, were the table and the sofa,
owing to missing castors.

"I am going to talk to you quite confidentially," began Mr. Martel,
giving himself up to the enjoyment of the hour. "I am going to tell you
of a new and fascinating adventure upon which I am about to embark. You
have doubtless heard me speak of a very wealthy and talented young friend
of mine--Mr. Harold Phipps?"

Quin admitted without enthusiasm that he had, and that he also knew him.

"Well, Mr. Phipps,--or Captain, as you probably know him,--after a short
medical career has found it so totally distasteful that he is wisely
returning to an earlier love. As soon as he gets out of the army he and I
are going to collaborate on a play. Of course I have technic at my
finger-tips. Construction, dramatic suspense, climax are second nature to
me. But I confess I have a fatal handicap, one that has doubtless cost me
my place at the head of American dramatists to-day. I have never been
able to achieve colloquial dialogue! My style is too finished, you
understand, my diction too perfect. Manager after manager has been on the
verge of accepting a play, and been deterred solely on account of this
too literary quality. I suffer from the excess of my virtue; you see?"

Quin did not see. Mr. Martel's words conveyed but the vaguest meaning to
him. But it flattered his vanity to be the recipient of such a great
man's confidence.

"Well, here's my point," continued his host impressively. "Mr. Phipps
knows nothing of technic, of construction; but he has a sense for
character and dialogue that amounts to genius. Now, suppose I construct a
great plot, and he supplies great dialogue? What will be the inevitable
result? A masterpiece, a little modern masterpiece!"

Mr. Martel, soaring on the wings of his imagination, failed to observe
that his listener was not following.

"Does--does Miss Eleanor know about all this?" Quin asked.

"Alas, no. I had no opportunity to tell her. Ah, Mr. Graham, I must
confess, it hurts me, it hurts me here,"--he indicated a grease-spot just
below his vest pocket,--"to be separated from that dear child just when
she needs me most. She should be already embarked in her great career.
Ellen Terry, Bernhardt, Rachel, all began their training very early. If
she had been left to me she would be behind the footlights by now."

"They'll never stand for her going on the stage," said Quin
authoritatively. It was astonishing how intimate he felt with the
Bartletts since he had put two of them to bed.

"Ah, my friend," said Mr. Martel, shaking his head and smiling, "what can
be avoided whose end is purposed by the mighty gods? Eleanor will follow
her destiny. She has the temperament, the voice, the figure--a trifle
small, I grant you, but lithe, graceful, pliant as a reed."

"Yes, I know what you mean," Quin agreed ardently; "you can tell that in
her dancing."

"But more than all, she has the great ambition, the consuming desire for
self-expression, for----"

Quin's face clouded slightly and he again lost the thread of the
discourse.

"Lots of girls are stage-struck," he said presently, breaking in on Mr.
Martel's rhapsody. "Miss Eleanor's young yet. Don't you believe she will
get over it?"

"Young! Why, Mary Anderson was playing _Meg Merrilies_ when she was two
years younger than Eleanor. I tell you, Quinby--you'll forgive my
addressing you thus--I tell you, the girl will never get over it. She has
inherited the histrionic gift from her mother--from me. The Bartletts
have given her money, education, social position; but it remained for
me--the despised Claude Martel--to give her the soul of an artist. And
mark me,"--he paused effectively with a lifted forefinger,--"it will be
Claude Martel who gives her her heart's desire. For years I have fostered
in her a love for the drama. I have taken her to see great plays. I have
taught her to read great lines, and above all I have fed her ambition.
The time was limited--a night here, a day there; but I planted a seed
they cannot kill. It has grown, it will flower; no one can stop it now."

The subject was one upon which Quin would fain have discoursed
indefinitely, but a glance at his watch reminded him that the business of
the day did not admit of further delay. He not only had an important
errand to perform, but he must look for work. His exchequer, as usual,
was very low and the need for replenishing it was imperative.

When he reached Bartlett & Bangs' on the outskirts of the city, the big
manufacturing plant was ominously still. The only sign of life about the
place was at the wide entrance doors at the end of the yards, where a
group of men were talking and gesticulating excitedly.

"What's the shindy?" Quin asked a bystander.

"Union men trying to keep scabs from going to work," answered his
informant. "Somebody's fixin' to get hurt there in about two minutes."

Quin, to whom a scrap was always a pleasant diversion, ran forward and
craned his neck to see what was happening. Speeches were being made, hot
impassioned speeches, now in favor of the union, now against it, and
every moment the excitement increased. Quin listened with absorbed
attention, trying to get the straight of the matter.

Just now a sickly-looking man, with a piece of red flannel tied around
his throat, was standing on the steps, making a futile effort against the
noise to explain his return to work.

"I can't let 'em _starve_," he kept repeating in a hoarse, apologetic
voice. "When a man's got a sick wife and eight children, he ain't able to
do as he likes. I don't want to give in no more 'n you-all do. Neither
does Jim here, nor Tom Dawes. But what can we do?"

"Do like the rest of us!" shouted some one in the crowd, "Stick it out!
Learn 'em a lesson. They can't run their bloomin' old plant without us.
Pull him down off them steps, boys!"

"Naw, you don't!" cried another man, seizing a stick and jumping at the
steps. "We got a right to do as we like, same as you! Come on up, Tom
Dawes! We ain't going to let our families in for the Charity
Organization."

Quick cries of "Traitor!" "Scab!" "Pull 'em down!" were succeeded by a
lively scrimmage in which there was a rush for the steps.

Quin, from his place at the edge of the crowd, saw a dozen men surround
three. He saw the man with the red rag about his throat put up a feeble
defense against two assailants. Then he ceased to see and began only to
feel. Whatever the row was about, they weren't fighting fairly, and his
blood began to rise. He stood it as long as he could; then, with a cry of
protest, he plunged through the crowd. In his sternest top-sergeant voice
he issued orders, and enforced them with a brawny fist that was used to
handling men. A moment later he dragged a limp victim from under the
struggling group.

This unexpected interruption by an unknown man in uniform, together with
the appearance of a stern-faced man in spectacles at an upper window, had
an instant effect on the crowd. The strikers began to slink out of the
yards, while the three assaulted men dusted their clothes and entered the
factory.

Quin followed them in, and upon inquiring for the office was directed to
the second floor, where he followed devious ways until he reached the
door of a large room filled with desks in rows, at each of which sat a
clerk.

"Mr. Bangs?" repeated a red-nosed girl, in answer to his inquiry. "Got an
appointment?"

"No," said Quin; "but I've got a parcel that's to be delivered in
person."

The red-nosed one thereupon consulted the man at the next desk, and,
after some colloquy, conducted Quin to one of the small rooms at the rear
of the large one.

The next moment Quin found himself face to face with the stern-looking
personage whose mere appearance at the window a few minutes before had
had such a subduing effect on the crowd below.

As he listened to Quin's message he looked at him narrowly and
suspiciously with piercing black eyes that seemed intent on seeking out
the weakest spot of whatever they rested upon.

"When did Mr. Bartlett give you these letters?" he asked in a tone as
cold as the tinkle of ice against glass.

"I got 'em last night, sir."

"Where?"

"At his house, when I went to carry word about his mother's accident."

"Close that door back of you," said Mr. Bangs, with a jerk of his head;
then he went on, "So Mr. Bartlett was at home when you reached there last
night?"

"Oh, _yes_, sir!" Quin assured him with an emphasis that implied Mr.
Randolph Bartlett's unfailing presence at his own fireside on every
Sabbath evening.

"That is strange," Mr. Bangs commented dryly. "Miss Enid Bartlett
telephoned an hour ago that her brother and his wife were out of the
city."

Quin was visibly embarrassed. He was not used to treading the quicksands
of duplicity, and he felt himself sinking.

"Young man," said Mr. Bangs sternly, "I am inclined to think you are
deceiving me."

"No," said Quin with spirit, "I haven't deceived you; but I did lie to
Miss Eleanor's aunt over the telephone."

"What was your object?"

"Well, I couldn't tell her Mr. Bartlett was stewed, could I?"

Mr. Bangs gave a short, contemptuous laugh. "As I thought," he said.
"That will do."

But Quin had no intention of going until he had spoken a word in his own
behalf. The idea had just occurred to him that by obtaining a position
with Bartlett & Bangs he could add another link to the chain that was to
bind him to Eleanor.

"You don't happen to have a job for me?" he inquired of the back of Mr.
Bangs's bald, dome-like head.

"A job?" repeated Mr. Bangs, glancing over his shoulder at Quin's
uniform.

"Yes, sir. I'm out of the service now."

"What can you do?"

Quin looked at him quizzically. "I can receive and obey the orders of the
commanding officer," he said.

Mr. Bangs, being humor-proof, evidently considered this impertinent, and
repeated his question sharply.

"Oh, I'll do anything," said Quin rashly. "Soldiers can't be choosers
these days."

Mr. Bangs cast a critical eye on his strong, well built frame:

"We might use you in the factory," he said indifferently; "we need all
the strike-breakers we can get."

Quin's face fell. "I don't know about that," he said slowly. "I haven't
made up my mind yet about this union business."

"I thought you were helping the union men in the yard just now."

"I was helping that little Irishman that was getting the life choked out
of him."

Mr. Bangs's mouth became a hard, straight line.

"Then I take it you sympathize with the strikers?"

"I don't know whether I do or not," Quin declared stoutly. "I don't know
anything about it. But one thing's certain--I'm not going to take another
fellow's job, when he's holding out for better conditions, until I know
whether those better conditions are due him or not."

Mr. Bangs's fish eyes regarded him with glittering disfavor.

"Perhaps you would prefer an office job?" he suggested with cold
insolence. "I need some one to brush out in the morning and to wash
windows when necessary."

The erstwhile hero of the Sixth Field Artillery felt his heart thumping
madly under his distinguished-conduct medal; but he had declared that he
would accept any kind of work, and he was determined not to have his
bluff called.

"All right, sir," he said gamely; "I'll start at that if it will lead to
something better."

"That rests entirely with you," said Mr. Bangs. "Report for work in the
morning."

Quin got out of the office with a hot head, cold hands, and a terrible
sinking of the heart. He had forged the first link in his chain--he was
an employee of the great Bartlett & Bangs Company; but the gap between
himself and Eleanor seemed suddenly to have widened to infinity.



                              CHAPTER 10


If the window-washing did not become an actuality, it was due to the
weather rather than to any clemency on the part of Mr. Bangs. He seemed
bent upon testing Quin's mettle, and required tasks of him that only a
man used to the discipline of the army would have performed.

Quin, on his part, carried out instructions with a thoroughness and
dispatch that upset the entire office force. He had been told to clean
things up, and he took an unholy joy in interpreting the order in
military terms. Never before had there been such a drastic overhauling of
the premises. He did not stop at cleaning up; he insisted upon things
being kept clean and orderly. In a short time he had instituted reforms
that broke the traditions of half a century.

"Who moved my desk out like this?" thundered Mr. Bangs on the second day
after Quin's arrival.

"I did, sir," said Quin. "You can get a much better light here, and no
draught from the door."

"Well, when I want my desk moved I will inform you," said Mr. Bangs.

But a day's trial of the new arrangement proved so satisfactory that the
desk remained in its new position.

Other innovations met with less favor. The clerks in the outer office
objected to the windows being kept down from the top, and Mr. Bangs was
constantly annoyed when he found that his papers were disturbed by a
daily dusting and sorting. Quin met the complaints and rebuffs with easy
good humor, and went straight on with his business. The moment his
energies were dammed at one point, they burst forth with fresh vigor at
another.

The only object about the office that was left undisturbed was Minerva, a
large black cat which the stenographer told him belonged to Mr. Randolph
Bartlett. Quin was hopelessly committed to cats in general, and to black
cats in particular, and the fact that this one met with Mr. Bangs's
marked disfavor made him champion her cause at once. One noon hour, in
his first week, he was sitting alone in the inner office, scratching
Minerva's head in the very spot behind the ear where a cat most likes to
be scratched, when a lively voice from the doorway demanded:

"Well, young man, what do you mean by making love to my cat in my
absence?"

"She flirted with me first," said Quin. Then he took a second look at the
stranger and got up smiling. "You are Mr. Bartlett, I believe?"

"Yes. Are you waiting for Mr. Bangs?"

"No, sir," said Quin; "he's waiting for me. I'm to let him know as soon
as you come in. I am the new office-boy."

He grinned down on the shorter man, who in his turn laughed outright.

"Office-boy? What nonsense! Where have I seen you before? What is your
name?"

"Quinby Graham, sir."

"Drop the sir, for heaven's sake. I'm no officer. Where in the dickens
have I met you? Oh! wait a second, I've got it! Sunday night. We were out
somewhere together----"

"Hold on there," said Quin. "_You_ were out together, but I was out by
myself. We met at your door."

"So you were the chap that played the good Samaritan? Well, it was damned
clever of you, old man. I'm glad of a chance to thank you. I hadn't
touched a drop for six weeks before that, but you see----"

Mr. Bangs's metallic voice was heard in the outer office, and the two
younger men started.

"You bet I see!" said Quin sympathetically as he hurried out to inform
the senior member of the firm that the junior member awaited his
pleasure.

What happened at that interview was recounted to him by Miss Leaks, the
little drab-colored stenographer, who had returned from lunch when the
storm was at its height.

"It's a wonder Mr. Ranny don't kill that old man for the way he sneers at
him," she said indignantly to Quin, "Why, _I_ wouldn't take off him what
Mr. Ranny does! But then, what can he do? His mother keeps him here for a
mouth-piece for her, and Mr. Bangs knows it. It's no wonder he drinks,
hitched up to a cantankerous old hyena like that. He never can stand up
for himself, but he stood up for you all right."

"For me?" repeated Quin. "Where did I come in?"

"Why, he said it was a shame for a man like you to be doing the work you
are doing, and that he for one wouldn't stand it. He talked right up to
the boss about patriotism and our duty to the returned soldier, until he
made the old tyrant look like ten cents! And then he come right out and
said if Mr. Bangs couldn't offer you anything better he could."

"What did he say to that?" asked Quin.

"He curled up his lip and asked Mr. Ranny why he didn't engage you for a
private secretary, and if you'll believe me Mr. Ranny looked him straight
in the eye and said it was a good idea, and that he would."

"A private secretary!" Quin exclaimed. "But I don't know a blooming thing
about stenography or typewriting."

"Don't you let on," advised Miss Leaks. "Mr. Ranny doesn't have enough
work to amount to anything, and he's so tickled at carrying his point
that he won't be particular. I can teach you how to take dictation and
use the typewriter."

The following week found Quin installed in the smaller of the two private
offices, with a title that in no way covered the duties he was called
upon to perform. To be sure, he got Mr. Ranny's small affairs into
systematic running order, and, under Miss Leaks's efficient instruction,
was soon able slowly but accurately to hammer out the necessary letters
on the typewriter. He was even able at times to help Mr. Chester, the
melancholy bookkeeper whom the other clerks called "Fanny."

Through working with figures all his life Mr. Chester had come to
resemble one. With his lean body and drooping oval head, he was not
unlike the figure nine, an analogy that might be continued by saying that
nine is the highest degree a bachelor number can achieve, the figures
after that going in couples. It was an open secret that the tragedy of
Mr. Chester's uneventful life lay in that simple fact.

In addition to Quin's heterogeneous duties at the office, he was
frequently pressed into service for more personal uses. When Mr. Ranny
failed to put in an appearance, he was invariably dispatched to find him,
and was often able to handle the situation in a way that was a great
relief to all concerned.

One day, after he had been with the firm several weeks, he was dispatched
with a budget of papers for Madam Bartlett to sign. It was the first time
he had entered the house since the night of the accident, and as he stood
in the front hall waiting instructions, he looked about him curiously.

The lower floor had been "done" in peacock blue and gold when Miss Enid
made her début twenty years before, and it had never been undone. An
embossed dado and an even more embossed frieze encircled the walls, and
the ceiling was a complicated mosaic of color and design. The
stiff-backed chairs and massive sofas were apparently committed for life
to linen strait-jackets. Heavy velvet curtains shut out the light and a
faint smell of coal soot permeated the air. Over the hall fireplace hung
a large portrait of Madam Bartlett, just inside the drawing-room gleamed
a marble bust of her, and two long pier-glasses kept repeating the image
of her until she dominated every nook and corner of the place.

But Quin saw little of all this. To him the house was simply a background
for images of Eleanor: Eleanor coming down the broad stairs in her blue
and gray costume; Eleanor tripping through the hall in her Red Cross
uniform; Eleanor standing in the doorway in the moonlight, telling him
how wonderful he was.

He had written her exactly ten letters since her departure, but only two
had been dispatched, and by a fatal error these two were identical. After
a superhuman effort to couch his burning thoughts in sufficiently cool
terms, he had achieved a partially successful result; but, discovering
after addressing the envelope that he had misspelled two words, he
laboriously made another copy, addressed a second envelope, then
inadvertently mailed both.

He had received such a scoffing note in reply that his ears tingled even
now as he thought of it. It was only when he recalled the postscript that
he found consolation. "How funny that you should get a position at
Bartlett & Bangs's," she had written. "If you should happen to meet any
member of my family, for heaven's sake don't mention my name. They might
link you up with the Hawaiian Garden, or the trip to the camp that night
grandmother was hurt. Just let our friendship be a little secret between
you and me."

"'You and me,'" Quin repeated the words softly to himself, as he stood
there among the objects made sacred by her one-time presence.

"Madam Bartlett wishes you to come upstairs and explain the papers before
she signs them," said a woman in nurse's uniform from the stair landing,
and, cap in hand, Quin followed her up the steps.

At the open door of the large front room he paused. Lying in royal state
in a huge four-poster bed was Madam Bartlett, resplendent in a purple
robe, with her hair dressed in its usual elaborate style, and in her ears
pearls that, Quin afterward assured the Martels, looked like moth-balls.

"You go on out of here and stay until I ring for you," she snapped at the
nurse; then she squinted her eyes and looked at Quin. She did not put on
her eye-glasses; they were reserved for feminine audiences exclusively.

"What do they mean by sending me this jumble of stuff?" she demanded,
indicating the papers strewn on the silk coverlid. "How do they expect me
to know what they are all about?"

"They don't," said Quin reassuringly, coming forward; "they sent me to
tell you."

"And who are you, pray?"

"I am Mr. Randolph's er--er--secretary."

For the life of him he could not get through it without a grin, and to
his relief the old lady's lips also twitched.

"Much need he had for a secretary!" she said, then added shrewdly:
"Aren't you the soldier that put the splint on my leg?"

Quin modestly acknowledged that he was.

"It was a mighty poor job," said Madam, "but I guess it was better than
nothing."

"How's the leg coming on?" inquired Quin affably.

"It's not coming on at all," Madam said. "If I listen to those fool
doctors it's coming off."

Quin shook his head in emphatic disapproval.

"Don't you listen to 'em," he advised earnestly.

"Doctors don't know everything! Why, they told a fellow out at the
hospital that his arm would have to come off at the shoulder. He lit out
over the hill, bath-robe and all, for his home town, and got six other
doctors to sign a paper saying he didn't need an amputation. He got back
in twenty-four hours, was tried for being A. W. O. L., and is serving his
time in the prison ward to-day. But he's still got his arm all right."

"Good for him!" said Madam heartily; then, recalling the business in
hand, she added peevishly: "Well, stop talking now and explain these
papers."

Quin went over them several times with great patience, and then held the
ink-well while she tremblingly signed her name.

"Kinder awkward doing things on your back," he said sympathetically, as
she sank back exhausted.

"Awkward? It's torture. The cast is bad enough in itself; but having to
lie in one position like this makes me sore all over."

"You don't have to tell me," said Quin, easing up the bed-clothes with
quite a professional air; "I was six months on my back. But there's no
sense in keeping you like this. Why don't they rig you up a pulley, so's
you can change the position of your body without disturbing your leg?"

"How do you mean?"

"Like this," said Quin, taking a paper-knife and a couple of spoons from
the table and demonstrating his point.

Madam listened with close attention, and so absorbed were she and Quin
that neither of them were conscious of Miss Isobel's entrance until they
heard her feeble protest:

"I would not dare try anything like that without consulting Dr. Rawlins."

"Nobody wants you to dare anything," flared out her mother. "What the boy
says sounds sensible. He says he has fixed them for the soldiers at the
hospital. I want him to fix one for me."

"When shall I come?" Quin asked.

"Come nothing. You'll stay and do it now. Telephone the factory that I am
keeping you here for the morning. Isobel, order him whatever he needs.
And now get out of here, both of you; I want to take a nap."

Thus it was that, an hour later, the new colored butler was carrying the
papers back to Bartlett & Bangs's, and Mr. Randolph's new secretary was
sawing wood in Madam Bartlett's cellar. It was a humble beginning, but he
whistled jubilantly as he worked. Already he saw himself climbing, by
brilliant and spectacular deeds, to a dazzling pinnacle of security in
the family's esteem.



                              CHAPTER 11


Madam Bartlett's accident had far-reaching results. For fifty years her
firm hand had brooked no slightest interference with the family
steering-wheel, and now that it was removed the household machinery came
to a standstill. She who had "ridden the whirlwind and directed the
storm" now found herself ignominiously laid low. Instead of rising with
the dawn, primed for battle in club committee, business conclave, or
family council, she lay on her back in a darkened room, a prisoner to
pain. The only vent she had for her pent-up energy was in hourly tirades
against her daughters for their inefficiency, the nurses for their
incompetency, the doctors for their lack of skill, and the servants for
their disobedience.

The one person who, in any particular, found favor with her these days
was her son's new secretary. Every Saturday, when Quinby Graham stopped
on his way to the bank with various papers for her to sign, he was plied
with questions and intrusted with various commissions. A top sergeant was
evidently just what Madam had been looking for all her life--one trained
to receive orders and execute them. All went well until one day when Quin
refused to smuggle in some forbidden article of diet; then the
steam-roller of her wrath promptly passed over him also.

He waited respectfully until her breath and vocabulary were alike
exhausted, then said good-humoredly:

"I used to board with a woman up in Maine that had hysterics like that.
They always made her feel a lot better. Don't you want me to shift that
pulley a bit? You don't look comfortable."

Madam promptly ordered him out of the room. But next day she made an
excuse to send for him, and actually laughed when he stepped briskly up
to the bed, saluted smartly, and impudently asked her how her grouch was.

There was something in his very lack of reverence, in his impertinent
assumption of equality, in his refusal to pay her the condescending
homage due feebleness and old age, that seemed to flatter her.

"He's a mule," she told Randolph--"a mule with horse sense."

Quin's change from khaki to civilian clothes affected him in more ways
than one. Constitutionally he was opposed to saying "sir" to his fellow
men; to standing at attention until he was recognized; to acknowledging,
by word or gesture, that he was any one's inferior on this wide and
democratic planet. He much preferred organizing to being organized,
leading to being led. Early in his military training he had evinced an
inclination to take things into his own hands and act without authority.
It was somewhat ironic that the very trait that had deprived him of a
couple of bars on his shoulder should have put the medal on his breast.

But freedom from the restrictions of army life brought its penalties. He
found that blunders condoned in a soldier were seriously criticized in a
civilian; that the things he had been at such pains to learn in the past
two years were of no apparent value to him now. It was a constant
surprise to him that a plaid suit and three-dollar necktie should meet
with less favor in the feminine eye than a dreary drab uniform.

About the first of March he was getting somewhat discouraged at his slow
progress, when an incident happened that planted his feet firmly on the
first rung of his social ladder.

Ever since their mother's accident, Miss Isobel and Miss Enid had stood
appalled before their new responsibilities. They were like two trembling
dead leaves that still cling to a shattered but sturdy old oak. What made
matters worse was the absence of the faithful black Tom, who for years
had served them by day and guarded them by night. They lived in constant
fear of burglars, which grew into a veritable terror when some one broke
into the pantry and rifled the shelves.

Quin heard about it when he arrived on Saturday morning, and as usual
offered advice:

"What you need is a man in the house. Then you wouldn't be scared all the
time."

"Well," said Madam, "what about you?"

Quin's face fell. He had no desire to exchange the noisy, wholesome
family life of the Martels for the silent, somber grandeur of the
Bartletts. His affections had taken root in the shabby little brown house
that always seemed to be humming gaily to itself. When the piano was not
being played, the violin or guitar was. There were bursts of laughter,
snatches of song, and young people going and coming through doors that
never stayed closed.

"You don't seem keen about the proposition," Madam commented dryly,
smoothing the bed-clothes with her wrinkled fingers.

"Well, I can't say I am," Quin admitted. "You see, I'm living with some
friends out on Sixth Street. They are sort of kin-folks of yours, I
believe--the Martels."

A carefully aimed hand grenade could have produced no more violent or
immediate result. Madam damned the Martels, individually and
collectively, and furiously disclaimed any relationship.

"They are a trifling, worthless lot!" she stormed. "I wish I'd never
heard of them. They fastened their talons on my son Bob, and ruined his
life, and now they are doing all they can to ruin my granddaughter.
Haven't you ever heard them speak of me?"

"Oh, yes," said Quin with laughing significance.

"What do they say?" Madam demanded instantly.

"You want it straight?"

"Yes."

"Well, Mr. Martel told me only last night that he thought you were an
object of pity."

Madam's jaw relaxed in amazement.

"What on earth did he mean?" she asked.

"He said you'd got 'most everything in life that he'd missed, but he'd
hate to change places with you."

She lay perfectly still, staring at him with her small restless eyes, and
when she spoke again it was to revert to the subject of burglars.

Quin was relieved. He had been skating on thin ice in discussing the
Martels, for any moment might have brought up a question concerning
Eleanor.

"I used to have a corporal that was an ex-burglar," he said, plunging
into the new subject with alacrity. "First-rate fellow, too. Last I heard
of him, he had a position as chauffeur with a rich old lady who lived
alone up in Detroit. She had two burglar-alarm systems, but the joke of
it was she made him sleep in the house for extra protection!"

"I suppose you are trying to frighten me off from engaging you?" Madam
asked.

"Not exactly," Quin smiled. "Of course I'll come if you can't get anybody
else. But there's no question of engaging me. If I come, I pay board."

Madam laughed aloud for the first time since her accident.

"Do you take me for a landlady?" she asked.

"Only when you take me for a night-watchman," said Quin.

They eyed each other steadily for a moment, then she held out her hand.

"We'll compromise," she said. "No salary and no board. We'll try it out
for a week."

The next day Quin's suit-case, containing all his worldly possessions,
was transferred from the small stuffy room over the Martels' kitchen to
the large luxurious one over the Bartletts' dining-room. It was quite the
grandest room he had ever occupied, with its massive walnut furniture and
its heavily draped windows; but, had it been stripped bare but for a
single picture, it would still have been a _chambre de luxe_ to him. The
moment he entered he discovered a photograph of Eleanor on the mantel,
and ten minutes later, when Hannah tapped at the door to say that dinner
was served, he was still standing with arms folded on the shelf in
absorbed adoration.

That first meal with the Misses Bartlett was an ordeal he never forgot.
Their formal aloofness and evident dismay at his presence were enough in
themselves to embarrass him; but combined with the necessity of choosing
the right knife and fork, of breaking his bread properly, and of removing
his spoon from his coffee-cup, they were quite overpowering. During his
two years in the army he had drifted into the easy habits and easier
vernacular of the enlisted man. Whatever knowledge he had of the
amenities of life had almost been forgotten. But, though his social
virtues were few, he passionately identified himself with them rather
than with his faults, which were many. To prove his politeness, for
instance, he insisted upon his hostesses having second helps to every
dish, offered to answer the telephone whenever it rang, and even
obligingly started to answer the door-bell during the salad course.

That dinner was but the initiation into a week of difficult adjustments.
When he was not in the arctic region surrounding Miss Isobel and Miss
Enid, he was in the torrid zone of Madam's presence. New and embarrassing
situations confronted him on every hand, and when he was not breaking
conventions he was breaking china. But Quin was not sensitive, and, in
spite of the fact that he was being silently or vocally condemned most of
the time, he cheerfully persevered in his determination to win the
respect of the family.

The saving of his ignorance was that he never tried to conceal it. He
looked at it with surprise and discussed it with disconcerting frankness.
He was no more abashed in learning new and better ways of conducting
himself than he would have been in learning a new language. He laughed
good-humoredly at his mistakes and seldom committed the same one a second
time. His limitations were to him like the frontier to a pioneer--a thing
to be reached and crossed.

If only he could have contented himself with performing the one duty
required of him and then gracefully effacing himself, his success would
have been assured. But that was not Quin's nature. Having identified
himself with the family, he promptly assumed full responsibility for its
welfare. By the end of the second week he was the self-constituted head
of the establishment. No mission was too high or too low for him to
volunteer to perform. One moment he was tactfully severing diplomatic
relations with a consulting physician in the front hall, the next he was
firing the furnace in the basement. Whenever he was in the house he was
meeting emergencies and adjusting difficulties, upsetting established
customs and often achieving unexpected results with new ones.

Miss Isobel and Miss Enid stood aghast at his temerity, and waited hourly
for the lightning of Madam's wrath to annihilate him. But, though the
bolts rained about him, they failed to destroy him.

On one occasion Miss Isobel was so outraged by his familiar attitude
toward her mother that she plucked up courage to remonstrate with him;
but Madam, instead of appreciating the interference on her behalf,
promptly turned upon her defender.

"Now, Isobel," she said caustically, "_you_ may be old enough to want men
to respect you, but I am young enough to want them to like me. You leave
young Graham alone."

Quin meanwhile, in spite of his arduous duties at the office and at home,
was living in a world of dreams. The privilege of hearing Eleanor's name
frequently mentioned, of getting bits of news of her from time to time,
the exciting possibility of being under the same roof with her when she
returned, supplied the days with thrilling zest. Since her teasing note
in answer to his double-barreled communication, he had written but once
and received no answer; but he knew that she was expected home for the
Easter vacation, and he lived on that prospect.

One evening, when he was summoned to Madam's room to shorten her new
crutches, he realized that the all-important subject was under
discussion.

"Isn't that exactly like her?" Madam was saying. "Refusing to go in the
first place, and now objecting to coming home."

"Well, it isn't especially gay for her here, is it?" Miss Enid ventured
in feeble defense. "I am afraid we are rather dull company for a young
girl."

"Well, make it gay," commanded Madam. "You and Isobel aren't so old and
feeble that you can't think of some way to entertain young people."

"A tea?" suggested Miss Enid.

"A tea would never tempt Eleanor. She's too much her mother's child to
enjoy anything so staid and respectable."

"Why don't you give her a dance?" suggested Quin enthusiastically,
looking up from his work.

"Give who a dance?" demanded Madam in surprise.

"Miss Eleanor," said Quin, bending over his work and blushing to the
roots of his stubby hair.

The three ladies exchanged startled glances; then Miss Enid said:

"Of course. I had forgotten that you met her the night of the accident. I
wonder if we _could_ give the dear child a party?"

"It is not to be thought of," said Miss Isobel, "with no regular butler,
and mother ill----"

"I tell you, I'm _not_ ill!" snapped Madam. "I intend to be up and about
by Easter. I'll give as many parties as I like. Hurry up with those
crutches, Graham; do you think I am going to wait all night?"

One of Quin's first acts upon coming into the house had been to aid and
abet Madam in her determination to use her injured leg. Dr. Rawlins had
infuriated her by his pessimistic warnings and his dark suggestions of a
wheeled chair.

"We'll show 'em what you can do when you get that cast off," Quin had
reassured her with the utmost confidence. "I've limbered up heaps of
stiff legs for the fellows. It takes patience and grit. I got the
patience and you got the grit, so there we are!"

Now that the cast was off, a few steps were attempted each night, during
which painful operation Miss Enid fled to another room to shed tears of
apprehension, while Miss Isobel hovered about the hall, ready to call the
doctor if anything happened.

"Is that better?" he asked now, as he got Madam to her feet and carefully
adjusted the crutches. "If you say they are too short, I'll tell you what
the little man said when he was teased about his legs. 'They reach the
ground,' he said; 'what more can you ask?'"

"Shut up your nonsense, and mind what you are doing!" cried Madam. "My
leg is worse than it was yesterday. I can't put my foot to the ground."

"Oh, yes, you can," Quin insisted, coaxing her from the bed-post to the
dresser. "You are coming on fine. I never saw but one person do better.
That was a guy I knew in France who never danced a step until he lost a
leg, and then his cork leg taught his other leg to do the fox-trot."

"Didn't I tell you to hush!" commanded Madam, laughing in spite of
herself. "You will have me falling over here in a minute."

When she was back in her chair and Quin was leaving, she beckoned to him.

"What about Mr. Ranny?" she asked in an anxious whisper. "Was he at the
office to-day?"

Quin had been dreading the question, but when it came he did not evade
it. Randolph Bartlett's lapses from grace were coming with such alarming
frequency that the sisters' frantic efforts to keep the truth from their
mother only resulted in arousing her suspicion and making her more
unhappy.

"No," said Quin; "he hasn't been there for a week. He's never going to be
any better as long as he stays in the business. You don't know what he
has to stand from Mr. Bangs."

"I know what Mr. Bangs has had to stand from him."

"Yes; but Mr. Ranny's never mean. He is one of the kindest, nicest
gentlemen I ever met up with. But he can't stand being nagged at all the
time, and he feels that he don't count for anything. He says Mr. Bangs
considers him a figurehead, and that he'd rather be selling shoestrings
for himself than be in partnership with him."

"Yes, and if I let him go that's what he _would_ be doing," said Madam
bitterly.

"Mr. Chester don't think so," persisted Quin; "he says Mr. Ranny's got a
lot of ability."

"Don't quote that sissified Francis Chester to me. He may be a good
man--I suppose he is; but I can't abide the sight of him. He goes around
holding one hand in the other as if he were afraid he'd spill it! What
did you say he said about Ranny?"

"He said he had ability; that if he was on his own in the country some
place----"

"'On his own'!" Madam's contempt was great. "He hasn't _got_ any own.
He's just like the girls--no force or decision about any of them. Their
father wasn't like that; I am sure _I'm_ not. What's the matter with
them, anyhow?"

Quin looked her straight in the eyes. "Do you want to know, honest?"

Disconcerting as it was to have an oratorical question taken literally,
Madam's curiosity prompted her to nod her head.

"The same thing's the matter with them," said Quin, with brutal
frankness, "that's the matter with your leg. They've been broken and kept
in the cast too long."

Then, before he could get the berating he surely deserved, he was off
down the stairs, disturbing the silence of the house with his cheerful
whistle.

At breakfast the next morning he scented trouble. Until now he had made
little headway with the two sisters, having been too much occupied in
storming the fortress of Madam's regard to concern himself with the
outlying districts. But this morning he met with an even colder reception
than usual. In vain he fired off his best jokes: Miss Enid remained pale
and languid, and Miss Isobel presided over the coffee-pot as if it had
been a funeral urn. A crisis was evidently pending, and he determined to
meet it half way.

"Is Queen Vic mad at me?" he asked suddenly, leaning forward on his
folded arms and smiling with engaging candor.

Miss Isobel started to pour the cream into the sugar-bowl, but caught
herself in the act.

"If you mean my mother," she said with reproving dignity, "she has asked
me to tell you--that is, we all think it best----"

"For me to go?" Quin finished it for her. "Now, look here, Miss Isobel;
you can fire me, but you know you can't fire the furnace! Who is going to
stay here at night? Who is going to carry Madam up and down stairs? Of
course I don't want to butt in, but if ever a house needed a man it's
this one. Why don't you have me stay on until things get to running easy
again?"

There was an embarrassing pause during which Miss Isobel fidgeted with
the cups and saucers and Miss Enid bit her lips nervously.

"Don't you-all like me?" persisted Quin with his terrible directness.

Now, Miss Isobel had spent her life in evasions and reservations and
compromises. To have even a personal liking stripped thus in public
offended her maiden modesty, and she scurried to the cover of silence.

"Of course we like you," murmured Miss Enid, coming to her rescue. "We
like you very much, Mr. Graham, and we appreciate your kindness in coming
to help us out. But mother feels that we shouldn't impose on your good
nature any longer."

Quin shook his impatient head.

"That's not it," he said. "She's mad at something I said last night, and
she's got a right to be. It was true all right, but it was none of my
business. I made up my mind before I went to bed that I was going to
apologize. I can fix things up with her. It's you and Miss Isobel I can't
understand. You say you like me, but you don't act like it. I know I make
mistakes about lots of things, and that I do things wrong and say things
I oughtn't to. But all you got to do is to call me down. I want to help
you; but that's not all--I want to learn the game. When a fellow has
knocked around with men since he was a kid----"

He broke off suddenly and stared into his coffee-cup.

"I think he might go up and speak to mother, don't you, Isobel?" asked
Miss Enid tentatively.

Quin pushed back his chair and rose precipitately from the table,
dragging the cloth away as he did so.

"That's not the point!" he said heatedly. "It's for you two to decide, as
well as her. Do you want me to go or to stay?"

Miss Isobel and Miss Enid, who had been assuring each other almost hourly
that they could not stand that awful boy in the house another day, looked
at each other intercedingly.

"It would be a great help if you could stay at least until mother learns
to use her crutches," urged Miss Enid.

"Yes, and until we get some one we can trust to stay with us at night,"
added Miss Isobel.

"I'll stay as long as you like!" said Quin heartily; and he departed to
make his peace with Madam.



                              CHAPTER 12


From that time on Quin's status in the family became less anomalous. To
be sure, he was still Mr. Randolph's private secretary, Madam's top
sergeant, Miss Isobel's and Miss Enid's body-guard, and the household's
general-utility man; but he was now something else in addition. Miss
Isobel had discovered, quite by chance, that he was the grandson of Dr.
Ezra Quinby, whose book "Christianizing China" had been one of the
inspirations of her girlhood.

"And to think we considered asking him to eat in the pantry!" she
exclaimed in horror to her sister.

"Well, I told you all along he was a gentleman by instinct," said Miss
Enid.

To be sure, they were constantly shocked by his manners and his frank
method of speech, but they were also exhilarated. He was like a
disturbing but refreshing breeze that swept through their quiet, ordered
lives. He talked about things and places they had never heard of or seen,
and recounted his experiences with an enthusiasm that was contagious.

As for Quin, he found, to his surprise, that he was enjoying his new
quarters quite as much as he had the old ones. Madam was a never-ending
source of amusement and interest to him, and Miss Isobel and Miss Enid
soon had each her individual appeal. He liked the swish of their silk
petticoats, and the play of their slim white hands about the coffee-tray.
He liked their super-feminine delicacies of speech and motion, and the
flattering interest they began to take in all his affairs.

Miss Isobel developed a palpitating concern for his spiritual welfare and
invited him to go to church with her. She even introduced him to the
minister with proud reference to his distinguished grandfather, and
basked in the reflected glory.

Quin did not take kindly to church. He considered that he had done his
full duty by it in the first fourteen years of his life, when he, along
with the regenerate heathen, had been forced to attend five services
every Sunday in the gloomy chapel in the compound at Nanking. But if
Eleanor's aunt had asked him to accompany her to the gates of hell
instead of the portals of heaven, he would have acquiesced eagerly. So
strenuously did he lift his voice in the familiar hymns of his youth that
he was promptly urged to join the choir, an ordeal whose boredom was
mitigated only during the few moments when the collection was taken up
and he and the tenor could bet on which deacon would make his round
first.

Not for years had Miss Isobel had such thrilling occupation as that of
returning Ezra Quinby's grandson to the spiritual fold. In spite of the
fact that Quin was a fairly decent chap already, whose worst vices were
poker and profanity, she persisted in regarding him as a brand which she
had been privileged to snatch from the burning.

What gave him a yet more intimate claim upon her was the fact that his
heart and lungs were still troublesome, and with any over-exertion on his
part, or a sudden change in the weather, his chest became very sore and
his racking cough returned. At such times Miss Isobel was in her glory.
She would put him to bed with hot-water bottles and mustard plasters and
feed him hot lemonade. Quin took kindly to the coddling. No one had
fussed over him like that since his mother died, and he was touchingly
grateful.

"Say, you'd be a wonder out at the hospital," he said to her on one of
these occasions. "I wish some of those fellows with the flu could have
you to look after them."

Miss Isobel's long, sallow face with its dark-ringed eyes lit up for a
moment.

"There is nothing I should like better," she said. "But of course it's
out of the question."

"Why?"

"Mother doesn't approve of us doing any work at the camp. She did make an
exception in the case of my niece, but Eleanor was so insistent. Sister
and I try never to oppose mother's wishes. It cuts us off from a great
many things; but then, I contend that our first duty is to her."

Miss Isobel's attitude toward her mother was that of a monk to his
haircloth shirt. She acquired so much merit in her friends' eyes and in
her own by her patient endurance that the penance was robbed of half its
sting.

"Things are awful bad out at the hospital now," went on Quin. "A fellow
was telling me yesterday that in some of the wards they only have one
nurse to two hundred patients. The epidemic is getting worse every day.
You-all in town here don't know what it's like where there's so many sick
and so few to take care of 'em."

Miss Isobel, with morbid interest, insisted upon the details. When Quin
had finished his grim recital, she turned to him with scared
determination.

"Do you know," she fluttered, "I almost feel as if I ought to go in spite
of mother's wishes."

"Of course you ought," Quin conceded, "especially when you are keeping a
trained nurse here in the house who doesn't do a thing but carry up trays
and sit around and look at herself!"

"I know it," Miss Isobel admitted miserably. "I've lain awake nights
worrying over it. Sister and I are perfectly able to do what is to be
done. But mother insists upon keeping the nurse."

"Well, she can't keep you, if you really want to go. I guess you got a
right to do your duty."

The word was like a bugle call to Miss Isobel. She went about all day in
a tremor of uncertainty, and at last yielded to Quin's insistence, and,
donning Eleanor's Red Cross uniform, accompanied him to the hospital.

Every afternoon after that, when Madam was taking her rest, Miss Isobel,
feeling like Machiavelli one moment and Florence Nightingale the next,
stepped into the carriage, already loaded with delicacies, and proceeded
on her errand of mercy. She invariably returned in a twitter of subdued
excitement, and recounted her experiences with breathless interest at the
dinner-table.

"I've never seen sister like this before," Miss Enid told Quin. "She
talks more in an hour now than she used to talk in a week, and she seems
so happy."

The change wrought in Miss Isobel's life by Quin's advent into the family
was mild, however, compared to the cataclysm effected in the life of her
sister. Miss Enid, having had her own affections wrecked in early youth,
spent her time acting as a sort of salvage corps following the
devastation caused by her cyclonic mother. When Madam shattered things to
bits, Miss Enid tried patiently to remold them nearer to the heart's
desire. She had acquired a habit of offsetting every disagreeable remark
by an agreeable one, and she was apt to see incipient halos hovering
above heads where less sympathetic observers saw horns. When the last
chance of getting rid of the disturbing but helpful Quin vanished, she
set herself to work to discover his possibilities with the view of
undertaking his social reclamation.

One evening, as he was passing through the hall, she called him into the
library. It was a small, high-ceilinged room, with bookcases reaching to
the ceiling, and a massive mahogany table bearing a reading-lamp with two
green shades. Lincoln and his Cabinet held session over one door, and
Andrew Jackson, surrounded by his weeping family, died over the other.
Miss Enid, with books piled up in front of her, was sitting at the table.

"Quinby," she said,--it had been "Quinby" ever since the discovery of his
grandfather,--"I wonder if you can help me? I have a club paper on the
14th, and I can't find a thing about my subject. Can't you tell me
something about the position of women in China?"

Quin, who had come in expecting to be called upon to put up a window or
fix the electric light, looked at her blankly. Under ordinary
circumstances he would have laughingly disclaimed any knowledge of the
subject; but with Miss Enid sitting there looking up at him with such
flattering confidence, it was different. Out of the dusty pigeon holes of
his brain he dragged odds and ends of information, memories of the native
houses, the customs and manners of the people, stories he had heard from
his Chinese nurses, street incidents he had seen, stray impressions
picked up here and there by a lively active American boy in a foreign
city.

"I ought to be able to tell you a lot more," he said apologetically in
conclusion. "I could if I wasn't such a bonehead."

"But you've given me just what I wanted!" cried Miss Enid. "And you've
made it all so _vivid_. It takes a very good mind to register details
like that and to be able to present them in such good order."

Quin looked at her quizzically. He was confident enough of his abilities
along other lines, but he had a low opinion of his mental equipment.

"I guess the only kind of sense I got is common," he said.

But Miss Enid would not have it so. "No," she said, earnestly regarding
the toe of her beaded slipper; "your mind is much above the average. But
it isn't enough to be born with brains--one must know how to use them."

"I suppose you mean I don't?" asked Quin, also regarding the beaded
slipper.

"Nobody does who has had no training," Miss Enid gently suggested. "It
seems a pity that a young man of your possibilities should have had so
little opportunity for cultivating them."

"Well, I ain't a Methuselah!" said Quin, slightly peaked. "What's the
matter with me beginning now?"

"It's rather late, I am afraid. Still, other men have done it. I wonder
if you would consider taking up some night courses at the university?"

"I'd consider anything that would get me on in the world. I've got a very
particular reason, Miss Enid, for--for wanting to get on."

She looked at him with increased interest.

"Really? How interesting! You must tell me all about it some day. But
this would keep you back for a time. You would have to give all your
spare hours to study, and you might not even be able to take the better
position they promised you at the factory this spring."

"I've already got it," Quin said. "Mr. Bangs told me to-day that I was to
start in as shipping clerk Monday morning. But he'd let me off nights if
I'd put it up to him. Old Chester says----"

Miss Enid's Pre-Raphaelite brows contracted slightly. "Don't you think it
would be more respectful----"

"Sure," agreed Quin; "I didn't mean any harm. I like Mr. Chester. He
asked me to come up to his rooms some night and see his collection of
flutes."

"That was like him," Miss Enid said warmly. "He's always doing kind
things like that. I know his reputation for being diffident and hard to
get acquainted with, but once you get beneath the surface----"

Quin was not in the least interested in Mr. Chester's surface. He sat on
the edge of the table, swinging his foot and staring off into space,
wholly absorbed in the idea of cultivating that newly discovered
intellect of his.

"Say, Miss Enid," he said, impulsively interrupting her eulogy of Mr.
Chester's neglected virtues, "I wish you'd sort of take me in hand. _You_
know what I need better than I do. If you'll get a line on that school
business, I'll start right in, if I have to start in the kindergarten.
Hand out the dope and I'll take it. And whenever you see me doing things
wrong, or saying things wrong, I'd take it as a favor if you'd jack me
up."

Miss Enid smiled ruefully. "Why, Quinby, that is just what we have all
been doing ever since you came. If you weren't the best-natured----"

"Not a bit of it," disclaimed Quin. "Queen Vic lets me have it in the
neck sometimes, but that's nothing. I've learned more since I've been in
this house than I ever learned in all my life put together. Why,
sometimes I don't hardly know myself!"

"Two negatives, Quinby, make an affirmative," suggested Miss Enid primly;
and thus his higher education began.

Miss Enid was right when she said his mind was above the average. Its one
claim to superiority lay in the fact that it had received the little
training it had at first hand. What he knew of geography he knew, not
from maps, but from actual observation in many parts of the world. Higher
mathematics were unknown to him, but through years of experience he had
learned to solve the most difficult of all problems--that of making ends
meet. He had learned astronomy from a Norwegian sailor, as they lay on
the deck of a Pacific transport night after night in the southern seas.
He had even tackled literature during his six months in hospital, when he
had plowed through all the books the wards provided from Dante's
"Inferno" to "Dere Mable."

Soon after his talk with Miss Enid he decided to call upon Mr. Chester,
not because Mr. Chester was an enlivening companion, but because he was
so touchingly grateful for the casual friendship that Quin bestowed upon
him.

"He's so sort of lonesome," Quin told Miss Leaks. "When he looks at me
with those big dog eyes of his, I feel like scratching him back of his
ear."

Mr. Chester, in his small but tastefully furnished bachelor apartment,
outdid himself in his efforts to be hospitable. He insisted upon Quin
taking the best chair, gave him a good cigar, showed him some rare first
editions, displayed his collection of musical instruments, and struggled
valiantly to establish a common footing. But there was only one subject
upon which they could find anything to say, and they came back again and
again to the affairs of the Bartlett family.

"Why don't you ever come around and see the folks?" Quin asked
hospitably. "They get awful lonesome with so few people dropping in."

Mr. Chester in evident embarrassment flicked the ash from his cigar and
answered guardedly:

"I used to be there a great deal in the old days. Unfortunately, Madam
Bartlett and I had a misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, I have not
crossed that threshold in--let me see--it must be fifteen years! It was a
party, I remember, given for Eleanor, the little granddaughter, on her
fifth birthday."

"Oh, yes!" said Quin, finding Mr. Chester for the first time interesting.
"They've got a picture of her taken with Miss Enid in her party dress."

"I suppose you mean this?" Mr. Chester reached over and took from his
desk a somewhat faded photograph, in a silver frame, of a little girl
leaning against a big girl's shoulders, both enveloped in a cloud of
white tulle.

"Gee, but she was pretty!" exclaimed Quin, devouring every detail of
Eleanor's chubby features.

"A beautiful woman," sighed Mr. Chester--and Quin, looking up suddenly,
surprised a look in his host's eyes that was anything but numerical.

Obligingly relinquishing his application of the pronoun for Mr.
Chester's, he said:

"She certainly thinks a lot of you!"

"How do you know?" demanded Mr. Chester.

"From the way she talks. She says people are barking up the wrong tree
when they think you are cold and indifferent and all that; says you've
got one of the noblest natures _she_ ever knew."

Quin was appalled at the effect of these words. Mr. Chester's eyes got
quite red around the rims and his lips actually trembled.

"Poor Enid!" he said. Then he remembered himself, or rather forgot
himself, and became a Number Nine again, and bored Quin talking business
until ten o'clock.

At parting they shook hands cordially, and Mr. Chester urged him to come
again.

"I wonder if you would care to use one of my tickets for the Symphony
Orchestra next week?" he asked.

Quin looked embarrassed. He had accepted a similar invitation the week
before, and had confided to Rose Martel afterward that he "never heard
such a bully band playing such bum music." But Mr. Chester's intention
was so kind that he could run no risk of offending him.

"I'll go if I can," he said, leaving himself a loophole.

"Here is the ticket," said Mr. Chester, "and in case you do not use it,
perhaps you will so good as to pass it on to some one who can."

This suggestion afforded Quin an inspiration.

"Say, Miss Enid," he said the next morning at breakfast. "I want to give
you a ticket to the Symphony Orchestra next Friday night. Will you go?"

"But, my dear boy," she protested greatly touched, "I cannot go by
myself."

"You don't have to. I'm going to take you and come for you. You ain't
going to turn me down, are you?"

"Have you got the ticket?"

"Right here. Now you will go, won't you?"

It would have taken a less susceptible heart than Miss Enid's to resist
Quin's persuasive tones, and in spite of Miss Isobel's disapprobation she
agreed to go.

Just what happened on that opening night of the Fine Arts Series, when
two old lovers found themselves in embarrassing proximity for the first
time in fifteen years, has never been told. But from subsequent events it
is safe to conclude that during the long program they became much more
interested in their own unfinished symphony than in Schubert's, and when
Quin came to take Miss Enid home, he found them in a corner of the lobby,
still so engrossed in conversation that he obligingly walked around the
block to give them an additional five minutes.



                              CHAPTER 13


Quin's desire for self-improvement soon became an obsession. With Miss
Enid's assistance he got into a night course at the university, and
proceeded to attack his ignorance with something of the fierce
determination he had attacked the Hun the year before in France. He
plunged through bogs of history, got hopelessly entangled in the barbed
wire of mathematics, had hand-to-hand struggles with belligerent parts of
speech, and more than once suffered the shell-shock of despair. But his
watchword now, as then, was, "Up and at 'em!" And before long he had the
satisfaction of seeing his enemy gradually giving way.

Having taken his small public into his confidence in regard to his
belated ambition to get an education, he was surprised to find how ready
everybody was to help him. Mr. Chester not only assisted him with his
mathematics, but insisted upon taking him to hear good music, in the vain
effort to reclaim an ear hopelessly attuned to jazz and rag-time. Mr.
Martel devoted Sunday afternoons to making him read aloud from the
classics, with great attention to precise enunciation. Miss Isobel still
looked after his moral welfare, and Miss Enid continued to devote herself
to his social improvement. But it remained for Madam Bartlett to render
him the service of which he was most in need. Whenever the bubble of his
self-esteem threatened to carry him away, she always took pains to
puncture it.

"Don't let them make a fool of you, Graham," she said one day, as she
leaned heavily upon his arm in a painful effort to walk without her
crutches--an experiment that she allowed neither one of her daughters to
share, as they invariably limped with her and got frightened when she
stumbled. "They all treat you like a puppy that has learned to walk on
its hind legs. Remember that you belong on your hind legs. You are only
doing what most boys in your position do in their teens. If you were as
smart as they claim, you would have got an education long ago. But young
people these days have no sense! Just look at my granddaughter, for
instance."

There being no direction in which he was more eager to look, Quin gave
her his undivided attention.

"I've spent thousands of dollars on that girl's education," Madam
continued, "and what do you suppose she elected to specialize in?
'Expression'! In my day they called it elocution. When a girl was too
dumb to learn anything else, the teacher got money out of her parents by
teaching her to swing her arms around her hear and say, 'Curfew Shall Not
Ring To-night.' Now they all want to write poetry, or play the flute, or
go on the stage, or some other fool thing like that."

"What about those that want to go on a farm? That's sensible enough for
you." Quin couldn't resist the thrust on behalf of Mr. Ranny.

"It's sensible for a sensible person," Madam said crossly. "It's where
_you_ belong, instead of attempting all this university business."

There were times these days when Quin quite agreed with Madam. When the
tide of his confidence was out, he regarded himself as a hopeless fool
and despaired of ever making up the years he had lost. But at high tide
there was no limit to his aspirations, nor to his courage. While his
struggles at the university kept him humble, his success at the factory
constantly elated him. Having achieved two promotions in less than three
months, he already saw himself a prospective member of the firm. In fact,
he slightly anticipated this event by flinging himself into the affairs
of Bartlett & Bangs with even more ardor than was advisable. Hardly a day
passed that he did not seek a chance to apprise Mr. Bangs of some
colossal scheme or startling innovation that would revolutionize the
business.

"See here, young man," said Mr. Bangs, when this had occurred once too
often; "I pay you to work for me, not to think for me."

"But they are the same thing," urged Quin, with appalling temerity. "Why,
I can't sleep nights for thinking how other firms are walking away with
our business. Smith & Snelling, up in Illinois, have got a plant that's
half as big as ours, and they export twice as much stuff as we do. And
their plows can't touch ours; they ain't in a thousand miles of 'em."

"How do you know?"

"I've seen 'em both in action, and I've heard men talk about 'em. Why, if
we could get a start in the Orient, and open up an agency in Japan and
China----"

"There--that will do," said Mr. Bangs testily; "you get back to your
work. You talk too much."

Both Mr. Ranny and Mr. Chester warned Quin again and again that he was
not supposed to emerge from the obscurity of his humble position as
shipping clerk. But Quin was the descendant of a long line of
missionaries whose duty it was to reform. The effect of his heredity and
early environment was not only to increase his self-reliance and
intensify his motive power, but to commit him to ideals as well. Once he
recognized a condition as being capable of improvement, he could not rest
until he had tried to better it.

It was not until the approach of Easter that his mind began to stray from
the highroads of industry and learning into the byways of pleasure. From
certain signs about the Bartlett house it was apparent that preparations
were in progress for an event of importance. Paperhangers and cleaners
came and went, consultations were held daily concerning new rugs and
curtains. Miss Enid and Miss Isobel gave tentative orders and Madam
promptly countermanded them. Workmen were engaged and dismissed and
reëngaged. The door to the room at the head of the stairs, which he knew
to be Eleanor's, now stood open, revealing a pink-and-white bower. Stray
remarks now and then concerning caterers and music and invitations
further excited his fancy, and he waited impatiently for the time when he
should be formally apprised of Eleanor's home-coming.

Never before in his life had he been so inordinately happy. He burst into
song at strange times and places, and had to be spoken to more than once
for whistling in the office. Instead of studying at night, he frequently
lapsed into delectable reveries in which he anticipated the bliss of
being under the same roof with Eleanor. He already heard himself telling
her about his promotions, his work at the university, his capture of her
family. And always he pictured her as listening to him as she had that
day at the Hawaiian Garden, with lips ready to smile or tremble and eyes
that sparkled like little pools of water in the sunlight.

Occasionally reason suggested that she would be at home very little and
that the obnoxious Phipps would be lying in wait for her whenever she
went abroad. But Phipps was forbidden the house, and with such a handicap
as that he surely was out of the running. Besides, Miss Eleanor had
probably forgotten all about the Captain by this time! Thus reassuring
himself, the fatuous Quin loosened the reins of his fancy and rode full
tilt for an inevitable fall.

The first intimation of it came the week before Easter, when Madam
presented him with a handsome watch in recognition of his services. The
gift itself was sufficiently overwhelming, but the formal politeness of
the presentation sounded ominous. Madam suggested almost tactfully, in
conclusion, that, now she was on her feet again, he need not feel
obligated to remain longer.

"But I _don't_ feel obligated!" he burst out impetuously. "I'd rather
stay here than anywhere in the world."

"Well, you can't stay," said Madam, whose small stock of courtesy had
been exhausted on her initial speech. "My granddaughter is bringing some
girls home with her for the Easter vacation, and I need your room."

"But I'll sleep in the third story," urged Quin wildly. "You can billet
me any old place--I don't care _where_ you put me."

"No," said Madam firmly. "It's best for you to go."

That night at dinner the sisters did what they could to soften the blow
for Quin. They gave vague excuses that did not excuse, and explanations
that did not explain.

"Of course, we have no idea of losing sight of you," Miss Enid said with
forced brightness. "You must drop in often to tell us how you are getting
along and to make mother laugh. You are the only person I know who can do
that."

"Yes, and we shall count on you to come to supper every Sunday evening,"
Miss Isobel added; "then we can go to church together."

"Next Sunday?" asked Quin, faintly hopeful.

"Well, no," said Miss Isobel. "For the next two weeks we shall be
occupied with the young ladies and their friends; but after that we shall
look for you."

Quin looked at the two gentle sisters in dumb amazement. How _could_ they
sit there saying such kind things to him, and at the same time shut the
door between him and the great opportunity of his life? What did it all
mean? Where had he failed? Surely there was some terrible misunderstanding!
In his complete bewilderment he created quite the most dreadful blunder
that is registered against him in his long list of social sins.

"But don't you expect me to meet the young ladies?" he blurted out
indignantly. "Aren't you going to ask me to the party?"

A horrible pause followed, during which the walls seemed to rock around
him and he felt the blood surging to his head. He was starting up from
the table when Miss Enid laid a quieting hand on his sleeve.

"Of course you are to be invited, Quinby," she said in her suavest tones;
"the invitation will reach you to-morrow."



                              CHAPTER 14


On the night of the Bartlett party, Quin stood before the small mirror
of his old room over the Martels' kitchen and surveyed himself in
sections. The first view, obtained by standing on a chair, was the
least satisfactory; for, in spite of the most correct of wing-toed
dancing-shoes, there was a space between them and the cuffs of his
trousers that no amount of adjustment could diminish. The second
section was far more reassuring. Having amassed what to him seemed a
fortune, for the purchase of a dress-suit, Quin had allowed himself to
be persuaded by the voluble and omniscient salesman to put all of his
money into a resplendent dinner-coat instead. The claim for the coat
that it was "the classiest garment in the city" was reinforced by the
fact that it had adorned the dummy in the shop window for seven
consecutive days and occasioned much comment by its numerous
"novelties." Quin had no doubts whatever about the coat. Its glory not
only dimmed his eyes to the shortcomings of the trousers, which he had
rented for the occasion, but even made him forget the aching tooth that
had been harassing him all day.

As he went down to present himself for the family inspection, it is
useless to deny that he was very much impressed with the elegance and
correctness of his costume. It had been achieved with infinite pains
and considerable expense. Nothing was lacking, not even a silver
cigarette-case, bearing an unknown monogram, which he had purchased at
a pawn-shop the day before.

His advent into the sitting-room produced a gratifying sensation.

"Ha! Who comes here!" cried Mr. Martel. "The glass of fashion and the
mould of form." Then he came forward for close inspection. "Hadn't you
any better studs than those, my boy?"

"They are the ones that came in the shirt," said Quin, instantly on the
defensive.

"Well, they hardly do justice to the occasion. Step upstairs, Cassius,
and get my pearl ones out of the top chiffonier drawer."

"I wish Captain Phipps could see you," said Rose admiringly. "You should
have seen his face when I told him you were going to-night! He wasn't
invited, you know."

"Where did you see him?" Quin asked, brushing a speck of lint from the
toe of his shining shoe.

"Here. He's been coming twice a week to work with Papa Claude ever since
you left. Give 'em to me, Cass"--this to her brother. "I'll put them in."

"Aren't they too little for the buttonholes?" asked Quin anxiously.

"Not enough to matter," Rose insisted. Then, as she finished, she added
in a whisper: "Tell Nell somebody sent his love."

"Nothing doing," laughed Quin with a superior shrug; "somebody else is
taking his."

The curb was lined with automobiles by the time he arrived at the
Bartletts'. The house looked strangely unfamiliar with its blaze of
lights and throng of arriving guests. He instinctively felt in his pocket
for his latch-key, and then remembered, and waited for the strange butler
to open the door. The inside of the house looked even less natural than
the outside. The floors were cleared for dancing and the mantels were
banked high with flowers and ferns. Under the steps the musicians were
already tuning their instruments.

"Upstairs, sir; first room to your left," said the important person at
the door, and Quin followed the stream of black-coated figures who were
filing up the stairs and turning into the room he had occupied a short
week ago. It was just as he had left it, except for the picture that no
longer adorned the mantel.

"Beg pardon, sir," said the lofty attendant who took his overcoat, "your
stud's come loose."

"I bet the damn thing's going to do that all night," Quin said
confidentially. "Say, you haven't got a pin, have you?"

"Oh, no, sir, it couldn't be pinned," protested the man in a shocked
tone.

Quin adjusted it as best he could, took a final look at himself in the
mirror, and proceeded downstairs. Arrived in the lower hall, he glanced
about him in some perplexity. Not a member of the family was visible, and
he looked in vain for a familiar face. In his uncertainty as to his next
move, he went back to the pantry and got himself a glass of water.

As he was returning to the hall, some one plucked at his sleeve and
whispered:

"Hello there, Graham!"

Turning around, he encountered the gaping mouth of a shining saxophone,
behind which beamed the no less shining countenance of Barney McGinness.

Barney had been in the 105th Infantry Band, and he and Quin had returned
from France on the same transport. They exchanged hearty greetings under
their breath.

"Serving here to-night, are you?" asked Barney.

"Serving?" repeated Quin; then he laughed good-naturedly. "You got
another guess coming your way, Barney."

"So it's the parlor instid of the pantry, is it? I'd 'a' seen it for
meself if I had used me eyes instead of me mouth. You look grand enough
to be doing a turn on the vawdyville."

Quin tried not to expand his chest in pride, for fear the movement would
disturb those temperamental studs. He would fain have lingered
indefinitely in the warmth of Barney's admiring smile, but the signal for
the first dance was already given, and he moved nervously out into the
throng again.

Now that the moment had come for him to meet Eleanor--the moment he had
longed for by day and dreamed of by night,--he found himself overcome
with terrible diffidence. Suppose she did not want to see him again?
Suppose she should be angry at him for coming to her party? Suppose she
should be too taken up with all these strange friends of hers to have
time to dance with him?

After obstructing social traffic in the hall for several moments, he
encountered Miss Enid. She was all a lavender flutter, with sleeves
floating and scarf dangling, and she wore an air of subdued excitement
that made her almost pretty.

"Why, Quinby!" she said, and her eyes swept him. "Have you spoken to
mother yet?"

"No; where is she?"

"In the library. And sister will present you to the young ladies in the
parlor."

She hesitated a moment, then she placed a timid hand on Quin's arm.

"But before you go in would you mind doing something for me? Will you
watch the front door and let me know as soon as Mr. Chester arrives?"

"Mr. Chester?"

"Yes. You see, it's been a great many years since he came to the house,
and I want to--to make sure that he is properly welcomed."

"I'll wait for him," said Quin, glad of any excuse for not entering that
crowded parlor.

Lovely young creatures in rainbow tints drifted down the stairs and
disappeared beyond the portières; supercilious young men, all in tail
coats and most of them wearing white gloves, passed and repassed him.

Quin was experiencing the wholly new sensation of timidity. In vain he
sought reassuring reflections from the long pier-glass, as he did guard
duty in the front hall pending Mr. Chester's arrival. He'd be all right,
he assured himself, as soon as he got to know some of the people. Once he
had spoken to Eleanor and been sure of her welcome, he didn't care what
happened. Meanwhile he worked with his shirt-stud and tried not to think
about his tooth.

It was late when Mr. Chester arrived, and by the time he had been placed
in Miss Enid's care the receiving line in the parlor had dissolved and
the dance was in full swing.

Quin made his way back to the library and presented his belated respects
to Madam, who sat enthroned in state where she could command the field
and direct the manoeuvers. She was resplendent in black velvet and old
lace. A glittering comb topped her high white pompadour, and a dog-collar
of diamonds encircled her wrinkled neck.

"Well, I am glad one man has the manners to come and speak to his
hostess!" she said grimly, extending her hand to Quin. "The young lords
of the present day seem to consider a lady's house a public dance-hall.
Sit down and talk to me."

Quin didn't wish to sit down. He wished very ardently to plunge into that
dancing throng and find Eleanor. But the old lady's vise-like grip closed
on him, and he had to content himself with watching the couples circle
past the door while he listened to a tirade against present-day customs.

"Why, this dancing is indecent!" stormed the old lady. "I never saw
anything like it in my life! Look at that little Morris chit with her
cheek plastered up to Johnnie Rawlins'! If somebody doesn't speak to her,
I will! I will not have such dancing in my house! And there's Kitty
Carey, the one with no back to her dress. What her mother is thinking
of--Mercy! Look at the length of that skirt!"

It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Ranny arrived, and Madam had no time for
any one else, that Quin was able to escape.

"Can you tell me where I can find Miss Eleanor?" he asked eagerly of Miss
Isobel, whom he encountered in the back hall.

Miss Isobel, looking thoroughly uncomfortable in a high-necked,
long-sleeved evening dress, sighed anxiously:

"I am looking for her myself. She has had all the windows opened, and
mother gave express orders that they were to be kept closed. Would you
mind putting this one down? It makes such a draught."

It was a high window and an obstinate one, and by the time it was down
Quin's cuffs were six inches beyond his coat sleeves and his vest was
bulging.

"I don't want that window down," said a spirited voice behind him. "I
wish you had left it alone."

"Eleanor!" said Miss Isobel reprovingly. "He is doing it at my request.
It is our young friend Quinby Graham."

Quin wheeled about in dismay, and found himself face to face with a
slender vision in shimmering blue and silver, a vision with flushed
cheeks and angry eyes, who looked at him in blank amazement, then burst
out laughing.

"Why, for mercy sakes! I never would have known you. You look so--so
different in civilian clothes."

The words were what he had expected, but the intonation was not. It
seemed to call for some sort of explanation.

"It's my face," he blurted out apologetically, drawing attention to the
fact that of all others he most wished to ignore. "Had an abscess in my
tooth; it's swelled my jaw up a bit."

Eleanor was not in the least concerned with his affliction. A civilian
with the toothache could not expect the consideration of a hero with a
shrapnel wound. Moreover, this was her first appearance in the rôle of
hostess at a large party, and she fluttered about like a distracted
humming-bird.

Miss Isobel laid a detaining hand on her bare shoulder.

"Did you know they were smoking in the dining-room, Nellie? Even some of
the _girls_ are smoking. If mother finds it out I don't know _what_ she
will do!"

"Call out the fire department, probably," said Eleanor flippantly.

"But listen! She will speak to them--you know she will. Don't you think
you can stop them?"

"Of course I can't!" declared Eleanor, her anger rekindling. "And we
can't dance with the windows down, either. Oh, dear, I wish we'd never
_tried_ to give a party!"

"May I have the next dance, Miss Eleanor?" Quin ventured at this
inopportune moment.

She turned upon him a perturbed face, "It's taken," she said absently.
"They are all taken until after supper. I'll give you one then." And with
this casual promise she hurried away.

Quin wandered disconsolately into the hall again. Everybody seemed to
know everybody else. Apparently he was the one outsider. At the soldier
dances to which he was accustomed, he was used to boldly asking any girl
on the floor to dance, sure of a welcoming smile. But here it was
different. It seemed that a fellow must wait for an introduction which
nobody took the trouble to give. He leaned against the door-jamb and
indulged in bitter reflections. Much that bunch cared whether he had
risked his life for his country or not! The girls had already forgotten
which were the heroes and which were the slackers. He didn't care! All he
had come for, anyhow, was to see Eleanor Bartlett. Just wait until he got
her all to himself in that dance after supper----

Finding the strain of being a spectator instead of a participant no
longer endurable, he wandered upstairs and bathed his face. The pain was
getting worse and he had a horrible suspicion that the swelling was
increasing. In the men's dressing-room he found a game of craps in
progress, and, upon being asked to join, was so grateful for being
included in any group that he accepted gladly, and for half an hour
forgot his woes while he won enough to repay Cass the sum he had advanced
on the dress-shirt.

"Stud's undone, old chap," said his opponent as he paid his debt.

"Thanks, so it is," said Quin nonchalantly.

As he went downstairs he encountered Miss Enid and Mr. Chester sitting
under the palms on the landing in intimate tête-à-tête.

"Will you dance this with me, Miss Enid?" asked Quin, leading a forlorn
hope.

"I am afraid I don't know those new dances," said Miss Enid evasively,
"the only thing I can do is to waltz."

"You mean a one-step?"

"She means a waltz," Mr. Chester repeated impressively, "the most
beautiful and dignified dance ever invented. Shall we show him, Miss
Enid?"

And, to Quin's unbounded amazement, Mr. Chester and Miss Enid proceeded
to demonstrate, there on the narrow landing, the grace and beauty of the
"glide waltz"; and so absorbed were they in the undertaking that they did
not even know when he ceased to be a spectator and Miss Isobel became
one.

The latter, inexpressibly shocked at the way things were going in the
ball-room, was on her way upstairs, when she was confronted with the
amazing spectacle of her sister and the bald-headed Mr. Chester revolving
solemnly and rhythmically in each other's arms on the shadowy landing.

The only doubt that Miss Isobel had ever harbored concerning an all-wise
Providence arose from the passage in Scripture that read: "Man and woman
created He them." In her secret heart she had always felt that some
other, less material scheme might have been evolved. Softly retracing her
steps, she slipped back downstairs and took her place beside her
increasingly indignant mother.

The new wine was proving entirely too much for the old bottles. Madam's
ultimatums and Miss Isobel's protests had alike proved unavailing. The
young people invaded the house like a swarm of noisy locusts. Between
dances they flew out to the porch, some of the couples dashing out to sit
in automobiles, others driving madly around the block to the incessant
honking of horns. Then the music would call them back, and in they would
pour, singing and whistling as they came, shouting jests from room to
room, playing ball with the decorations, utterly regardless of everything
save their own restless, reckless, daring selves. Maddest of them all was
Eleanor, who, conscious of the stern disapproval of the family and
rebelling against their attempted restraint, led the merry revolt against
old-time proprieties and took her fling, for once regardless of
consequences.

Quin, meanwhile, had gone back to the dressing-room and was making
frantic efforts to reduce the swelling in his face. If he could only keep
it down until after his dance with Eleanor, it might swell to the
dimensions of the dome of St. Peter's! A hurried survey from over the
banisters assured him that supper was soon to be served, and he went back
to his hot applications with renewed courage.

But ill luck pursued him. No sooner had the guests been seated at small
round tables and the refreshments served, than some one remembered that a
big charity ball was in progress at the armory, and it was proposed that
the evening be concluded there. The suggestion met with instant approval.
In spite of the indignant protests of the elders, the gay company, headed
by Eleanor, left the half-eaten ices melting on their plates, and, rising
in a body, took noisy and immediate flight.

At twelve o'clock the elaborately decorated rooms were empty, the
musicians were packing their instruments, the caterers were removing
trays of untasted food, and Quin, standing dazed in the deserted hall,
one hand clasping his shirt-front and the other on his face, was trying
in vain to realize that the party which he had inspired had proved his
Waterloo!



                              CHAPTER 15


The next day Quin sold his dinner-coat for a fourth of what he paid for
it, and forswore society forever. There was absolutely nothing in it, he
assured the Martels, a conviction that assorted strangely with the fact
that he devoured the columns in the daily papers devoted to the doings of
the social elect, and waded through endless lists under the caption
"Among Those Present." Every hour in the day he invented a new scheme for
seeing Eleanor, which pride alone prevented him from carrying out. He
wrote her a dozen notes, all of which he tore up; he went out of his way
to pass through the streets where he might catch a glimpse of her, and
seized the slightest excuse for errands to the Bartlett house. But the
days of her holiday slipped away, and he neither saw nor heard from her.

Each morning at breakfast Mr. Martel would say hopefully, "Well, Eleanor
will surely grace our humble abode to-day," or, "Something tells me my
lady-bird will come to-day!" And each evening Quin would rush home from
work buoyed up by the hope that he might find her.

"I bet she'd come to-day if she knew Captain Phipps was going to be
here," said Myrna one morning, wagging her head wisely.

"What's that got to do with it?" Rose asked sharply.

"They're sweethearts," said Myrna, with the frightful astuteness of
twelve. "And old Madam Bartlett won't let him come to the house, and Nell
has to see him on the sly."

"Tut, tut, child! Where did you get that notion?" asked Mr. Martel,
peeling an orange with his little fingers gracefully extended. "Harold
Phipps is years older than Nellie. He is interested solely in her
professional career. He has a lovely, detached soul, as impersonal--What
is the matter, Rosalind?"

"Nothing--crumb went down wrong. What are _you_ laughing at, Quinby
Graham?"

"Another crumb," said Quin.

Between him and Rose there had sprung up a curious intimacy. All sorts of
little wireless messages flashed between them, and Rose always seemed to
know things without being told. She had discovered long ago that he was
in love with Eleanor, and, instead of scoffing at him or teasing him, she
did him the supreme favor of listening to him. Many a night, after the
rest of the family had gone to bed, they lingered on before the fire in
the shabby sitting-room, Rose invariably curled up in the sofa corner and
Quin stretched out on the floor with his head against her knees.

After his somewhat rigorous discipline at the Bartletts' it was like
slipping out of the harness to be back at the Martels'. They held him up
to no standard, and offered no counsel of perfection. He could tell his
best stories without fear of reproof, laugh as loud as he liked, and
whistle and sing without disturbing anybody. Rose mended his clothes,
doctored him when he was sick, petted him in public as well as in
private, and even made free to pawn his uniform when the collector
threatened to turn off the gas if the bill was not paid.

One evening, coming in unexpectedly, he had surprised her kissing Harold
Phipps in the front hall. Harold's back had been to the door, and at a
signal from Rose Quin had beat a hasty retreat. She explained later that
she was letting the magnificent Harold have just enough rope to hang
himself; and Quin, glad of anything that deflected Phipps from the
pursuit of Eleanor, laughed with her over the secret flirtation and
failed to see the danger lights that hung in her eyes.

Financial affairs were evidently going worse than usual with the Martels
these days. Cass, adamant in his resolve to pay off the numerous debts
contracted by the family during his absence abroad, refused to contribute
more than the barest living expenses. Rose had given up the dancing
classes and taken a position in one of the big department-stores. Edwin
B. had had to leave high school and go to work. The adopted baby had been
regretfully sent to the Orphans' Home. The little brown house was reefing
all its sails in a vain effort to weather the coming storm.

The one member of the family who soared on wings of hope above the sordid
facts of the situation was Claude Martel. After years of search, he had
at last found the generous benefactor, the noble young patron, who
recognized the merit of his work. They spent hours together elaborating
the plot of "Phantom Love" and discussing every detail of its
construction. Occasionally on Saturday night Mr. Martel would mention
quite confidentially to Quin that, owing to some delayed payments, he was
a little pressed for ready money and that a small loan would be
appreciated. This request invariably resulted in an elaborate Sunday
dinner, capped with a couple of bottles of Haut Sauterne in which Mr.
Martel took the precaution of drinking everybody's health twice over.

Ten days after the Easter party, when Quin had almost despaired of seeing
Eleanor at all, he found her car parked in front of the house when he
returned in the evening. Mounting the front steps two at a time, he
opened the door with his latch-key, then paused with his hand still on
the knob. Queer sounds were coming from the sitting-room--sounds of a
man's agitated voice, broken by sobs. Undeterred by any sense of
delicacy, Quin pushed open the door and bolted in.

Mr. Martel was sitting in the arm-chair in an attitude _King Lear_ might
have envied. Every line of his face and figure suggested unmitigated
tragedy. Even the tender ministrations of Eleanor Bartlett who knelt
beside him, failed to console him or to stem the tide of his
lamentations.

"What's the matter?" cried Quin in alarm. "What has happened?"

Papa Claude, resting one expressive hand on Eleanor's head, extended the
other to Quin.

"Come in, my boy, come in," he said brokenly. "You are one of us: nothing
shall be kept from you in this hour of great affliction. I am ruined,
Quinby--utterly, irrevocably ruined!"

"But how? What's happened?"

"It's grandmother!" exclaimed Eleanor, struggling to her feet and
speaking with dramatic indignation. "She's written him a letter I'll
never forgive--never! I don't care if the money _is_ due me. I don't
want it. I won't have it! What is six thousand dollars to me if it turns
Papa Claude out in the street?"

"But here--hold on a minute!" said Quin. "What's all the racket about?"

"It's about money," Mr. Martel roused himself to explain--"the grossest
and most material thing in the world. Years ago Eleanor's father and I
entered into a purely personal arrangement by which he advanced me a few
thousand dollars in a time of temporary financial depression, and as a
mere matter of form I put up this house as security. Had the dear lad
lived, nothing more would ever have been said about it. He was the soul
of generosity, a prince among men. But, unfortunately, at his death he
left his mother Eleanor's trustee."

"And she has simply _hounded_ Papa Claude," Eleanor broke in. "She has
tried to make him pay interest on that old note every single year, when
she knew I didn't need the money in the least. And now she had notified
him she will not renew the note on any terms."

"She can't collect what you haven't got, can she?" Quin asked.

"She can sell the roof over our heads," said Papa Claude, with streaming
eyes lifted to the object referred to. "She can scatter my beloved family
and drive me back into the treadmill of teaching. And all through this
blessed, innocent child, who would give all she has in the world to see
her poor old grandfather happy!"

Again Eleanor, moved to a passion of sympathy, flung her arms around him,
declaring that if they made him pay the note she would refund every penny
of it the day she was twenty-one.

But Papa Claude was not to be consoled.

"It will be too late," he said hopelessly. "All I required was one year
more in which to retrieve my fortunes and achieve my life ambition. And
now, with success almost within my grasp, the goal within sight, this
cruel blow, this bolt from the blue----"

"Haven't you got any other property or stocks or insurance that you could
turn over?" asked Quin, who felt that the occasion demanded numerical
figures rather than figures of speech.

"Only a small farm out near Anchordale, which belonged to my precious
wife's father. It is quite as worthless as he was, poor dear! I have
offered it repeatedly in payment, but they refused to consider it."

"Is there a house on it?" persisted Quin.

"Yes--an uninhabitable old stone structure that has stood there for
nearly a century. For years I have tried in vain to rent or sell it. I
have left no stone unturned, Quinby. I know I am regarded as a visionary,
a dreamer, but I assure you----"

"What about the ground?"

"Very hilly and woody. Absolutely good for nothing but a stock farm.
Utterly incapable of cultivation. It's no use considering it, my dear
boy. I have viewed the matter from every conceivable angle. There is no
reprisal. I am doomed. This beloved house will be sold, my family
scattered. I an old man, a penniless outcast----"

"No, no, Papa Claude!" protested Eleanor. "You _sha'n't_ be turned out.
We must borrow the money. It's only a little over a year until I'm of
age, and then I can pay it all back. Surely we can find somebody to help
us out!"

"Ah, my darling, your trust is born of inexperience. People do not lend
money without security. There is absolutely no one to whom I can appeal."

Eleanor, sitting on the arm of his chair, suddenly started up.

"I have it!" she cried. "I know who will help us! Captain Phipps! He
knows better than any one else what it means to you to have this next
year free to finish the play. He will be _glad_ to do it; I know he
will."

Mr. Martel looked slightly embarrassed. "As a matter of fact, he has been
approached on the subject," he said. "He was most sympathetic and kind,
but unfortunately his money is all invested at present."

"Fiddlesticks!" cried Eleanor in a tone so suggestive of her paternal
grandmother that Quin smiled. "What difference does it make if it _is_
invested? Let him un-invest it. I am sure I could get him to lend it to
_me_, only I would hate awfully to ask him."

Mr. Martel's roving eyes came back to hers hopefully.

"I wonder if you could?" he said, grasping at the proffered straw.
"Perhaps if he understood that _your_ career was at stake, that my
disappointment would mean _your_ disappointment, he would make some
special effort to assist us. Will you go to him, child? Will you plead
our cause for us?"

Eleanor hesitated but a moment; then she set her lips firmly. "Yes," she
said, with a little catch in her voice; "I will. I'll go to him in the
morning."

Quin, who had been staring out of the window, deep in thought, turned
abruptly to Mr. Martel.

"When do you have to have the money?" he asked.

"By next Wednesday, the first--no, the second of April. The date is
burned in my memory."

"You see, there's no time to lose," said Eleanor. "I'd rather die than do
it, but I'll ask Harold Phipps to-morrow morning."

"No, you won't," said Quin peremptorily; "I am going to get the money
myself."

"But he wouldn't lend it to _you_. You don't understand!"

"Yes, I do. Will you leave the matter with me until Sunday night, Mr.
Martel, and let me see what I can do?"

Quin made the suggestion as calmly as if he had unlimited resources at
his disposal. Had the sum been six million dollars instead of six
thousand, he would have made the offer just the same. The paramount
necessity of the moment was to keep Eleanor Bartlett from borrowing money
from a man like Harold Phipps. Mr. Martel's claims were of secondary
consideration.

"We might let him try, grandfather," suggested Eleanor. "If he doesn't
succeed, there would still be time for me to speak to the Captain."

"But, my boy, where would _you_ turn? What influence could you bring to
bear?"

"Well, you'd have to trust me about that," Quin said. "There are more
ways than one of raising money, and if you'll leave it to me----"

"I will! I will!" cried Mr. Martel in a burst of confidence. "I shift my
burden to your strong young shoulders. For three days I have borne the
agony alone. There were special reasons for Cassius not being told. He is
one of the noblest of God's creatures, but he lacks sentiment. I confess
I have too much. These old walls are but brick and mortar to him, but to
me they are the custodians of the past. Here I had hoped to sit in the
twilight of my life and softly turn the leaves of happy memories. But
there! Enough! 'The darkest hour oft precedes the dawn!' I will not
despair. In your hands and my darling Eleanor's I leave my fate.
Something tells me that, between you, you will save me! In the mean
season not a word, not a syllable to any one. And now let us have some
music and banish these unhappy topics."

It was amazing how a gentleman so crushed by fate at five could be in
such splendid form by seven. Mr. Martel had insisted upon having a salad
and ices for dinner in honor of Eleanor's presence, and he mixed the
French dressing with elaborate care, and enlivened the company with a
succession of his sprightliest anecdotes.

It was Quinby Graham who was the grave one. He ate his dinner in
preoccupied silence, arousing himself to sporadic bursts of merriment
only when he caught Eleanor's troubled eyes watching him. Just how he was
going to proceed with his colossal undertaking he had not the faintest
idea. One wild scheme after another presented itself, only to be
discarded as utterly impractical.

Under cover of leaving the dining-room, Eleanor managed to whisper to
him:

"Make Cass let you take me home. I've simply got to talk to you."

But neither Cass nor Quin was to have the privilege. Mr. Martel announced
that he was going to escort her himself. The only crumb of comfort that
Quin was able to snatch from the wretched evening was when he was helping
her on with her coat in the hall.

"When can I see you?" he whispered anxiously.

"I don't know," she whispered back; "every hour's taken."

"What about Sunday afternoon?"

"I've promised to motor out to Anchordale with Aunt Flo and Uncle Ranny
to hunt for wild flowers. Think of it! When all this trouble's brewing."

"Anchordale," repeated Quin absently, holding her coat suspended by the
collar and one sleeve. "Anchordale! By golly! I've got an idea! Say, I'm
going along Sunday. You manage it somehow."

"But I can't manage it! You aren't invited; and, besides----"

"I can't help that--I'm going. What time do you start?"

"Three o'clock. But you can't go, I tell you! They won't understand."

"All ready, Nellie?" called a voice on the stairway; and Papa Claude,
with a smile of perfect serenity on his face, bore lightly and
consciously down upon them.



                              CHAPTER 16


During the rushing Easter vacation, Eleanor had seen less of Harold
Phipps than Quin had feared. Considering the subliminal state of
understanding at which they had arrived in their voluminous letters, it
was a little awkward to account for the fact that she had found so little
time to devote exclusively to him. They had met at dances and had had
interrupted tête-à-têtes in secluded corners, and several stolen
interviews in the park; but her duties as hostess to two lively guests
had left little time for the exacting demands of platonic friendship. Now
that the girls were gone, she had counted on this last Sunday at Uncle
Ranny's as a time when she could see Harold under proper conditions and
make amends for any seeming neglect.

But when Sunday came, and she found herself seated at Aunt Flo's small,
perfectly appointed dinner-table, she found it increasingly difficult to
keep her mind upon the brilliant and cynical conversation of her most
admired friend. To be sure, they exchanged glances freighted with
meaning, and as usual her vanity was touched by the subtle homage of one
who apparently regarded the rest of humanity with such cold indifference.
He was the first person, except Papa Claude, who had ever taken her and
her ambitions seriously, and she was profoundly grateful. But,
notwithstanding the fact that she felt honored and distinguished by his
friendship, she sometimes, as now, found it difficult to follow the trend
of his conversation.

An hour before she had received an agonized note from her grandfather
saying that nothing had been accomplished, and that, unless she could use
her influence "in a quarter that should be nameless, all, all would be
lost!"

Her dark, brooding eyes swept the table with its profusion of silver and
cut glass, its affectation of candle-light when the world without was a
blaze of sunshine. She looked at Uncle Ranny, with his nervous, twitching
lips and restless, dissatisfied eyes; at Aunt Flo, delicate, affected,
futile; at Harold Phipps, easy, polished, serene. What possible chance
would there be of rousing people like that to sympathy for poor,
visionary Papa Claude? For three days the dread of having to fulfil her
promise had hung over her like a pall. Now that the time was approaching,
the mere thought of it made her head hot and her hands cold.

"Cheer up, Nell!" her uncle rallied her. "Don't let your misdeeds crush
you. You'll be in high favor again by the time you get back from
Baltimore."

"Are you sharing my unpopularity with the family?" asked Harold.

Eleanor confessed that she was. "I've been in disgrace ever since my
party," she said. "Did Uncle Ranny tell you the way we shocked the
aunties?"

"I did," said Mr. Ranny; "also the way sister Isobel looked when little
Kittie Mason shook the shimmy. It's a blessing mother did not see her; I
veritably believe she would have spanked her."

"A delicious household," pronounced Harold. "What a pity they have
banished me. I should so love to put them in a play!"

"But I wouldn't let you!" Eleanor cried, so indignantly that the other
three laughed.

"Neither bond nor free," Harold said, pursing his lips and lifting his
brows. "A little pagan at home and a puritan abroad. How are we going to
emancipate her, Ran?"

"You needn't worry," said Mrs. Ranny, lazily lighting her cigarette.
"Eleanor is a lot more subtle than any one thinks; she'll emancipate
herself before long."

Eleanor was grateful to Aunt Flo. She was tired of being considered an
ingénue. She wanted to be treated with the dignity her twenty years
demanded.

"I have a plan for her," said Harold, with a proprietary air. "Who knows
but this time next year she will be playing in 'Phantom Love'?"

Eleanor's wandering thoughts came to instant attention.

"Is there a part I could play?" she asked eagerly, leaning across the
table with her chin on her clasped hands.

Harold watched her with an amused smile. "What would you say if I told
you I had written a rôle especially for you? Would you dare to take it?"

Eleanor closed her eyes and drew a breath of rapture.

"_Would_ I? There isn't anything in heaven or earth that could prevent
me!"

"Mrs. Bartlett," said the trim maid, "there's a young man at the front
door."

The conversation hung suspended while Mrs. Ranny inquired concerning his
mission.

"It's the young man that brings messages from the office, ma'am."

"Oh, it must be Quin," said Mr. Ranny, rising and going into the hall.
"Did you want to see me about something?"

Eleanor held her breath to listen. Was it possible that that absurd boy
had actually followed her up to the Bartletts' with the intention of
going with them on their expedition? Hadn't it been enough for him to
come to her party in that idiotic coat, with his shirt-front bulging and
his face swollen? Of course she liked him--she liked him immensely; but
he had no right to impose upon her kindness, to make a pretext of his
interest in Papa Claude to force himself in where he was not invited. Now
that he had got into the scrape, he would have to get out of it as best
he could. She was resolved not to lift a finger to help him.

"Oh! I didn't understand"--Mr. Ranny's voice could be heard from the
hall, with a cordial emphasis evidently intended to cover a blunder.
"Come right in the dining-room; we are just having coffee. You know these
ladies, of course, and this is Captain Phipps, Mr. Graham."

Quin came into the room awkwardly, half extended his hand, then withdrew
it hastily as Harold, without rising from the table, gave him a curt nod
and said condescendingly:

"How do you do, Graham?"

Eleanor's quick understanding glance swept from the erect, embarrassed,
boyish figure in the badly fitting cheap suit and obviously new tan
shoes, to the perfectly groomed officer lounging with nonchalant grace
with his crossed arms on the table. A curious idea occurred to her:
Suppose they should change places, and Harold should stand there in those
dreadful clothes Quin wore, and receive a snub from an ex-officer--would
he be able to take it with such simple dignity and give no sign of his
chagrin except by the slow color that mounted to his neck and brow? She,
who a moment before had been ready to annihilate the intruder, rose
impulsively and held out a friendly hand.

"Mr. Graham and I are old friends," she said lightly. "We knew each other
out at the hospital even before he came to stay at grandmother's."

The next instant she was sorry she had spoken: for the self-control for
which she had commended him suddenly departed, and his eyelids, which
should have been discreetly lowered, were lifted instead, and such an
ardent look of gratitude poured forth that she was filled with confusion.

For half an hour four uncomfortable people sat in the little gilded cage
of a drawing-room, and everybody wondered why somebody didn't do
something to relieve the situation. Mr. and Mrs. Ranny made heroic
efforts to entertain their unwelcome guest; Harold Phipps moved about the
room with ill-concealed impatience; and Eleanor sat erect, with tightly
clasped hands, as angry with Harold as she was with Quin.

"Mr. Graham," said Mrs. Ranny at length, when Harold had looked at his
watch for the fourth time, "I am afraid we shall have to ask you to
excuse us. You see, this is our wedding anniversary, and we always
celebrate it by a sentimental pilgrimage in search of wild flowers. I am
afraid it's about time we were starting."

Eleanor felt Quin's eyes seek hers confidently, but she refused to meet
them. There was a painful silence; then he spoke up hopefully:

"I know where there are wild flowers to burn: I was at a place yesterday
where you could hardly walk for them; I counted seven different kinds in
a space about as big as this room."

"Where?" demanded Mr. and Mrs. Ranny in one breath.

"Out Anchordale way--I don't know the name of the road. It's an
out-of-the-way sort of place. Never was there myself until yesterday."

"Could you find it again?" Mrs. Ranny asked with an enthusiasm hitherto
reserved for her poodle.

"Sure," said Quin, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaning back with
the frankest and best-natured of smiles. "I never saw so many cowslips
and buttercups and yellow violets, and these here little arums."

"Arums!" repeated Eleanor. "What do you know about wild flowers?"

"I lived with 'em up in the Maine woods," said Quin. "I don't know their
high-brow names, but I know the kind of places they grow in and where to
look for 'em."

"Let's take him along!" said Mrs. Ranny. "We won't mind being a bit
crowded in the motor, will we?"

Involuntarily all eyes turned toward Harold Phipps.

"Not in the least," he said, flicking an ash from the sleeve of his
uniform with a dexterous little finger, "especially as I am not going to
be with you all the way. These bucolic joys are hardly in my line. I'll
get you to drop me at the Country Club."

It was Eleanor's turn to cast a look of tragic appeal and get no
response. In vain she tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision.
His only concession was that he would remain at the apartment with her if
she would give up the expedition, a suggestion that was promptly vetoed
by Aunt Flo. Eleanor was angry enough to cry as she flung on her wraps in
the little silk-hung guest-room. Men were so selfish, she savagely told
herself; if either Quin or Harold had had a particle of consideration for
her they would not have spoiled her last day at home.

On the way out to the club she sat between them, miserably indifferent to
the glory of the spring day and refusing to contribute more than an
occasional monosyllable to the conversation, which needed all the
encouragement it could get to keep going.

"Shall I see you again before you go?" Harold asked coldly, upon leaving
the car.

She wanted very much to say no, and to say it in a way that would punish
him; but, in view of the important matter pending, she was forced to
swallow her pride and compromise.

"I can see you to-night at the Newsons', unless you prefer spending your
evening here at the club."

"You know perfectly well what I prefer," he said with a meaning look; and
then, without glancing at Quin, across whose knees he had clasped
Eleanor's hand, he bade his host and hostess an apologetic good-by and
mounted the club-house steps.

"What _made_ you come?" Eleanor demanded fiercely of Quin, under cover of
the starting motor.

"I had to," Quin whispered back apologetically. "We got to sell 'em the
farm."

"What farm? Papa Claude's? Whom are you going to sell it to?"

Quin lifted a warning finger and nodded significantly at the back of Mr.
Ranny's unsuspecting head.

"Uncle Ranny?" Eleanor's lips formed the words incredulously. Then the
mere suggestion of outwitting her grandmother and saving Papa Claude by
such a master stroke of diplomacy struck her so humorously that she broke
into laughter, in which Quin joined.

"You two are very lively all of a sudden," Mrs. Ranny said over her
shoulder. "What is the joke?"

"Miss Eleanor and I have gone into the real estate business. Do you want
to buy a farm?"

"We always want to buy a farm. We look at every one we hear is for sale.
But they all cost too much."

"This one won't. It's a bargain-counter farm. A house and fifteen acres.
You can get it for six thousand dollars if you'll buy it to-day."

"All right; we'll take it," cried Mr. Ranny gaily. "Lead us to it."

The quest for the farm became so absorbing that the wild flowers were
forgotten. The oftener they took the wrong road and had to start over,
the keener they became to reach their destination.

"I believe it was a pipe-dream," said Mr. Ranny; "you never saw the place
at all."

"Yes, I did! I'm not kidding you. It's a regular peach of a place for
anybody that's got money to fix it up. Hold on a minute; this looks like
the side lane. Do you mind walking the rest of the way?"

"Not if we get anywhere," said Mr. Ranny.

Their way led through a tangled thicket, across a log bridge, and up a
steep hillside abloom from base to summit with early spring flowers. Down
through the tender green leaves the sunshine poured, searching out many
nooks and corners at which it would get no chance when the heavier
foliage intervened.

"This is where the land begins," said Quin. "Did you ever see such bully
old trees? Any time you wanted to sell off lots, you see, you could do it
on this side, without touching the farm."

"Where's the house?" asked Mrs. Ranny.

"Right through here," said Quin, holding back the branches, "Now, ain't
that a nice old place?"

His enthusiasm met with no response.

In the center of what had once been a clearing stood an old stone
building, half smothered in a wilderness of weeds and sassafras and cane,
its one big chimney dreaming in the silence that seemed to have
encompassed it for ages. The shutters hung disconsolate on their hinges,
the window-panes were broken, the cornice sagged dejectedly.

Eleanor's heart sank. It was worse, far worse, than Papa Claude had
described it, fit only for the birds and spiders and chipmunks that were
already in possession. How Quin could ever for a moment have thought of
selling such a place to the fastidious Bartletts was more than she could
imagine.

But he was carrying the matter off with a high hand, in spite of the
dismayed faces of his prospective buyers.

"Of course it needs a shave," he admitted, as he tore down a handful of
trailing vines that barred the front door. "But you just wait till you
get inside and see the big stone fireplace and the queer cupboards. Why,
this house is historic! It's been here since pioneer days. Look out for
the floor; it's a bit rotten along here."

"I don't think I'll come in," said Mrs. Ranny, holding up her skirts.

"What a funny little staircase!" cried Eleanor. "And what huge rooms! You
_must_ come in, Aunt Flo, and see the fireplace."

"And look at the walls!" cried Quin. "You don't see walls like those
these days. But you just wait till you get upstairs. You've got the
surprise of your life coming to you."

"Outside's good enough for me," Mr. Ranny declared. "I want to take a
look at that old apple orchard."

"I'll go upstairs with you!" said Eleanor. "Come on, Aunt Flo; let's see
what it's like."

At the top of the steps they both gave an exclamation of delight. The
house, hemmed in, in front, by its trees and underbrush, overlooked from
its rear windows a valley of surpassing loveliness. For miles the eye
could wander over orchards full of pink-and-white peach blossoms on
leafless boughs, over farm-lands and woody spaces full of floating clouds
of white dogwood. Through the paneless windows came the warm spring air,
full of the odor of tender growing things and the wholesome smell of the
freshly upturned earth.

"Randolph Bartlett, come up here this instant!" called Mrs. Ranny. "It's
the loveliest thing you ever saw!"

But Mr. Ranny was eagerly examining the remains of a somewhat extensive
chicken farm.

"Go down and show him around," Eleanor advised Quin, with a glimmer of
hope. "Aunt Flo and I will explore the rest of the house."

They not only explored, but in their imagination they remodeled it.
Eleanor, in spite of her daydreams, was a very practical little person,
and, with her power of visualizing a scene for others as well as for
herself, she soon made Mrs. Ranny see the place painted and clean, with
rag rugs on the floors, quaint old mahogany furniture, tall brass
candlesticks on the mantel, and gay chintz curtains at the windows.

Mrs. Ranny grew quite animated talking about it, and forgot the
disturbing fact that she had not had a cigarette since dinner.

"Do you know," she said to Eleanor, as they came back to the window and
looked down at the two men talking and gesticulating eagerly in the
garden below, "I believe if Ranny had something like this to work with
and play with, things would be different."

"Of course they would," Eleanor agreed eagerly--"for him and for you too.
Why don't you try it, Aunt Flo?"

"Oh, it would cost too much to put it in repair. But then, six thousand
dollars is very little, isn't it? Ran spent that much for his big car."

"Yes; and he could _sell_ his big car. You'd lots rather have this than
an extra motor. And we could get him interested in fixing the place up,
and he could keep dogs and cows and things----"

"But what about his mother?"

"You wouldn't have to tell her. She will be going to Maine in June, and
you and Uncle Ranny could be all settled by the time she comes home!"

Eleanor had forgotten all about Papa Claude in her eagerness to get Uncle
Ranny his heart's desire.

"I believe we could do it!" Mrs. Ranny was saying. "The chief expense
would be putting in a couple of bath-rooms and fixing up the floors. As
for the furniture, I have all my mother's stuff packed away in the
warehouse--nice, quaint old things that would suit this place perfectly."

"Oh, Aunt Flo, let's go down this minute and make Uncle Ranny buy it!"

Randolph Bartlett, whose powers of resistance were never strong, was
already lending a willing ear to Quin's persuasive arguments, when
Eleanor and Mrs. Ranny descended upon him in a whirlwind of enthusiasm.
They both talked at once, rushing him from one spot to another, vying
with each other in pointing out the wonderful possibilities of the place.

"See here, is this a frame-up?" he asked laughingly. "You are not
actually in earnest, Flo? You don't mean that you would consider the
place seriously?"

"But I do. I never wanted anything so much in my life!"

Mr. Ranny looked at her in amazement. "And you mean you'd be willing to
come out here and live four months in the year?"

"I mean, if we could get it fixed up right, I'd live here the year round.
We are only fifteen minutes from town, and all our friends live out this
way."

"By George, I've almost a notion to try it!" Mr. Ranny's eyes were
shining. "Do you believe I could pull it off, Quin? I've made such a
darned fizzle of things in the past that I'm almost afraid to kick over
the traces again."

"The trouble is, you've never given a big enough kick to get loose," said
Quin. "Here's your chance to show 'em what you can do. I believe if you'd
buy this place, and buckle down to knocking it into shape, you could have
as pretty a little stock farm as there is in the State."

"That sounds mighty good to me!" said Mr. Ranny with the look of a
prisoner who is promised a parole. "When do you have to give an answer?"

"My option is up at midnight."

"Good heaven! You don't mean to-night?"

"Yes, sir: not a minute later."

"I am afraid that settles it, as far as I'm concerned."

"No, it doesn't!" insisted Mrs. Ranny. "If you really want it, there is
no reason you shouldn't have it. The ground alone is worth the price
asked. Let the others go back to the car while you and I talk the matter
over. It's the chance we've been looking for for ten years, and I'm not
going to let it slip."

The next hour was one Eleanor never forgot. She and Quin, confident of
the success of their conspiracy, were also jubilant over what they
regarded as Mr. Ranny's possible emancipation. They already saw him a
reformed character, a prosperous and contented farmer, no longer a menace
to the peace of the family. So elated were they that, instead of going to
the road, they explored the woods, and ended by racing down the hill like
a couple of irresponsible children.

When they at last got back to the car, Eleanor, disheveled and limp, sank
on the running-board and laughingly made room for Quin beside her. She
had quite forgotten to be grown up and temperamental, a fact that Quin
was prompt to take advantage of.

"See here!" he said. "Am I going to get a commission for all this?"

"How much do you want?"

"I want a lot!" he threatened.

He was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, tracing figures in
the sand with his shoe. Eleanor noticed the nice way his hair grew on the
back of his neck and the white skin that met the clear brown skin at the
collar-line. In spite of his bigness and his strength, he seemed very
young and defenseless when it came to his dealings with girls.

It was useless to deny that she knew what he wanted. His eyes had been
saying it persistently each time they had met hers for three months. They
had whispered it after that first dance at the Hawaiian Garden; they had
murmured it through the hospital days; they had shouted it this afternoon
at Uncle Ranny's, so loud that she thought every one must surely hear.
But when a young lady is engaged in the exciting business of playing with
fire she doesn't always heed even a shouted warning. As long as she was
very careful, she told herself, and snuffed out every blaze that
threatened to become unmanageable, no damage would be done. The present
moment was one requiring snuffers.

"We can't begin to pay you what we owe you," she said in her most
conventional tone. "If things go as we hope they will, it will mean
everything to Uncle Ranny as well as to Papa Claude."

"I didn't do it for them only," Quin blurted out. "I didn't want you to
borrow money from Captain Phipps."

The temptation to encourage this special spark was not to be resisted.

"You don't love Mr. Phipps very much, do you?" she said.

"No; do you?"

"Well, I _like_ him. He is one of my very best friends."

"Am I?" demanded Quin with terrible directness.

It was Eleanor's turn to trace patterns in the sand.

"Well, you see----" she began.

"No, I don't." Quin rose indignantly. "There's nobody in the world that
would do any more for you than I would. I may be chasing the kite in
thinking that you _want_ me to do anything, but if you'll just let me
under the ribbon, you bet your life I'll give Phipps and the rest of the
talent a run for their money!"

He stood staring hard down the road for a moment, while she sat in
embarrassed silence; then he broke forth again:

"I know you don't want me to say these things. I know every time you head
me off. But if you'll just let me get it off my chest this once, then I
promise to keep the cork in if it busts the bottle!"

Eleanor laughed in spite of herself.

"All right," she said; "I'll listen."

"Well," said Quin, "it's this way. I know you don't care a tinker's damn
for me in the way I care for you. But you can't deny that you do like me
some. You wouldn't talk to me like you do and let me do things for you if
you didn't. What I want you to promise is that whenever you need a
friend--a _best_ friend, mind you--you will come straight to me."

He looked worth coming to as he stood there, big and strong and earnest;
and Eleanor, being young and a woman, promptly forgot her good
resolutions not to encourage him, and rose impulsively and held out her
hand.

"I do promise, Quin," she said, "and I thank you with all my heart."

Then a curious and unexpected thing happened to her. As she stood there
on the lonely country road with her hand in his, a curious, deep, still
feeling crept over her, a queer sensation of complete satisfaction that
she never remembered to have felt before. For a long moment she stood
there, her cheek almost touching that outrageous plaid tie that had so
recently excited her derision. Then she snatched her hand away. "Look
out!" she warned. "They are coming."

Two minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Ranny, emerging from the thicket with
their hands full of wild flowers, found Eleanor seated in the car in a
bored attitude, while Quin solicitously examined a rear tire.

"It's all settled!" Mr. Ranny cried exultingly. "The farm is ours!"



                              CHAPTER 17


Although Quin had taken himself and his career seriously before Eleanor's
home-coming, it was nothing in comparison to the fever of energy that
possessed him after her departure. He was determined to forge ahead in
business, get an education, and become versed in the gentler branches of
social life at the earliest possible moment. His chief trouble was that
the days contained only twenty-four hours. Even his dreams were a jumble
of plows and personal pronouns, of mathematical problems and social
proprieties.

At the factory he flung himself into the affairs of the firm with a zeal
that at times bordered on officiousness. But Mr. Bangs was beginning to
find him useful, and, while he continued to snub him and correct him, he
also came to depend upon him, especially in an emergency. Quin, on his
part, was for the first time turning a critical eye on his own
achievements in relation to those of bigger and abler men, and the result
was chastening.

As for his mad thirst for knowledge, even the university classes,
difficult as they were proving, failed to satisfy him. He purchased an
expensive "system" in fifteen volumes, by means of which, the prospectus
assured him, he could easily achieve a college education in eight months.
He wore the covers off the first two booklets, then became disgusted, and
devoted himself instead to a small handbook entitled "Words We
Mispronounce."

The branch of his education in which he was making least effort and most
progress was in the customs and manners of polite society. He did not
shine as yet, but he had ceased to offend, and that was a long step
forward. Once initiated into the refinements of life, he took to them
naturally. Miss Isobel and Miss Enid Bartlett had given him the cue, and
Mr. Chester was keeping him up to his standard.

Between him and the latter had sprung up a queer friendship verging on
intimacy. Ever since the night of the symphony concert he had served as a
connecting link between the long-severed lovers, and out of gratitude he
had been adopted as a protégé. It was Mr. Chester who assumed
responsibility not only for his musical and literary tastes but for his
neckties and hosiery as well. Mr. Chester, in fact, being too negative
and conservative, acted as a much-needed soft pedal on Quin's noisy
aggressiveness. "Not so loud, Quinby," or, "A little more gently, my
boy," he would often say. And Quin would acquiesce good-naturedly and
even gratefully. "That's right, call me down," he would say; "I guess
I'll learn before I die."

In all that he did and said and thought, one object was paramount. He
never lost sight of the fact that he was making himself over for Eleanor,
and the prize at stake was so colossal that no obstacles deterred him. To
be sure, this was not by any means his first amatory venture. As Rose
Martel had said, he "had a way with him"--a way that had kept him
involved in affairs of the heart since the early days in Nanking when he
had succumbed to the charms of a slant-eyed little Celestial at the
tender age of seven. He had always had a girl, just as he had always had
a job; but both had varied with time and place. With a vocabulary of a
dozen words and the sign language, he had managed to flirt across France
and back again. He had frivoled with half a dozen trained nurses in as
many different hospitals, and had even had a sentimental round with a
pretty young stewardess on the transport coming home.

But this affair had been quite different. Instead of wading about in the
shallows of love, he had tumbled in head first, and found himself beyond
his depth and out of sight of land. It was a case of sink or swim, and
Quin was determined not to sink if he could help himself.

The fact that Eleanor Bartlett was not of his world, that she apparently
never gave him a second thought, that he had less than nothing on which
to build his hopes, only made him take a deeper breath and a longer
stroke.

The first gleam of encouragement he had received was that Sunday in the
country, when for the fraction of a second she had let him hold her hand.
Since then he had written her five letters and received but one brief
note in reply. Her silence, however, did not depress him. She had told
him she hated to write letters, a sentiment he fully shared. Only in this
case he could not help himself. The moment anything of interest happened,
he was seized with an uncontrollable impulse to tell Eleanor. He would
rush home from the university at night, go up to his room, and, using the
corner of his bureau for a desk, cover pages of lined tablet paper with a
detailed account of the day's adventures. When every doubtful word has to
be looked up in the dictionary, and newly acquired knowledge concerning
participles and personal pronouns duly applied, letter-writing is a
serious business. Sometimes a page was copied three times before it met
with the critical approval of the composer.

Since the passing of the acute financial crisis in the Mattel family,
Papa Claude had revived amazingly, and was once more wearing a rose in
his buttonhole and courting the Muse. He and Harold Phipps spent several
afternoons a week working on their play, which they hoped to get fully
blocked out before the latter left the service and returned to his home
in Chicago.

But, even though the sale of the farm had relieved the financial strain,
some other trouble was brewing in the family, the cause of which Quin
could not make out. The usually sunny atmosphere was disturbed by
frequent electric storms between Cass and Rose, marked by stern
disapproval on his part and fiery rebellion on hers. "Rose is going to
get herself into trouble!" Cass predicted darkly to Quin; while Rose, on
her part, declared that Cass should shave his head and enter a monastery.

"What are you two ragging about, anyhow?" Quin asked one morning at
breakfast, when things were worse than usual.

"Rose knows what I'm talking about," said Cass significantly. "Somebody's
going to get his face pushed in if things keep on like they are going."

Absorption in his own affairs alone prevented Quin from taking an
immediate hand in this new family complication. It was not until late in
May that he hit upon the truth, quite by accident.

Coming home rather later than usual one night, he stumbled over Cass
sitting hunched up on the dark stairway, looking in his striped pajamas
like an escaped convict.

"What in the devil are you up to?" Quin demanded, rubbing a bruised shin.

"I am waiting for Rose," said Cass grimly. "Some fellow comes by here
every few nights and takes her out in a machine."

"Who is he?"

"I don't know--that's what I'm going to find out."

"You crazy wop!" said Quin. "What's got into you lately? Can't you trust
Rose to take care of herself?"

"Yes; but I don't trust any fellow that'll go with a girl and be ashamed
to be seen with her."

"How do you know he's ashamed to be seen with her?"

"Because he comes sneaking in here after we've all gone to bed. He don't
ring the door-bell; he honks once or twice; and then I hear Rose slipping
past my door."

"I didn't know any of Rose's beaux had a machine."

"They haven't. This is some rich guy that thinks any girl that works for
her living is an easy mark. I'll show him a thing or two! I'll break his
damned---- Listen! There's an automobile stopping now."

He started excitedly down the steps, but Quin grasped his arms.

"Come back here, Cass! You can't go cavorting out there in your pajamas,
making a mess of things. You leave it to me. I'll go out the side way and
amble around to the front door the same time they do. They'll think I'm
just getting home, and I can size him up for you."

The next moment he was out of the house, over the low hedge, and casually
sauntering toward the corner. The night was very dark, lightened only by
the swinging street lamp and the two staring eyes of an automobile that
had stopped a little distance from the house. Quin saw Rose dart out of
the shadows and run toward the house. Some one called her name softly and
peremptorily, but she did not stop. A man was following her out of the
shadows. But Quin did not wait for him to arrive; he promptly stepped
around the corner and met Rose at the front gate.

"What's up?" he demanded, seeing her quivering lips and angry, excited
eyes.

"Tell him to go away!" she whispered, trying to get the gate open. "Tell
him I never want him to speak to me again. He _can't_ apologize--there
isn't anything he can say. Just make him go away, that's all."

"Miss Martel is making a mountain out of a molehill," said a suave voice
behind them, and, turning, Quin saw the somewhat perturbed face of Harold
Phipps, "If she would listen to me for two minutes----"

"But I won't--not for one minute! You sha'n't speak to me----"

"Just one word alone with you----"

"See here," said Quin, stepping between them and looking Harold Phipps
squarely in the eyes. "You heard what she said, didn't you?"

"Yes; but I insist upon her listening to me. She entirely misunderstood
something I said."

"I did not!" Rose broke in furiously. "You know perfectly well I didn't.
I won't listen to anything you have to say on that or any other subject."

"I sha'n't let you go until you do," he replied in his most authoritative
tone.

"Oh, yes, you will," said Quin quietly. "I don't know what the row's
about, but she doesn't have to talk to you if she doesn't want to."

For a moment the two men stood silently measuring each other; then the
one in uniform gave a slight shrug and permitted himself a faint superior
smile.

"I see," he said. "The young lady's conduct did not lead me to suppose
she was engaged. I congratulate you!" And, turning on his heel, he went
back to his car.

Rose turned quickly and seized Quin's arm.

"Don't tell anybody about this, please," she implored. "I've had my
lesson--the beast!"

"What did he do?" demanded Quin, longing for an excuse to annihilate
Phipps.

"It wasn't so much what he did--it was what he said. But you've got to
promise not to give me away, Quin. You mustn't let on that I was out
to-night."

"But Cass is on to it. He's waiting there in the hall now."

She caught her breath sharply.

"Does he know who I was with?"

"Not yet."

"Then he mustn't. It would spoil everything for Papa Claude and the play;
and, besides, Cass is so excitable. I _haven't_ done anything wrong,
Quin! I was just out for a little fun, and that contemptible puppy
thought----"

"I wish to God I'd cracked his bean!" said Quin fervently.

"Promise me that you won't tell!"

"I won't tell, but I intend to have it out with him."

"No, no!" she whispered hysterically. "I tell you, nothing more must be
said about it. It was partly my fault; only, I didn't know he was that
kind of a man. You know yourself I never really liked him. Only it was
fun to go out in his car, and I get so sick of not having any clothes or
money and having to stay in that deadly old store day in and day out!"

She buried her face in her hands and sobbed violently for a moment; then
she caught hold of Quin's sleeve.

"You won't speak to him," she implored, "and you won't tell Cass?"

"I won't do anything you don't want me to," promised Quin, proffering his
handkerchief with his sympathy, "It's your shooting-match, and Cass has
got to keep his hands off."

Cass at this moment cautiously opened the front door, and stood in his
bare feet, viewing them with anxious suspicion.

"It's all right, old cove," said Quin, slipping Rose into the house and
pulling the door to after her. "No harm's done, and she won't do it
again."

"How do you know?"

"Because she and the fellow had a blow-out. She says she is through with
him for good and all."

"Did you see him?"

"Yes; he's a average-sized fellow with a smooth face and brown hair."

"Would you know him if you saw him again?"

"Sure. I'll keep an eye out for him. But you've got to leave it to me. I
can handle the situation all right now, if you just won't butt in."

"If you can get Rose to promise not to see him again, she'll stick to it;
I can say that for her."

"She won't see him. They've quarreled, I tell you. I heard her balling
him out good before he left. The whole thing is settled, and all you got
to do is to button up your lip and go to bed."

A week later Papa Claude announced that Harold Phipps was at last
released from his onerous duties in the army and had returned to his home
in Chicago, where he would in future devote himself to the writing and
producing of great American plays.



                              CHAPTER 18


In everybody's life there are hours or days or even weeks that refuse to
march on with the solemn procession of time, but lag behind and hide in
some byway of memory, there to remain for ever and ever. It was such a
week that tumbled unexpectedly out of Quin's calendar about the first of
June, and lived itself in terms of sunshine and roses, of moonshine and
melody, seven halcyon days between the time that Eleanor returned from
school and the Bartletts went away for the summer. For the first time
since he met her, she seemed to have nothing more demanding to do than to
emulate "the innocent moon, who nothing does but shine, and yet moves all
the slumbering surges of the world."

There was no doubt about Quin's "slumbering surges" being moved. Within
twenty-four hours of her return to town he became totally and hopelessly
demoralized. Education and business were, after all, but means to an end,
and when he saw what he conceived to be a short cut to heaven, he rashly
discarded wings and leaped toward his heart's desire.

The hour before closing at the factory became a time of acute torture. He
who usually stayed till the last minute, engrossed in winding up the
affairs of the day, now seemed perfectly willing to trust their
completion to any one who would undertake it. The instant the whistle
blew he was off like a shot, out of the factory yard, clinging to the
platform of a crowded trolley, catching an interurban car, plunging
through a thicket, down an old lane, and emerging into Paradise.

The Rannys were having the adventure of their lives with the secret farm,
an adventure shared with equal enthusiasm by their co-conspirators.
"Valley Mead" was proving the most marvelous of forbidden playthings, and
was doing for Randolph Bartlett what doctors and sanitariums and tears
and threats had failed to do. The old place had been overhauled, the
house made habitable, and now that furnishing was in progress, each day
brought new and fascinating developments.

Eleanor had arrived from school just in time to fling herself heart and
soul into the enterprise. By a happy chance she had been allowed to spend
the week with the Randolph Bartletts, only reporting to her grandmother
from time to time for consultations regarding summer clothes. Her strange
indifference to this usually all-important question, together with her
insistent plea to remain in Kentucky all summer, might have aroused the
old lady's suspicion had she not long ago decided that the explanation of
all Eleanor's motives was perversity.

Every morning Eleanor and Mrs. Ranny went out to the farm, and worked
with enthusiasm. Each piece of furniture that was taken out of the crate
was hailed with delight and dragged from one place to another to try its
effect. The hanging of curtains was suspended while they rushed out to
see the newly arrived rabbits with their meek eyes and tremulous pink
mouths, or dashed out to the poultry-yard to have another look at the
downy little fluffs of yellow that were pretending to be chickens.

But the real excitement of the day was when the workmen had departed, and
Mr. Ranny came out with his machine laden with priceless treasures from
the ten-cent store, or later when Quin Graham dashed up the lane with
anything from a garden-spade to a bird-house in his hands, and with an
enthusiasm and energy in his soul that communicated themselves to all
concerned. Then everybody would talk at once, and everybody insist upon
showing everybody else what had been done since morning, and there was
more hanging of pictures and changing of furniture, and so much chatter
and laughter that it was a wonder anything was accomplished.

Mr. and Mrs. Ranny had agreed that they would make Valley Mead livable at
the least possible expense, looking forward to a future day to make the
improvements that would require much outlay of money. The pride and
satisfaction they took in their petty economies were such as only the
inexperienced wealthy can feel.

As for Quin, he moved through the enchanted days, blind, deaf, and dumb
to everything but Eleanor. She was the dazzling sun in whose effulgent
rays the rest of humanity floated like midges. So wholly blinded was he
by her radiant presence that he did not realize the darkness into which
he was about to be plunged until her departure was imminent.

The evening before she left found them perched upon the orchard stile, in
that stage of intimacy that permitted him to sit at her feet and toy
pensively with the tassel on her girdle while his eyes said the
unutterable things that his lips were forbidden to utter.

The sky was flooded with luminous color, neither blue nor pink, but
something deliciously between, and down below them fields of wheat
rippled under the magic light.

"We ought to go in," said Eleanor for the third time. "We've been out
here an outrageously long time."

"They won't miss us," pleaded Quin; "besides, it's our last night."

"Don't talk about it!" said Eleanor. "It makes me so cross to have to
leave it all at the most exciting time! When I get back everything will
be finished and the fun all over."

"When _are_ you coming back?"

"Not until September. We have to come home then. Something's going to
happen."

Quin stopped twisting the tassel and looked at her quickly.

"What?" he demanded.

"Can you keep a secret?"

"Yes."

"It's a wedding, Quin."

If the earth had suddenly quaked beneath him he could not have
experienced a more horrible sense of devastation. He put out a hand as if
to steady himself.

"You don't mean----" he began, and could get no further.

"Yes, I do. It's to be a home wedding, very quiet, with only the family,
and afterward they are going out to the coast."

"Who are?" he asked dully.

"Aunt Enid and Mr. Chester. After waiting for twenty years. Isn't it too
funny for words?"

Quin thought it was. He threw himself back and shouted. He had never
enjoyed a joke so much in his life. It seemed replete with humor,
especially when he shared with Eleanor the part he had played in bringing
them together and described the waltz on the landing the night of the
Easter party. With the arrogance of youth they laughed hilariously at the
late blooming romance.

"What about Queen Vic?" asked Quin. "How did they ever get her consent?"

"They didn't ask for it. After letting her keep them apart all these
years, they just announced that they were going to be married in
September. I expect she raised the roof; but when she saw it was all
settled and she couldn't unsettle it, she came around and told Aunt Enid
she could be married at home."

"Good work!" said Quin, who was genuinely fond of both Miss Enid and Mr.
Chester. "How is Miss Isobel taking it?"

"Better than you would think. I don't know what has come over Aunt
Isobel, she's so much nicer than she used to be. The boys out at the
hospital have made her over."

"Miss Isobel's a pippin," said Quin, in a tone that implied a compliment.
"You ought to have seen how she looked after me when I was sick. Has
Madam found out about her going out to camp?"

"Yes; but she hasn't stopped her. Something you said once about everybody
having a right to do his duty as he saw it made Aunt Isobel take a firm
stand and stick it out. You have certainly jolted the family out of its
ruts, Quin. Look at Uncle Ranny; would you ever take him for the same
person he was six months ago?"

Quin removed his enamored gaze from her face long enough to glance toward
the house, where the usually elegant useless Randolph was perched in the
crotch of an old ash tree, sawing off a dead limb, and singing as he
sawed.

"Well, when it comes to him, I guess I _have_ had a finger in the pie,"
said Quin with pardonable pride. "He hasn't slipped the trolley for two
months; and if he can stay on the track now, it will be a cinch for him
after the first of July. All he needed was a real interest in life, and a
chance to work things out for himself."

"It's what we all need," Eleanor said gloomily. "I wish I could do what I
liked."

"What would you do?"

"I'd go straight to New York and study for the stage. It isn't a
whim--it's what I've wanted most to do ever since I was a little girl. I
may not have any great talent, but Papa Claude thinks I have. So does
Captain Phipps. To have to wait a whole year until I'm of age is too
stupid for words. It's just some more of grandmother's tyranny, and I'm
not going to submit much longer; would you?"

Quin contemplated his clasped fists earnestly. For the first time, his
belief in the consent of the governed admitted of exceptions.

"I'd go a bit slow," he said, feeling his own way cautiously. "This stage
business is a doubtful proposition. I don't see where the fun comes in,
pretending to be somebody else all the time."

"You would if you didn't like being yourself. Besides, I don't live my
own life as it is."

"You will some day--when you get married."

"But that's just it! I don't intend to marry--I am going to devote my
whole life to my work."

Quin, having but recently recovered from the fear that she was
contemplating matrimony, now underwent a similar torture at her avowal
that she was not. The second possibility was only a shade less appalling
than the first.

"The trouble is," she went on very confidentially, "I am not interested
in anything in the world but my art."

"Oh, come now, Miss Eleanor!" Quin rallied her. "You know you were
interested in the work out at the camp."

"That's true. I except that."

"And you can't say you haven't been interested in our selling this farm,
and getting Mr. and Mrs. Ranny fixed up, and all that."

"Of course I've been interested in that; it's been no end of fun."

"And then," Quin pursued his point quite brazenly, "there's me. I hope
you are a little bit interested in me?"

She tried to take it lightly. "Interested in you? Why, of course I am. We
all are. Uncle Ranny was saying only this morning----"

"I don't care a hang what he said. It's _you_ I'm talking about. Do you
like me any better than you did in the spring?"

"You silly boy, I've always liked you."

"But I told you I wanted a lot. Have I made any headway?"

"Headway? I should say you have. I never saw such improvement! If the
university classes have done this much for you in four months, what will
you be by the end of the year?"

"That's right," said Quin bitterly. "Open the switch and sidetrack me!
But just tell me one thing: is there anybody you _are_ interested in?"

"Now, see here, Quin," said Eleanor peremptorily, "you haven't any right
to ask me questions like that. All I promised was that you could be my
chum."

"Yes; but I meant a chum plus."

"Well, you'd better look out or you will be a chum minus." Then she
caught sight of his eyes, and leaned forward in sudden contrition. "I'm
sorry to hurt you, Quin, but you must understand----"

"I do," he admitted miserably. "Only this week out here together, and the
way you've looked at me sometimes, made me kind of hope----" His voice
broke. "It's all right. I'll wait some more."

This was the time Eleanor should have carried out her intention of going
back to the house. Instead, she sat on in the deepening twilight under
the feminine delusion that she was being good to the miserable youth who
sat huddled close to her knees on the step below her.

Through his whole big being Quin was quivering with the sense of her
nearness, afraid to move for fear something stronger than his will would
make him seize her slender little body and crush it to him in an agony of
tenderness and yearning.

"How beautiful it is out here now!" she said softly. "Don't you love the
feel of wings everywhere? Little flying things going home? Everything
seems to be whispering!"

Quin did not answer. He sat silent and immovable until the light in the
valley had quite faded, and the twitter of the birds had been superseded
by the monotonous, mournful plaint of a whip-poor-will in a distant tree.
Then he stirred and looked up at Eleanor with a rueful smile.

"I know what's the matter with that damned old bird," he said. "He's in
love!"



                              CHAPTER 19


Notwithstanding the fact that the sale of the Martels' house was averted
and Rose's affair with Harold Phipps successfully terminated,
catastrophe, which was evidently due the family, arrived before the
summer had fairly begun. The irrepressible Claude had no sooner weighed
the anchor of responsibility than he set sail for New York to embark once
more on dramatic waters. He had secured a small part in a summer stock
company which would leave him ample time to work on "Phantom Love," which
he confidently counted upon to retrieve his fortunes. The withdrawal of
even his slender contribution to the household expenses made a
difference, especially as Edwin came down with the measles early in July.
Before the boy had got the green shade off his afflicted eyes, Cass was
laid low with typhoid fever.

No other event in the family could have wrought such disastrous results.
Rose was compelled to give up her position to nurse him, and while the
income ceased the expenses piled up enormously.

Nothing was more natural than that Quinby Graham should fling himself
into the breach. His intimacy with Cass had begun on the transport going
to France, and continued with unabated zeal until he was wounded in the
summer of 1918. For six months he had lost sight of him, only to find him
again in the hospital at Camp Zachary Taylor. He was not one to share the
privileges of Cass's home without also sharing its hardships.

"It's a shame we've got to take help from you," said Rose; "just when you
are beginning to get ahead, too!"

"You cut that out," said Quin. "I'd like to know if you didn't take me in
and treat me like one of the family? Ain't Cass the best friend a man
ever had? And wouldn't he do as much and more for me?"

But even Quin's salary failed to meet the emergency. Doctor's bills, drug
bills, grocery bills, became more and more formidable. One day Rose was
reduced to selling two of Papa Claude's autographed photographs.

"I wouldn't do that--yet," said Quin, who had begun to walk to the
factory to save carfare. "Those old boys and girls are his friends; we
can't sell them. I can see him now talking to 'em through his pipe smoke.
I ought to have some junk we can soak. Let's go see."

The investigation resulted in the conversion of a pair of new wing-toed
dancing-shoes and a silver cigarette-case into an ice-bag and an electric
fan.

"I could stand everything else," said Rose, "if we could just get the
children out of the house. Edwin is still as weak as a kitten, and Myrna
looks as if she might come down with the fever any day."

Quin had a brilliant idea. "Why not ship 'em both to the country? Ed
could come to town to work every day, and Myrna could help somebody
around the house."

"That sounds mighty fine; but who is going to take two children to board
for nothing?"

"I don't know yet," said Quin; "that's what I've got to find out."

That night he went out to Valley Mead and put the matter squarely up to
Mr. and Mrs. Ranny.

"We're up against it at our house," he said; "I want to borrow something
from you two good people."

"You can have anything we've got!" said Mr. Ranny rashly.

"Well, I want to borrow some fresh air for a couple of sick kids. I want
you to ask 'em out here for a week."

Mr. and Mrs. Ranny looked aghast at the preposterous suggestion, but Quin
gave them no time to demur. He plunged into explanation, and clinched his
argument by saying:

"Ed would only be here at night, and Myrna could help around the house.
They are bully youngsters. No end of fun, and they wouldn't give you a
bit of trouble."

"But I have only one maid!" protested Mrs. Ranny.

"What of that?" said Quin. "Myrna's used to working at home; she'd be
glad to help you."

"If it was anybody on earth but the Martels," Mr. Ranny objected, with
contracted brow. "The families have been at daggers' points for years.
Why, the very name of Martel makes mother see red."

"Well, the children aren't responsible for that!" Quin broke in
impatiently; then he pulled himself up. "However, if you don't want to do
'em a good turn, that settles it."

"But it doesn't settle it," said Mr. Ranny. "What are you going to do
with them?"

"Hanged if I know," said Quin; "but you bet I'll do something."

The conversation then wandered off to Eleanor, and Quin listened with
vague misgivings to accounts of her good times--yachting parties, tennis
tournaments, rock teas, shore dinners--all of which suggested to him an
appallingly unfamiliar world.

"I tell you who was up there for a week," said Mr. Ranny. "Harold Phipps.
You remember meeting him at our apartment last spring?"

"What's he doing there?" Quin demanded with such vehemence that they both
laughed.

"Probably making life miserable for Mother Bartlett," said Mrs. Ranny. "I
can't imagine how she ever consented to have him come, or how he ever had
the nerve to go, after the way they've treated him."

"Harold's not concerned with the feelings of the family," said Mr. Ranny;
"he is after Nell."

But Mrs. Ranny scorned the idea. "He looks upon her as a perfect child,"
she insisted; "besides, he's too lazy and conceited to be in love with
anybody but himself."

"That may be, but Nell's got him going all right."

Then the conversation veered back to the Martels, with the result that an
hour later Quin was on his way home bearing a gracefully worded note from
Mrs. Ranny inviting the children to spend the following week at Valley
Mead. But, in spite of the success of his mission, he sat with a box of
fresh eggs in his lap and a huge bunch of flowers in his hand, his hat
rammed over his eyes, staring gloomily out of the car window into the
starless night.

Since Eleanor's departure he had had no word from her, and the news that
filtered through Valley Mead was more disconcerting than the silence. The
thought of her dancing, sailing, and motoring with Harold Phipps filled
him with a frenzy of jealousy. He grew bitter at the thought of her
flitting heedlessly from one luxurious pleasure to another, while Cass
lay in that stifling city, fighting for his life and lacking even the
necessities for his comfort.

Every week since her departure he had written her, even though the
letters grew shorter and blunter as his duties increased. Up until now,
however, he, like every one else, had tried to shield Eleanor from
anything ugly and sordid. He had tried to make light of the situation and
reassure her as to results; but he was determined to do it no longer. It
wasn't right, he told himself angrily, for anybody to go through life
blinded to all the misery and suffering and poverty in the world. He was
going to write her to-night and tell her the whole story and spare her
nothing.

But he did not write. When he reached home Cass had had a turn for the
worse, and there were ice-baths to prepare and other duties to perform
that left him no time for himself.

The next day Edwin and Myrna were sent out to the Randolph Bartletts',
and Rose and Quin cleared the decks for the hard fight ahead. Fan Loomis
came in to help nurse in the day-time, and Quin was on duty through the
long, suffocating August nights.

At the end of the week Cass's condition was so serious that the Bartletts
insisted on keeping the children at the farm. Myrna had proved a cheery,
helpful little companion, and Edwin, while more difficult to handle, was
picking up flesh and color, and was learning to run the car.

Cass's fever dragged on, going down one day only to rise higher the next.
Seven weeks, eight weeks, nine weeks passed, and still no improvement.

Quin, trying to keep up his work at the factory on two or three hours'
sleep out of the twenty-four, grew thin and haggard, and coughed more
than at any time since he had left the hospital. During the long night
vigils he made sporadic efforts to keep up his university work, but he
made little headway.

"Go on to bed, Quin," Rose whispered one night, when she found him asleep
with his head against the bed-post. "You'll be giving out next, and God
knows what I'll do then."

"Not me!" he declared, suppressing a yawn. "You're the one that's done
in. Why don't you stay down?"

"I can't," she murmured, kneeling anxiously beside the unconscious
patient. "He looks worse to me to-night. Do you believe we can pull him
through?"

She had on a faded pink kimono over her thin night-gown, and her heavy
hair was plaited down her back. There were no chestnut puffs over her
ears or pink spots on her cheeks, and her lips looked strange without
their penciled cupid's bow. But to Quin there was something in her drawn
white face and anxious, tender eyes that was more appealing. In their
long siege together he had found a staunch dependence and a power of
sacrifice in the girl that touched him deeply.

"I don't know, Rose," he admitted, reaching over and smoothing her hair;
"but we'll do our darnedest."

At the touch of his hand she reached up and impulsively drew it down to
her cheek, holding it there with her trembling lips against its hard
palm.

The night was intensely hot and still. That afternoon they had moved Cass
into Rose's room in the hope of getting more air from the western
exposure; but only the hot smell of the asphalt and the stifling odor of
car smoke came through the curtainless window. The gas-jet, turned very
low, threw distorted shadows on the bureau with its medley of toilet
articles and medicine bottles. Through the open door of the closet could
be seen Rose's personal belongings; under the table were a pair of
high-heeled slippers; and two white stockings made white streaks across
the window-sill.

Quin sat by Cass's bedside, with his hand clasped to Rose's cheek, and
fought a battle that had been raging within him for days. Without being
in the least in love with Rose, he wanted desperately to take her in his
arms and comfort her. They were both so tired, so miserable, so
desperately afraid of that shadowy presence that hovered over Cass. They
were practically alone in the house, accountable to no one, and drawn
together by an overwhelming anxiety. In Rose's state of emotional tension
she was responsive to his every look and gesture. He had but to hold out
his arms and she would sink into them.

Again and again his eyes traveled from her bright tumbled head to Cass's
flushed face, with its absurd round nose and eyes that could no longer
keep watch over a pleasure-loving sister. What would happen if Cass
should die? Who would take care of her and the children, helpless and
penniless, with only Papa Claude and his visions to stand between them
and the world? A great wave of sympathy rushed over him for the girl
kneeling there with her face buried in the bed-clothes. She had asked so
little of life--just a few good times to offset the drudgery, just an
outlet for the ocean of love that was dammed up in her small body. Love
was the only thing she cared about; it was the only thing that mattered
in life. Cass never understood her, but Quin understood her. He was like
that himself. The blood was pounding through his veins too, a terrible
urgence was impelling him toward her. Why shouldn't they throw discretion
to the winds and answer the call?

Then his mind did a curious thing. It brought up out of the sub-conscious
a question that Eleanor Bartlett had once asked him: "Do you think a
person has a right to go ahead and do what he wants, regardless of
consequences?" He saw her face, moonlit and earnest, turned up to his,
and he heard himself answering her: "That depends on whether he wants the
right thing."

Rose stirred, and he withdrew his hand and stood up.

"See here, young lady," he said with authority; "I'll give you just two
minutes to clear out of here! No, I don't want you to leave your door
open; I'll call you if there's any change."

"But, Quin, I don't want to be alone--I want to be with you." Her eyes
were full of frank appeal, and her lips trembling.

"You are too sleepy to know what you want," he said. "Up with you--not
another word. You'll feel better to-morrow. Good-night." And with a
little push he put her out of the room and closed the door.



                              CHAPTER 20


Quin stood under the big car-shed at the Union Depot, and for the sixth
time in ten minutes consulted the watch that was the pride of his life.
He had been waiting for half an hour, not because the train was late, but
because he proposed to be on the spot if by any happy chance it should
arrive ahead of schedule time. The week before he had received a picture
post-card on whose narrow margin were scrawled the meager lines:

    So glad Cass is up again. Rose says you've been a brick. Home on
    Sept. 2. Hope to see you soon. E. M. B.

It was the only communication he had had from Eleanor since they sat on
the stile in the starlight at Valley Mead three months before. To be
sure, in her infrequent letters to Rose she had always added, "Give my
love to Quinby Graham," and once she said: "Tell him I've been meaning to
write to him all summer." Notwithstanding the fact that Quin had waited
in vain for that letter for twelve consecutive weeks, that he had passed
through every phase of indignation, jealousy, and consuming fear that can
assail a young and undisciplined lover, he nevertheless watched for the
incoming train with a rapture undimmed by disturbing reflections. The
mere fact that every moment the distance was lessening between him and
Eleanor, that within the hour he should see her, hear her, feel the clasp
of her hand, was sufficient to send his spirits soaring into sunny spaces
of confidence far above the clouds of doubt.

"Hello, Quinby; what are you doing here?" asked a voice behind him; and
turning he saw the long, oval face and lady-like figure of Mr. Chester.

"Same thing you are," said Quin, grinning sympathetically. "Only if I was
in your shoes I'd be walking the tracks to meet the train."

Mr. Chester shook his head and smiled primly.

"When you have waited twenty years for a young lady, twenty minutes more
or less do not matter."

"They would to me!" Quin declared emphatically. "When is the wedding to
be?"

"On the fourteenth. And that reminds me"--Mr. Chester ran his arm
confidentially through Quin's and tried to catch step. "I want to ask a
favor of you."

A favor to Quin meant anything from twenty-five cents to twenty-five
dollars, and the fact that Mr. Chester should come to him flattered and
embarrassed him at the same time.

"What's mine is yours," he said magnanimously.

"No, you don't understand," said Mr. Chester. "You see, not being a club
man or a society man, I have in a way dropped out of things. I have
comparatively few friends, and unfortunately they are not in a set
personally known to Madam Bartlett. Miss Enid and I thought that it might
solve the difficulty, and avoid complications, if you would agree to
serve as my best man."

"Why, I'd be willing to serve as the preacher to see you and Miss Enid
get married," said Quin heartily. Then his thoughts flew after his
departed Tuxedo and the gorgeous wing-toed pumps. "What'll I have to
wear?"

"It is to be a noon affair," reassured Mr. Chester. "Simple morning coat,
you know, and light-gray tie."

Quin's ideas concerning a morning coat were extremely vague, and the
possibility of his procuring one vaguer still; but the occasion was too
portentous to admit of hesitation. He and Mr. Chester continued their
walk to the far end of the shed, and then stood looking down at the coal
cars being loaded from the yards.

"White gloves, I suppose?" observed Quin.

"Pearl gray, with very narrow stitching. I think that's better taste,
don't you?"

"Sure," agreed Quin. "Flower in the buttonhole, or anything like that?"

While this all-important detail was being decided, a clanging bell and
the hiss of an engine announced the incoming train. Before the two
waiting cavaliers could reach the gate, Eleanor Bartlett came through,
laden with wraps and umbrellas.

"I like the way you meet us," she called out. "For mercy sake, help me."
And she deposited her burden in Quin's outstretched arms. Then, as Mr.
Chester strode past them with flying coat-tails in quest of Miss Enid,
she burst out laughing.

"Say, you are looking great," said Quin, with devouring eyes, as he
surveyed her over the top of his impedimenta.

"It's more than you are." She scanned his face in dismay. "Have you been
sick?"

"No, indeed. Never felt better."

"I know--it was nursing Cass that did it. Rose wrote me all about it. If
you don't look better right away, I shall make you go straight to bed and
I'll come feed you chicken soup."

"My fever's rising this minute!" cried Quin, "I believe I've got a chill.
Send for the ambulance!"

"Not till after the wedding. I'll have you know I am to be Aunt Enid's
bridesmaid."

"You've got nothing on me," said Quin, "I'm the best man!"

This struck them both as being so excruciatingly funny that they did not
see the approaching cavalcade, with Madam walking slowly at its head,
until Quin heard his name called.

"Oh, dear," said Eleanor, "there they come. And I've got a thousand
questions to ask you and a million things to tell you."

"Come here, young man, and see me walk!" was Madam's greeting. "Do I look
like a cripple? Leg off at the knee, crutches for life? Bah! We fooled
them, didn't we?"

Quin made a tremendous fuss over the old lady. He also threw the aunties
into pleased confusion by pretending that he was going to kiss them, and
occasioned no end of laughter and good-natured banter by his incessant
teasing of Mr. Chester. He was in that state of effervescence that
demanded an immediate outlet.

Madam found him so amusing that she promptly detailed him as her special
escort.

"Eleanor can look after the baggage," she said, "and Isobel can look
after Eleanor. The turtle-doves can take a taxi." And she closed her
strong old fingers around Quin's wrist and pulled him forward.

He shot an appealing glance over his shoulder at Eleanor, who shook her
head in exasperation; then he obediently conducted Madam to her carriage
and scrambled in beside her.

"Now," she said, when he had got a cushion at her back and a stool under
her foot, "tell me: where's Ranny--drunk as usual?"

"No, siree!" said Quin proudly. "Sober as usual. He hasn't touched a drop
since you went away."

She looked at him incredulously.

"Are you lying?"

"I am not."

Her hard, suspicious old face began to twitch and her eyelids reddened.

"This is your doing," she said gruffly. "You've put more backbone into
him than all the doctors together."

"That's not all I've done," said Quin. "What are you going to say when I
tell you I've sold him a farm?"

"A farm? You've got no farm; and he had no money to buy it, if you had."

"That's all right. He has had a farm for three months. You ought to see
him--up at six o'clock every morning looking after things, and so keen
about getting back to it in the evening that he never thinks about going
to the club or staying in town."

"What's all this nonsense you are talking?"

"It's not nonsense. He's bought a little place out near Anchordale. They
are living there."

"And they did this without consulting me!" Madam's eyes blazed. "Why, he
is no more capable of running a farm than a ten-year-old child! I have
fought it for years. He knew perfectly well if he told me I'd stop it
instantly. He will appeal to me to help out within six months, you'll
see! I sha'n't do it! I'll show my children if they can do without me
that I can go without them."

She was working herself into a fine rage. The aigrette on her bonnet
quivered, and the black velvet band about her neck was getting so tight
that it looked as if it couldn't stand the strain much longer.

"Why didn't he write me?" she stormed. "Am I too old and decrepit to be
consulted any more? Is he going to follow Enid's high-handed way of
deciding things without the slightest reference to my wishes?"

"I expect he is," said Quin cheerfully. "You see, you can't stiffen a
fellow's backbone, as you call it, for one thing and not another. When he
found out he could stop drinking, he decided he could do other things as
well. He's started a chicken farm."

Madam groaned: "Of course. I never knew a fool that sooner or later
didn't gravitate to chickens. He will get an incubator next."

"He has two already. He and Mrs. Ranny are studying out the whole
business scientifically."

"And I suppose they've got a rabbit hutch, and a monkey, and some white
mice?"

"Not quite. But they've got a nice place. Want to go out with me next
Saturday and see 'em?"

"I do not. I'm not interested in menageries. I never expect to cross the
threshold."

Quin pulled up the cape that had slipped from her shoulder, and adjusted
it carefully.

"When Mr. Ranny comes in to see you," he said, "I hope you won't ball him
out right away. He's awful keen on this stunt, you know. It sort of takes
the place of the things he has given up."

Madam glared straight ahead of her for a few moments, then she said
curtly:

"I'll not mention it until he does."

"Oh, but I _want_ you to. He's as nervous as a witch about how you are
going to take it. You see, he thinks more of your opinion than he does of
anybody's, and he wants your approval. If you could jump right in and say
you think it's a bully idea, and that you are coming out to see what he
has done, and----"

"Do you want me to lie?" Madam demanded fiercely.

"No," said Quin, laughing; "I am trying to warm you up to the project
now, so you won't have to lie." Then, seeing her face relax a little, he
leaned toward her and said in his most persuasive tone:

"See here, now! I did my best to straighten Mr. Ranny out. He's making
the fight of his life to keep straight. It's up to you to stand by us.
You don't want to pitch the fat back in the fire, do you?"

They had reached the big house on Third Avenue, and the carriage was
slowing up at the curbing. Quin, receiving no answer to his question,
carefully helped Madam up the steps and into the house, where black
Hannah was waiting to receive her.

"You can't come in," said Madam gruffly. "I am tired. I will see you some
other time."

"All right," said Quin. "What time shall I come Saturday afternoon?"

"Saturday afternoon? Why then?"

"To go out to Mr. Ranny's farm."

For an instant they measured glances; then Quin began to laugh--a
confident, boyish laugh full of teasing affection.

"Come on," he coaxed, "be a good scout. Let's give 'em the surprise of
their lives."

"You rascal, you!" she said, hitting at him with her cane. "I believe you
are at the bottom of all this. Mind, I promise you nothing."

"You don't have to," he called back. "I can trust you. I'll be here at
three!"

He arrived on Saturday an hour early in the hope of seeing Eleanor, and
was gloriously rewarded by thirty minutes alone with her in the big dark
drawing-room. All the way up from the factory he had thought of the
things he wanted to tell her--all the Martel news, the progress of
affairs at Valley Mead, the fact that he had won his first-term
certificate at the university, and above all about his promotion at
Bartlett & Bangs. But Eleanor gave him no chance to tell her anything.
She was like a dammed-up stream that suddenly finds an outlet. Into
Quin's sympathetic ears she poured her own troubles, talking with her
hands and her eyes as well as her lips, exaggerating, dramatizing,
laughing one minute, half crying the next.

The summer, it seemed, had been one long series of clashes with her
grandmother. She hadn't enjoyed one day of it, she assured him; that is,
not a _whole_ day, for of course there were some gorgeous times in
between. Her friends had not been welcome at the house, and one (whom
Quin devoutly hoped was Mr. Phipps) had been openly insulted. She had not
been allowed to take part in the play given at the club-house, when it
had been planned with her especially in mind for the leading rôle. She
had even been forbidden to go to the last boathouse dance, because it was
a moonlight affair, and grandmother had never heard of such a thing as
dancing without lights.

"She has spent the entire summer nagging at me," Eleanor concluded. "I
couldn't do a thing to please her. If I stayed in she wanted me to go
out; if I went out she thought I ought to stay in. If I put on one dress
she invariably made me change it for another. And as for being late to
meals, why, each time it happened you would have thought I'd broken the
ten commandments."

"Couldn't you have pushed up the stroke and got there on time?" asked
Quin, whose army training made him inclined to sympathize with Madam at
this point.

"No, I could not. I am always late. It's a Martel trait--that's why it
infuriates grandmother. But it wasn't any of these things I've been
telling you that caused the real trouble. It was her constant
interference in my private affairs. I am simply sick of being dictated to
about my choice of friends."

"You mean Mr. Phipps?"

She looked at him quickly. "How did you know?"

"Mrs. Ranny told me he was up there, and I guessed there was a shindy."

"I should say there was--for the entire three days he was there! If he
hadn't been big enough to rise above it and ignore grandmother, she would
have succeeded in breaking up one of the most beautiful friendships of my
life."

Quin absently twisted a corner of the corpulent sofa cushion which he
held in his lap, before he asked cautiously:

"What is it you like so much in him. Miss Nell?"

Eleanor curled her feet under her on the sofa, and launched forth on a
favorite theme:

"Well, to begin with, he's the most cosmopolitan man I ever met."

"Cosmopolitan? How do you mean?"

"Awfully sophisticated. A sort of citizen of the world, you know."

"You mean he's traveled a lot, knocked around in queer places, like me?"

"Oh, no; it isn't that. As a matter of fact, he has never been out of
this country. But I mean that, wherever he'd go, he would be at home."

"Yes," Quin admitted, with a grim smile; "that's where he was most of the
time when he was in the army. What else do you like about him?"

"I sha'n't tell you. You are prejudiced, like all the rest. He says that
only an artist can understand an artist."

"Meaning, I suppose, that he understands you?"

"Yes; and I believe I understand him. Of course I don't agree with him in
all his ideas. But then, I've been brought up in such a narrow way that I
know I am frightfully conventional. He is awfully advanced, you know. Why
don't you like him, Quin?"

Numerous concrete and very emphatic reasons sprang to Quin's lips. He
would have liked nothing better than to answer her question fully and
finally; but instead he only smiled at her and said:

"Why, I guess the main reason is because you do."

Eleanor looked at him dubiously: "No," she said; "it's something besides
that. The family have probably filled your ears with silly gossip. Mr.
Phipps _was_ wild at one time--he told me all about it. But that's
ancient history; you can take my word for it."

Quin would have taken her word for almost anything when she looked at him
with such star-eyed earnestness, but he was obliged to make an exception
in the present instance.

"He's nothing in my young life," he said indifferently. "What I want to
know is whether you are home to stay?"

Eleanor glanced at the door, listened, then she said:

"I don't know yet. You see, Papa Claude is to be in New York this winter,
finishing his play. He says if I will come on he will put me in the
Kendall School of Expression and see that I get the right start. It's the
chance of a life-time, and I'm simply wild to go."

"And Queen Vic won't hear of it?"

"Not for a second. She knows perfectly well that I can go on the stage
the day I am twenty-one, yet through sheer obstinacy she refuses to
advance me a penny to do as I like with before the 20th of next July."

"She don't do it for meanness," Quin ventured. "She'd give you all she
had if it came to a showdown. But none of 'em realize you are grown up;
they are afraid to turn you loose."

"Well, I've stood it as long as I intend to. I made up my mind that I
would stick it out until after Aunt Enid's wedding. It nearly breaks my
heart to do anything to hurt her and Aunt Isobel; but even they are
beginning to rebel against grandmother's tyranny."

"What do you mean to do?" asked Quin, with a sudden sinking of the heart.

"I am not sure yet; I haven't quite made up my mind. But I am not going
to stay here. I am too unhappy, Quin, and with Aunt Enid gone----" Her
voice broke, and as she caught her lip between her small white teeth she
stared ahead of her with tragic eyes.

Quin laid his arm along the sofa, as close to her shoulders as he dared,
and looked at her in dumb sympathy.

"Don't you think you might try a different tack with the old lady?" he
ventured presently. "Even a porcupine likes to have its head scratched,
and I think sometimes she's kind of hungry for somebody to cotton up to
her a bit. Don't you think you might----"

"Who left that front door open?" broke in a harsh, peremptory voice from
the landing. "I don't care _who_ opened it--I want it shut, and kept
shut. Where's Quinby Graham? I thought you said he was waiting."

Quin rose precipitately and made a dash for the hall, while Eleanor
discreetly disappeared through a rear door.

"Well," said Madam grimly, pulling on her gloves, "it is a novel
experience to find a young person who has a respect for other people's
time."



                              CHAPTER 21


For the next two weeks Eleanor made a heroic effort to follow Quin's
advice and be nice to Madam. She wanted, with all her heart, to gain her
point peacefully, and she also wanted Quin's approval of what she was
doing. In spite of his obvious adoration, she frequently detected a note
of criticism in his voice, that, while it piqued her, also stirred her
conscience and made her see things in a new and disturbing light. For the
first time, she began to wonder if she could be partly to blame for the
friction that always existed between herself and her grandmother. She
certainly had taken an unholy joy in flaunting her Martel characteristics
in the old lady's face. It was not that she preferred to identify herself
with her mother's family rather than with her father's. The Martel
shiftlessness and visionary improvidence were quite as intolerable to her
as the iron-clad conventions of the Bartletts. She could take correction
from Aunt Isobel and Aunt Enid, but there was something in her
grandmother's caustic comments that made her tingle with instant
opposition, as a delicate vase will shiver at the sound of its own
vibration.

During the days before the wedding she surprised herself by her docility
and acquiescence in all that was proposed for her. She even accepted
without demur the white swiss and blue ribbons that a week before she had
considered entirely too infantile for an adult maid of honor. This
particular exhibition of virtue was due to the exemplary behavior of the
bride herself. Miss Enid had longed for the regulation white satin, tulle
veil, and orange blossoms; but Madam had promptly cited the case of the
old maid who waited so long to marry that her orange blossoms turned to
oranges.

Miss Enid was married in a sober traveling dress, and carried a
prayer-book. She and Mr. Chester stood in front of the drawing-room
mantel, where twenty years before Madam had expressed her opinion
concerning sentimental young fools who thought they could live on fifteen
dollars a week.

The budding romance, snatched ruthlessly up and flung into the dust-heap
of common sense, had lain dormant all these years, until Quinby Graham
had stumbled upon its dried old roots, and planted them once again in the
garden of dreams.

Why is it that we will breathlessly follow the callowest youth and the
silliest maiden through the most intricate labyrinth of love, never
losing interest until they drop safely into one another's arms, and yet
when two seasoned, mellowed human beings tried by life and found worthy
of the prize of love, dare lift a sentimental lid or sigh a word of
romance, we straightway howl with derision?

It was not until Eleanor stood beside the elderly bride that the affair
ceased to be funny to her. For the first time, she saw something pathetic
and beautiful in the permanence of a love that, starved and thwarted and
blasted by ridicule, could survive the years and make two faded,
middle-aged people like Aunt Enid and Mr. Chester eager to drain the
dregs of life together, when they had been denied the good red wine.

Her eyes wandered from their worn, elated faces to the rows of solemn
figures behind them. Madam, as usual, dominated the scene. Her portrait
gazed in portentously from the hall; her marble bust gleamed from a
distant corner; and she herself, the most resplendent person present, sat
in a chair of state placed like a proscenium-box, and critically observed
the performance.

"If she only _wouldn't_ curl her lip like that!" thought Eleanor
shudderingly; then she remembered her resolution and looked at Quin.

He too was looking preternaturally solemn, and his lips were moving
softly in unison with Mr. Chester's. If Eleanor could have heard those
inaudible responses she would have been startled by the words: "I,
Quinby, take thee, Eleanor." But she only observed that he was lost in a
day-dream, and that she had never seen him look so nice.

Indeed, he was a very different-looking person from the boy that six
months ago had mortified her by his appearance at her Easter party in
"the classiest coat in the market." The propriety of his garments made
her suspect that Uncle Ranny had had a hand in their selection.

"And I like the way he's got his hair slicked back," she thought. "I
wonder how he ever managed it?"

After the wedding breakfast, which was a lavish one, and the departure of
the bride and groom, for California, where they were to make their future
home, Madam summoned Eleanor.

"There's no use in you and Quin Graham staying here with all these
fossils," she said, lowering her voice. "People hate to go home from a
wedding almost as much as they do from a funeral! You two take this and
go to a matinée."

This unexpected concession to Eleanor's weakness touched her deeply. She
flew into the hall to tell Quin, and then rushed upstairs to change her
dress.

"I believe the scheme is working!" she said joyously, as she and Quin sat
in the theater waiting for the curtain to rise. "Grandmother has been
peaches and cream to me all week. This morning she capped the climax by
giving me a check for a hundred dollars to buy a gold mesh bag."

"A _what!_" cried Quin, aghast.

"A mesh bag. But I am not going to get it. I sent the check to Rose. It
has nearly killed me not to have a penny to send them all summer, and
this came just in time. Have you heard about Myrna?"

"Being asked to spend the winter at Mrs. Ranny's? I should say I have!
She's the happiest kid alive."

"And grandmother has even stood for that! It's a perfect scream to hear
her bragging about 'my son's farm.' She will be talking about 'my
daughter's husband' next."

"Queen Vic's all right," Quin declared stoutly. "Her only trouble is that
she's been trying to play baseball by herself; she's got to learn
team-work."

The play happened to be "The Better 'Ole"; and from the moment the
curtain rose Eleanor was oblivious to everything but the humor and pathos
and glory of the story. She followed with ready tears and smiles the
adventures of the three Tommies; she thrilled to the sentimental songs
beside the stage camp fire; she laughed at the antics of the incomparable
Corporal Bill. It was not until the second act that she became conscious
of the queer behavior of her companion.

Quin sat hunched up in his wedding suit, his jaw set like a vise, staring
solemnly into space with an expression she had never seen in his face
before. He seemed to have forgotten where he was and whom he was with.
His hand had crushed the program into a ball, and his breath came short,
as it always did when he was excited or over-exerted.

Eleanor, whose emotions up to now had been pleasantly and superficially
stirred, suddenly saw the play from a new angle. With quick imagination
she visualized the great reality of which all this was but a clever sham.
She saw Quin passing through it all, not to the thunder of stage shrapnel
and the glare of a red spot-light, but in the life-and-death struggle of
those eighteen months in the trenches. Before she knew it, she too was
gazing absently into space, shaken with the profound realization that
here beside her, his shoulder touching hers, was one who had lived more
in a day than she had ever lived in a life-time.

They said little during the last intermission, and the silence brought
them closer together than any words could have done.

"It takes a fellow back--all this," Quin roused himself to say in
half-apology.

"I know," said Eleanor.

They walked home in the autumn twilight in that exalted, romantic mood in
which a good play leaves one. Now that the tension was over, it was quite
possible to prolong the enjoyment by discussing the strong and weak
points of the performance. Eleanor was surprised to find that Quin, while
ignorant of the meaning of the word technic nevertheless had decided and
worth-while opinions about every detail, and that his comments were often
startlingly pertinent.

They reached the Bartletts' before they knew it, and Quin sighed
ruefully:

"I wish Miss Enid and Mr. Chester could get married every Wednesday! When
can I see you again?"

"Some time soon."

"To-morrow night?"

"I am afraid that's too soon."

"Friday?"

"No; I am going to a dance at the Country Club Friday night."

Still he lingered disconsolately on the lower step, unable to tear
himself away.

"Do you know," he said, gaining time by presenting a grievance, "you
never have danced with me but twice in your life?"

She looked at him dreamily.

"The funny thing is that I remember those two dances better than any I've
ever had with anybody else."

He came up the steps two at a time.

"What do you mean by that?" he demanded. "Are you joshing me?"

"No, honest. That New Year's eve with the blizzard raging outside, and
that bright crowded hall, and all you boys just home from France. Do you
remember the big blue parrots that swung in hoops from the chandeliers?
And that wonderful saxophone and the big bass drum!"

"Then it isn't _me_ that you remember? Just a darned old parrot hanging
on a hoop, and a saxophone and a drum!"

"You silly! Of course it's you too! I remember every single thing you
told me, and how terribly thrilled I was. This afternoon brought it all
back. I shall never forget this, either. Not as long as I live!"

She started to put out her hand; but, seeing the look in Quin's eyes, she
reconsidered and opened the door instead.

"So long," she said casually. "I'll probably see you sometime next week.
In the meanwhile I'll be good to granny!"



                              CHAPTER 22


When Eleanor reached the Country Club on Friday night, she found a box of
flowers waiting for her in the dressing-room. It was the second box she
had received that day. The first bore the conspicuous label, "Wear-Well
Shoes," and contained a bunch of wild evening primroses wrapped in wet
moss. With this more sophisticated floral offering was a sealed note
which she opened eagerly:

    _Mademoiselle Beaux Yeux_--[she read]:

    Save all the dances after the intermission for me. I will reach L. at
    nine-thirty, get out to the club for a couple of hours with you, and
    catch the midnight express back to Chicago. Pin my blossoms close to
    your heart, and bid it heed what they whisper.

    H. P.

Eleanor read the note twice, conscious of the fact that a dozen envious
eyes were watching her. She considered this quite the most romantic thing
that had happened to her. For a man like Mr. Phipps to travel sixteen
hours out of the twenty-four just to dance with her was a triumph indeed.
It made her think of her old friend Joseph, in the Bret Harte poem, who

    Swam the Elk's creek and all that,
    Just to dance with old Folingsbee's daughter,
    The Lily of Poverty Flat.

Not that Eleanor felt in the least humble. She had never felt so proud in
her life as she smiled a little superior smile and slipped the note in
her bosom.

"Not orchids!" exclaimed Kitty Mason, poking an inquisitive finger under
the waxed paper.

"Why not?" Eleanor asked nonchalantly. "They are my favorite flowers."

"But I thought the orchid king was in Chicago?"

"He is--that is, he was. He's probably on the train now. I have just had
a note saying he was running down for the dance and would go back
to-night."

The news had the desired effect. Six noses, which were being vigorously
powdered, were neglected while their owners burst forth in a chorus of
exclamations sufficiently charged with envious admiration to satisfy the
most rapacious débutante.

"I should think you'd be perfectly paralyzed trying to think of things to
talk to him about," said little Bessie Meed, who had not yet put her hair
up. "Older men scare me stiff."

"They don't me," declared Lou Pierce; "they make me tired. Sitting out
dances, and holding hands, and talking high-brow. When I come to a dance
I want to dance. Give me Johnnie Rawlings or Pink Bailey and a good old
jazz."

Eleanor pinned on her orchids and moved away. The girls seemed incredibly
young and noisy and crass. Less than six months ago she, too, was romping
through the dances with Jimmy and Pink, and imagining that a fox-trot
divided between ten partners constituted the height of enjoyment. Mr.
Phipps had told her in the summer that she was changing. "The little
butterfly is emerging from her chrysalis," was the poetic way he had
phrased it, with an accompanying look that spoke volumes.

Once on the dance floor, however, she forgot her superior mood and
enjoyed herself inordinately until supper-time. Just as she and Pink were
starting for the refreshment room, she caught sight of a familiar
graceful figure, standing apart from the crowd, watching her with level,
penetrating eyes.

"Pink, I forgot!" she said hastily; "I'm engaged for supper. I'll see you
later." And without further apology she slipped through the throng and
joined Harold.

"Let's get out of this," he said, lightly touching her bare arm and
piloting her toward the porch.

"But don't you want any supper?" asked Eleanor, amazed.

"Not when I have you," whispered Harold.

Eleanor gave a regretful glance at a mammoth tray of sandwiches being
passed, then allowed herself to be drawn out through the French window
into the cool darkness of the wide veranda.

"Let's sit in that car down by the first tee," Harold suggested. "It's
only a step."

Eleanor hesitated. One of the ten social commandments imposed upon her
was that she was never to leave the porch at a Country Club dance. That
the porch edge should be regarded as the limit of propriety had always
seemed to her the height of absurdity; but so far she had obeyed the
family and confined her flirtations to shadowy corners and dim nooks
under bending palms.

"What's the trouble?" Harold inquired solicitously. "The little gold
slippers?"

"No--I don't mind the slippers; but, you see, I'm not supposed to go off
the porch."

"How ridiculous! Of course you are going off the porch. I have only one
hour to stay, and I've something very important to tell you."

"But why can't we sit here?" she insisted, indicating an unoccupied
bench.

"Because those ubiquitous youngsters will be clamoring for you the moment
the music begins. Haven't you had enough noise for one night? Perhaps you
prefer to go inside and be pushed about and eat messy things with your
fingers?"

"Now you are horrid!" Eleanor pouted. "I only thought----"

"You mean you _didn't_ think!" corrected Harold, putting the tip of his
finger under her chin and tilting her face up to his. "You just repeated
what you'd been taught to say. Use your brains, Eleanor. What possible
harm can there be in our quietly sitting out under the light of the
stars, instead of on this crowded piazza with that distracting din going
on inside?"

"Of course there isn't really."

"Well, then, come on"; and he led the way across the strip of dewy lawn
and handed her into the car.

Eleanor experienced a delicious sense of forbidden joy as she sank on the
soft cushions and looked back at the brilliantly lighted club-house. The
knowledge that in many of those other cars parked along the roadway other
couples were cozily twosing, and that not a girl among them but would
have changed places with her, added materially to her enjoyment.

It was not that Harold Phipps was popular. She had to admit that he had
more enemies than friends. But rumors of his wealth, his position, and
his talent, together with his distinguished appearance, had made him the
most sought after officer stationed at the camp. That he should have
swooped down from his eagle flight with Uncle Ranny's sophisticated group
to snatch her out of the pool of youthful minnows was a compliment she
did not forget.

"Well," he said, lazily sinking into his corner of the car and observing
her with satisfaction, "haven't you something pretty to say to me, after
I've come all these miles to hear it?"

Eleanor laughed in embarrassment. It was much easier to say pretty things
in letters than to say them face to face.

"There is one thing that I always have to say to you," she said, "and
that's thank you. These orchids are perfectly sweet, and the candy that
came yesterday----"

"Was also _perfectly_ sweet? Come, Eleanor, let's skip the formalities.
Were you or were you not glad to see me?"

"Why, of course I was."

"Well, you didn't look it. I am not used to having girls treat me as
casually as you do. How much have you missed me?"

"Heaps. How's the play coming on?"

"Marvelously! We've worked out all the main difficulties, and I signed up
this week with a manager."

"Not _really!_ When will it be produced?"

"Sometime in the spring. I go on to New York next month to make the final
arrangements. When do you go?"

"I don't know that I am going. I'm trying my best to get grandmother's
consent."

"You must go anyhow," said Harold. "I want you to have three months at
the Kendall School, and then do you know what I am going to do?"

"What?" she asked with sparkling eagerness.

"I am going to try you out in 'Phantom Love.' You remember you said if I
wrote a part especially for you that nothing in heaven or earth could
prevent your taking it."

"And _have_ you written a part especially for me?"

"I certainly have. A young Southern girl who moves through the play like
a strain of exquisite music. The only trouble is that the rôle promises
to be more appealing than the star's."

"That's the loveliest thing I ever heard of anybody doing!" cried
Eleanor, breathless with gratitude. "Does Papa Claude know?"

"Of course he knows. We worked it out together. I am going to find him a
small apartment, so he can be ready for you when you come. It shouldn't
be later than November the first."

Eleanor wore such a look as Joan of Arc must have worn when she first
heard the heavenly voices. Her shapely bare arms hung limp at her sides,
and her white face, with its contrasting black hair, shone like a
delicate cameo against the darkness.

Harold, leaning forward with elbows on his knees, kept lightly touching
and retouching his mustache.

"In the first act," he continued softly, "I've put you in the Red Cross
Uniform--the little blue and white one, you know, that you used to break
hearts in out at the camp hospital. In the second act you are to be in
riding togs, smart in every detail, something very chic, that will show
your figure to advantage; in the last act I want you exactly as you are
this minute--this soft clingy gold gown, and the gold slippers, and your
hair high and plain like that, with the band of dull gold around it. I
wouldn't change an inch of you, not from your head to your blessed little
feet!"

As he talked Eleanor forgot him completely. She was busy visualizing the
different costumes, even going so far as to see herself slipping through
folds of crimson velvet to take insistent curtain calls. Already in
imagination she was rich and famous, dispensing munificent bounty to the
entire Martel family. Then a disturbing thought pricked her dream and
brought her rudely back to the present. As long as her grandmother
regarded her going to New York as a foolish whim, a passing craze, she
might be wheedled into yielding; but at the first suggestion of a
professional engagement, her opposition would become active and violent,
Eleanor sighed helplessly and looked at Harold.

"What shall I do if grandmother refuses to send me?" she asked
desperately.

"You can let me send you," he said quietly. "It's folly to keep up this
pretense any longer, Eleanor. You love me, don't you?"

"I--I like you," faltered Eleanor, "better than almost anybody. But I am
never going to marry; I don't think I shall ever care for anybody--that
way."

He watched her with an amused practised glance. "We won't talk about it
now," he said lightly. "We will talk instead of your career. You remember
that night at Ran's when you recited for me? I can hear you now saying
those lines:

    'Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won
    I'll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay.'

For days I was haunted by the beauty and subtlety of your voice, the
unconscious grace of your poses, your little tricks of coquetry, and the
play of your eyebrows."

"Did you really see all that in me the first night?"

"I saw more. I saw that, if taken in time, you were destined to be a
great actress. I swore then and there that you should have your chance,
and that I should be the one to give it to you."

"But----"

"No. Don't answer me now. You are like a little bud that's afraid to open
its petals. Once you get out of this chilling atmosphere of criticism and
opposition, you will burst into glorious bloom."

"But it would mean a terrible break with the family. I don't believe I
can----"

"Yes, you can. I know you better than you know yourself. If Madam
Bartlett persists in refusing to send you to New York, you are going to
be big enough to let me do it."

He was holding her hand now, and talking with unusual earnestness.
Eleanor thought she had never seen a greater exhibition of magnanimity.
That he was willing to give all and ask for nothing, to be patient with
her vacillations, and understand and sympathize with what everybody else
condemned in her, touched her greatly. She turned to him impulsively.

"I'll do whatever you say," she said. "You and Papa Claude go ahead and
make the arrangements, and I promise you I'll come."

Harold Phipps should have left it there; but Eleanor was never more
irresistible than when she was in a yielding mood, and now, when she
lifted starry eyes of gratitude, he tumbled off his pedestal of noble
detachment, and drew her suddenly into his arms.

In an instant her soft mood vanished. She scrambled hastily to her feet
and got out of the car.

"I am going in," she said abruptly. "I'm cold."

Harold laughingly followed. "Cold?" he repeated in his laziest tone. "My
dear girl, you could understudy the North Pole! However, it was my
mistake; I'm sorry. Shall we go in and dance?"

For the next half-hour he and Eleanor were the most observed couple on
the floor. The "ubiquitous youngsters," seeing his air of proprietorship,
forbore to break in, and it was not until the last dance that Pink
Bailey, looking the immature college boy he was, presented himself
apologetically to take Eleanor home.

"Bring your car around, and she will be ready," said Harold loftily. Then
he turned to Eleanor, "I shall expect a letter every day. You must keep
me posted how things are going."

They were standing on the club-house steps now, and she was looking
dreamily off across the golf links.

"Did you hear me?" he said impatiently.

"Oh, I was listening to the whip-poor-wills. They always take me back to
Valley Mead. Write every day? Heavens, no. I hate to write letters."

"But you'll write to me, you little ingrate! I shall send you such nice
letters that you'll have to answer them."

A vagrant breeze, with a hint of autumn, blew Eleanor's scarf across his
shoulder, and he tenderly replaced it about her throat.

"Are you cold?" he asked solicitously.

Eleanor, under cover of the crowd that was surging about them, felt a
sudden access of boldness.

"Not so cold as some people think," she said mischievously; then, without
waiting for further good-by, she sped down the steps and into the waiting
car.



                              CHAPTER 23


Of all the multitudinous ways in which Dan Cupid, Unlimited, does
business, none is more nefarious than his course by correspondence. Once
he has induced two guileless clients to plunge into the traffic of love
letters, the rest is easy. Wild speculation in love stock, false
valuations, hysterical desire to buy in the cheapest and sell in the
dearest market, invariably follow. Before the end of the month Harold
Phipps and Eleanor Bartlett were gambling in the love market with a
recklessness that would have staggered the most hardened old speculator.

Harold, instead of being handicapped by his absence at the most critical
point in his love affair, took advantage of it to exhibit one of his most
brilliant accomplishments. He sent Eleanor a handsome tooled-leather
portfolio to hold his letters, which he wrote on loose-leaf sheets and
mailed unfolded. They were letters that deserved preservation, prose
poems composed with infinite pains and copied with meticulous care. If
the potpourri was at times redolent of the dried flowers of other men's
loves, Eleanor was blissfully unaware of it. When he wrote of the
lonesome October of his most immemorial year, or spoke of her pilgrim
soul coming to him at midnight in the silence of the sleep-time, she
thrilled with admiration for his genius.

Such literary masterpieces deserved adequate answers, and she found
herself trying to make up in quantity what she lacked in quality. His
letters always began, "Dearest Héloïse," or "Mélisande," or "Baucis," or
"Isolde"; and, rather than acknowledge her ignorance of these classic
allusions, she looked them up and sent her answers to "Dear Abélard," or
"Pelléas," or "Philemon," or "Tristan," as the case demanded. She indited
her missives with a dainty gold pen engraved with an orchid, which Harold
had requested her never to profane by secular use.

The correspondence, while throbbing with emotion, was not by any means
devoid of practical details. Harold lost no opportunity of urging Eleanor
to remain firm in her resolve to go to New York. It would be sheer folly,
he pointed out, to give up the chance of a professional début, a chance
that might not come again in years. He pointed out that her grandfather
had changed all his plans on the strength of her coming, and would be
utterly heartbroken if she failed to keep her promise. He delicately
intimated that her failure to take the part he had so laboriously written
for her might seal the fate of "Phantom Love" and prove the downfall of
both its creators.

His conclusion to all these specious arguments was that the only way out
of the tangle was for her to consent to a nominal engagement to him that
would bind her to nothing, and yet would give him the right to send her
to New York if Madam Bartlett refused to do so. In answer to Eleanor's
doubts and misgivings, he assured her in polyphonic prose that he knew
her far better than she knew herself, and that he would be "content to
wait at the feet of little Galatea, asking nothing, giving all, until the
happy day when she should wake to life and love and the consciousness
that she was wholly and happily his."

And Galatea read his letters with increasing ardor and slept with them
under her pillow. It was all so secret and romantic, this glorious
adventure rushing to fulfilment, under the prosy surface of everyday
life. Of course she did not want to be married--not for ages and ages;
but to be engaged, to be indefinitely adored by a consummate lover like
Harold Phipps, who so beautifully shared her ambition, was an exciting
and tempting proposition. Like most girls of her type, when her personal
concerns became too complex for reason, she abandoned herself to impulse.
She merely shut her eyes and allowed herself to drift toward a
destination that was not of her choosing. Like a peripatetic Sleeping
Beauty, she moved through the days in a sort of trance, waiting
liberation from her thraldom, but fearing to put her fate to the test by
laying the matter squarely and finally before her grandmother.

It was easy enough to drop out of her old round of festivities. She had
been away all summer, and new groups had formed with which she took no
trouble to ally herself. Her friends seemed inordinately young and
foolish. She wondered how she had ever endured the trivial chatter of
Kitty Mason and the school-boy antics of Pink Bailey and Johnnie
Rawlings. After declining half a dozen invitations she was left in peace,
free to devote all her time to composing her letters, to poring over
plays and books about the theater, or to sitting listless absorbed in
day-dreams.

The one old friend who refused to be disposed of was Quinby Graham. On
one pretext or another he managed to come to the house almost every day,
and he seldom left it without managing to see her. Sometimes when she was
in the most arduous throes of composition, the maid would come to her
door and say: "Mr. Quin's downstairs, and he says can you come to the
steps a minute--he's got something to show you?" Or Miss Isobel would
pause on the threshold to say: "Quinby is looking for you, Eleanor. I
think it is something about a new tire for your automobile."

And Eleanor would impatiently thrust her letter into a desk drawer and go
downstairs, where she would invariably get so interested in what Quin had
to say to her or to show her that she would forget to come up again.

Sometimes they went out to Valley Mead together for week-ends. On those
days Eleanor not only failed to write to Harold, but also failed to think
about him. The excitement of seeing what new wonders had been wrought
since the last visit, of scouring the woods for nuts and berries, of
going on all-day picnics to a neighboring hill-top, made her quite forget
her castles in the air. She descended from the clouds of art and under
Quin's tutelage learned to fry chops and bacon and cook eggs in the open.
She got her face and hands smudged and her hair tumbled, and she forgot
all about enunciating clearly and holding her poses. So abandoned was she
to what Harold called her "bourgeois mood" that she was conscious of
nothing but the sheer joy of living.

Often when she and Quin were alone together, she longed to take him into
her confidence. She was desperately in need of counsel, and his level
head and clear judgments had solved more than one problem for her. But
she realized that, in spite of the heroic effort he was making to keep
within bounds, he was nevertheless liable to overflow into sentiment with
the slightest encouragement. Confession of her proposed flight, moreover,
involved an explanation of her relation to Harold Phipps, and upon that
point Quin could not be counted to sympathize.

With the first of November came a letter that brought matters to a
crisis. Claude Martel wrote that he must know immediately the date of her
arrival in New York, since the place he had bespoken for her at the
Kendall School of Expression could no longer be held open; he must also
give a definite answer about the apartment.

Eleanor received the letter one Saturday as she was starting to a tea.
All afternoon she listened to the local chatter about her as a lark
poised for flight might listen to the twittering of house sparrows. Her
mind was in a ferment of elation and doubt, of trepidation and joyful
anticipation. The moment she had longed for and yet dreaded was at hand.

Returning across Central Park in the dusk, she rehearsed what she was
going to say to her grandmother. The moment for approaching her had never
seemed more propitious. Ever since she had accepted Quin's advice and
"cottoned up" to the old lady, relations between them had been amazingly
amicable. Her willingness to stay at home in the evening and take Miss
Enid's place as official reader and amanuensis had placed her in high
favor, and Madam, not to be outdone in magnanimity, had allowed her many
privileges.

Now that there seemed some ground for the hope that she might gain her
grandmother's consent to the New York proposition, Eleanor realized how
ardently she wanted it. It was not the money alone, it was her moral
support and approval--hers and Aunt Isobel's. Aunt Enid would understand,
had understood in a way; so would Uncle Ranny and Aunt Flo. As for Quin
Graham----

She heard a cough near by, and turning saw a couple sitting on a bench
half hidden in the heavy shrubbery. Their backs were toward her, and she
noticed that the girl's hand rested on the man's shoulder and that their
heads were bent in intimate conversation. The next instant she recognized
Rose Mattel's hat and the dim outline of Quin's troubled profile.

Turning sharply to the right, she hurried up through the pergola and out
into the avenue. She wondered why she was so unaccountably angry. Rose
and Quin had a perfect right to sit in the square at twilight and talk as
much as they liked. It was not her business, anyhow, she told herself;
she ought to be glad for poor Rose to have any diversion she could get
after being in that hideous store all day. She didn't blame Rose one bit.
But if Quin thought as much of somebody else as he pretended to, she
couldn't see what he would have to say to another girl out here in the
park at twilight, especially a girl that he saw three times a day at
home! Could there be anything between them? She had scorned the idea when
it was once tentatively suggested to her by Harold Phipps. Of
_course_ there couldn't. And yet----

So preoccupied was she with these disturbing reflections that she almost
forgot the real business in hand until she stood on her own doorstep
waiting to be admitted.

"Old Miss says for you to come up to her room the minute you git in,"
Hannah said, with an ominous note in her voice.

"What's the matter, Hannah? Uncle Ranny?"

"Lord, no, honey! Mr. Ranny's behavin' himself like a angel. Hit was
somethin' that come in the mail. Miss Isobel she don't know, and I don't
know; but Old Miss certainly has got it in fer somebody."

Eleanor's new-found confidence promptly deserted her, and she hastily
took stock of her own shortcomings. Of course she was writing daily to
Harold, but the matter of her private correspondence had been threshed
out during the summer and she had emerged battered but victorious. Aside
from that, she could think of no probable cause she had given for
offense.

In the hall she met Miss Isobel.

"Mother has been asking for you, dear," she said in a voice heavy with
premonition. "She's very much upset about something."

Eleanor anxiously mounted the stairs. It was evidently not a propitious
moment to present her case; and yet, Papa Claude must have an answer
within twenty-four hours. At the door of Madam's room she hesitated. Then
she took the small remnant of her courage in both hands and entered.

Madam was sitting at her desk under the crystal chandelier, with a
severity of expression that suggested nothing less than a court martial.
Without speaking she waved Eleanor to a seat, and began searching through
her papers. The light fell full on her high white pompadour and threw the
deep lines about her grim mouth into heavy relief.

"Do you remember," she began ponderously, "a check I gave you the day of
Enid's wedding?"

"Yes, grandmother."

"Well, where is the bag you bought with it?"

Evasion had so often been Eleanor's sole weapon of defense that she
seized it now.

"I--I haven't bought it yet," she faltered; then she added weakly: "I
haven't seen any I particularly cared about."

"You still have the money?"

"Well--I've spent some of it."

"How much?"

"I don't know that I remember exactly."

Madam's lip curled.

"Perhaps I can stimulate your memory," she said, running her fingers
through a bunch of canceled checks. "Here is the check I gave you,
indorsed to Rose Martel."

Eleanor flushed crimson. The imputation of untruthfulness was one to
which she was particularly sensitive. Her fear of her grandmother had
taught her early in life to take refuge in subterfuge, a shelter that she
heartily despised but which she still clung to. In her desire to meet
Rose's imperative need, she had passed her gift on to her, with the
intention of saving enough from her own allowance to get the mesh bag
later. The fact that the canceled check would be returned to her
grandmother had never occurred to her.

"So _that's_ where my money has been going!" cried Madam. "They've
succeeded in working me through you, have they? Just as they succeeded in
working Ranny through Quinby Graham."

"No--no, grandmother! Please listen! They have never asked me for a
penny. But when I found out the terrible time they'd been having, the
children sick all summer and Cass down with typhoid--why, if it hadn't
been for Quin----"

"So they sponged on him too, did they? He's a bigger fool than I gave him
credit for being."

"But they _didn't_ sponge. He is Cass's best friend, and he was glad to
help. He and Rose did all the nursing themselves."

"Yes, I heard about it. In the house alone for six weeks. That doesn't
speak very well for her reputation."

"Grandmother! You've no right to say that! Rose may talk recklessly and
do foolish things, but she wouldn't do anything wrong for the world."

"Well, if she did, she wouldn't be the first member of her family to
compromise a man so that he had to marry her."

"What do you mean?" demanded Eleanor, quivering with indignation.

"That's neither here nor there," said Madam. "There's enough rottenness
in the present without raking up the past. But one thing is certain: if
they ask you for money again----"

"I tell you, they didn't ask me!"

"Not in so many words, perhaps, but they worked on your sympathies. I
know them! As for Claude Martel, he would want nothing better than have
you traveling around in some Punch and Judy show. But I scotched that
nonsense once and for all. As for their bleeding you for money,"--she
rose and crushed the check in her hand,--"I guess I know a way to stop
that."

Eleanor rose too, and faced her. She was very pale now, her anger having
reached a white heat.

"My mother's people may be poor," she said deliberately, "but they aren't
beggars, and at least they've come by what they have honestly."

It was Madam's turn to flinch. A certain famous law-suit in the history
of Bartlett & Bangs had brought out some startling testimony, and the
subject was one to which reference was never allowed in Madam's presence.
At Eleanor's words the whirlwind of her wrath let loose. Her words
hurtled like flying missiles in a cyclone. She lashed herself into a
fury, coming back to Eleanor again and again as the cause of all her
trouble.

"I tried giving you your head," she raged in conclusion; "I let you work
through that crazy stage fever; I gave in about that man Phipps coming up
to Maine, in the hope that you'd find out what a fool he is. That wasn't
enough! You had to write to him. Very well, said I; go ahead and write to
him. I flattered myself that you might develop a little sense. But I was
mistaken. You haven't got the judgment of a ten-year-old child. Therefore
I intend to treat you like a child. From this time on you are not to
write to him at all. And you'll get no allowance. I'll buy you what you
need, and you'll account for all the pin-money you spend, down to every
postage stamp. Do you understand?"

Eleanor was by this time at the door, standing with her hand on the knob,
straight, pale, and defiant, but quivering in every limb. She felt as
beaten, bruised, and humiliated as if the violence directed against her
had been physical. A sick longing surged over her for Aunt Enid, into
whose arms she could rush for comfort. But there was no Aunt Enid to turn
to, and it was no use seeking Aunt Isobel, whose sole advice in such a
crisis was to apologize and propitiate.

Catching her breath in a long, sobbing sigh, Eleanor rushed down the
gloomy hall and shut herself in her room. For ten minutes she sat at her
desk, staring grimly at the wall, with her hands gripped in her lap. She
was like a frenzied prisoner, determined to escape but with no
destination in view. Suddenly her eyes fell on an unopened letter on her
blotting-pad. She tore off the envelop and read it twice. For another
five minutes she stared at the wall. Then she seized her pen and dashed
off a note. It took but a few minutes after that to change her light gown
for a dark one and to fling some things into a suit-case. Just as dinner
was being announced, she slipped down the back stairs and out of the side
door into the somber dusk of the November evening.



                              CHAPTER 24


Quin's life at the factory these past three weeks had been full of new
and engrossing business complications. Mr. Bangs seemed bent upon trying
him out in various departments, each change bringing new and distracting
duties. Just what was the object of the proceeding Quin had no idea; but
he realized that he was being singled out and experimented with, and he
applied to each new task the accumulated knowledge and experience of
those that had gone before. It was all very exciting and gratifying to a
person possessed of an inordinate ambition to have a worthy shrine ready
the moment his goddess evinced the slightest willingness to occupy it.

"Old Iron Jaw's got his optic on you for something," said Miss Leaks, the
stenographer. "Maybe he wants you to pussy-foot around in Shields' shoes
and do his dirty work for him."

"Well, he's got another guess coming," said Quin; but her remark
disturbed him. Of course it was no concern of his how the firm did
business, but more than once he had been called upon to negotiate some
delicate matter that was not at all to his liking.

"See here, young man," Mr. Bangs said upon one of these occasions, "I am
not paying you for advice. You are here to carry out my orders and to
make no comments."

"That's all right," Quin agreed good-naturedly; "but I got a conscience
that was trained to stand on its hind legs and bark at a lie."

"The quicker you muzzle it the better," said Mr. Bangs. "You can't do
business these days by the Golden Rule."

On the Saturday when Eleanor saw Quin in the park with Rose Martel, the
factory had been in the throes of one of its most violent upheavals. Some
weeks before the old steam engine had been replaced by an expensive
electric drive. There had been much interest manifested in the
installation of the modern motor, and Quin, with his natural love of
machinery, had rejoiced that his duties as shipping clerk required him to
be present at the unpacking. He and Dirk, the foreman, never tired of
discussing the perfection of each particular feature. But a few days
after the departure of the installation foreman, the new motor burnt out,
necessitating the shutting down of the factory and causing much
inconvenience.

Dirk was beside himself with rage. He declared that something heavy had
been dropped upon the armature winding, and he blamed every one who could
have been responsible, and some who could not. In the midst of his tirade
he was summoned to the office, where he was closeted for more than an
hour with Mr. Bangs and Mr. Shields. When he emerged, it was with the
avowed belief that the armature had been defective when received. This
sudden change of front, taken in connection with the fact that the third
payment was due on the motor in less than sixty days, set every tongue
wagging.

Quin was in no way involved in the transaction; but, as usual, he had an
emphatic opinion, which he did not hesitate to express.

"I don't know what's got into Dirk!" he said indignantly to Mr. Shields,
the traffic manager, as they left the office together. "He knows the
injury to the armature was done in our shop and that we are responsible
for it."

"I guess Dirk's like the rest of us," said Shields bitterly; "he knows a
lot he can't tell."

"What do you mean? Do you think it was a frame-up?"

"Well, we don't call it that. But when the boss gets in a hole,
somebody's got to pull him out. I'm getting mighty sick of it myself.
Wish to the Lord I could pull up stakes as Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Chester
did."

It was not until they separated that Quin's thoughts left the disturbing
events of the day and flew to something more pleasing. For two weeks now
he had had to content himself with chance interviews with Eleanor, meager
diet for a person with an omnivorous appetite; but to-night there was the
prospect for a long, uninterrupted evening. Since the day of Miss Enid's
wedding he had found her perplexed and absent-minded; but the fact that
she always had a smile for him, and that nothing was seen or heard of
Harold Phipps, sufficed to satisfy him.

When he started across Central Park the sun was just setting, and he
turned off the main path and dropped down on a bench to rest for a
moment. He had acquired a taste for sunsets at a tender age, having
watched them from many a steamer's prow. He knew how the harbor of
Hongkong brimmed like a goblet of red wine, how Fujiyama's snow-capped
peak turned rose, he knew how beautiful the sun could look through a
barrage of fire. But it was of none of these that he thought as he sat on
the park bench, his arms extended along the back, his long legs stretched
out, and his eyes on a distant smokestack. He was thinking of a country
stile and a girl in white and green, in whose limpid eyes he watched the
reflected light of the most wonderful of all his sunsets.

For the third time since leaving the office, he consulted his watch.
Six-thirty! Another hour and a half must be got through before he could
see her.

A rustle of leaves behind him made him look up, but before he could turn
his head two hands were clapped over his eyes. Investigation proved them
to be feminine, and he promptly took them captive.

"It's Rose?" he guessed.

"Let me go!" she laughed; "somebody will see you."

She slipped around the bench and dropped down beside him.

"I was coming out the avenue and spied you mooning over here by yourself.
What's the trouble?"

"No trouble at all. Just stopped to get my wind a bit--and watch the
sunset."

"I think you are working too hard." She looked at him with anxious
solicitude. "I've a good notion to put you on buttermilk again."

"Good work! Put me on anything you like except dried peaches and
wienies."

"And you need more recreation," Rose persisted. "It's not good for
anybody to work all day and go to school at night. What's the matter with
us getting Cass and Fan Loomis and going down to Fontaine Ferry
to-night?"

"Can't do it," said Quin with ill-concealed pride. "Got a date with Miss
Eleanor Bartlett."

Rose sat silent for a moment, stirring the dead leaves with her shabby
boot; then she turned and laid her hand on his shoulder.

"Quin," she said, "I am worried sick about Nell and Harold Phipps."

Quin, who had been trying to beguile a squirrel into believing that a
pebble was a nut, looked up sharply.

"What do you mean?" he said. "She hasn't seen him since last summer, and
she never mentions his name."

"_Don't_ she? She hardly talks about anything else. She writes to him all
the time and wears his picture in her watch!"

"Do you know that?"

"Of course I know it. She can't talk about him at home, so she pours it
all out to me."

"But haven't you told her what you know about him?"

"I've hinted at it, but she won't believe me because she knows I hate
him. I wanted to tell her about what he said to me, and about that nurse
he got into trouble out at the hospital; but I was afraid it might make
an awful row and spoil everything for Papa Claude."

"I don't care who it spoils things for! She's got to be told." Quin's
eyes were blazing.

"But perhaps if we leave it alone he'll get tired of her. They say he
keeps after a girl until he gets her engaged to him, then drops her."

"He'd never drop Miss Nell. No man would. He'd be trying to marry her."

"But what can we _do?_ The more people talk about him, the more she's
going to take up for him. That's Nell all over."

"Couldn't Mr. Martel----"

"Papa Claude's as much taken in as she is. You remember the night over
home when he talked about his lovely detached soul? He never sees the
truth about anybody."

"Well, he's going to see the truth about this. If you don't write to him
to-night and tell him the kind of man Mr. Phipps is, I will!"

"Wait till to-morrow. I'll have another round with Nell. I've got some
proof that I think she'll have to believe."

Quin rose restlessly. He wanted to go to the Bartletts' at once, if only
to stand guard at the gate against the danger that threatened Eleanor.

"Aren't you coming home to supper?" asked Rose.

"No," he said absently; "I don't want any supper."

For an hour he paced the streets, trying to think things out. His burning
desire was to go straight to Eleanor and lay the whole matter before her.
But according to his ethics it was a poor sport who would discredit a
rival, especially on hearsay. He must leave it to Rose, and let her
furnish the proof she said she possessed.

At eight o'clock he rang the Bartletts' bell, and was surprised when Miss
Isobel opened the door.

"She isn't here," she said in answer to his inquiry. "We cannot imagine
what has become of her. She must have gone out just before dinner, and
she has not returned."

"Didn't she say where she was going?"

"No." Miss Isobel's lips worked nervously; then she drew Quin into the
dining-room and closed the door, "She and mother had a very serious
misunderstanding, and--and I'm afraid mother was a little severe. I did
not know Eleanor was gone until she failed to come down to dinner. I've
just sent Hannah up to telephone my brother to see if she is there."

"She probably is," Quin spoke with more assurance than he felt. "About
what time did she leave here?"

"It must have been between six-thirty and seven. How long would it take
her to get out to Ranny's?"

"Depends on whether she went in her machine or a street-car," said Quin
evasively. "Besides, she may have gone to the Martels'."

"I don't think so," said Miss Isobel, twisting her handkerchief in her
slender fingers; "because, you see, she--she took her suit-case."

For the first time, Quin's face reflected the anxiety of Miss Isobel's.

When Hannah returned she reported that no one answered the telephone at
the Randolph Bartletts'.

"Suppose the child gets there and nobody is at home!" groaned Miss
Isobel, whose imagination always rushed toward disaster. "What on earth
shall I do?"

"Leave it to me," said Quin. "I'll run around to the Martels', and if
she's not there I'll go out to Valley Mead. She's sure to be one place or
the other."

"Of course she must be; but I'm so anxious! You will go right away, won't
you? And telephone the minute you find out where she is. Then I'll tell
mother I gave her permission to go."

Miss Isobel pushed him toward the door as she spoke:

"You--you don't think anything dreadful could have happened to her, do
you?"

Quin patted her shoulder reassuringly.

"Of course not," he blustered. "She'll probably be in before I get around
the corner. If not, I bet I find her at the Martels', toasting
marshmallows."

In spite of his assumed confidence, he ran every step of the way home. As
he turned the corner he saw with dismay that the house was dark. His call
in the front hall brought no answer. He turned on the light, and saw an
unstamped letter addressed to himself on the table. The fact that the
writing was Eleanor's did not tend to decrease his alarm.

He tore off the envelop and read:

    _Dear Quin:_

    Grandmother has said things to me that I can never forgive as long as
    I live. I am leaving her house in a few moments forever. By the time
    you get this I shall be on my way to Chicago to join Harold Phipps.
    We have been engaged for two weeks. I did not mean to marry him for
    years and years, but I've simply _got_ to do something. He cares
    more for me and my career than any one else in the world, and he
    understands me better than anybody.

    You'll get this when you go home to supper, and I want you to
    telephone Aunt Isobel right away and tell her I won't be home
    to-night. She will think I am with Rose and that will keep her from
    being anxious. I don't care how anxious grandmother is! To-morrow
    I'll send them a wire from Chicago telling them I'm married.

    Dear Quin, I know this is a terribly serious step, and I know you
    won't approve; but I am unhappy enough to die, and I don't know where
    else to turn, or what to do. Some day I hope you will know Mr. Phipps
    better, and see what a really fine man he is. Do try to comfort Aunt
    Isobel, and make her understand. Please don't hate me, but try to
    forgive your utterly miserable friend,

    E. M. B.

Quin stood staring at the letter. He felt as he had on that August day
when the flying shrapnel struck him--the same intense nausea, the deadly
exhaustion, the bursting pain in his head. Involuntarily he raised his
hand to the old wound, half expecting to feel the blood stream again
through his fingers.

"Married! Married!" he kept repeating to himself dazedly. "Miss Nell gone
to marry that man, that scoundrel!"

He sat down on the stair steps and tried to hold the thought in his mind
long enough to realize it. But Phipps himself kept getting in the way:
Phipps the slacker, as he had known him in the army; Phipps the
condescending lord of creation, who had refused to take his hand at Mr.
Ranny's; and oftenest of all Phipps the philanderer, who had insulted
Rose Mattel, and been responsible for the dismissal of more than one
nurse from the hospital. The mere thought of such a man in connection
with Eleanor Bartlett made Quin's strong fingers clench around an
imaginary neck and brought beads of perspiration to his forehead.

"Something's got to be done!" he thought wildly, staggering to his feet.
"I got to stop it; I got----"

Then the sense of his helplessness swept over him, and he sat down again
on the steps. She had evidently left on the eight-o'clock train for
Chicago, and it was now eight-thirty. There was nothing to be done. What
a fool he had been to go on hoping and daring! She had told him again and
again that she didn't care for him; but she had also told him that she
did not intend to many anybody. But if she hadn't cared for him, why had
she come to him with her troubles, and followed his advice, and wanted
his good opinion? Why had she looked at him the way she had the day of
Miss Enid's wedding, and said she remembered her dances with him better
than those with anybody else? In bitterness of spirit he went over all
the treasured words and glances he had hoarded since the day he met her.
He didn't believe she loved Harold Phipps! She didn't love anybody--yet.
But, in her mad desire to escape from home, she had taken the first means
that presented itself. She had stepped into a trap, from which he was
powerless to rescue her.

In a sudden anguish of despair he flung himself face downward on the
steps and gave way to his anguish. There was no one to see and no one to
hear. All the doubts and discouragements, the humiliations and
disappointments, through which he had passed to win her, came back to
mock him, now he had lost her. The world had suddenly become an
intolerable vacuum in which he gasped frantically for breath.

What was the use in going on? Why not put an end to everything? He could
make it appear an accident. Nobody would be the wiser. The temptation was
growing stronger every second, when he suddenly remembered Miss Isobel.

"I forgot she was waiting," he muttered, stumbling into the sitting-room
and fumbling for the telephone. "Miss Nell said I was to keep her from
being anxious--she wanted me to comfort her. But what in hell can I say!"



                              CHAPTER 25


At nine-thirty Edwin came in and passed up the creaking stairs. Ten
minutes later Cass limped by the door, stopping a moment in the pantry to
get a bite to eat. Quin sat motionless in the dark sitting-room and made
no sign. He was waiting for Rose, with a dumb dependence the strongest
man feels for the understanding feminine in times of crisis.

When he heard her cheerful voice calling good night to Fan Loomis, the
clock was just striking ten.

"Quin! What is it?" she cried in alarm the moment she saw his face. "Is
anybody dead?"

"Worse! She's run away to get married!"

"Not Myrna?"

"No. Miss Nell. She left to-night for Chicago to marry Phipps!"

"But she can't!" cried Rose wildly. "It's got to be stopped. He's not fit
to marry anybody! We've got to stop her!"

"I tell you, it's too late! She left on the eight-o'clock train."

"Who said so? Are you sure? Do the Bartletts know?"

"Nobody knows but you and me; nobody must know--yet. Maybe she'll change
her mind."

"But the Bartletts will miss her. Have they called up?"

"I 'phoned Miss Isobel that she was all right and she'd telephone in the
morning. All right! Good God, Rose, can't we do something?"

"If I could get Harold Phipps's address I'd send him a telegram that
would scare the wits out of him."

Quin brushed the suggestion aside. "It's no use wasting time on him;
we've got to reach her."

"But how can we? Let me think. Do you suppose I could send her a telegram
to be delivered on the train? _Anything_ that would make her wait until
somebody could get to her."

"I'll get to her," Quin cried. "I'll search every hotel in Chicago. You
send the telegram and I'll start on the next train."

A hurried consultation of time-tables showed that a Pennsylvania train
left in ten minutes, and was due in Chicago the next morning at
seven-thirty.

"You can't make that," said Rose, but even as she spoke Quin was rushing
for the door.

"Have you got enough money?" she called after him.

His meteor flight was checked. Ramming his hands in his pockets, he
pulled out a handful of silver.

"Wait!" cried Rose, speeding up to her room and returning with a small
roll of bills. "It's what's left of Nell's check. Good-by--I'll send the
telegram."

Ten minutes later, as the night express for Chicago pulled out of the
station, the bystanders were amused by the sight of a bare-headed young
man dashing madly through the gate and across the railroad tracks. The
train had not yet got under way, but its speed was increasing and the
runner's chances lessened every moment.

"He'll never catch it," said the gate-keeper. "He'd lost his wind before
he got here."

"He ain't lost his nerve," said a negro porter, craning his neck in
lively interest. "He's lettin' hisself go lak a Derby-winner on de home
stretch!"

"Has he give up?" asked the gate-keeper, turning aside to stamp a ticket.

"Not him. He's bound to ketch dat train ef it busts a hamstring. He's
done got holt de rear platform! He's pullin' hisself up! There! I tole
you so! I knowed he was the kind of fellow that gits what he goes after."

Quin caught the train, but he paid for his run. A brakeman found him
collapsed on the platform, in such a paroxysm of coughing that the train
had covered many miles before he was sufficiently recovered to go inside
and take a seat. But, even as he leaned back limp and exhausted, he was
conscious of a dull satisfaction that he was traveling toward Eleanor. He
refused to think of the absurdity of his wild quest, of her probable
anger at his interference. He fought back his despair, his jealousy, his
inordinate fear. The one thing necessary now was to get to her--to be on
hand in case she needed him.

Through the interminable hours of the night almost every breath came with
an effort, but he scarcely heeded the fact. With characteristic
persistence he forced himself to follow her steps in imagination from the
time she left home until she reached her destination. The eight-o'clock
sleeper that she had taken was due in Chicago at five-thirty. She would
probably not leave it before seven at the earliest, and by that time
Rose's telegram ought to have reached her. He tried to picture its effect
on her. Much would depend upon the time that intervened between its
reception and her seeing Mr. Phipps. If he met her, as he probably would,
he would sweep aside all her doubts. If, on the other hand, Eleanor had
time to think the matter over, her innate common sense might make her
wait at least until she heard what Rose had to tell her. On the bare
chance of his not meeting her, what would she do? Take the next train
home? Go to his apartment? Go to a hotel alone?

Plan after plan rushed through Quin's mind, only to be impatiently
discarded. He sat tense and still, with his clenched hands rammed in his
pockets and his eyes fixed on the black square of the window. Sometimes
dim objects flew past, and now and then sharp, vivid lights stabbed the
darkness. Once the smelting-pots of a huge iron foundry belched forth a
circle of swirling flames, and for a moment wrenched his mind off his
problems. Then the regular pounding of the wheels on the rails recalled
him.

"She's gone to be married. Gone--to be married. Gone--to be married."

He realized that they had been saying it in monotonous rhythm ever since
he started--that they would go on saying it through eternity.

Suddenly the train jarred to a standstill. Figures with lanterns emerged
through a cloud of steam and stood under his window.

"Guess we got a hot-box," said a sleepy passenger across the aisle. "That
means I'll miss my connection."

Quin got up and went out on the platform. He was filled with rage at the
lazy deliberation with which the men set about their task. He longed to
wrench the tools out of their hands and do the job himself.

"How much will this put us behind?" he demanded of the conductor.

"Oh, not more than twenty minutes. We'll make some of it up before
morning."

Once more under way, Quin dropped into a troubled sleep. He dreamed that
he was pursuing a Hun over miles of barbed-wire entanglements; but when
he overtook him and forced him to the ground, the face under the steel
helmet was the smiling, supercilious face of Harold Phipps. He woke up
with a start and stretched his cold limbs. The black square of the window
had turned to gray; arrows of rain shot diagonally across it. He realized
for the first time that he had neither hat nor overcoat, but he did not
care. In ten minutes more he would be in Chicago, in the same city with
Eleanor.

Notwithstanding the fact that it was pouring rain when the train pulled
into the station, Quin stood on the lowest step of the platform, ready to
alight.

"Say, young fellow, you forgot your hat," said a man behind him.

"Didn't have any," answered Quin.

"I got an extra cap if you want it," offered the man obligingly.

Quin, already on the platform, caught it as the man tossed it out to him.
Dashing through the depot, he hurled himself into a taxi.

"Monon Station!" he shouted, "and drive like the devil."

Just what kind of chauffeur the devil is has never been demonstrated, but
if that taxi-driver, urged on by Quin, was his counterpart, it is safe to
infer that there are no traffic laws in Hades. In spite of the fact that
the streets were like glass from the driving rain, and the wind-shield a
gray blur, in spite of the fact that a tire went flat on a rear wheel,
that decrepit old taxi rose to the occasion and made the transit in
record time.

Arrived at the station, Quin thrust a bill into the driver's hand and
dashed down the steps to the lower level. In answer to his frenzied
inquiry he was told that the Express had come in two hours before and
that the passengers had probably all left the sleeper by this time.

Nothing daunted, he rushed out to the tracks and accosted a porter who
was sweeping out the rear coach.

"Yas, sir, this is it," answered the negro. "Young lady? Yas, sir; there
was five or six of 'em on board last night. Pretty? Yas, sir, they was
all pretty--all but one, and she wasn't so bad looking."

"Did one of them get a telegram in the night or this morning?"

The porter's face brightened. "Yas, sir. Boy come through soon as we got
in. Had a wire for young lady in lower six."

"Do you know what time she left the car?"

"About half hour ago, I should say. Party she was expecting to meet her
didn't turn up, and I had to git her a red-cap to carry her suit-case.
Thanky, sir."

Quin tore back to the station and dashed through the waiting-room, the
dining-room, the baggage-room. He was on the point of going out to the
taxi-stand and interrogating each driver in turn, when his eyes were
caught by a smart suit-case that lay unattended on one of the seats. It
bore the inscription "E.M.B.--Ky."

In his sudden relief he could have snatched it up and embraced it. But
where was Eleanor? For five interminable minutes he stood guard over her
property, watching every exit and entrance, and pacing the floor in his
impatience. Suddenly an idea occurred to him, and, cursing himself for
his stupidity, he strode over to the telephone-booths.

Eleanor was in the corner one, the receiver at her ear, evidently waiting
for her call. As Quin flung upon the door she turned and faced him in
defiant surprise.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded indignantly. "Did grandmother
send you?"

"No; she doesn't know I'm here."

Eleanor turned nervously to the telephone.

"Hello! I can't understand you. Put--what? Oh! I forgot. Wait a
minute----"

Letting the receiver swing, she fumbled in her purse; then, finding no
small change, looked appealingly at Quin.

He produced the necessary coin and handed it to her.

"I don't think I'd put it in just yet," he said quietly.

For a moment she paused irresolute; then she dropped the coin in the
slot.

"Is this the Hotel Kington?" she asked. "Will you please try again to get
Mr. Phipps--Harold Phipps? P-h-i-p-p-s."

Quin watched her fingers drumming on the shelf, and he knew he ought to
go out of the booth and close the door; but instead he stayed in and
closed it.

"He doesn't answer?" Eleanor was repeating over the telephone. "Will you
please page the dining-room, and if he is not at breakfast send a
bell-boy up to waken him? It's _very_ important."

Again there was a long wait, during which Eleanor did not so much as turn
her head in Quin's direction. It was only when her answer came that she
looked at him blankly.

"They say he isn't there. The chambermaid was cleaning the room, and said
his bed had not been disturbed."

Then, seeing a humorously unsympathetic look flit across Quin's face, she
burst out angrily:

"What right had you to follow me over here?"

They were standing very close in the narrow glass enclosure, and as he
looked down at the small, trembling figure with her back against the wall
and her eyes full of frightened defiance, he felt uncomfortably like a
hunter who has run down some young wild thing and holds it at bay.

"Please, Miss Nell," he implored, "don't think I'm going to peach on you!
Whatever you do, I'll stand by you. Only I thought, perhaps, you might
need a friend."

"I _have_ a friend!" she retorted furiously. "If Harold Phipps had
received my telegram last night, nothing in the world could have stopped
him from meeting me--nothing!"

Then the defiance dropped from her eyes, leaving her small sensitive face
quivering with hurt pride and an overwhelming doubt. She bit her lips and
turned away to hide her tears.

Quin put a firm hand on her arm and piloted her back to her suit-case.

"What we both need is breakfast," he said. "Come to think of it, I
haven't had a mouthful since yesterday noon."

"Neither have I; but I couldn't swallow a bite. Besides, I've got to find
Harold."

"Well, you can't do anything till he gets back to the hotel. If you'll
come in with me while I get a cup of coffee, we can talk things over."

She followed him reluctantly into the dining-room, but refused to order
anything. For some time she sat with her chin on her clasped hands,
watching the door; then she turned toward him accusingly.

"Did you see Rose's telegram?"

"No."

He watched her open her purse and take out a yellow slip, which she
handed to him.

    "Don't take the step planned. Imperative reasons forbid. Rose."

he read slowly; then he looked up. "Well?" he said.

"What does she mean?" burst forth Eleanor. "How dared she send me a
message like that unless she knew something----"

She broke off abruptly and her eyes searched Quin's face. But he was
apparently counting the grains of sugar that were going into his coffee,
and refused to look up.

"If it had been grandmother or Aunt Isobel I shouldn't have been in the
least surprised; they are just a bunch of prejudices and believe every
idle story they hear. But Rose is different. She's known about Harold and
me for months. She forwarded his letters to me when I was in Baltimore.
And now for her to turn against me like this----"

"Why don't you wait till you hear her side of it?" suggested Quin, still
concerned with the sugar-bowl.

"How can I?" cried Eleanor, flinging out her hands. "I've no place to go,
and I've no money. If I had had money enough I'd have gone straight to
Papa Claude last night."

Quin's heart gained a beat. He made a hurried calculation of his
financial resources in the vain hope that that might yet be the solution
of the difficulty. Whatever was to be done must be done at once, for
Harold Phipps might arrive at any moment, and Quin felt instinctively
that his advent would decide the matter.

"I wish I had enough to send you," he said, "but all I've got is my
return ticket and enough to buy another one for you."

At the mere suggestion Eleanor's anger flared.

"I'll never go back to grandmother's! I'll jump in the lake first!"

"What's the matter with Valley Mead?"

"What good would that do? Grandmother would make Uncle Ranny send me
straight home. No; I've thought of all those things--it's no use."

"You could go to the Martels'."

"Yes, and put another burden on Cass. I tell you, I'm not going home. I
am going to see Harold, and--and talk things over, and perhaps go
straight on to New York to-night."

"You can't see him if he is out of town."

"Why do you think he is out of town?"

"Well, he isn't here," Quin observed dryly.

The next moment he was sorry he had said it, for the light died out of
her face and she looked so absurdly young and helpless that it was all he
could do to refrain from gathering her up in his arms and carrying her
home by force.

"See here, Miss Nell," he said earnestly, leaning across the table.
"Would you be willing to go back to the Martels' if you knew that this
time next month you'd be in New York with money enough to carry you
through the winter?"

"No. That is--whose money?"

"Your own. I'll go to Queen Vic and put the whole thing up to her so she
can't get around it."

Eleanor brushed the suggestion aside impatiently.

"Don't you suppose I've exhausted every possible argument? And now, when
she finds out what I've done----"

"But you haven't done anything--yet."

"She wouldn't believe me if I told her that I hadn't seen Harold. She
never believes me."

"She'd believe _me_," said Quin, "and what's more she'd listen to me."

Eleanor did not answer; she sat doggedly watching the swinging doors,
through which a draggled throng came and went.

"He'll be here soon," she said half-heartedly--"unless he's gone off for
a week-end somewhere. If he doesn't come soon we can go up to the hotel
and find out whether he left any address. Perhaps you could get me a room
there until to-morrow."

Quin's courage was at its lowest ebb. It was like trying to save a
drowning person who fights desperately against being saved. He heard a
stentorian voice through a megaphone announcing that the eight-thirty
train for the southwest would leave in five minutes on track three, and
he decided to stake his all on a last chance.

"That's my train," he said, rising briskly. "Are you coming with me, or
are you going to stay here?"

"I am going to stay. But you can't leave me like this! It's pouring rain
and I haven't any umbrella, and if I get to the hotel and he isn't there,
what shall I do? Why don't you help me, Quin? Why don't you stay with me
till he comes?"

"Sorry," said Quin, steeling his heart against those appealing eyes and
praying for strength to be firm, "but I've got to be ready to go back to
work to-morrow morning. Is it good-by?"

He held out his hand, but she did not take it. Instead she clutched his
sleeve.

"What would _you_ do, Quin?" she asked. "Tell me honestly, not what you
want me to do, or think I ought to do, but what would you do in my
place?"

In spite of his pretended haste, he stopped to consider the matter.

"Well," he admitted frankly, "it would depend entirely on how much I
trusted the fellow I'd promised to marry."

"I _do_ trust him, and I'm going to marry him; but, you see, Rose's
telegram, and his not being here, and all, have made me so unhappy! I
know he can explain everything when I see him, only I don't know what to
do now. Do you think I ought to go back?"

"That's for you to decide."

"But I tell you I can't decide. Somebody's always made up my mind for me,
and now to have to decide this big thing all in a minute----"

"All aboard for the Southwestern Limited!" came the voice through the
megaphone.

Eleanor glanced instinctively at her suit-case, then up at Quin.

"Shall I take it?" he asked, with his heart in his throat; and then, when
she did not say no, he seized it in one hand and her in the other.

"We'd better run for it!" he said.

"But, Quin--wait a minute--I won't go to grandmother's! You've got to
protect me----"

"You leave it to me!" he said, as he thrust her almost roughly through
the crowd and rushed her toward the gate.



                              CHAPTER 26


"So I am to understand that the young lady defies my authority and
refuses point-blank to come home."

"That's about what it comes to, I reckon."

It was evening of that eventful Sunday when Eleanor and Quin had returned
from Chicago. He and Madam Bartlett sat facing each other in the
sepulchral library, where the green reading-light cast its sickly light
on Lincoln and his Cabinet, on Andrew Jackson dying in the bosom of his
family, on Madam savagely gripping the lions' heads on the arms of her
mahogany chair.

That her quarrel with Eleanor and the girl's subsequent flight had made
the old lady suffer was evinced by the pinched look of her nostrils and
the heavy, sagging lines about her mouth; but in her grim old eyes there
was no sign of compromise.

"Very well!" she said. "Let her stay at her precious Martels'. She will
stand just about one week of their shiftlessness. I shan't send her a
stitch of clothes or a cent of money. Maybe I can starve some sense into
her."

Quin traced the pattern in the table-cover with a massive brass
paper-knife. It was a delicate business, this he had committed himself
to, and everything depended upon his keeping Madam's confidence.

"You never did try letting her have her head, did you?" He put the
question as a disinterested observer.

"No. I don't intend to until she gets this fool stage business out of her
mind."

"Well, of course you can hold that up for six months, but you can't stop
it in the end."

"Yes, I can, too. I'd like to know if I didn't keep Isobel from being a
missionary, and Enid from marrying Francis Chester when he didn't make
enough money to pay her carfare."

"That's so," agreed Quin cheerfully. "And then, there was Mr. Ranny." He
waited for the remark to sink in; then he went on lightly: "But say! They
all belong to another generation. Things are run on different lines these
days."

"More's the pity! Every little fool of a kite thinks all it has to do is
to break its string to be free."

"Miss Nell don't want to break the string; she just wants it lengthened."

Madam turned upon him fiercely.

"See here, young man. You think I don't know what you are up to; but,
remember, I wasn't born yesterday. If Eleanor has sent you up here to
talk this New York stuff----"

"She hasn't; I came of my own accord."

"Well, you needn't think just because I've shown you a few favors that
you can meddle in family affairs. It's not the first time you've attended
to other people's business."

Her fingers were working nervously and her eyes beginning to twitch. She
made Quin think of Minerva when Mr. Bangs came into the office.

"I bet there's one time you are glad I meddled," he said with easy good
humor. "You might have been walking on a peg-stick, Queen Vic, if I
hadn't butted in. Do you have to use your crutches now?"

"Crutches! I should say not. I don't even use a cane. See here!"

She rose and, steadying herself, walked slowly and painfully to the door
and back.

"Bully for you!" said Quin, helping her back into the chair. "Now what
were we talking about?"

"You were trying to hold a brief for Eleanor."

"So I was. You see, I had an idea that if you'd let me put the case up to
you fair and square, maybe you'd see it in a different light."

"Well, that's where you were mistaken."

"How do you know? You haven't listened to me yet!"

Madam glared at him grimly.

"Go ahead," he said. "Get it out of your system."

"Well, it's like this," Quin plunged into his subject. "Next July Miss
Nell will be of age and have her own money to do as she likes with, won't
she?"

"She won't have much," interpolated Madam. "Twenty thousand won't take
her far."

"It will take her to New York and let her live pretty fine for two or
three years. Everybody will cotton up to her and flatter her and make her
think she's a second Julia Marlowe, and meantime they'll be helping her
spend her money. Now, my plan is this. Why don't you give her just barely
enough to live on, and let her try it out on the seamy side for the next
six months? Nobody will know who she is or what's coming to her, and
maybe when she comes up against the real thing she won't be so keen about
it."

Madam followed him closely, and for a moment it looked as if the common
sense of his argument appealed to her. Then her face set like a vise.

"No!" she thundered her decision. "It would be nothing less than handing
her over bodily to that pompous old biped Claude Martel! For the next six
months she has got to stay right here, where I can know what she is doing
and where she is!"

"Do you know where she was last night?" Quin played his last trump.

She shot a suspicious look at him from under her shaggy brows.

"You said she was at the Martels'."

"I did not. I said she was all right and you'd hear from her to-day."

"Where was she?"

"She was on the way to Chicago to join Mr. Phipps."

He could not have aimed his blow more accurately. Its effect was so
appalling that he feared the consequences. Her face blanched to an ashy
white and her eyes were fixed with terror.

"She--she--hasn't married him?" she cried hoarsely.

"No, no; not yet. But she may any time."

"Good Lord! Why haven't you told me this before? Call Isobel! No! she's
at church! Get Ranny! Somebody must go after the child!"

Quin laid a quieting hand on her arm, which was shaking as if with the
palsy.

"Don't get excited," he urged. "Somebody did go after her last night, and
brought her home."

"But where is she now? Where is that contemptible Phipps? I'll have him
arrested! Are you sure Nellie is safe?"

"I left her safe and sound at the Martels' half an hour ago. Will you
listen while I tell you all about it?"

As quietly as he could he told the story, interrupted again and again by
Madam's hysterical outbursts. When he had finished she struggled to her
feet.

"The child is stark mad!" she cried. "I am going after her this instant."

"She won't see you," warned Quin.

"I'll show you whether she sees me or not! I am going to bring her home
with me to-night. She's got to be protected against that scoundrel. Ring
for the carriage!"

Quin did not move. "She said if any of you started after her you'd find
her gone when you got there."

"But who will tell her?"

"I will. I promised she wouldn't have to see you. It was the only way I
could get her back from Chicago."

She scowled at him in silence, measuring his determination against her
own.

"Very well," she said at last. "Since you are in such high favor, go and
tell her that she can come home, and nothing more will be said about it.
I suppose there's nothing else to do under the circumstances. But I'll
teach her a lesson later!"

Quin balanced the paper-knife carefully on one finger.

"I don't think you quite understand," he said. "She isn't coming home.
She still says she is going to marry Mr. Phipps. He will probably get her
telegram when he goes to the hotel, and when she doesn't turn up in
Chicago he will take the first train down here. That's the way I've
figured it out."

"And do you think I am going to sit here, and do nothing while all this
is taking place?"

"No; that's what I been driving at all along. I want you and Miss Nell to
come to some compromise before he gets here."

"What sort of compromise? Haven't I swallowed my pride and promised to
say nothing if she comes back? Does she want me to get down on my knees
and apologize?"

"No. That's the trouble. She don't want you to do anything. All she is
thinking about is getting married and going to New York."

"She can go to New York without that! That contemptible man! I knew all
summer he was filling her head with romantic notions, but I never dreamed
of this. Why, she's nothing but a child! She doesn't know what love
is----" Then her voice broke in sudden panic. "We must stop it at any
cost. Go--go promise her anything. Tell her I'll send her to New York, to
Europe, anywhere to get her out of that wretch's clutches. My poor child!
My poor baby!"

Her grief was no less violent than her anger had been, and her tearless
sobs almost shook her worn old frame to pieces.

Quin knew just how she felt. It had been like that with him last night
when he heard the news. With one stride he was beside her and had
gathered her into his arms.

"There, there!" he said tenderly. "It's going to be all right. We are
going to find a way out."

This unexpected caress, probably the first one Madam had received in many
years, reduced her to a state of unprecedented humility. She transferred
her resentment from Eleanor to Harold Phipps, and announced herself ready
to follow whatever course Quin suggested.

"I'd offer her just this and nothing more," he advised: "The fare to New
York, tuition at the dramatic school, and ten dollars a week."

"She can't live on that."

"Yes, she can. Rose Martel does."

Madam became truculent at once.

"Don't quote that girl to me. Eleanor's been used to very different
surroundings."

"That's the point. Let her have what she hasn't been used to. You have
tried giving her a bunch of your money and telling her how to spend it.
Try giving her a little of her own and letting her do as she likes with
it."

"I don't care what she does for the present, if she just won't marry that
man Phipps. Make her give you her word of honor not to have anything
whatever to do with him for the next six months. By that time she will
have forgotten all about him."

"I'll do my best," said Quin, rising. "You'll hear from me first thing in
the morning."

"Well, go now! But ring first for Hannah. We must pack the child's things
to-night. The main thing is to get her out of town before that hound can
get here. Don't you think either Ranny or Isobel had better take her on
to New York to-morrow?"

Quin returned to the Martels' breathing easily for the first time in
twenty-four hours. As he passed Rose's room on the way to his own, he saw
a light over the transom, and heard the girls' voices rising in heated
argument. He knew that the subject under discussion was Harold Phipps,
and that Rose's arraignment was meeting with indignant denial and
protest. But the fact that Rose could offer specific evidence that would
shake the staunchest confidence gave him grim satisfaction.

He stumbled into his own small room, and lay across the bed looking up at
the shadows made by the street lamp on the ceiling. Would Miss Nell
believe what she heard? Would it go very hard with her? Would she give
Phipps up? Would she accept Madam's offer? And, if she did, would she
ever be willing to come home again?

Then his thoughts swerved away from all those perplexing questions and
went racing back over the events of the day. For nine blissful hours he
had had Eleanor all to himself. They had taken a day-coach to avoid
meeting any one she knew, and he had managed to secure a rear seat, out
of the range of curious eyes. Here she had poured out all her troubles,
allowing the accumulated bitterness of years to find vent in a torrent of
unrestrained confidence.

She recalled the days of her unhappy childhood, when she had been fought
over and litigated about and contended for, until the whole world seemed
a place of hideous discord and petty jealousies. She pictured her
circumscribed life at the Bartletts', shut in, watched over, smothered
with care and affection, but never allowed an hour of freedom. She dwelt
on the increasing tyranny of her grandmother, the objection to her
friends, the ruthless handling of several prospective lovers. And she
ended by telling him all about her affair with Harold Phipps, and
declaring that nothing they could say or do would make her give him up!
And then, quite worn out, she had fallen asleep and her head had drooped
against his shoulder.

Quin could feel now the delicious weight of her limp body as she leaned
against him. He had sat so still, in his fear of waking her, that his arm
had been numb for an hour. Then, later on, when she did wake up, he had
got her some cold water to bathe her face, and persuaded her to eat a
sandwich and drink a glass of milk. After that she had felt much better,
and even cheered up enough to laugh at the way he looked in the queer cap
the obliging stranger had given him.

"I could make her happy! I know I could make her happy!" he whispered
passionately to the shadows on the ceiling. "She don't love me now; but
maybe when she gets over this----"

His thoughts leaped to the future. He must be ready if the time ever
came. He must forge ahead in the next six months, and be in a position by
the time Eleanor had tried out her experiment to put his fate to the
test. He must make up to old Bangs, and stop criticizing his methods and
saying things that annoyed him. He must sacrifice everything now to the
one great object of pleasing him. Pleasing him meant advancement;
advancement meant success; success might mean Eleanor!

He got up restlessly and tiptoed to the door. The light over Rose's
transom was gone and the house was silent.



                              CHAPTER 27


Eleanor did not leave for New York the following day. Neither did she see
Harold Phipps when he arrived on the morning train. His anxious inquiries
over the telephone were met by Rose's cool assurance that Miss Bartlett
was spending the week-end with her, and that she would write and explain
her silly telegram. His demand for an immediate interview was parried
with the excuse that Miss Bartlett was confined to her bed with a severe
headache and could not see any one. Without saying so directly, Rose
managed to convey the impression that Miss Bartlett was quite indifferent
to his presence in the city and not at all sure that she would be able to
see him at all.

This was an interpretation of the situation decidedly more liberal than
the facts warranted. Even after Eleanor had been served with the
unpalatable truth, generously garnished with unpleasant gossip, she still
clung to her belief in Harold and the conviction that he would be able to
explain everything when she saw him. Quin's report of Madam's offer to
send her to New York was received in noncommittal silence. She would
agree to nothing, she declared, until she saw Harold, her only concession
being that she would stay in bed until the afternoon and not see him
before evening.

About noon a messenger-boy brought her a box of flowers and a bulky
letter. The latter had evidently been written immediately after Harold's
talk with Rose, and he made the fatal mistake of concluding, from her
remarks, that Eleanor had changed her mind after sending the telegram and
had not come to Chicago. He therefore gave free rein to his imagination,
describing in burning rhetoric how he had received her message Saturday
night just as he was retiring, how he tossed impatiently on his bed all
night, and rose at dawn to be at the station when the train came in. He
pictured vividly his ecstasy of expectation, his futile search, his
bitter disappointment. He had dropped everything, he declared, to take
the next train to Kentucky to find out what had changed her plans, and to
persuade her to be married at once and return with him to Chicago. The
epistle ended with a love rhapsody that deserved a better fate than to be
torn into shreds and consigned to the waste-basket.

"Tell the boy not to wait!" was Eleanor's furious instruction. "Tell him
there's no answer now or ever!"

Then she pitched the flowers after the note, locked her door, and refused
to admit any one for the rest of the day.

After that her one desire was to get away. She felt utterly humiliated,
disillusioned, disgraced, and her sole hope for peace lay in the further
humiliation of accepting Madam's offer and trying to go on with her work.
But even here she met an obstacle. A letter arrived from Papa Claude,
saying that he would not be able to get possession of the little
apartment until December first, a delay that necessitated Eleanor's
remaining with the Martels for another month.

The situation was a delicate and a difficult one. Eleanor was more than
willing to forgo the luxuries to which she had been accustomed and was
even willing to share Rose's untidy bedroom; but the knowledge that she
was adding another weight to Cass's already heavy burden was intolerable
to her. To make things worse, she was besieged with notes and visits and
telephone calls from various emissaries sent out by her grandmother.

"I'll go perfectly crazy if they don't leave me alone!" she declared one
night to Quin. "They act as if studying for the stage were the wickedest
thing in the world. Aunt Isobel was here all morning, harping on my
immortal soul until I almost hoped I didn't have one. This afternoon Aunt
Flo came and warned me against getting professional notions in my head,
and talked about my social position, and what a blow it would be to the
family. Then, to cap the climax, Uncle Ranny had the nerve to telephone
and urge me against taking any step that would break my grandmother's
heart. Uncle Ranny! Can you beat that?"

"I'd chuck the whole bunch for a while," was Quin's advice. "Why don't
you let their standards go to gallagher and live up to your own?"

"That's what I want to do, Quin," she said earnestly. "My standards are
just as good as theirs, every bit. I've got terrifically high ideals.
Nobody knows how serious I feel about the whole thing. It isn't just a
silly whim, as grandmother thinks; it's the one thing in the world I care
about--now."

Quin started to speak, reconsidered it, and whistled softly instead. He
had formed a Spartan resolve to put aside his own claims for the present,
and be in word and deed that "best friend" to whom he had urged Eleanor
to come in time of trouble. With heroic self-control, he set himself to
meet her problems, even going so far as to encourage her spirit of
independence and to help her build air-castles that at present were her
only refuge from despair.

"Just think of all the wonderful things I can do if I succeed," she said.
"Papa Claude need never take another pupil, and Myrna can go to college,
and Cass and Fan Loomis can get married."

"And don't forget Rose," suggested Quin, to keep up the interest. "You
must do something handsome for her. She's a great girl, Rose is!"

Eleanor looked at him curiously, and the smallest of puckers appeared
between her perfectly arched brows. Quin saw it at once, and decided that
Rose's recent handling of Mr. Phipps had met with disfavor, and he sighed
as he thought of the hold the older man still had on Eleanor.

During the next difficult weeks Quin devoted all his spare time to the
grateful occupation of diverting the Martels' woe-begone little guest.
Hardly a day passed that he did not suggest some excursion that would
divert her without bringing her into contact with her own social world,
from which she shrank with aversion. On Sundays and half-holidays he took
her on long trolley rides to queer out-of-the-way places where she had
never been before: to Zachary Taylor's grave, and George Rogers Clark's
birthplace, to the venerable tree in Iroquois Park that bore the carved
inscription, "D. Boone, 1735." One Sunday morning they went to Shawnee
Park and rented a rowboat, in which they followed the windings of the
Ohio River below the falls, and had innumerable adventures that kept them
out until sundown.

Eleanor had never before had so much liberty. She came and went as she
pleased; and if she missed a meal the explanation that she was out with
Quin was sufficient. Sometimes when the weather was good she would walk
over to Central Park and meet him when he came home in the evening. They
would sit under the bare trees and talk, or look over the books he had
brought her from the library.

At first she had found his selections a tame substitute for her recent
highly spiced literary diet; but before long she began to take a languid
interest in them. They invariably had to do with outdoor things--stars
and flowers, birds and beasts, and adventures in foreign lands.

"Here's a jim-dandy!" Quin would say enthusiastically. "It's all about
bees. I can't pronounce the guy that wrote it, but, take it from me, he's
got the dope all right."

It was in the long hours of the day, when Eleanor was in the house alone,
that she faced her darkest problems. She had been burnt so badly in her
recent affair that she wanted nothing more to do with fire; yet she was
chilled and forlorn without it. With all her courage she tried to banish
the unworthy image of Harold Phipps, but his melancholy eyes still
exercised their old potent charm, and the memory of his low, insistent
tones still echoed in her ears. She came to the tragic conclusion that
she was the victim of a hopeless infatuation that would follow her to her
grave.

So obsessed was she by the thought of her shattered love affair that she
failed to see that a troubled conscience was equally responsible for her
restlessness. Her life-long training in acquiescence and obedience was at
grips with her desire to live her own life in her own way. She had not
realized until she made the break how much she cared for the family
approval, how dependent she was on the family advice and assistance, how
hideous it was to make people unhappy. Now that she was about to obtain
her freedom, she was afraid of it. Suppose she did not make good? Suppose
she had no talent, after all? Suppose Papa Claude was as visionary about
her career as he was about everything else? At such times a word of
discouragement would have broken her spirit and sent her back to bondage.

"Would you go on with it?" she asked Quin, time and again.

"Sure," said Quin stoutly; "you'll never be satisfied until you try it
out."

"But suppose I'm a failure?"

"Well, then you've got it out of your system, and won't have to go
through life thinking about the big success you'd have been if you'd just
had your chance."

She was not satisfied with his answer, but it had to suffice. While he
never discouraged her, she felt that he shared the opinion of the family
that her ambition was a caprice to be indulged and got rid of, the sooner
the better.

The first day of December brought word from Claude Martel that the
apartment was ready. Eleanor left on twenty-four hours' notice, and it
required the combined efforts of both families to get her off. She had
refused up to the last to see her grandmother, but had yielded to united
pressure and written a stiff good-by note in which she thanked her for
advancing the money, and added--not without a touch of bitterness--that
it would all be spent for the purpose intended.

Randolph Bartlett took her to the station in his car, and Miss Isobel met
them there with a suit-case full of articles that she feared Eleanor had
failed to provide.

"I put in some overshoes," she said, fluttering about like a distracted
hen whose adopted duckling unexpectedly takes to water. "I also fixed up
a medicine-case and a sewing basket. I knew you would never think of
them. And, dear, I know how you hate heavy underwear, but pneumonia is so
prevalent. You must promise me not to take cold if you can possibly avoid
it."

Eleanor promised. Somehow, Aunt Isobel, with her anxious face and her
reddened eyelids, had never seemed so pathetic before.

"I'll write to you, auntie," she said reassuringly; "and you mustn't
worry."

"Don't write to me," whispered Miss Isobel tremulously. "Write to mother.
Just a line now and then to let her know you think of her. She's quite
feeble, Nellie, and she talks about you from morning until night."

Eleanor's face hardened. She evidently did not enjoy imagining the nature
of Madam's discourse. However, she squeezed Aunt Isobel's hand and said
she would write.

Then Quin arrived with the ticket and the baggage-checks, the train was
called, and Eleanor was duly embraced and wept over.

"We won't go through the gates," said Mr. Ranny, with consideration for
Miss Isobel's tearful condition. "Quin will get you aboard all right.
Good-by, kiddie!"

Eleanor stumbled after Quin with many a backward glance. Both Aunt Isobel
and Uncle Ranny seemed to have acquired haloes of kindness and affection,
and she felt like a selfish ingrate. She looked at the lunch-box in her
hand, and thought of Rose rising at dawn to fix it before she went to
work. She remembered the little gifts Cass and Myrna and Edwin had
slipped in her bag. How good they had all been to her, and how she was
going to miss them! Now that she was actually embarked on her great
adventure, a terrible misgiving seized her.

"Train starts in two minutes, boss!" warned the porter, as Quin helped
Eleanor aboard and piloted her to her seat.

"You couldn't hold it up for half an hour, could you?" asked Quin. Then,
as he glanced down and met Eleanor's eyes brimming with all those recent
tendernesses, his carefully practised stoicism received a frightful jolt.

As the "All aboard!" sounded, she clutched his sleeve in sudden panic.

"Oh, Quin, I know I'm going to be horribly lonesome and homesick. I--I
wish you were going too!"

"All right! I'll go! Why not?"

"But you can't! I was fooling. You must get off this instant!"

"May I come on later? Say in the spring?"

"Yes, yes! But get off now! Quick, we are moving!"

She had almost to push him down the aisle and off the steps. Then, as the
train gained speed, instead of looking forward to the wide fields of
freedom stretching before her, she looked wistfully back to the
disconsolate figure on the platform, and, with a sigh that was half for
him and half for herself, she lifted her fingers to her lips and rashly
blew him a good-by kiss.



                              CHAPTER 28


That aërial kiss proved more intoxicating to Quin than all the more
tangible ones he had ever received. It sent him swaggering through the
next few months with his head in the air and his heart on fire. Nothing
could stop him now, he told himself boastfully. Old Bangs was showing him
signal favor, Madam Bartlett was his staunch friend, Mr. Ranny and the
aunties were his allies, and even if Miss Nell didn't care for him yet,
she didn't care for anybody else, and when a girl like Miss Nell looks at
a fellow the way she had looked at him----

At this rapturous point he invariably abandoned cold prose for poetry and
burst into song.

Almost every week brought him a letter from Eleanor--not the romantic,
carefully penned epistles she had indited to Harold Phipps, but hasty
scrawls often dashed off with a pencil. In them she described her absurd
attempts at housekeeping in the little two-room apartment; her absorbing
experiences in the dramatic school; all the ups and downs of her
wonderful new life. She was evidently enjoying her freedom, but Quin
flattered himself that between the lines he could find evidences of
discouragement, of homesickness, and of the coming disillusionment on
which he was counting to bring her home when her six months of study were
over.

It was only when Rose read him Papa Claude's lengthy effusions that his
heart misgave him. Papa Claude announced that Eleanor was sweeping
everything before her at the dramatic school, where her beauty and talent
were causing much comment, and that he had not been mistaken when he had
foreseen her destiny, and, "single-handed against the world," forced its
fulfilment.

Usually, upon reading one of Papa Claude's pyrotechnical efforts, Quin
went to see Madam Bartlett. After all, he and the old lady were paddling
in the same canoe, and their only chance of success was in pulling
together.

As the end of the six months of probation approached, Madam became more
and more anxious. Ever since Eleanor's high-handed departure she had been
undergoing a metamorphosis. Like most autocrats, the only things of which
she took notice were the ones that impeded her progress. When they proved
sufficiently formidable to withstand annihilation, she awarded them the
respect that was their due. Eleanor's childish whim, heretofore crushed
under her disapprobation, now loomed as a terrifying possibility. The
girl had proved her mettle by living through the winter on a smaller
allowance than Madam paid her cook. She had shown perseverance and pluck,
and an amazing ability to get along without the aid of the family. In a
few months she would be of age, and with the small legacy left her by her
spendthrift father, would be in a position to snap her fingers in the
face of authority.

"If it weren't for that fool Phipps I'd have her home in twenty-four
hours," Madam declared to Quin. "She'll be wanting to take a professional
engagement next."

Quin tried to reassure her, but his words rang hollow. He too was growing
anxious as the months passed and Eleanor showed no sign of returning. He
longed to throw his influence with Madam's in trying to induce her to
come back before it was too late. The only thing that deterred him was
his sense of fair play to Eleanor.

"You let Miss Nell work it out for herself," he advised; "don't threaten,
her or persuade her or bribe her. Leave her alone. She's got more common
sense than you think. I bet she'll get enough of it by May."

"Well, if she doesn't, I'm through with her, and you can tell her so. I
meant to make Eleanor a rich woman, but, mark my word, if she goes on the
stage I'll rewrite my will and cut her off without a penny. I'll even
entail what I leave Isobel and Enid. I'll make her sorry for what she's
done!"

But with the approach of spring it was Madam who was sorry and not
Eleanor. Quin's sympathies were roused every time he saw the old lady.
Her affection and anxiety fought constantly against her pride and
bitterness. For hours at a time she would talk to him about Eleanor,
hungrily snatching at every crumb of news, and yet refusing to pen a line
of conciliation.

"If she can do without me, I can do without her," she would say
stubbornly.

Quin's business brought him to the Bartlett home oftener than usual these
days. For twenty years Madam and Mr. Bangs, as partners in the firm of
Bartlett & Bangs, had tried to run in opposite directions on the same
track, with the result that head-on collisions were of frequent
occurrence. Since Randolph Bartlett's retirement from the firm, Quin had
succeeded him as official switchman, and had proven himself an adept. His
skill in handling the old lady was soon apparent to Mr. Bangs, who lost
no time in utilizing it.

One afternoon in April, when Quin was busily employed at his desk, his
eyes happened to fall upon a calendar, the current date of which was
circled in red ink. The effect of the discovery was immediate. His
energetic mood promptly gave way to one of extreme languor, and his gaze
wandered from the papers in his hand across the grimy roof tops.

This time last year he and Miss Nell had made their first pilgrimage to
Valley Mead. It was just such a day as this, warm and lazy, with big
white clouds loafing off there in the west. He wondered if the peach
trees were in bloom now, and whether the white violets were coming up
along the creek-bank. How happy and contented Miss Nell always seemed in
the country! She had never known before what the outdoor life was like.
How he would like to take her hunting for big game up in the Maine woods,
or camping out in the Canadian Rockies with old Cherokee Jo for a guide!
Or better still,--here his fancy bolted completely,--if he could only
slip with her aboard a transport and make a thirty days' voyage through
the South Seas!

It was at this transcendent stage of his reveries that a steely voice at
his elbow observed:

"You seem to be finding a great deal to interest you in that smokestack,
young man!"

Quin descended from his height with brisk embarrassment.

"Anything you wanted, sir?" he asked.

Mr. Bangs looked about cautiously to make sure that nobody was in
ear-shot, then he said abruptly:

"I want you to come out to my place with me for overnight. I want to talk
with you."

Quin's amazement at this request was so profound that for a moment he did
not answer. Surmises as to the nature of the business ranged from summary
dismissal to acceptance into the firm. Never in his experience at the
factory had any employee been recognized unofficially by Mr. Bangs. To
all appearances, he lived in a large limousine which deposited him at the
office at exactly eight-thirty and collected him again on the stroke of
four. Rumor hinted, however, that he owned a place in the suburbs, and
that the establishment was one that did not invite publicity.

"Very well, sir," said Quin. "What time shall I be ready?"

"We will start at once," said Mr. Bangs, leading the way to the door.

On the drive out, Quin's efforts at conversation met with small
encouragement. Mr. Bangs responded only when he felt like it, and did not
scruple to leave an observation, or even a question, permanently
suspended in an embarrassing silence. Quin soon found it much more
interesting to commune with himself. It was exciting to conjecture what
was about to happen, and what effect it would have on his love affair. If
he got a raise, would he be justified in putting his fate to the test?
All spring he had fought the temptation of going to New York in the hope
that by waiting he would have more to offer. If by any miracle of grace
Miss Nell should yield him the slightest foothold, he must be prepared to
storm the citadel and take possession at once.

The abrupt turn of the automobile into a somber avenue of locusts
recalled him to the present, and he looked about him curiously. Mr. Bangs
had not been satisfied to build his habitation far from town; he had
taken, the added precaution to place it a mile back from the road. It was
a somewhat pretentious modern house, half hidden by a high hedge. The
window-shades were drawn, the doors were closed. The only signs of life
about the place were a porch chair, still rocking as if from recent
occupation, and a thin blue scarf that had evidently been dropped in
sudden flight.

Mr. Bangs let himself in with a latch-key, and led the way into a big
dreary room that was evidently meant for a library. A handsome suite of
regulation mahogany furniture did its best to justify the room's claim to
its title, but rows of empty bookshelves yawned derision at the pretense.

Mr. Bangs lit the electrolier, and, motioning Quin to a chair, sat down
heavily. Now that he had achieved a guest, he seemed at a loss to know
what to do with him.

"Do you play chess?" he asked abruptly.

"I can play 'most anything," Quin boasted. "Poker's my specialty."

For an hour they bent over the chess-board, and Quin was conscious of
those piercing black eyes studying him and grimly approving when he made
a good play. For the first time, he began to rather like Mr. Bangs, and
to experience a thrill of satisfaction in winning his good opinion.

Only once was the game interrupted. The colored chauffeur who had driven
them out came to the door and asked:

"Shall I lay the table for two or three, sir?"

Mr. Bangs lifted his head long enough to give him one annihilating
glance.

"I have but one guest," he said significantly. "Set the table for two."

The dinner was one of the best Quin had ever tasted, and his frank
enjoyment of it, and franker comment, seemed further to ingratiate him
with Mr. Bangs, who waxed almost agreeable in discussing the various
viands.

After dinner they returned to the library and lit their cigars, and Quin
waited hopefully.

This time he was not to be disappointed.

"Graham," said Mr. Bangs, "what salary are you drawing?"

"One hundred and fifty, sir."

"How long have you been at the factory?"

"A year last February."

"Not so long as I thought. You are satisfied, I take it?"

Quin saw his chance and seized it.

"It's all right until I can get something better."

Mr. Bangs relit his cigar, and took his time about it. Then he blew out
the match and threw it on the floor.

"I am looking for a new traffic manager," he said.

"What's the matter with Mr. Shields?" Quin inquired in amazement.

"I have fired him. He talks too much. I want a man to manage traffic, not
to superintend a Sunday-school."

"But Mr. Shields has been there for years!"

"That's the trouble. I want a younger man--one who is abreast of the
times, familiar with modern methods."

Quin's heart leaped within him. Could Mr. Bangs be intimating that he,
Quinby Graham, with one year and four months' experience, might step over
the heads of all of those older and more experienced aspirants into the
empty shoes of the former traffic manager?

The South Seas seemed to flow just around the corner.

"I have been considering the matter," continued Mr. Bangs, catching a
white moth between his thumb and forefinger and taking apparent pleasure
in its annihilation, "and I've decided not to get a new man in for the
summer, but to let you take the work for the present and see what you can
do with it."

Quin's joy was so swift and sudden that even the formidable banks of Mr.
Bangs's presence could not keep it from overflowing.

"I can handle it as easy as falling off a log!" he cried excitedly. "I
know every State in the Union and then some. Of course, I hate to see old
Shields go, but he _is_ a slow-coach. I'll put it all over him! You'll
see if I don't!"

"I am not so sure about that," said Mr. Bangs. "Shields had the sense to
do what he was told without arguing the matter."

Quin laughed joyously. "Right you are!" he agreed. "I'd have come out of
the service with a couple of bars on my shoulders if I hadn't argued so
much. I don't know what gets into me, but when I see a better way of
running things I just have to say so."

"Well, I don't want you to say so to me," warned Mr. Bangs. "There are
certain business methods that we've got to observe, whether we like them
or not. Take the matter of listing freight, for instance. That's where
Shields fell down. He knows perfectly well that there isn't a successful
firm in the country that doesn't classify its stuff under the head that
calls for the lowest freight rates."

"How do you mean?"

Mr. Bangs proceeded to explain, concluding his remarks with the
observation that you couldn't afford to be too particular in these
matters.

"But it is beating the railroads, isn't it?"

"The railroads can afford it. They lose no chance to gouge the
manufacturers. It's like taxes. The government knows that everybody is
going to dodge them, and so it allows for it. Nobody is deceived, and
nobody is the worse for it. Human nature is what it is, and you can't
change it."

"Does the traffic manager have to classify the exports?" Quin asked.

"Certainly; that and routing the cars is his principal business. It's a
difficult and responsible position in many ways, and I have my doubts
about your being able to fill it."

"I can fill it all right," said Quin, as confidently as before, but with
a certain loss of enthusiasm. Upon the shining brows of his great
opportunity he had spied the incipient horns of a dilemma.

For the next two hours Mr. Bangs explained in detail the duties of the
new position, going into each phase of the matter with such efficient
thoroughness that Quin forgot his scruples in his absorbed interest in
the recital. It was no wonder, he said to himself, that Mr. Bangs was one
of the most successful manufacturers in the South. A man who was not only
an executive and administrator, but who could make with his own hands the
most complicated farming implement in his factory, was one to command
respect. Even if he did not like him personally, it was a great thing to
work under him, to have his approval, to be trusted by him.

When Quin went up to his room at eleven o'clock, his head was whirling
with statistics and other newly acquired facts, which he spent an hour
recording in his note-book.

It was not until he went to bed and lay staring into the darkness that
the mental tumult subsided and the moral tumult began. The questions that
he had resolutely kept in abeyance all evening began to dance in impish
insistence before him. What right had he to take Shields's place, when he
had said exactly the things that Shields had been fired for saying? Did
he want to go the way Shields had gone, compromising with his conscience
in order to keep his job, ashamed to face his fellow man, cringing,
remorseful, unhappy?

Then Mr. Bangs's arguments came back to him, specious, practical,
convincing. Business was like politics; you could keep out if you didn't
like it, but if you went in you must play the game as others played it or
lose out. Five hundred a month! Why, a fellow wouldn't be ashamed to ask
even a rich girl to marry him on that! The thought was balm to his pride.

As he lay there thinking, he was conscious of a disturbing sound in the
adjoining room, and he lifted his head to listen. It sounded like some
one crying--not a violent outburst, but the hopeless, steady sobbing of
despair. His thoughts flew back to that blue scarf on the porch, to the
inquiry about an extra seat at the table. They were true, then, those
rumors about the lonely, unhappy woman whom Mr. Bangs had kept a virtual
prisoner for years. Quin wondered if she was young, if she was pretty. A
fierce sympathy for her seized him as he listened to her sobs on the
other side of the wall. What a beast a man was to put a woman in a
position like that!

His wrath, thus kindled, threw Mr. Bangs's other characteristics into
startling relief. He saw him at the head of his firm, hated and despised
by every employee. He saw him deceiving Madam Bartlett, sneering at Mr.
Ranny's efforts at reform, terrorizing little Miss Leaks. Then he had a
swift and relentless vision of himself in his new position, a well
trained automaton, expected to execute Mr. Bangs's orders not only in the
factory but in the Bartlett household as well.

He tossed restlessly on his pillow. If only that woman would stop crying,
perhaps he could get a better line on the thing! But she did not stop,
and somehow while she cried he could see nothing good in Bangs or what he
stood for. Hour after hour his ambition and his love fought against his
principles, and dawn found him still awake, staring at the ceiling.

Going back to town after an early breakfast, he said to Mr. Bangs:

"I've been thinking it over, sir, and if you don't mind I think I'll keep
the position I've got."

"What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Bangs. "You decline the promotion?"

"I am afraid I am not the man for the job," said Quin.

"That's for me to decide."

Quin was visibly embarrassed. After his enthusiasm of the night before,
his present attitude called for an explanation.

"Well, you see," he said awkwardly, "it may be good business and all
that, but there are some things a fellow can't do when he feels about
them the way I do."

"Meaning, I suppose, that your standards are so much higher than those of
the rest of us that you cannot trade in the market-place?"

"No, sir; I don't mean anything of the kind," Quin flashed back, hot at
the accusations of self-righteousness, but unable to defend himself
without criticizing his employer.

"And this is final? You've definitely decided?"

"I have."

"Very well; I am through with you." And Mr. Bangs unfolded his newspaper
and read it the rest of the way to the city.

At the office door he was dismounting from the car with his silence still
unbroken, when Quin asked nervously:

"Shall I go on with my old job, sir?"

Mr. Bangs wheeled upon him, his eyes like fiery gimlets.

"No!" he thundered. "You needn't go on with anything! For six months I
have wasted time trying to teach you something about business. I've
pushed you along faster than your ability warranted. I've given you a
chance to quadruple your salary. And what is the result? You give me a
lot of hot air about your conscience. Why don't you get a soap-box and
preach on the street-corners? You can draw your money and go. There is no
room on my pay-roll for angels!"

And, with a contemptuous shrug, he passed into the factory, leaving Quin
standing dazed and appalled on the sidewalk.



                              CHAPTER 29


As long as a man can see his goal shining, however faint and distant, he
will steer his craft with tolerable reason and patience; but let the
beacon-light be extinguished, and he promptly abandons reason and rashly
trusts to instinct to guide him.

Quin, who had resolutely kept his course as long as he had been sure of
his steady progress toward success, lost his head completely at this
sudden collapse of his hopes, and took the first train for New York. A
sudden mad necessity was upon him to see Eleanor at once. One look of
encouragement, one word of hope from her, and he would rush back to port
and gladly begin the voyage all over again.

He arrived at the Eighty-second Street apartment about six o'clock in the
evening, and, after studying the dingy name-plates, took the five flights
of stairs with uncommendable speed, and presented himself at the rear
door on the sixth floor.

As he waited for an answer to his ring, he wondered if he had not made a
mistake about the name on the door-plate. The narrow dark hall, permeated
with a smell of onions and cabbage, was all too familiar to him, but it
was not at all the proper setting for Eleanor. His bewilderment increased
when the door was opened by a white-aproned figure, who after a moment of
blank amazement seized his hand in both of hers and pressed it
rapturously.

At least, that was what Quin imagined took place; but when, a moment
later, he sat opposite a composed young lady who had removed her impulse
with her apron, he knew that he must have been mistaken. She was still
his adored Miss Nell, but with a difference that carried her leagues away
from him. He knew how to cope with the hot-headed, rebellious Miss Nell;
with the teasing, indifferent, provocative Miss Nell; and even with the
disconsolate little Miss Nell who had wept against his shoulder coming
home from Chicago. But in the presence of this beautiful, grown-up,
self-contained young lady he felt thoroughly awkward and ill at ease. Had
it not been for the warmth of her smile and the eagerness with which she
plied him with questions, his courage would have failed him utterly.

"Now tell me all about everything!" she urged. "You are the first human
being I've seen from home for four mortal months. How's everybody at
grandmother's? Has Aunt Enid come home? How are Rose and the children?"

"One at a time!" protested Quin. "Tell me first about yourself. What sort
of a place is this you are living in?"

"You mustn't criticize our suite!" she said gaily. "This is a combination
bedroom, dining-room, and kitchen. I am the cook and housemaid, and Papa
Claude is the butler. You ought to see the way I've learned to cook on
the chafing-dish!"

Quin was not in the least interested in her culinary accomplishments. It
offended his sense of the proprieties to see his divinity reduced to such
necessities, and he did not at all approve of her surroundings.

"When are you coming home?" he asked abruptly.

Eleanor's eyes dropped.

"That depends. I may be here all summer. I've had an engagement offered
me."

Quin's hands grew cold. "You don't mean that you're going to act for
_pay_?"

"Of course. Why not? That's what I've been working for."

"But I thought when you tried it out that you would change your
mind--that you wouldn't like it as much as you thought you would."

"But I _do_. I adore it! Nothing on earth can ever make me give it up!"

Quin's heart sank. "But I thought you'd had enough," he said. "I thought
you were homesick and lonesome."

"Who wouldn't have been? Look at the way they have treated me at home? Do
you know, none of them ever write to me any more?"

Quin tried not to look guilty, but the fact that he had counseled this
course of discipline weighed upon him.

"Haven't I written enough for the family?" he asked.

But she was not to be put off.

"They treat me as if I had done something disgraceful!" she said
indignantly. "My allowance is just half what it used to be, and yet I
have to pay all my own expenses. As for clothes, I never was so shabby in
my life. But I can stand that. It's grandmother's silence that I resent.
How can she pretend to care for me when she ignores my letters and treats
me with perfect indifference?"

Hurt pride quivered through the anger in her voice, and she looked at
Quin appealingly. Stung by his silence, she burst out afresh:

"Doesn't she ever ask about me? Has she let me go for good and all?"

"Wasn't that what you wanted?"

"You _know_ it wasn't! I did everything to get her consent. I'd--I'd give
anything now if she would look at things differently. Do you think, when
she finds out that I am actually on the stage, that she will ever forgive
me--that she will ever want me to come home again?"

That was the moment when Quin should have delivered Madam's ultimatum;
but, before he had the chance, a key was turned in the lock, and the next
instant Claude Martel's effulgent presence filled the room.

For a moment he stood poised lightly, consciously, his cane and gloves in
one hand, and his soft felt hat turned gracefully across the other. On
his ankles were immaculate white spats, and in his buttonhole blossomed
the inevitable rose.

"Quinby Graham!" he cried in accents of rapture. "My Cassius's beloved
Quin! _My_ beloved Quin! What happy fortune blew you hither? But no
matter. You are here--you are ours. Eleanor and I are going out to a
studio party at a dear, dear friend's. You shall accompany us!"

"Oh, no, Papa Claude," protested Eleanor. "Quin doesn't want to go to
Miss Linton's messy old party. Neither do I. You go and leave us here.
There are a million things I want to ask him."

But Papa Claude would not consider it. "You can ask them to-morrow," he
said. "To-night I claim you both. We will introduce Quinby as one of the
gallant heroes of the Great War. I shall tell his story--no--he shall
tell it! Come, put on your hat, Eleanor; we must start at once."

"But here! Hold on!" protested Quin, laughing and freeing himself from
Papa Claude's encircling arm, "I'm not fixed to go to a party, and I
haven't got any story to tell. I'll clear out and come back to-morrow."

"No, no!" protested Eleanor and Papa Claude in a breath, and after a
brief struggle for supremacy the latter triumphantly continued:

"I promise you shall say nothing, if you prefer it. Modesty is gallantry's
crowning grace. But you _must_ accompany us. My heart is set upon it.
Eleanor darling, here's your wrap. Come, Quinby, my boy!" And the dynamic
little gentleman hooked an arm through each of theirs and, in spite of
their protests, bore them triumphantly down the stairs and off to the
party.

It was not until they had boarded a crowded downtown car and found
themselves wedged in the aisle that Quin and Eleanor managed to have
another word alone.

"It's a shame we had to come!" she pouted, looking up at him from under a
tilted hat-brim that supported three dangling cherries.

"Where are we going?" he asked, thrilled by the discovery that her lips
and the cherries matched.

"To a studio party down in Washington Square. Papa Claude is trying to
get Estelle Linton to play the lead in 'Phantom Love.' You always meet
all sorts of freaks at her parties."

"I didn't come to New York to meet freaks."

"What did you come for?"

"Shall I tell you?"

"Of course--why not?"

"You want to know? Right now?"

He was looking at her with an expression that was never intended to be
worn in a public conveyance, and the thin-faced Polish woman on whose
toes they were all but standing looked at them with such lively
comprehension that Eleanor felt called upon to assume her most haughty
and dignified manner for the rest of the way.

Miss Linton's party was in full swing when they arrived. It was an
extremely hilarious party, the interest centering about a fat man in a
dress-suit, with a bath towel around his waist, who was attempting to
distil a forbidden elixir from an ingenious condenser of his own
invention.

The studio, under a grimy skylight, was cluttered with bric-à-brac,
animate and inanimate. A Daibutsu in a gilded shrine dominated one
corner, and a handsome woman in a Manchu coat and swinging ear-rings of
jade held court in another. At sight of the Martel group she laid down
the small silver pipe she was smoking, and swam toward them through a
cloud of incense and tobacco smoke.

"Dear old C. M.! Bless his heart!" she cried, kissing Papa Claude
effusively. Then she nodded good-naturedly to Eleanor, and held out a
welcoming hand to Quin.

"Who is this nice boy?" she asked, her languid black eyes sweeping his
face.

"Allow me to present ex-Sergeant Quinby Graham," said Papa Claude
impressively--"a soldier of whom his friends and his country have every
reason to be proud."

Then, to Quin's utter chagrin, he was conscious of the fact that Papa
Claude was giving, in an audible aside, an account of his prowess that
placed him second only to another sergeant whom the world acclaimed its
chief hero.

"For the Lord's sake, head him off!" he whispered in an agony of
embarrassment to Eleanor. "I didn't do half those things he's telling
about, and besides----"

But it was too late to interfere. Papa Claude, the center of one animated
group after another, was kissing his way through the crowd, whispering
the news as he went--that the guest of the evening was no other than the
distinguished young Graham whom they all doubtless remembered, etc.

Within fifteen minutes Quin found himself the lion of the evening. Even
the fat man and his improvised still were eclipsed by the
counter-attraction. His very earnestness in disclaiming the honors thrust
upon him added enormously to his popularity. The more clumsy and awkward
he was, and the more furiously he blushed and protested, the more
attention he received.

"So naïf!" "So perfectly natural!" "Nothing but a boy, and yet think what
he has done!" were phrases heard on every side.

Papa Claude corralled him in the corner with the Daibutsu and pompously
presented each guest in turn. Quin felt smothered by the incense and the
flattery. His collar grew tight, perspiration beaded his brow, and he
began to cough.

"Effects of mustard-gas," Papa Claude explained in a stage whisper.

For seeming hours the agony endured, until the advent of refreshments
caused a momentary diversion, and he made a hasty bolt for Eleanor and
freedom.

He found her sitting on the divan, looking rather bored by the attentions
of a stout elderly person with small porcine eyes and a drooping black
mustache. Without troubling to apologize, Quin interrupted the
conversation to say abruptly:

"Miss Nell, I am going."

Eleanor started to rise, but the red-faced one lifted a protesting voice.

"See here, young man," he blustered. "You can't run off with this little
girl just when I've got my first chance at her this evening. She's going
to stay right here and let me make love to her--isn't she?"

He turned a confident eye upon Eleanor, and even ventured to lay a plump
detaining finger on her cool, slim wrist.

Eleanor rose instantly.

"I thought you were never coming!" she said impatiently over the stout
man's head, "I've been ready to go for an hour!"



                              CHAPTER 30


Down in the open square, under the clear cool stars, they looked at each
other and laughed.

"Lead me to a bus!" cried Quin. "I want to ride on top of it where the
wind can blow through my whiskers. My head feels like a joss-house!"

"Oh, but you were funny!" cried Eleanor. "I wish you could have seen your
face when all those women swarmed around you. I was afraid you were going
to jump out of the window! Did you ever feel anything so hot and stuffy
as that room? And weren't they all silly and make-believe?"

Quin gave a mighty sigh of relief at being out of it.

"Is this the sort of thing you get let in for often?" he inquired,
aghast.

"Oftener than I like. You see, all those people are Papa Claude's old
friends, and he's been having a lovely time showing me off as he showed
you off to-night."

"But you surely don't _like_ it?"

"Of course I don't. And they know it. They are already calling me a prig,
and poking fun at me for not smoking and for not liking to have my hands
patted and my cheeks pinched. Isn't it funny, Quin? At home I was always
miserable because there were too many barriers; I wanted to tear them all
down. Here, where there aren't any, I find myself building them up at
every turn, and getting furious when people climb over them."

"Bartlett _versus_ Martel, eh?"

"I suppose so. Heaven knows, I wish I were one thing or the other."

"Oh, I don't know," said Quin. "You are pretty nice just as you are."
Then he added inconsequently: "Who was that fat man you were talking to
when I came up?"

"Mr. Pfingst. He is Estelle Linton's backer."

"Backer?" queried Quin. Then, when he saw Eleanor's eyes drop, he added
vaguely: "Oh! I see!"

For the next block, strange to say, he did not think so much about
Eleanor as he did about Miss Isobel Bartlett. The whole situation kept
presenting itself through her austere eyes, and instinctively he put a
protecting hand on Eleanor's elbow.

When at last they were on top of the bus, with the big, noisy city
apparently going in the opposite direction, they promptly forgot all
about the studio party and plunged headlong into their own important
affairs.

"Begin at the _very_ beginning," commanded Eleanor, settling herself for
a good long ride; "I want you to tell me everything."

The beginning and the end and all that lay between them could easily have
been compassed in three words by Quin. But there were things he had
pledged himself to tell her before he even broached the subject that was
shrieking for utterance. With painstaking exactness he set forth the
facts that led up to his dismissal, trying to be fair to Mr. Bangs as
well as to himself, and, above all, to claim no credit for taking the
stand he had.

But Eleanor would not see it thus. With characteristic fervor she
espoused his cause. She declared he had been treated outrageously. He
ought to have taken the matter straight to her grandmother. The very
idea! After all the work he had done at the factory, for him to be
dismissed just because he wouldn't do a thing that he considered
dishonorable! She _hated_ Mr. Bangs--she always had hated him; and the
more she dwelt upon the fact, the more ardently she approved Quin's
course.

"It was perfectly splendid of you to refuse his offer!" she cried, and
her eyes blazed with that particular ray of feminine partisanship that is
most soothing to the injured masculine. "And you won't lose by it in the
long run. You'll get another position right off. Why don't you try to get
one here in New York?"

"Would you like me to?"

"I should say I should! Then we could do all sorts of jolly things
together. Not studio parties or cabarets, but jolly outdoor things like
we used to do at home. Do stay, Quin; won't you?"

She was looking up at him with such frank urgency and such entire
sympathy that Quin lost his head completely.

"Miss Nell," he blurted out, "if I stay and get a job and make good, will
you marry me?"

Eleanor, who was used to much more subtle manoeuvers, was caught unaware
by this sudden attack. For a second she was thrown into confusion; then
she rallied all her forces for the defense.

"Why, of course I won't!" she said--then added with more conviction: "I
am not going to marry _anybody_--not for years and years."

"But I'll wait years and years," persisted Quin eagerly. "I wouldn't
marry any girl until I could take care of her. But if you'll just give me
a tip that maybe some day perhaps----"

It was very difficult to go on addressing his remarks to an impassive
classic profile--so difficult, in fact, that he abandoned the effort and
let his eyes say the rest for him.

Eleanor stirred uneasily.

"I _wish_ you wouldn't be foolish, Quin, and spoil all our fun. I've told
you I mean to go on the stage for good and all. You know you wouldn't
want an actress for a wife."

"I'd want you, whatever you were," he said with such fervor that she
rashly gave him her luminous eyes again in gratitude.

He made the most of the opportunity thus offered.

"Honest, now!" he boldly challenged her. "You can't deny that you love me
just a little bit, can you?"

She stared straight ahead of her down the long dim avenue, making no
response to his question. The cherries that swung from her hat-brim
stirred not a hair's-breadth, but the commotion their stillness caused in
Quin's heart was nothing short of cyclonic.

"More than when you left Kentucky?" he persisted relentlessly.

This time a barely perceptible nod stirred the cherries.

"There!" he said triumphantly. "I knew it! Just keep right on the way you
are going, and I won't say a word!"

"But I haven't given you any encouragement; you mustn't think I have."

"I know it. But you haven't turned me down."

At this she smiled at him helplessly.

"You are not very easy to turn down, Quin."

"No," he admitted; "it can't be done."

At this moment the bus rounded a sharp corner without slowing up, and the
passengers on top were lurched forward with such violence that at least
one masculine arm took advantage of the occasion to clasp a swaying lady
with unnecessary solicitude. It may have been a second, and it may have
been longer, that Quin sat with his arm about Eleanor and his hand
clasping hers. Time and space ceased to exist for him and blessed
infinity set in. And then----

"Good gracious!" she cried, starting up. "Where are we? I'd forgotten all
about our cross-street."

As a matter of fact they were in Harlem.

All the way back Eleanor refused to be serious about anything. The
mischievous, contradictory, incalculable little devil that always lurked
in her took full possession. She teased Quin, and laughed at him, leading
him on one minute and running to cover the next.

When they reached the apartment, she tripped up the five flights as
lightly as a bird, and Quin, in his effort to keep up with her, overtaxed
himself and paid the penalty. Heart and lungs were behaving outrageously
when he reached the top landing, and he had to steady himself by the
banister.

"Oh, Quin, I ought to have remembered!" Eleanor cried, with what he
considered divine compassion. "I can't bear to hear you cough like that!
It sounds as if it were tearing you to pieces."

"It's nothing!" said Quin, struggling to get his breath. "I'll be all
right in a minute. What's the box by the door?"

Eleanor's glance followed his.

"If that old walrus, Pfingst, has dared to send me flowers again!" she
cried, pouncing on the card and holding it so they both could read it.

Penciled in small, even lines were the words:

    Sorry to find the lady-bird flown. Will call up in the morning. H. P.

Even in the dimly lighted hall, Quin could see the flush that suffused
Eleanor's face.

"It's Harold Phipps," she said, trying to be casual. "I--I didn't know he
was in town."

Quin followed her into the apartment, and stood dully by the table as she
untied the box and lifted half a dozen exquisite white orchids from their
bed of maidenhair ferns. Then, trying very hard to keep his voice steady,
he asked gently:

"What does this mean, Miss Nell? I thought you weren't going to have
anything more to do with that man."

"Well, I haven't. That is, not--not until he came on last month to see
about the play."

"What play?"

"'Phantom Love.'"

"But why did you have to see him?"

"Because I am to be in the play."

"Not in _his_ play?"

"No more his than Papa Claude's."

Quin's face darkened.

"I saw him for only a few minutes," Eleanor went on, "and Papa Claude was
with us. I give you my word, Quin, I've never spoken to him alone, or
answered one of his letters."

"Then he has been writing to you? What business has he got worrying you
with letters and flowers when you have told him you are through with
him?"

In spite of his effort to keep calm, there was a rising note of anger in
his voice.

"He is not worrying me," said Eleanor, evidently conscious of her
weakness in admitting Harold at the window of friendship when she had
banished him from the door of love. "He understands perfectly that
everything is over between us. But it would be silly for us to refuse to
speak to each other when we shall necessarily be thrown together a lot."

"Thrown together? How do you mean?"

"At rehearsals."

"Do you mean he is to be here in New York?"

"Yes--after next month. He has given up his position in Chicago, so he
can devote all the time to the play. You see, he not only helped to write
it, but he is financing it."

"So he is the--backer?" Quin was scarcely responsible for what he said,
so suddenly had disaster trodden on the heels of ecstasy.

"He is Papa Claude's partner and producer," said Eleanor with dignity.
"If I don't care anything for him, I don't see what harm there is in
seeing him."

"Not liking whisky won't keep it from going to your head," said Quin
stubbornly.

"That's perfect nonsense; and besides, what can I do? It's his play as
well as ours. I can't ask him to stay away from rehearsals."

"No; but you can stay away yourself. You don't have to be in this play.
Something else will turn up. You can afford to wait."

"But that's just the point--I can't! And, besides, think how silly and
childish it would be for me to refuse a wonderful chance for a
professional début that might not come again in years."

"But don't you see, Miss Nell, you are in honor bound not to go on with
this?"

"Honor bound? How do you mean?"

"Why, to Queen Vic."

"I agreed to break my engagement with Harold Phipps and not to answer any
of his letters. I've kept my promise."

"Yes; but I thought, and I made her think, that you agreed not to see him
or have anything to do with him for six months."

"Well, the time will be up in six weeks."

"Lots can happen in six weeks."

If Quin had been wise he would have taken another tack; but, in his
earnest effort to make her see her duty to Madam, he failed to press his
own more personal claims, and thus lost his one chance of reaching her.

Eleanor understood impulse, emotion, but she would not listen to reason.
The mere mention of Madam's name stirred up a whirlwind that snuffed out
any love-lights that might have been kindling. She stood with her back to
the table, twisting Harold Phipps's card in her fingers, and she looked
at Quin suspiciously.

"Did grandmother send you up here to see if I was keeping my word?"

"She did not. She doesn't know I am here."

"Then it's just _you_ who don't trust me?"

"Well, I don't think you are playing quite fair," admitted Quin bluntly,
"either to Queen Vic or to me."

"And I suppose you propose to go back and tell her so?"

"I propose nothing of the kind. It's up to you whether we both keep our
word, or whether we both break it. You know what I think, and you see the
position I am in."

"I can settle that," said Eleanor with spirit. "I can write home to-night
and tell them what I intend to do. That will exonerate you, if that is
what you are after."

"It _isn't_ what I am after, and you know it! For God's sake, Miss Nell,
be fair! You know you can't go on with this thing without starting up the
old trouble with Mr. Phipps."

"But, I tell you, I _can_. I can control the situation perfectly. Why
can't you trust me, Quin?"

"I don't trust _him_. He's got ways of compromising a girl that you don't
know anything about. If he ever gets wind of your going to Chicago----"

"I wish you wouldn't throw that up to me!" There was real anger in her
voice, which up to now had shown signs of softening. "Just because I
happened to me a fool once, it doesn't follow that I'll be one again! It
won't be pleasant for me, but I am not going to let his connection with
'Phantom Love' spoil my chance of a lifetime."

"And he will be at all the rehearsals, I suppose, and up here in the
apartment between-times." Quin's jealousy ran through him like fire
through dry stubble. "You'll probably be seeing him every day."

"And what if I do?" demanded Eleanor. "I have told you our relations are
strictly professional."

"That card looks like it," said Quin bitterly.

Eleanor tossed the object referred to in the trash-basket and looked at
him defiantly. The very weakness of her position made her peculiarly
sensitive to criticism, and the fact that her mentor was her one-time
slave augmented her wrath.

"See here, Miss Nell." Quin came a step closer, and his voice was husky
with emotion. "I know how keen you are about the stage; but, take it from
me, you are making a wrong start. If you'll just promise to wait until
your time is up----"

"I won't promise anything! What's the use? Nobody believes me. Even you
are siding with grandmother and suspecting me of breaking my word. I
don't intend to submit to it any longer!"

Queer, spasmodic movements were going on in Quin's lungs, and he
controlled his voice with difficulty.

"You mean you are going on seeing Mr. Phipps and letting him send you
flowers and things?"

"I am _not!_" Eleanor cried furiously. "But, if I should, it's nobody's
business but my own!"

For an agonizing moment they faced each other angrily, both of them lost
in the labyrinth of their own situation. At the slightest plea for help
on her part, Quin would have broken through his own difficulties and
rushed to her rescue. He would even have offered to plead her cause again
at the family tribunal. But she was like a wilful child who is determined
to walk alone on a high and dangerous wall. The very effort to protect
her might prove disastrous.

"If that's the case," said Quin, with his jaw thrust out and his nostrils
quivering, "what do you want me to do?"

"I don't care what you do!" Eleanor flung back--"just so you leave me
alone."

Without a word, he picked up his hat and strode out of the apartment and
down the stairs. At every landing he paused, hoping against hope that she
might call him back. Even at the door he paused, straining his ears for
the faintest whisper from above. But no sound broke the stillness, and
with a gesture of despair he flung open the door and passed out into the
darkness.



                              CHAPTER 31


When an extremely energetic person has spent eighteen months making
connections with a family, he does not find it easy to sever them in a
day. Quin's announcement that he was going to leave the Martels met with
a storm of protest. He had the excellent excuse that when Cass married in
June there would be no room for him, but it took all his diplomacy to
effect the change without giving offense. Rose was tearful, and Cass
furious, and a cloud of gloom enveloped the little brown house.

With the Bartletts it was no easier. On his return from New York he had
found three notes from them, each of which requested an immediate
interview. Madam's stated that she had heard of his dismissal from the
factory and that she was ready to do battle for him to the death.
"Geoffrey Bangs got rid of Ranny," she wrote, "and now he thinks he can
ship you. But I guess I'll show him who is the head of the firm."

The second note was from Miss Isobel and was marked "Confidential." In
incoherent sentences it told of a letter just received from Eleanor, in
which she announced that she was planning to make her professional début
in July, and that as Mr. Phipps was connected with the play in which she
was to appear, she felt that she could accept no further favors from her
grandmother. Miss Isobel implored Quin to come at once and advise her
what to do about telling Madam, especially as they were leaving for Maine
within the next ten days.

The third delicately penned epistle was a gentle effusion from Miss Enid,
who was home on a visit and eager to see "dear Quin, who had been the
innocent means of reuniting her and the dearest man in all the world."

It was these letters that put Quin's desire for flight into instant
action. He must go where he would not be questioned or asked for advice.
The mere mention of Eleanor's name was agony to him. It contracted his
throat and sent the blood pounding through his veins. His hurt was so
intolerable that he shrank from even a touch of sympathy. Perhaps later
on he would be able to face the situation, but just now his one desire
was to get away from everything connected with his unhappiness.

In beating about in his mind for a temporary refuge, he remembered a
downtown rooming-house to which he had once gone with Dirks, the foreman
at Bartlett & Bangs. Here he transferred his few possessions, and
persuaded Rose to tell the Bartletts that he had left town for an
indefinite stay. This he hoped would account for his absence until they
left for their summer vacation.

The ten weeks that followed are not pleasant ones to dwell upon. The
picture of Quin tramping the streets by day in a half-hearted search for
work, and tramping them again at night when he could not sleep, of him
lying face downward on a cot in a small damp room, with all his
confidence and bravado gone, and only his racking cough for company, are
better left unchronicled.

He fought his despair with dogged determination, but his love for Eleanor
had twined itself around everything that was worth while in him. In
plucking it out he uprooted his ambition, his carefully acquired
friendships, his belief in himself, his faith in the future. For eighteen
months he had lived in the radiance of one all-absorbing dream, with a
faith in its ultimate fulfilment that transcended every fear. And now
that that hope was dead, the blackness of despair settled upon him.

That fact that Eleanor had broken faith with him, that she was willing to
renew her friendship with Harold Phipps when she knew what he was, that
she was willing to give up friends and family and her inheritance for the
sake of being with him, could have but one explanation.

Quin used to tell himself this again and again, as he lay in the hot
darkness with his hands clasped across his eyes. He used it as a whip
with which to scourge any vagrant hopes that dared creep into his heart.
Hadn't Miss Nell told him that she didn't care what he said or did, just
so he left her alone? Hadn't she let him come away without expressing a
regret for the past or a hope for the future?

But, even as his head condemned her, his heart rushed to her defense.
After all, she had never said she cared for him. And why should she care
for a fellow like him, with no education, or money, or position? Even
with her faults, she was too good for the best man living. But she cared
for Harold Phipps--and with that bitter thought the turmoil began all
over again.

He was not only unhappy, but intolerably lonely and ill. He missed Rose
and her care for him; he missed Cass's friendship; he missed his visits
to the Bartletts; and above all he missed his work. His interest still
clung to Bartlett & Bangs, and the only times of forgetfulness that he
had were when he and Dirks were discussing the business of the firm.

What made matters worse was the humid heat of the summer. A low
barometer, always an affliction to him, in his present nervous state was
torture. Night after night he lay gasping for breath, and in the morning
he rose gaunt and pale, with hollow rings under his eyes. Having little
desire for food, he often made one meal a day suffice, substituting
coffee for more solid food.

This method of living could have but one result. By the middle of July he
was confined to his bed with a heavy bronchial cold and a temperature
that boded ill. Once down and defenseless, he became a prey to all the
feminine solicitude of the rooming-house. The old lady next door pottered
in and out, putting mustard plasters on his chest and forgetting to take
them off, and feeding him nauseous concoctions that she brewed over a
coal-oil stove. A woman from upstairs insisted on keeping his window and
door wide open, and trying cold compresses on his throat. While the
majorful mother of six across the hall came in each night to sweep the
other two out, close the window and door, and fill the room with
eucalyptus fumes.

Quin let them do whatever they wanted. The mere business of breathing
seemed to be about all he could attend to these days. The only point on
which he was firm was his refusal to notify his friends or to have a
doctor.

"I'll be all right when this beastly weather lets up," he said to Dirks
one Sunday night. "Is there any sign of clearing?"

"Not much. It's thick and muggy and still raining in torrents. I wish
you'd see a doctor."

Pride kept Quin from revealing the fact that he had no money to pay a
doctor. Five weeks without work had completely exhausted his exchequer.

"I'm used to these knockouts," he wheezed with assumed cheerfulness one
Sunday night. "It's not half as bad as it sounds. I'll be up in a day or
so."

Dirks was not satisfied. His glance swept the small disordered room, and
came back to the flushed face on the pillow.

"Don't you want some grub?" he suggested. "I'll get you anything you
like."

"No, thanks; I'm not hungry. You might put the water-pitcher over here by
the bed. My tongue feels like a shredded-wheat biscuit."

Dirks gave him some water, then turned to go.

"Oh, by the way," he said, "Here's a letter for you that's been laying
around at the factory for a couple of days. Nobody knew where to forward
it."

Like a shot Quin was up in bed and holding out an eager hand. But at
sight of the small cramped writing he lay back on his pillow listlessly.

"It's from Miss Isobel Bartlett," he said indifferently. "Wonder what
she's doing back in town in the middle of the summer."

"I hear they are all back," Dirks said. "The old lady is very ill and
they had to bring her home. If you want anything in the night, just pound
on the wall. I'm going to fetch a doctor if you ain't better in the
morning."

When Dirks had gone Quin opened his letter and read:

    _Dear Quin:_

    I am rushing this off to the factory in the hope that they have your
    address and can get into communication with you at once. Mother has
    had two dreadful attacks with her appendix, and the doctors say she
    cannot survive another. But she refuses point-blank to be operated
    on, and my brother and sister and I are powerless to move her. Won't
    you come the moment you get this, and try to persuade her? She has
    such confidence in your judgment, and you could always do more with
    her than any one else. I am almost wild with anxiety and I don't know
    which way to turn. Do come at once.

    Your friend,

    ISOBEL BARTLETT.

Quin sprang out of bed, and then sat down limply, waiting for the
furniture to stop revolving about him. It was evident that he would have
to use his head to save his legs, if he expected to make any progress.
Holding to the bed-post, he brought all his concentration to bear on the
whereabouts of the various garments he had thrown off ten days before.
The lack of a clean shirt and the imperative need of a shave presented
grave difficulties, but he would have gone to Miss Isobel's rescue if he
had had to go in pajamas!

When at last he had struggled into his clothes, he put out his light and
tiptoed past Dirks' door. At the first sniff of night air he began to
cough, and he clapped his hand over his mouth, swearing softly to
himself. On the front steps he hesitated. The rain was falling in sheets,
and the street lights shone through a blur of fog. For the first time,
Quin realized it was a block to the car line, and that he had no
umbrella. Hard experience had taught him the dire results of exposure and
overexertion. But the excitement of once more getting in touch with the
Bartletts, of being of service to Madam, and above all of hearing news of
Eleanor, banished all other considerations. Turning up his coat collar
and pulling his hat over his eyes, he went down the steps and started on
an uncertain run for the corner.



                              CHAPTER 32


During the days that Quin was floundering in the bog of poverty, illness
and despair, Eleanor Bartlett was triumphantly climbing the peak of
achievement. "Phantom Love," after weeks of strenuous rehearsal and
nerve-racking uncertainty, had had its premiere performance at Atlantic
City and scored an instantaneous hit.

All spring Eleanor had lived in excited anticipation of the event. In the
hard work demanded of her she had found welcome relief from some of her
own complicated problems. She wanted to forget that she had broken her
word, that she was causing the family serious trouble, and more than all
she wanted to forget Quinby Graham and the look on his face when he left
her.

During her stay in New York she had suffered many disillusions. She had
seen her dreams translated into actual and disconcerting realities. But,
in spite of the fact that much of the gold and glamour had turned to
tinsel, she was still fascinated by the life and its glorious
possibilities.

It was not until she got into the full swing of the rehearsals that she
made a disconcerting discovery. Try as she would, she could not adapt
herself to the other members of the company. She hated their petty
jealousies and intermittent intimacies, the little intrigues and the
undercurrent of gossip that made up their days. From the first she
realized that she was looked upon as an alien. The fact that she was
shown special favors was hotly resented, and her refusal to rehearse
daily the love passages with Finnegan, the promising young comedian who
two years before had driven an ice-wagon in New Orleans, was a constant
grievance to the stage manager. In the last matter Harold Phipps had
upheld her, as he had in all others; but his very championship
constituted her chief cause of worry.

Since the day of his joining the company she had given him no opportunity
for seeing her alone. By a method of protection peculiarly her own, she
had managed to achieve an isolation as complete as an alpine blossom in
the heart of an iceberg. But in the heat and enthusiasm of a successful
try-out, when everybody was effervescing with excitement, it was
increasingly difficult to maintain this air of cold detachment.

Papa Claude alone was sufficient to warm any atmosphere. He radiated
happiness. Every afternoon, arrayed in white flannels and a soft white
hat, with a white rose in his buttonhole, he rode in his chair on the
boardwalk, bowing to right and to left with the air of a sovereign
graciously acknowledging his subjects. Night found him in the
proscenium-box at the theater, beaming upon the audience, except when he
turned vociferously to applaud Eleanor's exits and entrances.

The entire week of the first performance was nothing short of
pandemonium. Mr. Pfingst had brought a large party down from New York on
his yacht, and between rehearsals and performances there was an endless
round of suppers and dinners and sailing-parties.

With the arrival of Sunday morning Eleanor was in a state of physical and
emotional exhaustion. She was sitting before her dressing-table in a
sleeveless pink négligée, with her hair dangling in two thick childish
braids over her shoulder, when Papa Claude dashed in from the next room
to announce that Mr. Pfingst had invited the entire cast to have lunch on
his yacht.

"Not for me!" said Eleanor, sipping her coffee between yawns. "I am going
straight back to bed and sleep all day."

"Morning megrims!" cried Papa Claude, fresher than the proverbial daisy.
"What you need is a frolic with old Neptune! We bathe at eleven, go
aboard the _Minta_ at twelve, lunch at one. Pfingst's chef is an artist;
he can create a lobster Newburg that is an epic!" Papa Claude's tongue
made the circle of his lips as he spoke.

"I don't like lobster," Eleanor pouted; "and, what's more, I don't like
Mr. Pfingst."

"Nonsense, my love! Pfingst is a prince of good fellows. Very
generous--very generous indeed. Besides, there will be others on
board--Harold and Estelle and myself."

Eleanor laid her face against his sleeve.

"I wish you and I could run off somewhere for the day alone. I am so sick
of seeing those same people day in and day out. They never talk about
anything but themselves."

Papa Claude stroked her hair and smiled tolerantly. It was natural that
his little Eleanor should be capricious and variable and addicted to
moods. She was evidently acquiring temperament.

Some one tapped at the door, and he sprang to answer it.

"I've just been to your room, and the maid said you were in here," said
Harold Phipps's voice.

"Come right in!" cried Papa Claude, flinging wide the door. "We are just
discussing plans, and need you to cast the deciding vote."

"But I'm not dressed, Papa Claude!" expostulated Eleanor. "I still have
on my kimono."

"A charming costume," said Papa Claude--"one in which a whole nation
appears in public. I leave it to my distinguished collaborator: could any
toilet, however elaborate, be more becoming?"

Harold gave a light laugh as his glance rested with undisguised approval
on the slender figure in its clinging silk garment, the rosy hues of
which were reflected in the girl's flaming cheeks.

"Just stopped for a second, C. M.," Harold said, avoiding her indignant
eyes. "I wanted to tell you about the New York press notices. They are
simply superb! _Tribune_ has a column. The _Times_ and _Herald_ give us
a headliner. And even the old _Sun_ says there are passages in 'Phantom
Love' that might have been written by Molière!"

"Where are the papers?" cried Papa Claude, prancing with excitement.

"I gave mine to Estelle. You can get them downstairs at the news-stand."

"I'll run down now--be back in a second." And Papa Claude rushed
impetuously from the room.

Eleanor and Harold stood facing each other where he had left them, he
with an air of apologetic amusement, and she with an angry dignity that
rested incongruously on her childish prettiness.

"Will you please go down and tell Mr. Pfingst that I am not coming to his
party?" she asked, with the obvious intention of getting rid of him.

"Why aren't you?"

"Because I don't like him."

"Neither do I. But what has that to do with it? Estelle Linton will take
him off our hands."

"I don't care for Miss Linton, either. If I had known----"

"Oh, come! Haven't we got past that?" scoffed Harold, sitting astride a
chair and looking at her quizzically. "Nobody pays any attention to
Estelle's numerous little affairs. I'd as soon think of criticizing a
Watteau lady on an ivory fan!"

"You can probably catch Mr. Pfingst in the dining-room if you go down at
once," suggested Eleanor pointedly.

"But I've no intention of going down at once. Eleanor, why do you play
with me like this? Can't you see that this can't go on? I've been
patient, God knows. For two months I've done nothing but advance your
interests, put you forward in every conceivable way. And what have I got?
The merest civility! Do you suppose it's pleasant for me to know that
everybody in the company is whispering about my infatuation for you and
your indifference to me? The maddening part of it is that I know
perfectly well you are _not_ indifferent. You are in love with me. You
always have been. You'd have married me last fall if some busybody hadn't
filled your ears with scandal. Confess, wouldn't you?"

"Yes; but----"

"I knew it! And you are going to marry me now. You can do anything you
want, have anything you want. I'll put you at the head of your own
company; I'll take you over to London. I'll do anything under heaven but
give you up."

He rose suddenly and went toward her, catching her bare arm and trying to
draw her toward him; but she struggled from his embrace.

"Let me go!" she cried furiously. "If you don't leave the room instantly,
I will! There's Papa Claude now. Let me pass!"

It was not Papa Claude, however, to whom she opened the door. It was
Estelle Linton, smartly attired for the day's expedition, and exhibiting
all the compensating charms with which she sought to atone for her lack
of brains and morals. With a glance of sophisticated comprehension she
took in the disordered room, the perturbed young people, the unfinished
breakfast-tray; then she burst into a gay little laugh.

"Ten thousand pardons!" she cried, backing away from the door in assumed
confusion. "I shouldn't have called so early. I just ran in to bring you
_Town Topics_. The most killing article about you, dear. By-by; I'll see
you later!" And, kissing her hand to Eleanor, she flitted down the hall.

"Shall I go or will you?" Eleanor demanded of Harold.

She was standing in the open door, all the color fled from her face and
her eyes blazing with anger.

"I'll go, of course," said Harold. "Only, you must not mind Estelle.
Everybody knows she's a fool----"

The door was slammed in his face and locked before he finished the
sentence.

For a moment Eleanor stood immovable; then her eye fell on the paper that
Estelle Linton had thrust into her hand, and she saw her stage name on
the title-page.

    Pretty little romance back of the production of "Phantom Love" [she
    read]. It is rumored that a wealthy young Chicago playwright, having
    met with family opposition in winning a young Southern belle, took
    advantage of her histrionic ambition, and persuaded her to play a
    rôle in his new play, which he wrote especially for her. Those who
    saw the opening performance of "Phantom Love" at Atlantic City
    Wednesday night will have little trouble in recognizing the heroine
    of the story. Miss Nell Martel is one of the daintiest bits of
    femininity that have flitted behind the footlights in many moons.
    She has youth and beauty and a certain elusive charm. But the fact
    remains that she can not act. For the continued success of the really
    brilliant play, let us hope that the young lady's lover may soon
    become her husband, and that, having won his prize, he will
    substitute a professional for the charming young amateur who is in
    no way up to the rest of the really excellent cast.

Eleanor crushed the paper in her hand, flung herself across the bed, and
buried her hot face in the pillow. All her life she had walked unafraid
and inviolate, protected by her social position, the over-zealous
solicitude of the family, and her own purity. She had flown out of the
family nest, confident of her power to take care of herself, to breast
any storm. And here, at the beginning of her flight, she found herself in
utter confusion of body and spirit, powerless to protect herself against
such conduct as Harold's, such printed gossip as lay before her, or such
unspeakable insinuations as Estelle Linton's.

When Papa Claude returned, her first impulse was to pour out her troubles
to him; but second thought restrained her. He was too much a part of that
casual, irresponsible world to take anything it did or said seriously.
She called through the door to him that she had gone to bed and was going
to stay there.

But she did not stay there. She got up and knelt by the open window,
looking across the seething mass of humanity on the boardwalk below to
the calm stretches of blue sea beyond. For the first time, she faced her
problem fairly and squarely. Up to now she had been trying to compromise,
to be broad and tolerant and cosmopolitan. But she had to admit that the
new life satisfied her no more than the old had. One was too
circumscribed, the other too free. If it was true that she had no talent
and was simply tolerated in the company because of Harold Phipps, she
must know it at once. To be drawing a salary that she did not earn, and
accepting favors for which a definite reward would be expected, was
utterly intolerable to her.

A wild desire seized her to go back to New York and seek another
engagement. In spite of what that odious article said, she believed that
she could succeed on the stage. Papa Claude believed in her; the Kendall
School people were enthusiastic about her work; they would help her to
make another start.

But did she honestly want to make another start? A conscience that had
overslept itself began to stir and waken. After all, what did the
plaudits of hundreds of unknown people count for, when the approval and
affection of those nearest and dearest was withdrawn? What would any
success count for against the disgust she felt for herself.

A wave of terrific homesickness swept over her. But what was it she
wanted, she asked herself, in place of this gay kaleidoscope of light and
color and ceaseless confusion? Not the stagnation of the Bartlett
household, certainly not the slipshod poverty of the Martels. She
searched her heart for the answer.

And as she knelt there with her head on the window-sill, looking
miserably out to sea, a strange thing happened to her. In a moment of
swift, sure vision she saw Quinby Graham's homely, whimsical face, she
felt his strong arms around her, and into her soul came a deep, still
feeling of unutterable content.

"I am coming, Quin!" she whispered, with a little catch in her voice.

Then it was that Destiny played her second trump for Quin. It was in the
form of a telegram that a bell-boy brought up from the office, and it
announced that Madam Bartlett was not expected to live through the day.

Within twenty-four hours Eleanor was in Kentucky.

"Is she living?" she demanded of Hannah, who answered her ring at her
grandmother's door.

"I don't know, honey," whispered Hannah, ashy with fright. "They's
operatin' now. We thought she was going to die all day yesterday, but she
never give in to be operated on till Mr. Quin come."

"Where are Aunt Isobel and Aunt Enid?"

"They's all in the library. Mr. Ranny's there, too. Ain't nobody upstairs
with her but jest the doctors an' the nurse an' Mr. Quin."

Eleanor crept upstairs and sat down on the top step, outside that door
before which she had halted in dread so many times before. Remorse and
sympathy and acute apprehension struggled for mastery. All the old
antagonism for her grandmother was swept away in the dread prospect of
losing her. It was impossible to think of the family existing without
her. She held it up, kept it together, maintained the proud old Bartlett
tradition.

There was a sound behind the closed doors. Eleanor strained her ears to
listen. It was someone coughing, at first gently, then violently. The
next moment the door opened and a wild-eyed, unshaven figure staggered
into the hall.

"Damn that ether!" some one muttered.

And then, before Eleanor could get to her feet, Quinby Graham came
unsteadily toward her, stumbled twice, then pitched forward on his face,
striking his head on the banister as he fell.



                              CHAPTER 33


Two weeks later, when Quin struggled back to consciousness, he labored
under the delusion that he was still in the army and back in the camp
hospital. Eleanor, who scarcely left his bedside, was once more Miss
Bartlett, the ward visitor, and he was Patient Number 7. He tried to
explain to all those dim figures moving about the darkened room that he
was making her a bead chain, and unless they got him more beads he could
not finish it in time. When they reassured him and tried to get him to
take food, he invariably wanted to know if Miss Bartlett had brought it,
and which was her day to come again. Then the doctor and the nurse would
argue with him, and try to make him remember things he was sure had never
happened, and his mental distress would become acute. At such times
somebody, who of course could not be Miss Bartlett, but who had her voice
and eyes, would take his hand and tell him to go to sleep, then the
tangles would all come straight.

One day he was startled out of a stupor by the sound of a querulous old
voice saying:

"I guess if he could get out of bed to come across the city to me, I can
come across the hall to him. Wheel me closer!"

Quin was drifting off again, when a hand gripped his wrist.

"Open your eyes, boy! Look at me. Do you know who this is?"

He lifted his heavy lids, and wondered dully what Madam was doing at the
camp hospital.

"Put the blinds up," she commanded to some one back of her. "Let him see
the wall-paper, the furniture. Move that fool screen away."

For the first time, Quin brought his confused attention to bear on his
surroundings, and even glanced at the space over the mantel to see if a
certain picture was at its old place.

"You are in my house," said Madam, with a finality that was not to be
disputed. "Do you remember the first time you came here?"

He shook his head.

"Yes, you do. I fell down the steps and broke my leg, and you came in off
the street to tie me up with an umbrella and the best table napkins. What
are you smiling about?"

"Smelling salts," Quin murmured, as if to himself.

"You don't need any smelling salts!" cried Madam, missing his allusion.
"All you need is to rouse yourself and put your mind on what I am saying.
Do you remember living in this house?"

He could not truthfully say that he did, though familiar objects and
sounds seemed to be all around him.

"Well, I'll make you," said Madam, nothing daunted. "You stayed in this
very room for three months to keep the burglars from stealing Isobel and
Enid, and every night you walked me up and down the hall on my crutches."

She paused and looked at him expectantly; but things were still a blur to
him.

"You surely remember the Easter party?" she persisted. "If you can forget
the way your shirt kept popping open that night, and the way your jaw
swelled up, it's more than I can!"

Quin winced. Even concussion of the brain had failed to deaden the memory
of that awful night.

"I sort of remember," he admitted.

"Good! That will do for to-day. As for the rest, I'll tell you what
happened. You came here one night two weeks ago, when everybody had me
dead and buried, and you deviled me into having an operation that saved
my life. You stood right by me while they did it. Then you collapsed and
knocked your head on the banister, and, as if that wasn't enough,
developed pneumonia on top of it. Now all you've got to think about is
getting well."

"But--but--Miss Eleanor?" Quin queried weakly, fearing that the blessed
presence that had hovered over him was but a figment of his dreams.

"She came home to help bury me," said Madam. "Failing to get the job, she
took to nursing you. Now stop talking and go to sleep. If I hear any more
of this stuff and nonsense about your being in a hospital and making bead
chains, I'll forbid Eleanor crossing the threshold; do you hear?"

From that time on Quin's convalescence was rapid--almost too rapid, in
fact, for his peace of mind. Never in his life had he been so watched
over and so tenderly cared for. Mr. Ranny kept him supplied with fresh
eggs and cream from Valley Mead; Mr. Chester and Miss Enid deluged him
with magazines and flowers; Miss Isobel gave him his medicine and fixed
his tray herself; Madam chaperoned his thoughts and allowed no intruding
fancies or vagaries.

But all these attentions were as nothing to him, compared with the
miracle of Eleanor's presence. Just why she was remaining at home he
dared not ask, for fear he should be told the date of her departure. The
fact that she flitted in and out of his room, flirting with the doctor,
teasing the aunties, assuming a divine proprietorship over him, was
heaven enough in itself.

Sometimes, when they were alone and she thought he was asleep he would
see the dancing, restless light die out of her eyes, and a beautiful
exalted look come into them as if she were listening to the music of the
spheres.

He attributed this to the fact that she was happy in being once more
reconciled to the family. Even she and Madam seemed to be on terms of the
closest intimacy, and he spent hours in trying to understand what had
effected the change.

As he grew stronger and was allowed to sit up in bed, he realized, with a
shock, what a fool's paradise he was living in. A few more days and he
must go back to that dark, damp room in Chestnut Street. He must find
work--and work, however menial, for which he had the strength. Eleanor
would return to New York, and he would probably never see her again.
During his illness she had been heavenly kind to him, but that was no
reason for thinking she had changed her mind. She had given him his final
answer there in New York, and he was grimly determined never to open the
subject again.

But one day, when they were alone together, his resolution sustained a
compound fracture. Eleanor was reading aloud to him, and in the midst of
a sentence she put down the book and looked at him queerly.

"Quin," she said, "did you know I am not going back?"

"Why not? Did the play fail?"

"No. It's a big success. Papa Claude will probably make a small fortune
out of it."

"But you? What's the trouble?"

"I've had enough. I had made up my mind to leave the company even before
I was sent for."

Quin's eyes searched her face, but for once he held his tongue.

She was evidently finding it hard to continue. She twisted the fringe of
the counterpane in her slender, white fingers, and she did not look at
him.

"It all turned out as you said it would," she admitted at last. "I--I
simply couldn't stand Harold Phipps."

Quin's heart performed an athletic feat. It leaped into his throat and
remained there.

"But you'll be joining some other company, I suppose?" He tried to make
his voice formal and detached.

"That depends," she said; and she looked at him again in that queer,
tremulous, mysterious way that he did not in the least understand.

Her small hands were fluttering so close to his that he could have
captured them both in one big palm; but he heroically refrained. He kept
saying over and over to himself that it was just Miss Nell's way of being
good to a fellow, and that, whatever happened, he must not make her
unhappy and sorry--he must not lose his head.

"Quin,"--her voice dropped so low he could scarcely hear it,--"have you
ever forgiven me for the way I behaved in New York?"

"Sure!"

He was trembling now, and he wondered how much longer he could hold out.

"Do you--do you--still feel about me the way you--you did--that night on
the bus?" she whispered.

Quin looked at her as a Christian martyr might have looked at his
persecutor.

"I think about you the way I've always thought about you," he said
hopelessly--"the way I shall go on thinking about you as long as I live."

"Well," said Eleanor, with a sigh of relief, "I guess that settles it";
and, to his unspeakable amazement, she laid her head on his pillow and
her cheek on his.

When he recovered from his shock of subliminal ecstasy, his first thought
was of the trouble he was storing up for Eleanor. Even his rapture was
dimmed by the prospect of involving her in another love affair that could
only meet with bitter opposition of her family.

"We must keep it dark for the present," he urged, holding her close as if
he feared she would slip away. "Maybe, when I am well, and have a good
position, and all, they won't take it so hard."

Eleanor refused to listen to any such counsel. She wanted to announce
their engagement at once, and be married at the earliest possible date.
He needed her to take care of him, she declared; and besides, they could
make a start on the money that would soon be due her from her father's
estate. To this proposition Quin would not listen, and they had a
spirited quarrel and reached no agreement.

Eleanor had fallen seriously in love for the first time in her life, and
it was a sudden and overwhelming experience. During those anxious days of
Quin's illness, when his life had hung in the balance, she had time to
realize what he meant to her. Now that he needed skilful nursing and
constant care to assure his recovery, she was determined not to be
separated from him.

In spite of his protests, she joyfully announced their engagement to
Uncle Ranny and the aunties at dinner, and was surprised to find that the
family tree, instead of being rocked to its foundation, was merely
pleasantly stirred in its branches.

"You see, we could not help suspecting it," Miss Isobel twittered
excitedly to Quin, when she brought him his tray. "You talked about her
incessantly in your delirium, and the dear child was almost beside
herself the night we thought you might not recover. I told sister then
that if you got well----"

"But what about Madam?" Quin interrupted anxiously. "What will she think
of Miss Nell's being engaged to a fellow like me, with no money or
position, or any prospects of being able to marry for God knows how
long?"

Miss Isobel looked grave. "Nellie is breaking the news to her now," she
said primly. "I am afraid she is going to find it very hard. But, as
sister says, there are times when one has to follow one's own judgments.
When mother sees that we all stand together about this----"

She waved her hand with a little air of finality. It was the second time
in her life that she had made even a gesture toward freedom.

The interview between Eleanor and her grandmother lasted for more than an
hour, and nobody knew the outcome of it until the next morning, when a
family council was called in Quin's room. Madam was wheeled in in state,
resplendent in purple and gold, with her hair elaborately dressed, as
usual.

To everybody's amazement, she opened the conference by abruptly announcing
that she had decided that Eleanor and Quin should be married at once.

"She's at loose ends, and he's at loose ends. The sooner they get tied
up, the better," was the way she put it.

"But hold on!" cried Quin, sitting up in bed. "I can't do that, you know;
I've got to get on my feet first."

"How are you going to get on your feet until you get your strength back?"
demanded Madam. "You look like going to work, don't you?"

"Well, the doctor has promised me I can go out on Saturday. I ought to be
able to go to work in a couple of weeks."

"Couple of fiddle-sticks! Dr. Rawlins told me it would be two months
before you would be fit for work, and even then you would have to be
careful."

"Well, you don't think I am going to let Miss Nell in on a deal like
that, do you?" Quin's voice broke and he gripped Eleanor's hand until she
winced.

"But, Quin, I want it to be now," Eleanor begged. "Grandmother and I have
gone over it from every standpoint, and she's come to see it as I do. You
need me, and I need you. Why can't you be sensible and see it as we do?"

How Quin ever withstood those pleading tones and beseeching eyes, it is
impossible to say. But withstand them he did, announcing stubbornly that
it was bad enough for a girl to marry a chap with broken bellows; but for
her to marry one she would not only have to nurse, but support as well,
was not to be thought of. There was but one thing to do, and that was to
wait.

Then it was that Madam, who had been reasonably patient up till now, lost
her temper and delivered an ultimatum.

"You'll marry her now or not at all," she thundered. "I am sick and tired
of the way you try to run this family, Quinby Graham! For more than a
year now you have carried things with a high hand. You got Ranny out of
the factory and on a farm. You married Enid to Francis Chester, and sent
them to California. You made me let Eleanor go to New York, and came very
near landing her on the stage for good. And now, when I have been
persuaded into letting the child marry you, you are not satisfied, but
insist on doing it at your own time and in your own way!"

"You forgot one thing, granny," suggested Eleanor demurely. "He made you
have the operation."

Madam was not to be diverted. She glared at Quin like an angry old
lioness.

"Are you going to do as I advise?" she demanded.

"No; not until I get a job." Quin's jaw was set as firmly as hers, and
their eyes measured each other's with equal determination.

"Well, then I'll give you a job," she announced with sudden decision.
"I'll send you to China."

"To China?"

"Yes. Bartlett & Bangs has just opened a branch house in Shanghai. They
are looking for a man to take charge of it. Your knowledge of the
language would make up for your lack of experience. Besides, the sea
voyage will do you good."

"Do you mean it?" cried Quinn eagerly. "Would Mr. Bangs agree?"

"Geoffrey Bangs would take you back at the factory to-morrow. But I don't
want you there, under him. I want to turn you loose on China. It's the
only place I know that's big enough to exhaust your energies. You will
probably have the entire country plowing up its ancestors before spring."

"And what about you?" said Quin, turning eagerly to Eleanor. "Would you
go with me?"

"_Will_ I?" said Eleanor, her eyes dancing.

                       *          *          *

That night, when Miss Isobel was tucking Madam into bed, she made bold to
ask her how she happened to give her consent to the wedding.

"Isobel," said Madam, cocking a wise old eye, "it might as well be now as
later. When a man like Quinby Graham makes up his mind to marry a certain
girl, the devil himself can't stop him!"





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Quin" ***

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